The Excelsior Palace was built in 1891 and reopened as a hotel in 1983. Hilton took it over just three years ago. We enjoyed our stay and were well served by the staff but there were some problems.
We arrived early from Falcone-Borsolino airport after a traumatic drive through late morning traffic in downtown Palermo, not helped by our TomTom not reognising the hotel’s street. The route is actually pretty easy, as we discovered on our return journey. We should have printed out a map. Since our room was not ready when we arrived at noon, we had to wait just 30 minutes for the staff to finish cleaning. Turns out we were upgraded twice to a fairly spacious suite. This was one of a number of obliging tasks the front desk undertook for us during our 5-day visit. Staff members were marvellous throughout stay. Since the hotel itself only has a small dining area, off the foyer, we took advantage of a number of good restaurants in walking distance off the Via Liberta and ate out each night. The front desk staff has an excellent repertoire of restaurants to recommend (e.g. Lo Scudiero, Belletore, and Retriglio). However, note that many restaurants do not take reservations until early evening so making a reservation request with the front desk staff in the mornings was not always successful.
Having read the hotel’s blurb, we knew that we would need to pay for parking, although as we discovered there are sometimes opportunities to park outside the hotels; at least that’s where the large buses bringing overnight package tourists park. We were at first put off by the hotel not having a garage but were assured that for our €20 daily the car would be delivered to the front door within 20 minutes of making a request. And, that’s how it worked out. Very satisfactory. The facility is not operated by Hilton but by Central Parking. When you arrive with a car, the front desk staff will alert you to the fact that the fee needs to be paid in cash and is not included on your hotel bill. So, you need to save some euros for your departure.
The hotel provides a full breakfast in a splendid dining room, which unfortunately is not available for dinner reservations; dinner, which we did not try, is serve in the Exe bar and restaurant, just off the foyer. There is a pretty wide range of hot and cold food but the responsiveness and friendliness of the breakfast room staff is highly variable ranging from highly responsive and friendly to ignoring requests. In addition, the “hot” food is not hot and some food (e.g. Milk and cereals) is not replenished in a timely manner. Finally, on the food front, Palermo is still pretty warm in October and sometimes humid. Yet, we only received a couple of bottles of water in our room (as well as a plate of fruit “compliments of the manager”) on our first night. Niente after that.
Our room was very good with a comfortable Hilton bed, but like the rest of the hotel, it is beginning to show its age, with too many scuffs on the furniture and stains on the carpets. Our corner suite also experienced noise from traffic (fortunately we were too tired from sightseeing to notice). More seriously, on our first night we had no hot water just as we were getting ready to shower before going out for dinner. After considerable protest to the duty manager, we were offered a different room but did not want to move. Eventually, at my suggestion, we were offered a shower in another room and a promise that an engineer would try and fix the shower while we were out for dinner. Sure enough, on our return the shower was fixed and we reached an amicable compensation settlement for the inconvenience. Palermo is also subject to heavy storms, which often cut out the power. So, on our final night, the hotel had no hot water. One final bathroom-related problem was that some of the bath towels are old and thin and need replacing; one had a two-inch hole in it!
Wifi is available, and is pretty fast. However, the hotel retains Italy’s archaic registration system. So, even if you are a Gold or Diamond member you have to request separate login details for each day and each device. It’s a pain but the front desk staff obliged with a small wad of registration details. Another issue for Hilton Central to sort out.
We came to Palermo with a list of sites we wanted to visit, which included the Palazzo dei Normanni, San Giovanni degli Eremiti, La Martorana, il Duomo, La Zisa, Palazzo Mirto, and various museums (which in our case were closed). These are really superb sites that nicely illustrate the city’s cosmopolitan history. Also be sure to include a trip to nearby Monreale to see the Duomo and cloisters, and a little further to Cefalù. We drove in Palermo but you need to be pretty brave to do so: think of the dodgems at the fair combined with a video game in which pedestrians and motorcycles jump out in front of you. On our last day, we also had to contend with driving through a deluge that produced 10 cm of rainwater.
So, overall, not up to the standard of the Hilton Palace in Sorrento hotel, but comfortable enough. We enjoyed our stay thanks in large part to the excellent front desk staff. If we return to Palermo, we will stay here again.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.