Best practice: Sweet Shop at Santa Caterina Monastery in Palermo

The location couldn’t be better for the Christian-Arab-Norman heritage of Sicilian Palermo: Piazza Bellini is where cultures and epochs meet, and with them the city’s rich culinary heritage.

I segreti del Chiostro” (“The secrets of the cloister”) is an initiative which rediscovers the ancient traditions of monastic pastry. Sicily’s baking, even though it has its roots in ancient times such as the Greek colonization or the Arab domination, was born in medieval times, in cloistered convents. Santa Caterina monastery was founded as a Dominican nunnery in 1310 as a result of a foundation by a noble family. The bakery of Santa Caterina was the place of the monastery in charge of making biscuits, stuffed buns, cakes, jams and more. The sale of sweets was a source of income for the monastery.

Today the baking activities are organised as a social cooperative and registered trademark called “Pulcherrima Res”, dealing in the production and sale of confectionery, prepared according to the original monastic recipes. The cooperative is run by manager Maria Carmela Ligotti and a team of bakers and salespersons. They offer sweets from recipes of 21 monasteries in Palermo as a treat for visitors of the city and locals alike. The imaginative names of the delicacies only give a hint of what is hidden in them, but they are a feast for the eyes as well as a delight for the palate: Trionfo di Gola (“Triumph of Gluttony”), Sospiri di monaca (“Nun’s sighs”), Testa di Turco (“ A Turkishman’s head ”), Felle del Cancelliere (“The Chancellor’s buttocks”). The sweets are small works of art as well as testimonies of monastic baking art. Historical stone and metal baking tins, as well as wooden models, can also be admired.

The presentation and sale is organised next to the monastery church of Santa Caterina at Piazza Bellini. The church is definitely worth a visit as well.

A picture gallery on the website  offers a glance at the bakery.

Address: Piazza Bellini 1, Palermo

Contact the bakery:

Tel. +327 588 2302;  

Facebook and Instagram: I segreti del chiostro

Contact the church and monastery:

Tel. +3291 271 3837;


(Picture credits: SKIVRE (title picture), I segreti del chiostro)



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