Bonjorno!!! In this 7 days Sicily Itinerary we will be covering the best places to visit in Sicily on a road trip. I am sure this Sicily travel guide will end your quest for a perfect Sicily Holidays.
Sicily for us was an anniversary trip and hence we wanted to visit the best places in Sicily by road. Thanks to my superstar wife and in-house travel itinerary expert Ankita’s serious research into destinations, we are able to do some serious digging into destinations we visit. We really went overboard with covering a huge area. So we personally suggest to space this itinerary out.
This is the largest Mediterranean island which is a part of Italy and lies just off the ‘toe’ of Italy’s ‘boot’. If you look at the map you would know what I mean.
This island has a lot to offer, so we divided our bases for 3 and 4 days in Palermo and Catania respectively, so that we have quicker access to most of the attractions around them. Sicily has a unique and rich culture just like Portugal, especially with regards to arts, music, literature, architecture, cuisine etc. It also hosts a number of world UNESCO sites.
Driving in Sicily:
You must know that driving in Sicily can be adventurous and aggressive. The reason we are telling you this is because we do not want you to be surprised with the driving skills of the locals here. Unlike any other part of Europe, this Island does not quite believe in civilized driving. You will have to use all your senses while you are behind the wheels. Tailgating, sudden swerving, flashing the headlights etc., are commonly seen especially around cities. It is always advisable to be a defensive and a confident driver. We strongly recommend buying full insurance for your car in order to avoid getting charged for any damages which would be of your control. Also, we do recommend you choose smaller cars as space in the cities would be a concern.
Another important tip to keep in mind is when you are driving try and understand the area your next stop falls under as the exit to that will be marked no doubt but, it is more like a slide through from the freeway and hence it is likely you would miss it.
Best time to Visit Sicily:
The island experiences Mediterarian climate throughout the year. However, the best time to visit Sicily is during Summers. From April to September. having said that the summers bring in loads of excited tourist undoubtedly and also tons and tons of insects. What does it mean to you? It means that you are going to get hit by these insects when you are driving and that is going to mess your windshield and the front of your car to a level that you cannot imagine. At a point, the water from the car would not be enough to clean the windshield. As a suggestion do not throw off any empty water bottles, instead fill them up with some soapy water and keep it in the car. As the weather starts to get cooler these insect start to hibernate.
Day 1: Catania to Palermo
After we landed at Catania International Airport we headed to our favourite car rental company Hertz and then started straight to Palermo, the capital city of Sicily. The reason we started from Palermo was that our flight was from Catania back home to Dubai. So we prefer going further away then coming closer to the departure station.
The drive to Palermo takes you through one of the most scenic countrysides in Europe. The colourful landscape can mesmerise you. We travelled in the month of May and were blessed with plenty of sunshine and warm Mediterranean weather which added to the experience.
Distance from Catania To Palermo: 205 km/128 miles. 2.5 hours drive.
After around 2.5 hours of drive, we reached Palermo, and as expected, driving around in the narrow lanes of Palermo was a challenge.
Palermo is the capital city of Sicily. This historical city will take you back in ancient Roman and Greek establishments with narrow lanes and cobblestone paved roads running through the city. The opera from this city is highly spoken about. The residential area is in the heart of the city. The city is very old, and it has still maintained its old infrastructure, which kinda made it difficult for us to locate our accommodation.
There are millions of small identical alleys which made us lose our direction. At a point, we actually gave up on finding the place and took some help from the locals who could call up the apartment owner to lead and us.
There is plenty of accommodation and hotel options in Palermo to choose from. We suggest choosing and booking your accommodation way in advance during peak season. We chose the San Domenico House. This house was the best place to stay in Palermo city especially for the price and the location.
Name of accommodation – San Domenico House.
Cost for 2 nights – €88 for 2 nights, included €25 cleaning fee.
The San Domenico was nice and cosy with all the basic amenities, it was a single room with an attached bathroom and a small kitchenette. The air-conditioning did give us a bit of a problem but it was manageable.
After a quick freshening up we headed out for some late lunch at a nearby restaurant at Piazza San Dominico. This restaurant was located in the centre just about a minute walk from our accommodation. Piazza San Dominico offered a good selection of Pizza, Pasta and Desserts. The staff were extremely helpful and friendly. They were the ones who actually called the accommodation owner on behalf of us. After an Italian Pizza, it was time for our first stop.
Distance from Catania – Monreale: 11 km/6.8 miles south-west of Palermo. 30 minutes drive from Palermo city.
The drive to Monreale is through beautiful windy roads. The town of Monreale is located on the slope overlooking a valley.
It’s a beautiful small town to walk around. Monreale was founded in the 12th century A.D. and hosts a symbolic feast of Holy Cross in the month of May.
We enjoyed the beautiful sunset at Monreale, and went back to our accommodation in Palermo, had dinner and passed out early for an early start the next day. Hald day tours from Palermo for Monreale
Day 2: Marsala and Erice
Distance from Palermo to Marsala – 121 km/75 miles
The Coastal city of Marsala is situated on the westernmost point of the island of Sicily.
This town is famous for its Marsala wine and the Stagnone Lagoon, a natural marine reserve with salt ponds. Other tourist attractions at Marsala include Insula Romana, Parco Archeologico di Lilibeo, Cantine Pellegrino Winery etc., but we were interested in Isola San Pantaleo.
This is situated in between Trapani and Marsala. The only way to access the island is through ferry. It is situated on a shallow lagoon. The lagoon has layers of salts. The windmills around the area are quite iconic. The island has the remains from the 4th century BC when it was destroyed by the Greeks.
This flat terrain island has a beautiful historical and coastal walk. There are lavatories at the embarkation and disembarkation ports of the ferry. There are a couple of small eateries offering wines, granitas and light meal option.
This is a quiet island is also considered as the hidden treasure recommended for the tourist looking for peace. Since it a hidden treasure you will not find many tourists around here. There are 2 ports to access the ferry. There are Salt Pan tours from Trapani.
Location: Type this on your GPS it will straight take you there. C.da Spagnola n. 228 91025 Marasala Mobile number +393473430329) Look for Isole Di San Pantaleo Tours.
Cost: Ferry €5/person & €9/person to enter the island.
Time Needed: Give yourself 35-40 mins for the whole island and Half a day for Marsala.
Salt Lake Marsala and Mozia Windmill.
After this very quite unexplored attraction, we headed to the most beautiful town of Sicily, Erice. To know about the Unexplored places in Dubai click here. Erice is also a World Heritage UNESCO site.
Distance from Marsala to Erice – 43 km/ 27 miles
Time Needed: Half a Day.
Erice welcomed us with some serious windy roads. Especially the last 10 km was ascending to the top of the Mt. Erice. Situated at an elevation of about 2500 feet, Erice offers stunning views of the low land around and glimpses of the city of Trapani.
Erice offers a very heritage look, a look that would remind you of ancient kingdoms built around the castles, alleys built of stones and preserved for generations.
There are two castles that remain in the city: Pepoli Castle and the Venus Castle which dates from Saracen times and Norman period respectively.
This is an ideal instagrammable destination. Every corner of this town is picturesque and plenty of food options to choose from. There are a couple of tour options to choose from and there are arrangements for the parking at the site. Recommend sturdy shoes as the walk is on the flat cobbled stone alleys mostly ascending.
We had lunch at a restaurant and started our drive back to our accommodation at Palermo. There is a half day tour from Palermo to Erice as well which can be quite convenient.
The best part about travelling to Sicily during summers was we were blessed with plenty of sunlight and that gave us enough time to make the most of this island. We walk around the historical centre of Palermo after getting back where there was something to see every few yards. Will not elaborate on this, instead will let you see for yourself. We called it a night after an early dinner here.
Things to do in Palermo City:
Recommend a DIY walking tour to soak in the culture of this ancient town. Or the other best way to know the town is their hop on hop off which cover a lot more with a detailed history.
Piazza Pretoria and Quattro Canti and Palazzo Chiara Monte.
Palermo Cathedral and Teatro Massimo.
Palazzo Dei Normanni
Catacombe Dei Cappuccini (Must Do). There are 8000 mummies from17C to 19C. (check for the timings)
Day 3 – Towns of Castelbuono, Petralia Sottana and Petralia Soprana (inside Madonie National Park).
Distance from Palermo to Castelbuono – 92 km/57 miles
The name Castlebuono means good castle. And as the name suggests this town is known for its Castles.
This is a very pretty small fairytale town. We arrived in Castlebuone on a Sunday, the whole town gathered for afternoon Mass at the Church.
The streets were filled with happy content locals and tourist. There were plenty of local and cosy restaurants with local food and wine.
The town was filled with ice cream stalls and local granitas. The souvenir stalls offered a great variety too. We recommend an hour stop for lunch here if you are in Madonie National Park.
Distance from Castelbuono to Petralia Soprana 36 km/23 miles (extremely windy roads but green scenic roads through the national park.
Driving further into the Madonie National Park nearly to the top around 1619 meters above sea level an easy drive will lead you to Petralia Soprana and Petralia Sottanna.
Petralia Sottanna is the oldest town somewhere around 14C. Just around 2km drive is Petralia Soprana. Both these town were extremely quiet as there were not much tourist around. Even though these towns are just a couple of Kilometers away from each other they apparently spoke a different language and follow a different culture.
Both Ankita and I loved this place as it was very rooted. It gave us good opportunities to meet the locals and be in their oldest town. The town had a small square where the locals would meet in the evening for drinks. There were a couple of restaurants in the town but mostly close. The one that was open was the Pizzeria which made amazing Pizza’s. The Pizzeria had all the tourist in town for Dinner. Check out the cheapest accommodation options.
Name of Accommodation in Petralia Soprana – La Scaletta Di Petra
Cost for 1 night – €49.5 Included cleaning fee and breakfast.
Madonie National is extremely popular for hiking. We intended to hike some trails inside the Madonie National Park, but couldn’t locate any of them any as there were no signs marking their locations. We met a couple at breakfast who were visiting the 2 weeks in the national park just for hiking and they had already stayed in the Petralia Soprana for 2 days with failed attempts on finding on any hiking tracks. Since they had a lot of time for their journey the 3rd day they figured an app which would take them to the trails. Hope they found it.
So we settled for these historic small towns and stayed overnight at Petralia Soprana. We decided to enjoy these small towns as they had their own charm, away from any metropolis, content by themselves and were an absolute retreat. While you drive through the National Park, look out for an 800-year-old moss covered oak tree while crossing Piano Sempria.
Day 4 – Agrigento and Enna
Distance from Petralia Soprana to Agrigento – 113 km/70 miles
Had an early start from Petralia Soprana and headed to Agrigento. Agrigento lies on the southwest shore of Sicily. This is a must see as it is known for the ruins of the ancient city of Akragas in the Valley of the Temples, another vast UNESCO heritage site with well-preserved Greek temples.
This World heritage site gets very busy during peak seasons. Book your tickets in advance if you can. There are loads of local tours as well if you are not driving, You can also book a tour from Catania allow yourself as much time to see all the remains and click as many pictures as you can. Stopped for lunch in the city centre and headed to Catania with a brief stop at the town of Enna.
Distance from Agrigento to Enna – 84 km/52 miles
Enna is situated in the centre of Sicily. It is about 931 meters above sea level, Enna is the highest Italian provincial capital and offers panoramic views of its surroundings. Enna has an old town and a new town both just a couple of kilometres away from each other. Enna was just a brief stop. Parking was an issue in this town.
After Enna, we headed to our last base in Sicily, Catania, this brings us halfway into this 7 days Sicily itinerary it also brings us closer to ticking the Best places to visit in Sicily by road.
Distance from Enna to Catania – 86 km/53.4 miles
Name of accommodation – Giordano Monovano.
Look for more options
Giordano Monovano is run by 2 young boys. The apartment is very well maintained. It has a garden in the backyard and offers free parking in the vicinity. This is the best place to stay in Catania as the location was perfect has it was just about 15-20 minutes drive to the centre the cost was affordable too.
Cost for 3 nights: €108 included cleaning fee.
Day 5 – Mount Etna
Distance to Mt Etna Cable car station from Catania – 35 km/21.7 miles.
Could take up to 1 hour to reach as the last part is very windy. Please aim at reaching very early if you are driving. Or if you prefer an organized Full day tour from Palermo which also covers our next stop Taromina.
We missed around 2 tour’s and barely made it on the last one which had only the 4 of us, Ankita and Me and 1 other couple and the tour guide. Since it is prohibited to climb without a licenced guide we recommend booking the tour in advance to hike the Mt. Etna.
Mount Etna is one of the world’s most active volcanoes and is in an almost constant state of activity. At 3326 meter, it is the highest volcano in Europe, and the highest peak in Italy, south of the Alps. From about 35000 to 15000 years ago Mt. Etna experienced some dramatic eruptions. In 2013, Mount Etna was added to the list of UNESCO world heritage sites.
The windy drive to the car park and the cable car station is at an elevation of 1900 meters. From here the tour begins with a cable car which takes you to the height of 2500 meters. At this point, you will then be transferred to a 4×4 bus which drives you on this black volcanic sand further up to 2900 meters which is the lower crater. We did notice a lot of people end their tour here.
For people looking to hike further the climb begins from here if you wish to go to the top as we did. The hike to the upper crater is about another 3350 meters. It does require a fairly good fitness level. The hike rates as moderate to hard. Most of the hike is on volcanic soils and few over snow. It can get quite steep on the way down. The weather can change rapidly. Do wear sturdy shoes and long pants to avoid getting scratched by this rough loose soil.
The tour should provide you with some masks at the top as the smoke you inhale is quite pungent and sulphuric. Our tour guide was stingy he carried it along with him but made excuses every time we asked.
The tour costed us €75 each which included to and fro cable car rides, one-way 4×4 bus ride going up and the guided tour.
If you plan to climb to the summit, you will have to target reaching her around 08:00 AM as most expedition leave by 09:00 AM. And remember it is prohibited to climb the summit without a licenced guide. We did spot a few tourist hiking with any guides but then they were warned by other tour guides.
All Mt. Etna tour operators offer hiking gears so you need not worry. Make sure you carry food and water with you.
We started at around 08:30 am at the cable car going up and came back at 04:30 pm.
This hike was super exhausting so the rest of the evening we took it very easy, hopped on to a toy train which took us around Catania’s historic district only for €5 each, had dinner at Catania city centre and called it a night early.
Things to see in Catania:
1) DIY walking Tour.
2) Teatro Massimo Bellini
3) Basilica Della Collegiate
4) Catania Cathedral
5) Piazza Del Duomo & Fontana Dell Elefante
6) Castello Ursino
7) Giardino Bellini.
Day 6: Siracuse and Caltagirone.
Distance to Siracuse: 67 km/41.6 miles
This city is one hour drive from Catania. Like the Agrigento, this town offers the ancient remains. This too is listed by the UNESCO as the World Heritage Site. The town is quite commercialized with high-end branded shops and restaurants. The central Archaeological Park Neapolis comprises the Roman Amphitheater, the Teatro Greco and the Orecchio di Dionisio, a limestone cave shaped like a human ear. We had plenty of time to walk around the historic centre, had lunch and made our way to Caltagirone.
Distance from Siracusa: 103km (1hour 25 min.)
Caltagirone another historic town of Sicily. This town was completely destroyed by an earthquake that took place in 1693. Many public and private buildings were then reconstructed and because of this very reason, this too is a part of the UNESCO world heritage site. Caltagirone is a huge producer of pottery, terra cotta and we also observed ceramics.
Well, our only reason to visit Caltagirone was to see the 142 ceramic steps covered in flowers. Every year the steps are decorated with a unique design but during the last 2 weeks in May the steps get maximum attention. The steps are decorated all the way up to the church.
Driving back to Catania was about 69km an hour drive back to the town.
Day 7: Taormina
Distance to Taormina from Catania – 54 km/33.5 miles
Since it was the last day in Sicily and also the check out time from the accommodation we checked out and drove to our last stop, Taormina.
Taormina is a beautiful coastal town located an hour’s drive north of Catania. This east coast island of Sicily is rich in history, it is also one of the stops for major Mediterranean cruise ships. A picturesque town sits on a hillside offering panoramic views of the sea.
There is an underground paid parking close to the city centre. You can reach the top of the hill on a short cable ride too. As we parked our car and started walking towards the town centre, we saw open top hop on hop off buses and instantly opted for it. The tour companies offer different packages, we bought the ones which covered the Red Route + Blue Route 20€/person which covered the towns of Giardini Naxos+Letojanni+Taormina+Castelmola. We hopped off to have lunch to a beautiful seaside restaurant at Giardini Naxos, overlooking the sea with great seafood and wine.
After lunch hopped on to the bus again and came back to our starting point. Headed back to Catania with plenty of time in hand, spent the last few hours walking on the streets of the historical district.
Plenty of photo opportunities here and ended our evening with some great Italian food and wine at one of the many traditional restaurants. If you are not time constrict on your Sicily Vacation or if you would like to split your stay a Taormina would be your best bet. This is a very cute and happy town. You can also do a full day Mt. Etna tour from Taormina. Full Day Tour OR Half day Tour I would definitely return to Taormina.
Highlights of Sicily Conclusion:
1) If you observed we have mentioned cleaning included with our cost of accommodation everywhere because, in Sicily, all accommodations had an additional cleaning charge, €5-€25 charged in excess of the rental quoted on booking websites, depending on the property.
2) Erice Historical Site.
3) Siracusa and Caltagirone.
4) Mt. Etna.
8) Accommodation Included.
9) Cost for the entire trip is mentioned below.
If the property mentions Parking included, it would most likely be public parking around the area where one might struggle for space. In the historic district of Palermo, one needs a parking permit to avoid a fine. We didn’t know about this till we received the fine over email from Hertz.
Cost Of The Complete Trip: €1904.6 for 2 of us includes all of the above activities, stay, food, drinks and car rentals.
We hope this Sicily Travel Guide helps you plan your trip and we do hope you have a lovely time in this beautiful island of Italy. Make sure you visit these best places in Sicily on your road trip. We also recommend to space out this 7 days Itinerary to at least 8-10 days to feel a bit of your Sicily Vacation.
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