Great news: no poor choices!
Sicily is on your shortlist, but you have no idea where exactly to go and what to see? The good news is that Sicily is the destination with no poor choices! Whether you are into sports, beach, trekking, history, architecture, scenic towns, amazing landscapes or delicious food – you can build a fantastic itinerary to travel in Sicily!
How big is Sicily?
If you are a first-time visitor planning you Sicily itinerary, you may not be sure about its size and how much time you need for your vacation. E.g. The neighbouring state of Malta is an island as well, or – more precisely – an archipelago as well, but Malta is roughly 80 times smaller than Sicily. To give you an idea about the size of the island, here are some basic facts:
- there are 4 airports: 2 at the west coast and 2 at the east coast
- there are no internal direct flights inside Sicily
- the longest road on Sicily’s mainland from one destination to the other will take about 4 hours
- if you choose one of the two transportation hubs (Palermo at the west side and Catania on the east side) or nearby as your bases- everything you may want to visit on that coast will be within 1 h – 1,5h reach by car
- there are at least 7 interesting day-trips that you can do from Catania, same from Palermo, all within 2 h reach maximum
- Catania and Palermo are located on the opposite sides of mainland Sicily; it takes 2,5h to travel between them by car
Be attentive and reasonable when your travel agent advises you to visit e.g. Villa Romana del Casale or Agrigento on a day trip from Taormina, Siracuse or Palermo. It is doable, but why would you spend 5-7 hours on the road in one day to visit a place of a world heritage importance on a quick visit? Sicily isn’t a very big island, but it is easy to loose time on the road.
Choose your base well to save your travel time!
Unless you plan to focus on one or two cities/towns/beach only, plan your itinerary in Sicily along its arterial roads.
The highways connecting Trapani Mazara del Vallo and Palermo, Palermo – Catania (crossing all the island via Enna), Palermo – Messina (all along the northern coast), and Messina – Rosolini via Catania (almost all the east coast) are all fast and efficient roads. Basing along these important highways will guarantee the fastest way to your day-trip destinations. Sicilians have been waiting for years for the highways to make a circle around the island. A lot of people living in the south and south-west of Sicily would benefit from the infrastructure plan that has been postponed for years. The reality today is that the south and south-west are connected with the roads that are much slower and require more attention when driving.
If you want to explore Sicily by car/by bus and not from the car/from the bus – make sure you choose your base well.
But still… What is there to see in Sicily?
Itineraries are multiple, and we will try to cover the best ideas in further articles. However, here are some tips that may be useful for initial planning
Mount Etna is the proud of Sicily
Whether you are into trekking or not, Etna should be on your list unless you have had enough of mountains and volcanoes in your life. Etna is best explored with the base in Catania, Acireale, Giarre or Taormina, or nearby towns. It is only possibly with direct public transport connection from Catania downtown. Acireale downtown and Giarre downtown aren’t typical tourist destinations, but their coastline and suburbs are among the most charming and scenic destinations in Sicily.
Classical Heritage in your Sicily Itinerary
Agrigento with its Valley of the Temples in the south, Villa Romana del Casale (near Piazza Armerina in central Sicily), Segesta and Selinunte (pick at least one!), Syracuse with its Parco Archeologico della Neapolis, Necropoli di Pantalica near Syracuse and Taormina’s Greek Theatre with its breathtaking views are top attractions if you are into classical heritage and Greek ruins.
More History, Mosaics, Architecture?
Add to the one above Palermo’s magnificent architectural monuments across times and eras, scenic Erice, Monreale and Cefalu cathedrals and charming downtowns, Syracuse – Ortigia, Ragusa Ibla, Modica, Noto for white baroque masterpieces and atmsophere, Catania’s bustling center stuffed with late baroque masterworks all accomplished in black lava stone, Forza d’Agro, Castelmola or Savoca near Taormina – and you’ll have enough of architecture and history for the next year to come
But then.. what about the off-the-beaten-track?
Yes, you can find amazing sites of the world heritage importance in less touristy places. Caltagirone, Scicli, Caltanissetta, Enna, Randazzo, Sciacca, Marsala, Mazzara del Vallo, Piazza Armerina, Trapani are less touristy and well worth a day-visit if you have time. Want even a more genuine but historically significant place? Try Bronte, Adrano at the backyard of Etna, Castelbuono at the Madonie or Montalbano Elicona in the Nebrodi. Without a doubt, Agira is topping the off-the beaten-track list, probably the most undervalued touristically town in Sicily. Agira is best to discover with a local who will probably show you pieces of ancient Greek theater in his garden or the remains of something aged deep centuries B.C.
Fancy the beach?
The Aeolian islands, Favignana, Ustica or even Lampedusa are well worth a separate trip, but there are also great places on Sicily’s mainland! Mazzaro bay and Isola Bella in glorious Taormina, Giardini Naxos with its sandy coast – untypical for that part of Sicily, Marzamemi, Fontane Bianche to the south of Siracuse province, scenic Faraglioni coast beside busy-all-year-round Catania, Castellammare del Golfo, and Scopello near Trapani, Scala dei Turchi near Agrigento, San Vito lo Capo and of course Cefalu, Marina di Ragusa and Mondello – are just some of the obvious choices to explore. All of these are within relatively easy reach by public transport in high season. If you have a car – the options easily double.
Wine and Dine
There’s another good example of the fact that there are no poor choices in Sicily! Wherever you go, you can find a feast for your senses. And even though a typical local can easily drive 50 km and more to go for a dinner in a particular place on a regular Saturday, you will easily find something close wherever you stay. Palermo, Trapani, Sciacca, Ragusa, Catania, Acireale, the Madonie Mountains, the Nebrodi mountains, Enna, Siracuse are famous for local specialties whether it is seafood, black pork, cheeses, couscous, vegetable dishes, street food or sweets. However, Sicily is a real parade of food – any village and town will have a surprise to offer! For the wine Marsala, Mt. Etna and Avola are home areas for the best wineries in the region!
Now as you have a long list of suggestions and ideas, it is up to you to sit down with a good map and outline your own Sicily itinerary. This article will give you a start, and you can explore more on this web-site. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you want a portion of constructive criticism on your plan. It’s our pleasure to help curious minds explore our wonderful island!