Sicily by roads in 7 days
Bonjorno!!! Welcome to this 7 days road journey through Sicily, a tiny Mediterranean island which is also a part of Italy and lays just off the ‘toe’ of Italy’s ‘boot’. For those of you it didn’t make any sense, refer to the map of Italy and I’m sure you will figure that out.
We were over at Sicily for our wedding anniversary and had a perfectly planned 7 days which we are more than happy to share with you. 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. Let’s begin our journey and welcome aboard!!!
For a small island, there is a lot to see in Sicily, 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. Bear in mind that driving in Sicily can be very aggressive. You will have to use all your senses while driving here and tailgating, sudden swerving etc., are common occurrences especially around cities, unlike the rest of Europe. It is always advisable to be a defensive driver and buy full insurance for your car, just to be on the safe side.
Day 1: Catania to Palermo
Landed at Catania International Airport in the morning, picked up our car at our favourite car rental company Hertz and headed straight to Palermo, the capital city of Sicily. Drive to Palermo takes you through one of the most scenic countrysides in Europe. We were there 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 not to our surprise, driving around in the lanes of Palermo was a challenge. Palermo will remind you of ancient Roman and Greek establishments with narrow lanes and cobblestone paved roads running through the city. The residential area is in the heart of the city seemed very old, fairly unplanned gave us a tough time to locate our accommodation. In fact, we gave up on finding the place and had to call up the apartment owner to come and guide us. There was plenty of accommodation to choose from. Please book your accommodation during peak season. Look for multiple tour options that suit your itinerary.
Name of accommodation – San Domenico House.
Cost for 2 nights – €88 for 2 nights, included €25 cleaning fee.
After settling down at our accommodation, we headed out for some lunch at a nearby restaurant at Piazza San Dominico and headed out to visit a beautiful small town named Monreale.
Monreale: 11 km/6.8 miles south-west of Palermo. 30 mins drive.
The drive to Monreale is through beautiful windy roads. It’s a beautiful small town to walk around. This town was founded in the 12th century A.D. and hosts a symbolic feast of Holy Cross in the month of May.
After sunset, we went back to our accommodation in Palermo, had dinner and passed out early for an early start the next day.
Day 2: Marsala and Erice
Distance from Palermo to Marsala – 121 km/75 miles
The 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 quiet island is also considered as the hidden treasure & hence you would not find many tourists around here. An island north of the main town and could be accessed by ferries from two boarding points. (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. After this, we headed to the most beautiful town of Sicily, Erice which is also a World Heritage UNESCO site.
Cost: Ferry €5/person & €9/person to enter the island.
Time Needed: Give yourself 35-40 mins for the whole island & Half a day for Marsala.
Distance from Marsala to Erice – 43 km/ 27 miles
Now headed to a beautiful historic town and commune, we cross through some serious windy roads for the last 10 km and reach the town of Erice situated on top of Mt. Erice. Situated at an elevation of about 2500 ft, Erice offers stunning views of the low land around. Erice is an ideal example of ancient kingdoms built around castles, houses and alleys built of stones and preserved for generations. There are two castles that remain in the city: Pepoli Castle, which dates from Saracen times, and the Venus Castle, dating from the Norman period, built on top of the ancient Temple of Venus, where Venus Ericina was worshipped. Plenty of photo opportunities here as every corner of this town is picturesque and plenty of food options to choose from. After a lot of walking around here, 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.
After we got to Palermo, we still had an about an hour to sunset so we parked our car and walk around the historical centre of Palermo 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.
Highlights of 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 & Quattro Canti & Palazzo Chiara Monte.
- Palermo Cathedral & 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
We stopped for lunch in Castelbuono. This is a very pretty small fairytale town. Since it was a Sunday the whole town gathered for afternoon Mass at the Church, streets had icecream stalls, restaurants with local food & wine. 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)
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 & 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 speak a different language & follow a different culture. Both I & Ankita loved this place as it was very rooted. 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 Agoda for cheapest accommodation options.
Name of Accommodation in Petralia Soprana – La Scaletta Di Petra
Cost for 1 night – €49.5 Included cleaning fee and breakfast.
We intended to hike some trails inside the Madonie National Park, but couldn’t locate any as there were no signs marking their locations. So we settled for these historic small towns and stayed overnight at Petralia Soprana. During our stay in La Scaletta, we met another couple at the breakfast table who had come specifically to hike the trails but could not locate them for 2 days. Since they had a lot of time for their journey the 3rd they figured an app which would take them to the trails. Hope they found it. 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, make sure to spot the 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
Started early from Petralia Soprana and headed to Agrigento. This is a must see as here lie 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 place can get busy too during peak seasons. Book your tickets in advance if you can. 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 a city and commune located roughly at the centre of Sicily. At 931 m above sea level, Enna is the highest Italian provincial capital and offers panoramic views of its surroundings.
After Enna, we headed to our last base in Sicily, Catania, from where we intended to cover the rest of our itinerary.
Distance from Enna to Catania – 86 km/53.4 miles.
Checked in to our accommodation, had dinner and called it a night.
Name of accommodation – Giordano Monovano. Look for more options
This place is run by 2 young boys. Very well maintained. The apartment had a garden attached. Just about 10-15mins drive to the Catania City Center.
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 book an organized tour which also covers our next stop Taromina. We missed around 2 tours & barely made it on the last one which had only the 4 of us, Ankita & Me & 1 other couple & the tour guide. Since it is prohibited to hike without a licenced guide we recommend booking the tour in advance.
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. In 2013, Mount Etna was added to the list of UNESCO world heritage sites.
Motorable road ends at a car park and cable car station at an elevation of 1900 meters. From here the cable car takes you to an elevation of approximately 2500 meters and then a 4×4 bus takes us to a point by the lower craters to a height of approximately 2900 meters. From here the climb begins if you wish to go to the top. It cost 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 make it early here as most expeditions leave by 09:00 am and it is prohibited to climb the summit without a licenced guide. Almost all expedition tour operators offer hiking gears so you need not worry. Just carry some food and water with you. The hike is on a fairly steep gradient and on loose volcanic soil, so a fair level of fitness is suggestible.
We started at around 08:30 am at the cable car going up and came back at 04:30 pm. Were super exhausted so the rest of the evening we just relaxed, 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 passed out early.
Highlights Of Catania: DIY walking Tour.
- Teatro Massimo Bellini
- Basilica Della Collegiate
- Catania Cathedral
- Piazza Del Duomo & Fontana Dell Elefante
- Castello Ursino
- Giardino Bellini.
Day 6: Taormina
Distance to Taormina from Catania – 54 km/33.5 miles
Taormina is a beautiful coastal town located an hour’s drive north of Catania. Rich in history, it is also one of the stops for major Mediterranean cruise ships. A picturesque town developed on a hillside offering panoramic views of the sea. After we parked our car and started walking towards the town centre, we saw open top hop on hop off buses and instantly liked the idea. 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, so spent the time walking 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 have enough time or if you would like to split your stay Taormina would be an ideal stop. This is a very cute & happy town. You can also do a full day Mt. Etna tour from Taormina. I would definitely return to Taormina.
Day 7 : Siracuse
Distance to Siracuse: 67 km/41.6 miles
This was the last day for us and our flight out of Catania was in the evening at around 06:00 pm, so we utilized the time. Checked out of our accommodation and took a quick 1-hour drive south to the city of Siracuse known for its ancient ruins. 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 back to Catania International Airport well in time for our flight back home.
Note: We’ve mentioned cleaning included with our cost of accommodation everywhere because, in Sicily, all accommodations had about €5-€25 cleaning fee, charged in excess of the rental quoted on booking websites, depending on the property.
Also, if the property mentions Parking included, it would mostly be public parking 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 Total Trip: €1904.6 for 2 of us includes all of the above activities, stay, food & drinks car rentals.
We hope you have a lovely time in this beautiful island of Italy. Please share your experience your comments your pictures below or #taletrips. We would love to be a part of your experience through pictures. To stay updated with our latest post subscribe & follow or follow us on any of the below social media links. Safe travels.