When thinking about Sicily, most people imagine endless beaches and blue water. But the island is so much more than that – it’s absolutely worth it to take a 7-day road trip in Sicily! Our experience was indeed marvelous – from famous historical sights to lovely hidden gems, Sicily is a great destination for active sightseeing.
How to get to Sicily
In order to begin our marvelous road trip in Sicily, we first need to get there, right? 😁 Well, there are three main airports where you can fly into – Catania-Fontanarossa (which is the largest one), Palermo Falcone-Borsellino, Trapani Birgi, Comiso Pio La Torre (a smaller and not so popular one). Most low-cost airlines fly into Catania and Palermo, so these are the ones you need to look into.
It’s important to know that Sicily is not too friendly when it comes to public transport. I highly recommend hiring a car – it’s the best way to get around the island without having to worry about transport schedules. The best thing is that you can get it directly from the airport (and leave it there as well). Take some time and research the best deals for car hire in Sicily with Discover Cars.
When to visit Sicily
Even though July and August are esteemed to be the high season, you might want to consider enjoying Sicily in its full glory throughout May-June or September-October. Not only will you enjoy some ideal temperatures around 20-25 degrees Celsius (or 70-80s Fahrenheit) – you will also avoid the overwhelming crowds and might even strike some sweet accommodation discounts! Not a bad hack, right?
Spring and fall are a top-notch time for pretty much any activity you can think of (or check below) during your road trip in Sicily. From strolling down the streets and visiting cultural sites, to hiking, sungazing, and even hitting the beach – it’s your call.
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Things to know before visiting Sicily
- The people
If you imagine an authentic scene from The Godfather when you think of Sicilians, you might be slightly disappointed. It’s highly unlikely to see the average Sicilian walking around with a gun in an elegant gangster suit, but there are some typical traits about the locals that are good to keep in mind for your Sicily itinerary for 7 days.
First off – not many of them speak good English. Nevertheless, you will most probably enjoy interacting with them, as the majority is generally hospitable, friendly, and funny.
Another distinguishing (and rather charming) trait is that Sicilians are extremely proud of their culture and identity. Many of them would identify as “Sicilians” first, and “Italians” second.
- The Mafia
Going back to The Godfather – Sicily has become a synonym of the word “mafia” for a number of reasons. From the countless movies about the Cosa Nostra to the historical relations of the region with the organization – we all connect the dots.
Truth be told, the Sicilian mafia is perhaps the most “bourgeois” one in Italy, and even though it still holds power today, it is much more integrated within the legal activities in the society.
On another note, not only do not all Sicilians sympathize with the mafia – there is an Anti-Mafia Movement that is perhaps as active as the organization itself. Thus, you won’t need to worry at all during your road trip in Sicily!
So here’s one important aspect of the Italian lifestyle. Sicilians are super particular about their recycling – it’s essential to keep the island neat and clean. The recycling rules don’t seem to be a low-hanging fruit at first, so I recommend doing your homework prior to going there, especially if you want to stay in an AirBNB.
Basically, you need to remember 5 waste categories:
- Plastic and metal
- Paper, cardboard
- Organic waste
- All other garbage
Each category has its own designated colored bins on the streets. Blue is for plastic and metal, brown for paper and cardboard, white for organic waste (“umido”), and yellow for all other garbage. There’s no special bin only for the glass. I know – sounds confusing, but it’s for a good cause. If you do stay in an AirBNB during your road trip in Sicily – the hosts will explain or send you all information you need. In one of the small cities we stayed in, we had to take out different type of trash each day of the week!
Regardless of whether you plan to be driving in Sicily or strolling down the street, it’s good to keep in mind a thing or two about the locals’ driving… Sicilians have a well-deserved reputation as some of the country’s most aggressive drivers, so brace yourself to wrack some nerves and use extra caution when you follow this Sicily itinerary for 7 days! 🙂
Sicily itinerary for 7 Days:
Even though a 7-day road trip around Sicily sounds like a pretty long one, it’s actually not enough to see everything. There will surely be a few stops you have to miss along the way, but don’t worry – you’ll still see some of the most amazing things around the island! Let’s see which are the best places in Sicily to visit:
Day 1 – Drive to Acireale
We actually landed in Palermo (and had our returning flight departing from there as well), but we decided to drive to the East coast first and then go back to Palermo for sightseeing. The drive from the airport to Acireale was a bit over 3 hours, it’s almost the same if you decide to sleep in Catania. So it doesn’t matter where you land – this itinerary is doable both ways!
If you do decide a bit to drive on your first day from your road trip in Sicily, you would still have some part of the afternoon for exploring. As we chose budget accommodation in Sicily, we stayed in Acireale – a gorgeous and underrated city in Sicily!
If you really want to feel the authentic Sicilian atmosphere, Acireale is the absolute perfect option for you! As I mentioned above, recycling is an important part of Sicily’s lifestyle, and this is the first place where you’ll encounter it. We stayed in an AirBNB (our host was very lovely), and we were made clear how recycling works over there.
However, there are two main things that won my heart as to why Acireale is one of the best places to visit in Sicily – how nice the people are and how few tourists you’ll meet! We were on a road trip in Sicily with a 7-month old baby, so you’ll imagine how hard it was dragging the stroller everywhere. In no other city were the people so nice – lots of them stopped and talked to our little one, smiled, made faces, asked about her name (in Italian, so I just said “fiore”, flower, which is how it translates). We also had people stop and help with the stroller! Most of them didn’t speak English at all, but they did want to help and the language barrier didn’t matter. This whole atmosphere was so welcoming, we were extremely happy we didn’t skip this city. In addition, we only saw one tourist group for 5 days (this was before the coronavirus pandemic) and it wasn’t even that large.
Top things to see in Acireale:
- Piazza Duomo – the main square of Acireale
- Basilica di San Sebastiano – a gorgeous baroque building that is most stunning in the morning
- Basilica dei Santi Pietro e Paolo – a captivating church nestled in the heart of the city
- Chiazzette – take the trail starting from Piazza Duomo and explore the lower part of Acireale – its Ionian coast is absolutely gorgeous! You can also go there by car (which we did because of the stroller), but here’s a bit more info about the trail itself.
- Cyclopean Isles – if you have some extra time, you can take a boat tour – it will take your breath away!
- Musmeci Palace – if you’re in the mood for some authentic 18th Century Palace – that’s your place
Looking to explore more of the best places to visit in Italy? Check out this 3-day Rome itinerary!
Day 2 – Taormina, Mazzaro, Castelmola
Okay, so let’s talk about why you’re really in Sicily. It’s Taormina, isn’t it? 😁 Before I started planning our road trip in Sicily, I hadn’t heard about it, but it’s indeed the most popular city for tourists. If you’d like to fully explore Taormina and the surrounding sights, it will take you about 2 days. But one full day is also enough to see the main attractions!
Top things to see in Taormina
Even with the coronavirus pandemic, Taormina can get a bit busy during high season. Thus, I suggest that you visit Taormina as early as you can! Leave your car at one of the large parkings at either entrance, have an ice cream for breakfast (we’re totally guilty – we did exactly that!) and start exploring.
- Corso Umberto – Taormina’s main street, you can’t miss it 😄 It’s wonderful and full of cafes, shops, and super touristy
- Piazza IX Aprile – the best viewpoint of the city
- Greek Theatre of Taormina – now this is one of the places that will show you why Taormina is one of the best places to visit in Sicily! The theatre and the view of the Etna volcano between its arches are absolutely mind-bending.
- Villa Comunale – an amazing park at the heart of Taormina – a perfect escape if you’re visiting Taormina on a hot day
Castelmola is kind of a hidden gem on your Sicily itinerary, but it is so worth seeing! It’s a castle with an amazing view over Taormina, its surroundings and Etna. I would’ve totally missed it if it wasn’t for a lovely girl that replied to my Instagram stories while I was there and told me about it. It’s also a bit less touristy than Taormina, and you can leave your car at the paid parking right next to the castle.
It’s about time to enjoy the area’s brightest gem – that’s right, the beaches in Sicily. You can reach the breathtaking Mazzaro, one of the best places to visit in Sicily, by taking a lift (or a steep walkway, if you don’t mind breaking some sweat), and enjoying the mesmerizing views on the way. Once you reach there the sky is the limit. The pebbly beach offers all kinds of diverse activities such as snorkeling, diving, boat trips to Grotta Azzurra sea cave that I totally recommend, and charming restaurants with mouth-watering cuisines (especially if you’re a mussels fan like me)!
Or should we say “The Pearl of the Ionian Sea”? Isola Bella is a small and charming heart-shaped island nestled within a small bay and it was one of my favourite spots during our Sicily itinerary for 7 days. During the high season, it is usually packed with people, but if you get the timing right during late spring/early autumn you might enjoy it with fewer crowds and still be able to take a dip in the sea. With its crystal clear water and splendid local flora, Isola Bella is a must-stop destination.
Day 3 – Mount Etna & Catania
Time to move on to Sicily’s absolute can’t-miss location – the captivating mount Etna. With its impressive 3,340m above sea level, Etna is the highest active volcano in Europe. There are several ways to reach, such as buses from Catania and a railway line to Riposto. We took a cable car that took us more than 2,500m above sea level and gifted us with mind-bending panoramas!
Regardless of the season – the mountain offers a wide variety of activities for everyone. In summer, just as we did, you can hit the numerous hiking trails and enjoy the diverse vegetation throughout the woods. If you’re into more cultural and historical activities – I strongly recommend signing up for one of the local tours with a guide for this particular stop of your Sicily itinerary for 7 days. Winter, on other hand, is perfect for sports (just imagine skiing down the peaks…).
Top things to see (and do) in Etna:
So apart from hiking or wild skiing, here are a few stops you absolutely must make:
- The Silvestri craters – two inactive craters that were formated after the 1892 eruption. Neat, right?
- Rifugio Sapienza – a must-stop resort with great restaurants
- Parco Avventura dell’Etna – or the Etna Adventure Park. As the name suggests, this is a fun and adventurous themed park, ideal to spice up your trip to Etna!
- Chalets – if you seek some mountain relaxation, don’t miss out on booking a chalet in the forest
- Jeep tour – just in case the Adventure park is not enough
Here you can find more detailed info on all the amazing things you can in Etna.
If you decide to visit Etna and still have some time left, Catania is also totally worth exploring. It is the ultimate place for sea and mountain lovers alike and has a super-rich historical heritage. Of course, we couldn’t miss out on exploring the historic city center during our Sicily itinerary for 7 days. Did you know its Baroque made it a UNESCO World Heritage Site?
Top things to see in Catania:
- Piazza del Duomo – the heart of the city, where you can see the popular The Elephant’s Fountain
- Duomo Di Catania – you can visit the Catania Cathedral for free pretty much every day
- La pescheria – if you happen to be in Catania during a weekday morning, the fish market is quite an authentic experience
- Via Etnea – Catania’s main street! The name says it all – the end of the street reveals a perfect view of majestic old Etna
- Piazza dell’Universita – if you like palaces, this is the square to be. Not one but two great buildings facing each other, offering relaxing inner yards
- Castello Ursino – a wonderful castle and a perfect place for lunch – with lots of restaurants around
Day 4 – Syracusa, Ragusa, Modica
If you’re a fan of timeless ancient history and archeological sites like we are, get ready for some lifetime memories – these are truly some of the best places to visit in Sicily. Syracusa is a truly captivating place for numerous reasons, but its rich nearly-three-millennia history probably tops the list. Quick historic fact (just in case you didn’t know): Syracusa used to be a Greek city bigger and greater even than Athens, and played a key role during the Roman empire.
One of the first things we did after wandering in the historic city center, was to visit the magnificent island of Ortygia. It’s a heavenly and super lively area. You’ll find authentic streetscapes and endless options for dining and drinking (I highly recommend the wine tasting)!
You can easily spend at least 3 days there, but since we’re already on day 4 of our Sicily itinerary for 7 days, here’s what I recommend seeing.
In need of more Italy inspiration? See these 9 unmissable hidden gems in Florence!
Top things to see in Syracusa:
- Neapolis Archeological Park – an absolute must-see for anyone who goes to Syracusa. One of the finest archeological sites in Italy
- Ortygia market – this market is a true festival of colors, flavors and scents
- The Greek Theater – one of the largest theaters in the world, completely carved in the stone. Need to say more?
- Museo Archeologico Regionale Paolo Orsi – getting back to the archeology-minded fellas, this is one of the most prestigious museums in Europe
- Ear of Dionysius – if you’re a cave enthusiast, this one is a must-see. It’s an artificial cave located under the Greek Theater in an ancient stone quarry called Latomia del Paradiso. It was super interesting to see in person!
- Piazza Duomo – wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say this is one of the most beautiful squares throughout the entire country!
One more history lesson (super short, I promise), to enhance Ragusa’s splendor. Just as many other towns back in the day, Ragusa was completely destroyed by a massive earthquake in 1693. As a result, nowadays the city is split into 2 parts – old and new. The more bourgeois citizens decided to rebuild Ragusa above the old one and called it Ragusa Superiore. The other part of the locals, however, rebuilt the city on its original location at the bottom of a gorge – Ragusa Ibla. While each of those has its charm, you will be truly enchanted by the authentic spirit of the lower part. You can approach Ragusa Ibla from Modica to the south and you will be left completely speechless by its timeless Baroque beauty, grey stone houses and small streets.
Now let’s talk about the truly important things – chocolate!! 😄 You read it right. Apart from its breathtaking Baroque architecture, Modica has a long history in the Sicilian chocolate-making tradition (400 years in the business, to be exact). Don’t waste any time and just go straight to Museo del Cioccolato. Jokes aside, Modica is a feast for all the senses and you will immensely enjoy this stop of your Sicily itinerary for 7 days. It’s located about 15km from Ragusa, and is totally worth the visit. With steep staircases and unique streetscapes, Modica is enamored equally by locals and backpackers alike. Naming the main attractions worth seeing there is quite tough, as the city hides a whole package of them once you find your way around.
Day 5 – Agrigento – Valley of the Temples
So let’s continue our once-in-a-lifetime archeological tour – an integral part of any decent road trip in Sicily. Day 5 of your Sicilian fairy tale will take you to Agrigento. This lovely city has some of the finest Greek archeological sites in Europe, and the brightest gem in its crown is undoubtedly the Valley of Temples! The so-called Valley contains 8 iconic Greek temples that have enchanted their visitors for over 2,500 years. They were built by the Greek colonizers to demonstrate the glory and prosperity of the third most powerful city in the area at the time – Akragas (or Agrigento today). The temples have proudly stood the test of time, and are surprisingly well preserved – I can assure you that you will fall in love with this stop of your Sicily itinerary for 7 days!
You will be able to check them all in about 4 hours. You should buy tickets online (€12 full entry, free for children under 18) prior to the visit that skip the long lines, which will buy some additional time. The temples are situated about 3km from Agrigento, so if you’re planning to take a walk instead of a bus, taxi, or a rental car – keep in mind the season/weather. In summer it’s best to leave early in the morning (or at night/sunset, when many people say they’re even more breathtaking!). Opening times are from 8:30 am – 7 pm (11 pm during high season, and midnight on weekends).
There are 2 entrances:
- Eastern area – start here, the more popular and well-preserved part of the park. Grab some coffee and refreshments from the cafeteria nearby, and afterwards enter Tempio di Giunone (Temple of Juno)
- Western area – the Western entrance is located about 2km from the Eastern. You can continue to the great Temple of Zeus after the Eastern part, but it doesn’t really matter which area you pick up first.
Bonus tip: if you’re an EU citizen aged 18-25, you can get a cheaper ticket. No cheating, though – they might ask for an ID!
Day 6 – Erice & Marsala
By this moment we were already used to the cable car traveling in Sicily, but going to Erice, one of the best places to visit in Sicily, brought it to a whole new level. The enchanting Medieval village is situated at 750m above sea level. If you’re very lucky, you might find it hugged by its own cloud, creating a magical ambiance! The weather there can switch from foggy to bright sunshine in a fraction of the minute, which complements the exceptional experience.
One of the first things we did was head down to the internationally-renowned pastry shop Maria Grammatico (nestled on Via Vittorio Emanuele street), and treat ourselves to some first-class meal! 😄 Quick tip: one of Erice’s specialties are the almond cakes – don’t skip them! Afterward, we swiftly moved on to the main attractions listed below.
Top things to see in Erice:
- Castello di Venere – one of the top attractions in the area and a must for your Sicily itinerary for 7 days. Even though going inside is forbidden, the mind-bending 360 panoramas surrounding the 12th-century castle are totally worth the visit
- Torre di Federico – what better way to enjoy a town that soars in the skies, than going even higher on its 28m-tall tower
- Real Duomo – you can find tickets for this magical gold-and-marble cathedral in Torre di Federico
- The sixty churches – that’s right, little Erice has not 1, nor 10, but 60 churches! We enjoyed the gothic ones like Chiesa Madre, but some of the most famous include Chiesa di San Martino and Chiesa di San Giuliano
Truth is that even wandering down the stone-paved streets and enjoying the panoramas will leave you with memories that linger for life. The village is gifted with unique architecture – an authentic mix of all the different cultures and rulers that invaded it. Erice simply is a walk back in time!
Our stomachs (and specifically our taste for world-class wine) took us to our next stop – the marble-paved Marsala! As you’ve probably heard, the wine in Marsala is fairly heralded throughout the globe. It was just the ultimate spot for a relaxed afternoon and evening strolls, with plenty of options for aperitivos and top-notch bars and restaurants around each corner. In other words – the cherry on top of our 6th day in paradise!
By the way, if you still have some time (and energy) left to explore more of the city – check out the renowned archaeological museum “Baglio Anselmi”. Another awesome option is the Il Stagnone saltpans.
Trapani is not your usual stop for a Sicily itinerary for 7 days – it’s a lovely hidden gem! It’s a beautiful small city with wonderful views, but our favourite stop was definitely the Museum of Optical Illusions. I must admit – I hadn’t read about it anywhere when I was researching beforehand, and it had always been a dream of mine to visit such a place. We were just strolling around some tiny streets in Trapani when I saw the sign. I couldn’t resist walking in – I was so excited! The museum can only be visited via a guided tour, but don’t worry – they count even a couple of people as a group, you won’t need to wait long at all.
You might be flying to Sicily through Milan – why not extend your trip? Check out these top attractions in Milan in 3 days!
Day 7 – Palermo
What better way to end our Sicilian road trip than visiting the timeless capital – Palermo? The city is literally overflowing with things to do and see. This is why I recommend you make a precise plan before going. Especially if you only have a day, as we did!
Palermo has its own unique heartbeat. The city is the touchpoint of ancient history and a modern, vibrant society. Strolling down the streets, we were captivated. The well-preserved yet authentic buildings cuddled by palms, the renowned museums and sites sheltering citrus trees in their courtyards, the street art behind each corner, the hip bars and restaurants, this all cuts the figure of the ultimate metropolis. All of these things make it a perfect stop for your Sicily itinerary for 7 days. Of course, we sped up to grab some of the world-renowned street food! One of the best was Sfincione – a local pizza unique even for Italy!
The list below will help you build your Palermo itinerary. It’s physically impossible to include everything, but you can pick what suits you best.
Top things to see in Palermo:
- Palazzo dei Normann – sometimes called “The Royal Palace”, it’s one of the most popular monuments in Palermo
- Quattro Canti – a wonderful square with breathtaking architecture
- Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele – the largest opera in Italy, and third largest in Europe!
- Opera dei Pupi – an old and must-see traditional puppets show, beloved by local children and adults alike
- The beaches <3 – of course, there’s no time to check all the beaches in Palermo. But here is a list of the best ones by a local
- The street markets – the 5 super old markets in Palermo are perfect to feel like a local. Oh, and to try out some of the finest street food in town! I highly recommend Mercato di Ballarò.
- Mount Pellegrino – it’s more like a 600m-tall hill, offering amazing views and a bunch of things to do
If you get the chance to spend a bit more than a day around Palermo or you have a later flight – try to catch the sunset at the small but gorgeous village of Trappeto. We ended up spending two nights there and completely immersed into Sicilian atmosphere and Italian life!
Extra Sicily road trip ideas
Now that your fairytale reaches to an end, why not add some extra spice? If you’re ahead of schedule and want to expand your Sicily itinerary for 7 days with a few extras, here are some bonus tips:
Located just an hour’s drive from Palermo, Cefalù is the perfect spot to immerse into a picturesque scenery. Its world-renowned beaches will keep you busy for hours. Also, while you’re there don’t be fooled to skip the local cathedral. It’s totally worth the visit! In case you’re not traveling by car, there are organized trips to Cefalù from Palermo.
Temple of Segesta
One of the most highly appreciated archeological sites throughout the whole of Sicily. Built on a hill, you can get a glimpse of it on the freeway between Palermo and Trapani. I highly recommend doing a detour to enjoy it closely.
Along with Monte Pellegrino, Monte Cofano is one of the favorite spots of local and traveling backpackers. It’s situated between Trapani and Erice, at 660m above sea level. A great escape from the city dynamic if you’re in the mood for forest hiking and jaw-dropping views of the seaside!
Where to stay in Sicily – accommodation
If you do plan a Sicily itinerary for 7 days – it’s best to not to sleep in just one place. We decided to split our stay between the East coast and the West coast and it was an excellent decision.
Budget accommodation in Sicily
The East coast of Sicily can be quite expensive. We chose the adorable city of Acireale in order to save a bit on accommodation – Taormina can be crazy expensive! Here are a few budget options in Acireale and Taormina if you’re looking to save some $$:
- Acireale: Terrazze Bella Epoque – Booking.com rating: 8.9 – Price per night: ~50 EUR
- Acireale: Jonio B&B – Booking.com rating: 9.3 – Price per night: ~60 EUR
- Taormina: Hotel Villino Gallodoro – Booking.com rating: 8.6 – Price per night: ~60 EUR
The West coast is fairly cheaper in terms of accommodation in Sicily – it’s not that touristy (even though it hides many things worth seeing!), but you can still sleep outside of Palermo in order to fit a better budget:
- Palermo: Ai Bastioni del Massimo – Booking.com rating: 9.3 – Price per night: ~50 EUR
- Palermo: B&B Politeama Art – Booking.com rating: 9.2 – Price per night: ~60 EUR
Luxury accommodation in Sicily
We can’t always travel on a budget, can we? Sometimes it’s just soo good to “Treat Yo Self” 😁. Here are a few amazing luxury accommodation options on the East coast of Sicily:
- Taormina: UNAHOTELS Capotaormina – Booking.com rating: 8.9 – Price per night: ~250 EUR
- Taormina: Eurostars Monte Tauro – Booking.com rating: 8.1 – Price per night: ~450 EUR
And here are a few top picks for the West coast:
- Palermo: Eurostars Centrale Palace Hotel – Booking.com rating: 8.4 – Price per night: ~200 EUR
- Palermo: Rocco Forte Villa Igiea – Booking.com rating: 9.2 – Price per night: ~600 EUR