Sicily is an area of stunningly diverse scenery and our campervan Sicily trip, part of our campervanning in Italy, was a roller coaster ride of surprises. From incredible canyons and creepy catacombs to mountain towns and beautiful beaches. This Sicily motorhome itinerary has a mixture of experiences that can all be fitted into a week’s road trip through the country.
[NOTE: Once Sicily opens up its borders after Covid-19, it will be attracting tourists by offering to pay a contribution to your trip. It will apparently also be issuing vouchers for cultural activities. You will find out more on here once the offers are in place.]
Campervan Sicily Road Trip Stops: Summary
Campervan Sicily Road Trip Map
This interactive map shows all of the places we visited on our campervanning trip through Sicily. Click the square symbol in the top right corner to expand the map and you will see a key on the right-hand side.
Each town is highlighted in a different colour with the main attractions added to the map as well. All of our campervan/motorhome stops are marked up with links to any relevant camperstop reviews and information.
Best Time to Campervan Sicily
With only a week in Sicily, it’s difficult to decide where to spend your time. It will likely depend on the season in which you visit and how well you tolerate crowded places.
In the summer months, Sicily can become very crowded, especially along the coast. Schools have their holidays and the temperatures can soar along with accommodation rates. The shoulder seasons of May/June and September/October will have fewer tourists and warm weather. In the winter months, the temperatures are cool, there are far fewer crowds, room rates go down, as does the temperature of the sea.
Our road trip through Sicily took place in mid-January, Sicily’s winter. We are crowd averse, so being able to enjoy many of Sicily’s sights without hordes of other tourists meant it was the perfect time for us to visit.
Bear this in mind when planning your own Sicily campervan trip, because what may seem an idyllic beach setting in our photos could very well be a jammed packed throng in the summer months.
We were campervanning in Sicily but this itinerary is just as suitable for a car – just use a site like Booking.com to find your accommodation.
Best Things to do on a One Week Sicily Road Trip
Taormina with its Ancient Greek theatre in the background (left on hill)
Taormina, a city on the eastern Sicilian coast, lies on a terrace against a backdrop of orchards and rolling hills. In the distance lays the towering monarch, Mt Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe.
Inhabited for more than 2500 years, Taormina has been called home by the Arabs, Greeks and Italians. It has a rich history, but in more recent times, it has become a popular tourist destination for its blue grottos, beaches, water activities and historical sites.
Taormina town square, Piazza IX Aprile with the centrepiece of Chiesa di San Guiseppe
If you enter the old town from the north you’ll enter by the Messina Gates and then follow a pedestrian-only walkway through craft and antiques shops, small streets and multicoloured alleys.
Further along, by a large square, Piazza IX Aprile, you’ll come across the Chiesa di San Guiseppe. This historical baroque church is the centrepiece of the large square. The double flight staircase of the church leads to an intricate portal constructed of different varieties of Taormina marble. While you’re here, don’t miss the beautiful views across the ocean from the square’s observation point.
One of the main attractions of Taormina is its Ancient Greek Theatre. It is dramatically set high up overlooking Taormina with views of Mount Etna in the distance. Built in the 3rd century BC, it the second largest Greek Theatre in Sicily (after Syracuse). In summer, it’s used to stage concerts and festival events.
Here’s a video snippet of Taormina’s ancient Greek theatre.
Looking down from Taormina towards the island of Isola Bella
Under the watchful eye of the Taormina town, you’ll find the beautiful ‘Pearl of the Ionian Sea’, Isola Bella. This is a small island and nature reserve connected to the mainland by a narrow sandbar.
Privately owned until the 1990s, the island is now under the administration of the World Wide Fund for Nature. Depending on the tide, you may be able to get onto the island from the small sand strip connecting it to the bay.
Island of Isola Bella, Sicily
Whilst near the island, a local boat owner offered us a trip to visit the Blue Grotto in the nearby island of Capri, and its surrounds for €25 each, with a promise of about 45 minutes of boat sightseeing time.
The Blue Grotto is a sea cave, which has sunlight that passes through an underwater cavity. This creates a brilliant blue reflection that illuminates the water and cavern. It was a very pretty sight but what we really enjoyed was the view across the bay to Mount Etna.
Beach between Taormina and Isola Bella with the Blue Grotto tour boat
Mt Etna as seen from our tour boat .. spectacular.
Castelmola on top of the hill behind Taormina, Sicily
Sitting over Taormina’s shoulder lies the mountain town of Castelmola. With the boat trip complete, we set our sights on the nearby mountain town of Castelmola. There was only one way to go from the beach – and that was up.
Having made it about halfway into the town with a couple of kilometres to go, one of the earlier boat tour guides drove past and offered us a free ride to Castelmola. We weren’t about to say no. David, a chatty Sicilian who also ran the local stand up paddleboard /windsurf/kiteboard school, gave us a brief history of Castelmola and recommended we visit the old church on our way back down.
We were dropped off at the summit of Castelmola. The views were absolutely fantastic, with Mt Etna seemingly an arm’s length away. However, the cold wind gusts accounted for about a five-degree drop in temperature. Very nippy.
This small village above Taormina is a natural terrace that has been built around the ruins of a Norman castle with the walls being all that remain of the fortress.
After exploring Castelmora and taking in the magnificent views, take the downhill pathway leading towards Taormina and the next hill, Monte Tauro, and visit the Santuario Madonna della Rocca church. Carved into the rock in 1640, this church overlooks Taormina.
The Santuario Madonna della Rocca church carved from the rock, Castelmola Sicily
For more ideas on more things to see and do in Taormina, Isola Bella and Castelmola click here.
Cavagrande del Cassibile
Our next stop on our Sicily road trip was Cavagrande del Cassibile. If you enjoy a hike and dramatic scenery, then taking the trail down through the Cavagrande Canyon to the Cassibile River is something that you should add to your Sicily trip. At the bottom of the Cavagrande beside the river, the rocks have weathered away to form natural steps/seating and the river cascades over several small waterfalls.
On your travels, you may wish to add the historic city of Syracuse to your Sicily itinerary. Syracuse is famous for its archeological park and is the largest Greek Amphitheatre in Sicily.
It’s just over an hours drive from Cavagrande Nature Reserve and you could include it on your campervan Sicily route from Taormina. We chose to skip it due to time restraints, but Syracuse is a popular destination included on many Sicily road trip routes.
A ‘must’ town on our Sicily road trip itinerary was Modica. The reason? I wanted to discover the secret surrounding one of my particular passions… Chocolate.
Modica is part of the Val di Noto area, destroyed by an earthquake in 1693 and rebuilt in what is known as the Sicilian Baroque style. Since 2002 it has been recognised as part of the UNESCO World Heritage.
However, it wasn’t so much the Baroque architecture that was drawing us in; I was interested in another type of ‘Bar’. I was in search of Modica’s Aztec inspired chocolate – and not just one bar. I’d heard there were several flavours to sample.
However, whilst what’s around the next corner is often a pandora’s box of treasures. Sometimes it’s a mess of mayhem, traffic, stress and you screaming, ‘Get me out of here’. Modica was the latter.
Having left Cavagrande Cassabile Canyon behind us, we were headed towards southern Sicily with visions of chocolate shops and tantalising tastings.
We’d been travelling through Europe in our motorhome for over 6 months by this time. and tended to avoid driving in the major cities due to the amount of traffic, the size of our campervan and the added stress of navigation when there are five lanes of traffic to contend with.
The little town of Modica would be a breeze… we thought. It wasn’t. It was hectic.
Even though it was winter, there was lots of traffic and oodles of narrow streets. But not only narrow; parked cars lined them, making it almost impossible to get our campervan past. We were forced to drive on the pavement, managed to get lost, reversed up for oncoming traffic numerous times, got lost again, and poor Lars was doing the near-impossible feat of edging our 7.5m long campervan through the Baroque styled architecture which we, unfortunately, paid less heed to than the oncoming trucks.
So you know when you have days that don’t quite go to plan? This was one. The lure of Aztec chocolate didn’t outweigh the desire to extricate ourselves from the neverending warren of twisting alleyways – and as soon as we hit the main road, we beat a hasty retreat out of town.
Mayhem in Modica: Take note, life on the road isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, but Sicily was going to make it up to us later on our campervan road trip.
We decided that our next Sicily campervan stop for the night would be Enna, an ancient city situated on the summit of a very large hill surrounded by cliffs. It is about as central as you can get in Sicily and Enna is known as the navel of Sicily.
This time we studied the paper map, the GPS navigator and google maps to ensure we found a viable way into Enna and knew exactly where we were going to park. We had our hearts set on a free campervan carpark right by the Castello di Lombardia in the old part of town.
You are never quite sure what you will be arriving to, especially when the parks are free. Moreover, if there aren’t any reviews for that site it is difficult to judge. Some campervan sites we just took a look, said no, and had to keep driving past, as they weren’t suitable. That’s what we thought we’d have to do arriving in Enna, as all the double campervan parks were taken.
However, Lady Luck was on our side because just around the corner we found a space for our 7.5m long motorhome. This park was still within the ‘zoned parking’ area so we were set for the night.
We set off to walk the Lombardia Castle perimeter and followed the signs to the view-point at the Rocca di Cerere.
[Note: The parking may not be available now as Camper Contact is no longer listing it – if not then this campsite is an alternative: Camping Agrituristica Paparanza
Grand views from the Rocca di Cerere lookout, Enna, Sicily
Near the Castello di Lombardia is a small pathway to Rocca di Cerere, the site of the foundations of the Temple of Demeter. Although not much remains, it is a lovely spot to take in the magnificent views from this centrepiece of Sicily.
Enna in the Mist
We awoke the next day to the sounds of rain on the roof, but this soon abated into intermittent showers. In our books, this falls under marginal but ‘still good enough’ conditions for sightseeing. Fog shrouded the cobblestoned streets and it was surprisingly quiet for a Sunday morning.
Enna’s early morning foggy streets
We reached our first point of interest, the 14th-century Cathedral of Enna in the centre of the old town. We walked through the entrance of the large church and found ourselves pretty much alone.
A sole, local parishioner (Giovanni) on his way out, introduced himself and then proudly took us to the back area of the church called the Alessi Museum. This ornately decorated room held the treasures of the cathedral in a locked, barred room including a gold crown with diamonds and thousands of ancient coins and other collections. Who doesn’t get excited when they hear the word treasure?
With the weather deteriorating, we left Enna and drove north on the A19, drawing ever closer to Palermo, the capital of Sicily and our final stop on this Sicily road trip.
Starling Murmuration in Sicily
You know I mentioned Sicily making it up to us in terms of it not all being rainbows and butterflies?
Well… we were on way to Palermo and whilst driving, as we came to the top of a hill, we saw what looked to be spiralling smoke in the distance – our interest was piqued. Driving a few kilometres closer, we saw that this was a large murmuration of starlings.
They were producing amazing synchronised patterns in the sky. Their choreography was so complex and we were absolutely enthralled.
We parked beside the road and excitedly videoed as best we could. The finale, captured on video, had the starlings flying away from us, then turning around and flying directly overhead with the sun as a backdrop. Excuse the dirty windscreen – but the video gives you a snippet of what we saw.
Starling Murmuration Video
Palermo, the Capital of Sicily
Not to be missed when road tripping through Sicily is Palermo, the vibrant capital of Sicily, full of history, culture and diversity. With the infamous Mafia Wars now behind it, Palermo is pivoting on once more becoming the pearl of Sicily.
Originally founded in the 8th century, the city of Palermo has had many rulers. These include the Greeks, Romans and Arabs. However, the most recent ‘power’ to lose its hold over Palermo, was the infamous Mafiosa. In 1992, the Mafia Wars came to a head but since then, Palermo has gradually regenerated and reclaimed its heritage. Community and cultural spaces now dominate what were once no-go, derelict areas of the city.
Palermo was named the Italian Culture Capital 2018 and UNESCO recommended that its historical centre be declared a world heritage site.
Corso Vittorio Emanuele: Tree-lined road of Palermo old town
What to see in Palermo
- Catacombs of Palermo
- Corso Vittorio Emanuele
- Puerto Nuevo
- Palermo Cathedral
- Praetorian Fountain
- Giardino Garibaldi Park
- Palermo Harbour
This was an interesting start to our Palermo visit. The Capuchin Catacombs house over 2000 mummies in the dark underground corridors of the Capuchin Monastery.
It is an eerie feeling walking among the dead, some propped up and hanging along the walls while others lay limply on shelves. The experience evoked mixed emotions, but the children’s chapel area brought with it an intense sadness.
There, in pride of place, lays one of the last bodies to be mummified and displayed in the catacombs here. It is the tiny body of two-year-old Rosario Lombardo, known as Sicily’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ as she is preserved so well.
Old Town Palermo
Stepping out of the catacombs and back into the land of the living, we walked to the street of Corso Vittorio Emanuele. This is the main road that runs through the old part of Palermo.
The street led us to the impressive Porta Nuova, the entryway to the old part of the city. This majestic archway with the two figures either side of the gate represents the defeat of the Tunis by Charles V in the 1500s.
Porta Nuova is the entryway to the old part of Palermo city
Walking further east along Corso Vittorio Emanuele, it is impossible not to miss the spectacular Palermo Cathedral. Built in 1185, its attributes feature different architecture and styling due to the renovations completed over many centuries.
Palermo Cathedral, Sicily
Square Of Shame
In the heart of the historic centre, you’ll find the Praetorian Fountain. Here, twelve ancient Olympians, mythical animals and the rivers of Palermo adorn the ornate fountain.
Between the 18th and 19th century, the fountain was considered a depiction of the corrupt municipality of Palermo. For this reason and also because of the nudity of the statues, the square became known as ‘Piazza della Vergogna”‘ (or Square of Shame).
Praetorian Fountain in the ‘Piazza della Vergogna”‘ (or originally known as the Square of Shame)
The Four Seasons
Next, we came to the octagonal Piazza Vigliena of Quattro Canti. Here, four streets lead into the piazza, separated by four Baroque buildings. Each of these buildings has a near-identical façade. They all have a fountain on each, with a statue representing one of the four seasons.
Piazza Vigliena of Quattro Canti
Giardino Garibaldi Park
A short walk away, heading east from the Piazza, we found the Giardino Garibaldi Park. Not only was this the place where the first police murder by the mafia took place but, on a brighter note, it is also home to Palermo’s oldest tree, a venerable 25m high, 150-year-old Moreton Bay Fig tree. The Moreton Bay Fig, or otherwise known as the Australian Banyan, is native to the east coast of Australia. Therefore we felt right at home standing beside this beauty.
Palermo’s oldest tree is a Moreton Bay Fig tree – Giardino Garibaldi
La Cala, Palermo’s Yacht Harbour and Marina
Finally, we came to Palermo’s award-winning regeneration scheme, La Cala, Palermo’s yacht harbour and marina. It’s difficult to believe that before 2005 this was a dangerous, derelict area. However, due to the city’s regeneration program, you will now find luxurious yachts rocking and swaying in the sparkling turquoise waters.
Driving in Sicily
A classic Ape P50 model – these are a popular mode of transport in Sicily
This little ‘Ape’ car has seen better days but this type of car is found everywhere in Sicily. Nice and small for the tiny roads… Lars definitely wished he was driving one of these instead of our 7.5-metre long campervan on our Sicily road trip. Don’t let this put you off renting or driving a campervan in Sicily – just be wary of driving in the busy towns, sometimes staying on the outskirts is easier and catching public transport into the main towns the better way to go.
Having your own transport is the easiest way to explore Sicily but you need to stay sharp and be very aware of what other drivers are doing at all times. Do not assume drivers in Sicily will follow the road rules – be ready for anything.
Points to note about driving in Sicily:
- Drive on the right
- Some signage can be confusing or absent
- Know the towns you are going through, the number of the road may not be on the directional signs
- Drivers can be very erratic, too fast, too slow, aggressive
- Forget everything you know about ‘give way’ rules at roundabouts in Sicily
- Roads can be extremely narrow
- Be careful on blind bends – drivers can come around like Speedy Gonzales
- Your GPS may not be accurate in some spots – ours sent us around in circles in Modica!
Getting to Sicily
There are two main airports in Sicily: Catania and Palermo.
As we were travelling through Europe in a motorhome, we caught the car ferry from Villa San Giovanni, in southwest Italy to Messini, Sicily.
Time: 30 minutes
Cost: 56 Euro
Thinking of hiring a motorhome or RV? Then check out this article: Everything you need to know about hiring a motohome
Sicily Campervan Stopovers
- Giardini Naxos: Paid campervan campsite near Taormina with a view of Mount Etna in the distance. This campsite was very close to the local bus stop of Racenta, where you can catch a bus to Taormina for 3 euro return.
- Cavagrande del Cassabile – Free campervan car park beside the trail down to the Cassibile River. No facilities.
- Enna – Free parking for campervan on the street, no facilities
- Palermo – Paid Campervan Campsite, Freesbee Motorhome Park, quiet with facilities (inc electricity) and within easy reach of public transport to Palermo city centre. You can buy an all-day bus ticket at the office here (for about 3 euro) and the bus stops right outside the campsite. The bus takes about 20 minutes to get into the centre of Palermo. You can buy an all-day bus ticket here – €3 per person. The bus stop is right outside the campsite. The bus trip from the campsite to the centre took 20 minutes.
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We hope this Sicily Road Trip Itinerary helps you plan your own road trip through Sicily. Please let us know if you have any questions and let us know how your Sicily trip goes – drop us an email or comment below.
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