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SICILY ROAD TRIP
Sicily is an area of stunningly diverse scenery and this Sicily road trip, takes you from incredible canyons to creepy catacombs, and from mountain towns to beautiful beaches. This itinerary has a mix of experiences that can all be fitted into a week or more on a Sicilian road trip.
The ideas of places to visit include suggestions of additional day trips and experiences, so you could use the information in this article to plan a longer or shorter Sicily road trip itinerary, depending on your available time.
We took this Sicilian road trip as part of our larger Italy road trip, which was in turn part of our year road tripping in Europe.
SICILY ROAD TRIP STOPS: SUMMARY
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 with the main attractions added to the map as well.
In addition, all of our campervan/motorhome stops are marked up with links to relevant camperstop reviews and information.
PLANNING YOUR SICILY ROAD TRIP
To plan your Sicily road trip, you’ll need to decide when to visit, the best way to travel on your trip, how you are getting to Sicily and then, the exciting part, planning your Sicily road trip itinerary.
We’ve discussed each of these below to help make your planning easier.
You may also be interested in reading our article on How to Plan a Road Trip
BEST TIME TO ROAD TRIP SICILY
With only one week in Sicily, it’s difficult to decide where to spend your time. The time of year you visit will impact your decisions as to places to visit on the island.
So, what is the best month to go to Sicily?
Sicily is a popular tourist destination, and therefore, in the summer months, it can become very crowded. Visitors and locals alike head to the coastal regions of Sicily, as temperatures soar, along with accommodation rates.
If you still want warm weather but fewer crowds then the shoulder seasons of May/June and September/October will suit you better.
In Sicily’s winter months, the temperatures are cool, there are far fewer crowds and room rates go down, along with the sea temperature. The chance of rain is also much higher.
Our Sicily road trip 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 to visit for us.
Bear this in mind when planning your own Sicily trip. And also when looking at our photos.
Because what may seem an idyllic beach setting in our photos, could very well be jammed-packed with sun worshippers in the summer months, as the photos of the beautiful Isola Bella beach above show.
Best Way to Travel Around Sicily
You may already have a motorhome or camper or you may be looking at hiring a motorhome or renting a car. These factors will also determine where you begin and end your road trip.
We road-tripped Sicily in a motorhome and we do love the freedom that kind of travel affords. We can be more flexible with our plans and adjust our itinerary to suit as we go along.
If you are looking for prices for hiring motorhomes or campers then we recommend Motorhome Republic (now Go See) as they can shop around for you and get the best quote.
☑️ If you are looking for MOTORHOME/CAMPER HIRE: Get a price from Motorhome Republic (now Go See) here
☑️ or CAR HIRE: check out the best deal from RentalCars.com or DiscoverCars.com
You may prefer to hire a car and book accommodation along the route, which, if you are travelling in the off-peak season may work out cheaper in the long run for you.
You may also be able to base yourself in the same location for a few days and take day trips in the area, rather than moving on to somewhere new all the time.
How to Get to Sicily
- By Air
There are two main airports in Sicily: Catania and Palermo.
- By Car Ferry
We caught the car ferry from Villa San Giovanni, in southwest Italy to Messini, Sicily.
Time: 30 minutes (Cost around €60 one way for a motorhome)
We were driving from mainland Italy, so it made sense to begin our trip in eastern Sicily. Once we’d road-tripped through Sicily we were then heading off on a road trip through Spain. We needed to catch a ferry from Palermo, so again, it made sense to end our Sicily trip there.
☑️ Book the Ferry Villa San Giovanni Ferry Here
If you are driving from Europe you could take the same route as us easily, and either loop back or take the ferry elsewhere from Palermo.
Alternatively, you may be arriving by air and hiring a camper, motorhome or car once you arrive. All of these factors will influence where you begin and end your Sicily road trip.
BEST PLACES TO SEE ON A ONE-WEEK SICILY ROAD TRIP
We were campervanning on our Sicily road trip but this itinerary is just as suitable for a road trip by car and can be used to plan a shorter or longer itinerary.
Taormina, a city on the eastern Sicilian coast, lies on a terrace against a backdrop of orchards and rolling hills. In the distance lies the towering 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 because of its blue grottos, beaches, water activities and historical sites.
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 antique 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 Piazza. The double-flight staircase of the church leads to an intricate portal constructed of different types of Taormina marble.
While at the Piazza, 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 sits high on the hills, overlooking Taormina with views of Mount Etna in the distance. Built in the 3rd century BC, it is the second-largest Greek Theatre in Sicily (after Syracuse).
In summer, it’s used to stage concerts and festival events.
Entrance fees to the Theatre cost €13.50 Euro and an extra €5 for an audio guide. If you are visiting in peak season though, we recommend a skip-the-line ticket to save time.
Here’s a video snippet of Taormina’s ancient Greek theatre.
2. ISOLA BELLA
Under the watchful eye of 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.
Whilst near the island, a local boat owner offered us a trip to visit the Blue Grotto at the nearby island of Capri for €25 each, with a promise of about 45 minutes of boat sightseeing time.
We’ve been told that it is easy to pick up boat tours in the area here.
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.
Sitting over Taormina’s shoulder, lies the mountain town of Castelmola.
There was only one way to go to get to Castelmola from the beach — and that was up. Having made it about halfway, one of the earlier boat tour guides drove past and offered us a free ride to the Castelmola at the top of the hill.
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.
The views from the summit of Castelmola were absolutely fantastic with Mt Etna seeming only an arm’s length away.
This small village 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 visit the Santuario Madonna della Rocca church. Carved into the rock in 1640, the church’s rocky roof is an interesting contrast to the white-washed walls and fresco decorations.
The steep descent from the church into Taormina offers magical views of the coast and nearby islands, including the Ancient Greek theatre of Taormina.
There are many Sicily tours and experiences that depart from Taormina, so while you are in the area, you may like to check out any that may interest you.
Tours and day trips from Taormina include:
☑️ Godfather and Mafia Tour with Sicilian Lunch
☑️ Etna Upper Craters Day Tour
If you are a lover of history, then make sure to plan a stop on your Sicily itinerary, at Syracuse. It’s most famous for its Neapolis Archaeological Park which houses the largest Greek Amphitheatre in Sicily, Greek.
This huge amphitheatre, originally built in the 5th century BC, and further modified during the time of the Romans, had 59 rows and could once hold around 15,000 people.
5. CAVAGRANDE DEL CASSIBILE
The next stop on this 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 itinerary.
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.
>>> READ MORE: Hike to Cavagrande del Cassibile Canyon
A ‘must’ town on our Sicily road trip itinerary was Modica.
Modica is part of the Val di Noto area. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1693 and rebuilt in the Sicilian Baroque style. Moreover, since 2002 it has been recognised as part of the UNESCO World Heritage.
However, it wasn’t so much the Baroque architecture, nor its prized Cathedral of St George, that was drawing us in.
I wanted to discover the secret surrounding one of my particular passions… Chocolate.
I was in search of Modica’s Aztec-inspired chocolate, apparently one of the world’s best-kept secrets.
… And not just one bar. I’d heard there were several flavours to sample.
We all know that whilst road tripping, the next bend in the road can often reveal a pandora’s box of treasures.
But, it can also result in: traffic mayhem, narrow streets, stressful situations and screams of,
“Get me out of here“.
Modica was the latter.
Having left Cavagrande Cassabile Canyon behind us, our road trip route was taking us 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 into 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 … or so 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 up along them, making it almost impossible to get our campervan past.
We were forced to drive on the pavement, got lost, reversed up for oncoming traffic numerous times and got lost again.
Do you know those road trip days that don’t quite go to plan? This was one.
Surprisingly, the lure of Aztec chocolate wasn’t enough to outweigh the desire to extricate ourselves from the neverending warren of twisting alleyways. So we beat a hasty retreat out of town.
Life on the road isn’t always rainbows and butterflies.
Other Baroque towns in the Val de Noto area are Noto, Catania, Ragusa, Palazzolo and Scicli.
So, if travelling through Sicily by motorhome, plan carefully where you may park and be forewarned of the narrow maze of streets. We’d love to hear about whether you make it to Modica’s many chocolate shops 🙂
We decided that our next motorhome stop for the night would be in Enna, an ancient city on the summit of a hill surrounded by cliffs. Enna is about as central as you can get in Sicily and as such, it’s known as the navel of Sicily.
After the mayhem in Modica, we studied the paper map, the GPS navigator and google maps methodically 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 can never be quite sure about what type of motorhome parking you will be arriving at, especially when the overnight stops are free. Moreover, if there aren’t any reviews for that campsite it’s difficult to judge whether the site is a good choice.
At some sites, we just took one look and kept driving.
That’s what we thought we’d have to do arriving in Enna because 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 beast. 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 viewpoint at the Rocca di Cerere.
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 admire the magnificent views from this centrepiece of Sicily.
We awoke the next day to the persistent patter of rain on the roof. Luckily, 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.
The first on our list of things to see was the 14th-century Cathedral of Enna, in the centre of the old town.
A sole, local parishioner, Giovanni, introduced himself when he realised we were tourists and proceeded to proudly show us around. He was keen to show us the back area of the church, the Alessi Museum and tell us about hidden treasures.
Who doesn’t get excited when they hear the word treasure?
This ornately decorated room held the treasures of the cathedral in another locked room which included a gold crown embedded with diamonds, thousands of ancient coins and other collections.
With the weather deteriorating, we left Enna and drove north on the A19, drawing ever closer to Palermo, the capital of Sicily and the final stop on this Sicily road trip.
8. PALERMO, THE CAPITAL OF SICILY
Not to be missed when road tripping through Sicily is Palermo, its vibrant capital.
It’s full of history, culture and diversity, and with the infamous Mafia Wars now behind it, Palermo is 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 was once no-go, derelict areas of the city.
Palermo was named the Italian Culture Capital in 2018 and UNESCO recommended that its historical centre be declared a world heritage site.
We managed to pack all these things to do in Palermo into one day.
1. VISIT THE PALERMO CATACOMBS
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.
>>> READ MORE: Palermo Catacombs: The Mysterious and Macabre
2. STROLL AROUND 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 on either side of the gate represents the defeat of Tunis by Charles V in the 1500s.
If you love food you may like to take either of these Palermo tours:
☑️ Three-hour street food and history tour in Palermo
3. VISIT PALERMO CATHEDRAL
Walking further east along Corso Vittorio Emanuele, it is impossible not to miss the spectacular Palermo Cathedral.
It was built in 1185, but its attributes feature different architecture and styling due to the renovations completed over many centuries.
4. WALK BY THE 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 centuries, 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‘, the Square of Shame.
5. TAKE A TWIRL IN THE FOUR SEASONS
Next, we came to the octagonal Piazza Vigliena of Quattro Canti.
Here, four streets, separated by four Baroque buildings, lead into the piazza. Each building has a near-identical façade, apart from their fountains, which have a statue representing one of the four seasons.
6. TAKE A STROLL IN GIARDINO GARIBALDI PARK
A short walk away, heading east from the Piazza, sits the shady 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, otherwise known as the Australian Banyan, is native to the east coast of Australia. Therefore we felt right at home standing beside this beauty.
7. 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.
Nowadays though, due to the city’s regeneration program, you will find luxurious yachts rocking and swaying in the sparkling turquoise waters.
These things to do are just the tip of the iceberg and there are so many other experiences or day trips from Palermo that you could plan into your Sicily Road trip.
☑️ Plan your Palermo experiences and day trips to other parts of Sicily by browsing these awesome options here
DRIVING IN SICILY
- In Sicily, you drive on the right.
- Seatbelts are compulsory
- Have the following documents to hand:
- Drivers licence (An international driver’s licence isn’t required if you hold a driver’s licence issued by an EU Member State )
- Vehicle insurance
- Vehicle registration document
- You are also required to have the following in your vehicle:
- Reflective Vest – to be used when getting out of the car in an event of an accident or breakdown on any road.
- Warning triangle – to be used in the event of an accident or breakdown to warn following traffic.
- Speed Limits are as follows unless otherwise signposted
- 130 km/h (80 mph) on motorways
- 90 km/h (50 mph) on minor out-of-town roads
- 110km/hr (30mph) on major out-of-town roads
- 50 km/h (31 mph) in urban areas.
- In the event of rain or snow, the limit is lowered to 110 k/h on motorways and 90 k/h on trunk roads.
- Cars with trailers or caravans: in urban areas, the speed limit is 50 km/h (31 mph); on minor out-of-town roads 70 km/h (44 mph); on major out-of-town roads 70 km/h (44 mph); on motorways 80 km/h (50 mph).
- Camper vans weighing over 3.5 tonnes and under 12 tonnes: in urban areas, the speed limit is 50 km/h (31 mph); on minor out-of-town roads 80 km/h (50 mph); on major out-of-town roads 80 km/h (50 mph); on motorways 100 km/h (62 mph).
- Toll Roads: Most of the roads in Sicily are toll-free, but the A18 and the A20 do have Toll booths. Toll prices depend on the distance you travel, so on entering a toll motorway you collect a ticket from an automated machine, and the ticket must then be presented at the toll gate upon exit. Tolls can be paid by cash, credit card, prepaid card or electronic tags.
This little ‘Ape’ car has certainly seen better days, but this type of car is found everywhere in Sicily. Perfect for the tiny roads… Lars definitely wished he was driving one of these instead of our 7.5-metre long motorhome on our Sicily road trip.
Don’t let this put you off renting or driving a campervan in Sicily though. Just be wary of driving in busy towns. Sometimes staying on the outskirts is easier and catching public transport into the cities is 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.
>>> READ MORE: The Best Motorhome Tips for Beginners
MORE POINTS TO NOTE ABOUT DRIVING IN SICILY:
- 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
- Do not assume drivers in Sicily will follow the road rules – be ready for anything.
- 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 them like Speedy Gonzales
- Your GPS may not be accurate in some spots — ours sent us around in circles in Modica!
Where to Stay on Your Sicily Road Trip
We motorhomed around Sicily and have included our motorhome stops in our Sicily Road Trip Map above, as well as listing them below.
Sicily Campervan and Motorhome Stopovers
All of these camper stops are marked up on our Sicily Road Trip Map above.
- 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 a €3 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 [Note 2022: 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]
- 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, and the bus stops right outside the campsite. The bus takes about 20 minutes to get into the centre of Palermo.
Road Trip Accommodation in Sicily
If you are travelling by car and looking for accommodation on your Sicily road trip then we recommend finding the best deals on Booking.com — especially those that can be cancelled free of charge if you have a change of plans.
Sicily Road Trip … That’s a Wrap
This Sicily Road Trip 7-day itinerary has a mixture of experiences that can all be fitted into a week’s road trip through the country.
You can hike in Cassibile Canyon, climb the hill to Castelmola, visit the creepy catacombs in Palermo, stroll along Sicily’s beautiful beaches and sample the Sicilian fare.
We’d love to hear about your Sicily road trip and your favourite places…
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READ MORE ON ITALY:
- The Matera Alberobello Effect, Italy
- The Enchanting Alberobello Trulli
- Campervanning in Italy: Your Ultimate Guide
OTHER EUROPE ROAD TRIPS
- Croatia: Croatia Road Trip: 10 Day Perfect Plan
- Ireland: 7 Day Ireland Road Trip Itinerary
- Albania: Albania Road Trip: A country of surprises
- Spain: Spain Road Trip: Sensational Places and Itineraries
- France: Motorhoming in France: Your Ultimate Guide
PLANNING YOUR TRAVELS?
These are some of the travel resources we use when planning our trips.
- Car Hire: We use DiscoverCars.com
- Motorhome/Campervan Rental: We highly recommend the Motorhome Republic
- Book Accommodation: We use Booking.com to find accommodation that suits our budget
- Free Accommodation: Get 25% off Trusted House Sitters
- Activities and Experiences: Get Your Guide and Viator
- Travel Insurance: World Nomads
- Travel Gear and Accessories: Check out our top picks here — Lifejourney4two page on Amazon
- Wall Art: Shop our ETSY store
For a more thorough list visit our Travel Resources page here.