Last updated on January 29, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Sicily

Ultimate 7 day Sicily Itinerary starting in Palermo or Catania

In this ultimate 7 days in Sicily itinerary, I explain how to enjoy the most of this lovely island, you either start in Catania or Palermo

But is one week in Sicily enough to experience all this region has to offer?

Probably not, however, you would be surprised by how much you can see and how many things you can do if you plan your itinerary in advance.

But let’s dig into it

Map of Sicily with major attractions
Map of Sicily with major attractions

Is it better to fly to Palermo or Catania?

I have written extensively about the differences between Catania and Palermo where I compare the two cities with the most important pros and cons.

My Tip: on your first trip to the island, book the easiest and cheapest flight to either one or the other city. Palermo is located in the northwest of Sicily meanwhile Catania is on the west coast.

If you fly to Palermo you will be able to:

  • visit the biggest historical centre in Europe
  • do one of the best coastal walks on the island
  • experience the best beaches
  • visit the romantic town of Cefalu

Below you will find my suggested Sicilian itinerary starting from Palermo.

If you fly to Catania you can

  • hike the unique Mount Etna
  • visit the Baroque towns of Sicily
  • enjoy a few lovely beaches
  • visit the romantic Taormina

You can also decide to rent a car in Sicily and do an island loop, however, it’s going to be a tiring week which is fine if you want to experience as much as possible but you are short on time.

7 days Sicily itinerary starting in Palermo

Here is a summary table of the itinerary. Keep reading for the extended version

Day(s)DestinationHighlightsSuggestions
1 & 2PalermoBallarò Market (morning visit), Palermo Cathedral (1.5-2 hours, buy tickets in advance), Royal Palace & Palatine Chapel (budget for queues/toilet fee), Wandering the Historical Centre, Mondello Beach (bus #806 or taxi), Dinner in old centreAvoid bulky bags at the market, stay safe at night by sticking to major streets, try Spiaggia dell’Arenella, join the Art half-day Tour
3 & 4Cefalù & MonrealeCefalù Old Town and Spiaggia del Porto Vecchio, Walk along the rocky coast via Bastione di Capo Marchiafava, Norman Cathedral visit, Monreale Cathedral (bus #389P from Indipendenza Square), Monreale Town and deli Le Bontà Di PeppeConsider skipping Monreale for a night in Cefalù, possible day trip to Segesta, Marsala Salt Pans, and Erice
5 to 7San Vito Lo Capo & SurroundsSan Vito Lo Capo Beach (car or Russo Autoservizi bus), Activities like horse riding and mountain biking, Riserva Dello Zingaro (shuttle bus or self-drive for early access), Cala Mancina for hiking and climbing, Dining at Poldo 2Late September visit for perfect weather, some areas close down after peak season, hire a vehicle for flexibility and early access to parks
7 days Sicily itinerary starting in Palermo

Following the itinerary description, you will also find my suggested accommodations

Street food in the Ballaro Market
Street food in the Ballaro Market

Day 1 and 2 – Discover Palermo

The things you can do on the first day in Palermo really depend on the time you fly in. One of the highlights I will remember forever is for example the visit to Ballarò, one of the most characteristic Sicilian Street Markets, however, it is open only till the early afternoon.

I would not suggest getting around it with bulky bags. It can get very busy with both tourists and locals alike. This is in fact one the best spots to find fresh products to cook back at home, in case you have rented an apartment.

On my last trip to the island, I spent a week just in Palermo, one of the best places to stay in Sicily I believe. I loved every single day. Besides Ballarò, my other highlights were:

  • the 12th century Palermo Cathedral: I was amazed by the mashups of Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Arabic architectural details. One of the best ceilings I have ever seen. The only drawback was the long queue to get in, which you can easily avoid by buying the tickets in advance. Budget 1.5-2 hours for the visit to the cathedral and the square
  • the Royal Palace and the Palatine Chapel: I was impressed by the fortress with red domes. Inside, the Palatine Chapel has colourful mosaic Bible stories, marble columns, and a wooden Arab honeycomb ceiling. It’s not cheap, the queues can be long and they even charge for the toilette but you would really regret missing these two iconic destinations.
  • just wandering around the Historical Centre, one of the largest in Europe, if not the largest. There are so many narrow lanes, hidden laneways, secret corners, and tiny squares. It’s a real maze with clothes hanging between buildings in a picture-perfect setup. I honestly felt totally safe getting lost during the day but as the night arrived I preferred sticking to the major streets.
  • relax at the gorgeous beach of Mondello. Grab the bus (#806 in 30 minutes) or a taxi (20 minutes) and go to the old centre of Palermo for dinner. This is the most beautiful in the area. You can also try the city Spiaggia dell’Arenella, although it can be dirty on a few days.
  • do you want more information? Join this exclusive Palermo Art half-day Tour and enjoy the best of the city with a local guide. You get to understand so much of the city’s history.
The best way to see the Old Centre of Palermo on a motorized vehicle
The best way to see the Old Centre of Palermo on a motorized vehicle

Day 3 and 4 – Day tours to Cefalù and Monreale

From Palermo, I highly suggest two day-tours that you can do on your own or join one of the many organised trips.

The first one is to Cefalù by train (50-60 minutes) to explore the old town and even better the boutique Spiaggia del Porto Vecchio in the old port, another picture-perfect spot.

I loved so much also the walk in the back of the Old City, along the rocky coast. You can enter through the Bastione di Capo Marchiafava (take the stairs on the left)

And of course plan a visit to the fabulous Norman Cathedral, right in the heart of the Historical Centre, located in a boutique square. You won’t be alone but on the positive side, it’s free entrance.

You will find plenty of restaurants and bars around to have a nice meal. My suggested option is Sicilian Food & Drink, a wine bar offering mostly local fresh products at a reasonable price.

The beautiful Cefalu
The beautiful Spiaggia del Porto Vecchio in Cefalu

The second day trip I suggest is just outside Palermo where you will find another wonder of Sicily, the Monreale Cathedral, reachable by public bus (#389P) from Indipendenza Square. Then wander around Monreale Town and have lunch at the deli Le Bontà Di Peppe.

It’s down to personal preferences, of course, however, you can also think of skipping Monreale and staying overnight in Cefalu. I actually like more this option because this town with the night lights becomes really magical. In saying that you will have to change accommodation from Palermo that you may find too tiring.

Another possibility is to swap Monreal with this great local tour from Palermo to visit Segesta (a small version of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Valley of the Temples), the Salt Pans of Marsala and the old town of Erice, on top of the hill overlooking Trapani. So picturesque.

The unique Salt Pans in the Marsala Lagun
The unique Salt Pans in the Marsala Lagun

Day 5 to day 7 – San Vito Lo Capo and around

Time to move to San Vito Lo Capo, more in Western Sicily, where you will spend the remaining part of the week.

Hire a car or take the bus (Russo Autoservizi) to San Vito Lo Capo (1.5 hours by car or almost 3 hours by bus). Here you will find one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. The water is crystal clear, shallow and no waves, perfect for families with kids.

Relaxing, chilling out and having a swim are all you need to do in town. However, there are also other activities like horse riding and mountain biking in case you feel more active.

On my last trip I was there in late September and, to my surprise, some of the organised areas were already closing down. However, the weather was just perfect, sunny and around 25-30C every single day, probably the best time to visit Sicily and avoid the busy peak season.

Also in this town, you will have plenty of choices when it comes down to restaurants. I was personally impressed by Poldo 2 for the amazing view and great food.

Drone view of the lovely beach at San Vito Lo Capo
Drone view of the lovely beach at San Vito Lo Capo (just before I lost the signal!)

One of the best and easiest day excursions you can do is to the Riserva Dello Zingaro (easy-going shuttle bus leaving from San Vito Lo Capo at 9:30 am or 10:30 am).

This is a popular national park that follows the coast, ideal for some easy trekking to hidden coves and beaches. The path is well signed and you can’t really get lost. Remember to take food and drinks with you because once you enter in the park it is all about nature (no bars, cafes or tavernas).

My Tip: Rent a vehicle and do it yourself. The shuttle bus is great but the Riserva can get very busy at that time of the day. Drive there instead as early in the morning as you can. You will have the park almost by yourself.

For more hiking and climbing check out also Cala Mancina. You can also drive or rent a bike to Blue Marino Beach and/or Spiaggia Macari, 5km south of San Vito Lo Capo (see more  beaches of Sicily I saved on my Google Map)

If you do not have a car, from San Vito Lo Capo you can take the Direct Shuttle to the Palermo Airport, a quick trip that will avoid you wasting time with a trip back to Palermo city.

Accommodations:

The unique landscape of the Riserva Naturale Orientata dello Zingaro
The unique landscape of the Riserva Naturale Orientata dello Zingaro

One week in Sicily itinerary starting in Catania

Here is a summary table of the itinerary in Eastern Sicily. Keep reading for the extended version

Day(s)DestinationHighlightsSuggestions
1 & 2Taormina– Arrival and stroll in Corso Umberto – Duomo, San Giuseppe Church, Naumachia di Taormina – Taormina Amphitheatre visit (buy tickets in advance) – View from the theatre’s highest point – Swim at Lido la Pigna or near Isola Bella – Godfather/Mafia Tour or boat explorationConsider visiting end of September for fewer crowds
3 & 4Catania and Mount Etna– Fish Market and Piazza del Duomo in Catania – Via Etnea and Cathedral visit – Street Food Tour or Home Cooking Class – Dinner in A Putia Dell’Ostello cave restaurant – Trekking at Etna Volcano (DIY or guided tour) – Valle del Bove visit– Book the restaurant well in advance for a unique experience – Rent a car for flexibility on Etna
5 to 7Syracuse and Val di Noto– Stay on Ortigia Island, Siracusa – Visit Val di Noto’s Baroque Towns – Day trips to Noto, Ragusa/Modica, Scicli (by car) – Fontane Bianche beach day trip – Eloro Beach (by car) – Direct bus to Catania Airport from SiracusaRent a car for more day trip options – Bring water and food to unspoilt beaches
One week in Sicily itinerary starting in Catania

Following the itinerary description, you will also find my suggested accommodations

Day 1 and 2 Taormina

Taormina is one of the most romantic towns in Italy, a great place to start your holiday with your partner

It’s surely a popular travel destination in Sicily, and for a good reason, it’s so charming and picturesque

From the Catania Airport, you can either take the direct bus to Taormina (Etna Trasporti) or grab the bus to the Catania Station and from there by train (1h15m) to Taormina (it takes longer but there are more frequent runs). 

Etna Trasporti offers a quicker service, however, it all depends on the time of your arrival.

Visiting Taormina in one day can be done but that will give only you a snapshot of this Sicilian jewel and surely you will look forward to your next visit. My suggestion: spend at least two nights there so you can experience the town and the coastline with the street night, so magical.

On the first day in Taormina, following your arrival flight, just have a stroll in the central Corso Umberto, the main pedestrian street in town. Check out the Duomo, visit the San Giuseppe Church, explore the Naumachia di Taormina (the old foundation, free entry) and have dinner at Osteria da Rita.

A 500 in Taormina
A 500 in Taormina

Start day 2 by visiting the Taormina Amphitheatre, a Roman theatre built on Greek foundations. My tip: buy the tickets in advance to avoid the long queues, especially in peak season (up to 1-2 hours waiting).

What I loved the most, besides the allure of the historic site, was the view from the highest point, next to the gift shop, uninterrupted of the east coast of Sicily and on the right Mount Etna usually between the clouds.

After lunch grab the cable car down to the coast and have a swim at Lido la Pigna (organised beach) or right next to the Isola Bella, a spot that is as beautiful as busy. I was once there end of September mid-week and I could hardly find a spot for my towel. Just think how it is in July/August.

Alternatiovely join the unique Godfather/Mafia Tour or explore the coast and the boutique Isola Bella (Beautiful Island) by boat

The beautiful Taormina Mare Beach
The beautiful Lido La Pigna

Day 3 and 4 Catania and Mount Etna

It’s time to move to Catania (1 hour by bus or train). Try to take an early train so you will be still on time to visit the fascinating Fish Market, right next to the Piazza del Duomo.

Have a stroll along Via Etnea and check out the Cathedral (closed at lunchtime). Why not join the Street Food Tour or the Private Home Cooking Class with a certified local cook? It’s gonna be a different day.

For dinner book well in advance a table in the cave of A Putia Dell’Ostello, just 200m from the fish market. This is a unique restaurant with the foundation on an underground stream of water. A few years ago they refurbished the cave and it is now open to customers. So magical

On day 4 plan one of the most unique adventures you can have in Sicily, a trekking day at the Etna Volcano. Read my guide for a DIY experience or just join this Etna Tour with local products tasting

I rented a car and drove myself to the base of the gondola and from there up to the Valle del Bove and honestly it has not been as physically demanding. My 9 year old kid was with me and he had so much fun too. The video below will give you a good sense of how the day progresses in Mount Etna and what can you visit.

Day 5 to Day 7 Syracuse and Val di Noto

Catch the train to Siracusa to stay on Ortigia Island, one of the gems of Sicily. The entire island used to be the Old Centre of Siracusa.

Today it is an open-air museum, absolutely stunning and so romantic, especially at sunset time when most of the day-trippers have left and you will share it with a small number of travellers and the locals.

From Siracusa, you can easily organise 2 day-trips by train. The first I highly suggest doing is to spend one day in the Val di Noto, where you can see the most stunning Baroque Towns in Italy (and probably in the world), all UNESCO listed in Sicily.

Noto Cathedral
Noto Cathedral

If you have a rented car you can probably squeeze in also a visit to Ragusa/Modica or even the more isolated Scicli, my favourite, off the beaten path and with a more local vibe. With a train, you will have to limit your day to Noto, which is the most beautiful but also the most popular with tourism.

A second day-trip I suggest is to Fontane Bianche, another of the famous turquoise beaches of Sicily.

If you are driving in Sicily you can also think of going south to Eloro Beach, around 20km from Fontane Bianche. This is a beautiful sandy beach, completely unspoilt, in fact, you need to take your water and food. Within walking distance, you can also find a nudist beach.

From Siracusa, you can take a direct bus to the Catania Airport (Interbus) bypassing completely the city of Catania and saving one hour or more on travelling time.

Accommodations and experiences:

Syracuse Cathedral in Ortigia Island
Syracuse Cathedral on Ortigia Island

Get around Sicily in 1 week

Sicily is so packed with historical sites that you could be busy visiting them for a few months.

In saying that, in 1 week in Sicily, you can aim to visit the most important sites, including the main cities, Palermo and Catania.

The below Sicily itinerary focuses on some of the most beautiful towns on the island: Palermo, Agrigento, Catania and Noto

It’s going to be a loop so let’s assume a start from Catania, however, you could do the same itinerary starting from Palermo.

The ideal situation would be to fly into Catania and out from Palermo, or vice versa.

You can do this itinerary by bus/train (the slower option) or rented car (more flexible and quicker)

7 days in Sicily for history
7 days in Sicily for history
  • Day 1: Arrival at Catania airport and direct bus transfer (Interbus) to the beautiful baroque town of Noto for 2 nights. I have already talked a lot in this post about Noto, a real open-air museum, unique
  • Day 2: Spend the day wandering around Noto. You can also think of taking a 30-minute train to Siracusa to visit the marvellous Ortigia Island and have dinner there.
  • Day 3: It’s time to move to Catania to spend the day wandering around the Old Centre. So many places to see of which the Duomo should be on top of the list. Book your hotel in Catania
  • Day 4: Transfer to Agrigento in the early morning (SAIS Trasporti, 3 hours by bus). Visit the Old Centre of the Marvellous City (so was called Agrigento in the past). You will spend two nights in Agrigento
  • Day 5: Any trip to Sicily should include a visit to the Valley of the Temples, unique and unmissable. Describing it in just a few words would be a crime. You can read much more in another post I did. You can wander through the valley on your own, however, I at least suggest buying you tickets in advance, skip the line and get an audio guide. You can also think of visiting it by e-scooter or e-bike.
  • Day 6: Transfer to Palermo in the morning by bus (Cuffaro Trasporti in around 3 hours) where you will spend the last two days. The afternoon is dedicated to the Old Centre of the city, the widest and biggest in Europe.
  • Day 7: Two options for this day. The first one is to start by visiting the Ballaro’ Market in the morning where you can also have the famous local street food for lunch. In the afternoon you can join this exclusive art tour. The alternative is to join this great local tour to visit the famous Segesta Archeological Site together with the Salt Pans of Marsala and Erice‘s old town.

The trip from Palermo to Catania can be done by train (3 hours)

Renting a car will allow you to save time on transfers and you will be much more flexible during your trip. The drawback is of course the higher cost and the possible stress with driving (very subjective of course)

Accommodations and experiences:

Exploring the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento
Exploring the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento
Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

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