Ultimate Guide to Sicily – Travel Blog
My Sicily Travel Blog has grown so much this year with new and updated content.
I have organised in this guide all the essential resources to ensure you have a wonderful trip to Sicily. You will discover:
- The best way to reach the island and how to get around it
- How long does it take to visit Sicily
- What areas are best for your type of trip
- A selection of beautiful Airbnb and Hotels
- Beaches worth visiting
- Sicily sights, activities, and experiences
- Sicily itineraries for up to 2 weeks
- The best restaurants organised by town
But let’s get started.
Sicily Travel Blog – In a nutshell
Arriving In Sicily
The two major airports in Sicily are Palermo and Catania
Most of the departure cities are connected to only one or the other airport. Others, like London, are connected to both airports.
Both airports are very well connected to the cities by bus or private pickup service.
From the Catania Airport you can also get a direct public pus to other destinations like, for example, Taormina or Avola. Similarly, the airport in Palermo is, for example, directly connected to San Vito Lo Capo.
You can arrive in Sicily also by bus or train, for example, from Napoli, Amalfi Coast or Puglia. In this case, you will need the last leg by ferry into the city of Messina where you can get a train direction Palermo/Cefalù or Taormina/Catania.
Is it better to fly to Catania or Palermo?
It’s a hard choice. Both cities are beautiful in their own way.
Catania is more of a city with probably the best nightlife in Sicily
Palermo is more charming and romantic, it has one of the biggest Old Centres in Europe and an amazing beach right in the city, Mondello (45 minutes by bus from the old centre).
You can read more in my Catania vs Palermo guide.
And finally, the town of Trapani in the island’s west has also a small airport which works mostly with national flights.
Busses directly connect the Trapani airport to the city centre and to San Vito Lo Capo
Getting around Sicily
Sicily is the biggest island in the Mediterranean Sea.
I wrote more extensively on how to go around Sicily here.
Shortly, you have 4 possibilities to move around.
The most flexible way is by renting a car in Sicily. Roads between the major destinations are wide and easy to drive through.
Highways connect most of the major cities/towns. However, it can get challenging if you want to drive into the historic centre because the street and lanes can get quite narrow.
I usually rent my car from DiscoverCars.com that compares over 30 suppliers providing the best price.
The second possibility is to use the train.
However, the network is not as extensive as you would have hoped for.
It covers only the main cities and a few other towns.
It’s also not the most up-to-date system.
You can check out the timetable and map on the Trenitalia Website.
The third possibility is to catch the public bus that connects most of the destinations on the island.
It’s the best option if you do not feel confident about driving around Sicily.
The only problem is that there are 10 bus companies covering different areas and there is no central booking system, which means finding the right bus is a bit of a nightmare.
For this reason I have organised this page with all the links to the bus companies as well as an indication to where they drive to.
The last possibility is to catch the ferry.
Sicily has also a few small islands connected by ferry.
The Aeolian Islands and Aegadian Islands (Favignana) are two small archipelagos connected by frequent fast ferries to Milazzo and Trapani.
For other small islands like Ustica, expect a much longer ferry trip.
You should read my guide to how to get around Sicily for more information, as advantages/drawbacks to rent a car (including one must thing you need to have), bus/train timetables links and how to reach the Valley of the Temples
How Many days in Sicily
The easiest answer: the longer the better.
With 3 days I would suggest staying close to your arrival city.
Palermo and Catania are the best options.
In my post on 3 days in Sicily, you can read all you need to maximize your time with such a short stay.
In 5 days you can think to explore more about Sicily.
You can even split your trip between two cities, for example Palermo and Cefalù or Catania and Taormina.
In my post on 5 days in Sicily, I have suggested a few possibilities based on the type of trip you have in mind, relaxing or action, with kids or only the partner.
In 1 week in Sicily you will be able to enjoy a good part of the island.
However, do not be tempted to plan a full island loop
It will be too much and such in a rush that you will not enjoy it at the end.
In my post on 7 days in Sicily, I have organised a plan for 5 types of holidays (beaches, family, romantic couple, trekking and a secret option). Really all you need to know.
With 10 days in Sicily you can think to plan a small loop of the island.
You can do that either with a rented car or by public bus/train.
You can plan to have a relaxed holiday or change accommodation almost every single day to experience the most of it
In this guide to 10 days in Sicily you can discover five possible plans with a daily plan including all you can see, either with or without a car, relaxed or on-the-go.
If you are lucky enough to have two weeks in Sicily then you can even plan to visit most of the island.
In fact, with 14 days you can even think to plan a full loop to experience the best beaches, see the most iconic historical sites like the Valley of the Temples, Noto, Segesta, and you can also add a few little gems like the Salt Pans of Marsala or the Zingaro Nature Reserve.
The options are limitless. I listed 4 of them in my post on 2 weeks in Sicily, a great resource with a detailed daily plan and a reference map.
Where to stay in Sicily – Best Areas
The great thing about Sicily is that you can find areas, towns and beaches for any kind of holiday.
Are you after the best beaches? San Vito Lo Capo area on the west side and Fontane Bianche on the east side are probably your best bets.
Are you travelling with your partner and you are looking for a romantic stay? Cefalù and Taormina work great.
If you are travelling with kids then San Vito Lo Capo or Avola are awesome destinations, however, if you are after the best nightlife then Catania is the place to be.
I could keep listing any kind of holiday, this may be a lux/budget one or a trekking trip or one with plenty of relaxing time.
I wrote a full guide on where to stay in Sicily, with a much deeper description of the best areas based on your type of holiday and I included also a few suggested hotels/Airbnb, local restaurants and activities you could think to do once there.
Best Hotels & Airbnb in Sicily
I have been asked many times if Sicily is a cheap destination.
If interested, I wrote a short guide on how expensive is Sicily (accommodation, food, drinks, travel) including a comparison between 3 towns, Taormina included
Here below I short listed a few suggested accommodations in Sicily.
However, I have listed more options in my dedicated post.
Cortile Azzurro is one of the best value accommodations in Sicily, located in the underrated town of Trapani, right in the Old Centre.
Another great place is the Studio Da Nenè in Cefalù, a lovely Airbnb/Holiday home that works fantastically well thanks to its position and the perfect kitchen where you can cook and save more money.
For a beach stay in Fontane Bianche you should check out White Beach B&B, amazing value for money.
For the best beaches
Meters away from the amazing San Vito Lo Capo beach (west of Palermo) you should check out these options:
- For couples: Acquarò Suite Rooms, for a romantic boutique stay or B&B Selene, just 100 metres from the beach and with a fantastic jacuzzi on the rooftop (see photos here). The lovely breakfast makes a fantastic start to the day.
- For Families: Piccola Stella (2BR) and Villa Agata (3BR up to 6 people) holiday homes/Airbnb or Villaggio Cala Mancina, a great resort for kids
In the lovely beach town of Fontane Bianche, south of Catania you should check out
- For couples: White Bay (on the beach), White Beach BeB (amazing value for money)
- For families: L’uliveto sul mare (2BR up top 4 people) and Villa Sirio (3BR up to 6 people)
For a romantic stay
Taormina is one of the most romantic places to stay in Sicily and I may add Italy.
For a lovely stay, check out the Hotel Villa Schuler with one of the best views in Sicily (see photos here). Centrally located in Taormina with a charming sub-tropical garden around the property. Breakfast is so delicious.
Another option is the Rocca Castello B&B. Philip and Umberto will make you feel at home. They do have also a great knowledge of Taormina and they are happy to share it with you. Breakfast is lovely. A great family-run accommodation.
Another possibility is Cefalù, just 50 minutes by train from Palermo.
Travelling with kids
Catania has probably the best nightlife in Sicily. Palermo is close second, however, as usual, this is a subjective call.
Either way, stay in one of the two cities and surely you can find bars and clubs to spend the entire night till the early morning.
Best Beaches in Sicily
Sicily is one of the best islands in Europe for beaches.
It’s not just the quantity but also the variety.
This is my top 5 list:
- San Vito Lo Capo Beach: located on the west coast. Famous for thin sand and turquoise shallow water. It’s a real heaven. Long and wide in the central part, perfect for a stay with kids.
- Cefalù Beach the beach at the bottom of the Old Centre is just picture perfect with the old building literally finishing on the sand. It’s a small one, however, so charming and romantic.
- Scala dei Turchi: located nearby Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples, this beach is world famous thanks to its wavy white rock formation. Absolutely unique.
- Fontane Bianche: south of Catania, this beach is the jewel of the east coast thanks to its amazing transparent water. It’s also well positioned, minutes by train to both Noto and Ortigia Island.
- Zingaro Nature Reserve: this is a coastal National Park between Scopello and San Vito Lo Capo. There is a well-signed track that will take you to a series of hidden coves for a dive and secret boutique beaches for a chill-out time (admittedly, this park is not as hidden in July and August, any other month is perfect).
Here below I share my Google Map with over 30 beautiful beaches you should check out.
What to do, see & experience in Sicily
Being a big island, there are so many things to experience in Sicily.
We talked above about the beaches, try to visit at least two of the above.
Sicily is also famous for its amazing trekking, with the Etna Volcano being one of the most popular destinations.
It’s a great resource that you can use to build your own must-visit list.
Best Itineraries in Sicily
The length of your stay will drive the type of itineraries you will be able to do.
With 3/4 days base yourself in one accommodation (Palermo, Catania, Taormina) and explore from there.
With 5/6 days you can already think to change two accommodations, however, I personally suggest to stay close to Palermo and Catania without spending too much time commuting
With 7/10 days you can think to even build an itinerary to cover the west or the east of the island, and possibly even a small loop, either by car or by public bus.
With 2 weeks or more you can expand your horizons and explore most of the island from east to west in a big loop.
I wrote a dedicated post to possible itineraries in Sicily that is the best starting point to build your own plan
Best restaurants in Sicily
There is such an amazing choice in Sicily that it’s hard to give any particular suggestion.
In saying that, I have built my own list which I would like to share with you.
It’s not an exhaustive one, of course. It’s actually a list I tend to update on a regular basis, so come back to this post for the latest findings.
- Palermo: Flor (design), Bepop (tasting menu), Focacceria San Giovanni degli Eremiti (amazing value, great focaccia), Bistrot 107 (Cafe/restaurant), Trattoria Trapani (cosy family run)
- Catania: Pizzeria Andrea (cheap and so tasty), Il Gambero Pazzo (lovely garden area), docalquadrato (wine list), Sikulo Restaurant (exclusive), Cucina Casalinga “da Mimmo” (family run)
- Taormina: PierdeCat Sicilian Bistrò (great for lunch), Vineria Modì (great food in a romantic environment), Trattoria Pizzeria Santa Lucia (value for money), Osteria da Rita (family run)
- Cefalù: Sicilian Food & Drink (seafood), Mandralisca Sedici (cozy bistrot), Passafiume Cantina Bistrot (with music)
- San Vito Lo Capo: Tasty Paninoteca (lunch), Bianconiglio (great sea food), Pizza E Sfizi (best for pizza in San Vito Lo Capo), La Battigia (exclusive)
- Fontane Bianche: Pizzeria Blume and Pizzeria 991 are located on a street where you will find the best restaurants and pizzerie of Fontane Bianche.
You can find more restaurants on my shared Google Map for restaurants.