Holy cannoli! We spent 10 days driving all over the island to see all the beautiful sights, meet lots of friendly people, and indulge in amazing food.
We had 10 days to see Sicily and, while we bit off a lot, we decided we wanted to road trip across the whole island to see as much as we could see. For those that are interested in a similar plan, this post is for you!
Rent a car and drive yourself around - you’ll have much more freedom that way. The driving can be a little bit scary when in towns, but don't let that dissuade you. It's worth it!
We love driving and the drives between places were quite bearable given there were lots of stops that you could make and see sights. That said, if you don't like driving, we would suggest picking a few main spots and planning around that.
We decided not to book hotels in advance, because we wanted to leave the flexibility of skipping certain locations and/or staying longer in any spots we particularly loved. Would highly suggest that approach and there are lots of options if you go off peak season (which brings us to our next tip)
If you can, try not to go during peak summer. We went in late April and the weather was beautiful, hotels were abundant, and sights weren't too busy
Itinerary - There are many ways you could plan your time in Sicily, here is how we decided to – as a helpful starting point!
Day 1: Palermo - Erice - Trapani
Day 2: Trapani - Marsala - Agrigento
Day 3: Agrigento - Scicli - Modica - Ragusa
Day 4: Ragusa - Marzemami - Noto- Siracusa
Day 5: Siracusa - Mt Etna
Day 6: Mt Etna - Taormina
Day 7: Taormina - Milazzo - Sant Ambrogio - Cefalu
Day 8: Cefalu - Palermo
Day 9: Palermo - Zurich
Now for the real details!
Sicily really ticks a lot of the boxes - history, culture, food and nature - all jam packed onto this island in the middle of the Mediterranean sea! With seven UNESCO world heritage sites - you cannot help but sit back and appreciate some of the most beautiful views!!
Where to stay?
We enjoyed most of our stays, but didn't really maximize around hotels for this trip, more for location. We travelled off-peak, and got fantastic value from B&Bs!
If one stood out in particular, it was - B&B I Segreti della Valle - Agrigento. Nothing fancy, but had a wonderful breakfast with a ricotta cup that we still think about. It was very close to the attractions in the area and was a great location for that part of the trip
What to do?
Day 1: Fly into Palermo. Stop at Temple of Segesta. Go to Erice, a Medieval Town. Drive to Trapani. Spend the evening in Trapani.
Day 2: Morning in Trapani. Stop at Salt Flats, Marsala, and the Scala dei Turchi. End in Agrigento. The evening was spent meandering the streets of Agrigento.
Day 3: Morning coffee in Agrigento and then off to the Valley of the Temples. We decided to park on far East side and take a taxi bus to the other side so we only had to walk one way. Our next stop was Scicli - and this place is worth it just for the cannoli from Cannolia alone! Our evening was spent between Ragusa and Modica. Modica for the chocolate (Cioccolato di Modica Sabadì) and Ragusa for the most beautiful sunset!
Day 4: And we are on our way up the eastern side of the island, towards Marzemami. This turned out to be something of a hidden gem for us - a cute little market square with delicious fish. Next up was Noto, and a stop at a Feudo Maccari on the way (this area is what Nero d'Avola is named after). Lexi was pregnant so we didn't stop at a ton of wineries, but would have done much more otherwise. Noto was a nightmare to find parking - but a cute little town whose claim to fame is that it's the birthplace of the cannoli! We finished up in Siracusa and had the evening out in Ortigia, a idyllic area with lots of winding streets to get lost on and explore.
Day 5: We decided to give Catania a miss - given the busy itinerary, though you may want to stop there if you have any extra time. Next up was Mt Etna - the tallest active volcano in Europe! It was a bit pricey, but ultimately worth it. We didn't fancy the hike - so it was gondola to the bus pass for us. The surrounding area has plenty to offer - we stopped at a honey place called Oro d'Etna and stayed at Agriturismo Tenuta San Michelle.
Day 6: With Mt Etna in our rear view mirror - we worked our way on up to the Taormina area. We stayed outside, but close by to Taormina. Driving through and parking in Taormina is a bit treacherous, use the major parking lots. In Taormina, we decided to check out Castello di Mola, and went to the Teatro Antico close to closing. We generally enjoyed stopping into places that looked inviting and stayed at B&B Villa Valentina Taormina (gorgeous oranges you could pick off their trees).
Day 7: We're on the final stretch, and Cefalu was up next. This was a pretty long drive so we broke it up with little stops along the way - such as Milazzo for a coffee. We also highly recommend an olive oil tasting in the small town of Sant'Ambrogio, for some history, delicious olive oil,and wine. We then made our way to Cefalu for an evening of food and exploring the streets.
Day 8: And back to where our trip began, Palermo. It happened to be the Easter weekend - so Palermo was really vibrant! Unfortunately, we didn't visit the No Mafia Memorial, but this came recommended! The Cosa Nostra is synonymous with Sicily - so becoming more educated on this would have been great!
Day 9: And that's a wrap - we grabbed an early brunch in Palermo. We had to fly out a bit early to get a cheaper flight and spent the evening in Zurich.
Where to eat / drink?
A cannoli a day keeps the doctor away! Ok maybe not, but they are absolutely delicious here and would suggest having them. Our favorite was at Cannolia in Scicli. We also really enjoyed a very unassuming shop in Trapani that doesn't even look to be open called Pasticceria La Rinascente. Also the birthplace of the cannoli, Cafe Sicilia, is alway worth a stop if you are a fan
Try the granita and brioche. A weirdo combination, but truly scrumptious. Our favorite was in Taormina at Bam Bar
Sicily feels very Mediterranean, have all the fish you can while you are there
In the Southern part of Sicily, choose anything that has ricotta in it, all of it is delicious
Book bed and breakfasts to get breakfast for free and focus on snacks and meals later in the day. Italians aren't much for brunch as it seems things start a bit late, but we did fine one good spot in Palermo called NonnAnge Bakery and Coffee
Plan to visit wineries in the Avola area.
While Marsala was fun, if you aren't into sweet wine you may not want to get too much of the wine there. That said, we had a great afternoon stop at a wine shop with a very friendly store owner, called La Sirena Ubriaca
Would you recommend to your friend / family? Yes, definitely - there is something for everyone and dependent on the people we may suggest the same itinerary or picking 2-3 locations and optimizing for that.
Would you return? We think so, but probably not for a while as we felt like we got a good sense of the area throughout the 9 days.
Favorites to speak of:
Lodging: This trip we didn't really optimize for lodging as we wanted flexibility. That said, we really enjoyed our B&B outside of Taormina for the oranges and the B&B in Agrigento that gave us the ricotta for breakfast.
Activity: We weren't expecting too much from Mt Etna, but that was quite fun and a good break from lots of sightseeing centered around temples and such
Eating: The cannoli at Cannolia in Scicli, though I'm sure there are others just as good
Drinking: Lexi was pregnant so drinking was at a minimum, but we think Feudo Maccari winery and generally just checking out wineries in that Avola area is a must