Recommended stops for a Sicily itinerary that will make you discover art-filled cities, stunning ancient ruins, beautiful landscapes and some of the most delicious food in the whole of Italy.
I believe Sicily is one of the most beautiful and interesting parts of the whole of Italy. Rich in history, art, culture and blessed with beautiful scenery and some of the most delicious food you will ever taste, it is a must see for any type of traveler, may they be an art lover, a beach seeker or a mix of both!
The island is big and so rich in attractions that is a world in itself, one you want to take your time to discover.
In this guide, I share a Sicily itinerary that I hope can be useful to help you plan your Sicily stay.
While I will not cover all that there is to see in Sicily, it should give you a good idea of many Sicily must see sites and what this wonderful island has to offer.
I hope you enjoy it. Safe travels!
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The best time to go to Sicily
Sicily is a large island in the centre of the Mediterranean, in between mainland Italy and Africa.
This location means that the island gets a typical Mediterranean climate with short, mild winters and very hot summers, with pleasant fall and spring months.
For sightseeing, the best time to go to Sicily is the spring: at this time you get sunny, dry days but unless you hit a heatwave you are usually spared the really hot temperatures of the summer months (June, July, August).
The fall is also a lovely time to visit the island while winter is a bit hit and miss: while never very cold, Sicily does see rain and grey sky so if you go in winter, it is important to be ready. This is definitely not a summer-all-year-round destination.
Summer is a great time to visit Sicily if you want to enjoy the beach or want to head to the islands. It is however not a great time for sight seeing and must be avoided if you don’t like strong heath or get burnt easily.
The sun here is relentless and sightseeing will expose you the worse of it.
At a glance, this is what to expect in each season.
Visiting Sicily in spring
April – June: this is best time for sightseeing. However, it is crowded with school trips and Easter holiday visitors. Advanced booking is recommended.
Visiting Sicily in summer
July – mid September: very hot, only suitable for a sea and sun vacations. Advance booking for locations on the coast is mandatory.
Visiting Sicily in fall
Mid Sept – mid November: this is a great time for sightseeing and to avoid excessive crowds. The only area that might not be ideal at this time are the islands, which get better weather and temperatures as you get close to the summer. Advance booking recommended
Visiting Sicily in the winter
Mid -Dec to mid March: this is low season, with the exception of Christmas weeks that do see some more tourism.
Many places are closed or close early so while this can be a good way to sight-see without the crowds, you want to make sure you plan your days in advance to avoid disappointments if visiting Sicily in winter.
Festival and festivities in Sicily
Sicily is full of local traditions and festivities and it is worth keeping an eye out for them if you find yourself in the area when they happen.
They can be a wonderful opportunity for a local experience although do be aware that some attract tourism and can also translate into fewer and pricier accommodation options.
Some festivals to keep an eye out for are:
- Festa di Sant’Agata, February 3-5, Catania
- Sagra del Mandorlo in fiore (Almond-blossom Festival), First two weeks of February, Agrigento
- Martedi Grasso (Carnival), Tuesday before Lent, Many towns and cities
- Easter (dates vary)
- Infiorata, Third week of May, Noto
- Festa di St. George, Last Saturday of May, Ragusa
- Greek Classical Theatre, May-July, Siracusa
- International Festival of the Arts, July-August, Taormina
- Festa di St. Rosalia, Second week of July, Palermo
- Cefalù festivals, August (first two weeks) & all of September
- Renaissance Music Festival, August 13-15, Erice
- Ferragosto, (Assumption Day), August 15, National holiday
- Festa della Santa Lucia, December 13 & 20, Siracusa
How many days to see Sicily?
Sicily is big and if you want to see several areas you will need at least two full weeks.
If you have less time available, I recommend you pick a limited area and explore locally.
We spent two sets of four days in Sicily, once around Palermo and once around Siracusa and they were just about enough to see the cities and immediately surrounding area.
If you can, devote at least one week to each ‘side’ of the island and only attempt a longer itinerary around it if you have a minimum of 14 days.
How to get around Sicily
The best way to discover Sicily is by car. While driving in Italy is scary for many (see our best tips here on how to handle the Italian traffic), not having a car in Sicily will seriously limit your options.
Trains do work well on the island but only serve a limited area with consistent schedules and buses can prove handy but will tie you down to a sometimes less than ideal schedule
To put the driving in context, I can tell you that I recently drove in Sicily and the only part I found stressful was the traffic exiting Palermo and that was only because we were driving from the inner city, rather than the airport.
If you stick to motorways (which you will, for many of the locations on this itinerary) you will have no more difficulties in Sicily than anywhere else.
Sicily itinerary 14 days to see the best of the island
Palermo (2 days)
Palermo is the biggest city in Sicily and an absolutely wonderful one, likely to capture your heart with its beautiful architecture and your stomach with its amazing food!
The city is home to several architectural styles ranging from Arab Norman style buildings to Baroque churches and in this sense is a fantastic place to get a sense of the wealth of cultures and nations that called Sicily home over the course of the centuries.
Significant buildings and churches are scattered around the city and have that distinctive character of grandeur mixed with decaying splendor that is so typical and so charming about Sicily.
Things you cannot miss in Palermo are:
- Palermo’s cathedral and its incredibly elaborate architecture
- Palazzo dei Normanni and Cappella Palatina,
- Chiesa della Martorana (church)
- Teatro Massimo, one of the biggest lyrical theaters in Italy and Europe
- Palermo old neighborhoods, packed with charm
- Palermo food market, a great place taste some of Sicily’s specialties such as arancine (in Palermo they are feminine, I am told!), panino con la milza, sfincione (in between bread and pizza with a tasty sauce) and of course cassata and cannoli.
Palermo – Monreale (1 day)
Only 8 KM from Palermo and offering sweeping views over the city, Monreale is a wonderful stop to add to any Sicily itinerary no matter how short, and a special treat especially for architecture lover.
The town is famous for a glorious Normal cathedral, dating back to the XII century and exceptionally well preserved.
Its facade has two towers and a (later) portico and the inside is decorated with wonderful mosaics, considered among the most remarkable in the whole of Italy.
Monreale is an easy day trip from Palermo and can easily be done while staying in the city.
Riserva dello zingaro and Segesta (1 day)
Between Palermo and Trapani lies a place of great natural beautify called La riserva della zingaro.
This area is protected and has pristine beaches, wonderful blue sea and and old ‘bagli’, ancient walled estates now turned charming town center piazzas and villages.
This is an area we discovered while attending a wedding in Scopello and it is a lovely place to relax and enjoy the Sicilian sea before hopping back onto the car for the beautiful, but long, driving days ahead.
This is also a wonderful area to use as a base to visit one of my favorite archaeological sites in the whole of the island: Segesta.
I first visited Segesta when I was a child, over Easter, and I still maintain the memory of that first day there: the incredible temple against the Sicilian blue sky and a vast expanse of spring blossoms bursting around it in magnificent colors.
The temple of Segesta is a sight to behold. Originally built around the V century BC the temple if Doric in style and what is special about it is its architecture couples with the incredible natural scenery around it.
Erice – Agrigento (1 day)
Closer to Trapani, in the Western side of Sicily, sits another one of this island’s gems: the hilltop village of Erice.
Perched on a hill overlooking the gulf of Trapani, Erice is a small village with meandering medieval alleys, charming corners and more churches that its small size may suggest possible.
The most famous sites in Erice are the duomo and the ‘castle of Venere’ but what steals the show here is the landscape around the town: the views from here are wonderful and expected but be warned: the altitude and expose of Erice means especially in winter you want to wrap up!
You can see Erice in a matter how hours, then hop back on the car to get closer to your next stop: the valley of the temples via scenic Scala de’ Turchi, where you also have lovely B&Bs such as this one to spend the night.
Valley of the temples – Piazza Armerina – Ragusa (1 day)
One of the most famous attractions in the whole of Sicily if not the most famous of all is the so called valley of the temples, near Agrigento.
The valley is an invaluable archaeological sites and is famous for a very well preserved series of Greek temples dating back to the VI century BC.
Now a Unesco heritage site, la Valle dei Templi is vast and deserves a few hours to be visit properly: I recommend you visit the temples first thing in the morning, before the sun gets too strong and the crowds fill the place.
After a morning spend among Greek temples, history lovers can spend the afternoon surrounded by roman marvels at Piazza Armerina.
For this stop you need to leave the coast and venture into the heart of Sicily but the detour is worth is: here you have a Roman villa with incredible mosaics, very different from anything you have encountered so far in this trip.
The detour makes your driving day longer but if you love history, I believe it is a must see. after this, you can reach your base in Val di Noto: Ragusa.
Val di Noto (3 days)
In the south east of Sicily lies another area of incredible charm and interest, Val di Noto.
This areas is famous for being home to 8 towns with stunning baroque architecture, so beautiful and unique to have been listed as UNESCO world heritage site. They are: Caltagirone, Catania, Militello in Val Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo, Ragusa and Scicli.
These cities were all rebuilt in 1693 on or beside older cities that got destroyed by an earthquake that took place in that same year and are significant both for their beautify and for the peculiarity of their construction, which is proof of a remarkable collective undertaking and give a peculiar feel to the area.
This area is stunning and if you are coming to Sicily inspired by the Montalbano on TV, this area is a real treat as many of the filming locations of the series are here!
As well as architecture the area of Modica is famous for a special sweet reason: Modica makes amazing chocolate!
I recommend you take your time to visit this area and use these days to slow down after all the driving.
Siracusa (1 day)
After the incredible Val di Noto this itinerary brings you to a different yet equally stunning city: Siracusa.
Located on the Eastern coast of Sicily, Siracusa too my breath away when I saw it and I don’t say things like this lightly! I found its historical center and the duomo absolutely stunning and are now one of my favorite places in the whole of Sicily.
Siracusa has two main areas of interest to the visitor: the ancient town center, which develops on the island of Ortigia and the archaeological park.
The jewel in the crown of Siracusa is Ortigia, the island that forms the ancient city centre. The first site you encounter on visiting is the impressive temple of Apollo: now in ruins, part of its perimeter still stands and bear witness of the ancient origins of the city
From here, small alleys dotted with shops and restaurants meander across the island and eventually open onto the stunning Piazza Duomo. Here, you have the impressive Siracusa cathedral, which towers above a sunny square with restaurants and cafes popular with locals and tourists alike.
Away for the centre but only a short bus ride away by local transport sits the other sight you cannot miss in Siracusa: the city’s archaeological parks. With ruins dating back to Greek and Roman times, a stunning theater and the impressive latomie, this is gorgeous part of the city where nature and history come together to create a special corner of historical delights.
Catania (2 days)
Catania is the first glimpse of Sicily for many thanks to the city’s international airport but this city is way more than an entry point to the island and this is why I include it in this long itinerary.
Located just beside the mighty Etna volcano, the city has a wonderful natural location and stunning baroque architecture in its historical centre.
The city is worth visiting in itself and it is also a great place to make your base for local excursions to Mount Etna, the Alcantara gorges and this part of the Eastern Sicilian coastline.
Taormina (1 day)
Glitzy Taormina is a very special corner of Sicily, one that tourism discovered long time ago.
Perched on a gorgeous hill overlooking the sparking Mediterranean sea and with the backdrop of Mount Etna, Taormina is blessed with wonderful location and has some important historical vestiges that make it a worthwhile cultural stop.
Here you have ancient Greek and Roman ruins, the most impressive of which is the stunning ancient theater. It sits right in the center of town and is one of the most scenic places you will ever see.
Taormina, as I mentioned, is worth a stop but it is also a victim of its own popularity so I suggest you plan you stay here carefully.
Avoid coming for one day at the same time as the cruise ships and opt to stay the night (we stayed here and loved it, we even have a full review here): this way, you can see the town before and after the crowds and take it its more authentic charm.
Cefalu – Palermo (1 days)
We are almost to the end of our itinerary around Sicily but before we get to Palermo again, there is one more place to visit: Cefalu
Cefalu lies about 70km east of Palermo and is a lovely seaside town with a charming old centre and great access to the sea.
This small town is a place to relax and slow down and has a very family friendly vibe, which makes it a good choice if you are traveling with kids too – this is good to know as other localities have harder water access and can prove difficult with very small children.
The main things to see in Cefalu are the duomo, the ancient city walls and the town’s old churches.
Specific attractions aside, however, what is likely to charm you the most about Celfalu is its location and the gorgeous view over the sea you get from this ancient town.
This is a lovely last stop before you head back into Palermo for your flight home.
I hope you enjoyed this 14 day itinerary around Sicily and it will be a useful starting pint for you to create your own and have a wonderful stay in Sicily. Safe travels!