Written by Mariana Barbuceanu for MonaCorona.com.
Bongiorno, fellow travelers! If you’re looking for the perfect Sicily itinerary, you’re in for both a treat and an adventure. This charming island is all about taking it easy, spending time on cute little beaches, sampling the authentic Sicilian foods, indulging in granita (I’ll explain later), and learning about a very long & diverse culture.
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Having spent about a month on the island last summer, I’ll focus on sharing things you’ll want to keep in mind when planning your itinerary for Sicily and visiting Sicily for the first time. In a nutshell:
- Sicily is a large island, so you’ll need to decide which areas you want to focus on. I have a 7-day road trip itinerary outlined for you, with a few suggestions on how to get around (definitely recommend a car!) and what to do!
- When it comes to accommodation, there are plenty of options available, from luxury hotels to quaint bed and breakfasts. I’ll suggest a few, but make sure to book ahead, especially in the summer months. Planning really comes in handy here!
- You have to try all (or most) of the local cuisines. I’ll suggest a few of my favorite restaurants, but get ready for fresh seafood, eggplant in everything, cannolis of every flavor and size, gelato, granita, and pasta prepared like you won’t see on mainland Italy!
Alora! Let’s dive into your itinerary of Sicily details and tips so you can get going!
The Perfect Sicily Itinerary (7 Days)
Day 1: Fly into Palermo & Explore
The capital city of Palermo, the New York City of Sicily, is a great starting point with its beautiful cathedral and lively markets. Since its your first time in Sicily, make sure to visit the Cattedrale di Palermo, the big beautiful cathedral in the heart of the city (which is especially gorgeous lit up at night!).
HISTORY CONTEXT: It’s good to know that Sicily has a long and complex history, dating back to the days of Ancient Greece. The island has been ruled by a succession of different civilizations, including the Romans, Arabs, and Normans. As a result, Sicilian culture is a unique blend of influences from all over the Mediterranean.
For a taste of that Sicilian history, head to the Palazzo dei Normanni, a Norman Palace that now houses the Sicilian Regional Assembly. Or explore the markets of Ballarò and Vucciria in the mornings, where you can find everything from fresh produce to handmade souvenirs.
What & Where to Eat in Palermo: Choose your own adventure between Osteria Nonna Dora (local Sicilian) or Buatta Cucina Popolana (Michelin Guide Sicilian).
Make sure to try any and all the pasta including eggplant and fish, and don’t shy away from the street food vendors selling arancini (fried rice balls) and granitas for breakfast in Sicily (a delicious sorbet made from fresh orange or fresh fruit juice)!
Where to stay: Palermo (3 nights)
Luxury: Grand Hotel Wagner
Day 2: Day trip to Scopello
A day trip to Scopello is a must, especially as it’s just a 1.5-hour drive from Palermo. Located on the northwest coast of the island, Scopello is known for its cliffs, crystal-clear waters, and centuries-old tuna fishery.
My favorite spot to sunbathe and swim was Cala Mazzo di Sciacca. Honestly, the beaches in Sicily, Italy and waters are exactly what is needed to get into the Sicilian vibe, and Scopello is the perfect place to relax and soak up the Mediterranean sun at the beginning of your trip!
What & Where to Eat: La Cialoma (for the fish!)
Day 3: Day Trip to Erice & Isola Favignana
Today is a big day on the west coast of the island, so start early! I spent the first half of the day exploring the tiny Isola Favignana, and the late afternoon sipping on Aperol on top of a mountain in Erice – and it was everything! Here’s what you need to do…
In the morning, pack a little day pack with a towel & swimsuit and drive 2 hours to Trapani’s port, where you can buy a ferry ticket to Isola Favignana. Tickets are about $10 and ferries run hourly. Once on the island, rent an e-bike from the vendors right out front of the dock and explore the island at your leisure – beach to beach!
After a fish lunch and beers on Favignana, grab the ferry back and head towards Palermo, stopping to spend the afternoon in the small gem of a town, Erice.
Pro Tip: It honestly doesn’t matter where you get food in Favignana because all of the little beach bars are super cute and delicious.
Ok, back to the main island for the afternoon! Erice sits on top of a mountain, and is known for its medieval architecture, beautiful views, and tasty food. One of the best ways to experience Erice is to wander through its narrow streets and alleyways. You’ll find yourself surrounded by centuries-old buildings, many of which have been converted into quaint little shops and restaurants. This makes it the best place to catch the sunset and have dinner like the locals do in those narrow streets before going home to Palermo!
What & Where to Eat: Gli Archi di San Carlo (remember that Sicilians eat late, so make sure to have an Aperol before dinner at one of the cute little side streets where the lights twinkle and there’s only room for 1 person – yet somehow you can squeeze 2!)
Day 4: Cefalu for a Day
Today, we head east for 1 hour to Cefalu, where we’re spending the night in a small, traditional Sicilian town. Cefalu is one of those quintessential undiscovered gems, a small village with cute little streets and cute little restaurants, a couple of little beaches, and a couple of little boats bobbing about in the cute little harbor.
Pro Tip: The Cefalu Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage spot and boasts a unique combination of Byzantine and Norman architecture, so definitely take some time to stop in!
In a nutshell, Cefalu is adorable, and a spot where a lot of Sicilians go on vacation from the island. Spend a lazy day on the beach or wander the streets of Cefalu, this is a day of leisure and postcard writing!
Where to stay: Cefalu (1 night)
Luxury: Bohémien Boutique Guesthouse
Day 5: Explore Taormina
After lunch in Cefalu, take the scenic coastal road 2.5 hours to Taormina, the “Pearl of Sicily”. I cannot stress enough how absolutely stunning this town is, so much so that I built this entire itinerary around “saving the best for last”! 5 days in Sicily and you’ve already seen so much, but now you are in for a treat.
The town itself is relatively small, but it is home to a number of interesting historical and cultural sites. Here are a few of my favorite spots to wander:
- The Greek Theater – One of the most popular attractions in Taormina, it offers breathtaking views of both Mt. Etna and the sea (best to catch a sunset here before it closes!)
- Villa Comunale di Taormina – Loveliest gardens and park to stroll through in the mornings with your coffee (or if you’re like me, nap on one of the benches under the trees in the afternoon.)
- Isola Bella – That cute little island in the sea with a small castle perched on top!
Where and What to Eat: Gambero Rosso Taormina (for local Sicilian seafood, they will tell you what is on the menu each night!). That said, all of the little restaurants down the steps of Via di Giovanni offer excellent food and vibe.
Where to stay – 5 Star Hotels in Sicily, Taormina (2 nights)
Luxury: UNAHOTELS Capotaormina
Resort option: San Domenico Palace (Four Seasons)
Day 6: Isola Bella & Taormina
Another day, another beach! There is a little path and stairs that take you from the town center down to Isola Bella, passing by this little scenic viewpoint. When you find the stairs, walk all the way down for about 30 minutes to the sea and post up as close to Isola Bella as you can.
Spend the day reflecting on the Sicily trip you just took, write postcards to your friends and family, and make a promise to come back to visit the southern part of this amazing island!
Day 7: Back to Palermo & Fly Home
The drive back from Taormina to Palermo takes about 3.5 hours. Give yourself enough time to return the rental car, deal with Sicilian drivers, and catch your flight! Arrivederci!
Visiting Italy for the First Time: Map
Visiting Sicily for the First Time: FAQ & Travel Tips
Is Sicily worth visiting?
Yes! And be prepared for a whole different type of Italian experience.
Sicilians will always introduce themselves as Sicilian, not Italian. And being on the island feels like you’re in a whole new country. Not only is the Sicilian dialect and language different from mainland Italian, but the spirit of laid-back everything is ingrained in the day-to-day culture of the island.
Fun Fact: Most stores close from 12 noon to 4 pm to take a little siesta and rest, busses and trains are never on time, and schedules are mere suggestions to a Sicilian. Oh, and don’t expect anything to be open on Sunday. I’ve learned that both nap time and Sunday Fundays are very sacred in Sicily! 🙂
What is the best month to visit Sicily?
If you can avoid the summer months of June to August, that would be best. It’s super hot and super busy with Italian (and other) tourists, the prices are hiked up, and there’s never enough room on the beach in the spot where you want!
PRO TIP: If you’re keen on visiting Italy during the summer, head north to the Italian Dolomites for some hiking. Here’s a badass 14 Day Hiking Trip from Italy to Switzerland that I still can’t believe we were able to do for under $4K total!
Related: Best Hikes in Europe
Anyway, to answer the question, my favorite months to visit Sicily are May (Spring) and September (Fall). The tourists have gone back from vacationing, school is back in session so less kids around, and prices have dropped down to normal. There is more space in some of the cutest hotels, restaurants are still open (some close for the winter months), and the beaches are warm without scorching your skin off.
Where should I stay in Sicily for the first time?
My top places to stay would be the capital city of Palermo and the “Pearl of Sicily” town of Taormina. Both offer a different style of the areas of Sicily if you’re visiting for the first time, and are situated in opposite sides of the northern part of the Island, making both easy home bases to do day trips to some of the hidden gems on my itinerary.
PRO TIP: There are a few more Cute Coastal Towns in the south of Sicily I would recommend, but you can save that for the next visit!
Do you need a car in Sicily?
Yes, this is my biggest recommendation. Sicily is large and the public transportation is not that great. Trains are good for getting to major cities, and busses for the small towns, but nothing is on time (and I don’t mean by minutes, but rather by hours). Plus, the local spots, beaches, and underrated gems you’ll want to go to are not always on the bus routes.
How many days in Sicily is enough?
As I mentioned, Sicily is a pretty large island, and it’s not as connected as most of the mainland is. I definitely recommend a car to get around, and in the spirit of not being on the road the entire trip, I recommend at least one week in Sicily to see a region at a fast, yet relaxed pace.
That said, I recommend a week to visit the north and a week to visit the south. My 7 day Sicily itinerary is for the northern region, which includes Palermo, Trapani, Cefalu, and Taormina is above, but if you were keen on the south, you’ll need another week to add Siracusa, Ortigia, Noto, Ragusa, and Agrigento in the south. A Sicily itinerary 10 days may be enough to cover it, but it will feel very rushed!
IF YOU HAVE MORE TIME: Check out my 2 Weeks in Italy: A Road Trip from Napoli to Sicily, adding a week of mainland South Italy and Neapolitan pizza to the mix!
Is Sicily better than the Amalfi Coast?
Both offer a different version of Itlay. Sicily is authentically itself, unapologetically south Italian, loud for no reason, a little hectic, yet so incredibly easygoing, colorful in everything from dress style, pasta dishes, and granita flavors.
The Amalfi Coast is feels more curated, luxury-forward, and stunning in its own right. If you’re looking for Instagram pictures of Positano, fantastic couture dresses, and high-end restaurants, this is the scene you want. Though, you can find most of that too, in Sicily!
To be fair, it’s a stellar goal to visit both once in your life but choose wisely for the vibe you want and the budget you have.
How safe is it to travel to Sicily?
Very Safe! Despite its sometimes turbulent past with organized crime, Sicily is now a peaceful and welcoming place, full of kind and laid-back people!
And while the Mafia is still very alive and well in Sicily, collecting “protection taxes” from local restaurants and stores (not even joking!), it’s not as prevalent as it has been in the past, so don’t start thinking Godfather straight away!
Pro Tip: Since we’re talking about the economics of Sicily, Cash is King on the island. From parking to espressos, local restaurants, and granita shops, you better have some Euros on you. The good thing is, there are ATM machines everywhere! Sicilians think of everything! 🙂
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