Sicily Itinerary: Our Road Trip from West to East

With its beautiful seaside and hilltop villages, clear-blue waters, and looming volcano landscape – Sicily is a travel destination that should definitely not be missed out on your bucket list of things to do when exploring Italy. 

Being the largest island in the Mediterranean it surely offers something for everyone’s taste: stunning beaches, ancient history, unique landscapes, the famous Etna volcano, and, of course, mouthwatering cuisine. 

Planning your trip to Sicily and need some inspiration? We put together a Sicily itinerary for a road trip from the western to the eastern part of the island. The timeframe is up to your availability but is suggested for around 10-14 days. Please consider a lot of tourists on the island, especially in the summer months of June-August. We traveled in September and it was still quite full in places but Sept/Oct is a recommendable time to visit the island.

Table of Contents

Why to Take a Sicily Roatrip?

Sicily is a great location for road tripping with a lot of road connections bringing your from one side of the island to the other. There are numerous places to visit that are spread across the island and, with a not-so-ideal public transportation system, can best be reached by car. It is definitely the best way to explore all the beautiful corners of this diverse island.

Is Sicily worth visiting? For sure! Here are some of the main reasons to visit Sicily:

  • Delicious food: Like many areas around the country, Sicily has its very type of cuisine and it is considered one of the best that Italy can offer. Both its location (sunny all year round, seafood!) as well as history (i.e. Arabic influence) have a strong influence on its cuisine.
  • Rich culture and traditions: The island hosts numerous festive events throughout the year and traditions are kept firmly here. We explored the island in the month of September and witnessed various cultural events. 
  • Amazing architectural sites: Sicily is home to some of the world’s best-preserved Roman and Greek temples and structures. From the magnificent “Teatro Greco” in Taormina to the Valley of the Temples – Sicily is full of interesting sites to visit.
  • Beautiful beaches and islands: Surrounded by the Ionian, Tyrrhenian, and Mediterranean Seas, Sicily has a vast coastline ready to be explored. The sea is often clear and warm and beautiful beaches and even islands can be found in many areas, particularly in the North, East, and South.
  • Etna volcano: Being one of the world’s most active volcanoes and offering rich and fertile volcanic soils, Mount Etna is a true landmark of Sicily and offers a beautiful and fascinating landscape for visitors to explore. 

Driving in Sicily

As already mentioned, exploring Sicily can basically only be done by renting a car and driving around the island. This means biting the bullet and spending money on a rental car but also saving loads of time (and money) by not taking part in organized tours or trying to get around by public transportation.

Driving in Sicily can actually be quite fun as there are numerous nice coastal roads you can take to explore even the most hidden gems of the island. Yet, if you are planning to stay within the cities (i.e. Palermo or Catania) as well, it can also be a very nerve-racking experience. Avoid driving in historic town centers and be aware that there are loads of very narrow and steep roads. While staying in the center of Palermo, we actually parked our car in a safe garage a bit outside of the city center and just walked to our apartment.

Also, try staying on highways and official, state roads, respect speed limits and always try to keep calm! Traffic works different in Sicily but with a right attitude and calm mind you will manage 😉 As for parking, make sure to check the lines on the floor (blue, yellow or white – blue is good!) to see if you are actually allowed to park. Often times there are no ticket machines so you can also download an parking app (i.e EasyPark), which we eventually did as well.

Sicily Itinerary: From West to East

Palermo and Surroundings

palermo cathedral
Palermo Cathedral
palermo market
Palermo markets

When arriving in Sicily by air you will most likely land at the airport near Palermo (PMO), which is a 30-40 minute drive away from Palermo city.

Palermo is the capital city of the autonomous region of Sicily and is noted for its rich history (the city is over 2700 years old!), its culture, architecture and gastronomy. The city is the most populated in Sicily and serves as a gateway to the western part of the island. The city offers a great variety of interesting places to visit such as the Cathedral (Cattedrale di Palermo), the Royal Palace (Palazzo Reale or Palazzo dei Normanni – need to visit the Palatine Chapel within!!) or the Four Corners (Quattro Canti). 

We spent most of our time walking along the main avenues (vias) and getting lost in the beautiful side streets with their small shops, cafés, markets and restaurants. In terms of food, there is so much to discover. 

Restaurant tips in the city center: Ristorante La Galleria (close to the cathedral) as well as Le Angeliche (found in a small side street, great food!).

palatine chapel in palermo inside
Palatine Chapel Interior
Palatine Chapel Interior

Day Trips from Palermo

Apart from visiting all the attractions and places in the city itself there are also various day trips you can take from Palermo. 


If you want to go for a beach trip you can visit Mondello Beach, an all-time classic beach destination just a 20-minute drive up north from Palermo. Mondello has retained its glorious beaches and white sands and is a very popular day trip for locals and tourists alike.

Mondello Beach
mondello beach waters
Mondello Beach waters


The coastal town of Cefalù is located east of Palermo and can be reached by car in about one hour. It is known for its beautiful Mediterranean sea views as well as historic cathedrals and remnants of the old town. Cefalu Beach is quite small but also a nice place to relax as there are many restaurants located by the sea.

cefalu cathedral
Cefalu Cathedral

Trapani, Marsala & Egadi Islands

We have not visited these areas but heard that these are further, great destinations to explore from Palermo. 

How many days to stay in Palermo?

This depends on your total duration on the island but we suggest spending around 4-5 days in Palermo to have enough time to explore the city itself as well as the mentioned nearby day-trip destinations. 

Where to stay in Palermo?

When searching for a place to stay in Palermo we opted for renting an apartment in the city center. This way you can explore the city directly by walking from your apartment and do not have to commute into town. As mentioned above, driving within the old city center can be a hassle so we decide to park the car in a nearby safe parking house and take our day-tours from there rather than navigating through the tight city-center streets.

Catania and Surroundings

The other option when arriving on the island by air is to land at the airport of Catania (CTA). 

Catania is the second largest city in Sicily and is located by the Ionian Sea at the base of the active Volcano, Mount Etna. During the Renaissance period, Catania was one of Italy’s most important cultural, artistic and political centres. You will still find lots of interesting landmarks to explore and the city is a perfect hub to explore the eastern and southern side of the island.

Day Trips from Catania

Catania itself has a few attractions and landmarks to visit but it is also recommended to use the city as a hub to explore nice destinations in the area. 


Taormina is a famous hillside town located around 50km north of Catania. It is well-known for its Ancient Greek Theatre. You can have beautiful views across the ocean and Mount Etna, if the weather plays along. You can spend time strolling the town as it’s lined with historical churches,  galleries and charming restaurants.

Ancient Theatre of Taormina


Syracuse is another wonderful town to visit on a day trip from Catania and is located around 60km south. The city has a very beautiful Cathedral, castles, temples and a nice Piazza. You can also stroll down to the old town of Ortigia, which is located on a small island right of the town. 

Aci Castello

Not really the most famous town to consider for a day trip from Catania but this little fishing village, located just 10km north from Catania, is a great places to experience the local vibe. Its a lovely village with nice, local restaurants, some nice lidos (private beach clubs) and some authentic dolce vita vibes!

aci castello view

Mount Etna, Noto, Valley of the Temples – Agrigento

No trip to Sicily is completed without visiting the great Mount Etna volcano. Unfortunately, we did not have much luck with the weather during the days that we planned to visit so we did not have the chance to see it. Yet, it is definitely a must-see when in Sicily. 

Along, there are some smaller villages worth visiting in the center of the island such as Noto (on the way from Palermo to Catania, actually) and also the Valely of the Temples – a must-see trip to take down south.

What to do in Catania

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Where to stay in Catania

There are obviously various places to stay in Catania but we preferred staying a bit outside of town. We actually rented an apartment in the town of Aci Castello which is just a short drive away from the city center of Catania. Also, it is a beautiful, local fisher village and is well connected to various roads leading to other parts of the island. We can highly recommend staying here as it has a very nice charm and is peaceful to stay.

How to travel from Catania to Palermo or vice versa

The best and fastest way to travel across the island by car is to use the main highway (A19). It has recently been updated and most of the construction was done by the time we used it. 

It took us around 4 hours to drive from Palermo to Catania using this highway. 

Stop-over tip: Sicilia Outlet Village – great shopping options and food right on the way. Alternatively you can stop over the beautiful town of Enna, which is lovely place to visit as well.

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