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If you want to have the best trip to Sicily.....

Check out my 10 top tips for a great trip!


We get asked loads of questions about travelling in Sicily of course! So, I put my answers to the most common ones together to share with you.

 

1.     How long should we stay in Sicily?

This is the big question! We find that many travellers just tack 3-4 days at the end of their Italian journey to come to Sicily not realizing how big the island actually is and how long it takes to get around. To be exact it is 25,711 square kilometers.  If you want to see many of the well-known places and major attractions, then you need at least a week to 10 days to do it comfortably.   However, if you only have 3 or 4 days then prioritise, do your research about the things you really want to see and do and plan well to make the most of your time.  




 

2.     When should we come?

That depends on several things…. and the two main considerations should be your tolerance for heat and crowds.  July and August in particular is peak holiday season in all of Italy and the hot weather and summer night life brings beach lovers and tourists from all over the world at that time of year.  May and June are wonderful as the weather is just starting to warm up and September and October too are perfect too as the summer ends, Italian families go back to school and work and the crowds lessen.  If you like cooler weather November to April is fine to come too although some tourism businesses close or just operate less. 

 

3.     What do we pack and bring?

Of course, it depends on the time of year as to whether the focus will be warm clothing or light clothing and beach gear.  However, even if you do come in the summer, always bring at least one warm jacket and scarf.  If you head up into the smaller mountain towns it can still get quite cool at night and of course, if you go up Mt Etna it can be boiling hot at the base and freezing and blowing a gale at 2700 metres!  The other thing to know is that even in the cooler months, days can still be in the 20s so always throw a pair of swimmers in your bag!

 

And what you pack also depends on the activities you have planned.  These things aside and even if you are not a hiker, I recommend you bring comfortable quality shoes to walk in as many of the streets in Sicily (and Italy) are cobblestones and ancient making them very uneven and hard on your feet.  Sicilian women really understand this and you will see them in beautifully dressed with pretty joggers and super comfy sandals with loads of bling! 

 

Bring a mix of casual clothes and one or two nice things to wear out to a restaurant.  Sicilians, like all Italians, love to dress well when they go out and take a ‘passeggiata’ (walk) in the evening. 

 

Pack lightly if you are moving around a lot as its hard dragging large bags over cobblestones and up steep hills.  Many places, unless more upmarket, don’t have lifts and have lots of stairs as Italian buildings do. 



 

4.     What’s the best way to get to Sicily?

Put simply there are two options - fly or ferry.  Both are a good way to get there.

 

Ferries come to Sicily at the major ports on all sides of the island which are Messina/Milazzo, Catania, Pozzallo, and Trapani and Porto Empedocre.  The main ferry to Sicily from mainland Italy is at the bottom of the boot, Reggio Calabria to Milazzo.  You can drive your car on the ferry and even the train goes on the ferry.  They run regularly and there are several ferry lines you can choose from.  The trip takes about 45 minutes. 

 

The two biggest commercial airports are Catania, which is the largest and busiest and Palermo.  You will find some smaller regional airports at places like Trapani and Comiso.  When Mt Etna erupts it can cause havoc with Catania airport and sometimes flights are diverted to Comiso or Palermo. 

 

5.     How do we get around?

Your transport options include car, train, bus, private transfer, bike or scooter! 

This is one of the most asked questions we get about Sicily especially about driving a car.  I always ask if they are a confident driver or not? You will encounter narrow, mountainous, and not-so-well-maintained roads and in the larger cities a lot of traffic and zones where you cannot drive unless you are a taxi or a local. But if you are confident, then hiring a car is the best way, in my view, to see Sicily.  By driving you will be able to go where the moment takes you and see many of the smaller towns, beaches, stunningly beautiful off the beaten track places.

 

Trains and buses are a good option but be aware that they won’t run as often out of high summer season and if you have limited time in Sicily can be frustrating and slow. 

 

Private transfers or a bespoke private tour (like we do!) whilst a little bit more costly, can be a great option if you are not a confident driver.  You can hire a car/van and driver for the day sometimes for a special outing or if you are going to stay a few days in each location, just get the transfer from location to location to your next major town. 

 

Scooters are a popular mode of transport to get around Sicily.  Not so great for the longer hauls between larger cities like Palermo to Catania or over to Trapani.  But to get around the local areas they are very convenient especially in places where it’s hard to find parking, they are economical and fun. 




 

6.     Staying in touch and connected

There is sometimes limited internet connectivity in smaller remote towns and some of the world traveller sim cards don’t function that well.  Some people rely on just connecting to the internet in places they eat or hotels and go without phone or internet when they are out and about, but I don’t recommend that.  A friend of mine recently got totally lost catching the bus from one town to another and I couldn’t find her she had no phone or internet.  I recommend buying an Italian sim at the airport, in my view the company Tim has the best connectivity around the island, and you will have both phone and internet for your maps and translations in most places around the island.  It might cost you 10 or 20 euro and well worth it.  I suggest buying one that has a good amount of data, rather than overseas phone calling features.  Nowadays, everyone uses WhatsApp or Messenger for many communications. Many phones now operate with e-sims and you can easily and quickly switch back and forth between your main phone number to the Italian one.

 

7.     Communicating with the locals

You may know some Italian or have taken the time to learn a few key phrases before your trip to Italy and good on you!  But did you know there are 22 official dialects in Italy? And some of the dialects, like Sicilian, are quite different and even have different words than official Italian.  So, if you are trying to understand a conversation and wondering why you can’t, it’s probably because they are speaking dialect. Most people that speak dialect will speak formal Italian too as that is what is taught in schools.

 

Out of the main cities, you may not find people that speak English very much, so having a few words and phrases in Italian will be helpful.  Also, I highly recommend the free Google Translate app on your phone (another reason to have data on your phone).  Did you know you can talk the words, it will talk a reply, put text in and even use the camera setting to scan written words like a menu or a sign and it will translate it for you instantly! 

 

8.     Accommodation

Make sure you do your research well for accommodation.  Check things like the size of the town, access, what transport is available in that location, distance to major landmarks, shops and restaurants.  Take the time to read some of the reviews too from people that have stayed there too. 

 

One year we met a family up the top of Mt Etna, heard their Aussie accent and started chatting with them about their trip to Sicily.  They were not enjoying it because they had stayed in a small town, quite a number of kilometers from the coast and there was not much to do for the kids, yet the photos showed the beach!

 

If you are up staying on a mountain top, look at how will you get up and down easily without a car.  Consider mobility as some hotels and apartments don’t have access by car and you may have to walk with your luggage and then there could be several flights of stairs internally.  Lastly, if you have hired a car, check if the accommodation has parking as parking in the major cities and in some steep hilltop locations can be an issue.



9.     Health and well-being

Italy has a good medical system and even if you have to see a doctor it will not cost a fortune. Prescriptions and pharmacy products are quite well priced too.  Last year we had one 94 year old traveller with us that needed to see a doctor urgently and we took her to the ……..  It’s good to know each town has one and you can go there out of normal business hours. 

 

Probably the hardest thing is food options for diabetics like me, especially at breakfast time – Sicilians love a sweet breakfast of pastries and granita.  Finding cafes and bars that have savoury option can be a challenge but there are some and these days some patisseries have options made with whole wheat (integrale) flour.

 

10.  What are the best places to visit – you can’t do it all!

Again, this is time dependent and of course the places you visit will be informed by your interests and likes. 

 

If you are a history lover, prioritise places like Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, the Greek Theatre in Taormina, the old city of Ortigia in Siracusa, and Palermo.

 

For nature lovers, explore the stunning Aeolian Islands, hike Mt Etna, snorkel in the crystal-clear waters all around the coast.  Sicily has a loads of amazing hiking trails to choose from wherever you are staying.

 

Foodies will delight in Sicily’s culinary scene.  Plan to visit local markets, and in the bigger cities Palermo’s Vucciria market, Catania La Pescheria or Siracusa markets.  Of course, cooking classes are available all over Sicily and you will find wineries and agritourism places that specialize in not only great Sicilian wines, locally produced foods and oils.  You must try Sicilian specialties like arancini, granita and brioche, paste mandorle, swordfish and red prawns, and the different types of pasta specific to local towns.

 

Art and architecture lovers will find inspiration in Sicily’s baroque town like Noto, Modica and Ragusa and their beautiful churches and historic palaces. 

 

Finally, here are my recommendations for must see places and again depending on the time you have:

·      Taormina and surrounding towns and places like Castelmola, Isola Bella, Giardini-Naxos,

·      Siracusa /Ortigia

·      Trapani and Marsala region

·      Palermo, Cefalù, San Vito Lo Capo

·      Aeolian Islands

·      Valley of the Temples in Agrigento

·      Mt Etna

 

Then consider some of my favourite smaller places like Marzamemi, Punta Secca, Aci Trezza, Castelmola, Caltagirone, Piazza Armerina, Forza D’Agro, Favignana and of course, Erice.

 

Happy planning and safe travels and I hope these Sicily travel tips are useful!

 

Catherine x




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ABOUT US

Our company is owner operated by Nino and Catherine Santoro who both have their own successful careers involving travel and people-centered work.  Nino and Catherine love to travel and love their countries of residence, Australia and Italy.  Their travel experience and adventures over the years led to many people saying ‘Take us with you next year please!’......so they did! 

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