Italy‎ > ‎

Sicily

With history and links to Greece, Rome, North Africa, and various other cultures (Norman, Holy Roman Empire, French, Italian...even American), Sicily offers rich historic treasures, beautiful beaches, spicy cuisine, and a relaxed pace of life.

Getting There

  • By car: From Naples, it is around 6 hours to drive to a town just north of Reggio di Calabria called Villa San Giovanni.  There, you cross the Strait of Messina on a ferry with timetables listed at www.carontetourist.it/v2.0_us/stretto.mvd. The crossing takes about thirty minutes and costs between €29-54 for a round trip (depending on when you cross).  From there it is about 1 hour and 45 minutes to NAS Sigonella.
  • By ferry: From Naples you can take an overnight ferry to Palermo or Catania.  See To Get Around page for ferry company websites from Naples.   (Ferries from other destinations to Sicily can be found at www.cemar.it/dest/ferries_sicily.htm)  Here are the major options from Naples:
    • SNAV leaves Naples for Palermo and vice versa once a day at 8 PM and arrives at 6:30 AM.  Additional departures in August and late July.  Adults are 72 euro round trip; children are 36 and cars are 144 but there is a special deal for 35 euro one way with a car and driver.  The "economy" beds are a 2-bed bunkroom, which is comfy but small; bring your own towels and shower shoes if you want to use the shower.  Although there is a full-service cafeteria, the best value is to bring your own picnic dinner for the ferry (that's what the truck drivers do!).
    • TTTLines leaves Naples for Catania and vice versa at 9 PM (although Sundays and Friday Catania departure is at 7:30); arrival is around 8 AM or 6:30 AM respectively.  Passengers are as cheap as 28 euro, but a cabin can cost 52-118 euro.  Cars cost 75 euro, plus 7 euro tax.  Military get a 20% discount; if you buy a round trip ticket you get a 50% discount on the care fare.  Also, for 2010 there is a "Bonus Stagionale" so that the first 10 people who sign up for a cruise pay only 17 euro (total) for their car...although this offer is not available online ( you have to call or book in person).  High season (Easter, July, and August) tickets cost more.
    • Tirrenia leaves Naples for Palermo and vice versa once a day at 8:15 PM and arrives at 6:30 AM.  Not counting taxes and fees, one-way tickets are 32 euro; cars cost 73 euro.  Round trip for a car and 2 or 3 people is 178 or 223 euro, respectively.
  • By plane: Prices for flights from Naples to Sicily can be rather expensive, in addition to the cost of having to rent a vehicle once there, but occasionally you can find good deals.  Other options include flights from Rome and the occasional "Space-A" flight on U.S. military planes.
  • By train: various trains connect Naples and Caserta with cities in Sicily (Messina, Catania, Palermo, etc.).  For example, there are night trains from Naples to Messina (2248-->0515) and Catania (2335-->0831)...both are around 37 euro (not including a bed).  Daytime trains at 0942 and 1342 to Catania are faster (about 7.5 hours) but slightly more expensive (42 euro).  Train cars go via ferry from Reggio di Calabria to Messina, so make sure you are in the correct car; you can read a description here.

East Coast

NAS Sigonella

This U.S. Naval Air Station can make a convenient, cheap "home base" to explore the East Coast of Sicily if you have access to it.  The base is made up of three different installations:  NAS I, NAS II, and a housing installation.  To get your vehicle on base you will need to get a base pass from Pass & Id.  Visit the base website for more information at www.cnic.navy.mil/Sigonella

Catania

The largest, closest town to NAS Sigonella is fairly nice, and features Roman ruins and a Greek theater.  TTTLines' ferry runs between Naples and Catania (see above for details).
  • MC Turiddu - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • in Mascali (~40 min north on the coast from Catania, on the way to Taormina): La Vecchia Posta - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • in Milo (near Mascali but up on the slopes of Etna): 4 Archi - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • in Lentini (~35 min south): A Maidda - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia

Siracusa

A beautiful old town 1 hour south of Catania, Siracusa (or "Syracuse") features picturesque Ortygia island (including a Greek temple), archeological park with a Greek theater, and the "Ear of Dionysius"
  • Places to Eat:
    • Taberna Sveva - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • Don Camillo - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • La Gazza Ladra - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • Outside of Siracusa:
    • 30 min N on the coast: Augusta: I Rizzari - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • 40 min S: Rosolini: U Sulicce'nti - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • 50 min S near the southeastern tip of Sicily: Pachino: La Cialoma - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
      • right on the tip in Portopalo di Capo Passero: Scala - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • 1.5 hours due West is Chiaramonte Gulfi, a town perched between 2000 and 3000 feet, sometimes called il Balcone di Sicilia ("The Balcony of Sicily") due to its panoramic views. Majore is a restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia

Val di Noto Baroque Towns

The Val di Noto (Noto Valley), 1 hour SW of Siracusa, 1.5 SW of Catania, is an UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its towns' old Baroque architecture.
  • Modica is an old mountain town known for its Sicilian Baroque buildings including the Cathedral of San Giorgio.
    • Taverno Nicastro - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • Maria Fidone - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • Le Magnolie - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • La Rusticana - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • Ragusa is a neighboring hill town, and is the provincial capital
    • La Rusticana - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • Cucina e Vino - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • Noto is the closest of the towns to the coast, about 30 min S of Siracusa
    • Trattoria del Crocifisso da Baglieri - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • I Sapori del Val di Noto - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • Scicli is yet another of the towns
    • La Grotta - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • Palazzolo Acreide is 40 min W of Siracusa in the Hyblean Mountains: 
    • Trattoria del Gallo - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • Lao Scrigno dei Sapori - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • Andrea - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia

Taormina

Taormina is a touristy but beautiful seaside town between Messina and Catania, whose romantic scenery inspried D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterly's Lover.  Apart from the beauty of the town and its views, the main "sight" is a Greek amphitheater overlooking Mount Etna, which still hosts summertime concerts (open 9-4 Nov-Feb, 9-sunset Mar-Oct).  The town can get swamped by busloads of tourists during the day, so it is best experienced early or late.  The town's main street, Corso Umberto I, is great for a passagiata (walk) or shopping.

  • Getting There: ~40 minutes by car from Messina, it can be frustrating to drive through Taormina itself, as all the streets are one way; if arriving by car, you might consider leaving the car in one of the parking lots (Lumbi or Catania) just outside town. A cable car leads you down to Taormina's beach. There is a train station (Taormina-Giardini) connected to the main town by shuttle busses (e.g. a 7 hour InterCity train from Naples costs only €19). There are also busses from Palermo, Catania, and Messina.
    • Tischi Toschi - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • Naxos, an old Greek town, is just south of Taormina.
  • Castelmola (37°52′N 15°17′E) is a short drive, bus, or cab ride (~€15) up Mount Tauro, which boasts beautiful views (especially from the ruined castle at the top of the hill) and a curious bar called Turrisi, famous for its locally produced vino della mandorla (sweet almond wine) and its phallic decoration motif.

Mount Etna

Valle del Bove...also higher parts of Nicolosi, Linguaglossa, Belpasso, and Zafferana.  Philosopher Tower (Empedocle)...Tenuta San Michele del Murgo, Giardini Naxos ...
  • town of Randazzo, on the north slope of Etna: San Giorgio e il Drago is restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia

Messina

Town near the shortest point between Calabria and Sicily; you can take a ferry between Messina and Villa San Giovanni on the mainland. Trains also come over via ferry. There are occasional talks of building a bridge ("Il Ponte") between the two, but it will probably never happen.
  • Mediterranima - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • in Sant'Alessio Siculo (between Messina and Taormina): Accabbanna - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • in Villa franca Tirrena (on North Coast, just W of Messina): Hostaria Disio - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia

North Coast

Palermo

Sicily's capital and largest city has the most activity (including great markets) and lots of history.  Also a convenient embarkation/debarkation point for the Naples ferry (see above for details).  The following are some sights in and around Palermo:
  • Sights
    • Walk around the Historic Center, including several markets (one of the best is Ballero; see below), the "fountain of shame" (Fontana Pretoria) with its naked statues, some cool churches (such as la Martorana), and a cannolli factory where you can try Sicily's most famous foodstuff freshly made.
    • Ballarò market, a sprawling vegetable/fruit/seafood/household goods market which surpasses any you'll find in Naples. Centers on Piazza Carmine, every day but Sunday; most days it's open 9-7 except they close early (~2 PM) on Wednesdays.
    • Palatine Chapel in the Palazzo Reale, studded with mosaics (if you like the Monreale cathedral, below, it's a similar style on a smaller scale)
    • Cappuccin Catacombs - freaky mummies on display.
    • If you're an opera buff (or you actually watched The Godfather Part III) you may want to check out the Teatro Massimo.
  • Places to Eat
    • Il Chiosco delle Cremolose - Piazza Gentili, rec'd by Katie Parla as some of the best cremolosa (a kind of granita) in town
    • Piccolo Napoli - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • Paradiso - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • Il Maestro del Brodo - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • Ai Cascinari - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • Trattoria del Pesce Freso - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • Romano - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • Friggitoria Chiluzzo - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • Antica Focacceria San Francesco - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • Panificio San Michele - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • Zia Pina - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • Al Chioschetto da Viviano - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • Antichi Sapori Palermitani - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • Il Panellaro di Ballarò - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • Around Palermo
    • Monreale - just outside of Palermo on the slopes of Moutn Caputo, hosts a splendid Norman cathedral featuring beautiful mosaics and arab-inspired courtyard.  Cave paintings - at Niscemi's Cave and Addaura Cavern near Mount Pellegrino.
    • San Vito lo Capo and the Greek ruins of Segesta (see West Coast, below) - roughly an hour's drive away
    • Inland S of Monreale: Piana degli Albanesi - Antica Trattoria San Giovanni is restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
      • further south in San Giuseppe Jato: Z'alia is restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • East of Palermo on the coast is Bagheria and Santa Flavia:
      • Don Ciccio - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
      • Villa Cefalà - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
      • Arrhais - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • Futher east and slightly inland is the beautiful hill town of Caccamo, with a big castle; A Castellana is restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia

Enna

Actually in Central Sicily, this hill town is one of the highest in Sicily, on the main highway from Palermo to Catania.  It boasts some fantastic views, especially form near its medieval castle.  (About 1.5 hours from Palermo, 1 hour from Catania.)
  • La Rustica - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • nearby in Caltanissetta (~40 min from Enna): Vicolo Duomo al Collegio restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • nearby in San Cataldo (~45 min from Enna): Anzalone restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia

Cefalù

Beautiful seaside town halfway between Messina (1.75 hours by car) and Palermo (1 hour by car), Cefalù also has a Norman-Arab-Byzantine cathedral (whose interior is gilded with mosaics not unlike--although a bit smaller than--the cathedral in Monreale), medieval castle, and Greek ruins.  Rick Steves' favorite town in Sicily.  About 30 minutes away, towards Catania is Rick's favorite agriturismo, Il Vecchio Frantoio; one couple said they had "probably the best meal we've had in Italy" there.
  • inland is Castelbuono, which has (as the name implies) a big, "good", 14th century castle; also see 15th century church Matrice Vecchia; Romitaggio San Guglielmo and Nangalarruni are restaurants rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • Collesano is also inland; Casale Drinzi is restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • Isnello, also inland: La Brace is restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • further inland is Castellana Sicula; Vinvito is restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • similar is Polizzi Generosa, Itria is restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • waay inland is 14th century hill town Gangi; Villa Rainò is restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • Petralia Soprana and Sottana are nearby; Da Salvatore and Petrae Lejum are restaurants in each town, respectively, rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia

Capo Tindari

45 minutes west of Messina, this town features the ruins of the Roman town Tyndaris.
  • further west and inland is Galati Mamertino:
    • Fattoria Fabio is restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • nearby in Longi: Vinebrio and Portella Gazzana are restaurants rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • nearby in San Salvatore di Fitalia: La Vedetta dei Nebrodi is restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • also west, not as far inland is Naso: La Perla is restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • inland on road between Taormina and Capo Tindari: Novara di Sicilia, La Pineta is restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • way inland is San Piero Patti: Da Luciana is restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • inland in Sinagra: Fratelli Borrello is restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia

South Coast

Agrigento

The most splendid Greek temples are in this town on the Southern Coast.  While the town itself sprawls a bit, it has a cool, medieval center.  A cheap hotel near the center is Bella Napoli, which offers comfortable rooms but not very much hot water (when we stayed in January 2010, our rooms ran out of hot water after only a few minutes of running the shower!).
  • Caico - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • Locanda di Terra - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • Around Agrigento
    • inland ~30 minutes in Castrofilippo: Osteria del Cacciatore - rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • inland ~20 minutes in Joppolo Giancaxio: Da Carmelo - rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • on the coast ~10 minutes from Agrigento in Porto Empedocle: Salmoriglio - rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • inland ~40 min in Sant'Angelo Muxaro: Val di Kam - rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • Licata - little town 45 minutes down the coast East of Agrigento; L'Oste e il Sacrestano is restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
      • inland at Campobello di Licata: La Madonnina restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • on road from Palermo to Agrigento:
    • Cammarata: San Martino de Kamerata restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • San Giovanni Gemini: Mare Monti restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • Santo Stefano Quisquina: Acquarius restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • Villa Romana del Casale -  Roman villa with splendid mosaics, see Rick Steves video clip; halfway between Catania and Agrigento (about 1.5 hours from Agrigento) near the town of Piazza Armerina

Castelvetrano

Home of the famous green olives, about 1.5 hours S of Palermo, 1.4 hours W of Agrigento, and 45 min E of Marsala.
  • Da Giovanni - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • Selinunte - Greek ruin site just outside Castelvetrano.  Less extensive than Agrigento, but more rural/scenic.
  • Area near Castelvetrano
    • 40 min E down the coast is the town of Sciacca
      • Hostaria del Vicolo restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
      • Il Grappolo restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • 1 hour inland in Caltabellotta: M.A.T.E.S is rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia

West Coast and Islands

Trapani is a whitewashed coastal town and provincial capital of western Sicily; it's the main embarkation point for the Egadi Islands (see below); nearby Erice is a nice hill town with a cable car (funvia) that connects it to the Trapani outskirts
  • Vultaggio - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • La Bettolaccia - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • Duca di Castelmonte - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • Cantina Siciliana - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • Al Solitto Posto - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • Caupona Taverna di Sicilia - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
Segesta, about half an hour from Trapani, has a Greek Doric temple and a Greek theater. 
San Vito lo Capo, also around half an hour away from Trapani, has a beautiful seaside area with a park and famous couscous festival.
  • Al Ritrovo and Syrah - restaurants rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
Marsala is the westernmost town in "mainland" Sicily, and famous for its sweet eponymous wine.
  • Il Gallo e'L'innamorata and Le Lumie - restaurants rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
...also see entry on Castelvetrano, which is closer to the South Coast but in the province of Trapani

Islands

Sicily is surrounded by beautiful islands:
  • Isole Eolie (Aeolian Islands) - a chain of islands north of Messina, including Lipari, Salina, Volcano, and beautiful Stromboli with its active volcano.  Stromboli in particular is a great place for couples--a bit like Italy's Hawai'i.  You can reach these islands directly from Naples via ferry.
    • on Salina
      • in Leni: Villa Carla is restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
      • in Santa Marina Salina: 'A Cannata is restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • on Lipari: Le Macine - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • Isole Egadi (Aegadian Islands) - west of Trapani, including Favignana, Levanzo, and Marettimo
    • the Cala Dogana between Levanzo and Favagnana is beautiful, with clear turquoise water
    • on Favignana: La Bettola - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
    • on Marettimo: Il Veliero - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • Pelagie Islands - Lampedusa, Linosa, and Lampione, between Malta and Tunisia
  • Pantelleria - a bit further west, near Tunisia
    • Zinedi, La Vela, and La Favorotta - restaurants rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • Ustica - north of Palermo
    • Da Umberto - restaurant rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia
  • Lampedusa - well south of Agrigento, famous for being the closer to Africa than Europe, this has sadly been the place of a bunch of immigration controversies and tragedies; restaurant Da Bernardo rec'd in 2014 Slow Food Osterie d'Italia

Other Resources

Comments