Exploring the legends and legacy of Sicily

A picturesque Mediterranean island just off the ‘toe’ of Italy’s ‘boot’, Sicily was once the centre of the known world. Today, the island’s winding coastal roads, charming towns, and picture-perfect scenery make it ideal for exploring by car. Read on for our guide to the perfect Sicilian road trip...
Sunset in Temple of Concordia - Valley of the Temples, Agrigento, Sicily. Photo: Shutterstock
Sunset in Temple of Concordia - Valley of the Temples, Agrigento, Sicily. Photo: Shutterstock

Day 1 & 2: Discovering Syracuse

On day 1 of your trip, having arrived by plane to Catania, you can easily pick up a hire car at the airport to begin your road trip around the island. From here, travel to your hotel in Syracuse (approximately a one-hour drive away). Once settled, you may spend the afternoon exploring the nearby Peninsula of Ortigia by foot on a guided walking tour. This tour will give you a chance to explore the old palaces and ancient ruins as well as the Jewish Quarter and the Arethusa Fountain, a great way to get your bearings ahead of a full day of sightseeing in the morning. 

Having enjoyed a relaxing start to your trip, on day 2 you will be given a chance to get stuck in and explore Syracuse, which, for several centuries, was one of the great city-states of the Ancient Greek Empire. First stop is Akragas, a fortified city built on a plateau overlooking the water below. Here you will discover the glorious history of Syracuse, from its role in the Peloponnesian War to the famous visit from Plato. From here you will visit one of the largest and finest theatres ever built by the Ancient Greeks, before continuing on to the Ear of Dionysus, a nearby stone quarry, followed by visits to the Roman Amphitheatre and the Tomb of Archimedes. 

Day 3 & 4: Ancient Wonders

Day 3 begins with a drive to the nearby Baroque town of Noto, which is a Unesco World Heritage Site. Spend the morning exploring this beautiful town before continuing on to nearby Modica, where you can take in the breath-taking view of the Hyblaean Mountains. Don't leave without sampling some of Monica's famous chocolate. You can also explore the neighbouring old town of Ragusa before heading on to your hotel in Piazza Armerina for the night.

On day 4 the ancient worlds of Rome and Greece collide, as you explore Piazza Armerina and Agrigento. In Piazza Armerina visit the Roman villa for a glimpse at its beautiful mosaic floors (some of the finest in the ancient world) before driving to Agrigento for a tour of the Valley of Temples. Located to the south of the town, on a rocky crest, here you will find a stunning archaeological park, consisting of eight temples that were built between 510 BC and 430 BC. Spend the night in Armerina. 

View of the harbor of Marsala to the island of Mozia, Sicily

View of the harbor of Marsala to the island of Mozia, Sicily. Photo: Shutterstock

Day 5 and 6: Island Hopping

Day 5 sees you journey to Selinunte and Mozia. This involves a scenic drive along the southern coast of the island to arrive in Selinunte to visit the ancient ruins, on a windswept coastal site. From here continue west through Marsala to the Carthaginian island of Mozia. The scenery is truly picturesque with wide salt flats and romantic windmills dotted along the way.

On day 6 set off for the ancient mountaintop town of Erice, which according to Greek mythology was founded by Aphrodite and was once ruled by Hercules. After visiting the town, drive north to the temple at Sagest, an ancient town thought to have been founded by the Greeks and Elymians, for more stunning ancient architectural wonders. End your day in Palermo, where you can stay for the night.

Day 7 and 8: Palermo and Monreale 

There is lots to do and see in the Old Town of Palermo. Visit the Palatine Chapel and La Martorana and spend the rest of the day at your leisure exploring and soaking in the atmosphere of this charming rustic town.

On day 8 you can visit majestic Monreale and the Normal Cathedral at the heart of the town, which is widely regarded as one of the finest buildings in the world. Following a tour of the cathedral, enjoy a coastal drive to Cefalu and Milazzo. Take in the sights at these charming coastal towns before spending a night in Milazzo.

Palermo - South portal of Cathedral or Duomo and statue of st. Eustatius

Palermo - South portal of Cathedral or Duomo and statue of st. Eustatius. Photo: Shutterstock

Day 9 and 10: Coastal Sights

Day 9 involves a day trip to the beautiful Aeolian Islands of Vulcano, Lipari, Salina, Panarea, Stromboli, Filicudi and Alicudi. Emerging from the pristine waters off the northeastern tip of Sicily, these Unesco-protected islands are truly worth a visit. The crystal clear waters are ideal for sailing, swimming and snorkelling, whilst the islands are home to simmering volcanoes, which can be explored on foot. Feast on local cuisine and wines before heading back to Milazzo for one more night.

Day 10 takes you to Mount Etna, Europe's highest volcano. From nearby Taormina, enjoy views of the volcano and the glorious coastline before taking a tour of the Roman theatre and ending your trip here, before your journey to the airport in the morning.

Planning your trip to Sicily

Hopefully our ideas for your perfect road trip have got you wanting to book your trip to Sicily now. To view our fully customisable Exploring Sicily: Legends and Legacy itinerary simply click here. Or for further inspiration why not also try our guides to the Italian Lakes and the Amalfi Coast