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Traveling Italian

The Sicily Travel Guide

About Sicily

Sicily is one of my favourite places to travel around for an Italian holiday. Sicily is one of the largest Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. It has a population of around 5 million with its capital city being Palermo, followed closely by Catania and then Messina in the east of the Island. Sicily has one of the most active & tallest volcanoes in Europe, Mount Etna 3,357m high with a circumference of 140km.

The first signs of human activity on the island were in 12,000 BC according to archaeological evidence and by 750 BC it had a dozen Greek colonies and three Phoenicians. From 999 to 1139, there was the Norman conquest of Southern Italy and in 1071 it actually became the country of Sicily. Years later in 1860, the island became part of Italy.

Sicily is a popular destination known for its:

Languages in Sicily

In terms of languages spoken in Sicily, they speak "Sicilian" which is considered a romance language and has 9 different dialects spoken in many regions such as Trapanese in Trapani, Ennese in Enne all the way to Reggino in Reggio Calabria. It would be handy to brush up on your Italian however many of the hotels and tourist attractions do speak some English. The further outside of the city you go the less English you will usually come across.

Weather in Sicily throughout the year

Sicily undergoes warm, muggy, and cloudless summers, with dry weather prevailing. Its winters are lengthy, chilly, wet, gusty, and partially cloudy. Typically, the temperature fluctuates between 10°C and 30°C throughout the year, rarely dropping below or exceeding these limits. With rainfall, this varies from 3.7mm to around 71mm at the max. Therefore, the best months to visit Sicily for hot-weather pursuits are between mid-June and mid-October and if you want to be dry for most of the time June to August.

Temperature graph in Sicily
Average Rainfall per month in Sicily graph

Popular locations in Sicily

Sicily has many towns or municipalities, in fact, they have 390, and is the largest Island in Italy. It is a popular tourist destination with a rich history, beautiful beaches, stunning landscapes, and delicious food. Here are the most popular provinces to go to:

Map of Sicily

Here is a map of Sicily showing the best cities to visit when you are on holiday. Use this map and Sicily travel guide to plan the ultimate trip around Italy's largest Island.

The Food in Sicily

Sicilian cuisine is a delightful blend of flavors and influences, reflecting the island's rich history and diverse cultural heritage. From fresh seafood and vibrant vegetables to sweet pastries and decadent desserts, Sicily's culinary offerings are sure to tantalize your taste buds.

One of the most iconic Sicilian dishes is arancini, savory rice balls filled with a variety of ingredients, such as meat, cheese, or vegetables. These golden-fried delights are a popular street food and a must-try for any visitor to Sicily. Another Sicilian staple is pasta con le sarde, a pasta dish featuring fresh sardines, fennel, and pine nuts. This flavourful dish is a testament to Sicily's love for seafood and its ability to transform simple ingredients into culinary masterpieces.

For a taste of Sicily's sweet side, indulge in cannoli, crispy tubes of pastry filled with a creamy ricotta filling. These delectable treats are often dusted with powdered sugar or adorned with chocolate chips, adding an extra touch of indulgence.

No exploration of Sicilian cuisine would be complete without trying granita, a refreshing semi-frozen dessert made with fruit, sugar, and water. Granita is typically served with a brioche bun, providing a delightful contrast between the icy dessert and the soft bread.

How to get to and around Sicily

Bus - Buses are a great way to get around in Sicily however can be delayed or even cancelled quite often. The main bus lines are SAIS Autolinee, Interbus, Etna Transporti & Itabus. Getting to Sicily most people will take an overnight bus due to how long it takes. Rome to Sicily 11 hours 15 minutes.

Trains - TRENITALIA is the train company to get into Sicily and around. From Northern Italy Rome, you can get to Sicily in 8 hours and the train goes on a special ferry just for trains to get into Messina. You can also travel from Catania to Palermo in 3 hours, a great way to enjoy the sights.

Ferry - Ferries to Sicily are a popular way to travel to and from the island and you can see some amazing views. The mains ports are Port of Trapani (North West Sicily), Port of Palermo (North Sicily), Port of Pozzallo (South Sicily), Port of Catania (East Sicily), Port of Milazzo (North East Sicily), Port of Messina (North East Sicily), and Port of Porto Empedocle (South West Sicily). The Naples to Palermo ferry is just 10 hours.

Plane - This will be your quickest way to get to Sicily. There are 6 main airports in Sicily along with some smaller ones. International airports that have domestic and international flight routes would be Catania Airport CTA (East Sicily), Palermo Airport PMO (North Sicily), Trapani Airport TPS (North West Sicily), & Comiso Airport CIY (South Sicily). National Airports are Lampedusa LMP & Pantelleria PNL. Rome to Palermo flights in just 55 minutes.

Car - Driving a car is probably the most economical and easiest mode of transport to get to and get around in Sicily.  If you are driving into Sicily from Italy note you will have to take a ferry into Messina (31 minutes) from Villa San Giovanni Port. Depending on where you are from remember that you drive on the right-hand side of the road with the driver on the left-hand side of the car. Manual cars are the preferred and cheapest option and usually half the price of an automatic rental car. Save now and book a rental car.

Parking in Sicily

As a tourist parking can be very daunting going to a new country, making sure you stay in the right place and not get fined. Here is parking in Sicily simplified. Please note if you want to park most of the time you will have to pay for it. Sometimes you can pay by card but always carry cash just in case.

There is parking on the street, parking lots and some hotels that give you parking. Blue Lines indicate pay and display and usually have a sign with how much and the times. White lines indicate free parking, however, there may be a sign nearby to tell you how long for. You may also use a parking disc on the dashboard set to what time you arrive. Yellow lines that indicate special requirements for parking such as disabled motorists, local residents etc.

With parking on the street always look for a parking meter or you can visit the local newsagent to purchase a ticket. Always display the ticket clearly on the dashboard and do not be late even by a minute as there are parking wardens all the time. Most people choose to park in parking lots (Parcheggio) where you can park by the hour or by the day. Hotels also offer free parking for their guests or charge a small fee to hold it in their car park or a local one down the road where they will valet it to you.

The easiest way to pay for parking though is to download the app Easypark. This app works in most places around Italy and the benefits are you can pay directly from the phone meaning you don't have to find a ticket machine or newsagent that might be faraway or closed. You are able to pay for a few hours or if you come back early you can stop the timer and they charge you less. Small tip, when you download the app make up a random Italian number as if you put your local number it doesn't register to Italy. They do put a fee on the parking but the convenience is worth it.

Some lots or spaces are under the control of gangs and might try to sell you a ticket at an inflated price. I would be cautious of this but sometimes it's better to pay than come back to the car and have key marks all over your rental car.

Currencies Used in Sicily

The main currency used in Sicily between 1861 & 2002 was the Italian Lira. It was eventually phased out and now the currency used is the same as mainland Italy which is the Euro or EUR. My advice for purchases in Sicily is to look for a debit card that can be used internationally with no withdrawal fees and low exchange fees.

TIP Always pay in the local currency (EURO) as the charges are always higher if you pay in your native currency. Also, make sure to tell your bank you are traveling overseas so they don't block the card when you go to pay for something. 

Top travel card to use on holiday in Sicily

When going abroad and needing to use a card to pay for items such as hotels, food and everything else I recommend using the Wise card. It's the best international currency card available. You no longer have to stand in line at the post office to transfer money with huge fees. You can even use the Wise card with Apple Pay or Google Pay before even receiving the physical card.

Wise's transfer fees are much lower than banks, without any additional charges. They provide the current exchange rate and just put on a small fee. Most banks will put some commission on the exchange and I've also seen big fees on top of that. When going to withdraw currency from the ATM it is also much cheaper with Wise and also includes many fee-free transactions. It's definitely worth comparing as every transaction using your normal card adds up.

I've personally used Wise for over 5 years and saved a big amount of money compared to my current bank in my home country. I also use Wise to transfer money to hotels and business use, where I save on exchange fees compared to my bank before I get there.

Frequently asked Questions about Sicily

What is Sicily known for?

Sicily is known for many landmarks such as Catania's fish market, Palermo's Catacombs of the Capuchins, The valley of Temples in Agrigento and the Isola Bella in Taormina that was also featured in The White Lotus tv series.

What is the best month to visit Sicily?

In terms of the weather it starts heating up from mid June and gets cooler after mid October. In tends to get very busy in the towns and cities from June as most book their holidays then. I personally prefer to go around early September onwards as it is off-peak so prices get cheaper, not as busy, and you can still enjoy 30 degree days.

Is Sicily Expensive?

Compared to many European countries, Sicily tends to be great value for tourists. Seafood is the local food and is easy to find as Sicily is an island plus Italy is known for it's pasta so food is very inexpensive. With hotels and accommodation in Sicily it tends to be less expensive than hotels in mainland Italy.

How Many Days in Sicily is Enough?

If I had all the holiday time I could, I would personally spend about a month in Sicily visiting all the cities and then major towns on the Island. There are 9 must see cities in Sicily that you can see above that I recommend at least 2-3 days in each, however if you are just coming for a few days you could see 2 popular cities in 3/4 days. If you live in Europe you could easily come back another time and do a weekend in another town, you just have to be conscious of the airports. Luckily there are 3 main Airports in Sicily, one in the west, north and then the east.

Where would you go in Sicily for a weekend?

This really depends on your preferences where to go for a weekend in Sicily. If you are looking for a beach holiday I would personally go to Taormina if I have never been before. If you are looking for somewhere with a good nightlife and lots of things to do, I would definitely go to Catania. Getting to both towns is fairly easy as Catania has its own airport and Taormina is a short bus, taxi, or train away.

Do you need a car in Sicily?

Having a rental car in Sicily has its advantages but local transport is still great in Sicily. The best mode of transport would be the train network to get around the town. If you are only spending a few days in Sicily and in a group I would recommend booking a rental car as its very cost effective and means you dont have to wait for trains or buses to get around. The downside would be trying to find parking in the main cities, ZTL and also the price of parking if you cannot find somewhere for free.

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