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Sicily for 8 nights itinerary help please

We are planning on taking SNAV overnight ferry from Naples to Palermo (If this is a terrible idea we will fly) May 2022 for 8 nights then possibly flying out of another area's airport to Paris.
Looking at B&B delle Vittorie in Palermo based on other recommendations on this site but open to other suggestions. This is our first time in Sicily and we desperately need help planning. Wouldn't want to do more than 3 separate locations, interested in immersing ourselves in the culture, visiting a few historical sites, we enjoy walking but not necessarily rugged hills. We are a very active 60 year old couple.
Hotel, restaurant, site seeing suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Trying to stay around $150.00 US per night on hotels as this is part of our 30 day adventure. Would prefer to use public transportation or taxis if possible, swore we would never drive in Italy again after a very stressful time two years ago.

Posted by
243 posts

Just did a 2-week trip all over Sicily this summer. I've read some negative reviews about the overnight ferry from Naples, but never taken it myself. You might do more research for yourself and see what the consensus is. Flights from Naples to Palermo are very easy and very cheap. In my trip all over Sicily my favorite places besides Palermo were Siracusa and Taormina. You could take a train across the island if you're not interested in driving (which I did, and I can totally sympathize with your concerns). Catania is a great airport hub to get to Paris.

In Palermo, definitely take the bus up to Monreale to see the cathedral. It's a cheap and very easy trip up and back. You can also visit Cefalu from Palermo to see a beautiful beach town with a nice old city center.

Posted by
3219 posts

I assume you mean fly out of Catania. If that’s the case then maybe spread your time between Palermo, Cefalù, and Syracusa or Taormina. How you split the days would be up to you. Possible day trips from Palermo are Erice, Monreale, and Segesta. For relaxation and just walking around, Cefalù would be good and it only takes a day to see. Taormina, while nice, is good for a day at most and is terribly overrun with tourists when the cruise ships are in. It’s nice when they are not in. Syracusa and Ortigia Island would be good for a couple days if you include Noto as a day trip. When we were there in 2018 we had a rental car and visited both Ortigia and Noto on the same day. We felt that was enough time to get a good feel for both places, but some people say they could spend a week on Ortigia.

Posted by
18906 posts

In 8 nights it would be a mistake to try to cover the entire island. I'd go with Palermo and Siracusa (staying in the medieval section, Ortygia).

Palermo has Monreale not far out of town and many interesting churches and chapels. There are two interesting food markets and some museums. It's a hectic, bustling city.

Siracusa has an achaeological museum and an archaeological park as well as the medieval district. In that corner of Sicily are several lovely Baroque towns. Ragusa, Noto, Scicli and Modica are accessible--though not necessarily rapidly--by train or bus.

Opinions on Taormina are mixed. It is physically beautiful but on the day I visited (from Catania) it was packed to the gills and I was happy to leave after 2 or 3 hours. Others love it. Taormina isn't terribly far from the Catania airport and there's bus service. If you decide you do want to see Taormina, the logical thing to do is either fly into or fly out of Catania (the busier airport) and make Taormina your first or last stop.

If it's important for you to see one of the more isolated Greek sites (Agrigento, Segesta, Selinunte), not just the theatre in Siracuse or Taormina, that's something to plan carefully lest you waste precious time. I didn't go to any of the three (not interested enough), so I can't even suggest which would be easiest to reach from Palermo.

Posted by
2813 posts

In 2014 we were on a tour following Southern Italy that ended in Taormina. We spent 2 nights. As mentioned up thread there are mixed reviews about Taormina. We enjoyed our stay. Our guide lived there and we explored areas, took a cooking class and felt it was a worthwhile stay. Following our tour we extended our stay in Ortigia for 5 nights and did a day tour with a private driver to the baroque towns of Noto, Ragusa & Modica. We spent our last day in Catania. In 2020 we were scheduled to return to Sicily for a month. Of course due to the lockdown we canceled. We were going to follow Priscilla’s itinerary in memory of Zoe. See link. I would agree if you are limited to 8 nights consider a base that you can immerse yourselves in the culture, etc. Taormina would be a nice day trip in if in the area.

If you choose Ortigia, we can recommend this wonderful B&B- La Via Della Giudecca. Well below your budget! We had a spacious apartment on the upper floor with a veranda & view. We had rebooked in 2020. Walking distance to sites & great restaurants.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/my-trip-to-sicily-in-zoe-s-memory/

Posted by
3138 posts

With just 8 nights (7days?) you shouldn’t even consider more than 2 locations. You don’t want to lose more time to the packing up and moving process. I suggest you make a list of what you want to see, then figure out which 2 cities work as hubs and how many days you need for each.
Palermo for sure should be one. A couple of people have mentioned Monreale. For me, it’s the #1 sight in Sicily. Words can’t begin to describe how stunning the interior of the cathedral is.
I would check to see which other city has good transportation connections for your desired explorations. Siracusa, Agrigento, and Taormina are all worthwhile and close to many other places you might want to see. Taormina, in particular, is pretty close to Catania, where there is an airport.
I’ll just throw in that our our 1st visit to Sicily was for 9 days. We loved it so much, we went back for another 10 days a number of years later. If it weren’t so far from our home in California, I’d go again.

Posted by
4990 posts

Sicily was part of Greater Greece in ancient times. Agrigento, and its Valley of the Temples has ancient Greek structures in better shape than anything you’ll find in Greece. You’ll get a good walk doing the long path between the temples, but it makes for a fascinating, memorable visit. I’d put Agrigento on the must-stay list on an 8-day itinerary. A friend and so did that 3 years ago.

Going to or from the places you decide on, fit in a visit to the Villa Romana del Casale, about 3 km from the town of Piazza Armerina. Amazing Roman frescoes - no, stunning mosaic scenes at a getaway palace of a big-shot in the Roman Empire.

If you wind up in the southeast corner, in Siracusa, get in a day trip to Modica, a fabulous town, and the chocolate capital of Sicily. Stairs linking the upper and lower town will also provide a workout.

If it helps, driving on Sicily is so much easier and more pleasant than mainland Italy. Modern, good-condition roads, no tolls, no ZTL traffic limitation zones - although streets up high in hill towns can be narrow and tight, but are open to anyone driving up there. We didn’t suffer horrendous traffic, but this was just before Christmastime, and another time in October, so much, much less busy than summer.

Posted by
18906 posts

I'm not much for frescoes, but to me the mosaics at the Villa Romana del Casale were totally worth the trek into the interior. However, I had a lot more time in Sicily than you do. Piazza Armerina isn't on the rail line between Palermo and Catania; the nearest rail station is at Enna, I believe, so getting to the villa without a car from either Palermo or Catania is something of a time-commitment. Neither rail service nor bus service is very frequent, which complicates matters. Once you get to Piazza Armerina you still have to catch a bus or get a taxi to the villa site. It is definitely beyond walking distance.

Posted by
2265 posts

Shelley, spending just a few days in Sicily certainly requires some tough choices, and I suppose looking east from Palermo, including Siracusa, Taormina, maybe Catania, maybe Cefalu makes the most sense. Still, my very favorite spot in Sicily was Erice, an ancient stone hill town in the far northwest corner of the island. But, I think it is important to spend a night or two in Erice, to enjoy the very quiet evenings and early mornings, and the fine and often unique cuisine. A day trip to Erice wouldn’t do it for me. Between Palermo and Erice lie the wonderland Greek ruins at Segesta, a beautiful intact temple, and also a theater up on the hill. Segesta is an easy half day trip from Palermo or, with a car, from Erice.
Another site I heartily recommend is the unusual and excellent museum on the outskirts of Catania, which is totally dedicated to the Allies’ liberation of Sicily in 1943, the beginning of the end of WW II. Very well presented, and I learned a lot about our US role in WW II and in Italy that I did not know before.
Finally, from Taormina some friends and I enjoyed taking a taxi up to the stone hill town of Castelmola, maybe 20 minutes high above Taormina. Neat little town, and nearby there is a church built into the rocks, with a view looking down over Taormina and its ancient theater. A 2 or 3 hour experience in all.
Enjoy wonderful Sicily, including its Nero d’Avola red wine, one of my favorites.

Posted by
5304 posts

While the sentiment of immersing yourself in the local culture is a good one, just keep in mind that Cefalu, Taormina, Syracuse (Ortigia), and to a degree, central Palermo, are hardly locals living with the occasional tourist, but primary tourist centers with the economy revolving around tourism, both foreign and domestic.

I think you can safely do two big stops, with a third small stop thrown in...something like Palermo, Taormina, and Syracuse, flying out of Catania, split up 3-2-3, or 2-2-3 if 8 days means 7 nights. Alternatively, you could skip Taormina, and look for a stop in the interior along the train route, to break up the Palermo-Syracuse train ride, and just relax in a smaller town for a night.

All of the places we are staying in (we are in Sicily now) are under $150, most under $100. We have relied on last minute Booking.com finds for rooms, just to stay flexible (third time this trip was planned, even if we would get here this time was hit or miss) The most local place we found was Piazza Amerina, since most people blow through to visit the Villa, and never set foot in town, but as was mentioned above, it requires some time and/or a car.

Posted by
427 posts

Hi Shelley,
If it were me, with 8 nights, I would choose between the eastern or western half of the island and concentrate my efforts there depending upon the sites you most want to see. Since you arrive at Palermo I will start with ideas for the west. There are lots of good, inexpensive BnBs in Sicily so you should have no trouble finding lodging at or below your price threshold. I also found a very reasonably priced driver in Palermo. I was in Palermo for 8 days in September 2019 and used him as a driver three times. We did a whole day of local siteseeing with him, around Palermo, Monreale and Mondello; then a second day he took us to Segesta and Erice and Marsala and on another day I used him to arrange a drop off ride to my grandparents' hometown. He s not a guide, but did give us general info, speaks basic English, and was very jovial. If you want his contact info, let me know. I have only been to Sicily twice, but my mother's family is from there and I still have relatives there. I went to Palermo region in 2013 and was so enchanted with Sicily that I knew I would return to discover more of the island.

  1. Enter and exit Sicily through Palermo. Use bus, train or driver to get around. I often used public transportation.
  2. Choose two or three bases - Palermo and possibly Trapani or Marsala del Vallo.
  3. Excellent sites to visit inPalermo area - check guidebooks for recommendations. Palermo is easily walkable. Make sure you go to the markets. Lots of beautiful churches. If you have an interest, visit the sanctuary of St. Rosalia, patron saint of Palermo, at the top of Monte Pellegrino. Go to a puppet show. Maybe a street food tour? Catacombs for a weird experience?
  4. Monreale with its beautiful mosaics and cloisters is a must. Go by bus or get a driver to take you.
  5. Cefalú - great place to wander thru the historical center, easy daytrip from Palermo
  6. Possible visit to Caccamo with its castle
  7. Segesta - temple and ampitheater
  8. Erice - very beautiful, try to go on a sunny day because the views are exceptional
  9. Trapani
  10. Castellammare del Golfo for a small fishing/beach town experience
  11. Mazara del Vallo - beautiful small coastal town, with a strong mixture of Catholic, Jewish and Arab influence, old casbah area of historical city center is great place to roam. Also make sure to visit the Satiro Danzante in a small museum there. If you use Mazara del Vallo as a base for two nights, you are very close to the expansive Greek ruins at Selinunte. You can get there by train and bus (I did that) or hire a driver. I personally enjoyed roaming Selinunte much more than the ruins at Agrigento. Agrigento, while also an exceptional site to see, was absolutely swarming with tourists. Selinunte was almost empty. It sits right on the coast and is very picturesque. I stayed at Cortile Sant'Agostino BnB in Mazara. Good price, close to train station and in historical city center.

If you choose the eastern half of the island, maybe use Catania or one of the Aci… coastal towns and Ortygia as your bases and possibly a night in Taormina or visit it as a daytrip from Catania. I liked Catania and we only stayed there three nights, I would like to go back and see more. Catania is a good base for visits to Etna. Ortygia and Siracusa are musts. Stay in Ortygia. Lots of hotels, bnbs and apt rentals there. We stayed at a very nice air bnb rental for four days. Taormina was very pretty and the ampitheater with its tremendous views looking out over the water is very picturesque. Taormina was also packed with tourists. We stayed at a great BNB there. DM me if you want names and contact info. We took the bus to and from Taormina and Siracusa. Noto, Ragusa and Modica are also on this side of the island. I spent 22 days going around the island in 2019 and did not have enough time to get to these towns, although they are on my radar for a future visit.

Posted by
100 posts

in june and july i did a 5 week trip to italy with 28 days spent in sicily. as has been said already, if you have eight days you should make 2 'base camps', perhaps 3. my first suggestion would be palermo. i spent 6 wonderful days there. so much to see in the city itself. amazing examples of baroque and arab-norman architecture. day trips to cefalu, monreale, agrigento, segesta and trapani/erice are fairly easy with public transportation. 'research' the schedules carefully, sometimes you have to include a taxi or local bus ride at the end of the inter-city bus/train line. the food is incredible, especially at the ballaro market street food stalls. point is you could just stay in palermo the entire 8 days and not be bored and unhappy. if you want another base i suggest siracusa/ortigia. lot to see there and also it is on the rail line to most, if not all the southeastern baroque towns - ragusa, scicli, modica, and noto. i would pick ragusa and noto. the town of piazza armanina and villa romana del casale are not the easiest to get to. I took the bus from enna. i had a lot more time so i also stayed in trappani, catania, and messina as well and made multiple day trips from each of those places. pleasant surprises were mazara del vallo and randatzzo. 'not impressed' locations were trapani itself and caltagirone. you have plenty of time to plan so pick your poison - art, architecture, food, beaches; sicily is a treasure trove! good luck.

Posted by
47 posts

You guys are amazing, I am totally blown away by all of your very in depth contributions.
I have reworked our itinerary considering your suggestions and we are now going to fly to Palmero from Naples and I've added 3 nights for a total of 11 to our Sicily portion giving us a full 9 days there. We will arrange our itinerary to fly out of Catania, we are even contemplating renting a car at least for part of our time.
Thank you Thank you Thank you - there is no possible way to express my gratitude for your time to share your personal experiences and make recommendations.

Posted by
18906 posts

That's excellent. It seems that everyone's first trip to Sicily leaves them wanting more; there is just so much to see all over the island.

Posted by
4990 posts

Dario, I do not have a nefarious plot to provide cruel information on this Forum, I'm just reporting on my experience, from my perspective. First trip to Sicily was in December 2012, with my husband. And we were also relying on the Rick Steves TV episode from way back in 1999, where he said that Sicilians enjoyed toll-free roads, unlike the rest of Italy.

Trip #2 was with a girlfriend in October 3 years ago. Now that you mention it, the big highway was a toll road. Times change. Maybe more toll roads are on the way, but they’re clearly not currently ubiquitous.

But roads and streets were in marvelous condition, including the tiled streets in upper Erice, down to Trapani, down to Selinute (which was closed that day, although there was an attendant at the entrance to turn us away), to Caltigirone, Piazza Armerina, Modica (nighttime traffic jam in upper town, but excellent road surface), Siracusa, highway up to Catania, and up to Taormina. The ferry to the mainland also took us to new highway paving in Calabria. Italy is putting time, effort, and money into having good roads.

ZTL’s? Well, we didn’t have any issues. Sounds like fall and winter are good times to go, if driving and parking are going to be a big concern. The only issue was a woman who wouldn’t let us park in front of her house in Noto. It wasn’t a no parking zone, she just didn’t want tourists parking by her house.

Yes, Seriously. And I’m not Sicilian, as far as I know, although I do appear to have a genetic link to craving arancini.

By comparison, roads in Colorado just suck. Interstate 70, at the intersection with Wadsworth Blvd., is like driving over exposed railroad tracks at 65 MPH. Hard on the suspension. The pothole craters on 44th Ave. and Youngfield St. in Wheat Ridge are better suited to a lunar rover than an ordinary sedan car. And there was roadwork on some sections of U.S. Highway 40 over Berthoud Pass, at 10,000 feet in elevation this summer. They filled in the smaller cracks and potholes, but left the bigger ones open. A couple of them could swallow an entire VW Bug. I’ll trade Sicilian roads for Colorado roads any time.

Posted by
677 posts

The roads, city streets, and highways where I live also suck. I can't even think of a bad road in Sicily or anywhere else in Italy, except for a road near Bologna that Google Maps SAID was a road but turned out to be a cow path or something through a field. That was bumpy. But less bumpy than Summit Avenue, the long street in Saint Paul lined with mansions.

Posted by
1039 posts

Hi, Shelley,
I'm so glad that you've added 3 more nights to your original itinerary. You can do so much more! I have visited Sicily twice in the past three years. Both times I saw so much and had a fabulous time without renting a car. Here's my trip report from my first trip: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/sicily-trip-report-april-2019-2-weeks-2-sisters-part-1-trapani-erice. This trip was 12 nights in Sicily. I don't recall spending above 150 euros/night for any room; most were well below that. Our schedule was: 3 nights Trapani, 3 nights Palermo, 2 nights Agrigento,
4 nights Siracusa (Ortigia).
So, joining in the fun, here's my suggestion for one possible way that you could arrange your schedule:
5 nights Palermo. three days in the city, seeing sights, doing a food market tour, etc. Also: Day trip to Cefalu (by train, one hour); day trip to Segesta (by bus; prob. 1.5 hours). Possible day trip to Erice (would have to check on a driver or a tour group; I seem to recall that public transportation to Trapani or Erice is long and convoluted from Palermo).
2 nights Agrigento. The direct train from Palermo takes approx. 2-2.5 hours. Arrive one afternoon; next day at the temples and archeological museum
The next day, arrange a private driver (I and others have used wonderful Roberto Sapone (put his name in the search bar for other mentions of him) to get from Agrigento to Ortigia/Siracusa by way of Villa Romana, Piazza Armerina, and other stops. (See my trip report for how I structured this day with Roberto).
4 nights Ortigia/Siracusa. 1-2 day/s exploring this beautiful city; one day trip to Mt. Etna/Trapani (see my trip report); One possible day trip to Noto, etc. (by bus or by small tour group).
The taxi to the Catania airport from your Ortigia hotel takes approx. one hour by taxi, and should be approx. 50-60 euros.
Hope you have a fantastic time!

Posted by
18906 posts

It's possible you wouldn't need a taxi from Siracusa to the Catania airport. I spent a few nights in Catania and took multiple day-trips by bus. It seemed as if every trip I took included a stop at the Catania airport, so you'd be able to get a bus from Siracusa to the airport without having to change anywhere. The airport's on the south (Siracusa) side of Catania. There is rail service from Siracusa to Catania, but that definitely would leave you in downtown Catania, having overshot the airport.

Here's a link to the bus schedule for a few days hence: https://www.etnatrasporti.it/travel-plan/solution.php?departurestations=427&arrivalstations=35&departuredate=21/09/2021&arrivaldate=&pax=1,undefined,undefined&t=0&keyword=TPLNEWHOME#dettagliofermatea

Service is frequent (at least hourly), fairly fast according to the schedule (just over an hour) and cheap (under 7 euros per person).

Rome2Rio is estimating 90 euros for a taxi. I have no idea how accurate that is. Heaven knows, Rome2Rio has a lot of problems with the public-transportation information it displays.

Posted by
6611 posts

Fly to Sicily! Short and easy!
I have only read bad reviews about ferries to Sicily.
Eight days is so short for such a large area filled with so manatee important Greek and Roman antiquities. Palermo and Ortigia Is/ Siracusa would give you some highlights. We spent a whole week on Ortigia.
The only place we will not go back to on a return visit to Sicily is Taormina. So different a feel than the rest of the island, too many tourists and cruise ships.

Posted by
3219 posts

I second Dario’s comment. There are plenty of ZTLs on Sicily, but I found most to be well marked and easy to see when we were there in 2018. Most of Erice is a ZTL. If you get lodging at a hotel in a ZTL like we had in Marsala (i looked it up on Google maps before going over), contact the hotel to check the policy. In Marsala we had 30 minutes to drop our bags, check in, and move the car. I found that once off the autostrada, the rural roads were poorly marked and not necessarily in a great state of repair. I didn’t think the autostradas were in that great condition either. Half the time I had no idea what the road number was that I was on. Fortunately, I had a GPS as well as Google maps downloaded for offline use. The downloaded map worked well for a couple really out of the way places that were not in my GPS. Overall, I got to where I needed, there was no damage to the car, and I received no tickets. I only got turned around once when I missed my turn going from Erice to the B&B in Monreale.