Let’s start by pointing out the obvious – 3 days are not enough to explore Sicily properly. Even a month might not be enough. However if you are based in Europe, like me and you are just a short flight away from this amazing island, then you can certainly enjoy a proper Italian long weekend here if this is all the time you have. Here is my suggestion for a 3 day Sicily road trip itinerary. You will get a flavour of a bit of everything – the amazing food, vibrant city culture, boat tours and beaches. This Sicily road trip itinerary can be completely different and still be amazing, there is no perfect route here. And if you happen to have a bit more time, then I have some suggestion where to go for a longer road trip (lucky you!).
Getting to Sicily
Depending on where you are coming from, you will most likely have a flight option to Palermo or Catania. These are the largest cities on the island and are located almost opposite of each other. Palermo is north-west, while Catania is located south-east. Our route passes by both of these cities so you can switch things around, depending on where you are landing. It’s important to mention that we decided not to stop in Palermo or Catania. Given that we only had 3 days, we thought it’s best to skip the busy city centres and just focus on the smaller, charming towns around the island. If you have time, then certainly try to visit but maybe get rid of your car while you are there unless you have a cheap and secure parking option.
Renting a car and parking in Sicily
As with most islands around Europe, the best way to explore is by renting a car! You have the freedom to go wherever you want. This is especially important on a short trip. As usual, I booked our rental car via Rentalcars.com (affiliate link). I always book via this site as the full insurance covers everything (had to use it once) and they have 24 hour customer service unlike the rental car companies. You can also get full insurance from the car provided directly but it’s normally more expensive than Rentalcars.com. Always make sure to book with a popular car company and not some dodgy local car rental company (I speak from experience). Also, if your flight is landing late, make sure to check that their desk is open until late and if your flight is delayed definitely notify them.
I will share some parking tips for Sicily further down for the specific places but here are the main rules you need to know when looking for a parking spot in Sicily. There are three types of public parking spaces, recognised by the colour of the line of the parking spot:
- Blue: paid parking spot. You need to purchase a ticket from a parking machine nearby or if there isn’t one, you should be able to purchase a ticket from a “Tabacchi” (Tobacco) shop. To be honest, we often couldn’t figure our where to purchase the tickets from so a few times we went to a private car park.
- Yellow: do not park on these. These are parking spots reserved for residents only.
- White: free to park but hard to find. You don’t need to pay, you just need a bit of luck!
Sicily road trip itinerary map
Here is a quick view of the entire Sicily road trip itinerary and all the stops along the way. As you can see, you can do the same regardless if you are landing in Palermo or Catania. I would probably change a few things if I was doing it again or had more time but more on that further down. Overall we drove for about 10 hours over the period of 3 days but we had a full day without the car (day #2) when we spent the day on a boat. For some this might seem like a busy trip but we love moving around when travelling. If this feels like too much, I have some suggestions where you can spend more time and which places you can skip.
Day 1: Syracuse & Scala dei Turchi
We landed in Catania late on Thursday night and drove straight to Syracuse which is just 45 minutes away by car. Given that we were landing late, we didn’t go for an airbnb but a hotel. We stayed in Hotel Teocrito which was a lovely small hotel with delicious breakfast and free public parking spaces in the streets around it. Book it on booking.com using my discount code “69D2433A” and get 10% back from any booking!
Oritigia is the historical centre of Syracuse and the most interesting and picturesque part of this city. It’s located on its own separate island that you will not be able to reach by car as only residential cars are allowed in this area. You can try to park at one of the white (free) parking spots on Via Bengasi and if you can’t find one, then just continue further down on the same street to the Molo S. Antonio Parcheggio paid parking. Ortigia is just a 5 minute walk from there.
We spent our morning getting lost in Ortigia. Charming narrow streets, gelato and cannoli shops, beautiful seaside views…the complete Italian package!
Before continuing our Sicily road trip, we had lunch in Ortigia. The area seems to be full of truly good restaurants so it’s hard to go wrong with the food here but we chose La Ghiotta bistro. We were desperately hungry for pasta and we were not disappointed. We tried some of the typical Sicilian pasta dishes – ‘Norma’ with tomato sauce and aubergines, and ‘Sarausana ca muddica’ which is a pasta with breadcrumbs and anchovies.
Scala Dei Turchi (Turkish stairs)
From Oritigia, we drove to our next stop – Scala Dei Turchi (3 hour drive). Google maps will give you three route options. We decided not to go with the fastest route option but take the second fastest option, which was a slightly longer route that goes through some of the countryside and the seaside. I can’t compare which one is better but this was definitely a beautiful route to take. When you get to Scala Dei Turchi you will need to park at one of the private car parks located on the street next to the cliff. Ours was 5 EUR for the day although we arrived there in the afternoon.
Scala Dei Turchi or ‘Stairs of the Turks‘ is a fascinating white rocky cliff that looks like an out of space location from a sci-fi film. It might seem scary and dangerous but there is nothing to be worried about if you simply follow the main path and don’t do anything stupid. There is a beach on each side of the cliff. The first one is a serviced beach with bars, sunbeds and toilets while the second one is a wild beach just underneath the cliff. I personally love secluded and wild beaches so I much more enjoyed the second beach (picture below), the first one was too crowded. The water was very shallow, warm and clear. We arrived there in the afternoon, when the sun was going down. However if you arrive earlier in the day, you will probably need to bring a beach umbrella with you or rent one on the first beach.
We stayed at Scala Dei Turchi beach for about 2 hours, observed a beautiful sunset and then continued to our next Sicily road trip destination – Trapani (2 hour drive). Trapani was our base camp for the next 2 nights of our Sicily road trip itinerary.
DAY 2: Aegadian Islands + Trapani
We reached city of Trapani in the evening on Day 1. We stayed at a gorgeous apartment (Zibibbo suites) that allowed check-ins till 10 pm which worked perfect with our road trip plan. Some apartments don’t allow that late check-in so it’s best to double-check before booking. The location was right in the heart of the historical part of the city so it was very convenient for exploring the city of Trapani. Book it on booking.com using my discount code “69D2433A” and get 10% back from any booking!
All the parking spots in the city centre seem to be for residents only so you will need to park elsewhere. Probably the best and cheapest car park in Trapani is Parcheggio Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. Only 0,10 EUR per hour and it’s just a 10 minute walk away from the city centre. We left the car there for over 24 hours and paid something like 2,50 EUR. We didn’t experience this but I read some comments online that you might be approached by some people asking for money to pay for the parking. This is a scam and you should politely reject. Go to the parking machine, enter your car’s number plate, put enough money for the length of the stay you are planning and then put the printed ticket in your car so it’s visible.
Favignana and Levanzo islands (par of Aegadian Islands)
On Day 2 we woke up and made our away to the harbour. We had pre-booked a day boat trip that explores some of the beautiful islands around Trapani – Favignana and Levanzo. This is why we decided to stay in Trapani for 2 days. The tour was beautiful and we stopped at several spots to swim and snorkel. The water was that perfect Mediterranean blue colour. I expected more in terms of the beaches but it turns out both Favignana and Levanzo are more rocky rather than “beachy”. If you are looking for an Italian road trip that includes some truly spectacular beaches, then I recommend you change the island and go to Sardinia instead. Check out my 7 day road trip guide to Sardinia.
Although we were not that impressed with the beaches here, I truly enjoyed our stop at the small, charming town of Favignana. There is a small beach here and it’s a good place to get some food as there are quite a few restaurants here. We also had some lunch included as part of the boat tour but I guess when the food is that good, it’s okay to have lunch twice. :) If you eat fish, definitely try some of the fresh tuna specialities here. Favignana is famous for its tuna and the tuna export business is a big part of the economy of the island. We tried some very delicious tuna pate here.
The next destination of our boat tour was the most picturesque spot I think – Levanzo island. The Levanzo port is a postcard-perfect Mediterranean dream. A small fishing village with white buildings, all with blue windows and crystal clear turquoise water surrounding the port.
We got back in Trapani at around 6 pm. Took a quick shower, rested in the hotel for a bit and went out for dinner and a walk around Trapani’s city centre.
In Trapani, you are in for an amazing food experience. Definitely try Couscous Trapanese. This is a typical local meal which is something like a seafood risotto but made with couscous instead of rice. Sicily’s food is influenced by the Arabic cuisine as the Arabs dominated Sicily from the year 827 to 1091. We tried the Trapani couscous at the Il Cuoppo Del Porto restaurant which is right next to the main pedestrian street. The food there was good but the service was a bit slow.
Another item that should be on your menu while here is Pesto alla Trapanese (also known as pesto alla siciliana). This is a local version of your classic tomato pesto but made with almonds instead of pine nuts. We tried a pasta with this pesto on our first night in Trapani at Tentazioni Di Gusto restaurant. This restaurant had amazing food and great service, a bit more modern and less traditional but you can try some very fresh and delicious food here.
DAY 3: San Vito Lo Capo & Riserva naturale dello Zingaro
On Day 3 of our Sicily road trip itinerary, we left Trapani and continued north to try to find some good beaches. However if you don’t feel like spending more time around the water and prefer to go explore some Sicilian cities, then you can head to Palermo (1 hour & 20 min drive from Trapani) or skip the busy capital and head to Cefalù. I really wanted to go to Cefalù as it looks like a stunning city but sadly we didn’t leave enough time. It was 38 °C (100.4°F) on this day so we decided to spend more time around the sea.
San Vito Lo Capo
San Vito Lo Capo is a small holiday town with a long shallow beach that has a beautiful view of Mount Monaco right behind it. The beach and the water were truly great but I do regret a little bit stopping here as it was just too busy. It was a Sunday and I think half of Sicily had decided to come to this beach on this day. If you come here on a week day then you will probably find less people but it would still be busy. If you are looking for a smaller, more secluded beach then skip this one and go straight to our next stop of our Sicily road trip itinerary.
Riserva naturale dello Zingaro
Riserva naturale dello Zingaro is just an hour drive away from Trapani (in the area of San Vito Lo Capo) and is a beautiful, wild natural reserve. You will have to pay a 5 EUR entry fee but it’s worth it and it helps support the reserve. Seven kilometres of unspoilt coastline, which is a popular hiking destination and is full of small little bays. The reserve has quite a few beaches but you will have to do a longer hike to get to some of them. The first beach you will reach once you enter the reserve is the Spiaggia Riserva Naturale Orientata dello Zingaro. The beach is small but not that crowded and the water is just superb. It’s a rocky beach so if you happen to have swimming shoes then definitely bring them along but it’s not a must.
You can spend a whole day at the reserve but as we had a flight to catch, we made our way back to the airport in Catania and sadly this was the last destination from our Sicily road trip itinerary.
If you have more time in Sicily, here are some other cities that we didn’t get the chance to visit but I would definitely go back to explore. Based on my research and the comments of other travellers we met, some other must-see cities are Taormina, Noto and like I mentioned – Cefalù. There is lots to see in Sicily so wherever you go you will most likely be surrounded by stunning views of the Mediterranean sea, gorgeous food and vibrant Italian city culture. Have you already been to Sicily? Share your recommendations in the comments below!
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