A 4-Day Road Trip Around Sicily

What’s a better quick getaway than driving around Sicily, one of the largest islands in the Mediterranean? With over five million in population, Sicily offers great food, culture, history, markets and city life amongst many others. Who could miss the active volcano of Mount Etna? Even the word “active” makes us start packing our bags and heading there to explore!

Due to being a short visit of only 4 days, we thought we could make the most of this trip by renting a car and planning our own road trip around the island. This way, we never spent more than one night in the same location and in total, we did approximately 700km of driving around Sicily.

Driving Around Sicily – What to Plan Ahead?

Navigation System – As most of the car rental companies, GPS’s comes with an extra daily charge. So, it would be wise to bring your own, along with the GPS holder, for your trip.

Visa Card – We always do our car rental bookings online prior to the trip. Car rental companies will require the driver to present his visa card when collecting the car in order to block the security deposit (which will still be wavered if taking the full insurance options). Failure to be able to present a Visa card on the driver’s name will result in having to pay extra to avoid having to leave the deposit.

ZTL Zones – In several cities around Sicily, certain central areas are marked as ZTL Zones. These are areas prohibited to drive in if you don’t have a certain permit, which doesn’t make sense to apply for, considering the short visit. Ending up in one of these streets will 100% result in a fine, as cameras overlook the mentioned streets. The following are the ZTL areas in Catania and Palermo. The best thing to do is to plan a parking garage ahead of your journey, close to the ZTL zone. Then, you can leave the car there for the rest of the day. Mentioning the central area, it can be easily roamed using public transport.

Defensive Driving – Sicilian drivers are certainly not the calmest and slowest in Europe but interestingly enough, drivers seem to have a clear understanding of the intentions of other drivers. That’s why the best strategy to keep in mind while driving around Sicily is always to drive defensively. Also, knowing where you’re going will help significantly, as one can prepare the right lane, indicators etc.

Day 1 | Hiking Mount Etna

So, the starting point of our Sicily trip was Catania airport, where we got our rental car and headed off for the adventure. Our flight landed at around 2.00 p.m. so we were on our way by 3.30 p.m. Our first destination was the small town of Ragalna, on the slopes of the Etna. Staying close to the volcano made it much easier to start our hike to Mount Etna earlier the following morning. The drive took us around an hour and we stopped at the town of Paterno for a classic Italian dinner along the way.

Day 2 | Cefalu

The following day, after hiking the volcano, we arrived back at the accommodation at around 2.00 pm, checked out and headed to our second stop – Cefalu. Instead of the regular highway, we took a small re-route and passed through the Madonie Park. Mountain ranges and epic scenery made our 3.5-hour drive go by much quicker than expected.  

driving around sicily

Cefalu is a beachside city, with a population of around 14,000. Being a tourist destination long in our bucket list, we had to check it out and spend a night in one of the camping areas, which turned out to be a very relaxing evening.

Day 3 | Palermo

On our third day, our plan was to go to Palermo. Basically, we drove along the coast, an hour and a half into the city of Palermo. We parked the car in an outdoor parking garage for the whole day, just outside the ZTL zone at the following location and as soon as we arrived in Palermo, around 9.00 a.m., the day’s itinerary was as full as it could get!

After breakfast, we headed to the Ballaro Market. This huge (0.5km) epic classical Sicilian market is open from around 7.30 a.m., and one can find just about anything. The atmosphere is impeccable and the scent of food will make you get hungry again! Besides, cute cafeterias are located all along the market which makes you go in for a coffee or a granita and cannoli.

From there, it was time for a Serie B stadium hop, to the Stadio Renzo Barbera, to watch Palermo play their final league game against AS Cittadella. There was still a mathematical chance of automatic promotion. So, one can imagine the huge attendance and the atmosphere within the stadium. The game ended in a draw, so Palermo had to settle for a battle in the play-offs. Unfortunately, this wasn’t even the case to be as only a few days later, the club was relegated to Serie D because of economic reasons. Not the way the fans hoped it will turn out, but anyways.

We spent our evening in the Old Town where the streets become lively as soon as the sun goes down. Restaurants and bars are open and one can definitely smell the scent of nightlife.

Day 4 | Back Home

The following day, the 3-hour drive back to the airport awaited us! Despite the dreadful feeling of going back so fast, we gave a start to our day in the most relaxing way possible, cappuccino and Sicilian Cannoli, as we prepared for the journey home after a top-notch experience in Sicily!

Throughout this road trip, we found Airbnb to be the best solution to book one night stays in different locations. Sometimes, we preferred to not stay as close to the city centre, and through Airbnb one can find remote accommodations on a budget. For first-timers on Airbnb, use the Charls’ Travels Airbnb link and get a €30 Airbnb discount off your first bookings!

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