Explore western Sicily on this 5-day trip, from cultural Palermo to sunny Cefalu. You'll see medieval churches, tour the macabre Caphucin Catacombs, and soak in the sunshine on Cefalu's beaches. From the hustle and bustle of the street markets to the quiet of the Palermo Cathedral, this trip is the perfect way to explore the region's diverse culture. 

Highlights

  • Explore 9th-century churches, catacombs, and busy street markets in Palermo
  • Tour the archaeological complex of Segesta and the 2400-year-old Greek temple
  • Enjoy the sea views and sunny beaches in Cefalu

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Palermo Palermo
Day 2 Guided Tour of Palermo Palermo
Day 3 Full day in Cefalù Palermo
Day 4 Day Trip to Segesta & Erice from Palermo Palermo
Day 5 Goodbye Italy!  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Palermo

Seafood for sale at Vucciria market
Seafood for sale at Vucciria market

Welcome to Palermo! From the airport, it's about a 45-minute drive into the town center. Check into your hotel and get settled. 

Palermo is the regional capital of Sicily, on the southern tip of Italy's "boot." It sits on the Gulf of Palermo in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Palermo is famous for its colorful history, beautiful architecture, vibrant culture, nightlife, music, and cuisine. The strategically located area has been settled for millennia, and the city's written history starts in the 8th century BCE. During this time Palermo has played a vital role in Europe's history. 

These days, Palermo is a famous tourist town, thanks to its beautiful Mediterranean weather and Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque churches, palaces and buildings. Religion is prominent on the island, and the feast day for the island's patron saint, Saint Rosalia, on July 15th is arguably the most significant social event of the year. 

In the afternoon head out for a tour of the city. The city is full of historical sites, so make the most of your time by starting in the city center. Suggested activities include: 

  • Tour the La Martorana Norman Church, an Italo-Albanian Catholic Church 
  • Spend a few hours in the Galleria Regionale, a 15th-century neo-Gothic castle, to see medieval and Renaissance art pieces 
  • Explore the Museo Archeological Regionale to see one of the richest collections of Punic and Ancient Greek art in Italy, as well as many Sicilian historical artifacts
  • See the macabre Convento dei Cappuccini's Catacombs, which displays thousands of mummies and preserved corpses dressed in the clothing of their time
  • Visit the 12th-century Monreale Cathedral 
  • Go shopping in the colorful Vucciria market to buy lunch and fresh seafood

Street food is typical in Palermo, and you’ll find irresistible pastry specialties and mouth-watering flavor combinations.  Enjoy lunch and afternoon nibbles as you walk around, then find a small restaurant for a traditional seafood dinner accompanied by local wine. After, head to an airy bar to enjoy a cocktail on the terrace while taking in the sunset.

Day 2: Guided Tour of Palermo

Pani ca' meusa, a typical fast-food dish
Pani ca' meusa, a typical fast-food dish

Explore Palermo on a guided city tour. Start at the 12th-century Duomo—the Palermo Cathedral—which was built on the site of a former basilica. The Duomo was used as a mosque in the 9th century and is famous for its Arabic-Norman architecture. 

Tour the Teatro Massimo opera house, the largest in Italy, then visit the Fontana Pretoria, a 16th-century fountain in the Piazza Pretoria in the city's center. 

Palermo's long and complicated past has given the city many historical and cultural sites, but the city's bustling street food markets bring fresh energy to an ancient city. Visit one of Palermo's many markets, barter for your lunch of pane e penelle (fried chickpeas in a sandwich), and soak in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. 

In the afternoon, take advantage of the nice weather to explore more of the city. Head to the beautiful 12th-century Cappella Palatina inside the Palazzo dei Normanni, a symbol of Palermo. The interior is particularly splendid, with intricate mosaics of saints decorating the walls and ceiling. 

Later, enjoy nature on a relaxed stroll along the seaside to the Palermo harbor, or with a visit to the I Giardini Inglese and Villa Garibaldi gardens. For a religious and cultural experience, follow in the footsteps of pilgrims up to the Sanctuary of Santa Rosalia, a mountainside chapel dedicated to Palermo's patron saint.

Day 3: Full day in Cefalù

The seaside town of Cefalu
The seaside town of Cefalu

Start your morning with a beautiful 1-hour train ride down the coast to Cefalù, a popular seaside resort town with a rich history.

Head to the city center to see the city's top sights. Start at the Lavatoio Medievale, a 16th-century washhouse that funnels the clear waters of the River Cefalino through a series of stone basins before directing the stream towards the sea. 

Nearby is the Porta Pescara, a small gate that opens onto a view of the Cefalù beach and the coastline to Palermo. Take a walk down to the old harbor and stroll along the seaside promenade. The lungomare, the city's popular sandy beach, is a popular destination for visitors and locals. 

On the way to the Duomo take a detour to the 17th-century Bastione di Capo Marchiafava, one of many old defensive fortresses located along the coast. The view from the top of the Bastione is a real treat. Visit the 12th-century Cefalu Cathedral (Duomo Basilica Cattedrale) to see the Norman-Arabic architecture that is typical of that time period. 

If there's time, climb the Rocca, the promontory above the city. A steep staircase winds through layers of city walls before emerging onto a rocky outcropping with stunning views of the city and open water. Stop at a beachside bar for an aperitivo before catching the train back to Palermo. 

Day 4: Day Trip to Segesta & Erice from Palermo

The 2400 year old Greek temple
The 2400 year old Greek temple

Depart from Palermo in the morning for a full day excursion to Segesta and Erice. Start in Segesta, an archaeological complex located an hour away from Palermo. 

The first thing you'll notice when you arrive in Segesta is the 2400-year-old Greek temple, which stands alone on its pedestal hill. Nearby you can see the medieval ruins and the ancient Agora, but the next highlight is further up on the hill—the theater, which dates to the 3rd century BCE. Behind the stage, you'll find an incredible panorama of hills and the Tyrrhenian Sea. 

Afterward, transfer to Erice, a medieval city famous for its narrow winding streets, medieval arches, and decorated courtyards. Enter the old city by the Porta Trapani, then walk to the historic city center to reach the 14th-century Duomo, which houses marble sculptures, and the next-door bell tower. Climb the 110 steps to the top for a view of the city. 

From here, follow the old city walls for a panoramic viewpoint, then explore the city's Spanish neighborhood, as well as the Church of San Giovanni Battista, Castello di Venere, and the 19th-century Torretta Pepoli. The Castello is a 12th-century Norman defensive fortress which houses ruins of a Roman spa and a temple. 

Make your way back to the city gate, pausing at the Piazza Umberto I to see the ornate palazzi and Museo Antonio Cordici, which displays traditional crafts and trades. 

Return to Palermo in the evening. 

Day 5: Goodbye Italy!

Little details of life in Rome
Little details of life in Rome

Time to say goodbye to the country of love! After one last cappuccino over breakfast, head to the airport for your connecting flight home. Safe travels!

Map

Map of Explore Western Sicily - 5 Days
Map of Explore Western Sicily - 5 Days