Featuring a combination of culture, adventure, and relaxation, this 8-day self-drive tour of Sicily will bring you to the regional capital of Palermo, the Greek temple ruins of Agrigento, and the brilliant baroque laneways and staircases of Ragusa Ibla, Modica, and Scicli. Marvel at the impressive Norman-Byzantine details of Monreale Cathedral, hike the slopes of Mount Etna, and take in the breathtaking scenery in Savoca and Forza D'Agrò.

Highlights

  • Play in the sun and surf at Palermo's Mondello beach
  • Roam ancient Greek and Roman ruins at Agrigento and Syracuse
  • Dine on fresh seafood in sophisticated Taormina
  • Tour Savoca and Forza D'Agrò, filming locations for The Godfather movies
  • Relax in the beautifully landscaped gardens of the Villa Bellini park in Catania

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Palermo  Palermo
Day 2 Guided Tour of Palermo; Visit Monreale Palermo
Day 3 Drive from Palermo to Syracuse; Visit Agrigento Syracuse
Day 4 Day Trip from Syracuse to Ragusa Ibla, Modica, and Scicli Syracuse
Day 5 Explore Syracuse; Day Trip to Noto Syracuse
Day 6 Drive from Syracuse to Taormina; Guided Mount Etna Hike Taormina
Day 7 Godfather Movie Set Tour Taormina
Day 8 Drive from Taormina to Catania; Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Palermo 

Fontana Pretoria, Palermo, Sicily, Italy
Tour the stunning Fontana Pretoria

Start your adventure in Palermo. Sicily's regional capital boasts beautiful Mediterranean weather, colorful history with strong ties to its Roman, Byzantine, Arab, and Norman past as evidenced in its architecture, culture, music, and cuisine. Upon arrival at the airport, you'll pick up your rental car and drive the 45 minutes to your hotel in the heart of the city to settle in. The rest of the day is yours to spend as you like.

The historic city center and medieval streets are easy to navigate by foot with many attractions and restaurants within walking distance. To get your bearings, take a stroll or passeggiata along the narrow Via Maqueda, a pedestrianized thoroughfare that connects the north of the city to the south. A good place to start is at the Fontana Pretoria (fountain) in Piazza Pretoria. Alternatively, see art at the Stanze al Genio tile museum and Palazzo Abatellis, catch a performance at the Teatro Massimo, Italy's largest opera house, or relax on Mondello Beach and enjoy the sand and azure sea.

Day 2: Guided Tour of Palermo - Visit Monreale

Italy - Sicily - Monreale - The celebrated Monreale Cathedral
Take in the ornate stonework of Monreale Cathedral

In the morning you will meet your guide for a private half-day tour of the Sicilian capital—a smart way to experience the city's vibrant culture and artistic and architectural points of interest. Quattro Canti (officially known as Piazza Vigliena), Palazzo Reale, the 12th-century Duomo (the Palermo Cathedral), and Marina Square are some examples of the architectural masterpieces you will come across. You'll also visit Capo Market, a great spot to pick up some lunch or a typical snack like panelle (chickpea fritters) and cazzilli (pan-fried potato croquettes).

After the tour, you'll have the afternoon to yourself where you might like to consider making the short drive to visit Monreale. On the slopes of Monte Caputo, you'll discover what is thought to be the greatest example of Norman architecture in the world, the Cattedrale di Monreale (Monreale Cathedral). The 12th-century UNESCO-listed cathedral is made up of ornate cloisters and bright gold mosaics that feature scenes from the Old and New Testaments. Admire the Norman-Byzantine art and architecture as you tour this national monument.

When you're ready, spend a little time wandering Monreale itself. Consider a stroll through the Belvedere public garden where you can enjoy a beautiful view over the Conca d'Oro below, a fertile valley loaded with citrus trees.

Day 3: Drive from Palermo to Syracuse - Visit Agrigento

Italy - Sicily - Agrigento - Temple of Concordia
Visit the Temple of Concordia, an imposing intact-gem

This morning you'll cut across the island to Syracuse in the southeast of the island, stopping at Agrigento's UNESCO-protected archaeological site along the way. Here you'll meet with a licensed guide to discover the ruins of the ancient city of Akragas in the Valley of the Temples, so named for its well-preserved Greek temples. One such intact gem is the Temple of Concordia, one of several ridge-top temples that once served as beacons for homecoming sailors. 

When you're ready,  continue your drive east to your hotel on the island of Ortygia, the historical heart of the city of Syracuse. Sometimes called Città Vecchia (Old City), Ortygia is chock-full of treasures waiting to be explored and comfortably done so on foot. Begin with a walk around the perimeter of the island before tucking into the tightly woven network of narrow and winding alleys and lanes, passing by churches and baroque palaces in various states of repair. You can't go wrong here, everywhere and everything is a visual treat.

Driving time (Palermo to Agrigento): 2.5 hours
Driving time (Agrigento to Syracuse):  2-3 hours

Day 4: Day Trip from Syracuse to Ragusa Ibla, Modica, and Scicli

Italy - Sicily - View over Modica from the steps of Cattedrale di San Pietro
Meet the life-size sculptures on the steps of Modica's Cattedrale di San Pietro

Today is a free day to spend as you choose. You might like to make the most of your proximity to the incredible UNESCO-listed cities of Ragusa Ibla, Modica, and Scicli. In 1693 a devastating earthquake almost erased every town and city in southeastern Sicily after which the cities were rebuilt in the Sicilian Baroque style.

Drive west first to Ragusa Ibla and spend a few leisurely hours meandering the narrow laneways as you walk under elaborate balconies, stopping to relax in a café or gelateria. Climb the 250 steps to the 18th-century Duomo di San Giorgio to view the only example of a Catalan-Gothic style portal. And if you're up for the exercise, be sure to climb up the steep stairway to the upper town for breathtaking views over Ibla. Alternatively, there's the option to board the trenino (little train) from Piazza Duomo for a casual ride along the city's main streets.

Next up is Modica a little way south (30 minutes). Built on the sides of a canyon, the city is known for its traditionally made chocolate that follows an ancient Aztec recipe. Wander its labyrinth of bustling streets and steep staircases, starting on Corso Umberto in Modica Bassa (Lower Modica) to get orientated. Explore the narrow alleys off of Corso Umberto as you make your way up to Modica Alta (Upper Modica) and its medieval quarter. Here you might like to head up to Pizzo Belvedere for stunning views over the Modica Valley. 

If there's time, travel south (20 minutes) to the often-overlooked ancient town of Scicli. Follow the elegant pedestrianized Via Penna for pretty views of Baroque palaces and churches. You won't want to miss a visit to possibly one of Sicily's most beautiful baroque buildings, Palazzo Beneventano on nearby Via Duce d'Aosta. And if there's time, take the zig-zagging path to the abandoned San Matteo church perched on an overhanging cliff to enjoy the sweeping vistas of Scicli below or visit the (also abandoned) cave settlement in Scicli's old Chiafura district

After a full day, when you're ready, make the return drive back to Syracuse.

Driving time (Syracuse to Ragusa Ibla): 1.5 hours
Driving time (Scicli to Syracuse): 1.5 hours

Day 5: Explore Syracuse - Day Trip to Noto

View over Syracuse from the Old City (Ortygia)
Walk to the water's edge in Ortygia for a view over Syracuse

Dedicate the morning to explore the ancient ruins and relics of the Neapolis Archaeological Park. Or lose yourself in Ortygia's winding streets, stumbling across tucked-away gems like the late 19th-century noble residence, Palazzo Impellizzeri, the Temple of Apollo in Piazza Pancali, or go underground to explore the honeycomb network of the San Giovanni Crypt and Catacombs, which date back to the 6th century. Alternatively, if you're in need of a little relaxation and less sight-seeing, soak in the Sicilian sunshine on the beautiful sand and turquoise water of Arenella Beach, just 20 minutes south of Syracuse.

In the afternoon, make your way to Noto to spend some time exploring this postcard-perfect baroque city. In a couple of hours, you can easily cover the town on foot. Stroll Corso Vittorio Emanuele and walk beneath Porta Reale (Royal Gate), taking in the embellished architecture at every turn, like the Chiesa di Santa Chiara, and end your walk at the spectacular 18th-century limestone Noto Cathedral. Optimize your Noto experience with a rewarding granita from the popular Caffè Sicilia.

Driving time (Syracuse to Noto): 45 minutes

Day 6: Drive from Syracuse to Taormina - Guided Mount Etna Hike

Mount Etna's colorful landscape
Explore the colorful slopes of Mount Etna

Get an early start today and head up the coast before cutting inland toward Europe's largest active volcano, Mount Etna. You'll start in the Rifugio Sapienza, the southern access point to the volcano for your guided hike to Torre Del Filosofo. Rent any walking equipment you may need and then proceed to ride the cable car up 9,500 feet (2,900 m) to Torre del Filosofo. Take in the breathtaking vistas of solidified lava flows, fumaroles, and views that reach the Mediterranean.

Upon your return to your car, you'll continue the day's drive to Taormina, a sophisticated and famous resort town located on the Ionian Sea. The town's incredible views and ancient Greek theater, often used for operatic and theatrical performances, make it the perfect destination for fans of the arts. Visit the restored 17th-century Catholic Santa Caterina Church and stroll along the Vicolo Stretto—the narrowest street in town. Discover the 10th-century Palazzo Corvaja, named after one of the city's most influential families or visit the Chiesa Madonna della Rocca to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the city.

Find your way to the main square of Piazza IX Aprile to rest and refresh with a glass of Mount Etna's famous wine at a local enoteca

Driving time (Syracuse to Mount Etna): 1.5 - 2 hours
Driving time (Mount Etna to Taormina): 1.5 hours

Day 7: Godfather Movie Set Tour

Village of Savoca
Tour the village of Savoca for popular filming locations

Today you'll visit the picture-perfect Sicilian hilltop towns made famous by the popular Godfather movies as well as learn about the fascinating history of the mafia in Sicily. 

Start your self-guided tour with a drive from Taormina to see the beautiful villages of Savoca and Forza D'Agrò, where some of the immortal scenes from the Godfather trilogy were filmed. Walking into Savoca is like stepping into the movie itself. See the table where Michael asks Apollonia's father for her hand in marriage, visit the church of the famed wedding, and stop by the Bar Vitelli, which is still owned by the same family as when the movies were filmed. The building now exhibits a collection of movie stills and is a must-see for any movie buff.  

The tour then heads to Forza D'Agrò, where Al Pacino showed Diane Keaton the house where his father was born. Forza D'Agrò, which overlooks the castle of Capo Sant'Alessio, has been remarkably well-preserved in the last century and the aging architecture presents a window back in time for history lovers. Walk through the old-timey streets of the village, stopping at the central piazza, the ancient village steps, and the crumbling arch which leads to a beautiful church where scenes from The Godfather Part III were shot.

Return to Taormina in the evening.

Day 8: Drive from Taormina to Catania - Depart

Italy - Sicily - Catania - Fontana dell’ Elefante
Find your way to Catania's Fontana dell’ Elefante

After breakfast, make the hourlong transfer south to Catania. The second-largest city next to Palermo, Catania sits at the foot of Mount Etna and deserves a little exploration if there's time before dropping off your car rental and catching your departure flight. Enjoy one last granita (crushed ice dessert) and consider a visit to see the Fontana dell’ Elefante, a fountain made from lava rock in the city center or visit the San Nicoló l’Arena, Sicily's largest church (famous for its unfinished façade).

Depending on traffic, it typically takes 15 to 20 minutes to travel from Catania's center to the airport. Best to arrive at the airport at least two hours prior to your international departure (and with some extra time to drop off your rental car).

Map

Map of Sicily Highlights Self-Drive Tour - 8 Days
Map of Sicily Highlights Self-Drive Tour - 8 Days