Experience Sicily's coastal cities, Sicilian-baroque towns, and the remote Aeolian Islands with this 9-day circuit from Catania. Start in Milazzo and discover the ruins of Lipari and the black-sand beaches of Stromboli before picking up your rental and driving to elegant Taormina. Learn to prepare traditional Sicilian fare in a cooking class in Taormina, navigate narrow and winding lanes and alleys in Syracuse's historic Ortygia, and take in the embellished architecture of charming Noto.

Highlights

  • Trek up to the peak of Stromboli for a spectacular display of volcanic fireworks
  • Roam ancient Greek and Roman ruins in Syracuse
  • Savor a glass of vino in Taormina's Piazza IX Aprile
  • Enjoy a gelato as you stroll through the elegant streets of Noto
  • Relax in the beautifully landscaped gardens of the Villa Bellini park in Catania

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Catania; Private Transfer to Milazzo Milazzo
Day 2 Explore the Aeolian Islands: From Milazzo to Lipari Lipari
Day 3 Transfer to the Island of Stromboli Stromboli
Day 4 Stromboli: Afternoon Guided Volcano Hike Stromboli
Day 5 Return to Milazzo; Drive to Taormina and Afternoon City Tour Taormina
Day 6 Taormina Cooking Class Taormina
Day 7 Drive from Taormina to Syracuse; Visit Noto Syracuse
Day 8 Guided Tour of Syracuse Syracuse
Day 9 Drive from Syracuse to Catania; Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Catania - Private Transfer to Milazzo

Italy - Sicily - Cape Milazzo - Piscina di Venere
Head to Cape Milazzo to visit the Pool of Venus

Welcome to Sicily! Upon your arrival at the Catania airport, you'll be picked up and taken by private transport to Milazzo, a charming coastal city that gives easy access to the Aeolian islands.

Take time in the evening to settle into your hotel and explore the historic medieval center of Milazzo. Say hello to the 18th-century Shrine of St. Francesco di Paola as you enter the historic quarter, explore the 16th-century MilazzoCastle and its imposing fortressed walls, and visit the 16th century Palace of the Viceroy with ornately decorated baroque balconies later added in the 18th century. 

Day 2: Explore the Aeolian Islands: From Milazzo to Lipari

Italy - Sicily - Lipari - Street going up to church in Lipari Town
Explore quaint cobblestoned streets in Lipari

After breakfast, make your way to the harbor to embark on a hydrofoil to reach the beautiful Aeolian archipelago—seven UNESCO-protected volcanic jewels in the cobalt Tyrrhenian Sea that each offer stunning and diverse landscapes. The first island you'll visit is Lipari, the largest and most populated of the Aeolian Islands.  After checking into your accommodation, take the rest of the day to explore the town-of-the-same-name, Lipari, at your leisure. Find your way to the fortified Castello, a citadel at the heart of Lipari, and a good place to start.

In the evening, head to the modern part of Lipari and to the Marina Piccola, a lovely little harbor. At night the area is bustling with people enjoying an aperitivo and children playing in the square.

Day 3: Transfer to the Island of Stromboli

Italy - Sicily - Stromboli - People relax on the black sand beach with Stromboli in background
Relax on the black sand beach with the Stromboli volcano in the background

Today, head to the island of Stromboli, home to one of three active volcanoes in Italy and once referred to as the "Lighthouse of the Mediterranean" by the Romans. After a two-hour boat ride, you'll arrive at the island's northeastern settlement and see for yourself the impressive volcano from the shore. Billowing with smoke, this natural wonder dominates the island's landscape. Take a moment to check in to your hotel, and go for a stroll in the part of Stromboli known as San Vincenzo.

Day 4: Stromboli: Afternoon Guided Volcano Hike

Italy - Sicily - Stromboli - The foot of Mount Stromboli during sunset
Enjoy a trek up Mount Stromboli during sunset

In the morning, you're free to explore on your own. Relax on the beaches of this Italian island, or visit the volcanological center for a complete look at the famous volcano. Perhaps even take a boat tour to reach secluded Ginostra, one of the smallest existing Italian villages that can only be accessed by boat. 

In the afternoon, you'll gear up and join your certified volcanic guide for an exhilarating excursion to the top of the impressive volcano, reaching Stromboli's peak at sunset—the best time to witness its spectacular pyrotechnic display of red and orange lava. The trek is for the confidently fit and as it ends in the evening, the descent takes place in the dark with flashlights.

Hiking time: 5 hours over 3,302 feet (924 m)

Day 5: Return to Milazzo - Drive to Taormina and Afternoon City Tour

aormina and smoking Mount Etna in the background
Take in the striking view of Mount Etna from Taormina

In the morning, you'll take the boat back from the islands to the port of Milazzo. From here, you'll pick up your rental car and drive your way down to your hotel in the heart of 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. You'll meet your guide and go for a 2-hour tour of the city to discover its highlights, including a visit to the 10th-century Palazzo Corvaja, named after one of the city's most influential families, the restored 17th-century Catholic Santa Caterina Church, and stroll along the Vicolo Stretto—the narrowest street in town.

Skip the line to see the Greek theater, which boasts views of Mount Etna and Giardini Naxos. From here, you'll head 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 before retiring to your accommodation for the night.   

Driving time (Milazzo to Taormina): 1-2 hours

Day 6: Taormina Cooking Class

A local market in Taormina
Find gifts and souvenirs and produce at local markets in Taormina

Enjoy a leisurely morning, starting the day's activities with a private cooking class. Join your chef as he leads you through a guided market tour. You will visit the fruit and vegetable vendors to find out what’s in season, and the fishmonger to choose the best fresh catch of the day in Taormina’s historic fish market. After the market tour, you'll return to the kitchen for your hands-on cooking class for the preparation of a full Sicilian menu and a typical dessert. Lunch, accompanied by local wines, will follow featuring the foods prepared in class.

The rest of the day is yours to explore Taormina at your own pace.

Day 7: Drive from Taormina to Syracuse - Visit Noto

View over Noto and its cathedral
Admire the stunning baroque architecture in Noto

This morning you'll head south along the coast 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

From here you'll continue up the coast 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 (Taormina to Noto): 2 hours
Driving time (Noto to Syracuse):  45 minutes

Day 8: Guided Tour of Syracuse

Italy - Sicily - Syracuse - 2nd century Roman Ampitheater in Neopolis Archaeological Park
Visit the 2nd century Roman Amphitheater in Syracuse's Neopolis Archaeological Park

Dedicate the morning to explore the ancient ruins of the Ionian coast on a guided tour of Syracuse (about three hours). Venture to the Neapolis Archaeological Park for a stroll among the ruins and ancient relics together with your expert guide. Learn about the region's Greek and Roman history as you explore the architecture and then continue the walking tour through Ortygia—Syracuse's beautiful old town, located on a spit of land which extends into the Mediterranean. 

The afternoon is yours to spend at your own pace. Lose yourself in the winding streets, stumbling across tucked-away gems, like the late 19th-century noble residence, Palazzo Impellizzeri, done in the indulgent Rococo style, 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.

Day 9: Drive from Syracuse to Catania - Depart

Via Etnea and Mount Etna
Say farewell to Catania and Mount Etna

After breakfast, make the hour drive north 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 the Church of Sant'Agata al Carcere in Piazza Santo Carcere 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 with Aeolian Islands - 9 Days
Map of Sicily Highlights Self-Drive Tour with Aeolian Islands - 9 Days