Sicily by Car
Sicily – is the biggest island in the Mediterranean and it lies on the toe of the Italian peninsula. The island has a long and diverse history, as it is located in such a very strategic location in the middle of the Mediterranean.
The island has two main airports, in Catania and Palermo. The Catania Airport is the main airport for the island with the most international flights but Palermo Airport is a popular destination with Budget Airlines such as Ryanair. So if you plan to go driving a car rental in Sicily, then you have a choice in starting location.
What’s to see in Sicily?
Sicily has much to offer the curious tourist.
If you decide to start from Catania, you will find yourself in a beautiful city with plenty to see and do. The main area to start in would be Piazza del Duomo; this is a beautiful open space in the city centre home to the Elephant fountain, which is the symbol of the city. It is also home to a magnificent cathedral (Duomo is cathedral in Italian) that is also worth a visit. Adjacent to the Piazza del Duomo are the food and fish markets that are an interesting place to visit, but if you want to do some real shopping then your best bet is to head along Via Etnea, which that runs north from the Piazza.
Heading out of Catania you will find Mount Etna looming over the city. This 3323 metre high mountain is one of Europe’s most active volcanos and is in a near constant state of eruption. The volcanic landscape and the solidified rivers of lava are all truly distinctive; it is quite the experience. Just remember that even in the summer and so close to lava, the summit is very cold, so dress warmly.
Driving Tip: When driving in Sicily, it is essentially the same as driving in Italy. You drive on the right and drive defensively as the rules of the road are seen as optional. You have to be at least 18 to drive.
Continuing north you will pass through Taormina. This town is set at the foot of Mount Etna and is located close to many of the best beach resorts. While in the area you could visit the Teatro Greco, the Torre dell’Orogio Clock Tower and possibly the Isola Bella, which is a small island nature reserve near to the town.
Messina is located in the extreme north east of the island, only 5kms from mainland Italy. Messina has a 12th century cathedral that is quite beautiful and has a long and interesting history you can explore on your visit. Other features of the town include a few other religious buildings as well as The Fountain of Orion, the Fountain of Neptune and the San Ranieri Lighthouse, all from the 16th century.
If you have time you could take a car ferry out to the Aeolian Islands. The closest island, Vulcano, is famous for its mud baths.
Driving Tip: Seat belts are mandatory and your lights have to be on when travelling on motorways and dual carriageways.
Moving on to the middle of the north coast you can find Cefalu. This is a small fishing village but for tourists this place is one of the finest beach resorts on the island. The Cathedral in the centre of town is unusual in that it features Byzantine mosaics from when the island was part of the Byzantine Empire.
If you have time you could head inland to Enna. Geographically located in the centre of the island and located on a high plateau that overlooks the rest of the surrounding area. Make sure to save some time to check out the Castello di Lombardia, which is an excellent viewing point of the rest of the town and countryside.
Continuing west from Cefalu, you will arrive at the Sicilian capital Palermo. The city has the dubious honour of being one of the world’s most conquered cities through history! This history can be seen in the buildings with Roman, Norman, Arab, and other architectural styles found dotted within the city. One of the more unusual attractions in the city is the Catacombe dei Cappuccini, which contains over 8000 mummified bodies on display!
Driving Tip: As with most cities in Italy, most of the cities in Sicily were founded long before the advent of cars. Therefore, while driving in the countryside and suburbs is highly recommended, going into the city centres is not advised. Most city centres tend to be small enough to explore on foot anyway, so leave your car rental at the hotel, in a public car park or on the street (remember that you may still need to pay for on the street parking).
Moving on you will come to the city of Trapani, you will discover a charming city with a rich history but unfortunately not much of the ancient city survives today, though there are many medieval sights available to see. While in the town you could perhaps visit the nearby Egadi Islands that are renowned for their fine beaches.
Turning south you will pass through Marsala, best known for Marsala Wine. About half way down the southern coast you will find Agrigento. This is definitely a must visit for any visit to Sicily by those who are interested in history. Before Agrigento, there was the ancient Greek city of Akragras. When visiting the city, you can have a look around the Valley of the Temples This area features 5 Greek temples, the oldest of which dates back to the 6th century BC. On the way up to the Valley be sure to stop into the Archaeological Museum that will help put the sites into a historical context.
Driving Tip: The motorways in Sicily are tolled, so have change ready. If you are travelling from Palermo to Catania along the coast via Messina it may cost you around 15 euro.
Further along the coast you will arrive at Gela, this city has an impressive history and this is most evidence with the city walls that stand over the coast. The city has a beautiful beach, which is your opportunity to work on your tan before moving on.
Finally heading east you will come to Siracusa. This is another city that was founded by the ancient Greeks. There is much remains from that period including the Temple of Apollo, which has in its history been a church and a mosque. There is also a Greek Theatre that is one of the largest of its type ever built. Other attractions include the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Roman amphitheatre, the Tomb of Archimedes and the Castle of Euryalos.
From here it is only a short drive back to Catania and the airport from where you started. If this trip sounds tempting you; can book your Sicily car hire now.
If you have any tips about driving around Sicily feel free to let us know. Just leave your message in the comment box below.