Sicily’s mountainous interior and craggy coast are dotted with beautiful villages, ancient sites and natural wonders like active volcanoes.
Distances aren’t lengthy, which leaves more time to savor your discoveries. On these road trips (four by land, one by sea) you’ll fully explore the very best of Sicily. One constant on each of these adventures is fabulous food and drink.
Best for families
Palermo–Marsala; 116 miles [186km]; allow 2–3 days
This drive, which has something for all ages, begins in Palermo. Follow the coast road in the west until you veer inland for Segesta. The famous archeological site here features a hauntingly beautiful Doric temple and a hilltop amphitheater with sweeping views of the Mediterranean.
Back on the sea, the delightful end-of-the-road village Scopello is the gateway to the Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro. It’s a wonderland of hikes to hidden beaches, coves and steep headlands. Next, cut due west to Erice, perched high above a fairytale coastal landscape. Pause to try the locally famous lemon and almond pastries.
Down on the coast, don’t miss the legendary fish couscous in Trapani, where the historic harbor is part of the sickle-shaped spit of land occupied by the old town.
The Saline di Trapani has been a center for salt production since ancient times. Give your car a rest and take a short boat ride to the island of Mozia, home to one of Europe’s finest Phoenician archaeological sites.
Finish the road trip in Marsala, renowned for its fortified wines both sweet and dry.
Around Mt Etna
Best for hillside culture
Enna–Catania; 98 miles [158km]; allow 2–3 days
Begin your road trip in the imposing hill town of Enna, smack in Sicily’s geographic center. A climb to the Castello di Lombardia at the top of town affords fine views over the rolling landscape to the north, which you’ll soon be traveling through.
An attractive baroque town further north, Leonforte’s drawcard is the lavish 1651 Granfonte fountain. Amidst four hills, the town of Nicosia revolves around central Piazza Garibaldi. Check out the churches and palazzi (mansions). Southeast, lovely Agira is a sloping hillside village capped by a medieval Norman castle.
Centuripe is a small town whose grandstand views of Mt Etna have earned it the nickname ‘il Balcone di Sicilia’ (the Balcony of Sicily). Stop in for tastings of local honey, pistachios and wine across the flanks of Mt Etna. Finish in cosmopolitan Catania, where edgy bars enliven Unesco-recognized baroque piazzas.
Mediterranean coast wonders
Best for ancient spectacles
Syracuse–Marsala; 234 miles [376km]; allow 3–5 days
Start this trip in Syracuse and drive west, never straying far from the Mediterranean as you drive between beautiful cities and beguiling ruins.
First up, Noto’s golden-hued sandstone buildings make it the finest baroque town in Sicily. Due west, medieval Modica climbs steeply up both sides of a deep gorge. Take time to discover its Unesco-listed treasures. Set amid rocky peaks, Ragusa’s sloping tangle of a historic center is etched into the hillside.
Right below Agrigento, the splendid Valley of the Temples boasts the best-preserved Doric temples outside of Greece and is one of Sicily’s unmissable highlights. Seaside Sciacca dates to the 5th century BCE – today it’s a laid-back town with an attractive medieval core and excellent seafood restaurants. Just south and built on a promontory overlooking the sea, the mysterious Greek ruins of Selinunte are among the island’s most impressive, dating to around the 7th century BCE.
Finish the trip at Marsala, an elegant town of stately baroque buildings within a perfect square of Phoenician-era city walls. Its eponymous sweet dessert wines are the ideal end to the journey.
Best for traditional towns
Round trip from Cefalù; 188 miles [303km]; allow 2–3 days
Discover Sicily’s more traditional side along the beautiful back roads of the Madonie and Nebrodi Mountains. From Cefalù head east along the coast, then climb towards the mountain town of Mistretta. Here, grand views of the little-visited Nebrodi Mountains and a distant Mt Etna unfold. After exploring the medieval village of Nicosia, continue south to Enna, a handsome hill town that marks Sicily’s geographic center.
Snake back north via Gangi into the heart of the Parco Naturale Regionale delle Madonie, a magnificent natural landscape dotted with hazelnut orchards, ash forests and photogenic hilltop towns. Centered around pretty Piazza del Popolo, Petralia Soprana (1147m) is the Madonie’s highest village. Explore the old stone streets and churches here and in nearby Petralia Sottana. A bit west, Polizzi Generosa is now best known as a trekking base for the Madonie.
Medieval Collesano features the Targa Florio museum, which celebrates the history of the Madonie’s storied mountain road race. Due east, Castelbuono is presided over by its magnificent 14th-century castle. Return north to the coast and Cefalù.
Great for island-hopping
Milazzo–Alicudi; 116 miles [187km]; allow 2–6 days
One of Sicily’s best road trips barely includes any roads. Leave the car behind and hop a boat for this island-hopping adventure through the Aeolian Islands – seven volcanic beauties with seven distinct personalities, all connected by ferry and hydrofoil to Sicily’s north coast.
Begin by cruising across the Tyrrhenian from Milazzo to Lipari, home to the islands’ only sizable town. Split your time between urban pleasures and excursions to the beaches and walking trails outside town.
From Lipari, fast and slow boats fan out to the other six islands. Vulcano is just south and features black-sand beaches, mud baths and the signature smoking crater. Next up is lush green Salina, home to vineyards and famous capers. Further along, remote Filicudi features a hilltop ruin of a Bronze Age village, Alicudi is wonderfully off-the-beaten-track, and Panarea has whitewashed villages. Save the most dramatic island for last: ever-erupting Stromboli, which offers superb hiking.