Three Perfect Days

Day One: Explore Beaches

Take the squiggly SS113 along the coast, or zip down the A20 autostrada, admiring the engineering wizardry of its bridges and tunnels. Either way, a few stops are mandatory. Prowl the pretty sands at Capo d'Orlando, brake for avant-garde art (and lunch by the waterfront) at Castel di Tusa, and pull into Cefalù by mid-afternoon, in time to savour the region's prettiest town-plus-beach combo before sundown.

Day Two: Travel Back in Time

Start in Cefalù with a visit to the Byzantine mosaics of its cathedral and a wander through its enchanting tangle of back streets. Next head inland to Castelbuono, where you can tour the 14th-century castle and enjoy superb mountain cuisine in a pair of atmospherically rustic eateries. End the afternoon at Caccamo, touring its imposing cliff-top Norman castle and then enjoying a meal fit for a foreign invader at A Castellana next door.

Day Three: Meander Through Forgotten Mountains

Link the Madonie and Nebrodi mountains with a scenic inland jaunt through a series of little-visited hill towns. From Cefalù climb south to the mountain town of Castelbuono, then circle the dramatic Madonie mountains to Petralia Sottana. Next, head east through the gorgeous villages of Gangi, Sperlinga and Nicosia, all perched high on rocky ledges and surrounded by rolling, wildflower-draped hills. From here, it's an easy trip north to Mistretta in the Parco Regionale dei Nebrodi.