Ahhh, Sicily – this Italian isle makes one feel so lucky to be alive. I can’t recall a more invigorating and inspiring experience than the week-long road trip I took with friends a few years back (and it’s easy driving, by Italian standards).
We motored from Palermo to Etna, Taormina to Ragusa and back to Cefalù, and everything we saw, smelled, ate and felt resides permanently in my mind and soul.
If there’s one thing I recommend, it’s getting out on the water to see Sicily from that perspective. Italy-based local expert Andrea Marco Simone Gambino agrees heartily, which is why this Sicilian itinerary he designed for Elsewhere by Lonely Planet includes a day trip to Favignana – a quick hop by ferry from Trapani.
He talked me through this trip’s major highlights and shared some of his personal favorites. So read on to find out everything you need to know about planning a trip to Sicily.
Here's a taste of what Andrea's Sicily itineraries have to offer, including must-see sites and off-the-beaten-path experiences.
1. Explore Mt Etna
Traverse (in a 4x4 and on foot) the lava fields and caves of Etna’s eastern flank with a volcanologist.
2. Meander through glamorous Taormina
Wander around Corso Umberto, and you'll find this hilltop town is the height of culture and sophistication. And for fans of HBO’s White Lotus, Taormina was the setting for season two (filmed at the new Four Seasons).
3. Savor delicious treats
Sicilians love their granita (almond is the best flavor). The chocolate from Modica in Val di Noto is also not to be missed, so make sure to sample both.
4. Dig into Agrigento’s Valley of the Temples
An archaeologist escorts you through the heart of Magna Graecia (greater Greece), including visiting the Parthenon-like Temple of Concordia to learn about the ancient Greek history of the island.
5. Visit a satellite island
Take the ferry from Trapani to Favignana, known as “Sicily’s Pearl,” for a day of biking around the very small island to see its beaches and take a dip in the sea.
6. Tour historic Palermo
An expert guides you on a morning tour of the famous sights of Sicily's main metropolis, bringing them to life in the way that only a local can.
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Sicily is the largest island in all of the Mediterranean, with volcanoes, vineyards and ancient villages, and an adventure crafted by Andrea for Elsewhere by Lonely Planet shows off its most unique attributes, from history to natural beauty to culinary offerings.
Let Andrea from Elsewhere by Lonely Planet plan your trip to Sicily.
Ask an insider
Learn a little bit more about Andrea, Elsewhere by Lonely Planet's Sicily expert.
Where do we find you today?
I’m in Turin, where it’s currently very hot and very humid. I really hope this weekend I can go to the mountains where it will hopefully be a little bit cooler.
How long have you been in the travel game?
I’ve worked in the industry for about 11 years now. Tourism was my great passion, actually in travel, because I tend to separate travel from tourism. Travel is for learning, exploring – not just putting a flag in a place. It’s about going deeper.
Can you give an example of how your trips go deeper?
Everyone goes to Palermo – crowded, lots of life, the beautiful markets like Ballarò and Capo – fantastic. We work with an organization called Addiopizzo (goodbye bribery) that works to create a clean economy and refuses to pay bribes to the mafia, and they take our travelers around Palermo, but with this deeper understanding of Palermo beyond The Godfather.
Why did you end up focusing on Sicily?
We tend to be attracted by something that is more exotic or far away from us. And in terms of Italian geography and traditions and behaviors and dialect, Sicily was the farthest away from Turin. And my girlfriend is from Palermo, so I was attracted to Sicily in every way.
Local tip: Sicily is not great for public transport, so renting a car is suggested unless you have other transportation arranged.
What makes Sicily unique as an Italian destination?
First of all, it’s an island, so it’s isolated from the mainland. It was once the center of the world, the center of trade and commerce and money. Plato visited, artists visited. From Mt Etna, the spectacular views on a clear day explain why Sicily is so unique.
Are there any particularly good times to visit?
The spring and early summer and the fall are all great. Tuna season is in May and early June, and in September, there’s Cous Cous Fest in San Vito lo Capo (2022 is the 25th anniversary of the event). In Sicily, everything is seasonal, and everything is food.
What else is there on the menu?
You must try arancini (fried rice balls) in Palermo. I like Sfrigola to take away while you’re walking around. There’s also a place I love in Quattro Canti called Bisso Bistrot, which is very home-cooking. And for a more formal dining – though it’s still casual – I recommend Quattro Mani for their creative menu.
Local tip: If you see an already-stuffed cannoli, it’s no good. They have to put in the fresh ricotta in front of you.