3 Days in Sicily
If you have three days in Sicily,
Personalized Trips to Sicily
In these three unique short breaks, you will discover the Arab-Norman beauties of Palermo, the amazing Dome in Monreale with 6.340 square meters gold mosaics, the wonderful archaeological area of Syracusa, the small Ortygia island, the most active Etna volcano and the world resort town Taormina.
Sicily at a glance
Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean, is a captivating blend of ancient architecture, beautiful, hidden away beaches and a bustling capital full of charisma and authentic charm.
Thanks to its geographical location, Sicily has had the major role in the historical events that have played a key role in the Mediterranean.
The not-to-be-missed cities of Sicily
Palermo. Palermo bears witness to its past—conquered by the Phoenicians, Arabs, and Spanish, its churches and archeological remnants are unrivaled. Then the Palazzo dei Normanni and its Byzantine mosaics never fail to awe visitors; Normal Royal Palace and Palatine Chapel are divine; golden beaches of Mondello Lido, the foodie delights of the city’s markets, the Botanical Gardens—all are must-see sights in Palermo.
Monreale. The city’s Duomo is one of the greatest medieval treasures in the world—the 58,000 square feet of mosaics will take your breath away.
Siracusa and Ortygia Island. Archimedes, Cicero, Saint Paul, Caravaggio, and the naval hero Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson all made their presence known in Siracusa. In fact, Aeschylus premiered his plays at the still-functioning Teatro Greco here. One of the most beautiful squares in Italy, the Piazza del Duomo, is in the tiny island of Ortygia
Taormina. Perhaps there is no more famous name in Sicily than Taormina. This resort town draws the international jet set to its romantic alleys and glittering hotels. But Taormina is steeped in ancient history and mythology—Giardini-Naxos, Teatro Greco, and the Norman and Baroque monuments are all worth a visit.
Of course, Mt. Etna, Europe’s highest volcano, is in Taormina, and no visit to Sicily would be complete without gazing at its stunning vistas.
Mt Etna, locally called “Mongibello”, is Europe’s largest and most active volcano. Its frequent eruptions are often accompanied by large lava flows, but rarely pose danger to inhabited areas. Etna is one of the volcanoes with the longest historic records of eruptions, going back more than 2000 years. Read More
Marsala. The city is more than the sweet wines which bear its name and for which the city is famous (but don’t miss the historic Florio Winery and the Donnafugata Winery). You’ll also want to see Marsala’s salt marshes—and be sure to try busiati, the oldest handmade pasta in the world. Read More
Trapani. Ornate churches like the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo and the Torre della Colombaia define the architecture here. Don’t miss shopping for the city’s famous exquisite coral jewelry.
Ragusa. Ragusa Ibla is a fairytale of church domes and terracotta roofs. The Duomo di San Giorgio, the Giardino Ibleo, and the 18 listed UNESCO monuments will delight you.
Agrigento. The city’s greatest draw is the Valley of the Temples and its ancient Greek ruins. Tempio della Concordia is one of the best-preserved temples in the world. You’ll definitely want to visit the Museo Regionale Archeologico, perhaps the best museum in Sicily, which features the famous stone statue of Telemon (Atlas).
Catania. In a perfect world, you’d devote two full days to the art, museums, and Roman ruins of Catania. Don’t miss Duomo Square, La Pescheria (the fish market), and the Bellini Gardens.
Erice. This western Sicily gem is famous for its almond biscuits (the pastry shops here are without equal). Erice’s main church and bell tower are striking, as is the Norman castle, also known as Venus Castle, a tribute to the goddess of fertility.
Or what about Sicily’s unique cuisine—Arab and Greek spices, Spanish techniques, the world’s finest seafood. And it’s all accompanied by big, fruity, out-of-this-world wines.
The island has been at the heart of thirteen different empires over the last three millennia, and each one of them has left its mark on the Sicilian Gastronomy.
Must-try Local Dishes and Wines
Pasta alla Norma – pasta served with a special sauce made of tomatoes and fried eggplant with ricotta cheese
Arancine – fried rice balls coated with breadcrumbs and often filled with cheese or ragù sauce
Cannoli – a tube shaped pastry that is stuffed with a sweet, creamy filling often made from ricotta cheese. Read More
Caponata – a typical antipasto that you’ll encounter in every corner of Sicily; a delicious sweet and sour (agrodolce) mixture of fried eggplant, onions, celery, tomatoes, vinegar, capers, and olives, sweetened with a bit of sugar. Read More
Almond Cookies – a famous local dessert typical of Sicily. Soft and tasty, they are fast to make (and to eat…). They are also a gluten-free dessert. Read the recipe
The Chocolate in Modica – made with a very old recipe, the one coming from the Aztecs. Read More
The Predominant Grapes – Historically, Italian wine regions have clung tightly to its historical grapes, and Sicily is no different. While international varieties are prominent players, for critics, sommeliers, and importers, the wines they dream about at night are indigenous. There are three key red grapes: Nero d’Avola, Frappato and Nerello Mascalese.
If it is your first time to Sicily, get ready for an incredible experience!
The prospect of visiting Sicily for the first time will provoke a wide range of emotions. For some, traveling to a foreign land-especially one that doesn’t speak English – is so intimidating that any real enjoyment can only be realized with the help of a native to navigate through all the unfamiliar turf. For others, even those who don’t speak Italian, the opportunity to be immersed in an entirely new culture is part of the fun, and they look forward to feeling their way through each of the novelties that Italy throws at them.
- Taxis: Government-regulated taxis are either white or yellow. Avoid taxis that are not metered and have no official signs. They are private cars that will charge you an expensive fee. Unlike in the U.S. where taxis are hailed on the street, in Sicily they are found at taxi stands or are called by telephone. All charges are listed on a price chart displayed inside the cab. Extra charges are in effect at night, for luggage service and phone booking. A 10% tip is expected but not mandatory.
- Restaurant tipping: Both il servizio (service charge/tip) and il coperto (cover charge for bread and water) are usually included in il conto (the bill). By Sicilian law the gratuity is included in the bill so extra tipping isn’t required. However, it is customary, especially if the service is good, to leave an additional gratuity between 5% and 10%.
- Hotel Tipping: Tipping in hotels is a customary practice. The service charge of 15% – 19% is already included in your bill. Other suggested tips include 50 euro cents per day to the chambermaid, 50 euro cents to the doorman for calling you a cab, and between 1 and 2 euros for the bellhop if he carries your bags to your room. The concierge expects about a 15% tip on his or her bill, as well as tips for any extra services. If you are staying at a 4- or 5-Star hotel these suggested amounts should be doubled.
- Shopping: Italian stores generally are open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The siesta/pausa lunch break lasts until 4 p.m. Stores close for the day by 8 p.m. Most stores are closed on Sunday.
- Café Culture: While enjoying an espresso at a table is always possible, the locals enjoy standing at the banco, or bar area.
- Hand Gestures and Loud Voices: Unlike in the U.S. of A., hand gestures and loud voices can be a way of expressing profound happiness.
- Hotels: When looking for a place to stay, remember that rates include taxes and service; the IVA (value-added tax, currently 10%) should be added to the total amount.
- Electrical: Not all hotel rooms provide hairdryers; if you bring your own, an adapter/transformer is a necessity. This will also be important for all other electrical devices, including laptop computers, because in Italy the voltage is different (220). Also, outlets have two round-pronged plugs, which is another reason an adapter plug is necessary.
Just the Basics:
- Sicily’s Time Zone: one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+1). Sicily is generally six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the United States, aside from the rare instances affected by the Spring Forward/Fall Back clock-changing discrepancy when the difference is five hours.
- Country Code (for international calls to Italy): +39.
- Currency: Euro. Available in bills of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 euros; coins of 1 and 2 euros and 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 euro cents.
- Official Language: Italian and Sicilian
- Flag: The Italian tricolor is green, white, and red, in three vertical bands, equal in dimension. The Sicilian flag shows a triskeles symbol (a figure of three legs arranged in rotational symmetry), and at its centre a Gorgoneion (depiction of the head of Medusa) and a pair of wings and three wheat ears.
- Religion: Roman Catholic is the main faith – 85% of native-born citizens are nominally Catholic. There are substantial Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim communities.
- Education: Sicily has statewide education system, with a five-year primary stage and an eight-year secondary stage.
Like other member countries of the European Union, Sicily uses the euro, symbolized by “€”. For the current conversion rate between your currency and the euro you can check a currency exchange Web site such as www.xe.com
ATM Cash Machines (bancomats) are everywhere in Sicily as they are in the United States. The Cirrus and Plus systems are the most widely available. Be aware that many Sicilian cash machines will not accept card with PIN codes, five numbers or longer so be sure to reset your PIN to a four numbers before you go. You may also have a problem accessing a savings account so be sure the ATM card(s) you are bringing are linked to checking accounts. You may also be able to use your credit card for a cash advance if it has a PIN code (fees will apply).
Many travelers wonder about bringing travelers checks with them and it simply isn’t a good idea anymore. You’ll pay a fee for the checks at home, will need to find a bank (banks are usually open for a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the afternoon on week days) when it is open, wait in line and pay another service fee when receiving euros.
Credit cards are widely accepted throughout Sicily. Visa and MasterCard are more commonly accepted so if you’re bringing an American Express card, be sure to bring a Visa/MasterCard as well. Many credit card companies (Capitol One is an exception) are now charging a transaction fees for international purchases. Be sure to check with your credit card company before leaving home. Finally, cash is king in Sicily. Sicilian merchants hate paying service fees on credit card transactions and will often give you a discount (sconto) for paying cash. Of course, they also like to hide their earning from the tax authorities too, but that’s a whole other story.
Shopkeepers are also open to giving discounts if you are buying multiple items. Don’t be afraid to ask for a sconto!
When staying overnight in Sicily, certain cities have a tourist tax.
This Sicily City tax must be paid by the PASSENGER directly to the hotel before the end of the stay.
|City||5 star||4 star||3 star|
|Palermo||eur 3||eur 2||eur 1.50|
|Catania||eur 2.50||eur 1.50||eur 1.50|
|Taormina||eur 5||eur 3.50||eur 2|
|Syracusa||eur 2.50||eur 2||eur 1.50|
|Agrigento||eur 3||eur 2||eur 2|
|Trapani||eur 3||eur 2.50||eur 2|
|Ragusa||eur 2.50||eur 1.50||eur 1|
|Cefalù||eur 3||eur 2||eur 1.50|
|Messina||eur 4||eur 2||eur 1.50|
Wireless access is prevalent in restaurants and hotels and most hotels no longer charge for you to use WiFi.
You can access it with your phone or laptop computer.
If you choose not to bring a device with you, most hotels make a desktop computer available for guests to use or have a business center available.
There are four airports in Sicily, two serving the east coast (Catania and Comiso airports) and the other two (Palermo and Trapani airports) – the west coast.
Palermo Falcone & Borsellino (PMO) and Catania Fontanarossa (CTA) are the biggest airports operating actively all the year round. Both become very busy in summer months.
Trapani Birgi (TPS) and especially Comiso Pio La Torre airport mostly serve low-cost airlines and seasonal flights.
Air, sea or land?
There are ways to get to Sicily from mainland Italy or from Malta without flying.
These include long-distance buses from other regions in central (mainly Rome) and southern Italy, trains or ferries.
However, flying to one of the Sicily airports is probably the fastest, and arguably the most convenient way to arrive at your final destination.
Busy itinerary? Fly anywhere!
If you are planning to explore the island and change your location at least two or three times it does not make much difference which airport to arrive.
You can even consider to arrive at one airport and depart from the other.
This is usually convenient and optimizes timing in case you want to move around and see more. Typically Palermo and Catania would be the preferred options.
Having a clear idea of what kind of a vacation you are planning to have, and what is your itinerary will make the choice of the airports easier. It is also possible to build an itinerary around your arrival and departure points, especially if your plans are not overwhelming.
Still, east or west – what is best?
Roughly speaking, Palermo airport is an optimal arrival point to reach destinations along the west coast between San Vito lo Capo and Cefalu. Corleone and the Madonie mountains would be on the same list, just a bit away from the coastline. Trapani airport is closer than any other one to Castellammare del Golfo, the Egadi islands including Favignana, Marsala, Erice, Segesta, Mazzara del Valo and Selinunte. The southern coast from Agrigento to Trapani itself is also within easy reach.
Catania airport serves best final destinations like Taormina, the Aeolian islands, Messina, Giardini Naxos, Acireale its coast, Etna, Siracuse and Noto, Caltanissetta. Comiso is optimal for Ragusa, Scicli, Modica and Licata, while Piazza Armerina and Caltagirone are similar travel distance from both Catania and Comiso airports. Agrigento, Tindari and Enna are equally convenient from Catania and Palermo airports with Agrigento and Tindari taking some 2 -2,5h drive. These are probably the farthest among popular locations on mainland Sicily. Agrigento is similar 2 – 2.5 h drive distance from Trapani and Comiso as well.
Visiting Sicily: days, weeks, and beyond
Landscapes, cuisine, and dialect differ greatly from one to the next, and each merits its own visit.
If your time is limited, you’ll be able to see Sicily’s highlights in a matter of days—but spending one week or more means you’ll get to explore multiple provinces and fall in love with the authentic Sicily.
If you have a few days in Sicily, it’s best to focus on one city, otherwise you’ll likely feel like you’re spreading yourself too thin!
In three or four days lodge in one city only and from here explore and enjoy the area.
The most important cities are Palermo — located on the west side — Taormina and Syracusa — both located on the east –.
In one week, you’ll be able to explore Sicily’s wonderful cultural cities, undoubtedly a highlight of any trip to the country. Palermo, Agrigento, Taormina and Syracusa attract the bulk of tourists and justifiably so—they harbor some of the world’s most impressive architecture and works of art.
Nine days will give you more time to explore what Sicily offers beyond the usual tourist destinations. You’ll be able to travel along the stunning Marsala, Erice, Ragusa, Modica and Noto, which offer some of Europe’s most enchanting scenery.
However, to experience Sicily at its best, you’ll need to factor in two weeks. That way, you’ll have enough time to discover a large part of the island and one (or perhaps both!) of its major islands, Lipari and Vulcano.
Treat yourself with the amazing Original Cannoli, a Sicilian speciality made of crispy dough and a creamy ricotta cheese filling.
A dessert now known and appreciated all over the world, a pillar of “Sicilian Culture“. We can safely say that visiting Sicily without eating cannoli is like not having visited it at all.
For those who do not know it (We doubt there is someone who does not know what we are talking about) the Sicilian cannoli is a dessert consisting of a crunchy fried wafer in lard, called “scorza (rind)“, filled with sheep’s ricotta cream with a sprinkling of chocolate or pistachio and candied fruit at both ends.
Explore Palermo in 3 days
On this three-day itinerary, you’ll uncover layers of history and culture in the Capital of Sicily.
Some travelers pass through for a day or two on their way to other destinations, but three days is an ideal amount of time to get a feel for the Palermo lifestyle.
The trip plan begins in the historic center of Palermo indulgin your senses in the Street Food Experience, a small size group walking tour admiring the Massimo Theatre (external view), then the lively open-air markets with strong Arab influences, resembling a souk, with picturesque stands of fresh fish, cheeses, fruits and vegetables.
Wait up! What is Street Food?
The basic principle of street food is: simple and cheap food for simple people. The street food of Palermo mainly consists of simple poor recipes … simply fried!
To survive your street food experience in Palermo you need: very-very light breakfasts, no-diet-no-calories restrictions today, comfy shoes, a couple of sentences or gestures in Sicilian language and a veteran belly.
During the tour you will have the opportunity to observe local people in their daily activities and to savor foods that a real Sicilian people love to eat!
At the end of this tour you will reach Monreale by taxi to visit on your own the Dome, a wonderful example of the Arab-Norman art and architecture.
One of Sicily’s top tourist attractions, the Dome at Monreale was conceived as a political statement, as well as an artistic one. The result is the most important monument to the artistic tastes of the Normans in all of Sicily.
The entire concept of the Norman kingdom as the highest secular and religious authority is represented here in incomparable fashion. With its cycle of mosaics on a gold ground and its extraordinary cloister, the cathedral can rightly claim a place in the highest ranks of Europe’s art history.
Explore Taormina in 3 days
On this three-day itinerary, you’ll uncover layers of history and culture in the most famous city of Sicily.
Some travelers pass through for a day or two on their way to other destinations, but three days is an ideal amount of time to get a feel for the Taormina lifestyle.
Spectacularly perched on the side of a mountain, Taormina is one of Sicily’s most popular destinations, a chic resort town popular with holidaying high-rollers and those wanting a taste of Sicilian dolce vita.
On the second day a driver will pick you up to experience one of the most famous active Volcano: Etna.
Discover a unique canyon comprised of basaltic lava (the “Alcantara Gorges”) and shaped by the waters of the Alcantara river.
Traveling through one of the wine roads of Sicily and crossing large expanses of vineyards (Etna D.O.C.), we will arrive at a local winery. This is the ideal place to enjoy relaxing moments surrounded by nature while sampling a snack and excellent wines.
We will then make a brief stop at the 2002 lava flow reachable by jeep through a winding dirt road surrounded by chestnut and oak forests.
Later, driving up along the Mareneve road we will reach Piano Provenzana (1800 meters above sea level), a ski resort, theater of the great eruption of 2002.
Before coming back to Taormina, traveling through one of the wine roads of Sicily and crossing large expanses of vineyards (Etna D.O.C.), we will stop at another local winery, to enjoy again relaxing moments surrounded by nature while sampling local cuisine and excellent wines. In fact the wines are complemented by uniquely local delicacies.
Explore Syracusa in 3 days
On this three-day itinerary, you’ll uncover layers of history and culture in the most famous city of Sicily.
Some travelers pass through for a day or two on their way to other destinations, but three days is an ideal amount of time to get a feel for the Syracusa and Ortigia lifestyle.
The small Baroque island of Ortigia, the historic center of Syracuse, is widely considered one of the most beautiful destinations in Sicily. Inhabited for over 3,000 years and renowned for its Greek heritage, it is a UNESCO landmark for its “remarkable testimony of the Mediterranean cultures over the centuries” and makes for a perfect weekend escape in any season.
Your experience in Syracusa begins on the second day with a full day guided tour
Start your second day in Syracusa with an independent stop in a local gelateria and pasticceria that serves a tantalizing array of Sicilian sweets and some of the best granita in town.
Granita, a semi-frozen dessert, is a classic Sicilian breakfast and comes in a variety of classic and seasonal flavors like pistachio, almond, lemon, coffee or gelsi (mulberry).
It’s traditionally served with a sweet brioche and the perfect morning fuel to explore the Neapolis Archeological Park of Siracusa. Home to a spectacular 5th century BC Greek Theater – the largest in Sicily – a Roman Amphitheater and the Ear of Dionysus, a large cave with excellent acoustics, it’s worth spending a couple hours marveling at the ancient sites.
After you’ve toured the archeological site, head back to into Ortigia to peruse the bustling Ortigia Open Air Market filled with colorful fruit and vegetable stands, fish vendors and stalls selling spices of all types.
Be sure to pick up a few local specialties for your pantry, including pistachios from Bronte, almonds from Avola, sun-dried tomatoes from Pachino and capers from Pantelleria.
In the afternoon, make your way over to the Dome Square and Fountain of Arethusa before strolling down the Lungomare Alfeo to admire the changing colors in the skyline.