Vibrant cities, white sand beaches, ancient ruins, and the most active volcano on earth, Sicily has it all! There is so much to see and do on this incredible island, and you could easily spend five months here, never mind five days! I’ll bring you through all of the best places to stay, what to see and do, and most importantly, what to eat.
DAY ONE – CATANIA
Catania is Sicily’s second-largest city and is often overshadowed by Palermo. Although Catania has a reputation of being a bit rough and ready, the city has a unique charm that just can’t be matched. In Catania, you’ll find incredible food and stunning baroque architecture. We’re going to spend just one day exploring this bustling city, and your short visit will certainly leave you wanting more!
WHERE TO STAY IN CATANIA
B&B Oblo has to be one of the best accommodations we stayed in during our Italy Trip. This charming B&B is located on the 7th floor, with an incredible balcony overlooking Catania. Firstly, the location is perfect. It’s extremely close to the city center and within walking distance of the train station (which you’ll need tomorrow!). Secondly, the host is incredible. She went out of her way to ensure we had a great time in Catania. She provided us with some personal recommendations, and a map of the best things to do here. And finally the cherry on top, an incredible breakfast brought straight to your room!
WHAT TO DO IN CATANIA
ADMIRE THE INCREDIBLE ARCHITECTURE
Catania almost looks like a city that has been frozen in time. In the 1600s, a large eruption from Etna wiped out the city and its inhabitants. Catania was rebuilt in the baroque style, giving us the incredible churches and piazzas we see today! What’s more, the city was rebuilt from the black volcanic rock of Etna, which gives the city a really unique and distinct look.
Our first stop for today is Centro Storico. The main square, Piazza del Duomo, is a UNESCO world heritage site that is surrounded by stunning baroque masterpieces. This square has incredible views from every angle. Within the piazza, you’ll find:
- Fontana dell’Elefante, a elephant fountain carved from basalt, which has become a symbol of Catania.
- Cattedrale di Sant’Agata, the crown jewel of Catania. This is one of the most impressive landmarks in Catania. I’d highly recommend going inside to admire the Fresco paintings (it’s free!)
- Palazzo degli Elefanti, Catania’s beautifully designed town hall
- Fontana dell’Amenano, stunning marble statue which separates the glamorous piazza from the bustling food market ‘
Spend some time here taking photos and admiring the incredible views surrounding you.
SAMPLE SOME OF ITALY’S BEST FOOD
There is only one way to describe the food in Sicily, life-changing. To kick off this new life, we’re first going to go to Pasticceria Savia. This is an absolute must-do when visiting Catania! This gorgeous restaurant serves authentic Sicilian sweet and savory treats. To start, I’d strongly recommend getting Arancini. These are fried rice balls with bolognese sauce and mozzarella, and they are absolutely delicious! You can then wash that down with a nice cup of coffee and pistachio cannoli.
The delicious food and friendly staff make this an extremely popular location. But trust me, it is worth the queue! If you are ordering from their take away section, be sure to pay for your food and take a ticket at the counter, before waiting to be served.
If you haven’t had enough of Sicily’s food scene, you can also head to La Pescheria. This is a bustling, colorful food market in the city center. Even if you don’t intend on buying anything, it’s great to walk through the market and experience the sights, smells, and sounds of the city.
HEAD TO THE PARK
Beside Pasticceria Savia you’ll find Villa Bellini. This is a small park which offers some peace within the busy city. The park is filled with gorgeous fountains, flower beds, and busts of well-known Italian personalities. I’d recommend grabbing some takeaway food from Pasticceria Silvia, and coming to this beautiful little park to enjoy it!
WHERE TO EAT IN CATANIA
Unfortunately, we arrived in Catania during one of Sicily’s biggest storms. So heading out for dinner wasn’t really an option. If you’re looking for some good recommendations, you should check out this blog post. We followed Molly’s recommendations for breakfast and lunch, and were really impressed! We were really looking forward to visiting Osteria Antica Marina, but I guess this is just another reason to come back to Catania!
If you’re looking for something small to pick up before you leave Taormina, try the pistachio croissants from Insigne Cafe. They were some of the best on our whole trip to Sicily!
DAY TWO- TAORMINA
HOW TO GET TO TAORMINA FROM CATANIA
To get to Taormina you will need to take the train from Catania station to Taormina Giardini. The train takes just over an hour, and you can book tickets with Trenitalia. It is important to note that you will need to get a taxi from the Taormina station to your accommodation, as the walk would take about 40 minutes. You can easily find a taxi just outside the station on the right, and it shouldn’t cost you more than €15.
WHERE TO STAY IN TAORMINA
Taormina is going to be your base for the next two nights.
We stayed in the most beautiful apartment, with the most beautiful view of Taormina. Just look at that incredible view from the balcony! If mount Etna wasn’t erupting, you’d also be able to see her from the apartment, Residence Schuler.
This apartment has everything you need. The location is about a 10-minute walk from the main street, and in a very safe neighborhood, right beside the Police station! It is spacious, clean, and very reasonably priced.
Our host was really helpful too! He gave us a map of Taormina and some information on the best places to visit. He made us feel really welcomed and right at home, and I’d love to go back and visit someday.
WHAT TO DO IN TAORMINA – DAY ONE
VISIT AN ANCIENT ROMAN AMPHITHEATRE
This is, without a doubt, the most impressive site you can visit in Sicily. The Greek Theatre of Taormina is among one of the most impressive in the world! It dates back to the 3rd Century BC, and sits on top of a mountain looking across at Mount Etna on one side, and out at the beautiful coastline on the other.
It’s thought that the Theatre was initially used for dramatic performances and musicals. During Roman times, it was transformed to make space for gladiator battles. Nowadays, people gather at the theatre to enjoy musicals, concerts, and award shows.
A reduced ticket (under the age of 25) will cost you €8.50, and a full-priced ticket is €13.50. The theatre was absolutely amazing to see, and I’d imagine it is even better on a clear day when you can see all the way out to Mount Etna.
GET LUNCH BY THE CORSO UMBRUTO
I hope you’re not fed up with arancini, because we’re going to indulge in one again today. Rosticceria da Cristina serves some delicious street food and is really reasonably priced in comparison to some other spots in Taormina. I’d strongly recommend getting the Bronte Pistacchio Arancini, but don’t have too much because we’re going somewhere special for dessert!
La Pignolata Guinness Cannoli has 4.9 stars on google maps with 557 reviews. That in itself should tell you everything you need to know! This is a small, family-run cannoli store just off the main street. The store gets its name from the fact that they hold the Guinness World record for the largest cannoli ever created! The owner and his son were so friendly and welcoming, and even let us sample some of their delicious pistachio sauce! Although I’ve been such a sucker for pistachio, I’d recommend getting a chocolate cannoli, they’re divine!
VISIT DUOMO DI TAORMINA
Along the Corso Umberto, you’ll also find the gorgeous church, Duomo di Taormina. This church is located on a beautiful square, with a marble fountain in the center.
From here there is also a viewpoint overlooking the coast with the backdrop of Mount Etna. This is the perfect place to sit and people-watch!
For the rest of the day, I’d recommend doing some shopping around the main street. The street itself is so beautiful, and even from the entrance at the Porta Catania, you’ll be blown away by the ancient architecture.
HEAD OUT FOR DINNER AND DRINKS
Pizzeria Villa Zuccaro is a charming pizzeria serving authentic Sicilian cuisine. The location is perfect, just off the main street, with a really peaceful setting in a 17th-century villa. The prices are also great, at only €10 per pizza and about €5 for a delicious tiramisu dessert!
After dinner, Seamus and I were wandering through Corso Umberto when we heard the most incredible live music. We had to check it out and ended up going for a few drinks at La Scala. The atmosphere was great! There were people up dancing, and the singer/guitarist was incredible! Not somewhere we expected we’d go, but I’m so glad we did!
DAY THREE- MOUNT ETNA
TOUR OF MOUNT ETNA, SICILY’S MOST IMPRESSIVE VOLCANO!
We’re visiting the highest active volcano in Europe! Mount Etna erupts on average once a year and is believed to have been the home of the Roman God of Fire. So safe to say, today is gonna be a big day!
For your tour of Etna, I’d strongly recommend that you go with a guide. They can provide a wealth of insight into the history of the volcano, as well as personal insights and stories. There is a wide range of tours available on getting That Guide, ranging from €40 to €100+. Most tours will last about 6 hours, during which you’ll explore the craters, wander around lava fields, admire the incredible views of Sicily, and stop for a lot of breaks!
One thing to consider before taking part in this trek is that you will have to be physically fit. Another is that it gets quite cold at the top of Mount Etna, and in the summer the temperature drops to about 10 degrees. So make sure you pack some layers!
VISIT ISOLA BELLA
If climbing a volcano just isn’t your scene, and you’re looking for a way to relax, you have to visit Isola Bella. This tiny but beautiful Island is located just off the coast of Taormina. On the island, you’ll find an incredible garden with tropical plants and an ornate palace. You can spend some time exploring the gardens or simply relaxing at the beach. You can also kayak around the island, getting a unique perspective of the nearby caves!
DAY FOUR- PALERMO
Today we are heading to the vibrant capital of Sicily, Palermo! You’re going to want to get up early because we have a long morning of travel ahead of us!
HOW TO GET TO PALERMO FROM TAORMINA
The train to Palermo takes about 4/4.5 hours, and you can travel via Catania or Messina. To get to Taormina train station, Taormina-Giardini, you’ll have to grab a taxi, just as we did when we arrived. The cost is €16 and this is the most comfortable way to travel via public transport.
WHERE TO STAY IN PALERMO
This loft is the perfect place to stay in Palermo. It’s clean, spacious, and perfectly located in the heart of the Old Town.
Featuring a balcony and a kitchen, this loft has everything you need for a perfect stay in Sicily’s capital. Our host Maria was really friendly and made us feel right at home. Her son gave us a map with loads of recommendations on what to do and where to go during our stay. And to make it even better, the loft is very reasonably priced at about €48 per night, or €24 per person.
WHAT TO DO IN PALERMO
If there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that you won’t run out of things to do in Palermo. This is Europe’s second-largest historical center, has an abundance of UNESCO world heritage sites, and the nightlife and food are divine!
PALERMO FREE WALKING TOUR
My favourite way to get my bearings in a new city is by doing a Free Walking Tour. This tour will bring you to all of the best monuments in Palermo, and give you an opportunity to learn about its history.
As well as taking in the sites, you’ll have a chance to sample some traditional Sicilian dishes and learn about local life in Sicily’s capital. The tour lasts about 2 hours, and although it is called a “Free” walking tour, it is strongly encouraged to leave a tip! Normally, people leave the amount that they think the tour was worth.
On your tour, make sure to stop and see:
- Quattro Canti (Gorgeous Baroque square lined by statues)
- Piazza Pretoria (The Square of Shame, with the monumental fountain of Palermo at the center)
- Massimo Theatre (The largest theatre in Italy)
- Many churches (Palermo has over 230 ancient churches!)
The Cathedral of Palermo is one of the most iconic and important monuments in Sicily. This church began life as a Christian Basilica, before being converted to a Mosque, and then back to a Christian church. The church is an incredible combination of many architectural styles, including Gothic, Medieval, Classical, and Neoclassical.
The church itself is free to enter. If you want to see the crypt, treasury, tombs, or terraces (roof!) then you will have to pay €7. I’d strongly recommend getting a ticket to see the roof, as it’s quite possibly the best view of Palermo you’ll get!
Tip: To get a full experience visiting the Cathedral, don’t come on a Sunday! On Sunday’s only the church itself is open, and you won’t see the roof, treasury, or crypt.
SANTA MARIA DELL’AMMIRAGLIO
Okay, another church! If you feel satisfied by Palermo’s Cathedral, feel free to give this one a miss. We came here as the roof of the Palermo Cathedral was closed, and the church had such a lovely, quaint charm in comparison.
You can also climb to the roof here and get a birds-eye view of Palermo, and an up-close view of the dome! From here, you’ll also see Palermo’s fountain. The interior of the Church has some beautiful frescos and mosaics.
The cost to enter is €3, and you won’t need to spend more than an hour here.
EXPERIENCE THE STREET MARKETS
I say experience because the street markets truly are an experience. Arriving at the Palermo street markets is like taking a step back in time. Thing Medieval markets, with bustling streets, customers haggling loudly, and the smells of fresh fruit and fish wafting through the air (granted, one smell is better than the other).
The sites, sounds, and smells make this a unique experience in itself. The stalls are overflowing with just about anything you can think of. They’re famous for fruit and vegetables, but you’ll also find clothes, toys, and other trinkets at the stalls.
If you have some time, I’d recommend hiring a guide to take you on a food tour through the stalls. As I’ve mentioned, Sicily is God’s Kitchen, and a guide can show you all of the best street foods to try at the markets.
You won’t have time to visit every market, so I’d recommend heading to our favourite, Ballaro.
WHAT TO EAT IN PALERMO
If you’re looking for a break from Italian food (you maniac), then look no further! FUD serves delicious burgers and sandwiches, with a great selection of vegetarian options too. They also serve a wide range of craft beers and Sicilian desserts!
When we visited, there was a queue for about 20 minutes. This restaurant is really popular, and I’d advise booking in advance if you can.
DAY FIVE- VALLEY OF THE TEMPLES
Today we are going to go on a full-day tour of the valley of the temples, Sicily’s most iconic ancient monuments. Immerse yourself in the rich, ancient heritage of Sicily, by taking some time to explore this remarkable valley, surrounded by the temples of the Gods and Goddesses.
You can find a range of tours to suit your specific needs. I’d recommend seeing this historic site with a tour guide, as it’ll allow you to gain a deeper understanding of life at this time and the importance of these monuments. The cost of the tour is about €60, which is incredibly reasonable for a full-day tour in Sicily.
If you choose to go without a tour, you can pre-book your ticket online here. There are discounted rates for EU citizens from 18-25 years old, but always remember to bring an ID with you!
HOW TO GET TO THE VALLEY OF THE TEMPLES
If you choose not to go with a tour guide, the trip from Palermo to Agrigento will cost you about €9 and will last 2 hours. You can book your tickets on Tren Italia’s website, found here.
AND THAT’S IT!
And that’s it! I hope you’ve had an amazing trip to Italy and found this guide helpful! We really fell in love with the incredible food, amazing beaches, and stunning architecture, and I hope you have too!
Until next time,