Updated: Apr 15
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The island of Sicily is a versatile Italian pearl. There are great cities, but also the beaches are really beautiful and you will find restaurants with delicious fresh fish on the menu everywhere. We had already been to Sicily for a week a couple of years ago, but this was far too short to be able to see all of the islands. That time we also visit mount Etna so this time we skip it but it's really beautiful for a day trip. So when our trip to South Africa was canceled in October, we decided to travel to the Italian island. We love Italy, the food, the temperature, the culture, the people. Also because the temperature in October is still pleasant, days on the beach alternated with some autumn days.
From Amsterdam, we fly directly to Catania where we picked up a rental car and drove on to Taormina in an hour to start our road trip in this beautiful town. On the way back because its offseason we did a stopover in Rome.
Taormina is perhaps the best known and most visited seaside resort in Sicily during the high season. With a cozy little city center, a beautiful old theater with Mount Etna always as a view, and the many beaches it's not a surprise. The center of Taormina is completely car-free and you will find relics from Greek antiquity here. Take a seat on one of the cozy terraces and enjoy the view of the volcano Etna and the ocean is always not far away. For a wonderful day at the beach, we recommend that you visit Isola Bella.
Isola Bella means the 'beautiful island' and this place cannot be described better!
This is the most beautiful place in Sicily and a nice place to start or end the tour in Sicily.
It is not easy to get lost in Taormina as it only has one main street. The city is situated on a mountain slope. You will notice that when you want to put your car somewhere. Narrow streets that go straight up. Just outside the center is a large parking garage where you can easily park. The highlight of Taormina has to be a Greco-Roman theater from the seventh century BC. Goethe thought this was the most beautiful open-air theater in the world. And we can understand that because with Mount Etna in the background and a view over the entire city, that is so beautiful it's really photogenic.
Taormina's International Film Festival is held here every summer. There are also concerts during the festival. From Taormina, you reach the beach of Mazzaro by cable car. Since Taormina is located on https://youtu.be/ocip9v06w28a mountain slope, such a cable car is a good solution. There is also a special shuttle bus service to and from the beach from the old city center. For the real sports fan, there is just a staircase from Mazarro beach to the center of Taormina.
Note: this is a pebble beach, so wear good shoes.
Off the coast, you will find the mini rock-island Isola Bella. At low tide, you walk to this island, at high tide the trouser legs have to be rolled up. There is an old villa on the island. If you're in Taormina, it's lovely to spend a day on the beach here.
The Teatro Greco is one of the largest ancient theaters in Sicily. The semicircular design is typically Greek. A smaller Greek theater may have stood on the same site before being reconstructed by the Romans in the 2nd century. While the Greeks mainly used the space for theater and music, in the Roman period there were mainly gladiator fights. Today it is one of Sicily's premier concert venues. Elton John and Sting have been here in the past. It is very easy to walk from the center and the nice thing is that the open-air theater is still in use. I couldn't believe my eyes as I walked over two-thousand-year-old stones.
Staying: Hotels and B&B there are plenty in Taormina from five-star hotels to cozy B&B in the center or stay outside the center at an Agriturismo, which we did five years ago when we visited here, this saves you some money if you, for example, travel with children.
This time we were looking for a place right in the center so that we could easily photograph the sunset and sunrise without the hassle of parking and traveling. We stayed one street behind the main street of Taormina in the cozy historical B&B Casa Turchetti.
Sicilian hospitality with possibly the best breakfast we would get this trip. The rooms are spacious and have a small typical Italian balcony with an outside view from a corner to the sea and the busy main street but without the noise of the hustle and bustle. In the morning breakfast was usually served outside with a view of Mount Etna on one side and the ancient Amphitheater on the other. The owners are an older couple who do everything to make you feel comfortable, everything is arranged with a lot of love down to the last detail. Recommended Casa Turchetti in the middle of Taormina!!!
Cable car price: 3 euros - bus price: 1 euro
Taormina: Lumbi car park: 98039 Taormina, Messina - from here you can walk to the center of Etna in 5 to 10 minutes: Etna car park: SP92, 19, 95032 Belpasso - from here you can take the cable car up Isola Bella: Isola Bella car park: Via Nazionale 194 D, 98039 Taormina - from here you walk down the stairs to the beach
We continued our journey to Cefalu which is about 3 hours drive from Taormina, there are 2 ways to drive to Cefalu from Taormina. You can go short through the mountains which is fastest or along the coast which we did but there is little to see this part along the coast is generally industrial and highway so I would recommend going short. Cefalu is an old fishing village. It has about 14,000 inhabitants. In recent years, the town has become a popular town for tourists, who often come here for a day trip. The name Cefalu means 'head' in Greek. It refers to the unmissable 270 meters high mountain in the shape of a hat, which dominates the city and on which the town is built. Cefalú is located about 70 kilometers east of Palermo. The Norman cathedral is the central center of the city. This cathedral was built in 1148 by Rogier II with a Byzantine mosaic. In front of the church, you will find a small cozy square with plenty of terraces. A climb from La Rocca to the highest point of Cefalu brings you a panoramic view. We did not do this trip because it was too windy. In October the weather can be very variable, from beach days to autumn days.
Cefalu has a long sandy beach, the Lungomare beach. In the afternoon you mainly walk among many tourists, but in the evening you will find the locals on the street and the terraces. If you sit in between, you get the real Italian holiday feeling. Cefalu's main street is Corso Ruggero. In this busy street, you will find many shops and restaurants. This main street also has some photogenic side streets.
Stay: We stayed in an Airbnb right on the sea with a great view and a few minutes walk to the beach and the main street. Cefalu has a few large hotels just outside the old center and many AirBnB`s in the old center. Prices in the center are a bit higher in the summer than outside.
Parking: You can park for free along the beach just outside the center in October, during the high season it is paid parking and you can also park in a large parking lot fenced by a fence where many campers also park. Promenade Giuseppe Giardina car park: Lungomare Giuseppe Giardina, 90015 Cefalu - this car park is located on the beach
San Vito Lo Capo in about 3 hours we drove further along the coast to the bathing town of San Vito Lo Capo in the extreme northwest of Sicily. One of the most beautiful beaches in Italy, the paradisiacal beach of San Vito lo Capo, breathtakingly beautiful with fine sand, swaying palm trees, and crystal clear seawater that turns a beautiful turquoise in the distance. Truly a dream beach! You imagine yourself in a Caribbean paradise.
San Vito Lo Capo, one of the most famous seaside resorts in Sicily. San Vito Lo Capo is also easily accessible by bus. In high season it is very busy here, but during our trip in October, it was very quiet. For culture you do not have to go to San Vito Lo Capo it feels more like an American town with large roads, but the beach is great, perhaps one of the most beautiful in Europe.
From the tourist resort of San Vito Lo Capo, you can reach the Riserva dello Zingaro, a beautiful nature reserve in northwestern Sicily, in half an hour by car. Zingaro is a protected natural area. It is only accessible on foot. Upon arrival, you will receive an explanation of the possible walking routes at the entrance (where you have to pay a 5 euros entrance fee). If you come to the beach, you can reach the first beach within 15 minutes via a beautiful route. But if you are a fanatic hiker, then there is the possibility to walk hiking trails for 4 to 6 hours in this nature park. Unfortunately, there had been a big natural fire so we could not visit this part.
Lodging: We stayed in a B&B Villa Sauci just outside the center between San Vito Lo Capo and the nature reserve Zingaro. Villa Sauci has a private pool and spacious rooms with balconies with a sea view. There are also rooms available with their own kitchenware, ideal if you want to stay here for a longer period. During the high season, it is paid parking in San Vito Lo Capo, but the B&B Villa Sauci also has its own parking space in San Vito Lo Capo. Breakfast can be booked on the large terrace by the pool or inside the restaurant. The breakfast was good and freshly prepared every morning by the owner's daughter who likes to use natural products from the area.
Scopello, a picturesque town near Castellammare del Golfo in the province of Trapani. Scopello has a pleasant beach with various bars and restaurants and a bakery where you can buy delicious Sicilian sandwiches, topped with tomato, onion, olives, anchovies, and herbs! The cozy town was once famous for its tuna fishing, but tuna fishing is now nothing more than a vague reminder of the past. The still famous tuna trap dates back to the heyday of tuna fishing. This magical location was also the setting for a scene from the movie Ocean's Twelve with George Clooney and Brad Pitt.
Castellammare del Golfo is a cozy Sicilian coastal town on the Golfo di Castellammare. Castellammare used to be the harbor for the towns of Erice and Segesta and later became an Arab fortified town. The harbor dominated by the castle is the main attraction of the town: in the morning you can see the fishermen sailing out in their typical white-blue fishing boats and later returning with delicious fresh fish. You can find their catch on the same day in one of the many restaurants in the town. Sitting on a terrace, you can enjoy various cocktails, Sicilian wines, or delicious and fresh ice or granita. You can take organized boat trips, but you can also rent a boat yourself if you prefer to explore the Golfo di Castellammare on your own. In the summer period, the atmospheric harbor of Castellammare del Golfo comes to life in the evening: the area is closed to traffic, and the various bars, cafes, and restaurants remain open until after midnight
Selinunte After a few beach days we drove to Selinunte on the way we stopped at the salt extraction areas of Marsala. As far as you can see, you will see shallow pools full of water, with white hills of salt on the edge that stand out beautifully against the blue sky. It cannot be missed: you are on the salt coast of Sicily, roughly between Marsala and Trapani.
Here you will find endless plains with salt pans, where the clear seawater is transformed into mountains of 'white gold'. For a long time, salt was a very precious material in Italy. The tax was even levied on it, just like on tobacco, so that it could only be sold in the tabbacherie. Take a good look at the characteristic blue signs with a white T when you walk past a tobacco shop; Tabacchi e sale still stands here. When you see how much work went into making salt, you can fully understand why the salt has been nicknamed 'the white gold' here.
Selinunte was a large city in classical times and its remains can be seen at the excavation site near the seaside resort of Marinella. The excavation site of Selinunte is very extensive and it is dotted with remains of classical temples. Two temples have been reconstructed on the site, but most of the remains of the city are still underground. Remains of temples can also be found on the Acropolis surrounded by ramparts, as well as remains of houses. The oldest temple of Selinunte is located at some height on the Acropolis. This temple dedicated to Heracles was built around 550 BC. built. If you want to relax after a visit to the ruins or are ready for a refreshing swim, you can go to Marinella, where you will find beautiful beaches. Selinunte is located in southwestern Sicily, not far from Mazara del Vallo. It was once one of the island's most important Greek colonies. Wander around the numerous temples, including the Temple of Hera, which is the best-preserved and partly reconstructed between 1956 and 1959. Sicily has a rich Greek past. One of the most beautiful places where you can feel the Greek history of the island is Selinunte, or rather Selinos, as the city was called in ancient times. This was not just any city, but one of the most powerful cities in the world at the time. And even more than two thousand years later you still feel this.
Stay: We stayed here for a few days in the luxurious Momentum resort. Surrounded by a lush green beautiful olive grove, the Momentum Wellness Bio Resort is located completely private on the coast of Selinunte. In the relaxed atmosphere of a traditional and fully renovated Sicilian “Baglio”, this luxury boutique hotel combines modern design and natural local materials to create a relaxed environment with attention to the smallest details.
The Momentum Resort offers 22 comfortable rooms in a refined style. The hotel is designed around the well-being of its guests and offers a spa, a tennis court, a gym, massages, an organic restaurant with the best local produce from the island, and a magnificent pool. They served breakfast in the lovely restaurant with lots of fresh products from the area, you can also dine here, which we did one evening, the cook does a nice job using only organic products. The rooms are spacious and we had a private terrace overlooking the garden and olive grove
Realmonte Agrigento , From Selinunte we drove in an hour to Realmonte which is known for the Valley of the Temples and the white limestone coast Scala Dei Turchi.
The town itself is not very special, but the Scala dei Turchi is!
Scala dei Turchi also called the Turkish Steps, is a very special white limestone rock. This rock is beautifully carved into what the name suggests, a staircase. Legend has it that Turkish pirates used the stairs to land their booty. Today it is a very beautiful place to enjoy the sun and of course the rock itself! From 2019 it is unfortunately no longer possible to walk on the limestone rock itself to protect the unique area. Five years ago we were here to enjoy a day on the rocks but now it locked with fences.
There are several viewpoints along the SP68 road in Realmonte. Google maps: Belvedere Scala dei Turchi. You can park here along the road and if it is full, there is a parking lot (paid). You can also park at the parking lot at the stairs down to the beach and then walk along the road to the viewpoint.
Scala dei Turchi: Parking Parcheggio Scala dei Turchi : Strada Provinciale, 68, 92010 Punta Grande - from here you can easily walk to the rocks and the beach
Agrigento. Here you walk through the historic center of the city and feel the still present Arab and Nomadic influences. You can also visit the best-preserved temples in the world in the Temple Valley. Don't forget your camera, because the 7 temples are worth a photo moment! Valley of the Temples is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and for good reason. The temples were built a few hundred years before Christ and are proof that Sicily has Greek roots. The temples that can still be admired today are more than 2500 years old and that fact in itself is a special feature. A visit to this valley is therefore a must.
Punta Bianca If you still want to sunbathe on the white rocks, Punta Bianca is perhaps even more beautiful than Scala Dei Turchi. Only the road to it is a bit bumpy with many holes and when it has rained it is almost impossible to do. That is probably why it is never really busy. But we've been there twice now and think it's more photo genius as Scala dei Turchi. You can also go for a walk if you are not familiar with the car, but ok this is a challenge too.
Stay: We stayed in an Agriturismo with a beautiful pool overlooking the olive grove and the coast. Casa Balata is a converted farmhouse situated on a hill overlooking the area with olive groves and in the evening you can see the sun sink into the sea. The rooms are spacious and inside it is like traveling through the world with many memories and a beautiful authentic atmosphere. The breakfast is inside or on the lovely terrace outside by the pool. The owner does everything she can to make you feel at home and you get a lot of privacy here, which makes it seem like you have the villa to yourself. In the evening you can take a nice walk through the large garden or walk further up the hill to watch the sun sink into the sea. The B&B has five rooms so there is never any hustle and bustle, just be on time as they sell out quickly. From