This Sicily itinerary will show you exactly how to see the most amazing places on the island without having to rent a car. Using a combination of buses, trains, boats, one bicycle and your own two feet, you’ll be able to see spectacular churches (like the one in Noto, above), breathtaking beaches (my favorite was on the island of Favignana) and charming medieval towns. Along the way you’ll get to taste delicious pizza, eat gelato for breakfast (it’s okay, it’s the Sicilian way!) and stop for more than a few Aperol Spritz(es?).
I recently visited Sicily without hiring a car, and I felt so free without the burden of navigating, parking, refueling and, of course, paying! Sicily is a great car-free travel destination, and with a little bit of planning (often just the night before) you really can take in all of the island’s best destinations without a car. Keep reading to see how!
Sicily Itinerary Overview
This Sicily itinerary is easily accomplished without a rental car. I should know, since I followed this exact route on my recent three-week trip around Sicily. Thanks to Sicily’s good intercity transportation connections and pedestrian-friendly city centers, I didn’t rent a car – or even take a taxi – at any time during my trip! When it comes to traveling in Sicily without a car, you should keep these points in mind:
- Sicily has frequent, affordable bus transportation options, but it often feels like you’re using a different company for every trip. Your route may involve buses on five, six or seven different operators.
- Buses typically run late. If your route requires a change (like Siracusa to Taormina, or Taormina to Agrigento, both of which change in Catania) leave yourself at least an hour between buses. You can always pass the time in a cafe near the bus station.
- Train service is decent along the coast but not practical for trips that require crossing the middle of the island.
- Regional trains to popular destinations are often standing room only. If you want a guaranteed seat, choose a more expensive intercity train (or take a bus).
- In high season, book your ground transportation at least one day in advance and your boat trips as as soon as you know your travel dates.
Sicily Hotels and B&Bs
I traveled with The Lonely Planet Sicily. Published in 2020, information about transportation, attractions and most hotels and restaurants was still current during my trip. However, I often find their accommodation information to be either outdated (or missing some really well-loved, affordable options) so I rely on recent reviews from Booking.com (and their Genius discounts!) for accommodation. That link will take you right to their Sicily page, where you can find all of the properties I stayed at on my trip.
As a solo, mid-budget traveler in Sicily I preferred to stay in B&Bs and family-run guesthouses, rather than hotels. They were typically more affordable, often had very central locations and came with a level of insider local knowledge that you can’t always get from a front desk agent at a chain hotel.
Sicily Food & Drink
The food and drink in Sicily was amazing. As a vegetarian, I always had multiple options (and not just pizza and pasta!).
It’s common to start your day with a small, sweet breakfast, like a cup of granita (similar to shaved ice) or a pastry. At lunch, I looked for restaurants with vegetarian buffets (usually full-service, rather than self-service) or that served big salads. In the early evening I’d look for a nice aperitivo bar where I could have a cocktail and a few snacks, and that was often the last thing I’d eat (since I couldn’t stay awake long enough to have dinner too!).
I was in Sicily for the second half of July and early August, and it was hot. Remember to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water, and consider supplementing with a bit of Gatorade or Powerade if you’re feeling really run down from the heat. I often buy a five-liter jug of water and keep it in my hotel room to refill the reusable bottle I take out exploring; while Sicilian tap water is drinkable, it’s not exactly delicious.
Now, with all that information out of the way, it’s time to jump straight into my Sicily travel itinerary!
#1 – Arrive in Catania
Your Sicily itinerary will probably begin in Catania, which is home to Sicily’s busiest airport. Most of the island’s intercity buses stop at the airport, so you could head directly to another destination, but I think it’s absolutely worthwhile to spend at least two nights in this busy port.
From the airport, the public ALIBUS departs regularly for the city center. I suggest taking it to the end of the line, Piazza Borsellino, where it’s only two minutes by foot to the main plaza and to my recommended accommodation option: BAD (Breakfast & Design). This independent B&B has rooms with chic decor and the perfect, central location. Your host, Alessandro, will give you a map with the city’s walkable highlights, so you can drop your bags and start exploring by foot immediately.
Things to Do in Catania
- There’s a pretty figure-eight walking route through the city center. It takes about half a day (if you stop at one or two of the sights) and includes one uphill section. You’ll see the fish market, Piazza Duomo and the famous elephant obelisk, Teatro Massimo, the Roman Amphitheater and Castello Ursino.
- On the uphill section of your walk, stop at NelsonSicily, a gourmet food shop where you can stock up on artisan products like Bronte pistachios, cream of pistachio, pistachio liqueur, pistachio chocolate bars… you get the idea.
Catania Restaurant Recommendations
- My favorite restaurant in Catania was La Cucina dei Colori. This is a healthy vegetarian restaurant with a full-service lunch buffet featuring local, seasons ingredients. On the day I visited they were serving rustic panelle (chickpea pancakes), fritters made from local greens and stuffed with cheese, stewed chard, farro salad and a house interpretation of ratatouille.
- Some people say you need to visit Trattoria del Forestiero while you’re in Catania, as its thought to have the best and most authentic pasta alla norma (and the nonna in the kitchen once taught Jamie Oliver how to make her iconic dish). I’ve had equally good pasta alla norma elsewhere, and with far better service.
- I’m a vegetarian, so I didn’t try any of the fish at Catania’s famous fish market. However, I did stop by fish-centric street food hub Scirocco Sicilian Fish Lab for a cone filled with their vegetarian fritto misto, with battered and fried veggies, fava beans and pistachio-stuffed arancini.
You can travel from Piazza Borsellino to Siracusa on Interbus. Buy your tickets a day or two in advance, if possible. Take the bus to the end of the line (Corso Gelone) in Siracusa.