Earlier this year Annie, my dog, and I took a 1 week trip to Sicily.
When you mention Sicily, there is usually some off-hand quip about not having any run-ins with the Cosa Nostra! Whilst there is no denying that the island, unfortunately, does still suffer at the hands of the Mafia, it is so much more than this cliched connection.
Steeped in a very particular culture and history, with a varied and beautiful set of landscapes, food to die for and welcoming locals; it is a wonderful island.
I decided that I wanted to spend most of my time in the South East of the island. It is known for being quieter than the North, the beaches are less crowded and there are many UNESCO World Heritage Sites and impressive architecture. This Sicily 7 day itinerary focuses on that part of the island.
There is so much to see and do that it is impossible to visit everything in one week but, hopefully, our Sicily 1 week itinerary will inspire you.
How to get to Sicily
Because I travel everywhere with my dog Annie, we came over to the Island by car. We got a ferry from Reggio Calabria to Messina. It is the shortest ferry crossing possible at just half an hour. It was a hairy loading, Sicilians don’t like to queue, but once we arrived on the Island we knew it was worth it.
If you are flying in, the two main airports are Palermo, the capital of the island, and Catania. We would recommend hiring a car so that you can explore all the hidden coastal coves and mountain villages along the way. The scenery on the drives is outstanding and adds so much to the experience.
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Sicily 7 day itinerary
Days 1 & 2 Enjoy the beaches around Cefalu
Before heading South we visited Cefalu for a couple of days. It is pronounced Chef-a-loo, and it is only around an hours drive from Palermo. It is a charming coastal town with renowned beaches and a sleepier feel than the bigger cities.
We, rather foolishly, visited at peak tourist season in August. This meant that the beaches, although still stunning, were extremely busy. We would recommend visiting Sicily in late Spring or early Autumn, not only is everything so much quieter, but you will also escape the stifling summer heat.
To get away from the crowds, Annie and I stayed at Cuore Della Valle in a self-catering apartment in the hills just above Cefalu. Not only did it mean that we were treated to amazing views of the town and coastline on our way back down, but we were also surrounded by the wonderful tranquillity of the Madonie National Park. It is perfect for nature lovers and those that want to enjoy some wonderful hikes, stopping off at some traditional mountain villages. Sandro, the owner of the apartments is passionate about the area and can advise you on the best trails to walk on.
After Cefalu, we made our way inland heading down to the south-east of the Island. On our drive down we were rewarded with views of Mount Etna, the highest volcano in Europe and one of the most active in the world. There was a constant stream of smoke billowing from its peak.
Days 3 & 4 – Wander the streets of Ragusa
Our base for the second part of our trip was Ragusa. We stayed in the newer part of the town, Ragusa Superiore. Our accommodation was right next to the impressive Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista and very close to a bustling street full of wonderful restaurants. It comes alive after 7 pm in the evening.
A fifteen-minute walk downhill takes you into the more famous section of the town, Ragusa Ibla, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The walk down affords you a seriously impressive view of the whole of Ibla. It is something to behold. A baroque gem, you need a day to explore the winding streets, stopping to take refuge from the heat in the many wonderful Churches.
The impressive Piazza Duomo was the setting for many scenes from the much revered Italian Crime Drama, Inspector Montalbano.
I ended the day enjoying some shade and serenity in the Giardino Ibleo with a refreshing Granita (a regional drink of crushed ice with fresh fruit).
Day 5 – Be prepared to be blown away by Siracusa
Siracusa, or Syracuse, is another not-to-be-missed town. Just an hour and a half drive from Ragusa, taking in some wonderful coastline.
If you are short on time, head straight to the Island of Ortygia. It is an explorers delight! Absolutely jam-packed with jaw-dropping architecture and stunning lagoon views. Pick a street side Trattoria to soak up the atmosphere and people watch.
Day 6 – Noto: A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Our second to last day was spent in Noto, only an hour away from Ragusa. The town was completely destroyed by an earthquake in the late 1600s. It was rebuilt from scratch and is now a baroque era masterclass. It is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. I am not normally blown away by architecture, natural landscapes are more my passion, but I was bowled over in this town.
Eloro-Pizzuta and Eloro are two nearby beaches that have a reputation for being secluded and unspoilt. I must admit, they were not as secluded as I had imagined. Being high season, they were still busy but they are in a beautiful spot and it is worth stopping to enjoy the fresh sea air.
Day 7 – A night of relaxation in Gaggi
On my last night on the Island, we had driven back up to be closer to Messina for the return ferry. We stopped in the unassuming working village of Gaggi. We stayed in Torre Di Sebastiano. Tucked away on a narrow back alley, approaching the house it seems totally unremarkable. Once you go inside you are greeted by stylish decor in a cool interior and then a wonderful, tranquil terraced garden with a great little pool. This B & B was a real treat and the perfect way to relax before the chaos of the ferry the next day.
My top tip is to make sure you are prepared for the mosquitoes. They are relentless in the hot months. Make sure you cover up at dawn and dusk and don’t forget to bring a good quality repellent. Sicily is also a great destination to visit in winter if you’re looking for some European winter sun, when the tourist crowds are much smaller and the heat isn’t as relentless.
If you’re looking for more Italy travel advice, check out these guides:
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- Florence 2-day itinerary
- Island hopping in Sardinia
- What to pack for Italy
- Pisa in one day
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- Tuscany 4-day itinerary
- 1-day Venice itinerary
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