Sicily: driving route through Palermo, Syracuse and Catania

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean, its capital Palermo has more than five million inhabitants, and if you are thinking of visiting it by car, you are going to love it. The main cities of the island are Catania, Palermo, Messina, and Syracuse. If you fly with the Alitalia company (which, by the way, is always late, there is always some “problem with the runway” and/or “technical review”) you will arrive in Rome to make a stopover and later arrive in Catania, from here you can rent a car to tour the island.

The city of Catania is divided into three main avenuesVia Vittorio Emanuele, Via Etna (leads directly to Piazza Duomo), and Corso Italia (this is where the largest number of shops and shopping centers in the city are concentrated). Via Etna passes by Villa Bellini (with very beautiful gardens to walk around), the Roman Amphitheater (Piazza di Borsa), and reaches Piazza Duomo which is where the Cathedral is located, admission is free and it is much more spectacular from the outside inside.

From the square that overlooks the Cathedral you can then stroll through the old part of the city, some of the most beautiful streets are Piazza Università, the Roman Theater (near Piazza San Francesco), or Via di Crociere. On the tour of the city and down Via Etna towards the Cathedral, if you can, make a stop at the Spinella bar (Vita Etna, 300) and ask for any of the pastries they have (it is specialized in Sicilian cuisine), it is one one of the oldest in the city and most spectacular. To have a beer, make a stop at the Bassfist bar or the Trattoria and Pub Nievski (Via Alessi, 15/17), which is located in the heart of the Sicilian Baroque, next to some steps.

To go out to dinner and have a few drinks, go to the Teatro Massimo Vincenzo Bellini (in Piazza V. Bellini), which is where the atmosphere of the city is found. Near the Theater is the Castello Ursino (Piazza Federico II di Svevia), and the Palazzo Biscari (Via Museo Biscari) architecturally impressive, the color of the walls is grayish/black because it is made with the dust of Etna.

About 47 kilometers from Catania (approximately 1 hour) you can go up to the Parco dell etna where the Etna Volcano is, and from here (depending on the time of year) you can make several excursions to the volcano, there is also quite a lot of accommodation along of the hillside in case you want to spend the night within the parking area. It is a truly spectacular landscape and above all, the solidified lava and the craters that you will see as you climb to the base of the volcano.

From Catania you can get to   Syracuse (a journey of approximately 1 hour and 67 kilometers), the interest of this city is mainly in the Parco Archeologico del la Neapolis. Admission costs € 10 and is quite worth it, especially to see the Greek Theater and  L’Orecchio di Dionisio.

From Siracusa it travels to L’Isola di Ortigia (a distance of 7 kilometers), it has authentic streets that lead to the Plaza de la Catedral d’Ortigia and the church of Santa Lucia, a walk through these and the port is wonderful.

From L’Isola di Ortigia, move to Taormina, (at a distance of 121 kilometers) it is one of the most spectacular stops you will find on the island. It is a coastal town very oriented to tourism, but within how exploited it is, it retains a lot of charm. His interest is in strolling through its main street Corso Umberto I, reaching Piazza Duomo and seeing its fountain, crossing through Porta Messina, the views of the coast from Piazza IX Aprile, going up Via Teatro Greco lined with palaces and souvenir shops, and get to the Greek Theater (admission costs € 4) from where you have stunning views at sunset.

If you go early, eat at any of its trattorias, dine at La Giara or have a drink in some of the lounges that are in the streets parallel to Corso Umberto I, one of the coolest is the Lounge Metropole Taormina with stunning views of the coast.

On the way to Palermo, make a stop in Agrigento, a town (it has more than sixty thousand inhabitants) with an impressive archaeological complex full of temples (it is considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1998), known as the Valley of Temples that the Greeks built. The entrance costs € 10, the tour is done on foot since between the temples there are distances of up to 300 meters, if you can have a local guide you will enjoy it a lot. Some of the best-preserved temples are that of Concordia, however, all of them are a spectacle, on a journey through the valley you will see the Temple of Hera, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, theTemple of Heracles, the Temple of Asclepius, the Temple of Hephaestus or the Temple of the Dioscuri.

Before arriving in Palermo, make a stop at Monreale, this town near Palermo (a distance of 10 kilometers) has an incredible cathedral with a mosaic of the Pantocrator and a biblical scene decorated with mosaics of very bright and bright colors. From the cathedral square it is worth taking a walk around the town and from here go down to Palermo.

Already in Palermo, the city is quite manageable to be able to kick it without using public transport/car. It is a city that is full of baroque churches and neoclassical theaters. The most interesting areas are the Central StationBallaro and Capo, between Via Vittorio Emanuele, Corso Tukory, cutting with Via Roma and Via Maqueda, these streets are to the west of the city.

In Ballarò is the Palazzo Reale or Palazzo dei Normandi and within it the Cappella Palatina (the entrance costs 10 euros and is an impressive mosaic from the foot to the domes of biblical scenes, this chapel was dedicated to Saint Peter), the church of San Giovani Degli Eremiti (the interest of this church is that it was built based on a mosque) and the Piazza del Carmine.

In Capo is where the Cattedrale and the Piazza della Cattedrale , the Teatro Massimo , Piazza Beata Paoli , Quattro Canti , Mercatto delle Pulci , the Oratory of San Domenico and Chiesa San Mateo . Walk the streets Via Bandiera and Via Sant Agostino . And in the Vucciria area, go through Via Casari and Via Argenteria .

Make a stop at the cafes in the city and try the Cannoli sweets, it is a hard cookie wafer with ricotta cheese and sugar, they are impressive.

Shopping

The most interesting city for shopping is Palermo and its Via Della Liberta, in this street a large number of Italian brands ( Miu Miu, Prada, Dolce & Gabanna, Liu. jo, Emporio Armani or Gucci ) and French brands ( Hermès or YSL ) are concentrated ), as well as multi-brand stores (with international fashion firms).

However, its street markets are more interesting. Come to the Ballarò market, it has mainly food, clothes, and trinkets in general, but here you will be able to experience the pulse of the city and the most authentic Sicily. It is highly recommended to buy the bresaola here, the parmesan and the pesto. Another market that is worth visiting is the Mercato delle Pulci (it has an air of Brussels, although here the stalls have their space) where you can find everything, yes, you have to look closely ☺

 

Nor can you leave the island without having been to the Sicilia Village Outlet, it has a good number of Italian and North American brands: Coccinelle, Bruno Magli, Botticelli, Armani, Brooks Brothers, Ermenegildo Zenga, Gant, Guru, Freddy, Gucci, Ferrari, Trussardi, Patrizia Pepe, Puma or Lacoste. It is open 7 days a week from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. To get there, you have to take the A19 Palermo-Catania utopista, exit Dittaino-Outlet, it is quite easy to see since it is next to the road.

In Catania the main shopping streets are Via Etna and Corso Italia, this last street also concentrates a large number of multi-brand stores, shoe stores, and Italian brand stores.

In Taormina, make a stop at Musumeci, it is a multi-brand store ( Marc Jacobs, Stella McCartney, Marni or Jil Sander ) quite cool, although the prices are more expensive than in Palermo or Catania. Other shops to make a stop on Corso Umberto I are Red ValentinoLe Colonne jewelry store (very original and with a Greco-Roman aesthetic), or Coccinelle handbag store. Also, visit the Don Corleone studio, you can find works of art at reasonable prices.

Without a doubt, the best dates to visit the island are in spring, although in autumn you can catch some very good days (if you go in autumn you will see some spectacular orange groves, always crowned by Etna).

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