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Best 12 Day Itinerary In Sicily In Fall (2023)

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Last Updated on January 16, 2023 by Nicole

Sicily is one of the most incredible places that we have ever visited in the world. The landscapes are stunning, with fascinating history and architectural treasures, beautiful beaches, incredible food, and some of the kindest and most welcoming people we have ever met. My husband and I rented a car and did a 12 day road trip in October in Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and although we didn’t see everything (as expected), we saw a lot! We were there long enough to fall in love with it and report back about why it should be at the top of your bucket list. Here is the best 12 day itinerary of Sicily in October.

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Other Destinations

If you are not completely settled on a trip to Sicily but would like to travel in October, please review:

For those not settled on October, but wish to travel to Europe, here are options in other months:

If you are specifically looking for warm weather European destinations, please see 27 Best Beaches To Visit In Europe In June and 25 Best Beach Holidays in Europe In September

For those looking for fantastic locations with lovely mild summer temperatures, please see 24 Best Places To Visit In Europe For Mild Summer Weather.

Alternatively, if you have changed your mind and now want a snowy winter wonderland, please see 17 Best Snowy Winter Wonderlands To Visit In Europe.

Best 12 Day Road Trip Itinerary For Sicily In October

Here is a quick snapshot of our October 12 day Sicily trip.

Day 1 – Land in Cantania and go to Noto

Day 2 – Explore Siracusa

Day 3 – Explore Noto, Modica and Ragusa

Day 4 – Go to Agrigento and explore the Valley of The Temples

Day 5 – Go to Castellammare del Golfo and explore town and beaches

Day 6 – Hike Zinagaro Private Reserve

Day 7 – Take boat tour and go to Palermo

Day 8 – Explore Palermo

Day 9 – Go to Taormina and explore town

Day 10 – Go up Mount Etna

Day 11 – Go to beaches in Taormina and drive up to Castelmola

Day 12 – Go to Catania and depart Sicily.

Below, I have organized this 12 day itinerary into mini itineraries. Usually, we spent between 2-4 days in one hotel exploring an area so you can easily see what we did and whether this would be too much or too little time for you. In addition, I highlight our accommodation and restaurants choices and what I thought of each.

Finally, I provide a list of recommendations and tips for how I would improve our time in each destination (if possible) and which pitfalls I would try and avoid (if any).

Weather

Average highs in October for all of Sicily is 75 °F with lows ranging from 58 °F to 65 °F. However, it is much warmer the first half of October than the second. Expect daytime temperatures to be around 80 °F. There is hardly any humidity and only a few days of rain, mostly towards the end of the month.

When we were in Sicily, we had consistent daytime temperatures of 80 °F with much cooler evenings. You will want a warm sweater or jacket in the evening for walks and if you want to eat dinner outside.

Day One – Day Three: Val Di Noto

Val di Noto is a geographical territory in southeastern Sicily. A devastating earthquake in 1693 struck the region and leveled the towns that existed, requiring them all to be rebuilt.

When the towns were reconstructed, they each adopted the Late Baroque style prevalent in Europe at the time. Accordingly, the towns are harmonious with each other, built with stunning white or honey coloured stone, with elegant Baroque style decorations and accents.

In 2002, the Val di Noto became a UNESCO World Heritage Site (The Baroque Cities of the Val di Noto). It consists of eight towns: Caltagirone, Militello in Val di Catania, Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo Acreide, Ragusa and Scicli.

Many are set against spectacular scenery, such as Modica and Ragusa, where the towns seem to perch perilously against the steep side of hills with deep valleys running below.

We stayed in Noto, and visited four others: Catania (briefly), Noto, Modica, and Ragusa.

best october itinerary in Sicily
Noto

Where did we stay?

We stayed 3 nights in Noto at San Carlo Suites in the pedestrian zone. This is a beautiful small boutique hotel right in the center of the tourist district. However, it is tucked onto the second floor of building and feels quiet and removed from the busy walking zone.

The suites are luxurious with large bathrooms. They offer North American king size beds (180 cm x 200 cm) which are difficult to find in the old towns and cities of Sicily.

Tips And Recommendations

  • I would recommend against moving from hotel to hotel in Val Di Noto. Instead, choose a home base and drive to the different cities in which you are interested and explore for the day. They are close to each other and the roads between them are easy to drive. Locating hotels and parking in each city, and generally maneuvering in the tight one lane roads around the old parts of the city, is time consuming, stressful and an unnecessary waste of your time.
  • I had trouble finding well priced group day tours in several spots in Sicily in addition to finding any private guides. However, over our 12 day Sicilian vacation, whenever I asked any of our hotels for assistance, they supplied excellent guides for very reasonable prices.
  • I think 3 nights is the perfect amount of time in this region.
exploring noto on 12 day Sicilian itinerary
Noto

Day 1 – Catania and Noto

We landed from a long international flight around 6:00 pm local time, then picked up our rental car. We drove just over an hour to Noto and arrived around 9:00 pm.

Where did we eat dinner?

We had dinner in the upscale Anche Gli Angeli. It was excellent but on the pricier side.

Travel Tips and Recommendations

  • Try to make sure that you arrive and depart Catania in daylight. Driving in and around Catania, even on the highways, is a little crazy and stressful, especially if it is your first day in Italy and you are unfamiliar with the area or how people drive in Italy. Turns and exits come quickly and are not well signed so trying to navigate the roads in the dark is difficult.
  • Once we left Catania, the drive on the highway to Noto was easy and uneventful.
  • The streets in Noto in the tourist area are mostly one way and narrow with lots of free street parking. Driving can be stressful with tight lanes that often take you around your destination, not directly to it.
  • We could not park at our hotel, Carlos Suites, because it was in the pedestrian zone. Once we parked nearby, we also had a hard time finding the hotel because the hotel is on the second floor, with a nondescript door off of the walking zone. Once we figured out where to park and where our hotel was, Noto was an easy destination to use as a home base for the balance of our stay.
  • Once we parked, we had to walk with out suitcases to the hotel. It wasn’t hard or long, but if you have any physical constraints this might be challenging.
best road trip in Sicily in October
Noto

Day 2 – Noto and Siracusa

Morning

We slept late and walked briefly along the pedestrian zone in Noto, admiring the stunning architecture.

Afternoon

We drove 35 minutes from Noto to Siracusa. It was an easy drive exiting Noto, going along local country roads, and then, on the highway.

I had booked a 4 1/2 boat cruise from Siracusa for our first day. I thought that it would be a nice way to get over the jet lag and see some sites without having to concentrate too much or walk too far. However, the waters were choppy and the boat cruise was cancelled.

The rest of the day was amazing. None of it planned!

best Sicilian itinerary in october
Ortigia

Ortigia

Ortigia is an island, the historical heart of Syracuse and joined by three bridges. It’s known as the “old town” and it’s an absolute treasure to explore. It is brimming with 2,500 years of history, with spectacular Greek ruins, and ancient catholic churches.

There are endless stalls and small shops offering classic Sicilian street food such as arancini and cannoli, and fantastic shopping with shops displaying cool clothing from Sicilian fashion designers or artisan wares.

We walked around for a couple of hours, eating and shopping. We also toured the magnificent Syracuse Cathedral and the plaza on which it sits.

best road trip in Sicily in October
Ortigia

It’s ancient roots begin in the 5 BC when it was the Greek Temple of Athena. It was later transformed into a Catholic Church and the first Christian community in Europe was born. It is now a Unesco World Heritage Site.

We also found a one hour boat cruise around Ortigia. There are lots of vendors selling tickets on the street for boat cruises. We got to see Ortigia from the water and explore some of the caves around the island. It was a pleasant way to spend an hour.

Where did we eat dinner?

In Noto, we first went to Loggia Enoteca Valdinoto, a wine bar with a large outdoor plaza, for drinks and appies. This was a nice setting. However, you are paying a bit extra for the courtyard wine bar vibe. Then, we shared a pizza at Pizzeria Ramolia, about a five minute walk away. Pizza was delicious and very inexpensive.

Travel Tips and Recommendations

  • After our 12 day Sicilian vacation, I can tell you that Ortigia is special. You should try and include it on your trip to Sicily.
  • After our driving and parking experience in Catania and Noto, we decided to park near the entrance to Siracusa, at the Siracusa train station, and walk the 15 minutes to Ortigia. That was a good decision. We avoided the chaos of the city, found free parking, and easily exited the city at the end of the day.
  • I would not pre-book any boat tour in Siracusa. I would wait and see what you feel like seeing and doing once you arrive. There are lots of companies selling one-hour same day boat trips by the bridges into Ortigia. It was a nice way to spend an hour and I liked seeing Ortigia from the water, but it wasn’t anything exceptional that I would categorize as a “must see”.
view of Modica on Sicilian road trip
Modica

Day 3 – Noto, Modica and Ragusa

Morning

We started our morning walking up and down Noto, admiring the stunning architecture, going into buildings when we could. It is a very easy city to walk and explore on your own.

Afternoon

In the afternoon, we took a 4 hour private tour of Modica and Ragusa (150 € total). Our hotel recommended a private guide and he was excellent.

We each took our own car. We followed him 45 minutes by car to Modica, then another 30 minutes to Ragusa. In each town, we spent 1.5 hours on foot walking in the cities, going into cathedrals, forts and other historically significant buildings. Once we finished exploring Ragusa, he left for a separate appointment and we drove one hour back to Noto.

Both cities are stunningly beautiful and filled with incredible buildings to explore. Each are perched on the side of steep hills, with winding and cobblestone streets, and spectacular views.

Where did we eat dinner?

For dinner, we treated ourselves to Norma Bistrot in Noto. What an absolute treasure. If you are looking for an upscale restaurant with exceptional food and atmosphere, then you will be happy with this restaurant. You should book a reservation.

Travel Tips and Recommendations

  • The main tourist area of Noto is on Corso Vittorio Emanuele, a mostly pedestrian walking zone. There are two other streets worth exploring. Via Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour is above and Via Ducezio is below and they frame the rest of the tourist area.
  • Both Modica and Ragusa are worth visiting. However, if you only have time for one, I’d go to Ragusa. Ragusa’s old town is larger, and the buildings are extraordinarily elegant. We walked around a beautiful garden. There is also a large plaza with lots of restaurants, bars and shopping, and fantastic people watching.

Day Four: Agrigento

Agrigento is a city on the southwestern coast of Sicily. It is known for the ancient ruins of the Valley of the Temples.

The Valley of the Temples comprises the beautiful ruins of 9 ancient sacred temples, originally built in 5th century BC. It houses some of the best-preserved Ancient Greek ruins in the world outside of Greece and is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

The best preserved of the ruins is the 5th century BC Temple of Concorde, saved from destruction when it was incorporated into an early Christian church. It is almost wholly intact and never refurbished. It is an extraordinary site to see.

pool at Casa Realia with ocean views
Pool at Casa Realia in Agrigento

Where did we stay?

We stayed one night at Casa Realia, a beautiful large multi-room B & B with pool and stunning ocean views. We were a short drive to Valley of the Temples and the coastal town of San Leone where we ate lunch and dinner.

Morning

We left Noto in the morning and drove approximately 125 miles (200 km) from Noto to Agrigento. There were two options for this road trip. Google Maps said the fastest and best route was on the highway, first driving back up to Catania and then, across the island to Agrigento. The alternative option was driving on rural roads, past Ragusa, and then along the coast to Agrigento. This option was 25 miles (40 km) shorter but 30 minutes longer by car.

We decided to not take the highway, but the rural roads. We thought we would see beautiful country scenery, go through lovely little towns, and be showered with stunning coastal views once we reached the coast. However, this drive was not pretty or interesting. We barely saw the coast. Take the highway!

Afternoon

After checking into Casa Realia in Agrigento, we drove to the coastal town of San Leone for lunch. There are dozens of restaurants filled with locals offering mostly seafood.

We ate at Portobello Trattoria where the daily menu was written by hand. It was Sunday and jam packed with Italians and their families. It was loud and the tables were overflowing with food. The food was exceptional and the atmosphere was fun.

After lunch, we lounged for a couple of hours by the pool soaking up the beautiful warmth of the sun and the incredible views.

At 5:00 pm, we met our guide at 5:00 pm at the Valley of the Temples for a two hour private walking tour (130 € total arranged by our hotel). This was an absolutely incredible walk through amazingly preserved ancient ruins.

We had one hour in daylight, and then, one hour with a sunset and the gradual descent into darkness. As it got darker, lights began to shine on each ruin. It was very pretty and romantic, as well as interesting.

BC Temple of Concord
BC Temple of Concorde in Valley of the Temples

Where did we eat dinner?

After our tour of the Valley of the Temples, we headed back to San Leone and ate dinner at Pescatore. This restaurant was upscale and refined. It was good, but not as good as our lunch at Portobello Trattoria. It was a little on the expensive side relative to lunch as well.

The whole vibe of San Leone at night was very different from lunch. The road with all the restaurants was now blocked to road traffic and was now a pedestrian only zone. The restaurants were filled with locals enjoying dinner and the streets were jam packed with cars or people walking. It felt like a street party.

Travel Tips and Recommendations

  • There are two entrances to the Valley of The Temples. The eastern entrance next to Juno Temple and the western entrance Porta Quinta. The western entrance has a large parking lot. The eastern entrance only has room for a few cars.
  • If you are meeting a guide at the eastern entrance to the Valley of the Temples, you need to give yourself LOTS of time to find parking and then walk, or take a taxi from the western entrance parking lot.
  • The advantage of parking at the western entrance but starting your tour at the eastern entrance is that you only have to go one way through the Valley of the Temples and you are walking downhill. This way you maximize your time and capture the sunsetting on the best temples with the best views at optimum times. Once finished your tour, you are already next to the western entrance where your car is parked.
  • Unbeknownst to us, the Valley of the Temples is free on the first Sunday of the month (the day we visited). It was very busy when we went so parking was even tougher than normal. However, the site is large with lots of room to spread out. It did not feel crowded at all once we were inside walking.
  • We did not go into the town of Agrigento. After our days spent exploring the cities and towns of the Val di Noto, we chose an afternoon relaxing by the pool.
  • Was one day and night enough in Agrigento? I would not have added any more time in Agrigento to see the town. On the other hand, had we not gone to the beach town of Castellammare del Golfo the following day, I would have loved to spend another day relaxing by the pool at Casa Realia. It was truly a wonderful way to spend some down time.

Day Five – Day Seven: Castellammare Del Golfo

Castellammare Del Golfo is a traditional fishing village and beach town an hour west of Palermo. It is also a 20 minute drive west to Zingaro Nature Reserve. We spent two days hiking, boating, lying by the pool, and swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. It was glorious!

Where did we stay?

We spent two nights at Marina di Petrolo, a small boutique hotel perched on top of a cliff in town with a fantastic pool and unbelievable views to the Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea. We were mere steps to the central Piazza Petrolo and countless mouthwatering restaurants. It was wonderful.

View of Castellammare Del Golfo from the Sea
Castellammare Del Golfo

Day 5 – Castellammare Del Golfo

Morning

We drove 1 hour 45 minutes from Agrigento to Castellammare Del Golfo, one side of the island to the other. Most of the drive was on the main highway. Despite this, the views were quite pretty and we were able to see a lot of the countryside.

Afternoon

After checking in, we walked around the town ultimately picking up ridiculously inexpensive made to order sandwiches from a deli. We then walked to the Piazza and ate them while looking out to the Mediterranean Sea. It was perfect!

Afterwards, we went back to the car, drove down to the beach, and walked along the soft golden sand. Then, we headed back to the pool for cocktails, naps and sunbathing.

delicious food on 12 day Sicilian itinerary
Mussels from dinner

Where did we eat dinner?

We had one of our favorite meals in Sicily on our first night in Castellammare del Golfo. We ate on the patio at La Timpa, a restaurant perched on top of the Piazza overlooking the Gulf below. It was beautiful and romantic.

We shared mussels in a wine sauce and a pizza and could barely move when finished. We waddled back to our hotel.

Travel Tips and Recommendations

  • If you are looking for a beach holiday, the beaches in and around Castellammare del Golfo would be an excellent choice. However, after September 30, the beach no longer offers lifeguards, most of restaurants right on the beach are closed, and there is only a small selection of lounge chairs and umbrellas to rent. However, the parking is free, the beaches are spectacular and nearly empty, and the Mediterranean Sea is still lovely and warm.
Zingaro Nature Reserve
Views from our hike in Zingaro Nature Reserve

Day 6 – Zingaro Nature Reserve

Zingaro Nature Reserve was established in 1981 and the first protected area in Sicily. It is a mountainous area that dives into the Mediterranean Sea with walking and hiking paths that wind their way from Scopello to Capo San Vito.

From one side to another, it is 4.35 miles (7 km). It takes approximately 2 hours one way to do the full hike if you do not stop at any of the beaches and swim, or explore some of the other spots along the way.

As you hike, the views of the mountain, the sea, the coves and the beaches are truly breathtaking.

Morning

We started early on this day trip. We drove to the Scopello entrance to Zingaro Nature Reserve. It is about 20 minutes from Castellammare Del Golfo.

We hiked around 3.7 miles and then headed down to one of the beaches, Cala Dell’Uzzo, before retracing our steps back to the entrance. The views from start to finish were utterly mesmerizing.

At the beach, we stripped down into our bathing suit and jumped into the beautiful cool and crystal clear turquoise waters. Fish swam all around us. It was heaven.

Afternoon

Back to the pool for cocktails, sunbathing, and naps.

Where did we eat dinner?

We ate on the patio at Egesta Mare, a pretty restaurant tucked between two buildings. The food was unbelievably good, most dishes offering delicious fresh-caught seafood. It was also well priced.

the beach at Zingaro nature reserve
The beach where we swam at Zingaro Nature Reserve

Travel Tips and Recommendations

  • We arrived at Zingaro Nature Reserve at 9:00 am. The parking lot was virtually empty. For the first 2 hours, we practically had the hiking trail to ourselves. However, the trail was super busy on our return. Also, when we finished our hike at 1:30 pm, the parking lot was full, as well as the next two parking lots that I had not even noticed when we first arrived.
  • It was REALLY hot by 11:00 am. We struggled walking in the heat. Remember, it was October. I can’t imagine the heat in summer.
  • If I did it again, I’d try and arrive at least an hour earlier, if not more, to avoid the crowds that showed up later and for cooler temperatures.
  • You need to wear closed toe shoes with a tread. They don’t have to be hiking shoes, but that would be ideal. Avoid flip flops or sandals.
  • You can purchase food and drinks before you enter the park, but not after. Make sure you bring lots of water with you.
  • There are only bathrooms at the entrance.
  • The “Easy” trail was, in fact, easy with gentle inclines and declines. However, the heat made it challenging.

Day Seven – Day Eight: Palermo

Palermo is the capital of Sicily. The old town is large and gritty, filled with unbelievable architecture, street markets, restaurants, and stalls selling some of the best street food in Europe. It is only an hour from Castellammare del Golfo, but they are so different from each other, you feel like you have left and gone to another country.

Where did we stay?

We stayed 2 nights at the beautiful Palazzo Natoli, right in the pedestrian zone in the old town. Our one bedroom, with kitchen and small patio, was stunning, quiet and luxurious. The location was exceptional.

Day 7 – Castellammare Del Golfo and Palermo

Morning

We checked out of our hotel, stored out luggage at reception, then walked to the harbor. For four hours, we took a small boat cruise offered by Raggio de Sole.

Wonderfully, we retraced our travels to and through Zingaro Nature Reserve, except from the sea. We went in and out of coves; anchored and swam; sunbathed, drank iced coffee and Prosecco, and ate snacks. There was only one other couple on board.

It was an amazing and beautiful way to spend our day. The views of Zingaro from the boat were stunning. We also saw pretty little villages and beaches on the shore that we could not have seen the previous day from our car or on foot.

boat tour from Castellammare Del Golfo
Caves on our boat tour from Castellammare Del Golfo

Travel Tips and Recommendations

  • Since we arrived in Castellammare del Golf around noon on our first day, and we were able to get our room right away, we ended up having two full days in Castellammare Del Golfo. This is the minimum amount of time that you would want here. It is a fantastic place to enjoy nature, the Mediterranean Sea and to recharge after all the sight seeing that we had done in towns and cities.

Afternoon

We arrived in Palermo from Castellammare del Golfo around 4:00 pm. We explored the old town, found a couple patios for drinks and to people watch, and just savoured the chaotic energy of this bustling city and its inhabitants.

palermo on European road trip in october
Palermo

Where did we eat dinner?

We ate on the patio at Ristorante Ferro, a small neighbourhood restaurant walking distance from our hotel. It offered large portions with delicate tasting food. It was wonderful.

Travel Tips and Recommendations

  • Palermo is a big crazy city. Finding the old town, then driving in the Old Town along narrow one lane streets that never go where you (or Google Maps) think they will go is not for the faint of heart. Even with instructions from the hotel about where we should park, we ended up in alleyways so narrow that we had to back up with only an inch to spare on each side once we realized we could never make it through. If you make a mistake, it is not simple to fix. Twice we had to exit the old town, drive around a few roundabouts, and then reenter to try and find the right path to our hotel.
  • We got as close as we could to the hotel, then parked and walked the rest of the way to the hotel with our luggage in tow. It was a bit of walk, but it was so much better than trying to get any closer to the hotel by car. I’d highly recommend this plan of action if you get overwhelmed when driving in the Old Town.
  • Good news! There was lots of free street parking in the Old Town. We took a photo of where we parked and showed it to the hotel to make sure there wasn’t any parking restrictions.
  • Once parked, we didn’t touch our car for the rest of our stay in Palermo. Everywhere was easy walking distance.
  • It was also easy exiting the Old Town and finding the highway on our last day.
Cathedral in Palermo
Palermo

Day 8 – Palermo

Morning

We took a three hour private guided tour (150€ arranged by our hotel) of the Old Town.

Palermo is a historically significant city filled with treasures. It is an ancient city boasting a history of over 2,700 years. Originally founded by the Phoenicians in 734 BC, it has been invaded by the Carthaginians, ancient Greeks, Romans, Arabs, and even Normans.

Each dominating force brought its own religion, architecture, culture and food that impacted and fundamentally changed Palermo. Today, those influences can be seen all over the Old Town and Historic Center.

On our walking tour, we explored the Cathedral, saw Quattro Canti and Praetorian Fountain, and explored the historic Ballaro Market, among other things. It was fascinating.

Afternoon

We spent a lazy afternoon shopping and exploring the Old Town and its periphery.

Where did we eat dinner?

Our hotel recommended that we eat dinner at the trendy Buatta Restaurant in the pedestrian zone, an easy 10 minutes. It was a great place and one of our favorite meals on our whole trip. The dishes were both traditional and modern Sicilian, offering us flavors that we still talk about today. It was extremely well priced. You should make a reservation to guarantee a table.

Travel Tips and Recommendations

  • In essence, we had 1 1/2 days to explore Palermo. We saw everything that we wanted, were able to walk and explore a lot on our own, enjoyed shopping, and loved the food. We did not feel that we needed more time or were missing anything.
views from Greek ruins in Taormina
Views from the Greek ruins in Taormina

Day Nine – Day Eleven: Taormina

Taormina is one of the most popular destinations in Sicily. It is a stunningly beautiful hilltop town with a spectacular Greco-Roman theater, perfectly preserved Mediaeval streets lined with bars, restaurants and high end shops, dramatic views of Mount Etna and the Mediterranean Sea, and resort style hotels with access to local beaches.

Where did we stay?

We stayed 3 nights in a stunning apartment called Isola Bella Infinity Suites. We had sweeping views of the Mediterranean Sea and the beaches below. It is located between the coast and the hilltop town of Taormina.

Day 9 – Taormina

Morning

We drove 3 1/4 hours from Palermo to Taormina along the highway. I would like to tell you that this part of our road trip was incredible – filled with breathtaking views and interesting sites, but that would not be accurate.

The highway is the best way to reach Taormina – fast and efficient – but you drive through countless tunnels through mountains so that in certain parts, you feel like you spend more time in the darkness than in the light. Every now and then, you are rewarded with beautiful views, but not as many as you would like or expect.

Afternoon

We had a forgettable lunch and explored Taormina town, including the famous Teatro Antico di Taormina (Greek Theater). The cosmopolitan feel of the town with its posh bars and shops was a fun change after the grittiness of Palermo and the other more authentic laid back experiences of Castellammare del Golfo, Agrigento and Val di Noto. However, it was absolutely packed with tourists and after a couple of hours, we couldn’t wait to escape back to our apartment and the pool.

The Greek Theater is easy to reach in town, and to explore on your own. It offers absolutely stunning views. We were even able to see the smoking volcanos of Mount Etna. It is definitely one of the best things to do in Taormina and worthwhile going.

Where did we eat dinner?

We ate at La Cambusa, a beautiful beachside restaurant in the nearby small town of Giardini Naxos. It offered views of Taormina across the water. It was a beautiful place with amazing food.

Travel Tips and Recommendations

  • Taormina was our least favorite spot in Sicily. Without question, it is stunningly beautiful with lots of luxury hotels, restaurants, and shops, but it is totally driven by tourists with a tourist culture.
  • Try and eat lunch at La Cambusa. The views across the water in daytime would have been fantastic. At night, it was more difficult to see.
  • We only returned to the town of Taormina for dinner on our last night. We thought that the busloads of tourists that come to explore the town during the day would be gone and the town would be quieter at night. However, it was not. In fact, it felt busier with the local tourists leaving their pools and beach side loungers for dinner.
  • Taormina was the only place in Sicily where we had to pay for parking. Not only that, it was expensive.
  • We loved our accommodation. However, notwithstanding how close it looks on the map to the main pedestrian area in Taormina or the beach below, it is too steep for most people to comfortably walk. Count on driving everywhere.
Heat and smoke from Mount Etna
Heat and smoke from Mount Etna

Day 10 – Mount Etna

Mount Etna is the highest volcano in Europe and one of the world’s most active volcanoes. The base is only 35 miles or 55 km from Taormina.

Even though it is very active, it is also a huge tourist attraction. Visitors are welcome to hike, take the gondola only or hop on a bus to reach several levels of the mountain.

Every level offers something interesting and different for you to see and experience. At the highest point, you have a guide (English speaking as well as Italian speaking) who explains some of the history of the volcano, including some hugely destructive eruptions in the last 20 years. They also explain the current activity of the volcano.

It sounds a little crazy and slightly perilous to explore such an active volcano, but Mount Etna is also one of the most closely monitored active volcanoes in the world. Certain areas are forbidden to explore while others are open to the public because they are no longer considered dangerous.

Morning

We got up early for our day trip and drove one hour to Mount Etna. We arrived around 10:30 am.

Unfortunately, we arrived when all of the tour buses arrived. The entrance to the gondola and ticket kiosks for the gondola are old – not built to accommodate large crowds of people. It was scarily packed with people all pushing to reach the front of the line and the gondola.

We reached the gondola by 11:30 am and headed up. The views were incredible. At the upper gondola station, 8200 ft (2500 meters), we exited. At this point, you are still allowed to hike and explore on your own.

However, we purchased tickets to take us up to the highest allowable height – 9500 feet (2900 meters), so we lined up outside the gondola station for the bus to take us the rest of the way to the top. At the very top, a guide met us and took us on a one hour walking tour of the area.

It was absolutely stunning on top of Mount Etna and our tour was very interesting. I’d highly recommend it.

Views from Mount Etna
Views from Mount Etna

Afternoon

We arrived back mid afternoon and relaxed by the pool. It was a lovely reward for all the hiking that we had done.

Where did we eat dinner?

We treated ourselves to the Michelin-Star restaurant, La Capinera. As expected the food and service were extraordinary, although expensive relative to other very good restaurants at which we ate in Sicily. It would be more comparable to an expensive meal in North America.

Tips And Recommendations

  • Visiting Mount Etna is one of the best things to do in Sicily and you should try and fit it into your road trip itinerary in October.
  • You definitely do not need to book a separate tour company to drive to Mount Etna and explore it. You can easily self drive and tour on your own.
  • The drive from Taormina to Mt Etna was easy and very pretty, especially once we left the highway and drove on switchbacks to reach the gondola. You purchase same day tickets for the gondola, the bus and the guided walking tour at the ticket kiosks at the base of the gondola.
  • There is lots of inexpensive parking available.
  • Everyone has to line up for the gondola. Tours did not get priority.
  • Tickets are expensive. However, it is worth it.
  • It is can get quite cold on top of Mount Etna. Bring layers so you can put on a jacket if it is windy or cool. You should definitely wear closed toe shoes to stop the small lava rock from getting into your shoes. Do not wear flip flops or sandals.
  • To avoid the crowds from the bus tours, either arrive before 10:00 am or after 1:00 pm.
  • There is food and toilets at the base and at the top where the gondola drops you off. However, there are no other facilities above that.

Day 11 – Taormina

This was our last full day on Sicily. We decided to spend it leisurely exploring the areas around Taormina, visiting the beach below the town, and shopping in Taormina itself.

Isola Bella Beach and Island
Views from Isola Bella Island

Morning

We went to Isola Bella Beach and explored Isola Bella Island. It was pretty and interesting. Nearby, you can take a cable car up to the pedestrian zone in the town of Taormina. We decided against it since our accommodation already gave us spectacular views to Isola Bella and beyond.

Then, we drove the switchbacks from Taormina to Castelmola, a small hilltop village perched even higher up the mountain. We had lunch and cocktails with spectacular views of Taormina, the Mediterranean Sea and Mount Etna.

Afternoon

We relaxed by the pool for one last time.

Where did we eat dinner?

We ate at Osteria Villa Zuccaro, a small restaurant with a large back patio located along the pedestrian zone in Taormina. It was well priced and the food was delicious.

Travel Tips And Recommendations

  • Exploring Isola Bella Beach, the Island and Castelmola were nice but certainly not a must do activity. If you have limited time in Taormina, don’t worry about skipping them.
  • Isola Bella Beach is small, pebbly, filled with tourists, restaurants and vendors. It is a pretty setting but very busy, even in mid October.
  • Parking for the beach was nearby, underground and expensive.

Day TwelveCatania

We had an early afternoon flight.

On our final day of our road trip, we drove one hour from Taormina to Catania. It was a very easy drive along the highway until we reached Catania. Once again, driving in the city was a little crazy. However, unlike our arrival 12 days earlier, we had the benefit of daylight, which helped us to see signs and exits from the roundabouts.

Last Word

Our 12 day road trip in Sicily in October was extraordinary. The weather was beautifully hot without it being overwhelming. We spent our days exploring ancient ruins or historically significant towns, eating delicious food, seeing mesmerizing views, walking along beaches or coastal trails, lounging by pools, and meeting some absolutely lovely people.

If you are looking for a European destination in October that offers everything, you have found it!

the authorNicole
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