Ten Days in Sicily Spring 2022

Isola di Ortigia, Siracusa

What This Blog Is About

We spent ten days in Sicily visiting the towns of Cefalu, Taormina, a day trip to Tropea in the mainland, Siracusa, Agrigento and Palermo.  Looking back at it, we could have probably skipped Taormina and Siracusa and used that time going on an exploration up Mount Etna.

Ten days may not be enough to explore Sicily if is your first time in Italy or have not had your fill of exploring old towns with narrow cobbled streets.  But, if you have been wandering around Europe for a while and have seen so many old towns, the ten days may be enough for you, depending on what you want to do.  

When we scoured the Internet on places to visit in Sicily, most sites recommended the towns that we visited.  That’s how we end up deciding where we went.  We also read that a rental is a must in exploring Sicily if you have limited time.  GoogleMaps did show that some of the travel times between cities using public transportation can take as much as half a day. Hopefully, this article will help you decide to come up with your own itinerary. 


We spent two nights in Cefalu.  Cefalu is a little over an hour drive from the Palermo airport where we started our Sicily adventure.  Cefalu is a  town by the sea.  It has an old town area with narrow cobbled streets and a newer area where most of the hotels and other accommodations line the promenade by the sea.  We stayed at the Cefalu Sea Palace which is a hotel in the newer area.  We just parked our car and walked to the old part of town which was less than 15 minutes away on  a leisurely stroll.

Cefalu. The mountain behind the town is Parco della Rocca di Cefalu

The eastern edge of the old part of town butts up on a small mountain that is home to the Parco della Rocca di Cefalu. The park charges a nominal admission fee of €5 per person during our visit.  Having walked around the old part of town the afternoon we arrived, we decided to spend most of our second day in the park to get our exercise and have some terrific views from a high vantage point.  The park does have ruins of an old Cefalu castle and a well preserved perimeter wall.   

The town was not empty despite it being the off season.  There were plenty of people walking the streets and milling around.  The beach was empty of swimmers due to the cold temperature and not so calm water.  However, if you look at Google Maps satellite view, you can see hundreds of sun umbrellas on the beach.  I can’t imagine the chaos during the peak season. 

Taormina and Tropea

The drive from Cefalu to Taormina took just over two hours on the toll road.  It cost about €9 to get to Messina then another €2 to Taormina.  The weather was warm under the sun but just right in the shade.  We visited the Teatro Antico di Taormina which is an archeological site featuring a Greek Amphitheater.  I thought the €10 per person admission was steep considering there wasn’t much to see but the amphitheater that has, for the most part, wooden benches replacing the stone seats.  There were some pillars that were still standing but the whole site as a whole was not impressive.  We were done and out in less than an hour.  

Teatro Antico di Taormina

We also visited the following for the rest of the afternoon:

  • Villa Comunale di Taormina which is a public garden offering views of the sea and Mount Etna,
  • Piazza IX Aprile which offered another viewpoint,
  • Corso Umberto which is a shop lined pedestrian walkway.

Just like Cefalu, Taormina’s streets were not empty.  It was not crowded but there were people around us, especially while walking the Corso Umberto.  We stayed in the Seafront Apartment Gardenhouse in Letojanni, just outside of Taormina.  As the name implies, it is by the sea with a local road separating the building from the sea.  

Having seen what we wanted to see in Taormina, we decided to make a day trip to Tropea the following day.   Tropea is a city built on top of a cliff by the sea.  We caught the 8AM ferry at Messina to the mainland.  The ferry cost was about €38 for the same day return trip for a car.  The drive to Tropea took about 3 hours and we arrived just before noon.  

View of Tropea from the sanctuary garden

We drove the street underneath the cliff to get a sense how precariously close the buildings are to the edge of the cliff.  The waves hitting the beach below were huge.  There is a hill jutting out into the sea below the cliff with a sanctuary on top.  We went up to the sanctuary and paid €3 per person to enter the garden so we could take the same shot of Tropea that my wife saw on Instagram.  

Tropea was rather quiet.  Not a lot of tourists and the streets and parking lots were almost empty.   It seems like the police were not even checking if people were paying the parking fee.  The old part of Tropea was also a delight to walk.  Few cars, narrow streets lined with old buildings.  


Siracusa was about a two hours drive south of Taormina.  The toll was 1.70 Euros between Taormina and Catania where the toll road ended.  Siracusa is another compact old town.  We stayed at the B&B Sikuli and Sikani which is walking distance from the old part of town.  We walked over to Parco Archeologico dei Neopolis after dropping our bags at the B&B.  The park has Greek ruins.  There are two amphitheaters in the park. Their amphitheaters were better than the one in Taormina.  We spent the rest of the afternoon in the park.  

Cathedral of Siracusa in Ortigia

We walked the town of Ortigia the following day.  Ortigia is the old part of town that has the shops, restaurants and where people go to stroll.  Our first stop was the market where we found Angelo, the fish vendor that we saw in Rick Steve’s travel video.  Then we walked all around town in its narrow streets.  We noticed that several houses have plants and small trees in planters on the streets.  The people do what they need to do to get some green space since there is no exposed soil to plant one.  There were also some people swimming in the sea despite the cool temperature.   We found a little restaurant where they served a good Tagliata (food served on a wood plank) composed of bread, sausage and cheese with sun dried tomatoes.   

View of Ionian Sea in Ortigia, Siracusa


The main draw of Agrigento are the Greek temples and ruins.  Agrigento is about 2.5 to 3 hours drive from Siracusa.  We made a stop at Scala dei Turchi, about 20 minutes away from Agrigento.  Scala dei Turhci is a white sandstone cliff that meets the sea.  We parked on the street and walked down to the sandstone.  Our accommodation in Agrigento was the Sorahnia B&B Design House which is a nice accommodation at a reasonable price.  The only thing bad about it is the access from the road as it is in between two blind spots.  

Scala dei Turchi, Realmonte

Due to poor planning, we drove 1.5 hours to Villa Romana del Casale the following day.  In reality, we could have stopped at the villa the day before on our way to Agrigento from Siracusa.  Villa Romana del Casale is an archeological attraction that my wife  saw in Rick Steve’s video.  This attraction’s main draw are the  intricate mosaic tile floor decorations.  Each tile that forms the mosaic is small, maybe no more than ½ inch square.  Some mosaic decorations tell stories of how life was back then.  There are people, animals and other design features in the mosaic decorations.  We viewed the mosaic decorations from a platform so we don’t really know if the hair, eyes and other features are because of the tiles or if it was painted.  Nonetheless, it must have taken painstakingly long to make.  We spent close to two hours touring Villa Romana del Casale.

Mosaics of women athletes in outfits resembling modern-day bikini at Villa Romana del Casale

Back at Agrigento, the rest of the afternoon was spent strolling through the Greek  temple ruins in Valle dei Templei.  It has four temples of varying preservation.  The Temple of Concordia is the one that is most preserved with most of its columns still standing. It looks more impressive than the temple in Athens, Greece.  

Temple of Concordia, Agrigento
Temple of Hercules, Agrigento

Just like most towns in Italy, Aggrigento’s old part of town also has a walking promenade lined with shops and restaurants.  Unlike Cefalu, Taormina and Siracusa, Agrigento’s crowd was fairly non-existent at the time.  There were people walking the promenade but not in great numbers.  This provided a fairly relaxing and quiet evening stroll through town.


It’s Good Friday and we were headed to Palermo from Agrigento.  The drive to Palermo airport took just over two hours.  After returning the rental car, we took the TrenItalia to Palermo Central Station.  Our apartment accommodation was less than a 10 minute walk from the central station.   The apartment is at the end of one of the streets that leads to Quattro Canti. Nearby was the famous Ballaro fresh market where vendors shout out something we don’t understand to attract buyers’ attention.  There are lots of people on the streets.  This part of Palermo has more diverse people compared to the other four towns and cities we visited.  There were also bicycles and scooters zipping around.  It seemed like chaos and madness compared to Cefalu, Taormina, Siracusa and Agrigento. 

Ballero Market, Palermo

A little lesson about ATM withdrawals.  The first ATM we tried was Unicredit and it wanted to charge us about a 1.13 conversion or $455 for €400.  We looked for another and found a BPL ATM inside a bank.  It wanted to charge a higher rate at $458.  We hit the decline button and it gave us the cash.  We thought we got charged the higher conversion  but it turned out we declined the conversion but not the transaction as our bank showed a $437 withdrawal which is in line with the going conversion rate.

With cash now in hand, we decided to do some grocery shopping at the Ballaro fresh market.   We caught the tail end of the procession where the litter of the Virgin Mary was being carried by devoted parishioners followed by a band.   As we headed back to the apartment, we caught the middle of another procession with people in costumes and the litters of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary.  At midnight, the procession again passed in front of the apartment announced by beating drums.

Good Friday procession in Palermo

Day 2 in Palermo was about sightseeing in the Quattro Canti area.  We paid €2.5 for admission to the Chiesa Capitolare di S. Cataldo which is a small church.  Nothing special and certainly not worth the admission price.  Next we walked to the Massimo Theater.  We didn’t go in as it required a guided tour and it would take over an hour.  Next was the Palermo Cathedral which is a huge building that incorporates Arabic exterior architecture with elements of a castle look (the cathedral in Zaragoza, Spain was more impressive though, by comparison).  We encountered the F*CK art sculpture (similar to the LOVE sculpture we saw in Kansas, USA) while on our way to the Palazzo Reale.  The Palatine Chapel inside the Palazzo has the most beautiful mosaics we have ever seen . Admission to the palace was €14.50.

Palatine Chapel inside Palazzo Real, Palermo

Our first impression of Palermo is that it is old, dirty and rundown.  The dumpsters are overflowing and there is litter everywhere. Cars, scooters and bicycles are zipping everywhere.  But beyond those negatives, Palermo has a lot to offer.  The streets leading to Quattro Canti are all bustling with vendors and people. 


Though we felt that we saw what we needed to see in Cefalu, Taormina, Siracusa, Agrigento and Palermo in 10 days, we are fairly certain that there could have been more to explore and discover in Sicily, like Mount Etna or other towns and cities.  In our opinion, the ruins at Taormina and Siracusa can be skipped as those are not as impressive as other ruins we have seen in our travels.  These towns and cities all have narrow pedestrian only streets lined with shops and restaurants that are suitable for a leisurely stroll provided it is not overly crowded.  We were glad we visited Tropea even though it took about six hours of total travel time from where we were staying near Taormina.

We would remember Sicily as home to warm and welcoming people, like Martina, our accommodation host at Siracusa or the fish vendor Angelo who was eager to have his photo taken.  The Greek ruins in Agrigento are impressive and rival those in Athens, Greece.  Driving the highways in Sicily is less stressful compared to northern Italy as the locals do not seem to be in a hurry.    Most of all, we will remember Sicily by the devoted parishioners carrying the heavy burden (literally) of parading the litter of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary through the streets of Palermo on Good Friday.