When you’re travelling in Sicily, you can’t fail to feast on local produce, given that it’s a land of plenty. What you might not know is to look out for the food label, Libera Terra, meaning freed land, referring to tricky territory that has been confiscated from the Mafia and gifted to local communities for growing. This label captures the culture of Sicily in so many ways, representing independent, empowered communities, a world that is rich in natural resources and one where its ethical stewards must be protected and supported so that the land can be passed on fairly to future generations. And last, but not least, with trails such as Mount Etna, the Via Francigena and on the neighbouring Aeolian Islands, Sicily is a place where you feel free, but will always have room for more.
Top places to visit while travelling in Sicily
The Via Francigena is an ancient pilgrimage route that opens up not only the sacred heart of Italy’s much worshipped interior, but also Sicily. Originally, it was a route taken by the ecclesiastical elite between Canterbury, Rome and the sacred town of Santa Maria di Leuca. Today, it’s broken into various segments within Italy, and this one on Sicily is a north to south walking trail between Palermo on the north coast and Agrigento on its south-west shores. On this eight day Sicilian odyssey you walk, self-guided with luggage transfers, between ancient villages, along rocky ridges and past vineyards, with ancient churches and agriturismi en route. The finale, like so many films shot in Sicily, is a rousing one, as you explore the ancient temples and UNESCO site at Agremento.
Cammarata on the Sicilian section of the Via Francigena.
Sicily’s north-western tip
There’s the most Sicilian of cycling circuits to be had right up on its north-western tip, starting in Marsala, famous for its wine, and finishing in Trapani, at the foot of Monte Erice, in an idyllic coastal location. This week of cycling takes you from glistening salt pans to gorgeous villages, emerald coves and nature reserves, or ancient temples and vineyards. As well as the remote and idyllic island off an island, Isola di Favignana.You won’t believe your eyes when you see how beautiful it is. You can also rent e-bikes on this tour, as if Sicily isn’t sizzling on all cylinders already.
Also known as the Lipari Islands, after the largest of the seven main islands in this archipelago, they are scattered like a broken necklace of jewels across the Tyrrhenian Sea, just north of Sicily. Spend a week walking on four of these volcanic islands, dipping in and out of beaches or up to Monte Guardia (369m) on Lipari. Vulcano is similarly voluptuous as you discover walking through the lunar landscape of gran cratere, and Salina is steep and stupendous, in the shadow of two extinct volcanoes, Monte dei Porri (860m) and Monte Fossa delle Felci (962m). Stromboli is far from extinct with guided walks to its crater, or to the lava flow field known as the Sciara di Fuoco, meaning stream of fire. This trip has its finale in Sicily, trekking up Mount Etna.
A solitary and perfect spot on Salina, one of the Aeolian Islands.
To bring your Aeolian Islands holiday off to a fiery finish, you trek up the active volcano of Mount Etna, back on Sicily again. This is a guided trek, starting at Piano Provenzana, on Etna’s northern slope, which is actually a ski resort in winter at an altitude of 1,810m, with views across the Ionian Sea. The trek doesn’t take you right to the top because, well, although you may be active, so is Etna. However, you do get to walk amongst recent lava flows, past caves and, surprisingly, vineyards up to 2,500m, with Etna coming in at an impressive 3,357m. Still, this is a steep, scrambly and steamy trek, but an extraordinary one.
Best time to go to Sicily
Sicily sizzles in August, with temperatures creeping well over the 30C mark on the thermometer, and heatwaves taking it off the scale to as high as 46.3C in 2023. As we know with climate change patterns, extreme temperatures like these are sadly becoming more frequent.
Our most popular Sicily walking holiday, along the island’s section of the Via Francigena, doesn’t run in August, and it opens as early as March, running on to November. This coast to coast pilgrimage is a lot less quiet than other caminos, and also far from many of the tourist crowds. In spring, you walk past wheat fields dotted with cornflowers, meadows with blue iris and yellow sorrel and, by early summer, the almond orchards turn snowy white. If you are undertaking the pilgrimage for sacred reasons, bringing the trek to a close in Agrigento at Easter is a spiritual spectacle. Rituals include a Good Friday procession on Via Atenea, or another one in Aragona on Easter Sunday, followed by a lot of local feasting.
Another Sicily holiday, which takes you hiking in and around Taormina and up Mount Etna, as well as to other Aeolian Islands, runs between April and July, as well as September to October. The highlight of this holiday for many is the climb up Etna, and you will get fewer crowds on this iconic volcano in April, May and October. Average temperatures in April are 21C, going up to 26C in May and the same for October, with the thermometer never dipping below double figures throughout the year.
You’ll get fewer hikers on the iconic volcano of Mount Etna in April, May and October.
Taking the train to Sicily
Given that it is an island, Sicily is, surprisingly, accessible by train from mainland Italy. Not on a bridge, but by shunting the whole train onto the ferry. Sicilians like to do things their way, after all, and this is the only train journey of its kind in Europe. There are direct trains from Naples to Sicily, which take approximately nine hours, or you can take a very exciting sleeper train service from Milan, Rome or Naples. Once you cross the Straits of Messina, there are several stops in Sicily, including Palermo, from where you can change for Marsala (3h 45mins, one change in Piraineto). For more details, see the superb train guru website, Seat 61. When you get there, you can also get a more touristy train that circumnavigates Mount Etna called, aptly, the Ferrovia Circumetnea.
Getting to Sicily by train – it’s a trip.
We have so many other Italian idylls to share with you in our blogs and tour pages, as it still remains one of our most popular go-to places to seek out adventures. You may enjoy, for example, our blogs on the Best time to go to Italy, Best hikes in Italy and our Most underrated places in Italy. For any other details, please don’t hesitate to contact our team of adventure specialists.