How to get to Sicily By Car, view from the ferry crossing the Strait of Messina

A Comprehensive guide on How to get to Sicily in 2023

When planning to visit Sicily, Italy, one of the first things you’ll want to know is how to reach this beautiful island.

Luckily, getting to Sicily is very straightforward.

As Sicilians travel within Italy throughout the year, there are convenient transportation options available. 

Today, exploring Sicily once you’ve arrived is also quite simple and affordable.

Both driving your own car as well as using public transit can get you where you want to go with ease. 

Let’s see the best ways to get to Sicily and navigate the island during your visit.

We’ll cover the major transportation methods as well as some more budget-friendly choices.

To start, the most direct ways to reach Sicily from other parts of Italy or abroad include flying into one of Sicily’s airports or taking a ferry across the Strait of Messina.

Once on the island, renting a car is a popular choice that allows independence and flexibility.

Sicily also has an efficient bus and train network for traveling between cities without a car.

How to get to Sicily By Plane 

Many visitors to Sicily arrive by air.

The island has 6 airports and the largest ones are in Catania, Palermo, Trapani and Comiso.

The small islands of Lampedusa and Pantelleria also have airports with domestic flights within Italy. 

Several airlines fly between Sicily and other parts of Italy, Ryanair, Volotea, EasyJet, ITA Airways and WizzAir are among the main carriers. 

Catania – Fontanarossa Airport is the busiest on the island.

It has many domestic flights all over Italy as well as some international routes.

Palermo – Punta Raisi Falcone e Borsellino International Airport is also quite large, offering domestic and international options on various airlines. 

Trapani -Birgi Vincenzo Florio Airport is conveniently located near the town. It has been growing thanks to low-cost carriers.

Pio La Torre Airport in Comiso, is a new airport serving the Ragusa area. 

For those wanting to visit the tiny islands off Sicily’s shores, Pantelleria and Lampedusa each have their own small airports with domestic connections only.

Whether you fly into one of Sicily’s major airports or smaller regional ones, air travel makes arriving on this beautiful island quick and easy.

How to find cheap flights to Sicily

Be sure to check travel search sites like Skyscanner and Google Flights to compare prices across different airlines and routes.

These sites make it much easier to find the cheapest flight options.

I’ve had the most success using Skyscanner to map out the lowest fares.

Booking your flight at least 3 weeks before departure is key to getting a below-average price.

The airlines tend to raise prices as the date gets closer. 

It also pays to be flexible with your dates.

Flying mid-week is usually cheaper than weekends.

I’ve found the best deals departing on Tuesdays or Wednesdays and returning on Thursdays or Fridays.

This shaves a good amount off the cost.

The cheapest time I’ve found to fly to Sicily is during the winter months, especially in January.

However, keep an eye out for special deals and promotions year-round.

Budget carriers like Ryanair and EasyJet serve many Sicilian airports from major European cities, so fly with them to save money.

You can also mix and match airlines – fly with one carrier to a hub city in Europe and then take a budget airline from there to your Sicilian destination.

Booking early can help snag lower fares, but don’t book too far in advance or you risk the price increasing.

Search for the best flight deals to Sicily

How to get to Sicily by Ferry

How to get to Sicily by Ferry: Simply board a Blueferry from Villa San Giovanni

In addition to flying, you can also reach Sicily by sea.

There are a few different ferry options available. 

The quickest crossing is from Villa San Giovanni on the mainland over to Messina on Sicily.

The Strait of Messina is only about 20-30 minutes across by ferry.

Boats run very frequently, so you won’t have to wait long at all.

Several Italian ports have direct ferry connections to points in Sicily.

Popular routes include service from Naples, Livorno, Genoa, Civitavecchia, Salerno and Vibo Valentia.

There is also a short ferry between Reggio Calabria and Messina.

Specifically, ferries run between:

– Genoa and Palermo  

– Livorno and Palermo

– Civitavecchia and Palermo, as well as Civitavecchia to Palermo Termini Imerese

– Naples to Palermo and Naples to Palermo Termini Imerese

– Reggio Calabria and Messina

– Salerno to Palermo, and Messina

– Vibo Valentia to Milazzo

Search availability for your route here.

Whether you prefer a quick 20 minute crossing or a longer overnight journey, arriving by ferry is a relaxing way to reach the beautiful island of Sicily from the mainland.

How to get to Sicily by Car

How to get to Sicily by car: Motorway exit to Villa San Giovanni port to embark your car on a ferry
Motroway exit in Villa San Giovanni (Reggio Calabria)

If you’re driving to Sicily, you’ll need to take a ferry across the Strait of Messina.

The A2 motorway is the most direct route from mainland Italy to Villa San Giovanni (Reggio Calabria,) where you can board ferries to Messina. 

There are several ferry companies to choose from, including Caronte & Tourist and Bluferries.

Be sure to check their individual websites, as timetables and costs can vary between operators.

After disembarking in Messina, you can continue exploring Sicily by car.

Ferry crossing times are typically 20-30 minutes.

Ticket prices depend on factors like whether you’re traveling alone or with passengers, the size of your vehicle, and which company you choose. 

You can save at least 3 euros off the fare by purchasing tickets online in advance, rather than at the ferry terminal.

Pedestrian tickets are around 2.50 euros each way.

A one-way car passage for up to 5 people is approximately 33 euros with Bluferries and 36.80 euros with Caronte & Tourist.

There are some good discounts available if you’re taking return trips across the Strait.

If you return on the same day as your outbound journey, or within 24 hours, you can get a same-day return ticket.

Bluferries charges just €33 for this, while Caronte & Tourist is €40.10.

The “Super ticket” allows round trips within 3 days for a price of €37 with Bluferries or €45.60 with Caronte & Tourist. 

An even better deal is the 90-day return ticket for €72.60 with Caronte & Tourist or 60-day return ticket for €65 with Bluferries.

Just be sure to come back within 60-90 days.

If you want to avoid long queues to get tickets, you can easily purchase them online, even while en route – as my husband and I chose to do.

We found it simple to buy our tickets online from the car as we were arriving.

The ferry we took was the Caronte & Tourist, which tends to have more frequent sailings than other options.

We felt it was a good choice since the pricing was quite similar to Blueferries.

Both are reliable operators for crossing between Villa San Giovanni and Messina.

Of course, there are also other ports like Naples, Civitavecchia etc. that have connections to Sicily if you’re starting your drive from further north.

But based on our route, we were happy with taking Caronte & Tourist from Villa San Giovanni due to the frequency and competitive rates.

As previously mentioned, you can also drive your car onto ferries departing from other ports like Naples, Civitavecchia, Livorno, Genoa, Salerno, or Vibo Valentia.

Just note that the journeys will take a bit longer from these departure points.

Additionally, the costs may be higher compared to departing from Villa San Giovanni.

How to get to Sicily by train

There are convenient train options for traveling from mainland Italy to Sicily.

From northern cities, you can take high-speed Italo or Trenitalia Frecce trains down to Naples or Rome. 

From there, comfortable intercity trains run to destinations in Sicily.

Both websites are very user-friendly for checking all connections. 

Most of these are Intercity and Intercity Notte trains, or buses for Italo.

Upon arriving in Villa San Giovanni, trains will board a ferry to cross the Strait of Messina. 

The ferry docks at the Messina Marittima station. 

The ferry ride is included in the price of your train ticket at no additional cost. 

You can stay onboard as the train boards and disembarks the ferry between Villa San Giovanni and Messina. 

Or, you may prefer stretching your legs and taking in the scenic views during the brief navigation.

Once disembarked on the Sicilian side, trains continue along the coastlines to Catania, Syracuse or Palermo. 

My advice is to book travel dates well in advance, especially in summer, as trains to and from the island tend to fill up.

It’s worth planning ahead to secure your spot.

Overall, train travel provides a relaxing way to see Sicily without the hassle of driving.

How to get to Sicily by bus

How to get to Sicily by Bus: Itabus is a great way to go to Sicily with different routes.

Traveling to Sicily by bus is easy from several major cities in Italy.

Buses frequently depart from Milan, Venice, Turin, Rome and Naples, with many lines going directly to Palermo and Catania, the two largest cities in Sicily.

You can also find buses that stop in other towns and provinces across the island.

The top bus companies for getting from the mainland to Sicily include:

  • Itabus operates numerous trips from Rome and Naples. They have a lot of options.
  • Flixbus provides long-distance routes with flexibility. You can catch one of their buses on various routes.  
  • Autoservizi Salemi is great for the Milan to Marsala route. The bus stops along coastal towns in southern and eastern Sicily.

How to get around in Sicily

So when it comes to getting around in Sicily, the best way to explore the island is by car.

This allows flexibility to visit the many beautiful towns and scenic destinations across the diverse landscape.

A helpful tip I learned is to download offline maps before your trip.

That way you’ll always have directions at your fingertips even in remote areas without cell service. 

The main roads are in good condition, including four motorways that make travel easy between major cities like Catania, Palermo, and Messina. 

Specifically, the A19 highway connecting Catania and Palermo is toll-free, as is the A29 highway running from Palermo down to Mazara del Vallo on the west coast. The A18 highway from Catania up to Noto is also free to drive on.

Just be aware that the toll road is the A20 highway linking Messina to Palermo, it’s not expensive but you do have to pay a small fee.

Beyond the motorways, the smaller inland and mountain roads offer stunning views but don’t allow for fast travel.

Just keep in mind, if you’re planning to do any driving in inland or mountainous areas during the winter months, it’s really important to have snow tires or chains with you.

Typically from mid-November until mid-April, it’s required to have them depending on the road and weather conditions.

You don’t want to get stuck or get in an accident because your tires aren’t equipped for snow.

And another thing – if you’re traveling Sicily in a campervan, I’d strongly recommend parking outside of the small towns rather than driving right in, especially in villages.

These places can have incredibly narrow streets that most RVs just can’t navigate. You run the risk of getting stuck if you try to drive through.

Plus parking in the town centers can be really difficult, the spaces are small and parking garages may not accommodate larger vehicles.

It’s usually much easier and safer to just leave your camper in the outskirts.

However you choose to get around, Sicily’s diverse landscapes are best explored at a relaxed pace.

Renting a car

Whether you’re arriving at an international airport or visiting a big city, car rentals are super convenient to find.

My top tip is always booking your rental online before your trip.

That way you have time to leisurely compare rates from all the major rental companies so you can get the best deal.

Don’t forget to also check out the fine print details in the contract and coverage options too.

Make sure you understand what’s included in the rental price and what extra insurances or coverages might be useful for peace of mind.

The last thing you want is unexpected charges later on.

Traveling Around Sicily by Train

While trains are a convenient way to get around Sicily, the schedules and routes can be a bit limited.

You can reach every province on the main island by rail.

The trains between Messina and Palermo and Catania run regularly and are quite fast.

On other routes, the trains may be less frequent. 

Special Tourist Trains

A few scenic train routes operate seasonally that are really cool to check out. 

You can take a ride on vintage locomotives through scenic countryside. 

It’s not the fastest way to cross the whole island, but a memorable experience to chug past vineyards and seaside views.

You can find schedules and book tickets on the tourist rail website.

Lastly, the Ferrovie Circumetnea (FCE) is a narrow gauge railway that circles almost the entire perimeter of Mount Etna volcano park.

At just over 110km long, the line starts in Catania and ends in Giarre, making several stops along the way. Then from Giarre, you can hop on one of Trenitalia’s trains to return to Catania. 

With windows offering views of Etna the whole journey, it’s a relaxing day trip from the bustle of the city.

While a car might allow more flexibility, Sicily’s trains offer a stress-free way to see the island at a leisurely pace. Just be sure to plan ahead and check timetables, especially for the smaller tourist lines.

How to get around Sicily by Bus

If you’re looking to explore the beautiful island of Sicily without renting a car, the bus network is an affordable and convenient way to go.

The main hubs are in Palermo and Catania, with routes connecting all the top cities as well as charming smaller towns and scenic attractions. 

Buses are often faster and comfier than trains for getting between destinations across Sicily.

You’ll usually find the terminals right by the train stations or central squares in larger cities.

Some of the top operators are Itabus, Sais, Ast and Interbus – they’ll have you zipping between historic sites in no time.

Now while the major routes run frequently, more rural routes may only have one trip per day.

So if you want to venture beyond the top tourist spots to discover Sicily’s hidden gems, renting a car gives you more flexibility.

But the bus is perfect for hopping between can’t-miss cities and sights on a budget.

Hope this gives you a sense of how easy and affordable it is to experience Sicily from the comfort of a bus.

Check bus fares and availability in Sicily


How to get to the islands near Sicily

Getting to the beautiful islands near Sicily is a breeze, with regular ferry and hydrofoil services connecting you to these stunning destinations throughout most of the year.

While services may slow down slightly in spring and autumn, and more so during winter, you’ll still have plenty of options to explore these hidden gems in the Mediterranean.

If you’re aiming to reach the Egadi Islands, you can catch ferries departing from both Trapani and Marsala.

Here are some of the routes available:

Trapani to Favignana, 

Marsala to Favignana 

Trapani to Levanzo 

Marsala to Levanzo 

Trapani to Marettimo

Marsala to Marettimo

If your wanderlust leads you to the Pelagie Islands, head to Porto Empedocle for ferry services.

From there, you can embark on exciting journeys to Lampedusa and Linosa.

Additionally, there are other convenient ferry routes within Sicily itself.

You can hop on a ferry between Palermo and Milazzo for a memorable coastal journey.

For the serene Pantelleria Island, there’s a ferry from Trapani to Pantelleria.

And if you’re looking to explore Ustica Island, the route between Palermo and Ustica will take you on a fantastic adventure.

Search for your route here 

When is the Best Time to Visit Sicily?

Sicily enjoys wonderful weather year-round, making it a great destination no matter when you visit. The summer months of July and August are very popular thanks to warm temperatures and long days. However, the high season also means higher hotel prices and bigger crowds. 

If you visit during June through September, you can expect the hottest weather with average highs of 30-35°C. On particularly sweltering days, cooling off in the sea may be your top activity!

The summer is a beautiful time to swim and lounge on Sicily’s gorgeous beaches.

Shoulder seasons of spring and fall offer milder temperatures and smaller crowds if you want to avoid the peak summer period.

Where to stay in Sicily

Here are a few suggestions for places to stay in beautiful Sicily that would be perfect for a family vacation or trip with friends:

For a truly immersive Sicilian experience, you can’t beat an agriturismo or farmhouse stay.

Many working farms across the island offer rustic accommodation alongside homemade meals featuring local specialties like ricotta and caponata.

Some top farmstay options include Agriturismo Etna Quota Mille near Mount Etna and 

Agriturismo Baglio Carta in the hills outside Palermo.

This family-run agriturismo (farm stay) is located in the beautiful countryside near Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro.

You’ll get to experience beautiful sunsets over the Mediterranean from your balcony or the pool.

And, if you’re looking for an authentic Sicilian countryside experience, Agriturismo Passo dei Briganti, a working organic farm makes a lovely rural base.

Guests stay in charming stone cottages surrounded by vineyards and olive groves.

In the evenings, you can enjoy homemade meals featuring the farm’s own produce.

It’s located halfway between Porto Empedocle and Scala dei Turchi.

Masseria Bio Agriturismo Villa Grazia – Overlooking the Ionian Sea on Sicily’s eastern coast, this masseria (fortified farmhouse) has elegant rooms and suites.

You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time surrounded by citrus groves.

Spend your days lounging by the pool, hiking nearby nature trails, or visiting the seaside towns of Noto and Syracuse just 20 minutes away.

Villa rentals are also very popular in Sicily.

For a real luxury getaway, try Villa Igiea in Palermo, a historic 5-star hotel with impeccable service and an unbeatable location.

And in the heart of charming Ragusa Ibla, Locanda Don Serafino makes for a romantic base in one of Sicily’s most picturesque towns.

No matter where you stay, I’m sure you’ll fall in love with the natural beauty and the warm Sicilian hospitality.


Top Things to do in Sicily

With its rich history and diverse landscapes, Sicily has so much to explore that it’s impossible to see it all in just one trip.

You may want to focus your visit around a particular area or theme, like cities, hill top towns, villages, Baroque art, archaeology, beaches, or scenery. 

Wherever you go, you’ll find Sicily’s culture shaped by the many civilizations that have called the island home over the centuries.

In Palermo, Arab and Norman influences abound.

Agrigento and Syracuse showcase Sicily’s strong Greek heritage.

Small towns tucked into the interior preserve ancient traditions.

Of course, some locations should be near the top of any Sicily itinerary.

Here are a few top spots not to miss along with quick highlights:

Palermo – Vibrant capital with Arab-Norman architecture, grand cathedral and bustling markets. 

Agrigento – Impressive Valley of the Temples features five ancient Greek Doric temples overlooking the Mediterranean. 

Mount Etna – Active volcano offering hiking trails with sweeping views of smoldering craters and lava fields.

Syracuse – Well-preserved Greek theaters and amphitheaters in a charming coastal city with Baroque churches.  

Taormina – Postcard-perfect hill town perched above the Ionian Sea with a Greco-Roman theater and panoramic vistas.

The interior – Authentic mountain villages like Erice, Cefalù and Scicli tucked into rural landscapes.

I hope these top destinations help you start planning your own Sicilian adventure!

Let me know if you need any other region or activity specific recommendations.

And, if you want a taste of Sicily’s Culture here’s the perfect trip for you.

Embark on a journey through Sicily’s rich history on this 14 days tour of the island’s most influential invaders

You’ll explore how the Arabs, Normans, Greeks and Spanish each left an indelible mark on Sicilian culture.

Start in Palermo, strolling through streets lined with Baroque churches and North African-style markets.

Then head to the Valley of the Temples, where you’ll see Greek artistry at its finest. 

Next, the medieval town of Erice reveals Norman castle ruins with panoramic view over the Mediterranean sea.

Don’t miss the marzipan sweets inspired by the Arabs!

Lastly in Noto, marvel at extravagant baroque facades reconstructed after the 1693 earthquake.

The Spanish influence is clear.

You’ll also sample local specialties like arancini, cannoli and Nero d’Avola wine that blend ingredients and techniques from multiple conquerors. 

Here’s the link where to find more details!

How to get to Sicily: In a nutshell

There are various transportation options to get to and around Sicily.

Flying is fastest if you’re pressed for time, while trains provide scenic travel between major cities.

If you want to explore the island’s hidden gems at your own pace, renting a car is the best option.

The ferry from Messina to Villa San Giovanni on the mainland is also an affordable way to bring a vehicle over.

Just be prepared for potential delays depending on weather conditions. 

Within cities, public buses are quite reliable.

But for hopping between small towns and villages, a rental car or organized tour may suit your needs better.

Taxis and rideshares also work well for short trips.

No matter how you slice it, taking the time to unwind and immerse yourself in Sicily’s culture, cuisine and landscapes will make any transportation method worthwhile.

The Mediterranean charm around every winding road is sure to create memories to last a lifetime.

Let me know if you need other recommendations as you plan your trip!

Ciao e Buon viaggio!

I'm a freelance travel designer and writer, and I absolutely love what I do. Writing has always been a passion of mine, and traveling is the ultimate source of inspiration for me. In fact, I became particularly drawn to planning travel experiences in Italy back in 2015, and I've been hooked ever since! I'm what you might call a "slow traveler" - someone who likes to take their time exploring new places and soaking up different cultures. And when I started writing about my travels a few years ago, I was blown away by the incredible opportunity it gave me to share my experiences with others and learn from them in turn. It's truly an amazing thing!

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