Best place to stay in Sicily and what to do around

Colourful houses by the sea in the historical city centre of Syracuse in Sicily
Photo: Monday Feelings

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Choosing best place to stay in Sicily to stay during your trip to Italy can be quite a challenge. This is because Sicily is an island of vast expanse with endless cultural and scenic possibilities.

It’s precisely because of its vastness in territory that we recommend selecting one or a few cities in Sicily to use as a base while exploring the neighboring regions by car or public transportation. Hopping from city to city, sleeping in a new place every night, can make the trip very exhausting.

We spent almost two months traveling through Sicily and now, we’ll provide you with a list of the best place to stay in Sicily, according to your preferences and interests. Just a reminder that this article is meant to give you a list of cities to use as a base. To help you plan you trip to Sicily, also read our guide about the best cities in Sicily and what to do in this magnificent island in Italy.

The houses in Siracusa by the sea
Syracuse, one of the most charming cities in Sicily / Photo: Monday Feelings

Syracuse – the best place to stay in Sicily to explore the Baroque cities

Let’s start this article straight to the point, the best cities to stay in Sicily. And let’s start precisely where we chose as our base for most of our trip: Syracuse!

Syracuse is a historically rich, charming and well-preserved city. It has many of its monuments dating back to the times of Greek and Roman empires. Strolling through the streets of Syracuse is a journey through time, enriched by the unique charm of southern Italy.

An overview of Ortigia, the historical city centre of Siracusa
Ortigia, the historical city centre of Syracuse / Photo: Monday Feelings

The historic center of Syracuse is on a small island called Ortigia, connected to the rest of Sicily by a bridge. Being a larger city with bus options and a train station, it’s easy to use Syracuse as a base to explore the eastern region of Sicily.

Staying in Syracuse, you can easily take a day trip by car or public transport to Catania or one of the Baroque Cities (Ragusa, Noto, or Modica). In fact, Syracuse is a great option for those relying on public transport. Another highly recommended activity that can be done from both Syracuse and Catania is visiting Mount Etna!

Our experience staying in Syracuse was perfect to use as a base to visit all these places we mentioned. The city offered good infrastructure, markets, bars and gorgeous views. We breathed culture in Syracuse, going to open-air theatres, art galleries and historical sites.

How long to stay in Syracuse

We recommend at least four days. One day to visit Catania and ascend the Mount Etna, another for one of the Baroque Cities, and the third and fourth days to enjoy Syracuse itself. You will see that four days will go as fast as light.

Where to stay in Syracuse

The best option is to stay in Ortigia, the historic center. Ortigia Boutique Palace and Federico Boutique Hotel are great choices. If you prefer something more budget-friendly, you can stay a bit further from the city center and walk or bike. This is actually what we did and it worked perfectly for us, particularly because we booked a place for 2 weeks, so somewhere nice a quiet was ideal. See more options of accommodation in Syracuse here.

Taormina – best place to stay in Sicily for a luxurious experience

Overview of the beach of Taormina divided into two beaches with an island in the middle
The Isola Bella in Taormina / Photo: Monday Feelings

For those looking for a trendy and more glamorous place to stay in Sicily, Taormina is an excellent choice.

Taormina has not recently been known by tourists. However, it gained international fame after the second season of the series “White Lotus”. Nowadays, Taormina is one of the most popular destinations in southern Italy and, for us, one of the most beautiful cities in Sicily.

Be aware: if you don’t enjoy large crowds of tourists, it might be best to choose another city to stay in Sicily. To be honest, we’re not big fans of super hyped places, but the beauty of Taormina makes the visit worthwhile. Even if it is for a day. Besides, Sicily is a popular destination and it’s challenging to find cities that aren’t crowded.

Taormina is also just 80 miles from Syracuse (approx 130km), making it a convenient base city if you want to visit Catania, climbing the Mount Etna or simply enjoy the coast near Taormina, which is dotted with picturesque towns.

How long to stay in Taormina

Taormina itself deserves at least two full days as it offers numerous attractions like Isola Bella and the Ancient Theater. But it is a perfect city for a day-trip from Catania or Syracuse. In fact, this is exactly what we did, visiting Taormina as a day-trip from Syracuse.

Where to Stay in Taormina

If money isn’t an issue, one of the best hotels in Taormina is the Mazzaro Sea Palace. But there are many other more budget-friendly options like B&B Tancredi.

Catania – The second largest place in Sicily

The main cathedral of Catania in a square with people passing by
The main cathedral of Catania / Photo: Monday Feelings

To conclude the exploration of the eastern side of Sicily, we present Catania as the last base option.

A somewhat controversial opinion here: Catania is far from being our favorite city in Sicily. Personally, I wouldn’t choose to stay there, but we’re including it here because of the convenient access it offers. Also, we know people who we respect very much their opinions and they loved Catania.

Catania boasts the second-largest airport in Sicily and also has a good train station. It’s practical for visiting various cities in the region. From Catania, most tours to ascend Mount Etna depart, which, as mentioned earlier, is one of Sicily’s most unmissable tourist attractions.

How long to stay in Catania

If this is your choice of base, we recommend staying at least for 4 days in Catania. One day for Catania city tour, one day for Mount Etna, one day for a day trip to Taormina e one day for a day trip to Syracuse. You can also extend your staying here for a week and arrange another day-trip to Ragusa and Noto, the Baroque cities of Sicily.

We actually did both. While we were in Syracuse, we did a day-trip to Catania. Then, we stayed 4 days. We really enjoyed the bars and aperitivo in the afternoons.

Where to stay in Catania

A well-located option is B&B Il Respiro di Encelado, but the city has many other hotels.

Note: When exploring the east coast of Sicily, we don’t recommend using Syracuse, Catania and Taormina as base-cities for your travel. They are relatively close to each other. Pick one according to the descriptions be have just given.

Palermo – best place to stay in Sicily for a lively experience

Quatro Canti, the historical city centre in Palermo Sicily
The Quatro Canti in historical city centre of Palermo / Photo: Monday Feelings

For us, it was love at first sight with Palermo. Definitely one of the cities in Sicily we liked the most and a place we’d choose to live if we ever return to live in Italy.

Palermo is the capital and largest city in Sicily and exudes life and excitement. For this reason, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, as it can be quite chaotic. If you’re not a fan of this hustle and bustle, Palermo might not be the best city to stay in Sicily for you.

But for those who enjoy this cultural and artistic vibrancy, you’ll adore Palermo. You can take advantage to be in Palermo and enjoy some free activities on the first Sunday of each month.

How long to stay in Palermo

In addition to exploring the city, which requires at least two full days, Palermo is also a great city to use as a base to visit:

  • Cefalù: A picturesque seaside village.
  • Piana degli Albanesi: Where you can taste the best cannoli in Sicily.
  • Corleone: The village where Don Corleone of “The Godfather” was born.
  • Selinunte, and many others.
A large labyrinth on top of a mountain overlooking the city in Sicily
The Arianna’s labyrinth / Photo: Monday Feelings

Another place, about 115 km away, that we found fascinating is the Labirinto di Arianna. To get there, you can only go by car, and the journey takes about 2 hours. Besides the intriguing labyrinth, the road is stunning. Check our reels on instagram on the Arianna’s Labyrinth (and take the opportunity to follow us too!).

Where to stay in Palermo

A lovely hotel with a large terrace overlooking the city is La Terraza su Palermo. You can check other options of accommodation in Palermo here as well.

San Vito lo Capo – one of the best places to stay in Sicily

Overview of the Zangaro National Park beach by the mountain in a crystal clear water in San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily
Zangaro National Park / Photo: Monday Feelings

After we drove along the entire coast of Sicily, we can say without a doubt that the most beautiful beaches are in the San Vito lo Capo region.

The town itself is charming but quite small. It has only one bustling street with shops and restaurants. And that’s about it. The buildings are relatively modern, so don’t expect to see much culture here.

San Vito is an excellent base to stay in Sicily if you want to enjoy the island’s beaches. We recommend visiting the beaches of the Zingaro Nature Reserve nearby.

The Mangiapanni Cave in San Vito Lo Capo, Sicily, seen from above with the sea in the background
Mangiapane Cave near San Vito Lo Capo / Photo: Monday Feelings

Other must-visit places for day trips from San Vito lo Capo are the towns of Erice, Trapani and the Mangiapane Cave. You can also opt for a boat trip to the beautiful Egadi Islands.

How long to stay in San Vito Lo Capo

We recommend at least three days in San Vito lo Capo. One full day to enjoy the Zingaro Natural Reserve, one day to enjoy the beach and another for the nearby towns, such as the Mangiapane Cave.

Where to stay in San Vito lo Capo

We stayed at B&B Adriana, which is simple but offers great value. If you’re looking for something more sophisticated, Artemide is an excellent choice.

Favignana – best place to stay in Sicily to explore the Egadi Islands

The Salina in front of Favignana with a windmill lighted in yellow during dusk
The Salina in front of Favignana / Photo: Monday Feelings

Near San Vito lo Capo is the small Egadi Archipelago, consisting of three beautiful islands: Favignana, Levanzo and Marettimo.

As mentioned earlier, it’s possible to take day trips to the islands from San Vito lo Capo, Trapani and other nearby cities. But if you want to spend a few days on the islands – highly recommended -, our suggestion is to choose Favignana, the largest town.

How long to stay in Favignana

The Egadi Islands are a must for those who want to enjoy Sicily’s beautiful beaches. If you decide to stay on the Egadi Islands, we recommend at least three days to explore the region.

Where to stay in Favignana

Our recommended accommodation in Favignana is B&B La Casa Dell’Arancio, but there are many other hotel options to suit all budgets.

Agrigento – best place to stay in Sicily to explore temples and culture

Overview of a large and preserved Greek Temple in Sicily in the Vale Dei Tempi
The Valley of the Temples in Agrigento / Photo: Monday Feelings

Agrigento is home to one of the world’s most impressive and well-preserved archaeological parks. The beauty of the Valley of the Temples is reminiscent of the Acropolis in Athens.

Agrigento is a more vibrant and chaotic city in Sicily, with a significant influence of immigrants. It somewhat resembles Palermo. If you enjoy this kind of atmosphere, you’ll love staying here. If you prefer quieter and more organized cities, Agrigento might not be the best choice among the cities in Sicily to use as a base.

How long to stay in Agrigento

We recommend staying in Agrigento for about three days to explore the region better.

From Agrigento, you can take day trips to beautiful places such as Scala dei Turchi, a fantastic Sicilian beach option. As well as the town of Piazza Armerina, home to the incredible mosaics of Villa Romana Del Casale.

Moreover, Agrigento is perfect for thoroughly exploring the Valley of the Temples. We stayed 2 nights and it was very tight.

Where to stay in Agrigento

Find accommodation options in Agrigento here.

Lipari – our best place to stay in Sicily

Fernanda sitting in a rock looking at the volcano in Stromboli and the islands of Panarea
The view of one of the Aeolian Islands / Photo: Monday Feelings

One of the most significant surprises of our trip to Sicily was discovering the Lipari Islands, a group of seven volcanic islands about 30 km off the northern coast of Sicily.

We spent three days on Lipari and it was perfect for exploring some of the neighboring islands. We witnessed a volcano in eruption, explored local beaches and villages and went around the whole Lipari.

The crater of the volcano in Stromboli expelling lava
The explosion of Stromboli Volcano 24/7 – Photo: Monday Feelings

If you have some extra time in your Sicily itinerary, we highly recommend including the Lipari Islands in your travel plan!

Where to Stay in Lipari

This is an easy one to answer: stay at Case Quattrochi, one of the hotels with the most beautiful views we’ve ever experienced in our lives!

Best time to visit Sicily

The best time to visit Sicily is May, June, September and October. That’s when temperatures are pleasant and it’s not yet the high tourist season.

Tiago and Fernanda watching the sunset in Lipari Islands
Watching the sunset in Lipari Islands / Photo: Monday Feelings

During the peak of summer, which is July and August, everything gets very crowded and hot – Syracuse recorded 48 degrees in August 2022!. We’ve mentioned this in our other articles about Italy and we’ll repeat: traveling to southern Italy in July and August, in general, is not a good idea.

Italians have two weeks of national holidays known as Ferragosto. And as a result, almost the entire country from the northern regions travels south. Combine that with tourists worldwide looking for to enjoy the Mediterranean summer and you can imagine the situation.

However, we understand that not everyone has flexibility in choosing travel dates. And if the European summer is the only time you can visit Sicily, don’t miss it. Sicily is a truly amazing destination. Just be prepared for the crowds and high temperatures.

Sicilian Winter: For those not particularly interested in Sicily’s beaches, winters there are not very harsh, with lows around 12 degrees Celsius. The issue is that it’s the rainy season as well. But lately, as the weather has been unpredictable, the last winter hardly saw any rain.

As you can see, choosing the right time to visit Sicily is crucial for making the most of your trip and picking the best place to stay in Sicily.

Road trip or public transport in Sicily

Tiago in front of a sign with many indications and directions in Italy
Somewhere in Italy / Photo: Monday Feelings

Our recommendation is to rent a car because it’s the best way to explore the cities in Sicily with autonomy and flexibility. Additionally, some of the places you’ll read about here can only be visited by car. Just mind some regulations in Italy. For instance, according to the US department, “fines are imposed if driving without the proper permits in historic downtown areas of cities and towns throughout Italy”.

For those without the option to rent a car in Sicily, it’s also possible to travel using public transportation. Just see the best place to stay in Sicily to use as a base for a car-free trip above. Keep in mind that you’ll be more limited to larger cities with bus and train access.

Suggested Itinerary for the best place to stay in Sicily

The view of the Etna Volcano in Catania Sicily
Mount Etna in Sicily / Photo: Monday Feelings

7 Days in Sicily (Arriving in Palermo)

Days 1, 2, and 3: Use Palermo as your base. Spend the first two days exploring the city, and on the third day, rent a car for a day trip to Cefalù.
Days 4 and 5: Drive to San Vito lo Capo and explore the beautiful Zingaro Nature Reserve.
Day 6: Explore the city, the Temples of the Gods, and, if time allows, visit the Scala dei Turchi and the mosaics of Villa Romana Del Casale.
Day 7: Return to Palermo, return the car, and catch your flight.

Overview of Ragusa, a city on top of a mountain in Sicily
Ragusa in Sicily / Photo: Monday Feelings

7-Day Sicily Itinerary (Arriving in Catania)

Arriving in Catania, you can rent a car or take a train or bus to Syracuse.

Days 1, 2, and 3: Syracuse. Explore the city and on the third day, visit one of the Baroque Cities.
Days 4 and 5: Taormina.
Day 6: Catania to explore the city or ascend Mount Etna.
Day 7: Departure.

Customized Sicily Itinerary

Of course, these are more generalized itinerary options that don’t consider the preferences, budget, and interests of each traveler. If you’d like a personalized itinerary tailored specifically to your trip, please contact us. We’d be delighted to help you organize your travel!

We recommend hotels, cities, restaurants and activities that best match your travel style and budget., besides all the information you need to enjoy the most and worry the least. Send us an email.