If you’re thinking of wintering with your sailboat in Sicily, here are 12 Day Trips In Sicily, or things you can do while you’re settled in for the winter season. If you’ve never been to Sicily before you might assume that it’s a small island. The most common comment we hear from friends visiting is, ‘Wow – I didn’t realize Sicily was so big!’
So…if you think you can see Sicily in a day, a week or even a month, you’re wrong.
Being the largest island in the Mediterranean, the island stretches 160 miles east to west and 110 miles north to south.
There are a few motorways however the bulk of the road system is country roads – filled with some of the 5 million crazy Italian drivers!
While we were sailing in the Mediterranian, we were fortunate to stay in anchorages and moorings along the southeast and east coast of Sicily, with a six-month winter stay in Marina di Ragusa. Read Marina di Ragusa Sicily Marina Review – Winter Season
During our amazing time in Sicily, we’ve enjoyed the following top day-trips.
1. Ragusa – Ibla, Sicily, Italy – Day Trips In Sicily
For months I drove within close proximity to Ragusa Ibla visiting the ‘new town’ of Ragusa missing out on Ibla or the ‘old town.’ The new town has Lidl (discount grocery store), Decathalon (sports shop), Brico (Hardware store), some shopping malls and a small shopping area, or high street.
Along the high street, there’s a tiny Asian supermarket. I mention this tidbit as it’s impossible to get curry paste, noodles, or Asian spices in the regular grocery stores in Italy. If you’re in need of a curry fix, the high street in Ragusa is the place to stop! The store is the size of a postage stamp but it provides many of the Patak curry pastes, noodles, coconut milk, and dry herbs.
Moving on…from a distance, the old town stands out on a hilltop peninsula offering the common sight of Baroque styled buildings found in the region. Week after week, I’d say to hubby, ‘we really need to visit Ibla as it’s only 20km away!’
Finally, the day came for a family outing to Ragusa. My husband, Simon, my 4-year old daughter, Sienna, and I caught a bus from Marina di Ragusa and headed into Ragusa. To our delight, an Australian man, who lived in the area since the ’70s, gave us the in’s and out’s about the land, crops, history and interesting facts during our half-hour journey.
We had our own bus tour guide!
Upon arrival at Ragusa, we had to do our errands and get some passport photo’s taken. Afterward, we could explore.
Walking from Ragusa to Ibla seemed impossible.
Not feeling confident, neither Simon nor I would ask anyone how to get to the ‘old town.’ We walked around aimlessly looking for the ‘old town,’ but couldn’t figure it out. And we couldn’t find a bus to get there either!
After a mini-shouting match, and a meltdown from my daughter (yelling, ‘my feet are tired’) we finally went to a fruit stand and asked for directions. In sincere Sicilian fashion, the fruit stand owner closed up his shop, told us (with hand motions) to get in his car, and drove us to Ibla – the old town.
Through windy roads and massive inclines, we arrived at a breathtakingly beautiful piazza.
Later I was told that there’s a walk-way/stair-way from the new to the old down. Perhaps before you visit you can get a map?!
And as usual for us, we entered the town center during siesta time – everything was shut. That being noted, it was brilliant to explore the town alone. Aside from a few people walking with purpose we had a wonderfully quiet and peaceful bumble around.
There were no tourists, no open shops, and no noise.
My family and I breathed in the sights, smelled amazing aromas wafting from restaurant back doors, and absorbed the damp, ancient, unsettled feeling from the narrow cobblestone streets. After the famous earthquake of 1693, half the population chose to rebuild on the ridge above (Ragusa) and the other half chose to renovate the old village (Ibla).
While walking around we noticed terracotta roof-tiled buildings, the Duomo at the heart of the town, and a few Baroque facades. There’s also the portal to a pre-quake cathedral that still remains.
Eventually, we ducked into the one open café and enjoyed some Italian delights – pizza and cannoli. We wanted to trial Ibla’s famous wine ice cream from a nearby parlor however our stomachs were too full. Perhaps next time?
2. Punta Secca, Sicily, Italy
Just a bicycle ride down from Marina di Ragusa, you’ll find Punta Secca – one of the amazing day trips in Sicily. If you’re an Inspector Monteblano fan (popular Sicilian TV drama), this is a definite coastal spot to visit. Apparently, you’ll find the Inspectors home in addition to his coffee shop in Punta Secca.
When we first arrived in Marina di Ragusa I purchased the Inspector Monteblano DVD box set (ordered it in the UK and had it sent down to Italy) but I’m sad to say that our social life at the marina has kept us from watching any of the series.
Perhaps when we’re sailing in the Pacific I’ll have more free time?
Anyway, the bicycle ride along the coast is spectacular! There are rugged rocks, wonderful sea views, and interesting bushes, shrubs, and flowers. Upon arrival in the small town, we found a lighthouse, coffee shop, and several small little cafes and restaurants. The town also offers views of a tiny fishing marina.
Ironically, we ran into our French neighbor.
After four months of being next-door (or shall I say ‘next-boat’) neighbors, we sat down and enjoyed a cup of coffee together. Never before had we spent time actually getting to know each other. Up until then, we’d always say ‘hi’ and ‘goodbye’ but due to language differences, we never had much of a conversation.
It’s funny how things happen like that – isn’t it? We all enjoyed our drinks, had a light conversation, and then we went back to our explorations. During the winter the coast road was quiet, the town was calm and the views (on a sunny day) are spectacular.
3. Scicli, Sicily, Italy
Similar to Ragusa, Ibla we drove past Scicli (pronounced, Shickley) several times. I never thought of it as one of those day trips in Sicily. When driving to the town you can see it from the roadside and the view is spectacular. There are churches dotted around and a massive cemetery with mausoleum after mausoleum (the Sicilians don’t bury their dead in the ground).
My husband, a dear friend, and I took the morning off and did a bit of walking around Scicli one day. While my daughter was in school we played hooky! After a coffee, Italian pastries, and a pleasant chat, the three of us walked around the back streets, climbed a hilltop trail, and enjoyed the views.
While walking around, my friend, Angelina, said, “I must show you the storm drain – it’s the largest drain I’ve ever seen.”
We walked some more and when we came upon the drain I was in awe. I did take a picture, but I’ll let you find it for yourself. After seeing the drain I assumed that some serious water must filter through the town during storms.
During a second visit, we managed to get caught in a rainstorm!
The streets filled with water and there was no way you could walk or even drive through the flash flood. I wasn’t near the drain to see how high the water rose but I’m sure it looked like a raging river!
4. Catania, Sicily, Italy – day trips in Sicily
Of the cities I’ve been fortunate to explore, my favorites include San Francisco, London, and Catania – yes, Catania is on my list of most loved cities! When we first arrived in Sicily, a year ago, we spent a couple of weeks getting repairs done in Catania.
And since our long stay, we’ve been back to Catania (by car) more than ten times!
Fortunately for us, we made friends with some lovely Italians/Sicilians that live in Catania so we were able to enjoy non-touristy eateries, local ‘tours.’
For example, I know about the manhole cover in the market that can be removed and fished from – apparently, a freshwater river runs under the city, and locals know how to catch fish from it! My family and I have had the opportunity to try horsemeat – marinated in a traditional sauce and grilled over an open flame (It was amazing). We’ve also enjoyed ducking into old buildings and have been given a personal guided tour of the architecture, uses, and current standing of a variety of places!
But regardless as to whether or not you get a local tour of Catania, the city is amazingly beautiful
The churches are ornate, the university buildings are steeped in history and the main road leading up to Mount Etna is special.
When I first walked around the city I saw quite a bit of graffiti, grim, and dirt but after several days my first observations changed. The graffiti and dirt seemed to fade away and I saw the city with new eyes. Catania is like nothing I’ve seen before – it has a special feel to it…a feel I enjoyed feeling over and over!
5. Mount Etna
You can see Catania and Mount Etna on the same day however it’s a LONG day. I would suggest a couple of day trips to Catania or a weekend stay. We’ve been up the volcano a few times now and each time has been a different experience.
The first time we ventured to the lookout point was in April and there was no snow. It was numbing cold and extremely windy but no sign of the white stuff. At the lookout point, you can opt to take a gondola to a higher lookout point or walk around and spend time in a massive crater.
The gondola ride was around 80 euros each so we decided the view we had was good enough. There’s no way to get to the actual summit so the need to be higher with a lighter wallet didn’t appeal to us.
The key to seeing Etna is getting a day when the sun is out and there are limited clouds. More times than not, Catania is covered in clouds, so if you take the curvy road up, you’ll get out and view clouds rather than the city, sea, and awesome valley.
One time during February, we went up and couldn’t get to the lookout point – the road was covered in snow. We couldn’t see anything either. That being noted, we had a great snowball fight! You gotta love day trips in Sicily.
6. Modica, Sicily, Italy
Modica is a great place to go for the day or night. We were fortunate to hit Modica during its annual winter chocolate festival. During December all the chocolatiers of the region get together and sell their delights. From one stand I purchased twenty different chocolate bars (Christmas gifts for friends back home) – my favorite being the chili chocolate.
As soon as you arrive in Sicily put the Chocolate Festival dates in your calendar!
I’m comparing my chocolate experience to American and British chocolate so who am I to judge? Perhaps you can visit Modica and try the chocolate for yourself?
Aside from visiting chocolate vendors, you can watch chocolatiers create masterpieces! I was gobsmacked to see what can be done with chocolate.
Whether the chocolate festival is going on or not, Modica is a great place to visit.
There’s loads of history, amazing architecture and the surrounding landscape is amazing. Furthermore, there are several little boutiques, cafes, and shops to enjoy during a stroll around the town.
10. Roman Villa, Sicily, Italy
We rented a car and took a two-hour trip from Marina di Ragusa to the Roman Villa – It’s listed on the map as the Villa Romana del Casale.
The villa was supposedly the hunting lodge of an important Roman official. It’s decorated with the world’s best-preserved and most extensive set of Roman mosaics in the world. (I always feel honored when I discover something that’s the worlds best, first or oldest).
Apparently, the mosaics were buried in a mudslide in the 12th century keeping them intact.
So – if you like mosaics this is a sightseeing destination not to be missed. A definite contester for day trips in Sicily 🙂
The mosaic of the women in bikinis was not only in perfect condition but helped me to realize just how long bikinis have been in fashion!
And just a few last details: there is a tourist area that looks like a settlement camp, offering souvenirs and snack foods before entry. Once you’re in the villa, there is a cafeteria type offering. The cost of entry was 10 euros each with children going free. And although most children won’t find mosaics terribly amusing, the layout of the complex keeps everyone interested. There are several staircases to go up and down, little nooks, and see-through glass so small children can see everything.
11. Agrigento, Sicily, Italy – day trips in Sicily
While living amongst 60 other liveaboard boaties at Marina di Ragusa, word spreads quickly regarding new restaurants, upcoming festivals, and worthwhile day-trips.
Agrigento seemed to be a must-see destination for most boaties.
Week after week I’d see photos of the Valley of Temples on my marina Facebook posts and at the marina bar, I’d overhear groups of people talk about the ruins and beautiful views.
Finally, the time came for us to join forces with another boat, the family on Cygnus III, rent a van, and see the temples for ourselves.
Eleven of us clambered into a van and with my husband, Simon, at the steering wheel we set off for Agrigento. During the long trip (2.5 hrs) we sang songs (my daughter practiced the song, ‘Let it go,’ from Frozen), told jokes (most of which I didn’t get – I’m American and the rest of the car was British), and took a pit stop at McDonald’s.
Yes, while touring Sicily we stopped at McDonald’s
Heck, when you live in Sicily, it’s difficult to get anything other than pasta, bread, steak, etc. so when an opportunity comes up to sample the taste of ‘home,’ we sometimes take it.
We stopped in Gela at McDonald’s, ate some grub and then I let my daughter play in the outdoor playground. She hadn’t finished her drink or fries so I kept them on the outdoor table with me. Having the need for the bathroom, I asked my friends to look after Sienna and I should have said, ‘look after her fries and orange juice too!’ As soon as I left the table a homeless man grab her food and started eating it. I wasn’t expecting that but at least the food when to a needy stomach.
After many side roads, crazy driving incidents, and loads of laughs we barreled out of the car and started our sightseeing adventure.
The ruined temples are set on a rugged landscape backed by views of the sea
If you’re into temples, this day trip is well worth the car journey. We all spent hours walking around the Greek temples, old roads, gates, and walls. Although you can’t go inside any of the temples, you can get very close.
12. Olive Picking – day trips in Sicily!
If someone forced me to choose my most favorite Sicily day-trip, I’d have to say that my olive picking experience topped all others. When my dear friend, Angelina, asked me to join six others for an olive picking day-trip, my immediate responded ‘Yes – Definitely count me in.’
Seven of us left Marina di Ragusa early on a November morning. With my American buddy and fellow cruiser, Kenny, at the wheel I was his copilot as we weaved ourselves through the curvy, narrow, hilly roads of southeast Sicily.
Our journey took less than two hours and was full of great conversation and anticipation for the day’s events. When we arrived at our destination, our hosts Paolo, Mila, and their two children graciously greeted us. Within seconds, I felt very welcomed.
After a quick tour of the country home and a bathroom break, Paolo led us towards the back of the house, down a path, along an orchard of nut trees (I think they were almonds) and through to the olive grove.
The air was fresh, the views were green and the mood amongst the cruisers was light and open. We were all excited to learn about the process of olive picking AND support a local farm by volunteering our time and energy.
As we approached the grove Paolo explained the history of his family and the land. He also described his philosophy about nature.
I wish I recorded his speech as it made my heart smile.
Paolo explained that he likes to believe that each tree has a soul and needs to be taken care of accordingly. Giant olive farmers use machines that shake and bruise the olives during harvests whereas Paolo’s traditional methods call for hand picking.
From what I learned, bruised olives cause the fermentation process to start creating a less authentic and tasty end result. During our full day of olive picking, the cruisers and I used our hands to pick or pull the olives off allowing them to softy fall on green netting surrounding the tree. Four of us would work one tree at a time, carefully allowing the green olives to drop below.
Paolo taught us to always look before we took a step to avoid crushing an olive!
Once the olives were removed carefully from the tree we’d slowly pull the netting away allowing all the pickings to congregate in the center. We then slowly poured them into crates that would go to the olive oil press (within 36 hours).
After a few hours of picking, Paolo disappeared and then reappeared with one of the most amazing lunches I’ve ever had. On top of a couple of crates, he laid out slices of fresh homemade bread covered in olive oil and fresh herbs in addition to cheese and meat. There was also a bottle of homemade red wine.
When I told my husband, Simon, about the experience I said that it felt as if I was eating nature.
He laughed at me and called me a ‘dork,’ but I honestly felt as if I was experiencing a bit of history, evolution, authenticity, love, and nature while eating the most simple foods.
Perhaps it was the glass of red wine after expending quite a bit of manual labor, but for a moment I felt so close to the people and land around me. I felt in love with life…in love with the simplicity of living.
It was a magical moment.
After our lovely lunch, we all went back to picking olives. Each one of us shared stories, listened to each other talk. And we kept our ears open for anything Paolo had to say. His voice conveyed a sense of calmness and wisdom…Perhaps if he was speaking an unknown language I’d still want to listen to the sound of Paolo speaking?!
When bringing olives to the press there’s an optimal amount needed – too little won’t work and too much isn’t good either. My co-pickers and I strived to achieve the optimal picking amount. We couldn’t let Paolo down – could we?
The olive picking soon came to an end. And we all helped to clean up and transport the olives to a vehicle. We were shepherded back to the farmhouse where Mila greeted us with a table set for a traditional Sicilian feast.
As we ate more fresh bread, olive oil, cheese, and meats. We were also served an amazingly tasty bowl of lentils. We also enjoyed some wine. Paolo and Mila answered questions, shared the details of their lives, and discussed their plans for the future.
I felt so honored to be amongst my fellow cruisers. And to have such an authentic experience – the day was bliss…the day was REAL…I felt so alive and so happy to be alive.
After dinner, we all purchased some of the olive oil previously pressed from the grove and then headed to the press.
I pictured a traditional stone wheel for the pressing. But we arrived at a warehouse that had several connecting pieces of machinery. I notice the olive cleaning stations, and then I followed along to the press and mulcher thing…my eye followed further along until I could see a steel container with a tap allowing the fresh olive oil to finally be extracted.
Paolo took us around the machines and explained the process. We eagerly absorbed the experience and enjoyed gaining closure to the olive oil process. Picking olives was great but seeing the olives turn into olive oil made the whole event spectacular.
Night had arrived and it was time to head back to Marina di Ragusa. Our day trips in Sicily were over for the day!
With Kenny at the wheel, we headed home. The car was full of energy even though we all felt slightly exhausted. A couple of people sang for us, some told jokes and we all participated in fun conversation.
For €10, to cover the food served to us, and my time for one day I experienced a truly memorable event. If you ever find yourself in Sicily, please, please, please visit Paolo and Mila. They have a working farm and invite guests throughout the year to stay with them and experience traditional Sicilian life. I cannot recommend a visit more.
Their website is: www.phantalica.org
Check Out Some Other Areas In Sicily & The Mediterranian
If you’d like a good summary of our time in Sicily, read Visiting Sicily. And if you’d like a breakdown of all the places we’ve visited while sailing the Mediterranean please read our destination overview: Sailing The Mediterranean. Otherwise, check out more posts about our time spent in Sicily.
- Malta to Sicily
- 12 Day Trips To Take In Sicily
- Marina di Ragusa Review
- Sailing To Catania
- Riposto Marina Review
- Taormina Bay
- Sailing Around Stromboli
- Salina Island
- Sicily to Corfu