A stay in Palermo is the perfect way to start your Sicilian experience. If you’re planning on staying longer than just a weekend, day-trips from the city are a must. The island is much bigger than most people think. Having Palermo as your base for a week allows you to set up a comfortable camp, stretch your legs, and freely wander through historically rich and utterly charming towns that are so unique to Sicily you’ll never find comparable places. So, what are these magical towns of which I speak? I won’t keep you waiting any longer. Here are my 4 top day trips from Palermo.
When I first moved to Italy I met a woman from Sicily. She told me that “Life is only completely lived, if you visit Sicilia at least once in your life”. While I first thought this was an impossible reality and daunting to us mere humans, I’ve since grown to agree with this angel of travel. This proud woman was, not ironically, from the island herself, specifically Palermo, the capital city.
Cefalu reigns in unpretentious charm with its sandy beaches, historic town, rocky backdrop, and jaw dropping Norman Cathedral. In the summer, join Italian beach-goers as they migrate to this pristine beach or take advantage of a near empty resort town in the fall and winter, still with warm temperatures. After your visit the Cathedral, take a stroll behind and find the path up to the top of the hill. Although steep, it is worth the climb to see ancient ruins and the birds eye view of the town and sea. And don’t forget the food! After your time up the hill or in the Cathedral, take a seat in the connecting piazza and get some fuel- my favorite was gelato with brioche.
Go! The quickest and easiest way is by train. | Palermo Centrale- Cefalu | €6, about 50 minutes.
Sitting on the hill above Palermo, Monreale is the closest neighbor for a day of adventure. It is primarily known for its Norman Cathedral, built in the 12th century, and the impressive gold mosaics inside the building. However, you can easily spend the better part of a day wandering the charming streets, sitting in a piazza with a coffee and one of the many famous Sicilian pastries, relaxing with a long lunch, and taking in the beautiful view of Palermo down below. I still dream of my meal at Taverna del Pavone, a favorite among the locals with typical dishes from the area. For an after lunch treat, head to Bar Italia, right across from the Cathedral, for an espresso and cannolo.
Go! Take the 389 bus from Piazza Indipendenza in Palermo. Relax on the bus, as the last stop is Monreale in about 35 minutes. They generally run 2-3 times every hour with 1 an hour on Sunday, but don’t be surprised if it is 1-2 every hour during the week, as well.
There are a few places in Sicily with ancient ruins, however Agrigento is your best bet. It’s the easiest to reach with public transport and is said to be the best-preserved Greek temples anywhere in the world with a grand total of 8 in this Valley of the Temples. It’s the perfect mix of old world and today. The vast archaeological site is composed of the temples and ruins of the ancient city of Akragas, with the “modern” city of Agrigento as a backdrop in the distance.
The amount of time spent exploring the ruins will depend on the individual interest, but I would gauge roughly 3 hours to see it all. If you have the time in your day, I highly recommend going back to the town of Agrigento itself. It’s a town that expects time from you, with its steep alleys and stairways, but after a rest in a cafe or bar it’s doable. Check out with Duomo at the top of the town and, further downhill, the Santa Maria dei Graci church.
Go! Take the train. | Palermo Centrale- Agrigento | €9, about 2 hours. Take bus # 1, 2, or 3 from the train station and get off at the temples (ask the bus driver to tell you where to get off) | Buy the tickets for the bus at a newsstand or Tabacchi in the train station.
Bagheria was once the playground of rich aristocrats from Palermo, known for its imposing villas and coinciding art. There are towers and villas, which date back to the 16th century, some of which were strategically placed in the hills of the city so they could be more easily seen.
Aside from daydreaming in one of the exquisite and gothic villas, Bagheria also offers beautiful churches, one of which is the Cathedral Church, which was completed in 1771. Look for the famous emblem of the Branciforti family on the main door. With the regal history of the town, it is also still an important resort destination with the beaches of Aspra nearby. Bring your sun cream!
Go! Take the train. | Palermo Centrale-Bagheria | €2.50, 10-15 minutes depending on which train you choose.
- Want to get started planning your Sicilian dream? Check out my guide to Palermo for all you need to know about the capital city, and to ensure you plan enough time for some day trips! Make sure you don’t miss out and read up on our foodie guide to Food Markets & Street Food in Palermo.
- Traveling alone? Wonderful! Get my tips and tricks for solo travel in Italy!
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