Sicily is one of the most frequented islands in the Mediterranean, with over one million tourists setting out to explore each year. The wealth of charming villages in Sicily dotted across the island are often overlooked, which has allowed them to stay wonderfully true to their roots and the perfect place to catch a glimpse into Sicilian culture (not to be confused with Italian culture).
The large majority of visitors to Sicily in southern Italy will flock to the main tourist sites of Palermo, Taormina, Ortigia & Agrigento before settling on one of the hundreds of spectacular beaches to sit back and relax.
This guide will take you through 13 of the most beautiful villages in Sicily: Through the baroque Noto valley in the East of Sicily, allow you to explore one of the oldest Sicilian villages in Western Sicily, dramatically perched atop a cliff 750 meters above sea level and finally recommend you the most untouched islands around Sicily to languorously stroll around on.
How to get around the best villages in Sicily
While I am a big proponent of traveling as sustainable as possible, for Sicily I would recommend veering away from public transport and instead, renting a car. Public transport is available, though taking it requires a lot of patience and a sense of good humor (trains & busses are often late or sometimes do not show up).
Renting a car in Sicily
Renting a car in Sicily should cost anywhere between €60 and €100 ($66-$111) euro a day depending on the type of car & insurance you choose. Prices can get expensive, compare rentals via Auto Europe and be sure to book in advance!
Documents needed to rent a car in Sicily
- When renting a car drivers need to be at least 19 years old, drivers between 19 and 25 ýears old will most likely need to pay an additional fee (young driver surcharge)
- Valid Drivers Licence: Renting a car from outside of Europe? You will need to have an International Drivers Permit (IDP)
- Insurance: According to Italian Law, you need to be in possession of a Collision Damage Waiver and Theft Protection insurance for your car. These usually come in the standard rental package, though best to check in advance.
What type of car should I rent?
There are not many electric charging points in Sicily, though at the time of writing new fast-charging points were being built in Palermo (2022). Opt for a smaller size car to navigate the tiny roads in the heart of the small villages in Sicily you plan to visit. Added bonus, smaller cars are a lot easier to park!
Budget Tip: Check the various options on Auto Europe and compare prices.
Driving in Sicily – Tips and Tricks
Driving in the Sicilian towns and villages is, aside from the small side of the roads, a very pleasant experience. Keep your eyes peeled at all times, as scooters (motorino) tend to shoot out of little streets and from behind cars at very inopportune moments.
Driving in Palermo and other large cities is not for the faint-hearted. Personally, I do not drive and leave that to my Sicilian partner who navigates the traffic skillfully while simultaneously using every curse word in the dictionary. Swerving around motorino, double and triply parked cars, and the occasional pedestrian. The general rule of thumb is to be assertive (no such thing as a right of way) and be very vigilant.
When filling up your tank of gas, make sure to pick a pump that is labeled as self-service. The pumps that have someone help you out to add gas are usually subject to a hefty surcharge (can go up to 35% additional fee/liter of gas).
CHECK PRICES FOR RENTING A CAR
The island of Sicily is the largest in the Mediterranean, do you know which part of Sicily is best suited for you during your stay? These are the best areas I would recommend for all types of travelers.
Is it worth taking a tour to the various small villages in Sicily?
If patience is not one of your virtues (I most certainly fall in this category) and driving in Sicily seems a little too adventurous you can always opt for a guided tour to the various beautiful villages in Sicily. Most tours leave from Palermo or Catania and combine various villages in one day.
Tours to small villages in Sicily leaving from Palermo
$: Monreale & Céfalu half-day excursion: Visit the beautiful Monreale Duomo and marvel at the Norman architecture before heading to the Medieval fishing villages of Céfalu where you will explore the historical town, Mandralisca Museum, and Medieval lavatory. Pick-up and drop-off at your hotel in Palermo included.
$: Agrigento and Valley of Temples: Take a guided day tour from Palermo to the UNESCO heritage Valley of Temples and the Sicilian village of Agrigento. Learn all about the Greek (!) temples from an expert guide. This tour is only run on select days of the week, check before booking
You might also like: A local’s guide to exploring Palermo
Tours to towns in Sicily leaving from Catania
$: Siracusa, Ortigina and Noto tour. Visit three of the most stunning baroque villages in Sicily in this full-day guided tour from Catania. Pick-up and drop-off at your hotel in Catania are included in the price.
$$: Mount Etna and Taormina full-day tour: This top-rated tour includes taking in the impressive Mount Etna, riding up the cable car to the 9,514-foot (2,900-meter) peak of Mount Etna (optional), having a tasting of local products (honey, oil, wine) and stopping best viewpoint to see the “Isola Bella” on your way to Taormina. An afternoon spent enjoying the little village of Taormina and the ancient Greek UNESCO-heritage amphitheater. Hotel pick-up and drop-off included.
13 Most charming Sicilian villages to explore
5 most beautiful villages in Sicily for Baroque: Eastern Sicily
The lesser-visited eastern coast of Sicily is cut off from the rest of the island by mountains (Did someone say Etna?) and countless ravines, making it slightly more off the beaten path for most travelers. Rent a car and start your journey into the UNESCO-classified heartland of Sicilian Baroque, which thanks to its existence to a Spanish duke who rebuilt the villages and towns that were razed to the ground by a devastating earthquake in the 17th century.
Aside from the beautiful baroque architecture, these typical Sicilian towns also offer some of the islands’ most spectacular remnants of ancient Greek architecture as well as the best almond granita to be found in Italy. This side of the island is vaguely reminiscent of both Malta and the Istrian peninsula in Croatia.
Possibly the most well-known of the four baroque beauties, Noto has become the poster child for the most beautiful baroque villages in Sicily, and with good reason. Make a grand entrance through the Arco di Trionfo before strolling around the Corso Vittoria Emanuele, filled with genteel bars & restaurants.
Devour an almond-flavored granita for breakfast at 1893 Caffè Sicilia and explore some of the gently fading baroque palazzos (Palazzo Ducezio, Palazzo Nicolaci di Villadorata) and lavish churches (Cathedrale di Noto) that put Noto on the map. Finish the evening on the steps of the famed, slightly crumbling Piazza Municipio, the place to see and be seen.
Tip: Learn all about the history and architecture of Noto with a guided walking tour. Find the prettiest nooks, try some local delicacies and get to know the town like a local.
Find your guesthouse in the baroque village of Noto
The name of the city is derived from the Arabic words Qal ‘at al Gharùn, loosely translated as “Fortress of Jars” – a reference to the artisanal ceramics made here at the time. To this day Caltagirone is one of the best villages in Sicily to visit if you are on the hunt for ceramics.
The grandest display of ceramics is without a doubt the Scalinata di Santa Maria del Monte – 142 steep stairs leading to the medieval part of Caltagirone. Catch your breath at the top while drinking in the sweeping views. Take the scenic way down by meandering through the many carrugi (little streets). Before jetting off, be sure to indulge in a cuddureddi (biscuit from honey, wine & almonds) from the local bakery.
Find a locally run B&B in Caltagirone
The small baroque island of Ortigia, otherwise known as the historic center of Siracusa is quite simply perfection. The small size of the island provides a carefree environment for even the most directionally challenged traveler (myself included) to leisurely stroll around: Somehow the sea is always just around the corner.
Make sure to visit the bustling Mercato di Ortigia, get lost in the maze of narrow streets in the Jewish quarter, and marvel at the Cathedral of Sircacusa – a baroque church built on the remnants of a Greek temple. Sunset can be enjoyed at the port of Ortigia or at the Greek Theater of Siracuse (Neapolis Archeological Park of Siracusa).
When walking around town make sure you look up at the many balconies that are buttressed with plentiful carvings of faces, animals, fauna, and flora.
There is more to Ortigia: The island of Ortigia has plenty of cool sea caves that can only be explored by guided boat tour. Visit the caves and have a refreshing swim!
Find a beautiful B&B in Ortigia
One of the prettiest seaside fishing villages in Sicily is without a doubt Marzamemi. Once the most important tuna-fishing towns of the island, nowadays relegated to a picturesque stop for tourists and sun worshippers.
The former buzzing 16th-century tonnara underwent a transformation from tuna processing factory to a vibrant courtyard, filled with locally-owned restaurants and bars. Make sure to try the Pomodoro di Pachino (tomatoes from the nearby town of Pachino) and indulge in a glass of Nero d’Avola wine.
Bring your swimsuit, because the bright blue water will lure you in before you can think twice. In the winter this small village in the East Coast of Sicily is all but dormant, save from a few lone fishermen.
Browse accommodations in Marzamemi
The village of Taoromina is widely known for its horseshoe-shaped ancient amphitheater (Theatro Greco) offering staggering views over Mount Etna. Spend a few hours walking up and down the hilly streets: make your way from Porta Catania all the way to Porta Messina over the central artery Corso Umberto.
Get in a good workout as you hike up to the Santuario della Madonna della Rocca, a tiny church cut into the cliffs. Don’t forget to take in the views on your way up! Finish off the day in the Piazza IX Aprile, the best sunset spot in town.
SUMMER TIP: A great alternative to escape the blistering heat for a few hours is to partake in one of the many local cooking classes on offer.
GET ACTIVE: Take a day trip from Taormina to hike up Mount Etna.
5 Sicilian towns and in villages built on
Arab and Norman foundations: Western Sicily
Western Sicily contains some of the most well-known sites of the city including the capital – Palermo. This part of the island is categorized by strong Arab and Norman influences of which the Norman Palace & the Cathedrals of the Sicilian villages Monreale and Céfalu are the most famous remnants.
The beauty in the architecture is how it forms a clear testimonial to the possibility of a fruitful coexistence of people with different cultures, religions, and originals. This is one of the main reasons that The Arab-Norman Itinerary in Sicily received the UNESCO classification in 2015.
On the coast between Palermo and Messina sits the colorful fishing village of Cefalù. What started out as a small Greek village worshipping in the temple of Diana, quickly grew into a densely populated fishing village under the Romans. Visit the UNESCO classified Arab-Norman cathedral decorated with glimmering golden mosaics by the hands of Byzantium masters.
Weather permitting hike up to the Temple of Diana, for the best views over the village. Spend the warmest hours of the day relaxing on the long stretch of beach and end the day with a cold beer watching the sunset over the remains of the ancient Roman wall. Cefalù & Taoromina are the two most visited Sicilian towns and villages on the island. If you are planning to go in high season, expect it to be bursting with energy & people
GET AWAY FROM THE CROWDS: A great way to explore Cefalu from another angle is from the sea. Hop on a guide boat tour of the coastline of Cefalu, swim & snorkel in tranquility and get the best views over the ancient port of Cefalu from the comfort of your little boat.
Find a beachfront hotel in Cefalù
Far removed from the loud traffic-ridden streets of Palermo and the busy beaches of Cèfalu, lies the little village of Castelbueno whose name is derived from the main touristic highlight: The Castello del Buen Aire or Castle of Ventimiglia.
The castle is a 13th-century Arab-Norman structure with a surprisingly intricate Palatine Chapel – adorned with stucco and pure gold leaf decorations. Wander through the sun-drenched streets, indulge in a pastry at Fiasconora, and learn the art of dolce far niente, a skillset the small villages in Sicily all seem to have mastered beautifully.
Find a guesthouse in Castelbuono
Perched atop a prime hill-top position is the historical village of Monreale, best known for its UNESCO classified Arab-Norman Cathedral (Duomo di Monreale). A true architectural masterpiece, balancing a relatively robust exterior with a golden interior: 6000 square meters of dainty golden mosaics, crafted by the best Byzantine craftsmen.
After visiting the Duomo, pop next door to the chiostro (cloisters) of the Benedictine monastery. Get the €6 ticket at the entrance of the Monreale Cathedral which combines a visit to both the Cathedral and the cloister. Feast your eye upon the 200 heavily decorated columns – each column adorned with a unique pattern of mosaics.
Monreale is one of the best villages in Sicily to get to if you do not have a car but are still looking to experience the local village feel. The village can be reached by the Palermo urban Bus Service (AMAT). Take bus 389 from Piazza Indipendenza and purchase a standard single ticket.
Save Time: Combine Cefalu and Monreale in a half-day excursion. Either drive in your rental car or book a guided tour.
Find a cozy guesthouse in Palermo
With a resident population of 80, Scopello is one of the smallest villages in Sicily to visit. An old baglio (farmstead) in the center of the village houses a set of restaurants, small shops, and the obligatory bakery/gelateria.
Drive up the winding roads of the Castellammare del Golfo towards the famous Tonnara, a 13th-century tuna fishery that these days serves as a museum & small bed & breakfast. The Tonnara is set in an idyllic bay, surrounded by pristine waters and faraglioni (rock formations jutting from the sea), under the watchful eye of two medieval towers. If you have time, visit the nearby natural reserve of Lo Zingaro.
Find accommodations near the beach in Scopello
The little walled medieval village of Erice is perched atop Mount Erice. Although small in size, this is one of the most beautiful villages in Sicily and may surprise you the most. Make your way up through the Spanish Quarter towards the Castle di Venere. On a clear day views from the castle extend all the way over the Trapani Salt flats onto the Egadi islands in the distance.
After visiting the castle try a genovesi pastry filled with pistachio crème at Pasticceria di Maria Grammatica (the most famous pastry chef in Sicily). Wander further down the cobblestone roads, and peek into the many ceramic stores offering colorful trinkets.
Find quaint accommodations in Erice
3 authentic fishing villages in Sicily: Aeolian & Egadi Islands
Any article heralding charming Sicilian towns and villages is incomplete without the mention of at least one of the islands surrounding Sicily (be it Aeolian or Egadi). Things move slowly on the islands (even slower than Palermo), things happen when they need to and not according to your strict schedule. Leave your watch at home, pack a good book and a pair of swimming trunks because that is all you will need here.
The islands dotted around Sicily are the favorite holiday getaway for many local Sicilians. Both the Aelian and Egadi group are still relatively unknown islands in Europe and as such have maintained their authenticity beautifully.
Marettimo (Egadi Island)
Furthest away from Sicily lies the sleepy island of Marettimo. Rumored to be the homeland of Odysseus, this sacred Greek Island is home to around 600 people – most of which are clustered around the fishing village of Marettimo. Due to the remoteness of the island, it has been spared the large influx of tourists that flood the Egedy Islands each year.
Divers and snorkelers will rejoice in the possibility to explore over 400 caves which offer great visibility thanks to the clear waters surrounding the island (only reachable by boat).
The island has a criss-cross of little hikes available taking you through the main highlights of the island: Punta Troai, Case Romane, the Semaforo, and the lighthouse of Punta Libeccio. Marettimo offers a rare insight into the slow-paced island life, the perfect spot to disconnect for a few days.
Getting to Marettimo is relatively easy, ferries run daily from Trappani.
Find out where to stay in Marettimo
Levanzo (Egadi Island)
Levanzo is the smallest of the three Egadi Islands, it houses exactly one village aptly named Levanzo. True to any of the small towns on mainland Sicily, Levanzo contains a passticceria, gelateria, bakery, and a handful of little shops and restaurants.
The island is a tranquil oasis, surrounded by crystal-clear waters all around: Relax at the Caletta del Faraglione, voted one of the top 20 beaches in Italy, or take in the sunset at Cala Tramontana and spot archaeological finds at Cala Minnola.
To get to Levanzo simply hop on one of ferries from Trapani.
Find the best places to stay in Levanzo
San Pietro, Panarea (Aeolian Island)
Panarea is the most exclusive of the Aeolian Islands, home to both the Italian and foreign elite – Stefano Gabbana and the King of Belgium both own a house on the island. The island is picture-perfect: beautiful whitewashed villas, carefully manicured gardens, and a port full of private boats.
Step off the boat, straight into the lively port of San Pietro where fishmongers sell the catch of the day and flocks of day-trippers take shelter from the heat. Grab a gelato on the go and make your way over to any of the peers around San Pietro to hire a Gozo (a little boat).
Spend the day lounging on your boat, dipping in and out of the crystal clear waters. Contrary to first impressions, little San Pietro is one of the best villages in Sicily for a good night out! Have dinner at the rooftop bar and terrace of the Hotel Raya.
If you happen to be there on a Saturday evening during summer, you are in luck! The hotel transforms into Europe’s best outdoor nightclub attracting party-goers from all over Sicily.
To get to Panarea take a ferry from Milazo (Messina) or Palermo.
Find unique accommodations in Panarea
Map of Sicilian towns and villages
Have a look at the interactive Google Map to get an idea of where all the most beautiful villages in Sicily are located.
Sicilian villages in conclusion
The island of Sicily has such a wealth of little villages, each one a bit different from the other. Baroque lovers will be hard-pressed to leave Eastern Sicily, while travelers in search of temples will swoon over Western Sicily and in particular the Valley of Temples.
Those looking for little authentic Sicilian fishing villages can head out to the Aeolian or Egadi islands for some peaceful rest and relaxation far away from the sometimes overwhelming hubbub of tourists found on the main island of Sicily.
MORE TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR VISITING ITALY
Sicily: Where to stay in Sicily for a relaxing holiday
Sicily: Streetfood in Palermo
Sicily: Traditional Sicilian recipes you need to try in Sicily
Sicily: 14 Breathtaking churches in Palermo
Sicily: A local’s guide to visiting Palermo
Italy: Typical vegetarian dishes in Italy from every region
Northern Italy: Northern Italy road trip itinerary for one to two weeks
Northern Italy: Most beautiful lakes in the Dolomites
Northern Italy: Where to stay for a wonderful getaway in the Dolomites