Sicily By Car - a real challenge

Many of you are probably wondering at this point: “Have the My Destination Sicily girls gone mad?  We certainly won’t drive in Sicily, given the chaotic traffic conditions, and – to put it kindly – the swift driving style of the locals.”

We admit that driving in Sicily is a challenge if you are not used to southern “road customs”, such as fast driving, lack of fear of death, ignoring red traffic lights, the wish of breaking as many laws as you can once you are on the road, parking across and on pavements and zebra crossings, triple parking, stopping in the middle of the road and having a chat with a friend who is passing by, ignoring the traffic jam you just caused, and the mystery of the directional signs - you got five choices: absent, right, wrong, ambiguous, or there are so many signs on the same post that you get completely confused.

Please keep in mind that before you thousands of tourists drove around in Sicily by car.

So you can do it, too!

We can reassure you: driving in Sicily is not as bad as always said. Admittedly, it is not advisable to drive in Palermo (bad), Catania (worse), or Messina (gruesome – tin avalanches are pushing through the city day and night). If you are going to these places, leave the car at the first parking garage you spot and head out on foot and public transport. Or you book an excursion in your hotel, or you hop on a train or local bus  – that’s what we do, even if the public transport is somewhat unreliable and timetables serve mainly as a rough orientation to passengers. The rest of the island could be easily explored by car if you follow the

The Ten Commandments of Driving in Sicily

1. Road signs are used primarily to decorate the streets!

2. Stay on highways and state roads!

3. Locals usually don’t know that their cars have indicators!

4. Respect speed limits!

5. Do not expect all Sicilians having attended a driving school!

6. Try to avoid driving on weekends and feast days!

7. Avoid rush hours! (7–9 am and 6–9 pm)

8. Avoid historic town centres! (they are laid out for carriages and horses)

9. Do not count on navigators in picturesque Medieval towns!

10. Keep cool and be patient! (we know, that’s the most difficult part – we are also still working on it)

On the road in Sicily

Driving in Sicily is on the right. The speed limits are 130 km/h on highways, 110 km/h on state and provincial roads, 90 km/h on secondary and local roads and 50 km/h in urban areas.

Drink driving is fined heavily. Police can levy on-the-spot fines for speeding.

Seat belts and children’s car seats are compulsory.

Be aware that Sicilian highways and roads are packed with nastily hided radar controls, so don’t speed. Penalties are high, the fine will be sent to your car rental and they will forward it to you.

On highways and outside built-up areas it is obligatory to turn on the headlights.

Some parts of the highways in Sicily are toll free, others not. You pull a ticket at the toll booth, but please, when you are leaving the motorway queue at “Biglietto”. Never try to pass through at “Telepass” unless you’ve always wanted to get to know an official uniform wearer because they look ever so dashing.

Car rides on weekends and feast days should be avoided as much as possible, because then the inhabitants of the hinterland swing themselves into their set of wheels and head towards the coast – 3rd, 6th  and 10th commandment coming into force.

In the Sicilian hinterland

The hinterland is a great place for driving because there is very few traffic. But you can be sure that from time to time also country dwellers got to go somewhere. Now the 10th commandment comes into force – patience! You will see incredible vehicles with drivers who do not know that their car has a third gear, let alone a fourth,  and who are wondering since the car purchase about the meaning of all the numbers on top of the gearshift (at least it seems so…..). What makes it worse is that many cars are older than their owners. Speeding is also very popular.  In villages you have to be aware that Sicilians may suddenly stop in the middle of the road and have a chat with someone sitting in a café.

Parking in Sicily

You have finally arrived in some beautiful place and are looking for a niche to leave the car.

The science of proper parking in Sicily:

1.    You spot a space: do not just park and get out of the car!

2.    First look closely on the ground.

3.    Are the lines white, yellow or blue?

4.    White: only for residents with parking pass.

5.    Yellow: only for loading and offloading.

6.    Blue: HERE YOU MAY PARK!

7.    But you’ll have to buy a ticket.

8.    Sometimes there are ticket machines – that’s great. Sometimes not – that’s not so great.

9.    Find a tobacco shop (tabacchino) selling tickets. Which in turn implies that the shop is open.

10.  You find an open tabacchino, buy a ticket and can start sightseeing – congrats!

Parking varies from town to town but is usually restricted in the narrow streets of historic centres to local vehicles. Areas that are signposted Zona Disco (disk zone) allow free parking for limited periods but you must display your time of arrival on a disk or a piece of paper. Parcometro is common in the cities with machines that provide a stamped ticket you leave on the dashboard. If in doubt ask locals what to do. Similarly some petrol stations are automated for bills or credit cards.

To avoid all this: leave your car at the first parking garage you spot!

If you’d like to rent a car for more than one day you will have to think about where to leave it over night. In case you are staying in Taormina or a small hotel: make sure your accommodation has a parking. And you should also make sure that the fee is low or that it is free. The public parking garages in Taormina are a bit on the pricy side, and also some hotels charge fees up to EUR 15,00 or more per day.

Let’s be serious: driving in Sicily is no problem.

Most of the roads are in good conditions, out of rush hours and the above mentioned three cities there is relatively few traffic, and you will enjoy your sightseeing trips by car. The scenery is so beautiful: Greek temples on top of hills, bright lemon and orange trees, the blue sea, blossoming almond and peach groves, blinding white limestone rocks and silvery shimmering olive trees. Just do like the locals: a Sicilian motorist looks what front and rear driver are doing, and adapts.

Oh yes, we nearly forgot to tell you that when you got lost and ask a local for the way: Sicilians are always friendly and helpful. They will explain the way with a lot of verbiage and brandishing, but rather send you in the wrong direction than admit that they don’t know the way! But your car comes with a road map, and a navigator could also be helpful, except in – see above – Medieval town centres (9th commandment).

To make your planning easier you will find some tours and round trips here

Round trips i Sicily by car

You could also book in advance an organized round trip by car. All tour operators offer themed tours. That’s a great way to explore Sicily individually without having to bother where to overnight. All hotels are pre-booked, you will get a road map and a detailed description of your trip where all interesting things along the way are listed.

Car rental in Sicily

Usually it is cheaper to book a car in advance as prices might be a lot higher if booking on the spot. Nevertheless you must be 21 years old and will require your driving license, an ID and a credit card. 

Given the often narrow streets in cities and villages and the parking conditions we propose to travel with less luggage and rent a small car, preferably a Diesel.

Car, scooter, boat, yacht and bike rentals you will find at our Services page