When to go
High summer (July/August) is peak season in Sicily. The coastal towns in particular are busy as many Sicilians flock to the sea during the extremely hot weather. The weather during May, June and September is much milder and the Spring is particularly delightful with the wild flowers at their best. The sea can stay warm as late as November and winters along the coast tend to be mild, even if sometimes wet. Inland, and particularly in mountainous regions, temperatures are lower and there is snow on high ground.
What to take
You should be able to buy everything you need in Sicily. Pharmacies offer a wide range of drugs, medical supplies, and toiletries, along with expert advice, but you should bring any prescription drugs you might need with you. Sunscreen and mosquito repellent products are advisable in summer.
Clothing depends on the time of year and the activities you plan. Dress is casual except in the smartest restaurants and appropriate dress (no shorts or bare shoulders) is needed for visits to churches. Dress codes do tend to be more conservative in Sicily than in central and northern Italy, especially in rural areas. You may need a sweater in the evenings, even in summer, and if hiking is on your itinerary, do come prepared with rain and cold weather gear. Hiking, camping and other sports equipment can be purchased or rented.
Lastly, don’t forget the essentials: ID, driver’s license (along with a photocopy to be shown just in case of theft or lost), tickets, traveller’s checks, and insurance documents.
City centre driving can be challenging and parking can also be difficult. This is particularly the case in Palermo where we would advise against renting a car. Parking can be tricky at times in other towns and cities where street parking is frequently occupied by residents’ cars although metered parking is gradually being introduced in some cities. Be aware that the historic centres of some towns can be closed to traffic at certain times and parking on the outskirts and walking in can be an easier option. Peak driving times in the larger towns and cities tends to be at weekends, particularly on Friday and Sunday evenings. Traffic is also heavy before and after public holidays and the first and last weekend in August.
Apart from our city centre properties, renting a car is strongly recommended at the majority of our villas which are often inaccessible by public transport. Driving around Sicily is actually easier than you would expect and motorways are rarely overly busy.
While many restaurants will accept the major credit cards (look for card symbols: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Carta Si), payment is often by cash only in rural area and small villages. Do check payment methods before ordering your meal. At some restaurants, a small cover charge (‘pane e coperto’) of around 2-3 euros per person will be added to your bill, and a service charge of between 10-15% may also be applied.
In cafés and bars, you will generally pay more for your coffee if you sit at a table rather than standing at the bar. If you plan to stand, pay first at the till and take the receipt to the barista to order your drink.
Be prepared for a little creativity with opening times in Sicily, particularly when it comes to museums and churches!
Shops opening hours are usually from 8.30am-1pm and from 3.30 or 4pm-8pm. Some close on Monday mornings. In the main cities, shops may be open 7 days a week from 9am-8pm.
Banks are open from Monday to Friday, from 8.30am-1.30pm.
Churches are usually open from 8 or 9am to noon and from 3 or 4pm to 6 or 8pm, excluding religious services. Museums generally close on Sunday afternoon and Monday and most close for lunch (1pm-3 or 4pm) although some now stay open all day.
Restaurants often close on Sunday evening and on Monday or another weekday.
Travelers with disabilities
Sicily can be difficult for those with disabilities. Busy roads with badly parked cars in Palermo and poorly paved streets in rural areas are awkward to manoeuvre and towns such as Taormina, with steep gradients, can also present problems. Museums, galleries and newly built public buildings are making progress in terms of wheelchair access but restaurants, although helpful, may not have adequate facilities. Useful contacts for travellers with disabilities in Italy include COIN and Disabili.