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BlogTravel tipsThe solo traveler’s guide to Sicily
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Travel tips

The solo traveler’s guide to Sicily

Jan 31, 2022 by Jamie Gallerani

Are you a solo traveler who’s dreaming of a place that’s full of warmth, culture, and cannoli that will knock your socks off? Then put “travel solo to Sicily” on your bucket list! We connected with Go Ahead staffers who’ve visited Sicily solo, and they shared their top tips for exploring this unforgettable island on tour. Read on to find out why Sicily travel should be on every solo traveler’s radar.

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Why should solo travelers visit Sicily on a guided tour?

Traveling solo in Sicily is always a good idea—especially when you’re exploring with our travel experts! There’s so much to see on the island, and we’ll help you uncover the best of the best. Here are some top reasons to spring for solo Sicily travel.

  • You’ll never be bored. “Sicily is a fascinating melting pot of cultures, shaped over the centuries by the Greeks, Romans, Normans, Arabs—I could go on,” said staffer Allison. “Solo travelers who enjoy history, architecture, and food will find their senses captivated by the Sicilian story. Because there is so much to see and experience, you’re never at a loss for things to do.”
  • There’s so much to see, but I think it would be difficult to see everything without it being put together by experts,” said staffer Gaelyn. “I went on our Sicily: A Cultural Journey tour, and you get to explore so much of the island. There’s independent time, which I love, but there are also excursion options. I visited Segesta and Erice on the Ancient Ruins: Segesta & Erice excursion, which was super cool. I never would have visited those towns on my own if I was an independent traveler.”
  • You’ll broaden your horizons alongside interesting people. One of the best parts about going solo in a group is getting to know your fellow travelers, who are sure to have diverse interests that they can share with you. “I’m fascinated by architecture when I travel, but some are fascinated by religion, or military history, or Sicily’s mafia history, or food and wine,” said staffer Gaelyn. “As a solo traveler, you can dabble here and there, but as a group, you’re going to get a very broad, 360 experience and learn so much more.”
  • It’s the perfect place to unwind. There are so many things to do in Sicily, and one of the best is kicking back to soak it all in. “Because of the warm climate, Sicilians enjoy many meals outdoors at local restaurants and cafes,” said staffer Allison. “It’s not uncommon to see people having a drink or dining on their own as they go about their days. You have permission to unwind and enjoy yourself, no matter who you’re with (or not with!).”
  • Our experts will help bridge any language gaps. “The language barrier in Sicily was more apparent than I’d seen in other parts of Italy, like Rome” said staffer Gaelyn. “But, because I had our Tour Director to recommend different restaurants, she was able to send me to a places where I could get authentic food, but would also be able to communicate with the locals.”
  • It’s super accessible. “Sicily has it all: world-class food, gorgeous weather, and fascinating history,” said staffer Cayleigh. “It’s a great destination for a solo traveler because it’s extremely accessible. You can feel confident that the locals will be friendly enough to point you in the right direction.”

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When’s the best time to visit Sicily solo?

One of our top tips for traveling to Sicily is to pick the right time to go, especially if you’re traveling solo. It’s true that the island is unforgettable year-round, but the travel experience (and temperature!) will all depend on the month you visit.

  • Are you a solo traveler who loves a free-time dip in the ocean? Then travel to Sicily in the summer to bask in (very) warm temps and sunshine galore! Plus, summertime is when locals eat gelato and sugary granita for breakfast—yep, you read that right—so solo travelers with a sweet tooth will feel right at home. “My favorite Sicilian meal is breakfast,” said staffer and Italian local Giada, who shared all there is to know about Sicilian cuisine. “As soon as I touch down on Sicilian soil, I step back into the island’s century-old traditions and sit down to the best combination on earth: granita con brioche. With the unique texture of the fruity, sugary ice and the softness of a lightly sweetened bun, I find this type of breakfast divine in its simplicity.”
  • If smaller crowds, cooler temps, and the seasonal harvest is more up your alley, then fall is your time to visit Sicily. This is when the October olive harvest kicks off, which is a cultural moment you’ll be glad you witnessed. Sicily is one of the top places to try olive oil in Italy, after all.
  • If you’re traveling solo to Sicily to really enjoy your me-time, then visiting the island in the winter is just the ticket. Some businesses and restaurants may be closed for the season during the winter months, but there will still be plenty to do and see—those archaeological wonders aren’t going anywhere, after all.
  • Spring in Sicily may see a bit more rain, but it also sees more flowers—how charming, right? And, as always, traveling in the off-season means fewer crowds and lower prices, which is a plus for any solo traveler. If a springtime trip to Sicily is on your solo travel bucket list, then be sure to pay a visit to the city of Noto in May. This is when the Baroque Spring Festival comes around, and Noto’s streets are blanketed with detailed flower decorations in celebration.

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What should I pack for a solo trip to Sicily?

Good shoes, a light scarf, sun protection—the packing essentials laid out in our Sicily Travel Guide are must-haves for solo travelers, too! Read on for our best packing tips for traveling solo in Sicily.

  • All your warm-weather essentials. “When packing for Sicily, make sure to bring light clothing, especially in the summer and early fall,” said staffer Cayleigh. “The island gets extremely hot, sometimes in the high 90s, and you want to make sure you’re comfortable walking around all day.” Staffer Allison is right there with her. “Sicily, especially in the summer, can be very warm, so I recommend bringing a reusable water bottle that you can fill at the hotel each morning and carry with you throughout the day,” she said. “Staying hydrated is key!
  • Comfortable walking shoes are a must,” said staffer Allison. “Your feet will thank you when you decide to do some extra exploring in your free time either on your own or with your new friends.” Yep, bring your favorite footwear, but be sure to take staffer Gaelyn’s advice: “Don’t overpack,” she said. “I always overpack the shoes. Depending on where you’re going in Sicily, you only need a pair of sandals and comfortable walking shoes that are waterproof.”
  • A handy Italian phrase guide, which will make it easier to interact with locals in smaller, more off-the-beaten-path places where not everybody speaks English. Even better? Look for a Sicilian phrase guide! “This part of Italy has their own dialect that can actually be pretty different from the standard Italian we know,” said staffer Emily. If you’re not up for bringing a book, “Make sure you have a translator app downloaded to your phone,” said staffer Gaelyn.
  • Some wine bottle packing protectors—they’ll keep your purchases safe on the trip home,” said staffer Amanda, who had plenty of opportunities to shop to her heart’s content on our Food & Wine: Southern Italy & Sicily tour (and found plenty of wine to pack in her suitcase as a souvenir!).
  • After-meal mints. “With all the flavorful food, it’s handy to have a pack of gum or breath mints to refresh your breath in between meals so that your smile is extra effective when mingling with the group,” said staffer Allison.

What are the best places to visit in Sicily as a solo traveler?

It’s tricky to narrow down the long list of things to do in Sicily—the island offers so much for every type of traveler! “Sicily has a lot of different sides to it,” said staffer Amanda after her Food & Wine: Southern Italy & Sicily tour. “We saw a busy city center in Catania, but were also able to go into the country and visit wine vineyards and the house of an Italian contessa. You got the best of both worlds.” Here are some of the top places to visit in Sicily to see it all as a solo traveler.

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Palermo

Sicily’s capital city is a stunner on all fronts. It’s got the charming cobblestone streets, the architecture, and some of the best cannoli on the island—and even earned the title of Capital of Culture in 2018. Plus, with its walkable city center filled with history, it’s the perfect place to take staffer Joanna’s advice: “Go for solo walks!” It won’t take long to discover why this is one of the best places to visit in Sicily.

Things to do in Palermo as a solo traveler:

  • Take advantage of free time and go explore,” said staffer Gaelyn, who traveled solo on our Sicily: A Cultural Journey tour. “I spent a lot of time with our Tour Director, Sabra, and some of my group members. Sabra took us to some wine bars that she loves, and did a tour of some of the markets. In Palermo, our hotels are typically about 10 minutes from the city center where the famous steps are from that final scene in The Godfather. So, make sure to go into town a little bit!”
  • Dig in to the all-star food scene. Palermo’s known for it, after all. “Sicily is a land of incredible street food, where taste and freshness can be enjoyed on the go,” said staffer and Italy native Giada. From arancine (fried rice balls) to granita con brioche (Italian ice with sweet bread), there are so many bites to try in the city. Check out everything there is to know about Sicilian cuisine → 
  • Take in the scene of one of Sicily’s only major metropolitan areas. “In Palermo, I found it was a very different atmosphere than other places,” said staffer Gaelyn. “There were a lot of different restaurants, and I loved seeing the people go about their daily lives.”
  • See where cannoli were invented. “Our Tour Director took me to a cloistered nunnery called I Segreti del Chiostro, which is where cannoli were created,” said staffer Gaelyn. “Everybody has to do that! Best cannoli in the world. I never would have thought to look it up if I wasn’t with a guide. The history was so cool. Now I send anybody who goes to Sicily there. The nuns are still there making them. Visiting is a must.”

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Syracuse

Getting the chance to explore the city of Syracuse is one of the many reasons to start dreaming of visiting Sicily. There’s unbelievable history in this UNESCO-listed part of Sicily (and there are ruins to prove it!). The only thing more impressive than the history are the views of the ocean, which you can walk right up to and dip your toes in during free time.

Things to do in Syracuse as a solo traveler:

  • Explore the island of Ortygia. “It was beautiful, and because they can’t get the big buses to it, it was a different atmosphere,” said staffer Gaelyn. “I love places where you can’t have a bunch of vehicles because it’s going to be so much more well-preserved. It was incredible.”
  • People-watch in Piazza del Duomo. This gem is also sitting pretty on the island of Ortygia, and looks like it sprang up from the pages of a storybook. There are sprawling cathedral steps surrounded by umbrella-dotted cafes, and the Mediterranean is just a stone’s throw away.
  • Take a dip in the ocean (but forget about sunbathing). There’s not much sunbathing-worthy beach to speak of in Syracuse—it’s mostly just a small strip of pebbles here and a few boulders there. But, the water more than makes up for it, and one of our tips for traveling to Sicily alone is to take advantage of every summertime swimming opportunity. “I couldn’t believe how perfectly turquoise and clear the water was,” said staffer Jamie after her Sicily: A Cultural Journey tour. “If I wasn’t visiting in February, I definitely would have jumped in!”
  • Watch the sunset from Lungomare Alfeo. This road on the western side of the island of Ortygia is the place to be as the golden hour sets in. It offers prime sunset-over-the-ocean views, and there are plenty of cafes to sit and savor regional dishes while watching the world go by. The restaurants are a bit more expensive here thanks to their prime location. But for solo travelers looking to soak in the buzz of daily life, it’s a must visit.

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Taormina

When it comes to describing the city of Taormina, “jaw-dropping” is an understatement. “Taormina was easily my favorite part of the trip!” said staffer Jamie after her Sicily: A Cultural Journey tour. “It was truly stunning with all the quaint shops, sea views, and pretty architecture. The food was amazing, and I wish I had an extra day just to spend time at the beach.” Long story short, Taormina is hands-down one of the top places to visit in Sicily as a solo traveler, and you can’t leave the island without stopping here first.

Things to do in Taormina as a solo traveler:

  • Take in the views from your hotel patio. “On free evenings in Syracuse and Taormina, I enjoyed relaxing on the hotel patios with a glass of wine and admiring the view,” said staffer Allison, who went on our A Week in Sicily: Palermo, Syracuse & Taormina tour as a solo traveler. “Fellow travelers would see me and sit with me, which made it really easy to join them for dinner afterward and turn acquaintances into new friends.”
  • Snap the perfect photo of Mount Etna. It’s almost as though you can reach out and touch this active volcano from Taormina (and you can often see smoke coming out of the top!). There will be photo ops aplenty as you stand admiring the views, so see if you can capture a picture to show all your friends and family back home.
  • Shop to your heart’s content. “It’s a bit more expensive, but the shopping is incredible there,” said staffer Gaelyn. There are plenty of high-end stores along the main road in Taormina, but if you duck down the side streets, you’re sure to stumble across more local boutiques selling unique souvenirs. (Authentic leather purse, anyone?)
  • Whip up regional dishes in a cooking class on an added excursion, Sicilian Cooking Class & Lunch. “I loved taking a Sicilian cooking class!” said staffer Allison, who traveled solo on our A Week in Sicily: Palermo, Syracuse & Taormina tour. “As a solo traveler, having a shared activity is a great way to get to know your fellow travelers naturally while learning about the rich culture and traditions surrounding food in Sicily.”
  • Take in the scenery from the town of Castelmola. Taormina offers next-level views of the surrounding ocean and Mount Etna—so just imagine how pretty the views are from above Taormina! Hop aboard a trolly up to Castelmola during free time and find out.

Check out 4 more ways to spend free time in Taormina → 


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Catania

Sicily’s second-largest city is nestled at the base of Mount Etna, and has all the character you’d expect from a place built next to a volcano. Eruptions and earthquakes have shaken this destination over the centuries, and it’s been rebuilt more than once. With its Baroque section constructed from lava (yep, you read that right) and the narrow, winding streets that snake through the city center, Catania is a hard place to describe. So, one of the best things to do in Sicily as a solo traveler is see this destination for yourself!

Things to do in Catania as a solo traveler:

  • Take a stroll during free time. “Catania was very walkable, and is the perfect place to sit outside a cafe drinking an aperol spritz while people watching!” said staffer Cayleigh, who traveled solo on our Food & Wine: Southern Italy & Sicily tour. “I enjoyed walking around Catania at my own pace during our free time on tour, and tried to cover as much of the city as possible that we didn’t hit during the guided sightseeing. I love discovering hidden gems of the city by chance! This is also the best time to check out shops, gelato cafes, and restaurants that you might have missed with the larger group.”
  • Explore La Pescheria, Catania’s open-air fish market. If you’re wearing closed-toe shoes and feeling up for a sensory adventure, one of the best things to do in Sicily as a solo traveler is visit the local markets. Catania’s fish market is no exception, and is one of the best places to get fresh seafood in the summer. It’s also the place to watch local fishermen hawking everything from salmon to sardines, and visiting is a memorable way for solo travelers to experience daily life.
  • Step back in time at the Benedictine Monastery of San Nicolò. This UNESCO-listed site dates back to the 1500s, and is sitting smack dab in the center of Catania. One of the best things to do in Sicily as a solo traveler is visit during free time to absorb the history—it’s one of the largest Benedictine monasteries in Europe, and history lovers will be right in their element! You can even climb up to to the dome for panoramic views of the city, which is always a lovely sight.

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Noto

Just when you thought Sicily couldn’t get any more spectacular, in comes Noto. “My favorite place in Sicily was Noto, home of the famous Caffè Sicilia!” said staffer Cayleigh. That’s high praise, considering how unforgettable the rest of the island is. But, Noto truly is unique, and exploring it is the perfect way to round out any solo trip to Sicily.

Things to do in Noto as a solo traveler:

  • Taste the best granita ever at Caffè Sicilia. This place is so good, it even earned its very own episode on the Netflix series, Chef’s Table: Pastry. Well, the owner Corrado Assenza did, to be exact. His family’s been churning out pistachio granita, and gelato, and expertly made cannoli for over 100 years, and there’s always a seat for sweet-seeking solo travelers at the outdoor tables.
  • Sit and sip Nero d’Avola wine. “Hilltop Noto has beautiful architecture and is surrounded by vineyards if you want to stop by a winery during free time on your way out of town,” said staffer Cayleigh. “The region is famous for the wine grape Nero d’Avola.”
  • Admire all the Baroque beauty. While most other areas in Italy feature varied architectural styles that changed over the centuries, Noto is a special case. A massive earthquake destroyed Noto in the 1600s, and the entire town was rebuilt in the Baroque style. You won’t see a uniform architectural style in many other Italian cities, and solo travelers will be wowed by the UNESCO-listed cathedral and more. Read more about Noto in an excursion spotlight →

Have you visited Sicily as a solo traveler? Share your Sicily travel tips on our solo traveler Facebook page!


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About the author | Jamie Gallerani
It was Jamie’s homestay in Germany that made her fall in love with travel (and her studies in Florence that really sealed the deal). When she’s not writing and sharing the magic of seeing the world with others, she’s usually on the lookout for her new favorite memoir, testing out recipes at home, or visiting her family on Cape Cod.

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