When people ask me about my favorite country in the world I usually respond that I have 3, one of them being Italy! (The other two are the Maldives and the USA, in case you were wondering) Therefore I was pretty happy to plan A 4 week trip to the boot-shaped country I had been to so many times.

Since I had already visited much of the mainland, I made the decision to focus more on Sicily this time, since I had only been once and didn’t remember much of it from when I first briefly visited, some 10 years ago. I didn’t know much about the Do’s and Dont’s of Sicily but ended up with the following itinerary:

3 days in Palermo

5 days in Cefalù

2 days in Milazzo

2 days in Syracusa

Quite a few people who followed my Insta stories asked for a recap of our time here and here it goes!

First of all I should say that i did not enjoy Palermo and Catania at all. I struggled finding restaurants with nice food, instead I somehow always ended up getting bad food for a lot of money, an easy way of putting a huge dampener on my experience.

Both cities also make it pretty difficult to get around, if for any reason walking everywhere isn’t your cup of tea. I don’t actually mind walking a lot, but when traveling with a kid, it’s nice being able to take a bus that isn’t hot and stuffy or a train that runs more than once an hour.

Taxis exist but I was unable to get one who agreed to using the meter. I usually was asked to pay between 10 and 20€ for 2km or less, which is clearly a rip-off.

I also didn’t get too lucky with my accommodation in both cities, although both cost around €40 a night only, so I really couldn’t have expected much more anyway.

Now that we get the not so fun parts out of the way, let me rave about the highlights and there were many! Here is our top 5:

1. Climbing to the crater on Volcano Island

The best experience we had was climbing the volcano on the island with the same name: Volcano Island which is part of the Aeolian Islands just outside Milazzo. We took the 7am ferry to be sure we would get to the crater before the noon heat woulkd creep in and take away all shady bits to rest in on our way up. My son who is 7 did an awesome job getting there (he was the only kid we saw!) and reaching to the top we were rewarded with not just the view of an impressive crater but also some pretty cool smokes which looked dramatic in photos, haha.

2. Lunch at San Bartolo Osteria on Lipari

I know this is an odd one to come in at number 2 but one of my top reasons of why I love Italy is because I eat so very well there. Unfortunately I didn’t get very lucky at all during those 2 weeks but one restaurant really managed to knock my socks off: San Bartolo Osteria in Lipari! We only ordered a panini and a salad, nothing you would expect to incite a culinary firework and yet that is exactly what we got. All ingredients were clearly sought out carefully, bread, olive oil, tomatos – everything was delectable and I love thinking back to our lunch here.

3. Climbing La Rocca in Cefalù

We arrived in Cefalù with the intention to have a proper beach holiday for a few days and we booked our hotel accordingly. Of course the big Mountain Cefalú is nestled against didn’t escape our attention and when we learned that it was possible to hike up, we didn’t hesitate!

We paid around 6€ between the two of us in order to enter the part and it took us a good hour to get to the top which awaits with ancient ruins of a castle as well as stunning views overlooking the coast. A gorgeous experience which I would recommend you try!

And speaking of Céfalu, it simply is a beautiful beach town that is an easy place to waste away a few days in…

4. Relaxing in Siracusa

One of my biggest regrets is not having spent more time in Siracusa. We had a beautiful and modern Airbnb apartment in central Oritiga, had met a nice family from Berlin and just loved the relaxed vibe of this charming old town. This is a great spot to waste away a few days on simply lounging by the beach, eating gelato at a piazza or shopping at international favorites such as Zara (which is really fun and colorful in Italy!).

There is a super convenient bus leaving Siracusa station regularly to go to the airport in just an hour.

5. Adventures and city-dwelling in Catania

You may notice this list of highlights is missing one decisive tour: the Etna Volcano! Many people come to Sicily just to visit Etna and rightfully so.

Most people travel to Catania, which is one of the biggest and closest cities to the Etna. We were here at a time when the Etna was especially active and various tour operators advised us to be careful, so we decided to sit this one out and just add it to our itinerary for another holiday.

Airbnb has a list of highly-rated tours and there are travel agencies in pretty much any city who can refer you to a knowledgeable guide and even let you rent gear (hiking shoes and helmets).

What we ended up doing in Catania was mostly just strolling the streets, trying different restaurants and spending the days at the beach! That’s right, there is a city beach here which can easily be reached by a public bus.

I will say that Catania wasn’t my favorite place in Sicily but it’s a good hub from which to experience different adventures.

All in all we had a memorable 2 weeks in Sicily and I would definitely be happy to go back. Next time I would know more of what I like and what I don’t and I’d make an effort to explore the Southwest more.