Eastern Sicily by Car: A Guide

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It comes to no surprise that one of the top travel destinations chosen by the Maltese is Sicily. It is one of the most affordable countries to visit and easiest to reach for us Maltesers by far. Eastern Sicily is perhaps the best location one can explore by car if crossing with the catamaran. There is plenty of stuff to see and do, promising a itinerary filled to the brim.

I will be splitting this page in different sections, starting from preparation, necessities, attractions and food stuffs. I have purposefully skipped Catania as a ‘place to visit’ since every Malteser knows about Catania, and I wanted to make an article on the places outside of Catania, which to me feels way too busy for my taste. You can skip to the various sections in this post by using the table of contents below;

Table of Contents


First things first, if you are traveling by car, make sure that the vehicle is up to the task of traveling at speeds up to 130km/h on the autostrade for long distances. This is not the same environment as traveling from Gudja to Valletta, your car has to be in tiptop shape to undertake this task. Make sure your tires up to par, all fluids topped up, all belts in good condition, and no pending faults or issues. Basically perform a full service before hand and get a diagnostics check.

Once that is done and you are preparing for your trip, make sure your luggage is strapped in properly at the back and make sure you have a basic tool box with some necessities. I suggest also installing an offline GPS system as a backup on your phone, since some roads have zero access to mobile internet and you will end up depended on street signs till you get your service back. I suggest perhaps Sygic which is also Carplay and Android Auto compliant. I also highly suggest getting some form of towing cover from your insurance provider. The one I use costs just €50 for towing cover all over Sicily. In contrast if you had to get a private towing service from there, the minimum charge would roughly be €200. Better safe than sorry I say.

On a side note related to driving, watch out when parking, especially in touristic places. Not all white boxes mean you can park there. On the contrary they are usually reserved for residents only or permit holders. Parking spots are generally blue boxes in city centers and you need to pay at the parking meter and display the receipt on the dash.

The Locations

There is no order I could think of to list the beautiful locations in Eastern Sicily worth visiting, so this will be a random list which will also contain the top attractions there.

Syracuse and Ortigia

My favorite location in Sicily by far, this amazing spot offers travelers an unmatched atmosphere with several attractions for all kinds of people to enjoy. It’s a historic town, rich in Roman and Greek history and it is the home of Archimedes. Ortigia is a small fortified island within Syracuse which has amazing architecture and one of the most stunning piazzas on the island.

What to see

  • Piazza Duomo and the Cathedral
  • Temple of Apollo
  • Arethusa Spring
  • Castello Maniace
  • Neapolis Archeological Park
  • Ear of Dionysius and the Greek theater
  • Ortigia Food Market
  • Cavagrande del Cassibile

Food, Drink & Nightlife

Ortigia is a tourist hot-spot which is busy day and night. There is lots to see and experience and their gastronomy revolves around Italian seafood (no-shit its a seaside destination). Avoid most seaside restaurants (the ones near the Arethusa Spring). The food is sub-par and not really representative of the place. The Ortigia Market is a great place to get your hands on some fresh spices, fresh food, and Oysters (if that’s your thing). Ortigia is very safe BUT, when at the market, it is very important here to keep an eye on your belongings. There are a couple of creative pick pockets who generally target tourists. The nightlife in Ortigia is amazing. In the lower waterfront/Marina one can find a couple of gin bars, one by Bulldog and the other by Tanquerray and two wine bars with live music. The atmosphere here after 9pm is simple fantastic.


This UNESCO world heritage site is breathtaking. It is a Baroque wet-dream that simply oozes heritage and beauty. Noto is a very historic town close to the sea and boasting a wide variety of attractions and shops.

What to see

  • Noto Cathedral
  • Nicolaci Palace
  • Church of St Francis of Assisi (you can pay a small donation here and climb to the roof top for an amazing view of the town)
  • Corso Vittorio Emanuele
  • Porta Reale (and the surrounding market)
  • Calamosche Beach and Eloro Beach (in Summer for a quick dip)

Food, Drink & Nightlife

Just like any tourist hot spot, there is no shortage of food or drink outlets. You’ll find plenty of very good trattorias and amazing cafes all around. There aren’t much bars or clubs here for nightlife, but there are several wine bars and restaurants that fill Noto’s quaint streets.


Marzamemi is perhaps the most peculiar places to visit in eastern Sicily. It is very close to Pozzallo and Noto so you might want to visit both those locations on your last day in Sicily before you board the ferry back in the evening. Marzamemi is a quaint fishing village bursting with life and with a unique aura to it. It doesn’t feel like an Italian village at all, you feel like you are in a small village in South America to be honest. The place is small in size but it is a nice stop to visit, and in Summer, the lidos are simply amazing.

What to see

  • Piazza Regina Margherita
  • Chiesa di San Francesco Di Paola
  • Palazzo di Villadorata
  • The beaches and Lidos

Food, Drink & Nightlife

From just the images available one can see that Marzamemi is filled with restaurants, bars and cafes. There is a wide array of places you can enjoy a nice gin tonic and embrace those amazing surroundings. Obviously seafood is what the local gastronomy is built around, although you can find some pizza or pasta places if fish is not your thing. At night the area has several bars and lounges, some of which are by the sea, with an incredible vibe and atmosphere.

Important tip: In the GPS system always give the address Piazza Regina Margherita, Marzamemi and not Marzamemi by itself. The reason is that both Google maps and Apple maps will take you to a location away from the city center and due to the one-way streets you will find it hard to find your way to the center.


I couldn’t write a post on Eastern Sicily without mentioning the jewel of Sicily; Taormina. This hilltop town has breathtaking views of the Ionian sea with Etna serving as backdrop. The architecture is symbolic to Sicily itself and this town is chockablock filled with heritage. This town has lately had a resurgence in popularity thanks to HBO’s series, The White Lotus.

What to see

  • Piazza IX Aprile
  • Teatro Antico the Taormina
  • Villa Comunale di Taormina (public garden’s with breathtaking views)
  • Corso Umberto
  • Piazza Duomo and the Belvedere
  • Castello di Taormina
  • Isola Bella

Food, Drink & Nightlife

Taormina is one of Sicily’s top destination for tourists, so it comes to no surprise that the town is filled to the brim with restaurants and cafes. The prices are very high compared to the rest of Sicily, but it is understandable given the location. The prices are still close to the norm here in Malta so you are not going to break the bank. There are several nice restaurants along Corso Umberto and almost all of them have a terrace overlooking Isola Bella. Again, this town is busy throughout day and night, so the lively-hood of the place doesn’t die down easy. You will find several lounges and wine bars for after-hour drinks, though you will not find any sort of club here.

Important tip: Follow the directions/signs to Parking Porta Di Catania. This is the closest parking structure to Taormina’s centre with a lift that takes you directly to the main road’s entrance.


Roughly 10 minutes by car away from Taormina, is a historic hilltop town called Castelmola. At the very top of this town one will find the ruins of a Norman-Saracen castle which is worth a visit especially for the breathtaking views. The town is very quaint with narrow medieval streets that are simply iconic and lead to a beautiful piazza with a cafe decorated with… gentlemen sausage. But wait is not something vulgar, it’s a tradition passed on through time meant to celebrate fertility in a place renowned for Almond Wine. This town is a fantastic place to grab a drink or ice cream whilst enjoying the remarkable views, which to me are unique.

What to see

  • Chiesa di San Nicola di Bari and the belvedere
  • Piazza di Sant Antonio
  • Castle of Castelmola
  • Bar Turrisi

Important tip: Do not park in the white boxes or access the town by car. There is a small parking just before the town’s entrance through a gate were you pay by the hour. If you park in the white boxes you will be fined.


Modica is yet another UNESCO world heritage site with two separate urban centers, Modica Alta and Modica Bassa. As the name implies, Modica Alta sits atop the southern Ibeli Hill, whist Modica Bassa is located in the Valley below. The Baroque architecture paired with the greenery of the surrounding valley, give this town a unique aesthetic and vibe.

What to see

  • Chocolate Museum
  • Castello dei Conti
  • Cathedral of St George
  • Pizzo Belvedere
  • San Nicolo Inferiore Cave Church

Food, Drink & Nightlife

Perhaps the thing Modica is most renowned for, is, Artisanal Chocolate production. You can visit the chocolate museum and taste their amazing creations in the several chocolatiers located in the city center. Chocolate here is taken extremely seriously and only organic chocolate made in Modica, using quality controlled techniques, are given the IGP certificate, which allows them to be traded as Modica Chocolate. You will find regular chocolate, dark chocolate, vegan chocolate, chocolate liquor, and much much more. So if you have a sweet tooth this is definitely the place to be. Apart from Chocolate one might find several places to dine and drink and the quality and prices of the food are amazing. One place which I loved was Ricotta & Co. A local fresh ricotta and pasta producer ready to feed you with ingredients that are made fresh at that exact time. Don’t expect fine dining, it’s more of a family soul food affair of the highest order with the heartiest of meals.

General Attractions and Shopping in Eastern Sicily


If you have kids, or you’re a kid at heart, Eastern Sicily is home to one of Europe’s highest rated Water park, which also houses a theme park for the off-season. The theme park is nothing close to Gardaland or Mirabilandia, but, in all honesty, both the variety of rides and the quality allow for the kids to have a great time. I suggest getting your tickets before hand online to get a discount and avoid waiting in line to purchase the tickets.

Sicilia Outlet Village

I feel silly writing this cause all Maltesers know about the existence of the outlet village. It is true though, it’s one of the best Outlet village in Europe to grab a bargain for branded clothing items. My only suggestion is to get the Sicilia Outlet Village app to get your hand on even more discounts. Because I have a horrible sweet tooth, I have to suggest you visit the Lindt store… it is slutty decadence incarnate.

Etnapolis & Centro Sicilia

Centro Sicilia is a popular shopping center in Misterbianco, renowned for being the home of Primark. But, even though they have a variety of shops there, the prices are quiet high because this is a very busy shopping center. So unless you specifically go there for Primark, I would avoid it. One of my favorite shopping center is Etnapolis. Unlike Centro Sicilia, you can find better bargains here and there is a bit more variety of outlets. It’s a huge shopping center with parking below, above, and on the side.


Etna is one of Europe’s most active volcanoes and funnily enough it is a very busy tourist destination all year round. Although it really isn’t for everyone, the views are amazing. You get to the top parking area (were you need to pay for parking at one of the souvenir shops and display the ticket on the dash) and then proceed to the reception area to buy either a full tour or a funicular ticket. When getting a full tour, you take the funicular to the next stop atop the volcano. After that a UNIMOG will take you higher on Etna and drop you off to continue on a guided tour on foot to show you several spots and give you some history on it. Wear appropriate clothing especially footwear since you will be walking on snow.

Gole di Alcantara

Unique to the Sicilian landscapes, the gorges or ‘Gole’ of Alcantara are a natural formation of Lava Canyons with crystal clear waters streaming through them. The entire scenery is breathtaking, but if that’s not enough you will find a hell of a lot of things to do there, including rafting, swimming, canoeing, hiking and cave exploring. There is a lot to see and do if you are an avid Nature or adventure lover, and Summer is the best time to visit. Make sure you get in touch with a local expert, DO NOT go caving alone.

Adventure Parks

Eastern Sicily is filled with adventure parks in natural reserves aimed at providing families, kids, and adventurers alike a thrilling experience surrounded by the natural beauty of the Sicilian Nature. The best two I personally visited are Parco avventura located in Milo (very close to Etna), as well as Parcallario Adventure park (which is located closest to Syracuse). Both these parks offer nice picnic areas amidst their natural reserve, several zip-lining routes starting from young kids to intense routes, and also some other child friendly attractions. Make sure to book before hand, especially in the case of Parco avventura, as they rarely accept on the spot bookings.

Image courtesy of Etnaland
Image courtesy of Trip Advisor
Image courtesy of Trip Advisor
Image courtesy of Etnaland
Image courtesy of Etnaland

To Conclude

Honestly Eastern Sicily is perhaps my favorite region to visit on the island. For us Maltese, the ferry is a big advantage giving us the liberty of using our car to enjoy a holiday in more comfort. The eastern region allows you to plan your trip in a way that avoids car trips over an hour in length. There something for everyone to enjoy and the attractions and locations are nothing short of breathtaking. The laid back culture and 90s italo aesthetic is also very nostalgic and homely for us Maltese and it’s very easy to fall in love with Sicily. I will be releasing a detailed itinerary for those interested and make similar write-ups on other regions of this amazing island, so make sure to follow us on facebook and share.

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