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    Sicily Road Trip - Catania to Messina Itinerary

    Drive along the beautiful coastal road and discover the Mediterranean mythology, culture, delicious food and quaint villages on your journey. Our road trip on the east coast of Sicily brings you closer to the country and people than you could ever get through tour guides. Pick up your car hire at Catania Airport and start a unique journey that will make you forget your everyday routine. See the birthplace of Greek mythology in Catania and the surroundings along the Cyclops Coast. In the 8th century BC, the Greek inhabitants of Naxos believed that one-eyed giants called Cyclops lived on the island of Sicily, hence the name.

    The largest active volcano in Europe Etna towers over this beautiful island. Take a cooking course in Taormina, or relax at the picturesque beach of Isola Bella. Discover the unique architecture, influenced by different cultures, in and around Messina. A car hire in Sicily with Auto Europe will enable you to make the most of your holiday and to participate in the exciting activities and attractions during your road trip in Sicily. Auto Europe has put together a simple guide for a road trip in Sicily for you.

    The structure is designed so that a number of interesting towns and places to visit are recommended for day trips. Here you will find the best activities and attractions on the east coast of the island. Of course, the plan is here to inspire you - it is not set in stone and you can visit the cities at your own pace. Discover the secret locations and sites of this beautiful island. We will guide you to the right places on your road trip in Sicily.

    Driving Itinerary Distance Driving Time
    Catania to Mountain Etna 21.1 miles 57 minutes
    Mountain Etna to Taormina 33.5 miles 1 hour 4 minutes
    Taormina to Messina 32.2 miles 39 minutes
    Totals: 86.8 miles 2 hours 41 min

    Day 1: Catania and the Coast of Cyclyops

    Road trip in Catania, Italy Road trip in Catania, Italy

    Catania is a pleasant town on the east coast of Sicily. It lies between Messina the north and Syracuse in the south. Travellers can experience the best views they have ever seen in their lives. The second largest city in Sicily has a rich history and has witnessed many wars and much destruction. The main reason for the frequent destruction is the still active volcano Etna. Nevertheless, Catania is a charming coastal town that has a lot to offer to residents and tourists.

    What to do in Catania

    There are many exciting things to do with your car hire in Catania and the surrounding villages. In Greek mythology, the coastline around Catania is called Coast of the Cyclops. This is due to the Greek past of the city. For the ancient Greeks, Cyclops were a race of one-eyed giants who hunted for humans and animals. The prehistoric Catania was home to elephants and mammoths. The ancient Greeks found these skulls, held them mistakenly for monsters and handed down this story to us.
    We recommend visiting the city museums to get better acquainted with the history of Sicily. Furthermore, be sure to visit the town hall of Catania. Located just off the Castello Ursino, it was built in the 13th century for the ruler Frederick II. Actually, this castle was built near the coast overlooking the sea. Nevertheless, the volcano Etna has always been active over the centuries. Volcanic eruptions, lava fountains, earthquakes and seismic activity brought the Castello always further into the city.

    Even outside the beautiful city of Catania, there are many interesting sites to visit. The best places outside the city are the small towns Aci Trezza and Acireale, which are easy to reach with a car hire from Catania. The trip from Catania to Aci Trezza offers unique views of the rocky coastline and small ports with a variety of boats. Near the coast of Aci Trezza there are several small islands. Among others, the island of the Cyclops (Isole Ciclopi in Italian). Legend has it that Odysseus and his companions were attacked during their long journey by the Cyclops Polyphemus who ate them one by one. However, Odysseus managed to escape successfully after he blinded the Cyclops Polyphemus. In rage about his blindness, Polyphemus hurled stones at Ulysses, but he failed to hit him. To this day, these stones give the coast its name.When diving or snorkelling, discover the beautiful underwater world of the coastline of Catania and simultaneously get away from the busy hustle and bustle of the city. The many great impressions and tranquillity under the water will help you renew your energy. Various boat trips are also highly recommended. A selection of normal motor boats, luxury boats, or ships with glazed floors will be at your disposal to admire the different species of Mediterranean fish. Your road trip in Catania will certainly take you through the most beautiful parts of this region.

    If you make a stop in Acireale during your road trip, you should definitely visit Piazza Duomo, where the magical St. Peter's Basilica is located. For a slightly more varied activity, be sure to visit the chocolate store Chocostore. This small shop sells chocolate in any form you can imagine. Chocolate bars, chocolate drinks, chocolate baby lotion, to high heels and watches made of chocolate. For nature lovers, we recommend the park Villa Belvedere and Parco delle Terme, as well as the nature reserve La Timpa. From here you can admire the Ionian Sea.

    Where to eat in Catania

    The Sicilian food culture is influenced by diverse cultures and cuisines due to the historically rich past. These include Arabic, Italian and Spanish cuisine. Basic Sicilian food consists of pasta, tomato sauce and seasonal vegetables with local ingredients such as chilli, olives, pine nuts, capers and freshly caught seafood. Although every restaurant in the area is quite good, we have taken the trouble to choose the best for you. These are shown in the list below. The stylish interior of Dom Mimi is characterized by rustic and modern style. This restaurant is well known for great cocktails and tasty dishes such as pasta with pistachios. Furthermore, the restaurant also offers gluten-free meals. North of town, away from the tourist streets, you will find Al Tortellino. The restaurant offers quick, tasty and affordable meals such as quality pastas, paninis and pizza. The highlight are the stuffed swordfish rolls (involtini di pesce spade). Hosteria de Panda offers its visitors seafood in a very friendly and pleasant atmosphere.

    For a quick snack or coffee, the café Solarie, located in the centre of Aci Trezza, is the perfect choice. Residents and tourists love the low prices and the taste of the ice-cream. Il Moro de Trezza is known for its wide selection of fresh fish and seafood, from swordfish to octopus. Along the amazing food, you will have a beautiful view of the sea and the harbour. This is a fantastic place for a romantic and elegant dinner on a warm summer night. A unique dining experience is guaranteed at Etimue in Acireale. This pub, whose style is inspired by rock legends, offers a wide selection of beer, cocktails and various paninis, salads and appetizers. Live music is played on many evenings during the week and it lets you immerse yourself in the Sicilian night life. Vico Proiette is a lovely decorated restaurant in Acireale with a wonderful courtyard. It serves pasta, meat, fish - and seafood dishes. Since it is located in the middle of the city, it is superb for a relaxed dinner. If you fancy a quick bite but do not want to save on the quality, go to Il Rosticcere. Mediterranean dishes are highly popular among local residents and are wonderfully made. Discover this wonderful region with your car rental in Sicily.

    Restaurant/Bar Price  Address
    Don Mimi £££ Via Umberto 47, 95129 Catania, IT
    Al Tortellino £ Via Giuseppe Simili 20/22, 95100 Catania, IT
    Hosteria del Panda ££ Viale Della Liberta 129, 95100 Catania, IT
    Cafe Solarie £ Via Provinciale 81, 95021 Acitrezza, IT
    Il Moro di Trezza ££££ Lungomare dei Ciclopi 153, 95022 Acitrezza, IT
    Etimue ££ Via Monsignor Genuardi 28, 95024 Acireale, IT
    Vico Proiette £££ Via Dafnica 88, 95024 Acireale, IT
    Il Rosticcere £ Corso Savoia 24, 95024 Acireale, IT

    Where to stay in Catania

    The charm of Catania is also felt in its various hotels. Although small, Sicily is highly popular with tourists and, accordingly, there are many hotels in every price category. The five-star Hotel Romano has a small private park in the south of Catania and is considered a comfort oasis for every guest. Travellers on a budget may opt for the small Garden Hotel. Thanks to its location. this four-star hotel is a wonderful place to recharge the batteries.

    Grand Hotel Excelsior is located right in the heart of Catania. Defined by luxury, the hotel also features its own Sicilian restaurant. The stylish NH Bellini, located in the shopping arcade of Catania, is perfect for travellers who value a central location. In the immediate vicinity, there are numerous main attractions of Catania. Free parking, a varied breakfast and friendly staff make your stay a pleasure.

    A historic Baroque building in the centre, decorated with stone art works, houses Il Principe Hotel Catania. The rooms are modern and the breakfast menu is changed weekly with only the freshest ingredients coming on your plate. One of our favourite places in Sicily is La Ville. The recently renovated rooms are spacious and fitted with antique furniture and beautiful wallpaper, stylish pieces of art and antiquities. This hotel will definitely take you back to another era.

    Next stop: 57 minutes

    Day 2: Mount Etna

    Road trip Mount Etna, Italy Road trip Mount Etna, Italy

    The second day of your fantastic road trip brings you to the still active volcano Etna. It is the largest active volcano in Europe and the highest mountain in Italy besides the Alps. An ancient Greek legend has it that the largest and most fearsome monster Typhon fought Zeus on the mountain. Since then, Zeus' anger has been held responsible for the ongoing activity of the volcano.

    The first recorded eruption of the volcano took place during the time of ancient Greece. The volcano has been spewing smoke and ash clouds ever since. On your road trip to Mount Etna, you will see interesting places depending on from which side you get to the mountain. Coming from Catania, the easiest way is to go towards Nicolosi and to keep the route until you reach the volcano. Furthermore, you can continue a bit north, and take the exit from the town of Zafferana Etnea to the mountain.

    Where to park around Etna:

    The valley station of Rifugio Sapienza is the perfect place to park your car for as little as four Euro for the whole day. In Hotel Cosaro, you can leave your car for free and still have a quick snack. From here you can use the cable car to get even closer to the many craters of the volcano. Please note that some tours are heavily dependent on the weather and your fitness level. A hiking trip can lead you to the caves of the volcano. In winter, winter sports are offered in some areas. The visit to Mount Etna is an absolute must for all holiday makers in Sicily!

    Where to eat around Etna:

    Even if the culinary possibilities are limited near Etna, there is still a handful of good restaurants. The small towns surrounding the mountain are plentiful with good restaurants. The special feature of the many places is the incomparable view of the volcano. In Milo you will find Restaurant Da Rinuccio which offers a spectacular view as well as cheese, meat and pasta dishes. Furthermore, there is a wide selection of local wines, as well as ice-cream. The menu is only in Italian and the portions are generous.

    The rustic restaurant L'Osteria del Siciliano in Nicolosi offers traditional Sicilian dishes with a very large selection of international wines. You can order classic dishes such as pasta, fish or seafood. For all friends of the Grill Art, pizza or steaks, L'Orlando Furioso in Nicolosi is the best choice. In Zafferana's Ristorante Il Castello di Bacco you will experience breathtaking views while eating at an altitude of 600 metres above the sea level. The dishes are slightly more expensive than in the other restaurants. However, you get superb delicacies in return. Trattoria Ardichetto is a great tip outside Zafferana and definitely worth a visit. The food tastes great and is very traditional. The interior is modern and the prices moderate.

    Restaurant/Bar Price  Address
    Da Rinuccio £££ Mareneve 5, 95010 Milo, IT
    4 Archi ££ Via Francesco Crispi 9, 95010 Milo, IT
    L'Osteria del Siciliano ££ Via Cesare Battisti 202, 95030 Nicolosi, IT
    L'Orlando Furioso £ Via Martiri d'Ungheria 93, 95030 Nicolosi, IT
    Ristorante Il Catello di Bacco ££££ Piazza Umberto I 25/26, 95019 Zafferana Etnea IT
    Trattoria Ardichetto ££ Contrada Ardichetto, 95019 Zafferana Etnea, IT

    Where to stay around Etna:

    Most visitors stay in Taormina or Catania and drive their rental car to the mountain. Hotel Corsaro is located near the volcano and has simple, elegant rooms and offers a spacious spa, sauna and jacuzzi. However, if you are uncomfortable about staying so close to an active volcano, there are a variety of accommodation options in the surrounding towns and villages such as Airone Wellness Hotel in Zafferana Etnea. This luxurious hotel offers a complete wellness area with all the perks that you can imagine. The hotel's swimming pool is situated in a park and surrounded by chestnut trees. In the 19th century, Hotel Villa Dorata was built and since then it has been restructured and rebuilt several times, but has never lost its unique charm. The antique furniture and its own Sicilian restaurant will make your stay a pleasure. Hotel Alle Pendici combines tradition and modernity like no other hotel. Lava stones and wooden, country-style furniture lend it special charm. The B & B Dimora dell'Etna features bright and colourful rooms that are surrounded by fruit trees. Each room is named after a certain fruit. The Sicilian hotel offers accommodation with views of the sea or the Etna volcano.

    Next stop: 1 hours and 4 minutes

    Day 3: Taormina

    Road trip in Taormina, Italy Road trip in Taormina, Italy

    Our journey continues to Taormina, a small charming town which lies directly between Messina and Catania. It is located about 656 feet above the Ionian Sea on the hilly side of the Monte Tuaro. Although it is small, Taormina has always been important for the Sicilians and existed during the time of the ancient Greeks and in the era of the Roman Empire. To this day, many tourists and visitors flock and explore the city with a car hire in Taormina.

    What to do in Taormina:

    The number one attraction to visit during your road trip to Taormina is the Greek Theatre. This ancient theatre inspires all culture buffs traversing the island. It puts the ancient architecture wonderfully on display and lets you immerse yourself in history. The stones used indicate Roman production, but the design and the construction can almost certainly be traced back to the ancient Greeks. It is the second largest theatre on the Italian island. Concerts, operas and theatre performances still take place here. Do you like to cook? Take a five-hour cooking course at Il Nettuno. This course will reveal to you not only the secrets of the art of  Sicilian cooking, but it will show you how to recognise fresh and good ingredients for your dishes at one of the local markets. This course is carried out by experienced and highly professional chefs and is perfect to take the skills you have learned back home and to pamper your loved ones with Sicilian delicacies.

    Visit the Castelmola Castle situated just outside the town. Adventurous travellers can wander along the more demanding path around the castle walls and enjoy the great views from there. For those who do not like long and steep routes, the castle can be easily reached with your car hire in Taormina. A very good road leads you directly to the Castle of Taormina. You can park your vehicle conveniently in one of the public car parks only a few minutes from the ruins. The Normanno Castle, built in the Middle Ages, boasts excellent 360-degree panoramic views of the mountains to enjoy the sky and the sea. After an extensive restoration, the castle, surrounded by the beautiful nature, has gained almost the same value and shine as in the old days and is a must for any holidaymaker. This activity is not only attractive because of the ancient castle, but also because of the great nature it is surrounded with.

    The Isola Bella, Italian for a beautiful island, is a small nature reserve which can be reached by a small strip of land. It is sometimes called the Pearl of the Ionian Sea. Since 1990 the islet has been part of Sicily. Although the island is very small, it has an important historical background. In 1860 it was donated by King Ferdinand to the town of Taormina. The island, however, was bought by a woman named Trevlyan, who built a small house and planted a few exotic plants on the island. The subsequent owners, however, were insolvent and were therefore forced to sell the house at an auction.

    Where to eat in Taormina:

    In the beautiful city of Taormina, there are about 80 different restaurants. The prices and menus of most can be seen from the outside and will make you hungry in an instant. The selection of dishes ranges from pizza, pasta, seafood to incredibly delicious salads and antipasti. Located centrally, Da Cristina is known for rich and affordable meals. The interior is a bit old-fashioned, but still very welcoming. Here you will find the best Arancini (deep-fried, stuffed rice balls) in Sicily. For a more exclusive restaurant visit, we recommend Cinqe Archi. For those who have always dreamed of perfectly prepared meals, this is the place where your dreams will come true. The pub On the Road is anything but an ordinary pub. A wide range of normal and exotic burgers, as well as typical Italian specialities, make this pub very popular. The casual and relaxed atmosphere makes the pub appealing to its numerous guests.

    The Lido La Caravella Club is located right on the beach and offers Sicilian delicacies, as well as great seafood dishes. Relax in the lounge of the club with a cocktail or soft drink and take a dip in the Mediterranean Sea. The colourful décor in DiBi is as welcoming as its well-mixed drinks. It is the perfect place to relax a little before or after exploring the surroundings of Taormina and to grab a quick and a cheap snack. This bar has free Wi-Fi and a welcoming atmosphere as well as perfect burgers and hot-dogs, very popular among the locals. The good food will strengthen you on your further journey during the road trip in Sicily. Caffe Bar Turrisi is dotted with symbols of fertility - naked wooden statues and phallic fountains. The décor takes some getting used to but it is still tasteful. Each captured photo from here you bring back home to your friends will cause a good laugh.

    Restaurant/Bar Price  Address
    Da Cristina ££ Via Strabone 2, 98039 Taormina, IT
    Ristorante Cinque Archi ££££ Via S. Giovanni Bosco 15, 98039 Taormina, IT
    On the Road Pub £ Via San Pancrazio 48, 98039 Taormina, IT
    Lido La Caravella Club ££££ C/Da Spisone, 98039 Taormina, IT
    DiBi £ Via Francavilla N. 197, 98039 Trappitello, I
    Caffe Bar Turrisi ££ Piazza Duomo, 98030 Castelmola, IT

    Where to stay in Taormina:

    This charming city is located directly on the coast and, therefore, is perfect for a beach holiday. Some of the best hotels can be found here. Ora Resort Baia Azzurra offers guests a fantastic sea view and is located in the centre of the coast of Mazzaro. This great hotel with moderate prices offers free parking and a generous breakfast, just perfect for your road trip in Sicily.

    Hotel Isabella is located right in the heart of Taormina and all the busy parts of the city are within walking distance. From here you can quickly reach the surrounding restaurants, bars, nightclubs and shops. Although the hotel is centrally located, it boasts a calm and pleasant ambiance. If you want to stay just outside Taormina, the beautiful Hotel Alexander has an excellent price-performance ratio. The hotel is just ten minutes' walk from the beach. The friendly owners of the hotel take wonderful care of their guests. At Baia Taormina Grand Palace you will have literally  reached the top floor. It is located on the hilly side on the cliffs overlooking the sea. In summer, guests can hardly choose where to go swimming as there are so many possibilities. One option would be the private pebble beach. Baia Toarmina Grand Palace boasts a romantic, relaxed and comfortable atmosphere. From here you can easily visit the town of Taormina with your rental car. Although the town is small, it has luxurious hotels, like La Plage Resort or Belmond Villa Sant'Andrea.

    Next stop: 39 minutes

    Day 4: Messina

    Road trip in Messina, Italy Road trip in Messina, Italy

    The city of Messina is located in the north-east of Sicily. This historic city has always been plagued by civil wars, natural disasters, the black plague or other dire events. Today, however, it is a great port city, which is known for its stunning architecture, good wine, and lemon and olive growing. You will experience this first-hand on your road trip in Messina. Although Messina is located directly on the coast of the Ionian Sea, swimming in the bay is dangerous. In Greek mythology, the sea monster Charybdis should be blamed for the restless water. Legend has it, the monster sucks water three times a day in order then to disperse it into the air. If ships are caught while this is happening, not even Poseidon could save them. The second monster who used to live in this bay is Scylla. It had the upper body of a woman and the lower body consisted of six dogs.

    What to do in Messina:

    During your ride with your car hire in Messina, you should not miss the Cathedral of the same name, badly damaged during the earthquake of 1783 and 1908 and during WW2. However, it has been fully restored and nowadays it is like a magnet that attracts visitors from all around the world. Many historically important people such as Konrad IV, King of Germany and Sicily in the 13th century have been buried here. Admire the Fountain of Orion near the cathedral of Messina. This Renaissance fountain was created by one of Michelangelo's apprentices. In Greek history Orion is considered a gigantic hunter and the founder of the city of Messina. Art lovers will enjoy a visit to the museum Galleria d'Arte Contemporanea di Messina and its highlights - paintings from the Middle Ages or Renaissance art found in 14 rooms. It is also home to many artefacts from local artists.

    Where to eat in Messina:

    The third largest city in Sicily is also a culinary gem. The chefs of Messina are known for their cakes and pies. Travellers on diet should drop this idea not a few days, because everywhere around you will be goodies waiting to be tasted.

    I Ruggeri serves excellent food in a beautiful and innovative way. Particularly noteworthy is the roasted pork. The dishes on the daily menu consist of only the freshest ingredients, so be sure to ask your waiter for a recommendation. During a visit to Vecchio Borgo refresh yourself with the excellent paninis. Here you can choose from fresh ingredients such as cold cuts, cheeses, olive oil, pickles or vinegar, and the panini is then freshly prepared in front of you. In the evening, you can enjoy an aperitif or a cocktail in the bar Samuel. This bar is located in the heart of the city, just a few metres from the cathedral and the harbour.
    The interiors of Pietro Quattro is a mix of past and modern. This elegant restaurant serves exotic dishes such as couscous with fish or melon mousse.
    In Amici Miei treat yourself to delicious fish dishes and seafood. These are freshly caught and come directly from the local sea. As there are only a handful of tables, we encourage you to reserve in advance.

    Restaurant/Bar Price  Address
    I Ruggeri ££ Via Pozzoleone 21,23,35, 98122 Messina, IT
    Vecchio Borgo £ Via Garibaldi 447, 98121 Messina, IT
    Bar Samuel £ Via 1 settembre ang c.battisti 118, 98123 Mesina, IT
    Amici Miei ££££ Via Cesare Battisti 124, 98100 Messina, IT
    Trattoria Morello £££ Via Ventiquattro Maggio 10/12, 98122 Messina, IT

    Where to stay in Messina:

    In Messina there are some nice ways to spend the night. Whether at the port of Messina, on the coast or in the city centre, there is accommodation available for every budget. The NH Royal is a good four-star hotel and is just a few metres away from the shopping streets in Messina. It has large and spacious rooms, a generous buffet breakfast and a wide range of shops, restaurants, bars and clubs nearby. The Guest House Residence has simply decorated, but modern, spacious and welcoming rooms. For a little more peace and quiet, we recommend a bit outlyingLa Mia Valle. Surrounded by nature, the resort offers travellers a relaxed and quiet atmosphere. The stylish Aparthotel Kalaskiso is great for young couples or families and has a very central location.

    Your unforgettable road trip in Sicily

    If you plan your road trip using this guide, we can guarantee you a trip full of lovely memories of the island. Although the island is not too big, the east coast is peppered with breathtaking views, culinary and architectural highlights, as well as a historically significant stories. Now the perfect time has come to book your car hire in Sicily and to make the road trip of a lifetime!

    After your road trip

    If after this great road trip to Sicily you are still not ready to finish your holiday, there are many options for you to continue your trip. If you are a fan of breathtaking routes and want to discover more, take the more westerly route to the volcano Etna. Before reaching Catania again, you will drive through the towns of Randazzo, Maletto and Bronte. On the other end of the island, there are some beautiful towns such as Syracuse, Palermo, Agrigento, Cefalu or Stromboli. For those who want to see more of Italy, take a ferry to the Italian mainland and continue your journey through Bella Italia!

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