If you’re planning to visit west Sicily, expect an abundance of gorgeous beaches, crystal clear waters and islands to rival anything in the Caribbean. Throw in vibrant and ancient towns, welcoming people and of course, some of the best traditional food and wine in the world and you have the makings of the perfect vacation.
There’s no shortage of memorable things to do in Western Sicily. This article delves into some of the top things to do in the region and is certainly worthwhile adding to your West Sicily itinerary, whether you’re planning a short weekend break or a part of a road trip around the island.
How many of these things will you plan to do on your West Sicily trip?
Must-Do Things for Your West Sicily Itinerary – At a Glance
If you don’t have time right now to find out what to do in West Sicily, no worries. This list tells you about everything included in this article so you can plan your itinerary for Sicily.
Unarguably, the west coast is one of the most beautiful places in Sicily, it’s easy to be captivated by the region, however, if you’re planning on exploring more of the island then download this Sicily travel guide straight to your inbox.
Western Sicily Highlights
- Explore Old Trapani
- Visit the Salt Pans
- Go Up to Erice Medieval Hilltop Town
- Try the Wine (all the wine!)
- Discover the Cuisine
- Learn To Cook Traditional Sicilian Food
- Island Hop Between The Egadi Islands
- eBike Around Favignana
- Cruise or Hike Around Zingaro Reserve
- Learn about Gibellina & Visit the Grande Cretto Memorial
- Visit the Cave Village of Grotta Mangiapane
- 4×4 Ride Through Cave di Santoro Marmi Quarry
- Explore The Ancient City of Salemi
I’ve partnered with West of Sicily Tourism to bring you this travel guide. This article is based on the destinations and experiences I took part in. All views and opinions are my own.
Things to Do in Western Sicily
If you’re in the stages of planning a trip to Sicily, be sure to allow at least a few days for the west of the island. The region boasts some of the best places in Sicily for sandy beaches, historical towns and delicious food. Let’s go.
1. Explore Old Trapani
Located in northwest Sicily is the bustling town of Trapani. This is one of the major towns in the region, and although it’s a reasonable size, the historical old centre is compact and can easily be explored on foot.
This is one of the best cities to visit in Sicily if you’re interested in beautiful architecture. The historical centre is filled with buildings with styles ranging from Baroque to Art Nouveau and you can easily whittle away a few hours wandering the narrow streets. The most notable streets are Via Garibaldi, Corso Italia and Corso Vittorio Emanuele.
Don’t forget to walk along the city’s sea walls, Mura di Tramontana. Start at the old fish market square, Piazza Mercato del Pesce, and walk to the old Bastion, Bastione Conca. When you walk this route, you might miss the gateway in the wall (you will walk over the top) so after visiting the old Bastion, retrace your steps and take the steps down to see the Porta delle Botteghelle, the old gateway.
Be sure to add these landmarks to your Trapani itinerary
- Ligny Watch Tower, (Torre di Ligny)
- The Twin Clock Tower, (Palazzo Senatorio)
- The Gateway of the Clock Tower, (Porta Oscura, Torre dell’Orologio)
- Church of the Jesuit College, (Chiesa del Collegio dei Gesuiti)
- Church of the Souls in Purgatory, (Chiesa delle Anime Sante del Purgatorio)
Read More: The Best Things to Do in Trapani
The best green space in the city is Villa Margherita Park. If you’re after shopping then head to Via Giovanni Battista Fardella, which is a tree-lined boulevard filled with cafes, shops, shoes and restaurants.
If you’re interested in local souvenirs, then you might be interested in traditional red coral jewellery. The items here are all handcrafted on-site, you can see the workshop at the back of the shop. The jewellery on sale here is the work of the Trapani-born coral craftsman, Platimiro Fiorenza, he even has UNESCO Status!
2. Visit the Salt Pans
Northwest Sicily is home to numerous salt pans. At its peak, in the 1860s the western coast of Sicily was home to 31 salt pans producing over 100,000 tonnes per year. Today, a handful of the salt pans are still in operation, and one is just outside Trapani.
The family-run salt museum is located inside a 17th-century mill. You’ll see a giant windmill on the top of the building and wander around the salt pans. Inside, you can join a guided tour that will take you through the importance and history of sea salt harvesting. There’s also an onsite shop where you can buy salt-based products.
The salt pans look particularly stunning during golden hour, which makes the mounds of salt glow in a vibrant orange colour. To experience this, plan your visit towards the end of the day.
3. Go Up to Erice Medieval Hilltop Town
One of the easiest day trips from Trapani is to the hilltop Medieval town of Erice. It’s located about 750 metres (2,460 ft) above sea level and looks down on Trapani and the surroundings including the dramatic landscapes of Punta del Saraceno and Capo San Vito to the northeast. You can also see the Aegadian Islands which are just off Sicily’s north-western coast.
Although you could drive, cycle and even walk up Mount Erice, the most exciting way to get up there is via the cable car. As you go up, you’ll start to see the thin layer of cloud that nearly always envelops the town. These clouds are known locally as the kisses of Venus.
You can easily spend a whole day here exploring the timeless and photogenic cobblestone alleyways. There are so many quirky little features too, look out for the row of crosses on the wall of the Church of Santa Maria Assunta and the adorable little window catches that have a different figure when they are flipped up and down.
Because of its vantage point, there are numerous panoramic look-outs around the city. You’ll find stunning ones at the Garden of Balio and upstairs in the Church and Convent of San Domenico.
If you’re limited on time to explore the region and wondering where to go in Sicily, you’d be absolutely gutted if you missed out on Erice. If you intend to see a lot in the city then it might be worthwhile purchasing the Erice Card.
Related Article: 40+ Incredible Experiences in Italy
4. Try the Wine (all the wine!)
The words wine and Italy are synonyms, so it’s no secret that you’ll find outstanding wine wherever you are on the island. If you’re visiting Erice, tie it in with a stop at Strada del Vino Erice D.O.C which is just outside the city walls.
The soil, dry climate and sun exposure make the region perfect for producing top-quality Sicilian wines. Stop off here to enjoy the tasting experience, you’ll try up to five different wines with a selection of local foods to complement them.
This is the best place to go in Sicily if you’re looking to try some of the best Sicilian products. You can walk into the shop and book the experience there and then or contact them via the website.
5. Discover the Cuisine
In terms of world cuisines, Italian food always ranks as some of the best. And the best place in Sicily to experience Sicilian hospitality with food straight from the farm to plate is
All of the food I ate in Sicily was sublime, from the antipasti to the main dishes. My absolute favourite that I couldn’t get enough of was the Caponata. This a sweet and sour-tasting starter dish made from aubergines. Depending on where we ate, sometimes it had additional ingredients including courgettes, olives and tomatoes in it.
Another tasty culinary delight was the busiata pasta. This long spiral pasta is handmade by wrapping it around a spindle. It came with various sauces, however, some of the best pasta dishes we had were simply served with olive oil and grilled vegetables.
Another food we came across was the cassatelle. I ate these as a savoury and sweet version. Essentially they are little filled pastries. The savoury version was with ricotta and onion or potato puree served in a light broth. The sweet version was filled with sweetened ricotta being lightly fried and sometimes dusted with icing sugar. They were delicious!
Even as a vegetarian, there were SO MANY delicious options for outstanding food. I certainly ate well during my time in Sicily.
6. Learn To Cook Traditional Sicilian Food
If you love the food here, and let’s face it, who doesn’t, then one of the top things to do in Sicily is to take part in a cooking class.
I tried my hand several times here, making cassatelle (ricotta-filled pillows of pastry), learnt how to twirl pasta and create decorative bread. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m notoriously bad in the kitchen, not through lack of trying, I just lack this skill – monumentally!
Despite my lack of kitchen skills, it was great fun to get stuck in and share the Sicilanos passion for food. All the ingredients we used were locally sourced and made from scratch, and their secret ingredient was love. All of their food is made with an abundance of love. The best part of learning to cook is that you get to eat everything you make (I’m definitely better at this!).
If you’re interested in learning to cook authentic Italian food, then check out the brother and sister owned, Like Italians Do. It’s located around the back of an old mill called Molino Excelsior (which is also worth a visit if you want to see some interesting vintage machinery).
They provide all the ingredients and take you step-by-step to create a delicious traditional Italian lunch.
7. Island Hop Between The Egadi Islands
There are numerous islands near Sicily, and of these, just off the coast of Sicily north west, are the simply stunning Egadi Islands; Favignana, Levanzo and Marettimo. Of the three, Favignana is the largest with a population of around 3000 inhabitants.
If you look up any list of the 10 best places to see in Sicily, I guarantee that the Egadi islands will appear somewhere on the list. Think quaint towns, white (even pink) sandy beaches surrounded by crystal clear waters, enough to rival any Caribbean island.
Adjacent to the Marina, you’ll find a large pinkish building. This was once the countryside residence of the wealthy Florio family. It’s a mix of Neo-Gothic and Neopolitan styles, and you’ll see the symbology of a Lion dotted all over the exterior and interior of the building. Initially, the family gained their wealth through trading with the East with the lion symbol representing good health. Then they moved their trade to the production of sulphur and Marsala wine.
The Florio family then made a name for themselves through the tuna trade. The first documented evidence of tuna production on the island dates back to 1577. Along the waterfront, opposite the marina and the mansion, you’ll see a large old building. This building dates back to 1859 and was owned by the Florio family. Tuna production continued until 1977.
Today the building houses a museum with some rooms explaining the importance of this industry to the wealth of the island. You can wander around the rooms and still see the shelters housing the ready boats, and various artefacts linked to the industry.
Being a vegetarian, admittedly I wasn’t overly interested in the history of fish production, however, some rooms have a couple of great exhibitions along with historical artefacts on the war between the Romans and the Arabs, so it was certainly worth visiting for this alone. Another point of interest here is near the entrance, there is a side room dedicated to marine conservation and the rehabilitation of sea turtles.
Getting to the Egadi Islands in west Sicily is an easy day trip from Trapani, with several crossings by hydrofoil every day. This quick transfer service is run by Liberty Lines, check their website for the full timetable and tickets.
8. eBike Around Favignana
If you’re wanting to explore more of the island of Favignana, then the best way of getting around is via eBike. I first experienced eBikes on a trip around Mount Etna in the east of Sicily, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
The roads here are fairly quiet, especially if you’re outside of the main town, so it’s safe to cycle here. A great spot to head to, where you’ll find a white sandy beach is Cala Azzurra. This little bay on the southeast of Favignana is calm and shallow.
Thanks to the lack of traffic on the island, this is one of the best destinations in Sicily for leisurely cycling. If you’re feeling really energetic, then you could explore the whole of the island by eBike in a day, also head up to the Castle of Santa Catarina, which is the highest point on the island.
There are several places to hire bikes from next to the marina. You can rent them for just an hour right up to a full day.
Read Next: eBiking and Hiking around Mt Etna, Sicily
9. Cruise or Hike Around Zingaro Reserve
With no coastal road and the sound of traffic (even cycles!), the Riserva dello Zingaro is one of the best locations in Sicily for anyone looking for pure blissful relaxation.
The coastal path follows an undulating seven-kilometre-long route between Scopello to San Vito Lo Capo passing numerous secluded coves and some of the most exclusive western Sicily beaches only accessible by foot – or swimming from a boat.
A great way to experience this beautiful area is by boat, which stops off at various spots along the way. You can either relax on the deck, on the beaches or swim in the warm and clear seas.
Various boats depart from San Vito Marina. If you’re interested in a full-day small-group excursion then book in advance through Hyppocampus. They offer a morning departure per day and limit their passengers to just 12. They often sell out during peak season, so book well in advance.
10. Learn about Gibellina & Visit the Grande Cretto Memorial
If you’re planning a full Sicily road trip, then be sure to add the little town of Gibellina to your itinerary. The original Gibellina was a mountainside town, however, it was destroyed by the 1968 Belice earthquake.
Today, an enormous monument called Cretto di Burri stands in its place. The block-like monument represents the town of Gibellina, with each block taking up the footprint of a building that once stood there.
Gibellina was not rebuilt in the same place, but instead moved 11 kilometres (7miles) away and is known as Gibellina Nuova. The authorities on mainland Italy offered little in terms of help to the people of Gibellina after their town and lives were destroyed, it was deemed as an unimportant area and the people could just move elsewhere. Word got out and it became a bit of a mecca for prominent artists and architects to create work aimed at rebuilding the town.
The Contemporary Art Museum of Gibellina houses many of the pieces of work that were created to help rebuild the town, along with information about the people who lived in Gibellina and their plight to get their town rebuilt.
Surrounding the area there are other iconic landmarks including a gigantic star that stretches over the highway which marks the entrance to the town (Stella d’ingresso al Belice), and a hillside installation of charcoal black horses standing on white concrete (to represent the salt that west Sicily is famous for ( Montagna di sale).
11. Visit the Cave Village of Grotta Mangiapane
One of the most adorable and unique villages in Sicily has to be the cave village of Grotta Mangiapane. This settlement was inhabited from 1819 right up to the mid-1900s. The region consists of a total of nine different caves, however, it’s the largest one, the Mangiapane cave, really showcases what life was like in this unusual Sicily village.
The cave is about 70 metres high, 13 wide and 50 deep, in the entrance is what feels like a regular high street with different shops, tanners, a bar, cobblers, ironmongers etc. Scattered around the mouth of the cave are small houses and workspaces, including a small mill for the production of olive oil.
It’s fascinating to see how people would have lived here, under the protection of the cave system. You can of course wander about by yourself, or take a guided tour with a very extroverted, animated and enthusiastic guide to show you around. They don’t speak English, however, this didn’t matter as everything was dramatised and demonstrated to make up for the language barrier.
12. 4×4 Ride Through Cave di Santoro Marmi Quarry
I absolutely love 4×4 and offroading, so I was pleasantly surprised to hear how in northwest Sicily, you can do just this in a quarry. Something I’d never experienced before.
Santoro Marmi is located in Custonaci, and is the second most important marble-producing region in Europe. This is due to the size of the quarries as well as the quality of the marble extracted here.
The quarry was opened in 1992 by the Santoro brothers, Giuseppe and Vincenzo and today it extends over 70 hectares. The marble is exported to buyers all over the world.
The 4x4s take you through the quarry, up the hillside and drive amongst the huge chunks of sugar-cube-like gleaming blocks. If you want to realise how tiny a human is in the grand scheme of the world, this place certainly puts things into perspective.
Tours are given to groups and individuals and can be arranged online by contacting Santoro Marmi quarry directly.
13. Explore The Ancient City of Salemi
If you’re interested in trivia, then did you know that Salemi was the first capital of Sicily? I didn’t know either until I visited. If you’re into history, then this small city will be one of the top highlights Sicily offers.
The city was shaped by the Greeks, Romans and then the Arabs amongst other civilisations. The name Salemi actually comes from the Arabic word “salem,” which means peace. It was also the Arabs who introduced things like saffron, cloves and cinnamon to the island of Sicily.
One of the best things to do in Salemi is to wander the lightly coloured Medieval streets. In the historic centre, the narrow streets meander on the hillside. At the top of the hills is the 11th-century castle which dates from the reign of the Normans and still remains one of the most prominent landmarks in the city to this day. Close to the castle are the remains of the Madrice Vecchia (“Old Mother Church”).
Aside from exploring the photogenic own, other things to visit is the former Jesuit College which is now home to several museums including the Museum of Sacred Art, the Museo del Risorgimento and the slightly unnerving Museo della Mafia.
An ancient tradition in Salemi is the decorative devotional bread. In the past, these were used for the religious festivals of Saint Joseph (19 March), Saint Anthony the Abbot (17 January) and Saint Blaise (3 February). The intricate bread looks too good to eat, features bouquets, wreaths and weaving and is available in bakeries in the city.
West Sicily Travel Guide FAQs & Travel Tips
West Sicily Must See: Location Map
This map shows where all these west Sicily highlights are located. Click on it to download an interactive version.
Getting to the West of Sicily
There are two ways to get to the west of Sicily, these are by boat or by air.
The nearest airports are the ‘Vincenzo Florio’ in Trapani, or ‘Falcone e Borsellino’ in Palermo.
If you’re coming by boat, then the port of Palmero is connected to the major Italian and international ports.
Getting Around Sicily
To get the most out of your trip to Sicily, ideally, you will need your own transportation, whether that’s by car, motorbike or bicycle. Many of the places of interest in Sicily are spread out and difficult to get to by public transport. If you want to drive, then check out car hire in Sicily here.
The main towns are connected by bus, and in some cases trains if you’re starting from the east of the island.
Is Sicily Safe
I found Sicily to be an incredibly safe destination and even walking around the cities on my own at night I felt fine. That being said, it’s always worth using your common sense and not flashing valuables about, having an alternative payment method, and telling your accommodation where you’re going if you’re planning on hiking anywhere.
Which Ones Are Going On Your West Sicily Itinerary?
So, now you know about all the best things to do in Western Sicily. Whether you’re on a short city break to the region, or you’re exploring more of the island, there’s a lot to keep you occupied here.
If you’re doing more travelling in Sicily, then take a look at these other inspirational articles.
- 40+ Incredible Experiences for your Italy Bucket List
- The Best Things to Do in Trapani
- The Amalfi Coast Road Trip in Italy
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