Ideally, you’d have at least a week to visit Palermo and the west coast of Sicily.
Or if you’ve already seen Palermo you could fly directly in to Trapani to tour around the area – maybe with a few extra days tacked on to visit the Egadi Islands!
But I also know that that’s not always possible. Sometimes, the time we have is just barely enough.
We went to Palermo for just a long weekend. I would have preferred to fly to Sicily just once to see as much as possible in a minimum two-week vacation, but that was all the time we had and the trip was wonderful.
With a toddler in tow we felt that, besides a quick morning trip up to Monreale Cathedral, all three days needed to be dedicated to Palermo proper.
you could easily add on any of these day trips to a vacation in Palermo.
Look up from the streets of Palermo and you can see the rounded mount of Monte Pellegrino. A large nature park, this is the Palermitani’s backyard outdoor escape. Named “Pilgrims Mountain” in English, each Sunday you’ll find a pilgrimage of sorts of locals heading to the top of the neighborhood mountain for a picnic, some exercise and some greenery — and of course to pay homage to the city’s patron saint. Santa Rosalia is credited with having saved the city from a deadly plague. She lived most of her life in a cave on the mountain and today her remains are located in a small chapel there. The Baroque facade hides the reality inside: a damp cave with a 17th-century statue of the saint. If nothing else visit for the spectacular views across all of sprawling Palermo and the magnificent blues of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Transit time: roughly 2 hours hiking and 30 minutes by bus, line 812 from Politeama
Most people don’t even consider Monreale as a separate entity of Palermo. Only 10 km from Palermo’s city center, the Monreale Cathedral makes all the “must-see” lists of Palermo. With more than 64,000 square feet of mosaics, it’s easy to understand why. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Monreale is the perfect half-day trip out of the city and a great way to see the area’s Arab-Norman wealth.
Transit time: 30 minute bus ride, bus 389 from piazza independenza
A UNESCO World Heritage Site together with Palermo and Monreale, it’s worth seeing all three parts of the Arab-Norman trifecta. The town itself is tiny but the population quadruples in size during high season as tourists and Sicilian vacationers flock to its beautiful beaches. Visit the beautiful Duomo, climb to the rocky La Rocca outpost for excellent views then head to the beach! In summer, get there early to get a spot!
Transit time: 1 hour by bus, train or car
Considered a sort of well-to-do suburb of Palermo, this is the city’s backyard beach. Once a small fishing village, it was quickly “discovered” as prime real estate, and today the line of beautiful seafront villas have made it an Art Nouveau destination (thank you Wikipedia for that information!) Though the beach tends to be uncomfortably crowded in summer, Mondello remains one of the quickest and most convenient “getaway” destinations from Palermo. Go for some clean salt air, a beach-vacation feel and to see how the other half lives.
Transit time: 26 minutes bus ride: Line 806 2 euro or an 11 minute drive
Segesta is one of the oldest human settlements in Sicily. Located inland from the port of Palermo atop a hill (aren’t they all) it was founded by one of the three indigenous tribes of the island, though its exact history is disputed. It was quickly hellenized though and that Greek influence had a profound impact on the town. Today, you can visit the temples, ruined fortress walls and the Greek amphitheater there.
Transit time: 45 minutes by car
San Vito Lo Capo
It’s all about the beach in San Vito Lo Capo. A magnificent strip of white sand, the beach has won the Blue Flag award – an award given to notable seaside resorts — on several occasions for its clean water and beaches and multiples tourist services. Further afield from Palermo than other beaches, San Vito Lo Capo is still a popular seaside resort town for vacationers and day-trippers alike — perfect for relaxing and soaking up the sun.
Those wanting to explore beyond the beach can see the lighthouse, an ancient sanctuary in the middle of the city or the tonnare (tuna reserves). Be sure to try the cous cous – San Vito Lo Capo is home to an annual cous cous festival!
Transit time: 1 hr and 25 minutes by car
Zingaro Nature Reserve
Beach lovers might want to check out the Zingaro Nature reserve, a beautiful protected area of coastline from San Vito Lo Capo to Scopello. You can get in only on foot from one of those two cities. Follow the footpaths throughout the reserve to explore the coast and find hidden coves and beaches.
Visitors to the area shouldn’t miss the beautiful views from the little hamlet of Scopello, or the attractive historic port of Castellammare del Golfo. Both can be reached by bus from San Vito.”
Transit time: 1 hr and 25 minutes to San Vito Lo Capo or 45 minute drive from Scopello
Erice is a small village perched on a hill – but don’t write it off as just another Italian hill town. The small village has enough charm that the poet Virgil made it a stop in the Trojan hero Aeneas’ journey in the the Aeneid. Walk the ancient streets, head to see the preserved medieval fortress, the Castello di Venere, and the sweeping views out to sea. They say on a clear day you can see all the way to Africa. It’s more than an hour from Palermo, but just 12 kilometers from Trapani and reachable by the city’s cableway.
Transit time: 1 hr 13 minutes driving
Trapani hasn’t always had a great reputation – an industrial working-man city, it wasn’t necessarily top of a tourists list. But it’s since worked on its look. Today Trapani has an airport, making it a popular destination for visitors who want to visit the city and its surroundings, including the Egadi Islands off the west coast.
Stop here if you’re already out in the area to see Erice or San Vito Lo Capo and tour the kilometers of salt flats along the coast in a pungent nod to the city’s salt harvesting history. (Many of the same techniques are used today.)
Transit time: 1 hour by car; 2 hours by bus