Located at the heart of the Mediterranean, the famous island of Sicily has a unique old-world charm. On this Italian road trip from Rome to Sicily, you will experience crystal-clear lakes, rocky volcanoes, plush green natural reserves, atmospheric islands, hilltop towns, and historical ruins all at once.
The 1,070 km road trip from Rome to Sicily will take around 13 hours to drive. Notable stops are Naples, Salerno, Messina, Catania, Syracuse, Anagni, Amalfi Coast, Mount Etna, Mount Vesuvius, Civitavecchia, Palermo and Orsini-Odescalchi Castle.
Explore the highlights of Southern Italy and the best of Sicily as you drive through diverse landscapes, celebrated monuments, and dramatic coasts. Read through to find the best routes, places to visit, and things to do during this incredible road trip.
How far is Sicily from Rome, and how long will the road trip take?
|The Catania Route||1,070 kilmeters||13 hours|
|The Palermo Route||400 kilometers||5 hours 20 minutes|
The first route, or the Catania Route, takes about 13 hours to travel and covers 1,070 km. Note that you will have to take a short ferry trip from Villa San Giovanni to Messina to get to the island.
The second route, the Palermo Route via Civitavecchia, is a shorter drive to Sicily. This route includes a total driving time of 5 hours and 20 minutes and covers 400 km of driving road distance, excluding the ferry time from Civitavecchia to Palermo.
Both routes will take you through very different yet spectacular regions of Italy. And while you can complete the journey within a couple of days, we suggest you take six to eight days to explore all the beautiful places en route.
Best road trip route from Rome to Sicily
Although considerably longer, the Catania Route will take you through some of the most beautiful locations along the Western Coast of Southern Italy and some gorgeous inland views.
Some highlights include the birthplace of pizza, Napoli, a stunning drive through a string of regional and national parks, and gorgeous scenic views along the eastern coast of Sicily.
However, if you have already seen Southern Italy and want to spend more time in Sicily, the Palermo Route might suit you. Enjoy the majestic Tyrrhenian Sea as you take the beautiful ferry ride from Civitavecchia to Palermo. Don't forget to book your ticket in advance to avoid last-minute hassles.
This route is perfect if you want to explore the Palermo region leisurely. Spend your time admiring the heart of Sicily and soaking in the rich historical culture. Then drive to the site of the active volcano Mount Etna for the adventure of a lifetime.
The Catania Route
Exit Central Rome and jump onto A24 to head towards Naples. After sightseeing, take the A30 road down south. Enjoy the lush green scenery as you pass Partenio Regional Park on your left and Vesuvio National Park to your right.
You will soon get to admire the beautiful mountain views since the highway here runs along the borders of Monti Picentini Regional Park, Cilento, and Vallo di Diano National Park and through the winding roads of Pollino National Park.
As you traverse between the mountains and the sea, take the E45 to Villa San Giovanni. A ferry ride will take you cross over to enter the city of Messina on the island of Sicily.
Drive on E45 as you drive along the East Coast of Sicily and follow it south through the historical cities of Taormina and Catania, Oasi del Simeto Natural Reserve, Syracuse, and Cavagrande del Cassibile Natural Reserve.
Jump onto SS115 toward Avola to arrive at Nato. Following the highway towards Ragusa will take you to your destination.
The Palermo Route (via Civitavecchia)
Travel South from the capital city of Rome and join A91 to continue West. Take a right on E80 towards Civitavecchia and head North along the ocean to reach Civitavecchia.
Take a ferry ride from Civitavecchia to Palermo.
After exploring the beautiful Palermo, exit the city and hop onto E90 eastward. As you drive along the coastline, admire the fantastic beaches of Sicily. After crossing the Grande River, take a right on A19 and drive parallel to the river.
Journey through the wilderness and take a left on SS290 for a scenic route to Mount Etna. As you exit the winding road, hop onto A19 towards Catania again.
Take a sharp left on SP24 and continue your drive through the mountains. A few U-pin turns later, and you will reach Mount Etna.
Best places to stop between Rome to Sicily
With so many places to see on both routes and many things to do, it can be overwhelming to plan everything efficiently. To help you to make your journey more simplified, we have shortlisted some fantastic places to stay.
A cultural retreat in Naples
Naples is a perfect stop on the Catania Route on your trip to Sicily from Rome. After a long day of driving and covering a third of your journey, we suggest you pamper yourself with hearty food and electrifying opera in Naples.
Naples is the pizza capital of the World. So, treat yourself to an authentic pizza experience at a 150-year-old pizza eatery - L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele. If you have a strong historical appetite afterwards, we suggest you walk to the Ovo or the Egg Castle.
This ancient historical site offers a breathtaking view of the land and the sea. For an extraordinary musical experience, catch an Opera performance at the oldest opera house in Europe-Teatro, di San Carlo.
Finish your eventful day with a glass of wine and retire in the comfort of your luxurious hotel room at The Britannique Hotel Naples. This modern hotel is in the quiet Vomero area, accessible from the highway yet equally close to the city center via the metro.
Most rooms boast an excellent view of the Naples Gulf and the hotel offers delicious complimentary breakfast at the property at their fantastic on-site restaurant, so you won't even need to venture out for a meal if you choose not to.
Feel free to park your car in their space while exploring the city using local transportation.
Enjoy the nightlife in Palermo
Palermo, the capital of Sicily region, is halfway on the Palermo Route from Rome to Sicily. After a day full of driving and a ferry boat ride, explore the happening nightlife in Palermo.
While visiting the city, discover the stunning architecture and the eye-catching famous fountain at Piazza Pretoria (the Grand Square) and get lost in the world of music at the Massimo Theater, the city's opera house.
For a memorable hospitality experience, we recommend the prestigious Grand Hotel Wagner to rest and unwind. Located amidst all the high-end luxury shops and fabulous restaurants, the building boasts historical furniture restored from the 20th century.
Experience the old-world charm while enjoying the modern amenities like a fitness center, massage, and sauna. Start your day with a delicious breakfast and end it with a lovely drink at their cocktail bar.
Because of its central location, you can quickly go around the city to explore its rich cultural heritage sites. One of the most spectacular sights is the 12th-century Palermo Cathedral featuring iconic royal tombs.
Where to stay when you reach Sicily
Sicily is easily one of the most visited places in Europe and is known for its abundant coastline, vibrant culture, and active volcano, Mount Etna. Hence, it has a lot of good options to stay. For this road trip, we suggest staying at the excellently well-located Hotel Sant'Elia in Messina.
The hotel is centrally located, and monuments like the Messina cathedral and Fountain of Orion are within walking distance. Also, the port to take a ferry back to mainland Italy is only 2 minutes away.
The hotel offers aesthetically decorated spacious rooms and a 24-hour reception. You will love the antique furniture, the elegant vibe of the place, and the buffet breakfast spread.
Things to see on a road trip from Rome to Sicily
The road trip from Rome to Sicily is an excellent opportunity to admire the pristine nature, endless beaches, grand mountains, historical monuments, colorful culture, and countless world heritage sites en route.
We have enlisted a few must-visit attractions and beautiful sights on this route to make the most of the road journey.
The Catania Route
- Anagni - This rustic little historical town on the Catania route is famous for its celebrated cathedral and fine-dining restaurants.
- Fontana Fraterna – Take an hour's detour from the Catania route for this historical landmark to enjoy the legendary thousand-year-old delicious alpine water.
- Caserta – Visit the first of the many UNESCO World Heritage Sites on this trip at Caserta. The sight of the historical palace and its gardens is simply breathtaking.
- Amalfi Coast – With a cliff on one side and the Tyrrhenian Sea on the other, Amalfi beach is a world-famous tourist attraction. Enjoy long walks, chilled-out afternoons, relaxing swims, sunbathing, and gorgeous sunsets on the spectacular Amalfi coast.
- Mount Vesuvius – One of the very few active volcanos in the World, the world-renowned Mount Vesuvio is a must-visit. It is located just outside Naples' border and is a convenient location to cover.
- Cosenza – A trip to Cosenza would undoubtedly be an enriching experience for academic enthusiasts. There are several monuments, museums, libraries, and theaters to visit, including the illustrious Calabria University.
- Catanzaro – Spend some time in the famous “City of the Two Seas,” where the Tyrrhenian Sea borders the West and the Ionian Sea, the East.
The Palermo Route
- Orsini-Odescalchi Castle – Located on the southern shore of Bracciano lake, the historic castle of Orsini-Odescalchi is a magnificent sight.
- Lago di Bracciano – Get lost in the calm and pristine environment at Bracciano lake. Like most lakes in Italy, the Bracciano lake boasts stunning blue waters and is perfect for a vacation.
- Civitavecchia – Before you hop on a ferry toward Palermo, take some time to explore the old city of Civitavecchia. Marvel at the ancient monuments from Roman times that have stood the test of time.
- Palermo – Palermo is popularly known as the heart of Sicily. It is one of the must-visit places in Sicily and is known for its vibrant nightlife.
- Castle Lanza Branciforte of Trabia- This gorgeous castle is a hidden gem in the small town of Trabia. The castle overlooks the Palermo coast and is perfect for a panoramic sea view.
- Messina – Messina is a lovely port town that links Sicily Island to the rest of Italy. It is renowned for its Norman Cathedral, almost destroyed during the 1908 earthquake. You can also visit the many art museums and historical sites.
- Syracuse – Known as the birthplace of Archimedes, Syracuse is famous for its stunning architecture and the influence of Greek and Roman history. You'll also love the pedestrian Ortigia Island for its quaint beauty.
- Noto – Spend your time admiring the blue ocean waves on the Sicilian beaches of Nato. Nato is also one of the many villages declared as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and boasting rich baroque architecture.
- Mount Etna – Tick off one more item off your bucket list as you visit this World-famous active volcanic mountain- Mount Etna.
Best time to go on a road trip from Rome to Sicily
You can take a road trip to Sicily any time of the year. The climate is pleasant all year, and the region clocks in 2500 sunshine hours. Although visiting Sicily during the shoulder seasons is best, the diversity of the monuments and nature makes a sunny summer trip or a chilly winter road trip worth pursuing.
Summers are the most popular times for tourists to visit Sicily. The temperature averages between mid-thirties and is perfect for chilling at the beach. The only downside is that the accommodations are pricey, shooting the travel budget through the roof.
Should you choose to visit the Sicily region in winter, expect rain. This makes swimming and enjoying the beach a bit difficult. Nonetheless, you can still explore the cities, forts, and cathedrals and participate in indoor activities.
Spring is the best time to plan this trip as the temperature ranges between 20 and 30 degrees, and the accommodation prices are reasonable. The temperatures drop slightly as summer fades and fall sets in, but the tourist numbers don't. So, you will have an expensive trip if you plan it during early fall.
Another reason to pick the spring season for your road trip is that Sicily hosts many music and food festivals from March to June. Sicily has many festivals throughout the year, and each region has its schedule.
If you wish to observe a quirky event, the Artichoke Festival takes place in the Palermo area in April. May sees the The Greek Theater Festival in Syracuse and Taormina Film Festival takes place in June.