The energy shortage, sustainability, and new emerging ways of travelling are changing the tourism industry and thus change our travel advice. For long I’ve been advocating that the best way to travel around Sicily is by renting a car. I still believe in my bold statement, because the car gives you such a flexibility that no other means of transportation can ensure. The idea of a roadtrip in Sicily is still the best option for your itinerary, as this beautiful island is not reachable by public transport in all its hidden corners. The most beautiful beach in Sicily, the most hidden and iconic inland village will only be reachable by car (by the way, read also my article on The Top 5 beaches in Sicily).
However, we all want to be conscious about the environment and the negative impact that tourism can have on it. This is why I would like to present you what the options for travelling in Sicily by train are, comfortably, with no stress and without missing out on some must-see places in Sicily.
TYPE OF TRAIN SERVICES AND TICKETS
In the last couple of years, the train service in Sicily has made a gigantic leap in terms or quality and travel comfort. Indeed, the Italian network operator Trenitalia has upgraded its Regional trains fleet bringing in new, comfortable, fast and air-conditioned trains to the island. The fleet has been completely renewed, making Sicily at the forefront of train travel in Europe (#EuropeloveSicily is the hashtag featured on the new Regional trains). Overall, the situation has improved drastically all over Italy, making train holidays in Italy a viable option.
First things to know, in Italy several levels of service are available (from cheapest to most expensive): Regional trains, Intercity trains, Frecciarossa/Italo high-speed trains. Unfortunately, the latter is not available in Sicily as the island has no high-speed infrastructure in place. However all the other type of trains are available. In this article we will be focusing mostly on Regional trains, as they are the most inexpensive class of travel and in most cases the travelling time equals the one of Intercity trains in Sicily, which tend to be a more expensive way to move within the island.
A Regional train ticket can be bought directly at the ticket office at the railway station, at the vending machine, on the Trenitalia Website or via the Trenitalia App (recommended). In Sicily, should you be late for your train, you can also buy your ticket directly onboard by asking the Train Collector directly. Single tickets are inexpensive on Regional trains, only available for the second class and there is no discount for the return fare. Another option is to buy a Regional train promo ticket valid either for 3 days (EUR 29) or 5 days (EUR 49).
Let’s start from the Sicilian airports. Palermo (West Sicily) and Catania (East Sicily) are the two airport hubs on the island, and the first good news is that they are both connected to the railway network. The railway station at the Palermo Airport is directly located within the arrival/departure terminal, you would just need to go to level -1 and jump on the train to Palermo City. Catania Airport has also a railway station, however you will need to reach it with a shuttle bus leaving from the arrivals floor and dropping you at the station in a matter of no more than two minutes. Once at the Catania Airport railway station, you can jump on a train to Catania, Taormina and Siracusa easily.
Should you only reach Catania city center instead, the Alibus is the fastest, cheapest and most frequent connection to Catania city center. One disclaimer though, for both airports check the connections in advance on Trenitalia.com as during certain time windows of the day trains might not be too frequent. I want to avoid that you end up waiting too long, when you could rather spend time having a tasty Sicilian breakfast at the airport.
DESTINATIONS REACHABLE FROM TAORMINA
Now the fun part starts, and I am getting excited to give you many options for travelling in Sicily by train. For example, from Taormina you can move along the East Coast of Sicily reaching Catania, Catania Fontanarossa Airport, Siracusa and many more places with a change at the Siracusa railway station. The train ride is spectacular. On the left-hand side of the train you will have a never-ending deep-blue view called seaside! On the right-hand side, instead you’ll admire the impressive size of Mount Etna and all the vineyards or orange plantations of the volcano Eastern flank. Therefore, the train journey per se means already discovering Sicily with plenty of memorable views.
Here are the travel times per each connection from Taormina-Giardini.
One may ask. Is Taormina worth visiting? Yes, definitely one of the must-see destinations in Sicily. What is special about Taormina? Both the beautiful Taormina beach at Isola Bella and the cultural scene with the ancient Greek Theater. The latter, undoubtedly the most beautiful and panoramic theater of the world!
PLACES REACHABLE FROM CATANIA
Here are the travel times from the Catania railway station.
- Taormina-Giardini: 38 minutes
- Siracusa: 1 hour and 7 minutes
- Catania Fontanarossa Airport: 8 minutes (Alibus preferred though)
Which is better Catania or Taormina? Fair question. The two are not comparable. Catania is a big city, with its advantages and disadvantages but for sure cheaper than Taormina for accommodation and food. Additionally, in terms of distance Catania is half way between Taormina and Siracusa. Therefore it is a good base for visiting both. However Taormina is calmer, the seaside is very accessible and if you are in the mood of staying in a holiday destination with the infrastructure and services that come with it, then choose Taormina.
TOWNS REACHABLE FROM SIRACUSA
Here are the travel times from the Siracusa railway station.
- Fontane Bianche (beach town): 14 minutes
- Avola (like the famous Nero D’Avola wine): 25 minutes
- Noto (baroque town): 33 minutes
- Ispica (baroque town): 56 minutes
- Catania Airport: 59 minutes
- Catania Centrale: 1 hour and 7 minutes
- Pozzallo (beach town): 1 hour and 4 minutes
- Sampieri (beautiful beach town): 1 hour and 14 minutes
- Scicli (baroque town): 1 hour and 26 minutes
- Modica (chocolate town): 1 hour and 39 minutes
- Ragusa (baroque town): 2 hours and 1 minute
- Taormina-Giardini: 2 hours and 2 minutes
THE DESTINATIONS REACHABLE FROM SICILY CAPITAL: PALERMO
- Palermo Punta Raisi Airport: 49 minutes
- Cefalù (medieval town + beach): 48 minutes
- Milazzo (connection to the Aeolian islands by ferry): 2 hours and 20 minutes
- Agrigento Centrale (Greek Valley of the Temples): 2 hours and 4 minutes
MOUNT ETNA AND FERROVIA CIRCUMETNEA
Is it possible to go around Mount Etna by train? I often get this question. The answer is yes! That does not mean that you are able to reach Mount Etna by train, not at all. If your plan is to go high up for a hike, then you need to go either by car or by bus. Nevertheless, if you want to circle around Volcano Etna and you are ok with getting up to 800 meters above sea level max, then you might want to take a daytrip with Ferrovia CircumEtnea from Catania.
Here are the travel times to the villages around Volcano Etna.
- Catania Borgo to Bronte (pistachio town): 1 hour and 31 minutes
- Catania Borgo to Randazzo (medieval town): 1 hour and 58 minutes
- Randazzo to Riposto (beach town): 1 hour and 17 minutes
Should you plan to discover Etna in a day with a hike to the top craters and a wine tasting at sunset, check out my article: Mount Etna, the House of Gods.
Sicily is reachable by night train too! If you are passionate about travelling by night train or if you are travelling with Interrail in Italy, you can reach Sicily from Milan, Rome and Naples by night train with the following connections:
- Milano Centrale to Palermo Centrale/Siracusa (with stops in Cefalù, Milazzo, Taormina-Giardini, Catania)
- Roma Termini to Palermo/Siracusa (the same intermediate stops as above apply)
- Napoli Centrale to Palermo/Siracusa (the same intermediate stops as above apply)
The unique experience of this long train ride is that the train is loaded onto the ferry to cross the Strait of Messina. Therefore, you can get off from the train, take a stroll and enjoy the view from the ship deck while tasting a typical Sicilian arancino!
Should you travel from mainland Italy to Sicily by train, you can take the Intercity trains during the day from Rome and Naples. Check the Trenitalia website for more info.
Finally, should you be a fan of high-speed trains the Trenitalia Frecciarossa and Italo high-speed trains reach Villa San Giovanni (Calabria). From there you can easily take a ferry to Sicily (Messina).
In the end, travelling to Sicily by train is feasible and there are many options. Another question I often get is the following. Is Palermo or Catania better to stay in if travelling by train? Which part of Sicily is the most beautiful? Well, the best connections by train are in Eastern Sicily as you can see above, therefore prefer Taormina, Catania and Siracusa over Palermo if you want to use the train for your holiday in Sicily. Hop on and have fun!
This article is a snapshot of the many things to do in Sicily, itineraries and places we suggest for your Sicily holidays. I hope by now you will be able to answer the question: How is Sicily different from Italy? At least on the topic of train travelling, we uncovered it all! Sicily can be a very good train holiday destination! Should you be interested, discover more with our Ebook Travel Guide Sicily on our website. Way better than any lengthy trip advisor Sicily search, we know it! Once you will see our interactive Sicily travel map, you’ll love it! On our website you can buy now our Sicily Travel Guide Book.
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