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The frustrations of driving in Sicily

London, United...
Level Contributor
1 post
24 reviews
36 helpful votes
The frustrations of driving in Sicily

I have just returned from a week in Sicily where a car is essential should you want to explore this wonderful island properly. Driving however is extremely nerve wracking and very, very, frustration.

Pack extra BetaBlockers if you drive in Sicily! I have driven in all parts of Italy but nothing prepares you for the crazy "death wish" drivers of this island. On nearly every journey we encountered these kamakazes who think nothing of overtaking on blind corners and consider the depth of a cigarette paper as the correct distance to place their front bumber against your rear one, regardless of speed!

If that isn't enough to cope with, you must also be aware that signpostng is truly terrible. Usually there will be good signage on the motorways but once you come off do not rely on any of the signs (if there are any) Many point in completely the wrong direction or will take you on a 100km detour. Buy a map and trust only your own instincts as to when to make critical turns. This is particularly true when driving through towns en route Roundabouts are a particular nightmare because suddenly you will have the choice of 3 exits with not a single sign on any of them, so keeping to the right road becomes a lottery.

Good luck and don't even think of not taking out full and comprehensive insurance for your car and your life!

Here & There
Destination Expert
for Sicily, Taormina
Level Contributor
136,887 posts
1. Re: The frustrations of driving in Sicily

A car is not essential should you want to explore Sicily – A car may be the best way to see Sicily, since a car offers the most flexibility and the best options for touring the interior and some of the less touristy areas, especially if short on time, but you could circumnavigate and explore Sicily without hiring a car.

Overall, driving in Sicily is not difficult if you avoid driving in the larger cities – Palermo, Catania, and Messina, and a few of the more challenging historic town centres like Ragusa.

It may help to remember that road signs could mention the destination, but not the road number.

It's always good to have a clear idea not only of your destination town (which may be a small town), but the name of a larger town beyond your destination, which may be listed on the sign instead.

If you find yourself in a roundabout without your destination listed, take additional turns in the roundabout until you feel confident you’ve found the correct route. Cars in the roundabout always have the right of way.

Purchase the Touring Club of Italy maps with a 1:200.000 scale - These maps have the smallest towns and they are excellent!

There have been some very informative threads about driving in Sicily.

driving in sicily:



Erd, Hungary
Level Contributor
835 posts
554 reviews
280 helpful votes
2. Re: The frustrations of driving in Sicily

I drove last summer 10 days in Sicily, all the way around using a Fiat 500 and it was never bad. I actually quite enjoyed driving in Sicily, you can get used to the local driving habits quite quickly. If you are a good driver there is nothing to fear in Sicily, I think....

Here & There
Destination Expert
for Sicily, Taormina
Level Contributor
136,887 posts
3. Re: The frustrations of driving in Sicily

Just know what to expect - Drivers are as aggressive as in other parts of Italy!


St Paul, MN
Level Contributor
21,433 posts
6 reviews
5 helpful votes
4. Re: The frustrations of driving in Sicily

We only encountered Kamikaze driving in larger towns/cities, but we survived it. Driving on the Autostrada (even though we might have been the slowest car on the Autostrada) seemed OK.

We bought maps from Trek Tool before we went.

In some of the roundabouts about we went round more than once before we figured out which one we were supposed to get off on. Big deal. The roundabouts we were on all had signs.

Here & There
Destination Expert
for Sicily, Taormina
Level Contributor
136,887 posts
5. Re: The frustrations of driving in Sicily

As with anywhere, be prepared with map or GPS, and know what to expect and where to avoid driving.


Level Contributor
3,229 posts
60 reviews
94 helpful votes
6. Re: The frustrations of driving in Sicily

It is some years since we last drove in Sicily - September 1973 in fact when we drove from the UK, travelling further south than we originally intended due to many places being closed on the mainland because of cholera. Sicily was not affected.

The OP's comments took me back to our drive south from Messina to Ragusa. We approached a junction during the lunch period and found the traffic lights rather than flashing amber were set at green in both directions.

We always now take full insurance cover whenever hiring a car in Italy as we've had many experiences of body damage.

Milazzo, Italy
Level Contributor
426 posts
3 reviews
10 helpful votes
7. Re: The frustrations of driving in Sicily

I completely sympathise with the OP of this post - this is exactly how I felt 15 years ago. But after many years of driving here, I've come to quite admire the way Sicilians drive. They're really not that bad at all, just far more intuitive than many of the rest of us. If I can be of any help though, here are a few rules that I try to adhere to:

When approaching a junction, try to make eye contact with the other drivers and communicate your intentions clearly (even if you don't yet know what they are!).

Assume that any vehicle joining the road from the right is definitely going to pull out in front of you. That's a given.

On a roundabout (and this follows on from the above) assume that any traffic joining the roundabout will not give way for you. This is completely counter-intuitive to UK drivers. (In their defence, roundabouts are quite a new thing in Sicily and I think a lot of - especially older - Sicilian drivers are still a bit unclear about them. To my mind, they are also all too small, with very tight turning circles and never room for two cars abreast).

When driving in towns, always keep a very keen eye on your right side mirror. Particularly when turning right. Mopeds have a nasty habit of trying to undertake you.

When pulling off motorways onto slip roads, bear in mind that these are often much, much shorter than the ones in the UK. You need to slow down sharply to get round the curve at the end (Special attention on the slip road for Taormina - however do not more people hit that wall???).

Always keep a good distance between yourself and the car in front of you (even if other cars will try to take advantage of this by barging in)

In a town with a grid-like road system, never assume you have automatic right of way at a junction. And always look both ways even if the intersecting road is one-way (there is often a cyclist riding up it the wrong way).

Don't be fazed by cars tanking up behind you on the motorway with their lights blazing. Pull over into the slow lane, but only when it's absolutely safe to do so. Don't let them pressure you into making a move you wouldn't otherwise make.

On roads like the circonvollazione in Palermo, I often drive in the fast lane as it is easier - you don't get all the traffic joining from the right - but keep an eye on the speed limits and also on the mobile speed checks (there's a lot of them). They're hard to spot. There *may* be a warning a few hundred yards before (usually a small temporary sign perched on the road) but often you just have to just look out for what looks like a mobile radio on a tripod by the side of the road. There may or may not be a policeman standing beside it.

Watch out for fixed speed cameras. These are not nearly as conspicuous as in the UK - often they are grey and hard to spot. They also work! Sometimes they are mounted under bridges (watch the road into Palermo from the airport), others are free standing (careful just before the road joins from Bagheria on the motorway into Palermo) and on the SS114 South of Giardini Naxos, they seem to be every hundred metres. It's not always easy to know what the speed limit is on any given piece of road, but you should always bear speed limits in mind.

Yes, road signs are often confusing. Personally, I find getting out of towns, harder than getting in. A GPS system is great, but if you don't have one, just wind down the window and shout out the name of the place you want to go to. If nothing else you'll improve your Italian.

And lastly, don't get flustered if you get a bit lost. Keep driving round. You'll get there eventually!

Generally though, I find driving in Sicily is a hugely enjoyable experience. And yes, if you're at all hesitant, total cover insurance on the car hire is a good idea. For those who drive abroad often though, this can add up to quite a whack (after all, this is how the car hire companies make their money). Something like this:


can save you a lot of money over the course of a year (maybe even in just one holiday!)

Happy driving!

New York City, New...
Level Contributor
2,167 posts
36 reviews
22 helpful votes
8. Re: The frustrations of driving in Sicily

I drove in Sicily on my own, something I DO NOT recommend; only did this as an alternative to cancelling my vacation after my travel partner developed an orthopedic problem.

Anyway ---- I did not find Sicilian drivers terrible, about like Italian drivers everywhere (sit on your tail, etc). But I did find some driving impossible, even with an updated GPS. Trying to get from Caltagirone to Siracusa by following your GPS? It can't be done. And there are stretches of road where there is no place to pull over for tens of kilometers. No chance to check a map. My GPS led me in a complete loop on a provincial (i.e., beautiful scenery but narrow!!) road; I couldn't believe I was nearly back in Caltagirone. (I finally pulled over and called my Siracusa B&B and my host agreed that it would be better to aim for Catania and take a good road south to Siracusa.)

The roads were much better than I had expected. But I was never so happy as when I parked my car in Ortigia and left it there for the remainder of the vacation.

So ---- if you can drive in Italy, you can drive in Siracusa. Roads fine, signs ---- not so much. And don't trust your GPS.

New York City, New...
Level Contributor
2,167 posts
36 reviews
22 helpful votes
9. Re: The frustrations of driving in Sicily

Meant to say "If you can drive in Italy, you can drive in Sicily..."

Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
475 posts
321 reviews
168 helpful votes
10. Re: The frustrations of driving in Sicily

I actually quite enjoyed driving in Sicily. And yes, my GPS 'invented' a few routes, but I learned to review the route with a map before setting out. Just avoid Catania & Palermo - or drive them in off-peak hours - and enjoy the scenery. My wife - as a passenger - hated it, but she doesn't like twisty roads . . .


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