Cycling in Sicily: What You Need to Know

Thinking about a biking trip to Sicily? Find the answers to some frequently asked questions about cycling in Sicily here.

Cycling in Sicily: What You Need to Know

Thinking about a biking trip to Sicily? Find the answers to some frequently asked questions about cycling in Sicily.

How is Cycling in Sicily Like?

Is it safe to cycle in Sicily?

Sicily is a safe place for cycling if you take the necessary precautions you’d take anywhere else. There are not many separate cycle paths so you will have to share the road with cars etc. most of the times, but apart from the main state roads, there is really not much traffic on Sicily’s roads as compared to other Italian regions. Sicilians have their own driving style as you will notice very soon, they do not care too much about certain rules (stop signs and roundabouts etc., give way) but they do respect cyclists. Drivers use to honk before they overtake other cars, motorcycles or bicycles or just to say hello (several short honks).

As for your bicycle, we recommend you keep it in a safe deposit overnight and always lock it when you leave it on the street, especially in larger towns (e.g. Palermo) where bicycle theft is not uncommon. The general rule is – better safe than sorry!

How are the roads in Sicily like for cycling?

Sicily has a huge road network with thousands of kilometers of asphalt backroads to ride. The terrain is mostly flat around Trapani, Marsala and Mazara del Vallo in west Sicily and  – apart from a few climbs – the coastal roads are quite flat, too. As soon as you venture inland there are many rolling hills but also a few challenging climbs. Cycling in Sicily means being prepared for the occasional pot hole or bumpy road. State roads are usually smoother to ride on and they have no steep climbs as opposed to provincial roads. Cycling is allowed on most roads except for some SS (strada statale) roads and, of course motorways (green road signs). Do not expect to find many dedicated cycle paths in towns or marked cycling routes. Although there are more cycle paths now, they are not always maintained and thus are sometimes more bumpy than the regular roads (e.g. the rail trail near Menfi: a landslide, wuthering weeds and collapsed railings are some of the challenges that riders need to overcome).

A typical secondary road in Sicily is great for cycling

When is the best time for cycling in Sicily?

Sicily’s climate allows you to enjoy the perfect cycling weather almost all year round. With mild and moderately rainy winters and hot summers, the best time of the year is in spring and autumn, but with the adequate equipment you can cycle around the island at anytime.

For those who wish to cycle around the island, the best wind conditions are generally if you cycle anti-clockwise. However, if you wish to avoid headwind while riding along the coast, check out online resources for surfers like windfinder before setting off.

What are the cycling rules in Sicily?

Cycling in Sicily is subject to the Italian highway code. Wearing a bicycle helmet is not compulsory in Italy, but you should be equipped with a bell and lights as well as a reflecting vest if you plan on riding between dusk and dawn. Cyclists should always ride in single file. Two cyclists can ride side by side only in town if the traffic conditions allow enough space for cars to take over (we do recommend you stick to the single file rule) or if one cyclist is younger than 10 years old. These are the specific rules for cyclists. Of course, you should respect the general traffic laws, but don’t expect everyone else to do so. Sicilians don’t always respect the right of way or stop signs, but because they know that others have the same bad habit, they generally watch out more than car drivers in northern Europe normally do. Check out the answer to the question “is it safe to cycle in Sicily” above for more details.

Useful info about cycling in Sicily

What to pack for a cycling tour in Sicily?

Waterproof panniers are not essential if you travel during the spring, summer and autumn, but they may be useful during the winter months. Please be aware that inland Sicily is mostly hilly with the occasional steep climb so make sure you have a bicycle with a good gear range and preferably disc brakes, especially if you travel with heavy load.

Don’t want to ship your own bike? Need a good quality, fully equipped touring bike? We can help you out! Check out our bike hire in Palermo and in Sicily.

How to get from Palermo airport to city centre by bike?

The easiest way to get from the airport to the city is by train. The local train from Palermo airport (Punta Raisi) to the central station carries bikes for free. The private bus shuttles run by Prestia & Comandè don’t accept bikes, but if you want to cycle all the way to Palermo city or from the city to the airport, you can do it! Just make sure you take the correct exit (white road signs, towards via Cristoforo Colombo) at the roundabout otherwise you’ll end up on the motorway 🙂

The terrain is mostly flat and you’ll need around an hour to get there if you’re fully loaded. Without heavy panniers, you might as well get there in less than an hour, depending on your level of fitness.

How much water do I need to carry on a bike trip in Sicily?

Sicily is rich in water when there is enough rain in the winter and you can find drinking fountains in many towns, but sometimes the tap is closed for lack of water. Luckily, there are many bars along the main roads, especially in and around the towns and villages. If you plan a mountain bike tour make sure you have enough water for the stage between two towns if you travel in the hot season (June-September). Whenever you find a fountain check if there is a notice ACQUA POTABILE (drinking water) or ACQUA NON POTABILE (non-drinking water).

Need a bike for your tour? Check out our bike rentals in Sicily.

 

Are there any bike inns or bike hotels in Sicily?

Many hosts in Sicily accept bikes, but if you want to make sure that your bike will be stored in a safe place or in your bedroom check out our collection of bike hotels, B&Bs, campsites and apartments that offer services for cyclists: Bike Hotels in Sicily.

When booking your AirBnB or hotel room, simply ask for a safe deposit for your bike and specify what you mean: not just some space in common areas or a courtyard, but a locked room or garage. If the holiday apartment is on the upper floor, ask if the stairs are steep or narrow or if there is an elevator that fits a bike. It may be pretty exhausting having to carry your bike upstairs every day.

If you travel along our Sicily Divide route, you can find a list of bike-friendly apartments and hotels on the official website sicilydivide.it

Is it easy to find food for special dietary requirements while cycling in Sicily?

Sicily is a gourmet destination and you can find fresh and seasonal food everywhere. If you have special dietary requirements and allergies, make sure you know how to explain that in italian as not everyone speaks English very well (if at all). Coeliac disease is quite common in Italy and Sicily, so you won’t have difficulties in finding gluten-free food in larger towns or at supermarkets. If you happen to be in a small village, you may find some gluten-free snacks at the bar. Whenever you eat out, make sure you mention either that you need gluten-free food: “SENZA GLUTINE” (spelled sen-sa gloo-teen-eh) or that you have coeliac disease:”SONO CELIACO” (spelled son-o chel-ee-a-ko). Vegetarians, vegans and whoever eats halal food may encounter some difficulties at smaller bars and eateries as many Sicilian snacks known as “rosticceria” or “tavola calda” include some kind of meat or ham or pig fat (“STRUTTO” spelled stroot-toe).

How can I get to Sicily by bike?

Sicily has four international airports: Palermo in the north, Catania in the east, Trapani in the west and Comiso near Ragusa in south-east Sicily. If you travel from mainland Italy, there are several ferry connections from the main ports (e.g. Naples, Livorno and Genoa) and a connection from Cagliari in Sardinia to Palermo. The ferry link across the Strait of Messina is an option if you travel all the way to Sicily by bicycle. Check out the best ferry connections to Sicily on ok-ferry.com

The easiest way to enjoy a hassle-free bicycle vacation in Sicily is to rent a bike on site. You don’t need to worry about your bike being damaged during the transport (rear derailleur hangers and shifters are often damaged if the bike is not handled with care) and you’ll always have someone to reach out in case of any problems. Most of the times, renting a bike is less expensive than shipping the bike to Sicily. We offer great bikes at reasonable prices with all necessary equipment (waterproof Ortlieb panniers, phone mounts, Garmin mounts, tyre repair sets, pump, lights, helmets etc.) and assistance and advice. Find out more about our bikes to rent in Sicily here.

Are bikes allowed on trains in Sicily?

Cycling in Sicily often means covering long distances. The good news is that you can easily skip some sections by train. The railway network in Sicily does not cover the entire island but the publicly owned company Trenitalia operates many regional trains where you can carry your bike for free. Here is an overview of some interesting train connections for bicycle tourers in Sicily:

Palermo – Agrigento (around 2 hrs, departures every 1-2 hours) is the best option if you plan to cycle the Magna Via Francigena trail or if you plan to ride along Sicily’s west coast, e.g. with our Best of the West Bike Adventure Pack. For more info about our Adventure Packs visit our Sicily Bike Tours page.

Palermo – Messina along the north coast with many interesting stops such as Cefalù or Milazzo.

Messina – Taormina – Catania – Siracusa (east coast)

As of February 2023, there are no train connections from Palermo to Trapani with bicycle transportation options. The farthest you can get from Palermo towards the west is Piraineto.

Please note that bicycles are not allowed on most Intercity trains in Sicily.

It is not necessary to reserve tickets in advance. You can purchase them directly at the train station at an automatic desk with several language options. Sometimes the machines don’t accept cash or cards so be sure to have both at hand just in case one of the options is out of order. Also, please note that there are limited spots for bicycles, so you may not always find an available spot if you travel during the peak season or during the rush hour.

Is it easy to camp while cycle touring in Sicily?

Wild camping is generally not allowed in Sicily, but in some areas it is tolerated for up to 24 hours. There is no general rule on a regional level and depending on where you go you will be under the jurisdiction of municipalities or nature parks. For complete peace of mind, we recommend you stay at one of the camping sites in Sicily. Find out where to stay in a camping site in Sicily on our map of bike hotels and bike-friendly accommodation in Sicily.

Are there any good bike rentals in Sicily?

If you plan to do a short trip in or around a city, you’ll most probably want to rent a city bike from a local bike shop or a Uber bike (Lime, available in Palermo), but if you plan a tour or to bike on adventurous trails you should look for good quality rental bikes. Our bike rentals include lightweight hardtail mountain bikes and gravel bikes as well as hybrid bikes from Trek and Specialized. Our gravel bikes are equipped with rear racks and you can rent Ortlieb panniers if you’re planning a tour. If you are staying at a villa or a hotel for a few days or weeks, our gravel or endurance road bikes from Trek are the perfect option to enjoy cycling on and off-road (you can’t imagine how many times tarmac roads turn into dirt tracks – totally unexpectedly) and if you want to have fun on Sicily’s sometimes bumpy and potholed back roads.

Click here to view our bike rentals in Palermo. We offer a delivery service to the airport, to your hotel or to other locations in Sicily with advanced booking (we may not always be available for deliveries, so better check well in advance). Simply get in touch for a quote via our website or contact us via WhatsApp on +39 333 1358769.

What are the best places for cycling in Sicily?

Sicily offers many great trails in the west (our Best of the West tour offers the highlights between Palermo and Agrigento) and in the sout-east (check out our Secret South tour). Road cyclists love the Madonie Mountains, especially the loop rides around Cefalù and the classic climbs of Mount Etna between Catania and Taormina. The SIBIT route from Trapani to Siracusa is another great way of exploring Sicily, especially if you follow our revised route that avoids some ugly main roads and road closures that weren’t accounted for when the itinerary was designed a decade ago.

One of the most popular routes in Sicily is the Sicily Divide route from Trapani to Catania which was created by our co-founder Giovanni Guarneri. More information can be found on the official website sicilydivide.it

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