Cycling in Sicily – Questions & Answers

Thinking about a biking trip to Sicily? Find the answers to some frequently asked questions about cycling in Sicily here and submit new questions if you require further information.

Cycling in Sicily – Questions & Answers

Thinking about a biking trip to Sicily? Find the answers to some frequently asked questions about cycling in Sicily here and submit new questions if you require further information.

How is Cycling in Sicily Like?

Safety

Sicily is a safe place for bicycle travellers if you take the necessary precautions you’d take anywhere else. There are not many separate cycle ways 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 Roads

Sicily has a huge road network with thousands of kilometers of asphalt back roads 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. 

The Weather

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 anytime.

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

Regulations

Cycling in Sicily is subject to the Italian traffic regulations. Wearing a bicycle helmet is not compulsory in Italy, but you should be equipped with a bell and lights. 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 “safety” above for more details.  

Equipment

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.

Getting from Palermo to the airport & vice versa

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!

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. 

A big thanks to Phil for posting this question!

Water Supply & Fountains

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

 

Accommodation

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

Food & Drink

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 bein a small village, you may still 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).

Getting There

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 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

Trains

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

As of March 2020, there are no train connections from Palermo to Trapani with bicycle transportation options.

Camping 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.

Bike Hire in Palermo and in Sicily

If you plan to do a short trip in or around a city, you’ll most probably want to rent a standard city bike on the spot, but if you plan a tour or to bike on adventurous trails you should look for good quality bikes. Our bike rentals include lightweight hardtail mountain bikes and gravel bikes as well as hybrid bikes from Trek and Specialized. Our Specialized gravel bikes can mount low riders and rear racks and panniers if you’re planning a tour long 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. Simply get in touch for a quote via our website or contact us via WhatsApp on +39 333 1358769.

COVID: Cycling During the Pandemic

As of September 2020, there are no travel restrictions in Italy or in Sicily and a cycling trip may be the best way to get away from the crowds and enjoy riding on quiet back roads, swimming in the Med and sunbathing on almost empty beaches (especially in the south-west). Hotels and B&Bs are well prepared to provide a safe and hassle-free holiday and travellers from all countries are welcome (provided they are allowed to travel to Italy under the current circumstances). If you are travelling from abroad we recommend you read the guidelines and updates on the regional tourist board’s website here. Thanks to Anthony for posting the question!

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