During my trip to Sicily in September, I travelled by train between the cities of Palermo, Cefalu, Taormina, Catania, Syracuse, Noto and Modica. In today’s post, I summarize tipps on how to travel Sicily by train and get around without trouble.
I’m one of these people who still prefer paper-printed tickets because my phone is not always reliable. And that’s definitely an option if you wanna use the counter or ticket machines. But train stations in Sicily’s major cities are quite busy. So, either you buy your ticket in advance or arrive early because you’ll also need to manually validate your ticket before boarding. To save yourselves from this hassle, I recommend you simply use Trenitalia’s website or app (Andoid or Apple) to do everything in one click.
Some tips in case you use a ticket machine:
- Buy your tickets separately in case you change trains. The machines often buck when you purchase multiple destinations.
- Don’t forget to validate your purchased ticket before entering the train. Digitalization is much more advanced in Italy than for example in Germany, but if Italians go for the offline option, they’re really going for offline and traditional. 😉
My recommended train itinerary
After my two-week trip to Sicily in September 2022, I can recommend this train itinerary without hesitation. If you don’t wanna drive yourselves, travelling between these major cities by train is easy.
1 From Palermo to Cefalu
Travel time: 48 minutes
This short train ride was probably the most frequented one during my trip. Strikes resulted in cancelled trains that day, so that not even half the passengers were seated. But it was admittedly the easiest one to start my train experience because both train stations are in the very center of the cities.
2 From Cefalu to Messina
Travel time: 1 hour 58 minutes
I took this train because I wanted to reach Taormina the same day. The transfer time of 45 minutes was quite relaxing because I was able to move around the train station and get some lunch.
3 From Messina to Taormina
Travel time: 1 hour 9 minutes
In front of the train station of Taormina-Giardini, you can take a public coach for 1 euro to reach the old town of Taormina in about 15 minutes.
4 From Taormina to Catania
Travel time: 34 minutes
You can either take a bus from Taormina’s old town or a train from Taormina-Giardini to Catania. I personally found it very easy to reach Taormina-Giardini from the old town, the timing was more convenient for me and in the end, it was even a few euros cheaper.
5 From Catania to Syracuse
Travel time: 1 hour 20 minutes
You pass by industrial areas like Augusta, which show a completely different side of Sicily.
7 From Noto to Modica
Travel time: 1 hour 8 minutes
If you don’t mind walking a lot, sightseeing both Noto and Modica in one day is easy. You can take the first train from Syracuse to Noto at 10.30 am, and then you leave from Noto to Modica at 2.30 pm.
8 From Modica to Syracuse
Travel time: 1 hour 50 minutes
The last train leaves at 7.30 pm and therefore gives you enough time to see the most important sights, get panoramic views from villa alta and taste some famous chocolate, one of the many must-try dishes in Sicily (read my food guide here).
A fan of Sicilian train trips
As a conclusion, public transport is a great way to travel around and see some of the major cities in Sicily. For my trip between Palermo and Syracuse, travelling by train was by far the cheapest and most relaxed option.
However, travelling by train makes you dependant on train schedules. It’s quite important to check departures and returns.
Moreover, not all parts of Sicily are so well connected. You may have difficulties to see the backcountry and some less travelled places. But there’s always the option to book a guided tour with transfer. For example my guided hiking tour to Etna was a great addition to my trip!
Anyways, Sicily is such a big and diverse island. One trip is hardly enough to discover this beautiful island. I’ll definitely be back, and possibly organize a mix of train and car transportation…