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We spent a fortnight cycling in western Sicily in May/June 2000, staying in hotels. We booked all our accommodation in advance. The weather was just right.

We checked in at Heathrow to find a CTC party of 20-odd cyclists on the same flight, and a couple more cycle tourists to boot. When we arrived at Palermo we spent nearly an hour trying to find a way out of the airport. Eventually we had to admit defeat and tag onto the CTC group. We spent the first night at Terrasini, somewhat to the west of the airport.

The next day we set off, sun on our backs, to Cefalù. Colin became pensive. “My dearest, if Cefalù is to the east of Terrasini, why is the sun on our backs?”. “Because there aren’t any hills in the way, my beloved, unless we make a detour via Montelepre”. So we did. Palermo was an asphalt jungle, and we had lunch somewhere east of S. Flávia. From there it was flat and boring to Cefalù. Colin arrived with a sore knee.

We had 3 nights at Cefalù, which is a lovely place where Colin took it easy. Tracey took day rides. She particularly recommends Póllina as a destination. It’s in none of the guides, but very attractive. However the coast road east of Cefalù is unpleasant since there’s no autostrada to take the traffic.

We moved on to Nicosia via S. Stefano, having lunch at Mistretta, which is itself very pretty. Nicosia too is worth seeing.

The next day we moved on again to Enna, dramatically situated at the navel of the island. We had 3 nights there so we were both able to take day trips. Colin visited Piazza Armerina and opined that it belonged to the decadence of Roman art, though it’s an evocative enough place.

From Enna we moved on to Agrigento, where we visited the Greek remains. Colin kept casting wistful looks at the baroque villas there, which he prefers to Greek temples. One of them is the Hotel Villa Athena, where he wishes we’d stayed, expensive though it is.

Cattólica Eraclea

We had just one night at Agrigento. From here we proceeded west along the coast. You can tell from the map that the road is going to be flat and boring. We were able to avoid some of it by heading out to Cattólica Eraclea, which we were surprised to find was unselfconsciously gorgeous. (Like Póllina, the guidebooks pass it by.) To get there from Agrigento you will need to ask directions; the signposting is not much help.

By now we were noticing what seemed to be an established feature on the south coast: strong incessant westerly winds. If these are the norm it would be worth taking remedial action (eg going round the other way).

Mazara / Selinunte

From Cattólica we continued west to Sciacca, a pleasant fishing town with a strong arabic feel. The next day we ploughed into the wind to Mazara along minor roads, stopping to visit Selinunte on the way. We had 2 nights at Mazara, and it was worth the time, having very attractive baroque buildings. (The Sicilian baroque is really only late renaissance, and can be enjoyed without scruple.)


From Mazara we had a hardish ride to Valdérice, stopping to see the ruins at Segesta. We had 3 nights at Valdérice, staying at the very pleasant Baglio S. Croce. We rode up to Érice – Tracey did little else during our stay there – which is certainly an impressive climb, though the town itself is overrated.

Our final ride was a rather hurried flog from Valdérice to Palermo airport for a midday flight home.

A natural route on an island of Sicily’s size is a coastal circuit. In fact a lot of the cultural interest is on the coast, but the best cycling is in the interior, so such a route wouldn’t be the best.

Some details: We took the Cadogan guide. We think that the best map is the TCI 1:400 000 map with Sardinia, cut down to just Sicily and refolded.

We were worried enough about accommodation to book all our rooms in advance (by telephone, confirming by fax). We think a couple of our hotels were fully booked by the time we arrived, but most weren’t.

The rides from Terrasini to Cefalù, from Cefalù to Nicosia, from Enna to Agrigento, and from Mazara to Valdérice were each a full day (though in some cases we could have taken easier routes). The other rides were fairly easy.

Some knowledge of Italian may prove useful away from the resorts.

I wish we’d made a note of the route out of Palermo airport. It’s a real nightmare.

Bicycle hire is unlikely to be easy.

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