Should I hire a car in Sicily?

The above question is one we didn’t contemplate too much but maybe should have! Both of us are experienced drivers and have hired a car in various countries, continents and with challenging weather and road conditions.  So how does Sicily fair compared with other countries? Should you hire a car in Sicily? Here are our thoughts.


The first thing to know about driving in Sicily is that you need confidence and nerves of steel.  As all driving tests state you need to expect the unexpected and Sicily is somewhere you need to be concentrating at ALL times.  No flicking the radio or admiring the sights it’s just not safe to do so.   Our first day experience in Catania taught us this very quickly 🤣🤣

Why is it so challenging you may ask? Well the Italian’s are impatient drivers, they pull out without looking, will cut you up at roundabouts and force their way to their end destination.  Don’t expect someone to stop and look because they don’t they will just pull out and hope for the best.  It seems to be every person for themselves. The same goes for pedestrians who walk in the road, cross the street without even looking with the blind hope you will see them and stop.  In addition,  there are so many motorbike and especially, moped drivers who weave between traffic like wasps and and seem to swarm at you from all directions.  In short you need to be alert at all times and have good reflexes! This is especially true in Catania and Palermo and other large cities where the traffic is extremely heavy.

The Roads

Then let’s move on to the roads; in general the main freeways/motorways are fine. They are wide and fast moving but you do have to be aware of merging traffic at junctions on the right because nobody stops or looks they just pull straight out. There are a couple of toll roads which are very cheap and easily marked. Card payments were taken at the tolls which was a bonus.

We learnt the hard way about some of the very narrow town roads (hint: if you’re setting the sat nav to a town make sure you set it to a car park (parcheggio) and not just to the town centre). Some town roads are extremely narrow as we discovered.

In general the roads aren’t in bad condition compared to other places we have driven. Do be aware of potholes however as they can catch you unawares. Some roads can be narrow with no opportunities for another car to pass, some can be steep mountain roads and some can just be darn confusing because of a lack of signposting. We used google maps for the majority of our time in Sicily and that mostly got us where we needed to go.

Parking (or Parcheggio)

Car parking (parcheggio) is another interesting thing to consider. From a quick google search we were able to establish that generally on the streets, you can park in blue bays but there may be additional charges (or in our case someone who would ‘watch our car’). If you spot white bays these are for residents only and yellow bays are usually reserved for loading, busses etc so don’t park in these. There are some places you can park free; however in general to be safe and to avoid fines it may be advisable to ask a local or head to an official car park

Choosing the right car

Hiring a car is also a minefield….we booked our car through Discover Cars with Viggiare based at Catania airport for an extremely reasonable price a few months in advance. After booking I read some reviews (rookie mistake) and they weren’t favourable but we took our chances anyway. We hired an automatic Opel Astra, a small/midsize car by UK standards, a giant of a car by Sicilian standards! We soon learned why Fiat 500s are so popular in Italy, those streets can be so narrow they’d be the only cars that could fit down some of them. We always go automatic due to my knee but given the traffic in Sicily in places and the hills I would recommend one anyway. There was no upsell for insurance upon pick up which was welcome; however they did take a hefty deposit of €800 on my card. We had preempted the upsell of insurance and bought a stand alone policy for extra cover and excess refund should the inevitable happen. Well, almost inevitable, somehow we (very narrowly) avoided incurring any additional fees for damage. When we returned the car, all went smoothly with no unexpected or unwanted charges.


Certainly the best way to see the most of Sicily is by car and as long as you are prepared and know what to expect then all should go smoothly. Do your research on parking in advance when moving on, expect the unexpected and if possible avoid the busiest towns. We got a train from Cefalu to Palermo which saved an awful lot of stress and parking charges.

In future however I would recommend a smaller automatic car but one with a bit of welly as some of those hills are steep! there were lots of Fiat 500’s around but i’m not sure i’d feel comfortable navigating some of the roads we did with one of those. I would strongly recommend checking damage on the car and videoing round the car before you leave the forecourt and emailing the company with any unreported damage and this should cover any unexpected claims at the end of your hire.

If you have the confidence – do it! you won’t regret it

Carol & Nigel x

April 2023

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