Exploring Sicily by Bike
Sicily’s breath-taking beauty, varied landscapes, quaint towns, and, of course, excellent weather make it an excellent place for a biking holiday. But just as with any cycling holiday, exploring Sicily by bike takes some planning to make it a reality, and visitors should ensure their bike is properly covered against theft or damage, are fit enough to make the trip, and have accommodation booked along the route. With that in mind, here is an overview for everything you need to know to make the once in lifetime cycling trip to Sicily.
Sicily is Italy’s largest island – and the largest island in the whole Mediterranean, in fact – and lies 5 kilometres off the southern tip of the country. Known for its extensive aesthetic scenery, culturally rich sites of interest, and proud, unique population, the island has become one of Italy’s premier tourist destinations for both Italians escaping the city and foreign tourists eager to see what makes the island a special place.
Biking Sicily: Things to Know
Before any biking routes are determined, visitors will need to know where in Sicily they will be arriving. The two most popular airports on the island are Catania-Fontanarossa and Palermo International Airport. They are also frequent ferries between the island and mainland Italy as well as trains from Italy’s biggest cities. If the biking tour starts from a different part of Sicily, use the inexpensive and relatively widespread train system to move to other parts of the island.
If a bicycle needs to be rented, it’s a good idea for visitors to look up bike rental shops in the city they are arriving in to as Palermo, Catania, and Syracuse have plenty of options available. Though it’s not necessarily required, it’s always good practice to book in advance to ensure the right bikes are obtained, especially if multiple bikes are needed.
Transporting Own Bike
Bringing bikes from home is another option, and may be the better option if it’s a good bike to begin with as the cost of transporting it to Sicily could be the same as renting a bike for a week. If travelling by plane, check with the airline that it is allowed and how much it will cost. Always make sure that the bicycle is insured and that it is covered for overseas excursions.
When to Go
Sicily is beautiful at any time of the year, but not all months are cycling-friendly. Though winter in Sicily is mild, it can also be rainy, and is not the best time to go. Visitors should also be aware that the height of summer (July/August) can be very warm, and may be uncomfortable or dangerous for those unaccustomed to the heat. The best time to cycle Sicily would be between March-June and September-October.
Before deciding on a route, make sure all members of the party are fit enough to cycle it without any problems. Sicily’s geography includes hills, mountains, and flatlands, and some people will struggle with the more strenuous terrain. The trip should be hard work, but it should primarily be about fun, and if the route is too difficult then it might end up being less fun than planned. Also make sure that there isn’t too great a distance between hotels – few things are worse than realizing you’ve misjudged how long you could cycle in any one day.
Picking a Route
Sicily can be split into fairly distinct geographical regions, which is a good starting point for deciding on a route.
The northern coast is full of medieval towns, castles, and hills; the west is more sparsely populated, with beautiful open land and the adjacent mountain range making up the bike routes here; the southern coast has long beaches, and is less touristy than other places – be prepared to not understand anything when visiting the small towns, unless you speak Sicilian – but does house the thousands of years old Greek Valley of the Temples; The east has Mount Etna, Sicily’s active volcano and one of its most famous highlights.
As you can see, Sicily is a diverse land, and it’s better to focus on just one particular region during a bike trip, especially if it’s for a week or less. The best thing to do is pick a region that appeals most to you and then take it from there. It is guaranteed that there will be plenty of interesting sites along the way and, really, there are no bad routes on this fascinating island.
contributed by Susie Henley