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The Sicilian city of Palermo is a feast for the senses. With souk-like markets, Baroque palaces and plenty of Italian flair there is lots for visitors to see here. Visit the Palatine Chapel and gaze up at its ornate golden ceiling, or go to the cathedral at Monreale where the mosaics were created by masters brought in from Byzantium. You could also get a hire car in Palermo and head south to the Marsala vineyards, or drive east toward Catania and drive up the explosive Mount Etna.
Palermo Airport is 21 miles from the city centre, a drive of 40 minutes on the E90. Going by hire car to Palermo is by far the quickest way into town. There are also buses, which leave from the airport every 30 minutes.
There are a number of places to collect a rental car in Palermo city centre. Most are situated around the Borgo Vecchio area near the harbour. From here the SS113 road takes you straight up to the picturesque Capo Gallo nature reserve in Mondello.
To arrange car hire at Palermo Airport try Europcar, Avis, Hertz and Autoeuropa. All have branches in the arrivals hall.
Now you have your rental car in Palermo, drive an hour and 40 minutes east towards mountainous Caltanissetta, a province in central Sicily that is full of olive groves, vineyards and citrus orchards. Old sulphur mines are dotted around the region and there are also a number of ancient palaces and castles to explore. Try the Castello di Pietrarossa, which overlooks the town. From Caltanissetta, the industrial city of Catania is just an hour and a half away by car. Situated on Sicily’s eastern side, on the shores of the Ionian Sea, Catania is a thriving old city with busy restaurants, bars and shops. The fish market feels like the centre of the city thanks to its noise and bustle and overlooking it all is fiery Mount Etna, which is an hour-long drive away. The zigzagging roads lead you through some otherworldly landscapes, taking in old lava flows and barren lunar expanses. The volcano is still active, so check before you go and take care to read the various warnings.
In the southern tip of Sicily is Modica, an Unesco-listed Baroque town where the historic buildings rise up on a steep valley. At the foot is a bustling centre full of restaurants and shops, while the medieval old town is a steep climb through a labyrinth of lanes and alleyways. The Chiesa di San Giorgio is one of the town’s most stunning churches, but it’s at the top of the hill so it can take some getting to. Fortunately, there are a number of bars and cafes on the way.
There are only a few big roads in Sicily. Palermo is on the E90, which runs along the northern coast, and the A19 takes you through the centre of the island. The speed limit for the motorway is 130 km/h, and 50 km/h in towns, but Sicilian drivers do have a reputation for speed.
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