I’m excited to share exactly how we spent our recent family holiday in Sicily, Italy. Visiting Sicily with kids is totally doable, and I’ll walk you through our trip so you can plan one for you and your family.
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When we discovered the kids had an entire week off of school in February, I couldn’t resist booking a trip somewhere far, far away, preferably with lots of warm sunshine (because if I’ve discovered one thing about living in Germany it’s that the winters are TOUGH, and we all needed a break).
My warm thoughts were throttled when I started looking at plane tickets. Yes, you can get cheap tickets in Europe, but those numbers start jumping when you add 5 people to a flight.
Then we watched Luca on Disney+ for the first time and I immediately realized that we had to get back to Italy STAT.
Low and behold, tickets from Eindhoven, Netherlands, (a mere 30 minutes from our house) to Catania, Italy, were well within our budget. And since we’ve never been to Sicily, we booked it without a second thought.
Thankfully, we found sunshine, adventure, great food, and even some snow!
What is there to do in Sicily with a Family?
Honestly, after impulsively booking our flights, one of my main concerns was: what is there to do in Sicily for families, because my brief search didn’t bring up many “exciting” things for the kids.
So I ended up doing what I usually do: I found a balance of things in Sicily for kids that might interest them (that the grown ups would for sure like), along with things I know they’d love: like a volcano, the beach, and gelato.
Thankfully they’re somewhat easy to please.
When you’re going on a short vacation to Sicily with kids you have to be slightly pickier about where you spend your time. Sure, it’d be easy to find an aquarium, zoo, or amusement park that they’d love…but you can find those in any city.
I like finding smaller, more unique places and things to do that can (somewhat) please everyone.
Quick Tips for Visiting Sicily with a Family
- Italians eat late compared to Americans. In fact, most restaurants won’t even open until 7pm, 7:30pm, or even 8pm. If you’re visiting Sicily with kids, plan accordingly with a late lunch, making dinner in your AirBnB, or triple checking that a place is open early.
- Italy basically shuts down in the middle of the day for something called riposo, or “rest time.” Everything from shops, restaurants, and even gas stations will literally close down for a couple hours every day. Does everything close? No, especially in very large cities, but the majority of places will shut down.
- Speaking of things shutting down: Sundays are also big rest days for Italians; many things will—including grocery stores and gas stations—may be closed on a Sunday.
- You may have to pee in a hole. Yup, I said it. We didn’t encounter any on this trip, but you may be very surprised to go to a restroom and find a hole in the ground instead of a toilet.
Getting to Sicily
First things first: do you know where Sicily even is? (Because I had to look it up!) Sicily is what they call the “football” of Italy. Since Italy is shaped like a boot, it’s like the toe of Italy is kicking Sicily like a football.
There are two major cities to fly into: Palermo (for the west coast) and Catania (on the east coast). For this family holiday in Sicily we stuck to the east side of the island, flying in and out of Catania on Ryanair.
While you can travel around on public transportation and trains, we rented a car for the whole time we were there.
Driving in Sicily
We heard driving in Sicily is crazy…and it was. My husband took the reins as we rode around in an Opel Grandland X. It was a perfect fit for the five of us (the kids each sat in a booster that we brought), and we had just enough room for our luggage. Even though Italian streets are on the slimmer side, we noticed a lot of bigger SUV-type vehicles on the road, so it never felt too large.
I asked my husband to share his thoughts on driving in Sicily; here’s what he said:
“You can expect that drivers will go where they want to go, when they want to go there. It’s very fluid, and common ‘rules’ are more like suggestions in Sicily. If you’re driving in Sicily with kids in the backseat you may have to ask them to be quiet while driving through busier areas so you can concentrate. Our phone’s GPS worked great and never led us anywhere questionable, but it was also hard to look at both the GPS and the road, so having a navigator is extra helpful. If you’re ever in a pickle you can always pull over, turn those hazards on, and trust that Italians will go around you. Also, be prepared to get honked at. Welcome to Sicily!”
When to Visit Sicily with Kids
I’ll be honest: I thought February would be the perfect time to visit Sicily with kids. And while the weather was excellent (except for the snow on the volcano…which we planned for), it turned out that many places we wanted to visit were closed because owners were on holiday.
A family holiday to Sicily in March, April, May, or June (right before it gets too hot), or September/October may be the sweet spot. August is another month Italians typically go on holiday to flee from the heat, so keep that in mind.
Our Sicily Family Holiday Itinerary
With the exception of spending our first night near the volcano in Linguaglossa, we spent the rest of our time in Avola, Italy—making that our “hub” for visiting different cities. We loved our place there, and easily could’ve stayed longer. Check the “where we stayed” section for more on our accomodation.
Personally, after doing this trip, I think you need a full five days in Sicily to really experience just one side of the island. However, if you’re looking to a quick getaway and are itching for a family holiday in Sicily, this itinerary will hit the mark. (I’m also including where we would have gone if we had more time below and a few things I would’ve changed.)
Here’s a quick overview at our family holiday in Sicily (with all the details below):
Day 0: travel day + Taormina (if possible)
Day 1: Mount Etna, Wine Tasting, drive to AirBnB in Avola
Day 2: Modica + Ragusa/Marzamemi
Day 3: Syracuse + Ortigia Island
Sicily with Kids: Travel Day + Taormina
Fly into Catania airport—the earlier the better—and pick up your rental car so you can start your trip right away.
We spent the night near Mount Etna in Linguaglossa, which is the volcano’s north side. The north side, we discovered, is better if you’d like to go skiing. Etna Sud (south) is where you can go up to explore more. Keep that in mind when finding a place to stay.
Explore Taormina (if time permits)
Since we were there in late winter (February), the day got dark around 5:30pm, and we arrived around 3pm (still had to get our car and drive to the AirBnB). We really wanted to check out the town of Taormina only about 30ish minutes away, but by the time we would’ve made it over there, and found parking, it would have been hard to see what makes it so beautiful. My biggest advice: fly in earlier (also doable in the summer when there’s more daylight) so you can go explore Taormina or skip the wine tasting (mentioned below) and spend the afternoon there instead.
After we checked in to our place for the night we grabbed pizza nearby our AirBnB for dinner, and then we hit up a Penny (supermarket) for food and snacks.
PRO TIP: Head to a supermarket the first day/night you arrive in Sicily for water, snacks, wine (it’s SO cheap), and zip-top bags (so you can store leftover pizza as you travel).
Note: if I had a do-over, I’d pick a place to stay in Taormina; I’m still pretty bummed we didn’t get to see that city.
Sicily with Kids Day 2: Mt. Etna + Wine Tasting
We set aside time after the volcano to go wine tasting on our first day.
If that’s not your thing, or if you have young kids who won’t sit through that, I’d replace a wine excursion with sightseeing in Taormina instead.
Enjoy Breakfast in Linguaglossa
Wake up early ready to hit the ground running…or climbing, that is; it’s time to go on an active volcano!
We grabbed some croissants and coffee from Nica Nuci, and couldn’t resist walking around the area a bit before hitting the road.
Fun fact: Sicily is known for pistachios, and you’ll find it in everything, especially in “cream” form. Everything from croissants and cannolis are filled with it, pizzas are topped with chopped pistachios, and you can buy the cream in jars, too. We thought it tasted like peanut butter (which makes sense since it’s a sweet nut butter). Personally, it was a little too sweet for our liking, but we kept on trying it regardless!
Climb an Active Volcano!
This was probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. The fact that she could literally erupt at any given moment had my adrenaline soaring the entire time we were on the volcano.
It was actually sputtering out black ash two days before we got there, and there was active lava flow one week before we arrived.
In a nutshell, we left our AirBnB in Linguaglossa at 8:30 am, drove as far as we could go up Etna, hopped on an off-roading bus (the cable car wasn’t working), walked on lava rocks, had a picnic lunch, bought a magnet souvenir, and were back down off the volcano by 12:30pm.
There are a couple different ways to “do” Etna: with a group (this tour looks awesome and has great reviews) or on your own. We chose to do it on our own, and it worked out well for us.
Note: I’m working on a full blog post about our Mount Etna adventure, because we had a hard time finding info on how to do it on your own. I’ll link to it here once it’s published.
Enjoy some Vino
We had a wine tasting reservation made for 1pm at Gambino Vini back in Linguaglossa.
This winery came highly recommended in a couple travel groups I’m in, and I can see why. Even though we were there in winter, we could tell how outrageously pretty it would be in spring and summer with everything in bloom. And if you’re wondering if it’s kid friendly: yes, it definitely can be.
You’re greeted with a glass of wine, and then can pick between a full or half food menu. We went for the full menu, but if you have younger kids, a half menu will be plenty.
The kids menu had a choice of pasta (tomato or plain) or schnitzel. We got all three for our kids, but the portions were huge. They easily could have split two.
PRO TIP: If you’re doing a wine tasting in Sicily with kids, make sure you bring some sort of activity for them during the event.
During our tasting they played with their activity books. Those kept them entertained, but we were ready to give them our phones if need be. There was also a large field directly outside from where we were sitting and (if the weather was nicer/warmer) I would have felt comfortable letting them play outside.
As of when we were there (February 2022), if you’re interesting in buying wines, they offered free shipping to either Germany, Italy, or America, if you bought a case or more. We bought a case, and it actually almost beat us home!
We were at our tasting for about 2.5 hours. If we did the shorter tasting we might have had some time to check out Taormina then, too. Something to keep in mind.
Spend the Night in Avola
After our wine tasting we said arrivederci to the Etna area and drove south to Avola, Italy, a.k.a. our home base for the next three nights. (More on that below)
A lot of people make Syracuse their “home base,” but I wanted something a little out of the hustle and bustle of the city, which is how I found this great spot.
Several restaurants next to the beach in Avola were closed (a lot of businesses go on holiday in February), but we at at Ci: Vulia, and it was delicious.
Sicily with Kids Day 3: Modica + Ragusa
Start your day with fresh orange juice—citrus is super popular in Sicily and you’ll see lemon and orange groves everywhere, then head on to your first town of the day.
Modica and Ragusa are both UNESCO Heritage sites, and they’re both fascinating to see: A great earthquake in 1693 devastated the area, but the Italian towns rebuilt themselves with classic baroque-style facades practically build into the hills.
Wander Around Modica
Drive to Modica, Italy, in the morning. It’s about an hour away from Avola, and the scenery along the way is very pretty—if you’re taking the side roads (as we love to do), marvel at the all the stone “fences” and borders; they were fascinating and everywhere. So. Many. Stones.
You’ll know you’re close to Modica when you drive over the massive bridge. I wasn’t prepared to be so high; apparently the bridge is almost 400 feet tall, but don’t forget to gaze out your window even if you’re afraid of heights—seeing Modica from above was stunning.
Once you’re in town, find a place to park and wander around. We ended up having some slightly bad luck in Modica with places we wanted to see being closed, but we still managed to enjoy what time we spent there.
We had plans on checking out some cathedrals, but the Duomo di San Giorgio was closed for a funeral, another was closed until 4pm, and the other ended up being a little too far for our morning jaunt.
Modica was fun to explore; but if you veer off the main streets, the side streets are quite steep with lots of stairs, so what said would be a 15-minute walk ended up being more when you have kids with little legs.
Indulge in Chocolate and Cannolis
The Chocolate Museum of Modica was another must-do on our list, but there was another confusion with timing. We arrived at 10:30 am (when Google and a sign outside their front door said they were open), but we were told it wouldn’t open until 2pm that day. Hopefully you’ll have better luck when you visit.
One place we did experience to was Antica Dolceria Bonajuto; the oldest chocolate factory in Sicily.
Go for the unique chocolate (it’s made from an antique Aztec cold-press method, and has a different texture than we’re used to) in lots of different flavors, and stay for the cannolis. We tried several on our trip, and these were some of our favorites.
PRO TIP: Antica Dolceria Bonajuto typically offer tours, but said they stopped them because of Covid. Maybe you’ll be lucky and they’ll be up and running.
Parking in Modica: We found paid street parking just south of this spot.
Where we ate: Lunch at Pica Street Food was great. It was a simple place with fast, friendly service and a gigantic menu with lots of pizza options. My middle kid was anti pizza and ordered their pollo fritto e patatine (chicken and fries), and it ended up being the absolute best chicken nuggets any of us have ever tasted. Truly. They were fantastic.
Before you leave town: check out this spot for an awesome panoramic view of Modica. (Via S. Benedetto da Norcia, 69, 97015 Modica RG, Italy)
Onward to Ragusa
NOTE: at this point if you’re still loving the Baroque architecture, head to Ragusa. If you’re looking for something new, go to Marzamemi
After lunch we hopped back in the car and made the less-than-30-minute drive to Ragusa. After walking around all morning, the kids passed out, giving us a quiet (blissful) drive.
First things first: Be prepared for things to be closed if you’re there in the afternoon because of riposo. It was practically a ghost town; possibly because it was the afternoon, but also maybe because it was February and several shops said they were closed for the month.
There were so many potentially great cafes and shops in Ragusa that I was super bummed so many things were closed. Window shopping without the possibility of going in was quite depressing!
If you’re walking around, check out Duomo di San Giorgio and Chiesa di San Giuseppe, and while you’re near the second one, stop in the cafe across the street (open during riposo!) for the restroom, some fresh squeezed orange juice, granita, and/or some coffee.
Continue wandering east until you reach Giardino Ibleo, a fairly large open garden area with a large playground, fountains, and great views over the hills. It’s a great place to get some wiggles out.
We parked here: Via Arcidiacono Distefano, 5, 97100 Ragusa RG, Italy
For the Evening
After Ragusa we took the longer way home, driving on back roads towards our AirBnB.
Dinner that night was at a delightful pizzeria that opened earlier than usual just to feed us. (I called and they said they were open, so we went…but we were very clearly the first customers of the day at 6:30pm.) The pizza was probably my favorite from the whole trip, and I’m happy to pass on their info since they so generously served us dinner early: Ristorante Pizzeria L’Ulivo Garofalo Paolo
A note about Ragusa:
As far as being in Sicily with a family, we didn’t love Ragusa. The garden with the playground was the highlight for us, but I wish we went to Marzamemi, a charming seaside fishing village off the coast, instead. Ragusa was like a much smaller version of Modica, and it would have been neat to see something different instead.
Sicily with Kids Day 4: Syracuse + Ortigia Island
For our last full day in Sicily we enjoyed the beach in the morning outside of our AirBnB, and then drove to Syracusa where we spent most of the day.https://www.getyourguide.com/syracuse-l1115/syracuse-neapolis-archaeological-park-private-tour-t252027/?partner_id=XJ2BDM6&utm_medium=online_publisher&placement=content-middle&cmp=sicily-guide
Visiting Neapolis in Syracuse
Jonesing for some history, we started our morning at Archaeological Park of Neapolis in Syracuse for the morning, walking around old Greek and Roman theaters, and seeing ancient quarries with caves and tunnels.
Once you’re inside the park there are technically different paths you can take for a shorter or longer experience, but they weren’t labeled very well. We meant to only be there for about 45 minutes, but ended up staying for close to two hours. (Fine with us; we didn’t feel like time was dragging on; it was all very interesting to see).
My favorites from Neapolis were the 5th century Greek theatre—it was massive, and the views from the top were stunning; you could see all the way out to the sea—and the Ear of Dionysius, or Orecchio di Dionisio.
This was a man-made cave with stunning acoustics. If you visit, make sure to take note of the chisel marks in the stone made from the slaves who literally carved that cave out by hand.
Family-friendly tips: there are restrooms inside the park, and there’s a cafe, too. Bring water, and a hat if it’s sunny out. It’s also stroller friendly.
Explore Ortigia Island
Not far from Neapolis is Ortigia Island, which is still part of Syracuse, just a different section of it. Get there before noon so you can experience the daily market (open Monday—Saturday from 7/8am till 1pm-ish at Vicolo Bagnara, 96100 Siracusa SR, Italy).
We parked on the opposite side of the market (here) with the intent to walk around the island before heading back to the car in the afternoon. This worked out pretty well for us so we didn’t have to backtrack with the kids.
You might be tempted to stop at the Temple of Apollo on the way to the market, but there’s plenty of time to see that after the market and after lunch.
If you’re staying a few more days, this market is a great place to stock up on snacks/food, and fish if you have a kitchen.
Our kids got a huge kick out of the fish market. Swordfish is very popular in that region, and it was fun to see actual giant swordfish right there. My son loved it so much that he wants a swordfish on his birthday cake now!
Lunch Time at Borderi
I highly encourage you to enjoy lunch at Caseificio Borderi (open Monday—Saturday from 7am till 4pm. Via Emmanuele de Benedictis, 6, 96100 Siracusa SR, Italy). It may looked packed, but be patient and they’ll get a table for you in no time. It’s the perfect lunch spot in Sicily with kids, because it’s all outdoors and there’s a little something for everyone.
True, my son only ate bread, but he enjoyed the heck out of the bread. The girls were more adventurous and tried a little of everything.
I’m still at a loss for words for how perfect this meal was. I mean: LOOK AT THAT PLATTER and the sandwich! It was packed with so many ingredients that it would put a Subway sandwich artist to shame.
Honestly, we didn’t know there would be that much food; we asked for “one” of each, but they quadrupled the charcuterie board…we weren’t upset about it at all. Not one to let a single ounce of deliciousness go to waste (because it was A LOT even for the 5 of us), we used the leftover bread to make more sandwiches to take with us.
The best part is that gorgeous artisanal meat and cheese platter + a giant sandwich + two beers only set us back. €35. That’s it! I was shocked when we got the bill.
After lunch, make your way over to see the Temple of Apollo—this will be a quick stop since you can’t actually go in and see the ruins; it’s fenced off. While there isn’t a whole lot to see, it’s still fascinating to see ruins from around the 6th century in the middle of a bustling city.
Continue walking to the Leonardo da Vinci Museum and Archimede Siracusa — bonus: there’s a kids’ museum there, too. We were all really looking forward to this museum, but when we arrived the doors were locked. Google and their website said it was open, but real life told us otherwise. I have no doubt the kids would have loved it.
We kept meandering around to see the Cathedral of Syracuse; a church from the 7th century.
It’s currently a Catholic church, but was once a Greek Temple. The inside is small and simple compared to other cathedrals, but it was really cool to see the greek columns still standing.
Every trip to Sicily with kids needs a gelato break at least once a day! Continue walking around and take the little side streets if you see a cute one. Stop for gelato or coffee, and enjoy Ortigia.
We stopped here, and there was also a little shop with cannolis just across the street.
If you have time, take a boat ride around Ortigia and take in the views.
One Last Rocky (but) Beautiful Stop
On our drive back to Avola we found a little secret rocky area called Asparano. We were there at high-tide, a beautiful time to watch the waves crashing into the rocks, but if we had more time it’d be awesome to catch this area at low tide. The sand is supposed to be pretty amazing.
For your GPS: Plug in Ognina Beach or Asparano (for this spot). There’s also a restaurant right there, too. (It was closed when we were there, but maybe you’ll luck out and can enjoy some fresh seafood with a view).
Where We Stayed in Sicily with Kids
Our stay in Linguaglossa was fine, but nothing to write home about. The real gem was our place in Avola.
I’m convinced that Ammari Sicily Villa is the perfect place to stay for a family holiday in Sicily with kids. There were three bedrooms, a great kitchen, and a living area, but so many other things set this place above other places:
For one, the house opened up directly onto the beach! We had the entire area to ourselves; it was quiet, amazing, and the area where were was pristine.*
The house also had a complete extra outdoor kitchen and dining area, and the host stocked the fridge as well as left us breakfast, pasta and sauce for dinner, and other treats. That level of attention and thoughtfulness goes so far. Not to mention, she had beach toys and plenty of towels available.
Sipping my coffee in the morning outside while listening to the waves crash just feet away was pure bliss. I only wish we were there longer to use the summer kitchen and the rooftop terrace.
I would 100% recommend this stay for any family visiting Sicily with kids.
*The one and only complaint we had was that the neighboring areas of the beach needed a good clean up. I’d like to think that it’s cleaned during peak summer season, but in February the surrounding sandy parts were covered with trash.
Where to go if You Have More Time in Sicily
Personally, I think you need a good solid week in Sicily to really see just one side of the island. So, if you end up having more time you can easily add on day trips to other cities, or just relax and hang out at the beach.
I would have added an additional day or two at the beginning, spending at least two nights near Taormina, and an additional day or two in Avola to see those other towns.
Top places I wish we had time for:
- Taormina (near Mt. Etna)
- Marzamemi (super cute fishing village south of Avola)
- Cefalù (northern part of Sicily; supposed to be very pretty)
- Caltagirone (inland, with very cool stairs)
- Agrigento (south part of Sicily; Greek ruins + turkish steps)
I hope this detailed post helps you plan your trip to Sicily with kids. If I missed something, if you have questions, or if this post helped you, feel free to leave a comment letting me know.