Monday, November 26, 2012

A Primer to Driving in Sicily: Picking Up Your Car from the Palermo Airport

When you land in Sicily, you most likely will arrive at one of the airports (you can reach Sicily by ferry as well) which will be where you pick up your rental car.

In Sicily there are three airports that take international flights: Palermo, the largest; Catania on the east coast; and Trapani the smallest of the three.

I can't talk much about the Palermo Airport as we haven't yet flown in there yet, but I will tell you what I have heard and do know.

Picking up a rental car in Palermo is fairly easy, especially if you don't speak Italian.  Most car rental desks have English speaking clerks.  It is a bit of a hike to the car rental areas if you have some mobility issues or if it is mid-summer and crazy hot.  Where it gets really interesting is when you leave the airport.  Palermo is full of twists and turns and narrow streets and crazy drivers.  I found this video on Youtube which shows you some of what driving in Palermo can be like.  Warning - they drop a couple of "F-bombs" which is quite understandable considering that they are totally lost.

This is from the miobbi Youtube channel.

Once you manage to find your way out of Palermo, and that is no mean feat, you will find yourself on the autostrada heading, well just about anywhere in Sicily.  That autostrada is called Viale Regione Siciliana or E90.  Depending on which direction you take, you might find yourself in the beautiful Castellammare del Golfo, or you could land in the equally beautiful but touristy Cefalu.  And off the E90 you can take smaller highways to take you to places like Corleone, from The Godfather, or Sperlinga, a tiny town in which people used to live in caves.

Streets of Corleone

Anti-Mafia Museum

Central Bar with the Godfather theme
Entrances to the cave homes in Sperlinga

After climbing the hill with our slightly reluctant guide

Entrance to a cave home

Inside a cave home

If you want to read more about Sperlinga (and it is a fascinating place) I would recommend The Stone Boudoir by Theresa Maggio.  Her book is about the interesting mountain villages that can be found in Sicily.


  1. Diane, the last time I drove into Palermo, I was looking for a certain hotel. Dusk was coming on, and I drove around and around and around in circles. I knew I was close, but still I couldn't find it (no GPS). Yes, I started crying after an hour. Boo hoo!!! I kept calling the hotel for directions. Finally I called them and said, "I'm at the stadium. You must come and find me." They sent the bartender to come get me!

  2. Oh, I so know what you are talking about! We went to Palermo and parked near the bus station. We were looking for the tourist bureau and had directions to get there from the bus station. We couldn't find it so we asked someone working in the station and got new directions. Couldn't find it. Asked a busker. Couldn't find it. Asked a bus driver. Still couldn't find it. At that point we gave up, went back to the car and made our way out of Palermo.


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