Updated 2018. Here’s a sampling of five Sicily day trips to take when the hustle and bustle of Palermo gets too much:
Monreale is an easy sip. Follow Corso Calatafimi five miles out of town. Stop for views over Palermo and Conca d’Oro Valley. See King William II’s massive cathedral. Inside, Byzantine mosaics cover the walls and apse. The cloister next door offers a peaceful respite with its small columns, elegant pointed arches and splashing palm-tree fountain.
Cefalu is one hour from the city by car, train or hydrofoil (during the summer). Stroll the Arabic streets of this fresh-faced fishing port. A mighty cathedral shimmers inside with Byzantine mosaics. See the lavatoio where women washed clothes for centuries.
Segesta is home to the most beautiful of Sicily’s Greek temples and offers panoramic mind-altering views. Continue 12 miles to Erice, ancient home of Aphrodite, for charming walks and good cooking. Try the local couscous and stop at Maria Grammatico’s pastry shop for assagi, free samples of traditional treats.
Bagheria, a brief train ride away, gives a glimpse of how the Palermitian nobility lived in Baroque country villas. A 10-minute walk takes you to the eccentric Villa Palagonia, covered with grotesque gargoyles, where you’ll hear the story of a hunchback’s revenge.
Caccamo, 35 miles from Palermo, is an ancient town dominated by a huge Norman castle. See well-preserved rooms with art and armor. There’s a festival of costumed historic characters in mid-August. Otherwise wander the vicoli e piazze, making your own discoveries.
— Patti Absher