Europe Italy Travel

Parking, caffe culture and paying: An insider’s guide to Sicily

You’ve landed in Sicily and are ready to have the holiday of a lifetime. Regardless of where you’re from, the Sicilian lifestyle will be different than what you’re used to. After spending a few weeks on the island, here are some tips I think are helpful to travellers far and wide.

Pack light

Fight the urge to pack 20 potential outfits for a 10-day trip and pack light. If you’re like me, you end up rewearing the same two outfits anyway. Lifts are rare in Italy and those that exist are often – and conveniently – broken. It’s unlikely you’ll stay at a hotel or AirBnB on the ground floor, so unless you’re prepared to carry a 30-pound suitcase up five flights of stairs or steep cobblestoned hill, avoid.

Un caffe, per favore

Just as you’d pay for your meal at the end, Italians also pay for coffee and pastries after eating, too. Whether you have table service or have gone to the bar to order, you’ll pay once you’re finished with your coffee, breakfast, etc. Order, sit, enjoy and then pay. You can ask the server for the bill but you’ll need to go back to the bar to pay.

If you really want to channel Italian energy, drink an espresso at the bar like a shot.

Do I need cash in Sicily?

Cash is always a good idea whenever you travel for budget purposes, but there wasn’t any particular place I went in Sicily that was cash only. Take as much or as little as you want and use card everywhere else.


OK, so this is an important one. Every city has different parking rules whether that be free or pay per hour.

For cities where parking is hourly, download the EasyPark app. You can choose the city, add your card details and then choose how much money/time you’ll need. You’ll need to wait until you’re parked to start your parking time so the app can designate which parking zone you’re in. If you’re unsure, a blue parking meter nearby will have a unique zone name written on the side.

If you find yourself mid-exploration with no parking time left, add more remotely through the app.

Purchasing a ZTL (Palermo)

ZTL stands for Zona a Traffico Limitato, aka low traffic zone.

Cities like Palermo require a ZTL, which is a daily pass visitors are required to buy to park in the city-centre. The purpose is to lower congestion and pollution. Any time you drive into or out of Palermo, a new ZTL is required. It costs 5 euros and can be purchased at any tabaccheria. If you’ve driven into the city, purchased your ZTL and plan to stay put for x amount of days, the first ZTL you purchased will do. There’s no need for another. Directions for what to do are on the back of the slip.

Renting a car

Sicily doesn’t have a fast train so travelling from one city to the next is easiest by car. If renting and it’s just a couple of you, the smaller, the better. Italian roads are narrow and everyone parks on the street, making even less space to drive. If you rent an SUV, you will struggle to navigate.

Dov’e il bagno?

Public restrooms don’t exist in Sicily. Restaurants, bars and tourist sites will have them, but that’s it. If you find yourself exploring and needing a bathroom, pop into any bar and ask if you can use theirs. Generally, they’ll let you use the bathroom without purchasing something. If not, buy something cheap like a coffee.

Hey Siri, route me to ….

Let’s talk about Maps. On my trip, we discovered that the app had a tough time deciphering when a road was a one-way or too small for a car. There were a number of times the route suggested we turn down a street no wider than a motorbike. Be patient and prepared to re-route yourself. Most one way roads have a round sign with a red line through it, meaning you cannot drive down it.

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