Travel and transport
The train journey southwards through Italy to Sicily is a fascinating journey. However, once in Sicily the public transport can be more frustrating to work out. Hiring a car is a good way to explore the island.
Sicily by Train
Sicily has direct train connections to the major cities on the Italian mainland, with one or two trains running the long-distance routes every day. For general advice on trains and ticket booking, visit the Italy train travel section. It's worth booking a window seat (and maybe upgrading to first class) for the long and scenic journey.
Trains heading from Rome/Naples to Sicily generally divide up into sections, so make sure that you are in the correct section (carriages are labelled with their destination, and your seat booking should be in the appropriate section; check with the ticket inspector if you're unsure). Before crossing the Messina Strait by ferry, several carriages head off to Reggio di Calabria. The parts of the train that make the crossing trundle away from Messina in different directions; part to Siracusa (via Taormina and Catania) and part to Palermo. The train rolls on and off the boats at Villa San Giovanni and Messina, and there's no necessity for passengers to leave their seats. However the hold is dark and boring, so if you have someone reliable to keep an eye on your luggage during the ferry crossing, it's worth leaving the carriage and making your way up on deck. You have plenty of time to wander the ferry and admire the views across the Strait (note your carriage number to help you find your way back). Here's
a personal account of making the journey: Slow train to Sicily.
Public transport within Sicily gets a bad press, but the main railway lines (Messina - Taormina - Catania - Siracusa and Messina - Trapani - Palermo) are efficient enough.
Sicily by Bus
A number of different bus companies run urban and rural bus services on the island. These can be as quick, convenient and frequent as trains. If you're seeing Sicily without a car, you'll certainly need to rely on bus services at some point, since railways don't cover the whole island. Two of the main companies that operates long-distance services between towns are Interbus, whose useful routes include Catania Airport - Taormina, and AST (Azienda Siciliana Trasporti).
Check with local tourist information offices or bus company headquarters for the latest timetables - the links on the right offer further information and timetables, but are mostly in Italian and difficult to use. Tickets for town bus routes are usually bought in advance, at bars or news-stands near the bus stops; these can also be good sources of information about timetables. For longer-distance routes, tickets can generally also be bought from the bus driver.
Driving in Sicily
If you are spending longer than a week in Sicily, and want to see many of the smaller or more remote sights, hiring a car is by far the best option. Driving in the cities is challenging (central Palermo is best avoided, if possible), but elsewhere a car will enable you to travel, stop and sightsee at your own pace.