Ciao amici! Are you planning a trip to the beautiful and historic island of Sicily? Then you may be wondering, is Sicily safe? From its stunning beaches to its rich cultural heritage, there’s so much to see and do in this incredible region.
However, as with any travel destination, it’s important to be mindful of safety and security. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the crime rates, potential scams, areas to avoid, and the best places to stay in Sicily, and we will provide you with some emergency contacts to keep on hand. So, let’s get started!
Table of Contents
What to know before Visiting Sicily
Visiting Sicily can be an amazing experience, but there are a few things you should know to make the most of your trip. Check out the below basic info about Sicily if you’ve never been.
- The official language of Sicily is Italian, but many people also speak Sicilian, a unique regional dialect. Knowing some basic Italian phrases can be helpful, but many locals will also speak English, especially in tourist areas.
- Travel: Sicily’s public transportation system, which includes buses and trains, is adequate, but a rental car can also be a practical choice for seeing the country. If you intend to drive a rental car, be ready for curvy, narrow roads, as well as some very aggressive driving.
- Food and drink: Sicily is renowned for its delectable cuisine, which combines traditional Italian dishes with the tastes and ingredients of the Mediterranean. Make sure to sample some of the regional specialties, such as cannoli, arancini, and pasta alla Norma (pasta with filled pastry tubes), all made with local ingredients.
- Sicily has a hot, Mediterranean climate with mild winters and summers. Pack for high temperatures in the summer and be ready for them. From June to August, there’s also very little rain.
- Sicily’s history is rich and fascinating, influenced by various cultures, including Greek, Roman, Norman, and Arab. Make sure to check out some of the historical locations, such as the Syracuse Ancient City, the Agrigento Valley of the Temples, and the Norman Palermo Cathedral.
- Safety: As with any destination, it’s important to take common-sense precautions to stay safe. Be cautious in tourist areas, keep a close eye on your valuables, and avoid deserted areas at night.
Best Places to Stay in Sicily
In Sicily, there are many wonderful options to pick from when looking for a place to stay. Listed below are a few of the area’s top hotels:
- Palermo: If you want to be near the action, think about staying in the city’s center. The Grand Hotel Piazza Borsa, which is situated in the heart of the city, is one of the many excellent hotels that can be found there.
- Taormina is an attractive town on Sicily’s east coast that is well-known for its breathtaking views of the Mediterranean. Some of the best places to stay in Taormina include the Grand Hotel Timeo and the Villa Diodoro.
- Another fantastic option for visitors is Syracuse, a historic city on Sicily’s east coast.
Safety and Crime in Sicily
According to recent statistics, Sicily has a relatively low crime rate compared to other regions of Italy. However, it’s still a good idea to be cautious, especially in crowded tourist areas. To kick off this topic, look at this list of top scams you might encounter in Sicily.
Scams to Avoid in Sicily
- Pickpocketing: This is a common problem in tourist areas, so be sure to keep a close eye on your valuables and be especially cautious in crowded places like markets and public transportation.
- Fake police officers: Be wary of anyone claiming to be a police officer and asking to see your passport or money. If you’re ever in doubt, ask to see their official ID, and check with a local authority if necessary.
- Overpriced tours: Be cautious of tour operators who charge excessive prices for tours or excursions. Do some research ahead of time and compare prices to ensure you’re not overpaying.
- Fake merchandise: Be cautious when buying souvenirs and be aware that some street vendors may sell fake or low-quality goods.
- Restaurant scams: Be cautious of restaurants that charge exorbitant prices for mediocre food, especially in tourist areas. Do some research ahead of time and check online reviews to ensure you’re not overpaying.
By being aware of these common scams, you can help ensure that your trip to Sicily is both enjoyable and safe. If you’re ever in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask for help from a local authority or tour guide.
Places to Avoid in Sicily
While Sicily is generally a safe place to visit, there are a few areas that you might want to avoid for safety reasons. Here are a few neighborhoods to watch out for and avoid:
- Ballarò: This neighborhood in Palermo is known for its street markets, but it can also be dangerous, especially at night.
- Brancaccio: This neighborhood in Palermo is considered to be one of the most dangerous areas in the city, so it’s best to avoid it altogether.
- Catania: While the city of Catania is home to many attractions and is generally considered safe, there are a few areas, such as the Stesicoro neighborhood, that you may want to avoid.
Tips for Walking in Sicily at Night
Even though Sicily is generally a safe place to explore, it’s always a good idea to take a few extra safety measures when out at night. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- When walking at night, try to keep to well-lit streets and busy areas. This will not only give you more confidence, but it will also make it simpler for people to see you.
- It’s best to avoid walking through dark alleys or deserted areas at night in this city, as in any other. These areas may not only be more dangerous, but they may also make you a more appealing target for criminal activity.
- Always be mindful of your surroundings and keep an eye out for any potential threats. Take a different route or look for a well-lit area where you can call for help if you feel uneasy or notice anyone following you.
- When out at night, it’s best to keep your valuables hidden to lower your risk of theft. For example, you might consider carrying a small, cross-body purse instead of a large tote bag, and keep your phone and other valuable items in your pocket or inside your jacket.
Yes, it’s possible to walk safely after dark in Sicily. There’s so much to see and do in this incredible region, so I want to ensure you have a fabulous experience.
Is Palermo Safe?
Numbeo.com reports that Palermo, the capital of Sicily, has a moderate crime rate. Corrupt practices and bribery are associated with the highest recorded crime rate.
Corruption is a significant and unresolved problem in Sicily because of the mafia’s frequent involvement in political parties and institutions, however, as a tourist, this will not impact you as these are crimes that happen behind closed doors.
More on that in the next section. In tourist areas, exercise the usual precautions, especially being out at night, and I highly suggest you avoid specifically the areas of Brancaccio and Ballarò and consider them unsafe.
Important Emergency Contacts
In case of an emergency, it’s always a good idea to know who to call. In Sicily, you should keep the following numbers handy:
- To contact emergency services in Sicily, dial 112.
- Police: To report a crime, you can call 113.
Driving in Sicily: Safety Precautions
If you’re planning to rent a car and explore Sicily by road, there are a few important safety precautions to keep in mind:
- Road conditions: Due to Sicily’s winding roads, expect some difficult driving conditions. It’s also a good idea to keep in mind that some roads might be congested and dimly lit, so if at all possible, try to avoid driving at night.
- It is important to be aware of Italy’s strict traffic regulations before you get behind the wheel. For example, it’s illegal to use your phone while driving, and you must wear a seatbelt at all times.
- Driving defensively: Just as in any new driving environment, it’s critical to pay attention to your surroundings and put defensive driving techniques into practice. Always give yourself enough space and time to react and be ready for other drivers to make sudden stops or turns.
Read My the 411 of Driving in Italy Guide
Sicily’s Transportation Options
Sicily offers a variety of modes of transportation to choose from, however, most travelers recommend renting a car when visiting Sicily.
- Renting a car: As mentioned earlier, renting a car is a great option if you’re looking for flexibility and the ability to explore at your own pace. Just be sure to keep the safety precautions in mind!
- Buses and trains: If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, you might consider taking the bus or train. Sicily’s public transportation is not the best unless you are staying in the bigger cities, so double-check route schedules.
- Taxis: Cabs are another option, although they can be more expensive than other forms of transportation. Just be sure to use a licensed taxi and negotiate the fare ahead of time to avoid any confusion.
The Mafia Presence in Sicily
You may have heard about the Mafia in Sicily on different sites online or in social media. Let’s examine them and how much danger it actually puts you in as a tourist.
Sicily is home to the Cosa Nostra, also referred to as the Mafia. The Cosa Nostra is one of the most infamous criminal groups in the world, and it has a long history of extortion, violence, and corruption in Sicily.
Comparing the history, organization, and methods of the Mafia in Sicily to the Camorra in Naples, they are different. The use of violence to uphold order and control by the Cosa Nostra is well known for its strict hierarchical structure.
The Camorra, on the other hand, is less centralized and runs through a web of smaller criminal organizations.
The Cosa Nostra is still active and poses a serious threat to the region’s safety and security, despite efforts by law enforcement to eradicate organized crime in Sicily. To stay safe and steer clear of any Mafia involvement, tourists to Sicily should exercise common-sense caution.
The vast majority of Sicilians are law-abiding citizens who disapprove of the Mafia and its criminal activities, it’s important to note. However, it’s always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions to stay safe. The vast majority of tourists to Sicily won’t experience any issues involving organized crime.
Overall, I can’t wait to explore Sicily more. When I have future travel dates to Sicily, I’ll update this blog post without a doubt, so bookmark it now.