Imagine friendly locals, children playing in the streets, and the sweet smell of freshly baked brioches wafting through your window in the morning. Imagine a crystal clear sea, blue skies and patches of colorful flowers in an otherwise sunburnt countryside. Imagine impressive architecture, breathtaking beauty, and joyful chaos.

Welcome to Sicily: crazy, controversial, unforgettable. In eight days and seven nights you will fall in love with this stunning land, and you will want to come back for more.

Day 1: Palermo

Before picking up your rental car, take the time to visit quirky Palermo, a city of many contrasts and yet of incredible beauty. The old city center is a maze of streets, alleys and squares that are filled with colors, voices, and street art: wander around the Vucciria and admire the graffiti, then enjoy watching locals bartering at the street market in Ballarò. If all this walking makes you hungry, keep in mind that it’s hard not to eat well in Palermo (and in the rest of Sicily!): the Antica Focacceria S. Francesco is famous for its traditional street food, such as arancini, chickpea fritters and veal spleen sandwich. In the afternoon check out the Quattro Canti, Palazzo Preotrio and the San Cataldo church: all within a stone’s throw from one another, they are some of the most impressive buildings in Palermo. At night, enjoy a fresh seafood dinner by the sea and a gelato before heading back to your hotel for a good night of sleep.

Day 2: Palermo to Trapani

Get up bright and early, pick up your rental car and head to visit the Palazzo dei Normanni before it gets crowded. Then leave Palermo and drive 20 minutes to Monreale, where you will get your mind blown by the Duomo. While from the outside this cathedral looks fairly normal, the inside will leave you speechless, as it is completely covered in golden mosaics. After a nice al fresco lunch head to Trapani, which is less than one hour away. Often overlooked, Trapani is a wonderful seaside town, whose city center is walled and almost hidden from view. Baroque palazzos and stylish bars and restaurants await you: so check in into your hotel and spend the rest of the day just strolling around and breathing in the town’s relaxing atmosphere.

Day 3: Trapani to San Vito Lo Capo

Skip breakfast and drive up to the medieval hill town of Erice, famous for being home to one of Sicily’s most popular bakeries: Pasticceria Maria Grammatico. After filling up on cannoli and cassata, walk around the quaint alleys to the Castello di Venere, a Swab castle that offers breathtaking views of the sea below. Once you’ve had enough of the crisp mountain air – Erice sits at 2500 feet– it’s time to drive down to the sea. The road that leads to San Vito Lo Capo is one of the most pleasant and scenic roads you’ll see in Sicily, and as you get closer to the sea, you will want to stop several times to take pictures of the rugged and beautiful panoramas. Once you arrive in San Vito Lo Capo, let the holiday atmosphere embrace you and enjoy a stroll around this charming coastal town: browse the shops for local ceramics, take a dip in the crystal clear waters of the Med, and relax on the beach. At night, don’t forget to try the local specialty: seafood couscous is not only delicious, but is also the main star of a week long festival every September.

Day 4: San Vito Lo Capo to Marsala

Say goodbye to the hyper-relaxed vibe of San Vito and get to know one of the most fascinating aspects of Sicily: the Saline. All along the coast from Trapani to Marsala, these salt making wonders are definitely worth a stop if you want to learn more about how salt is made. Further to the south, Marsala is a walled gem, famous worldwide for being the birthplace of the much-loved eponymous wine: make sure you park your car for the night, as here you will definitely want to participate to a tasting at local hangout “La Sirena Ubriaca”, a wine bar that offers incredible pairings of different marsalas with specialties such as almond pesto and cream of pistachios.

Day 5: Marsala to Ragusa

After two days dedicated to good food and great fun, it’s time to dive back into some culture, and there is no better way to do so than visiting the Valle dei Templi. Hit it up early in the morning if you want to avoid the crowds, and be prepared to walk, as the temples are several hundred feet from one another. Take some time to admire the beauty of these 2500-year-old wonders before heading back to the car and towards the southeast of Sicily. Your next stop is Ragusa, a Baroque town unlike any other. Perched on the side of a hill, the historical center, called Ragusa Ibla, is a magnificent maze of alleys with a central square, dominated by its Duomo, that is simply unforgettable, especially at night.

Day 6: Baroque Sicily

In the morning, enjoy a leisurely walk in Noto, possibly the most charming Baroque town in Sicily. Here the atmosphere is elegant yet relaxed, and the gelato is so good, it is ok to order it for breakfast, as a filling for a homemade brioche (not kidding!). Modica, too, is famous for its incredibly delectable food: local chocolate is a real treat, and it comes in an incredible number of flavors and shapes at Antica Dolceria Bonajuto. After filling up on pralines, walk all the way up to the town’s stunning cathedral to burn all the calories you’ve eaten, then head to Siracusa. Make sure you pick a hotel on the island of Ortigia, home to the old part of town and connected to the mainland by a bridge. Siracusa will charm you from the get go, especially since you will be arriving at dusk, when the light makes its beauty glow. At night, the streets of Ortigia are lively and buzzing with activity: enjoy an apertivo, then sit down for a nice dinner: the city is packed with incredible restaurants.

Day 7: Siracusa

Explore Ortigia on foot: start from the Swab Castle, an almost 1000 year old fortress with a stunning view, then make your way around town. If you like shopping, you won’t be disappointed, as in Ortigia you will find both chain and independent stores selling pretty much anything you want. On the way out of the city, if you have time, stop at the Archeological Park, famous for its Amphitheatre and for Dionysus’ Ear. The airport in Catania is less than one hour away.

Arrival airport: Palermo

Departure airport: Catania

Why driving: There’s no better way of getting to know Sicily than, literally, driving around it. Sicilian highways are almost always empty and, even better, completely free.