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The coastal road (A20) that runs from Messina westward to the capital at Palermo is one of the most frequented routes in Sicily. You can, of course, drive straight through to Palermo and not see a thing, but if you do, you'll miss some of the treasures of Sicily.

The coast is riddled with sandy beaches, small resorts, and villages. If you have time for only one stopover, make it Cefal├╣, the premier destination along the coast thanks in part to its famous Romanesque cathedral.

For those who want to cut inland to view a national park, we suggest you set aside a day to explore Parco Naturale Regionale delle Madonie, one of Sicily's most important nature reserves.

The best beaches lie to the east of Cefal├╣. They are sandy, clean, and unpolluted, though filled with visitors in July and August.

The coast also contains some of north Sicily's more impressive ruins, including those at Himera (near Termini Imerese) and at Tyndaris, west of Milazzo.