A military hop to Naval Air Station (NAS) Sigonella is the perfect start to an adventure on the island of Sicily! Starting with views of Mt. Etna, Europe’s most active volcano, as you land at the air terminal, Sicily is a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.
Sicily also offers many unique experiences, all within a relatively small area. Visit Mediterranean beaches and snow-capped mountains on the same day. Explore ruins from ancient civilizations. Sample local wines and olive oil. And of course, enjoy southern Italian cuisine, culture, and hospitality!
Start planning your trip now with these 10 things to know about flying to Sigonella Space-A!
If you are new to Space-A flying, read this Quickstart Guide to Space-A Flights first to get a basic understanding of how the process works.
1. Sigonella passenger terminal does not have a representative from Italian Customs & Immigration.
Passengers flying from the U.S. or other locations outside of the Schengen Area into Sigonella will not receive a Schengen entry stamp in their passport or have a way to obtain one.
If you are not familiar with the Schengen Area or why you need a Schengen entry stamp in your passport, please read this article from Department of State.
As noted in the article linked above, “Without a stamp from your first Schengen port of entry, you may have problems if you encounter local authorities while in the Schengen area or with immigration officials when you depart.”
For that reason, we do not advise flying Space-A into Sigonella from outside the Schengen area.
Instead, we recommend flying into NSA Naples (part of a Patriot Express route from Norfolk) or Ramstein AB. When landing at either of those bases, you will receive a Schengen entry stamp in your passport. From there, you can fly Space-A into Sigonella. (You can also get a cheap commercial flight into Catania airport.)
If you are stationed in Italy on orders or fly to Sigonella from another base in Europe and already have a Schengen entry stamp in your passport, you have no need for a stamp at Sigonella.
2. Sigonella is on a Patriot Express route.
We do not recommend this route for flying Space-A to Sigonella from the States.
The Patriot Express mission originates at NAS Norfolk and stops at NAVSTA Rota (usually for only a few hours) before continuing to Sigonella and then to Bahrain. You will not receive a Schengen entry stamp in your passport at NAVSTA Rota.
Please note that Space-A passengers who are not stationed in Europe and do not have a Spanish passport or residency card are not authorized to leave Rota Naval Base during the stopover. The reason for this restriction is that Rota is not an official point of entry into Spain, as explained in this article.
3. Most flights to Sigonella originate in Norfolk or other bases in Europe.
Besides the Patriot Express, Norfolk has other frequent missions to Sigonella. Most stop at NAVSTA Rota on the way.
Other frequent flights via Sigonella are from locations in Europe. Besides Rota, bases with regular missions to and from Sigonella include NSA Naples (Italy), Souda Bay (Greece), and Ramstein AB (Germany).
Visit the Sigonella passenger terminal page on the Air Mobility Command website to see their current flight schedules.
4. The Sigonella passenger terminal is open 24 hours.
Although the terminal is always staffed, after-hours services are limited.
There is a small USO open on weekdays. The coffee shop next to the terminal also is open during the day, Monday through Friday.
5. NAS Sigonella has two bases: NAS 1 and NAS 2.
The bases are about 7 miles apart. They are connected by a shuttle, which makes multiple stops at each base and takes about 30 minutes to travel between NAS 1 and NAS 2. A shuttle schedule is available at the terminal.
The passenger terminal is located on NAS 2, which is the smaller of the two bases. Other facilities on NAS 2 include a Navy Gateway Inn & Suites (NGIS), a fitness center, a NEX Mini Mart, and a few fast-food eateries.
NAS 1 is the main base, which has all of the usual facilities, another NGIS, and a Navy Lodge.
6. NAS Sigonella has three lodging facilities.
NAS 1 and NAS 2 both have a Navy Gateway Inn & Suites (NGIS). When you make a reservation, remember to confirm which base your room is on.
The NGIS at NAS 2 is a 10 – 15 minute walk from the passenger terminal. The location on NAS 1 is right near the front gate.
NAS 1 also has a Navy Lodge only a 5-minute walk from the gate.
Contact the facilities directly for current rates and availability.
7. The nearest off-base lodging is mostly on local farms or in the city of Catania.
The closest civilian hotel is Hotel Sigonella Inn, across from NAS 1. The area is rural, and besides the base, the only services within walking distance of the hotel are a couple pubs/restaurants.
Other lodging in the immediate area consists mostly of “agriturismos,” which are farms or wineries that also host guests.
Agriturismo Oasi di Francesca is located between NAS 1 and NAS 2 and comes highly-recommended by fellow Space-A travelers.
Search TripAdvisor for other lodging close to NAS Sigonella.
The city of Catania is about 13 miles from NAS 2 (see transportation options below). In Catania, you can find a wide range of lodging options, including hotels, B&Bs, and apartments.
If you rent a car, we don’t recommend staying in the city center. If you do, make sure the hotel has secure parking, as theft of auto parts is common.
8. Retirees can use most base facilities at Sigonella
Retirees can shop at the commissary/NEX, rent cars, and use MWR facilities, including the fitness center and Community Recreation trips (we did a fun ATV tour of Mt. Etna).
Retirees cannot eat in the Galley (dining facility) or purchase fuel at the gas station.
9. The closest civilian airport to Sigonella is Catania International Airport.
Catania (code CTA) is about 12 miles northeast of NAS 2. It has direct flights to destinations throughout Italy and to other countries in Europe, plus Casablanca and Dubai.
Several low-cost airlines, including Ryanair, service Catania airport.
10. You have many options for ground transportation after landing at Sigonella.
There is a Europcar rental car facility next to the terminal. They have a key drop box if you need to return your vehicle outside of business hours. Note that they are closed on Saturday afternoons and all day Sunday.
You can likely find a much cheaper rate by renting from a location outside the base or at Catania airport. We used DoYouItaly to rent a car at the airport and paid about $40 total for a 3-day rental, including tax and insurance.
Keep in mind that driving in Sicily is not for the faint of heart (or slow of reflex). If you do not want to rent a car, you have other good options.
You can catch a local bus right outside the NAS 2 gate. The ride to Catania airport takes about 20 minutes. The bus station in downtown Catania (a 5-minute walk from Catania Centrale train station) is about 10 minutes farther.
Train travel in Italy is efficient and inexpensive. You can even take a train from Catania to mainland Italy!
Use Google Maps or Rome2Rio to find the best combination of public transport options for wherever you want to go.
Few taxis have base access, but the passenger terminal is across the street from the NAS 2 gate, so you will not have far to walk to meet your taxi.
Ready to go to Sigonella?
Start planning your visit to the incredible island of Sicily! Make sure you have everything you need to fly Space-A, including the required documentation and the recommended gear/clothing. Then, start tracking military flight schedules and get ready to hop to Sigonella!
Top photo courtesy of Canva/Getty Images.