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Help with planning a Sicily Itinerary

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My previous post was about when to go, and I think we'll plan on the last week of April/first week of May, unless someone has a good reason to move it one way or another. Earlier April makes me worry about rain and later May makes me worry about too many other tourists.

But now itinerary - I have read MANY trip reports, and looked at all sorts of itineraries not on this site. Many take two weeks and circumnavigate the island - but it seems to involve staying in most places for only 1, maybe 2 nights, and I'm not crazy about that.

SOME concentrate on the east or the west and stay 3 days or more in less destinations, and do day trips. Here's what I'm thinking.

Fly into Catania, plan to fly out of Palermo. From Catania go directly to Taormina - seems like a good place to get over the air travel. Could we use it as a base to see Mt Etna? I'm think 2-3 nights.

From there, to Syracuse, again 2-3 nights. I'm skipping Catania, is that a mistake? Worth stopping at on the way by?

Then perhaps Modica, 2-3 nights. It looks like there's a lot to see in that area and a lot of it is pretty close together.

THEN comes my problem. Do I go to the west coast? Do I have time? Do I go to Agrigento and then leave the coast and go towards Palermo? Aren't there sights on the way? The driving distances seem long to me. What about Selinunte? Erice?

End up in Palermo, ditch the car and stay for a couple of days. Cities like Palermo, I find, are NOT good to start with. We ended a trip to the Amalfi Coast and Capri with Naples - and we were ready for it when we got there.

Critique/suggestions welcome. Reading all the trip reports is very informative, both about what cities/areas to see AND what kinds of travelers there are!

Thanks as always,
Alice

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    I would skip Catania and see Noto/Modica as a day trip from Siracusa. That will give you more time for the west side, to hopefully include Selinunte, Erice, and Palermo. Palermo deserves at least 3 days to include Monreale. Have fun !

    http://www.slowphotos.com/photo/showgallery.php?cat=3828

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    I did almost exactly what you are planning. I flew to Catania, went directly to Taormina -- although after I left there, I spent a night near Etna. You could, however, do an excursions from Taormina itself. From there, I went to Ortygia for several nights, then went to Modica for several nights, stopping by Noto and Ragusa on the way.

    So then I went to Agrigento, and after that I headed for Monreale, just outside of Palermo. It is a long drive, no sights along the direct route I took. I ended my trip in Monreale without seeing the rest of Palermo because I thought rather than rush the city, I would return someday -- (which I've since done, and last January spent a full week there, and loved every day of it, no day trips).

    If I had it to do all over again the only thing I think I would change would be to stay in Castelmola rather than Taormina -- or stay anywhere outside of Taormina and only visit it as a day trip. Expect crowds in Taormina even in April. Catania has serious urban problems and you probably don't want to make that city your introduction to Sicily.

    My favorite part of that trip to Sicily was the Modica/Noto/Ragusa area, and I especially enjoyed spending nights in Modica to get a feeling for the town life, since it is not really a tourist town. I imagine I would have enjoyed nights in Noto or Ragusa equally. I am not sorry I basically skipped Palermo to save it for a later time when I could dig into the whole town, but I also spent a week in Naples, and if you were happy with a short stay in Naples, you probably would be happy with one in Palermo.

    I am sure you don't need to be told that any 2 week or less itinerary of Sicily leaves out huge, fascinating chunks of it. I hope to go back again and see the center, the east and islands, and I guess more of the west (places like Trapani). I would go back just for the food!

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    "From Catania go directly to Taormina - seems like a good place to get over the air travel. Could we use it as a base to see Mt Etna? I'm think 2-3 nights."

    The views from Taormina are stunning, but even so, it was NOT my favorite place in Sicily, as it was WAY to full of tourists for my tastes. It is better in the evening, though. And yes, Taormina is a good base for visiting Mt. Etna. I joined an all-day group tour that also included the Gole Alcantara. If you go to Mt. Etna, be prepared for the weather at the top, which will likely be very cold and very windy. (I brought layers, protective eye-wear, silk gloves, and 180s for my ears -- and I was the envy of my group. :-) ) Also wear very thick-soled shoes to manage the terrain.

    "From there, to Syracuse, again 2-3 nights."

    Good! I recommend that you stay in Ortygia.

    "I'm skipping Catania, is that a mistake? Worth stopping at on the way by?"

    I skipped it, which means I can't say whether it would have been worth it.

    "Then perhaps Modica, 2-3 nights. It looks like there's a lot to see in that area and a lot of it is pretty close together."

    I skipped Modica, but did visit Noto (which I loved and which can be easily visited from Siracusa), the Villa Romana del Casale (a must-see, IMHO), and Caltagirone (which worked for my itinerary; I don't consider it a must-see).

    "THEN comes my problem. Do I go to the west coast? Do I have time? Do I go to Agrigento and then leave the coast and go towards Palermo? Aren't there sights on the way? The driving distances seem long to me. What about Selinunte? Erice?"

    Personally, I can't imagine going to Sicily and skipping Agrigento OR Selinunte OR Segesta. YMMV. I regret skipping Erice.

    "End up in Palermo, ditch the car and stay for a couple of days."

    I loved Palermo. Do visit the cathedral in Monreale -- breathtaking.

    "suggestions welcome"

    Consider waiting until you leave Siracusa to rent your car, as you can use public transportation for everything you plan to visit before than and a car will be a decided hindrance in Taormina and Siracusa.

    Hope that helps!

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    Well this has been very helpful, thanks all. I'm trying to figure out if I can comfortably fit in everything in 2 weeks though, and I have some questions about the west.

    Where is a good place to base in the west? Selinunte? Segesta? When we leave we can go to Erice and Monreale before Palermo?

    Also, when we leave Modica, do we go straight to Agrigento or can we go to Villa Romana del Casale on the way? One or two nights in Agrigento?

    I feel like it's looking something like:
    Taormina 2 nights
    Syracuse 3 nights
    Modica 2 nights
    Arigento 1 or 2 nights
    Selinunte (or somewhere) 2 nights
    Palermo 3 nights

    We generally do about 13 nights, so that with travel we hit 2 weeks (this will be easier when we're retired and don't have to worry about leave). Does this make sense? I feel like it's a little squishy, and we're staying in too many places. On the other hand, I don't know what to give up. We could start in Syracuse, but I know my husband will want to see Mt Etna.

    What do you think? Bob, loved the pictures, Sandra, you're making me feel like I'm trying to do too much and kja, very good information.

    Thank you thank you,
    Alice

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    I don't think you need 2 nights in Agrigento. If you actually want to get closer to Etna than just the view from Taormina and the highways, I think you need more time there. I don't think you will be sorry your husband took you to see Etna. It is quite a sight. In fact, I arrived in my hotel in Taormina at night and didn't realize that my room had a dead-on view of Etna until the morning. My husband was complaining it was time to go eat breakfast, but I could barely tear myself away from the window. (Turned out the breakfast room had a good view too).

    For my first trip to Sicily I actually had less time then you do, so that is the reason I did less than you are planning after Agrigento. One thing I will say though is that I am very used to driving in Italy but I found some stretches of driving in Sicily tiring. That is because drivers are much more bold with taking risks to passing other slower-moving cars, and they cut it much closer than I am used to seeing. There are a fair amount of trucks and buses on the road, so the constant attempts of other drivers to zoom around them on two lane highways means the driving is not relaxing. I found this to be especially true driving from the Modica area to Agrigento, and then from Agrigento on to Palermo. So my advice is not to plan a trip that includes long drives to get to the next destinations. Shorter hops are better, even at the expense of changing hotels a bit more frequently.

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    I like your plan, but not sure why you need 2 nights in Modica. Yes, I would stay near Selinunte, but I doubt if you can see both Erice and Monreale in one day--perhaps with an early start. You are on the right track---keep plugging.

    BTW, the Palermo airport is a long way west of town--almost an hour by taxi.

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    "can go to Erice and Monreale before Palermo?"

    I agree with Bob -- maybe, but I personally wouldn't want to risk it.

    "when we leave Modica, do we go straight to Agrigento or can we go to Villa Romana del Casale on the way?"

    I would stop at the Villa Romana del Casale on the way, but I feel comfortable leaving luggage in a car once I take appropriate precautions. Not everyone is willing to do that.

    "One or two nights in Agrigento?"

    One night should work. FWIW, I spent about 6 hours on the archeological site and another 1.5 hours or so at the wonderful archeological museum there. Obviously, one can spend less time.

    "Taormina 2 nights"

    If you plan to visit Mt. Etna from Taormina, you'll probably one a bit more than one full day there. If you have the energy, you can see a fair chunk after returning from Mt. Etna -- I went up to Castelmola and down to Isola Bella afterwards. But you'll want at least a bit of daytime time to see the magnificent theater -- check its hours. So you might be able to manage with 2 nights; it really depends on what you want to see and experience and your tolerance for jet lag and long days.

    "Palermo 3 nights"

    I had only 2.5 days in Palermo and sincerely regret that I didn't give it a least 3 full days, if not more. YMMV.

    "the Palermo airport is a long way west of town--almost an hour by taxi."

    True, but its an easy busy ride. :-)

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    Alice,
    I think the biggest challenge for everyone is coming up with an itinerary because There is just so much to see in Sicily. Very hard to make those choices.

    Maybe you read my TR and saw that I chose to move around a lot rather than backtrack. I did take over 3weeks and still didn't have enough time to visit everything I would have liked.

    I also skipped Catania. I felt like Palermo for the major city sightseeing was enough for my trip. My main vacation time was 5 nts on Lipari in a villa. Long time dream come true! My favorites were Erice, Ortigia and The Aeolians. Least fav was Taormina. Highlight was Villa Romana, amazing. Stayed 2 nts in Scicli, but 1 would have been enough just due to size of town.

    Drove solo for 9 days with no problems at all.

    Loved Sicily and the Sicilian people.

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    Alice, I agree with the first part of your itinerary, but I would like to give some advice on the last part. Selinunte is only an archeological site, no proper town, so I would suggest to proceed towards Marsala, a town I loved! There you could visit the Baglio Anselmi with its punic ship and roman mosaics and the Cantine Florio (or others) to sip some of the excellent wine that has the same name. There are loads of accomodation possibilities, including a 5* hotel. Driving towards Erice you could visit the Saline with their beautiful windmills and the island of Motia (short boat trip). If you do not wish to visit Palermo I would not recommend to sleep there, rather preferring to stay in Erice until you fly back (it is a little bit more than an hour driving).

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