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It's SICILY for our special trip--thoughts/suggestions on the first draft

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I’m in the process of planning a special trip for our family of four for next June and had just about closed the deal with Crete and Santorini when I read Ian’s and then Bob’s trip reports on Sicily. We like to travel independently, and, while we’ve driven throughout Europe, including Italy and Greece, I had been concerned about tackling Sicily because of its reputedly free-for-all approach to the road. My younger son spent a week on Sicily as part of a study abroad program and has long waxed enthusiastic about the island’s beauty, the multitude of knock-your-socks-off attractions, and the fantastic food. To cut to the chase, we now have a new destination. Five stops will be as many as my group can handle, and our pace tends to be on the slow side. My husband says that I’ll travel any distance to look at a pile of rocks. Guilty as charged. I provide the plan for the accommodations and sights; he does the food. I care about where we stay. Character and charm highly desirable. Crystal chandeliers, gilt, and antique furniture with spindly legs are negatives. Generally looking to spend less than 200 euros/room/night but some flexibility. Love shopping for locally made items. Here’s what the tentative itinerary looks like--nothing has been booked yet. We’d fly into Catania and out of Palermo.

Taormina 3 nights Villa Schuler (www.hotelvillaschuler.com)
Actually toyed with the idea of staying at the San Domenico Palace but just couldn’t swallow those rates even if it is my birthday trip.

Syracuse/Ortigia 2 nights Domus Mariae (www.sistemia.it/domusmariae)
or Algila Ortigia Charme (www.algila.it)
Other recommendations?
The Algila gets lots of good reviews on TA. Anyone have first-hand knowledge?

stop for lunch in Noto and then on to

Ragusa 3 or 4 nights Eremo della Giubiliana
(www.eremodellagiubiliana.com)

Right now this is the splurge stop. I know I’ll want to see at least Modica in addition to Ragusa, hiking in the Cava d’Ispica looks intriguing, and we plan to day trip from this stop to the Roman mosaics at the Villa Imperiale. The hassle factor of getting to and from a town hotel to wherever the car is parked for excursions and the attendant passenger meltdowns are making me think twice about staying in town here. Having one really nice countryside stay would also be a plus.

see the temples at Agrigento and then stop at

Selinunte area ? 1 or 2 nights Villa Sogno (http://www.villasogno.it)
Could see the ruins at Selinunte the day we arrive, depending on the group’s wishes, or the next morning. Will definitely stop at Segesta at some point.

Are there other don’t miss attractions on the southwestern side? Is Erice really worth a journey? Maybe the salt flats and the Salt museum? If yes, does Selinunte make a good base for seeing them? I also thought about staying at Scopello, liking the idea of a seaside location with hiking possibilities, but that would make for a very long travel day if I’m to hold to my 5 stops.

Palermo 3 nights? Haven’t been able to get a handle on the hotel for Palermo yet. I know we’ll want to stay in the center. We'd spend more if necessary for a nice four star that offers good memories for our last stay. The top three choices in Tripadvisor, Porta Felice, Ucciardhome, Garibaldi, seem to be in the ballpark. Are their locations good/comparable? The Principe de Villafranca has gotten some recent dings in TA.
We'll see Monreale either on our way in to Palermo (plan to drop the car as soon as possible) or take the bus from the city.

We’ve decided to drop London and have two to two and a half weeks, not counting travel days, to play with. Thanks for all coments and suggestions!

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