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Trip Report Sicily Trip Report February 2014

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February 2014 Sicily Trip Report

We found February an excellent time to travel to Sicily. The weather ranged from 58 – 73 degrees and sunny most days. Wild flowers were in bloom and there were no crowds. In fact, at several hotels we were the only guests, but were warmly welcomed. Car rental and hotel rates were low. All sites were open. We did have one very unfortunate theft along our way, just one part of our story which follows.


Flight on Turkish Airlines from Chicago to Istanbul, then onto Milan. Low winter prices were the reason we choose this airline. We are so happy with the service and comfort on Turkish Airlines, I'm sure we'll fly them again.


Milan: Saturday night arrival: took Malpensa Express from airport to Milano Cadorna R.R. station. Train left from Platform 1 at the airport. We didn’t see any signs stating this. Took taxi from R.R. station to Hotel Antica Locanda Leonardo. Excellent small hotel and a 10 minute walk to Cadorna Train Station. Located on Corso Magenta, the same road as Santa Maria delle Grazie where Leonard’s Last Supper painting is hanging. Tram line No.16 runs along this road, which goes to San Siro Soccer stadium where we saw Inter Milan play a match.


Sunday morning – We took the tram to Piazza Del Duomo where the sun was shining brightly. We needed to buy tickets to the Inter Soccor match which is this evening. The team store in located almost inside of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. Once inside, turn right towards the McDonalds, and on the left side, the Inter Team store is located. Match tickets are sold upstairs. We needed to show our passports for identification when buying our tickets. Women’s tickets cost less than men’s. Prices are on the team website. Inter won their match, for the first time this year. We must be good luck!


We walked a great deal around Milan on Sunday visiting Castello Sforzesco and 2 of the museums here. The beautiful park behind the castle was filled with families walking their dogs. The sun was bright after many rainy days before our arrival. We also toured the Opera House and were able to enjoy opera practice.


Monday – Flight on Easy Jet to Palermo from Milan Terminal 2. The flight was smooth until we approached Sicily. High winds made for an interesting landing. We rented at Fiat 500, 2 door with sunroof from Europcar. The price was low, but demand is also low in February. There is a shuttle bus from the small Palermo airport to adjacent rental car lot. Before we left home we discovered the app, Co-Pilot. For $50 we downloaded all European maps onto our iphone. This is voice and map directions which I found easy to use and 99% accurate. No data use required. We could not have driven through the towns we did without this app. Driving west from the airport is SO beautiful. The rolling green hills are delightful, especially coming from the very harsh winter we’re having in the Midwest United States this year. The highway is large, smooth and a joy to drive. Distances aren’t far.


I had wanted to visit the Museo del Carretto Siciliano in Terrasini before driving to our hotel for the evening, but the hotel I had booked in Castellammare del Golfo had problems with their kitchen facilities so we changed our booking to a hotel in Trapani, La Gancia.


La Gancia http://www.lagancia.com/en/ is in all ways excellent. Tomorrow will be my husband’s 60th birthday and this was a beautiful hotel to spend our first night in Sicily. Parking is right next to the old fish market. It’s arches are easy to identify. Park only in blue lined spaces. The hotel entrance is along the sea wall, not accessed from the inside streets of the old town. Views from our room were of the sea and the point. We spent 2 hours walking around old Trapani admiring the many churches lit beautifully for the evening. This is a beautiful old town. The new section wasn’t interesting for us, but we drove through the area with ease. Just stay alert for cars merging in at any angle. Skilled driving is a must.


Dinner tonight was at Osteria La Bettolaccia, Via Gen. E. Fardella 25. The owner is so friendly and generous. We ordered one anti pasta, one pasta and one fish, swordfish, and he split each plate for us. My notes on our meal were stolen when our luggage was stolen in Catania, so I don’t have the exact details of our meals. This was one of the best meals of our trip. Prices are not expensive.


Tuesday - We began the day driving to Erice. The GPS guided us a bit out of the way, but we saw everyone trying to park for their day at work. This is an art in itself. We began by driving to the parking lot by the castle. The castle was closed, but the views were marvelous. We walked through Erice from this location, but repeatedly got lot. Wandering is fun though. Next we drove to the lower lot, the wandered more to the areas we missed from the top. Some shops were open, but we’re not shoppers. Few people were here. We were happy the sun was shining so the slick stone wasn’t a problem. It was best to stay in Trapani last night instead of in Erice.


Next we drove south to the Trapani Salt Flats, on the road to Marsala. I used Google Earth before we left to find the exact spot of the windmills. They are located right across from the island of Mozia. Find Mozia off the western coast of Sicily, and this is where the windmills and salt flats are located on the mainland. South of the Trapani airport. Being winter the museum was closed, but a woman was inside since a group tour was about to return from their boat trip. She allowed us inside to use the bathrooms and buy some salt. The museum looked very tiny, not worth a visit. There are good photo opportunities here though of the salt piles. Next we drove south along the same road finding the row of windmills and salt flats. I was able to photograph them before the rains hit.


Segesta was easily reached by the main highway. I’m amazed how far we can go so quickly on this half of the island. We used the Michelin map #365 of Sicily for planning. By the time we arrived at Segesta, which is well signed, it was pouring rain. There is a small café here with toliets and a gift shop. We bought tickets to the temple and for the shuttle bus to the theater. The walk to the theater would have been way too far and steep for us even if the sun was shining. Time is a consideration also. The parking lot is large, but had few cars. Easy parking here. The visit here is not to be missed. Wildflowers were blooming all around this Doric temple. We loved the silence of the area. The temple is located just up the hill from the ticket office. The shuttle to the theater is back by the ticket office. Our driver dropped us off and said he’d be back in 10 minutes. That didn’t make me happy, we needed far more than 10 minutes to see this site. We took our time, the views from the theater amazing, despite the rain. When finished the driver wasn’t there so we started walking back down, getting drenched in the process. Part of the way down the hill, the shuttle showed back up and we returned to the main parking area.


Villa Sogno Agriturismo in Castelvetrano is our evening stay. There are not many choices in this area to stay and this was highly recommended. I had emailed Cinzia several times before our arrival about finding somewhere for dinner since this was my husbands birthday. Nothing seemed open. When we arrived at Villa Sogno the gate was locked and ringing the buzzer didn’t get any response. We called their phone and the housekeeper answered. She only spoke Italian, but we communicated our arrival. She buzzed us in. We used Google translate to communicate on the computer. Cinzia and her husband were away. The housekeeper was very kind and did her best. She gave us a card of a restaurant in Mazera del Vallo, about a 20 minute drive southwest. We thought this a much better choice than the McDonalds which was 5 minutes from Villa Sogno.


Café’ Garibaldi in Mazera del Vallo proved delightful. The two women who run the restaurant are the highlight. They are so pleasant and happy, and truly wonderful. Dinner wasn’t excellent as it was last night, but still very good. I was surprised that tuna was never on the menu while we were in Sicily. I asked one person and they said the farming of tuna here is no longer allowed. Swordfish was on every menu. We were the only diners here this evening. Our evening stroll through town was again just beautiful with the main plaza lit for the evening. There is one ATM in this town, if you need one, ask for directions.


Wednesday - The next morning breakfast at Villa Sogno was adequate. We walked the grounds. I can see how this can be pleasant in the summer, but we don’t recommend it for a winter stay.


Rain was off and on this day, but somehow it was mainly dry when we toured Selinunte. No map was available here so it’s good we had our touring books with us. Again, we were the only tourists here. I loved this area and took many photos. One temple is standing and two are in ruins. More wildflowers covered the site and the views to the sea marvelous.


We drove to the second section. Walking would take far too long. This site is more spread out and marvelous. It’s not bad being the only tourists on the grounds. The beach here looks nice and sandy. I’m sure it’s very busy during the summer.


The road to Agrigento was good, but the drive takes some time. We had hoped to stop at Scala dei Turchi, but wisely skipped it so we’d have enough time to visit the Valley of the Temples. Along the road were several small trucks selling fresh oranges. We stopped at a small market and bought lunch supplies, fresh prosciutto ham, cheese and snacks. Very affordable, very fresh. Arriving at Agrigento you realize how spread apart the temples are. Parking at the center is very limited, and not possible. Buses occupy most of the spots.


At the small traffic circle, one exit leads to public parking. It seems far from the temples. We parked, then took a taxi to the top, where Temple Juno is located. A second ticket booth is located here, but no bathrooms. There is also more parking up here, but after our visit we realized we did this site exactly correctly. By parking below and taking the taxi up, you only need to walk down. No wasted time backtracking. This site is very well organized. The sites spectacular and walkway excellent and wide. All along the area the almond trees were in bloom. The views to the current town of Agrigento framed in flowering trees. Amazingly beautiful in February. The weather had cleared. Below in the valley we saw a large group of sheep and their shepherd. There is a shepherd with each group of sheep we saw on Sicily, and there are many.


The tour groups seemed to be leaving as we toured this site, so again, not many others were here. We took our time, explored all the site, working our way down. The bottom section is ruins and doesn’t take as long to explore. Don’t miss the view of the cliffs at the end of the site. When finished there is a small lane off to the right if you turn to walk back. This road leads down to the parking lot. We just guessed, and chose this route correctly. You’ll pass under a road underpass to reach the parking area. The visit could also start here, but then you’d be walking uphill all the way.


We drove to the museum after our visit. It is truly an excellent museum. Parking was a bit hard to find, but it’s by the gas station next door. We spent over an hour here, but more time is needed. It’s so varied and full of antiquities. Time to drive to Argritourismo Gigliotto http://www.gigliotto.com/ near Piazza Armerina for our next stay.


As before, we are the only guests at Argritourismo Gigliotto. The location is great for visiting Villa Romana mosaics. We’re so happy we could stay here in winter, but I’m sure it’s much nicer in the summer. Our room was cool, but we finally decided when we could find no heater, that the heat came from underfloor heating. Our room was comfortable, but the dinner they really wanted us to order was poor. They serve a 6 or 7 course dinner with a bottle of wine included for €30 each. It would be a great deal if the meal was good, but ours was very mediocre. Probably the poorest meal of our trip besides pizza in Taormina. The owner and his son were also eating, but no others were. The TV was loud during dinner in the dining room.


In the morning we’ll visit the Villa Romana mosaics which were a highlight of our trip. All sections are open and the site is wonderful.

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    Thanks, I haven't done a trip report for awhile, but thought it was time to contribute a bit again! Last year we traveled to Australia and Israel and Jordan. All were quite amazing.

    Thanks for all the contributions you make. It helps all of us so much.

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    Thursday we’ll have another very full day. I’m sure this is only possible because there are no crowds and no waiting. Along the road here are large farms of cactus. I found it beautiful. Driving from Argritourismo Gigliotto to Villa Romana Del Casale required us to drive through Piazza Armerina. I really thought this would not be necessary, but it was. Without co-pilot or another GPS it would have been impossible. Yes, traffic is challenging, but the sharp left hairpin turn which we missed made it more challenging. All through the small streets we ventured, crazy traffic. My husband was a fantastic driver through all of this. He rose to the occasion and it was good practice for later in the day.


    Finally we arrived, the first visitors of the day. The outdoor parking lot is large, and no one was taking parking money yet, but did as we left. You need a ticket to exit the parking lot. Walking from the parking to the site are many souvenir booths. Thankfully they were all closed. Tickets to the site are €14 each, so very high cost. This includes 2 other sites, but we had no time to visit them. Almost all of the mosaics are under roof, but open air, with walkways above and signs explaining what mosaics you’re seeing. The walkways are well built but narrow, so with many visitors it would be crowded. We were able to take pictures with no problem, but only 4 others arrived while we were there. There are several buildings on this site, don’t miss any. We spent 2 hours here as there are so many mosaics to see, in wonderful condition.


    Driving on to Caltagirone was beautiful. Almond trees blooming, cactus fields, wildflowers and our first view of Mt. Etna! How exciting. We drove by a pretty field full of sheep with their shepherd and dog, and Mt. Etna in the background. Great photo opportunity! Along roadsides small trucks were parked selling fruit and vegetables. Rural Sicily is awesome and easy to drive.


    Park around Caltagirones perimeter. Don’t drive into the city. There are so many tiny lanes and driving would be impossible. This is a large city. We found a large parking garage and used it. It was very inexpensive, less than €2 for our couple of hours here and close to the sites. Again, not many cars inside though. A local person told us which way to walk and we wound our way through the tiny lanes to La Scala and the duomo. The staircase has 142 steps, each decorated with different hand-painted ceramics. It’s very steep. Take your time climbing it. I took pictures all along the way. Ceramic shops line the edges. Also off to the right is a small road which leads to Chiesa del Carmine, the church with the wonderful nativity. We found the church easily, but it was closed.


    At the top of La Scala - Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte, is a small church which we went into, but to go to the top for views a guide wanted a fee. We skipped it. On our way back down we shopped in one ceramic shop. I bought a small piece for €15 and the shop keeper tried to scam us on not having the right bills for change, wanting different bills, on and on. In the end she tried to keep our first bill as we gave her more exact change. Watch out for giving and getting the correct bills. This is the only experience of this kind we had in Sicily with money. I looked her in the eye, she knew that we knew what was going on.


    Walking to the public gardens we crossed a bridge full of ceramics. The old buildings in this area are quite wonderful. I’m sure this town deserves more time than we had to visit. The gardens were full of pots decorated with devilish faces, but not as fascinating as I expected.


    Onto Ragusa we drove, with more views of Mt. Etna and stone fences covering the hillsides. This area of the island is very different from the western side. The hills weren’t the deep green of the west, and it seemed much dryer. First we drove through the modern city of Ragusa, coming from the west. We didn’t put an address into our Co-pilot so we were a bit lost. Then I remembered a restaurant I had noted in the old town, so we put that address into our phone and it lead us right to the parking area below the village. The views of Ragusa Ibla as we approached were stunning, not in any way like those of our first view of new Ragusa, which looked like Orange County, Calif. Parking here is excellent, in a large lot.


    Walking up we found Ragusa deserted. They day was getting late, but we found not much of interest here. Yes, the wonderful, carved supports of the balconies were great. The Duomo one of the prettiest we saw, but the village seemed to have no life. No real personality. I expected more. I’m sure it’s because of the season, but we had almost stayed just outside of town, and now I’m very happy we changed our location for this evening.


    We drove through Modica at “rush hour”. Oh my, was it a mess of tangled cars. Now this is real traffic in Sicily. What a rush of sights also. I think it’d be fascinating to stay here. The food stuffs being sold from the back of trucks, the fish, the meat, the traffic. We inched along. This seemed to be the real Sicily. Finally we made it through, yes, made a mistake along the way and it only added to our experience. No, we didn’t stop to buy chocolate. I hear it is a bit bitter, is that so? One hour latter we arrived at the beach of Noto.


    Baglio Siciliamo http://www.siciliamo.eu/?lang=en just near the Beach of Noto is probably the friendliest place we stayed. The family who owns it is genuinely kind and welcoming. The woman running it is special and friendly, despite our language barrier. She showed us three rooms so we could decide which to choose. They were all very nice. This property is very near the beach, but not on the beach. Our GPS lead us through tiny alleys to arrive here, but we left down a larger road. Might be good to consult the map before arriving. We enjoyed dinner here. The menu was limited because again, we were the only guests, but still excellent. If staying along the coast here, this would be an excellent choice, they have a large pool and the beach is so near.


    Friday, Valentines Day - After an ample breakfast we drove to the Vendicari Nature Reserve which is only 5 miles south. The walk along a boardwalk to the beach is quite peaceful and enjoys lizards and birds in the grasses. The beach sand wasn’t great here, but the sandy pathway was good. There was a bird hide to the right, but we saw few birds besides the large flock flying away. An old tuna factory is to the left. The parking area here was closed and overgrown, but we just parked along the small road, as did one other car. A few local men were visiting and showed us where the boardwalk started which is straight ahead on the road in. At this time of year this stop is unnecessary.


    Noto is nearby and has a UNESCO heritage designation. Parking was along the street, near the large French type plaza. The parking meters were broken, but the lady patrolling the area told us where another was located. Noto is mainly one long street of outstanding beautiful churches and buildings, plus a small side street with the marvelous balcony supports, the best in Sicily I believe, and Nicolaci Palace. It’s populated, but not crowded, has shops open and deserves it’s recognition. The interior of the churches are ornate. Only problem we had was in ordering granite and being told, no, it’s too cold for granite! It was in the 70’s, not the below freezing temps at our home all winter! Noto is small, but our favorite hill town.


    Just up the road (not the highway, but the coastal road) is Avola where we stumbled upon a cemetery. This is the first Sicilian cemetery we stopped at, but it was amazing. Each family group was large and full of fresh flowers. Very, very large family groups are buried all in the same “block”. Generations, all together. I’ve never seen this at such a large scale. Across the road from the cemetery was a flower market. Later, just outside of Siracusa on a Sunday morning, another cemetery lined the road leaving town. It was crowded with cars and people, and another flower market. On Sunday morning family members must go to the cemetery to place flowers on their family’s graves. Quite remarkable.


    It was a good decision taking this road into Ortygia. We didn’t drive through Siracusa itself, and the views were pretty as we approached. Driving onto the island was open, but in summer it’s regulated. We quickly found the small lane our B&B was located on, but couldn’t drive onto it. We found a handicapped parking spot right there and pulled in since no other spots were available. I waited in the car as my husband walked to B&B La Via della Guidecca http://www.laviadellagiudecca.it. No one was there. He phoned their number and the woman answering said it was the wrong number. He walked back. We waited, still no one was coming. Finally we found another number on a window and called it (this is different from the number provided by Booking.com) and someone answered. He said he’d arrive soon. The car in front of us left, so we moved forward one spot into a legal parking spot. Then a woman who lived in the building came up to us and was very upset we had parked in “her” spot. It was free for anyone, so we stayed, but she was very upset with us. Thankfully we didn’t need to move our car the two nights we were here. Parking is very limited on the island. This wasn’t a great welcome, but the Boutique hotel is quite nice. We’re in the more tourist side of Sicily now so others were staying in the hotels.


    Ortygia is the prettiest town we visited on Sicily. It’s special. We walked much of the island this afternoon and visited the Duomo. Inside the columns of the Apollo Temple are visible along the side walls. The WWII Bomb Shelter was closed. It’s only open in the morning, maybe just Friday mornings in the winter. This is next door to the Duomo, with gardens growing above it. On the Duomos plaza are several cafes, a good place to sit and enjoy the magnificent views.


    Even better is Ristorante Regina Lucia at Piazza Duomo, 6 phone: 0931 22509. We had reserved dinner here, then found they were doing a special Valentines dinner. The cost was $50 each for the most excellent multi course meal of our trip. This included unlimited wine and aperitifs. Each course was heavenly, then they offered 2nd helpings. We were the only tourists here this evening, but it was fully booked. If you visit Ortygia, you must dine at Regina Lucia. We slept very well this evening.

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    We spent 10 nights in Sicily, planned on 11 but Easy Jet changed their schedule so we spent one less night in Palermo at the end. We still had 1 1/2 days there though before our late flight out. We actually liked the time we spent in Palermo and loved the Monreale Cathedral which we drove to.

    Our misfortune in Catania is coming up next.

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    I loved Sicily and your report is helping me relive my time there. Thanks so much, images2, and glad you had a good time.

    One thing to note for anyone staying in Modica (which is a great town, by the way): it is pretty much all stairs, so be prepared climb. :)

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    Hi thursdaysd, Your trip report was a great help to us. I reread it several times. I'm surprised more people don't go to Trapani, it's lovely and a great place to begin a trip in Sicily.

    Have a wonderful time theatrelover. Are you traveling on your own, or as part of a group? Be aware, the Catania area was very unkind to us. I don't recommend you going there, or if so, with a group.

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    theatrelover,

    If you have time you might consider a boat trip we took. Here are the details:

    Capitano Antonio
    Escursioni in barca
    Taormina-Giardini Naxos
    Partita IVA: IT01737620839
    Tel. 0039 338 3591014
    Email: info@taorminaescursioni.it
    Website: www.taorminaescursioni.it

    Departure will be from Giardini Naxos port, in the morning at 10am, or in the afternoon at 2.30pm, and it lasts about two hours.
    Spets are:
    Cape of Naxos (Capo di Naxos),
    Naxos Bay (Baia di Naxos),
    Cave of the Day (Grotta del Giorno),
    Cape of Taormina (Capo Taormina),
    Beautiful Island (Isola Bella),
    Blue Cave (Grotta Azzurra),
    Mazzarò Bay (Baia di Mazzarò)
    St. Nicola Bay (Baia di S. Nicola)
    Spisone Bay (Baia di Spisone)
    During the excursion, we wil stop, about twenty minutes, if you "have a brave", for a dip in the crystal see water, in one of the most beautiful bays of Taormina, Isola Bella, the pearl of the Mediterranean.
    In this magical atmosphere, you will taste a good typical Sicilian liqueur. In addition, for who want to take a lok at the bottom of the sea, with coral and starfish, it is possible to go snorkeling.

    Boat excursion cost is euro 25,00 per person.

    We found Captain Antonio a great guy. His English is very good, and self taught. He called it Beach English. He's a local captain who has always lived here and has never flown in an airplane. He has all he needs here, and plenty of business in the summer.

    He was kind enough to take us out for 2 hours all along the coast of Taormina.

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    We are traveling on our own. We fly to Palermo and spend a few days and then rent a car heading to Trapani/Erice, Agrigento, Ragusa, Siracus and Taormina and flying out of Catania but not spending any time except for the last night at a B&B outside the city. What I have read recently about Catania scares me.

    Thank you so much for this additional information. You are very kind. I find this website invaluable when planning my trips and then I try to write Trip Reports for each trip as a way of giving back.

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    Annig,

    We did a circle tour, one way. It was perfectly planned! Which areas do you want to visit? I think flying in and out of Palermo gives you the opportunity to see so much.


    Saturday – Breakfast was very good at our hotel. They even gave us a Valentine treat to enjoy. On this small lane the Puppet Theater and lab are located. We’ll try to see them later in the day. Both were closed yesterday afternoon.


    Oh, markets, I love food markets and Ortygia has a wonderful small one on the northeast side, I believe on Via
    Emanuele de Benedictis. It felt safe, and friendly. The fish were abundant and so very fresh. It is artichoke and asparagus season and individuals showed off their wares. Fishmongers held up their catches so I could photograph them. It was great. We bought a little and enjoyed the tasty flavors. Blood Oranges are so plentiful now, we ate some each day.


    We walked all the way to the Archeologico Park in Syracuse. In summer there is a bus that makes the trip. We didn’t want to move our car so decided we could walk. It’s probably 2 ½ miles. First you pass the ruins which are near the bridge to Syracuse. They’re not too extensive. There wasn’t much to see along the way, so probably it’s wiser to just take a taxi, which we did for our return. Once we arrived at the parking area there was a local soccer field which was a diversion for my husband for a bit. He loves watching soccer, at any level. The ticket office is located by the shops, just look for the tour buses. It’s set back, almost hidden from view. Once you have your ticket, cross the street to the entrance of the Archeologico Park.


    The Roman Amphiteatre is located before the Greek Theater. You can see them in any order, but a large Italian group had just arrived and marched straight for the Greek Theater, so of course, we went into the Roman Amphiteatre first. I found it interesting but not as fascinating as the Theater. It’s a must to have your own guide books since there was no information provided at the site. I know there was a Rick Steves group here today but we didn’t see them. He has several overlapping tours to Sicily in February.


    The Greek Theater was outstanding. The settings of these sites are spectacular with views to the sea. I have so many pictures, all without people here. How wonderful, but it’ll take months to go through them all. Orecchio di Dionisio (The Ear of Dionysius) is adjacent to the Theater area. A nice path winds through the area, by stone tombs, through greenery, palms and such. It’s just wonderful being here in low season. It’s not hot, and there are few people, but those we met were very friendly.


    The Archeologico Museo was closed. They said it would reopen in April. The Catacombe di San Giovanni sounded very interesting, so walking as fast as our feet could manage, we arrived just in time for the last tour of the day, 12:30 p.m. This is just excellent. The guide did the tour in both Italian and English, and the ticket to the Duomo in Ortygia, gives you a discount to this church and Catacombes. The tour is divided into 3 parts, with the catacombs at the end. They are empty, but fascinating. Highly recommended to visit this ancient site.


    To find a taxi we walked back to the Archeologico park, and soon one drove up dropping off new tourists. We took it back to Ortygia. After some well deserved rest and wifi time, we walked back to the Fonte Aretusa then down to the harbor. It was a beautiful afternoon and men were fishing on the docks and kids were riding bikes and running after big bubbles which were blown by a clown. There are several benches along the water here and it’s a wonderful area to relax. The town was closed up tight for a few hours in the afternoon. Around 4:30, things would reopen.


    The Puppet Theater was closed for the season, but walking by, I noticed they were open. I think the Rick Steves group was going to arrive. They allowed me in to take a look. It’s quite small. The labatory, or workshop, where they make the puppets was also open, so we watched the craftsman awhile working on a puppet. These are next to each other on the same small street as our hotel.


    Sunday - After another great breakfast we left Ortygia and drove to Catania. Just outside of Siracuse there is a British Military Cemetery. It’s next to the town cemetery. We stopped to pay our respects to these brave soldiers who fought here during WW2. It’s very well maintained. The public cemetery was filled with people putting flowers on the graves, but the military cemetery was silent. Next we drove to Castello Eurialo, and saw it was set far off the parking area. We didn’t have enough time to visit so left.


    Acireale Carnival was being celebrated this weekend and we considered seeing the parade. Instead we stopped in Catania to see the WW2 museum. Museo dello Sbarco in Sicilia viale Africo. Le Ciminiere (at the eastern end of Via Umberto I) Open Tue-Sun 9-12:30 p.m. Tue and Thu until 5 p.m. The web site for the museum is poor, but after much searching I found it was in the museum complex/convention center right on Via Africo, adjacent to the Railroad Station. The complex looked nice and parking was good, right in front of the museum. I was very excited to arrive as it had taken a lot of work on my part just to find where this was located. When we arrived 2 men were in the parking lot directing cars as to where to park. They then asked for 1 Euro for their services. We paid, and walked into the complex, easily finding the museum. As soon as we paid them, they knew we were Americans, or at least not Sicilian.


    Nothing was in sight inside of our car. Our luggage was in the hatchback, covered with the cover that hides the contents. A man was in the small office as you enter the complex, right near the parking area. The woman running the initial tour of the museum was outside talking with another man. Across the way was a special exhibit with wonderful pictures from WW2 in Sicily. After buying tickets the guide told us to return in 10 minutes when she’d start the movie. We enjoyed the special exhibit lst floor pictures then returned to the museum. An Italian couple had arrived so she played the film in Italian. The first part of the tour is guided, but my husband needed to use the bathroom, so she waited, a bit irritated, for him to return.


    After the first 15 minutes she leaves and we visited the museum on our own. It was well presented. We spent 2 hours here total.


    When we returned to our car we opened the trunk. A sick feeling rushed through us. Our two pieces of luggage, and 2 backpacks were gone. There was no big sign of a break in, but the car was locked. There were two small dents by the passenger door. I think they broke in there and accessed the hatchback area from inside. Our coats were left in the trunk along with my planning notebook.


    What was lost was 2 brand new suitcases with all contents including my tripod. All of our medicine and electrical cords except the car one we were using. Thankfully I had that in my purse. We wear money belts with our passports, money, and credit cards inside. I had 3 camera batteries with me, all fully charged, but the charger was stolen. My camera was in my purse, with me. It’s a $5,000 loss.


    I was furious, and first approached the men in the parking area. I told them I was calling the police. They took off. I went to the office where the man was in the complex. I asked him to call the police. He said he had no phone. I told him what happened, he had no concerns. He refused any help. He did tell me the police had an office at the R.R. station. As I walked to the station, my husband stayed with the car. The police office is by the tracks. They thought my car had been stolen. They didn’t really care. They told me we’re here to help Italian citizens, you are an American. What…. I insisted. I wouldn’t leave. They kept wondering if documents had been stolen with the car. I tried repeatedly to tell them it was my luggage that was stolen not the car. I acted it out, but they still thought it was the car. Amazingly, they still didn’t want to help. Finally, when I refused to leave they called the police at the main Catania station. 2 of them drove over.


    I insisted on a police report. Somehow they figured it out, it was the luggage, not the car. Now they almost laughed at me. But the other two officers were there, one a woman, they drove me back to the parking lot. By this time over an hour had lapsed and my husband thought I must have been kidnapped. It wasn’t pretty. We followed their car in our car to the main police station, through the streets of Catania. They put us in a room with others and left. Now what. One woman spoke a little bit of English. She told us they were waiting to go into another room to report their problem, to depose someone. After 30 minutes I left the room and looked for help. I asked one police man how long this would take. He spoke just enough English to understand and was helpful. He looked at the others in the room, counting, 1,2,3….. realizing we were in for a wait. He went to get the crime form and told us to fill it out. He’d go into the secret room, return and tell us to fill out more, this happened a few times. Finally it was good, they took our passport and signed and stamped the police report. My husband almost committed a crime, holding onto the policeman’s pen. He wasn’t happy about that. 3 hours later we were finished.


    So we leave, driving through Catania, and almost immediately our car is surrounded by motorcycles, all the way around us. I about lost it. They didn’t try to gain entrance. Maybe that’s just the traffic pattern, but I doubt it. The next day in Taormina we met an American couple. We asked how their vacation was going. They burst out, saying they had been robbed in Catania. Us too we told them. Their story was even worse. They were actually driving in their car. They didn’t have automatic locks in the car as we did, so the doors were unlocked. Masked motor cyclists pulled up to their car, with them inside, opened the front doors, finding nothing, then opened the back doors. A bag with all their medications, $2,000 worth and their shoes and toiletries was taken. They were terrified. They also went to the main police station and had an easier time with the police than we had had. The police took them to a pharmacy to get new medicine. We replaced our medicine easily in Taormina.


    I realize it’s not safe to leave luggage in one’s car. It is impossible for us to travel and not ever have luggage inside. We’ve traveled for years, all over the world, and haven’t had a problem. I guess we’ve been lucky, but unfortunately we don’t trust people in Sicily now. At a B&B in another town, the owner told us of many stories of theft, violent crime here. She said it happens in Trapani also. Palermo used to be much more unsafe, but the police cracked down, but it’s like a balloon. They push on one end and another swells. Catania is the other end now where crime is very bad. We spent over a week in Corsica a few years ago. There is mafia crime there also, but not against tourists. We never felt unsafe on Corsica.


    Our trip after this changed. We still enjoyed all the sites, Sicily is beautiful. It has much to offer. We are just very wary now. Please be careful when visiting. Enjoy its beauty, but be aware and overly cautious. I know this is just my opinion. Others have been fine, but I think our story has value.


    Tomorrow I’ll continue with my trip report on the following days of our trip.

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    So sorry to read about your luggage being stolen in Catania. Such a dreadful experience always impacts the rest of a trip. We were lucky not to have any problems and enjoyed our stay in Catania a couple of years ago.

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    Image,

    As I was reading I was amazing that your trip itinerary was almost exactly what I did last April. I chose La Foresteria Planeta Estate in Menfi for my overnight near Selinute and loved it!

    I enjoyed Il Giliotto too. It was gorgeous in May. I agreed with you about the dinner. Too much and not very great. I thought the best course were the two pasta dishes! Beautiful place and confortable, quiet room. The manager was very nice to let me leave my bag there while I visited Villa Romana. And yes, that hairpin turn is a doozy. I missed it twice! When I did see it, I drove like a true Sicilian and made everyone wait for me while I executed the turn.....

    I didn't find huge crowds in April/May except for right at the Arch Park in Syracusa and in Taormina.

    Too bad the museum in Syracusa was closed in Feb. It was a highlight for me and I too stayed at La Via della Guidecca. Loved it and Roberta, the excellent friendly helpful manager.

    Your report makes me VERY glad I skipped Catania! So sorry to hear your horrible experience.

    I hope the rest of your trip improved!

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    Oh my, how dreadful. I second bon_voyage: You are doing all of us an incredible service by being so objective in the face of a horrible experience. If I followed correctly, you were able to celebrate DH's birthday AND Valentine's Day before the theft -- I'm glad about that.

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    Images, that's horrible, worsened by the attitude of the police, and those motorcyclists.

    the usual trick of parking hard up against a tree or wall so that the tailgate can't be opened would not work if they access the car through the doors. it's difficult to know how you could counteract that as, as you say, you can't tour without having your luggage with you at some point.

    Catania is definitely coming off my list of places to stay in or even visit.

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    Thanks everyone for your kind words. We're bouncing back, and we did continue everything we planned on our trip. We were just nervous and very cautious which puts a big dent in "vacation mode". Yes, we were able to celebrate both dates before our luggage was stolen. We even joked that having luggage in Taormina would have been very difficult!

    For theatrelover: You'll enjoy Palermo I believe. There is much to enjoy there. Don't miss seeing the colorful Sicilian carts which are on a small lane on the right side of the Duomo. No one seemed to know about them, but the alley was full of carts, wagons, little vehicles, all stacked up and spread out. Probably 20 of them were outside. You can also peak through the windows of their workshop. The colors and scenes painted on them are amazing.


    La Martorana church is another site you need to seek out. There are actually 2 small churches here, but we only went inside of La Martorana. The mosaics here rival Monreale. It's not far from Fontana Pretoria.


    We also went to Catacombe dei Cappuccini. This isn't for everyone, but is strangely interesting. The point is, it's very far out. We took a taxi since we had very limited time. When we arrived the taxi driver said no other taxis pick up here so we should have him wait for us. He was right, but the charge was 40€ for the round trip. If you want to go, see about the bus routes, but allow a lot of time. The catacombes closed at 4:30, but stayed open a bit longer when a couple other couples arrived.

    Capo market is great and Ballero market harder to find, and larger. Be on your guard for your valuables. I love markets so we went to each.

    Palazzo Dei Normanni is closed during the week. Open only on the weekend. Cappella Palantina nearby is outstanding. It's a walk down the road behind Palazzo Dei Normanni. We found no sign but asked for directions. If you're facing the guard check of the Palazzo, walk to the left and turn right at the next street.

    Have a great trip and report back when you return!

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    I too have been enjoying your trip report. So sorry for your awful experience in Catania.

    My son and his GF toured Sicily a few years ago, backpacking and camping. When camping in Catania they heard gunshots, and the following morning on leaving the campsite saw spent shells and a pool of blood. They had been warned by a local that it was dangerous, but they had no money for a B&B.
    Somewhere else someone tried to slit a backpack, but they had special ones with wire mesh in them. They were cursed and faced with a knife waving criminal. Luckily some locals rescued them.
    They loved Sicily but wouldn't go back any time soon.
    Their experiences put me off visiting I have to admit.

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    Hi Dayle,

    I used your trip report also in our planning. We contacted La Foresteria Planeta Estate in Menfi but they were closed for the season. I understand why so many places weren't available.

    Yes, that hairpin. I just saw it as an opportunity to see more of town, but if was difficult for my husband who was driving.


    hetismij2 - How terrifying for your son and his GF. These incidents need to be reported to our traveling community. Sicily is very beautiful and the sites are outstanding. It's such a shame the crime is such a problem. We are not tour group people, but maybe this is one island which is best toured with a group. It does increase the safety factor. We won't return, but I'm glad we saw it.

    By the way, our homeowners policy is supposed to help cover us. We have a $1,000 deductible, but if it really does, it'll be a great help. Once the process is complete, I'll report back on it.

    We also have insurance with Worldwideinsure.com. They don't seem to be as helpful, but we're trying.

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    Our plan to drive up Mt. Etna went out the window. We had no time to include this now. We needed electrical chargers, but the one shop we saw as we left Catania was closed. The streets were almost deserted here as it was the afternoon closing time and a Sunday. Driving to Taormina was our best option. There is a large Auchan in Catania, which is a large shopping store, but we just needed to leave the area.


    Thank goodness we brought a Belkin 2-Port Car Charger with Lightning to USB Cable for iPhone 5 / 5S, iPod touch, iPod nano, iPad and iPad mini, 2.1 AMP with us which was in my purse. It enabled us to charge our phones and ipad while driving.


    Hotel Villa Paradiso http://www.hotelvillaparadisotaormina.com/ was our hotel for the two nights we stayed in Taormina. We weren’t sure where to park. They said they had 3 spaces and limited parking in a parking garage nearby. We tried driving to the hotel, but were immediately confused when drove into town. Instead we turned around and parked in the large multi level car park Porta Catania. From here we walked to Hotel Villa Paradiso. It was a long walk and we joked it was a good thing we had no luggage with us! We received a warm greeting and asked if there were any shops where we could replace a few personal items. Taormina really isn’t a great place to shop. It’s totally a tourist haven with expensive shopping. Thankfully a pharmacy, the British pharmacy, replaced our medications and had basic toiletries we could buy. As far as clothes were concerned, we bought 2 tourist tshirts and underwear, on sale because of the winter sales.


    The hotel upgraded our room. We walked in to find a huge corner window of glass. Views of the sea and Mt. Etna blowing steam and as dark approached we could see the red lava flow. This was the kindness that helped so much. There is one other small shop with make up and hair supplies on the far end of Taormina, unmarked and hard to find, but it had a few more items we needed. The next morning an electronics shop opened and they had an electrical cord which worked for the ipad 4 but not the 5. We had enough to get by for now.


    This evening we just wandered town, and had dinner at one of the pizza restaurants. We didn’t find many restaurants open, but there were many families here enjoying the wonderful weather. It was alive on this Sunday evening. Once it was late, the families left and the streets were much quieter.


    The next day we moved our car to the small parking garage near Villa Paradiso. The cost is the same as the large parking garage, but much more convenient.


    Monday - The Greek Theater is as beautiful as described. We loved the views of the sea and Mt. Etna from the theater. There was Lava rock and wildflowers growing between the rows of seats. Few tourist were visiting so the setting was peaceful and stunning. The tourist office has a small museum, but it’s Monday so the museum is closed. They have one Sicilian cart and some puppets on display in the main area. They were a full size tourist office, the best we saw on Sicily. We walked in Trevelyan gardens and saw the churches we missed last night. It doesn’t take too long to see the main sites. An American military family stationed in Catania was visiting Taormina. We asked them about stores in the area where we might replace some clothes. They live on the base there so don’t shop anywhere besides the base. It’s quite large, and very contained. Captain Antonio told us it is largely underground and employees thousands of Sicilians.


    Next we drove up to Castelmola. It’s a steep drive, but very safe, no problem. Below the village is a large parking area. You must park here. The walk up to town from parking isn’t too bad, but is steep. A shop offered us Almond wine. We accepted, but when we didn’t want to buy the shop keeper was very unhappy with us. We had a picnic lunch with us and ate it at the top of Castelmola, overlooking the beautiful countryside.


    I booked a boat trip leaving from Giardini Naxos for this afternoon. The trip was a bit over 2 hours and €25 each. Captain Antonio speaks good English and is a great guide.

    Capitano Antonio
    Escursioni in barca
    Taormina-Giardini Naxos
    Partita IVA: IT01737620839
    Tel. 0039 338 3591014
    Email: info@taorminaescursioni.it
    Website: www.taorminaescursioni.it

    Departure will be from Giardini Naxos port, in the morning at 10am, or in the afternoon at 2.30pm, and it lasts about two hours.
    Spets are:
    Cape of Naxos (Capo di Naxos),
    Naxos Bay (Baia di Naxos),
    Cave of the Day (Grotta del Giorno),
    Cape of Taormina (Capo Taormina),
    Beautiful Island (Isola Bella),
    Blue Cave (Grotta Azzurra),
    Mazzarò Bay (Baia di Mazzarò)
    St. Nicola Bay (Baia di S. Nicola)
    Spisone Bay (Baia di Spisone)



    During the excursion, we will stop, about twenty minutes, if you "have a brave", for a dip in the crystal see water, in one of the most beautiful bays of Taormina, Isola Bella, the pearl of the Mediterranean.
    In this magical atmosphere, you will taste a good typical Sicilian liqueur. In addition, for who want to take a look at the bottom of the sea, with coral and starfish.


    We enjoyed our trip with him very much. It was just what we needed today. Relaxing with fantastic views of the coastline from sea. We drove north of Taormina along the coast for a while, after the boat trip, it’s so beautiful, before turning back to Taormina.


    Returning to Taormina we saw a Rick Steves group arriving. Donald was their guide. He was giving a bit of instruction on where to eat. Not much was open this Monday evening. We found a different pizza restaurant, and soon another couple arrived from the Rick Steves group. Their tour rings the island in the opposite direction we were driving. It was fun to share travel stories with them during dinner. We noticed the lava flow on Mt. Etna had grown longer.


    Tuesday - Today we drove the ring road around Mt. Etna, then took the autostrada to Cefalu. The red ring road around the base of Mt. Etna was very interesting to drive and provided many photo opportunities. Our first stop was Linguaglossa. I believe jeep tours depart from here, going up Mt. Etna. The Michelin Green Guide has a tour of this road. We followed it. Shortly after Passopisciaro there is a very large lava flow along both sides of the road. We turned left here and stopped to take photos, then drove up this road for a bit. Returning to the main road Randazzo was our next stop. Much of it is built with lava stone. It’s very close to the volcano, but we thought Bronte was also. The view of Mt. Etna changes as you circle it. Almond trees, Pistachio trees, orange trees, vineyards, cover the area. The trees were blooming. It was gorgeous. Unfortunately this is also where we saw the most garbage along the roadsides. It’s a shame. At Paterno, which was a large town, we turned toward the main highway north. It’s a bit of a drive the the Hwy, but always welcome to find. The travel on them is so fast. We are new traveling west and will stop in Enna.

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    How nice that the Taormina hotel upgraded you, Images. That must have helped to restore your faith in human nature.

    I have to say that these tales of Sicily particularly Catania are making Naples seem positively tame!

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    I am so sorry to read about your terrible experience in Catania. I have to say that this is not a trip I am really calm and excited about because, in the back of my mind, I realize we will have to be watchful and constantly thinking and protecting ourselves. Not really the way I like to travel. Thank you so much for the extra ideas regarding Palermo. Those points are going right into my notes.

    I will write a trip report when I return

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    When we left the autoroute to drive into Enna, the signs were a bit confusing. We made a guess and went to the left. Up we drove, up and up. So many cars were driving down. We wondered if the town was evacuating. It was lunch time.


    Once we arrived in Enna it was a traffic jam. We were stuck. It turned out to be market day. The market was being dismantled. We saw a few sites as we drove slowly through town, but this wasn’t the scene we wanted, so we joined the line of cars going back down the hill. There was a good spot to pull over, so we did get out and admire the views. We can say we’ve been to Enna, but haven’t really seen Enna.


    Back on the auto route we drove easily to Cefalu. I booked Palazzo Villelmi B&B http://www.palazzovillelmi.com/index.php?lang=en which is in front of the Cathedral. Parking is an issue. We followed our GPS which brought us through town. We arrived during the opening hours to drive through town, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. – 9 a.m., but we had no luggage to drop off. We weren’t sure how else to drive here. At the end of town we needed to make a very sharp right turn, through a stone archway. We made it with 1 inch to spare. If our car had been any larger we would have been stuck. Tip: don’t drive through town, find another way. The road just outside this exit from town only allows parking for town residents. We needed to drive all the way down to the port to park. It’s quite a hike. My husband dropped me and our new backpack off above the port so I waited as he made the trek.


    Cefalu is beautiful, so picture some, and has a great wide beach. I’m glad we stayed in the center of the old town and not the new town. It has all the atmosphere, the new town none. Elisabeth runs this B&B. She taught English to Italians in New Jersey so speaks excellent English, although a native Sicilian. She is full of interesting stories and wants to share them all! Our room was very large and comfortable. Above the rooms is a small terrace with a couple of tables. It overlooks directly the cathedral. What could be better?


    We wandered town for quite a while, enjoying the interior of the cathedral, the medieval lavato, following the Michelin guides walk, then took pictures of the village from down on the beach. It was sad not to have my tripod tonight. As the sunset the reflections increased. Magical. The climb to La Rocca was 50 minutes, so we couldn’t make the trip up. It was time for another excellent meal. Ristorante La Brace, Via 25 Novembre, 10. http://www.ristorantelabrace.com/LaBrace/default.asp?lg=en. This restaurant is run by a mother and her son. She cooks and he runs the front. He’s delightful, and she’s an excellent cook. We highly recommend dinner here.


    Wednesday – Leaving town, driving west we found a lookout so we could take pictures of Cefalu from above. I was worried about running into a lot of traffic around Palermo on the ring road as we approached Monreale. The driving wasn’t bad at all. The exit for Monreale wasn’t marked well, so we missed it first try. It’s named Corso Calatafimi. My husband saw a small sign, but it long before I thought we should exit. He was right. Exit at the Corso Calatafimi offramp, onto the side frontage road, then continue driving north to the road Monreale is located on. It’s a straight long road to the cathedral. We found a small parking garage to park in shortly before we arrived at the Duomo. It was well signposted, but probably would be full in the summer. Maybe because we had been driving for the last week plus, we had no problems with traffic on this road. It seemed much more organized than Modica!


    Monreale does have a lunch closing so be aware of the opening times. All you have heard about Monreale is true. This is not to be missed. The mosaics outstanding, representing the Old and New Testaments. The cloisters are located outside of the cathedral, again, not well signposted. There is a small doorway to the right of the cathedral with the cloister entrance. This needs a ticket, but the cathedral is free to enter. We did buy the extra ticket for Cappella del Crocifisso, treasury and crypt.
    Don’t miss the small park and belvedere to the east of the Cloisters. The only bathrooms we found were in a café. They graciously let us use them.


    After visiting Monreale we drove to the airport to return our rental car. On the way we saw a large shopping center with an Auchan store. This is a nice, large shopping mall. Fast food restaurants are also inside. We quickly shopped for a few clothing items we desperately needed. We dropped the keys off inside the car rental area, to the EuropCar desk. Our car was checked and signed off, no additional charges were applied. From here we took the airport bus to the Politeama Theatre stop in Palermo. Buy the bus tickets at a booth near the bus. The round trip ticket saves a bit of money.

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    Residenza Wagner Via Riccardo Wagner, 8 http://www.residenzawagner.com/ was our last B&B on Sicily. It is very well located, just a 5 minute or less walk from the airport bus stop. It’s inside of an apartment building on the 3rd floor. The rooms are spotless, well decorated and has a very large bathroom. The wifi was available but not always on in the rooms. The breakfast area received wifi much better. The woman who runs it is nice but very particular about arrival time. Breakfast was just average. We were very happy with its cleanliness and location. We booked two nights here, but at the last minute Easy Jet changed their flight schedule from Palermo to Rome, so we had to drop one night. They were kind enough to let us keep our key and leave our luggage all day, returning before our late flight to collect our luggage before going back to the airport.


    After checking in we grabbed a cab for Catacombe dei Cappuccini which is under a monastery. It very far out of town, not walkable. A bus would take time and it was already late in the afternoon. The taxi charged us €35 or 40 round trip including wait time. I know we wouldn’t have visited the Catacombes if we had realized the cost of transportation. Once we arrived the monk at the ticket office had just turned away a couple who wanted to tour. It was 4:15 and guidebook showed 5:00 as the closing time. Once we walked up, he said OK, then went outside and allowed the first couple to stay. So the 4 of us toured the catacombs. I found them interesting, but creepy, my husband didn’t care for it much. There are thousands of mummies here, all dressed. So many children also. I believe they’re all monks, virgins and children.


    Dinner this evening was at Vino e Pomodoro on Via Principe di Belmonte n. 87, just around the corner from our B&B. It was modern and bright. So different from the restaurants we dined in on the rest of the island. The food was very good, and they bring many extras.


    Thursday – This is our last day on Sicily. We have much to see before our evening flight to Rome. Behind the Theater is Capo Market, one of Palermo’s ancient markets, and the easiest to visit. Still, we were very cautious. I love taking pictures at markets, so I stand out. We watched each other’s backs. There is so much fresh fish here. How do they sell it all? It puts the fish to shame in the U.S. There are some small churches down these lanes which we found very ornate. It was interesting going inside a couple, including Chiesa Dell “Immacolata Conceziene from the year 1612. There is a small admission fee.


    I loved all the fresh artichokes at this time of year. The artichokes were still attached to the plants, leeks, fennel, citrus, nuts, tomatoes. Much of Sicily is agriculture.


    Don't miss seeing the colorful Sicilian carts which are on a small lane on the right side of the Duomo. No one seemed to know about them, but the alley was full of carts, wagons, little vehicles, all stacked up and spread out. Probably 20 of them were outside. You can also peak through the windows of their workshop. The colors and scenes painted on them are amazing.


    Palazzo Dei Normanni is closed during the week. Open only on the weekend. Cappella Palantina nearby is outstanding. It's a walk down the road behind Palazzo Dei Normanni. We found no sign but asked for directions. If you're facing the guard check of the Palazzo, walk to the left and turn right at the next street.


    From here we found Ballaro market which is much larger than Capo and more varied. We walked through a shady neighborhood finding our way. That was unpleasant. We needed to follow a family to find our way out of the market. It’s better accessed from the Duomo, which we went inside of after the market. I didn’t realize how much we would enjoy the interior. The crypt is also worthwhile.


    La Martorana church is another site you need to seek out. There are actually 2 small churches here, but we only went inside of La Martorana. The mosaics here rival Monreale. It's not far from Fontana Pretoria. They do have a mid-day closing. We arrived when it was closed, and returned later. I believe it reopened around 3 p.m. The four corners are actually a tight, small intersection. The fountain is just a block away and quite picture some.


    Lunch specials were inexpensive and we enjoyed a rest with a complete meal, then walked to the marina. The city gate is here and a harbor full of boats. We enjoyed a very full day in Palermo. I was surprised how mild it seemed. The traffic was nearly as crazy as other towns on the Island. We were ready to move onto Turkey, and returned for our luggage for the bus trip back to Palermo’s airport.


    Our Easy Jet flight was on time and we landed in Rome when the streets were quiet. We planned on taking the train into Rome, but the price for a shared shuttle was only €2 more and they drove us directly to our hotel. Driving by the Spanish Steps, not one person was sitting on them. We stayed at Relais De L’Opera, Via Palermo 36. It was spotless, friendly, had free wifi and breakfast, all for €90. We’ve stayed in Rome in the past and found this small B&B a wonderful place to stay. There was no time to revisit Rome before our flight to Istanbul, we just returned to the airport for our flight the next morning.

    Friday - Istanbul was our final stop. We absolutely loved the city. It felt safe. We only had time to visit The Blue Mosque, walk to the Bosporus for a 10 TL boat trip, walked across Galata bridge where there were many fishermen fishing from the bridge, then took the tram and funicular to Taksim Square. All was calm, but riot police were ready for any problems. We walked all the way down the shopping area, back to the river, stopping to see the tower. My feet were finished. That is a steep hill to walk on the way down.


    We stayed at Hotel Faros in Sultanahmet which I highly recommend. They offered a free airport pick up for booking directly on their web site. We also had dinner here which was good.


    Saturday - The next morning we were first in line to see Hagia Sophia. We spent 1 ½ hours here then hurried to Topkapi Museum, but had no time to tour it. I prebooked an airport pick up with www.backpackerstravel.net and they arrived about 5 minutes late, but transferred us for €20 back to the International Terminal. Our flight from Istanbul back to Chicago was 11+ hours, so a very long flight, but the airline is excellent. Plenty of movies were available on the in seat screens. Food was poor.


    Thanks for taking the time to read this report. I hope it helps others as they tour Sicily.

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    Thank you for an excellent report. That is just horrible what happened to you in Catania. But thank you for telling us about it. I have to say when I first started traveling I was quite worried about thefts like you describe but over the years when it doesn't happen you get more relaxed. But now I realize it can happen and even though it may be very inconvenient, on my next trip I will just have to arrange stops to not leave luggage in the car. Thanks again for the warning. And thank god you had money belts on.

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    Thanks for a very balanced report. I can't even imagine my reaction if I had been robbed. You are a trooper. Did you have to go and buy clothes, etc.? I suppose you did.

    I still want very much to go to Sicily, but now I know what to avoid, and some great places to go, stay and eat!

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    I don't want to turn people off of Sicily, it is a beautiful island with much to offer. It's not your usual destination though. Extra care is needed.

    We bought only a couple of clothing items. Tourist T Shirts, until we reached Palermo where I found real shops. Then I just bought one nice blouse and leggings for the trip home. At least it wasn't hot so we got by. The clothing just wasn't to our taste and spending time shopping would have cut out time seeing the sites. The security officer at the Istanbul airport told me my passport picture was much better than I looked. Just imagine! But he was correct. I can laugh about that now.

    Enjoy Sicily when you. I do miss the food...

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    Hi Images
    Thanks for all this great info on Sicily! I can only imagine how you felt when you found you had been robbed. Forewarned is forearmed I say and all of us fodorites will use this information to make informed decisions in the future.
    Have you read "Sicily, Its not quite Tuscany" by Shamus Sillar. I think you would relate to this couple's experiences.
    Anyway I don't think we'll fly out of Catania. Palermo sounds safer.

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    We dropped off our rental car at Catania Airport in March 2013 and then came back to take a flight to Paris from Taormina. It was the only place on our visit that we felt a little unsafe. Nothing happened but we held our belongings a little tighter. Even at the airport we felt a little different atmosphere.

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    Just read this and now understand vagabonda's continued warnings on TA about leaving luggage in the trunk. We were very careful and took a bicycle chain to wrap thru all the luggage and attach the one time it was unavoidable to leave luggage. I do have to say all our luggage was stolen from trunk in San Diego many years ago, so it can happen anywhere.
    We had similar itinerary in sicily last year. Click on my name for detailed TR.

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