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Surprise Sicily trip for my mom

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Hi Everyone,
Recently my father, sister, brother-in-law and I surprised my mom for a big birthday with a family trip to Sicily we will all be going on in July. She has been doing alot of family ancestry research (her mom was born in Messina and her father's family is from Montevago) so she is more than excited to go, especially with all of us!
I am in the beginning stages of researching our trip and was hoping for your suggestions and expertise. Right now, I'm thinking we will fly into Palermo and out of Catania. We definitely want to do it road trip style, so we'll need to rent a car. I was considering staying in Palermo, Agrigento and Taormina (or Messina, where we have family) and doing side trips from these three places. Does this make sense?
Here is a little bit about us...any suggestions about where to stay, where to eat, or what to see would be greatly appreciated!
-we need the car to be automatic and it needs to fit 5 adults and our luggage, any good places to rent a largeish car for cheap? I know automatic is expensive, but it's necessary
-we plan on the trip being 10-12 days...i think it'll be easy to research the main cities we'll be staying in, but what are the best places to take side trips to?
-we'd like the hotels and restaurants to be moderately priced, we will need 3 rooms and want to stay in safe, clean and relatively cheap hotels, nothing fancy necessary
-we are interested in history, culture, taking pictures and wandering, we are not at all into clubs, bars, etc.
-we are into good, traditional food and gelato!!! any suggestions?

I cant begin to tell you how much we truly appreciate your help and ideas. This is going to be a family trip we will really treasure forever!

:0)Joanna

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