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10 days in eastern Sicily - itinerary help needed

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Feb 9th, 2016, 04:24 AM
  #1
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10 days in eastern Sicily - itinerary help needed

Sicily has been at the top of my wish list for some time [driven mainly though not entirely by those wonderful opening scenes on Montalbano] so when DH asked if I'd like to go there to celebrate my "big birthday" in September, you can imagine my answer.

We can get direct flights from Bristol to Catania, and have 10 nights to play with [Friday to Monday] so we have decided to restrict ourselves to the east of the island [possibly adding in Agrigento] and to end up in Taormina to have a bit of a splurge at the end of the trip. This means of course that we will miss Palermo and Monreale but with only 10 days, I feel that that's probably too much chasing about to be comfortable.

Where I need some help is in the rest of the trip apart from Taormina
- whether to venture as far as Agrigento, and if so, how to plan the rest of the trip, so as not to end up with too many one nighters.

Option A:

Day 1 - [Friday] arrive Catania airport at about 10.30 am. [yes, the flight leaves at stupid o'clock but we do get the rest of the day]. pick up hire car and drive to Catania, [or get bus/taxi and pick up car later?] stay 1 night. [this gives us the rest of Friday, and as much of Saturday as we want before we leave]

Day 2 - Sat'day] [pick up car] drive to Syracuse, stay Ortygia, 2 nights

Day 3 - Ortygia

Day 4 - Drive to Modica via Noto

Day 5 - Modica

Day 6 - Drive to Agrigento

Day 7 - Agrigento

Day 8 - Drive to Taormina via Enna

Day 9. 10, Taormina

Day 11 - fly home [flight is about 10 am so we would need to be at the airport by 8.30, leaving Taormina at 7. 30]

questions -

1. would it be worse picking up the car at the airport and driving to Catania, or to get a cab/bus to Catania and pick up the car on the following day [Saturday]?

2. are we selling Catania short by only staying one night?

3. ditto Syracuse/Ortygia by only staying 2 nights [I've limited the stay here because of perceived problems of driving into and out of Syracuse and therefore its not being a good base for touring - is this a real problem?]

4. Will 3 days be enough to exploring Noto, Modica, and Ragusa?

Thanks in advance to all for their help, and to pthomas, bobthenavigator, thursdaysd and lowcountryislander for your highly informative TRs [and everyone else whose TR's I've read but forgotten their names - apologies if that's you].

Option B coming up below:
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Feb 9th, 2016, 04:29 AM
  #2
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As promised, Option B:

[this is the less aggressive option]

Day 1 - [Friday] arrive Catania airport at about 10.30 am. . pick up hire car and drive to Catania, [or get bus/taxi and pick up car later?] stay 2 nights.

Day 2 - [Sat'day] [pick up car?], tour Etna?, stay Catania.

Day 3 - [Sunday[- [possibly pick up car today, but there might be a problem with picking up on a Sunday] drive to Syracuse stay Ortygia 3 nights

Day 4 - Ortygia

Day 5 - Ortygia

Day 6 - Modica

Day 7 - Modica

Day 8 - Drive to Taormina, [possibly via Etna if we didn't do this on Day 2] stay 3 nights

Day 9. 10, Taormina

Day 11 - fly home [flight is about 10 am so we would need to be at the airport by 8.30, leaving Taormina at 7. 30]

This avoids so much dotting about, but means we miss Agrigento and the centre of Sicily around Enna which sounds very interesting.

Thoughts, anyone?
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Feb 9th, 2016, 04:36 AM
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If you go to the Tripadvisor Forum on Sicily there is a poster there named Vagabonda who gives excellent advice on Sicily. We have family there and I have used her recommendations for things such as a car hire to Taormina a few years ago.
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Feb 9th, 2016, 06:34 AM
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thanks, Irock5.

Will do.
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Feb 9th, 2016, 07:16 AM
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Which part of September is this? Up until the end of summer it can be really very hot, so that might affect your thoughts about visiting Agrigento.

You should wait until you are finished seeing what you want to see in Catania before picking up a rental. I'm not a fan of guided tours, but if you want to see Etna and perhaps visit wineries, it might make sense to do a tour out of Catania rather than a self-drive.

I did a trip very similar to yours but started in Taormina, but your reasons for wanting to put it at the end make sense. If you are hale and hearty despite advancing age, and if you recoil a bit at tourist throngs (which will be thick in Taormina in September) then consider staying instead in Castelmola, just above Taormina.

While I would say 3 days is sufficient time to visit all 3 baroque towns in leisurely fashion, this was also my favorite part of my Sicilian tour, and would say it's the one part you don't want to rush, where you might like time for spontaneous exploring, and where you want to pace yourself for some great eating.

For your Catania files:

http://italiannotes.com/cathedral-of...=socialnetwork
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Feb 9th, 2016, 08:02 AM
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Thanks, Sandralist, that's very helpful, especially the reminder about the heat, not to mention the limitations caused by my advancing age!

Our departure date is September 9th, and we wouldn't we getting to Agrigento until the 14th, so I'm hopeful that it wouldn't be too hot.

Also, I've found a hotel which will apparently take you to the Temples in the evening, and again in the morning, so with any luck we would be able to avoid the heat of the day:

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_...to_Sicily.html

I will do what I can to avoid the wrath of St Agatha; in the meantime do you have any suggestions for accommodation in Catania? [or indeed, anywhere else?]
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Feb 9th, 2016, 08:10 AM
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I've never been to Catania other than its airport. I'd very much like to go. I would look at reviews on booking.com to find places to stay.
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Feb 9th, 2016, 09:07 AM
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we spent a month last may wandering central and eastern sicily. siracusa was perhaps my favorite place that we have ever visited. no huge crowds, great street entertainment and excellent restaurants. a city for everyone regardless of age or infirm - no hills or steps to wander the whole of Ortygia. simply hated Taormina - 2 cruise ships and tour buses galore even in early may. stayed on small farm outside of town and went in for an afternoon. nothing very special there. the baroque towns were much more interesting. modica was our least favorite in the baroque region - too much traffic and sites are among the city rather than in an "old town" type setting - ragusa site are away from the business areas. noto was perhaps our favorite and the most beautiful. also enjoyed SCICLI which is smaller off the beaten track. if you have a car you might enjoy a drive around mt etna. you can drive nearly to the top and then take a tram the rest of the way. a nice way to spend a day but perhaps too much time for your short visit. so happy to see that you have limited your trip to a small region rather than the entire island. we totally ignored the western section in favor of spending 4 day in the lipari islands off the northeast coast.
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Feb 9th, 2016, 09:36 AM
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It's possible that the sight of the crowds of tourists in Taormina is so off-putting that people flee befoe they ever get to the Greek theater. However, while I myself don't recommend staying in Taormina, the Greek theater is an exceptional sight of great beauty and power, its stage and architecture framing Mt Etna, and if you are in the area I highly recommend seeing it.
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Feb 9th, 2016, 09:52 AM
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sandralist, I followed your hint and looked at Castelmolo, which looks far more our sort of place than Taormina itself, and I found a very nice hotel with very good reviews and lovely views of Etna, so I booked it

http://www.hotelvillasonia.com/en/

[September seems to be very popular!]

toledodd - thanks for your thoughts about the relative merits of various places to stay. I've equally read opinions about Modica where the writers far preferred it to Noto! I'd certainly like to see Etna and /or the environs, but whether we will take a trip there or just admire it from afar I'm not sure.

The decision just to stick to one part was a relatively easy one - I'd rather have time to explore the place where I am rather than feel that I'be got to get back in the car and race off somewhere else.

That said, I'm trying to see how I can get 3 nights in Ortygia AND 2 in Modica, AND one in Agrigento, but at the moment I can't do it, unless we leave Cantania out altogether. Decisions, decisions.
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Feb 9th, 2016, 05:33 PM
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kja
 
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You might consider giving Ortygia another night (so you have 2 or 3 days there) and the Baroque Towns one less day (2 days should be enough).

The views from Taormina are stunning, but it can be quite unpleasantly crammed with daytrippers during the day. Plan accordingly!

I’d wait to pick up the car until leaving Siracusa, but its your call and will, of course, depend on your final itinerary.

By “tour Etna” do you you want to go to the top, or do you mean you want to visit the wineries? Those are very different experiences!

If you decide to fit Agrigento into this trip, then by all means find time for the Villa Romana del Casale. The mosaics there are truly extraordinary!

Sicily is wonderful -- you'll have a great trip no matter what you chose!
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Feb 10th, 2016, 05:03 AM
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Thanks, kja. I think that we have already decided that Castelmola [as helpfully suggested by Sandralist] is more our style and I've booked what looks like a lovely place at half the price it would cost in Taormina.

As for Ortygia, I'm leaning towards staying in Syracuse itself, partly because the hotels etc in Ortygia look overpriced, but also because for the same price or less, we can stay here:

http://www.villapoliti.com/english/index.php
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Feb 10th, 2016, 06:58 AM
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PS - not sure what we'll want to do at/around Etna. Any recommendations?
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Feb 10th, 2016, 08:40 AM
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It has occurred to me that the trip might be better turned round, particularly as i see that Catania Airport is to the south of the city, making it possibly easier to drive there from Syracuse than from Taormina.

That would give us this itinerary:

Day 1,- Catania
Day 2 - drive north [round Mount Etna] to Castelmola.
Day 3-4 Castelmola
Day 5- drive to Agrigento, overnight there.
Day 6 - am see Temples. pm drive to Modica via Villa Romana del Casale
Day 7 - Modica/tour area
Day 8 - Drive to Syracuse via Noto
Day 9, 10 - Syracuse
Day 11 - drive to airport

Questions - is one day in Catania enough?

Should we swap a night in Castelmola for a night in Catania?
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Feb 10th, 2016, 08:52 AM
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What?! No visit to Ragusa to see Montalbano's haunts? We ate at the little restaurant where Salvo occasionally dines. The fish market in Catania is amazing and the town is interesting but you're already moving quite fast for a person of advancing years
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Feb 10th, 2016, 09:16 AM
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No, no, no - you want to stay IN Ortygia, not Siracusa proper. And you don't need a car there. Not sure why you are staying in Catania, I would go directly to Ortygia from the airport, by public transport, and wait to pick up a car until I left. I visited Noto by bus and skipped the other baroque towns, but then I am not a fan of baroque. And if you are visiting the east side of Sicily you really should visit the Roman mosaics at Villa Casale. Have you read the several TRs here on Sicily?
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Feb 10th, 2016, 09:29 AM
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Frankly I'd skip Catania and skip Etna. But I'm blase about volcanos. I would include the Villa Romana near Piazza Armerina: wonderful mosaics. But everybody has their own preferences.

It does seem that Castelmola suits you better. One caveat: did you intend to go to the beach? There's a gondola from Taormina down to Mazzaro beach, so easy access.
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Feb 10th, 2016, 09:40 AM
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Ditto thursdaysd's recommendation to stay on atmospheric and charming Ortygia and also sandralist's comment re Taormina, "the Greek theater is an exceptional sight...". Although it's a cruise stop/tourist magnet akin to Sorrento and Positano, there's a lot more there there.
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Feb 10th, 2016, 09:42 AM
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Thank you all for your comments, even though they are succeeding in making me more rather than less confused. Hopefully order will emerge out of chaos.

Thursdaysd - I have indeed read the TRs here, including yours, [did you not see your credit at the top?] and it may be that you were posting at the same time as me, as you'll see that I have included Villa Casale on day 6.

Why Ortygia rather than Syracuse exactly?

Is Catania not worth at least one day? the fish market sounds very interesting, and the cathedral. Maija seems to be voting in favour of the fish market at least!

I had thought that we could see Ragusa on the way back from Agrigento but it may be that Day 6 is already quite busy.

The real conundrum is where to stay to see Villa Casale, Ragusa, Modiica and Noto? There doesn't seem to be a central point which would work for seeing them all and we really dislike "one night stands" [must be our advancing years, I suppose!]
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Feb 10th, 2016, 11:19 AM
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There was a recent trip report from someone whose name I forget (all I remember is that her husband got a terrible bee sting in Palermo) but she thought Catania was the fun surprise of her extended trip through Sicily. I've noticed before that many people who say "skip Catania" on Fodor's have actually never been in Catania (other than to pick up or drop off a car). For those who have been there, maybe they can offer details about their tour of Catania.

At the time of year you are traveling the sun sets rather late, so it's possible, since you are arriving in Catania so early, you could give yourself one night there. However, to see the fish market, you will need to do that the first thing the next morning.

Maybe you could see the fist market in the morning, take a taxi to the airport, pick up a rental car, and then go for a countryside lunch on the way to Etna, then drive to Ortygia at the end of the day.

However, if you want to visit wineries in Etna on a guided tour (and if you don't like one-night hotel stays), then go to Etna and its wineries your second day and sleep in Catania, see the fish market the next morning, then head to Villa Casale. From there, go to Ortygia. You'll arrive in plenty of time for dinner.

Even if you stay in Ortygia (which is a rather boutique island and not a workaday Sicilian town like the center of Siracusa) you will probably want to visit the scavi and the museum in Siracusa proper.
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