SICILY TRIP REPORT
My husband and I, in our early 60s and pretty active, spent 16 days, traveling by rental car, in Sicily and three days in Rome in late October and early November. It was a great time to go: The weather was mild and pleasant and the crowds were nonexistent. I had brought a light down jacket, I wore it only twice, and wouldn't bring it again. In Rome in November the temperature did drop at night.
Palermo 3 nights
Erice 2 nights
Agrigento olive farm 2 nights
Modica 2 nights
Siracuse 2 nights
Taormina 3 nights
Rome 3 nights
We would recommend staying two nights in each location because you'll probably end up driving into each too late to see anything that day. We found that most things offered in organized tours, such as cooking classes, could easily be arranged on your own, but of course it takes time to do the finding and arranging. I used trip reports in Fodor Forum a lot (thanks to all). I also used organized-tour itineraries to help plot our course. I agree with those who recommend NOT driving in Palermo and instead picking up a rental car as you leave town. After Palermo, driving was easy everywhere; the trickiest part was negotiating narrow streets in ancient towns. Sicilians spoke at least a bit of English almost everywhere we went, but we didn't see many Americans.
What didn't work:
Daylight savings time changed in our first week, giving us an hour less of daylight to see things. We would try to avoid that next time. Traveling on our own, we did run into closures that we didn't know about; an organized tour probably would have known about most of these, but not all (ruins in Siracuse closed because of rain). We didn't pay enough attention to the fact that many sites, especially churches, close for hours at lunch. We would have preferred a smaller car for two people, but ours did hide the luggage in the trunk.
Sicily is a wonderful, easy land to visit on your own, but it's laid-back and you need to be too. One guidebook said "prepare to be disappointed" because things can be closed when they're supposed to be open, no reason given. Every time that happened to us, we laughed and said "prepare to be disappointed!" Fortunately, there's so many sights that if you miss one it's no big deal. There's wine and fabulous food at dinner somewhere every night!
Day 1 October 21 2015 OUR FIRST MISTAKE
Left Miami airport at 8:35 pm on Alitalia on frequent-flyer tickets. I had realized too late I could probably have gotten our frequent-flyer tickets thru to Sicily because we ended up flying the short hop from Rome to Palermo on Alitalia. But I booked the main leg first, from Miami to Rome, and the puddle jumpers to and from Sicily weeks later. The Air Bus 737 had entertainment boxes under many seats which narrow leg room. But at least the entertainment system worked, which has not always been the case.
Day 2 Oct 22 ARRIVING IN PALERMO
Arrived on time, claimed bags and had a four-hour wait for puddle jumper. Another Alitalia flight had left earlier but it cost more than twice as much. So we waited. Almost missed the plane because it changed gates twice and we didn't hear the announcement, if there even was an announcement in English! By the time we got to Palermo it was dark and I thought to call our B&B, BB22, as it is not a big hotel where someone is on staff all the time. They leave at 8! They had been trying to call us, they said. They gave us the code for the front door, told us our room was on the third floor, and said the key would be in the room's door.
They said if we took a bus we would not be there before 8, so we sprung for a taxi, which was $60. The bus is $12.60 for two. The cab driver said his cab couldn't go into the narrow, twisting street where BB22 was, which turned out not to be true, but he let us out in front of the San Domenico Church plaza and we walked from there. Suitcases rolling over cobblestones. It's only about 2 blocks but it's confusing. We had to call twice, and tho the staffers were not there, they answered and helped us. We finally saw one of the many little B&B signs posted around the area and we got there.
No lobby, as it's an old mansion or palace which had been converted into apartments. Eight years ago a person from Milan bought it and turned it into a stylish B&B. No lift; don't come here if you have a lot of luggage and are not Hercules! The public area is on the third floor across from our room. It has a staff desk, breakfast tables and a lounging room with an honor bar. Our room was quite modern and Italian chic, with a florid antique chair painted shiny silver. Lovely modern and spacious bathroom, and a tiny balcony with a funky multicolored chandelier looked out over a jungle of a lot next door, many red-tiled roofs and a sliver of the sea. (www.bb22.it)
We dropped our bags and looked for dinner ideas in the "things to do" notebook nicely provided by the B&B. We picked out Antonia Fresca's trattoria nearby, and found it by wandering around. Apparently it's a Palermo institution. During the day, there are seats on the piazza by the old church; at night it's kind of cafeteria style. We ended up with a veal spleen sandwich, their specialty, and two other specialties: sardines wrapped around an orange-flavored couscous and an arancina with ham and cheese. Arancinas are big rice balls filled with whatever, Sicily's favorite fast food. Lots of folks in there but not overrun. About $16 including a glass of wine and a beer, Moretti much to Chris's pleasure. Walked back and went to bed.
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SICILY TRIP REPORT