2 weeks Sicily - Need help please

Jul 6th, 2014, 08:16 AM
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2 weeks Sicily - Need help please

I am now expanding my itinerary to two weeks in Sicily and need some help please.

We plan to fly into Catania and out of Palermo.

We will be arriving September 13th in Catania.

I am celebrating my 40th birthday as well as tracing my genealogy roots in small towns within Agrigento. I need 2 nights in Agrigento region in Cianciana and then I can be on my way.

I plan to rent a car with my husband so we can have flexibility. Can someone help me with an itinerary with the intention of Cianciana for two nights/3 days?

I feel so lost! Thanks in advance!
lechillura is offline  
Jul 6th, 2014, 08:52 AM
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Click on my name to find my trip report for a similar itinerary. Here is the sneak preview:

bobthenavigator is online now  
Jul 6th, 2014, 05:40 PM
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A good guide book or two should prove very helpful. And there are LOTS of trip reports and planning threads on this board -- you can learn a lot from them! And whatever else you do, by ALL means, look at bobthenavigator's magnificent photos.
kja is offline  
Jul 6th, 2014, 10:48 PM
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I think it would help to look at some guidebooks on Sicily. If you are near a large bookshop you should be able to find a few, flick through them, read up on anything that snags your interest and make a list of anything that sounds good - places, hotels, restaurants, anything. That will start the ball rolling.

We had 2 weeks in Sicily, combining it with 2 weeks in Malta. It was all by public transport which wasn't easy, we stayed in Ortigia (Siracusa), Taormina and Lipari - one of the Aeolian islands. We loved Lipari, enjoyed Taormina and didn't like Ortigia that much. We also visited Agrigento which bored me silly and saw the fantastic mosaics at Piazza Armerina. I could have spent hours there.

One of the things that annoyed me about Sicily was the deliberate short changing in shops etc. It happened quite a few times and just left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Just letting you know to be aware. I'm not saying all Sicilians are dishonest but it was in stark contrast to the Maltese who were friendly and honest in comparison.

KayF is offline  
Jul 6th, 2014, 11:05 PM
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Wow, Kay, I encountered only absolute honesty in my dealings with ANYONE in Sicily. I'm so glad my experience was different than yours!

And it seems that our experiences were different in other ways, too -- I loved Ortygia, thought Agrigento amazing, was glad to spend a night or two (after tourists left) in Taormina, and found a few hours on Lipari pleasant enough to suit my needs. But at least we agree on the mosaics of the Villa Romana del Casale (outside Piazza Armerina)! One of the things I love about this board is that we all have our unique perspectives; I think any prospective traveller can benefit from the diversity of opinions we bring to the table.

For the OP (and others), I think this honest difference in experiences highlights the value of consulting guidebooks and making your own decisions about what you want to see and experience. As KayF noted, you can go to a local bookstore -- or a library. I don't personally use guidebooks for hotels or restaurants -- in today's web-connected world, I think there will likely be more current information about them online than in a guidebook. But I use guidebooks (several of them) extensively to identify things that I think I might want to see or do.

Hope that helps!
kja is offline  
Jul 6th, 2014, 11:31 PM
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Hi kja, I was glad to read your reply and glad you didn't berate me. I was wondering if it was a good idea to write about our issues with Sicily but just wanted to give another traveller a heads up. It happened quite a few times and was fairly blatant. It seemed they were testing us to see if we'd notice the short changing.

Anyway, I totally agree with what you said about us all having our unique opinions. Very true and the best thing other travellers can do is read lots, then form their own opinion based on what they've read.

KayF is offline  
Jul 6th, 2014, 11:54 PM
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@ KayF -- And I am very glad that you spoke of your experiences (even though I wish you hadn't had them)!

I think -- JMO -- we all benefit from learning the best and the worst and the in-the-middle from each other. Although I loved my time in Sicily (in May of 2007), things change and we visit different places and end up with different experiences -- sometimes wonderfully so, sometimes not so much. And it seems to me that those who are planning a trip can make wiser decisions about how to balance their interests if they have honest information -- whether good, bad, or indifferent -- from fellow travelers. That's a key reason why I post here!

Have you posted a trip report or other thread on your experiences? I didn't see one, but I could easily have missed it. If not, you might consider doing so -- or at least a "mini-report" that provides some details of what you liked, didn't like, and found troubling. Others might find that information very helpful. But only if you want to....!
kja is offline  
Jul 7th, 2014, 02:38 AM
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Hi kja, yes I did a trip report but it was a number of years ago we were there. If you click on my screen name you can find it. It's titled something like Malta and Sicily.

KayF is offline  
Jul 7th, 2014, 02:39 AM
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I think the big decision you will need to make is how much time you want to spend in Palermo, but overall I would say that after arriving in Catania you should spend a few nights in the area of Ortygia/Siracusa, then head up to Agrigento for at least 1 night, and then go to Cianciana (which looks absolutely fascinating).

From there, I would take advantage of the fact you have a chance to get somewhat off the beaten track, and cut through to Palermo via Prizzi, Corleone and Ficuzza, maybe doing an overnight along the way. I might treat myself to two nights in Cefalu before heading to Palermo and dropping off the car (you might even be able to drop it off in Cefalu and take the train into Palermo, which is easier).

Another possibility would be to put Taormina for 2 nights at the top of your trip, and spend less time in Palermo. Or, after Cianciana, you could head back toward the coast and return to the more typical tourist track of seeing more ruins and Trapani, etc, .

But I wouldn't shortchange your chance to experience untouristy Sicily. I suggest making Cianciana the real centerpiece of your Sicilian odyssey.

By the way, in two trips to Sicily I have never encountered any problems with dishonest vendors, but I never go shopping, and that might account for some of the difference, especially in cruise port places.
sandralist is offline  
Jul 7th, 2014, 02:47 AM
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Have you already come across this?

sandralist is offline  
Jul 7th, 2014, 06:26 AM
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Just a few ideas based on our trip to eastern Sicily three years ago, and a trip I took to western Sicily many years ago:

Driving: get clear instructions from the web and/or airport rental car staff in the Catania airport for getting out of the urban area toward your first destination. Beware the autostrada--drive with great alertness. We were driving the very good secondary roads, very well marked, and then wanted to use the autostrada from the Ragusa/Modica area to Siracusa. At the entry point I looked very carefully to make sure there was no traffic coming. I saw a little dot far away on the horizon, so I entered the autostrada at American speed. Lo and behold, there was a car traveling at light-speed, zooming right up to my rear bumper before whizzing past me with only 17 centimeters of clearance. @$*#!!*@ And just to show that Italian drivers themselves suffer on the autostrada...just 5 minutes later as we were driving, catching our breath, we came across a big fender bender on the side of the highway with the two drivers standing outside doing the shouting-and-arm-waving routine. So be very careful.

Agrigento suggestion: the Valley of the Temples is extraordinary. We stayed two nights in Agrigento and thoroughly enjoyed the old town, up on a higher ridge from the Valley of the Temples (itself on a ridge a little inland from the coast). The town of Agrigento does not get much attention from guidebooks; most travel authors advise skipping it. But it has a medieval center, an excellent Duomo, bits and pieces of interesting Greek and Roman remains, and a do-not-miss Saturday evening passegiata on the main street of the centro, the Via Atenea. We stayed at Le Terrazze di Montelusa in the centro, run by Francesco. Check it out on Tripadvisor, has a 5-star average rating, quite rare. Francesco is a great host, he offered us some prosecco when we arrived, prepares a vast buffet breakfast which you can have on the shaded terrace overlooking the town (the B&B is on the second floor).

Sicilian Baroque towns: Ragusa and Modica are worth a visit if you are interested in the Sicilian variety of Baroque town architecture. Modica is known for chocolate; the links go back via the Spanish monarchy which ruled Sicily for many years. They brought chocolate from Mexico to Sicily. There's a good sidewalk cafe on the main street (forget name) and their cups are decorated with Aztec glyphs. Who knew?

Taormina: we went in November and stayed up the mountain a little bit at the Villa Ducale, the most luxurious place we've ever stayed (we do not stay in places like these but in November the prices fall by half). You might want to check for any September specials. The Greek and Roman ruins, especially the theater, and Taormina's site are very beautiful.

Siracusa: we stayed on the island of Ortygia, the original Greek settlement island, at L'Approdo delle Sirene (The Landing Place of the Sirens) overlooking the inner harbor. A delightful place run by a mom and her two adult sons (and little grandson). Perhaps the best breakfast cappuccino I've ever had, in the breakfast area overlooking the sea. We stayed four nights and could have stayed longer just to breathe in the spirit of the place. Great Greek-Roman ruins, food, people (if you need to do laundry, go to the fun "Wash and Dry Siracusa" on the mainland right near the access bridge, run by a Sicilian fellow and his American girlfriend, fun people). And for an interesting dinner, go to La Pecora Nera (The Black Sheep), on Via Malta 34 and get their stuffed "volcano" pizzas. This is a welcoming family restaurant with little kids running everywhere and people just chilling and enjoying their dinner.

Palermo: watch your back! Beautiful, decadent, dirty, noisy, a bewitching blend of Greek-Roman-Arab-Norman-etc etc etc. Sort of Naples with more palm trees. Do take a trip outside the city to visit the church-monastery complex of Monreale with splendid Byzantine-Norman mosaics. Try also to go to the ruins of the Greek city of Segesta with a fine temple. Erice, not too far from Palermo, is a kind of whitewashed Greek-looking town high on a hill. There used to be a cable car you could take, then it was out of service for many years, perhaps it's running now.

Street food in Palermo: for breakfast buy a sweet roll stuffed with ice cream. My kind of breakfast!

Sicily is a terrific destination. The people are welcoming (I also had no issues with theft or short-changing but alertness is always a good thing), the food and wine are the best. Enjoy your trip.
EYWandBTV is offline  
Jul 9th, 2014, 05:40 PM
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Thank you all!

We are interested so far in the following towns:

Flying into Catania (early flight and not staying)

Taormina for 3 nights (1 full day will be for Etna and Winery)
Agrigento/Cianciana - 2 nights / 3 days
Siracusa - 2 nights
Palermo - 2 nights (see Palermo and see some surrounding areas).

Ragusa or Cefalu??? Worth staying a couple nights? I have heard Noto is gorgeous so if we stayed in Ragusa, we could do Noto and Ragusa right?

So with all that said, how would you break up 14 nights and in which order. I have to have 2 nights in Cianciana which will be in the Agrigento region.


And I do have guidebooks and for some reason, this trip is confusing me more than anything. It's a dream for me, it's my heritage and I want to see as much as I can without feeling that I am going crazy and rushing site to site. I appreciate all help!!
lechillura is offline  
Jul 9th, 2014, 06:05 PM
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"Palermo - 2 nights" -- IMO, that is less than ideal for Palermo and Monreale. You might consider ways to make sure you have at least 3 full days there.

"I have heard Noto is gorgeous so if we stayed in Ragusa, we could do Noto and Ragusa right?" -- Noto IS gorgeous, and is easily reached by public transportation from Siracusa/Ortygia.

Sicily is one of those places that has a true wealth of options, so it is easy to find it difficult to prioritize and lay out a plan. But it is worth it!
kja is offline  
Jul 10th, 2014, 12:39 AM
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The first time I went to Sicily I did a trip somewhat similar to yours but didn't go to Palermo at all because it made no sense to me to spend only a few days there. Palermo has a great deal to see and experience of interest to me. Instead, I saw Monreale and then bypassed the heart of the city completely to spend my last closer to the airport (which is quite far west of Palermo). Recently I returned to Sicily and spent a week in Palermo. I enjoyed every minute and saw many sides of the city -- including the wealthy side - so you should know a great deal of it is neither dirty or noisy, and all of it is safe. There is always a lot of chatter about the street food but Palermo actually has some of the best restaurants and most elegant cooking in all of Sicily (and southern Italy).

But my advice would be to skip Palermo, not make it 3 days where you spend your time trying to go other places. Use the car to see Monreale or Segesta if you are interested. Don't put yourself behind the 8-ball parking yourself in Palermo to go day tripping. If you aren't really drawn to the kinds of complex sights that Palermo offers, or an urban experience, spend your time doing what you think you'd enjoy more.

I included visiting the baroque towns, with an overnight in Modica. Noto was the least favorite for me, mainly because it was still under restoration and also because it seemed to me to be the least devoid of local life in its historic center. (That too may have changed.) Modica is a fully lived in small city. There is no separation between the historic sights and the everyday working life of the lovely town. That is something I enjoy.

It is really hard to give advice to somebody else about how to divide their time. Taormina is so touristy to me, I generally tell friends to plan to visit to see the Greek theatre, but otherwise stay someplace else. I would really want to spend more time in Cianciana rather than go sightseeing with the other tourists. The monuments of Sicily have been there for thousands of years or hundreds of years. They are lovingly cleaned up and on display and will remain so for a very long time. What has been disappearing and dying is small towns like Cianciana and the traditional life of these places. The fact that it still exists at all is extraordinary. These people live closer to the land that most other people in Europe. I think it is worthwhile to spend enough time there to get a sense of what is going on, and whether it is will be lost, whether it is worth keeping, and what happened that sent so many Siiclians to America.
sandralist is offline  
Jul 10th, 2014, 10:13 AM
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click on my name for my trip report of last year. My visit was over 3 weeks but 5 nights were on Lipari. I loved Sicily and the Sicilians lovely people.

So much to see. Buon viaggio
Dayle is offline  
Jul 10th, 2014, 11:08 AM
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I'd like to respond to the comments above re Sicilians' honesty:

While searching for our hotel in Siracusa, I became separated from my unlocked Blackberry. As it had all our contacts, trip materials, etc., my spouse and I were pretty despondent.

We finally found and checked into the hotel and spent a sleepless nite. Next morning at breakfast the waiter asked me to go to the front desk. The owners of a gas station where we had stopped to ask directions had found the phone, looked at the call list, determined where we were staying and called. Her only request was that we come to get the phone because she ran a business and could not leave to bring it to the hotel. She refused any reward, although we would have given her a lot.I know another couple who spend a lot of time in Sicily every year and have had similar experiences.

The only place I've ever been shortchanged to my knowledge was in Bruges where I was given some obsolete currency in change for Euros and didn't realize it until we got back to the hotel.
dwdvagamundo is offline  
Jul 10th, 2014, 11:14 AM
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BTW--I certainly would spend time in Palermo. We used it as a base to see Monreale and train to Cephalu--it's much nicer than we had thought it would be. We also stayed in Catania and used that as a base to explore Aetna, as my spouse's family came from around there. Catania wasn't all that, however. Didn't do Taormina as it's too "resorty" for our plebeian tastes. Whatever you do, do see Segesta, as it's lovely.
dwdvagamundo is offline  
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