3 wks touring Sicily, what not to miss?

Old Jul 21st, 2015, 04:29 PM
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3 wks touring Sicily, what not to miss?

Arriving Catania in early Oct and leaving from Napoli about 3 weeks later. We prefer things fairly quiet - more ruins and countryside villages then city chaos , though it's sounding like some will need to be attempted to get the best of South Italy and Sicily. We'll rent a car , and prefer to stay in self catering studios and B+B's , shop markets and enjoy a glass of wine on a balcony at sunset (yes we are old).
Some gems not to miss and places to stay,see and eat on our drive would be most welcome, thank you.
We're on a fairly budget level but can splash out where it's worth it. Hope someone can help...
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Old Jul 21st, 2015, 06:09 PM
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For a sense of what to see in Sicily:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca...7005/show?rb=1

There is a trip report that goes with it; click on my name to find it.
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Old Jul 21st, 2015, 06:26 PM
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You have tons of options! But I'm confused -- are you trying to visit Sicily only, or are you aiming to combine Sicily with southern Italy? If so, you will need to be selective.

I recommend that you consult a good guidebook or two (always a worthy investment, IME, but you can also check your local library). FWIW, I found the Rough Guide the most useful of the half-dozen I used when planning my time in Sicily. And there are lots of trip reports on this Board, and planning threads, too -- and those can be very helpful IME.
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Old Jul 21st, 2015, 06:35 PM
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Hi Tommmo,

There are many of us who have visited Sicily and done detailed trip reports. My own trip was 3.5 weeks just for Sicily. There is so much to see and do! If you use the search function you can pull up trip reports for Sicily, or if you click on our names, our reports will come up. There lots of really good ones that inspired my trip.

The big thing with Sicily is abundance. You have to make decisions and set priorities.

Happy Planning!
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Old Jul 21st, 2015, 07:36 PM
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Thanks for replies. The trip reports have been very helpful and we are using them in our planning . You can never have enough of special places people have personally loved - perhaps off the beaten track a bit. Also there is a wealth of choices for places to stay on travel sites etc. and we have the Rough Guide for Sicily.Again, we find there's no substitute for personal experiences from like-minded travellers.Often these can be much more up-to-date too.
Although we need to make our way to Napoli to depart Italy, it's become clear that we need to focus on Sicily - or just parts of it - in the limited time we have (19 days)
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Old Jul 21st, 2015, 07:47 PM
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We liked the Michelin Green guides.

Here is one place to consider staying

Pensione Tranchina

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Rev...ani_Sicil.html
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Old Jul 21st, 2015, 07:50 PM
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"it's become clear that we need to focus on Sicily" -- I think that makes sense!

Gems, IMO, include the Cathedral of Monreale (and its cloister) and the mosaics of the Villa Romana del Casale. Stunning Greek ruins in Segeste, Selinunte, and Agrigento. Consider staying at one of the lodgings in Agrigento that affords views over the lit temples in the evening. Glorious Siracusa -- stay in Ortygia, perhaps at L'Approdo delle Sirene. The views from Taormina are stunning, but the town can be quite unpleasantly crowded during the day, so either stay and plan accordingly or stay elsewhere. (Castelmola might meet your interests.) I thoroughly enjoyed Noto, even though I don't normally like Baroque. I loved Palermo, but it is definitely "city chaos"-- worth it, though, from my perspective, as is Naples itself.

When I went, the overnight ferry from Lipari to Naples passed Stromboli a bit after sunset on one of the very few nights in which it was not active, but it would otherwise have been perfect timing to see it. The ferry also passed the Faraglioni off Capri just after sunrise -- awesome!

You will find much to treasure in Sicily! Hope that helps.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2015, 12:28 AM
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Check out visiting the so-called baroque towns (Modica, Scicli, Ragusa, Noto). Think about staying in the countryside near them. It's a pretty area.

Are you driving to Napoli? I really wouldn't advise it. Just fly.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2015, 04:56 AM
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With a car, it's a good idea I think to stay in the countryside rather than negotiate heavy town traffic , so that's what we are looking for. Do you know of a place near the Baroque towns to base ourselves?
Yes we will fly from Catania after dropping off the car and go to Napoli and stay near Pompei etc.and explore south Italy out from there for 8 days before leaving from Napoli airport.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2015, 02:45 AM
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Hi all, Tommmo's partner here entering the conversation. You Fodorites are certainly very helpful. Here is our current plan - staying as flexible as possible and following advice wherever we can. We arrive on 7th October and (at this stage) head to Naples for 8 days between there and Lecce on 19th. THis gives us 12 days in Sicily - yes I know it's not enough but actually this was to be a trip to southern Italy and then Sicily tempted us and has now become the main focus. We like beautiful towns, ancient sites, good food, markets and cooking ourselves, not so keen on city life.

Day one - stay Catania - we arrive pretty late after three flights from a Greek island to Athens, to Naples, to Catania.
Day two - around Catania - like the thought of visiting the markets and buying up for our driving trip but would love some advice of what is best to do in Catania
Day three/four/five - pick up a car at the airport (cheapest deals) for 10 days and head down to Saracusa - stay in Ortygia - stay here for up to 3 nights, settle in a bit and do a day trip out one day.
Day 6/seven head to the Baroque towns - visit Ragusa and other towns in the area - where would be good to stay here - for 2 nights?
Day 8 to Agrigento - visit the temples and stay overlooking the temples.
Day 9/10 to Castellammare del Golfo (stay there?) and visit Erice, Trapani, Segesta.
Day 11 - visit Monreale (early as possible) and head east. I'm not sure where to stay this night - we don't want to drive for too long but would like to be able to have a night near Mt Etna (maybe Randazzo if that's not too far).
Day 12 - head back towards Catania - drop the car at the airport in the evening and stay close to the airport for a morning flight to Naples

Whew - as I write this all down I realise there's still a lot to refine. I'm hoping that because we arrive on 7th October things will be a bit quieter and we can be a bit flexible and not have to book all our accommodation ahead - is that true?

I'd love your comments, advice and suggestions. I can look at booking.com etc for accommodation (and have done lots of that) but I do love suggestions from people like you. We've been burned on B.com a couple of times and sometimes wonder about the reviews...

thanks in advance
I'll post the itinerary out of Naples later...
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Old Jul 23rd, 2015, 05:02 AM
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Instead of driving back to Catania, I would drop off the car at Palermo airport or Trapani airport -- whichever has the better flight to Naples. In doing so, I would move up the visit to Etna -- see it just after leaving Catania. If you can possibly fit it in and are interested, the Greek theater at Taormina is spectacularly beautiful and worth seeing despite the dreadful tourist scene in that town. One possibility would be to head there for a look-see the morning you leave Catania, they go up to an agriturismo/winery on the slopes of Etna for the night, then head to Ortygia the next day. The wines of the Etna region are particularly interesting if you are a wine drinker.

For Agrigento, I enjoyed my stay at Camera con Vista, but I would still urge you to read reviews. I stayed in Modica, which is a wonderful town, but the place I stayed it has changed hands, and even so, parking was quite difficult, so I wouldn't recommend it. The countryside is pretty, so if you can find an agriturismo that serves dinner, that might be wonderful. But Modica is also a terrific untouristy town with good restarants if you want to experience something of Sicilian culture without the tourist tweaks.

By "B.com" do you mean booking.com? i have never been burned using booking.com, so I am surprised to hear of your bad experience if that is what you mean. I don't disbelieve you, but I can't think of a better website to recommend if you are thinking of going without reservations.

A final recommendation for Sicily: Consider booking a Home Food dinner for your second night in Catania. If you don't know what Home Food is or how it works, I can explain it, but as much as possible in Sicily, you should look to eat with home cooks.

http://www.homefood.it/en/discoverin...cuisine/509/1/

I am little confused about the rest of your non-Sicilian itinerary. Are you going to Naples, but then driving to Lecce? If you can, look for a flight from Palermo or Trapani to Brindisi. Much easier. (Even Bari might be better). But basically I just don't get what you mean by "We arrive on 7th October and (at this stage) head to Naples for 8 days between there and Lecce on 19th. THis gives us 12 days in Sicily -" (Maybe it's just me. more coffee)
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Old Jul 23rd, 2015, 04:06 PM
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Sorry Sandralist it's not you it's me... it was a bit late when I posted that. What I meant was we arrive in Sicily on 7th Oct from Greece and then go to Naples on 19th and fly out of Naples on 27th - so 12 days in Sicily and 8 days in southern Italy doing the route, Pompeii, Matera, Lecce, Naples. No direct flights to Brindisi from Catania or Palermo I can find so I think we have to stick with going in and out of Naples.

Thank you so much for your suggestions. I will have a good look at the Sicily itinerary again with these in mind. It's really exciting to be going to a completely new place (we've never been south of Rome) but daunting too.

I did look at leaving the car in Palermo and flying from there (or even taking a ferry from there) but the dropoff fee for the car was pretty high (around $100). I will check it out again. Fortunately (or unfortunately) nothing is booked yet. I have found economycarrentals and airportrentals to be cheapest. Can you suggest anyone else? I have now been looking at car rental reviews and getting a little bit worried about going with the cheap prices... does anyone have a reliable company to recommend that doesn't cost the earth?

Yes b.com is my abbreviation - and we too we have had lots of good experiences with them, although now I do try to contact hotels direct when I can but.... I travelled to Delhi once alone and was given a truly horrible room in what was otherwise quite a reasonable hotel (and I am not really fussy and have spent loads of time in India). When I complained I was told this was the room they use for booking.com bookings. Then again in a gorgeous little town in Turkey we booked into the #1 hotel in town on booking.com and had THE worst night ever in Turkey - broken furniture, unbelievable noise from the kitchen, no hot water etc... I do wonder sometimes.

The homecook option does look beautiful but perhaps beyond our budget... we are on the road for quite a while - let's see.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2015, 04:37 PM
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You might want to call AutoEurope directly if you haven't already to see if you can get rid of the drop off fee for Palermo. I have never heard of the car rental agencies you mention and -- being a super-risk-averse traveler -- would only go with a major renter. You must make sure you are fully insured for everything, whatever company you choose. Also, be aware that while $100 sounds like a lot for a drop-off fee, the cost of gas in Sicily is really very high, and you will eat up close to $100 driving back to Catania.

There are 1 hour flights to Bari from Palermo and Catania, and that might work better for your mainland itinerary that doing a loop starting and ending in Naples.

I don't think you will have in Sicily the kinds of problems you encountered in Turkey and India with booking.com. In Sicily, it is best to book in b&bs and agriturismo rather than hotels. The hotels can be very old school and dilapidated. The othes are usually the pride and joy of young entrepreneurs or extended families, and they are very invested in hospitality. Hotel reviews everywhere suffer from people who will praise any hotel just because it is cheap, so if you are looking in the budget category, you do have to discount for that. I've never used AirBnb in Sicily, but you might want to see what's available there.

If you are on a budget for food in Sicily, it has great street food and agriturismi that serve dinner can be an astounding bargiain for a feast.

Not to alarm you, but Catania has a poor reputation for security issues, unusually so for Italy. SInce you are arriving late, invest in a taxi ride to your lodgings, and skip any hotel where reviewers said they didn't like the neighborhood. I've never been to Catania, so can't give any specific advice, but it is rule of thumb in Italy to mind your wallet particularly in markets, and do not visit market streets except at their peak opening hours (that is mid-morning, not the afternoon).

By the way, if you haven't done this already, you should check out the TripAdvisor forum for Sicily, where natives of the island frequently post, and they are really a terrific source of detailed information -- including possibly about your car rental choices.

Have a great trip!
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Old Jul 24th, 2015, 05:11 AM
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Hey! That works... we can do it this way:
arrive Catania late, stay Catania
one day Catania stay Catania
pick up car and drive around Etna stay perhaps Randazzo or Savoca
drive to Syracusa stay Ortygia three nights
drive to Ragusa area and stay hopefully in an Agritourismo 2 nights
drive to Agrigento one night stay overlooking the temples
drive to Castellammare del Golfo 2 nights
go to Monreale and stay one night near Palermo airport for...
early morning flight (06.30) to Bari
(and arriving in Bari makes the tour around that part so much easier too!

Your comment that the cost of gas etc driving all the way back to Catania would probably equal the dropoff fee is a valid one and it avoids a long drive back on the last day.

Thank you soooo much for your help.
A couple more questions though... I have been reading past threads about car hire and am now a little worried about going with economycarrentals or airportrentals. Although we have had no problems before, it sounds like going with cheapies may be flaunting disaster in Sicily. Could you recommend who would be safest and best priced?
Also can you recommend somewhere to stay near the Palermo airport. With a 06.30 flight we'd want to be nice and close and have an airport shuttle.

many thanks
Kathy
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Old Jul 24th, 2015, 06:50 AM
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I almost always rent through AutoEurope, which is a consolidator, which means one ends up picking up a car at a Hertz office or a Europcar office, or Avis, etc. You can book online, but you can also call a toll free number. (They are UK based, I think.)

For a 6.30 am flight, I wouldn't rely on an airport shuttle. There are probably b&bs nearby that would arrange for a ride for a modest fee, not much more than two bus tickets would cost. If you can't find anything by looking on venere.com or booking.com, this is the kind of question I would post on the TripAdvisor forum.
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Old Jul 24th, 2015, 07:13 AM
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I wouldn't spend any of your short time in Catania. I'd leave upon arrival or immediately the next morning and take the train to Siracusa. Stay in Ortigia for 3 nights and see Siracusa. Then rent a car.

Or you could train north to Taormina for a quick look and one night, then backtrack down to Siracusa.

You're skipping the mosaics at Roman villa at Casale, one of Sicily's top sights to my mind. Also you'll drive near Selinunte and Segesta, the latter a very well preserved Greek temple.

You're also missing Palermo and Taormina, 2 more of Sicily's major sights. But I'm glad to see you are going to Monreale.

There's a lot to see in Sicily.
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Old Jul 24th, 2015, 07:18 AM
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We always book our rental car online through a broker (Auto Europe or Sunny Cars) with full insurance (sometimes without excess, otherwise with refund of excess). Booking through these brokers is much more economical than booking with the rental companies directly.
NOTE: Auto Europe is not te be confused with the Italian rental company Auto EuropA, the latter having a rather bad reputation.
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Old Jul 24th, 2015, 07:33 AM
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The first time I went to Sicily I did not go to Palermo, even though I went to Monreale. I spent about 8 days in Sicily as part of visiting the Amalfi coast and was under no illusions that there wasn't "a lot to see in Sicily" and that 8 days was sufficient. I skipped most of the sights Mimar went to (and I bet she skipped most of the important sights I went to.)

Still, I managed to see parts of Sicily other people don't and they were among my favorites. I also did it a pace I enjoyed, which wouldn't have happened had I tried to jam in more recommended sights. I returned to Sicily last year in January and spent a week in Palermo without taking any day trips, and had a great time. I also spent 8 days in Puglia/Basilicata knowing there was more to see than I could fit into 8 days. I can't think of any region of Italy where 8 days doesn't leave you with a lot of sights unseen. People are kidding themslves if they think otherwise -- and I would say that if they spent 3 weeks in Sicily.
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Old Jul 24th, 2015, 07:53 AM
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If you live in the US, call AutoEurope directly at their Portland, Maine headquarters. We have used them for multiple trips in Europe. They will stand behind you if there are any problems.
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Old Jul 24th, 2015, 05:37 PM
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That plan looks much better to me.

Another option = contact gemut.com about your rental.
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