A few notes on Sicily

May 27th, 2005, 04:14 AM
  #1  
ehc
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Join Date: Sep 2003
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A few notes on Sicily

I am not one of the wonderful writers that post on Fodors, but I thought I would add a few notes on our trip to Sicily.

We flew Swiss (excellent) from Boston to Zurich to Rome. We then connected on Air One (Lufthanza) to Catania. I forget the type of aircraft, but the seats were really packed in w/ not much leg room. Although the flight was 1 hr. late in departing, it wasn't a bad flt. We picked up our Autoeurope (Europe car) at the airport. There was no indication (as far as we could see)as to where the rental car agencies were located. We finally spotted "Europecar" down the street, so we trudged over - exhausted at this point! Come to find out THAT particular Europecar was not the one we were supposed to use as it was a different franchise. The guy, however, pointed out where we should go. FINALLY, we got the car & we were off to Siracusa. It was now about 9pm & dark out. The road out of the airport was well marked, but when we reached Siracusa we had difficulty finding our hotel, the Grand Hotel Ortygia on Ortygia Island. We got off at the correct exit, but then probably???? drove around in circles for at least 20 mins. We stopped to ask directions, but no one spoke English, so hand directions were given. Well we finally found the hotel. Our room was very nice, and the location was good . The terrace where breakfast was served was on the rooftop floor w/ a beautiful view of the harbor and landscape across the bay. There was a little walk to the duomo, etc. area, but it was a nice one along the waterfront.

The next day we drove to Noto. It looked like a small town on the map, but when we got there it was crowded w/ the usual challenge of finding a parking spot. I was a little disappointed in Noto. The duomo is being repaired so it was covered. The baroque buildings are for the most part on the "main" street. They are interesting, but I was expecting a "cute" town like some of the places in Tuscany or Provence.

We ate down by the harbor both nights, b/c it was so nice there. I didn't make note of the restaurants, b/c we had pizza one night (everyone has their favorite kind - thick or thin crust, etc.) and pasta (each to his own as far as that goes, too) the next night.

We left the next day around 9am for Agrigento. "I" had planned to stop in Caltagirone to do some ceramic shopping & to see the tile (142 steps)staircase. However, it was a little drizzly, but more than that the parking was impossible. Fortunately some street my husband took (headed out of town) brought us right in front of the staircase - and it was fantastic. Unfortunately I didn't see it as up close & personal as I had hoped to, but at least I saw it which I had given up on doing. I figured this was probably God's way of "punishing" me, because I had just told my husband we were going to stop in this town to see an unbelievable staircase. Of course I hadn't mentioned to him that it was a big "ceramics" town & that I had planned to "browse" in the shops. I figured I could get away w/ doing so on our walk to find the staircase. Oh, well.....

To be continued.
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May 27th, 2005, 04:59 AM
  #2  
ehc
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After Caltagirone we went to Piazza Armenia and saw the Imperial Roman Villa. There, there are some of the best preserved mosaics of the Roman world. They are thought to have been laid around the 4th century A.D., but the excavations were just begun in 1950. There is plexiglass surrounding them to protect them from the elements. Some people think it detracts from them, which it kind of does, but it's best that they be preserved and if the covering is what it takes - so be it. Think of the covering as a kind of "house" where you go in and walk around on walkways above the mosaics. Interesting.

We arrived in Agrigento late afternoon. We stayed at the Colleverde Hotel which was a 3*. The lobby is small, but very nice. The bedroom was small and ok for 1 night. I personally wouldn't spend more than 1 night in Agrigento, but that's me. We took a 6:30pm tour arranged by the hotel of the temples. This was E30 for the 2 of us. What a rip off. One of the reasons we took the hotel tour (w/ 7 other hotel guests) was b/c I figured instead of getting lost again we would go by bus/van directly to the site. No!!!! Each couple had to drive their own vechicle and follow behind the guide in his. It wasn't far to the temples, but I was annoyed that we all had to drive ourselves - for E30. He gave a brief talk about 3 of the temples with a little other information thrown in. He then left & we wandered around on our own. If anyone had any other questions they thought about later, the "guide" was no longer around to answer them. Hardly anyone was there, so I don't know if the park was closed for the day (to the general public) or if there just aren't many visitors at 6:45pm. The next morning when we left our hotel we drove by the temples about 8:30 and the roadways to get in to see the temples were jammed packed.

Next we were off to Palermo. It rained off & on that day. First we stopped in Selinunte, and then in Segesta. I won't elaborate on these sites, b/c many other posters have done so. I will say, we liked Segesta (the smallest, but w/ great views from the top)the best of the 3 sites, but each was interesting with something different to offer.

To be continued.
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May 27th, 2005, 05:41 AM
  #3  
ehc
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It was raining quite a bit by the time we reached Palermo, and as usual we got lost trying to find our hotel. Finally we made it to the Central Palace Hotel which was a 4*. It has a big lobby and probably sees its share of group tours. The room was fine. After our bad experience along w/ the fact that it was raining we decided to try the hotel dining room. Unfortunately, we could not get a reservation. We wished when we checked in that the receptionist had mentioned something about the dining room & that one has to make reservations ahead of time. Usually receptionists in hotels do mention that, but the one time we decided to eat in the hotel nothing was said. Oh, well....

The next day was nice, so after seeing a few sites in Palermo we went to Monreale. We took the bus which was VERY convenient. The Duomo was beautiful & well worth the trip. Because we had had such a full day we decided to give the hotel dining room a try that night, along w/ the fact that we couldn't get a reservation the night b/4 so they must be doing something right. Well, our first course came within a reasonable amount of time. HOWEVER, after waiting about 1 hr. for the 2nd course, we spoke to the head waiter & he said the meal would be right out. When it didn't arrive in 15 mins. we told him we were leaving. At first the wait wasn't THAT bad b/c we were talking & letting the 1st course kind of settle. In Italy they don't rush you when dining, so intially we didn't think that much about the wait time. When you're done talking, then every minute you wait seems like forever. We then told the head waiter to forget the rest of our meal, b/c we were leaving. Palermo was ok, big & dirty, but interesting sites. We didn't feel insecure there.

Our final stop was Taormina. The drive from Palermo to Taormina was easy and beautiful. There is a new roadway that just opened and it is unbelievable. There are lots of long tunnels & lots of bridges. Although there are many valleys, the bridges are build above them so the roadway doesn't go up & down very much at all.

We stopped in San Stefano. Lots of ceramics here, although I didn't care for them (doesn't mean others would feel the same way.) Lovely little town above the sea & worth stopping in for coffee or gelato. It was a nice change from all the "big" towns we had stopped in. Not much to see, but just a nice little stop.

The Messina area surprised me. From the autostrata the area was very pretty, but maybe the city itself is different. We arrived at the Hotel Belvedere around 2:30ish having left Palermo about 10:15am. The hotel is very nice and only a 3*. We changed rooms after the 1st night and got one that had a little patio w/ 2 chairs & a table outside. Of course it was more $. I'm not so sure I would bother doing that again b/c the room was about the same size as the 1st & the view was pretty much the same (Etna & the sea). We did not spend that much time in the room, so the upgrade for us was probably not worth it. However, if you think you'll be relaxing more than we did in the room, or if you are there for more than a couple of days I might spring for the more expensive room b/c it gives you more space - outside. It took about 7 mins. to walk into town, which was fine as it was a nice walk. If I were there for more than a couple of days, the walk might get "old."

We had a very nice dinner at Nino's which is kitty corner from the tram down to the beach. He GIVES you a couple of small bruchettas (sp?) and then an after dinner peach wine, which was delicious. We also ate at Luraleo's on a side street "in town" which was fine, not exceptional.

Leave PLENTY of time if you are headed to the Catania airport - especially in the summer, I would imagine. There is road construction in Catania a ways b/4 the airport. We took a Meridiana flt. to Verona. There were not many people checking in at Meridiana so that was not a problem. However, there were LOTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! of people checking in & going through security at Alitalia. Meridian was VERY good. Big jet & pleasant crew.

We then flew to Verona & went to the lakes area, which I will eventually post on a different thread.

ehc is offline  
Jun 1st, 2005, 10:52 AM
  #4  
ehc
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ttt - for those asking questions re Sicliy.
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Jun 1st, 2005, 11:16 AM
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ehc- here is the trip report you can't find.
suze is offline  
Jun 1st, 2005, 12:01 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2005
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Thanks so much for your report. We are going in November and that will help out planning
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