Circling Sicily by Public Transportation

Oct 18th, 2009, 12:32 PM
  #1  
GAC
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Circling Sicily by Public Transportation

Ever dreamed of doing a full circle tour of Sicily, along the coastlines?
It can certainly be done (it's quite easy), and you DON'T need to rent a car or take a package tour. Here are some ideas of how to do it using public transportation exclusively:

From Palermo to Messina: you have the choice of the train or the bus. About three hours by either method. www.ferroviedellostato.com; bus alternate: www.saisautolinee.it. Get off at Milazzo for the Aeolian Islands.

From Messina to Siracusa: the train is the only efficient choice, as you would need to take three different buses and transfer in both Taormina and Catania. Under three hours by train.

From Siracusa to Gela: the train is faster than the bus. You pass through Avola, Noto, Rosolini, Ispica, Pozzallo (catamarans to Malta), Scicli, Modica, Ragusa, Comiso, and Vittoria. This is really out-of-the-way Sicily. Three and one half hours to Gela. Bus alternate: www.aziendasicilianatrasporti.it

From Gela (bus to Piazza Armerina, Enna and Palermo) to Agrigento: here you must take the bus (1 hour, 45 mins). Be aware that there is much more frequent service out of Licata (one hour to Agrigento), and NO SERVICE on Sunday. www.autolineesal.it

From Agrigento (bus or train to Palermo) to Trapani: here you also must take the bus. Three and one-half to four hours to get all the way to Trapani, passing though Ribera, Sciacca, Castelvetrano (bus for Selinunte), Mazara del Vallo and Marsala. Only one bus on Sunday. www.autolineelumia.it

From Trapani (gateway to Egadi Islands, Erice, San Vito Lo Capo and Pantelleria Island) to Palermo: the bus (under two hours) is faster and much more frequent than the train. www.segesta.it (bus)

The whole trip can be done for 55.30 Euros per person, and takes about 16-17 hours (obviously not all in one day).

In case you're wondering, the circle trip can also be done in counterclockwise direction.
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Oct 18th, 2009, 01:26 PM
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GAC, ever the source for helpful Italian transportation info. Thank you!
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Oct 18th, 2009, 01:32 PM
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GAC,

You never cease to amaze me! I swear you read my mind. I am right now plotting my next trip and greatly debating whether I can visit Sicily without renting a car. Are the trains and buses frequent enough (outside of Sundays) to be convenient? I don't mind driving myself solo, but I think public trans would be less stressful in some ways. The cons are worrying about missing the last bus, etc!

I was searching vacation rentals on Lipari and found a couple I would really like. However, they would require renting a car on the island. I haven't checked the prices yet. I'm guessing they will be high.

Any experience on Lipari to share?

I'll start looking at your referenced web sites.

Grazie!
Dayle is online now  
Oct 18th, 2009, 01:33 PM
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Saving for "maybe one day I'll tear myself away from Venice."
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Oct 18th, 2009, 02:30 PM
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GAC
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Dayle: perhaps the greatest piece of misinformation about Sicily is that you must rent a car to see most of the tourist sites. Nothing can be farther from the truth. In fact, 95% of the Island's most significant tourist attractions can easily be reached by bus or train. Certainly, a car rental is very useful to see some of the more remote sites, such as Segesta and Selinunte (but even these are reachable by bus). A car can also shorten the number of days needed to complete an itinerary, especially when travelling from one remote site to another remote site. A car can increase the time efficiency of travel. Nevertheless, even secondary sites, such as Solunto and Imera, can be reached by public transportation. The "trick" is to find the individual websites for the local bus lines, and I have identified only a few in my posting above. There are many more, which I have identified in other postings here and on other websites to which I contribute (e.g. Slow Travel).

As for Lipari, there is also a local bus line there ("URSO"), which connects 95% of the populated areas, including the outlying hamlets of Canneto, Acquacalda, Quattrocchi, Pianoconte, and Quattropani. Bus service is cheap, reliable, and year-round. I bet that your apartment on Lipari may well be close enough to an URSO bus stop such that you could dispense with the car rental, if you wish. There certainly are plenty of Liparoti who don't own a car, yet have lived on the island all their lives.

www.ursobus.com
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Oct 18th, 2009, 02:30 PM
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GAC, you are awesome, but I have yet to figure out who you are and your source of such travel details. Give me a hint.
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Oct 18th, 2009, 02:35 PM
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Do these routes vary by season? Like more frequent trains in the summer vs. the winter?
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Oct 18th, 2009, 02:39 PM
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Thanks so much GAC. The most appealing places were in neighborhoods called San Sebastian (looks pretty high up with awesome views) and Monte, with Monte looking to be not too far from town.
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Oct 18th, 2009, 02:45 PM
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I concur with Bob. Who is the "masked navigator" GAC - font of all useful knowledge who has no apparent self-interested agenda?
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Oct 18th, 2009, 02:53 PM
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Fantastic information, GAC, as usual. You helped me out last spring when you gave me good information on getting from Lipari to Salerno. Your advice was reassuring and very much appreciated!

Now, another question: what's the best way to get to Panarea in May? (We're going back again--we loved the Aeolian Islands so much!) We've reserved a place to stay but haven't yet made any travel arrangements, so we're very flexible.

Dayle -- you don't need a car in Lipari. Bus and boat will do just fine. I imagine you travel light, but if you want to move your bags from the harbor to your rental, you can always hire a taxi, and then either bus or walk the rest of the time.
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Oct 18th, 2009, 03:09 PM
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GAC
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Here are a couple of hints about "GAC":

He has travelled to Italy since he was a little boy. He prefers taking public transportation to renting a car (although he is the first to acknowledge that a car really is necessary in some locations, and useful in other areas). He assiduously studies the websites to find the bus schedules to remote places. He has discovered all sorts of ways to find these sites. He has actually been to most (if not all) the places he mentions in his postings, often using the very buses and trains he cites. He likes to share information about public transportation because he has noted over the years that far too many foreigners incorrectly assume that renting a car is a necessity, while others make unnecessary mistakes due to lack of knowledge of all the public transportation options, resulting in wasted time and frustration. He also likes to inform tourists how to save money on the trains by selecting less expensive train categories (e.g. IC versus ES trains). He is probably Enemy Number 1 of taxi drivers and private limo operators, since he so often discloses ways to avoid them!!!

To answer scrb's question above, my original posting above provides information which is valid all year-round, although actual departures can and do vary slightly according to the season, which is why schedules should always be double-checked before departure (and sometimes also locally).

Now, let me identify two archeological sites on Sicily which can't be reached by public transportation: Eraclea Minoa and Camarina. I have been to neither, but know exactly where they are!!!
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Oct 18th, 2009, 03:23 PM
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In answer to aprillilacs: The actual schedules for ferry/hydrofoil service to Panarea for next May won't be published until the last moment. As you may know, the whole transportation infrastructure in Italy is undergoing a very painful transition away from continued public funding, which has resulted in service cuts and even some abandonment of service. Assuming that next year will be similar to this year, you can expect there to be the twice weekly direct overnight car ferry service between Naples and Panarea (Siremar Lines), as well as local hydrofoils calling at Panarea, going to Milazzo and Messina. But each year that passes, the uncertainty increases that there will be more service cuts, especially out of season. As for your question: "what is the best way to get to Panarea in May"; if you mean from Naples, the best way is clearly the overnight car ferry. If from Milazzo, it's the hydrofoil. If from Palermo, the direct hydrofoil doesn't start up until June 1, which means having to train to Milazzo.
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Oct 18th, 2009, 03:23 PM
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Thanks.

Another question is, can you leave town A for town B but stop at town C on the way and tour town C a couple of hours with luggage in tow?

Maybe that's where a car gives you an advantage.

Must admit, haven't studied Sicily a lot yet. But would be surprised if that kind of scenario didn't present itself several times.
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Oct 18th, 2009, 03:42 PM
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We are planning a trip for 2011 so I hope you can help us enjoy some interesting areas of Umbria and Tuscany "carless" when the time comes. Great thread, thanks GAC.
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Oct 18th, 2009, 03:55 PM
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Well, you sure are a great help to many travelers--we all say grazie !
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Oct 18th, 2009, 04:13 PM
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GAC
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scrb: you give a concrete example of what I mean by saying that renting a car can increase the time-efficiency of travel. In fact, those who "do" all of Sicily by public transportation end up staying overnight in the various provincial capitals, from where they can take daytrips to the various tourist sites throughout the province using public transport. For example, basing oneself in Trapani, one can very easily travel by train or bus to San Vito Lo Capo, Segesta, Erice, Marsala, Mazara del Vallo, Castelvetrano and Selinunte all as daytrips (in some cases half-day trips). Out of Siracusa, one can go to Ragusa, Modica, Noto, Catania and Palazzolo Acreide (Akrai) as daytrips. By selecting three or four "base" cities, one can pretty much cover the entire island. These four cities would certainly include Palermo, Trapani and Siracusa (and perhaps Agrigento and/or Taormina). Of course, with a rental car, you can "get to" more outlying places on any one day, which is why I said above that travel by public transport is more time consuming. However, a rental becomes a huge liability and expense in large cities like Palermo, Catania and Siracusa. Some people wisely choose to split their Sicily trip in two: one which focuses on the cities (no car), the second on outlying sites (car rental).
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Oct 18th, 2009, 04:52 PM
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Thanks for the info on Palermo-Panarea not running until June. We will likely just make our way by train to Milazzo from either Catania or Palermo (whichever we fly into) and take the hydrofoil from there.

Here's hoping you continue to provide all those great details about public transportation options.
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Oct 19th, 2009, 05:22 AM
  #18  
GAC
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If you arrive at the Catania Airport, there is a DIRECT Giuntabus lines bus to Milazzo at 17:00 which connects to the 19:00 hydrofoils to Lipari. However, this is too late to reach Panarea in May. One-way bus fare to Milazzo is 10 Euros.

You can also take the train from Catania to Messina, then proceed to Milazzo by either Giuntabus Lines or by train:

www.giuntabus.it

The Giuntabus service goes directly to the Milazzo Port, avoiding a taxi or local bus ride from the Milazzo train station.

It's just as far to reach Milazzo from Palermo, but you don't need to change trains once you arrive at Palermo Centrale from the airport.
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Oct 19th, 2009, 05:49 AM
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My son and his GF did just this a couple of years ago, camping along the way. They had a terric holiday.
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Oct 19th, 2009, 05:36 PM
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GAC,

Mille grazie! This is just very valuable info!
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