Comment on my Sicily Plan

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May 4th, 2015, 12:46 PM
  #1
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Comment on my Sicily Plan

First, thanks for your original responses to my Sicily by train or bus post. Your advice gave a great start for my research. Now, I'd like your comments on my proposed itinerary for 3 weeks in Sicily.

Here's a little background about us - we love to travel independently by train, bus or metro and are never in a hurry to get somewhere when we can both watch the scenery roll by or talk to other passengers. Only rent a car if absolutely necessary. Happy with a 3 or 4 star hotel that is in a safe location that is convenient to public transportation and local restaurants - not looking for luxury (I'm cheap, my husband is not).. We travel light (30" rolling duffels), so only casual clothes - no suits or fancy dresses. Love the casual restaurants that the locals frequent. My husband does not like to change hotels too often to avoid dragging our bags around. We're 65 and very active. Like to be outdoors vs museums. We'll be starting our trip in mid-September.

Planning to fly from Rome to Catania and take day trips. Will split this up to stay again in Catania for return trip to Rome
Taormina - bus or train better?
Mt Etna
Randazzo - bus
Piazza Armenia- bus
Caltagirone - bus or train?
Siracusa - bus or train?
Noto - bus or train?
Enna - train
Messina - train
Malta - is ferry from Catania too crazy an idea?
Ragusa - bus. Would love to stay here and do some day trips but nothing from there looks easy to do

Move on to Palermo and take day trips to:
Argigento bus or train?
Cefalu - train
Patti - train
Monreale - bus
Segesta - train?
Trapani - how to get here??

Well, what do you think. All comments, suggestions, improvements are welcome. A couple of days traveling by car are ok if someone has a good itinerary. Any cities you would drop? Add?
Floridacouple is offline  
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May 4th, 2015, 12:55 PM
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Catania to Taormina is a snap by train but trains stop far below the hill town, at sea level but a cable way of some kind runs to the upper town (was not working when I was there several years ago and was replaced by bus) - but easy to do by train but bus may be more convenient since it takes you straight away up to the old town center - if you like seaside hotels there is a long strip of them at the seaside area - Naxos something I think and probably outside of high season a lot cheaper but the views from there are not the outstanding views of Mt Vesuvius you get from Taormina itself and which made Taormina the hot spot it is - and it can be REAL crowded - even in mid-fall when I was there.
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May 4th, 2015, 01:12 PM
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Can you not fly into Catania and out of Palermo?
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May 4th, 2015, 01:51 PM
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Never thought of that. In the US, returning from a different city than you departed from is always more expensive. I'll check it out.
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May 4th, 2015, 02:03 PM
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In the US, returning from a different city than you departed from is always more expensive.

Not necessarily, however one does not book open jaw but separate tickets. For our last two trips, one to Seattle and one coming up to NYC, purchasing separate one-way tickets was no more expensive than a round trip, but gave us flight options not offered on a RT. For each trip, the airlines coming and going are not the same. It stands to reason that purchasing one-say tickets from different cities would not be any more expensive than purchasing a round trip between two cities. If skeptical, check it out in the following manner:

What is the cost between A & B on a round trip ticket?
What is the cost of individually purchased single tickets equivalent to that round trip?

What is the round trip cost between A & C?
What is the cost of individually purchased tickets?

Even if C to A is more expensive than B to A (point A being the home town), is there a convenience factor that should be taken into consideration, and what would the cost be of returning to B to go back home?

A kayak search for all the options should provide the answer.

In our case, a one way to NYC was much cheaper than the one way from NYC to SFO, but that is because the return ticket occurs within two days of Memorial Day weekend. The round-trip cost reflected the same price hike for the return ticket.
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May 4th, 2015, 02:38 PM
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Are you starting your trip in Rome or from a U.S. airport?

If Rome, take a look at skyscanner.net to see the schedules and prices of some of the lower-cost carriers that fly to Sicily from cities in Italy. Keep in mind additional luggage fees, etc. We used BluExpress to fly from Catania to Rome. Easy, no hassle. Last summer I flew to Paris from Rome on Vueling and they also were fine.
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May 4th, 2015, 02:40 PM
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p.s. And Michael has laid out a good way to check for airfare.
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May 4th, 2015, 04:08 PM
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Thanks for the info. Our trip starts in Florida. I'll try the different carriers from Rome. We haven't flown the small carriers and it's good to hear from someone with experience.
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May 4th, 2015, 04:09 PM
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another neat way though not quick to go between Sicily and Naples is by boat - overnight boat - kind of a cruise - then take the train in less than two hours up to Rome.
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May 4th, 2015, 04:48 PM
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We flew into Catania and stayed in both Taormina and Siracusa, nicer than Catania.
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May 4th, 2015, 06:02 PM
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I certainly wouldn't plan an extended stay in Catania. I, personally, find Taormina too touristy, but it's OK for a couple of nights. After that I would base in Ortigia (Siracusa) for the east, but Sicily is not the best place for base-and-day-trip type touring.

If you are starting in Florida and not visiting anywhere else in Italy I would look for an open-jaw itinerary - use the multi-city option on kayak, skyscanner etc. Besides the usual sites I like onetravel.com for consolidator tickets. Looks like KLM has the most options but Swiss is cheaper for random dates in the fall.

BTW, in my lexicon a 30 inch case is in no way traveling light. I take a 22 inch plus a day bag. If you are using public transport you will be much happier with a smaller bag.
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May 5th, 2015, 03:01 AM
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we are in our early 70s and also travel independently (turkey, italy (4x), australia/nz, 10 week tour of europe (2x). we always rent cars. they are so much easier and allow you to see more of the off the track places, like a day trip around mt etna seeing the towns that exist with the fear of lava flow. day trips to the small mountain villages of sicily are also possible. so many day trips out of palermo are going to be a hassle as you will spent much of the day in transit and once you get there you will have no transport - unless you are doing a tour $$$$. consider spending 2-3 days along the south coast instead.
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May 5th, 2015, 10:10 AM
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so many day trips out of palermo are going to be a hassle as you will spent much of the day in transit and once you get there you will have no transport

I agree with the proviso that the base for the day trips has to be outside Palermo; I do not recommend driving in Palermo any more than necessary – leaving it once and returning to Palermo just once.
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May 5th, 2015, 10:17 AM
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agree about driving in palermo, although i have driven in all of the major cities of europe & my kids live in nyc and we drive all the time. we are flying into palermo, spending 4 days and then picking our car up on sunday morning, i'm told the town will be pretty empty then, and then heading down to the south central coast.
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May 5th, 2015, 12:59 PM
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Just don't park your car anywhere with luggage in it in site in Palermo, at least that's what I heard my hotel desk telling someone a few years back!
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May 5th, 2015, 01:56 PM
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Leave asicily from Palermo, so fly to Catania, fly out of Palermo.
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May 6th, 2015, 03:00 PM
  #17
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We won't be renting a car while in Sicily. We'll be taking day trips by bus or train. If I can't find bus/train that gets me into the cities I planned on, I will change my plans
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May 6th, 2015, 06:17 PM
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Floridacouple,

In my trips to Italy, including Sicily in 2013 for 3.5 weeks, I have found that usually the places I enjoy most, are the places I stay in. I chose to skip Catania as Palermo (4 days) was my large city visit for the Sicily trip, but I can't imagine staying in just 2 locations for a 3 week Sicily trip.

There is just too much to see, too much variety, and beautiful small towns and countryside to enjoy. Personally, I would hate traveling the distances you plan by public transportation EVERY DAY and eating up so much time in commuting back and forth.

For my preference, it's not a "day trip" if it takes more than 2 hours one way!

I also agree that a 30" piece of luggage doesn't match my definition of traveling light either. I took a 22" and a day bag.

I rented a car and drove solo for 9 days. Loved it, had no problems.

I hope your trip develops the way you want. Happy Planning!
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May 6th, 2015, 08:10 PM
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If you can figure out a way to do three bases via public transportation, look at that. I drove in Sicily, so can't comment on buses/trains. I will say I got some excellent tips on the Sicily forum on TripAdvisor; some posters there live on the island.

I loved Siracusa (Ortigia, specifically), Modica and Palermo.
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May 7th, 2015, 10:29 AM
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Taking a huge 30" suitcase on trains is going to be a real hassle; try to do a 21 or 22" each.
And those long distance day trips are not appealing. Do at least three bases in Sicily to reduce lengthy day trips. You can also hire a private transfer service. We used Sicily Life for eastern Sicily.
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