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First draft of Campagnia and Sicily itinerary - please help

First draft of Campagnia and Sicily itinerary - please help

Oct 9th, 2009, 12:12 PM
  #1  
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First draft of Campagnia and Sicily itinerary - please help

This will be our first trip to Southern Italy but our 8th trip to Europe. We are in our early 50s, enjoy soaking up the culture of Europe, small towns or villages, historical sites, walking, and the sea. We don't like to rush but will stay one night somewhere if it fits with our schedule. For the second half of our normally 18 day trip, we like to hunker down in one spot near the sea with a beach and a balcony for some R&R and daytrips. We have just returned from Portugal and I'm anxious to get planning the next trip for September 2010. I have reviewed trip reports here as well as the guidebooks from Lonely Planet and Eyewitness.

Here is my first draft:
Thursday Sept 3rd 2010 - fly overnight from Ottawa to Rome then train to Naples for 2 nights
Sunday - train to Sorrento for 3 nights with daytrip to Pompeii
Wed - train to Naples to airport for flight to Catania then rental car to Ortegia for 3 nights
Sat - drive to Modica for one night
Sun - drive to Celafu for one week with daytrips to Agrigento, Erice, Monreale, Palmero
Sun after - drive to Palermo for flight to Rome
Mon - flight back to Ottawa

Questions:
Are these reasonable daytrips from Celafu?
Should I take a day from Ortegia and put to Modica as more to see in that area?
Is there some way I could include Segesta and Selinunti?

Any suggestions or recommendations would be much appreciated.
Lily is offline  
Oct 9th, 2009, 12:37 PM
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It sounds fine to me, with the possible comment that you may be changing hotels too often.

Why go to Naples for 2 nights, then Sorrento for 3 rather than staying in one of those places for 5?
Why not do Modica as a day trip from Ortygia? (Neither is intended as criticism just suggestions).

I would add Noto to your places to see in Eastern Sicily.
I would also suggest if driving Ortygia to Cefalú that you stop to see the Roman Mosaics at Piazza Armerina.

We stayed for a week in Cefalú 2005. You can do Agrigento and Selinunte as one trip - but it makes it a long day. That said, I preferred Selinunte of the two.

If you are specifically interested in Greek temples, may I strongly recommend Paestum when you are in Campania? If anything, the temples there are better than Agrigento, and the museum is excellent. Also the museum in Siracusa is excellent.

You have picked two very beautiful areas of Italy - and have already picked a good selection of places to go. Enjoy your visit.

I have a sort of write up of my Sicily trip here if it is any help.

http://www.microbes.110mb.com/sicily2005.htm
willit is offline  
Oct 9th, 2009, 01:23 PM
  #3  
kja
 
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Hi, Lily -

Depending on what you want to see and experience, you might want to add a day to Naples - there is so much to see there!

For Ortygia/Siracusa, I found 2 days about right - do 3 nights mean 3 days or 2 days?

If you can include Segesta and Selinunte, I don't think you would regret it. If you are going to visit Agrigento from Cefalu, you might want to consider spending the night there (after visiting the Valley of the Temples and the museum) and then heading on to Selinunte and Segesta the next day.

I second willit's suggestion to visit Noto (from Siracusa or on the way to Modica) and the Villa Romana del Casale (en route to Cefalu). And I agree that Paestum is well worth seeing, although your schedule is alredy quite full!

BTW, you might consider stopping in Pompeii on your way to Sorrento.

Hope that helps!
kja is offline  
Oct 9th, 2009, 01:33 PM
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Thank you Willit, just the kind of feedback I'm hoping for! I had thought of combining Naples and Sorrento especially as we will be in Naples twice - before and after Sorrento. But which to stay at? It seems most people either love or loathe Naples and Sorrento seems more the kind of place we like. Maybe we would be altogether better to stay in Rome the first night as we will be exhausted and then travel to Sorrento for four nights the following day. So many variable and so little time!

So Modica and Noto are easy daytrips from Ortygia? And seems we can't miss the Piazza Armerina so good idea to stop in on our way to Cefalu. I did have my heart set on Agrigento but suppose it's not worth our while to do two daytrips to the same area.

And did you enjoy your week in Cefalu? We are looking at renting an apartment through Sicilian Realty. Where did stay? And what did you like about Cefalu?
Lily is offline  
Oct 9th, 2009, 04:46 PM
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Thanks kja. In Ortygia we will have 2 days as the first day we will be travelling from Sorrento to Naples then flying to Catania then renting a car to drive to Ortygia so we probably won't arrive until mid afternoon.

Instead of going to Modica for the night, maybe we could go to Piazza Arimenta then stop in Argrigento and sleep over then go to Selinute and Segesta the next day on the way to Cefalu?

Would you suggest staying in Paestum instead of Sorrento?

Noto we will go to from Siracusa as a daytrip as don't want to miss it. And Pompeii I had planned as a daytrip from Sorrento. We'll be busy the first week but then we have a week in Cefalu to relax and take a couple of daytrips. Is Erice a possible daytrip from Cefalu?
Lily is offline  
Oct 9th, 2009, 05:59 PM
  #6  
GAC
 
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Lily: congratulations on your wonderful trip plan. It's a terrific itinerary Here is how I would "do it", premised on the following:

1. Since you're relying entirely on public transportation in the Bay of Naples, you could combine Naples and Sorrento and spend all five nights in Naples. You can go to Pompei, Sorrento, Capri, Ischia and Caserta all as day trips from Naples. Plus, you can easily spend 4 days just in the capital city of Campania. Don't know if you also wanted to do the Amalfi Coast (if so, overnighting in Sorrento makes more sense)?

2. The only daytrip I could contemplate out of Cefalu is Palermo: the others are all too far.

3. Since you will have a car in Sicily, I would essentially eliminate the daytrips and instead organize the itinerary more along geographical lines.

Sample Itinerary:

Day 1: Fly Ottawa to Rome; train to Naples. Overnight
Days 2/6: Overnight in Naples
Day 7: Fly to Catania, pick up car. Overnight in Siracusa
Day 8: Full day in Siracusa. Overnight.
Day 9: Siracusa to Noto to Modica to Ragusa. Overnight.
Day 10: Ragusa to Piazza Armerina to Enna. Overnight
Day 11: Enna to Agrigento. Overnight
Day 12: Agrigento to Selinunte. Overnight
Day 13: Selinunte to Segesta to Erice. Overnight
Day 14: Erice to Palermo to Cefalu. Overnight
Day 15/16: R/R in Cefalu
Day 17: Cefalu to Palermo Airport. Drop car. Fly to Rome. Overnight (at airport?)
Day 18: Fly Rome to Ottawa

Of course, with this itinerary, you won't have a full week in Cefalu, but you'll avoid all the "daytrips", and you'll see much, much, much more.
GAC is offline  
Oct 9th, 2009, 06:06 PM
  #7  
GAC
 
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If you really want to see Paestum, it can easily be done as a daytrip by train from Naples: a little more than one hour in each direction on the direct "Regionale" train. It's easier and faster to get to Paestum from Naples than from Sorrento or Positano or even Amalfi. Paestum is most certaintly worth a daytrip, if you like Greek temples and archeology. You'll also be able to compare the Greek temples at Paestum, Agrigento, Selinunte and Segesta.
GAC is offline  
Oct 10th, 2009, 06:14 AM
  #8  
GAC
 
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Lily's plane from Naples to Catania:


http://oli.catze.ch/albums/userpics/..._CR9-EIDUK.jpg
GAC is offline  
Oct 10th, 2009, 10:39 AM
  #9  
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Dear GAC, thanks for your encouragement and ideas for my itinerary. I really like yours too but it's a little too much hotel hopping for me. I may have to forego some of the destinations in order not to change hotels so frequently. I really appreciate your ideas however and will consider them carefully. And thank you for the info on the flight, very kind of you.

Seems that Naples may be where we should stay for several nights instead of Sorrento especially as we can do some lovely daytrips from there, i.e. Ischia, Pompeii, Capri.
Lily is offline  
Oct 10th, 2009, 01:10 PM
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Lily - in answer to your question about apartments, we stayed on the seafront in the centre of the old town. Unfortunately, I cannot find the apartment anywhere on the net anymore.

Cefalú was great - many might find it too quiet, but I loved it and definitely plan to return. The beach was great, there are a good variety of restaurants, If you have sufficient energy to climb "La Rocca", then the views are wonderful. Palermo is an easy trip by train - from there Monreale is doable by bus. Overall the town has a very pleasant atmosphere- exceptionally friendly

I was a little disappointed in the Duomo at Cefalú - but to be fair I was disappointed with the Cathedral at Palermo. The thing is that I saw both after Monreale (Which I would rank as a "must see" - it would certainly appear in my personal "top 10" sights in Italy)

My most unexpected experience of Cefalú was the puppet show. I was not very keen, but went to accompany my beloved. It was an absolute delight - I laughed so hard it hurt - it is violent and silly in a sort of Tom and Jerry fashion, and absolutely worth the small admission fee.

I am sure you will enjoy Sicily - it is a very different Italy from Rome,Venice and Florence but exceptionally rewarding.
willit is offline  
Oct 10th, 2009, 05:19 PM
  #11  
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Thanks Willit. I enjoyed your trip blog but also couldn't find your apartment. We're considering an apartment with Sicilian Realty. Cefalu sounds just what we're looking for. We enjoyed 5 days in Salema, Portugal and it was also a quiet small place. I'm looking forward to the puppet show.

I'm thinking we may have to forego Selinunte and Segestaave and Erice as they are quite a distance from where we are going but just means we'll have to save them for a return trip. Any other suggestions?
Lily is offline  
Oct 10th, 2009, 05:47 PM
  #12  
GAC
 
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Perhaps visiting Paestum can somewhat "make up" for the loss of Selinunte and Segesta (even though the experiences are different). In my estimation, Erice is much less of a "loss" than either Selinunte or Segesta. It is also the most remote geographically. Also, Agrigento has a very good Archeological Museum close to the Valley of the Temples.

Notwithstanding my sample itinerary above, I tend to agree that you're better off not pressing westward beyond Agrigento and Palermo, since you desire to spend more days in Cefalu. And you definitively should plan for a very long daytrip between Cefalu and Palermo (by train), to give the Sicilian Capital city at least a full day's stay. Like Willit, I suggest that you visit the Cathedral in Cefalu, as well as that in Palermo, before the one in Monreale. That way, the first two won't be a disappointment compared to the incomparable Cathedral of Monreale (indeed, both are quite impressive on the exterior, as is Cefalu's interior).
GAC is offline  
Oct 10th, 2009, 06:10 PM
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Lily, sounds like a great trip. But I can not imagine a trip to Sicily without a stop at Taormina...
latedaytraveler is offline  
Oct 10th, 2009, 07:28 PM
  #14  
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Thanks GAC, good ideas. And latedaytraveler, I read that Taormina is wonderful but touristy and busy. I couldn't figure how to fit it in with the flight to Catania and our desire to see Siracusa and sites nearby such as Noto. How do you think I could change this itinerary to fit it in? Maybe we could go there from Catania first before Siracusa? I know that our desire to go to the Naples area and to stay in Cefalu for a week takes much of the time from other areas in Sicily. Do you think we should spend at least a night in Taormina then go on to Siracusa for two nights instead of three? I think I just need to retire and have more time for travel!
Lily is offline  
Oct 10th, 2009, 07:38 PM
  #15  
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Thanks for all your help. I've tried to reconfigure the trip but not sure I'm making it better or worse! Any suggestions?

Here is my second draft:
Thursday Sept 3rd 2010 - fly overnight from Ottawa to Rome then train to Naples for 5 nights with daytrips to Pompeii, Sorrento, Ischia, etc.
Wed - train to Naples to airport for flight to Catania then rental car to Ortegia for 3 nights
OR train to Taormina for 2 nights AND Fri rent car and drive to Ortygia for 3 nights
Mon - drive to Argento then on to Celafu for one week with daytrips Monreale, Palmero
Sun after - drive to Palermo for flight to Rome
Mon - flight back to Ottawa
Lily is offline  
Oct 10th, 2009, 08:22 PM
  #16  
GAC
 
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As a personal preference, I would agree to take two nights (out of seven) away from Cefalu in favor of Taormina, even though, as you note correctly, Taormina is extremely touristy, crowded and rather "un-Sicilian". For me, an entire week in Cefalu would be too much, because I would want to see more of the Island instead. And the views from Taormina of Mt. Etna are really gorgeous (the views of the sea are actually more stunning in Capri).

If you do go to Taormina, you might consider (just consider) taking the night train from Naples. That way, you save one night's hotel, and save the entire next day which would have been used to take the daylight train. Some people would avoid the night train like the plague; others like the efficiency and cost-savings. Do bear in mind that the weather will still be hot and humid in mid-September. While the train is air conditioned, some nevertheless feel cramped in the small sleeping compartments. Also, the a/c is turned off while the train crosses the Straits of Messina on the ferry boat.

The direct night train departs Naples at 23:38, and arrives the next morning in Taormina at 7:39. A reserved twin bunk compartment costs 67.50 Euros per person. A twin "Excelsior" compartment with private toilet and shower costs 105 Euros per person. The day train costs 37.50 Euros for each reserved second class seat. It departs Naples at 9:42 and arrives Taormina at 16:43.

If you go to Taormina, I would wait to rent a car until after you've seen all of Siracusa. You can take the train from Taormina to Siracusa, and a car in either city is only a big liability.

It's not clear from your revised itinerary whether you plan on spending the night in Agrigento. I assume so (at least one night), since there is no way that you could travel by car from Siracusa to Agrigento to Cefalu in one day and still see the Valley of the Temples and Archeological Museum in Agrigento.
GAC is offline  
Oct 11th, 2009, 05:51 AM
  #17  
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Thanks again GAC. I had considered the night train but thought flying would be faster. However looking at your suggestions, I think taking the train would acutally work better and we would then arrive in Taormina. Yes, I agree we would have to stay the night in Agrigento. I had originally planned to stay 5 nights in Cefalu not 7 but the apartment we are looking at rents by the week.
Lily is offline  
Oct 11th, 2009, 02:29 PM
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FWIW, here are a couple of other thoughts.

Naples is a city with a rich history and it has a lot to see -- but it's not the most restful of places. When my wife and I were on our honeymoon 15 years ago, we used Positano on the Amalfi coast as our base, and from there drove to Amalfi and Ravello, Paestum, Pompeii and Herculaneum, and Pozzuoli, Cumae and the other sites to the west of Naples. We were also able to take a boat from Positano to Capri for a day trip (this was in April). We stayed at La Sirenuse, which is a beautiful hotel, but which seems to have gotten much pricier since we were there. We did an night or two in Naples itself before flying to Sicily. Obviously, you do need a car to do this, and being on the Amalfi coast -- which is a spectacular but slow drive -- certainly means the drives will take more time. Sorrento might be a good compromise -- you can get to places like Naples, the sites west of Naples, Pompeii and Herculaneum, and perhaps even Paestum a little more quickly, while you could still find some grand old place overlooking the sea that has real character.

Ravello would also be a cool place to stay, and it has some legendary hotels, but the accessibility issues with being there get even more involved, as it sits up on the very top of the mountains, a thousand-plus feet higher even than the Amalfi coast road.

The temples at Paestum are an extraordinary sight, owing to their state of preservation. They were actually once partially submerged in the sea, and you can see where sea creatures bored into the columns! There was also an exceptional Etruscan tomb (that of "the Diver") available to be seen there, as I recall.

Very close to Pompeii (at Caserta) is a massive palace of the Bourbon monarchy, with quite impressive gardens.

We visited Taormina near the end of our honeymoon trip. I was glad we visited it, but it didn't take much time. There's the main street with lots of chic and costly shops, the old Greco-Roman theatre (heavily featured in Woody Allen's "Mighty Aphrodite"), the views, and that's pretty much it.

Noto is well worth seeing, but can be covered in half a day.

I thought the possibly late imperial villa at Piazza Armerina was extraordinary, and the town of Enna nearby has some interesting items (a tower of Frederick II, great views of the countryside).

I don't know that Segesta and Erice need to be thought of as being out of your range. Per Google maps, Erice is about a 120 mile/two hour drive each way from Cefalu, and Segesta would be about half or two-thirds of that. That seems to be about the same as the drive to Agrigento, or Piazza Armerina and Enna. We thought Erice was really neat. It sits atop this mountain that rises very close to the sea. The town has a handsome appearance, even down to the carefully laid square designs of paving blocks in the street, and it is often either above the clouds or right in them, with mists swirling around its castle, houses, and streets.

Segesta was well worth a stop, but again, doesn't take all that much time. There's the temple, finished except for fluting the columns and exceptionally well-preserved, and then you must take the hike up to the hilltop stadium, largely for the views of the temple.

The Temple of Concord in Agrigento is, with one of the temples in Paestum and the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens, one of the three best-preserved Greek temples in the world. The temples in Selinunte are bigger and closer together, and impressive on that basis, but none of them has the grace and beauty of the Temple of Concord, in my opinion.

Cefalu has a charming situation. When you climb up to the castle on the rock overlooking the city, you are looking down right on top of the cathedral. Simply amazing views.
jeffergray is offline  
Oct 12th, 2009, 07:49 AM
  #19  
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Thanks Jeffergray for your perspective and ideas on these areas, much appreciated. You have reinforced my ideas on how I wish to travel in Campagnia and Sicily. Planning the itinerary is always the hardest part for me but I have lots of good ideas from everyone here. Now Ijust need to finalize it to some degree so I can start planning accomodations which I find more fun!
Lily is offline  
Oct 12th, 2009, 09:02 AM
  #20  
GAC
 
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Fodorites, FYI: the name of the region of which Naples is the administrative capital is "Campania" (from the Latin "Campania Felix" or "happy Campania"). In Italian, "campagna" (note different spelling) means countryside.
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