Help planning Sicily Itinerary

Old Feb 16th, 2014, 06:33 AM
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Help planning Sicily Itinerary

Hi, Sicily enthusiasts. I'm hoping you can give me suggestions for refining an itinerary for a short trip my family of three will be taking there in April. We are travelling with our 15 year old son who, like his parents, enjoys experiencing other cultures, eating local food, visiting historical sites and museums, and exploring places of natural beauty. We don't tend to shop when we travel, or lay around very much. We are in Sicily for only 7 nights, so we will be cramming a lot into a short amount of time on this trip in order to see a lot of what we want to see. With that in mind, I've put together the following itinerary, realizing it is very aggressive, and not too relaxing.

April 13/14 Palermo – overnight for 2 nights (including visit by bus to Monreal on April 14)
April 15 take train or bus to Cefalu – overnight in Cefalu
April 16 – pick up rental car in Cefalu and drive to drive to Segesta and Erice, overnight Erice.
April 17 – Drive to Selinunte and Agrigento -- overnight in Agrigento
April 18 -- Drive to Ragusa then Modica; Overnight in Modica
April 19 – drive through Noto, then to Siracusa – 1 night in Siracusa
April 20 -- drive to Catania airport for 2:55 pm flight to Frankfurt, overnight Frankfurt

So, my question is, if you could cut something from this itinerary, what would it be? Should we skip the overnight in Erice or in Agrigento or Modica, and opt for spending 2 nights in another place (Syracusa/Ortigia perhaps?). And if we were to cut one or two places from this list, which would you suggest it should be -- Erice, maybe?

You will see that I haven't included Taormina. I know it is supposed to be beautiful and many people love it, but it sounds so touristy that I'm just not sure whether it is worth the effort it will take for us to include it. (We reacted so negatively to the over-touristification of Rothenburg on der Tauber when we visited Germany last summer that I am reluctant to use limited time for what may be a disappointing experience.) Please weigh in on whether Taormina is a must-see even despite these concerns.

Also, if you have stayed in any of the places on our list and have suggestions for memorable places to stay or eat that are not too expensive (we are trying to keep our accommodations under $140/night, if possible), I would appreciate your recommendations.

Many thanks!
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 07:07 AM
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Cefalu is only about an hour from Palermo by train so you might want to make it a day trip. It's a charming town but I don't think there is enough to see and do there to warrant changing hotels and staying overnight.

Cefalu will be a farther drive to Segesta and Erice (I believe - I didn't check the actual driving route).

Palermo for 2 nights is really only 1 day. This small and charming city has a lot to offer and deserves more time. You could do a half day in Cefalu (leave early, view the town and return with enough time to see something in Palermo).

Don't miss Agrigento and I recommend an overnight here to see the temples lit up at night - this was one of the highlights of my Sicily trip.

I haven't been to Segesta but would recommend eliminating Erice as I didn't find it as interesting as other locations.

Taormina is beautiful but with a limited amount of time you'd do better to visit other locations.

Do a search on this board for Sicily and you'll get a lot of comments on the various locations.
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 08:44 AM
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My trip report might give you some ideas; click on my name to find it.
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 08:46 AM
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I'm sympathetic to your dilemma--you want to see as much as you can (and Sicily is fabulous) and you also enjoy experiencing other cultures which requires time outside the car/checking in & out/packing & unpacking. Here's what we did with two weeks:
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...ecial-trip.cfm. We saw a lot and still missed a lot. Didn't didn't make it to Erice or Cefalu but agree with adrienne to either visit Cefalu from Palermo so you don't backtrack through Palermo or perhaps drive from Cefalu to Agrigento, skipping the western part of the island. It's hard to go wrong because it's all good.
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 01:10 PM
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I think you would be wise to cut some things from this itinerary, as I don't think you are leaving yourself enough time to actually see the places you will be visiting. IMO, Palermo and Siracusa warrant more time than you are giving them, particularly in light of your interests. And be sure to leave yourself enough time in Agrigento!

FWIW, in my 2 weeks in Sicily I skipped Cefalu, Erice, Ragusa, and Modica.

Hope that helps!
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 02:32 PM
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Segesta is not to be missed: we loved Agrigento, Siracusa, and you might think about one night in the center of Sicily at an Agriturismo location (Farm with meals and rooms).
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 02:38 PM
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I would definitely skip Cefalu, wrong direction for your drive, but not Erice or Siracusa (actually, stay in Ortigia, not Siracusa new town). Also, you shouldn't miss the Roman mosaics at Villa Casale. Click on my name for my TR.

I applaud your decision to skip Taormina. Great views, but very touristy and your trip is so short.
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Old Feb 16th, 2014, 04:26 PM
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Hi baloney (great name by the way
Click on my name for my trip report. Theposters above plus bobthenav inspired my trip. I skipped Cefalu and I would rec skipping Taormina. My trip was 3.5 weeks and still not long enough! Villa Casale the greatest highlight. No need to see ALL 3 of the Baroque towns. Ortigia andthe Arch museum were definitly must sees. Really too bad you can't at least take 2 weeks. Maybe concentrate on just one area and plan to return!

Buon viaggio
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Old Feb 17th, 2014, 01:02 AM
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BTW, I agree that Taormina can be skipped. The views are stunning, and there are some charming parts of the town that can be enjoyed once the masses of tourists leave, but with so little time, I think it makes sense to place greater priority on other parts of the island.

In Ortigia (Siracusa) I highly recommend L'Approdo delle Sirene:
http://www.apprododellesirene.com
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Old Feb 17th, 2014, 05:21 AM
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I really like Cefalú, but would second the suggestion to do it as a day trip rather than an overnight stay.
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Old Feb 17th, 2014, 06:03 AM
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The view from Erice in and of itself is worth staying there. It is a beautiful small town. The passeggiata at the bottom of the mountain from Erice in Trapani is quite nice also. I agree with the others about skipping Taormina. Yes it's beautiful but only because it's so different than most of the rest of Sicily. It's more like Toscana. Modica is a great town. We stayed there also at a wonderful place called Casa Talia. In Modica you have to get chocolate at Antica Dolceria Bonajuto...I still think about it. If you're into ceramica, there's a great town not too far from Modica called Caltagirone that's well worth a visit. Other than the huge open air markets I would have passed on Palermo. It's just my opinion but we're not really city folk. Like others have said, the Valley of Temples around Agrigento is just incredible. Have a great time and enjoy the view flying into Palermo.
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Old Feb 17th, 2014, 07:00 AM
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Wow. Thanks, everyone. These are all very helpful comments. Sounds like we should definitely skip Taormina and possibly Cefalu, unless we make it as a day trip. May also skip Erice, unless we make a quick stop. Will also make sure to visit Villa Casale. By coincidence, my son just told me he wants to go there. He also expressed interest in visiting Catania (and seeing Mt. Etna). I was planning to skip Catania, and just drive directly to Catania airport from Siracusa on the day of our departure. Is that a mistake? We like cities, which is why I planned to spend more time in Palermo, but it wasn't clear to me how much Catania has to offer. Any thoughts on that would be appreciated.

I also like the suggestion about staying at an Agritourismo in the countryside. Would anyone have a suggestion for one where we could stay -- either some place en route between Segesta, Selinunte and Agrigento, or alternatively, some place which we could go to after leaving Siracusa, to stay overnight before going to the Catania airport for our departing flight.

One more question: I was planning to rent a car as we leave Palermo, to avoid having a car and driving while in the city. Would it be best to rent on the outskirts of the city (even at the airport) or has anyone had a good rental experience renting from a place in the city and driving out of town? Driving in Palermo sounds daunting.

Thanks, again!
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Old Feb 17th, 2014, 07:22 AM
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Driving in Palermo is absolutely nuts! Rent on the outskirts if you can.
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Old Feb 17th, 2014, 08:04 AM
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Forget driving in Palermo.

Do not skip Erice, better to stay there so you can wander the back streets and soak up the views, but a short visit would be better than no visit. For some incentive my (still-unedited, alas) photos are here: http://kwilhelm.smugmug.com/Travel/S...rice/i-jPRN6p5

Only made a brief stop in Catania, was not wowed.
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Old Feb 17th, 2014, 10:23 AM
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As you realize, your itinerary is rushed. We did more or less than same thing but we had much more time.

I'd choose either the western or the eastern parts of the island.

If not, then I concur in not moving to Cefalu for one nite. It's worth seeing, but can be a day trip. The problem we had at Erice was fog or low lying clouds: totally fogged in, so we couldn't see anything after we got there. If I had to do it again, I'd skip it and spend the extra time in Siracusa, which is definitely one of the highlights of the island.

Concur in skipping Taormina. Go up on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius instead if you have time. I wouldn't take the time or trouble to go into Catania.
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Old Feb 17th, 2014, 10:32 AM
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<< Go up on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius >>

It's Mount Etna on Sicily.
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Old Feb 17th, 2014, 10:43 AM
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We spent a couple of days in Catania and enjoyed the town. There's an incredible seafood market that shouldn't be missed. Great food.
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Old Feb 17th, 2014, 01:28 PM
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Very helpful to have everyone's suggestions. Thank you!
I'm going to try to fit in a detour to see the mosaics at Villa Romana del Cesale -- is there an agritourismo nearby that someone could recommend? Or alternatively, an agritourisma that is near Mt. Etna where we could stay the night before heading to the Catania airport for an afternoon flight?

The photos of Erice do make it look appealing -- thanks for sharing them. I'll see if we can fit it in.

The Catania seafood market also sounds great, but we're already cramming in so much on this trip, I think we'll have to save Catania for next time.

Thanks, again, to all of you for the helpful advice!
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Old Feb 17th, 2014, 01:41 PM
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I picked up my rental car on the way out of Palermo at the Europcar location on Piazza Matteo Boiardo, which is by one of Palermo's train stations and is easily reached.

Is the goal to see Mt. Etna, as in, literally, to see it off in the distance? In that case, consider driving through (or even staying in) Enna on your way from Agrigento to Piazza Armerina (for the Villa Romana del Casale). Visiting Mt. Etna normally takes hours (as in the better part of a day).

And perhaps you will forgive me for another word of caution: If you actually want to spend any time in any of Sicily's wonderful places, you need to leave time to do more than drive to and through them!
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Old Feb 17th, 2014, 02:51 PM
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Thanks, kja. Your point is well-taken. I do realize our itinerary is too rushed. Any further suggestions you or others may have for scaling it back would be appreciated. I know from my past travels that we shouldn't rush, and also shouldn't stay every night in a touristy town. Our favorite places are frequently off the beaten track,and our fondest memories are often mixing with the everyday life of town. So, when I think about making cuts from our itinerary, it comes down to the following considerations:

Cefalu may not be a must-see. What attracted me to it was the fact that it sounds like it's a lovely coastal town that manages to be a normal working town during the off-season. It's also supposed to have a nice duomo. For those of you who have been there, please weigh in on whether it's worth a visit.

Erice looks pretty, but seems to get mixed reviews, so maybe is something to save for next time.

If we cut one of the Baroque towns -- Modica, Ragusa or Noto, which should it be? (I was planning to stay overnight in Modica, based on the recommendation made in other postings that it has a more authentic feel.)

Is a visit to Mt. Etna a worthwhile experience?
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