Help planning Sicily Itinerary

Old Feb 17th, 2014, 02:59 PM
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<< Is a visit to Mt. Etna a worthwhile experience? >>

I greatly looked forward to going to Mt. Etna but was less than thrilled once I got there. I thought the drive up was not pretty, low scrub brush. I only went to the parking lot (lots of souvenir stands and a couple of cafes. You can go higher on the chair lift but unless it's a clear day visibility will be very limited. The area is all ashen cinders with big holes. It was the least interesting thing I did on Sicily and the two or three least interesting things I've done in Europe.

https://modigliani.shutterfly.com/sicily2011/251
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Old Feb 17th, 2014, 03:00 PM
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<< and the two or three least interesting things I've done in Europe. >>

One of the two or three...
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Old Feb 17th, 2014, 03:08 PM
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"If we cut one of the Baroque towns -- Modica, Ragusa or Noto, which should it be?" -- Unless you have a very serious, specific interest in Baroque architecture, you might consider visiting only one of the three. I visited only Noto and enjoyed it very much. It is the closest to Siracusa.

"Is a visit to Mt. Etna a worthwhile experience?"

I joined a day tour out of Taormina that also included the fascinating and unusual Gole dell' Alcantara. Once we reached the "base" station for Etna (which is to say after a bus and then a train and then another bus), we had to take -- as I recall -- a cable car and then a huge RV-kind of thing to get to the top, where one could join a guide for a walk. (Actually, the very TOP -- the very highest cone -- was some distance away. Some people left to try to climb it. I chose to join a guide for a tour of the almost-top.) I found the experience other worldly -- I could feel the heat through my thick-soled boots even as the wind chilled the rest of me through my layers and layers of clothes. It was very clear that the snow field was melting from the bottom, not from the sunlight hitting the top. The wind whipped particles and grit about, so I was very glad to have protective eye gear. All of this in late May, as I recall, and just a few days after Etna had spent some time smoking. It really was otherworldly. I was powerfully aware that the planet on which I live is an active thing, a "living" thing in a very real sense. The tour took a full day from Taormina. If you go, you will need to bring appropriate attire.
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Old Feb 17th, 2014, 03:11 PM
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Oh boy, no advice. I was in the same boat when I went to Sicily: so many places I wanted to see and too little time. For what it's worth, the driving times between sights took longer than I had anticipated. I'm a fairly aggressive sightseer but I was worn out! We had two night stays everywhere except Agrigento (one night) and Ortygia (three nights).

Good luck choosing. It's all wonderful, so you can't go too wrong.
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Old Feb 17th, 2014, 03:12 PM
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And one more not-terribly helpful comment: we loved Modica!
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Old Feb 18th, 2014, 01:30 AM
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"Cefalu may not be a must-see.. For those of you who have been there, please weigh in on whether it's worth a visit."

It is pretty much as you describe. Lovely old streets, a decent beach, good waterside restaurants. If you are energetic, you can climb the huge rock behind the city - the views are excellent.

The Duomo is very definitely worth seeing, but it doesn't compare to the Cathedral in Monreale (None do)

On another point, I've not been to the fish market in Catania, but there is good fish market in Siracusa as well.
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Old Feb 18th, 2014, 05:55 AM
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adrienne--of course. How stupid of me.
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Old Feb 18th, 2014, 04:15 PM
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I'm going to Sicily too, in Early June, so I'm reading all this with great interest. We will be arriving by train from Naples and crossing the Straits of Messina. Then we need to decide what to see. We don't like rushing around and will probably try to find a couple of bases for 3 or 4 nights each. We prefer to stay in self catering apartments and if we don't feel like going out well then we don't.
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Old Feb 18th, 2014, 06:46 PM
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Our pretty detailed Trip Report from Fall, 2012, with a Table of Contents at the front:

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...tober-2012.cfm

It starts with Taormina, but you can skip that part of the report (it is indeed very touristy).

We loved the <i>Agritourismo</i> Fattoria Mosè (Agrigento).

- Larry
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Old Feb 19th, 2014, 02:46 AM
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You have all added to the enjoyment of planning our trip. I'll be reworking our itinerary this weekend. Thanks, again!!
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Old Feb 21st, 2014, 01:34 PM
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Thanks to everyone on this thread, we have revised our itinerary. We only have 7 nights and want to see a lot in a short amount of time, so the itinerary is still very aggressive, unfortunately. Here's what is looks like now:

April 13/14 Palermo– overnight for 2 nights
April 15 – pick up rental car, drive to Monreal, then Scopello (or Segesta area) for overnight.
April 16 – visit Segesta, then drive to Selinunte. Overnight near Selinunte or in Sciacca.
April 17 – Spend day in Agrigento/Valley of the Temples -- overnight in Agrigento
April 18 – Drive to Villa Romana del Casale to see mosaics; then to Modica. Overnight in Modica
April 19 – drive to Siracusa – overnight in Siracusa/Ortigia
April 20 – leave at 11 am and drive to Catania airport for 2:55 pm flight to Frankfurt, overnight Frankfurt

What do you think about my substitution of a night in Scopello, instead of Cefalu? Scopello is more en route to the other places we are planning to visit. Or would it be better to cut Scopello out and spend more time in Siracusa at the end of our trip, since we currently have only one day and night set aside for our visit to Siracusa.

Also, after we leave Segesta, we will be driving to Selinunte. Would there be a good place that you could recommend to stay near Selinunte? Maybe an Agritourisma? Or should we stay in Sciacca?

Finally, does anyone have recommendations for places to stay or memorable restaurants in Agrigento, Modica or Ortigia? (The B&B that was my first choice for Agrigento apparently has cats, and we are allergic, regrettably. It sounds like we may be encountering this issue in many Sicilian B&Bs!)

Many thanks, again!
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Old Feb 21st, 2014, 04:21 PM
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I must admit that I still think you are shortchanging both Palermo and Siracusa. I think each deserves at least one more night than you are allotting them. But we all travel for different reasons.... If you do stick with your current plan, you might want to think through your priorities in advance so you can use the limited time you do have to best advantage.

In case it helps, I visited both Segesta and Selinunte en route from Palermo to Agrigento and felt that I had sufficient time at each. It was probably about noon when I left Palermo; I got to Agrigento around dusk and had time to freshen before a latish dinner. (I didn't visit Monreale en route -- I had already done that.) Just something to consider.

I was very well satisfied with my B&B in Ortygia, L'Approdo dell Sirene:
http://www.apprododellesirene.com

Restaurants: Note that these reviews are from my trip in 2007, but the current reviews on tripadvisor suggest that each place is still worth considering:

Agrigento: Per Bacco (Vicolo Lo Presti, 2) — Just off the main street of Agrigento’s old town (Via Atenea), Per Bacco offered a range of local specialties served under the friendly and attentive eye of its manager, Valeria. I enjoyed a fresh and flavorful meal (swordfish) at one of the restaurant’s outdoor tables, tucked into a medieval close. The indoor area looked pleasant, too.

Siracusa (Ortigia): Il Cenacolo (Via Del Consiglio Regionale, 9/10) — I thoroughly enjoyed my meal at this popular restaurant. Seated in a pleasant outdoor area with trees overhead, I had a delicious salad (orange, olive, & tomato - SO good!) and a perfectly cooked risotto. Service was friendly and attentive, even though the restaurant was very busy.

Siracusa (Ortigia): Ristorante Porta Marina (Via Dei Candelai, 35) — My meal at this restaurant was absolutely delicious and beautifully presented. I also enjoyed the setting: simple, elegant furnishings in a high-ceilinged room with exposed brickwork and vaulting.
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Old Feb 21st, 2014, 08:43 PM
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Baloney
I hope you take time to read my trip report. Your plan would be a warp speed version of my trip minus the Aeolians. I would rec every where I stayed except for Camera conVista in Agrigento. Review on TA. Scopello inApril was really dead. Skip unless its A perfect day and you want to hike Lo Zingaro - highly rec.

VERY highly rec La Foresteria La Planeta Estate in Menfi for overnightnear Selinute.

Definitly rec La via della Guidecca in Ortigia to stay as long as humanly possible. Ortigia was one of my 3 most fav places inSicily.

My report also has my restaurant recs.

Buon viaggio!
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Old Feb 22nd, 2014, 09:40 AM
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kja -- Thanks for the feedback. I am still rethinking the pacing of our trip and will consider whether we can spend more time in Palermo and Siracusa. And thank you for taking the time to send such detailed restaurant recommendations. I will put them to good use!

Dale -- I had read many threads and Sicily trip reports on this forum, but somehow overlooked yours. It's a wonderful, detailed report, and will be extremely useful for our trip. Thanks so much for pointing me to it, and to your recommendation of La Foresteria La Planeta Estate in Menfi for an overnight near Selinute. It sounds like it might be worth skipping Scopello (although the Agritourisma that you discovered there sounds kind of intriguing) and build in a night at La Planeta instead. It also sounds like you agree with kja that Siracusa/Ortigia deserves more time.

I've booked the Ambasciatori Hotel for our time in Palermo. I was intrigued by the roof-top terrace, and it seems to get good reviews overall. I see that you stayed there, Dale, and it sounds like you liked the hotel. Was your cautionary note about walking around Palermo one that would apply to all of the city, or was it specific to the area surrounding the Ambasciatori Hotel? We would like to be able to walk the streets in the evening, if at all possible.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2014, 05:57 PM
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I've trimmed down my itinerary and it looks like I could add extra time to either Palermo or Siracusa/Ortigia, but not both. I currently have scheduled about two days full days to see Palermo and only one full day to see Siracusa. Since I can only spend more time in one of these cities, which should be it?

Thanks, all.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2014, 06:19 PM
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Palermo. It's larger than Syracuse and there is more to see and do.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2014, 07:10 PM
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Your call, and a tough one it will be!

You say you have 2 full days in Palermo, but your last posted itinerary doesn't seem to jive with that -- it looks like you'll lose at least some time to flying in, getting to the city and checked in, and perhaps jet lag. Maybe I'm not understanding, but it seems to me that you have closer to 1.5 days in Palermo.

If you leave Modica very early and get up early on your final day to see a last thing or two in Siracusa/Ortygia, then you might have close to a full day there. But since things don't generally open at the crack of dawn, your time there seems a bit more limited that a full day.

I think that to make a decision, you really need to sit down with a couple of very good guidebooks and think through your priorities. The good news is that you'll see some wonderful things no matter what you choose.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2014, 08:01 PM
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Baloney,

I was traveling solo and my guide, Jackie, inPalermo and the staff at Ambasciatore advised against walking veryfar around Palermo at night. If youare not solo I wouldn't be concerned at all.

The roof top terrace at the Ambasciatore is wonderful with great views. Their wine selection is limited and just so so.

I wouldtry to spendmore time in Ortigia!
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Old Feb 22nd, 2014, 08:15 PM
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I stayed in the area around the Ambasciatore (but not there) in 2007. I (solo female traveler) did walk around that area at night, but did so with a frisson of fear -- it honestly didn't feel particularly comfortable. But of course, things change with time, so I don't know how it would feel now.

Other parts of Palermo, say around the Teatro Massimo and Teatro Politeama-Garibaldi, felt very safe in the evenings and the evening passagiato in that part of town is, I believe, quite the thing.

I was fortunate to have a very different experience of Palermo than Dayle did -- I loved it! I don't think there are many places where one can get that particular combination of architectural styles in such a vibrant and dynamic city. But I loved Ortygia, too...
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Old Feb 22nd, 2014, 08:50 PM
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I'm also a solo (female) traveler (we should have a GTG!). I stayed a little out of the center in Palermo, on Corso Camillo Finocchiaro Aprile, and felt fine walking around in the evening. I enjoyed Palermo, but I enjoyed Ortygia more. However, Ortygia is the kind of place where you need time to just wander around, admiring buildings and soaking up the atmosphere, whereas Palermo is more about the sights, so if you're short on time Ortygia might not work as well.
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