Itinerary check for Sicily, please!!

Nov 27th, 2016, 08:13 AM
  #1  
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Itinerary check for Sicily, please!!

In April my husband and I are going to Sicily for 3 weeks, then we will fly to the Lakes area and perhaps points beyond. I have received some very helpful information about Palermo from many posters. Now I am hoping for an itinerary critique and advice and suggestions on the rest of the portion in Sicily. Typically I have a trip researched and booked at least 9 months out, so this "last minute" (for me, not for others) is a bit strange and unsettling!! I am feeling like I need to hurry to get hotels booked soon!! Hoping for some expert advice from those who have been there and have written those excellent, informative, helpful trip reports!!! Thank you all so much in advance!!

Itinerary in rough draft form (subject to possible changes) ...........
April 12...........Arrive Palermo late afternoon......hotel Palazzo Pantleo for 5 nights
Erice for 3 nights
Selinunte for 2 nights
Agrigento for 2 nights
Piazza Armerina for 1 night
Noto for 2 nights ( or would Scicli, Ragusa Ilba or Modica be a better choice??)
Ortygia for 3 nights
Taormina for 2 nights
Catania for 1 night (We plan to fly out of Catania to Milan)

I'm not sure if I have the amount of nights allocated in the best way. We would be doing day trips during each stay to Monreale, Castella Mare del Golfo on the way to Erice. Segesta and San Vito lo Capo, Trapani from Erice. Siracusa from Ortygia, Mt Etna from Taormina, like that. We prefer to stay at least 2 nights each stop, and usually book apartments for longer than that, but it doesn't appear that Sicily lends itself to that plan? So we are fine with moving around, we just don't like to RUSH around!!!! ANY advice or suggestions would be so appreciated!!!

.
dodi66 is offline  
Nov 27th, 2016, 10:03 AM
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Looks like you have planned well! Just one comment I would like to make, it is only an easy 1 hour drive from Taormina to Catania airport. I would just stay in Taormina for the last night, and make your flight out of Catania 11 am or later, and you will have a relaxed morning to catch your flight.
It's what we did from Ortygia, and found it very non stressful. We had taken the train to visit Catania and I personally wouldn't bother to visit there again.
sundriedtopepo is offline  
Nov 27th, 2016, 10:34 AM
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Don't know about 3 days in Erice. While truly beautiful, it seemed very quite in the evening on the night I was there. We spent more time in Trapani and traveled twice to Erice from there.

Also, I strongly agree with Sundriedtopepo's advice.
Boolanger is offline  
Nov 27th, 2016, 10:46 AM
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I agree with the above advice, and would take the Catania night and add it to your Baroque town (whether Noto, Scicli, Modica or Ragusa) night. But that's just me; I loved Modica and I really like the Baroque.
Leely2 is offline  
Nov 27th, 2016, 11:53 AM
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dodi,

It looks like you have a very good plan for the sightseeing you want to do from each destination. I personally would not recommend Taormina for two nights, except for the purpose of visiting Etna from there. Then it makes sense.

I didn't visit Catania but would pile on regarding eliminating the night there in favor of adding it to either Ortigia or your Baroque town.

I loved my 3 nts in Erice and was there during the same time of year that you will visit. It was quiet and very atmospheric at night! I loved it. Even during the day, all I saw of other tourists were a couple of small groups wandering during the afternoon - groups of just 6 or 4 people. Not what I would consider too touristy.

My only comment is to think about what you intend to do in Castellamare del Golfo. Are you comfortable leaving luggage in your car while you walk around? I don't think I would be comfortable leaving my luggage in that location, especially at the beginning of a trip where possible loss could be very inconvenient, even if it is just clothing.
Dayle is offline  
Nov 27th, 2016, 12:08 PM
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I think 3 nights in sleepy hilltop Erice could be a nice change from Palermo. Erice attracts conferences and such, hence an ebb and flow of visitors who actually stay the night.

On the way from Palermo, give Segesta maybe three hours - the visit to the temple is a bit of a disappointment since it looks much better, downright majestic, from across at the carpark rather than up close. But park and take the shuttle up to the top of the hill with the amphitheater - what a view and photo op!

You won't want a car in Palermo. Walk all you can, but watch your footing, the broken sidewalks make turning an ankle a real hazard. Don't miss the marionettes museum, it's awesome (closes for lunch, watch the hours). It's a gritty mix of third-world country and cheerful noisy lively southern-Italian place.

When it's time to drive, take the airport bus from the central station and rent your car at the airport - easy to get onto the freeway and head on out, since it's on the geographically opportune side of town anyway.

Avoid driving right into Agrigento, it's a nightmare of small lanes and - during certain hours - forbidden (but not well signed) streets. Drive up to the vicinity of the train station, no further - plan your parking online ahead of time.

If you go by Marsala, look into the Arazzi museum for the Flemish hanging tapistries that tell a history lesson.

Enjoy!
michelhuebeli is offline  
Nov 27th, 2016, 12:46 PM
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dodi66, I like your style I'm planning our trip to France for next September already.

Well I have to throw in a good word for Taormina. We really enjoyed staying at Villa Schuler, with a wondrous view from our room, a beautiful outside space for breakfast, also with view of the coast and Mt. Etna, and a nice garden to linger in.

It was a very beautiful place to spend a few days just relaxing, and watching the world go by. We live in rainy Vancouver, so to see the sun with such a view for 3 full days was a treat. I'm sure there are other hotels equally as atmospheric as Villa Schuler as well.

We got up early to see the Greek Theatre, before the tours arrived. Again, a spectacular view. Close by is the Giardini delle Villa Communale, which is a very nice and quiet stroll through shady gardens.

We also took the cable car down to the water and walked out to Isola Bella, very pretty. We then had lunch at Il Barcaiolo, which I recommend. All in all, a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

Of course, everyone has different interests, but my husband and I found it very romantic. We just stayed off Corso Umberto during the daytime, when it is so crowded.
sundriedtopepo is offline  
Nov 27th, 2016, 01:47 PM
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I agree no need to spend a night in Catania; we easily made it from Taormina to Catania airport in just over an hour and that was in the rush hour. [assuming that the traffic round Catania isn't always like it was at about 9am on a Monday morning!]

as for which Baroque town to choose to stay in, we spent 2 nights in Ragusa Ibla which is a lovely place to be but the very devil to get in and out of; Modica bassa or Scicli [which we visited for a couple of hours and liked] might be better bets.

I would also try to fit in a visit to Caltigirone, on your way to or from Piazza Armerina; it is justly famous for its ceramics but it also struck us as being a really nice place [and we found the closest thing to a cornish pasty that we've ever eaten anywhere outside the UK!]
annhig is offline  
Nov 27th, 2016, 04:12 PM
  #9  
kja
 
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Looks like a good plan to me!

I was glad I spent a night in Noto, but I’m sure you are aware that it is less than an hour from Ortygia (which is part of Siracusa).

The views from Taormina are beautiful, but it can be unpleasantly overrun by daytrippers. I think staying there can make sense, so you can enjoy those views before the day trippers arrive, but be prepared, and consider finding ways to spend your days out of town. ;-)

When you say that you want to visit Mt. Etna, do you mean that you want to go to the top or to explore the vineyards on the slopes? If the former, return your car upon arrival in Siracusa. If the later, make sure you know what you are going to do with your car while in Ortygia.

I didn’t make time for Catania and wish I had.

IMO, no need to go to Palermo’s airport to pick up a rental car. There are some car rental agencies at one of the city’s metro stations just blocks from an autostrada.

I didn’t have the trouble driving in Agrigento that michelhuebeli describes (just one wrong turn, quickly recognized and easily corrected), and I was there as a solo driver in pre-GPS days. It probably depends on where, exactly, you want to go.

Hope that helps!
kja is offline  
Nov 28th, 2016, 08:45 AM
  #10  
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Wow!! Such great information and advice to ponder!! Sundried, it sounds like you plan like I usually do if you are planning France for Sept now!! We may take your advice and add a night to the Baroque villages. Would you recommend Modica over Noto or a night there in addition to the 2 in Noto. kja, we were thinking of visiting Mt Etna, perhaps with a day tour from Taormina. I saw some mentioned that looked interesting..but haven't looked into it yet. Thanks for the car pickup thought...there is one right around the corner from our B&B, will probably try for that one. Annhig, yes, we were planning on stopping in Caltgirone...no way would I pass up a ceramic village!!! Thanks for mentioning it though! We will also look for the place that has cornish pasties!! Leely2, Did you prefer Modica over one of the other towns? From the guidebooks, I can't tell which would be the better place to stay. Dayle, Glad you concurred with our 3 nights in Erice!! It just sounds like a place we would love. When we were in Spain last spring, against most advice, we spent 4 nights in Toledo and absolutely adored it!! (and would return) So 3 nights in a medieval village sounds delightful to me!!! Good point about the luggage left in the car on the way to Erice!!! We will go to Monreale on the bus while staying in Palermo and go to Castellamare del Golfo from Erice (or not, as time allows) Thanks for pointing that out re luggage. Would the same be true of a stop in Caltigirone? Perhaps we should go there from our hotel rather than on our way?? Michaelhuebeli, yes, we were going to go to Segesta during our stay in Erice. Thanks for the heads up re the tapestries in the Arazzi, will try to add Marsala as a stop!!!! Again, thanks to all of you for the wonderful suggestions!! It all helps firm up our plans!!! Anything else that occurs to you, please post...
dodi66 is offline  
Nov 28th, 2016, 02:17 PM
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Thanks for pointing that out re luggage. Would the same be true of a stop in Caltigirone? >>

at the risk of being accused of being reckless or foolhardy, IMO the risk of leaving your luggage in your hire car in Sicily may have been overstated.

First of all, we were handed a piece of paper by our car hire company warning us in several languages not to leave anything in the car, ever. We did not go into Catania [or Palermo come to that] but I would not want to leave anything of value in a car unattended in either of those cities.

However, once we started touring around it soon became evidence that it is somewhat impractical so common sense has to prevail. For example, once we left Ortigia, [where the hotel had parked our car for the three days we had there, it wa fun seeing where it had moved to every morning!] we were going to Ragusa but wanted to stop off en route in Pallazolo Acreide which seemed like a good place for a mid-morning break. On arriving in the town frankly it did not look like a hotbed of villainy. At the top of the first of many hills there was a piazza with a Cathedral on one side, and a few nice looking cafes on the other, with parking nearby. Honestly the biggest problem was finding the machine to buy the parking ticket! We got a map from the tourist office, wandered round for an hour or so, then had a drink in a cafe and got back in the car and left. We didn't leave anything on show in the car, though I confess that by the end of the trip we were getting quite blasé and may have left the TomTom inside instead of disconnecting it and taking ti with us.

The same applied in Caltigirone. We were travelling between Ragusa and Piazza Armerina so if we were going to stop, it would have to be with our luggage in the car. We found a parking spot at the top of the town and walked down, had a look round at the main sights, had some lunch, and then walked up all the steps which lead up to Santa Maria del Monte [I'm sure there are more than the guide books say!] and back to the car, where the biggest problem we had was that we'd taken the space of the fruit and veg van that apparently visits every week to sell its wares to the local housewives.

We also had a good look at the parking at the Villa Casale [as people had raised that problem on another thread] and honestly, it's so exposed that anyone trying to break into a car and take the luggage would stick out like a sore thumb, not to mention the little problem of what to do with it after they'd taken it.

Of course everyone needs to make their own decision about this, but I wouldn't let worries about luggage stop you seeing paces you want to see. [within reason!]

So if you ar sensible and don't leave anything valuable on show, I am
annhig is offline  
Nov 28th, 2016, 03:05 PM
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Well I'm not as big a fan of the Baroque towns. We stayed in Modica in May in the delightful Palazzo Failla. But I found myself somewhat defeated by all the stairs because that hotel is in Modica Alta. So I would recommend staying somewhere a little farther down the hill. The setting of the town is quite beautiful.

We never did make it to Ragusa but I wish we had. We visited Noto from Syracuse. The baroque architecture there is very interesting but this last May I found Noto a bit overly touristy, a product of its popularity I suppose.

There's a little resort town south of Syracuse called Marzamemi, on the coast, where we had a very good seafood lunch, and I bought some local products there. Would highly recommend but not sure if it would be open in April.
sundriedtopepo is offline  
Nov 28th, 2016, 03:57 PM
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I didn't mind the stairs in Modica at all, but I live in San Francisco and hike up and down hills every day. We stopped in Ragusa and that looked nice too, but Modica, at least a few years ago, felt largely untouristed (in late March), and we enjoyed that.

Ditto annhig re: luggage in the car. We stopped in Segesta with all our luggage. Didn't want to miss that site.
Leely2 is offline  
Nov 28th, 2016, 05:09 PM
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Leely2 it could have been the stairs combined with the heat near end of May that got me. Or, you might be younger than I am
sundriedtopepo is offline  
Nov 28th, 2016, 06:25 PM
  #15  
kja
 
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Assuming that you mean to visit the TOP of Mt. Etna (or as near as a tour can get you), yes, you should be able to arrange a day tour from Taormina. I arranged mine from my hotel once there, although you can probably do it in advance if you prefer. With this plan, do consider returning your rental car upon reaching Siracusa – you won’t need it after that, and it could be quite an encumbrance.

I would NOT want to have a car in Palermo, even for just leaving it. Your call, of course, but as I mentioned, you can take public transportation to a car rental agency on the outskirts of Palermo. The one I used was the Europcar at Piazza Matteo Boiardo, booked with gemut.com.

I left luggage in my car at several locations in Sicily (including Segesta, Selinunte, and the Villa Romana del Casale), but I think whether to do so is a very personal choice. And I’m not Images2 -- the Fodorite who DID have luggage stolen from a car while in Sicily.

When I visited Noto, it’s Duomo was literally just re-opening after years (decades?) of being closed for repairs, so it was far from a major tourist mecca. I can’t speak to what it’s like now. I can say that I loved seeing it’s fanciful and humorous facades in both daylight and in the evening, when it’s glorious shade of its warm yellow stone was fully evident. And I say that as someone who is decidedly not a fan of the Baroque in general.
kja is offline  
Nov 29th, 2016, 05:42 AM
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We stayed in Modica in May in the delightful Palazzo Failla. But I found myself somewhat defeated by all the stairs because that hotel is in Modica Alta. So I would recommend staying somewhere a little farther down the hill.>>

Ragusa was somewhat the same, we found, and driving up into it was a testing experience too. however we happened across a bus which took us from the bottom of Ragusa Ibla right up to the centre of Ragusa Superiore and therefore we were at least able to walk down which was a lot better than walking up.

Hence my suggestion of Modica Bassa or Scicli which is quite flat.
annhig is offline  
Nov 29th, 2016, 04:40 PM
  #17  
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Interesting remarks re leaving luggage in the car while touring sights and something to definitely think about. I can see where there are instances where it is far more convenient, and sometimes actually necessary if you want to visit the sight!! I guess we will just see how it works as we go, and use common sense. We did decide to book our 3 (yes, per several posters' advice, we eliminated the night in Catania and added it to the Baroque villages) nights in Noto at the Villa Ambra (recommended in a trip report). Our decision was based on reports of the glowing evenings in Noto (from kja, for one!)and also that it just seemed like a good base for us. We will visit Modica, Ragusa, maybe Scicli while there, depending on interest and time!! We were not planning on having a car in Palermo, just picking it up as we were leaving. And we were thinking of dropping car off as we enter Taormina, then taking bus/train to Catania for the airport. kja, you mentioned dropping it off in Siracusa...were you then suggesting public transportation to Taormina? Do you remember the name of the tour you used for MtEtna? Thank you all again for the helpful advice!!!! If anything else comes to mind, please feel free to post it!!!
dodi66 is offline  
Nov 29th, 2016, 05:33 PM
  #18  
kja
 
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I hope you enjoy Noto as much as I did! As I mentioned, the Baroque is not much to my liking, so I didn't visit any of the other Baroque towns except Caltagirone, but I was very glad to see Noto!

Yes, I would urge you to use public transportation to get from Siracusa to Agrigento. It's very easy, and having a car while in Siracusa is unlikely to be an advantage. As a starting point to identify your transportation options, consult rome2rio.com -- just be sure to check on anything you find there, as it is sometimes gives erroneous or incomplete information.

My ticket stub for touring Etna says "Gruppo guide alpine etna sud" and it was one of the tours that included the Gole dell'Alcantara, which I had wanted to see and found very interesting. As I recall, such tours take nearly all day (from and to Taormina -- it started at about 7 a.m. and returned around 5:30 p.m., according to my notes) and it included a combination of bus, train, bus again, cablecar, humongous ATV or tank-like thing, etc. If you take such a tour be prepared for very, very cold temperatures and strong winds (bearing bits of volcanic grit) at the top. I brought along several very lightweight layers, earmuffs, silk gloves, and protective eye-wear, and I was envied by all in my group. ;-) Also bring really sturdy walking or hiking shoes with very think soles, as the lava can have extremely sharp edges. I was there shortly after some minor volcanic activity, and was stunned by the warmth I felt through my hiking boots, despite snow on the surface. (I actually saw the "action" a few days earlier from Enna -- a very black column of ash rising high into the air from Etna's peak. Awesome!)
kja is offline  
Nov 30th, 2016, 06:39 AM
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Sounds like a great trip. Just want to comment on leaving luggage in cars -- we did it throughout our 3 weeks in Sicily. I would never do it in a big city, but out in the country and in the smaller towns, we left our luggage and had no issues. Caltagirone was one town we left luggage (not visible) in our car as well as in the parking lot in Monreale and Casale Romana.

We were on a longer driving trip than just Sicily. As a result we did have our car in Palermo and had no difficulty driving into and out the city. There was traffic, but it just moved slowly.

The spring is a lovely time to be in Sicily -- everything is green and the wildflowers are everywhere--enjoy your trip!
yestravel is offline  
Nov 30th, 2016, 08:47 AM
  #20  
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I am glad for more input on leaving luggage in cars...some of the stops we wanted to make would be most inconvenient if we had to double back from accommodations, particularly the ones you mentioned. We travel very light, so would only have 2 small cases, and I will try to book a car with a trunk (or cover over back)....and hope for the best!! Thank you, yestravel (love your name, BTW!) kja, thank you for the tour info....I will look into it. Seeing activity on Etna would be superb (as long as it does no damage anywhere!!) We have been on the Big Island of Hawaii many times when Kilaeau was active....spectacular!! Good to know about the preparations necessary, too!!! We will be coming into Siracusa from Noto, having already been to Agrigento, then on to Taormina so I wondered if you meant to drop car in Siracusa, rather than Taormina?? We will definitely want the car in Noto, for surrounding villages if we choose, but may not need it in Siracusa, exxcept to travel to Taormina....not sure on that part yet.
dodi66 is offline  

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