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Narrowing in on Sicily itinerary--would love input

Narrowing in on Sicily itinerary--would love input

Dec 11th, 2015, 10:48 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 191
Narrowing in on Sicily itinerary--would love input

We have 15 nights in Sicily. We would like to stay 2 nights most places to avoid so much moving around -- though there is still a lot of it here... If we took out one stop to lighten up the traveling, which should it be?

PALERMO Arrive late morning – hotel for 3 nights
Day trip to Monreale
?Given shortness of time should we just skip Cefalu? If we added a night there, could we drive from there to Trapani (via Segesta?

Arrive late afternoon (after potential Segesta visit)
? Is this stop “worth it”?
?Should we stay in Erice or Trapani?

Visit Selinunte on the way
?This is a long drive (85 miles or so) – how is the road?
--We could stay one night at Mazara del Vallo but trying to avoid 1 night stays

Perhaps this is our 1 night stop? How long does it take to see the Villa?

Visit Caltagirone on the way?
Which town do you recommend for our stay?
Is it easy to visit others from one of them?

It looks like we will not make it to Taormina. How feasible is it to visit Mt. Etna from Siracusa? Is the Etna trip a MUST? (We kind of liked the idea of kicking back here after all the moving around!)
-- We do have one remaining night so could make that in Catania (where we leave early in the AM the next day) and do Etna from there. Advice?

I really appreciate input from Fodorites so please feel free to give me your unvarnished opinions!
Thanks in advance....
losaltos is offline  
Dec 11th, 2015, 02:42 PM
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Your itinerary looks good to me. I can't really help with your questions-- much of this is personal opinion /likes and dislikes, but here's an interesting article on chocolate in Modica.


I personally would stay in Modica and then drive to Ragusa and Scicli. When you leave Modica ask your hotelier for the pretty backroad route.

Never made it to Cefalu, Trapani or Erice, so can't help there. IMO stopping to see Segesta is very worthwhile.
Leely2 is offline  
Dec 11th, 2015, 04:51 PM
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I can't quite figure out why people want to visit Etna or especially Vesuvius. At least Etna is somewhat active, but it's just a black pile. If you're driving in the vicinity you'll see it from afar. Caveat: I live near Mt. St. Helens and am going this winter -- for the nth time -- to the Big Island of Hawaii, where Kilauea continues to erupt.
Mimar is offline  
Dec 11th, 2015, 05:27 PM
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Depends on what you want to see and experience!

For my tastes, 3 nights in Palermo was not sufficient, and I didn't even try to fit Cefalu in (even though I'm sure I would have liked it). Even if Cefalu is of particular interest, and particularly if it is, you might want to add time to Palermo.

I know that many people do everything they can to avoid one-night stays. As a solo traveler, they don't bother me at all. Two nights in Agrigento and two nights in Piazza Armerina would have driven me nuts -- particularly in light of everything I would have had to give up to do so. Add in two nights in one of the Baroque cities and I would be a raving maniac! But YMMV -- and I'm sure many people will think your time well planned. FWIW, if you end up in Agrigento in time for dinner, a 2-night stay could make sense even to me, then a night in Piazza Armenina (assuming you are not willing to leave your luggage in your car -- NO need to stay there if you are willing to take that risk!), then on to one of the Baroque towns if that is a priority, with up to 2 nights there if that's what most interests you.

As for Caltigirone: Your cal! I found a few hours there pleasant, no more or less. Truth in advertising: I'm not fond of Baroque, and so the Baroque towns of Sicily were not a priority for me. I adored Noto -- which is easily visited from Ortygia -- for its incredibly playful facades, and the addition of ceramics to the "usual" Baroque exterior details make Caltigirone of interest to me. JMO.

As for Etna, again, your call! When I visited (May 2007), it has recently sent out some ash (which I saw from a distance a few days earlier!), and I found it fascinating to feel the heat of the surface through my thick-soled shoes while watching the snow and ice that covered the surface melt from the bottom up. And the views from the top were, IMO, impressive. But if you go, you might need to pack for the occasion -- if you weren't already planning to bring them, you might want to bring thick soled shoes, protective glasses, lots of layers, maybe even earmuffs. It can be VERY cold and windy on top, and the surface is very rough, even if not hot.

Sicily is wonderful -- enjoy!
kja is offline  
Dec 11th, 2015, 06:20 PM
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We had 13 days in October and it was a rush but we picked some great places. Also wanted to avoid one night stands but in the end they were fine and we were happy to move on.

We didn't go to Cefalu or any of the north coast. Went around the other way (Catania to Palermo) but it's basically similar.

Comments from me:
If the weather is good definitely stay 2 nights in Erice! We just loved it - much nicer than Trapani which you can visit on the easy and lovely trip down on the cablecar. WE were lucky to have two days of sunshine though and I believe you can be in the clouds up there.

Agrigento is a great site but one night there is definitely enough if you plan so you can have an afternoon at the site and stay nearby. Similar with Salinunte which is well worth the stop - very different being right on the sea and you can climb around the ruins which is getting unusual.

No need to stay in Piazza Armerina - allow about 2-3 hours at the villa. Coming in the other direction we stayed in Caltagirone (having visited the other Baroque towns) and visited Piazza Armerina from there (beautiful drive) and then went down to Agrigento easily in a morning to give us time to see the site in the afternoon.
You could come from Agrigento - stay in Caltagirone - visit Piazza Armerina the next morning and either go back to Caltagirone or on to another of the baroque towns that afternoon.

Don't try to do Etna from Syracusa - too far and too much time on the road. Anyway you will by now love to sit back in beautiful Otrygia and relax - get yourself a kitchen and buy up big from the fabulous market to eat at home a bit... fantastic! Syracusa has the archeological site and museum to visit too.

You could definitely do Etna from Catania - either by train or driving but you could decide at the time - if the weather's good and the mountain is looking exciting you can go or if not spend a fascinating day in Catania. By then you'll be comfortable in Sicily and ready to wing it.

Do relax and enjoy this wonderful part of the world. We found the people wonderful (just be aware, check your change, and hold tight to your wallet in crowded places), the countryside is spectacular and so varied, the driving is insane but if you go slowly and give yourself plenty of time to stop when they do crazy things, it's ok. The food of course is fabuloso!!

Put a question into Tripadvisor too - there are some great people who know Sicily really well there.
yeshekathy is offline  
Dec 12th, 2015, 10:59 AM
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Thanks so much all of you. Lots to ponder but definitely get the message that Agrigento and PA need to be cut shorter.
losaltos is offline  
Dec 12th, 2015, 11:19 AM
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We did a few hours in Calitgirone on a Sunday and it was enjoyable to walk around, check out the steps and the lovely architecture. We had a wonderful Sunday lunch there.

We always enjoy driving around the countryside and we did end up doing a day driving from outside Siracusa to see Mt. Etna. The landscape was incredible and the scenery on our drive was mostly pretty. We wandered into a small town and had the best meal of our many fabulous meals in Sicily.

We visited Noto from our argriturismo outside Sircusa. Its esp lovely in the evening when the light reflects on the buildings.

We loved Erice and have visited it on both our trips to Sicily.

Taormina while having spectacular views is a tourist trap -- crowded and junk in the town. The Greek Amphitheater is worth seeing, but only if ou are really into tose things.

In gneral we found the roads fine throughout Sicily. We occassionally ended up up some small windy mountain rods, but they could be avoided.

There are 2 current planning threads on Sicily - one by progol and the other julies. Julies has a TR also. use the search function to try and find them as I htink they provide a lot of useful info.
Have a great trip!
yestravel is offline  
Dec 12th, 2015, 11:26 AM
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Just saw the TR by juries
- it may help you
yestravel is offline  
Dec 12th, 2015, 02:28 PM
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I think your plan is reasonable. If you plan to visit Selinute and then continue to Agrigento, two nights in Agrigento would probably make sense. However, if you get an early start and are not interested in also visiting the Agrigento museum, then one night might work.

I think 1 nt near Piazza Armerina or Catalgirone would be enough.

Personally, I chose Erice over Trapani and was very glad I did. Nice place to stay because it's very atmospheric and the views are incredible.

Just a thought - you might want to look at staying at an agritourismo or inn in the countryside for your visit to the Villa Romana. All your destinations are cities (except Erice) and the Sicilian countryside is beautiful! If you cut Agrigento to 1 nt, you could do 2 nights in the countryside.
Dayle is offline  
Dec 13th, 2015, 01:59 AM
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Lots of good advice here.

When we arrived in Sicily we drove from Palermo to Modica and found the interior of the island to be very beautiful and rustic.

I like the idea given about staying in Modica. It’s a lovely town that’s built into a bowl. Someone also mentioned chocolate and if you go, you’ll have to visit Dolceria Bonajuto which may be the oldest chocolate producer in Sicily. They make a delicious chocolate that has a grainy texture that’s wonderful. If you do decide you might stay in Modica, look into Casa Talia. It’s a great place owned by an architect and completely renovated.

Caltagirone is well worth the visit especially if you are interested in buying ceramics. It’s one of the island’s centers for production.

Erice is a charming little village that is worth driving up to for the view alone, it is just spectacular and one of the best in Italy. You park just outside the gate and can stroll through the narrow streets. We stayed at the Hotel Elimo which was enjoyable. Some don’t really like Trapani which is below Erice but we found it enjoyable and worth a visit. We ate there a few times and there are several lovely pedestrian shopping streets to stroll for the evening passeggiata.

As far as Palermo is concerned, I really enjoyed the open air markets but as someone else said, to each his own, Palermo was probably my least favorite part of the island. For me it’s a little too chaotic. I just prefer smaller cities and towns. Palermo was a bad choice for driving we made. I feature myself as a very skilled driver and frequently drive in places like New York which is no match for Palermo where it’s a free for all, traffic signals being but a mere suggestion. One thing to keep in mind if you do have a car in Palermo is to not leave anything in it. As you walk around the city you’ll begin to notice places where there’s clothes strewn around and you’ll see destroyed suitcases and wonder what’s going on…and then it’ll hit you. Just be smart there with your stuff.
His_Dudeness is offline  
Dec 13th, 2015, 05:15 AM
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You need to decide if your objective in visiting Sicily is to see all of the sights that guidebooks list so you can then tick them off, or if your objective is to enjoy Sicily in its entirety. IMO these are two completely different approaches. If you at all like to walk and hike in the countryside, there are good options for this that will give you a much different perspective than just moving from typical tourist site to tourist site. Also, having time to enjoy the smaller towns themselves (not just their main attraction) can be extremely enjoyable and give you a another different perspective. For example, we spent two nights In Piazza Armerina. In addition to the mosaics which were the true reason for our visit, we also enjoyed the town of PA itself.

In contrast to His Dudeness, we liked Palermo. However, we never in a million years would have attempted to drive there. Dump the rental car at the airport, and take the bus into town.

For us, Erice was worth one afternoon and overnight. Parking there is problematic and expensive, and if you intend to use it as a base to drive elsewhere, you'll be adding about an additional half hour each way just driving up and down the road to get in and out. While we were unable to stop, you may want to contemplate the idea of Castellamare del Golfo as a possible base in the area.
julies is offline  
Dec 13th, 2015, 06:15 AM
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Castellamare del Golfo looks lovely!

I, too, am planning a trip to Sicily for May, and as you probably know, I'm doing a very similar trip to the one losaltos outlined above, only in reverse. The only way that I would be able to include this spot would be to trade off Erice for Castellamare, and the pictures are tempting me. I've already got 2 1-night stays in my itinerary, and don't want to add any more (though I'm comfortable with the itinerary I have at this point).

I do want to see the "sights" though I also think it's possible to enjoy the feeling of a place, even as we do travel along the traditional tourist route. For me, this happens when we do stay in B&Bs, engage in interactions in shops and in restaurants, and so on. I'm very keen to see the sights -- but I do think it's possible to absorb a sense of place even when traveling along a well-trodden path!
progol is offline  
Dec 13th, 2015, 06:18 AM
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Not to caltagirone nor trapani but the rest looks ok to me.

We loved going to the etna.
We also did a night cruise that allowed us to see the Strimboli spitting some lava.

Ps : when we did the Etna I was 20 Kgms younger.
pariswat is offline  
Dec 13th, 2015, 06:39 AM
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You can easily do a day trip to Cefalu from Palermo. It is well worth a visit but there's no need to stay overnight, especially if you want to avoid too many hotel changes.

No need for two nights in Agrigento or Piazza Armerina.
One is more than sufficient in Agrigento if you want to see the temples illuminated overnight. Otherwise, I would do both places as a day trip. The mosaics in PA can be seen in a few hours. (I'm probably the only person who was bored stiff with the mosaics - on two separate visits).

I would try to see Taormina, at least for one night. I know it's touristy but it's very beautiful and the Greek Theater and views are spectacular.

I found Etna fascinating and think it's worthwhile to visit. Looking down into the smoking crater and hearing the rumbling was pretty memorable.
panecott is offline  
Dec 13th, 2015, 06:46 AM
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I feel the need to defend Taormina. We stayed in the Villa Schuler, which had a garden with a back exit into the town. We hung around the edges of town, hit the Greek theater early before the cruise ship groups, and mostly just enjoyed the marvelous views. There's a nice little town park, and a gondola that will take you down to the beach.

This was the end of our trip. It was nice to relax.
Mimar is offline  
Dec 13th, 2015, 06:53 AM
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I agree that the countryside of Sicily is beautiful and you should really spend some time exploring it either through driving or hiking if you enjoy that.

I also enjoyed Palermo alot. Driving in NYC (or anywhere in the US) is totatlly different than driving in Palermo. But I have to disagree with the comment on the not driving in Palermo. Obviously if you can avoid driving in any big cities, it's always a good idea, but for us Sicily was part of a much longer driving trip. We drove into and out of Palermo with absolutely no problems. Traffic esp on the way in was very heavy and moved slowly, but that was about it. I'm not advocating using a car while there and driving about the city, but to get to a hotel and leave it we had no issues.

Not sure if I missed when you are planning your trip. If its Springtime there is a parking lot in Erice that is free. I think free until sometime in June. wherever you stay should be able to direct you to it. The owner of our apt led us there.

I agree with julies about just enjoying Sicily. However, I think one can easily combine seeing the major sites if that is what attracts you to Sicily with spending time in the villages and countryside. One does not preclude the other. I think Sicily is destination rich and it's hard on a first visit there to figure out what you want to see. On our first visit someplace we will often hit the major spots whether its hiking, a museum or ruins and if the country/area appeals to us we will go back again, but that's just our approach to travel.
yestravel is offline  

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