Planning for 7 nights in Sicily

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Jun 26th, 2018, 10:39 AM
  #1
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Planning for 7 nights in Sicily

My wife and I have booked flights to Sicily in mid-September for a 7-night stay and we are flying in/out from Catania. We enjoy visiting historical sites and learning of the cultures of the land in our travel. We travel mainly by public transportation (train, bus or taxi) so we are always kind of limited to where we can visit. As we will be arriving early morning in Catania so my initial plan is to go straight to Taormina by bus where we will base for first 3 nights. We plan to spend 1-day to Mt Etna but we need suggestions where else we can visit from Taormina. We will move on from Taormina to Siracusa by train/bus (need advice for this leg of the journey). We plan to stay on the island of Ortygia for 4 nights and make short day trips from there. Places we plan on visiting are Noto, Modica & Ragusa. Can we visit these places on a single trip or multiple trips? Not sure if we could make the trip to Palermo but it will be so rush as we will be leaving from Catania. Any suggestion?
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Jun 26th, 2018, 12:55 PM
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Taormina to Syracuse is best by train - direct from Taormina's train station far below town on the sea - these are regional trains where it is best to buy tickets at station on day of travel and they are dirt-cheap. Same for any train just about in Sicily. For lots on Italian trains check Acquista il biglietto con le nostre offerte - Trenitalia (could book tickets online but for regional train Italian train experts on Fodors suggest best to buy at stations day of travel- same price and more liberal validity period and buying tickets online from Trenitalia can be a hassle some who have done it say - no need to bother - those trains take no seat reservations anyway - for more on Italian trains and where to go with them in Sicily check www.seat61.com; BETS-European Rail Experts and www.ricksteves.com.

Taormina will still be mobbed in September but the Naxos-Giardini area below it seaside is an Italian seaside resort with fewer crowds and probably much cheaper hotels for what you get - it is (or was when I stayed there) connected to Taormina buses. And if taking trains the station is there too.
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Jun 26th, 2018, 05:12 PM
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kja
 
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I’m glad you realize that 7 days is very little for Sicily, and so will limit your trip to just the east!

Taormina is beautiful; it is also often so crowded with daytrippers as to be decidedly unpleasant. It is much nicer before and after day trippers leave, and it makes a good base for visiting Mt. Etna, but if you don’t know what else you would see from there, consider spending only 2 nights. Personally, I wouldn’t stay in Giardini Naxos; I didn’t think it all that nice. JMO.

Whether you can visit Noto and Modica and Ragusa from Siracusa in a single day trip really depends on what you want to see and experience, and your preferred pace of travel, but I have to admit that I think it unlikely. Noto is an easy bus or train ride of less than an hour either way from Siracusa. Modica and Ragusa are much further. I think those two could be meaningfully combined, but you’ll have to check the schedules.

For your transportation options, see rome2rio.com

With the time you have, I wouldn’t try to make it to Palermo, which easily deserves 3 or 4 days.

Hope that helps!
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Jun 27th, 2018, 08:44 AM
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Thanks for the updates. Further research on my stay in Ortygia, I think I would do day trips to Noto by bus and Modica and Ragusa by train. That would cover the day trips of my 4-night stay in Siracusa/Ortygia. Taking on the Kja's suggestion, I am considering just 2 nights in Taormina and visit Romana del Casale via Plazza Armerina. But the route is out of the way of my two destinations: Taormina and Siracusa and also there is the question of how to get there and from where. Any suggestions?
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Jun 27th, 2018, 02:48 PM
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There are day tours to Piazza Armerina as well as many other sites from Taormina. Look at Sicily Life’s website, sicilylife.com
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Jun 27th, 2018, 04:33 PM
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There used to be a Sicily Pass covering trains and buses but not sure still around - could ask at first station.
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Jun 27th, 2018, 08:41 PM
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Do be sure to give yourselves enough time for Siracusa / Ortigia itself! I wanted 2.5 days in the city itself for just what I considered the highlights; YMMV.

I believe there are tours to the Villa Romana del Casale from Siracusa, not just Taormina, but i could be wrong! When exploring your options, do be sure to specify the Villa per se, unless you have a specific (and unusual) reason for visiting Piazza Armerina -- PA is just the nearest city, and if you were to get there, you would still need to get some distance out of time for the Villa Romana del Casale.
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Jun 29th, 2018, 10:02 AM
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Again, thank you for all your feedback.

I am thinking out loud here and wonder if we would be better off to stay in Catania for the 3 nights so we can do day trip by train up to Taormina as a part of the day tripper crowd. We would then do another day to Mt Etna from Catania. We can either do another day trip to Villa Romana Del Casale if we not too tired. Or we can just stay put and explore Catania in between the day trips. Is Catania a good home base to stay for 3 nights ?
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Jun 29th, 2018, 11:23 AM
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Few here have much to say about Catania for some reason and I just walked around in one day and thought it a really neat large city and would be a great base - can do Etna tour on own - take the CircumEtnea narrow-gague train to where you get off for buses to Philosophers Tower from where a charlift - if not knocked out by recent volcanic activity - and then 4-wheel vehicles to near the crater and then a short hike - supposed to be much better views than from Taormina side. Of course tour from Catania would be much more convenient but if you're the type that likes to go on own fairly easy and a real adventure.
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Jun 29th, 2018, 05:21 PM
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kja
 
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I haven't been to Catania, and so can't answer. From what I know, I think I would like it -- but I like cities, including chaotic ones (which can be the case in Sicily -- again, I don't know Catania). I'm sure it would be a very different experience than Taormina, which is a small town with many preserved elements of its medieval town.

I don't think I can overstate just how unpleasant I found Taormina to be during the day -- to the point where I ended up with bruises from being smashed between people who filled every inch of the main street and pushed and shoved as they moved along. In contrast, I thought it a delight after day-trippers left. I'm glad I stayed there for the views and the experience of the evenings there; YMMV.

I'm sure that one CAN visit Mt. Etna on one's own, whether it's easy to do so depends, I think, on your idea of "easy." My day trip (with a group) from Taormina involved multiple changes of transportation in each direction, and there was a LONG line at every one of those access points -- a line that is skipped by tour groups (or at least, my group only had a brief delay here and there and were looked at enviously by those in line). And I'm not sure whether the tour would be "much more convenient" from Catania than from Taormina -- my bus started and ended in Taormina, and skirted Catania in each direction; I can easily imagine that traffic in that city would complicate the trip. I was there in late May of 2007; things could be different now.
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Jun 29th, 2018, 05:26 PM
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A group tour makes sense as kja says - on own multiple changes of train and lifts and vehicles. And plus you may see other neat sights too.
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Aug 30th, 2018, 01:25 PM
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Hi there,

The Sicily trip in Sep is almost upon us and here is the itinerary planned:

- flying in to Catania Airport early morning and 1-hr bus ride to Taormina for 3 nights.
- staying in a small boutique hotel near the Porta Catania end
- places of interests while in Taormina are: Santuario Madonna della Rocca, Teatri Antico, Giardini della Villa Park, Castelmola, Isola Bella & Mt Etna (north side)Sty
- leaving Taormina to Siracusa by train and staying in Ortigia for 4 nights
- staying in a small B&B near the bridges
- apart from hanging out while in Ortigia, other places of interests are: puppet theatre, Teatro Greco, Parco Archeologico, Noto, Ragusa Ibla.
- Leaving by bus from Siracusa to Catania Airport

Just hope I will get good and clear sky weather for Mt Etna trip.
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Aug 30th, 2018, 04:52 PM
  #13
kja
 
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Originally Posted by A4MYS View Post
Just hope I will get good and clear sky weather for Mt Etna trip.
In that case, if the weather is auspicious on your first day in Taormina, go then!
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Aug 31st, 2018, 09:00 AM
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The Archeological Museum in Siracusa is excellent if you enjoy that type of thing. Fascinating coin collection in the basement level and Im not usually into that.
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Sep 6th, 2018, 08:22 AM
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Still not sure about Mt Etna - whether to go the north side or the more popular south side? Any suggestions?
The south side excursion from Taormina is not available on the Thursday and Friday and if I wanted to go to the south side, I would have to take transfer to the south side base at 2000m and buy cable/bus tickets independently to the top (up to 3000m). The north side excursion is available on the Thursdau/Friday but not sure if the scenery there would be as good as the south side.....
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Sep 6th, 2018, 09:09 AM
  #16
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Also, need advice on the morning leaving from Ortigia/Siracusa to Catania Airport. Our flight is 9:15 am from Catania Airport and first airport bus from Ortigia/Siracusa is leaving at 6:30AM and arriving at 7:45AM. Is there enough time to catch the 9:15am flight with this bus schedule? I wonder if we need to be at the airport 2 hrs before the departure time !!!
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Sep 6th, 2018, 10:55 AM
  #17
 
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DH and I enjoyed the Papyrus Museum in Siracusa.

Sorry, no help with Etna. Others who know first hand should say, but our experience with airport transport is that they get you there in time for first departures. You should contact the bus company for certain.
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Sep 6th, 2018, 12:21 PM
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Make sure you travel even higher up the mountain to Catelemola. It's at the peak. Very quaint town. Had my best Sicilian meal there. We flew into Catania, rented a car and drove to Taormina. Spent 4 nights there and it was perfect. We spent many days on the beach all over Sicily. After Taormina we went to Cefalu. We stopped in San Stefano for ceramics and if you can do that, and you like to shop, coolest place ever. We stayed 4 nights in Cefalu but visited family in Polizzi Generosa one of those days. That is a very unique place in the Madonie Mountains. It is a step back in time. Beautiful and very local feeling. No one speaks English. I loved it. Great place to wander. After Cefalu/Polizzi we drove to San Vito Lo capo. Great seaside town. We are a family of 5. It was July. It was perfection! Back in 2011 We did the boot then 5 days in Palermo and one of those days in Polizzi. Palermo is awesome. Did a day trip to San Pelligrino, Mondello, etc. Have fun!
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Sep 6th, 2018, 05:30 PM
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For day tours from Taormina look at Sicily Life.
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Sep 6th, 2018, 06:16 PM
  #20
kja
 
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I’m surprised you aren’t able to take the south-side excursion from Taormina on the days you will be there (what are you doing to identify your options?), but if your goal is to see the top, the advantages of being with a tour can be substantial: There are a lot of intermediate transfer points, and groups generally get to go through more quickly than those who have to wait in line to buy tickets and then wait in line for the next available transport.

How much time you need in advance at the airport would depend, I think, on whether your flight is domestic or international. If it were me, I’d check with my airline to make sure I know it’s rules for that flight and any additional constraints added by your ticket.
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