Please help with Sicily Itinerary!

Nov 20th, 2014, 09:41 PM
  #21  
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
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@ cmstraf -- you enjoyed Enna, too?!? We've crossed more paths than I realized.

I enjoyed Enna, but must admit that I don't recommend it for just anyone.... It's a great place, IMO, to take in the views and visit castle ruins and eat some very fresh. local food IF (but ONLY if) it is a convenient stop...

If you do stop in Enna, be sure to visit the cathedral and take note of the somewhat unusual bases of its columns.
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Nov 22nd, 2014, 02:57 PM
  #22  
hax
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Thanks again, all! Your tips, comments and advice are so helpful.

I think we are keeping Palermo to 2 nights. Will leave later in the day (leaving the sights of Agrigento to the next day) and either stop at Segesta or Selinunte on the way, as kja did, or spend time in Palermo before we leave.

We have changed Siracusa (Ortygia) to three nights and Taormina to one.

Ian, I had missed your trip report somehow--loved it! We have booked the Villa Ducale for our last night in Taormina--a splurge. Looks so beautiful. But reading your report makes me wonder about that scary drive. How bad is it (Amalfi coast bad?) My husband (the driver) is not a fan of heights. Would we be faced with that drive whether we stayed in town or at Villa Ducale? I somehow thought it would make having a car easier--a place to park away from crowds. Could we get there without a car if we dropped it off in Siracusa?

cmstraf--We will be near an hour from Enna when we visit Nicosia, which is also a mountain town with a castle ruin. Wonder how different they are? May have time to check it out while we're there.

Still finalizing hotels in Palermo, Agrigento and Ortygia--will look into those mentioned here. Has anyone stayed at the B&B La via della Giudecca in Ortygia? They have a 400 sq. foot "Executive" room for only 100 Euro through their own site. Looks nice and has great reviews on Booking.com

Thank you, thank you!
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Nov 22nd, 2014, 05:53 PM
  #23  
 
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Hax

I stayed three nts at la via Della Guidecca and thought it was wonderful. Great location excellent manager Roberta, good breakfasts. Huge room on the first floor faces the tiny piazza. It's shown on their web page.

I dropped my car on Ortigia and continued on by train to Taormina. Took a taxi up to Taormina from the Giardino Naxus station. Very easy. I was very glad I did that rather than drive thru the heavy industrial area outside of Catania, biggest oil refinery I've ever seen and I grew up in southern California.
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Nov 22nd, 2014, 06:48 PM
  #24  
 
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To OP: Let me reiterate that IMO Monreale is the most beautiful church I have been in in the world anywhere. I also loved Segesta, it is small and more intimate than Agrigento--my Italian husband just now said it is his number one sight in all of Sicily.
We spent three weeks in total and moved around much more than our usual style (which is to spend a week in a city). I think it was 3 nights in Palermo, then one in Erice (we usually don't do one night stands, but did several on this trip), one near Agrigento, Enna, two nights in an agriturismo outside of Siracusa, two nights in Taormina (I might pass on this, too crowded for my taste even in April, three magical nights on Lipari, then a final two in Palermo (saved by the Palace Centrale after our reserved hotel in Monreale stood us up). We also very much liked the Romanruins and mosaics of Villa Romana del Casale and the city of Noto (Baroque...and where I was the ONLY woman walking in the city midday. The women emerged in groups for the ritual late afternoon passeggiata.
My husband and I spoke only Italian while we were in Sicily. We felt that part of what made our experience so special was the contrast between the beauty of the countryside,the remains of so many civilizations, and the warmth of the people on the one hand, and the dark shadow of the presence of the Mafia which we detected and which people alluded to everywhere we went.
My first moment in Italy was in May of 1992 (pre husband) on the Lago di Lugano. We had a lovely room looking across the lake with French doors opening to a small balcony. I have a photograph of that moment...so elegant and peaceful..a moment when I later learned Giovanni Falcone (antiMafia judge) and his 40 year old wife and their bodyguards were blown up on the freeway between Palermo and his mother's house. In the middle of the afternoon and oddly no one else was on the freeway.
Like Japan, Sicily was a once in a life three week trip which we wished we had had six weeks to do. And like Japan, we are planning to someday go back.You will have a wonderful time and eat lots of pasta alla Norma (excellent, but sometimes too much of a good thing...)
Our 4 star hotel in Palermo was the only 4 star we stayed in, rest were 3. We very much appreciated the feeling of sanctuary it gave us in a city which is not easy. I second kja's recommendation of the small but wonderful museum she mentioned.

to kja: Yes, it seems like we have crossed paths and may have similar sensibilities. I agree with what you said about Enna--we very much liked the views, but even more, that it was in the interior, felt less touristy and very Sicilian. We spent two nights there.
You are much more well-traveled in Asia than we. We are in permanent time debt to Italy--Italian relatives and friends--and often spend a week in Genoa and a week or 10 days in another European city when we travel.
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Nov 23rd, 2014, 12:05 AM
  #25  
 
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Another rave for Monreale. In fact, I liked it so much I went back for a second look. Another place I really liked in Palermo, and which I don't see mentioned much, was the Palazzo Mirto.

From my TR: "The palazzo offered a taste of the high life in Palermo in the 18th and 19th centuries, with a series of beautifully decorated rooms. Although the guidebooks talk about the marble floors, and the painted silk walls in the Chinese sitting room, I particularly admired the embroidered wall hangings and the china collection. Unfortunately, the Castello della Zisa, which I had expected would give me a view of life in Moorish Palermo, was little more than a shell."

I didn't make it to Enna, but I am glad I spent two nights in Erice and two in Trapani, but on a short trip I suppose I would spend one night in one of them.

I traveled to Taormina by train, took the bus up from the train station and then a taxi.
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Nov 23rd, 2014, 04:01 AM
  #26  
Ian
 
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>But reading your report makes me wonder about that scary drive. How bad is it (Amalfi coast bad?) My husband (the driver) is not a fan of heights. Would we be faced with that drive whether we stayed in town or at Villa Ducale?

Fear not. The drive up/down is only 10 minutes & the twisty road is lined with villas & parked cars so you don't have a sense of the heights & a great drop off. Lots of switchbacks of course, but I would rate it exhilarating rather than scary for your husband. This mirrors every hill town we drove through in Sicily.

Ian
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Nov 24th, 2014, 08:10 AM
  #27  
hax
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Many thanks again for the replies.

Dayle--so glad to hear you like La via della Giudecca. We don't have your huge room, but feel ours will be big enough.

cmstraf and thursdaysd--we will not miss Monreale!

Ian--thanks for the reassurance re: driving.

One more hotel question--

Has anyone stayed at the Palazzo Pantaleo B&B in Palermo?

On to shopping for Thanksgiving dinner--more trip planning later. Happy Thanksgiving to all!
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Nov 24th, 2014, 08:16 AM
  #28  
 
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If you're looking for a B&B in Palermo, I can recommend http://www.skysleeping.com/en/

It's not right in the center which I liked. Its street was like a little village within Palermo.
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Nov 24th, 2014, 11:52 AM
  #29  
 
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Nitty-gritty on ascending Mt Etna to the crater:

http://wikitravel.org/en/Mount_Etna
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Nov 24th, 2014, 12:58 PM
  #30  
 
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Here are a few additional thoughts for you . . .

I am not a city person and I couldn't get out of Palermo fast enough. We stayed in the old center of Cefalu and it was wonderful. We used it as a base for day trips out into the country, and enjoyed every minute. Our small boutique hotel was lovely. I know, we missed Monreale, and that is a travesty, but we saw many other wonderful things, including the Madonie National Park and the Zingaro Reserve.

You are very brave to drive in Sicily, I think. We were traveling with a group, and had hired local drivers, who spent a great deal of time raging at other drivers, and apologizing afterwards for their language. In some ways, it was highly entertaining. Catania was especially terrifying. IMHO, it takes a special kind of driver who is not from Sicily to drive there without a lot of Xanax.

Agrigento was very interesting, we did not have the time for Segesta or Seliunte. Erice was wonderful, although it is a very steep switchback road up to the town. I did not enjoy Piazza Amerina as much as I thought I would. It's interesting, but it was incredibly crowded, and I found it difficult to enjoy because of the crowds. It is the time of year for school trips, which were everywhere, and added to the overall congestion with the other tour groups. We did have a lovely lunch at a nearby restaurant. I would definitely encourage you to swap out Piazza Amerina for Erice. But my favorite thing is to wander the narrow back streets of the smaller towns. YMMV.

Ortygia, ahh, be still my heart. So mystical, so mythical, everything about it is beyond wonderful. The Piazza Duoma will take your breath away (our first view was at night). We are not much on guided tours, but we had a special guide for the morning in Ortygia (our drivers were not with us that day), and her insights into the incredible history, and places we would not have discovered on our own, made it even more special. She took us to the street market just in Syracusa, which was a highlight of our time in Sicily. Even moreso, was the market in Catania. It was a fascinating and worthwhile experience.

We also loved Noto, Modica, and Ragusa. The architecture is everything it is advertised to be. And, against all odds, we especially loved Taormina. The views, the history, the amphitheater, which frames a steaming Etna in its arches. Yes, it was crowded, and touristy, but we were there mostly in the evenings, and it was manageable. Driving and parking is tricky, just be sure to get accurate directions from the Ducale. And don't miss the public gardens. Another highlight.

We are currently planning a trip to Andalucia in April with the same group, and then I think we will be returning to Sicily, also in early May. We missed it as soon as we left. Back to Taormina, and Noto and Modica. But especially, back to Ortygia. Wherever you go, you will love it. It is a very special place.

ab
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Nov 24th, 2014, 01:09 PM
  #31  
 
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I stayed in Palermo a few days and the hotel I stayed in was extremely noisy - well not my hotel itself but my room was in a courtyard and all around the courtyard from flats was an incessant din of noise - meals being prepared - parents yelling at kids and loud music blaring from various flats - so be sure your hotel will be quiet- mine wasn't even though it was a nice enough room.

I went to Cefalu and wondered boy did I miss the boat by not staying here - just a short ways from Palermo by train.

That said I did not feel threatened at all in a Palermo that many call dicey - just a lot of grime, etc - maybe that is all better now about a decade later? Loved Montreale and the chapel of bones on the way to it.
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Nov 24th, 2014, 05:34 PM
  #32  
AMV
 
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AllisonBaxter, would you be able to share the name of your guide in Ortygia? We are thinking of spending two nights there. Thank you.
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Nov 24th, 2014, 05:39 PM
  #33  
 
Join Date: Nov 2014
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AMV, I think her first name was Lily. I may be able to find her card or my traveling partner may have her name in her notes. She was delightful. I'll let you know what I can find.
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Nov 24th, 2014, 10:10 PM
  #34  
hax
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Thanks, all!

Thursdaysd--your B&B looks great. Thank you!

AllisonBaxter--I'm interested in your Ortygia guide, too, if you find her name. Thank you. And thank for your thoughts. Yes, there is so much to see in Sicily, and we all have to make tough choices. We ARE city people, so we may be sorry our stay in Palermo is so short, but I do think we'll enjoy the countryside and small towns more. We do want to see Piazza Armerina. Do you remember where you had lunch?

My husband is the driver, not me. He enjoys it--usually. Hope he does in Sicily!

By the way, we were in Andalucia last fall. Sevilla, Granada, Ronda and Malaga and with a stop in Cordoba to see the fabulous Mezquita, and finishing up in Madrid. You will love it there!
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Nov 25th, 2014, 02:33 PM
  #35  
 
Join Date: Nov 2014
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This past May we spent a week in Taormina and did not find the town overly crowded. We stayed up the hill, everything in Taormina is uphill, from the main street, Corso Umberto, in the nice B&B Sara. We had a garage for our car, which was an extra 10 euro per night. The view of the coast was beautiful in the morning and stunning at night.

The highlight of the Sicilian part of the trip was going to a small, mountain top town bearing my last name. We are Calabrese and not Sicilian, but it satisfied a long held dream. We were quite the curiosity as we walked around town. This place probably does not receive a lot of visitors.We gabbed with a few locals and they were at ease after I told them my last name was the same as their town.

Buon viaggio,
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Nov 25th, 2014, 06:20 PM
  #36  
 
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We rented a car and drove throughout Sicily with no problems. My husband is Italian--but from the North.
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