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Pls critique "final" Naples/Sicily itinerary for May - and a few questions

Pls critique "final" Naples/Sicily itinerary for May - and a few questions

Jan 12th, 2013, 04:56 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 440
Pls critique "final" Naples/Sicily itinerary for May - and a few questions

Thank you to everyone who was so helpful in responding to my planning thread a few months ago:
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...s-welcomed.cfm
I have read all your trip reports (as well as those on TA) and gotten lots of advice, read reviews and guidebooks, etc.
So, now ready for the final critique -- plus a few questions -- for our 4 nights in Naples and 12 nights in Sicily. Please keep in mind we are active city folks in our 60's, my husband likes archaeological sites, we both like to wander cities and outdoor markets and soak up the atmosphere. We like walking and the outdoors and great food. We live near the beach, so that's not a priority. We don't have to visit every church or check the sightseeing boxes, but do want to come away with a Sicilian experience! We have traveled extensively in other parts of Italy.

May 19 -- We fly LAX to Naples thru Munich
4 nights Naples at Hotel Piazza Bellini - will see the city sights, visit Pompeii and Herculaneum - haven't decided yet if we will get a guide for the archaeological sites.

fly to Palermo in evening of 4th day
3 nights at Palazzo Pantaleo - great reviews, good location
Plan to see the outdoor markets and city on Saturday and enjoy whatever is open on Sunday. While everyone says Monreale is a "don't miss," we'll have to see if we have time. We plan to see the Capella Palatina.

Pick up rental car either in Palermo or at airport (thanks to everyone who weighed in on that decision) and head for Pensione Tranchino in Scopello for 1 night.
While we don't like "one nighters" at hotels, we did want to see Erice and seemed like staying in this area made sense before going further south. So, the plan is to drive to Scopello, drop our bags, and spend the afternoon at Erice, returning to the Pensione for the raved-about dinner.

Next morning visit Zingaro reserve (time and weather permitting), then pick up our luggage and head for Selinunte stopping at Segesta on the way. While we are aware of the dangers of leaving luggage in the trunk, others have told me that Segesta parking is guarded and doesn't seem problematic.

Arrive Villa Sogno in Selinunte for 3 nights. This is where we want at least a few hours of relaxation! We plan to see the ruins at Selinunte and will decide on other excursions since we will have 2.5 days there. We may spend a day going to Mazara del Vallo, Cave di Cusa and Mozia. May visit Gianfranco Becchina's Orchard or another olive oil place near Castelvetrano. Open to other ideas, but we hope to spend some time in the garden by the pool as well.

Leave Selinunte for Piazza Armerina. Depending how we feel may stop at Agrigento, but may skip it since we are seeing so many other ruins. I have read everyone's advice not to skip it, but we are excited to visit Villa Romana del Casale instead.
This is a night we are not decided about and I could use some help. Original plan was to drive to Piazza Armerina and drop luggage at Villa Clementine or La Casa Sulla Collina D'oro -- both very well reviewed -- and see the mosaics in the late afternoon after the tour buses depart. Then the next morning go to Catalgirone on way to Siracusa.

But i have another idea: Stay instead at Vecchia Masseria, which is an agriturismo halfway in between Catalgirone and Piazza Armerina. Depending if we feel safe leaving luggage in car while we visit Villa Romana, we could do that first and then stay at Vecchia Masseria and be halfway to Catalgirone for a morning visit. OR, if we happened to finish at the villa earlier than expected, visit Catalgirone very late afternoon before dinner.

So, that night in the Piazza Armerina/Catalgirone area is still open. Thoughts?

Drive to Siracusa/Ortigia, probably stopping at Catalgirone. We could either take the LONG and scenic route or take the highway route. I have rec'd advice from TA, but would be interested to hear from those on this forum as well:
http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic....html#46043746
Can't decide if worth it to drive through Iblei Mountains to get to Ortigia.
Doesn't seem to make sense to stop in Noto on the way to Ortigia.
Anyone done these drives?

4 nights L'approdo Della Serene/Ortigia
This gives us 3 full days to see the archaeological sites and ruins in Siracusa, wander Ortigia and its sites including the ancient mikveh and take at least one excursion. We could visit Noto by car or bus, probably for a quick gelato stop. Have decided that one of the baroque towns should do it for us -- although wish we had more time to actually stay in a place like Modica or Ragusa....but we don't. Pantalica as a day trip intrigues me and there are some good reviews of seeing the burial tombs and it might be a nice excursion - maybe combined with something else?

Would like to turn the car in at Siracusa to avoid driving to Catania airport. Perhaps our last day do the cooking class with the owner of our B and B. It would be a market visit in the morning and then cook at 5:30 p.m. and eat 7:30 p.m. In between we could see anything we had missed in Ortigia/Siracusa.

If we have already returned the rental car, take private transfer or taxi (70 euro) and depart Catania 12:30 p.m. to LAX through Munich.

I promise to write a detailed trip report when we return. That's my way of thanking everyone for helping me plan the trip.

Look forward to your comments.
alison is offline  
Jan 12th, 2013, 05:37 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 32,524
For your time in Naples, I would get the 3 day Tutta la Regione Campania Artecard for 27€. It includes local trains/bus/tram/metro/funicular transport (most other Campania cards don't include transport) and can be used for your admission (and transport) to Pompeii and Herculaneum. It includes two free admissions to sites (the first two you visit will scan as free) and discounts at others.
http://www.campaniartecard.it/#

Click on the included sites and which transport is listed to reach the site.
kybourbon is online now  
Jan 12th, 2013, 07:16 PM
  #3  
kja
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 20,741
> visit Pompeii and Herculaneum - haven't decided yet if we will get a guide for the archaeological sites.

I thought the audio guides at each quite informative, and at Pompeii, there were staff posted around the place who were more than happy to share their knowledge. But that was back in 2007; things could easily have changed since then.

> everyone says Monreale is a "don't miss," we'll have to see if we have time. We plan to see the Capella Palatina.

While I'm glad you'll see the lovely Capella Palatina, it is not IMHO a substitute for the magnificent Monreale, which remains among my top 5 of all the man-made spaces that I have been fortunate enough to see. Do try to make time for it!

> While we are aware of the dangers of leaving luggage in the trunk, others have told me that Segesta parking is guarded and doesn't seem problematic.

I don't think anyone can guarantee safety, but I didn't think leaving my luggage in the trunk was risky at Segesta. I do urge the usual precautions: don't leave anything of value inside the car where it can be seen through a window, and don't open your trunk after arriving until you are ready to leave - there's no reason to let anyone know that there's luggage in there!

> see the mosaics in the late afternoon after the tour buses depart

At least when I was there, the structure surrounding the Villa Romana and protecting its mosaics functioned like a greenhouse. It was so hot and steamy that I nearly passed out more than once! (Well worth it, mind you - the mosaics are remarkable!) I was there mid- to late-morning on a day in late May that was not considered unusually warm. I'm not sure I would opt for a late afternoon visit!

> Depending if we feel safe leaving luggage in car while we visit Villa Romana

Again, its been a while, but when I was there, men were watching the parking areas (including the road into the site) quite diligently, as they make their money by charging for the parking. So again, no guarantees, but I certainly didn't worry about leaving luggage in my trunk.

> 4 nights L'approdo Della Serene/Ortigia

Loved it! Hope you do, too!

> We could visit Noto by car or bus

Just the thought of Noto makes me smile! Try to visit late enough to see it by both daylight and dusk, when the incredible warmth of the stone's hue comes to life.

Sounds like a great trip -- enjoy!
kja is offline  
Jan 12th, 2013, 09:41 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
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Since your husband likes archeological sites, I would try hard to not skip Agrigento. I have been to Ephesus, Pompeii, Herculaneum, Athens, Rome, etc. and Agrigento was in many ways the most impressive of all I've seen. The setting alone makes it spectacular and the buildings are monumental. No other site has had the same emotional affect. Leaving it, thinking I would probably never see it again, filled me with sadness.
Sassafrass is offline  
Jan 12th, 2013, 10:33 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 777
Make sure you try the ricotta at Villa Sogno. Cinzia, I think is her name, makes it herself, and it is amazing. Everything she makes is good. And the gardener there is very proud of his work, so make sure you wander around and admire it!
Each of the archaeological sites has something different from the others, and having seen Segesta, Selinunte and Agrigento, I agree with Sassafrass above that Agrigento makes the biggest impression by far.
But, if you don't get time to see it, well, there's always next time, and my personal opinion is that too many ruins can be too much of a good thing.

Erice has some great ceramics, too, by the way.

Have a great time. I'm looking forward to your review of Scopello and the Zingaro.
sundriedpachino is offline  
Jan 12th, 2013, 10:56 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
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Quite a job, whittling down the possibilities, isn't it?

At the risk of making the task even harder, note that your visit to Naples should coincide with the city's "May of the Monuments" event - which sees all sorts of special openings and visits etc, if there's any civic money available to stage them again this year!

Timetables usually appear only at the very last minute, so start looking in April - although these may give some idea...

http://www.comune.napoli.it/flex/cm/.../IDPagina/1469

http://www.italymag.co.uk/italy-feat...numents-naples

For countless photos from the 400+ churches in and around the city, try.....
http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=1506400

Otherwise, there's various stuff of mine - mostly from around southern Italy - starting here:
http://www.pbase.com/isolaverde

And as you make your visit, don't forget that the links between the two areas aren't only distant history...

http://ac-support.europe.umuc.edu/~j...wosicilies.htm

... as their destinies were to overlap again during the struggle for Italian unification:

http://ac-support.europe.umuc.edu/~j...s/bourbon3.htm

Peter
A_Brit_In_Ischia is offline  
Jan 13th, 2013, 07:57 AM
  #7  
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thanks, everyone. I guess it's a "good thing" that my itinerary didn't get pulled apart.
But no one commented about whether to drive over the Iblei mountains or take the more direct route from Piazza Armerina/Catalgirone to Siracusa. Anyone out there taken the scenic route or have comments?
KJA, thanks for the heads up about Villa Romana "greenhouse effect" in the late afternoon. I was only thinking of crowd issues -- better to go in late afternoon. Maybe someone who's visited there since the major renovations can comment if it is still so hot while viewing the exhibit.
Thanks again!
alison is offline  
Jan 13th, 2013, 08:14 AM
  #8  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 440
thanks, everyone. I guess it's a "good thing" that my itinerary didn't get pulled apart.
But no one commented about whether to drive over the Iblei mountains or take the more direct route from Piazza Armerina/Catalgirone to Siracusa. Anyone out there taken the scenic route or have comments?
KJA, thanks for the heads up about Villa Romana "greenhouse effect" in the late afternoon. I was only thinking of crowd issues -- better to go in late afternoon. Maybe someone who's visited there since the major renovations can comment if it is still so hot while viewing the exhibit.
Thanks again!
alison is offline  
Jan 13th, 2013, 10:25 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: May 2008
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I think you'll have time to see Monreale and the Capella Palatina. Due to major flight delays, we ended up with only one full day in Palermo and managed to see loads of things (no markets, though). Try to make it up to Monreale. We walked up to the bus stop, sightseeing along the way.

Both Segesta and Villa Romana del Casale had manned parking lots when we were there in March 2011.

Looks like a great trip. I am envious!
Leely2 is offline  
Jan 17th, 2013, 11:57 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 11
Good morning Alison, you may even want to take a boat from Naples to the Aeolian Islands and make a stop in the magical island of Salina: you will stay in a very quiet and with good food. From there you can go to Palermo and other destinations! think about it!
BebFiorelloMilazzo is offline  

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