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Post cruise excursion to Sicily - self organized

Post cruise excursion to Sicily - self organized

Old Feb 14th, 2024, 06:59 AM
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J62
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Post cruise excursion to Sicily - self organized

We are looking at taking a Mediterranean cruise sometime this fall - likely November, from Athens, ending in Rome. We'll be passing through the Straits of Messina, and will have one day in port there. Cruise then stops in Naples for a day, then ends at the Port of Rome / Civitavecchia - we know where that is, and don't plan to go into the city of Rome.

We have been to Rome & elsewhere north of there countless times and are scoping out a several day post cruise extension of our own. We've never been to Sicily, but have 19th century family origins there from the Agrigento area. "Several" nights is more than 2 nights, but probably not more than 4 or 5, so it'll be a quick trip in the scheme of things while we're already close to FCO post cruise. We are perfectly fine with that. Western/NW Sicily is high on our list of possibilities, with Agrigento area a top priority due to family origins. We do expect to return in the next few years for a month or longer, so this is a chance for us to scope out a relatively easy trip just for some fun.

We would be interesting in stopping in maybe one, max 2 ancient sites, but our general travel style is to enjoy being where we are, and not rushing around. Checking off sites or cities or museums doesn't interest us - long walks, enjoying nature, slower travel, and enjoying la dolce vita are higher priority. We would be perfectly happy spending a few days in only one location. We're both "middle aged", fit, mobile, and typically walk 3-5 miles most every day. We are comfortable driving and navigating, and know enough Italian to conduct transactions.

Our options from FCO immediately after the cruise include flying to either Palermo or Catania - an inexpensive 1hr non-stop to either airport. Our current bias is to fly in/out of Palermo, spend half the time there, and the other half rent a car and stay in & around Agrigento. The driving time from either Palermo (or also Catania) to Agrigento is about 2 hours - unless we hug the NW coast which is an option one direction.

All that said, for those of you who know Sicily (eks, HappyT, mr&mrsgo, scrb, Michael, or others...), how would you construct an amuse bouche / several day jaunt like this?
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Old Feb 14th, 2024, 08:48 AM
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If Palermo, when driving to Agrigento, stop by Monreale. Inadn from Agrigento there is Piazza Armerina with the fabulous neat-by Roman mosaics of the Villa Casale.


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Old Feb 14th, 2024, 08:58 AM
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Fly into Palermo.The plan you have outlined is good. We had a much better experience with Palermo airport than with the terribly disorganized one in Catania.
Pick up rental car booked with AutoEurope.
Drive to Monreale on the outskirts of Palermo, then to a stop in Segesta. Visit the Temple and theater. Beautiful!
Drive towards Agrigento and book a hotel near The Temples. Do not stay in the real city up above.
We had a very good experience at the Colleverde Park Hotel with views of The Temples. We spent two nights there. Wonderful staff and service. Excellent breakfasts and dinners.The Temples are lighted at night, quite a spectacular view!
We did not care for the actual city up above due to so many homeless lying in the streets and/or begging.Perhaps it has improved in the few years since our visit?

Last edited by HappyTrvlr; Feb 14th, 2024 at 09:02 AM.
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Old Feb 14th, 2024, 09:05 AM
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Thanks for mentioning us, but unfortunately we can't provide any insight as we haven't been to Sicily yet - but we are going for the first time in May, which is why I opened this thread. Our trip is two weeks, starting in Palermo and flying out of Catania. We're planning to spend four days in Palermo and then a couple of days at Agrigento. We're doing as HappyTrvlr suggests above and staying right by the temples rather than up in the city center. I'll be following along to see what advice others have.
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Old Feb 15th, 2024, 05:58 AM
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Good inputs - appreciated.

I did already contact the one hotel near Agrigento that eks... stayed in and effusively recommended Borgo delle Pietre. Unfortunately for us, they close for the season at the end of the October, but they will be open when the go's go (if you're still looking at places, that is). They referred us to these other properties in the area, all of which look absolutely lovely, all of which are close nearby.

Casa Balata; Masseria Agnello, Fontes Episcopi

Our other option is to stay seaside in the small town of Porto Empedocle, where my ancestors are actually from. It's past seaside season, so prices are rock bottom. We do like staying where we can do daily walks, eg along the quay. Lots of choices that time of year....

Thanks for tips about Monreale. noted.

Anybody have an opinion about stopping in Tripani or Marsala, or the coast or natural park areas in that region?

With limited time I'm inclined to not even go there and limit our short stay to 2 different lodgings.

Something like:
  • Fly FCO to PMO, rent car, and drive directly to Agrigento area - stay ## nights. I"m going to need to stay in or near Palermo for the flight out, so I'd rather only book one Palermo area hotel.
  • Drive to Palermo, stop at Monreal on the way, return car in the city, if possible - at least a few of the big co's have offices in the city, Stay in Palermo ## nights
  • Fly home, via through whatever European gateway I decide - lots of options to book on a single itinerary. Early am departure.

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Old Feb 15th, 2024, 08:41 AM
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I think you have a plan there that makes the best use of your short time. If you have nice weather, go see the Scala dei Turchi, a short drive from Porto Empedocle.
FYI anytime you get off the main highways in Sicily, the roads are pretty slow going, narrow, often twisty, and generally not made for speed. It's great fun to explore if you have loads of time, but not always rewarding. The coastal drive between Marsala and Mazara del Vallo was a wasteland.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2024, 03:26 AM
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On our first trip to Sicily, which was also in late October, we spent one night in Agrigento, at a basic but nice B&B, and then treated ourselves to 2 nights at La Foresteria ( a Planeta winery resort) before ending our trip in Palermo. From the resort it’s an easy drive to Selinunte, which is a fabulous ancient site. We opted for a package that included dinner both nights, so we didn’t have the hassle of driving at night to find a restaurant, etc. breakfasts, also included, were wonderful and the dinners were very good, as were their beach club is closed at that time of year, but we had some nice walks on the beach (short drive). They can also arrange cooking classes, dairy farm/cheese visits, etc.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2024, 06:17 AM
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I would do something completely different. I know it will seem odd, but we have done this before in similar circumstances. It works beautifully, saves travel time and money.

I would disembark the ship in Naples. You are not planning on sightseeing in Rome anyway. Your last night on the ship will simply be going from Naples up to Rome with no extra sightseeing. Yes, you are paying for that last night for a cabin and food. However, in the end, you could have more sightseeing time in Sicily with less time wasted the morning the cruise ends in Civitavecchia.

Arriving by ship in Naples, you are pretty much right downtown, so disembarking there is a breeze. Options are cheaper and easier. There is an Ali Bus to the train station (about a ten minute walk though) and to the airport, which is practically in the city. As I recall, it is only about a 20-25 minute ride, directly from train station. You can also take a taxi if you have much luggage. There are plenty of close by hotels. The airport is not huge and is very, very easy to navigate.

You then have some choices. It depends on whether or not you want to spend time in Naples or on the AC, or skip it for a bit more time in Sicily. Much as I love the AC, and weather is changing, it was a bit chilly when we were there in November, so I would probably opt for #1. However, if you have not been there, at least in November, it would be a lot less crowded and not too hot for seeing Pompeii/Herculaneum, etc. if you wished to do that.

1. Fly straight away to Palermo.
Visit Sicily.
Fly to Rome for return home .

2. Fly to Sicily.
Visit Sicily.
Fly back to Naples, spend a couple days in the Naples, AC area.
Train or bus directly from Naples to FCO for return home.

3. Stay in Naples for a couple of days to see The AC and Naples area.
Fly to Palermo.
Visit Sicily
Fly to FCO for return home.

If you do not already have tickets, there might be other flight options from Naples. If you opt for Naples, we have taken flights from Naples with a short layover in Milan rather than the hassle of returning to Rome. I am not crazy about the Milan airport, but using the Naples airport for departure made up for it.

We have skipped the last nights on ships a couple of times when the stop was where we wanted to spend more time, gave us extra days of sightseeing or made for easier/cheaper flights. You just have to let the cruise line know and reconfirm when you board the ship. It also has to be a port that has agents available.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2024, 07:39 AM
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Thanks for the Planeta winery recommendation. Looks lovely, and could work on the way to or from Palermo.

Re disembarkig at Naples, that's a very Interesting idea....I love the out of the box (ship) thinking..... Between EasyJet, RyanAir and Volotea there are plenty of non-stop flight options to Palermo. Something to chew on. We have months or longer to decide as we'll likely buy tickets to/from Sicily separate from transatlantic flights and can do that even in October..., whereas we'll want to nail down the transatlantic flights earlier. If we do end up with separate tickets for the return home we will fly back to FCO the night before our flight back to the US for a buffer.

Regarding Agrigento area, we're noodling on several different options for places to stay.

1. A converted farm house property - there are many great properties to choose from in and around Agrigento. The one recommended here on Fodors by eksrunchy (Borgo delle Pietre) is closed for the season by in October. They referred us to several other nearby & similar properties.: Casa Balata, Masseria Agnello, Fontes Episcopi.

2. A motel in the city of Agrigento, such as Colleverde Park Hotel, also recently recommended here on fodors (by natylou). To me it looks like nothing more than a nondescript motel with a large parking lot. Perfect for driving and sleeping, but not in an area of interest itself.

or in the port town of Porto Empedocle, where my ancestors are from.
3. along the quay/beach areas. Lots of low priced (since it's off season) hotels that have plenty of restaurants nearby, or

4. within the older town of P-E itself. One of the hotels Fodors guides (online) recommends is literally half a block from where my grandmother was born - they call it a very comfortable hotel, but "overpriced for a shabby provincial port". So in perhaps an odd way, I may be inclined to stay right in that shabby old town, to walk in the footsteps of my ancestors, to shop or dine in places that they may have actually done the same. My family were immigrants who came from a gritty life, and lived in gritty working class neighborhoods when they arrived in the US.... To me, there's something very real about that, moreso than being pampered at a posh hotel somewhere in the hills....








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Old Feb 22nd, 2024, 08:39 AM
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J62, suggest you go with option 4, imagine the thrill of sleeping a stone’s throw away from where grandma was born, no fancy hotel can make up for that! I’d be moved to tears, actually, but excited and happy too at the same time.
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Old Feb 24th, 2024, 07:32 PM
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J62 it seems that HappyTrvlr and I have both had good experiences at Colleverde Park Hotel. They do have rooms that overlook the Vallei dei Templi and the view at night is beautiful. Also, they have a huge tropical garden surrounding the hotel, which made it a really nice respite from all the walking and sightseeing you will do there. However, I think you are going in November? Probably not nearly as nice at that time of year, and you have more reason to visit Porto Empedocle than most do. I hope you come up with a great plan! I love Sicily, but it has been about 10 years, and I am sure some things have changed by now.
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