Reflections on Revisiting Sicily

Oct 8th, 2014, 12:42 PM
  #41  
 
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THURSDAYSD, may we expect a trip report? From where???
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Oct 8th, 2014, 12:56 PM
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I'm planning on two TRs, should start showing up (on the Europe forum) in about a week.
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Oct 8th, 2014, 02:31 PM
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Sounds good...
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Oct 8th, 2014, 02:56 PM
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still here, Gertie - though in fact I'm now "there" not "here" as I'm working away from home this week. funny how that doesn't matter in the virtual world!
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Oct 8th, 2014, 05:48 PM
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What a great report. Thanks for sharing your adventures.
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Oct 8th, 2014, 07:33 PM
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Hi Geri's,

I am so enjoying your TR. I had much the same impression of the Milazzo station. Certainly no indication at the hydrofoil dock as to where to catch the bus either! I asked several people before I walked far enough, then had quite a long wait. Scenic route bus went all over Milazzo before arriving at the station, that was ok because by then I was running on Lipari time. .

My last stop was the Ambasciatori in Palermo too. I had no idea it was a Rick Steve's reco! That explains why it was nearly all Americans on the roof top terrace, where I took some of my favorite photos,

Great memories, I just wish the hotel had a better wine selection to go with the gorgeous view!
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Oct 8th, 2014, 07:37 PM
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Just found this terrific trip report. I was in Sicily in March and in many of the places you mentioned. Thanks to your trip report I feel like I'm back there!
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Oct 8th, 2014, 08:24 PM
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Bookmarking. Thanks!
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Oct 9th, 2014, 08:39 AM
  #49  
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Well, to continue after that barrage of support! Actually have had dodgy internet for the past c or so.
The previous bit of the trip wasnt strictly Reflections on Revisiting as it was a first for me in the islands.
But we had a brief overnight in Palermo, friend on her way home to UK and me en route to Trapani and the west. And Palermo was certainly Revisiting.
I loved it last time and loved it this time, even though we only had an evening. Managed to walk through town visiting La Martorana, which has been completely restored since my last visit and is sumptuously gorgeous now. Those mosaics really glitter and glow. 10 years ago they had been crumbling, faded, patchy and generally very sorry for themselves. Added to the fun, there was a glamorous society wedding on when we were there sightseeing. We got there just before the bride arrived to find the great and the good of Palermo resplendent in their best wedding gear, purple ties and white ribbons in profusion. I am not sure that me in green jeans and T short added much to the ambience, I tried to keep in the shadows and hope I didnt clutter up,their photos. We beat a retreat once the bride arrived, not being on the guest list.
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Oct 9th, 2014, 08:55 AM
  #50  
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Thought I had asked for Preview there, sorry for the errors.

From La Martorana we walked up to the Cathedral. No time for much more than a cursory glance, no time to admire the tombs of those Norman dukes.... Sicily is The Other Norman Conquest. Passed by the Palace of the Normans, similarly about to close so no time for the mosaics there either. Dont know what state they are in. 10 years ago they were in good shape but I was not impressed by the noise made by the hordes of schoolkids who obviously didnt realise they were in the presence of so much history and culture. Youth is wasted on the Young isnt it??

We finished by a wander through the Ballaro district and the market which was just closing up. Fantastic insight into life as it is lived on the seamy side of Palermo. There are huge Baroque churches quietly mouldering away in the midst of all the market activity, some iron-fenced off, some inhabited by stray cats and pigeons and even Sicilians down on their luck. My friend was pleased that her children didn't know she had been hanging around such areas of Palermo but I think these things are just as interesting as the 'official sights '.


Next day she departed into the dawn for her Ryanair flight back to London. Older and wiser from recent experience, I made for the bus to Trapani. 2 hours instead of 4 on the train. What was the train DOING to take so long? I had the usual fun trying to find firstly a ticket and secondly the bus, but I must be getting better at it: practice makes perfect.
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Oct 9th, 2014, 09:33 AM
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Looking forward to your take on Palermo which I liked nearly as much as Ortygia.
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Oct 9th, 2014, 09:44 AM
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Thursday, I had almost no time in Palermo this time. Apart from the evening stroll I have just described, only had one more day there right at the end....in fact yesterday, as I am now back in London. Palermo was still as chaotic as ever, traffic even worse I think. Cars double and even triple parked making progress almost non-existent. Lots of road works and various building works. And far more tourists. Even a Hop On Hop Off! Total disregard for traffic rules, most vehicles finding their way through the labyrinth as best they could. I cant imagine how much effort it will take to sort it out: a ring road system and a subway at the very least. Meanwhile everyone spends hours on buses in jams!
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Oct 9th, 2014, 11:08 AM
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I envisage the dodgy end of Palermo being not dissimilar to the equivalent in Naples.

si o non?
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Oct 9th, 2014, 12:06 PM
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Oops, that was meant to be Trapani, not Palermo - that's what happens when you "type" on a cell phone at dinner!
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Oct 10th, 2014, 03:39 AM
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Arrived in Trapani to rain. Only the second downpour of the trip though. I immediately thought how tourist-friendly Trapani was. There was an information office right there where I could organise my time in the area and buy tickets. Took me a while to find my hotel which was tucked away in the back streets. It was nice and the people were friendly but I was a bit spooked to find I was the only person there! More arrived in the next day or so.

First day I just pottered about Trapani. Nice town, atmospheric old narrow streets, little bars and cafes, plenty of restaurants. It was obviously a festival weekend, big statue carried through the streets in the evening by burly men, procession, candles, all the usual. The town was packed with families from all around who had come to meet and greet and enjoy themselves. Lovely sunset to the west through the rainclouds.

Next morning I was up and out to get the hydrofoil to Favignana, one of the Egadi Islands just off the coast. About an hour, we stopped in Levanto en route where I later discovered there are prehistoric cave paintings. I liked Favignana, even though it had an indifferent write-up in my Lonely Planet. I wondered if the writer had actually been there or whether my guidebook was hopelessly outdated. Best bit was a newly restored tuna fishing factory turned into a museum of the island and its tuna fishing industry. Also an art gallery which was showing Art Siciliana. There were a lot of day-trippers, the place was mobbed at lunchtime. Some pretty harbour scenes, lovely seascape views.

Next day I found out how to get to Segesta after a bit of a challenge, got the bus and arrived at this spectacular Doric temple, theatre and Greek town complex. Most visitors were in coach parties and large groups again. Some had rented cars. It is quite easy to get to by bus if you time it right and have courage!
On arriving back at Trapani bus station I decided I had time to get another bus to see Erice in the evening light. The bus climbed and wound its way up up up the precipitous hill to the hill town. And I was disappointed. Maybe it was the wrong time of day, wrong time of year, but I found Erice cold, damp, dark, closed-in and bleak! There were some fantastic view over the sea to the west, and a lovely sunset too but the actual town was full of tourist tat, large noisy groups of German tourists, not-very-friendly cafe owners, maybe they have tourist fatigue?
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Oct 10th, 2014, 04:46 AM
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I think you were luckier than I was on Favignana. I think that's the island I stayed on, and there was absolutely nothing happening, and no visitors either. Seriously the off season! On the other hand I had a lovely time in Erice, where it was very easy to lose the day trippers,who stuck to the main street. Day time would definitely improve the gloomy feeling!
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Oct 10th, 2014, 05:17 AM
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My final day in this area involved a trip to Marsala. Very easy to get to by train, about half and hour. Nice town, interesting buildings, pink and glowing, I walked straight through it looking for the Archaeological Museum recommended in my LP. Found it surrounded by a Zona Archaeological and all looked promising. There is the Punic Ship which was discovered 40 years or so ago, dating from 246BC or thereabouts. And a nice display of Punic, Phoenician, Greek, Roman artifacts found nearby. But this museum is sadly in need of a makeover. It needs lots of European money spent on it which I hope it applies for. There is very little signage in English, no postcards or literature for sale. Far too many employees who smile but don't seem to speak English, a general air of uncaredforness. Outside the main buildings is a vast area of excavation which isn't really signposted at all. Much of it fenced off. There is great potential here, all kinds of history on this stretch of coast but little attempt made to value it. There are other sites nearby, notably in the island of Mozia and town of Mazara down the coast. And of course Montalbano alert!!

I then found my way back into the town, looked around at the cathedral and cultural centre but inevitably they were just closing by 1pm. Italy is sometimes a real challenge for the tourist: by the time you get somewhere you dont have much time before the place closes down for the afternoon and you are faced with a lot of hanging around until they open again around 5. I found a nice wine bar on the street to sit and sample the local Marsala wine (not my thing, too strong and fortified!) and then some plain boring local white which was more to my taste with some delicious bits and pieces of local cheese and pates, definitely a touch of Arab cuisine there.

Back to Trapani for a final look around and to organise my bus for tomorrow. Very easily done. I was back in Palermo by lunchtime next day with time for another go at Monreale. This had really impressed me last trip but I had forgotten what a long trafficjammed journey it is. Not far, but took the best part of an hour on a bus crowded with schoolkids just released! Some buses seem to stop at every stop, more and more crowds get on and nobody ever get off. That was what it was like! Monreale was magnificent, one of the best sights on Sicily if not in Europe. And still free. Lots of groups were being lectured in all kinds of languages. I sat quietly for quite a while as all this went on around me. Then I went round the corner to the magnificent Benedictine Cloister. Those columns with different carving, different shapes, nicely restored since I had last been here, are very reminiscent of those at the Alhambra. Same workmen or same school at least. Really make you aware that you are at the crossroads of the Mediterranean.
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Oct 10th, 2014, 06:10 AM
  #58  
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In the evening I wanted to revisit the area of Palermo around the port. This has likewise been gentrified. Gone are the crumbling tenements, dodgy wastelands with garbage and old bits of machinery, surly-looking men (always men) on street corners. Now there are trendy bars, wasteland has been turned into car parks, the streets have been cleaned up, derelict churches turned into music venues. This is the area known as La Kalsa which used to have quite a fearsome reputation. 10 years ago walking around I was always looking over my shoulder. Not any more. Fell over yet another society wedding in one of the restored churches. This time it was just finished, bride and groom were driving off in a horse-drawn carriage. Lots of local people milling around. I dont think I got on many of their pictures this time!

Finished my trip with a drink and some aperitivi on the rooftop terrace at the Ambasciatori. No Rick Steves group this time, several Eastern Europeans and some friendly Polish waitresses. We are all Europeans now!

And so to the airport bus in the dawn and Ryanair to London where I was greeted by sideways rain and wind and cold. What else is new?

Journey's end.
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Oct 10th, 2014, 02:25 PM
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GERTIE,

Still enjoying your solo adventure. Boy, you do get around on public transport - good for you.

Especially like your description of Montreale -

"Monreale was magnificent, one of the best sights on Sicily if not in Europe. ...Then I went round the corner to the magnificent Benedictine Cloister. Those columns with different carving, different shapes, ...are very reminiscent of those at the Alhambra. Same workmen or same school at least. Really make you aware that you are at the crossroads of the Mediterranean." Sigh...

Looking forward to your pics.
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Oct 11th, 2014, 02:55 AM
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oh dear, now you've sent Sicily back to the top of my "italian must see" list.
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