Sicily: car or train/bus

Mar 27th, 2007, 09:04 PM
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Sicily: car or train/bus

Based on comments and trip reports by several people on this forum, we've made Sicily our trip for this Spring. Though we used to drive all over Europe and are still perfectly capable, we are older and driving is not as much fun for us anymore. We are also on a very tight budget and hate paying for days of rental when the car is just parked. However, it seems most everyone rents a car in Sicily. Have any of you managed with only public transportation? Would we be missing just too much? Thanks
Sassafrass is offline  
Mar 27th, 2007, 10:28 PM
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Where will you be going? And for how long? I think those answers will have an influence on your decision. The experts will be back in a few hours with all the answers you want! Maybe you can provide the information in the meantime!

We managed quite well using public transport with 8 days only split between Palermo and Taormina. I know we could do more if we had a car but we were happy with what we have done and seen.

You will love Sicily - and the wild flowers in Spring. We have seen quite a lot on a day tour to Mount Etna.
chiarachiara is offline  
Mar 28th, 2007, 12:23 PM
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Thank you. We will fly into and out of Catania - no options. From a past job, we have benefits of super cheap tickets to a few specific airports (Catania is one) if there are extra seats. We don't know until the day of departure whether there are seats or not and the same for returning. It is kind of a game, but works Ok since we are older and retired. We usually can't reserve hotels, etc. so just wing it by planning as many options as possible.

Aprillilacs' recent trip report got me so excited about Sicily. She made every single place seem so beautiful, it makes it hard to narrow down. I made lots of notes.

We love everything: walking in villages, busy cities, ruins, museums, concerts, sitting in cafes. There is only one site on my must do list. That is the Catacombe dei Cappuccini near Palermo. (I am a painter and find bones are beautiful subjects)

So, from this information, if we have 7 days, what can or should we see or do with or without a car? Can we go to Ortygia, Segesta, Selinute, Cefalu, or the village of Scopello without a car? We do prefer to spend time experiencing the feeling of a place rather than rushing on to the next place.

Thanks for any and all imput. I felt like an experienced traveler until I came to this board. Now I feel like a baby. Thanks to Ira, I am re-planning our next trip to Italy.
Sassafrass is offline  
Mar 28th, 2007, 01:46 PM
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You can get from Catania to Palermo and from Palermo to Cefalu by train, but I am doubtful about the other destinations you mentioned. Before you rule out a car, take a look at the rental prices. I rented a car in Sicily just last month and paid just over $200 for a week, including taxes and insurance. We ended up parking the car for 2 days while in Palermo and another day while in Taormina. But I was still glad to have it, because of the flexibility it gave us to visit some of the amazing archeological sites and explore off the beaten track.
mlaffitte is offline  
Mar 28th, 2007, 02:38 PM
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Sicily is the only place in Italy that I actually like to drive, though rarely inside Palermo or Catania. The train is nice from Catania to Messina and Messina to Palermo. It's a bit slow to people used to European train travel, but very scenic. The major roads are very straight and elevated/tunneled so it's easy on the driver. Very few curves or hills. Bus in most cases is faster than train, but less scenic and not as comfortable.
TravMimi is offline  
Mar 28th, 2007, 02:45 PM
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Hi, Sassafrass - I'm currently also planning a trip to Sicily, and found that I could get to many of the locations I hope to see (but not all - at least not in a way that was convenient for my time frame) with trains or buses. You might want to check the Budget Guide to Sicily, which has a lot of information about public transportation options, or search this forum for threads about public transportation in Sicily. I remember seeing a post by someone - maybe GAC - about options for doing without a car in Sicily. Hope that helps!
kja is offline  
Mar 28th, 2007, 02:51 PM
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Hello Laurel,

My wife and I spent a month discovering Sicily (barely scratching the surface) and used only public transport. I worry that a week will make you less patient, but...from Catania and Palermo you will be able to see much.

From Catania it is possible to take the train to Siracusa, though I would take the train to Noto, stay a night, and then take the bus back to Siracusa, staying on Ortygia.

It is possible to reach Scopello by public transport--train to Castellemare del Golfo from Palermo (don't stop at the WC at the train station or you'll miss the shuttle into town, a 2 km hike), then bus to Scopello (though a taxi might work if the connections are bad).

With only a week you will have to pick and choose--so much to see, so little time.

JQReports is offline  
Mar 28th, 2007, 08:18 PM
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Thank you all. The info about roads is reassuring. Staying in Noto for the night sounds like a good idea. Bit about not using WC at the train station was funny, but just the kind of specific, first hand information you need and don't find in guide books. Every little bit of information like that and suggestions like staying in Noto are appreciated. Sassy
Sassafrass is offline  
Mar 29th, 2007, 05:28 AM
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With only 7 days I'd either spend it all in Palermo or split it between Siracusa and Taormina. For a first trip I'd suggest the latter - and those destinations are nearer Catania. You could do that by bus/train.

Of my 3 trips to Sicily I've driven (well, been driven ) twice and just used taxis the other time.
caroline_edinburgh is offline  
Mar 29th, 2007, 06:44 AM
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With train service to smaller town being not so great, you will probably take more buses.
This is a good site for bus schedules in Italy.
TravMimi is offline  
Mar 29th, 2007, 06:46 AM
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I forgot to mention in my above post about bus schedules, times can change so use it as a general guide and always check up to date schedules when you are there.
TravMimi is offline  
Mar 29th, 2007, 07:03 AM
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Sassafrass, Sicily is easy to drive but if you don't want to, don't. Trains can take you from Catania to Palermo and from Palermo to Cefalu.

If you stay in Palermo, for city buses, purchase a fare ticket which must be stamped in a machine when you board. Newsagents, tobacchi shops, and even bars, sell these tickets for around €1.00 each, and they're valid for 60-90 minutes from the time they're stamped.

Definitely buy a Fodors or Frommers Sicily guide. Have fun.
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