Sicily in April

Sep 19th, 2015, 07:49 PM
  #1  
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Sicily in April

I posted earlier when we were deciding between Sicily and Barcelona to Nice. Sicily won with the best freq flyer deal. We'll flying into Palermo on 4/9 and leaving from Catania on the 22nd. Realmonte, near Agrigento, is a must (my grandparents' home town) but we're open to any suggestions. We'd like walking tours on history, local culture, architecture and local idiosyncrasies. We'd like to avoid chain hotel - too old to hostel but good hotels with lots of local feel would be great. Happy to hear any suggestions for towns, hotels, sites, etc. Thanks.
ksw430 is offline  
Sep 19th, 2015, 08:17 PM
  #2  
kja
 
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As I mentioned on your early post, I believe you will need to be very selective, as your time in Sicily is limited. Only YOU can decide what most interests you; I recommend the Rough Guide as the best of the half-dozen guidebooks I used when planning my time there. I also already listed my favorites in Sicily. Sicily is filled with walkable areas, history, local culture, a variety of stunning architectural styles, and LOADS of local idiosyncrasies. Your trouble will NOT be finding those things, it will be deciding which to skip of the MANY that appeal.

For convenience, here is your other post:
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...na-to-nice.cfm
I will also link this post to that one -- something you might want to do yourself if you start additional threads in the future.

For accommodations, try booking.com
kja is offline  
Sep 20th, 2015, 04:06 AM
  #3  
 
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I suggest that you plan to linger a bit in Realmonte -- especially stay for a meal or two.

If you enjoy walking tours, then getting one or even two for Palermo, depending on your interests, would be worthwhile. If you are very energetic, you could probably enjoy a walking tour of central Palermo and its markets the same day you saw many historic sights and churches, but I think it would actually be better to do that on 2 separate days. Try the website Visit Palermo to check out the possiblities for walking tours. You can also usually find plenty of self-guided walking tours of Palermo on the internet or in guidebooks.

It is good to stay way from the old fashioned hotels in Sicily in favor of the newly created b&b and agriturismi. You can find all of these on booking.com or airbnb.

I don't think your time in Sicily is all that limited, any more than it would be if you were going to any other part of Italy. You will be spending more time is Sicily than most people do. Of course you have to be selective, but that would be true if you were going to Tuscany or Umbria or Nice & Barcelona for two weeks. You will so near to Agrigento, you might want to visit the monuments, but otherwise the way you describe your interests, you might want to skip the standard sightseeing tourist "hit list" of isolated "sights" in favor of following your nose to smaller towns and staying on farms. Up to you.
sandralist is offline  
Sep 20th, 2015, 06:21 AM
  #4  
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Thanks, Sandra. I agree - any vacation is limited by life's time demands. There's never enough time but we have had wonderful trips to Europe. Thanks for the walking tour info. We def like them - not the usual "touristy" tours but the more academic or off-the-beaten track. As to booking websites, I usually ck the prices and call the hotels directly. They will usually match prices and often have upgraded us if it's not a busy season.


We are thinking two nights in Palermo as a start, as we arrive late afternoon, and driving on after the 2nd morning. Does one full day and a morning seem like enough for you? Thanks for your help.
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Sep 20th, 2015, 07:06 AM
  #5  
kja
 
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I gave Palermo only 2.5 days and wish I'd given it 3.
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Sep 20th, 2015, 07:15 AM
  #6  
 
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ksw430,

I spent 4 nts in Palermo, having 3 full days to explore. For me, this was about the right amount of time. The first half day was spent with Jackie Alio on a private walking tour. Jackie was quick to answer my e mails and asked key questions about my interests. We decided upon a historical tour that covered many of the highlights of Palermo plus the Ballaro market. We visited the market on the way to the major churches, fountains, the Quattro Canti, and a couple other sites while Jackie, who is an author, gave me the historical background and answered my many questions. Jackie did comment that, like her, I was a quick walker so perhaps we were able to visit a bit more than her usual groups. The best part was that my tour was like being shown around the city by a local friend with expert knowledge. I would obviously highly recommend her, but she is busy and gets booked up far in advance so don't dawdle if you are interested.

I liked Palermo, but didn't fall in love with the city like I did Rome and Naples. Can't really say why. Perhaps part of the reason was that I stayed in the old part of the city at Hotel Ambasciatore and was advised by the hotel and by Jackie not to walk around at night alone. This was the first time I had ever received this type of advice anywhere in Italy so it was disappointing (solo female traveler). Dinner at the hotel 3 nts in a row was boring and I know I missed out on some great cuisine in Palermo. When I did go to a nearby, very local restaurant, I was treated very badly. Another first for Italy. Thankfully not the norm at all.

I did very much enjoy the sites and streets of Palermo. In my 3 days:

Walking tour of Cattdrale, Palazzo dei Normanni and the Cappella Palatina, "Fountain of Shame", La Martorana, and a tour of Teatro Massimo (interesting and not too long).

Another day: Monreale, the Botanical Gardens (very disappointing, skip), wandered around La Kalsa

3rd day: took the bus to La Politimea (SP?) and walked all the way back stopping for a couple of snacks at recommended places and at the St. John of the Hermits church which was a highlight for me.

There was more I would have liked to do, but didn't have time for, so whether 1.5 days in Palermo is enough for you will definitely depend on your interests so do your research so you won't miss out. The city is very, very interesting and there is much to see, but it takes a little effort.

Happy planning!
Dayle is offline  
Sep 20th, 2015, 07:29 AM
  #7  
kja
 
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As another solo female traveler, I had also heard that I shouldn't go out at night while in Palermo. I am very glad that I ignored that advice, although I was prudent about it.
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Sep 20th, 2015, 02:42 PM
  #8  
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Thanks, Dayle, for the specifics. We also like walking tours so I may look this guide up. I'm very interested in the Mafia. Not so much in who go shot where but the social and economic functions it served at it's origins.

We live in Manhattan and I've very used to urban life. However, in a strange place, it's often hard to miss the social cues that you'd pick up on in your own city.

You are all great..thanks for the help.
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Sep 20th, 2015, 06:02 PM
  #9  
kja
 
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I wouldn't compare the risks in Manhattan to the risks in Palermo, nor would I link either to the mafia. But I'm no expert.
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Sep 20th, 2015, 06:52 PM
  #10  
 
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KSW,

I believe Jackie Alio would be able to provide quite a bit of information for your specific interest. She seemed to be very current on the topic.
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Sep 20th, 2015, 07:12 PM
  #11  
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kja - I'm not at all saying risk in Palermo are due to the Mafia. If you read my post, I explained that I am iterested in the social, political and economic history of the Mafia. And I do think some safety risks are similar in most big cities. One tends to be more aware of social cues and which areas to avoid when in your own city. I really don't think this trip will be part of the God Father, Part 2.

Dayle, I'll contact Jackie. Sounds very interesting.
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Sep 20th, 2015, 07:33 PM
  #12  
kja
 
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@ ksw -- I'm not sure why you took my response the way you did, but I can assure you that it was not my intention to link risks in Palermo to the mafia. If anything, I was trying to reassure you that Palermo is NOT as dangerous as some people say.... But many people THINK it unsafe, and I have no evidence either way. So all I can do is tell you what my experience was. My understanding -- which could well be wrong -- is that Palermo remains a city where caution is warranted, particularly after dark. I meant no more and no less.
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Sep 21st, 2015, 04:40 AM
  #13  
 
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The Beati Paoli is a really fascinating part of the "mafia" history of Palermo, so you might definitely want to see if you can track a walking tour that takes in those streets.

http://grandhotelmajestic.duetorriho...gna_P15_en.pdf

Also, I think you should get in touch with the "Addiopizzo" people -- the present-day group that has been working to break the Mafia's stranglehold on the business life of Palermo and its nearby cities. They may offer you some tours or tips

http://www.addiopizzo.org/english.asp

I spent a full week in Palermo, but I live in Italy (it was my winter vacation) and I have a panoramic interest in just about all things Italian and Mediterranean (art, history, food, today's politics, etc), so I'd be hard pressed to choose for someone else what would be the "right" amount of time for them in the city. For me, there is no end of things to see. However, I will make one recommendation if you like academic and "off the beaten track" in Palermo -- which is a visit to the Palazzo Chairamonte. You can only take a guided tour, but it is short (30 minutes?) and fascinating.

As for food, one of historic treats of the city is the soup kitchens that are now restaurants which were started during a time of intense disease in Palermo, and doctors devised health-restoring "broths" for the population to eat. They are delicious, and there are 2 places that are now full fledged restaurants that specialize in them -- one is Casa del Brodo and the other is Maestro del Brodo. Makes a nice lunch -- and you will feel restored!

As for safety, you'll find Palermo beguilingly benign compared with New York City. In the short dark days of January, I walked all over the city, night and day, and only occasionally found myself looking twice to decipher the street scene to see it if posed any dangers. The local culture of Palermo is really quite tranquil. I have heard it recommended not to meander around the train station area very late at night, and that sounds prudent to me.
sandralist is offline  
Sep 21st, 2015, 04:43 AM
  #14  
 
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Ooops sorry! I was reading a food forum about Italian restaurants and copied over a menu link for Bologna and mistakenly put it in your thread!

Here is the website for the Beati Paoli that I meant to give you.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beati_Paoli
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