Sicily in March (Etna, Clothing, etc.)

Feb 29th, 2004, 10:01 AM
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Sicily in March (Etna, Clothing, etc.)


I am leaving for Sicily on Friday for 8 days, and I just had a few questions. Apologies for any questions that make me sound a bit stupid, but I have just a few last minute jitters and I feel better if I ask.

Etna - interested in taking a short hike. Is this silly in March, and should we try to get on a tour instead?

Clothing - What is the usual dress over there? I went to Rome last March and brought only black pants and various black tops (I love black). Do people dress more conservatively there or what?

Weather - Anyone have any knowledge as to what it might be like?

Shoes - Are there are lot of cobblestone streets and places that lack smooth ground? (I understand with the ruins that it won't be smooth) When I went to Rome I brought a pair of lovely Naot's, but the sole was flimsy and not meant for places with lots of cobblestones.

Theft - Should I just take the same precautions as if I were anywhere else in Europe?

Language - How widely do they speak English? I took half of an Italian I course, and I'm fine with pronunciation and directions, but I will stumble some. I can speak a little bit of French as well.
ald87 is offline  
Mar 1st, 2004, 06:46 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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1. Take a bus tour
2. Wear comfortable clothing
3. It will likely be cold
4. Wear comfortable shoes for cobblestone streets
5. Beware of pickpockets
6. English is widely spoken in hotels, but not by many locals and not by many bus drivers.
GAC is offline  
Mar 1st, 2004, 01:58 PM
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Just back from Sicily. Etna was extremely cold and snow covered at apx. 6000 ft. elevation. We found that, unlike Rome, most people did not speak English. But, people were very friendly and helpful so it does not sound like you'll have a problem. Almost all, if not all streets throughout Sicily were coblestoned and uneven. Good shoes are a must. My friend wore regular flats and slipped on our Mt. Etna visit.
JuneAnn is offline  
Mar 1st, 2004, 02:38 PM
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For hiking on Mt. Etna, wear hiking boots and very warm clothes, including gloves and a hat, and drink plenty of water. (You don't have to take a winter coat, but make sure that you have layers that will add up to the warmth and wind resistance of a winter coat.) I think beyond a certain point, you have to be with a ranger. It is potentially dangerous up there. But at lower elevations, e.g., near the visitors center, you can walk around on your own.

Except possibly in Taormina, English is not widely spoken, except in hotels. However, in major towns and touristy areas, you will find some people who speak English. If you stay in the countryside, in an agriturismo, or in a small town, it is possible that even in the hotel/agriturismo English will not be spoken. However, everyone except very old unschooled people will speak Italian, so you don't have to worry about not understanding Sicilian. (Many people speak Sicilian among themselves, but switch to Italian when speaking to an outsider.) Older people in smaller towns might be more likely to know some French than English.

Re theft, in Palermo and Catania, take the same precautions that you'd take in any big busy city. While no place is guaranteed to be totally safe, the smaller towns and countryside in Sicily just FEEL safer to me than most places. As a gross overgeneralization, I found people in Sicily especially friendly, hospitable, curious, and proud. Actually, I felt pretty comfortable and safe in Palermo, too, but I exercised a healthy degree of caution. By the way, although the traffic in Palermo seems (and is) pretty chaotic, the drivers there are extremely polite and considerate, almost courtly, toward pedestrians--the most polite drivers I've seen anywhere.

Dress: It may be quite warm along the coast and quite cool in the mountains of the interior, so be prepared for a variety of temperatures. I guess the dress would be considered fairly conservative; for example, it would probably not be a good idea to wear cropped tops and low-slung pants with your navel exposed. It really doesn't matter what color you wear. If you want to wear a lot of black, that's fine and will not seem strange. But if you wanted to wear colors, that would be fine as well. When I was there in November 2002, I found that city people in Palermo, Marsala, Catania, etc. dressed much more warmly than I did, with warm jackets when I was wearing a very light jacket or none at all. (Apparently 70F was cold for them.) In the mountains, where it was actually very cool and windy, almost cold, people dressed about as warmly as I did. Comfortable shoes, with soles that have good traction, are best for walking in towns, among ruins, and in the countryside (except if you go places where hiking boots are needed.)
cmt is offline  
Mar 1st, 2004, 06:33 PM
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Have a great time in Sicily! We are thinking of visiting Sicily for several days in July, as part of a trip to Malta. Any suggestions re: taking a plane vs. ferry from Malta-Catania(frequency of trips, time, cost, etc.)? Once in Sicily, we want to visit Taormina and Syracuse, for 2 nights each. Is it better to take the bus or train, from Catania-Syracuse, then back to Catania and onto Taormina, then back down to Catania for the flight to Malta? (Does this sound as confusing as it seems?!)As Catania is between Syracuse and Taormina, I guess there is no way to avoid going back and forth. Has anyone ever flown from NYC INTO Malta...and OUT of Sicily to NYC? Any other suggestions or comments are greatly appreciated. Thanx!
Larz is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2004, 06:16 AM
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Between Taormina, Catania and Siracusa, the bus is preferable to the train. Between Taormina and Siracusa, the bus is also preferable (as it takes you straight into Taormina old town proper), but you must change buses in downtown Catania. The trains are direct (no changes), but only stop at Giardini-Naxos Station, down the hill from Taormina (there are city buses going up the hill). In Siracusa, the bus takes you onto Ortigya Island, whereas the train leaves you on the mainland, and you must walk 15 minutes to reach Ortigya.

bus schedules:
train schedules:
GAC is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2004, 08:05 PM
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GAC - thanx for the info. Is it difficult getting to the central bus station in Catania - from the airport and/or the ferry port(from Malta)? Do you think 2 nights in Taormina and Siracusa is sufficient to see most sights and get the "feel" of the place, without too much rushing around? From my readings, they both sound incredibly historic and beautiful! How does Giardini-Naxos compare to Taormina? I understand that it is on the beach (down the hill),and a bit less expensive and "touristy" than Taormina, and a good alternative for accomodations. Do buses run fairly frequently between both places? Have you been to both? How hot does it get during July?
Larz is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2004, 06:21 AM
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1. From the Catania airport, you can take a DIRECT bus to both Siracusa and Taormina. You DON'T need to take a separate bus into central Catania (northbound airporter buses headed to Taormina stop briefly in central Catania to pick up passengers, but southbound airporter buses to Siracusa from the airport DON'T stop in central Catania). From the sea port to the central bus terminal in Catania, you could walk in about 10 minutes, or take a taxi. Bus schedules:

2. You need about two days for Siracusa, and at least half a day for Taormina (many tourists prefer to spend several days in Taormina for r/r).

3. Giardini-Naxos has cheaper accommodations than Taormina (and the city bus connects the two towns every 30 minutes), but Giardini has no personality or charm, and Taormina has the fabulous views. I'd choose a small tourist class hotel in Taormina over a modern Holiday-Inn type hotel in Giardini.

4. July through mid September get very hot in Sicily. Easily 95 degrees, with very high humidity.
GAC is offline  
Mar 4th, 2004, 04:12 PM
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thanks for all the advice!
ald87 is offline  
Mar 7th, 2004, 02:23 PM
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Hello GAC, CMT, and anyone else who has been to Catania! I was wondering if it would be worthwhile to spend a night in Catania (before heading off for several nights in Taormina and Siracusa - then onto Malta). I understand there are several historic sights within a few blocks of the Duomo area (and not far from the train/bus/ferry port station). Is it true that as one nears the Castello Ursino, and the streets off the Duomo area - the area becomes a bit...unpleasant and unsafe? Is there enough to see for a day and night, so that Catania can be used as a base, to then head off to Taormina and Siracusa? Since we plan to include Malta on this journey - we were wondering about the possibility of flying from(for example)NYC to Rome to Catania - a night there and onto Taormina and Siracusa. Then a ferry or plane to Malta for a few nights, then back to the USA (via London, Rome, etc.) - if the cost isn't too outrageous. Any thoughts?
Larz is offline  
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