Sicily question

Jan 17th, 2011, 01:48 AM
  #1  
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Sicily question

As my finale to living and working in Bologna, I am planning to spend a week in Sicily the first week in March. I view this trip as a sampler and would like to get to Taormina, Siracusa, Agrigento and Palermo.

I will not have a car and plan on using bus and train connections that I have read about on the forum (thank you GAC). What I am wondering is if I should just base myself in Taormina and Palermo and do Siracusa as a day trip from Taormina and Agrigento from Palermo. The other option is to spend 2 nights in Taormina, 2 in Siracusa, 1 in Agrigento and 2 in Palermo. I would fly into Catania and out of Palermo.

The distance by train or bus from Siracusa to Agrigento is what is causing me to reconsider the moving around. Are the temples in Agrigento that awesome to see at night when they are lit? Would the day trips make more sense (I am someone who is fine with moving around, however).

Thanks for advice.
kathrynj is offline  
Jan 17th, 2011, 03:57 AM
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If you won't have a car I think it would be better to stay in just the 2 places, Taormina & Palermo. 2 nights in a place only gives you 1 full day there and Palermo definitely needs several days : there is a lot to see there, we loved it on our one visit so far and easily filled 5 days without even mamaging to get as far as Monreale.

You can see all the sights in Taormina in 1 full day, if that's what you want to do, but I have happily so far spent 3 separate weeks there.

In Siracusa again you can probably see the main sites in 1 full day, if you get up early - 2-3 hours in the archaeological park followed by the catacombs (possibly) and exploring Ortygia and its c hurches etc, although getting betwen them without a car would eat up extra time.

In fact with only a week, I would just stay in Taormina and Palermo and not even bother with day trips, but you are probably younger and more energetic than me.


It is much easier to get round by car, though - why not consider it ? You could then also fit in a trip to the Villa Casale near Piazza Armerina on the drive between Siracusa and Agrigento.

To answer your specific questions about the Agrigento temples at night - yes they look nice lit up at night, but they are a couple of miles from the town so unless you stay at the Villa Athena which is near the temples, it's a pretty distant view and you can get the same impression by looking at a photo IMO. I haven't stayed at the Villa Athena but when I've been past I haven't thought it looked particularly nice. My first time there I stayed in the town at the Hotel Jolly, which was OK in a standard international chain-type hotel way, and the second time at the Baglio della Luna which is in the country on the other side of the temples and which you really need a car for.
caroline_edinburgh is offline  
Jan 17th, 2011, 04:10 AM
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Palermo is fascinating, there is much to see in the city and you can go by bus to Monreale, so half your time will be well spent there. Siracusa can be reached by train or bus from Palermo, and is much preferable to Taormina, I think. You can make easy day trips by bus to Noto and Ragusa.
tarquin is offline  
Jan 17th, 2011, 04:43 AM
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With a short time as you have, I would stay in Palermo and Ortigya (the old part of Siracusa).

As other advised, from Palermo you can visit Monreale (1/2 day0>

From Siracusa, one day to Noto (a very beautiful baroque town) and a day to Taormina (beautiful landscape, views and Greek Theater).

I liked more Villa Casale (Piata Armerina) than Agrigento, as the mosaics there were the most interesting, beautiful, large which we saw till now. It can be done as a day trip from Siracusa.
valtor is offline  
Jan 17th, 2011, 05:22 AM
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Thanks for the helpful responses.....for Siracusa, I'd want to fly into Cantania not Palermo, right? Am thinking of just doing Taormina as a day trip from Siracusa as suggested above rather than staying there.

Any lodging places especially liked?
kathrynj is offline  
Jan 17th, 2011, 06:30 AM
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Palermo: Grand Hotel Wagner
Taormina: Villa Carlotta
Ortigia: Algilà Charme with caveats

More information about each in my trip report:
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...ecial-trip.cfm
bon_voyage is online now  
Jan 17th, 2011, 07:42 AM
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Yes, for Siracusa, fly into Catania, which is halfway (an hour or so) between Taormina and Siracusa.

I can't speak for the western side of the island, but in the east we spent one day/night in Taormina, and I really liked being in the town after hours. We stayed at Hotel Schuler, which had very reasonable rates and an off-season special when we were there at the end of April last year; inquire via their website if you don't see specials listed.

We also spent one day in Siracusa (but not Ortygia); IMHO you don't need more than 2 days there. I'll second that we loved the mosaics at Piazza Aremina, despite the crowds of school field trips (mostly French) when we were there. I'm not sure how you'd get there on public transportation, though. If you can make it there, the ceramics in Caltagirone are really lovely (and make good presents, for oneself or others!). We stopped in the town after Piazza Aremina.

If you haven't found them already, I know there are a couple of TRs from Fodorites who traveled Sicily on public transportation. From last year(?), thursdaysd stayed in Ortygia. It was either she or someone else more recently who posted about being based in Siracusa and visiting the Valley of the Temples and elsewhere by public transit - sorry I can't remember more details on that one!!
ggreen is offline  
Jan 17th, 2011, 09:22 AM
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In Ortygia we stayed at a very beautiful pension " La corte degli angeli". The owner is an architect . Every thing in this villa is so nice!
http://www.lacortedegliangeli.com/
valtor is offline  
Jan 17th, 2011, 07:50 PM
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kathryn, I will be going to Sicily for the first time the last week in March (we wil have a car). I believe Villa Casale is closed for restoration:

dal 15 novembre 2010 CHIUSURA TOTALE PER LAVORI DI RESTAURO fino alla primavera 2011 (riapertura ancora da definire)

I don't speak/read Italian, however I see "total closure." Please tell me I'm wrong because I had my heart set on seeing the mosaics.

Good luck with your planning!
Leely2 is offline  
Jan 17th, 2011, 09:44 PM
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Leely2,
Thanks for the heads up on that and yes, they are closed---until late March or April so you may want to check directly. I was likely not getting there anyhow but now I know definitely not to stop!

Am leaning toward basing in Siracusa and Palermo with Taormina as a day trip.....happy planning to you to.
kathrynj is offline  
Jan 18th, 2011, 03:19 AM
  #11  
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I mean too!

Now am second guessing staying one night in Taormina but will see what routes are best to get to Palermo. It is definitely more challenging without a car.....
kathrynj is offline  
Jan 18th, 2011, 04:40 AM
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Leely2, if you don't know about it, Google Translate is a godsend!
ggreen is offline  
Jan 18th, 2011, 04:51 AM
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"fino alla primavera 2011 (riapertura ancora da definire" or "until spring 2011 (reopening date to be determined)" is vague and, in Sicily, elastic.

Keep checking until just before you leave and only plan on it if you see something *definite*.
Zerlina is offline  
Jan 18th, 2011, 04:52 AM
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Would definitely recommend Ortigia over Taormia. Click on my name for my TR (from '08), which includes hotels. I traveled independently and on a tour. I stayed in a nice B&B in Palermo.
thursdaysd is offline  
Jan 18th, 2011, 05:25 AM
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Taormina is another one of those "love or hate" destinations. We fell into the latter. Do your research and be sure of why it has a reputation for being what it is. Then decide.

I would be hard pushed to imagine that anyone could "hate" Ortigia which has to be one of the most agreeable small cities in Europe. It doesn't have many of the extremes on show in much of the rest of Sicily.

The city is very public transport friendly, it is in fact an absolute pain to have a car whilst staying there.
humptynumpty is offline  
Jan 18th, 2011, 05:40 AM
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How far is it from Siracusa to Taormina?
scrb11 is offline  
Jan 18th, 2011, 05:46 AM
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Around 80 miles, seem to remember.

Driving or train?

Driving there took 3 and a half hours due to road works (that was last year but the works looked very long term) and local traffic. Driving back later at night took about an hour and a half with little traffic and the workmen back at home.
humptynumpty is offline  
Jan 18th, 2011, 06:13 AM
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<< From last year(?), thursdaysd stayed in Ortygia. >>

<< my TR (from '08) >>

Wow, time flies!

- - - - -
I'm in the pro-Taormina camp for certain! We were there at the end of April and it was lovely and not crowded; I'd imagine in March there would be even less tourists around.

We went to Taormina on our first day in Sicily. For us (admittedly coming from farther afield after our overseas flight), the balconies and vistas of Taormina were just what we needed to set ourselves in vacation mode. We arrived in the late afternoon and after relaxing on our room's balcony, had a nice dinner and strolled the town. In the morning, we explored the back streets to the English Gardens - which we had almost entirely to ourselves - and then looped our way back to the Greek amphitheater, the only place where we saw any significant tourist presence. (The roadway up to the entrance is the typical gauntlet of cheap souvenirs and greasy food carts.) After a casual lunch, we were back on the road.
ggreen is offline  
Jan 18th, 2011, 06:46 AM
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If, like me, you are more interested in character than luxe, try the Hotel Orientale in Palermo. It's a central (close to the train station,) family run, old palazzo. You go through a wooden door into a shabby courtyard, up grand stairs to the piano nobile where the hotel is. We had Mussolini's old room with a balcony over the street. Oh, and cheap.
tarquin is offline  
Jan 18th, 2011, 07:02 AM
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I'm with valtor about just staying in the two places. If at all possible, don't miss Monreale when you are in Palermo. We cabbed but there is a bus from Palermo. We also took a city bus to the beach town of Modella-it has a cool art deco bath house.

Is anyone else as jealous as I am that you lived and worked in Bologna?! Did you do a trip report?
TDudette is offline  

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