Sicily without car

Old Mar 1st, 2009, 02:20 AM
  #1  
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Sicily without car

We plan our vacation in October 2009 in Sicily, we shall be two familis (4 adults), without car. Before I can decide how many nights to stay in each place, I need some advices.
We plan the following:

1. Arriving Palermo
from here visit:
- Monreale
- Cefalu

2. Bus from Palermo to Taormina; hotel in Taormina

3. Bus from Taormina to Siracusa; hotel in Siracusa
Day trips to
- Noto
- Modica

4. Bus to Pozzallo and from there, ferry to Malta

Questions:
1. we would like to see also Agrigento and Piazza Aremerina. I am not sure how to do them:
- Agrigento from Palermo (tour or bus?)
- One long day tour (organized tour) from Taormina to both Agrigento and P. Armerina
- P. Armerina from Siracusa (tour or bus?)

2. Is a trip from Taormina to Etna difficult? If we take a tour by car and cable , is it worth (do we have spectacular views without climbing ?)

3. Being without car, is a good idea to stay in Ortigya, or is better to find hotel in Siracusa?

4. How easier is to take the ferry to Malta (when our last night in Sicily will be in Siracusa), from Pozzallo or from Catania?
valtor is offline  
Old Mar 1st, 2009, 03:22 AM
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Hi there, my husband and I had a great trip to Sicily a few years ago and used public transport everywhere. It took a bit of research as the buses are all regional so if you want to check timetables etc you have to find out which bus company covers which area. On some routes, we had to change bus lines (companies). Going to Taormina, we caught a bus to the town at the bottom near the beach and caught the cable car up to Taormina.

We had about 10 days in Sicily, flying from Malta to Catania and stayed in Ortigia. Then we caught the train to Messina and then a bus to the port near Lipari and got the ferry to Lipari. Then bus again back to Taormina, then bus back to Catania for our flight. It all went pretty smoothly but we struggled at times with our lack of Italian.

From Taormina we did a full day bus tour to Agrigento and Piazza Armerina. It left very early, I think about 6am and got back about 8pm. Most of the time was spent at Agrigento with about an hour at Piazza Armerina. We thought Piazza Armerina was wonderful but didn't enjoy Agrigento as much. We found out about the day tour from our hotel in Taormina.

It was quite easy to catch a bus to Noto from Ortigia. We went in the morning which was just as well as almost everything closed for hours in the afternoon for siesta. Noto had some beautiful buildings.

Hope this helps a little with your plans.
Kay
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Old Mar 1st, 2009, 05:11 AM
  #3  
 
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Some answers:
1. Definitely NO to Agrigento + Piazza Armerina in 1 day from Taormina: it's a grind. Note that in October daytime is short and darkness comes soon in the afternoon. Choose to visit it separately: from Siracusa to Piazza Armerina it's a scenic trip and you have the chance to stop in some fine villages like Palazzolo Acreide, Buscemi and Caltagirone.
2. Never done, but a lot of people report fantastic experiences.
3. IMO, the only reason to choose Siracusa as opposed to Ortigia is car parking problems. If you don't have it, don't exitate: Ortigia is amazing how much Siracusa is chaotic.

Let me add some opinions: Sicily is beautiful, October is a fantastic period to go there. Be prepared to enjoy more in villages and landscapes than big cities. Public transportation in Sicily is a problem, IMO consider the chance to put yourself in the hands of some local people who can bring you where you want in safety and optimizing the time.
Please make a point of these little gems in Western Sicily, if you have enough time: the magnificent archeological site of Segesta, the ancient town of Erice in astonishing location, and the Riserva dello Zingaro, a wonderful natural park you can explore from Castellammare del Golfo or from Scopello on the other side.

Sorry for my english.

Maurizio - Italy
liberosette is offline  
Old Mar 1st, 2009, 06:04 AM
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Hi, i did a public transport-only 10 day trip to sicily in december '08. My trip was:
fly into catania
siracusa (stayed in ortygia - Hotel Posta - v.good) - 4 nights
agrigento (hotel akragas - inconvenient) - 2 nights
taormina (villa paradiso - exceptional - to die for views) - 4 nights.

The siracuse part of the trip was supposed to include day trips to Noto or Rgusa, but I couldn't drag myself away from Siracusa. Getting from Siracusa to Agrigento and Agrigento to Taormina was a huge pain with bus changes at Catania. I was travelling solo and so hiring a car service (they drive you) was very cost ineffective. But, you may want to look into it. I contacted 2 car services, but i only have the record of n email with one:
http://www.regalis.com/sicilyguides.htm

I absolutely loved Agrigento. If you like archeological sites, then this is heaven. The museum is surprisingly very good too.

Piazza Armerina is very difficult to do without a tour/driver. Aslo, be warned that it was closed in December, not sure if its open again now.

I'd suggest going to Agrigento from Palermo by train. Get the 18:35 train from palermo, reach agrigento at 20:55. Stay the night in agrigento, spend the next day there. Or get the first train out at about 7:30 nd reach Agrigento 2.5 hours later. Maybe the bus to syracusa or taormina the next day. But do note, that the bus journey will have to go through Catania and will take most of a day. If you hired a car service, the drive from agrigento to syracusa/taormina would take about 3/3.5 hours and you'd have the option of stopping at Piazza Armerina (if its open) or perhaps Caltagirone.

For bus schedules look at:
www.interbus.it/interbushtm/homepage.asp
www.cuffaro.info
http://www.etnatrasporti.it/
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Old Mar 1st, 2009, 09:35 AM
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Thank you very much to all.
Key, you gave me very good advices. I think that my plans are similar with a part of your trip, so your opinions are very helpful.

Maurizio, as per your advices, I'll do two separate trips to Agrigento and P. Armerina; I will be in vacation, so no need to run! I had a look in the guide book and Erice is very interesting, I'll include it as a day trip from Palermo.
No problem at all with your English! Also for me English is not the first language, so I understand very well your feelings about this.

Ssachida, thanks for recommendations. The hotels in Taormina and Ortygia look very good.
valtor is offline  
Old Mar 1st, 2009, 01:09 PM
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Villa Romana del Casale has been closed for restauration since Nov-3-2008, but just in the next days it should be reopened, as reported by official site: http://lnx.villaromanadelcasale.it/
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Old Mar 2nd, 2009, 08:21 AM
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"Erice is very interesting, I'll include it as a day trip from Palermo." - if you have the time, plan to spend at least one night in Erice, it's absolutely fabulous! And I'd recommend checking out Trapani as well. I posted a link my Sicily TR on your other thread, you can see my unedited pix of Erice here: kwilhelm.smugmug.com/Travel/519560 password "erice".
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Mar 2nd, 2009, 08:33 AM
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Hello, we were in Sicily just a couple of years ago and had a fantastic time. We did not use public transportation, thus cannot give advice on that.
But writing to tell you to make sure you enjoy gelato and freshly prepared canneloni. The taste is unforgettable and they are truly the best ones in the world, at least I think so. Remember to ask for canneloni even if you do not see them displayed in the class case. I found out that the bakers keep them inside and prepare them when you ask, so the filling is fresh and the canneloni crisp. Oh! I miss them.
Also make sure you take a trip to Mt. Etna and enjoy the sights there. The drive was beautiful, but walking around the volcano area is also very memorable.
Have a great trip.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2009, 11:50 AM
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We took the train from Palermo to Agrigento. We thought it made for a great day trip. If that interests you, here's the details. It departed Palermo at 8:40 a.m. and took 2:20 minutes. Tickets are about 30 euro/2, round trip. Upon arrival at Agrigento Centrale (there are two stations in Agrigento) buy two tickets per person at the bar for your bus transportation from the train station to the ruins and back. To exit the train station, take the elevator UP to the street level. (We were perplexed for a bit.) Take the orange bus either number 1, 2, or 3 from the station to the ruins. It's only a 10 minute bus ride. Upon your return to the station, take ANY orange bus. They all stop at the train station. You also need to flag down an orange bus as it rounds the corner or they won't stop. You have to wave your arms to get the drivers attention. Remember to validate your tickets on board. They booted off a chick who was riding for free.

Buon viaggio!
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Old Mar 2nd, 2009, 01:31 PM
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kja
 
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Hi, Valtor

> Is a trip from Taormina to Etna difficult? If we take a tour by car and cable , is it worth (do we have spectacular views without climbing ?)

I joined a full-day tour of Mt. Etna from Taormina that I thought was well worth it because it made it much easier to make all the right transportation connections. At the top (or more accurately, as high as the tour takes you, which is very near the top), the views were remarkable. There was a bit of walking (not climbing), but that was optional. Do bring thick-soled shoes and layers of clothes (it is very cold and windy at the top), and consider bringing protective eye glasses (again because of the wind).

Hope that helps!
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Old Mar 2nd, 2009, 01:42 PM
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Just to add to the good advice you've received. I've always used public transportation in four trips to Sicily and never had a problem. With the itinerary you've planned, public transportation will be just fine.

You can take a tour bus from Taormina to Mt. Etna and it's well worth it. I did it years ago and we took a van up to the main crater of the volcano. It's a fascinating experience.

Re the bus from Palermo to Taormina, I don't know what route the bus takes, but the train goes all along the coast and it's a lovely, scenic ride, so you might want to consider that. You can get off the train at Giardini Naxos and take one of the frequently scheduled buses that go right up to the town of Taormina, along the spectacular Via Luigi Pirandello, a winding road with breathtaking views.

You can do either a tour or take the train, as someone suggested, from Palermo to Agrigento. As for Piazza Armerina, I know I'm an oddball and you probably shouldn't listen to me, but I've been there twice and was bored both times. I don't know why, but I just wasn't impressed.

As I like to say to everyone who is planning a visit -- you will love Sicily. It's one of my favorite places in the world.
panecott is offline  
Old Mar 2nd, 2009, 01:56 PM
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panecott: maybe you visited the Villa Romana in the middle of the summer, under those terrifying tinplates roofs... it seemed to be more roast meet in a microwave than tourists...
But now, after restoration, they say things will be different and comfort is definitely OK. Let's hope.
Anyhow, mosaics are quite upsetting beauties.
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Old Mar 2nd, 2009, 07:12 PM
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bkmk
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Old Mar 2nd, 2009, 09:58 PM
  #14  
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Wow, thank Pilates, Kja and Panecott for all the info! This forum helps so much!

Can somebody advise if for ferry from Catania (or Pozzallo) to Malta a reservation is needed if we have no car?
valtor is offline  
Old Mar 3rd, 2009, 01:58 AM
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I would not profess to be a Sicily expert but can offer some experience...

We had only 6 nights in Sicily last September for a family wedding in Taormina. Taormina was lovely on the days that the cruise ships were not in and still lovely, but crowded, on the other days! We missed the Mt Etna day trip as it clashed with preparations for the wedding (I think it went on Thursday) The real highlight for us was Ortigia - a beautiful place!
Did the day trip by bus to Noto - mainland buses are only about 15-20 min walks from Ortigia but there is also a little shuttle bus that goes around Ortigia and connects with public buses to further afield.
We found that the best idea was not to count on buses being on time, they frequently were not and some trains that we waited hours for (Catania to Ortigia), were then inexplicably cancelled!

Still, we had a great trip, enjoy yours.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2009, 02:19 AM
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As a rule, buses are much more reliable than trains in Sicily. Every intercity bus I ever took - and I have taken many - was on time.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2009, 08:01 AM
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libero,
I was there once in August (definitely microwave temps.!) and once in late September. The hothouse effect was part of my lack of enjoyment, and part of it was the endless chatter of the guides, but I just wasn't enthralled with the mosaics.

But as I said, I'm definitely in the minority. and maybe it will be different with the restoration.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2009, 08:35 AM
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Ozgirl and Zerlina, I see that is better to check the buses timetable! In special when I have to take the ferry from Catania or Pozzallo.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2009, 08:38 AM
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Have I to book in advance the ferry (travelling without car) for Malta?
Also, the buses between cities (we shall have luggage) must be booked before the day of the trip?
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Old Mar 3rd, 2009, 08:58 AM
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I can't answer your question about the ferry, but you do not have to book buses in advance. Sometimes there is a kiosk or an office where you can buy tickets; sometimes a nearby bar sells tickets; sometimes you can buy them on the bus. All the intercity buses I took had luggage compartments.
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