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Trip Report - Sicily in 30 days 2016

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Apr 9th, 2016, 07:25 PM
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Trip Report - Sicily in 30 days 2016

Our Sicily trip has been a long time in the planning and executing. Planning commenced several years ago with other events intervening so that the trip was put off time and time again. However we kept up the research and kept in touch with other travellers to refine our intinerary. 5 April finally saw us up up and awaying!
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Apr 9th, 2016, 07:26 PM
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Etihad Airlines:
For us this was one of the worst premium airlines we had the bad luck to travel with. The B777-300 has extremely narrow and close seats making it uncomfortable for even short people let alone tall ones.
The aisles are so narrow that even the crew have difficulty getting their trolleys down them. Passengers walking down the aisle constantly knock the seated passengers because there is no way they can fit down the aisle unless they crab-crawled down them (and I am not talking about large passengers). This is a nuisance at night.
The food ran out after just five rows in the economy section with the stewardesses asking each other what they had left and passing laden trays over the passengers heads! Then two rows later, they ran out of trays. When they returned with the trays they forgot to add the bread roll and offer a beverage. The tray was just shoved at you and off they went. The food generally looked unappetising and very much presented as cafeteria food. The trays are unbalanced on the hinged trays and both tray and drinks head towards to your lap. Premium economy was microscopically better, but not for the money and you still use the economy toilets.
Terminal 1 is uninteresting and dull. Although there are electronic device charging machines, you would need a very long cord or be prepared to sit on the floor while holding your device.
No, Abu Dhabi and Etihad, you are not an alternative to Dubai and Emirates or Singapore Airlines or Thai Airways.
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Apr 9th, 2016, 07:37 PM
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The flight from Abu Dhabi to Rome was a shared code with Alitalia and what a difference. All the stories of Alitalia using old planes and having bad service were put to rest. The plane was indeed an older model, but it had been refurbished and the crew could not have been more different from Etihad. Pleasant, accommodating and talkative. A comfortable flight indeed.

We had a lay over in Rome where we purchased TIM for Visitors sim cards for our phones. A short wait in the very crowded transit lounge and we were up up and away again, with Alitalia.

Palermo Airport
The flight to Palermo from Rome was uninteresting – just over the Sea. We did not get to see the Napoli coastline or the Aeolian islands. The entry to the airport is along the Palermo coastline with massive rocky outcrops surrounded by low lying land densely built on.
The airport is small and uninteresting for arrivals. The baggage collection is divided into two area. One is for domestic and through rear doors is the area for international where your luggage is screened. We waited at the domestic (being none the wiser) and were alarmed when our luggage did not appear. As we were headed with a sense of foreboding (the stories of Alitalia losing luggage were eventuating) to the Lost and Found, an aircrew member approached us and asked us if we had lost luggage and when we said yes, she said it was probably at the international section through the rear door. And it was!

The information desk cannot provide any brochures in English, only German, French and Arabic. On we went to find our Onbus to Trapani. Past the shuttle to the car park and rental car companies, past the charming and bubbly lady who wanted to sell us a taxi or shared taxi (5 – 6 people and some luggage) E10 until we found the bus stands. One for a bus to Palermo itself, E6 and the others. Our Segesta bus (Onbus) was to arrive at 12.30 and it did. It costs E10 to purchase tickets on the bus or E8 if you do it on line before and print out the ticket. The other buses go to Agrigento (three per day) and Gallo buses to Menfi and Siacca (2 per day). Waiting would be either very cold or very hot as there is very limited bus shelter if you are there in high or low season.
On the journey from the airport, we passed many older houses which had been abandoned or construction unfinished. The autostrada is lined with gum and wattle trees making us feel quite at home. The fields were vines, olive orchards and solar panels. A 55 min relaxing drive to Trapani.
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Apr 9th, 2016, 08:16 PM
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Day 1 - Trapani 6 April 2016

Trapani:

Trapani is both a old town and a modern one. As you drive through off the autostrada from Palermo you are reminded that Trapani once had some wonderful buildings with wrought iron balconies and arched windows. These have been replaced by modern concrete high rises complete with clothes hanging outside.

However old Trapani is another story. This is where people enjoy their city. The old buildings are often in disrepair but some are being restored and hopefully this will continue so that the heritage is not lost. The streets are not cobbled vicoli but they are 2 cars wide paved in large stone flagstones which to the visitor spells pedestrian but in fact they are normal streets used by vehicular traffic, so you had better have your wits about you and don’t amble down the streets or you could be the ornament on a motor scooter or car! There are virtually no footpaths so you will be walking on the street itself within the town. There are footpaths of sorts on the main outer streets.

There are parks that will definitely be the scene of the evening passagiata. Every street or corner has a church or a building with a religious history. A wonderful old building that used to be a hospital XiV C is in disrepair and boarded up. Hopefully it will be restored into some wonderful apartments.

Cattedrale San Lorenzo unfortunately has not been maintained and this once glorious building is a sorry sight. The porphyry columns, two massive organs and the bronze gates hint at its glory. The plaster is peeling and the paintings need urgent restoration to bring out the obvious beauty and colours. The ceiling is covered in circular frescoes but many of them are water damaged and have already been lost. It would be wonderful if some Italian bank or business (as has been done in Rome with the Trevi and Spanish Steps) could put their hands in their pockets and provide for the restoration.

Although some restaurants are open early for the tourist trade they are identified by the tables outside, well dressed waiters and spruikers ready to offer you the deal of the day!

The people are friendly from the bus driver who drove us from Palermo aeroporto to Trapani, the travel agent who directed us to our hotel, the lovely ladies who run the Marina Bay B & B to the citizens who gave us directions and the friendly staff who ran the Pane shop 9 Pane amore e fantasia at Corso Vittorio Emanuele 84/86) and the Paniforcio where we bought our Pane, Torte di Mela, Pomodoro Pizza and Arancini Ragu for our first night’s dinner.

A walk early in the morning at 7.00am along Viale Regina Elena sees the city still asleep with only the early workers and the port awakening. Viale Regina Elena is lined by trees and beautiful lights. These have been converted to solar and they are a testament to the past glory. The Viale looks glorious at night when these lights are turned on.

The Fish market is not as busy as we expected with the catch being mainly sardines. However it was interesting to watch the bargaining for the catch. Individual fishermen with their nets could be seen out in the harbour.

Viale delle Sirene has views of the old walls, the Lungomare and Erice. This would be a beautiful area if the flower beds were replanted and the weeds removed. Some houses overlooking this area could be converted into B & Bs which would draw deep pocketed tourists for the beautiful views.

There is a supermarket – Maxisconto at 11 Via Carolina that sells locally made cheeses including a rather lovely pecarino. Everywhere there are small restaurants. Many without signs so you have to be in the know or wait until evening when they open their doors and your realise what was behind that scruffy old door you saw earlier!

Via Corallai has some outdoor restaurants with outdoor covered seating. One also has an open fire during winter.

Many of the churches are closed eg San Francesco di Assisi. This is undergoing a major restoration which is likely to see it closed for at least another year. Along Via San Franceso we peeped into an open window (for want of a better word) to see a man mending fishing nets. He very kindly allowed us to photograph him and wished us a good journey. The San Francesco area is the old area for sailors and fishermen and they continue to live and work here.

Upper level households do not have garbage bins to be collected by garbos but hang their garbage in a bag on a string to be collected. So watch where you walk or you will get hit on the head by a garbage bag!

Old Trapani is a walkable town and you do not need a car here. You can get to Segesta and Erice by bus and to San Vito Lo Capo by a shared bus that the hotel can arrange for you www.sanvitolocapobus.com.

If you want to walk along the beach you have to go to the modern part of Trapani where there are beaches. Around the old town there are only ballast blocks covered with a variety of seaweed.
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Apr 9th, 2016, 08:44 PM
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Rasputin! I am so glad to see your trip report. It sounds like you had a good start and I can't wait to read the rest.

I'm anxious to hear how you liked Sicily!
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Apr 9th, 2016, 09:00 PM
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Glad you made it and looking forward to your report.
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Apr 9th, 2016, 09:13 PM
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Sicily was one of my favorite trips. Hope you made it up to Erice. And to see the Easter tableaux at Chiesa del Purgatorio. Looking forward to more.
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Apr 10th, 2016, 12:14 AM
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Rasputin, you amaze me.. 2 long haul flights, an internal flight, and a bus trip..... you really have stamina.
We are taking the new (from Adelaide) Qatar route to Milan in July, the internal fit out a bit better than Emirates and Etihad with 1 less seat per row. Fingers crossed it's comfortable.

Trapani looks interesting, keep going with the details. I love reading Sicily TR's, everyone seems so enthusiastic about their time there.
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Apr 10th, 2016, 07:06 AM
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Great, we are going in a month so this is well timed!
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Apr 10th, 2016, 09:06 AM
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I'm in for the ride. Thanks for the trip report.
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Apr 10th, 2016, 01:38 PM
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For an airline to run out of food is inexplicable! On to a wonderful trip.
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Apr 10th, 2016, 02:07 PM
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Agreed TD - it's not as if they don't know how many they are going to cater for.

We too will be going to Sicily but in September for only 10 days so we will be sticking to the eastern side of the island - so I will be very interested to read about the laces we won't have time to visit.
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Apr 10th, 2016, 06:05 PM
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Thanks everyone for your encouraging comments. Thursdaysd - will talk about Erice soon. Adelaidean interested to know what Qatar is like. While Emirates can be indifferent, it is the agonising 6 hour lay over between Dubai and Milan that put us off. We have done that twice. Once was interesting, the second a bore and a third would be agony. Qantas unfortunately puts themselves out by being overpriced.
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Apr 10th, 2016, 06:39 PM
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Enjoying your trip report and looking forward to more. We spent a fortnight in Eastern Sicily last September and it was superb.
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Apr 10th, 2016, 06:41 PM
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Day 2

Segesta:
If you are not into tours or do not have deep pockets for a private guide and car, the easiest way to get to Segesta is by bus. Our visit to Segesta this morning had all the right ticks. The weather was not hot and it was not raining. Although we have had overcast weather for the last few days here in April 2016, it has been pleasant to walk around in.
We took the Tarantola bus from the bus terminus "Bar Autostazione" Piazza G.G.C. Montalto near the train station. Tickets (E6.50 return) are purchased in the café/bar and patrons can wait in the café area until the bus arrives. We took the 10am bus and there were only five passengers all the way to Segesta. A very pleasant ride, with the bus travelling at a speed that allowed viewing of the green country side with the vines coming into new growth. We felt at home with the gum and wattle trees lining much of the highway. Wild flowers (aka weeds) including thistles and poppies brought colour to the green patchwork fields. Interspersed were olive orchards (some with old, knurled trunks showing their age) and fields of solar panels. Several unfinished or abandoned houses had us wondering why? Was it the economy or some other issue.
The journey took around one hour with the bus driver pointing out the fermata for the return journey at 1.10pm. Check the return times as they change.
Arriving at the site ticket office, we were told that the amphitheatre was closed indefinitely for restoration and only the temple was open for viewing. Luckily the ticket had been reduced to E3 instead of E6. Perhaps reason for the lack of passengers on the bus was that they had prior knowledge into this closure.
Nevertheless we intended to enjoy the site as best we could and climbed the wide stairs to the tempio, which dominates the whole landscape. The steps are stony rubble and not for anyone with heart or knee issues. The un-kept area is filled with spring flowers including borrage, thistles, forget me nots of the most vivid blue, yellow and orange flowers. The inevitable prickly pear jostled for attention with the agaves.

One can just get a view of the corner of the amphitheatre from the temple site. Across the valley was a much photographed wine estate and restaurant – the Agora di Segesta - very grand indeed. If you have a car and deep pockets, this is the place to stay for at least one day and you will have a magnificent view of the Tempio lit up at night.

The historic legend of the site is that the ancient capital of the Elymians was founded by exiles from Troy. Segesta was constantly at war with the nearby Selinunte and there were frequent skirmishes. The majestic 5th C Doric temple has survived the wars. The city of Segesta was built above the temple. Besides the amphitheatre there are the ruins of a mosque and other ruined buildings but it is the temple and amphitheatre that draw the sightseers.

The temple is without any ornamentation so often seen on Greek temples, This seems to support the theory that the temple was in fact never completed due to the wars. The building dominates the hill and would be a wonderful sight to see from the amphitheatre. Look for the starlings who build their nests into the small crevices and holes in the masonry.

There is no shelter or shade at the temple so it would be very hot during the summer. There are two benches in the sun facing the temple.

The gift shop filled with tacky souvenirs, does have some good books on Sicily, although the number of English copies appear to be limited in comparison to the other languages. A multi-language brochure can be purchased for E2 at the stalls before the gate and an E7 book can be purchased in Trapani wherever postcards and souvenirs are sold.

You can also purchase some expensive food eg 4inch square of eggplant lasagne for E8 as well as drinks and some gelato at the cafe. This can be eaten on the tables outside.

There are reasonably clean toilets but bring your own toilet paper and don't expect the soap containers to be filled.

If you drive up, there is free car parking before the entry gate. The little man at the gate is not selling tickets but spruiking for a restaurant somewhere in town.
As soon as the sun breaks through it gets very warm, so a hat and sunglasses are a must.

Enjoy the site even if the temple is the only building open. When restoration of the amphitheatre is complete it will be used for summer classical theatre programs (July and August).

Because there was only one site open this left a lot of wasted time waiting for the return bus and no where to sit. The restaurant was quite clear that the tables were meant for patrons (even though there none at the time). We clearly understood this and would have moved if a large crowd had arrived and needed more seats. So it was sitting on rocks or standing around waiting. Two other travellers on the bus ended up sitting on the side of the road. The bus was on time and away we went back to Trapani - being dropped off at the bus station once again.

A walk back took us to the Gelataria I mention in my report on the B & B and this time the chocolate was on - was it worth waiting for? - indeed.

A walk around the streets at night sees the beautiful street lights that you would have observed during the day on every wall, lit up. Restaurants come alive and there is a wine bar (Tenute Adragna) opposite the Al Lumi hotel/restaurant (Via San Lorenzo) that only opens in the evenings. They have several barrels of wine that you can taste and buy. It serves as a meeting place for the younger generation, who can be seen here standing in the street chatting and drinking wine. None get drunk – this is just a convivial pastime. For E4 you can try four red or white wines and food is provided in the form of inch squares of very nice pizza and panne and olive oil. You had better like young, rough wines but it was nevertheless an experience we were happy to have. We actually found that the tasting was supposed to be free. The use of the glass was E2 for several glasses of wine and he charged us E8 for two glasses of wine! This is the first time we have been overcharged by taking advantage of the newcomers!

Thursdays sees the local market near the port area. It is a vast market selling clothes and all manner of household items. There are vans selling cheeses, meats and other eatables, including, if you are up for it – bags of pigs’ blood. We had no trouble with pickpockets. Although some shops have cost signs, you can bargain a little. I found the best technique was to ask the price, and if it seemed a tourist price, smile and start to walk away. The stall holder will generally drop the price by one or even two Euro. The stall holders continue with the market circuit in the area attending different towns on different market days.

Surprisingly after reading about Sicilian drivers, we can say that they are polite in Trapani, observing every zebra crossing and waiting until we crossed. This also extends to crossings where there are no zebra crossings.

Marina Bay B & B

This was a wonderful find for us. After checking out the location of a number of accommodations and contacting the owners, we plumbed for the Marina Bay and could not have been happier. The correspondence with the owners Stefania and Ninni Pipitone was responsive and helpful. The B & B is exactly two years old and is in a street just behind Piazza Garibaldi opposite the Porto. The large and secure entrance door hides the renovated small hotel. Stefania and Christina (Romanian) welcomed us and gave us a map and sent us off to our room as we had been travelling for more than 30 hours and been awake for even longer from the start of our journey in Melbourne. They promised to fill us in on the points of interest after we had rested.

The apartment is on the second floor and there is a tiny lift (one person and a bag at a time). The room is very secure (even from yourself if you don’t learn to use the key properly). It is light and airy with high ceilings. A small entry area with hooks to hang your coats opens into a bedroom that is well lit. It has a small TV and an air-conditioner (both heating and cooling as Trapani can obviously be cold in winter). Although we were here in April, it was cool and people were dressed in coats. Although the day was a lovely 19C it was cooler in the evenings.

The small cupboard has sufficient hanging space with real hangers and spare pillows. The bed is made up with clean linen and a warm cosy red quilt cover. The lighting is both overhead and individually directional side lamps. The entry leads into the large tiled bathroom with bidet, toilet and tiny shower. I do mean tiny. It is very clean and well lit. The large square basin on a wooden shelf has a mirrored cabinet above it. A hair dryer is provided as well as complimentary shampoo and soap. The shower has a wonderful shower head and the water is hot and there is plenty of it. However, if you are a large or very tall person you will have difficulty in moving in the shower and without knocking your elbows on the walls or door. There are only two hooks behind the door and a stool on which to place your clothes. You will need to unpack your toiletries and place them in the mirrored cupboard as there is no other shelfing.

The whole apartment is floored in white flagstone tiles. From the bedroom a sliding door leads to the kitchen/dining area. A sturdy table and three chairs, an oven, 2-burner gas cooker, fridge, sink and a washing machine complete the room. The cupboard above the sink (like many Italian homes) serves as dish storer and drainer. Cutlery and tea-towel are provided. However you will need to provide your own dishwashing liquid and brush. This in my mind is a problem as previous users would not have been able to thoroughly wash the dishes and cutlery. I could only thoroughly re-rinse them before use.

An over the balcony clothes airer is provided but directions on how to use the front loader washer would be helpful. Bring your own soap powder for a front loader. The room, like the bedroom, is well lit both by lights and natural light. Double glazed French doors in both rooms lead to a miniscule balcony (standing room only) and they have shutters to keep either the heat or cold out.

The area around, despite being spitting distance to the porto, is surprisingly quiet at night. Exhausted from our journey we finally succumbed and went to bed early expecting that we would be woken by other guests and the lift which was right next door. However this did not happen and there was no noise from the front or rear streets.

Ninni also acts as airport pickup and tour guide. An all in one service.

We followed Stefania’s advice on our walk to the Thursday market and stopped at the Artisanal Gelateria Meno tredlci Via Amm Staiti 61, for thick, creamy and cheap E1.50 cone of Pistachio and Hazelnut gelato. The chocolate was not ready yet – oh well that will be another trip later in the day – it can’t be helped! The dark chocolate was worth waiting for.

The B & B also provide a supermarket service from the Simpatico Crai supermarket on Via San Pietro 30. You can choose and pay for your groceries at the supermarket, letting them know that you are staying at the Marina Bay B & B. Your purchases will be delivered, free of charge, to the B & B and placed in your room by the reception staff. So you don’t have to make a trip there and back but can continue on to wherever you were headed knowing that your purchases will be taken care of. Remember if you are purchasing fruit or vegetables, to weigh them on the weigh machine provided, print out the sticky price label and seal your bag with the label before taking it to the check out.

The wifi signal at Marina Bay is strong and without the echo that one sometimes get on Skype.

Once you know how to operate the washing machine and the air conditioner, you are set.

You do have to take your garbage down to the recycle bins in Piazza Garibaldi outside the port area.

Marina Bay also provide guests with free antipasto and wine at a restaurant 321 Gramisci during the visit. Unfortunately we never got to take up this offer as we were always too tired and went to bed early.
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Apr 10th, 2016, 06:58 PM
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Day 3:

Marsala

We felt a bit like Dr Gloster on our trip to Marsala. We left Trapani in the drizzle and walked into to a puddle up to our middle in Marsala. Walking around Marsala in pouring rain is no fun.

The train journey was via a small one carriage train that stopped at three stations including Mozya where we got a glimpse of the salt flats, museum and windmills. There are a few hotels and B & Bs in Mozya if you have a car and want to stay longer to enjoy the sunset and evening windmill scenes you often see on postcards.

Arriving at the Marsala train station there were no directions in which to travel to the centre of the town. Using the map we had the forethought to copy from somewhere, we made our way down Via Crispi to Via Mazzini. This is an uninteresting street for the most part. It does however have three supermarkets cheek by jowl to each other. The Sais Supermercato at Via Manzzini 139 has a delicatessen section that will cut your purchased panne roll and make up it up with whatever cold meat or cheese filling you want. It has a reasonable range of wines and all other products. Each supermarket has its resident panhandler who will appreciate a E0.20 as you leave. They often keep a watch on patrons’ cars. We remember one in Genoa who kept up a convivial chatter with the regular shoppers, kept an eye on the trolleys for the supermarket and was on good terms with the manager.

Our first attraction was the Old market which was both a fish and vegetable market. It is quite small but has a good trattoria where you can purchase fresh fish straight from the market.

On to Porta Garibaldi – the entrance to the town that Garibaldi and his 1000 men used when they landed from Genoa to overthrown the Bourbon government. This is built to mimic a Roman triumphal arch with the Spanish royal emblem on top. The small church next to the Porta is a real gem. Very small, with a beautifully decorated cupola and two exquisitely decorated altars. The church would hold no more than 50 people at a squeeze but it is well maintained and is well worth a visit even over the Chiesa Madre which is at the other end of the street. The church did not appear in any guidebook I had read so I cannot tell you the name, only give the location near the Porta.

Walking along Via Garibaldi to Piazza Repubblica we saw a beautiful fountain through an open doorway. We were invited in by the caretaker to find the fountain under four intertwined ficus trees forming a canopy over it. The circular arena and buildings were once the Spanish military barracks. It is now the Municipio. Worth a minute of your time.

By the time we got to Chiesa Madre dedicated to St Thomas a’Beckett (patron saint of the town) we were thoroughly drenched and were beginning to dislike the town, mainly because there was no where to get out of the rain except to go into an unnecessary cafe. We merely peeked into the church before leaving to walk down to Porta Nuovo, another well kept gate with a garden before it. Piazza Vittorio Emmanuel led through to the Lido Boeo and the warehouses. However we decided that we would not see anything in the pouring rain and made our way back to the centre of town and to the train station where we waited 4+ hours for the train back to Trapani. The train station is cold and draughty and swarming with mosquitos.

We were too wet and cold to have a good impression of Marsala and would not recommend it to anyone. Unless you have a car and can drive to the various wineries or you need to stock up on picnic supplies, you can really give the town a miss.

we had to put on the heater to dry out and thaw out when we got back to our room.

Too tired to go out to dinner (we were supposed to be celebrating out 39th anniversary) we plumbed (on our host's recommendation) for a pizza from Calvino Salvatore via Nunzio Nasi 71. Calvino is a very old family name from Trapani. The restaurant is a rabbit warren (fire hazard?) and you cannot see it from the take away entrance. However you can observe the very very busy kitchen with the pizzas (long ones) being made up and stored on long wooden pallets that are taken and put into the wood oven. There is quite a wait with pizzas being made for both the restaurant patrons and take aways. One man is hired only to cut up the pizzas! It is a constant job. Funnily enough I had a picture of the owner on my Pinterest board! Our Pruciotto pizza had plenty of everything on it. A cheap bottle of wine from the Supermarket and that it was it for the night.
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Apr 10th, 2016, 07:12 PM
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I skipped Marsala because I couldn't figure out how to visit wineries by public transport, plus I found plenty to do in Trapani. Settled for just drinking Marsala with dinner (at Ai Lumi). Sounds like it was the right call.
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Apr 11th, 2016, 02:03 AM
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Interesting post. Thanks for all the detail about public transport (filing for future reference).

Re: flights... we were definitely over Malaysia Airlines and the 16 hour layover, after we were bumped from a flight (new vocabulary for me 'involuntarily denied boarding' LOL) and had another unexpected 24 hrs to pass.
As if the long haul from Australia is not agony enough.
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Apr 12th, 2016, 07:46 PM
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Yes Thursdayd I agree with you. Although Marsala does have a few interesting things to see, you can more impressive versions in Trapani and elsewhere. You will not be able to visit any of the wineries without a car or without taking an expensive tour.

Adelaidean -later in the year there is a Salt Bus that runs between Trapani and Marsala stopping at Mozia. I have the details and can give them to you if you want. It is a sort of hop on hop off bus but I think there are only two buses each way morning and evening so you will need to be well aware of your times.
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Apr 12th, 2016, 07:52 PM
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DAY 4 - Sunday 11 April Erice

As Erice had been socked in since we arrived, we decided rain or no rain we would visit on Sunday.

Walked to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele to catch bus nos 21 or 23 to the Funiva. As there was no information on the bus notice, Peter checked with the bar at the corner. The bar attendant said that there were no buses on Sunday and offered to get a taxi for us. We declined and started to walk back to our accommodation when we heard a someone speaking loudly behind us. Turning we found a well dressed old man speaking at the rate of knots who was obviously trying to tell us something. Finally understood that the bus left from the bus station at the train station and off we went to Piazza Molato to find the bus just about leave. On to the bus for E9.60 and the bus driver said that the funiva was not running (high wind) and the return bus was not until 5.30pm! So be it.

The bus ride was interesting to say the least with music blaring (just like India) and the driver talking to passengers while negotiating the narrow roads and the winding up hill road, gesticulating all the while – ie hands off the wheel! It must be difficult being Italian and having to drive with passengers, when you really need your hands to talk!! There were quite a few moments where the driver did not have his hands on the wheel and was also looking in the mirror at the passengers he was keeping up a loud conversation with over the loud music.

Erice was cold and windy. For a walking tour with pictures see rediscovering-sicily.com. First stop the Chiesa Matrice di Erice and belltower (1314 by Frederick of Aragon built with stones from the temple of Venus). The portico was added in 1426 and when the church collapsed in 1853, it was reconstructed in neo gothic style but preserved the original floor plan and walls.

Peter decided he only wanted to visit the church so he paid E2 for the privilege while I bought the passport for E5 for 6 churches. Good value. The climb up the belltower was reasonably quick (narrow steps and low overhead) and the view over Trapani fantastic. Peter decided he would actually climb the tower and paid another E2 for this. The church has been renovated and the colours of muted cream are just perfect. There is a display of paintings and other church articles including a number of intricate silver articles.

The ceilings are beautifully carved and every little column is also filled with design and topped by cherubs. Visual bombardment. Unfortunately no protective glass covers have been placed over the heraldic gravestones many of which are already indecipherable.

Walked up main street lined with expensive hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops. Lots of coral jewellery shops and ceramic shops. Discovered a tiny shop on Via Vitt Emanuele, where the owner tatts or makes lace earrings and other trinkets – extremely intricate and fine work. The first stop on the passport was St Salvadore. This is a largish complex of ruined laboratories, bakeries, crypts etc. I was all alone in this and one of the metal doors on the cells creaked – you can be sure I was out of there like greased lightning.

Erice’s streets are akin to spaghetti – up and down, round abound and under and over, all cobbled in differing patterned marble, hard on the shoes and ankles. We stared in amazement at some young women in extremely high heels negotiating the streets. The stones are slippery and will be even more so when it is cold and raining. As the buildings are built of old stone it is generally a grey town. More tomorrow.
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