Western Sicily - Home Base????

Apr 26th, 2006, 08:40 AM
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Western Sicily - Home Base????

Good morning fellow Fodorites! I love reading all of your Sicily reports, they're fantastic!

We are returning to Sicily in October to focus on the Western side, which we are yet to explore. My husband I like to "home base" somewhere in an apartment for a week and do day trips. My question is..... which town of those listed below (or one I haven't listed) has enough to sustain us for the week, ie, enough restaurants, shopping, grocery markets, has a decent passeggiata, doesn't roll up and die at 7pm, etc, yet is quaint (not huge like Catania or Palermo)and is also a good strategic location for a home base? Lots of criteria, eh?

I've been looking at.....
Mondello - to quiet off season?
Trapani - too big?
Erice - too hard to get to?
Marsala - ?
Sciacca- too small?
Agrigento - too touristy?
Selinunte - ?

I'm doing some reaearch, but I'm a bit gun shy because I was soooooooo wrong about Ortygia last year. We liked Ragusa and Noto, they were really lovely.

Any suggestions?

Thanks!!!!!
GiuliaPiraino is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 08:46 AM
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I can't offer a suggestion for western Sicily (there are problems with all the towns listed), but do I understand you to say that you disliked Ortygia? I love it above all other places in Sicily.

But to each his/her own, I daresay...
Eloise is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 09:02 AM
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Oh, no, I did love Ortygia, we just had a horrific, horrific apartment experience (you can see my older post and you will shudder with disgust). It's so not like me to get scammed, that's why I second guess myself. I've rented apartments all over Italy and France and this was the first time they "got me" with a bogus description! Ortygia had a raw grittyness that was totally enchanting and real and the food was nothing short of spectacular (as is in all of Sicily), but sadly our apartment experience really detracted from it. Also, we stayed a week in Ortygia and I think that was too long. It was the last place I booked on a two month tour of Italy and I was tired and lazy in my due dillegence! So now I'm ultra cautious with each leg of the tour.

Would you mind giving me the quick and dirty as to the "problems" with all the towns you mentioned? I'd very much appreciate it!

Thanks a bunch!
GiuliaPiraino is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 09:35 AM
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I'm glad you did like Ortygia, after all, but I'm sorry you had such bad luck with the apartment!

But if you found a week on Ortygia too long, then I really don't know where on the western coast would be suitable...

OK, here's my brief (and possibly biased) opinion:

Mondello - Right, too quiet in the off season.

Trapani - A possibility, perhaps; it's larger, and I've seen reports from people who really liked it. (I don't know Trapani from personal experience; I did drive by the salt pans, though.)

Erice - Not only too hard, but almost impossible to get to, particularly in the dark. I think it has one hotel with one restaurant. And the slipperiest cobblestones known to man; if it rained, you'd have real difficulty staying upright! (But if you go there on a day trip, don't miss the pastry shp of Maria Grammatico on the main street.)

Marsala - Maybe; I'd be afraid that it's too commercial and industrial, but my Touring Club Italiano guidebook says it has a small nicely-preserved historical center.

Sciacca - Too small, I agree.

Agrigento - Not so much too touristy, once you're into October, but not even the Touring Club Italiano has much good to say about the town (as opposed to the archeological site) of Agrigento.

Selinunte - Is there a town called Selinunte? I think (and so does the TCI) that it's only an archeological site. I know Marinella di Selinunte and had a wonderful fish lunch there, but 99.9% of it consists of summer houses; it would be very dead in October.

And I've looked at my map of Sicily without being able to come up with a better suggestion, unfortunately.

I'm very much a city person, so the thought of staying a week in Palermo would not bother me at all. There's so much to see and do, and everything in western Sicily can be seen in a day trip from Palermo. I spent four days there last year, and I will be there for three days next month.

Good luck, and do post your decision when you've made it!
Eloise is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 09:36 AM
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It is indeed a small world. We stayed at the same apartment in Ortygia about a month before you did, and had similar problems with a) finding the place and b)noise.

When we stayed there, although the bathroom had a persistent damp smell, the apartment itself was not dirty, and we were given all the bed linen at the hotel where we picked up he keys.

It was on of the more disappointing places we have rented. They also advertise on homelidays.com, and have another website at www.medflats.com

willit is online now  
Apr 26th, 2006, 10:04 AM
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Eloise, thanks for the reply, those are the straight facts I need to consider. I will definately want to do day trips to all of those places. You've confirmed my suspicions, so I'll have to do a bit more research.

Question though, I've stayed in Palermo once and day tripped there on another occasion. The first time, we were only there for the night, we had a nice meal, but it was a bit scary at night and I was even with 2 men (my husband and his brother). We didn't get much of an impression, we stayed at the Hotel Sausele which was dimal yet a good price. So when we went back last October, we were excited to dig in and spend some time there to explore, but we didn't get the best vibe, it felt depressing and unwelcoming and we are very seasoned travellers that speak the language. We weren't enjoying ourselves at all (it didn't help that it was so stinking hot). But, usually we get a fairly positive reception even in the larger cities and we didn't find it friendly at all. It just didn't have the warmth of the smaller towns, which is a given due to its size and cultural diversity. I was baffled and really sad because I had high hopes. We ended up leaving early and didn't go back the next 3 days that I had allotted (we were based in Cefalu). Could it have been an off day? Were we in the wrong areas? We discussed it afterward and we both agreed that we couldn't put our finger on exactly what turned us off so bad. I have heard that Palermo is like Naples, it's much more enjoyable if you know a local or have relatives that can take you around. I'm sure we would try again with a different game plan......Any thoughts?

Willit....words cannot express my empathy for your experience in that wretched apartment. let's just hope people on fordors keep on posting the horror stories so others can avoid it!
GiuliaPiraino is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 10:19 AM
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willit,
You might appreciate this story about that MF-ing apartment...
After the 6th night of hearing the village people's YMCA at deafening decibls at 2am, I lost my mind, threw my jeans and a sweater over my PJ's which were hanging out of the top and bottom, I went downstairs, barefoot, with crossed eyes and disheveled hair and I marched right into that crowded restaurant/night club like a crazy woman. There wasn't one single patron that wasn't staring at me with a gaping mouth and non me ne fregavo un cazzo simply put I didn't give a sh1t, I had lost my mind. I told the owner in Italian that I hadn't slept in 6 days and could they perfavore, perfavore, perfavore (shaking my hands in prayer position) turn that damn music down! and you know what???? THEY DID! When he simply said "ok", I was in shock. It was the only decent night's sleep we got. They must have figured that I was mentally disturbed and capable of something frightening- ha ha!
GiuliaPiraino is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 10:22 AM
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I'm a bit baffled why you found Palermo unwelcoming, depressing and even frightening. I've been there twice so far, as a woman alone, and I found people very kind and welcoming. Mind you, I did not wander the streets alone at night, but during the day I felt no fear at all even in the Kalsa district, which is said to be the "worst" in Palermo. I wandered through the Vucciria alone without feeling the slightest bit threatened.

Perhaps if you stayed at a B&B that has gotten only rave reviews here, you would feel differently about Palermo. You can Google it: "Ai Cartari". I tried to get in last October, but it was full. The woman there passed me on to another B&B in another old palazzo, run by a very pleasant woman, and that is where I am returning next month. And the food in Palermo is even better, to my mind, than on Ortygia!
Eloise is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 10:24 AM
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Sorry to butt in...
Eloise, I sure hope you write a report on your upcoming trip to Sicily (please!!). You notice everything in such detail that I'm sure it would be a delightful read
TexasAggie is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 10:34 AM
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Eloise,
Thanks again! I know you are right, in the back of my mind I have this nagging feeling that we didn't really experience Palermo. Now granted my husband didn't feel unsafe, he's from Brookly, takes a lot to scare him, it was just me I guess and it was in La Kalsa and I WAS at night. I know I wont feel good about our travels to Sicily until we give Palermo a good run, so thanks for the pep talk. I think you're right on, it's probably a good idea to go to a B&B with friendly owners. I do remember the food was fantastic, those fried chick pea fritters they sell on the street are soooooooo yummy and low calorie right? Hee hee. Thanks for the tips, I'll let you know what we plan!
GiuliaPiraino is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 10:37 AM
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Giulia - the thought of the "mad woman" raging against the noise made me smile a great deal. We hired the apartment for a fairly low rental, so although slightly dissappointed, I shrugged it off.

I loved Sicily, but will probably not return to Ortygia. On the other hand, I believe Cefalu' may become a regular holiday destination.
willit is online now  
Apr 26th, 2006, 10:39 AM
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Giulia,

I reread your message after posting mine about Palermo and only then really noticed your reference to knowing someone locally.

The only person I knew was the woman at the B&B; she was very pleasant and we chatted a few times, but she certainly did not take me around. You speak Italian, I am sure, much better than I do. (My background is not Italian; I've never studied it formally; what I speak - which is not really Italian, although most Italians are kind enough to pretend that it is -is what I have picked up in many trips to Italy and from reading in Italian.)

It always annoys me when someone posts asking for advice about Tuscany and someone else responds by telling them to go to Umbria, and I don't want to commit the same mistake. Still, if you don't find a better solution, I'd suggest that you give Palermo another thought. I know you've had two less than pleasant experiences, but perhaps "third time lucky" might prove true...
Eloise is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 10:41 AM
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willit...you're spot on about Cefalu', what a great town, we go every year! I hope it doens't become too touristy!
GiuliaPiraino is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 10:49 AM
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Eloise, I have to ask since you're a Sicily buff, do you like Sicilian Cassata? http://www.sicilianelmondo.com/foto/cassata.jpg I'm MAD for cassata and ate it at least 3 times a day on a slow day! I made it for the first time last Christmas, so labor intesive but worth it! My hands were stained green for a couple days, a badge of honor
GiuliaPiraino is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 11:00 AM
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Giulia, I do like Sicilian cassata (which was a surprise to me; here Sicilian cassata is an ice cream bombe), but I do find it just a little bit too sweet. But I absolutely love all the almond pastries, the ones that have the texture of coconut macaroons. There's a pastry shop on Ortygia that made dozens of varieties, and I could never go by without going in and buying several etti. I also like cannoli very much.

Best of all, though, I like some of the things that, in the mixture of sweet and salty, best reflect the influence of Arab cuisine: pasta con le sarde, fresh raw anchovies with blood orange segments, fresh raw shrimp marinated in lemon, and a wonderful salad of orange segments with hot chile peppers.
Eloise is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 12:07 PM
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I would just like to second Eloise's vote for Palermo. The first time I was in Palermo was with my two daughters. Everyone tried to discourage us from going there "alone". Well, I can't say enough how wonderful we were treated. We never ever felt threatened or unsafe--we stayed near Quatro Canti. I've been back twice since then, both times with my husband and we both agree that Palermo is our favorite place in all of Italy. Our only regret is that we have not spent more than a week at a time there. We plan on remedying that when my husband retires.
Eloise, would you be so kind as to tell us how to inquire about the B&B you were "passed" to and whereabout in the city it is located?
Angela_m is offline  
Apr 26th, 2006, 12:36 PM
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When I was there last October, the B&B was hardly listed anywhere, but I've now Googled it, and there are lots of listings.

It's "Palazzo Amari Bajardi"; it's located on via San Cristoforo, which is just off via Roma, to the left if coming from the station but closer to via Vittorio Emanuele than to the station.
Eloise is offline  
Apr 28th, 2006, 10:28 AM
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Thank you, Eloise. We will look into this for our next trip to Sicily.
Angela_m is offline  
Apr 28th, 2006, 12:36 PM
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I would have to say I am definitely not a city person so was smitten with Erice. This was our favourite spot in that part of Sicily. Our B&B was lovely - had hand-made tiled floors. It was a beautiful drive to get to (not difficult to get to at all compared to many places we have been). There were several restaurants (we went to a different one each evening we were there). In fact, our best Sicilian meal was there last year including the most succulent and decadent risotto I have EVER had. There are quaint food stores as well.

Cefalu was a favourite of ours as well. We loved Sciacca (but as I said before, we are not city folk so prefer the quiet small town atmosphere). We disliked Trapani (found it too large and industrialized) but everyone has their ideals. Thank goodness we are all different! We, too, liked Ragusa and Noto.

It will be interesting to see what you decide. Whatever it is, you will be sure to love it!!
batraveler is offline  
Apr 30th, 2006, 08:44 PM
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I just returned from Sicily tonight. We were there for 2 weeks exploring the island.

I strongly suggest looking into Resort Baglio Oneto. It is a unfound gem of a hotel located in Marsala. It has a restaurant and pool. Our room had a view of the town below and of the ocean. It was the largest room of our stay. We had a king side bed and large sitting area for 159E/night.

The hotel has been open two years and everything is in good working condition and clean. The website is framonhotels.com and click on hotels. Click on Resort Baglio Oneto.

The location is a bit tricky but it is close to Trapani, Erice Seliunte and Segesta.

Gail
grosenb is offline  

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