What is Sicily like?

Old Apr 20th, 2008, 02:30 AM
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What is Sicily like?


My wife Nikki and I are thinking about taking a week vacation in July and I came across a small add for Sicily in the newspaper yesterday and from the short description it looked pretty nice. So what is it like? I know my questions are pretty vague as I have not really searched the net yet for info Is it easy to get around by bus or is it best to have a rental car? Is it best to use Palermo as a homebase? Are there lots to see and do in Palermo? Is it possible to get a tour in the Etna area (is it active by the way)? Are there any nice beaches on the island and can you go snorkeling somewhere? What is the price level like in Palermo? Is it like in Rome and Florence?

Thanks in advance

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Old Apr 20th, 2008, 04:01 AM
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Sicily is great for a holiday with plenty of choices of achitecture. There are Ancient Greek, Roman, Norman, Medaeval, Moorish and Baroque sights to visit, and the countryside is great for walking. Taormina is a seaside resort and you can go snorkeling there. The best way to see the Island is to hire a car and tour round from a few locations, but there is also a good railway and bus network.

Central Palermo has many interesting buildings, some dating from Norman times, and it's worthwhile staying for a couple of nights. However, corruption in construction contracts has led to some sad looking modern buildings. Other interesting and/or attractive places include Syracuse, Taormina, Piazza Armarina, Agrigento, Seninunte and Segesta.

Mount Etna is probably the most active volcano in Europe. You can visit it from Taormina or Syracuse. It's not difficult to get up to the crater, but most tourists just do a short trail on the lower levels, when it's safe to. Walking to the crater requires suitable boots and clothing, plus expert safety advice and a guide. The following site gives links to various Etna excursions.

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Old Apr 20th, 2008, 04:32 AM
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The island of Ustica is considered best for snorkeling in Sicily. You get there by ferry from Palermo.
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Old Apr 20th, 2008, 05:09 AM
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Ustica sounds interesting. I might have to add it to my to do list.
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Old Apr 20th, 2008, 07:50 AM
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Gard, Do a search here for my trip report named " Navigating in Sicily". I also have a photo gallery with a link there. I would start in Palermo and end on the east coast, flying back from Catania. I think you will want a car, but you could do just 3 destinations using the trains---Palermo, Cefalu, and Taormina[train to Giardino-Naxos]. The July dates bother me---very hot.
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Old Apr 20th, 2008, 08:05 AM
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We spent a week in Sicily a few years ago. We stayed in the southwestern side of the island. Sicily is beautiful, lots of history, almost everything is on the coast and it is so much larger than I envisioned.

I would rent a car (but we always rent a car because we like to get to the out of the way places). Spend time in the east and the west.
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Old Apr 20th, 2008, 09:09 AM
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Gard, Sicily is amazing. I have only been there twice so am obviously not an expert by any means but I second the weather concerns for July. It will likely be unbearably hot. We were there in May and September and found those months hot. Sometimes July is the only time a person can go so I understand.

Anyway, it makes a wonderful destination. The scenery, vegetation, food, architecture, history, ruins, sea and its people are second to none. I would also recommend basing in maybe two areas. One of our favourites is Cefalu (up in the hills above the town for stupendous views). We found Taormina, whilst beautiful, to be far too resortish for us. Palermo is very interesting. It would be wortwhile visiting the amazing cathedral at Monreale as well.

I would highly recommend renting a car for Sicily as there is so much exploring to do. It is packed with little hilltop villages that are little known. Just be careful in Palermo - driving there can be interesting to say the least, especially at rush hour.

Another place I would highly recommend is Erice (near Trapani). It is a charming ancient village on a hilltop. Very pretty.

Parts of Sicily are quite rugged which contrasts nicely with the deep blues of the sea. The food is remarkable and heavily influenced by North Africa. Delicious seafood abounds.

If you can there are many ancient temples/sites to see including Agrigento, Siracusa (Ortygia), Selinunte, Segesta, etc. The mosaics at Villa Romana del Casale are superb. Just re-read the posts - these were already mentioned! Sorry...

The people are so real and work-a-day-ish which can make a much different atmosphere from other places in Italy. It is less affluent than northern parts but I love it. Sicily somehow holds a very special place in my heart.
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