Ultimate Month in Sicily

Old Jun 3rd, 2022, 09:12 AM
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Ultimate Month in Sicily


Sicily May 2022


We spent 33 nights in Sicily, arriving April 27 and departing May 30. Since this included 3 nights with some cousins, we had never met, we will call it a month.

We have labeled this an “ultimate” month. By that, we mean a full month of seeing and enjoying much of this large island.

We did not visit several places that should be considered for a first-time trip to Sicily, because we have been to them before. Even with a month, it is hard to see and do everything. We decided not to repeat visits to Monreale, Trapani, Erice, Marsala, Segesta, Selinunte, and Siracusa, all of which we recommend. We will include a few brief comments and some photos from prior visits to these places. We did repeat, for us, some places such as Cefalu, Taormina, Palermo and Ortigia.

Travel, of course, isn’t one size. We are providing our experiences and photos hopefully to assist in helping people prioritize the types of places they may want to see, since few people will have the good fortune of spending a month or more in Sicily.

We initially hoped we could have four bases, roughly a week in each, to avoid moving about too much. As we mapped out possible daily itineraries, the individual distances were simply more than we wanted to drive. Some of the mountain areas, for example, can take two hours to drive a mere 30-40 miles.

Our rental car was parked for nine of our days (one day we took a round-trip train from Agrigento to Palermo, three days we were with family who did the driving and five days we were on the Aeolian islands without our rental car, although we picked up two short-term vehicle rentals there). So, for 24 days of actual driving, we drove 2300 miles or nearly 100 miles per day. We walked over 220 miles or about 7 miles per day. Most of our days were long ones, getting up early and staying out late.

We initially had identified about 90 cities, towns and separate places of interest. Our priorities came from looking at maps, trip reports, lists such as “prettiest Italian villages”, and lots of googling. We were aware that we could not sustain such a pace and adequately enjoy such a long list, Our final count of actual "visits", however, was 76, and this did not include the many other towns we drove through. Near perfect May weather, with blue cloudless skies 90% of the time, and only a few drops of rain, helped smooth the effort.

Our travel style is not to get a guide book, printed or online, and check the boxes for all the recommended sites. We do take a quick look at the attractions of a place. We often avoid museums because the pottery, coins, statues, while awesome, do get a bit repetitive. We primarily like to go into a town, walk most of the essential areas and get a feel for the village. We typically seek out public squares and will go inside a duomo and a castle, if allowed and open.

We took more than 13,000 photos, about 1,000 of which we posted on a Sicily-centered Facebook page. They generated about 20,000 “likes”, which suggests strong interest in Sicily as a travel destination.

Sicily cities, towns and additional place of interest included in this report:

Acireale
Catania
Aci Castello
Aci Trezza
Paterno
Centuripe
Modica
Ortigia
Noto
Ragusa
Marzamemi
Tonnara di Vendicari
Pozzallo
Caltagirone
Piazza Armerina
Villa Romana del Casale
Scicli
Donnalucata
Marina di Ragusa
Marina di Modica
Donnafugata Castle
Vittoria
Comiso
Gela
Licata
Agrigento
Valley of the Temples
Scala dei Turchi
Sciacca
Caltabellotta
Castello Incantato
Palermo
Sambuca di Sicilia
Corleone
Prizzi
Castellammare del Golfo
San Vito Lo Capo
Scopello
Carini
Mondello
Sferracavallo
Portella della Ginestra
Piana degli Albanesi
Bagheria
Santa Flavia
Cefalu
Caccamo
Gratteri
Geraci Siculo
Gangi
Petralia Soprana
Pollina
Castelbuono
Sperlinga
Tindari
Novara di Sicilia
Savoca
Forza D’Agro
Giardini Naxos
Mt. Etna
Gambino Winery (Linguaglossa)
Castello degli Schiavi (Fiumefreddo di Sicilia)
Malvagna
Alcantara Gorge
Randazzo
Riserva naturale Orientata Bosco di Malabotta, Megaliti D’Argimusco
Mojo Alcantara
Milazzo
Lipari
Salina
Panarea
Stromboli
Motta Camastra
Castiglione di Sicilia
Taormina
Castelmola
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Old Jun 3rd, 2022, 10:21 AM
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Looking forward to your report - I’ve used several of your trip reports to plan trips, and we’d love to make a return trip to Sicily! But there’s no way we could keep up your pace, either driving or walking! So I’ll enjoy armchair travel with your trip!
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Old Jun 3rd, 2022, 11:48 AM
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Originally Posted by progol View Post
Looking forward to your report - I’ve used several of your trip reports to plan trips, and we’d love to make a return trip to Sicily! But there’s no way we could keep up your pace, either driving or walking! So I’ll enjoy armchair travel with your trip!
Thank you. I noticed your trip report on Portugal and have added it to my reading list, and I plan to forward to our son, who just got the okay to work remotely from Europe this summer. And, part of that will be in Portugal.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2022, 05:20 PM
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Delighted to see this thread, hopping aboard.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2022, 05:26 PM
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Looking forward to hearing about your month in Sicily. Loved our two trips to Sicily.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2022, 06:45 PM
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Originally Posted by bon_voyage View Post
Delighted to see this thread, hopping aboard.
I think your prior trip report on Sicily was one of those that prompted us to select Modica over Noto and Ragusa. I just looked back at your report and also see you stayed at Hotel Villa Carlotta in Taormina. Although we rented an apartment, we posted a photo of the hotel on FB during our trip and got lots of "likes" from people who have stayed there. Hard to believe that this once was someone's vacation home. Part of our visit to Taormina was to find a villa that a friend used to rent. It turned out to be next door to Carlotta. More on that later.

Last edited by whitehall; Jun 3rd, 2022 at 07:22 PM.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2022, 06:46 PM
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Originally Posted by yestravel View Post
Looking forward to hearing about your month in Sicily. Loved our two trips to Sicily.
Thank you.

Last edited by whitehall; Jun 3rd, 2022 at 06:54 PM.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2022, 06:53 PM
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Departure and Arrival

What a difference 6-7 months makes. Last fall, Delta had a table with multiple agents checking and double-checking a variety of Covid related documents at the gate. We were unable to even get our usual online boarding pass. This year, on departure, we were at the gate, from being dropped off at the terminal by our son, in nine (9) minutes (Raleigh/Durham). So much for the suggestion of being there three hours early. I won’t get into the requirements for travel a this point, if any, since that situation continues to be fluid. Requirements to return home still included a negative Covid test the day before our flight, a self certification of same and a contact tracing form. If you fill them out and provide them online, there are no further hassles. Last fall, we had to show documents to a half dozen people upon departure at Rome’s FCO (although arrival was all self-service).

We saw a lot snow in the Italian Alps, but were greeted with our first sunny and warm day of the trip when we landed in Rome. Sicily would be the same and continue uninterrupted for almost all our time there. We have flown in and out of Rome more than a dozen times over the years and never noticed before just how close the runway really is to the sea.

We expressed disappointment that we missed some places we wanted to see, but most of our bases in Sicily were closer to the coast, and this left some parts of the middle of Sicily too time consuming to drive to the multiple times needed. We thought we entirely missed Cerami and Enna, for example, until we were reviewing our photos from our Ryan Air flight Rome to Catania. Each of these towns are pretty clear from on high.

We have never checked a bag in all our years of travel. For our five weeks in Italy, including a couple days in Rome at the end, we had only carry-ons, with the main luggage meeting the very restrictive sizing of such European discount carriers like Ryan. Everything is rolled up in vacuum travel storage bags and needing some ironing in apartments, which were mostly equipped with washing machines. We often joined the locals with stuff on the clothes line in city centers, but boy did our clothes smell good!
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Old Jun 4th, 2022, 12:56 AM
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You're my type of travelling. I'll be reading your report. Thanks for sharing.
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Old Jun 4th, 2022, 12:58 AM
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I am really impressed with your luggage.
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Old Jun 4th, 2022, 03:28 AM
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Sicily is one of my most amazing experiences, although I haven't had the chance to take as many photos as you did. Looking forward to reading your report.
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Old Jun 4th, 2022, 04:47 AM
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Food & Beverage

In our Umbria trip report last fall, we discussed our simple eating habits in Italy, so we aren’t going to recommend any Michelin starred restaurants. Many of the fancier (more expensive) restaurants serve the same food with a prettier presentation (sadly often created by people in the kitchen touching all your food), delivered by someone in a crisp suit jacket, in a more formal location. We say that, having owned a restaurant. We are happy with a great pizza or an al dente pasta, a nice salad and a tiny bill. Informal dining, or a panini on the run, leaves more time for sightseeing for us.

Let the photos do the talking:

First, Sicilians are proud of three food items that are their own: Arancini rice balls in many flavors, cannolo (or cannoli when plural) and "granite e brioche" (basically an Italian ice, usually served with whipped cream, and a sweet roll), the latter being an extremely popular breakfast option.


We start most days with a bowl of fruit that we make at home. Orange season had not ended, and strawberries were everywhere. Admission: we slacked a bit on this due to the lure of all the sweeter options and fantastic bakeries.


Sweeter options were aplenty with some specialties found only in a specific town. The one on top, when not cut open is breast-shaped, even a nipple on top, with candied squash; it was developed by local nuns to celebrate the wedding of a local royal in 1725. It was a little too sweet for us, but we had more than our fill of other sweets, including an average of one gelato a day. And, although few gelato places tell you about it, if you say “panna, please”, 90% of gelato shops are able to add whipped cream (super stiff, fresh and not from a can); many don’t charge extra for it.



We love bruschetta (service staff appreciates it if you work on pronouncing the “ch with a “k”), but with a side of fresh bread usually served or pizza, that is just too much bread. For us, appetizers were kept to a minimum.


Salads were our usual side dish. Sicily produces, in abundance, some of the sweetest tomatoes, especially in the south coastal areas, so, many of our salads were red. As indicated above, we like fruit, so the salad on the bottom with peaches we made at home, as some small early peaches were coming in from the Catania area. We added the tomatoes to a lentil soup to give it some color, but we did need some fiber. The capers are from Sicily.


The panini is the cheap, inexpensive and fast food way to eat lunch.


Sicily has so many noted seafood restaurants, but my wife and I are generally not fond of shellfish. We opted for some pasta and swordfish and even a whole red snapper.


We are not vegetarians but, at home, we don’t eat a lot of meat. We do like sausage and you can’t beat a porchetta and onion sandwich.


Pasta is a favorite. We rarely ever order pasta in the US, simply because it is almost always “mush” and rarely cooked completely to order. We ate pasta at least a dozen times, and every time it was cooked fresh and perfectly al dente.


Pizza deserves one big photo, although we have lots of them. It will always be our favorite, and Sicilians do a great job, usually with a Neapolitan type.




At home, we eat a lot of veggies. They have beautiful veggies for sale. We saw the beautiful Romanescu in a Lidl grocery store; truckloads of carrots and lots more at the markets. My dad always said that Italians eat a lot of veggies at home, so they don’t want it when they go out to eat. If you can find vegetables in a restaurant, it is usually grilled eggplant and zucchini. Last fall in Umbria, we ate more veggies because we cooked at home a lot. Not this time.


Fresh-squeezed orange juice is always a favorite. The one in the photo was from a vendor in Palermo, who let me do the squeezing. We once owned a hotel (large inn) in Maine, and every morning we (usually me), squeezed 200-300 oranges for our guests. We were told by suppliers that we were the only place in the state doing that at the time, and they had to work hard to find us the oranges in the summer (off-season for citrus). In Sicily, not a problem. We did see red juice (our name for it) in areas that specialize in growing the many blood oranges.

Anyway, the truth is on the beverage front, we had a lot more wine than juice. Too much wine. Although we went to a couple of wine tastings, we generally stuck to “local” wines, which is the low priced stuff, often delivered to our table in jugs. Free bottles from landlords and visiting relatives with their own vineyard added to it. Most days were warm enough, especially after walking seven miles a day in the sun, that we cooled down with way too many Aperol Spritzes (and even found one or two places that would make us a limoncello spritz). Despite all the lemons, some places in Sicily pulled a face at the idea.



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Old Jun 4th, 2022, 05:37 AM
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whitehall, am so enjoying your TR and can’t wait for the subsequent installments! We spent 13 nights in Sicily mid to end April and this is bringing back so many happy memories. The fresh fruit and vegetables, simple and wholesome food, gelatos, cannolis, Apérol Spritz to cool off every afternoon…

Unfortunately we didn’t get a car and relied on buses and trains, so couldn’t get to the smaller towns, but we loved what we saw.
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Old Jun 4th, 2022, 06:03 AM
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Signing on! Sicily was one of my favorite trips and I would love to go back. Seriously unkind to post photos of cannoli - I don't have a sweet tooth, but I do like cannoli and the ones I get at home aren't nearly as good. (RDU is my home airport too.)
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Old Jun 4th, 2022, 06:19 AM
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Originally Posted by thursdaysd View Post
Signing on! Sicily was one of my favorite trips and I would love to go back. Seriously unkind to post photos of cannoli - I don't have a sweet tooth, but I do like cannoli and the ones I get at home aren't nearly as good. (RDU is my home airport too.)
I don’t like cannoli, but had my fill of tiramisu. My sister and niece who were my traveling companions have been unsuccessfully looking for good cannolis in south Florida, they gorged on the sweet stuff!
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Old Jun 4th, 2022, 07:27 AM
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kleeblatt This trip was tame compared to our “16 countries in 30 days”. We all have only so much time and so much to see. That’s what keeps us going.

millie2112 My wife is a magician when it comes to picking what to bring and packing. She also likes to iron everything, so we had to have one landlord call his Mom to borrow one.

reda_travel_fanatic We had been to Sicily for a couple of brief visits, but this time, we really got to know the place. It has so many dimensions and wonderful people.

geetika Thank you. The car was mostly a blessing but at times a curse. Costly, but the only way we could get to the many places we visited. We love trains and wish Sicily’s rail system was as good as the rest of Italy. Buses not so much, but I guess they are more reliable in Sicily than trains.

thursdaysd My Dad, with Sicilian blood, always made simple, creamy cannolis that we have successfully copied at home. Wegmans here sells cannoli filling, and we find it tending in texture to canned frosting and too sweet. We were surprised to find some cannolis in Sicily to be similar. We had a couple of decent ones there and will address that in the report. We moved from TPA area, where we thought we would miss a great airport, three years ago, but like RDU a lot more.

Last edited by whitehall; Jun 4th, 2022 at 07:59 AM.
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Old Jun 4th, 2022, 08:33 AM
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but like RDU a lot more
And the direct flight to London has finally restarted! (My family is in the UK.) There have been a number of improvements over the years....

It's not just the cannolo filling, it's that the casing is too thick.As best I remember Fresh Market's filling isn't too bad, but the casing is way off.
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Old Jun 4th, 2022, 12:31 PM
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So enjoyed coming across your post today. We are currently at a resort just outside of Ragusa Ibla on the 2nd week of a month long trip. Five nights in Rome, the rest in lovely “Sicilia”. Spent today in Modica and Castello di Donnafugata. Really unseasonably hot for the entire trip, but jumping into the sea in the afternoon helps immensely. Tomorrow off to Ragusa to see the sights and look for good scaccia ragusana followed by ice cream at Gelati Divina. Onto Scicli followed by Agrigento, Trapani area, Palermo, Milazzo to Salinda, Taormina. Forgot to mention our five nights in Ortigia were epic and our red tuna lunch in Marzamemi the best yet. Oh yea, dinner in Noto at Manna needs special recognition.
Any more trip details of your island travels would be greatly appreciated. Btw, we travel with carry on only as well, lol
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Old Jun 4th, 2022, 01:06 PM
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Originally Posted by BelTib View Post
So enjoyed coming across your post today. We are currently at a resort just outside of Ragusa Ibla on the 2nd week of a month long trip. Five nights in Rome, the rest in lovely “Sicilia”. Spent today in Modica and Castello di Donnafugata. Really unseasonably hot for the entire trip, but jumping into the sea in the afternoon helps immensely. Tomorrow off to Ragusa to see the sights and look for good scaccia ragusana followed by ice cream at Gelati Divina. Onto Scicli followed by Agrigento, Trapani area, Palermo, Milazzo to Salinda, Taormina. Forgot to mention our five nights in Ortigia were epic and our red tuna lunch in Marzamemi the best yet. Oh yea, dinner in Noto at Manna needs special recognition.
Any more trip details of your island travels would be greatly appreciated. Btw, we travel with carry on only as well, lol
We posted about 1,000 photos and some details of our travel on Facebook under the name "Greg Saba". If you go to "Visit Sicily" page (the one that has about 91K members and growing, scroll down to one of our recent posts and click on that name. We have 59 posts for the month we were there, covering many of the 76 cities, towns and other places of interest we visited. I believe that page is open to be seen by anyone. Weather in May was near perfect, but we noticed the heat has kicked in since we left earlier in the week. We visited all the places you mentioned. Enjoy!!!!
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Old Jun 4th, 2022, 01:12 PM
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Rooms with Views


We had nine bases in Sicily, one with family, seven apartments through booking.com and one through airbnb. Our goal in Italy, especially outside of metro areas, has always been to budget up to $100/night for an apartment. I think we only exceeded that here with our Taormina rental, where we splurged only a tiny bit to have a simply stunning view.

All were wonderful, with several hosts going way above and beyond, some of the nicest people we have ever met. Some who walked us, and carried our luggage, from remote parking areas to the city center; two who put their cars in free spaces to save us a spot (one who then had to go search for a replacement spot for themselves). A bagful of lemons on the door from one landlord’s garden; a bottle of olive oil, frozen during last fall’s harvest from their own family grove. Bottles of wine. And loads of advice and concern.


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