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Best of Sicily Sept. 2022 Pre-tour nights in Palermo; post-tour nights in Castania; flights

I have a confirmed reservation on the 09/20/22 Best of Sicily tour. I want to reserve pre-tour nights at the tour hotel in Palermo soon. This forum post is especially directed to those who have taken this tour in past years.

  1. How many days before the tour began did you arrive in Palermo? Did you wish you'd arrived earlier? My tour begins on Tues. at 3:00 p.m., and I am deciding between arriving on Saturday or Sunday. Prior to the tour, I anticipate seeing sites in Palermo (especially churches) but will likely not take day trips out of Palermo.

  2. Did you stay in Catania after the tour ended? My preliminary thinking is no, unless I think staying 1 more night would enable me to return to the WW2 museum and see it in detail in an unhurried way (I know it's on the tour itinerary; WW2 museums are special interests of mine).

  3. Flight from USA to Sicily: did you arrive in Rome (FCO) in the morning and fly on to Palermo on the same day? Or spend 1 night in Rome before flying to Palermo? (I love Rome and have visited it 3 times in the past 5 years; I don't know if I will want to sightsee in Rome before/after the Sicily tour. For now, I'm assuming not).

  4. Flight from Sicily to USA: did you fly from Catania to Rome, spend 1 night in Rome, then fly to the USA the next morning? That's my preliminary plan.

Posted by
1019 posts

I flew Philly/Rome/Palermo without an overnight in Rome. I get really jetlagged so might as well get it over with. One extra day in Palermo, and went to the Archeological Museum, which was enjoyable.
I flew to from Catania to Rome and stayed overnight before flying home. Catania would probably be worth another day, too.

I liked Sicily much more than I anticipated. Might have to return at some point.

Posted by
1025 posts

We were on this tour in April 2016. We flew from Boston to Rome, stayed two nights, and flew from Rome to Palermo on the day before the tour started. On the day the tour ended, we flew from Catania to Rome, stayed one night and flew home the next day.

This flight arrangement was, at the time, cheaper than doing a multi-stop itinerary without overnight stopovers. We also thought it would have been grueling to fly from the US to Sicily all in one shot. One of tour members lost his luggage on the incoming multi stop flight. The savings on the flight paid for the extra nights in Rome. Since we were familiar with Rome, it was a good place to recover from the overnight flight. On the way home, we were spared the unpleasantness of having to get up early to catch a flight from Catania. We don't like to rush out of town on the day the RS tour ends - it sort of breaks the magic spell surrounding the experience.

We probably could have used an extra day in Palermo. The itinerary at that time did not include Taormina, so some tour members went there after the tour.

This is probably our favorite RS tour (we have taken six).

Posted by
6061 posts

We didn't have good flight itinerary options to get to/from Sicily, such as any direct flights from US to Palermo. We did not overnight in Rome, since the flight from Rome to Palermo was so short, and we would have used up much of a day going into Rome and back. We did extra days in Palermo, for a day trip. We were to fly out of Catania, with no extra stop in Rome again. But Mt Etna interfered and we had to go back to Palermo in a hurry to fly home via Munich, not Rome anyway. It occurred to me that had I known more about Sicily, taking a couple of days after Catania to leisurely go back in the direction of Palermo, visiting towns along the way (like Cefalu) would have been interesting.

PS We found Palermo much more interesting than Catania.

Posted by
4645 posts

Elizabeth, we've taken this tour twice, in 2014 and 2015. (At the time, there were two different itineraries.) On our first trip, we arrived in Palermo on Thursday, for a tour beginning Sunday. We flew from Tulsa - Dulles - Munich - Palermo, all in one go.

We absolutely love Palermo. The three+ days we had before the tour were filled with resting up and sightseeing. That particular tour didn't end it Catania; it circled back to Palermo. We stayed one more full day in Palermo, then headed off to Sorrento.

On our second tour, we were coming off the RS Best of London tour, so flew London - Barcelona - Palermo. We arrived in Palermo on Monday; the tour began on Wednesday. We would have arrived sooner, had we not been on the London tour. We could easily and happily spend a full week in Palermo.

This tour did end in Catania. We did not spend extra time there, opting instead to spend our last couple of days in Italy in Rome.

By the way, we did think we had plenty of time at the Museo Dello Sbarco, at least on the second tour. My husband is a WWII buff, and he would have gladly stayed longer, but by then we were pretty tired. On our first tour, we were rushed through a bit, because the group was moving on; we didn't spend the night in Catania that tour. The second tour we had more time at the museum, but after two tours, we were tired.

Posted by
2625 posts

I’ve been to Sicily twice, first time solo, second time on the Best of Sicily tour and have visited Rome on a number of occasions. I would definitely advise not spending a night in Rome rather arriving in Palermo on Saturday as this would give you a little time to recover from your flight and have 2+ days to explore. I thought that on the tour there were numerous sights I would have liked to visit that were not included. Palermo has a lot of wonderful attractions so give yourself time to explore them.

The WWII Museum in Catania is well done and on the tour I felt that we were given sufficient time to absorb what it had to offer without being rushed. I was disappointed on the tour (apparently now changed) that we did not see/learn more about Mt. Etna. The only thing we did was visit a winery and have dinner on the lower slopes. On my first trip, I spent 2 weeks driving around the island and drove up onto the volcano and then had a leisurely day circumnavigating it, returning to Catania. I would not take an extra night in Catania just to re-visit the museum but would if you have additional interest in seeing something else.

On my first trip, I took the car to the mainland, ferrying across from Messina. I then drove to Rome for the Best of Rome tour after cruising up the Amalfi Coast and staying in Positano. On the Sicily tour, I flew from Catania to Naples and spent another 10 days exploring from Paestum to Orvieto.

If you want to spend a little extra time in Catania, consider getting a flight to FCO later in the day and overnighting either at the airport or in the city of Fiumicino. I would not bother going to Rome for just a few hours.

Sicily is a terrific place to tour. It was one of my favorites and I’d love visiting it again. Buon viaggio!

Posted by
943 posts

We took this tour in October 2017. You are going to love it!

To answer your questions-

1.) we landed in Palermo the day before the tour started and we felt like we had plenty of time on our own. If we had added a day then we would have gone to Cefalu for a night.

2.) no. We didn’t stay in Catania. I think that this was our least favorite city on the tour and I wouldn’t have added a day here. The time on the tour at the WW2 museum was plenty for me and my husband and he’s a WW2 history nut.

3.) and 4.) There aren’t any direct or convenient flights from the west coast to Sicily and we knew that it would be a trek. So we just looked at the continent and decided where we would like to visit before and after Sicily. We started in Barcelona and spent a few nights on the Costa Brava also. That was such a great area and ideal for decompressing! The flight from BCN to Palermo was cheap, direct and easy. We were all acclimated to Europe time by that point also, which made the tour that much easier. On the way back we flew from Catania to London direct and spent a few nights there before flying direct home. It was a really good approach for us for this tour because we didn’t feel like any days were just wasted and we got to see so many places that we really wanted to go.

Posted by
665 posts

@Jane wrote: We stayed one more full day in Palermo, then headed off to Sorrento.

I'm thinking of doing this in the opposite direction, prior to the trip spending a few days in Sorrento and then on to Palermo for the tour. How did you get between the 2? And would you do it the same way again? Thanks!

Posted by
1971 posts

Flight from USA to Sicily: did you arrive in Rome (FCO) in the morning and fly on to Palermo on the same day? Or spend 1 night in Rome before flying to Palermo?

On my solo (non tour) trip to Sicily, I was on 2 different tickets (and 2 different airlines) from the US to Rome and then Rome to Sicily. I didn't want to worry about missing the 2nd flight, which didn't have any flexibility. So I spent a couple of days sightseeing in Rome - there is always more for me to see there!

On the way back, I was on a single ticket, so I didn't need to plan any extra time.

Posted by
65 posts

1 - We spent four nights in Cefalu and 2 nights in Palermo before our tour. The days in Cefalu helped us to get over our jet lag. If you are just staying in Palermo before the tour I would suggest going two or three nights before the tour starts.
2 - We left Catania the morning that the tour ended. We did like the WW2 museum but I don't know that we would need to spend any more time there.
3 - We traveled using airline miles. We flew from the US to London, stayed overnight and then flew on to Palermo, all on one airline ticket (British Airways).
4 - We flew from Catania to London on the morning that the tour ended (on Al Italia airlines with a 3 hour layover in Rome. We chose to have that amount of time between flights in Rome and we were glad that we did so to have lunch at the airport and not be rushed for the next flight). We stayed in London for three nights just for fun before we went home.

Posted by
1907 posts

Has anyone flown from Catania to Naples after the tour? This trip is on our radar for April 2023. Our plan is a direct flight from home to Rome and then to Palermo. Post tour, we want to spend a week in Sorrento so it seems to make sense to fly to Naples. Eventually I'll need to make my way back to Rome for the flight home.

Posted by
137 posts

The beauty of these questions is getting to remember and reminisce about my favorite RST. Did the 'off-season' version late April 2017 and was there at Easter. I chose to arrive allowing only 1 night before and 1 night after the tour and would have loved to have added at least another night (heck, more if money and time were no object) on each end. With not having that much 'extra' time before/after tour I like to eliminate packing up and moving so opt for more nights in the accommodations while on tour. We flew to Palermo upon arriving Rome (routing SEA to AMS to FCO to PMO on KLM/Delta/Alitalia) and while it wasn't ideal having to be on a third flight within 24 hrs, it is just a short hop between FCO and PMO. We enjoyed Catania and thought it had a bustling city energy and really terrific markets. Museo dello Sbarco or Museum of the 1943 Landings in Sicily is a great size, not too big and displays are nicely accessible for up close viewing. We loved everything about the island, its fascinating history (SO many different dominations and cultures in play) its unsurpassed physical beauty and the incredible food and wine. Benanti Winery on the slopes of Mt. Etna was a real highlight and I am lucky to find their wine locally. Our departure route was CTA to MXP to AMS to SEA and the to me nerve-wrackingly short connection time of 45 minutes after the first flight proved not an issue as Milan's Malpensa airport is petite and it was all manageable. Outstanding guide Jamie Blair Gould, a cheeky Brit living and raising his family in Lucca, was stellar in every way possible. I know aspects of the tour have changed since my time but I think this particular tour delivers and really gives you all the bangs for your bucks. Fantastico indeed.

Posted by
223 posts

I appreciate tremendously the detailed, very quick replies to my query!!!.

I will plan to fly BNA/ATL/FCO/Palermo in the same reservation, arriving in Palermo on Saturday before the tour begins on Tuesday afternoon. I won't stay an additional night in Catania. For my flights returning to the USA, even though Delta currently shows I could take an early flight from Catania, connect in Rome and arrive home that day, my preference will be to stay overnight at an FCO hotel, if that doesn't significantly add to the flight's cost.

Allan, when I looked at the Catania airport's website yesterday, I did not see departures to Naples as of now.

Theresa, I smiled when I read Jamie Gould was your tour leader. His wife, Nina, led my Venice/Florence/Rom tour in 2017. She was delightful, fun, and excellent.

Posted by
4645 posts

John, we flew Volotea from Palermo to Naples. From the airport we took the Alibus to the Central (Garibaldi) Train Station, then caught the Circumvesuviana train to Sorrento.

There is a bus that goes between the airport and Sorrento, but we evidently just missed one, and it was then faster to take the bus to the train station, and then the train.

Would we do it again? Yes. Other than the minor stress of missing the direct bus from the Naples airport, it was easy and cheap. Another option that might be fun: on our trip home, we took the ferry from Sorrento to Naples, then caught a bus from the docks to the airport. That one felt more like an adventure, since we hadn't used that means before, and only decided to try it at the last minute. Well, not the last minute... We did have the option, had we missed the ferry, to take the bus from Sorrento to the airport in Naples.

We absolutely loved Sorrento, by the way. We were there for five full days (6 nights) and wished we could have stayed longer.

Posted by
665 posts

We absolutely loved Sorrento, by the way. We were there for five full days (6 nights) and wished we could have stayed longer.

Jane, thanks for the info on routing!

I was in Sorrento 10+ years ago, in the days where you could show up in town with a guidebook and start knocking on doors until you found a hotel with room (these days so much is prebooked online). We had the RS guide, of course, and ended up at one of his picks which was Hotel Lorelei. A bit down at the heels but with the most amazing views! It since closed for many years, I've heard it has been remodeled and is now a boutique hotel. But Sorrento was so nice to visit, always wanted to go back someday. If I get onto the Sicily trip I figure I'm practically in the neighborhood ;-)

Posted by
65 posts
  1. I flew from SoCal to Munich for 2 days before my November RS Best of Sicily 2019 tour to get over the jet lag. I'd never been to Munich before, so it was a good start to my trip. However, I do wish I had spent one extra day in Palermo as there was wayyyyy too much to see.

  2. No, and I REALLY regret this decision. I ended up flying back to Munich for an additional two days to see sights I'd missed the first time around. But I definitely need to return to Catania, since the tour barely scratched the surface (and the WW2 museum was incredible).

  3. Nope, flew from SoCal to Munich on British Airways and then Alitalia from Munich to Palermo via Rome.

  4. Nope, flew from Catania to Rome to Munich via Alitalia. I think spending one night in Rome on the return journey would be a great idea.