Please sign in to post.

Best of Sicily tour February 12, 2019

Hi Everyone!
Hubs and I decided that instead of going south for January and February (we live in Minneapolis) that we should go visit Sicily. We are really looking forward to this tour! We will fly to Rome via Amsterdam and spend a few nights (3 or 4) there and try to see some things we didn't have time for on the MWE tour. We will then fly into Palermo two days before the tour starts - our Palermo pre tour hotel is booked. We've been on two RS tours - My Way Europe (2015) and My Way Alpine Europe (2017.) This will be our first guided tour. We loved both of our previous tour groups and are still in contact with many of our fellow travelers, so not a bit worried about it being a guided tour with more time together. I have a few questions for those of you who have been to Sicily:

1) The weather in February: I noted on the tour page that the average temperature is 50-59 with 23 days of no rain. Perfect! I learned to pack light for our first tour and found it tremendously liberating. I have my Eileen Fischer travel pants and tunics, a simple black dress, a flannel shirt dress, black jeans and leggings, silk blouses, tanks, layers dressed up with a scarf or two. Rotate something in, something stays home. Teva de la Vina boots and Aravon walking shoes - the two best investments I've ever made for travel. Am I missing something? I'll throw in a hat and gloves but will probably leave the rain jacket at home - couldn't have been without it on the last two tours, but that was in Germany and Switzerland - didn't need it in Italy or France. Do any of you wish that you had left something home or wished you had something you didn't bring?

2) Tips for Palermo during pre tour days: Are there things that you saw or did that left a lasting impression? I've read up on what we're going to see on the tour so looking for other ideas to make the most of our time. Restaurant suggestions very appreciated. Off the beaten path is always cool.

3) Catania: The tour ends here. Should we stay on? I have found that staying on one day isn't long enough for me so if we do I'd stay a few more days. Then back to Rome and home. To snow. Hmmm, maybe we'll take a detour?

Posted by
13161 posts

Definitely stay so you can at least see the Baroque villages in the SE--Ragusa, Noto, Modica, Scicli. Easiest with a rental car, but it can be done by public transportation from Siracusa if you allow enough time and don't try to go anywhere by bus on a Sunday or holiday.

Posted by
4191 posts

Palermo: The tour does not seem to visit many of Palermo’s important sites beyond Monreale. In Palermo, see the Cathedral with it’s mix of architectural heritage, Palatine Chapel and the Teatro Massimo( which you may have seen in Godfather 3!) on your own. Walk around and enjoy this ancient city.
Never ever forget to pack your rain jacket and travel umbrella, especially in winter!
Catania: Rent a car in Catania at airport and drive SE to explore the beautiful Baroque cities of Ragusa, Modica, and Noto in as poster acraven suggested above. Stay in Noto at Melodia3 Suites or La Dependance. Return car to Catania airport and fly out of Sicily. Enjoy it all!

Posted by
4074 posts

liz, are you staying at the tour hotel for the days before the tour starts? If not, what hotel did you find availability?

Posted by
292 posts

We did the Sicily tour this past February to escape the snow. The weather was cool, but a respite from our winter. We thoroughly enjoyed the tour. In Palermo before the tour, we spent a morning visiting the Regional Archeological Museum. It was excellent and primed us for learning about the many different cultures that were part of the formation of Sicily.

Posted by
135 posts

Thank you all for the suggestions. Stan, I didn't check my email before turning in last night but sent you a response this morning regarding an alternative hotel I found on Booking.com. I've always had good experiences using that site when booking pre or post tour hotels.

Posted by
1124 posts

We added to a Sicily tour and based ourselves in the charming town of Ortigia. As others suggested we loved visiting the amazing Baroque towns of Noto, Ragusa and Modica. It was the highlight of this region.

Posted by
166 posts

I did the Sicily tour in May of this year and it is awesome!! The food is great and the Greek temples are really a treat. Hope you have a great time.

Posted by
835 posts

We were on the fabulous RS Sicily tour in April 2016. Before the tour we visited the modern art museum. As is usually the case in Europe modern means post 18th century.

We enjoyed dinner at Ferro do Cavallo. This is the kind of place where you sometimes share a table with other people. A couple from northern Italy joined us for dinner. Their English was as limited as our Italian but we still had a good time.

We wished we had stayed in Catania for some extra time. Some people went to Taormina after the tour, but I understand that the current itinerary includes that location. The new tour route does not include Ragusa, which we really enjoyed. Another interesting add-on would be Malta, which can be reached by a short flight from Catania.

Posted by
1581 posts

Hi Liz. I've taken the Sicily tour twice, it was that terrific and the itineraries were slightly different. One visit was the end of February and one over Easter Week-March that year. We did have some rain during both tours but it was much warmer than those same months were in Colorado! Good plan to bring two pairs of shoes (in case one pair gets wet) and maybe think about bringing an umbrella or rain jacket with a hood. We arrived in Palermo a couple of days early and took a really fun street food tour. Unique, lots of fun and the food was terrific! If you think you might be interested, I will be happy to look up the contact information. We did not spend extra time in Catania, but wished we had planned for an extra day there. You will enjoy Sicily and this special tour!

Posted by
1709 posts

I'm courageous enough to only take the pair of shoes on my feet but not courageous enough to travel without a rain jacket with hood.

Posted by
135 posts

Ha Ha!! Ok, I get it. Reading and learning. I'll take the rain jacket and travel umbrella. Thanks all for your contributions to this thread!

Posted by
135 posts

It's getting close, Forum Friends! I wanted to move my original thread to the top because there is so much useful information here for those who may be on an upcoming Sicily tour. We are very excited to be spending several days in Rome pre-tour to see a few things that we didn't have time for in 2015. Thank you again for your pre-tour Palermo ideas - I have them all mapped out. And yes, I did find a black, very lightweight waterproof Columbia rain jacket that looks nice even over a few layers.

I do have another question regarding post-tour in Catania. I have learned that Carnevale is taking place just up the coast in Acireale and we have that Saturday free! It looks like something quite special on the website - has anyone done this? It takes place from mid February to early March, with apparently a mini version later in the year. Carnevale in Sicily? Yes, we're in - any travel tips, information, memories, enthusiasm is appreciated! Thanks as always, Liz.

Posted by
1144 posts

Hi Liz,
Just wanted to say have a terrific time and please come back to the forum and do a trip report!!! They are so valuable for us up and coming tripsters to Sicily. ( it’s on the list)!!!

Posted by
1124 posts

Liz, also adding my best wishes for a fabulous journey filled with lifelong memories! Hope you share your trip report upon your return. Arrivederci!

Posted by
1581 posts

Sent you a PM. Do go to the Carnevale! No need to wish you happy travels as I know you will have a fabulous trip-you are well prepared! Andi

Posted by
4 posts

Liz, I am scheduled for the Sicily tour in Nov of this year and will anxiously await your tour report. Have a wonderful trip.

Posted by
39 posts

I'm also signed up on this tour in November and am eager to hear what you thought of the trip. So far, I've only heard rave reviews.

Posted by
135 posts

Thanks all for the well wishes! I will absolutely do a tour report when we get back and will also try to take a crack at a first time Scrapbook! We are very excited for our trip - the dog is not. She hasn't looked at me since I got my suitcase out two hours ago - apparently there is a big difference between looking at organized piles of clothing around the bedroom and actually seeing them go into a suitcase. Therefore, DH is waiting until morning to move his organized piles to the suitcase stage. And now that cleaning house for the dog sitter (sigh) and packing is done, I can sit and relax a bit.

Andi, thank you for taking the time to PM me so much information regarding your experiences with this tour (x2!!) and suggestions for the small little personal things (toiletries, etc) that drive us all crazy. Well, maybe not everybody, but they drive me crazy. And thank you for the encouragement to attend Carnevale, not only as a spectator but as a participant. It's these little tidbits of information that when added together make up something greater - something that will enhance our cultural experience by making the logistics more manageable. And that is why I love this forum and the people on it willing to share their tips and experiences!

Posted by
9 posts

Liz, I also am very interested in your trip report. I have a question that I hope some of you can help me with. We are signed up for the April 30 tour. One question I have now is about the final night in Catania.

Due to flight schedules and family responsibilities we are not able to extend our trip and plan to fly home on May 10 - the day the tour ends. Normally we like to spend an extra day but this time we cannot.

Our flight from Rome leaves at 11:05 am so we have a couple of options - we can take a 6 am or 7 am flight from Catania to Rome on May 10 or we could take a 9:55 p.m. flight the night before and spend the night at a hotel close to the Rome airport.

If we leave in the morning we will have to get up very early and there is always a risk of delays getting into Rome. If we leave the night before we likely will miss part of the final dinner. So it's sort of a toss up. Any thoughts would be appreciated. If you have been on the Sicily tour what time did the final dinner in Catania start? If it is around 7 or so we might still be able to go for hour or so and then take cab to the airport. I will have to research more but thought cab ride from center of Catania to airport would take about 30 minutes. Does this sound about right?

Appreciate any and all information.

Jill

Posted by
1581 posts

Liz, I know you are having a terrific time in Sicily! This next is for for Jill and this is only my opinion-I am so locked into the "what could go wrong" stuff that I wouldn't take a chance on missing my flight home and thus opt to spend the night in Rome before my homeward flight. Too many variables for my very narrow comfort zone! For your question about the final supper in Catania, we didn't actually have a sit down dinner for our last night but rather more of a cocktail party on the rooftop of the Catania hotel. It would have been ok to skip it. We did have a fabulous sit down luncheon that afternoon at the winery we visited before our arrival in Catania. My best suggestion for you would be to call the RS tour office and explain your situation. They may know enough about your particular tour to advise you more knowledgeably than I could about the activities for your last tour day in Sicily.

Posted by
9 posts

Andi, thanks for your response. When did you do the tour? The current itinerary sounds like we bus from Taormina in the morning and do the museum and then have the afternoon free before the final dinner. But you right about calling RS Tours and see what they have to say - plan to do that soon. Thanks for taking the time to respond.

Jill

Posted by
9 posts

Andi and all, I took your advice and asked RS office staff about last dinner in Catania. They said that most dinners in Sicily would not start until 7 or 7:30 and if we left the last night we would miss the final dinner. She suggested we take the 6 am flight the next morning. So unless Liz says that their dinner started earlier guess we will likely get up very early the next morning and take the 6 am flight to Rome and hope there is no delays. RS says the early morning flights are mainly commuter flights and usually run on time.

I also asked about the new RS Sicily guidebook. She said that they would be using the Lonely Planet book for all tours departing before May 5.

Now, a logistical question. When I go to the forum page it says that the last update to this topic was on Feb. 14 - but I have not seen any postings since the last one I did several days ago. I wonder why I am not seeing the newest postings. Of course if there is a problem on my end guess I won't see any of your replies either. Bummer.

Jill

Posted by
135 posts

Hi Everybody,
Just wanted to jump on here briefly to say what a fabulous tour this is! I will absolutely put a full review on here when we get home. But in the meantime - the food, the pastries, our guide Karin and the beautiful and historical things we’ve seen have far surpassed our expectations. Jill, I will let you know about our final evening. Now.....off to happy hour with the group.

Posted by
1581 posts

Liz, I just knew you would enjoy it! I eagerly look forward to reading all about your Sicilian Adventure when you have time to post. Ciao!!

Posted by
2905 posts

Thanks for checking in, Liz. You're in for a wonderful time. We liked the Sicily tour so much we took it twice!

Posted by
135 posts

Hi Everybody!
Ok,so our fabulous tour is over but I wanted to give an important update, especially for Jill and others wondering about our final dinner and the logistics of leaving Catania. Jill, our final dinner was at a newer restaurant right around the corner from our hotel, Romano House, and it was wonderful.
It was “slow food,” locally sourced, farm to table. The ambiance and service were terrific and gave us a chance to say goodbye to our fellow tour members - except it wasn’t really goodbye because Mama Etna had other plans for us. Last night the volcano had a major event and the airport was closed this morning. Several of our group that had early flights turned around and came back to the hotel. Most of our group piled into taxis and went to Palermo this morning. DH and I and another couple decided to tough it out. Our guide Karin is still here too - she was absolutely terrific this morning helping our fellow tour members get taxis and looking for flights out of Palermo. The Catania airport is now open and we will decide in the morning what to do next - we may not be able to attend Carnevale tomorrow after all. We will see. I guess my point in sharing this experience is that it may be wise to leave yourself a time buffer when there is an active volcano in the immediate area. She is in charge. We are not.

Posted by
6439 posts

Oh My Word! What an exciting end to your tour! Thanks for the update.

Posted by
9 posts

Liz, thank you so much for the report on your last night's dinner. And wow - what an ending to your trip. If I had to do it over again I would have allowed for an extra day after the tour but as mentioned we need to come home because of family commitments this time.

Sorry for my late reply - been on a cruise and just returned home tonight. Anxious to read the rest of your report. Thanks again for taking the time to report on the dinner. Much appreciated.

Jill