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RS Sicily plus extension

We are going to book the RS Sicily Tour for next June 21-Jul 1. This tour ends on a Wednesday, so we will have plenty of time to add a 3-4 night extension. (We've been to most of Italy's highlights) We would prefer to depart from Rome since we can get a direct flight to PHL, but other European hubs are an option too. Any recommendations? Here's a few that I was tossing around.

1 . Stay in Sicily and explore areas not visited on tour (where?)
2. Explore Southern Italy, e.g. Bari, Matera, Alberobello (best more of transportation?)

3. Visit at least one of my ancestral towns (one near Salerno and one in Abbruzzo (where I still have known family)
4. Fly to Milan and explore lake region or Cinque Terre. (having doubts about this considering the heat and tourist season).
5. Malta


Posted by
24949 posts

One worthwhile place I know the tour doesn't go is Ragusa. It's in the southeast. And I never think Rick's tours spend enough time in the largest cities, so I'd consider returning to Palermo.

However, Sicily and all of southern Italy are usually broiling in mid-summer, so be sure you're up for extra days of that type of weather. The only part of Italy where I'd hope for reasonably comfortable temperatures would be the mountains.

Posted by
1065 posts

We did the Sicily tour last year and then flew to Milan, took the train to Varenna on Lake Como. Spent 4 days just enjoying the beauty & peacefulness of the lake, took the ferry to different towns to explore, really enjoyed our time there. Can’t Wait to go back someday & spend a week or two on the lake.

Posted by
7038 posts

I would either stay in Sicily or go as north as possible for cooler temps. Malta would be a great idea to add on to Sicily (I did that on a prior trip), but it is BLAZING hot there even in September. I couldn't bear either Sicily or Malta at the time you're going, but Malta is even further south and hotter. If you don't mind the heat, then I would say give it a go because it's unlikely you'll see Malta any other way coming from the US. It's a 40 min flight from Catania Airport; the ferry on the southern tip of Sicily will get you there too but is not convenient.

Posted by
3112 posts

I took the Sicily tour 2 years ago. With 3 extra nights, I would add 1 night in Palermo at the beginning of the tour, 1 night in Catania at the end of the tour and the third night in Rome before flying home the next day. With 4 extra nights, I would replace the 1 night in Catania with 2 nights in Salerno. That will barely be enough time to visit relatives in one location let alone two. You can either take the morning Intercity train from Catania to Salerno or fly to Naples and then transfer to Salerno, although I'm not sure flying would be significantly faster than the 7 hour train ride and it would probably cost a lot more than the 32.90 euro Economy fare currently available for July 1 travel.

Posted by
145 posts

Thanks everyone.

I totally hate the heat, so Malta is out. (what was I thinking?!) I wouldn't be going at this time if it weren't for my travel mates who all follow the school calendar. We would try to go over Easter, but we already have something booked for that time. I am going to suck it up and go after school lets out. If not, I may never get there (been to Taormina on a cruise stop which is why I'm dying to go back).

We will definitely add a day at beginning. I"m thinking that the Lake district could be a break from the heat. I'll propose to the others.
Or, staying in Sicily to explore Ragusa area is also in the running. I just have to figure out the logistics.

Posted by
145 posts

Ok...I'm pretty much leaning towards adding 3 extra nights in Sicily. Now to fine tune where and how. I figured that we could head to Catania Airport to rent a car on the morning of our last tour day. This will make returning car on last day easier. We will fly CTA -FCO-PHL on July 4th.

So we could explore the Ragusa area for 3 days, but will have to base near or at Catania airport on 3rd night to be able to catch an 8am flight to Rome.

Any suggestions on an itinerary/base for those 3 extra days?

Posted by
489 posts

When we asked our tour guide for Best of Italy about southern Italy and Sicily, she highly recommended taking the Sicily tour and adding 4-5 nights in Sorrento. I think it sounds like great advice.

Posted by
4127 posts

It's an easy drive to Ragusa. You can stop in Caltagirone on the way if you want to visit some lovely ceramic shops, climb the colorful staircase of Santa Maria del Monte and perhaps have a Sicilian lunch in a town that is not overrun by tourists.

Stay 2 nights in Ragusa where there is free parking at the base of the old town. Our hotel hosts picked us up to bring us (and luggage) up to their property. Have dinner in Ragusa and see the town the following day.

After leaving Ragusa, you could stop in Modica and Noto on your way back to Catania. If you stay in Catania, you can have dinner there and arrange an early taxi to the airport. I can give you a recommendation for a lovely little restaurant that serves pizza and pasta dishes, with outdoor tables on the steps of a church. It will make for a memorable last evening in Sicily!

Regardless of whether you stay in Catania or near the airport, I would recommend returning your car the evening before your flight. It will cost you 2 taxi rides to return to stay in Catania. Depending on your style, you may prefer that and a nice dinner out to the security of staying near the airport.

Posted by
145 posts

Thanks CWSocial...

Spending 2 nights in Ragusa area and final night in Catania will definitely be a consideration. What was your hotel in Ragusa?
What is the name of the restaurant you mentioned?

Posted by
8 posts

I’ve never been myself, but I had friends recommend a visit to the Aeolian Islands after a RS trip to Sicily.

Posted by
3094 posts

Assuming you haven't been to your ancestral towns before, I would visit one or both of them. I think it brings more depth to your travels. IMO

Posted by
16 posts

We did the Sicily tour last year and explored Southern Italy before it. Loved it. Drove from there to Sicily. Afterwards, we went to the island of Ischia (by boat from Naples) -- one of our favorite places in Italy. It has thermal baths and is small enough you can tour the island by bus in a day. Also from there took a day trip to Procida, picture-postcard pretty.

Posted by
3 posts

My husband and I took the Sicily tour 2 years ago and loved every minute of it! Our add on was about 4 days in Sorrento which was very beautiful. With Sorrento as our home base we Day tripped to Pompeii which was very interesting. We also day tripped by bus to the Amalfi coast and explored Amalfi then took a boat back along the coast to Sorrento that also stopped in Capri. It was a very beautiful trip on the bus and also by boat with completely different scenery from the two modes of travel.
Highly recommend this!
Our only regret was that we did not invest in a guided tour of Pompeii. In hindsight we should have done that.

Posted by
1103 posts

When we took the RS Sicily tour, Ragusa was included on the off-season itinerary. We enjoyed our stay at the Hotel dell'Orologio

We stayed in one of the hotel's remote sites, which are actually apartments near the main hotel.

At the time, there was an in-season itinerary that did not include Ragusa. Our guide told us that Ragusa was too hot to be included in summer tours.

Posted by
10119 posts

As far as heat, Sicily will be much much more of a problem that the Italian Lakes. Same for Puglia, Bari, Alberobello, etc. You will deal with heat as far as Rome. We went to Sicily mid October for that reason but if you are traveling with educators, I understand your dilemma.
But, we loved the Baroque towns in Sicily. If the tour skips them, that would be a good use of your time in spite of the heat. We stayed in Noto which gave us the chance to dine at Manna. It's open for lunch too so don't miss it! Do allow enough time at Catania Airport (CTA ). We found it more chaotic than the Palermo airport.
When in Ortigia on the tour, there is a made to order walk up cannoli window at the far end of Piazza Duomo, across from where the Caravaggio painting is located. We went there daily.
Enjoy your trip!