I'm interested in hearing from folks that took the Rick Steves tour of Sicily. How did you travel to Palermo? Did you fly to Rome or Naples and take the train to Palermo? Fly to somewhere else like Paris or London and then fly Ryan Air to Palermo? And then what did you do at the end of the tour?
I flew to Venice first, then flew to Palermo. I was there a few days before the tour started. We ended up in Sorrento that tour (Sicily and Southern Italy). I may have taken trains from there to the Cinque Terre. Can't remember. I flew on Ryanair to Venice and easyJet to Palermo, as I recall. I avoid Ryanair if possible because of the inconveniently located airports.
I used an easyJet flight from Rome / FCO to Palermo when I took the tour. Unfortunately, easyJet is no longer operating on that route, but you could have a look at Vueling as they seem to offer several direct flights each day. Current prices are about €30-45 PP (plus a few fees of course).
The tour department will provide information on the best way of getting from the airport to your tour hotel. The airport shuttle bus is about the cheapest, and if they use the same hotel as on my tour, you'll disembark at Teatro Politeama.
I'm sure you'll really enjoy that tour!
Flying is definitely the best way to get to Palermo, unless you really want a trip before your trip (if you want to see sights in Calabria, say).
If you're looking to fly from the US to Palermo, our frequent poster Roberto has explained that the best places to connect are Rome (Alitalia/Delta), Munich (Lufthansa), and Frankfurt (Lufthansa). If you connect in London, Paris, or Milan, you have to change airports when going from the US to Palermo. Looking at the Palermo airport's Wikipedia page, I see that there are also seasonal flights to places like Zurich and Copenhagen and Madrid, so Swiss or SAS or Iberia would work if they coincide with your travel dates.
If you do want to spend a day or two in a European city, then you have many more options, as you could take a budget airline. But unless you feel lucky, don't (for instance) fly from the US to Heathrow, then the same day plan to take a flight from Gatwick to Palermo on a different airline and a separate ticket. If you miss that connection, it's your problem, both financially and logistically; the airlines have no responsibility unless you're all on one ticket.
Having said that, I disobeyed my own advice when I went to Sicily. My miles could only get me to Rome, so I bought a separate Alitalia ticket from FCO to PMO. However, what I did was buy two tickets, one three hours after scheduled arrival, and one ten hours after. I knew I would use one and discard one, and just figured that as the "cost of insurance." In the end I made the earlier one with plenty of time to spare, but of course there are no guarantees (particularly when arriving in Rome and needing to pick up and recheck bags), and I could just as easily have missed it.
To find flights from the US, use Kayak http://www.kayak.com/flights or Matrix ITA http://matrix.itasoftware.com/ and put in PMO as your destination. If you want to investigate flights within Europe, use Skyscanner to learn about all options http://www.skyscanner.com/
If you do want to fly within Italy on a separate ticket, and are using Alitalia, use their "International" website; it often shows lower prices than their "US" website for these flights (no difference on flights from the US). Note that Alitalia includes one checked bag, so they are not necessarily more expensive then a "budget" airline when you factor in all the fees, and if you book early enough to snag their cheapest fares (they go fast).
Hi, Dean. We've actually taken the RS Sicily tour twice (different itineraries.) The first time we flew from Munich to Palermo via Dolomiti, and it was a great flight. The second time we were in London before the RS Sicily tour, and flew Vueling from London to Palermo, with a change in Barcelona. Very cramped seating. Very.
After the first tour we stayed in Palermo a few days (that was when the tour began and ended in Palermo) then flew Volotea to Naples, then the train to Sorrento, where we spent a wonderful week (Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento itself...). The second time we flew from Catania (that's where the off-season tour ended) to Rome via Vueling again. We were short on time that trip, and only had a few days in Rome before returning home.
Sicily is a fascinating area. Very different from the rest of Italy. Have a great time!
I flew to Palermo from Milan-Linate. I believe it was easyjet. I went early and spent about 2 weeks in Italy. Originally starting in Milan and ending in the Cinque Terre from there I trained to Milan to fly to Palermo. I spent one more night in Milan becasuse I really wanted to see the last Supper and finally was able to do that. Easy flight and then I took the bus from the airport into town and then walked to the hotel. I arrived late but everyone was out walking around the city so I wasn't worried about walking around by myself at night. At the end of the tour I flew home. One month in Italy was pushing it and I personally didn't think I needed more time in Palermo. I loved Sicily but Palermo wasn't my favorite.
Thanks so much Jenn, Jane, Ken and Swann. This is why this forum is so great. All of this information is so helpful. Just to clarify, I haven't booked this tour but was checking it out because it looks like a great tour at a pretty good value. Thanks for your great comments. I will do a little more research based on your replies.
Also thanks to Harold.
We are taking the Sicily tour in November and we are flying from Washington DC to Rome, we'll spend a couple of days in Rome and we'll take Alitalia from Rome to Palermo. I already bought the tickets. Now returning home, we'll fly from Catania to Washington with a stop in Istanbul. Our tour will end in Catania, so we decided to spend two more days there.
We are thinking of going on the RS Sicily tour in March 2016. I was looking into flight options, and came up with the following:
Boston/Rome round trip on Aer Lingus for around $800.
Spend a night in Rome before flying to Palermo on a budget airline, arriving the day before the tour starts.
At the end of the trip, fly from Catania to Rome on a budget airline, stay overnight in Rome, then fly home on Aerlingus.
The total airfare would be under $1,000, plus we would get to spend time in Rome, one of our favorite cities.
Just got back a few weeks ago from the Sicily tour, and flew JFK-Rome-Palermo on Delta.
Flying is definitely easiest, and fastest. It's a 1-hour flight from FCO to Palermo.
Our "Delta" flight from Rome to Palermo was actually an Alitalia flight, which was no problem, except they didn't honor our Delta boarding passes. On the return trip, we got a "check-in" text and email from Delta, but we could not check into our Alitalia flight until we got to the airport. So there's not exactly perfect communication between the two airlines.
Try to allow at least 3 hours between flights if you're flying all on the same day.
At the Rome airport (FCO), you will probably need to take a shuttle from the international terminal to the domestic terminal. We had only carry-on luggage, so we made our 2-hour connection. Same on the return trip. Everything turned out fine, but I would have preferred a 3-hour connection time just in case. If you miss your connection from Rome to Palermo, it's not a big deal; there are lots of flights every day. But if we'd missed our flight home to JFK from FCO, that would have been a bummer.
The Rome airport has signage for different gates (G-H are international, for example), but not for the different terminals. So don't worry about which terminal you need. Find out which GATE number your next flight is leaving from, and then you'll be able to follow the signs.