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(Almost) A month in Sicily

Some Background
In September 2021, we began what was supposed to be a 4 week circumnavigation of Sicily, starting in Palermo for 5 nights, Cefalu for 3 and Petralia Soprana for 3. When a death in our family abruptly ended that trip, we planned to return. We’ve just come back from that month-long return. Before that, here are a few thoughts on Palermo, Cefalu and Petralia Soprana. We had 5 nights in Palermo, which for us was just right. Palermo is church- and palazzo-heavy, but the Teatro Massimo, duomo, and Salinas archeological museum were all worth visiting. Having seen plenty of catacombs elsewhere, we skipped the Capuchin version here. We liked Palermo’s vibe a lot, and spent a good chunk of time just wandering the streets. I can see where it wouldn’t appeal to some, but being a city grit and grime devotee, I enjoyed it.
Cefalu was charming, and the antithesis of Palermo. We stayed 4 nights, planning to make it a rest stop, but most people I think would give it a half-to-a-whole day. More time gave us the opportunity to really explore the backstreets of the town, make repeat visits to favorite spots, to meet more locals, including an interesting man who makes his living making elaborate wood carvings. Since woodworking is one of my husband’s hobbies, we spent considerable time there, although I was done in about 20 minutes. They were not, so I used the time for a chance to sit down and have a cup of tea. We stayed at a resort above the town, mostly because we had planned to have a car (but a year after our first cancelled attempt, I switched to using a driver. We had a credit at the hotel in Cefalu, so I stuck with it.) Taxis up and down to town were 10 euro each way. Not perfect, but it worked for us.

I added Petralia Soprana to our itinerary after reading about it in Lonely Planet. We were there in October, which meant it was a definitely out-of-season quiet stone village, but a refreshing look at the interior of the island. We visited the Santuario di Gibilmanna and Castelbono for a lunch featuring manna en route. The Nebrodi mountains were beautiful, and our time there was enjoyable.

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How do I do this? Let's try chapter 1 now.
This year, we chose to pick up where we left off minus our previously planned wine country drive and Etna expedition. Our first stop was Catania for 3 nights. While on the dirty (but not as much as Trapani as we later learned) and noisy side, we found Catania to be a great first stop for jumping right back into Sicily. We didn’t feel any crime threat that is sometimes mentioned in comments on Catania. The subway, while limited in its scope, was cheap, clean, at the times we were on it, uncrowded. An enthusiastic local citizen jumped in to help us with the ticket machine, which wasn’t all that complicated. Nevertheless, it was very nice to have our unexpected chat with a college student. She was the friendliest person we met in Catania.
Back to the sights. Of course, spots like the fish market with lots to see and lots of crowds. are a pickpocket’s heaven, so beware. If not wearing a money belt, with our important papers and extra cash safely secured in the apartment, we felt completely fine. Sadly, the Museum of the Allied Landings in Sicily was closed due to a lack of electricity. We visited without calling first, so our fault for that disappointment, but the staff there were nice in pointing out some of the exterior-access areas, including the courtyard where the sulfur-processing chimney stacks are located and one of the smelters (and smell) from the war era are still available. Oddly enough, the allies bombed the facility but managed to miss 3 or 4 large smokestacks. Anyway, we called each day afterward, but they never picked up, so we presumed the power was still out when we left Catania. It was easy to cover the compact highlights of the Duomo, the fish market, as well as other stops on the walking tour. The Catanians serve the most unusual concoction of a bread they call a brioche and granita. (But, other than in shape, it bears no resemblance to the French brioche, as cornetti resemble croissants in shape, but not texture or flavor.) While a little weird at first, it grows on you. The bread kills the brain freeze effect of the granita. And it meets the bread/sweet food groups standard for breakfast, so there you go.
Our much-anticipated train ride around Etna was a bust I reviewed separately. Our food experiences in Catania were great. See separate reviews of Me Cumpari Turiddo and Sagre if you are interested.

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OK, that worked, on to...
We really enjoyed our 5 nights in Siracusa. In terms of ambiance, food and accommodations, it was a winner. Because we are slow travelers, we nearly always stay in Airbnbs or VRBOs. We like having the kitchen and laundry facilities for breakfasts and occasional dinners at home. Our apartment in Ortigia was spacious, clean, and comfortable and located around the corner for what was to become our favorite gelateria in Sicily. We are somewhat limited in our selection in that my husband can’t easily manage steps and narrow stairwells, so another first floor with elevator apartment fit the bill just fine. I reviewed our evening at the puppet theatre earlier, and looking back, it was one of the highlights of our trip. The time we had there allowed us to leisurely explore the city, both Ortigia and the mainland as well, covering all the stops in the book with time to spare for wandering. In an earlier review, I mentioned the usefulness of the small HOHO busses. At 5 euro for an all-day ride, it was well worth it. Be aware, however, that they do not accept credit cards on board and having the exact fare ready is helpful to everyone. If you can’t quite fit on one bus, stand by as there usually one very close behind it. We used the fountain Corso Giacomo Matteotti stop, as it was a block from our apartment. It was always busy, so waiting for the second bus was a technique we picked up on early.
We never did figure out if there was a schedule or not, but it really didn’t matter in that one showed up within 10-15 minutes. In the entire time we were there, we did not see any of the navetta electric busses described in the book, unless they were equivalent to, or perhaps replaced by, what we considered the HOHO bus, which made the entire circuit of the periphery of Ortigia and out to the mainland sites. It was also useful, and more cost-effective to use to get to the bus and train stations, taking us to the train we took to Noto, reviewed separately.

Not quite duomo’ed-out yet, we of course visited Siracusa’s, but we also enjoyed the visit to the Santuario della Madonna delle Lacrime, too. The Santuario’s weekday hours of which have changed to 0730 – 1230 and 1530 - 1930. On Sunday the schedule is 0730 – 1300 and 1530 - 2045. Mass times are daily at 8 am 10 am (forgot to write down the Sunday schedule) and they frown on tourist visits, of course, at those times, but the church is accessible if you are discreet. We were there at 1530, joined by a small, but manageable crowd. The space is so big than other at the Madonna herself, you didn’t really feel accompanied. BTW, I kept a respectful distance from her at first, but when I realized that the Sacrament was only located on side altars, I moved in much closer for a few photos.

Ditto on not being archeological-museum’ed out at that point, so we took a few hours to visit the Paolo Orsi Museum near to the church. It was as promised -- a very large collection laid out in a bewildering fashion, and the coin collection was closed, so be aware of those caveats. The wheelchair here was very helpful. It was in the those clean restrooms on the basement level that hit our first trifecta of Sicilian public bathrooms – toilet paper, soap and paper towels,. While we got used to it, I never fully understood that island-wide glaring lack of public services. Always carry your own tp, and a few paper towels if you don’t like drying your hands on your trousers.
We’re not big shoppers, but husband wanted a leather belt and I needed a keychain. We were very happily surprised with a small shop near the apartment, Il Piacere della Pelle. The owner learned his trade from his father, and his work was beautiful. He customized my keyfob and took time to carefully size a belt to my husband’s measurements. Since we were the only ones in the store, we enjoyed the time to have an interesting conversation while we shopped.

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September 10, on to Ragusa, with a private driver, this time from Sicily Driver Service. They were reasonably priced and like all the others we used, the driver’s English was fine and the car was spotless. This was our only stop we weren’t in an Airbnb. The Evoca, a B&B booked on was a delightful, quiet respite which I reviewed earlier. There were just a dozen steps here joining our room to the dining room, but with a landing midway, they were easily manageable. The staff were happy to move our bags from the entry to our room and back again. Even though they were easy for me to move, it was thoughtful of the owner to jump right in. I really appreciate little things like that. His mom drove us down to the lower carpark where we met Roberto Sapone, are driver to Agrigento with enroute stops. (More on this later.)
I thought Ragusa was charming. Small, and for most people, probably covered fairly well in a day, we spent 3 nights. We did the stair climb, but for us, it was a stair descend (reviewed separately), and the walking tour, but the highlight was our private tour with Raffaele at Cinabro Carrettiere. We expected an hour and got 2 on the history, construction process and marketing of the carts with Raffaele. I don’t know if the small shop is open to the public, but even if it is, I’d suggest making a reservation. ( The personalized experience was worth the 10 euros for sure. We took our third day as a rest day, opting out of the day trip to Modica or Scili, which I would have liked to have done, but slowing down every once in a while is good for both of us. Be sure to check in with the helpful TI at least before you go (see Guides and TI in Ragusa post) as well as for information on the Donnafugata Theatre, Conversation Circle and Palazzo Arezzo di Trifiletti.) We passed on A Porte Aperte/Ibla 1860’s tour because for the prices, we felt it wasn’t worth it based on our interests.

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Agrigento via Villa Romana del Casale
Next, on to Agrigento via Villa Romana del Casale, Caltagirone, Piazza Armerina with the aforementioned Roberto Sapone. Due to my aversion to driving (and, god knows, parking), my husband’s age, my preference for comfort, and the cost and hassles associated with rental cars, we use private drivers. For this leg, I selected Mr. Sapone based on forum raves and suggestion in the book. He was personable, knowledgeable and an excellent driver, but I felt his fee was exorbitant at 350 euros for the day. He was the only driver I could find willing to do the itinerary I wanted, so we went with it, but I’m not sure I’d do it again. (I note, however, that it seems that 350 may be the going rate for a full day, as the recommended driver in Trapani charges the same for a full day.) We dropped the planned stop at Aidone Archeological Museum in lieu of a surgical strike for chocolate in Modica. Stops in Caltagirone and Piazza Armerina were also very brief, but good enough for our goals there. The beautiful Villa Romana del Casale has been reviewed to death, so I won’t go into any detail here other than to say that it was very crowded midday, so if you can plan your travel to be there at OOB, or late in the day presumably, you’d be better off. The entry fee has increased to 13 euro from 10 (I submitted all of the price increases and opening hour changes to guidebook updates.). Using “permesso” gets results, but not as much as you’d think in that most of the visitors are not Italian. No wheelchairs here.
Our briefest overnight stop on our vacation was in Agrigento, with only 2 nights. While it was enough to see the Valley of the Temples and museum, it wasn’t enough to do much else. We had dinner after arriving from the day trip en route, and that was it for the night. After our visit to the Valley of the Temples, we started out on the town walk, but were unimpressed with the Via Aetna, so never finished it. We were planning to visit Mazara del Vallo’s kasbah, so I didn’t feel the need to search out the market here, which probably was a mistake (see Mazara del Vallo, below). We had two great meals at Sal8, across the alley from our apartment, so I felt the need to go no further on the gastronomic front.

In several ways, Agrigento was the most stressful part of the trip. Back to the park for a moment. I had arranged a tour with Michele Gallo of the guidebook, but was disappointed. He was not available, but had other guides, so I was OK with that. He was responsive to emails (if you waited at least several days), and did make suggestions for accommodating my husband’s limitations and we set up a time. After trying to contact him to confirm several times within a few days of our scheduled time and getting no response, I sent an email cancelling and briefly explaining why. I received an answer to that one in a few minutes. Our cancellation saved us 180 euros, and frankly, in the end, we felt it was fine just using guidebook and, perhaps, cruising along with various groups which crowded around every stop (As sleazy as that seems, it wasn’t really avoidable, and I never stayed long. Bonus, depending on the group, it was fun for French, Italian and Portuguese comprehension practice!) We did have a wheelchair, and most of the site is at least navigable, but if you’re not familiar with electric models, make sure you get a thorough orientation. The staff didn’t seem to have the time or interest in explaining it well. The directional button and speed buttons were worn off, and we only figured it out halfway that there are gears/speed selection on the thing, so we crawled along for quite a while. Duh. So my legs got a little more tan and our hats were never more appreciated.

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More on Agrigento..
Personally, I was disappointed with the treatment my husband received along the route. If some of the patrons had been able, I’m sure that they would have shoved him out of the way and trampled on to the next attraction. Very unusual and very rude, and by far, the most unpleasant experience of the trip, save our taxi experience. I’m chocking up the patrons-at-the-park experience to pressed tourists, as not an Italian voice was heard during our entire visit. Our taxi was arranged by our Airbnb host and getting there was fine, but we never connected with her for the return trip, so found another way home. (There are plenty of taxis at the main park entrance, BTW, so don’t worry about getting stuck out there.) She proceeded to WhatsApp call incessantly (which I declined) and threatened us with messages informing us that she knew where to find us and planned to come to the apartment and collect her 15 euros. After a few hours of silence, she backed down a little and dropped the threats if we agreed to pay up directly to the host. I finally blocked her and informed the host of our experience. She said she’d speak with the driver. Honestly, I was a little worried she’d be sitting at our front door when we left the next morning, but she was not. Whether our host contacted her or not I don’t know, but I was relieved to get out of town. At least our host’s restaurant recommendation hit the mark!
While the park was frustrating at times, the museum was a delight. Not too crowded, and the exhibits were well organized and curated. The accessibility is great—ramps and elevators—but, alas, no wheelchairs to borrow. It’s a BYO operation. Word to the wise.

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Trapani and day trips
Lastly, Trapani for 10 nights before heading home. We used recommended driver Lillo Amato for the Agrigento to Trapani transfer, which was easy and pleasant until he couldn’t find our Airbnb, then we were treated to a loud albeit somewhat entertaining argument between him and the host. We eventually got there in one piece. I loved our Airbnb. In the heart of the historic center, it was a converted, rebuilt actually, garage with a small interior courtyard complete with grill, hammock, table and chairs and a welcome clothesline that I didn’t have to hang out a window to use. With no washing machine in Ragusa and no inclination to figure out the one in Agrigento, an Airbnb washer has never gotten a better workout. It was smaller than some Airbnbs on this trip, but still most adequate with a kitchen/dining/living room combination, bath and separate bedroom. The host supplied everything from a stocked-with-water, mixers and juices refrigerator to a complete first-aid kit, extra towels, mosquito coils for the garden, a well-equipped kitchen, guide books and maps, and instructions on everything from how to use the washer to turning the gas cooking bottle on and off. It was almost like living in your own home but with instructions. There was literally nothing lacking. It was clear that the host was meant to make his living in hospitality, and he owned at least 3 apartments in Trapani. At $140 a night, it was our most expensive accommodation, but well worth it.
He also set us up with driver recommendations. We ended up choosing a friend of his who, while not a professional driver (never did figure out what he did for a living, as he was pretty much available for wherever and whenever we wanted to go), he more than adequately fit the bill. A lot of people, I know, are shaking their heads (if you’ve gotten this far!) at this time we spent here, but I like establishing a locals routine – morning trips to the bakery, chats with neighbors hanging out at street level (presumably escaping the stifling heat of their apartments), and being recognized at the local café. Also, after a long 3 weeks or so of travel, we needed some serious down time and an anchor for all the day trips we planned. Trapani was an excellent choice.
With our time there, we had a couple of days to wander the town, which is small but pleasant. We never made it to the Optical Illusion Museum, or the Agostino Pepoli Museum, but by the time we got to Trapani, neither of us felt like we missed much. Our last day in town, we took a long walk and stumbled on the open-for-free palazzo of the turn-of-the-century politician, businessman and art collector Nunzio Nasi, for whom our street was named. The book’s town walk can be easily accomplished in an hour or two, which left us time to hit every open church, of which there are plenty, let me tell you, hang out in a couple of cafes and watch a little Italian TV (a goal, if you will, of my trip, as there’s nothing better for comprehension and vocabulary building. I recommend the shopping channel. They are over-the-top in their enthusiasm, and it was a hoot to watch.)

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I didn’t consider a guide for Trapani; with lots of time, we didn’t feel the need to compress the entire town into an hour or two. After a down day, our first day trip was to Poggioreale, Cretti and Selinunte. Most travelers don’t have time for Poggioreale and Cretti, and that is understandable; they are well off the beaten track and of limited value for most people. Visiting a ghost town destroyed in massive 1968 earthquake for some reason intrigued me, but we were disappointed that a recently-constructed fence around the entire town completely cut off access. That detail had not made it into any of the research I did prior to our trip. I would guess that it was erected for safety and insurance reasons. More than 50 years after the quake, the buildings left standing were undoubtedly dangerous to the curiosity seekers. We were forced to peek in through the chain link fence down the main street, view the town from a road above, and received shared drone photos courtesy of our driver Giuseppe. Cretti is a modern art installation completely encasing the remains of the other town destroyed in the earthquake. It is a huge, stark white concrete collection of monoliths laid out exactly by street plan that existed at the time of the quake, hugging the side of a steep hill. No one there but us and a busload of German tourists who departed soon after we arrived. No admission fee; just a very quiet, wind-swept, thought provoking glance at what was, at one time, a community of a couple hundred, most of whom died in the quake.
On to a happier phase of the day trip, a visit to Selinunte. Of the three ancient Greek sites, we liked this one the most. The weather was glorious, and the park is well mapped and explanations at each site were very helpful. Their website,, offers some excellent suggestions as to itineraries inside the park as well as useful tourist information for the area.

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Our day trip to Erice was fun, but decidedly chilly. The elevation is up there; I was glad to have my trusty, unstylish cotton cardigan. Taking the bus up and the cable car down worked well for us. Nothing like a white-knuckle bus ride to get the blood flowing. There’s a reason many of the hairpin switchbacks are well-padded with brightly colored, painted tires. My admiration for Sicilian drivers, crazy or not with their speeding, tailgating, passing and parking wonders, was multiplied by scores sitting in the seat behind this driver. At the end of the day, taking the cable car down was easy, quiet (no line at 4 pm on a Sunday), and cheap. It was only diminished by the fact that the windows were so dirty that it was essentially impossible to see the Trapani or the coastline. Definitely not the same experience we had in Dubrovnik a few years ago. Too bad, too. It has real potential.
Right off the top, let me say that the Pasticceria Maria Grammatico lives up to all the hype. The almond biscotti of various sizes, shapes and flavors were wonderful, but for us the standard was set here for the Genovese, a butter cookie filled with a vanilla pastry cream (we also had them filled with Nutella, but not as good). The tender, flavorful cookie, smooth sweet cream was heavenly and I could have easily made a meal of them. Lucky for me, we took home half a dozen and we ate them all in a day.

Erice is a challenge for the mobility-limited with its steep, worn and slippery stone streets, but I’m proud to say that my husband hung with the best of them, only choosing to send me up the tower at Chiesa Madre for a nice view of some of the town and a bit of Trapani below. We purchased the multi-church and museum ticket for, if I recall correctly, at 6 euros, and it paid for itself and we wandered in and out of churches and a couple abandoned monasteries we otherwise would not have paid 2-3 euros each to see. The town was crowded on Sunday afternoon, but not obnoxiously so. Our poor timing led us to the closest restaurant we could find when hunger struck, the name of which I cannot remember. The meal was equally memorable, but we were hungry, and it was there.

Favignana was a blast. We took the Liberty Lines hydrofoil rather than signing up for an islands cruise/ tour which included swimming spots that didn’t interest us, and limited the time on Favignana, the only place we thought would be worth the effort to get to. The round trip was about 32 euros each. We were advised against buying two one-way tickets by the ticket window clerk, and she was right. The ferry schedule was not hourly and our trip back at 4 pm was shared with an absolutely crammed-in crowd. The town is charming, small, and very comfortable. It feels local, despite the fact that there were a lot of day-trippers there. We joined the many local citizens in a main piazza, enjoying an extended coffee break and bite to eat.

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There are lots of bike rental places immediately along the port, and well into the town. I can see where if you are beach-destined, you’d definitely need one. We were there for the town sights, primarily the Tuna Museum, so we passed. The museum did not disappoint. (Nor did the thong bikini clad teens at the small beach en route there, according to my husband. They made me feel very old and very fat.) The book is accurate in its description of the museum, but we felt it underplayed the museum’s charms. I found the darkened hall with audio/visual clips of various workers at the factory fascinating. If you understand Italian, stand directly under each bell for the best acoustics. If there are a lot of people in there, it can be very hard to hear as there are probably 15 or 20 screens in operation at any one time. If you don’t understand Italian, it won’t be worth your time.
In addition to the painstakingly deep and detailed review of every aspect of the now-dead industry there, the museum also included a fascinating small exhibit on the history of the Carthaginians and Romans and the Battle of the Egadi Islands. The objects are not well-labeled, though, and it took watching the videos to fully understand what I was looking at. One of the videos is subtitled and I thought worth the time. The other is not subtitled, but equally interesting. If I were to make one recommendation it would be for them to try to increase and improve the English information available. The brochure available and 99% of the videos and written explanations were only in Italian. Nevertheless, even if you don’t speak or read Italian, you’ll get a lot out of it.

We just stopped for a quick bite at U Coppu, which was fine as advertised, but the real culinary destination for me was A Putia, which features typically Favignanasi products in the form of dozens of cans and jars of tuna in various forms (there still is a small, local industry here, but nothing is produced for export, even to the island of Sicily, that we could find). I scored locally preserved salted capers (not easy to find at home), a red-orange jam (impossible to find at home), and a sun-dried tomato spread spiked with anchovy (like-item substitutes are available here). I’ve yet to try the capers, but the jam and tomato spread were well-worth the expense, and the weight in my carry-on.

We skipped Mozia, and its museum, in favor of a shorter trip to the salt flats of Nubia. The small Museum of Salt was fun, and our guide was enthusiastic in her description of the family, industry and history of salt production. She wasn’t a family member, but she was clearly invested in the family and the business. The advertised 20-minute tour was more like 45. I can’t remember the admission fee (I’m thinking 4 or 5 euro, with a well-worth-it extra euro to head out into the pans.) Production for the season was already completed, but on the way back to Trapani, we stopped at roadside pans still in the harvesting mode. The gift shop has grossly overpriced t shirts and the like, but the 2 euro kilo bags on fine or coarse salt were a steal. They were also the reason we had to check our roll-aboard bags for the trip home. We engaged our driver Giuseppe for this outing, as getting there by public transport is impossible; it just doesn’t exist. We probably could have rigged up taxi transfers, but again, for us, it just wasn’t worth the hassle.

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I’m sorry to say that Mazara del Vallo was a disappointment. Perhaps I set my own expectations too high. I envisioned the kasbah as being similar to the ones of Tunisia and Morocco, but it was a pale comparison. We couldn’t even find a restaurant open for lunch! What was interesting, though, is the street art in that neighborhood, and throughout the small town. Tile installations and fountains were a pleasant, colorful delight. I also wanted to visit the Museum of the Dancing Satyr, which we accomplished mostly by stumbling on it. Directions from the train station were vague, and there were no maps or any information there, and the TI in town was closed, so we were left to stroll in search of the museum. It turned out fine, as the place isn’t that big, and once you get into town, there are directional signs. And, fortunately, the museum does not close mid-day, so we could spend time there without rushing in or out. While the train ride was uneventful, it was late and two other trains destined for other localities never showed up at all. Again, the bus might be a better choice if you’re on a tight schedule.

I’d been wanting to visit Segesta for years, and it was well worth the wait. However, for us, the bus to Segesta was not great. Getting information on it for starters was frustrating. There is only one company serving it from Trapani, ironically not called Segesta (there is a line that is), but rather Tarantola. They have a website now (, but based on the website’s spotty performance, we chose to buy tickets onboard. The bus stop is odd. It’s a large, but abandoned building; tickets are not sold there (nor are they at the tabacchi which allegedly sold them), and while the stop is marked with one 8 ½ x 11 sign covered in plastic wrap, the bus does not necessarily stop there. It can stop anywhere along the side of the building. Had a helpful local person not clued us in, we would have missed the only bus that gave us enough time to visit and still make the last bus of the day home. Also, it’s not a big tour bus that the other companies run to local, but out-of-town destinations, but rather a 16 seat grey minivan which is not particularly well-marked. Pay attention! And one more thing, if the weather forecast even vaguely mentions rain, or there is a cloud in the sky, take your emergency rain poncho. We did not and paid the price of being caught in a thunderstorm without cover, being soaked to the bone from head to toe, and waiting in the chilly afternoon breeze for 2 ½ hours to catch the next, and last, bus back to town. At one point, I honestly wasn’t sure we were going to make it without major consequences. But we did, and courtesy of the two blow driers in the apartment, my husband’s shoes were dry in about 5 hours.

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Unfortunately, Lufthansa has discontinued their Trapani-Munich route, so after a final day in Trapani, we took off for Palermo for one night, staying at Delle Vittorie Rooms and Suites. It is well-located on the extremely noisy Via Maqueda, but the sound-proof windows are great. We had a very comfortable room and a fine breakfast. The staff was friendly, but no tourist maps and an out-of-date restaurant list definitely put our stay in the not-as-great-as-it-could-have-been category.

So, after 26 days on the road, we were headed home. All in all, it was a good trip. I still feel like there are places I’d like to visit, especially in the interior of the island, but we are most likely to head off in a different direction the next time we are in Europe.
Random Thoughts
We are both retired, and hence we have the luxury of being slow travelers. We have good foreign language skills, and I think that it affects the quality of our trip. We met very few people, mostly elderly, but surprisingly, not all, who spoke little or no English. Due to his age, my husband has mobility challenges and becomes tired after particularly strenuous days. While we still average about 5 miles a day, we move more slowly both in terms of each day and in terms of the overall trip.
I realize that most readers aren’t interested in the accessibility/wheelchair issue, but I thought adding it certainly wouldn’t hurt. There has been a recent discussion on Airbnb on the forum, so I took an extra few minutes to describe ours. For very reasonable rates, from $40 to $140 per night, depending on the size, age and style of the property, city location (e.g. historic center) and the actual city it was in, we felt comfortable in our choices for the entire trip.
We use a lot of cash on these trips. I’ve read the periodic threads that say a lot of people struggle to use up even a small amount of cash, but I pay the drivers in cash, and for smaller transactions like museum entries and coffee and gelato breaks, I prefer it. I also use it in small business/family stores to help cut their costs. We do use credit for accommodation and restaurant expenses, though. On this trip, all over the island, I noticed a disproportionate number of the Euronet and other high fee, non-bank affiliated ATMs. Finding an ATM at a bank took a little doing in some cities.

We had six different drivers for the trip. Unlike last year, I was unable to book one company for the entire trip, and in the end, we probably saved some money by comparison shopping. It was time-consuming, though, to lay out the entire trip.
We’ve been trying to start and finish this trip since early 2020, so in some ways, I think I overplanned. And, in the case of Poggioreale at least, all the effort was for naught. My best sources were the Blue Guide for background and a more academic approach to the places we visited; the Fodor’s forums (limited use, but a very different perspective), and other websites like it, TripAdvisor, and the wonderful trip reports on this website.

If you’ve made it to the end, thanks. I hope at least some of my musings will be helpful to you

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What a wonderful trip report! I love Sicily and yearn to go back. Thank you!

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I enjoyed this very much! Thanks for taking the time to write it up.

I need a month in Sicily!

A few questions: Can you tell me more about Raffaele at Cinabro Carrettiere who you used in Ragusta? You said it was enjoyable and 10 Euros so that peaked my interest.

If you had to chose would you go with Agrigento or Selinunte? I have gone back and forth and finally decided on Agrigento but then your accounts make me wonder if we would enjoy Selinunte more.

I contacted Roberto Sapone for the same route. There are 4 of us so the fee is 400 Euros not 350. My husband said that was too much and he would rather drive. So we are going to rent a car when we leave Siracusa. We drove in May in Crete and survived goggle maps taking us to a olive orchard not the factory and two way roads that are only as wide as one car (so you have to back up!). We will have to see how Sicily compares.

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Raffaele is one of the men who work at the shop. He told us that he is in training to do a little more in terms of decorating and design, but I think he does a lot of tours, too, as he was the one with whom I exchanged emails to set up our visit and he mentioned other tours/visitors during our time there. The only thing lacking on the tour is that there were no other employees there when we were. No one was actually working on a cart. It would have been very interesting to watch a craftsman at work. It's a small workshop, so maybe it's one or the other, but not both at the same time.

Since you've decided on Agrigento, I hate to say it, but Selinunte was my preference. It was less crowded and hectic than Agrigento. I don't know a lot about this subject, so I especially appreciated all the explanations and stories associated with each of the temple ruins. I felt like I wasn't just looking at huge piles of rocks. It may have been there, but I can't remember any kind of information or signs like that at Agrigento. The people at Agrigento struck me more as there to check off an item on the tour list, whereas at Selinunte, there were no large groups, no guides with little flags to follow, and a much more relaxed atmosphere. There was time and space to just look, and to sit and imagine what it was like to live there. It seemed to be, if you will, the more "serious" of the two sights. It felt like people were there because they wanted to be; not because it was an item to check off a list.

There's no doubt in my mind that drivers recommended in the RS book are making a very good living. Interesting that he would charge 400 euros for four, but 350 for 2. We weren't that much work! There's plenty of open road outside of the cities, and driving (and parking) won't be stressful. Considering the cost of a private transfer, if your husband is willing to drive, I'd say do it. I laughed at your description of driving with Google maps. We had a similar experience with a GPS in Croatia 10 years ago. I can't remember what we were looking for, but we got all the way to the end of a one-lane dirt road only to find out that what we wanted wasn't there and that there was no place to turn around. Took me half an hour to back myself out of that mess.

Posted by
10113 posts

Thank you for your detailed report! We toured both Selinunte and Agrigento. We stayed outside of Selinunte which was a mistake. The BnB was nice but surrounding areas were quite sketchy.
We stayed down near the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento at the Colleverde Park Hotel which had wonderful service, nice views. A walk around the city above it was brief as we did not feel safe and we have lived in NY and Chicago and are not easily intimidated by any city.

Posted by
46 posts

Thank you for such explicit information. We are in Florence now in our favorite apartment hosted by dear friends we have made. We are looking to travel to Sicily probably late October and will definitely use your info..

Posted by
3522 posts

Your mention of vague directions for finding bus stops made me chuckle, not alogether humorously. Maybe it’s a southern Italian thing. We spent half of our first day in Naples trying to get to the Archaeological Museum. Our B&B host gave us explicit directions, except that he used the local name for a transfer stop. The street sign had the official name, so we missed it. Anyway, the bus stop wasn’t actually at the piazza, but near it.
We had a similar experience when leaving for Amalfi. Our host told us to take the short tram ride to a major piazza (Piazza del Popolo?, del Plebescito?), where we could find the bus for Amalfi. Well, the piazza is enormous, probably two blocks long on each side, with many, many bus stops around it. We circumnavigated it, schlepping our luggage behind us. When we got back to our starting place, we saw a policeman, and asked him. Miraculously, he had enough English to inform us that our bus stop was actually two blocks away, down a side street. At least we had allowed enough time so that our misadventure did not result in amissed bus.
All this happened in the pre-gps on your phone days. However, we have found the gps to be far from perfect, especially in Italy.

Lessons learned:
1) use taxis a lot.

2) Suck it up, and enjoy all the wonderful things about a trip to Italy.

3) Laugh about it later.

Posted by
280 posts

Many thanks for sharing the details of your trip. Sounds amazing. I am planning to go next year, and reading about your experiences will be very useful.

Posted by
614 posts

Loved reading about your slow trip around the island. I've been to Sicily four or five times now and simply love it. I have not yet been to Siracusa or Ragusa, so that was very interesting to me. We liked both Agrigento and Selinute, for different reasons. We had a car and so it made going around a lot easier.

My favorite place just to hang out was Trapani. Just the liveliness of the main street, the relative safety compared to other places, and the other places nearby (yummm... maria grammatico) The salt is wonderful --- so intense and flavorful. It is place we would consider staying for a month or more, and frequently look at real estate listing as well.

Posted by
3658 posts

I missed your TR the first time around. How easy will a trip like yours be for someone with almost no Italian language skills?

Posted by
711 posts

Honestly, you'd be fine with only basic Italian skills. Chances are you'd be fine with only please/thank you/hello/goodbye skills. My husband and I enjoy practicing our languages when we travel, but other than the odd person (one driver, one shopkeeper, our neighbors in Trapani), everyone spoke enough English to communicate. Actually, I suspect that these people did speak enough English to communicate, but they were shy to use it, especially since I always open conversations in Italian. Go and have a good time. It won't be a problem at all for you.

Posted by
2 posts

our RS drivers were exactly $350 also.
I did not know to ask our Airbnb hostess about drivers so that is an excellent tip.
The RS company drivers were excellent. I cant say enough good things about them.
We had one take us to my husbands grandparents village. The streets could not have been wide enough to fit anything but a Prius. Somehow he managed that AND the turns.
I had a different experience of Catania and I am happy to hear it is a nice place after all.

Posted by
711 posts

Just a note: not all Airbnb hosts know of drivers. It doesn't hurt to ask. Our hosts in Siracusa and Trapani were happy to help. They set us up with friends. I think both drivers were happy for the income.

Posted by
2720 posts

Hoping to go to Sicily this April.