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My trip to Sicily- In Zoe's memory...

My trip to Sicilia - In Zoe’s memory…

How this trip came about…

It’s amazing how one person can make such an impact in one’s life.

Back in 2014, I joined this great forum and posted my very first question.
It was then that I met Zoe, and we began corresponding back and forth.
I guess you could say that we became “pen pals”

When my mom, who had been my travel partner, could no longer travel due to health issues, I began to entertain the idea of traveling solo. I knew Zoe was an experienced solo traveler, so I turned to her with my many questions and concerns: and she always replied with insightful and encouraging comments.

Once I’d decided to take the plunge and embark on this new endeavor, Zoe was there for me.
She answered my endless questions, helped me with my itinerary, and kept encouraging me throughout the planning process.

My first solo trip was a great success and I loved all the places I’d visited.

When I returned home from that trip (October 2017), I began thinking about my next trip.
I remember Zoe telling me that I’d become addicted to solo traveling, and she was right.

“Where should I go next?” I’d asked myself.

France or Sicily? I’d traveled to France before and wanted to explore new cities and towns.
However, the idea of traveling to Sicily kept coming back to me.

I contacted Zoe in November, and she answered my questions once again.
Soon December was upon us and I’d wished Zoe a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, and she in return had wished the same to me.

On January 4th I received a PM from Christine, asking me if I’d seen the post about Zoe.
When I read Laurel’s post, my heart sunk. I could not believe what I was reading…
It took me a long time to accept the idea that my friend Zoe was gone.

I began searching the forum and found many of Zoe’s trip reports. I read them over and over again. I knew that Zoe had been to Sicily several times, and she had already paved the way, and all I had to do is to follow in her footsteps.
It didn’t take me long to start planning this trip. I bought the Lonely Planet guidebook. I searched the web, and this forum. I sent PM’s to many of you, asking for suggestions, advice, and ideas.

In mid January, my brother and I went to his favorite Italian deli. He has been going to this shop for many years and has befriended the owner, Ross (Rosario), a quiet but amiable Sicilian man, whom you’ll often find behind the meat counter giving delicious savory samples to his loyal customers while making his signature Italian sandwiches.

At an impromptu moment when Ross had a minute to himself, my brother announced that I was planning a trip to Sicily. Ross’ eyes lit up and his quiet demeanor became more lively and animated as he asked, “where are you going?” He listened intently as I began reciting the places I’d plan to visit: Palermo, Trapani, Segesta, Erice, Agrigento, Piazza Armerina, Siracusa, Lipari, and Acireale. He in turn repeated each city name, after me, with the proper Sicilian pronunciation. I didn’t know that I was placing the emphasis on the wrong syllable! He then asked, “when are you going?” I replied, Mid-September to beginning of October.

I was not expecting his next comments. “No, you need to go in the spring! Spring is the best time; it’s not hot, it’s not cold, and there are wildflowers everywhere!”
“You will love the food in Sicilia!”, he said. Then he added, “The people are very friendly; if you ask an Italian how to get someplace, they will point the way, but if you ask a Sicilian, they will take you there!”

Right there and then I remembered that Zoe had mentioned the wildflowers. As a college professor she’d always planned to start her trips in May as soon as the college’s graduation ceremony was over.

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4526 posts

When I got home that night I thought, wait a minute! I don’t have enough time to plan my trip for this May! I’d always taken months to plan my trips.

Well…Thanks to many of you on this forum, I’ve realized that it is possible to plan a trip within a few months notice. A great BIG Thanks to all of you here, and especially to Agnes, Becky, Catherine, Chani, Charlene, Christa, David (Brisbane) Jean (Mill Creek, WA) Karren, Ken, Laurel, Roberto, Wray… and Zoe.

My itinerary: Milan > Palermo (day trips to Cefalù & Monreale) > Trapani (day trips to Segesta, Erice and Favignana) > Agrigento > Piazza Armerina > Siracusa > Milazzo > Lipari > Acireale (day trip to Taormina) > Milan > Home

My trip began in Milan where I spent a couple of nights in order to get over jet lag.
I then flew to Palermo. My seatmates were a wonderful Sicilian couple who’d been married for 48 years. They were returning from a trip to Switzerland. The husband was a retired photographer and he proudly showed me photos of their 5 year old granddaughter by saying; “lei è l'amore della mia vita!” (she’s the love of my life!) His wife, Cristina, was busy reading her book, so Pietro and I talked all the way to Palermo. When we arrived to the airport, they guided me to the bus ticket counter. Before saying goodbye they gave me their phone number, and told me to call them if I needed anything...Such a kind gesture.

Palermo...

My first impression of this large city was not positive in the least. As the bus pulled into the the city all one can see is high rise apartment buildings, marked up with graffiti, and trash piled high beside trash containers (possibly due to strike?)…
My impression began to change when we arrived to the city center and the architecture of the buildings became more appealing. We drove past the beautiful Teatro Massimo, then down Via Roma lined with various shops, and then past San Dominico’s church, and finally to my stop, Via Roma-Vucciria.

I arrived to B&B delle Vittorie, and was greeted by the owner, Giuseppe, with a smile and a firm handshake. This b&b, as most of the accommodations where I stayed, was recommended by Zoe.

B&B delle Vittorie is very centrally located between the Quattro Canti and Teatro Massimo. Giuseppe is very helpful and friendly and he will offer restaurant recommendations and answer all your questions about his beloved city.
My room was very spacious, comfortable and clean. I looked forward to the delicious breakfasts every morning.

I spent 4 wonderful nights in this city with many amazing sights. My favorites were Capella Palatina, the cathedral, Quattro Canti, Piazza Petroria, and walking through Mercato del Capo.
The best gelato was near the port at ‘Gelateria La Kala’ (thanks Becky!) away from the tourist path. I didn’t see any other tourists near the port the day I was there.

The second evening while resting in my room after a full day of sightseeing, I heard someone singing in the distance. I opened my window, and became enchanted by a couple singing opera from their balcony across the street! The crowd that had assembled on the street, and I, truly enjoyed this unexpected performance.

On May 1st, a national holiday, I decided to escape the crowds in the city, and took the train to Cefalù.
I arrived to the cathedral at around noon when the bells were ringing. This cathedral is truly a magnificent gem. Its interior is covered with stunning, shimmering mosaics. Definitely a spectacular site not to be missed!

I had a wonderful seafood lunch at ‘Lo Scoglio Ubriaco Ristorante’ while sitting on the terrace overlooking the lovely turquoise blue sea.
The sound of the waves breaking on the rocks below was soothing and it drowned out the many voices surrounding me.

Continued...

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4526 posts

After lunch I walked along a narrow cobble stone street along with a large crowd (and I thought I was escaping the crowds!) toward the beach.

There were many people on the beach but only two brave souls were in the cold water. While admiring the coastline with it’s ancient light brown stone houses with honey colored peeling plaster. I noticed an establishment with outdoor seating that was overflowing with locals across from the old port on Piazza Marina. I walked over and found the gelateria within “Molo 19”

When I returned to my B&B that evening, I met a group from Canada who were enjoying a bottle of wine in the breakfast room and they invited me to join them. We talked for a while about our travel journeys.

The following morning, they invited me to join them at their table and we enjoyed our breakfast together. We decided to spend part of the day together touring the city.
Our first stop was walking though Mercato del Capo lined with various merchants selling fresh colorful produce, all types of fresh fish, including the reddest tuna I’d ever seen, cheese, olives, street food, and various spices.

After visiting the beautiful cathedral, we walked to the Royal Palace where we bid each other farewell as they were interested in taking the Hop On Hop Off tour bus and I’d planned to go to Monreale.

While waiting for the local public bus (#389) on Piazza Indipendenza, I met a nice couple from Berlin. We arrived to Monreale at 1:30pm, an hour before the cathedral opens, so we decided to find a place to eat.
We stopped at a small shop with hand crafted mosaics near the church, and asked for a restaurant recommendation.

We found the restaurant and requested a table on their outdoor patio. When the waiter arrived, we ordered; my new friends ordered coffee, and I ordered the Chef’s pasta special. The waiter suddenly lost his cool and told us in a very rude tone of voice that he could not afford to have us sit at a table if we were not going to order food! (Mind you, the place was almost empty) So, we got up and left. My new friends and I were shocked by this incident because we’d never expected nor had ever experienced such behavior.

Lesson learned…. Don’t sit at a restaurant if your companions are not ordering food.

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4526 posts

We ended up going to, 'Mirto Bar', near the cathedral. A bar is a place where they serve beverages, gelato, snacks, panini and a few hot prepared entrees.
We sat on their patio and enjoyed getting to know each other over coffee and a pasta dish.
At one point during our conversation, I asked how long they’d been married, and the husband replied; “a hundred years!”
We all laughed, then he added, “39 years!”

Monreale’s cathedral is another magnificent gem. It’s interior is beautifully decorated with dazzling golden mosaics. Even the floors are a sight to behold.

The bus back to Palermo was very crowded and we stood for most of the journey.
Back in Palermo, my new friends gave me their contact information and invited me to visit them in Berlin!

The following morning I took a bus to Trapani...

Continued:

  1. Trapani, Segesta and Favignana...
  2. Bus to Agrigento...
  3. Piazza Armerina and Villa Romana del Casale...
  4. Siracusa and Noto...
  5. Milazzo and Lipari...
  6. Acireale, Taormina and back to Milan...
Posted by
9449 posts

Ahhhh, Priscilla! I read through your entire series of reports and am touched by the honor you did to,our friend Zoe. I know she is smiling at your adventure and pleased that you had so many memorable encounters along the way! I think traveling solo you must end up in meaningful interactions with more people, a happy outcome. Brava, amica! Un bel racconto!

Posted by
1619 posts

Wonderful trip report, Pricilla. I was is Sicilia exactly one year ago and daily think about what we were doing. I too was thinking about Zoe only yesterday. I’m sure she’d be very pleased with your experiences.

Posted by
6223 posts

Priscilla, I'm so happy you took a chance and had faith in yourself that you could pull off a perfectly great trip in little time. Sometimes having too much time to plan makes folks overplan and overthink. There's also something special about truncating the excitement for a new trip in a smaller window, it makes it more intense somehow (sort of like concentrated perfume, for lack of better words). I planned my first trip to Turkey in one week or so, including getting lodging, plane tickets, etc. - there was a special opportunity that presented itself and I had to just go with it and wing it as best as I could. It was quite a rush (literally and symbolically - I mean in a very good way!) Your trip sounded great, and I hope I have the chance to visit Sicily in springtime as well. I'd love to catch those wildflowers!

I hope this experience gives you more confidence to be flexible about planning trips in the future. It may not feel as comfortable to not have the luxury of ample time to plan, but it can also be a blessing in disguise.

PS. I too have warm thoughts about Zoe and all her contributions to this forum. I'm raising a glass to her right now.

Posted by
4526 posts

Laurel, thanks for encouraging me to write this trip report!
Honestly, I'd intended to write it months ago but had a difficult time doing so.

Becky, I truly appreciate all your help with my trip planning, thanks!

Agnes, You're amazing, planning a trip within a week's time!
Thanks for all your insight and encouragement during the planning process!
I do hope you make it to Sicily in the springtime. "It's the best time!"

Posted by
494 posts

Priscilla, thank you for sharing your report. I filed it in my notes.

I was shocked and saddened to learn about Zoe. She also helped me a great deal with both her inspiration and enthusiasm to travel. She helped me plan a Sicily trip with my husband. Due to his health we had to cancel it but hope the future will be different.

Zoe gave me encouragement to travel as a solo female. It was such a blessing to have known her. In her memory I’ll light candles for her when I visit churches. This is a personal custom I started after my brother’s passing. I believe we keep their spirit of life alive when we live lessons learned from those who go before us. I know remembering all the goodness of someone keeps me focused on trying to live a good full life while I’m here.

Posted by
4526 posts

Diane,

Thanks for sharing such lovely sentiments...

Zoe gave me encouragement to travel as a solo female. It was such a blessing to have known her. In her memory I’ll light candles for her when I visit churches. This is a personal custom I started after my brother’s passing. I believe we keep their spirit of life alive when we live lessons learned from those who go before us. I know remembering all the goodness of someone keeps me focused on trying to live a good full life while I’m here.

I'm sorry to hear about your brother's passing. I do hope you and your dear husband will be able to take that trip to Sicily some time in the future.

Posted by
396 posts

Well written. I felt like I was there. But, then, most days I wish I was in Italy! Traveling solo is wonderful. I do it all the time. Glad you had a great trip.

Posted by
4526 posts

Karren,

Thanks for all your help!

I too love Italy and miss being there.

Posted by
1804 posts

Priscilla --
What a wonderful report! The amount of detail you provided will be so helpful to others planning trips to Sicily.

As you know, my husband and I were in Malta and then Sicily around the same time, visiting many of the same places as you did, but in a counter-clockwise direction. We started in Acireale, then Milazzo and Lipari, then Palermo, then Scopello (which you didn't visit but it was wonderful!) and ending in Trapani. We stayed in the same hotels -- sometimes the same rooms! Our favorite, too, was the place in Lipari, and we had the same reaction ... we could live there.

By the time we met you in Trapani, we had been traveling for almost a month, we were tired, and we found the bus situation in Trapani a bit overwhelming. So thank goodness we found you! We were so impressed by the research you had done. And we were so grateful to tag along with you to Erice and Segesta.

I'm also impressed by the number of people you met (and names you remembered!). I think being a solo traveller leads to more opportunity to connect with fellow travelers. So good job, Priscilla! It was such a pleasure to spend time with you.

Posted by
4526 posts

Ahhhh... Thanks Charlene!

You were so very helpful to me when I was planning my trip. I truly appreciate it, thanks!

I've added Scopello to my bucket list for next time! ; )

Posted by
609 posts

What a wonderful trip report and so gracious of you to dedicate your trip to Zoe. Your well researched information will be very helpful to all of us planning a trip to Sicily!

I was particularly touched by all of the people you interacted with on your trip. Meeting people is such an important part of travel. I was also so impressed to read how comfortable you are traveling solo. I remember that this was a real dilemma for you a couple of years ago.

Thank you, Priscilla, for sharing your trip to Sicily with us!

Ciao amica mia!
Christine

Posted by
4526 posts

Hi Christine!

Thanks for your kind words, and for your help and encouragement!

Your trip is coming up quickly!
Enjoy every moment and make many wonderful memories my friend! 🌼

Posted by
1 posts

Hi Priscilla,
I am new to this forum and planning a trip to Sicily. I enjoyed your trip report very much and learned a lot. I noticed you said you used Zoe's trip reports as a sources of information for your trip. Would you happen to still have those links? I would really like to read her reports, as well. Thanks

Posted by
4526 posts

Hi Linda,

You will find a list of Zoe's trip reports on this post-- You'll have to scroll down about 40 responses to find my reply.

Here are a couple more:

The Lonely Planet Sicily Guidebook was also very helpful.

BTW, Rick Steves has just released a new Sicily Guidebook.

Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
684 posts

What a gem this thread is! I am saving it for future reference as out of the blue I have decided this is where we will go next and maybe sooner than later
Our daughter is getting married early Nov 2020 and we expected to curb our traveling u til after that date
...but now I think May 2020 would be a lovely time to immerse ourselves in Sicily! Your dedicating post to Zoe brought tears to my eyes.

Posted by
4526 posts

Aww...Thanks Kathy for your kind words!

Congratulations on your daughter’s upcoming wedding!

Spring is the best time to visit beautiful Sicily!

I’d be happy to answer any questions that may come up during your planning 😉