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Sicily by public transportation...

...and private car on a Sunday.

I am living proof that you can see Sicilia by public transportation (mostly). The better you plan, the more successful you will be. I made a couple of planning boo-boos.

Because of the Terminal 3 fire at Fiumicino, I took the train from FCO to Napoli and spent the night there. The next morning, with no air transportation possible, I took the train to Palermo, arriving 8 hours later. The second-class compartment was comfortable enough, even with all seats taken. At Palermo Centrale, I was too tired to figure out bus transportation to my B&B, so took an overpriced taxi (but the driver did lose his place in the queue, I am sympathetic). Four great nights at B&B Federico Secondo in the heart of Palermo, daytrip to Monreale by city bus, visited every place on my list except the Regional Archeological Museum, which is closed for the rest of the year (the metopes from Selinunte are apparently on loan to Expo Milano).

I left Palermo for Selinunte on Thursday. I was able to get to the station at Castelvetrano by train, but once I arrived there, the station was deserted, no taxis or buses in sight. I could not get through to my B&B in Marinella di Selinunte, and I panicked, called booking,com (who did get in touch with the B&B, they arranged for a private transfer, €30, 30 minutes). While I was waiting, the train station agent came back from a long lunch, so my panic was unfounded. I got to the B&B, and once I was ensconced in Giovanni's (and Rudy the cat) coddling, things took a turn for the better. We had coffee on the terrace with a view of the temples (scaffolded). The B&B is Terrazzo di Venere, lovely place.

I left Selinunto for Agrigento on a Sunday, there was no option other than a private car or backtracking via private transfer to Castelvetrano and who knows where from there. I opted for the private transfer ($70 door-to-door, a little over an hour) to save time and sanity. Four nights in Agrigento, great B&B Porta Atenea, at the foot of the main street. I went to the Valle dei Templi the next day, but the ticket office and entrance have been moved recently, so I walked about 300 meters to the new entrance - not conveniently signed, but if you stay on the bus, it will stop there. The entire archeological zone is now one park with a footbridge over the busy highway. You can still exit the park at the old entrance/exit, and catch the bus across the street from the bar. Great new restaurant in Agrigento, Sal8, steps from the B&B.

On Thursday I took the bus from Agrigento to Piazza Armerina, with a change in Enna. I called the B&B in Piazza to let them know I was on my way, and the owner happened to be in Enna, so he picked me up and drove me to the B&B Dimora del Conte on via Roma. Lovely, family-run place, the son and daughter prepare breakfast every morning. I visited the Villa Romana deal Casale via city bus; there is also a bus to Aidone, within walking distance to Morgantina, and with a nice museum. Filippo (father) very graciously drove me to the bus stop on Sunday morning at 7:15 (will I ever learn?), bought breakfast at the only bar open on Sunday.

I connected to the bus for Siracusa in Catania (Catania is like Purgatory, everyone goes there, but you don't have to stay long). Bus was on time, got to my B&B in Ortigia, and had another great experience. The navetta (little bus) used to be free, now it's .50€, loops all around Ortigia and to the train/bus station in the new town. Buy ticket on board from the quirky machine, only takes specific coins and does not run on Sundays.

I love Siracusa! It is my last stop in Sicilia (Catania is next, two nights and then fly to Roma). I expect smooth public transportation to Catania (buses almost every hour during the week. B&B Via Della Giudecca, manager marked gluten-free restaurant options on the map for me. Gluten-free is easy everywhere in Italy,

Posted by
2051 posts

Zoe, it sounds like an amazing trip, after a somewhat "bumpy" start. I loved Sicily when I was there in 2013 and hope to return soon. You have given me some valuable information! Thank you for posting your trip report.

Posted by
7698 posts

This sounds great, and thanks for sharing your experience. My husband and I visited two or three years ago without public transport, but we were only on the eastern side of the island (we didn't have as long as we like because he had a kidney stone attack at home the morning we were supposed to leave for the airport!).

You really pushed through some exhausting scenarios and stayed positive and are reaping the benefits. I'm glad for your lift from Enna and your early Sunday morning ride to the bus station.

Thanks also for the names of places you stayed. I really want to get back there and will definitely take your recommendations!!

Enjoy your last few days!

Posted by
1831 posts

Excellent stuff, Zoe. It's apparent that in Sicily--where planned travel may not be what it seems--you can follow the RS credo of buying your way out of situations. Did you ever have to use USD instead of Euro?

We were in Taormina in 2010, and the surrounding medieval villages of Savoca, Forza D'Agro & Castelmola. They were magic.

Enjoy!

Posted by
11613 posts

Jay, I haven't used US$ since I last used travelers' checks. The places you mentioned near Taormina are certainly beautiful.

Posted by
809 posts

Zoe, sounds like a wonderful trip! My daughter & I did a mostly-public-transit trip to Sicily in 2013, but you definitely covered more territory; we bused from Catania airport to Agrigento and stayed there 2 nights, then rented a car for one day to drive to Siracusa and see the Villa Romana del Casale on the way [hoped for Morgantina as well, but we just didn't have time]. We also stayed in Ortigia [5 nights; very relaxing!] and took the bus to CTA; it went quite smoothly but definitely took longer than expected - I think it was close to 2 hours. We spent more than 45 minutes driving around Siracusa picking up folks at the different stops. If you have a night or two in Catania before flying to Rome you should be fine, but if you're using that bus from Siracusa to catch your plane, be sure to allow plenty of time!

Thanks for bringing back some great memories!

Posted by
11613 posts

Nancy, I'll be here until Saturday, a total of 21 nights. I spend about three weeks in Sicilia every two years,

Kathleen, I will be in Catania for two nights, I am a believer in spending at least the last night in the departure city.

Then I will meet up with some friends for two weeks in Liguria, Emilia-Romagna, and Veneto. After that I will be on my own again for the rest of the summer.

Posted by
4780 posts

Zoe,

Thanks for posting this trip report!

I know you speak Italian & was wondering if all of the B&B owners( where you stayed) speak some English for those of us who don't speak Italian?

It sounds like you are having a great trip despite the chaotic start at FCO!

Posted by
11613 posts

Priscilla, yes, everyone at the places I've stayed speaks at least "hospitality English", many speak better English than I speak Italian.

I hadn't intended to stay only in B&Bs, but they were most often located where I wanted to be, and had better prices, ranging from €35-45 to one in Siracusa for €100.

Posted by
15045 posts

Zoe, "Catania is like Purgatory . . . " made me laugh out loud!

Even with a few extra expenses, you definitely saved a lot of money by not having a rental car. For others thinking about it, could you estimate whether you would have been able to see much more in the time you had, if you'd taken a car? Or seen as much in less time?

In Ortigia I stayed at Domus Mariae Benessere for €49/night in April and €69/night in May, very comfortable single room, good location. Of the places I stayed, Ortigia was my favorite.

Keep enjoying and keep reporting!

Posted by
11613 posts

Thanks for the encouragement, Chani. I've never rented a car in Sicily but have traveled with friends who did, we did appreciate the spontaneity and not having to plan so tightly, but if budget is an issue, public transportation can be a significant savings (if you don't have to use private transfers). I travel slowly, lots of time in each place, so I can usually get to everything I want.

Posted by
11613 posts

END OF THIS JOURNEY:

I continued with public transportation from Siracusa to Catania (train this time), had planned to take the Alibus from Catania to the airport but it was 5am (Alibus starts from the airport at 4:45) and decided to share a taxi with a like-minded woman instead, €20 split between us. Catania airport security took five minutes but I have seen lines out the door.

Now I'm in Liguria with friends, we have a rental car. Can't wait to go back to Sicilia!