Sicily Journals

Sicily - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Best of IgoUgo

A September 2004 trip to Sicily by shaunandtrish

Autostrasse A19 Photo, Sicily, Italy More Photos
Quote: This island should really be the top tourist island destination in the Mediterranean - it has so much going for it. It also has its problems, quirks, and considerable irritations. Most are either avoidable or you can work around them with a bit of research. Some valuable (I hope) tips contained herein...

Sicily - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Best Of IgoUgo

Overview

Autostrasse A19 Photo, Sicily, Italy
Quote:
Our trip started in Giardini Naxos, a great beach on the east coast with a mountain backdrop, warm water, a good range of accommodations and restaurants, and good value. You could spend a relaxing fortnight here no problem at all, with Etna and Taormina very accessible from here for an excursion. Mount Etna is a good trip, hiring a car being the best and cheapest option for getting there. Organised tours are expensive, while public transport is woefully inadequate. Palermo... well ... plenty to see, historical buildings especially, BUT not without its problems. Too many to summarise - details in another journal. Quick Tips: Research, research, research...Read More

Hotel Villa Mora

Best Of IgoUgo

Hotel | "Hotel Villa Mora, Giardini Naxos"

Hotel Villa Mora Photo, Sicily, Italy
Quote:
Although this hotel is more a Pensione than a hotel, I liked it a lot. Its location is squarely in the front/middle of the wide bay with a range of excellent and reasonably-priced bars and restaurants within a 2-minute walk. Beach is about 20m away. It is run by a blonde, statuesque lady called Anna who delivers all verbal information with the air of a strict and ticked-off music teacher - that's just her way. Her English is very good. What I took to be her other half was more affable and looked remarkably like French goalkeeper, Fabien Bartez, or a young Donald Pleasance. He took charge of breakfast each day. There's a nice professional website at ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 22, 2004

Hotel Villa Mora
Lungomare Naxos 47
Sicily, Italy
+39 (0942) 51839

Giorgio's House

Best Of IgoUgo

Hotel | "Giorgios House, Palermo"

Giorgio's House Photo, Sicily, Italy
Quote:
We decided to stay at Giorgio's House because of the rave reviews on tripadviser.com. They were all four and five ratings, and, at a price of 45 euro a night, how can you go wrong? I would not say the reviews were misleading: Giorgio is a genuinely nice guy who goes the extra mile for his guests, rooms are basic but comfortable and clean, and the ratio of two bathrooms to three rooms is not bad either. Breakfast is juice, coffee, fresh chocolate croissants, fresh bread and jam, and french toast, which Giorgio makes at about 8:30 am (he does not live on the premises). Towels and basic toiletries are supplied and the kitchen has a gas stove and a large fridge. What...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 22, 2004

Giorgio's House
Via A.Mongitore
Palermo, Italy
+39 (091) 525057

Lido da Angelo Photo, Sicily, Italy
Quote:
The Lido da Angelo occupies a nice spot overlooking the beach, right over it, in fact, with the best tables being those on the balcony. The bay is beautiful at night, especially if there happens to be a cruise ship moored in the bay, which makes this restaurant all the more appealing. That is not to say the food does not stand up for itself: large, tasty pizzas (all are thin-crust in Sicily) for 4 to 8 euro, depending on topping; pasta dishes for a similar price; a well-stocked vegetarian anti-pasti buffet for 6 euro to start (containing a wide selection of vegetables roasted in olive oil and balsamic vinegar); and a litre of local wine for about 9 euro. Fish eaters and vegetari...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 22, 2004

The Arcobaleno Photo, Sicily, Italy
Quote:
This restaurant occupies a good spot on the main Via Naxos, overlooking the beach. There are some tables inside, but most people choose to sit at the tables in the street. Like most restaurants up and down the Via Naxos, the Arcobaleno serves competitively priced and tasty pizza and pasta ranging from about 4 to 9 euro, depending on what it's topped with. The house anti-pasti is a plate of vegetables, melon, and parma ham (6 euro) and a litre of vino locale comes in at about 9 euro. Price and quality actually don't vary too much along the Via Naxos. Things are quite competitive so its difficult to get a bad meal. The only negative issue against this spot is that they don't accept...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 22, 2004

Caffe Aurelio Photo, Sicily, Italy
Quote:
This was our bar-of-choice for our early evening drink. Its a friendly little bar with reasonable prices, and a good spot in the middle of the Via Naxos, overlooking the beach.


You get a nice little bonus here because they bring you little snacks for free too. Sometimes its bits of left over Pizzele, sometimes crisps or pretzels. Service is friendly, but not always the quickest, but prices are reasonable. We generally shared a half litre of vino locale, which would come to about 5 euro I think.


Come in and watch the world go by for an hour.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 22, 2004

Pizzeria Bellini

Restaurant | "Pizzeria Bellini, Palermo"

Pizzeria Bellini Photo, Sicily, Italy
Quote:
There are many choices for places to eat in Palermo. Many have good food and many have good prices too. The Pizzeria Bellini has one advantage over most - its open on a Sunday!!! Good grief, finding somewhere open on a Sunday night in Palermo is not easy and this place, although not the cheapest, was celebrated as though its food was free. Anyway, they have a reasonable, self-service vegetable anti-pasti buffet at 5 euro, which is good value to start. Next you can go with the pizza, pasta, or meat/fish. If you are hungry, you have to go with the pizza. We went meat/fish and, although the quality was high, the quantity was not. My seafood mixed grill consisted of three prawns, four calarmari, and ...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 22, 2004

Pizzeria Bellini
Piazza Bellini 6
Palermo, Italy
091-6165691

Trattoria ai Normanni Photo, Sicily, Italy
Quote:
We ate our final lunch here before we left for home. It’s just around the corner from Giorgio's House, facing out onto the courtyard in front of the Palazzo dei Normanni. It advertises itself by placing a suit of armour on the pavement outside its entrance. It offers a good quality of food in relatively (for Palermo) quiet surroundings - prices are not the cheapest, but service is efficient and friendly. We had anti-pasti and pasta. The anti-pasti was a bit of a rip-off at €5 and four olives, some pieces of cheese, and a slice of parma ham (how much thought went into that one I wonder?). Pasta was better, very tasty, but portions were small, and the price was about €8. Credit cards acc...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 22, 2004

Erice Photo, Sicily, Italy
Quote:
This restaurant has a nice, small courtyard for open-air dining, but if you are in Erice at night, you'll find it’s too cold for any of that and you'll eat in the comfort of the interior. Prices here are a euro or two higher than Palermo, but nothing major. Choices are (as always) pizza, pasta or meat/fish, and (as usual) your meat choices are the most restricted, with fish and vegetable eaters better catered for. A good-sized pizza will set you back about 6 euros and a plate of pasta 7-10. I had a Spaghetti al Gamberi (spaghetti, olive oil, four or five shell-on prawns), which was about 7.50. If you get a beer, you will be offered "piccolo" or "grande". Be careful,...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 23, 2004

A Drive to Mount Etna

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction

The Piazza in Zafferana Photo, Sicily, Italy
Quote:
Mount Etna, at over 3,000 feet, is the largest active volcano in Europe. It is active too and was erupting while we were there. On a clear day, it dominates the eastern side of the island from the north of Taormina to the south of Catania, but don't be surprised if you go to any of these places along the coast and you can't see it, even on a clear day. If the wind (Scirocco) is from the south, then the air will carry lots of Saharan dust, meaning that, even in nice weather, the volcano does not become visible until you get within a few miles of it. Anyway, you have to go. We had a car at the time, which is by far the best option. Coach trips from Giardini Naxos and Taormina are about 30 euro...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 22, 2004

Reflections - for what its worth

Best Of IgoUgo

Story/Tip

The scorched interia Photo, Sicily, Italy
Quote:
Travel is a mind-broadening activity. That is why many of us do it. Sometimes the experience is wondrous and overwhelmingly positive; sometimes the learning can involve more mixed experiences. Sicily will give a mix. The island is such a parodox, and it is difficult to work out, at first, why it is the way it is. For starters, it has more going for it as a travel destination than most places. A great central Mediterranean location makes it accessible and gives it a nice long season. It’s well-served these days by cheap flights in and out (with Ryanair). Its beaches are wonderful, it is home to the largest active volcano in Europe, Mount Etna, it has some l...Read More

Driving in Sicily - Visions of Hell 0-4

Best Of IgoUgo

Story/Tip

Autostrasse Toll Photo, Sicily, Italy
Quote:
Parking and Driving in Sicily are in the main pure hell on earth in varying shades of angry red. The only real exception being traveling the Autostrasse where the road is wider and volume of traffic much lighter. I'll try to recount the visions of hell in order of ascending hellishness below. Vision of Hell #0.5: Autostrasse tolls.Not a big hell, just a bit of an irritation. The A20/A18 between Palermo and Catania has the most tolls, and the whole trip will cost you about 12 or 15 euro in tolls. The A19 through the middle, on the other hand, has little or none. Either way its only a little hell because the driving is easy. One thing to watch - the A20 between Palermo and Messina is no...Read More

Erice by night

Best Of IgoUgo

Story/Tip

Erice by night Photo, Sicily, Italy
Quote:
Erice is 60km west of Palermo and, by night especially, could not be further away from Palermo in terms of its appeal and attractions. Unlike many other Sicilian towns, Erice has not suffered over the last 150 years or so through being "added to". The feel and atmosphere of the hill town are authentically medieval. Many of its narrow cobbled streets are free from traffic, and it is an ideal escape from the noise and hubbub of Palermo. For the first time in a while, you may notice that the continual whine of the Vespas has disappeared. Worth the trip on its own. We were lucky enough to be driven to Erice one night by our host, Giorgio (see my journal "Giorgios House"), along with an...Read More

A Whistle Stop in Enna

Best Of IgoUgo

Story/Tip

Enna Photo, Sicily, Italy
Quote:
Enna is more or less halfway between Catania and Palermo, just off the central A19. Its worth a stop just to take in the views, but there are also a few worthwhile buildings to view and a couple of nice piazzas for a bite or an ice cream. Leaving the A19 (by far the fastest route to the west coast, far faster than the A20 and with fewer tolls), follow the signs to Enna. First you'll come to Enna (bas) - I think – anyway, that's not it, the Enna you want is actually up on top of the hill. Arriving in Enna, you may be surprised to find that its outskirts are mostly unattractive postwar blocks of flats; following the route to the centre of town, they gradually get replaced by the older...Read More
Palazzo dei Normanni Photo, Sicily, Italy
Quote:
One of the main advantages that Palermo has in terms of sightseeing is that many of its attractions fall within a square mile or two and center on three main thoroughfares. These are the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, the Via Marqueda/Viale Della Liberta, and the Via Roma. I'll summarise the attractions and distractions of the Corso Vittorio Emanuele in this journal. The Corso Vittorio Emanuele from the Palazzo dei Normanni to the Marina Staying at Giorgios House (see its own journal), puts you at the end of the Corso Vittorio Emanuele. In actual fact at that point (the end furthest from the sea), it's the Corso Calatafimi, which merges with the C...Read More
Teatro Massimo Photo, Sicily, Italy
Quote:
In my other Palermo journal, I described the road Corso Vittorio Emanuele, which goes from the Palazzo dei Normanni down to the marina. This journal describes some of the highlights of the two main thoroughfares that intersect that road, running parallel to each other. The Via Roma is mostly a commercial street, the best street for more up-market clothes shops. It’s probably also the widest and tidiest road in Palermo and home to most of the big banks; including some highly visible, and hence safe, hole-in-the wall cash machines. So if you need to draw some money, head this way. There are some good coffee and ice cream shops here too, and it leads directly to the highly impressive ...Read More

Giardini Naxos - A good base

Best Of IgoUgo

Story/Tip

Giardini Naxos Photo, Sicily, Italy
Quote:
Our first three days in Sicily were spent in Giardini Naxos. After arriving by Ryanair in Palermo and picking up our hire car, we drove the 200 miles or so along the north and then east coast, following the A20 and A18. This was a bad choice, as it turned out. The road from Palermo to Cefalu is pleasant enough, but the 50-mile stretch of Autostrasse beyond Cefalu is not yet complete (as of September 2004), and the existing single carriage route, heavy with freight, is a very tortuous affair as it rises, falls, twists, and turns along the steep coast line. When the Autostrasse appears, it’s heavy with tolls. Our return journey to Palermo via the A19 through the interior was much more rapid and very li...Read More