Written by Slug on 12 Dec, 2011
Marsala on the west coast of Sicily is one of those Italian cities where strolling round the place is an attraction in itself. Like the capital Palermo, Marsala has an old city heart, and is then surrounded by a "belle époque" era more modern part…Read More
Marsala on the west coast of Sicily is one of those Italian cities where strolling round the place is an attraction in itself. Like the capital Palermo, Marsala has an old city heart, and is then surrounded by a "belle époque" era more modern part (perhaps dating largely from the late 1800’s). As we were visiting in December and had no intention of driving in Italy, we stuck pretty much to the town itself. There is however some great day trips from Marsala in summer, including the Greek and Roman remains at Syracuse and to take a boat trip to visit one of the islands off-shore. For me the most interesting life is always in the old city, although in Marsala there is plenty of good shopping to be had in the more modern part of town. Prices tend to be a little cheaper in Marsala, although there is also less choice or really high fashion. That said, there are often few bargains to be had in Italy – I always think of the country as an expensive one (and with prices generally higher than the UK). The best part of the Marsala shopping experience comes with shoes and clothes, although strangely the prices of clothes seems quite random – there are shops selling nice things at fairly modest prices, whereas similar looking items in other shops are perhaps double or treble. These places seem to be laughing in the face of recession!We struggled to find many independent artisan shops in the town; perhaps because it isn't particularly touristy. One of the main draws for shopping is to grab a bottle of the famous Marsala wine, and there are a couple of wine shops dotted about. The city itself has lots of nice fin de siècle pastel coloured buildings, doorways and archways. While there isn't anything wildly of note about Marsala, it is a pleasant place to wander round and snap photos. The two ancient (but reconstructed) gateways into the city are also worth lingering over.Unusually for Italy, there aren't a huge number of restaurants around in Marsala, and squares where you might expect a number of different coloured regiments of tables and chairs from competing establishments are simply left to the pigeons.A large area of the city is left protected as an archaeological site; unfortunately it seems to me that more could be made of the site, as I understand pre booked escorted tours are the only way to gain access to it. Rather than have a proper route through with display boards, instead it sits likes an abandoned building site cutting off the town from the sea. As a result, the views of the sea appear to be underutilized; an impression reinforced as the busy main road cuts off the town from the coast. The few houses I spotted near the coast seem to have their back to it facing in towards the town. Likewise, the most obvious place for a little nature reserve and walk, a short spit reaching out to good views of the islands off the coast away from the archaeology museum appears to be used as an unofficial rubbish tip. While Marsala is still well worth a visit, it seems it could make far more of its charms. I won’t describe Marsala as a great hidden tourist destination, but it offers a good contrast to Palmero as it is certainly quieter, prettier and more upmarket to its capital city. The trip to Marsala from Palermo takes about 2 and a half easy hours on the bus (just catch it from the main bus station next to the railway station in Palermo) and costs 8.40 Euro each way. Close
Written by PaulaGC on 24 Nov, 2008
Study Italian in Sicily while searching your family roots or to discover the charm of Italy’s largest region. This summer I had the opportunity to study in three different cities in Sicily at three different language schools. Each had its own personality and…Read More
Study Italian in Sicily while searching your family roots or to discover the charm of Italy’s largest region. This summer I had the opportunity to study in three different cities in Sicily at three different language schools. Each had its own personality and style. I would not have traded these experiences for anything. Moreover, everyone was genuinely interested in my progress both at mastering the language and in my ability to connect with and strengthen my family ties. I gained more than I would have imagined during this month in la Bella Sicilia where the sun filled skies is reflect the warmth of its people’s hearts. Sicily, with a population of 5 million and the largest region in Italy, has been invaded over the centuries by the Normans, Arabs, French, Spaniards and Germans. Sicilians pride themselves on their ability to survive and incorporate into their culture the best from each of their oppressors. Sicily is beginning to thrive economically from this new wave of invasion; namely, the tourists. Each school helped me secure comfortable accommodations at a modest cost.Babilonia Italian Language School in Taormina set the stage for my one month stay in Sicily. Of Sicilian heritage, I have always wanted to immerse myself in the culture of my ancestors.The longstanding success of Babilonia made it an excellent choice. I now wish I had stayed longer in Taormina, the Pearl of eastern Sicily. This year Babilonia was selected as one of the Four Star Italian Language Schools for foreigners. The award was noted in Language Travel Magazine. The school offers an array of classes in addition to the language sessions. One can take pottery and cooking classes or go diving and hiking while at Babilonia. Special trips are also organized for students who come from all over the world. Babilonia is now offering special language and activities classes for adults over the age of 50 though its annual 50+Plus Program. The skilled instructors can assess a student's ability level through comprehensive written and oral conversation exams which are administered on the first day of class. So, no time is wasted in the process of assigning classes which have an average of 8 students; thus allowing each student adequate time for involvement and participation. The class day is divided in two: grammar and conversation with a coffee/cappuccino break in between. The school is housed in an old villa and has an open air patio – a lovely setting for relaxation and conversation. The cheerful welcoming atmosphere of the school was a huge plus. Additionally, computers are available for internet and report writing. The staff helps students with accommodation choices: one can live with a family, or stay in a local hotel or apartment. It is easy to get distracted in Taormina, one of the most charming cities in Sicily. Magnificent views of the sea are from everywhere in this ancient hillside city built by the Greeks. Walks through the pedestrian only main streets and piazzas are most enjoyable. On Sundays and in the evenings, one can see how Taormina is just a big small town, as everyone greets each other. It is also apparent that the locals are very fashion conscious and like to get dressed up when the do their evening stroll (passagiata). Too cool! A day's outing brought me to Mount Etna, Europe's largest active volcano. After a bus, funivia, and four wheel van ride, we reached the highest allowable area and then hiked for about 40 minutes. It was an amazing experience. Fortunately, it was a quiet day (no eruptions). I felt the ground and it was warm. For more information visit: www.babilonia.it or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Tel/Fax (+39) 0942.23441I then headed for Agrigento, Sicily, an ancient city settled by the Greeks, where I studied with Stefania Tardino, the owner of i Fiori Blu di Sicilia, who tailored the lessons for me. She is both knowledgeable and passionate about the history of Sicily. Our sessions were held in the Luigi Pirandello Library, a tribute to the Nobel Prize winning writer. The energy emanating from Pirandello’s works and his personal letters was apparent. Talk about being in the ZONE; I was there. My biggest regret is that I am not an Italian literature scholar. To have access to all this and not take advantage of it was a shame. I hope that my article will inspire others to go to Agrigento and stay a while…studying and immersing themselves in his genius. Years ago, I attended an Off-Broadway performance of Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author. Never did I imagine that one day I would be in his birthplace. Our Italian language sessions were a mix of Sicilian history and culture lectures and grammar exercises. Stefania prepared well in advance of my arrival and e-mailed me about my expectations. She far exceeded them. Stefania’s pleasant manner and love for her work is apparent. The director and staff at the Pirandello Library are hospitable and accessible. During my stay they invited me to Casa Pirandello (now a museum) for the 141st anniversary celebration of the author’s birth. This was a special time. Stefania also arrange for a meeting with Enzo Sarda, the director of the Leonardo Sciascia Foundation in Racamuto, the birthplace of my father. Again I was in the midst of genius. Sciascia and Pirandello are two of Sicily’s highly regarded literary geniuses. The Foundation houses all the works and personal letters of Sciascia. I will have to return as an Italian literature scholar to take advantage of these treasures.Being in Racalmuto was magical. I was able to find the house where my father was born, as well the notice of his birth in the city hall records. Forget computers, the ink from 1902 posting was still legible. This was amazing to me. I spent one afternoon in the Valley of the Temples, a very well preserved historical site and major tourist attraction for Agrigento. One can only be in awe at the magnitude of these colossal structures erected over 2,500 years ago. Set high on the hills of Agrigento, they are a true architectural wonder and have been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. The oldest part of Agrigento, with it warren of cobble stoned steep streets (most with steps) gives the visitor a true sense of times past. The myriad of Baroque styled churches with impressive art collections. Info: www.fioribludisicilia.com email@example.com +39-338-2857202 My last stop was Trapani. Named for one of Italy’s (albeit Roman) poets, Scuola Virgilio is part of a cultural association. Trapani, a major port city with a population of 75,000, is located in the northwest part of Sicily. It is known for its beautiful sunsets and magnificent views, as well as its extensive salt deposits. Steeped in history, Trapani was dominated by the Carthaginians, then the Romans, Arabs and Normans, as well as Spanish. My mother was raised near Trapani, so I was most interested in connecting with my roots. Trapani is an excellent historical setting for Scuola Virgilio. The owners, Stefano Grillo and Vitalba Martorana, are both competent teachers and charismatic individuals, as is the staff. Their enthusiasm for the Italian language, history and culture of Sicily is noteworthy. These are the key factors in the success of this fledgling venture. With a dedicated international following, Scuola Virgilio is poised to make a name for itself. Classes are small and personal attention is the key. Participation in class is a focal point of the instructional method. A mixture of grammar, oral reading and small group conversation, coupled with enthusiastic instructors make for an ideal learning environment. House in an old palazzo on the pedestrian only Via Garibaldi, Scuola Virgilio has classrooms which are large and airy. If you are lucky, your classroom will have a balcony and sea view. Although homework assignments are not lengthy, individual advancement is always based on time spent in independent study. Classes are held from 9:30am – 11:00am then there is a 30 minute café break with the resumption of class from 11:30am – 1:00pm (Monday – Friday). Excursions (and cooking classes) are organized based on student interest. Within a short period of time, one can feel at home in this old world city. For more information: www.scuolavirgilio.it Tel: +39.0923.526002 firstname.lastname@example.org Once you figure it out, getting around Sicily by bus is fairly easy. Transportation to outlining cities is provided at a very low cost and on air-conditioned coach buses which almost always carry fewer than a dozen passengers. Local city bus service within the major cities of Sicily is plentiful. Wine, olive oil, seafood, beaches and sunshine make for a winning combination while studying the Italian language in Sicily. Before you realize it, you will be meeting and greeting the locals with ease. Close
Written by Sally_Moore on 05 Jul, 2006
A visit to Sicily would not be complete without taking in Taormina. A destination loved by the Italians themselves you could be forgiven for thinking this was just another resort. But go anyway. Even though the shops, restaurants, and hotels are in the main over…Read More
A visit to Sicily would not be complete without taking in Taormina. A destination loved by the Italians themselves you could be forgiven for thinking this was just another resort. But go anyway. Even though the shops, restaurants, and hotels are in the main over priced there are some of the best views anywhere in the world. Taormina will leave you wondering why you took so long to visit. Set high on one of the many hills the road winds up and you are filled with anticipation. Just when you think you are almost there you are led into a carpark. You then have to take a free bus from there to the middle of town. You can then walk the entire town at your leisure. Try and time your visit to one particular sight as the sun is about to set. The Greek amphitheatre is quite breathtaking and the view towards the stage with Mount Etna in the distance and the sun setting behind it, well words can't describe it. Whoever picked that site to position it was quite the genius. Back in the centre of town the long main street leads to a piazza with more spectacular views. The street is lined with little expensive boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. Marvel at the fashions including hideous furs and far to much animal print for even the least fashionistic types. Try and be sensible though and leave your euros and credit cards in you wallet. Like all towns, cities, and villages through out Sicily, the churches are overwhelming and definitely worth taking a moment to find some stillness away from the major tourist trip outside the sacred walls. Close
Written by shaunandtrish on 24 Sep, 2004
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…Read More
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 Corso Vittorio Emanuele at the Cattedrale. Anyway, starting at this end, the first attraction is the impressive Palazzo dei Normanni, initially a Norman construction, but looking much more modern due the fact that it has been constantly added to and tinkered with over the years. Nonetheless, it’s a fine building with an attractive courtyard and fountain out front. It has a guarded entrance due to the fact that it now houses the Palermitan Regional Assembly.
Crossing diagonally through the courtyard in front of the Palazzo dei Normanni, with its many palm trees, you find yourself immediately facing the Cattedrale. Again it’s a Norman conception that looks much younger as a result, again, of being tinkered with and added to over the years. Its domes, for example, are about as Norman as a bunch of bananas. It too has an attractive piazza out front, giving you the space to get some good external photographs without being run down by the ever-present onrushing traffic. Inside it’s pleasant enough, but pretty much as you would expect the inside of a cathedral to look once you've seen a few. Entry is free, but inside they have a very small museum of artifacts that you must pay (I think) €2 to view. We didn't.
Proceeding down the Corso Vittorio Emanuele from the Cattedrale, you'll be struck by the density of second hand book shops on the initial stretch. This gives a clue that the University is in the vicinity, and it is, just off the Via Marqueda to the right as you walk in the direction of the sea. The sidewalk is narrow, busy, and occasionally blocked in places by scaffolding, so you'll frequently find yourself stepping out onto the road to make progress. If you do this, please promise me that you'll be careful!!!
At Quatro Canti, a crossroads about 100m down from the Cattedrale where the road is crossed by the Via Marqueda, there is an interesting baroque architectural feature incorporating a fountain arrangement. At the time of writing, it was permanently occupied by a group of three large stray dogs (always sleeping, always together). Large stray dogs are a feature of the city, unlike other parts of the world where strays tend to have gravitated/evolved to knee height or less. Other oddities you may notice in Palermo are a higher than normal proportion of hairless people of both sexes, and men below 5 feet in height - obviously some genetic peculiarity of the region. Anyway, I digress, back to the street.
Following the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, you become increasingly aware that at the end there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The thoroughfare is narrow, the buildings are tall and, in many cases, quite run down, and it comes as quite a relief when it finally opens out a bit at the Piazza Marina. This is about as close as Palermo gets to offering an oasis of tranquility amid the din of the city. Hemmed in by iron railings with entry possible through its only open gate at the corner closest to the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, this is a lovely little square with a nice fountain, some ancient and odd looking banyan trees, and statues offering a bit of relative tranquility. It’s only about 50m by 75m, so you can still hear the traffic right enough, but it can't actually get to you. It gets used by lots of couples for wedding photos. There's a decent bar right next to the piazza with a great selection of ice cream (tiramisu recommended) enabling you to grab some and indulge in a rare and peaceful moment of pleasure in the piazza adjacent. Their coffee is good too. On most days, the outside perimeter of the Piazza is surrounded by the hap-hazard, but interesting stalls of a flea-market. The Palazzo Chiarmonte is right next door too.
Just opposite the piazza, the very busy Via Della Cala, is the Marina with its many moored yachts - a good photo opportunity and another popular spot for post-wedding photographs. You'll be put off from dwelling too long though, because the water is quite stinky.
The route is not that long and walking from the Palazzo dei Normanni to the Marina is easily achievable inside an hour at a leisurely stroll. Generally, you'll be looking to take in a broader range of sights on your foot tour by following the main thoroughfares that cross this road. The attractions of these are recounted in a separate journal, Walking Central Palermo #2.
Written by shaunandtrish on 22 Sep, 2004
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…Read More
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 lovely little islands offshore, great diving locations on the north coast, and it possesses a depth of historical and archeological sites from a range of diverse civilizations that has no real parallel in Europe.
So you wonder why it does not wipe the floor with Cyprus, Ibiza, Corfu, and others as the island destination of choice? Why does it make so little effort to exploit its potential? Major sites are served by a pitifully inadequate public transport infrastructure. Parking is largely a nightmare. Attractions are rarely supported by the sort of side-show that encourages you to stay a bit longer. Mt. Etna, for example, the largest active volcano in Europe, has one crappy souvenir shop and a small bar/restaurant at its base camp, Etna-Sud. No museum, no additional information, no marked paths, nothing. So you ask yourself, "What's wrong with these people?" The island is not wealthy and there's a lot of unemployment, why does it not take the easy step of beefing up its attractions and make some relatively easy, and much needed, money? The sad and simple reason was explained to me by a Sicilian. Who'd be an entrepreneur when half your profits are siphoned off by your mafia "sponsor"?
Basically that means, with the exception of straight beach holidays on the east coast, there is a bit of work to be done if you want to get the most out of your trip. Go east, west, or south and you need a car, a good guide book, and detailed map to find the gold. Signs are generally poor, so don't be surprised to find what you are looking for before you see a brown sign leading you to it, and don't be surprised either if there is nowhere to park and no toilets. Think ahead and stock up on water and snacks, especially on a Saturday night. Even in Palermo, you'll find that most places, even restaurants, don't open on a Sunday.
Think carefully before you plan to spend too long in the bigger towns of Palermo, Catania, and Messina. There might well be quite a bit to see, in Palermo especially, but you may find that the bustling, gritty atmosphere and the incessant noise will grind you down. Whilst Palermo is busy and densely populated with plenty to see, do, eat, and drink, "vibrant" is not an adjective that fits it very well. We spent four days there and wished for home after two.
Relaxing times can be had in the east - of that there is no doubt. Taormina and Giardini Naxos do allow a person to chill. These are the most obvious locations that encourage a stay of more than a day or two. Although the process of sightseeing can be stressful and problematic, the sights themselves are generally worth the effort
Money, Payment, and Banking Issues are things that must be carefully thought through. Travellers Cheques are not recommended because they are a nightmare to change. Credit Cards are not as widely accepted as they are in most other western European destinations, with some fairly large restaurants and guest houses refusing to take them. Banks, even the really big ones near the Teatro Massimo in Palermo, are a nightmare. Queuing etiquette is largely ignored by customers, even if there is a formal ticketing system, with pushing-in and barging past common-place. Procedures at the counter are painfully slow and practically prehistoric. To give an example, I needed to draw some cash on my card in Palermo. When I finally reached the counter, the teller had difficulty swiping my card and getting an imprint on the paper counter-foil. This was fairly obviously because he put the card in upside down and was trying to get an imprint from the smooth side. He had six failed attempts in total (each time with me desperately trying to catch his eye, each time with him deliberately failing to make eye contact in a ridiculously exaggerated fashion) before he finally figured it out for himself. Then he had a problem because my signature on the form did not exactly match the one on my eight-year-old passport. After four failed attempts to recreate my old signature (which incidentally did not match the one on the back of my current credit card), he decided to hand over the cash, shaking his head gravely as he did it. My advice? Make sure you know your PIN numbers to avoid all of this nonsense.
Personal Security, I have to say, was less of an issue than I'd anticipated. We are not ones for wandering around in the middle of the night so we don't test it to its limits, but, provided you stick to wide, well-lit streets with people in them and the odd car going past, and you take the obvious sensible precautions, you won’t have any problems. I did not notice the fabled armies of roving pick-pockets in or around the airport or stations, and, what beggars there are in Palermo, are fairly passive. There are some pretty big stray dogs though ...
So, the conclusion. Take in the sights early in the trip, moving on after a day or two in each area (Erice, Palermo, Agrigento, Syracuse) - that will be enough. Leave some time at the end of your trip to chill out in Giardini Naxos, Taormina, or Cefalu. That's my advice. Do things in reverse and you may find that you go home truly worn and stressed out.
Written by Bruno on 22 Jan, 2001
FROM DREAM TO NIGHTMARE
Rome - Eating dinner on a hilltop restaurant overlooking the Forum lit up at night, Sicily - Greek and Roman temples, magnificent Mosaics, fishermen in small fishing villages still catching 1000 pound tuna as they have for centuries,…Read More
FROM DREAM TO NIGHTMARE
Rome - Eating dinner on a hilltop restaurant overlooking the Forum lit up at night, Sicily - Greek and Roman temples, magnificent Mosaics, fishermen in small fishing villages still catching 1000 pound tuna as they have for centuries, Positano and the Amalfi Coast - magnificent hill towns with houses impossibly built into the sides of sheer cliffs and the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean hundreds of feet below, Pompeii - a look backwards into the early years of the first century, and a glorious finale in the hill towns of Umbria dining on al dente pastas, freshly caught and prepared fish, chilled dry white wines and deep red wines of the area. It started as a dream trip - and ended in a nightmare. The planning began several months before with friends of twenty years - friends we had traveled with before and shared many an evening and weekend with at our lake home. T and I would disagree about politics, religion, economic policy, ideology, the relevance of professional sports in the psyche of the American male, the fathers role in child rearing, O.J.- guilty or not, but we were close friends with a deep respect for each other as individuals. We celebrated happy family occasions together, mourned family problems, deaths and tragedies. We stood up for each other in times of emergency - even to the extent of his offering blood for me when I needed it some years ago. And by the end of the trip he was after mine! If a test of a marriage is a new house or the first child, the test of a friendship is spending three weeks together in a foreign country with one car. The arguments were no longer Democrat vs. Republican but Red wine vs. White, No longer Catholicism compared to Judaism but Autostrada vs. back roads, no longer highrise vs scattered housing for the working poor but gasata vs non-gasata water with the meal.
None of the incidents I am about to relate would in and of themselves cause the reactions ascribed to them. It was a classic case of adding one more straw at a time to the camel’s back until it could bear no more. When originally planning this trip and mentioning our thoughts to our friends, they indicated that they, too, were thinking of a trip at that time of the year. At one point I mentioned to Darby that I didn't want to spend the entire trip with our friends because I knew that our interests didn't always jive. And based on our association with them I knew that at times Tony and I got into friendly disagreements which were not an impediment to our friendship but which were never quite resolved. So I suggested to Darby that we limit our togetherness to the Sicily portion of the trip. That was the original plan. Besides, T. disliked the commitment of hotel reservations and wanted to be free to make decisions about destinations, etc. on the fly. That suited us fine as we had made specific reservations for the entire trip. However, about two weeks before the trip actually began, S. informed us that they would like to follow the same itinerary as us for a few days after leaving Sicily. l shrugged off my immediate feeling of apprehension. How could I say no to our friends. And then, about out one week before the trip, they decided they would also go to Umbria with us. Now, it was us and them for the entire trip. The result? every restaurant choice became a round table discussion, every turn in the road required discussion, which sight to see in the morning and which in the afternoon, should we take a taxi or how about the bus, and on and on and on! So, the stage was set for the eruption of the living volcano.
Before you plan your trip with good friends, you might be interested in the following tips that don’t appear in Michelin, American Express or any of the guide books for travelers. These guidelines come from the rough and tough school of experience - bad experience.
RULES OF THE ROAD
1. Ascertain the compatibility of your interests in advance. Do you all enjoy art? Architecture? Food? Wine? A lazy cup of espresso casually nursed for an hour to partake of people watching?An early morning start on the road? A late night adventure into uncharted territory?A casual day at the beach? Shopping? If you share most of these interests, you have a fighting chance for a successful trip. But If you want to hit the beach and they want to see another museum - the fifth that day- Forget it!
First hint of trouble "Just how many museums are there in Italy?
Anecdote: We were discussing a potential two-day trip to Naples. S., who had been there several years ago started ticking off a list of museums, churches, statues, cemeteries, historic sights, ruins and other "places of interest" she wanted to see. "S.", I said as nicely as possible, after hearing that list, "it seems to me that you’re going to miss something very important." "What’s that?" she answered , ready to add to her list. "Naples", I replied.
2. Do you share a common attitude towards the cost of the trip? Are you willing to spend the same money for accommodations? Do you share an appreciation of better wines that no doubt cost a bit more? Are you both willing to have a little extra room in a limousine rather than be cramped in a European car when transferring between points not serviced by public transportation?
First hint of trouble "Why don’t we try the house wine for a change?"
Written by cindylou11157 on 29 Feb, 2004
Standing high on the hills of Sicily, you can visit the largest area of Greek temples. These ruins have survived earthquakes, inclement weather, and the rise and fall of many civilizations.
The Temple of Concord is the best-preserved temple anywhere. Looking…Read More
Standing high on the hills of Sicily, you can visit the largest area of Greek temples. These ruins have survived earthquakes, inclement weather, and the rise and fall of many civilizations.
The Temple of Concord is the best-preserved temple anywhere. Looking through the immense columns, you have a fabulous view of the Mediterranean Sea. In the other directions you see the city of Agrigento dating back before the 5th century. I was amazed how something so large was built so long ago without modern machinery. The path to the next ruin is lined with olive trees. There are a number of temples partially standing along with catacombs. If you wish to see Greek ruins, I would suggest coming to the Valley of the Temples.
Tips: If you are traveling in the summer, bring a bottle of water and sunscreen.
Written by cindylou11157 on 25 Feb, 2004
Erice is a small medieval village that sits high on a mountain. Walking through its gray stone gate, you feel like you are stepping back in time. You must leave your car outside the main gate because the streets are so narrow.…Read More
Erice is a small medieval village that sits high on a mountain. Walking through its gray stone gate, you feel like you are stepping back in time. You must leave your car outside the main gate because the streets are so narrow. As we stroll through the stone covered streets, I was amazed how people live in a place dating back to the Elymians. The village is filled with courtyards, narrow coble stone streets and alleys, shops and restaurants.
We had our taste of our first gelato. The texture of the gelato was very creamy and was bursting with flavor. The gentlemen serving us welcomed us to his small village and made us feel right at home. He new we were from the Philly area by the way we talk. When our gelato was ready he yelled “Yo” to us.
We then walked to the Norman Castle. It sits at the end of town overlooking Sicily. The view was fantastic. You can see the wall that surrounds the town.
We had lunch is a charming restaurant. They served outstanding Italian dishes. I had pasta with mussels and my husband had pasta with a variety of seafood. The food was excellent. The tables are covered with white tablecloths, the table set with wine glasses, and waiters are dressed in black suits. There is no sign of fast food, paper plates, and napkins here. Eating is a relaxing experience in Erice.
I would recommend taking this trip to the west coast of Sicily. This village was what I imagined Sicily would be.
Written by cindylou11157 on 18 Feb, 2004
Taormina sits high on a mountain between the towns of Messina and Catania dating back to the Greeks. We stayed at the Ramanda Inn in Giardini Naxos. It is a 10-minute ride up a scenic road to this quaint town. As we ascended…Read More
Taormina sits high on a mountain between the towns of Messina and Catania dating back to the Greeks. We stayed at the Ramanda Inn in Giardini Naxos. It is a 10-minute ride up a scenic road to this quaint town. As we ascended up the narrow rail route, I could not stop taking pictures of the magnificent view of the sea and Mt. Etna. Departing from the bus station, we started our walk up to the main gate. The narrow streets are filled with boutiques and restaurants, and terraces with flowers overflowing from the window boxes. You can spend the afternoon window shopping and sitting at a café enjoying the fabulous view. The best view of the sea and Mt. Etna is from the Greek Theatre. Mt. Etna is a backdrop of this landmark. You can take a tour of the theatre or take a leisurely tour on your own.
The restaurants are outstanding. We had lunch and dinner here. For lunch, we had our first experience of Sicily’s pizza. It was the best I have ever tasted. For dinner, we ate at a restaurant at the top of stairs at the main square. The view overlooking the town and the sea were beautiful; the service and food were excellent. We had pasta, soup, mussels, pizza, and dessert. We enjoyed the food so much that we kept on ordering more.
Visiting Taormina was an unforgettable experience. This is a chic resort town on the east side of Sicily. You can spend the day shopping or just take in the fabulous view from the town square. I would recommend visiting this charming town. It is easily accessible from Catania and Messina.
Written by Richard Cain on 03 Mar, 2005
I suppose the fact that it had taken us 4 months to get the papers together to legally drive our car in Tunisia didn’t augur well for actually trying to take it away to Sicily on holiday. I was right. Mind you, it was my…Read More
I suppose the fact that it had taken us 4 months to get the papers together to legally drive our car in Tunisia didn’t augur well for actually trying to take it away to Sicily on holiday. I was right. Mind you, it was my fault. The day before departure, I’d forgotten to get exit stamps, and then I was reminded we needed a Carte Verte. A green card? We had a Carte Grise (the main car document), a Carte Bleu (from customs), and a Carte Rouge (MOT). We also had numerous other cartes of various colours but no Carte Verte. This was for special country-leaving insurance. So we trotted off to Star Insurance for the green card.
The man there was very helpful and actually filled in most of the forms for us. Then he said, "You now have to go to another of our offices on the other side of Tunis. Go to the second floor and ask Mrs Fatma for a green paper. Pay her 20 Dinars and then bring it back here." We knew not to ask any questions. On our return, the man filled in another few forms, and although we were only going on holiday for 1 week, provided us with a month’s worth of foreign insurance. We were ready. Or so we thought.
The next morning we were up bright and early, packed, and soon off to the port. Jackie asks me, "Are you sure it’s Rides Port?" "Of course," I reply confidently, "After all, that’s the address on the ticket." Wrong. After looking in vain for the Sicily ferry, we found the company offices only to be told, "Oh yes, the ferry offices are here but the ferry is from La Goulette." Fortunately, it is not so far away and we arrived just in time – we got through the gates to the ferry terminal to be then told I must exchange my tickets for other tickets before getting access to the customs sheds. From here we passed customs, police, and various other agencies inspecting the car, its contents, us, and our documents. It is at this point Jackie admitted that she had left the vital green card at home. As it happened, it didn’t matter, as no one asked for it. It also didn’t seem to matter that our number plate was not the same as the one on our registration documents. It was with some relief that we got onboard and slumped into the bar.
The crossing was fine. We were a bit perturbed that it seemed to be running an hour late, but by 10:30pm, we were docked. However, we then had to wait for the Italian police to come onboard and set up a little desk to go through everyone’s passports. We left the ship at midnight. At this time of night, Palermo is pretty dead, so we weren’t expecting too many problems finding our hotel. Wrong. Having booked over the Internet, the rooms looked rather nice. What we didn’t realise was that the room was one of three and that our room wasn’t in a hotel, it was in someone’s apartment. Hence the fact that there wasn’t any advertising of any sort – like a sign saying "hotel." And the apartment block didn’t even have a number. It took some finding, but we did find it - by 1am. But it was actually 2am as we found out a couple of days later. It was summertime in Italy.
In the morning, refreshed by strong Italian coffee and pain au chocolat, we found our way out of Palermo under an overcast sky and were soon heading along the Autostrada, which cuts across the island. We only had a week’s holiday and so had decided to just pootle around the southeast corner and then return to Palermo for a few days before catching the ferry home. I knew it was quite mountainous in the centre of Sicily, but I wasn’t prepared for the isolation.
This isolation was exacerbated by the fact the Autostrada was actually a huge 20th-century viaduct crossing the country 50 feet above the earth and with few exits to explore the countryside. It also managed to avoid any signs of habitation at all. We did skirt the small hilltop town of Enna, with its buildings perched precariously on the side of a cliff.
Near here we had lunch at a Motorway service station, no greasy fry up or Happy Eater, but Palma ham on the freshest and crustiest bread. The weather cleared as we approached the eastern coast, which was signalled by the huge bulk of Mt Etn,a small plumes of smoke issuing from its summit. Despite being June, it also had small patches of snow stubbornly hanging on. From here we turned right and followed the coast south until we found a campsite by a pretty beach. This was done surprisingly easily. By 2:45pm, we were pitching our tent under the shade of an olive grove at Paradiso del Mare, and by 3:30pm, easing our bones into the pristine clear waters of the Med. Ahhhhhh.
After resting the bones, it was time to fill the stomach. Revived, we headed in to the nearest town, Avola, and experienced our first passegiatta, the traditional wandering about of all the inhabitants in the early evening. The only problem with Avola seemed to be that it didn’t have a single restaurant! Plan B was go to the next small town, Noto. After the evening’s false start, we were soon tucking into bowls of seafood spaghetti at the Trattoria Giglio, which looked onto some marvellous baroque churches, their heavy limestone walls bathed in the glow of the evening light.
Back at base camp, despite the hard ground and my dodgy back, I was soon fast asleep. So fast asleep I didn’t even notice the hordes of mossies until the morning. By this time, about 20 of them were struggling to fly so loaded they were with my blood.
The next few idyllic days were spent driving around and exploring the local towns – Noto again, Ragusa, and most notably, Syracuse. All three towns exhibited a style of architecture known as Sicilian baroque. They were all completely rebuilt in this style following the devastating earthquake of 1693. Despite having no real must-see tourist traps, they are all are fantastic places to just wander around, soak up the atmosphere, and enjoy the food. One thing we were very surprised about was how quiet these towns were. There were relatively few restaurants and even fewer bars. Even the beaches were free of the hustle and bustle we were expecting. This was especially true considering we went during the European Football Championships. Perhaps the locals knew the Italian team was to disappoint.
Soon our holiday was due to end, and we made our way back to the north coast for a few days in Palermo. Despite its historic past, many of its notable buildings had been left to decay, and only recently have signs of restoration become apparent. Having said that, it was still quite interesting to wander around the downtown area and explore some interesting old churches – and on a Sunday, it was extremely quiet.
A gem, however, is to be found just 8km from the city in one of Europe’s most beautiful churches, Monreale. It is considered one of the finest Norman cathedrals in existence, but it also incorporates Arabic, Byzantine, and classical elements. In addition, the small town around it was quite unlike most places we had been to in Sicily – with plenty of hustle and bustle and life. We made the most of this by loading up with goodies from the market, like cheeses, hams, and sun-dried tomatoes. We knew that the best way to remember our Italian holiday once we were home was not through photographs but by enjoying its culinary treasures.