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Which part of Sicily to base?

coleyfagiole

10+ Posts
With no travel again this summer, I am all about next year - in Sicily. After all the years visiting and living in Italy I have never been. Of course want to do it slow trav style, so I will need to make some choices to have a base for a week and not spend the entire time driving. So I suppose its northwest or southeast, right? Pros and cons of each? (other pertinent info: will be with my kids ages 20 and 23 and we want to spend some quality time around and in the water.)
 

CaWino

100+ Posts
We spent two weeks in Sicily a few years ago and it is highly recommended. Cefalu, about 30 minutes by train, east of Palermo, might be a good base if you don't mind laid back and small. It's a charming small town with a nice beach, but not a lot of other things to do. Taormina, bigger and more upscale, with lots of restaurants and shopping may be an option. There is a beach there, but I do not have personal experience. Palermo, a vastly underrated city, has a beach, but your are in a large city with many things to see and do with great restaurants. Hope these small, medium and large options help.
 
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ncp

10+ Posts
I’m hoping for a couple weeks in Sicily too next year. CaWino, did you write a trip report by any chance?
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
I spent a week in Sicily in October 2017. I was on a guided tour with Riviera Travel and we had two bases - the outskirts of Agrigento and Taormina.

There is a brief summary of the trip here and full details with all the pictures here.

Are you wanting to do any sight seeing - if so plot out locations and that should help decide where to base yourself.
 

LindaG

10+ Posts
Trapani (or the area around) would be a good choice for the western side. It has a pedestrianized historic center, good restaurants, right on the sea. Lots of possibilities for easy day or half-day trips: Palermo, Mazara del Vallo, Mozia, Favignana (ferry), Erice, Castelvetrano, Marsala, etc.

On the eastern side, an agriturismo outside of Siracusa would be another good choice. In addition to Siracusa and its archaeological sites, you would be near Noto, Modica, Ragusa, Scicli, Marzamemi, Pachino, Catania, etc. Beaches are nearby or find place on a beach like Marina de Modica or Marina de Ragusa. There are other beach areas as well.
 

Ian Sutton

1000+ Posts
If somewhere like Napoli is a joy, then Palermo has a good chance of rewarding you. If alternatively you find it intimidating, then Palermo could do similar.

Taormina is very familiar with tourism and if beaches appeal, this might be the safe option

If hiring a car, I reckon I'd choose to tour the southern coast, and a road trip is an option

If wanting a different perspective on the water, then the Aeolian Islands and day-tripping in the form of the regular ferry services might appeal. There is good variety in the islands, with Lipari and Salina being good options for a bases that have a vibrancy that might appeal to the 20/23 yo, whilst Vulcano and Stromboli give strikingly different views of the volcanic nature of these islands. Panarea more picturesque and the other islands less impacted by 21st century life. p.s. Unless it has changed, the Islands are a great opportunity to embed Italian language skills as they're not a big destination for English speakers.

Worth considering what arrival airport options you have (probably Palermo or Catania)
 

CaWino

100+ Posts
I’m hoping for a couple weeks in Sicily too next year. CaWino, did you write a trip report by any chance?
Sorry to say, but I did not write a trip report. We spent two weeks of independent travel. This was not strictly SlowTravel because of time constraints. We stayed no more than three days in each location. Some locations only one day. Here is a snippet of our trip:

We flew into Catania and had a driver take us to Siracusa where we stayed three nights at Hotel Gutowski, a nice little midrange hotel. The historical center of Syracuse is located on the island of Ortygia - most of the visit was here. Lots to see and do here with plenty of Baroque architecture.

With some trepidation, we rented a car and drove to Modica for the Baroque architecture. Modica, like the other towns in the Val di Noto, was badly damaged in the 1693 earthquake and largely rebuilt in Sicilian Baroque style. There were other options such a Noto, but I chose Modica so we could also dine a Michelin starred restaurant, "La Gazza Ladra Ristorante", located in Hotel Palazzo Failla. I understand that Chef Accursio Craparo has since moved on, opening a new place in Modica, "Accursio Ristorante".

Our next one night stop was Piazza Armerina where we stayed at B & B La Casa Sulla Collina D'Oro. The view from here is stunning (they have an observation deck with view of the city) and their breakfast was fantastic. The primary draw here were the mosaics of Villa Romana de Casale. Well worth the one night stay. The next day on our way to Taormina, we spent a few hours in Caltagirone, The City of Ceramics, on our way to the next stop.

We spent three nights in beautiful Taormina, staying at the Villa Schuler. Taormina has an upscale jet-set feel to it. Lots of things to see with good restaurants and shopping. We took a walk from Taormina to the neighboring village of Castelmola where the views were stunning. It was a strenuous trek where it seemed to be perched in the sky.

We dropped the car in Taormina and headed by train to Cefalu, a small seaside town 30 minutes east of Palermo. We stayed two nights here but it could easily be a day trip from Palermo. We stayed at Hotel Villa Gaia. The beach is right across the street and center part of town was about three blocks away. The beach was very nice with umbrella rentals, if needed.

We spent our final three nights in Palermo at Hotel Ambasciatori. The view from the rooftop terrace was beautiful. See picture below. I was impressed with Palermo, and it is deserving of more than the three nights that we allowed. We also took a day trip to Monreale Cathedral.

Final thoughts: We limited the trip to the eastern half of the island as Sicily is just too big to see the whole island in just two weeks. Our planned return trip in September was to have included the western half, but that trip has been canceled due to covid issues. Ian's above characterization of Taormina and Palermo seems fair and accurate.

Driving wasn't too bad, the roads were good and I avoided large cities like Palermo and used train when practicable. There were some navigation issues as our Garmin GPS led us astray on more than one occasion. The food was fantastic everywhere we went in Sicily. We can't wait to return.

View from Hotel Ambasciatori, Palermo
1627063575530.png

Beach at Cefalu
1627067663265.png
 
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Pauline

Forums Admin
We went to Sicily a few years ago to see the Greek Temples. They were fantastic! Here are my travel articles:


We spent a week in Scicli and loved that area, then a few nights in Sciacca to see the temples. We did not get to the northern and western parts. Here is my trip report:

 

Steve R.

10+ Posts
With no travel again this summer, I am all about next year - in Sicily. After all the years visiting and living in Italy I have never been. Of course want to do it slow trav style, so I will need to make some choices to have a base for a week and not spend the entire time driving. So I suppose its northwest or southeast, right? Pros and cons of each? (other pertinent info: will be with my kids ages 20 and 23 and we want to spend some quality time around and in the water.)
Well, I think you have a problem. But it's a problem that I'd love to have. One week in Sicily and there's no good answer to your question. However, I do have a thought that may help & that's to arrange for drivers and tour guides from wherever you're staying to whatever you're visiting that day. Otherwise, you will waste much time on routes, not get the color commentary (or side suggestions) while traveling, have to deal with parking and lines, and worry about other incidentals. Its really not cost prohibitive. If you had weeks to slowly explore as you drive, it would be different. Save your time. And, if your stay has an owner/local attached, they can get this done reliably with someone they trust.
As for where to base yourself for a week, it depends on how city-centric or "local" you want to be. We loved Palermo and stayed, as did CaWino, at the Hotel Ambasciatori. The outdoor markets with street food, the still existing ethnic communities/diversity & the overall life of the city made it a good stay for us. And our day trip to Monreale was easy (hey, CaWino, were you following us?). The problem with basing yourself in Palermo is that you are further from the places/sites I found most interesting. On the east coast, Catania is a less diverse city, but I liked it. Mt. Etna has wineries and is a great place to spend a day. Taormina is a place to see as well. And, so is Siracusa. All accessible from the Catania area. Even Villa Romana del Casale and Caltagirone (due west) are doable (1 ½ hours drive) and should be seen. Probably our favorite place to stay was in the south at an agritourismo place outside of Agrigento (Aragona area). It was peaceful, quiet, friendly, and had some local towns that have real old time flavor. But... longer drives to most major sites. Of course, a lot of this depends on what you consider too long to drive, as Palermo on the mid North shore is only 2 hours from Agrigento on the mid South shore & Catania is only 2 ½ hours from Palermo. Even the extreme west coast (Trapani, Mazara del Vallo) is, in my opinion, not too far away from Palermo (under 2 hours). Seven days goes quickly when you're in the car for 3-4 hours each day to get to and back from your base so, as I said, you have a good problem. Let us know how its shaping up.
 

CaWino

100+ Posts
As for where to base yourself for a week, it depends on how city-centric or "local" you want to be. We loved Palermo and stayed, as did CaWino, at the Hotel Ambasciatori. The outdoor markets with street food, the still existing ethnic communities/diversity & the overall life of the city made it a good stay for us. And our day trip to Monreale was easy (hey, CaWino, were you following us?).
No, I think that you were following me! ;-)
 

coleyfagiole

10+ Posts
So I suppose I should clarify - day trips are 90 mins or less each way. I can't think of a better way to ruin a day than to spend it in a car! I live in LA, so there is nothing less vacation than that. And 3-4 hours a day in a car makes it decidedly more a trip than vacation.

Of all your options, Steve R, the agriturismo seems most our speed. We are slow travelers more than sight seers, so local flavor and energy is the goal. I am very much looking for a balance/contrast to the many months I have spent in central Italy. I could lose my art historian card for this, but temples aren't super high on the agenda. Alleys, street food, conversation and natural coastal beauty very much are.

That said, Monreale and Cefalu sounds captivating. And the more I think about it, maybe I am more interested in the medieval of the north than the baroque of the south....
 

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