Trip Report – 2 weeks in Sicily

Hi all,

I’m in the midst of a 90 day trip to Europe, planned with lots of help and inspiration from the sub. I wanted to conclude my first segment in hopes it helps someone like others have helped me plan my successful adventure.

Since Sicily is a different segment in my trip, I thought it’s time for a trip report, despite not finishing my trip yet :)

About me:

– 24 years old male from Israel

– I’m traveling with a backpack and a side pouch

– I’m physically fit but not an athlete

– I’ve learned basic Italian for about 3 months before departing

– I’ve a budget of about 140 euro per day, though it mostly ended up being far less, around 75 on average

– I have prior traveling experience – my first big trip was 3 years ago, to New Zealand, Australia and Japan

– I am not renting a car. I got around mostly by train, and on few instances a bus or a tour. Buses are very confusing – you must plan ahead. The train serviced most of my route efficiently, and were reliable and comfortable.

My itinerary:

– Land in Palermo

– Agrigento

– Catania

– Syracuse

– Taormina

Total: 14 days

Palermo:

I arrived in Palermo city at 12:00 and left it late the last day, giving me a total of 2 half days and 3 full days in the city.

I also did a day trip to Cefalu on one of the days.

– Mercato di Ballarò

– Palazzo Normani & Capella Palatina

– Teatro Massimo

– Palermo Cathedral

– Majolica Museum

– Palazzo Abatellis

– Archeological Museum

– Palazzo Conte Federico

– Wandering down the Quatro Canti

– No Mafia Memorial

– Lots of small churches in the city

– Cefalù day trip – beach, wandering the streets and climbing to the Cefalù Castle

Wins: Everything. Loved everything in Palermo.

Misses: I’m a massive classical music and opera fan and desperately wanted to see one, but it required two more days in Palermo and I couldn’t justifu it. If I had more time, I may have gone to Trapani as well – I didn’t hear about it before but they spoke highly of it in Palermo.

Overall: I feel my time in Palermo was just right. My days were, however, quite intesive, leaving the hostel around 9:00 and returning around 20:00.

I felt I had just enough time since I also travelled on my first and last days, but Palermo is a good candidate for an extra day in my opinion.

Agrigento:

– Valley of Temples

Overall: I went to Agrigento with the sole purpose of seeing the Valley of Temples. While the valley was absolutely worth it and a great highlight of my trip, I would opt for a day trip or a tour, even if it’s a long day – staying just for one night was difficult, and Agrigento itself was strangely deserted and overall unappealing. The medieval core of the city is pretty, but I felt it had no substance.

Catania:

– Mt. Etna

– Fish Market

– Benedettini Chapel

– St. Agatha church

– Wandering via Etna

– Teatro Bellini

– Villa Bellini and the Botanical gardens

– Greek Theatre

– Castello Ursino

– Day trip to Villa Romana del Casale

Wins:

Mt. Etna is definitely the highlight. I also really enjoyed the Villa Romana del Casale. Inside the city, my favourite was Castello Ursino, but I enjoyed all of my stops. The Villa Bellini and the Botanical gardens aren’t a must – I just had a really chill day :)

I also went to a concert in the Teatro Bellini and it was incredible, and a personal win for me.

Misses:

On a faster paced trip, I could definitely cut a day from Catania, but for my personal route I have no strong regrets. It would have probably been wiser to travel on from Catania though, as well as base myself there for day trips – the city is a transport hub.

Overall:

I had a great time in Catania, even though I liked Palermo better as a city. The Etna, however, is beautiful beyond words and was worth the whole trip – not just the mountain, but the presence it has in the everyday life – walking down the street and seeing it fuming! Absolutely amazing.

Catania was slower paced, I generally left at 9:30~10:00 and returned around 17:00 and did not feel I was missing out.

Getting to Villa Romana del Casale was difficult and expensive – I had to take a bus from Catania to Piazza Armerina, an expensive taxi from Piazza Armerina to the villa, and another taxi and bus back. There is technically a bus from the city, but it was nonexistent, has no online presence and there was absolutely no one to ask, even in the tourist information centre. However, I really enjoyed it and do not regret this decision.

Syracuse:

– Paolo Orsi Archeological Museum

– Neapolis Park

– Ortigia

– Noto day trip

Wins:

Classical Drama in Greek Amphitheatre. Booked a lot of time in advance, hefty price, and with my poor Italian – it was absolutely amazing.

I really enjoyed the art gallery in Ortigia as well.

Misses:

Syracuse could probably be traveled with less time, but I still feel it was the right choice for me.

The Paolo Orsi museum, while very beautiful, was a bit too long and dry for my taste – though I’d still recommend it.

Overall:

Many travelers I met picked Syracuse as a day trip from Catania, and that could work but is a bit of a stretch.

I didn’t do everything there is to do in Ortigia, but I really enjoyed my time there as it was.

If you’re faster paced you can skip Noto and maybe do it in a day and a half from Catania . Noto was special and very pretty, but not a must see in my eyes – I went there knowing I prefer staying in places a bit longer and Noto was a slow, refreshing day.

Taormina:

– Public Gardens

– Isola Bella beach via Funivia

– Greek Theatre

– Wandering around

Wins:

Everything. Taormina was amazing. I had my doubts about Isola Bella being touristy and expensive , but the beach was spectacular and even I, not a beach person, had a great time there.

The Greek Theatre is jaw dropping spectacular.

Overall:

Taormina makes for a perfect day trip from Catania – I stayed here the whole day and am taking the night train from here to Napoli. Barring such restraint, I do not see why this should not be a day trip.

I’ve heard some things against Taormina – that it’s too touristy and not worth it – and strongly disagree. I went to the gardens, the Isola Bella, the Greek Theatre as well as eating out and exploring and had an amazing day here.

The Greek Theatre is particularly stunning and is enough to justify a day trip in my eyes – go during the afternoon for perfect, perfect sights.

To conclude, for the whole trip:

Wins:

I dedicated lots of time and money to eat out – street food, market food, regular and fancy restaurants, pizzerias, cafés… And I feel it really added to my trip – Sicilian food and beverages are incredible. A good Aperativo will set your day right, if that’s your thing.

Service in Sicily was generally really slow, but I took the time to let it all sink in and rest and really enjoyed that approach.

Traveling with carry on luggage only has gained me an enormous amount of time – some segments of my trip would have been simply impossible otherwise. While difficult, I’m very glad I made that decision.

Misses:

I really wanted to get to the Aeolian Islands, but I felt that is a big extension of my trip I had no time for. I’ve also heard a lot of good things about Trapani, Ragusa and Selinunte, and would have gone there if I had the time. With two weeks, I aimed for getting the Sicilian ‘basics’ and I feel like I did that well.

Somewhere along the way I learned that East Sicily and West Sicily are very distinct culturally and historicaly – in a sense, I only really saw half of the island.

Buses are really confusing, though intercity buses were reliable in my case. Plan ahead and have a plan B.

Overall:

Sicily is hectic. Everybody cuts you off in traffic, schedule is a recommendation, everybody’s going somewhere abd talking loudly on the phone. Sicilians were at times plain rude to me, and in others welcomed me as family – not much in between.

If you know any Italian at all, it’s a great help – I took the advice of an Italian in my first hostel that suggested I never admit to know English unless absolutely necessary. A little bit of Italian really softens the experience.

Sicily was really intense – the views, the culture, the history, the food, were all rich beyond my imagination. I’m really glad I picked this special place and really enjoyed my trip.

If you have any other questions I may be able to help you with, or any feedback, please feel free to comment or shoot me a message, even in a few year’s time – I have all my experiences written down.

Happy travels!

EDIT: added pictures. Had a really hard time choosing favourites – if you want to see more, feel free to message me :)

Trip Report – 2 weeks in Sicily