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Where to base for a first time trip? Expert advice needed.

Australia
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Where to base for a first time trip? Expert advice needed.

Hi, we have just decided to include a visit to Sicily next year. I will become a frequent visitor to this Forum, but would love some initial ideas. We are thinking of say, 10 days. Is this enough?

We like to:

rent smalll apartments (or stay in small, friendly hotels or pensions).

We will hire a car.

We are interested in: having coffee (or wine) and watching the word go by.

Eating at small, local-type places

Not be based in isolated places

History - modern and ancient

How people live in the places we visit.

We do not want to stay in big resort areas, and though we like looking at the sea, we do not want to build our trip around sitting on a beach.

So, my questions are:

10 days enough?

Are there 2 (or maybe 3) places that would be ideal for us to base ourselves in for, say 3 -4 nights, with day and/or half day trips OR

Is is best to circle the island, staying in more places?

Thanks in anticipation - I need to start somewhere in the planning, and this sort of framework would be invaluable.

I don't really have a "feel" for the size, distances etc, though have been to Italy several times.

Is it about the size of Crete? (been there and driven about)

Look forward very much to some help here in the early stages of the planning, thanks

Vicolivia

Here & There
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1. Re: Where to base for a first time trip? Expert advice needed.

Ten days will be sufficient time to give you a "feel" for Sicily, and some time to see the more significant sites, but of course, more time would be even more advantageous. Ten days really isn't enough time to tour and circle the island, and do it well. It would be enough time to base in two, or three places, and day trip each day. Sicily is more than three times the size of Crete.

Area for Sicily:

Area: 25,708 km2

Area for Crete:

Area: 8,336 km2

So you aren't interested in resorts, or remote areas, but you do want to experience the local culture? So many opportunities to do this in Sicily! In addition to inns, or pensions, consider a stay at an agriturismo to experience local life, language, foods, and culture.

If you decide to tour the perimeter, you will need more time. If you intend to stay with the ten days, these areas work well for bases: Erice, Cefalu, Siracusa, Taormina, and Ragusa.

It's a start!

Vagabonda

Australia
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2. Re: Where to base for a first time trip? Expert advice needed.

Vagabonda, thanks so much. We could have more time - maybe 2 weeks would be better? It was useful to get the comparison (size-wise) with Crete, (I drove around there for a week, and really only went to 3 places (certainly did not circumnavigate the island), so now I can start to explore via TA the places you have suggested.

A couple of Questions:Thinking about late September or October (we do not like excessive heat)- are the days still "long" at that time of year?

Also at that time of year, could we find accommodation as we went, rather than pre-booking evewrything?

We are thinking of catching the train from Rome, and having a few days to see Pompeii, maybe Ravello on the way down tyo Sicily, and then flying out of Sicily, back to Rome, to connect back to Australia. Does this sound feasible? I look forward to getting to know more about Sicily through this forum. Vicolivia

San Diego...
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3. Re: Where to base for a first time trip? Expert advice needed.

we did a similar trip to what you propose. We flew in to Rome and spent 4 days their. We'd both been their on business separately but never had that much time just to wander. Did it all by foot/bus/taxi.

Then got a car and drove down to the Naples area (sorrento). Took about 3-4 hrs. We stayed near Sorrento but the other side of the peninsula is more scenic. Ravello is a way cool spot.

We then drove down to Sicily (Taormina). This was a very long day's drive. I think taking a day ferry and renting another car would be better use of time.

Taormina for 3 days was great. Enough time to see the city and drive around Etna. Beautiful spot. We then spent 2 nights near Syracusa. Very interesting city.

We then spent 5 days in Ragusa to see the baroque cites, the Roman villa at Casale and just soak up the feel of the wifes ancestral town. Prob too many days if you don't have the connection. We then hit the temples at Agrigento and on to Palermo for 2 nights. We missed most of western Sicily. Ditto all the islands but we have no interest in the beach when on vacation. (we have a great beach 100 yds down the hill here in Hawaii).

10 days is a nice amount to hit say 3 spots. Don't try to do the 7 nights in 7 hotels thing. You spend all your time moving and not enough just hanging about enjoying. Motorways are fine. Get a good map and no worries. It is much larger than Crete.

have fun.

Here & There
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4. Re: Where to base for a first time trip? Expert advice needed.

If you intend to circumnavigate the island, two weeks would be a good amount of time. Since you'll be traveling such a distance to get to Sicily, why not maximize the visit with the added time if possible?

September and October are excellent travel months, but September is even better than October, because there's less rain, and the days are longer! Here's some weather related information:

frommers.com/destinations/…0771020006.html

Average temperatures and precipitation amounts:

Catania:

weather.com/outlook/…

http://www.wunderground.com/cgi-bin/findweather/getForecast?query=catania+italy

Palermo:

weather.com/outlook/…

http://www.wunderground.com/cgi-bin/findweather/getForecast?query=palermo+italy

Sicily has become a popular destination. Best to reserve ahead. Always nice to have some spontaneity, but until mid-September, there's still a lot of tourists.

You won't need a car in Rome, and the Amalfi area is also best seen by public transport. Easy to see all the sights around the Bay of Naples (Naples, Sorrento, Pompeii, Herculaneum) with the Naples-Sorrento Ferrovia Circumvesuviana regional train.

To save time on the road, consider flying from Naples to Sicily, or taking the ferry from Naples to Palermo. Hire a car in Sicily. It's the inly way to truly explore the heart and soul of this island.

This plan is very doable.

Two first decisions for Sicily - number of days, and to base, or tour (or a combination of both!)

Vagabonda

San Diego...
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5. Re: Where to base for a first time trip? Expert advice needed.

argh -- never type when tired please replace "their" with there. 16 years of education wasted...

Australia
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6. Re: Where to base for a first time trip? Expert advice needed.

Dave and Vagabonda, these are very, very helpful comments, thank you both so much. Thanks also for the Amalfi info too. We have been to Italy, but never south of Rome, so this is all new to us. I like what I have seen on the internet of Ravello, and wonder if Ravello would "work" as a base to visit: Capri, Pompeii, Hercualeum etc)?? We would prefer not to have a car in that area. Again, seeking a location with a "local" ambience as our base. I am thinking maybe we could get a train from Rome to that area. or even fly from Paris into Naples (I still need to find out if this is feasible - we are not actually planning to stay in Rome this time - we will probably be in Paris prior to going to Sicily.

I like your idea of flying from Naples to Sicily - that sounds good, would save a lot of effort with ferries etc - and time. Re Sicily, I think a few bases, with day trips, or half day trips, is more our style - in France, for example, we happily stay one week in a town, and do this sort of travelling - so in Sicily we will now do some more research, given the fantastic info you have given us. Sounds as though in 2 weeks we could have, say, 4 bases, and a car, and travel out of each base. Am I "on the right track"? Any other ideas would be really appreciated. Thanks again, Vicolivia

Here & There
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7. Re: Where to base for a first time trip? Expert advice needed.

Best not to have a car on the Amalfi Coast!

Ravello is a stunning town hanging onto the cliffs above the sea, but it may not be your best town as a base to see Capri, Pompeii, or Herculaneum. It’s only transportation link is a bus to Amalfi.

frommers.com/destinations/…0760010002.html

Buses from Amalfi leave for Ravello from the terminal at the waterfront at Piazza Flavio Gioia (tel. 089-871009 for schedules and information) almost every hour 7am to 10pm, costing 1€ ($1.30) one-way.

http://www.frommers.com/destinations/ravello/

Capri can be reached by ferry from Naples, Sorrento, Positano (mid-May-September), and Amalfi (mid-May to September)

Without a doubt, the best base for transportation convenience for all your sights would be

Sorrento.

Might I suggest you first stay in Ravello to tour the Amalfi Coast (Amalfi, Positano, Paestum), but you also spend a few night in Sorrento and see Capri, Pompeii and Herculaneum from there. From the airport in Naples, have your hotel arrange a driver to bring you directly to Ravello. Once in Sorrento, the Circumvesuviana Train makes touring the entire Bay of Naples effortless. The train connects Sorrento to Naples, passing Pompeii and Herculaneum along the way. Sorrento is also an easy base for the airport in Naples for your flight from Naples to Sicily.

The first ferry from Sorrento to Capri, returning on the last ferry from Capri to Sorrento, will ensure you a great full day on Capri.

If you don’t intend to tour Rome, take it completely out of the mix!

You can easily fly from Paris directly to Naples. Here is a list of all the airlines serving Naples from Paris:

farecompare.com/flights/…market.html

Easyjet offers direct budget flights from Paris to Naples starting under E60!

Here are all the airlines that fly between Naples and Catania:

farecompare.com/flights/…market.html

Air One has budget, direct flight from Naples to Catania taking less than an hour.

Here are all the airlines that fly between Naples and Palermo:

farecompare.com/flights/…market.html

A car is truly the best way to tour Sicily, but of course, not in the larger cities, like Palermo, or Catania. Four bases would work well.

In addition to the previous list mentioned (Erice, Cefalu, Siracusa, Taormina, and Ragusa), Agrigento could also be added. Depending on your combination of bases, there could be some overlap on some sights, but here’s a general idea of what can be seen from each base:

From Erice: See Erice, Segesta, San Vito Lo Capo, Scopello and the Zingaro Reserve, the Alcamo wine region, ferry to Egadi Islands (Favignana)

From Cefalu: See Cefalu, Palermo, Monreale, ferry to the Aeolian Islands

From Siracusa: See Siracusa, Baroque Towns (Ragusa, Noto, Modica), Villa Romana del Casale in Piazza Armerina

From Taormina: See Taormina, Mount Etna, Siracusa, day trip to the Aeolian Islands

From Ragusa: See the Baroque Towns (Ragusa, Noto, Modica), Siracusa, Villa Romana del Casale in Piazza Armerina, Greek temples in Agrigento

From Agrigento: See the Greek temples, Selinute, Villa Romana del Casale in Piazza Armerina, th e Baroque Towns (Ragusa, Noto, Modica)

So yes, you are on the right track!

Vagabonda

Frankfurt, Germany
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8. Re: Where to base for a first time trip? Expert advice needed.

Not much left for me, excellent replies so far. In short:

- Skip Rome and go directly to Naples. Add the saved days to Sicily.

- When in Sorrento/Ravello, take Paestum into consideration

- Consider the night ferry Naples - Palermo

- Choose 2-3 locations in Sicily. Agriturismo is perfect as you easily get into contact with local people (local culture, restaurants, things (not) to see/do) and rent a car

- Places not to miss in Sicily: Monreale, Agrigento, Segesta, Selinunte, Siracura, Catania, Cefalù, Noto, Ragusa.

- Been there in September. Ideal because not too hot but sunny and warm.

- 14 days are better than 10. But 10 are worth the trip.

Just my 2 cents...

Australia
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9. Re: Where to base for a first time trip? Expert advice needed.

Such generousity - thank you all for sharing these insights with me - I will now start to think these ideas through - your responses have certainly made us feel that Siciliy will be a fascinating destination!!! It makes such a difference to have "inside information" as a starting point. Thank you all again, and I will be back posint again as things arise, many, many thanks. I will continue to check the Forum, to get ideas on accommodation and so on. Where would we be with out TA!!!

10. Re: Where to base for a first time trip? Expert advice needed.

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