|Subject: Re: Question about Sicily (long)|
I visited 3 times Sicily and it is one of my preferred Italian region (with Tuscany and Umbria). I enjoyed Sicily both for food and history (a lot of Greek and Roman ruins). Find enclosed some notes and a suggested itinerary in Sicily that I wrote time ago for other travellers.
Enjoy Sicily, Marco in Milan (Italy)
In Sicily, visit Erice, a nice medieval hilltown close by Trapani. Be sure to visit Selinunte (Greek temples) and the Rocche di Cusa not too far from Selinunte(caves where they used to dig stones for the temple). Mozia is a small island (few km square) along the cost between Trapani e Marsala covered by archeological digs and a little museum with a great greek sculpture founded there.
In Marsala there in the archaological museum where is preserved a punic ship (III cent. BC) and ... DON'T MISS the Marsala wine! :))
Don't miss the Villa Romana del Casale in Piazza Armerina: it is a roman villa with very well preserved mosaics (III-IV cent. AD). It is known as the place of the better preserved romans mosaics in the world! If you go to Ragusa, don't miss the archaeological museum of Marina di Ragusa. It is a little museum, just by the sea, and it is full of great treasures: many romans vessel sank there with many treasure inside!
Don't miss Siracusa. Visit the Latomie (caves), L'orecchio di Dionisio (as suggested by an other ziners), The Duomo, the S. Giovanni Cataconbs and the important Archaeological Museum. A few km from Siracusa there are the great ruins of the Castel Eurialo (built by Dionisio, V cent.).
I won't tell you about the must that I assume you know (i.e. the temple valley of Agrigento, Taormina and so on).
Sicily is one of my preferred region in Italy. I went in Sicily 4 time, last one was 2 years ago.
About food and delicatessen, I suggest the Cassata siciliana (is a cake), granita sicily style, pasta alla sarde (is a pasta sicily stily), and arancini (are a fried rice balls).
About the trip, if you like nature, you don't skip a visit of mount Etna (the Sicily volcano). I love very much Siracusa, the Ortigia Island is very nice. I suggest you to spend at least 2 full day visiting Siracusa and Eurialo castle (close Siracusa).
You could visit Noto, it is named the barocco style capital but, actually, it is a bit in ruin now. The problem of Italy is that there are too many nice monument but the budget of ambient ministry is very slim!
You could visit Palazzolo Acreide and Ragusa, they are a quite nice town. Close Marina di Ragusa, just on the beach, there is a small but very nice museum: in the sea just in front of Marina di Ragusa, many roman ship was sink with many treasures; in the museum you'll see many of this treasures! It is wonderful!
You can't miss the Roman Villa del Casale close Piazza Armerina town (III century AD). There are the best preserved roman mosaic of the world: in all the room there is a mosaic floor.
A few kilometers from Siracusa, there is a canyon where is found a necropolis (about X century BC), is name is Necropoli di Pantalica.
At last, if you don't think to visit Sicily another time, you have to visit the Agrigento Temples Valley (Agrigento is on the south back of Sicily and quite far from Siracusa). There are some Greek temple on the hill just around the city. On the night it is wonderful.
About museum, visit the archeological museum of Siracusa and Agrigento. In Sicily many museums and archeological sites are free!
Key: * = very interesting; ** = Don't miss, a visit is strongly recommended.
ITINERARY: Round trip of Sicily by car or bus/train. In many towns there are festivals around the year, especially during the Easter time. Ask the Tourist Information office for details. N.B. You can't get to some small archeological dig by public transports.
- Palermo (**) is the Sicily regional capital. You can get to Palermo by plane or by train or by ferry from Napoli, Genova, Livorno, La Spezia and Cagliari. Visit the great Cathedral (AD1184) where there are some kings' grave (XIII cent.), nearby the Cathedral there is the Normanni's Palace (XI cent.) where there is the great Palatina Chapel with great mosaics (don't miss it out!). It is an important example of Norman architecture in Italy. Visit the great St Gionanni degli Eremiti church (XII cent., one of the best Norman architectures in Palermo), Martorana church (XII cent., with a nice bell-tower and great mosaics). Visit the Regional Gallery with great paintings, the Regional archeological museum (one of the most important in Italy) where there are manufactures from all the Sicilian digs. Don't miss the Zina Palace (XII cent.), it is a jewel of Norman architecture. You can visit also a curious museum in the Cappuccini monastery: there are exposed many bodies of rich Palermitans died during the XIX cent. and then mummified. Go to Monreale (**) by bus. It is well known for its great cathedral (XII cent.) and cloister. Into the church there are great mosaics. After dinner in summer walk along the promenade in Mondello seaside resort (you can get to Mondello by bus, it will take about 20 minute). - 1 day (150 km): Take the car and go to Solunto Archeological dig (close by Bagheria). It was an Hellenistic- Roman town (II cent.). Take the A19 and A20 motorways and come off in Cefalu'. Visit the Cathedral (AD1131, nice mosaics), it is an important example of Norman architecture in Sicily. Go back to A19 motorway and come off in Enna. In Enna visit the Cathedral (XIV cent.) and the Lombardia Castle. - 3 days (155 km): Go to Piazza Armerina and visit the great Villa del Casale (**) that is located 5 km from the town. It is an archeological dig of a Roman countryside villa (IV cent.). It is famous for its great and well preserved mosaics: in the XII cent. there was a fload that covered the villa by mud, in this way the mosaics have been well preserved during centuries. It's really worth visiting the villa! Take the A19 and A 18 motorways and come off in Taormina and use it as a base. Taormina (**) is a nice and well known medieval town close by a seaside resort. Walk through the pedestrian center and visit the great Greek Theater (III cent. BC), it is well preserved and it is still in use for concerts. There is a wonderful view of the coast. 4 km south of Taormina visit the Giardini Naxos archeological dig, it was a Greek town (V cent. BC). 14 km north-west along the SS185 road, you can see the spectacular Gola di Alcantara. It is a canyon that was excavated by lava from Etna Vulcan. If you like trekking, walking and visiting parks, don't miss the Etna Regional Park. Etna (3343 meters high) is the biggest European Vulcan and it is still active! You can walk up to the main Vulcan crater. Great view of the Island. Catania (*) is a big not tourist city. Don't try to visit Catania by car. Go there by train and use public transport because their crazy traffic and the difficulty to leave cars. Visit the Cathedral (XI cent.), the Ursino Castle (XIII cent., now a museum where there are Greek's and Roman's sculptures, paintings, numismatic and arms collections. Walk through dei Crociferi street. - 3 days (96 km): Take the A18 motorway and the SS114 road and go to Siracusa. Use Siracusa as a base. About 20 km before Siracusa you can visit the archeological dig of Megara Hyblaea. It was founded by Greeks in 483 BC. Siracusa (**) was a Grecian colony and you can still see some old ruins about Grecian domination. Walk through the Ortigia Island (the center of the city). See the Apollo's Temple ruins and visit the Cathedral. The Cathedral was built in the VII cent. using the preexisting Grecian Athena's Temple (V cent. BC), so that you can see the old Athena's Temple columns along the Cathedral walls. See the Athena's spring. Visit the Regional Gallery where there is a picture by Caravaggio. The Maniace Castle (XIII cent.), located at top of the island, it isn't visible. In a suburb of the city there is the great Neapoli Archeological Park. In the park you can visit the great Greek Theater (III cent. BC), the Latomia del Paradiso that was a stone quarry used by Grecian to built Siracusa. Enter in the Orecchio di Dionisio (Dionisio's ear), it is a cave used by the King Dionisio to get secret information from enemies. Visit the Paolo Orsini Archeological Museum, it is one of the most important archeological museum in Sicily. Visit the open air St. Giovanni Evangelista church that was destroyed by a dangerous earthquake in 1693 and still in use; visit its catacomb (IV-V cent.) excavated into the old Greek aqueduct. 8 km from Siracusa there are the impressive ruins of Eurialo Castle (IV cent. BC). Pantalica Necropolis (*), that is located close by Sortino, is the biggest necropolis in Sicily (XII-VIII cent. BC) where there are 5000 graves along a canyon. It is impressive. Palazzolo Acreide: visit the archeological area of a nice Greek Theater (III cent. BC). See the 12 large rocky sculptures (III cent. BC). - 1 day (110 km): Take the SS115 road to Ragusa and come off in Noto (*), it is a town well known as an important example of Baroque architectures of its palaces and churches (not well preserved actually!). Walk around the center (Corso Vittorio Emanuele) and watch around architectures. Ragusa is a city shared between two hills. Visit St. Giorgio churches (AD1739). 17 km south-west of Ragusa you can visit the Donnafregata Castle (XIX cent.), it is a villa with a nice park. Go to Marina di Ragusa (24 km south of Ragusa by the sea) where there is Caucana archeological dig where there is a nice small museum just by the sea. I found this museum nice and interesting because there are exposed many handcraft from Roman ships that were sunk here because a bad sea-current. - 2 days (120 km): Take the SS115 road and go to Gela. Gela was the first Greek colony in Sicily. Visit the small Archeological Museum where there are many backed clay objects from the near archeological dig (IV cent. BC). See the large Greek walls (339 BC) just by the sea (300 meters long and 13 meters high), don't miss it out. Drive to Agrigento. Agrigento (**) is a world wide known town for its great Temples Valley. Agrigento has a medieval center but it was founded by Greeks in 580 BC. Visit St. Spirito church (XIII cent., where there is a nice stucco-works and a well preserved monastery), the Cathedral (XI cent.). Outside the town you can visit the archeological dig of a Roman quarter (IV cent. BC). Visit the famous Temples Valley (free entrance) composed by 4 or 5 great Greek temples located on the top of hills. Don't miss the great Archeological Museum (free entrance). Close by the cemetery there are the small church of St. Biagio and the rocky temple of Demetra (it is often closed). It is worth visiting Agrigento! - 1 day (80 km): Take the SS115 road to Sciacca, come off in Montallegro and visit the archeological dig of Eraclea Minoa. It was a Greek town with a theater (III cent. BC). Go back to the SS115 and go to Sciacca. Sciacca is a seaside resort surrounded by walls, walk around the center and see the ruins of the Grecian spa. 2 km east of Sciacca there is a singular outdoor gallery: there are many heads and faces sculptured in rocks exposed in a olive grave. 19 km north east of Sciacca there is the small town of Caltabellotta (5000 people). It is a medieval not tourist town. Walk around the center, visit the Chiesa Madre church (XI cent.). Just behind that there are some church ruins. Ask the Parson to visit the St. Pellegrino hermitage (XVII cent.) on top of a rock. - 1 day (45 km): Take the new SS115 road to Castelvetrano or take the old one (that is more long and spectacular) then take the SS115 dir to the archeological dig of Selinunte. Selinunte (**) was an important Hellenistic colony (V cent. BC). Walk through the temples area (Orientale and E temples are the most spectacular and well preserved ones) and walk through the Acropoli area (the ruins of the old town). 3.5 km west of Castelvetrano there is the SS. Trinita'di Delia church, it is an important example of Arabic-Norman architecture in Sicily (XII cent). 11.5 km south west of Castelvetrano, along the road to Mazara del Vallo, visit the Rocche di Cusa (or Cave di Campobello) (*) that is close by Campobello di Mazara. It is the old quarry where they took stones to build the temples in Selinunte. This quarry is normally missed by tourist even trough I found it very nice because it is still possible see pieces of giant columns, already cut, on the ground in the exact place where workers left their centuries ago! If you like not tourist but peaceful place, don't miss it out. Mazara del Vallo: Visit the Cathedral (XI cent) and walk to downtown that is in Arabic style because Arabic domination. - 1 day (54 km): Take the SS115 road to Marsala. Marsala (*) is well known for the Marsala wine (that is like the Port wine). Visit the Cathedral (AD1628) where there is a nice and small tapestry museum (XVI cent.). Visit the Insula Romana archeological dig (III cent.) and don't miss the Archeological Museum where a great Punic ship is preserved (III cent. BC). Don't leave Marsala without have tasted the Marsala wine! Go to the small island of Mozia (*) that is about 10 km north along the coast of Marsala. Mozia was colonized by Phoenicians in the VIII cent. BC. You can get to Mozia by boat (10 minute) and visit the archeological dig spread on all the island and the small museum. Go to Erice (**) (take overnight there). Erice is a lovely medieval town located on the top of an hill (751 meters high). Cars are not admitted in the center. Walk around the pedestrian center, visit the Matrice church (XIV cent.) and visit the ruins of Venere's castle (XIII cent., wonderful view). Trapani is just a modern city. - 1 day (100 km) Take the SS113 road or the A29 dir motorway and come off in Segesta or by train. Segesta (**) was a Greek colony located in the countryside. Visit the great Temple on the top of a hill (V cent. BC), one of the most good preserved Doric styled temple. Walk up (or take the bus) to the nearby hill where there is the dig of the town and where you can see the nice theater (III cent. BC). Here there is a great view. Go to Palermo.
>From Sicily you can get to many seaside resort islands.
ITINERARY 6, Naples and surroundings (this itinerary will show you great Naples Gulf villages and some wonderful archeological digs).
Naples (**): visit Castel Nuovo or Maschio Angioino (the main Naples castle, AD1279), now there are some council offices and a museum (with paintings and sculptures), it is possilbe visit the most important and the best rooms. Visit Palazzo Reale (the Royal's Palace, XVI cent.) in piazza del Plebiscito (royal's room with furniture and objects are visitable). Visit the Monteoliveto church (XV cent.) where there is many sculptures, the Gesu' Nuovo church (AD1584) and don't miss the St. Chiara church (XIV cent.) where there is a great cloister decorated with fine majolica pottery. Visit the St. Domenico Maggiore church (XIV cent.) and the Sansevero's Chapel (AD1749) where there is a nice Christ monument and an old anatomy laboratory located under the Chapel. Visit the St. Gregorio Armeno church where there is a nice cloister (XVI cent.). Don't miss the St. Lorenzo Maggiore church (XIII cent.) where there is the entrance (in the cloister) to the underground archeological dig of a Roman street (II cent. BC) with shops. Visit the great Cathedral (XIV cent.), there are great chapels, mosaics, the famous St. Gennaro treasure and see the underground ruins of the previous church. On the left side of St. Paolo Maggiore church there is the entrance to the Napoli Sotterranea (the undergrounds of Naples), you can walk a few hundred meters below the center through the Hellenic-Roman aqueduct (it is not very known by tourist). Visit the important National Archeological Museum (there are many object from Pompei and Ercolano digs), don't miss it out! Go to the St. Gennaro Catacombs (II cent.). Visit the Palazzo Reale di Capodimonte, it was the countryside royal's palace with a big park. Now it is a great and important museum and gallery where there are preserved many great pictures (by Raffaello, Caravaggio, Michelangelo and others). Visit the St. Martino Carthusian monastery (XIV cent.) on the top of a hill, now a museum. Walk up to St. Elmo Castle (XIV cent.) on the top of the Vomero hill (great view of the gulf). Visit dell'Ovo castle (XIV cent.) that is located on a peninsula of the gulf and it is surrounded by a lovely fishing suburb. Walk through Spaccanapoli street and visit the great handcraft shops along St. Biagio dei Librai and St. Gregorio Armeno streets. In Naples you can taste wonderful pastries and the best pizza in the world!
SURROUNDINGS - Caserta (*) (get there by train): Visit the great Royal's Palace with great royal rooms and a big park. - Cuma Archeological Park (*) (by Circumflegrea (or Cumana) train) (VIII cent. BC): It is a few kilometers north of Naples and close by Pozzuoli. There is the dig of Cuma and the famous Antro della Sibilla (Sibyl's cave). - Baia Archeological dig (*) (by Circumflegrea (or Cumana) train) (I cent. BC): It is close by Pozzuoli. Visit the dig and the Baia Castle (now an archeological museum). - Pozzuoli (by Circumflegrea (or Cumana) train): See the Macellum dig (or Serapide Temple, I-II cent.), the dig is often flooded by the sea water. Visit the fine Roman Theater (I cent.), it is well preserved; visit the Solfatara, it is a sulfur geyser due to the Vesuvio vulcan. - Pompei Archeological Park (**) (by Circunvesuviana train): It is world wide known Roman city covered by eruption lava on 24th August 79. - Ercolano Archeological Park (**) (by Circunvesuviana train): In the same time of Pompei also Ercolano was covered by Vesuvian ash. Ercolano is smaller than Pompei but it is better preserved and there is less tourist than Pompei. I love very much Ercolano dig. - Paestum Archeological Park (**) (by train) 90 km south of Naples: Visit the great dig of the old Roman town (VI cent. BC) where there are temples, graves, a theater and a great archeological museum. - Benevento (by train) 64 km east of Naples: visit the fine Roman Theater still in use for festivals, the St. Sofia church (VIII cent.), the Sannio Archeological Museum. Don't miss the great Emperor Traiano's Arch (AD114) that is the best preserved Roman arch in the world. - Capri Island (**) (by ferry): It is the most famous gulf Island. Walk around Marina Grande town then get to Capri town by a cable car. Walk up to the St. Giacomo Carthusian (XIV cent.). Walk through a footpath to the ruins of Villa Jovis that was built by Emperor Tiberio. Great view. Visit, by boat, the famous Azzurra cave. - Ischia Island (*) (by ferry): It is a nice and peaceful Island, visit the Castle (AD 1438) that is located on a peninsular hill. Ischia is a seaside and spa resort. - The Amalfitan Peninsula (**) (by train then by bus): + Sorrento is a picturesque village. Walk around the center and visit the Correale di Terranova museum (furniture, sculptures, paintings and pots). + Positano is an other picturesque village. Walk around the center. + Emerald cave is a nice marine cave not far from Conca dei Marini. + Amalfi is a really picturesque village. Walk around the center and along the promenade. Visit the Cathedral (X cent.) with a nice bell-tower. Visit the great Paradiso cloister (XIII cent.). + Ravello is a lovely town. Visit the Cathedral (XI cent.), the Rufolo Palace (XIII cent.) in Arabic style. There is a great view. Visit Villa Cimbrone (XVIII cent.) with a great view. All the Amalfitan peninsula is covered by vine, olive, orange and lemon trees.
NB Be careful about pickpocket in Naples.
These Itineraries would be only a suggestion of possible things to do and to see in Italy. In Italy in every corner you can find nice town, churches archeological dig or picturesque view so that these itineraries aren't complete. You have to make a choice what to see and what to miss out. To help you I put stars to show the rate of interest of towns (in my idea!). I often didn't write too much about towns, palaces and churches because this should be only a suggestion and not a guide book! Be aware that in Italy many important frescos, painting and objects are preserved into the churches. May be that you will think that I use too frequently the words great and wonderful reading these notes, but there are so many great places, buildings and things in Italy that I had to use these works so frequently!