Subject: Re: Italian Recommendations Wanted (long)
Hi Jim,

>We are in Florence until the morning of the 16th when we take
>either a flight or train/ferry to Palermo. Any comments on which
>would be better.

the best way is fly since Florence and Palermo are quite far by train (anyway, if you take the train, you don't have to get out to catch the ferry: there are direct trains from Florence to Palermo since the whole train is carried on the ferry!). If you don't want take a fly, I suggest you to take the train to Naples then the overnight ferry from Naples to Palermo.

>All our friends ask us why
>we are wasting time going all the way to Sicily

Absolutely NO. I like Sicily, there are lots of spots to see (wonderful archaeological digs, lovely towns, palaces, churches and good food :)

>No rental cars on this trip.

Well, as other travellers wrote, car is Sicily is not a must but it is highly recommended. I.e. many spots are spreated on the countryside like archaeological sites and hardely you'll find public services to them. Moreover, moving around with public transport is time wasting. It could be a bit hard drive in Palermo but it will be less difficult in the countryside.

I understand that your time in Sicily is short but I like attach a suggested itinerary in Sicily, it could be useful for others travellers too.

Enjoy Sicily, Marco in Milan - Italy

Key: * = very interesting; ** = Don't miss, a visit is strongly recommended.

SICILY ITINERARY, Round trip of Sicily by car or bus/train (this itinerary will show you great Greek colonies in Sicily with wonderful archeological digs). 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. From Agrigento (Porto Empedocle) you can get to Pelagie Islands (Linosa and Lampedusa). From Trapani you can get to Egadi Island (Pantelleria, Favignana and Marettimo). From Palermo you can get to Ustica. From Milazzo you can get to Aeolie Islands (Lipari, Vulcano, Solino and Stromboli). NB Be careful about pickpocket in Palermo and Catania.