Subject: Re: Sicily travel
Hello all:

Bob and Mary in Seattle are planning on going to Sicily in January. They were particularly concerned about car vs. public transportation.

My wife and I, who are older, plus our daughter were in Sicily last May and had a wonderful time. I felt it as a bit of personal victory as I was the one who had originally wanted to go. We were in Palermo at the Hotel Presidente for four nights and Taormina at the Hotel Svizzera for two. We would highly recommend both on all counts, including price.

I commute 30 miles to work each way, so we never drive in Italy (next May will be our 12th trip). We never regretted not having a car. The trip from Palermo to Taormina by bus was relaxing and fairly scenic although it is only coastal for a relatively short period. Although the train is good for short trips, e.g., Palermo to Cefalu, the bus is recommended for getting around the island. In particular, the Taormina train station is located in Giardina/Naxos, which is some distance from Taormina itself, but the bus station is very convenient, especially for the Svizzera.

Having auto accidents is considered second only to soccer as a local sport even though the drivers were not visibly as insane as those in Naples. Unless you are staying for an extremely long period of time, I would definitely say that there is more than you can possibly do without needing a car.

You may find the following observations useful:

1. Sicily is far cheaper than the mainland. This includes the resort of Taormina.

2. Both Palermo and Taormina are wonderful, but there is more to do in Palermo. Two nights was perfect for Taormina. If you go to Palermo, you will enjoy Cefalu and Monreale. Though in different directions, We made them both in a day, but this may be a bit more difficult with the shorter days in January.

3. We all loved the shopping in Palermo.

4. There is a 24 hour tour bus in Palermo that ostensibly allows you to get on and off. This is part of a chain that operates in many European cities. As of last May, however, there was only one bus which limited its utility. When on the bus, the taped guide was informative, but we had to spend a lot of time waiting.

5. The food was superb. One thing to note is that Sicilian pizza is not deep dish; indeed, we have never seen such anywhere in Italy although we have been informed by an Italian that it exists, though perhaps for Americans who have heard of it. I had wanted to try Paste con le sarde (pasta with sardines) but I was disappointed-extremely salty. On the other hand, if you have any love at all for deserts, try cassata.

6. We ate at four restaurants in Palermo. The Mensa di Alladin (via Enerico Amari just West of Francesco Crispi) had very good food, but for some reason they decided to torture us the second night with an execrable belly dancer accompanied by music from a low fidelity tape machine played at maximum volume. La Posada (near the Alladin) mercifully offered no entertainment but was basically a pizzeria. Finally, we ate at the the Volpe (on Via Agrigento off Via della Liberta), which was the best of the three.

7. In Taormina, we ate at the Porta Messina both nights. This was far and away the best restaurant we ate in while in Sicily.

8. Below Taormina, there is an excellent beach (Naxos). Watch out for the sirens as this is the area referred to in the Odyssey as being the home of same.

Ira H. Bernstein Dallas, Texas