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Can anyone give me advice on seeing Mt. Etna? We will be staying four night in Taormina, we have a car. Would like to take a day trip up the mountain with our car. How far can we drive up the mountain to see the volcano? Do we have to take a tour in order to see the volcano, or can we do it on our own?

Also, would like do a day trip to Cefalu. How far is Cefalu from taormina? or would it be better to see Cefalu from Piazza Armerina? Once we get to Palermo ( 3 nights) we will turn in our car, is their a bus we could talk from Palermo to Cefalu?
Let me give you my agenda, as you all have been so much help!
Taormina (4 nights at Hotel Condor)09/29/05
Piazza Armerina (4 nights Agriturismo Gigliotto)10/03/05
Palermo ( 3 Nights Ai Cartari)10/07/05
I'm open to discussion on day trips from the three cities we will be visiting!

Txs!

This message has been edited. Last edited by: Garza1,
 
Posts: 50 | Location: Huntington Beach, CA | Registered: 09 July 2005Report This Post
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Salve Garciamtt,

The Taormina/Mt. Etna logistics are beyond my experience and knowledege. The Cefalu part of the equation is certainly within my grasp, however.

If you look at a map of Sicily you will discover that Taormina and Cefalu are not very close together. On the other hand, if you look at the Trenitalia website you'll notice that there are pretty much hourly trains between Palermo and Cefalu that take just about an hour to reach their destination. In short, Cefalu is a gita from Palermo, not Taormina or from Piazza Armerina inland.

You have 3 days in Palermo. Enough time to get begin to get a feel for the city, but not really enough time to sacrifice a day to visit Cefalu. It's without a doubt a lovely coastal village-- beautifully situated and home to a great Norman cathedral. On the other hand, on a relatively short trip 4 days in Taormina should cover your beautiful coastal town requirement. Spend all three days in Palermo and if you like take a city bus up to Monreale and enjoy the Norman cathedral there with its' all-world mosaics and stunning cloisters.

Good luck with your planning!

Anthony and Jennifer
 
Posts: 284 | Location: New Orleans | Registered: 01 July 2003Report This Post

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I second Hannibal on the Palermo portion. We too spent three nights in Palermo and during that time spent a portion of one day in Monreale. It was lovely but you will need all three days in the city. Taormina is simply beautiful....you might ask at the hotel you're staying at regarding the Mt. Etna logistics...usually they can be of assistance planning side trips like this. Have fun! Sicily is MARVELOUS!
 
Posts: 826 | Location: Berkeley, CA USA | Registered: 07 August 2003Report This Post
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It's been years since I've been up Etna, but my reading suggests that there are many options. A guide will take you on hikes to exceptional viewpoints, but you can also drive to Refugio Sapienza (?) and then take a combination of cable car and four-wheel-drive (~40 euros) up quite a distance. If the cable car isn't running, the 4-wheel-drives will take you the same distance. Of course you can just drive up to Refugio Sapienza (?) and down again; you will not see lava but the drive is scenic and you can stop and buy orange honey.

I second the post above re Cefalu; it is a nice resort to stay in, but not a high priority to 'hit' on a day trip (few must-see sights).

I have read several trip reports (including one posted here a couple of weeks ago) from people who criss-crossed Sicily going from place to place in an extremely nonlinear manner. The distances are not really large (although going through towns can be very slow), and tour buses do go from (say) Taormina to P. Armerina and back daily, but it does not seem logical to go from Taormina to Cefalu and back, and then drive back to Palermo. I would prefer to look at a map and organize my travels to minimize driving. (In other words, if I were going to Cefalu, I would do it on the way to Palermo.)
 
Posts: 219 | Registered: 20 June 2005Report This Post

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Although I did not take it, there is a train that circumnavigates Etna called the Ferrovia Cirumetnea. It doesn't depart from Taormina, but I understand you can board it in Catania or Randazzo, which is not far from Taormina. I believe that the train offers packages which include guided hikes up to points where you can see the lava. It also chugs through many of fascinating towns and farms that dot the volcanic slopes of Etna.

Your hotel or the tourist office should be able to supply brochures for the train or for coach tours.

When I was in Sicily I took the main highway that circuits the base of Etna in order to reach an agriturismo in Adrano. (I went around the "back" of Etna.) While I was in Taormina, I asked the tourist office for help in estimating driving times, and they were quite unhelpful. When they finally offered me some estimates, they turned out to wildly off. They told me it would takes hours to reach places which were in reality only a half hour away. You might do better asking your hotel.

En route to my agriturismo near Adrano I saw many signs for turnoffs that would have taken me to hiking trails that led to the peak of Etna. However, the weather in April was snowy, and it was obvious from the signage that these were serious hiking trails for which you needed the right kind of equipment, not just street shoes.

It's hard to give other travelers advice, but I did not particularly care for staying in Taormina proper. The ruins of the theater are among the finest and most educational I have ever seen in my travels, but the town itself is a posh tourist destination, filled with fancy brand-name shops and tourist restaurants. Others find its setting high above the water so pretty that they want to spend weeks there. I was happier seeing more of the interior of Sicily.

If you stay in Taormina, I can recommend a small, very reasonably priced osteria in a piazza off the beaten track called l'Angolo di Divino (I believe it is in Piazzetta Divino). Finally, for a classic view of Etna and the sea, try lunch at the rooftop restaurant of the Hotel Paradiso. I can't vouch for the food (I only had breakfast there as a guest of the hotel) but the view is surely one of the best in town.

I urge you to make time to see Monreale, one of the more jaw-dropping art treasures of Italy.
 
Posts: 917 | Location: New Jersey | Registered: 03 August 2005Report This Post

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In my opinion, the Cathedral of Monreale is a much superior treasure than that of Cefalu. Once you visit Monreale, everything else is a let-down.
 
Posts: 2704 | Registered: 02 December 2002Report This Post
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Hi,

We did much of the trip you outline back in 1999. We too were based in Taormina, and did the day-trip to Mt. Etna. The drive itself was fairly brief - around 45 minutes as I recall, but we were traversing the N to NW side of the volcano. We stopped for lunch in Randazzo (unique) and caught some fine views - we had no interest in scaling the mountain proper, since at the time there was a considerable eruption of ash/lava occurring. At night, one could quite clearly see the lava glowing from Acireale as we drove up the coast from Catania. From Taormina, we spent four or five days in Lipari, and then went on to Cefalu. From there we took day trips to both Palermo and Piazza Armerina. The train to Palermo is about 50 minutes, and simple, as the respective train stations are conveniently located. The drive to Piazza Armerina from Cefalu is around 2-2.5 hours and worth every second of it when you get your first look at the spectacular mosaics (which I believe far surpass anything else I've seen in Italy...the fact that they remain in situ is even more impressive than their enormous size and beauty). The drive is fairly slow, as there is no autostrade for part of the trip, and one must drive through (or around) Enna. Not a bad trip by car, but not a quickie either. Enjoy.

-R.
 
Posts: 71 | Location: Albany NY | Registered: 30 March 2005Report This Post
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I appreciate everyones advice! I'm still open on suggestions for day trips, from Taormina, Piazza Armerina & Palermo.
 
Posts: 50 | Location: Huntington Beach, CA | Registered: 09 July 2005Report This Post

Hero-2012

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Suggested daytrips:

From Taormina:

Lipari, Catania, Siracusa, Mt. Etna

From Piazza Armerina:

Enna, Morgantina

From Palermo:

Agrigento, Segesta, Selinunte, Trapani, Erice, Marsala, Cefalu, Solunto, Mondello
 
Posts: 2704 | Registered: 02 December 2002Report This Post
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also from P. Armerina: Caltagirone

and Agrigento is closer to P. Armerina than to Palermo.
 
Posts: 219 | Registered: 20 June 2005Report This Post

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Palermo to Agrigento is easy by public transportation. Piazza Armerina to Agrigento is easy by car but not as convenient (as Palermo) with public transportation.
 
Posts: 2704 | Registered: 02 December 2002Report This Post

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As convenient as Mondello is to Palermo (a short bus trip), I really don't think it is worth a visit when there is so much else Sicily has to offer.

Also, Siracusa is quite a "day trip" from Taormina, don't you think? Likewise, Agrigento from Palermo.

garciamtt,

Have you already booked your hotels? Taormina seems to me a very expensive place to be using as a base for distant day trips. Have you considered a more centrally located agriturismo near, say, Catania, from which you could easily do day trips to Taormina, Etna and Siracusa?
 
Posts: 917 | Location: New Jersey | Registered: 03 August 2005Report This Post
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After 4 nights in Taormina, we have four nights in central Sicily "Piazza Armerina" I thought we could take day trips to Siracusa, Noto, Ragusa, Agrigento & Caltagirone from Piazza Armerina.
 
Posts: 50 | Location: Huntington Beach, CA | Registered: 09 July 2005Report This Post

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quote:
After 4 nights in Taormina, we have four nights in central Sicily "Piazza Armerina" I thought we could take day trips to Siracusa, Noto, Ragusa, Agrigento & Caltagirone from Piazza Armerina.

...Plus the 3 nights at the end of your trip in Palermo? In that case, you can do a day trip to Piazza Armerina from Taormina. Then spend your next 4 nights in either Siracusa or Ragusa, exploring the southeast corner of Sicily: Ragusa, Modica, Noto etc. Do one long driving day, with an early start, from your southeast base to Palermo with a stop in Agrigento on the way.
- Marie
 
Posts: 872 | Location: Alberta, Canada | Registered: 02 December 2003Report This Post
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Hi Garciamtt.
Analyzing your request, I’ve been create an itinerary to let you visit some of the most important Sicilian sites without stress and following roads in good condition.
In my opinion and following your accommodations area you could plan your trip in this way:

Day 1) Visit of Taormina City centre and the Greek – Roman Theatre, visit of Castelmola (a small beautiful medieval village at the top of Taormina’s mountain).

Day 2) Visit of the Aeolian Island – starting early morning from Taormina you will take highway A 18 direction Messina and from Messina Area take highway A 20 direction Palermo, take EXIT MILAZZO – ISOLE EOLIE and from there you will reach the harbour. The distance from Taormina is about 80 KM. and you will need at least 1 hr to reach the harbour from Taormina.

DAY 3) Visit of Volcano Etna and Catania city centre – starting in the morning from Taormina, take highway A 18 direction Catania, on the highway to Catania take exit Giarre and follow direction Zafferana Etnea on the national road SP148, from Zafferana continue to Nicolosi on the National Road SP 92, from Nicolosi to Sapienza Refugee at 2000 mt. on the Etna Volcano. Stop the car and (optional) take a 4wd for excursion or the Cable, or just enjoy the landscape and the view from the refugee.
The distance is about 64 km. and you will need 1hr and half driving from Taormina. From Etna you can easily reach the city of Catania – from Nicolosi take National road SP 92, in 1hr you will be in Catania, where you can visit the city monuments and spend the evening in one of the typical city pub (Catania is the first city in southern Italy for its night life entertainments) . From Catania you can reach Taormina via the highway A 18 in 45 min.

Day 4) Visit of Siracusa – starting in the morning from Taormina take highway A 18 direction Catania, on the City Ring of Catania take highway to Siracusa SS 114, in Siracusa you can visit of Archaeological park of Neapolis, the museum and the isle of Ortigia and spend the evening there or proceeding to visit the city of Noto (Capital of the Sicilian baroque), come back to Taormina via the same road.

Piazza Armerina
Day 1) Visit of the Roman Villa with its mosaics and the site of Morgantina (very close to Piazza Armerina).

Day 2) I will suggest visiting Caltagirone and Palazzolo Acreide. Caltagirone is the capital of the Sicilian Pottery production and the city is beautiful, in palazzolo Acreide you can visit the archaeological Greek Park of AKRAI. To reach Caltagirone from Piazza Armerina take national road SS 124, you will arrive in 45 min. Visit of the city centre, the Pottery Museum, the city public garden and the pottery shops. From Caltagirone take national Road SS 124, you will pass 3 or 4 small cities, in order: Grammichele, Vizzini, Buccheri and finally you will reach Palazzolo Acreide witch is 59 km from Caltagirone. From Caltagirone to Palazzolo you will need at least 1hr of driving. Try to be there before 07.00 p.m. or you will find the archaeological park closed. To go back to Piazza Armerina follow the roads you did in the morning.

Day 3) You can have the chance to visit the heart of Sicily, discovering ancient tradition and lifestyle that today is almost disappeared in the biggest city of the isle. You can visit the cities of Enna and Caltanissetta. Enna is very close to Piazza Armerina and you can visit its city centre and the Lombardia Castle witch is one of the biggest castle in Italy. In Caltanissetta you can really visit the typical Sicilian city (like you see in the movie) and the castle of Frederick the II, built inside a huge rocket. Both cities where very famous in Italy for their sulphur extraction and for their mineral production, and above all for their genuine kitchen.
Road itinerary: starting from Piazza Armerina follow direction Pergusa city on National road SS 561 and from Pergusa to Enna. The distance is about 27 km and you will need 30 min. of driving. From Enna you can reach Caltanissetta following the highway A 19 to Palermo and take exit Caltanissetta, the distance from Enna is about 39 km and you will need 30 min. of driving. To go back to Piazza, take highway A 19 direction Catania and take Exit Piazza Armerina.

Day 4) The visit of the Greek Temples Valley in Agrigento and the Talamone Museum. Take highway A 19 direction Palermo and take exit Caltanissetta, from Caltanissetta follow the National road SS 140 and then SS 122. The itinerary is very simple and you will reach the Temples Valley from Piazza in 1hr and half of driving.

From Agrigento you can drive to your last accommodation destination in Palermo. You have 2 different options to reach Palermo. 1st from Agrigento to Palermo via National roads, 2nd (I strongly suggest it)you to drive back to Caltanissetta and from there straight to Palermo via highway A 19.

In Palermo you have different option for your daily excursions.
Day 1) Can be visit of the city centre with its monuments, the Vucciria market and the Pellegrino mount.
Or
Day1) Visit of Palermo in the morning and proceeding to Monreale.
Or
Day1) Visit of Palermo in the morning and proceeding to Cefalu’.

Day2) Visit of Erice city and Segesta Archaeological Park.

Day3) Visit of the Isle of Mozia, the city of Marsala famous for the wine production and the nave Punica Museum. Proceeding to the biggest Archaeological Park of the entire Mediterranean area in Selinunte.
In the area of Palermo you will have different options, like I said before.
If you like the itinerary I can write you the roads to follow.
Hope it will help you.
Ciao
 
Posts: 134 | Location: Sicily | Registered: 10 May 2005Report This Post

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garciamtt and bluestone,

I hope you don't mind my reacting to bluestone's itinerary and -- garciamtt, please feel free to say butt out at any point!

But I do feel that it a jampacked schedule of touristing. There are definitely people who enjoy that (I married one!) but some people resist being tightly scheduled on what for most people is supposed to be a vacation.

I would recommend dropping Catania from blueston's itinerary. IF the Aeolian Islands weren't on your "must-see" list to begin with, you might not want to add them.

I would recommend saving the trip to Siracusa for when you are based in Piazza Armerina, and perhaps dropping Enna and Caltanissetta.

And I think you are right to want to see Noto and Ragusa Iblei, but it took me 2 hours to drive there from Siracusa, mostly because of heavy truck traffic on the road. I can't imagine making this part of an excursion from Taormina.

I would recommend getting rid of your car before you get to Palermo and simply staying there, making sure you take a taxi or bus to Monreale. If you don't like Palermo, you can always go to Cefalu to hang out.


One of things that hasn't been discussed yet in this thread is that traffic and parking in the historic quarters of most of these places, including Taormina, are a nightmare. It took me only 45 minutes to reach Siracusa from the slopes of Etna, but it took me close to an hour to get into Ortygia (and that was in April). I got completely lost entering Taormina and once I found my hotel and was shown to a parking garage, I had no interest in moving my car. When I went to leave Taormina, it took me half an hour to get someone to open the garage.

Perhaps your Taormina hotel has quite convenient parking with easy in/out accesss, but you are likely to eat up some of your day every day looking for parking and dealing with traffic if you do a lot of day trips. Driving in and out of Palermo is almost impossible for a non-native, I think.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: Sopranolands,
 
Posts: 917 | Location: New Jersey | Registered: 03 August 2005Report This Post

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Having a car in Taormina IS a pain. I did love staying in town though - there are some great restaurants and pizzerias there, and a couple of cool little wine bars.

Have you thought about picking up your car on your way OUT of Taormina? If you are flying into Catania airport there are shuttles that will take you to Taormina for something like 5 Euro. Then you won't have to worry about the car (plus you will save money.)

You can go on an organized tour to Etna, or drive around it on the way to your next destination.

When you are in Taormina, take the bus up to the town of Castelmola, and walk down. It is beautiful up there, and the walk down, though it seems long, only takes about 45 minutes and the views are spectacular.

You will love Ai Cartari in Palermo. It is in a great location and you can walk to many of the sights. Try to eat at the wine bar across the street, Mi Manda Picone. They are only open a couple of hours a night. And have a pizza at the Antica Focacceria di Francesco...
 
Posts: 9663 | Location: San Diego, sometimes | Registered: 20 March 2002Report This Post
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Thank-you! Thank-you!....to you ALL!
 
Posts: 50 | Location: Huntington Beach, CA | Registered: 09 July 2005Report This Post
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Dear Sopranolands

Ok, maybe some people hate scheduling, and some don’t, however, if you are planning a trip to Sicily for the first time and do want to see things to make it a cultural trip too, schedule is a must.

We are talking about 2500 years of history, with remains of several ancient cultures (Greek, Byzantine, Roman, Spanish, Norman, etc.). If you would plan a relaxing vacation, you would go to Maldives.

So, if you drop Catania from your itinerary, you drop one of the most peculiar baroque centre of Sicily, with its lava stone buildings and roads. And, about the Aeolian Islands, well, you leave me almost with no words! They are simply amazing and worth a visit, the volcano of Stromboli Isle has been active for the last 2000 years and amazing is the word to describe it.

As for the trip to Siracusa, consider there is a motorway from Taormina to Siracusa, except for a short piece of 30 KM, where it becomes an SS (2 ways road); going to Siracusa from Piazza is not such a good idea, in my opinion.
And dropping Enna and Caltanissetta means dropping some of the last places where Sicily is still Sicily in the old way (and it won’t be too long, Europe is coming closer and closer).

About traffic, you made a good point there, it is indeed one of the most annoying problems about Sicily, but unfortunately a car is still the best way to go around and see things in the shortest time. Just use the multilevel parking available in the spots of interest such as Taormina and use the shuttle to take you to the city, if present, or the local busses. By the time garciamtt comes to Sicily, there won’t be so many tourists around, so traffic would be a minor problem, except for Ortigia, Catania and Palermo: here, you better park your car in a multilevel (Catania), or just outside the isle (Ortigia) and walk to it (there is a huge parking space for free 5 min of walk from Ortigia), and in Palermo you might want to go around with a tour because the city is different from the other places in Sicily, and the monuments are not situated in the centre only, and driving in Palermo is a nightmare for a Sicilian native too.
 
Posts: 134 | Location: Sicily | Registered: 10 May 2005Report This Post

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Bluestone,

I had a very relaxing vacation in Sicily, and I scheduled in advance and I deeply enjoyed much of 2500 years of history. I wouldn't have enjoyed it if I had adopted the pace you proposed to garciamtt. Perhaps garcimtt is more like me than you.

I think it is very good that the various people here offer a variety of honest perspectives to those who ask for advice. Right at the top of my post, I told garciamtt he could ignore my response and even tell me to shut up! But I don't think it is for you to tell me that. All this back and forth is good, but it would be more fun if you avoided trying to be sarcastic.

Before I left for Sicily, a friend of mine offered me some very strange advice: He said "Just go into Taormina to see the theater, and forget the rest. And skip Ortygia entirely. Spend as much time as you can in the baroque towns." When other people heard the advice he had given me, they were horrified! They told me I *had* to go Taormina and Ortygia, and eat dinner there, etc.

So I did. And you know what? I wish I'd taken my friend's advice.


The very best days I spent in Sicily turned out to be in Modica, with it's lovely baroque buildings but also because it a real, functioning town, not a tourist site. You didn't even mention it on your list, and yet I felt there I understood more about today's Sicily and how sophisticated it is than anyplace else.

I think garcimtt is entitled to make up his own mind.

Catania has a reputation for being dangerous. Is it totally undeserved?
 
Posts: 917 | Location: New Jersey | Registered: 03 August 2005Report This Post
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Sopranolands
Modica its a Baroque Highlights and very famous in Italy for its chocolate production (off course a city to visit), but I think that Noto is the real capital of the Sicilian Baroque style and as you probably know is also an UNESCO world heritage site. If I should give a priority I would definitely choose Noto. About Catania to be a dangerous city, I can tell you that this is not true, Catania is dangerous like dangerous are all the big cities, (I have been living in Amsterdam for 4 years and I think that Amsterdam is much more dangerous than Catania) Catania like I said before offers opportunity unique in all the southern Italy, and if for example you visit the fish market in the first morning that will be a spectacular peace of Folk, you can not see in other Italian cities.
In my opinion Palermo is the most dangerous place in Sicily.
 
Posts: 134 | Location: Sicily | Registered: 10 May 2005Report This Post

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Thanks for your response.

I hope to go back to Noto when all the scaffolding is removed from the main monuments. It is very true that it is historically and artitistically more important than many of its neighboring towns and unquestionably worth visiting, more than once.

But often it is equally interesting for travelers to enjoy the life of the less touristed places, and Modica has great vitality. I was less interested in its chocolates than I was watching the life of the town and some of its smaller historical places (crypts and minor churches). It also had delicious food.

But that is the kind of traveller that I am: I almost always perfer to get off the beaten track.
 
Posts: 917 | Location: New Jersey | Registered: 03 August 2005Report This Post

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quote:
If I should give a priority I would definitely choose Noto.


I have been to Noto twice and, while it does indeed have spectacular monuments, I much preferred my visits to Ragusa Iblei, Modica and the other baroque towns in Ragusa province. For me, Noto was more of a stage set and Modica, etc. were more living, breathing towns. The baroque churches in Ragusa Iblei, Modica and Scicli are amazing to see and the surrounding scenery is worth the price of admission.

However, I am partial to Ortygia (in spite of the increase in tourism)...and our attendance at a performance of Medea at the Greek Theater in Siracusa was one of the highlights of our last trip.
 
Posts: 6576 | Location: Washington DC 20015 | Registered: 19 September 2002Report This Post

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I would have loved to see a performance at the theater in Siracusa. When I was there in April, they were hammering in the floorboards of the stage, and I absolutely loved even just that much theatrical activity and continuity. It is wonderful that it is still used and that people have the opportunity to see the great Greek classics there.

There are many, many reasons to enjoy Ortygia. My stay there was compromised by two days of wildly volatile weather, and I was especially disappointed that we could not sit in the marvelous piazza that fronts the Duomo in Ortygia. It's a truly enchanting spot.

Another reason I was less taken with Ortygia than other places I saw in Sicily is that I have spent a lot of time Italian fishing ports during my travels, so I fear I've become somewhat jaded. I found Ortygia a bit "boutique," and actually preferred being on the more mundane (and modern) side of Ortygia, closer to Siracusa itself. That's where the street market is, as well as very affordable cafes.

Within the caruggi of Ortygia I most enjoyed the appertivo hour in a tiny bookstore that has an international selection of books and serves wine, coffee, etc. and has a few deep couches to lounge on. It is just off the Piazza Archimede.

I shared Jim's feeling for the vitality of Modica. It was such a simple thing, but I so enjoyed walking around in the early morning and seeing people bustle off to work, and joining them in the cafes for a morning espresso. People looked surprised to see a tourist in their midst, but all were very gracious.
 
Posts: 917 | Location: New Jersey | Registered: 03 August 2005Report This Post

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PS: I want to put in a plug for the smaller, less visited Roman theater that is within the Siracusa site. Many people just walk past it (its entrance is almost hidden behind some souvenir stands), but it is really very attractive.
 
Posts: 917 | Location: New Jersey | Registered: 03 August 2005Report This Post
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