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Trip report-Southeast Sicily, May 4-16, 2018

Denver, Colorado
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Trip report-Southeast Sicily, May 4-16, 2018

After spending 36 hours in Rome to conquer jet lag and revisit some of our past highlights, we flew to Catania for 12 days in southeastern Sicily. We did not get to do everything we wanted. It seemed like the perfect time to be there, with no rain and no need for heat or air conditioning. Here is a brief summary.

We used three bases as we don't like repacking constantly: three nights in Syracuse at a two bedroom apartment in the Casa Nizza; four nights in Ragusa at the studio apartment in the Sabbinirica B&B; and four nights in the apartment at the Agriturismo Sillitti outside of Caltanisetta. We felt like we won the lottery with the selected accommodations. The owners of the apartments were magnificent hosts and the B&B was run perfectly.

Driving is not my favorite pastime but it was essential to have a car once we left Syracuse. I ordered the Italian auto club map and tracked its journey from Venice to Bergamo to Brussels to my home in the US. It is physically huge and gives the appearance of being comprehensive, until you zero in and discover that except for the largest roads on the island, almost none of the roads are marked by highway number. As we spent most our time on smaller roads, the map was close to useless. Google maps was our gps system, and it was significantly challenged. Remember that Google maps is more interested in supposedly saving you 30 seconds off of an hour trip than in making the drive easy. That's how you end up in the middle of nowhere on a road that is turning into a sheep path. I heard similar complaints from drivers who rented cars with built-in gps systems. Fortunately, most of the scenery we drove through was drop dead beautiful. We had a compact car, not a mini, and we were grateful for the small size. There were plenty of occasions where a larger car could not squeeze through. And by all means purchase all of the insurance with no deductible. Somebody hit our car, but when we returned it, all the company cared about was that the gas tank was full and we were on our way.

We could have spent more time in Syracuse, especially if we took day trips that are available from there. It had a good combination of markets, sites, restaurants, history, shopping and walking, walking, walking.

Ragusa was a terrific base for making daily drives of an hour and a half or so, each way. We enjoyed the Vendicari Reserve along the coast. The fishing village of Marzamemi, south of the Reserve is, unfortunately from a tourist's point of view, enjoying a boom, and it may just boom its charm away. Although it's probably very nice to have dinner there along the shore, its status as a charming fishing village is under attack.

We found a wonderful, tiny deli in Ragusa from which we bought lunch a couple of times. Hillside walking meant that no matter how much we ate, we always seemed to have an appetite for dinner. On those rare occasions when dinner was unnecessary, there are some great outdoor spaces in Ragusa where cocktails, accompanied by free "tapas", did the trick.

Other places we visited from Ragusa were Modica, Scicli,and the coast south of Scicli. Scicli is a town that should not be missed. And here's one of those travel moments to remember. Despite the fierce reputation Scicli parking police have, when neither my wife nor I could get the payment machine to work, and I had no coins to insert, I was approached by a parking officer. After using Google translate to explain our situation, she tore off a piece of paper, wrote "no charge" and signed her name, and told us to put the paper on the dashboard. Parking solved!

From the Agriturismo we visited Enna, Aidone, Caltagirone, the Valley of the Temples, and the Turkish Steps. The museum in Aidone was spectacular. The cook at the Agriturismo was so magnificent that we decided to eat dinner there every night. Of course, as with everywhere else on Sicily, the food is so fresh that it's difficult to mess it up. My wife noted that if you lived there, you probably could have a life's worth of meals eating only food farmed or fished nearby.

We feel like we only scratched the surface of Sicily, and recommend it highly as a destination.

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3 replies to this topic
Here & There
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for Sicily, Taormina
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1. Re: Trip report-Southeast Sicily, May 4-16, 2018

Welcome back, and thanks your trip report Doug K!

You did only scratch the surface.

But you selected great, and diversified destinations and accommodations.

Optimal to download Google maps, and then use the maps offline on your mobile, and with a paper map as a backup, but then drive autostrade point to point when possible.

But really in the end, it's always good to have a clear idea not only of your destination town (which may be a small town), but the name of a larger town beyond your destination, which may be listed on the sign instead.

And enter coordinates.

Marzamemi is a tourist destination, completely sustained by tourism, and very small with forgettable restaurants, and not even a memorable beach.

And Scicli continues to get better and better, a jewel of a town.

What a great travel moment to remember!!

The museum in Aidone is constantly recommended here, and really underappreciated, but it's an outstanding archaeological museum, and well worth the visit.

It's optimal to enjoy dinner at an agriturismo, and especially your agriturismo!

And yes, Sicily is a highly recommended destination!

Thanks for you report, a bit different from most!

Vagabonda

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Denver, Colorado
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2. Re: Trip report-Southeast Sicily, May 4-16, 2018

Thanks for your reply, Vagabonda. Good suggestions on the gps. I meant to include in my report that before traveling I downloaded the Italian Food Decoder app, which was developed by the authors of the Cadogan guides to Italy. It wasn't perfect but was superior to other food identification sites I've tried in the past. We stumbled into a lunch restaurant in Syracuse that serves ONLY a six course, price fixed fish meal for lunch or dinner. The waiter knew most of the English words, but one item he could not describe. He gave me the Italian name for the fish, but the app pulled up a group of fishes that were included under that name. So he took my phone and scrolled through the photos of the fishes by that name, and pointed to one. He told us that he had bought that fish in the morning! The app saved the day.

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Here & There
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3. Re: Trip report-Southeast Sicily, May 4-16, 2018

Another great moment to remember! :-)

GPS is never perfect, but the downloaded Google Maps on a mobile are quite accurate. Of course never indicating ZTL.

Vagabonda

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