I’m gradually working through your travel questions about Sicily.
It’s taking me a while, but I’m loving it.
Be sure to send any of your general questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Don’t expect detailed travel itineraries; let’s keep it general.
I’m happy to point you in the right direction if you are planning a trip.
Here’s this week’s query.
I came across your website and have a question. My husband and I will be visiting Sicily for 2 weeks mid June. He has business in Marsala, so we will be in that region for at least 3 days. We plan on flying into Catania and out of Palermo.
I am planning the rest of our itinerary and it seems that Taormina has become overwhelmed with tourists. The nice hotels are outrageously expensive (maybe there are nice options I am missing). Is it better just to go for a day to see the sights versus staying there for a couple nights?
Also, I have heard from certain friends to skip visiting Palermo and Catania – there are so many more beautiful places to visit on the Island. Your thoughts?
Thanks so much for your letter, it’s great to hear from you and that you are coming to Sicily.
Even though two weeks in Sicily isn’t very long, you could choose a few unique things and experiences depending on your interests.
I don’t think you should skip Palermo and Catania at all; they are vibrant places to visit; you could easily take a walking tour in the morning, find some fascinating museums to visit, do a street food tour or go out for a beautiful lunch or dinner. There are plenty of things to see; google whatever you may be interested in.
Generally, it depends on what you are interested in. June is a great time to explore the beaches and coastal towns. If you arrive from Catania, moving down the coast to places like Augusta, Siracusa, and Avola is easy.
There are places like Castellammare, San Vito Lo Capo and Trapani from Palermo to Marsala along the coast. Don’t forget the Aegadian Islands (Isole Egadi) like Favignana which make for beautiful beachside day trips or stays.
Regarding highlights around Syracuse, I’d explore the baroque towns of the Val di Noto, which make lovely day trips if you choose to base yourself in the ancient city of Siracusa.
Most of the towns in the Val di Noto were destroyed in a massive earthquake in the 1600s, so most cities were rebuilt in the ornamental Sicilian baroque style. So the towns in this area are stunning, particularly:
Caltagirone, Militello in Val di Catania, Catania, Palazzolo, Ragusa, Modica, Noto and Scicli.
Also, it is easy to grab the autostrada and explore around Catania; driving up to Etna is breathtaking. The whole area surrounding Catania is filled with beautiful wineries, B&B and restaurants to explore.
I’d suggest a drive or day trip to see the ancient Roman Villa at Piazza Armerina with its elaborate mosaics, of course, if you find the time as it takes a bit to get there, it’s probably best with a car. But you can break the drive up by finding an Agritourismo to stay the night or for lunch or dinner.
Regarding Taormina, yes, it is very touristy, but I think it is still worth visiting. Even if you manage a few days or a day trip, you have enough time to walk around the suggestive streets and grab a cocktail or a lovely seafood meal.
It is also great to go up to Castelmola, above Taormina and down to Isola Bella and walk around Giardini Naxos down below Taormina. You could try finding a place to stay at Giardini or Castelmola, even though they fill up quickly in the summer.
One of my favourite books about Sicily is A House in Sicily by Daphne Phelps. The book is a little dated now but is the memoir of a colourful English dame who inherited a house near Taormina and moved to Sicily after World War Two, and she ended up staying forever.
Phelps with a psychiatric nurse during the war and saw the psychiatric damage the war created first-hand. Her move to Sicily helped her recover from her harrowing experiences. It led her to live a calm yet fascinating life on the Island, where she hosted some of the last century’s most famous and fascinating writers and artists.
This classic is currently out of print, but it is a beautiful book (which I highly recommend) that will make you fall in love with the idea of Sicily and the late Daphne Phelp’s quirky adventures running a guest house with terribly famous guests in the then semi-rural town of Taormina.
Incidentally, I mentioned this book because the town of Taormina purchased the beautiful house Daphne inherited, designed by her uncle, artist Robert Hawthorn Kitson.
Today the Casa Cuseni is a luxury B&B whose doors, botanical gardens and library are also open to the public through organised group tours.
If I were attempting to make it to Taormina, I’d try to find a room at Casa Cuseni, even for one night, to have a memorable stay in a picturesque hotel in Taormina. Or even book a tour if you make it to the city.
The Marsala and Trapani are beautiful areas to explore; from the wineries, Natural reserves, salt pans and archaeological museums, there are plenty of things to see and do.
I hope this gives you a few exciting leads to follow.
Well, these are some suggestions off the top of my head.
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I hope this is helpful, and enjoy your trip.
Regards from RDB
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