Travel advice: Santo Stefano di Quisquina, Sicilian ancestry research and travel from Spain.

Hello friend,

I’m gradually working through your travel questions about Sicily. 

It’s taking me a while, but I’m enjoying it.

Be sure to send any of your general questions to:

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.


My father’s mother immigrated to the US (I do not know the year) from Santo Stefano de Quisquina. My father and all his family have passed on, and I know little of their family (and my Sicilian heritage.)

I am planning a September trip to Santo Stefano Quisquina to explore family history. My brother-in-law has travelled there as he has family roots there, so I want to visit and see if any distant relatives are still living there. 

I visited Spain in 2018 to visit the birthplace of my maternal grandfather and met cousins still living there. I spent a month in Spain. I have considered spending part of my year in Spain and part here in the US.

I am telling you this because in September I would like to fly in to Barcelona, ferry to Sicily, spend a couple of weeks walking, train and bus travelling in Sicily, then make my way back to Barcelona, via Italy west coast, France south coast, to visit my cousins and return home from Barcelona.

I would like to know if you know the best way to ferry from Barcelona to any location in Sicily and if you think I should purchase a rail pass for my time in Sicily, Italy and on to Spain.

In addition, any info you might have regarding family names in Sicily would be cool. I am currently doing a MyHeritage DNA test, and they also provide some genealogy tools. My searching on my own family led me to your interesting blog site. 

Thanking you in advance for any suggestions for me while visiting Santo Stefano de Quisquina.


Hello T.

Thanks for your email. It’s great to hear from you and that you are planning to explore Sicily, especially the area where your family is originally from.

Your trip will give you a valuable experience and make you feel much more connected to your ancestry.

Researching family history in Sicily can be a little tricky, but basically, you need to try and hunt down birth and death dates or track down birth certificates, baptism or marriage certificates through where your relives were born, from town halls in Sicily (comune), in parish churches or by exploring cemeteries (I know it’s a bit morbid but that’s how it’s done.)

I know Sicilian genealogy expert Angelo Coniglio has some great advice on how to go about researching family history in Sicily. Here is a link to his web page with some more advice. 

Regarding travelling from Barcelona, Spain, to Sicily, it is generally difficult to travel by ferry to Sicily as there is minimal service to Sicily unless you are on a cruise.

The closest way by sea is if you catch a ferry to Civitavecchia (Rome) or Genova and catch a train down, which can be time-consuming. The best way to get to and from Spain to Sicily is to catch a plane to Palermo; several airlines have flights during the week.

I don’t think you would need to buy a rail pass; it’ll be much easier to download the Treni Italia app and purchase etickets as you need them directly from the app.

Also, if you fly to Palermo, it will be easy for you to catch a train from Palermo down to the province of Agrigento and eventually to Santo Stefano Quisquina.

I haven’t travelled much around the centre of Sicily, and Santo Stefano Quisquina looks quite central. If you decide to base yourself there, you could explore places like Agrigento and further down the coastline to sites like Palma di Montechiaro and Licata. Or stick to central Sicily in places like Caltinissetta and Enna.

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 agriturismo (farm-stay B&B) to stay the night or for lunch or dinner.

A good idea would be to arrive at Palermo, slither down to Agrigento, choose what places you want to visit, head towards Catania, and fly out from there.

Heading back toward Catania, you can try and see some baroque towns in the Val di Noto (I am always raving about these beautiful towns, which I think are must-sees!- I think I have repeatedly mentioned the Val di Noto towns literally hundreds of times, so here is my usual spiel about these UNESCO World Heritage towns)

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 Val di Noto villages were destroyed in a massive earthquake in the 1600s, so most of the towns were rebuilt in the ornamental Sicilian baroque style.

So the cities in this area are stunning, particularly: Caltagirone, Militello in Val di Catania, Catania, Palazzolo, Ragusa, Modica, Noto and Scicli. And, of course, Syracuse is a stunning city to stay in and explore.

I hope this gives you a few exciting leads to follow.

Be sure to subscribe to my blog ( )to keep in touch and for new posts that might be helpful to you.

I hope this is helpful, and enjoy your trip.

Buon Viaggio

Regards from RDB

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