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Sicily - your tips please!

23 replies

Montalbanosono · 10/05/2021 14:30

Planning on going for 10 days this August but don't know where to start. We will have pre-teens and a teen with us and want to spend some time at the beach as I know it will be hot but also want to visit interesting places. Any suggestions? Thanks!

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Babypug · 10/05/2021 14:37

I've stayed at the Atlantis bay Taormina, great access to everything and I think because of the area being a bit more exclusive/ adult it meant there weren't loads of young family resorts. Beaches on the door step, cable car to visit above restaurants, easy to reach other must see attractions or interests too

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ReviewingTheSituation · 10/05/2021 15:20

We had one of our best holidays ever in Sicily - I'd go back in a heartbeat. First things first - it's MASSIVE. It's the largest island in the Med. I wouldn't entertain the idea of trying to 'do' the whole island. Choose a chunk of it and focus on that. We stayed east. We flew into Catania, then had a few days staying in Syracuse, to explore that area. Then went south and had a couple of days on the south coast - much more underdeveloped than many other parts of the island. There were great beaches there. From there we went to Modica - an amazing town - and had a couple of nights there, exploring all the towns and villages rebuilt after the earthquake in the 1600s. And then we had 5 days in Mascalucia - right on the edge of Etna - to see the volcano, and the surrounding area (and chill by the pool etc). It wasn't touristy at all - it was fab. We went on a day out up Etna in a 4x4 - hiking with a guide and going underground in lava channels.

The whole trip really was amazing - the architecture, nature, coast - everything. There are a couple of incredible geographical features - google Cava d'Ispica and Cavagrande del Cassibile. Both well worth seeing. There are endless lovely villages/towns to explore, and the food...

Most people seem to base themselves in Taormina if they're staying in the east, but I'd steer clear. It was nice to visit for the day (for the amphitheatre), but it's where all the cruise boats dock, and the package holidays go, so it's packed with tourists/day trippers and totally not representative of the rest of the island.

We stayed in a mix of SC and B&Bs, including a cave and a caravan in an olive grove, and an old monastery.

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VikingNorthUtsire · 10/05/2021 15:30

We loved Sicily. Had a few days at a chilled out agritourismo near Avola, then a week in Taormina in an apartment with a pool and a terrace with volcano and bay view. We found that by staying in Taormina we got the best of it (buzzy, glamorous, great choice of restaurants/shops/ice cream Parlours) but could avoid the cruise ship crowds by doing our exploring in the morning before they arrived or late afternoon after they'd gone - that worked well to avoid the heat too.

We hired a car which was brilliant for exploring but go for the smallest one you can manage (tiny windy streets) and avoid if you're a nervous driver.

Siracusa and Etna both great day trips. Food amazing everywhere we went even in the tourist traps. We also innocently wandered into Bar Turrisi in Castelmola with our two sons (Google it, not on your work laptop Grin).

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VikingNorthUtsire · 10/05/2021 15:33

Oh Alcantara Gorge was well worth a visit. Read TripAdvisor reviews to understand the situation with paid/free access. When we went there was a large showy tourist car park with paid entrance, then a free staircase a little way down the road which all the locals used.

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Montalbanosono · 10/05/2021 16:14

Thank you everyone! This is just the sort of thing I was after - getting excited now! @Reviewingthesituation - where was the cave you stayed? I think DS would love this.
@Vikingnorthutsire We are actually driving there - we live in Italy albeit at the other end of the country and DH has never been to Sicily. (I went very briefly for work 20 years ago!)

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Montalbanosono · 10/05/2021 19:53

Bumping for any more tips!

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ReviewingTheSituation · 10/05/2021 20:35

It was a B&B in Modica. It was a good few years ago now, so I don't have the details any more. But I imagine there must be a fair bit of 'cave' accommodation in that part of the island. I think Modica is the most famous example though.

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eurochick · 10/05/2021 20:37

Go up Etna if you can. It's pretty special. Mud bathing on the aeolian island was pretty fun too - you can go on a boat trip from the main island.

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Lucia574 · 10/05/2021 20:39

Long Travel have some great places in Sicily. They specialise in family run hotels, agriturismos, that sort of thing. They’re also v helpful with advice and know the area and properties well.

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AnnaMagnani · 10/05/2021 20:46

It's a bit late now but I only clicked to post 'Don't go in August!'

My SIL had her honeymoon in Sicily in August. They melted.

Get up early, plan for siestas and late late evenings. Get air con everywhere.

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TeddingtonTrashbag · 10/05/2021 20:49

@Montalbanosono
Fab username!!!!! I used to be SignoraLiviaBurlando -we should marryGrin
I drive there a lot from the UK as I visit Calabria and the ferry from Genia is a great way to cut off a 14 hour drive...
Palermo is beautiful a real town but with everything walking distance and without the tourism of Rome etc.
All the Montalbano towns obviously this hos house is a disappointment as the beach yhst is deserted in the programme is always crowded and the parking is insane.
Trapani is beautiful (watch ‘Maltese’ before you go if you haven’t already.
If you are driving down, stop off in Pizzo Calabro, a real gem snd much bwtter that the touristy destinations of Tropea (and Cefalu)
The ferry across the Messina Straits is expendive but à lovely interlude - the mythical ‘Scylla snd Charybdis’ from the Odyssey

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MirandaMarple · 10/05/2021 21:03

Oh I had a wonderful week in Sicily. Flew to Catania and drove to accommodation in Campofelice de Rocella (about a 45 min drive east from Palermo). Stayed at Madeira del Piano - a family run vineyard. Very simple but very authentic.

We visited San Vito lo Capo, Castlebuono, Monreale, Castellammare, Erice, Cefalu, Palermo and Masarla. Basically anywhere we could get to in the car and in a week and was on the north or west coast.

Don't ask me why I insisted we drove to Corleone (mild interest in mafia!) the drive was very scenic the the town not so much.

Went in mid October. Freakishly hot!

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newyeardelurker · 10/05/2021 21:17

I went years ago and we misread the size of the island drove from near palermo to syracuse and back. Back in a massive thunderstorm with etna gently erupting in the background...

Standout parts for me were syracuse, agrigento and the coast nearby, and san vito lo capo in a national park in the North West. And I recommend In Sicily by Norman Lewis for reading, if you are interested in the history mafia etcl

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londontonyc · 11/05/2021 03:10

We had a wonderful holiday in Sicily years ago, stayed in the south. Amazing food and wine, and deserted beaches.
Took the ferry from Polazzo to Malta for the day - Valletta is lovely.
Also worth doing is a day at Agrigento in the West, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Ancient Greek temples.
You can go on a climbing tour to the top of Etna. We were too far away and the children were young so we didn't do this. Don't underestimate the driving times to get to these places though!

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Montalbanosono · 11/05/2021 07:46

It's a bit late now but I only clicked to post 'Don't go in August!'
I know! Am a bit worried about this but it is the only time we can go so we'll just have to make it work somehow.

Fab username!!!!! I used to be SignoraLiviaBurlando -we should marry
Grin DH wants to go to Matera on the way but I'll look into the ferry for the way back.

Thanks everyone for all the tips!

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Montalbanosono · 11/05/2021 07:50

We also innocently wandered into Bar Turrisi in Castelmola with our two sons (Google it, not on your work laptop
Shock That's quite a theme they've got going there! Grin

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Seeline · 11/05/2021 07:54

Taomina is lovely - fantastic amphitheatre. Get there really early to avoid the cruise ship parties.

A trip up Etna is really worth it. We went in an organised trip which I think was worth it. We had a hire car -roads are interesting!!) but u think we would have wasted too much if the day trying to navigate it ourselves. The coach took us up to the cable car, which then takes you to the next stage. Our trip included the next stage- minster wheel minibuses which took us up to the moonscape near one of the craters which we could actually walk round. The kids loved it. But take an extra layer - it's windy and chilly up there!

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AnnaMagnani · 11/05/2021 10:22

Don't worry we did our honeymoon in Bologna in August.

The top article on Google at the time if you looked up Bologna and August was 'Don't go in August'.

They had a point, it was 40+ the whole time, anyone with any sense had left for the beach and even the beach when we got there was desperate. We still plodded on in a Mad Dogs and Englishmen kind of way Grin

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Montalbanosono · 11/05/2021 11:20

@annamagnani Yes, Bologna in August is awful! I'm hoping that Sicily might at least have a bit of a breeze!

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TeddingtonTrashbag · 11/05/2021 17:02

Yes was there in August once and it was 38/39 degrees. The main problem was Ferragosto when there was literally nowhere to park and I am used to Italian style parking but even that wasn’t possible...

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sansou · 11/05/2021 18:30

Been twice at Easter & Oct Half Term and based ourselves once in the West and then in the East but not in peak summer though. Water was warm in the sea at Oct half term. Much preferred the West - we stayed in a holiday house by the beach in Alcamo and did day trips to Trapani/Erice, Monreale, Palermo, SAN Vito Lo Capo, Temple of Segusta and snorkelled off the tuna factory pier in Scopello, (so good, we went twice!) and developed a taste for cannoli because the owner of the holiday home that we rented left us enough food/wine/pastries fridge (as a welcome) to feed us for a few days plus they delivered more pastries midweek - all unexpected but welcome freebies! The East side was far more commercial and busier but I imagine everywhere will be heaving in August.

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ReviewingTheSituation · 11/05/2021 21:40

We didn't find the east to be commercial or busy at all (Sept, so not peak holiday) - but then we didn't stay in Taormina or Catania.

I really want to go back now, reading everyone's recommendations!

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SJaneS49 · 14/05/2021 11:45

We did Catania/Taormina & Syracuse by train 4 years ago. The trains are a bit slower than mainland Italian trains but it’s still easy to use the network and seats are cheaper booked in advance on Trenitalia.

Syracuse was my absolute stand out favourite. We stayed in the old Greek part, Ortigia which was beautiful - do a Google! The town is made of marble and glows pink at sunset and dawn. It’s popular with French and Italian tourists but not many Brits. We had a very stylish apartment for not very much. Syracuse was the Western capital of the Greek empire and there are lots of Greek and Roman remains - catacombs, temples, huge amphitheatre etc. There isn’t a beach but there are swimming platforms for sea bathing. Gorgeous place and I’d love to go back.

Taormina is pretty but in August it was ridiculously rammed. It’s not a big village at the centre and the volume of people was a little too much. Very pretty though with its little island off the (stoney) beach and Greek amphitheatre. The accommodation there though cost twice what we paid elsewhere.

Catania is not unattractive but a lot of it is built in volcanic rock so the city has a bit of a grey appearance. I liked the piazza’s and the market. It’s definitely worth a day but I wouldn’t spend more than that.

August temps when we went were typically 32-35 - Europe was in the grip of a heatwave though. It was hot but we did a lot of shade dodging. Take mozzie repellent as we got bitten in the evenings. I loved Sicily - it’s scruffier than the mainland but got a lot going for it.

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