Itinerary Advice - early February Naples and Sicily
Replies: 12 - Last Post: Jan 10, 2013 1:16 PM Last Post By: tombisan
Dec 17, 2012 2:14 PM
As background - We're experienced travelers who are not trying to cover a lot of ground, but rather visit places in more depth.
We arrive in Naples on January 30 and leave on February 15. Other than Pompeii, which I missed on a trip years ago (a strike), we don't have anything in particular we want to see or do in or near Naples. I've been to the Amalfi coast, but don't plan to visit this time.
I've been learning about Sicily and there's almost nothing that doesn't seem interesting!
We would like to keep our itinerary a little loose so that we can take advantage of nice weather when we find it to go on long walks and to hike in the mountains.
We're splurging on this trip, but 'splurge' for us means no more than $150/day. We will stay in B&B.
So, here are a few questions
- Is is SIMPLE and FAST to get around by bus? (Normally, we travel in the third world, and we enjoy going by bus - but we don't want to spend many extra hours in Italy on busses, as the trip is so expensive in the first place). Are there busses to small villages, or does it involve a lot of waiting about?
- Anyone with experience on the overnight ferry between Naples and Catania? (it's cheaper than flying because a night's accommodation is part of the deal).
- We will land in Naples dead-tired around noon. One option is to check into a hotel, take a nap, see a little of Naples in the late afternoon, go to Pompeii the next day, return to Naples, and then get on the ferry to Catania. Does this make sense? Where should we leave luggage? I guess we would take the train to Pompeii.
- Given that we will have less than 2 weeks on Sicily, we're wondering if it makes sense to 'do it all' or focus on one area. The feast of Sant'Agata and the Carnevale in Acireale sound like fun, so it makes sense that we would stay more or less in the East.
- In the East, I'm most interested in Ragusa, Siracusa, hiking in Pantalica, Catania (for the festival), Acireale
- Taormina sounds very 'touristy', but I'm guessing that it would be quiet in February?
- We love climbing mountains, so Etna sounds interesting, but I'm wondering how much fun that would be in February? (We're not put off by snow or cold, but don't enjoy hiking in the rain)
- If we could choose one other area of Sicily as well, it would be to see a significant archeological site. Selinunte maybe? Or Tindari?
- Would we be foolish to miss Palermo?
thanks so much everyone!
Dec 17, 2012 9:50 PM
1We were in Catania last January and I'm not sure how cold it gets in February but it was fairly warm. Warm being that we only needed one jumper in the town.
In saying that there was snow on Mt Etna but they clear the roads so its easy to get to.
Although you may have already organised accom. I just thought I'd recommend Catania City Centre B&B. Easy to get to walking from the train station and there is a bus stop close by so you don't have to carry your stuff too far. They also operate a tour program out of the B&B. We took their Etna tour and hiked up the volcano. The best part about the tour was the guide - an actual volcanologist who had lived in Catania his whole life! Apparently as Italy doesn't have enough money to fund Etna research programs at the moment, the volcanologists become tour guides in their free time. Most amazing experience of my whole 5 week Italy trip, without a doubt
Also in regards to the ferry. We also decided to get it, but from Palermo to Naples as the trains were all booked up. That part unfortunately was the worst part of the trip. It was a super rough crossing for us (not sure if this is normal) and no sleep was had. The ferry also arrived 4 hours late which meant we missed our next train and lost the money for our next nights accommodation.
Enjoy your trip!
Dec 18, 2012 1:09 AM
2Bus...between big cities it is simple and (relatively) fast.
To small villages no.
The ferry is ok (though I've only taken Napoli-Palermo.IF the weather is good as mentioned above ;-)
It is quite likely that in February the sea will be rough and you will arrive late.
Personally I'd probably fly from Naples at that time of year...
Dec 18, 2012 1:13 AM
3In two weeks you can't 'see it all'.
I'd focus on one area...either west or east.The carnival in Acireale is a good one,and there is plenty to do in that area.Taormina will be absolutely dead in February,with many restaurants,bars etc closed.
Going up Etna is usually possible...depends on the weather of course..if there is a lot of snow you might not be able to get to the top.
Dec 18, 2012 1:16 AM
4On the other questions...Tindari is nothing special IMHO.Selinunte is nice but a long way from the Catania area.The temples at Agrigento are probably the most interesting,but again quite far away.Better to stay there overnight if you want to see the temples without spending the whole day on a bus...
Piazza Armerina (the Roman Villa) is nearer and well worth a look.
Palermo is a very interesting city,and you could do a few days here at the end of your trip (before flying out).Its only 2.5 hours by bus from Catania.
Dec 18, 2012 1:21 AM
5I can make a few 'personal' comments on Sicily which I visited for 15 days last year in October. I flew from Bologna to Palermo. Stayedin Palermo for 5 nights, Siracusa for 4 nights (one too many I thought) and Taormina for 4 nights
- Taormina is beautiful and was one of the highlights of my trip last year. Was there in October and was not over touristed at this time so I assume Feb would be fine. If you do go to Taormina, I also recommend taking a bus to Castelmola which is a hilltop town overlooking Taormina...beautiful (and for an experience in Castelmola, go to the Bar Turrisi for the almond wine - buy a bottle instead of by the glass - and the, errr, interesting decorations)
- I also used Taormina as a base for a daytrip to Mt Etna. That was an exhilirating experience, even though there was a limit to how far we could go...the more upper reaches were closed off for some reason. The two guides were fantastic, and it was a small group, myself and 4 other people...great experience. If I can ever remember the name of the guide, I'll post it. They also took us to Alcantra gorge and to a nice overlook over one of the guides home villages.
- I did not like Palermo at all as a city (other than its restaurants), but it was perfect as a base for daytrips. I stayed there 5 nights...but since I did not like the city, i went on 3 daytrips. Erice which is a tiny and picturesque little hilltop town overlooking Trapani, Cefalu which is a beautiful beachtown (with a walk up La Rocca which is a must for the views), and Agricento Valley of Temples which might be right up your alley for archeological sites (has a very extensive museum nearby too), My favourite of the daytrips was Erice though can be a bit of a hassle to get to by transport (bus to trapani, then a cablecar up mountain - I could not find the local bus that took me to the cablecar and ended up walking to the cablecar from where the intercity bus dropped me off). Trapani looks very nice for a stay too by the way. Erice could be cold in Feb though.
- Siracusa is great too - 2 nights would be fine if pressed for time. Could see the old city (where you should stay if you can) as well as the arheological site in the new city in a day. It has one of the most beautiful piazzas I've seen in the city as well...especially when seen at night. 3 nights would be perfect to include a daytrip
- I went to Noto as a daytrip from Siracusa but was not really impressed by it. Didn't stay long at all. Perhaps I should have gone to Ragusa instead.
Hotel suggestions in Sicily depending on your budget:
- Siracusa: Albergo Domus Mariae (note: no elevator). Hopefully Cinzia still works there...absolute classic! Note there is another hotel called Domus Mariae Bennessere which is connected but I think ADM will be better.
- Taormina: Villa Schuler (if your budget allows it). Since i knew accomodation was going to be expensive in Taormina anyway and this was one of the best towns on my trip for scenery, I decided this would be the one town I splurged out on. Was not disappointed (still remember the outdoor breakfast area with view of Mt Etna smoking away in the background and the bay). Room had a big terrace with great bay views.
Edited by: cdchi1
Dec 18, 2012 3:24 AM
6Thanks for all the great advice so far! So, I'm going to book air rather than the ferry, as my travel companion suffers on rough seas. I am curious, cdchi1, what it was about Palermo that you didn't like. I have heard from some that it is dirty and chaotic. Is there a nearby town which might be a better base for the northwest?
Dec 18, 2012 3:55 AM
Dec 18, 2012 9:40 PM
Dec 18, 2012 10:51 PM
'Even Naples to some extent' made me laugh ;-)
It is famous as the dirtiest city in Italy,if not Europe.....not that it is a problem for me-I don't travel to see cleanliness.
Jan 5, 2013 5:03 PM
10It has great food,very interesting places to visit and markets etc...it is very colourful,noisy and full of character.And its a good base for day trips.Nowhere else in this part of Sicily is like that.....
Agree! I liked Palermo very much. It is indeed a good base from which to explore. Renting an apartment is a good value.
Jan 7, 2013 7:54 PM
11With regards to your question on Pompeii, I recall seeing a bagage deposit place (I was there in Dec 2012) at the Pompeii train station. I did not use the facility so I can't comment on details such as price etc.
Jan 10, 2013 1:16 PM
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