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December 4, 2008

Rome and Sicily, Trip Wrap Up and Lists

Filed under: Italy Rome-Sicily 2008, Travel — anotherheader @ 9:20 pm

Statues at the Vatican in Rome

Statues at the Vatican in Rome

Wrap-up and lists for our Rome and Sicily trip, in no particular order:

Our Itinerary:

  • Saturday: Arrive Rome
  • Sunday: Rome Sightseeing (Coliseum, Forum)
  • Monday: Rome (Trastevere, The Vatican)
  • Tuesday: Rome, Tivoli (Villa d’Este)
  • Wednesday: Rome (Villa Borghese)
  • Thursday: Rome (Ostia Antica)
  • Friday: Drive from Rome to Matera
  • Saturday: Matera
  • Sunday: Drive and Ferry from Matera to Taormina
  • Monday: Taormina and transfer to Mt. Etna
  • Tuesday: Mt. Etna tour and drive to Syracuse
  • Wednesday: Syracuse to Ragusa
  • Thursday: Ragusa to Agrigento (Villa del Casale)
  • Friday: Agrigento to Palermo (Valley of the Temples)
  • Saturday: Palermo and Monreale
  • Sunday: Departure

The itinerary worked reasonably well. As always, it would have been nice to have more time, though. Knowing what I know now, I would have skipped Taormina and stopped at The Valley of the Temples or Villa del Casale on the way from Ragusa to Palermo, though we would have missed the enjoyable stay at Fattoria Mose. This would have given us two extra days, maybe one day for Palermo and an additional day in the Ragusa/Noto area. If we had spent more time in Rome in the past, we could have shortened the stay there and used the days elsewhere on the trip.

San Pietro at Sunset

San Pietro at Sunset

Random data for the trip:

Duration: 17 days

Rental Car mileage: 1721 km on car

8 hotels/rooms

3830 pictures taken, 62 gb of disk space used

Best restaurant: Ristorante Duomo in Ragusa

Worst Toilet: Caronte and Tourist Ferry ticket office, Villa San Giovanni

Things to do:

Rome is a necessity for visits to Italy. Peace is in the out of the way places in Italy.

Our Favorite things to do from the trip:

Mt. Etna Crater tour

Vucciria Market in Palermo

Ortygia’s (Syracuse) open air market

Duomo Monreale, just outside of Palermo

A morning walking in Matera or Ragusa

Dinner at Ristorante Duomo in Ragusa

Pomegranites in the Ortygia open air market

Pomegranites in the Ortygia open air market


Our favorite places to stay:

La Casa di Lucio, Matera;

B&B Caelum Hyblae, Ragusa;


We never really considered this a travel strategy, but it turns that visiting the UNESCO World Heritage sites never fails to amaze. We figure that we’ve been to about 60 of the 800+ sites registered. There’s a lot left for us to cover before we die!

UNESCO sites, visited on this trip:

Rome (the old city)



Noto and Ragusa

Villa del Casale

The Valley of the Temples near Agrigento


We have minimal knowledge of Italian. We know a few words, a few phrases, but it is usually just enough to get us into more trouble. We worked through the Rosetta Stone Italian levels 1 and 2, but it only helped a little. The big thing that is missing is reinforcing the common phrases that you would use traveling. That all being said, there were plenty of situations where what we did learn proved to be invaluable. In the southern part of Italy and into Sicily, we ran into plenty of situations where we seemed to know as much Italian as the people we were interacting with knew English. The expanded vocabulary we got from working at the language gave us key words that helped in certain situations. For this trip, it was definitely worth spending a little effort to pick up a small bit of Italian.

The view from Mt. Etna

The view from Mt. Etna

Guide books

We buy a lot of guide books. It is probably the first step along the slippery slope of having years old guide books tucked under every nook and cranny. It seems that the best books always vary with the location. Here are our favorites:

For Rome:

DK Eyewitness Travel Rome has color pictures give a good tour experience. We’ve also been pretty happy with the restaurant and room suggestions, though I would not say this is a strength of the DK guide books.


The Lonely Planet publishes a Puglia and Basilicata edition. It is hard to find a more detail description of the area. And this guide makes us want to visit Puglia, too!


The DK Eyewitness Travel Sicily guidebook is useful, particularly in the larger towns. The Palermo section was particularly good.

The Michelin Green guide to Sicily was more useful to use outside of the big cities. The sections, and maybe the star rating system, are helpful for prioritizing the itinerary.

National Geographic Traveler’s Sicily was most useful around Mt. Etna. The content in this one seemed to be different that the standard Fodor’s and Lonely Planet guides, so it was a good one to round out the selection.

Where to go next:

All trips seem to end with a return trip plan. In this case, we are most interested in returning to see Puglia, more of Sicily including Enna, the western coastal towns, much more of Palermo, more of the baroque towns around Noto, the Aeolian Islands, and some the western coastal towns on the mainland including Materea, more of the Amalfi Coast, and back to Naples. There’s so much to see and so little time. Maybe a six week tour next time?


This trip cemented the tastes of a couple of red wine varietals to our palate:

Aglianico del Vulture, from Baslicata

Nero d’Avola from Sicily

We didn’t do a good enough job sorting out the Sicilian white wines, though we certainly had some good ones. Add an exploration of Sicilian wines to the list of things to do on our return visit!

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