Erice is a tiny village perched on a mountain top above Trapani. You can reach it either by road or by cable car. We opted for cable car and spent a nice day wandering around the little town, losing our way in the lanes and streets with no names. Why would you want to know where you are??
We booked a driver to take us from Agrigento to Trapani because we wanted to stop at Selinunte ruins and it’s impossible to do with public transport. Salvo picked us up about 9:30 and off we went through olive groves and vineyards. Salvo was full of good info about olive oil industry and answered our various questions about schools, olive oil, bridges, etc. in Sicily. Did I mention he looked like George Clooney, too?
Selinunte is on the coast and is packed with visitors in the summer when tourists come to spend a week or 2 or 3 at the beaches here. In October, not so much! We had the grounds pretty much to ourselves except for 2 tour groups who used a bus to move between the 2 majors parts of the park. We walked down the long hill and back up the hill to the Acropolis.
As we’ve traveled around Sicily, we’ve made some observations. Here goes!
- Low to the floor beds! 5 out 6 beds have been ridiculously low to the ground. Only one bed has had box springs. We wonder what someone who grew up here thinks the first time he/she sees a U.S mattress and box springs on a high bed frame?? Mark says all the pillows are flat, too!
- “Transition” coats – We learned this term from a German friend who says there’s no good English translation for the German word but it amounts to a light Fall jacket. We see people in puffy coats all the time; meanwhile, Mark has his shorts on and Susan is wearing capris and no jackets. Sicilians don’t seem to be very fond of A/C or drafts either. Scarves are everywhere and not for decoration. One of the ladies working in the Poste today had a heavy scarf around her neck. We couldn’t even tell any A/C might be on!
- Signage in National Archaeological Parks or the lack thereof – After visiting 3 of these sites, we’ve determined no extra money is spent on signage to guide visitors around the sites in a logical or even illogical order. One site had a pretty good map; one had a barely useful map; and one had none at all! The ticket guy just shrugged when I asked for one. Why would I need a map? A few arrows along the way would help visitors decide if the track leads someplace – like to a temple – or if it’s just a track made by visitors? When they do have a “path”, let’s just say some of the paths would never quite be approved by the U.S. NPS!
- Laundry … just typical European washing machines – The wash and rinse process takes a minimum of 90 minutes. Why do our clothes need rinsed and spun 3 times??
- Toilets – our grades for public toilets are based on 4 things: toilet paper, soap, water, and a hand dryer/paper towels. We haven’t found many that score 4/4. We carry TP and a hand towel with us along with hand sanitizer.
Ragusa is another hill city. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1692; rebuilt up high but the aristocrats liked the lower part better. They rebuilt there, separated by a valley. Lower Ragusa is the most scenic part as far as tourists go.
We took the bus from Modica to Upper Ragusa (only place the bus goes); found the local bus to Lower Ragusa, guessing where to get off. The streets are narrow, winding, and all UP or DOWN. Lots of houses appear abandoned. You could buy one if you’re in the mood to deal with Italian bureaucracy for the sale and then all the workers to renovate it.
Of course, to return to Modica, we did the whole thing in reverse. Riding buses in Sicily would be MUCH easier if any of the bus stops happened to have a posted schedule on it or even show the bus numbers. In Ragusa, the bus route number was handwritten on white cardboard and placed in the bus window. The schedules must be passed from generation to generation!
Modica is a hill town in Sicily, famous for making chocolate! When the word “hill” is used to describe anything in Sicily, you can count on MANY hills and steps to move around the town. Modica is a lovely town; if you visit, make sure you check the location of your B&B or hotel. You could find yourself lugging suitcases up MANY steps to find the correct street!
Sicily is an island – check. Sicily has LOTS of cactus (prickly pear, cholla) growing – check. So what’s the climate like?? The island would make you think humid and the cactus makes me think dry. You are correct on both counts. The land is pretty dry, supporting the cactus, but lots of citrus orchards dot the island. The air on the other hand is quite humid, at least by Colorado standards.
We’ve had great weather with very little rain, lots of sun, and some major wind thrown in. My hair has been pulled up many days because the air is so humid that when we’re in the sun, my hair is wet from all the sweat! I’ve given up on curling the hair and just use tons of hair spray to keep it out of my face!
We spent 5 nights in Siracusa, staying on the island of Ortygia. At this time of year, abundant tour groups appeared every day in the narrow streets. By night, we had the streets pretty much to ourselves and were on a first name basis with the owner of Gusto, a gelateria!
We wanted to see Mt. Etna and booked a day trip with a driver and guide, John Franco. He was knowledgeable about volcanoes as well as about local food. Mt. Etna has multiple calderas. We went to the South side which is set up for tourists – parking lot with shops and food, a cable car to the top which stopped a few times on the way up; a bus at the top to take us farther up the volcano where the guide walked us inside the caldera. He tried to educate us along the way but the wind was slo strong no one could here the guide.
All the guys working up on the mountain looked like they could be employed in Colorado ski resorts – down jackets, ski hats, scarfs.
Etna is rarely not windy; the day we went the wind was howling! The mountain guide cut the walk short when he decreed the wind was too heavy to walk safely. I’d been thinking the same thing for about 15 minutes!
Stop number 2 in Sicily was Taormina and we took the Interbus from Catania – not a bad ride for about an hour and only cost $7.50 each. Taormina is a very touristy town set on a hill with beaches below. At this time of year, it was crowded during the day with cruise ship gaggles and tour groups. At night, it was a little more calm. We stayed in a VRBO right outside the old town, making for a nice walk every day. Yes, we got at least 10,000 steps every day and many of them were on hills and actual steps to move between levels.
We’re in Sicily using public transport to get around the island. Sunday, we needed to go from Taormina to Siracusa and decided to use Interbus again. With no direct bus except at 8:15 AM, we had to take the bus from Taormina to Catania and then take another bus to Siracusa. Well, we learned one thing! Check where the FIRST stop is for the bus on a busy route and board the bus there, if possible.
We took Bus 1 all the way to the aeroporto in Catania, knowing that a bus goes to Siracusa from there. Little did we know that the bus route actually starts in the middle of Catania. By the time Bus 2 arrived at the airport, it was very full on a Sunday at 12:40. (We knew this was possible since the bus lady said the bus was full when I asked about a departure time.) Given that the next bus to Siracusa didn’t leave until 2:40 PM, we REALLY wanted on this one – didn’t want to hang out at the aeroporto for 2 more hours.
We did our best European/Italian “what’s a line?” act! Mark took the bags to put them under the bus in the luggage compartment – it’s all self-service – while Susan stood as close to the curb as she could when the bus approached. She was the third person on the bus when the driver muttered to the lady in front of her something in Italian. I could tell by her expression it probably translated to “The bus is full”. I asked him in English and the driver replied, “I have only 2 seats”. (The lady needed more than 2.) I quickly said, “We are 2” and motioned to Mark to push through the crowd at the door and get on the bus!
It worked! We were a bit squished for the 1 hour ride and Mark had to make some young lady move her purse out of a seat but we had seats and left everyone else to curse the Italian bus ticketing system and maybe us, too.
We flew to Catania from Munich on an uneventful flight. The luggage people were as slow as Denver getting our bags! We figured out the Alibus, took it to town and walked to our B&B on narrow little sidewalks along streets with no street signs. Google maps was our friend at 7:15 PM as it was getting dark!
Catania is every stereotype you’ve heard of Sicily – old, lots of graffiti, and garbage in the streets – but it is pretty inexpensive to eat and drink in the neighborhoods and we had some good food during our 2 days here. Aperol spritzers were 4 euro and beer was 1 euro!
One day we went to the WWII Museum to learn about the British, American and Canadian invasion of the island. I would not have wanted to be one of those soldiers dealing with all the hills/mountains, heat and humidity.