Now the jet lag is gone and things quited down a bit, it is time to report on our trip. As we benefitted tremendously from this forum and especially from so knowledgeble and dependable Vagabonda, I am hoping our report will help others plan their trip and have a little "know-how" based on our experiences. We were trying to be "budget-minded" on this trip so here it goes:
Day 1 - Eurofly to Naples. "Alibus" from airport to port (Piazza Municipio) to pick up our tickets for overnight ferry to Catania(TTTlines). Had 4 hours to walk around. Very nice.
Day 2 - Arrived in Catania at 9:00 a.m. Was hoping to take a bus to Catania airport but could not see where the stop was and had to take taxi (20 euros). Piked up a car in Catania airport. We were going to spend 2 nights in Ragusa. On a way to Ragusa, we stopped to see mosaics in Villa Romana. Even though it is under restoration, it is still worth a visit,
such a unique place. Arrived in Ragusa - our B&B Le Fioriere is located right off the Duomo square, right in the heart of Ragusa Ibla. We got lost and we do not speak Italian. Sicilians were very nice and patient with us. This guy we asked for directions just got into his car and told us to follow him. Tip: highway or local roads driving is not a problem - finding your way in the old cities is a challenge. There is usually 1 way into the city and another way out. Oncce we fgured that one, got each old city maps and learned a few Italian words for directions we were on a roll!!!
Le Fioriere was very nice - perfect location, spacious room, OK breakfast, parking in the courtyard, which was a huge plus.
Day 3 - Ragusa - loved it. Such calm, not too touristy. We took a bus to upper town and then stairs to Ragusa Ibla to see these breathtaking views and Ragusa ibla. Good restaurants: - Da Condida - pre-fix dinner with fish - 25$ - very good.
Day 4 - Ragusa - Noto - Syracusa. We drove to Noto - spent 2 hours there - very nice, more crowded. Went up on Chiesa San Carlo (I think) to take in all the views. On a way to Siracusa - stopped at Fontana Bianke for a swim. Found public parking right next to it, there were few people on a beach, spent 2 hours swimming in the warm sea and continued to Ortigia. We needed to drop off the car and of course got lost, made 5 circles around Ortigia and finally dropped off the car and got to our B&B - Cameraconvista. Perfect location, very basic, great breakfast, very nice host (Maria speaks English).
Day 5 - Archiological sites in Siracusa. Right by our B&B was a free bus #20 that took us to Piazza Marconi and we walked a little bit to the park. We saw everything there. Paolo Orsi museum was closed (till November 18) to our huge dissapointment. We took a tour on St. Giovanni catacombs (6 euros) - was very interesting but you could not take pictures.
It was Saturday and we lucked out. On the steps of the Duomo Palermo academy of music symphonic orchestra was performing symphony based on Beatles and featuring the wonderful soprano - all for free - we sat on chairs on the Duomo square - what an experince
Day 6 - Walking in Ortigia - so great, nice weather, just very relaxing. We liked the restaurant "Il Fermento" - out in a back alley - we loved it.
Day 7 - Train ride to Taormina. Was very easy, free bus #20 to train station, got 2nd class tickets 11.5 euros and 2 hours later in Taormina. Since we were staying in Mazzaro Bay (Jonic Mazzaro hotel) it was convenient. We took taxi (10 euros) and an hour later we were on the beach enjoying these crystal-clear, a little cold water shelling out 10 euros for 2 sunbeds and umbrella. For the evening took a ride in a cable car to go up to Taormina (3.5 euros round trip). We were late to see Greek theater - closes 1 hour before sunset but amazed at crowds. Taormina itself is very charming, little squares and churches, beatiful views. The night was so clear we spotted lava on Etna in the distance. We found very good and not too expensive restaurant - "IL CYCLOPE" .
Day 8 - Relax in Mazzaro, on the beach. About Jonic Mazzaro hotel. It is very basic, good location. The rooms are so small, breakfast was very basic. The only good grace was that our room has a garden view terrace and it was bigger that a room. We got pizza and beer one night and had dinner there (7 or 8 euros). By the way, the pizza was great, I have never eaten such a good pizza, forgot the name of the restauirant, right next to cable car in Mazzaro. In the afternoon went to see Greek theatre (advise - go see it it the morning, in the afternoon the sun was positioned in a such a way that you could not take the best pictures). After that went up to Castlemola on a bus to see sunset. With the bus schedule you get 1 hour 15 min to walk around before the last bus comes . Magnificient views.
Day 9 - 7 a.m. - took an excursion with SAT to Etna - paid 80 euros so that cable car and 4*4 was included. The weather was perfect - Etna behaved - we saw everything. The only thing is our tour guide's English was very accented and it was hard to understand a lot of times.
Day 10 - picked up a rental car near train station (now it was 15 euros for taxi from the hotel) to drive to Agrigento. On a way we stopped in Caltagirone to see the famous steps and buy ceramics. Wow, that was nice. There were also wonderful views of Caltagirone as we were ascending, on 2 hills. Tried to bargain with shopkeepers - got some price reduction. Off to Agrigento. Wanted to see temples on the same day. We did. Saw it in the light of a sunset - spent 3 hours there, then stopped to photograph them in the darkness (they are illuminated) - nice. We purposely picked a hotel "Tre Torri" fr it's location on a way. This hotel knew better times, I think, but for one night it was OK.
Day 11 - our destination was Castlemare del Golfo. On a way we stopped at Sellunuinte. That was great - you could actually walk inside the temples, unlike in Agrigento. We walked everywhere, to the temples and acropolis (decided not to take the electric car). Seeing sea through the temple's columns was very unique. Arrived in Castlemare del Golfo - hotel "Cala Marina" - I can not say enough good words about this hotel and its friendly English speaking staff. Wonderful FULL breakfasts, freshly baked bread. We parked for free in from of the hotel. There are 3 restaurants in the Marina. The hotel gave us a coupon - prefix dinner in La Cambusa was 19 euros - was a good deal. Great food! Castlemare del Golfo is very picturesque, very local, locals are driving their cars and bikes back and forth on a "lungomare" - it is their idea of a promenade, a little annoying.
Day 12 - We only had 2 full days left and wanted to see 4 things - Monreale, Palermo, Zingaro and Erice. So we started very early and drove to Monreale (Saturday morning) - terrible, though by pure luck found a free public parking at the end of Via Venero (nobody ever mentions it in these forums). Walked 10 minutes to the Cathedral. Great. Paid 6 euros each for Cloisters - I think it is a little pricey - interesting to see though. Went back to the car to drive to Palermo airport to take a bus into town and as we were entering A29 the car broke down. So for the next 4 hours were dealing with that situation, thus missing Palermo.
Day 13 - we were so exhausted from yestrday's car trouble we decided to go Zingaro (15 min drive) - the weather was perfect - this was probably the most relaxing and enjoable day - we hiked for an 1 hour and went down to a nice cove - had it for ourselves for about an hour - then went to the others - crystal-clear waters - but bring your beach shoes - those pebbles are not easy on your feet. That night we went to eat at the other restaurant (next to La cambusa). We had freshly caught fish that we selected from the ice box proudly displayed at the entance. The fish was grilled, it was DELICIOUS. A little pricey - 45 euros a kg but what the heck...
Day 14 - our flight was in the afternoon so we went to see Erice - drove up and spent a couple hours there. The views were unmatched. This medieval town looked so authentic and interesting. We stopped for canollis at Maria Grammatico - delicious - nothing like they make them here in US. Flew back.
We were extremely lucky with the weather - October is supposed to be the rainest month - it rained 2 times at night, did not bother us at all, it was warm but not hot, sunny, breezy,blue sky, can not wish for anything better - were able to do sightseeing without sweating and also enjoy swimming. Since we missed Palermo - there is a reason to come back and we will!!!
I did not provide many details but feel free to ppost questions - I will be glad to provide an insight.