I’ve finally gotten around to writing a report on our February trip to Sicily. After four days in Rome, my wife and I flew to Catania, then spent 10 days on Ortygia, a week in Modica, two nights in Agrigento and three in Palermo. We made side trips to Noto, Ragusa and Monreale. We had planned to visit Catania from Siracusa but we both had bad colds the last few days there.
Considering it was the rainy season, we were very lucky with the weather. It rained only a few times, mostly at night. The last eight or nine days were perfect: warm and sunny.
I’m sure some will think 10 days on Ortygia and a week in Modica is too much but we were more interested in relaxing and absorbing the culture than in seeing all the sights. We loved Ortygia. The Piazza Duomo is stunning. I’m an avid photographer and I never tired of strolling through the piazza at all hours of the day and night with my camera. We went to the fresh market almost every day, sometimes to buy, sometimes just to absorb the energy. I made an effort to wander every street on the island but I was still finding new ones the day before we left.
Our Frommer’s guidebook, published last fall, said the Palazzo Bellomo museum was closed for renovations but we were happy to find it had reopened. The guidebook also said Carravaggio’s Burial of St. Lucia was in the Bellomo, but in fact it is hanging above the altar of the Church of Santa Lucia.
After a week of climbing and descending steps in Modica, our legs were in terrific shape. We encountered no other tourists and it was a good place to observe “the real Sicily.” I learned that to have any chance of passing for a Sicilian, I had to stroll with my hands clasped behind my back. On Sunday morning, it seemed that all men over the age of 60 were gathered in Piazza Napoli or Piazza Rizzone to talk about politics or the weather.
GAC, you’ll be glad to know we survived our layover in Gela on the way to Agrigento. A friendly local showed us where to buy tickets for the SAL bus. However, we were surprised when everyone got off the bus in Licata. The driver motioned to another bus and we got to Agrigento with no further problems. The advantage of arriving in Agrigento by this route is that there are stunning views of the temples on the hill above as you come into the city.
The Valley of the Temples and our stay at the Terrazze di Montelusa B&B were the highlight of the trip for us. We would like to have stayed a couple more days. We actually got sunburned exploring the temples and the Garden of Kolymbetra. I’d like to have explored the old town more and spent more time at the archeological museum.
When we got back to town after visiting the temples, we found a barrier and lots of police at the bottom of the main street and we thought there must have been an incident. Then we realized it was for La Passeggiata. The street was filled with people, young, old, couples with babies. It felt nice to be part of it.
We were a little worn out when we got to Palermo but we did lots of walking, focusing more on the markets than on churches and monuments. Americans who think Europeans are anti-capitalist should walk the length of the Ballaro Market.
A word of advice. If you buy tickets to the opera at Teatro Massimo, don’t get seats number four or five in the boxes. You have to stand and lean forward to see the stage.
Looking through my guidebook, I realize how many beautiful spots we missed. We’ll have to make another trip. Thanks again to Vagabonda and others for all the help.
Anyone interested can see my Sicily (and Rome) photos at http://www.pbase.com/harrimanpond/italytrip