A Week in Sicily: Introduction

I know I only just wrote up our last holiday.  I probably did that just after we’d booked the one that we just got back from.  So I’m determined to write up this one before we book the next.

Booking Problems
I’m not good at booking holidays anyway, but we were, for various reasons, constrained to going Monday to Monday this time, which greatly reduced our options and added to my stress levels.
The search process in brief was:
  1. The aim was to go somewhere both sunny and interesting.
  2. We were reluctant to use agents, but Thompson were excellent and gave us some pointers.  Thomas Cook weren’t so helpful, but tried hard.
  3. We considered various places: Malta, Sicily, Bulgaria in particular.  But our date constraints made finding flights at decent times very hard.  Who are these people that check in at 4am for 6am flights?  And who’s flying the planes at that time of morning?  Weird.
  4. We did lots of looking online too, but trying hard to get an all-in-one package.
In the end we booked a Flight/Car/Hotel online with Expedia.  It was a bit above our budget but we really wanted to go to Sicily and had exhausted pretty much all other options.
The package would have been cheaper had we booked with Alitalia, but we found out about their looming bankruptcy and paid over-the-odds to fly British Airways.  This had other advantages, such as being a direct flight, and departing at the more sensible hour of 8am.  Thanks to my dad for pointing out Alitalia’s troubles as we were about to head home and click the “Buy this holiday” button!!
What we got
A little more detail…
We flew BA direct to Catania/Fontarossa Airport on the East Coast of Sicily, then hired a small car, and headed south towards the ancient town of Syracuse.
Our hotel – the simple, charming, out-in-the-country retreat of Masseria Degli Ulivi – was located just outside the nearby town of Noto – itself a beautiful and historic place worth exploring (and one of the highlights of the holiday, if I might say so).
We were there for a week, driving round, exploring the Eastern side of the island, sampling the food and wine, and relaxing poolside and on the beach.
It was a great, relaxing break.
The Highlights
There will be more about the holiday posted later, but if you don’t want the detail, here’s the stuff that you really should know if you want to know what we got up to, or if you fancy a trip to Sicily yourself.
  • The Hotel, mentioned above, is a great place to chill out and explore the island – just watch out for the naughty puppy on site!
  • Sicily is a very rural and traditional place – at least, the Eastern Coast is.  This means that everything shuts from about noon until about 4pm.  So MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A LUNCH PLAN.  I had a very stressful day driving around trying to find lunch with only a minimal grasp of the language.  It was not fun.
  • In fact, the hotel didn’t offer lunch, so we were out and about most days.  The best way is to find a grocery or supermarket and get some supplies and make your own lunch.  Milano Salami is fantastic!  Don’t go for the sliced bread…yuk!
  • We borrowed a Sat Nav system with European mapping from a friend.  This was hugely helpful and saved us hours of time, lots of faff, and probably lots of arguments too.  But, as always, use wisely!  They do get funny ideas about where to go sometimes.  If you think you need to stick to the main road, then sitck to it!
  • Sicilians are lunatic drivers with little regard for the road.  Pay attention, drive with confidence, and give them a wide berth and you’ll a) be fine b) witness some crazy overtaking and turning first hand!
  • Driving on the continent for the first time wasn’t so hard, though turning at junctions was often confusing.  Having the car layout the other way around was probably more taxing for my head than the driving.
  • Things that must be done:  1) Climb Mt Etna (more detail on this later) 2) Visit Pantalica 3) Explore Syracuse on foot
  • Food is generally good to excellent and you get what you pay for.  Coffee is awesome!  Local wine is also pretty incredible, but watch out – it’s strong too!
  • Don’t take any kangaroos with you.   You’ll have to read on to find out why! 😉

Link: Read part two