Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Sibleys in Sicilia

Sicily is one of those 'can't miss' sort of places. Though it is a long trip from Tuscany to Sicily, it is totally worth it. If you are already in Italy the best thing to do is get a RyanAir flight from Pisa to Trapani. This is the cheapest thing we could find. To take a train and ferry you need almost two days just to arrive. Trapani is a better travel hub than Palermo in my opinion. Palermo is much like Naples... dirty, busy, and full of people. It can get tiresome if you are trying to enjoy a relaxing vacation. Trapani is a nice port town with not so nice beaches. It is a great place to start out because you can get anywhere from there. The city center is 'carina' and it is fairly calm. The Trapanesi do their 'passeggiata' at night through the center of town, stop for an 'aperitivo', and window shop all along the way.

The best thing about Trapani is the three islands that are easy to get to and beautiful. The first is Favignana which is really touristy, so we didn't go to this one. We went to the second island called Levanzo. Beautiful and historic, this island has everything you would want in a day trip. You can see go to the 'Grotta Genovese' which is a a cave where the drawings and etchings from neolithic and paleolithic times have been preserved. These tours are good, you get the tour and the ride on the boat to the cave for 15 euro. However, they do not speak english. We were asked improvisationally to translate for the tour. Thank goodness we were there, but to see these works of history in person was priceless. Also, for obvious reasons you cannot take pictures. Above is a picture of Levanzo.

The trains in Sicily do not work the same as the rest of Italy. The stations are much smaller and some don't even have a 'biglietteria' where you can buy tickets. We learned this the hard way! We woke up and decided to go to Segesta. In Segesta is a Doric Temple that dates back to 489 B.C. and a slightly restored Greek Ampitheatre that is amazing. If you do not have a car, when you get to Segesta you have to walk to the ruins. It isn't too far, but it is hot, so I suggest bringing a straw hat and sunblock or you will definitely burn. Once you get to the ruins, you buy a ticket for entrance and for the bus up to the ampitheatre (the bus trip is air conditioned and worth it in summer). Here are some pictures from Segesta:

After Segesta we went to Cefalu. Here is where we ran into problems. We did not buy a ticket all the way to Cefalu because we thought we would get one at the Segesta train station... well there is no biglietteria. The first train took us to a small town that wasn't a town at all but a small concrete station with nothing but a tiny bar and some concrete seats to sit on. We asked for tickets to Cefalu... we don't sell tickets here was the reply. Where do you buy tickets then? Shrugs were all we got. You can buy them on the train, but it will cost more. Ok we said. We talk to the conductor of the train for a little while before the train to Palermo arrived. After Palermo we would get a train to Cefalu. We got on the train and immediately told the conductor we did not have tickets and wanted to buy them on the train. The conductor told us it would be a 50 euro fine because we didn't have tickets. We argued with him for 30 minutes over the fact that there had not been a ticket office at either train stop today and this was horribly unfair. He said he didn't make the rules and if we didn't like the way Italy worked then we shouldn't visit Italy. I told him, this is not how Italy works... I know very well how Italy works and this is robbery. Tren Siciliana! Needless to say we got off the train at the next stop and got on a bus... of which the stop was unmarked but we asked the locals for help and they were very nice. The pictures below are Jesse waiting at the train stop in Segesta and me waiting at the unmarked bus stop:

Finally we made it to Cefalu! This spot is touristy, but it is mainly Italians. We stayed in a beautiful hotel called the Villa Margherita. This hotel has a rooftop terrace that you can use to have an aperitivo and watch the sunset. There is a mountain that overlooks the town. On this mountain (which you can hike up) is a Temple of Diana that dates back to 5th century before Christ and the ruins of a fortress at the very top. This gives you incredible 180 degree views of this city.

When we returned to Trapani we took a Ferrovia to the city of Erice above Trapani. This city is a must see but you want to take a taxi or a bus (the buses only run until 8 pm) to the Ferrovia station. Once there you can eat well at any restaurant and the castles are fantastic with the gardens surrounding it. I definitely reccomend this for a romantic evening.

Sibley Suggestions:

If you have time, see as many places in Sicily as possible. Try to spend one to two weeks there. There is so much to see! The trains are fine... usually late and small. Make sure you buy your ticket through your final destination at the train station where you can buy tickets (one with a 'biglietteria') even if you are going to be stopping in between. Never forget to Validate your ticket in Sicily. There is a heafty fine for this. Bring sunblock, a straw hat, and light clothing. It is very hot!! Eat the Arancini (the big ones!), Cous Cous, Oysters (Ostriche), Sword Fish (Pesce Spada), Cannoli, Pesto in Trapani (Pesto Trapanese), Sauce made with fresh sardines, fennel, and raisins on fresh pasta.

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