How to get to Sicily?
There are three airports in Sicily, Palermo, Catania and Trapani-Birgi.The most relaxing way to launch your trip is, of course, to let us arrange transport from the airport for you, but if not, there are taxis, car rental outlets and reasonably frequent public transport.
Palermo’s Falcone Borsellino airport (800.541.880, www.gesap.it) is at Punta Raisi, 31km west of the city. Buses (Prestia & Comandè 091.580.457 or 091.586.351) run into the city every thirty minutes from 6.30am until midnight, taking 45 minutes, and stopping outside Politeama theatre, Stazione Marittima, and at Stazione Centrale; For the return, departures are at 4am, 5am and then every thirty minutes until 11pm. Trains run from the airport to Stazione Centrale every thirty minutes between 6.30am and midnight (the last two trains wait for any delayed flights) and between 5am and 11pm from Stazione Centrale.
Catania airport, Fontanarossa (095.340.505, www.aeroporto.catania.it), is 5km south of the centre. The Alibus #457 (5am–midnight every 20min; e0.80) runs from outside Arrivals to the central Piazza Stesicoro (on Via Etnea) terminating at the big bus station opposite Stazione Centrale, taking around twenty minutes. A taxi from the rank outside the airport costs around e20 for the same journey. If you’re heading straight to the Aeolian Islands, there is one direct bus daily from May to September from the airport to the port of Milazzo at around 4pm, as well as a three-times daily minibus (e25 per person tel 090 9288585).
Trapani-Birgi, Vincenzo Florio Airport
Trapani airport is both a military and civil airport, and handles both domestic and international flights.
Located in the west of Sicily, it is particularly convenient if you are heading for the Egadi Islands, Erice, Scopello and other destinations in the west. There are also onward flights to the island of Pantelleria.
The airport is connected by a shuttle bus with the Marittime Station at Trapani, the main port for the Egadi islands.
Trapani airport is a small and extremely efficient airport: average waiting time for luggage is about 10 minutes.
AIRGEST S.p.A. operates buses to and from: Trapani, Marsala, Palermo, Mazara del Vallo, Castelvetrano, Erice, Sciacca, Agrigento. There are also buses to Erice, San Vito Lo Capo and Scopello.
Motorways: Messina-Palermo, Messina- Catania, Palermo-Catania, Palermo-Trapani, Palermo- Mazara del Vallo. There is also a motorway under construction between Catania and Gela. So far the only stretch of this to be open is between Siracusa and Noto.
Other good fast roads: Palermo-Sciacca, Catania-Gela, Caltanissetta-Agrigento
What about driving license requirements?
Though foreign licenses are usually accepted at car rental agencies, but you should obtain an international permit (a supplementary document obtainable from automobile clubs) if your license is not issued by an EC member country. Nobody under 18 years of age may drive a car in Italy, even if he or she holds a valid license in a foreign nation.
What historical sights are there to see in Sicily?
Mack Smith’s masterful crystallisation of Sicily’s history, makes one begin to fully comprehend the fascination that the island has exercised over the imaginations of travellers. Indeed, there are few other lands that contain such a vast variety of landscape, art, architecture, traditions and culture.
Here are just a few examples:
The remains of the Phoenician colony on the island of Motya
The magnificent relics of Magna Grecia at Siracusa, and in the temples of Agrigento, Segesta, and Selinunte.
The word-famous Roman mosaics in Villa del Casale at Piazza Armerina
Unique Arab-Norman architecture and mosaics at the cathedrals of Monreale, Palermo and Cefalu, and at Palermo’s Palazzo Reale and Castello della Zisa
Perfectly preserved medieval towns such as Erice, palaces and castles such as Lo Steri in Palermo and the castles of Caccamo and Mussomeli
Catalan-Gothic churches like Santa Maria della Catena in Palermo
The incredible flowering of the Baroque in Ragusa Ibla and the UNESCO world heritage towns of the Val di Noto (notably Noto, Modica and Scicli), as well as magnificent individual palaces like:
Palazzo Gangi in Palermo, Palazzo Biscari in Catania, Palazzo Beneventano in Siracusa, and the exquisitely stuccoed, little-known oratories of Palermo by Serpotta.
The flourishing of Liberty in Palermo visible in the Teatro Massimo, the Grand Hotel et des Palmes and the Villa Igiea
Mussolini-era architecture such Palermo’s main post office
Collections of contemporary art at Poggioreale, Ghibellina, and the Fiumara D’Arte
And what is contemporary Sicily like?
Sicily has always been, and remains a land of stark contrasts. Even today, you’ll come across magnificent monuments rising amid the exuberant bustle of dilapidated downtown Palermo, or struggling to survive the onslaughts of the elements on a remote mountain top. It is, however, these very contrasts and conflicts that represent what Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa called ‘the spirit of terrifying insularity’ and make Sicily a land of infinite discoveries.
What do they eat in Sicily?
Each of Sicily’s endless list of invaders left its print on the island’s cuisine, making it one of the most complex and varied in Italy. Many are the dishes where you can, quite literally, taste the past: these range from the rich voluptuous dishes of favoured by the Sicilian aristocracy (and by everyone on feast days) to recipes of the utmost simplicity, a reflection of the poverty that has plagued the island for much of its past.
In addition, Sicilian gastronomy is particularly well-documented: the ancient Greeks had what may well be the world’s first cooking school in Siracusa, a culture that produced the world’s first food writer, Archestratus of Gela, who in the 4th century travelled the Mediterranean compiling detailed critiques of the produce and dishes he came across. There is a trend these days for Sicilians to rediscover their history through food, and there is an increasing number of restaurants serving carefully researched dishes from the island’s past.
One of the most striking influences on Sicilian food came from the Arabs. Today the Arab-influence is particularly marked in the south-west (San Vito lo Capo, Mazara del Vallo and on the island nof Pantelleria) where you will find couscous served with meat or fish, along with several sweets that have preserved their ancient Arab name (cubaita, from the Arabic qubhayt, a kind of nut-brittle made with pistacchios, almonds, sesame seeds and honey). In Noto, ice-cream maker Corrado Costanzo has revived several Arab recipes: look out as for ice creams and granitas flavoured with jasmine flowers, rose petals and almond.
Indeed, the Sicilian tooth is legendarily sweet, and the island is definitely not a place to go on a diet: famous sweet dishes include cannoli, cassata and frutti di martorana, marzipan modelled and coloured to imitate fresh fruit and vegetables, said to have been invented by the nuns of the Martorana convent in Palermo, who according to legend one Easter hung the trees in their cloister garden with the fruit, baffling a visiting Archbishop who could simply not fathom how come the sisters’ trees were bearing fruit in spring.
Although these days many dishes you have become ubiquitous in Sicily – caponata di melanzane (see below), pasta alla norma (named after Bellini’s opera) and arancini – dig a little deeper and you’ll discover that each zone, indeed often each village or island, will have its own dishes, own specialties, its own cheeses, its own ways of making salami.
For centuries Sicily was known only for its sweet wines such as Marsala. Over the last few years, however, wine making has undergone something of a revolution, and producers such as Tasca d’Almerita, Franchetti and xxx are producing international-quality wines. Sicilian olive oil can often give the more famous oils of Tuscany and Liguria a run for their money.
Palermo: Pasta con le Sarde (pasta with sardines, wild fennel, pinenuts and raisins)
Panelle (fritters made of chickpea flour, a typical palermitano street food) Arancini di riso (deep fried and bread-crumbed balls of rice filled most commonly with a bolognese style sauce, or ham and cheese, though sometimes with vegetables such as spinach or aubergine)
Caponata di melanzane (sweet-sour aubergines braised with onion, celery, peppers and tomato sauce, and sometimes a pinch of bitter chocolate. Served luke warm or cold)
Pane con la milza – (spleen sandwiched in foccacia, a dish typical of the Antica focacceria San Francesco in Palermo)
Brioche con gelato (sweet bread roll split and filled with ice cream)
Cannoli (crisp deep-fried tubes filled with sweet ricotta. The most famous are the giant-sized ones at Piana degli Albanesi and Dattilo)
Cassata (layers of sponge cake and ricotta cream covered in green marzipan, glace icing and candied fruit)
Trapani, San Vito lo Capo, Marsala e Mazara: Fish and fish couscous
Bottarga di tonno (salted tuna roe)
Cassatele (turnovers filled ricotta cream)
Gelato caldo- freddo ( vanilla ice cream with cream, sponge cake and hot chocolate sauce)
Madonie Mountains: Famous for lamb, sausages and, at Castelbuono, manna.
Nebrodi mountains: Famous for black pigs, mushrooms and hazelnuts
Messina: Swordfish – try involtini di pesce spada, swordfish sliced thin, and wrapped around a cheese and herb stuffing, then fried
Pignolata (a mountain of biscuity balls smothered on one side with white icing on the other with chocolate)
Granite (fresh fruit and nut sorbets)
Catania: spaghetti alla Norma (spaghetti with grilled aubergine and grated ricotta al forno, oven-baked ricotta)
When shall I go to Sicily?
The climate of the island is typically Mediterranean, and so clement that it attracts tourists even in winter. In mid winter the climate along the coast rarely descends below 10 degrees centigrade, making it an ideal time explore cities such as Siracusa and Taormina without the tourists. Up in the mountains it is of course far colder: Etna’s peak is covered with snow for four or five months of the year, (it has some excellent ski slopes) but this is also a good time to explore lesser-known mountain ranges such as the Nebrodi, Iblei, Peloritani and Madonie, particularly if you want to hike: or just prefer to be the only stranger in town and get glimspes of Sicilian life as it really is. July and August are often VERY hot, and coastal tourist resorts will be at their busiest. But frequently towards the end of August the weather breaks, and the climate in September can be bewitching: clear skies, fluffy clouds, bright sun, cobalt blue seas. Indeed spring and autumn are gorgeous, and May, June, September and October are probably the best months for Americans and Northern Europeans to visit Sicily: it is hot enough to swim in the sea, yet the beaches are all but empty, and cool enough to visit cities, archeological sites and monuments without exhausting yourself. Spring and autumn are also appealing months for walkers: especially May when wild flowers are a riot of colour.
What's the best way to travel within Sicily?
That depends on where you're going, what you plan on doing, and how much time you have. You may wish to make use of trains or buses for some trips and a rental car for others.
For local (city) buses, you'll have to purchase a ticket in advance which must be stamped in a machine when you board. Newsagents, tobacco vendors, and even some bars, sell these tickets for around €1.20 each, and they're valid for 90 minutes from the time they're stamped. Boarding a local bus without a ticket could earn you an immediate 50 euro fine, and some ticket inspectors, especially in Palermo, are not distinguished for their tact or diplomacy. (They get a commission for each fine collected)
Will communication be difficult?
If you don't speak Italian, but plan on travelling by yourself, we suggest learning at least a few Italian words and phrases before you arrive. This will come in handy in more remote parts of Sicily. Even in Palermo and Catania, there aren't many people who speak English, though you should find enough people in airports, hotels and restaurants who understand it well enough to make basic transactions go smoothly. Even if you do speak Italian, you might not understand everything the Sicilians are saying to each other, as they may be speaking the local dialect (actually a distinct language). All Sicilians do, however, speak Italian as well.
Are there visa requirements for visitors to Italy?
There aren't any particular requirements for citizens of EC nations staying for three months or less. Citizens of Japan and most English-speaking nations (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United States) in possession of valid passports can stay in Italy for up to 90 days without a visa. Contact your nearest Italian consulate if you have questions or would like to stay longer.
Consulates in Sicily:
What are restaurant, shops and museum opening hours like?
Hours vary greatly from place to place, though you will have to get used to the rythmns of the Sicilian day -- there is a three-hour afternoon break from 1pm till 4pm, when almost everything is closed except for a few restaurants. Early evening closings are another fact of life here; don't expect to find a supermarket open after 8 PM. Most pharmacies are also closed at night, though in cities there will usually be at least one in each quarter open all night for emergencies. In August, many city stores are closed in the afternoons, and some are closed altogether for at least two weeks of August. In seaside resorts, however, boutiques catering to the tourist trade may stay open very late, often up to midnight.
Restaurants such as pizzerias are usually open evenings from around 8pm Tuesday through Saturday; many are closed Sunday and Monday. Some restaurants are open for lunch, too, usually from around 12:30 or 1:00. Don't expect to find pizza served at lunchtime, and don't expect to find . too many all-night restaurants in Sicily.
The main meal is lunch, usually served in restaurants from around noon till 2pm, though in summer resorts most restaurants keep their kitchens open right through till dinner. Dinner is usually served from around 8pm till 10.30pm. Most restaurants are closed one day a week , and display their ‘giorno di chiusura’ in the window . In holiday resorts, restaurants are usually open only between Easter and October. Outside those months, you could easily arrive and find nowhere to eat.
In cities and major towns credit cards are widely accepted, but in smaller places and in the country it is wiser to carry cash. Tax and service are included in the bill by law, and there is often a cover charge (coperto) of around e2. Tipping is becoming more common. 10% is usual.
During which holidays are these places closed?
Many city businesses close for two or three weeks in August, when most Italians go on holiday. It may seem bizarre, but about 70% of the population takes their vacation at the same time, and hardly any work gets done in Italy during that period.
It's worth mentioning holidays, when you'll find most monuments, restaurants and shops closed:
How much time should I plan to spend in Sicily?
That obviously depends on what you want to see or do while you're here, but here are some general guidelines. Let's say that you're interested in a general "tour" of some major sights and cities (Palermo, Cefalù, Etna, Siracusa, Agrigento, etc.). If you're driving, eight days would be sufficient; if you're traveling by train (and occasionally bus), you might want to add a few more days. Palermo is the only city whose sights usually require more than a day to see (we recommend two). On the other hand, if you want to spend some time at the beaches, or just take more time to visit places at a more leisurely pace, two weeks would be good. Of course, there are those who prefer to spend an entire "season" in Sicily by renting a seaside villa for three or four weeks. A great idea, but remember that Sicily is usually quite hot during July and August, and that some beaches are particularly crowded in August, when most Italians go on holiday en masse.
How can I book a property?
You can make a booking on our website, through our booking form, and you will get an answer about the availability and all the details on the properties. If you need more information about the property you like, please feel free to e-mail us and we will reply to you as soon as possible.
Once the availability is confirmed, you can hold an option on the property.
Then, in order to confirm your booking, you have to send the deposit and a signed copy of the booking contract and the advance payment.
What services do you offer?
We offer a comprehensive range of services, starting from the design of your trip, property rentals, hotel booking, lunch/dinner in historical private houses, car/van/bus rentals (with or without driver), yacht charters, helicopter transfers, sports activities, organisation of special events, and much more.
What deposit is required to confirm a booking?
The deposit is a variable percentage, depending on the property you have chosen, ranging from 25% to 50% of the total rental. The percentage is communicated to you, once you choose the property and it is due within 48 hours of making the provisional reservation. Failure to meet this requirement may result in a cancellation of the provisional booking.
Together with the deposit you have to send the completed and signed Booking Contract: The person who signs the booking contract certifies that he/she is authorised to agree on the Booking Conditions on behalf of all persons included on the Booking Contract, including those substituted/added at a later date.
Who signs the contract?
The signatory must be a member of the party occupying the property and must be 18 years or over. Bookings cannot be accepted from parties of young people less than 18 years of age.
The person who signs the booking contract certifies that he/she is authorised to agree the Booking Conditions on behalf of all persons included on the Booking Contract, including those substituted/added at a later date.
When is the final balance due?
The balance must be paid not less than 9 weeks (63 days) before your arrival.
This must be accompanied by a breakage deposit. Each property has a specific amount written on the price list.
Some properties have different arrangements for payment of the deposit and balance. If applicable, this will be explained at the time of booking.
Bookings taken within 9 weeks of the Client’s arrival at the property must be paid in full, including the Breakage deposit.
Can I hold an option on a property?
Yes, normally we are able to hold short provisional options on the properties.
How can I pay?
You can pay the advance deposit and the balance either by bank transfer or by credit card.
For the online payment by credit card we use the bank site of Credito Valtellinese, a big Italian group, so your payment is absolutely safe.
What is the content of the contract?
The contract contains all the main elements: the signatory’s name, his/her address and e-mail; name and code of the selected property; dates of arrival and departure; amount of the advance payment and balance payment, and any other important information about the property and further arrangements to agreed on by the parties.
Will I have a copy of the contract?
Yes, of course you will. Once we receive the contract duly filled and signed by you, together with the booking deposit, we will countersign the contract and send it back to you by fax.
What happens if I cancel?
Any cancellation, for whatever reason, must be in writing, including email or fax. The effective date of cancellation is the date Travel Sicilia receives written notification. If you cancel 9 weeks or more prior to your arrival at the property you will lose your advance payment. If you cancel 5 weeks prior your arrival at the property you will lose 50% of the balance paid. If you cancel 3 weeks prior your arrival at the property you will lose the balance paid.
What happens if the property I chose is not as I expected?
While we regularly check the properties and make every effort to ensure the descriptions supplied by the owners are accurately reproduced in our brochure and on our website, we cannot accept responsibility for any descriptions which contain inaccurate, incomplete or misleading information or errors and which have been supplied by the owners nor can we accept responsibility for any descriptions which contain inaccurate incomplete or misleading information or errors which have been supplied by Travel Sicilia (as opposed to the owners). You must accept that minor differences between the photograph/illustration/text used and the actual property may arise. Where we state that we have personally inspected the property(ies), this is to ensure that they are of the general standard of property we wish to include in the brochure/website and should not be relied upon by the clients as an indication that the property is suitable in all respects for his/her needs or those of his/her party’s.
Can I book my own flights?
Yes, of course you can! One of the greatest advantages of booking your holiday with Travel Sicilia is that we do not include travel arrangements as part of our holidays. This gives you greater flexibility. However, once you have booked your accommodation with us, we will be delighted, to give you our advice at no extra price.
Is there a security deposit payable?
A security deposit has to be paid together with the balance. The amount varies depending on the villa. The amount of the deposit is clearly stated in the property description.
Some properties have different arrangements for payment of the deposit. If applicable, this will be explained at the time of booking.
Farmhouses do not have a deposit payable. In that case, we rely on the honesty and goodwill of clients to report and replace any breakages.
Can we have an extra bed in our property?
A selection of properties will accept an extra bed at an extra charge per week.
What time is the villa available from and what time must it be vacated?
Arrival is normally between 15:00 and 18:00 local time. If the your arrival is delayed you must inform the contact person, and/or the local representative noted on the directions sheet that you will receive upon payment of the balance. Please, note that if you arrives after 19.00 (without making arrangement to arrive late) you may not be able to gain access to the property until the following day.
Any different arrival time must be agreed upon with the before your arrival. Sometimes an extra charge is due for arrivals at a late hour.
The property must be vacated by 10.30 am on the day of departure. If these times cause you difficulty, please advise us at the time of booking, and we will find the best possible solution for all.
Are transfers /car hire included?
We do not include transfers or car hire in the villa cost. We can arrange either with our local agents for you.
Are towels and linen included?
Bed linen is supplied at all of our properties. Normally one set is supplied per person. Bed linen is changed once a week. Certain properties provide beach/pool towels.
What services are included?
Linen is normally included.
Some properties include the house staff, maids and chef and that is clearly indicated in the detailed property description.
Some properties supplies these services for an extra charge.
Transfers from/to airport/harbour/etc are generally not included, but this service can be organised on demand.
What is included in the welcome hamper?
A welcome hamper is provided at all properties containing essential items on arrival.
The contents will vary slightly from property to property but will normally include tea, coffee, sugar, salt, water, wine, and fruit.
Will my DVDs play on the DVD player in the villa?
Where our villas are described as having a DVD player, this will have been supplied by the villa owner and is therefore outside our control. However, as all our property are in DVD region 2 (the same as the UK) it is reasonable to assume that DVDs bought in the UK will play with no problems. If you intend to take any region 1 DVDs there is no guarantee that these will play.
What are the maid's duties?
Her basic duties are bed making, cleaning the villa (bathrooms, kitchens, floors etc.), sweeping patios and general tidying. Washing up and cleaning of barbecues are NOT included in her duties.
Do the villas have safety deposit boxes?
Some of our villas have safes fitted.
Are cots and highchairs available?
We can arrange cots at a charge of €50.00 per week (including the linen) and highchairs at €30.00 per week.
Are there irons, ironing boards and hairdryers at the villas?
All of our property have irons and ironing boards and hairdryer.
Do any villas have heated swimming pools?
No, as in Sicily swimming pools are normally open only during the summer season (sometimes the season starts in late spring and ends at the end of October).
When will we receive our directions and vouchers?
Your vouchers and final instructions will be sent out to you approximately 2 weeks before departure.
Does the property have air-conditioning?
Only if stated in the property description.
If you have any further questions please contact us.
How can you build my trip?
Our team processes the information you supply in order to design an itinerary that suits you.
The information we need is summarized in the About You form in the Tour section.
Any further information that you think would help us to prepare the best proposal is always welcome.
We will send an initial proposal, which can then be modified until we find the best possible solution for your trip.