| Home | April-19th-2003
General Information

Travel Season / Climate Information Money / Finances
Opening Times Language Beach / Swimming
Meals / Food Accommodation Traffic / On tour

In this travel report we have gathered again all information which can help everyone to prepare his vacation on Sicily. Contrary to our USA trip last year, we could plan somewhat more at short notice this time, but nevertheless carefully. Locally we could decide some things more spontaneously.

Sicily is known for its Mediterranean climate. The best travel season depends upon your interests. In July and August the island is crowded with tourists because then also the Italians have holidays. High season prices prevail accordingly. Avoid these months if you can. We visited Sicily in the last week of June and the last week of July. The increasing amount of tourists could already be noticed. For exploring trips on the island the months July and August are likewise nearly too hot. May/June or September are more suitable. Then both the prices and the temperatures are more moderate and nevertheless you do not have to renounce swimming.

The preperation was compared to or USA vacation not as time-consuming.Travel Know-How Michael Müller publishing house We used nevertheless all sources which we had to our disposal. Primarily, we fell back on two travel guides which helped best to organize our day trips. Like already on our USA trip the travel guide of the Travel Know-How publishing house was a big help. The other travel guide which was very good for the preperation was the one of the Michael Müller publishing house. It particularly provides lots of information with useful and individual tips.

The Internet was not a big help this time. Individual travel reports, which can be very useful, are to be found very rarely. Thus we hope to enrich the Internet somehow with our report.

map from the Touring Club ItalianoFor the day trips we used the map of the Touring Club Italiano. Anke had gotten it at the International Tourism Exchange. This map shows even the smallest roads. Therefore it is more suitable for trips on the island than the map published by the General German Automobile Association.

Since the Euro has become the new currency, payment is easier and more comfortable for European travellers. Constant conversion and exchange are not necessary any more. Besides prices are better comparable now. Do not take all the money you need for your vacation as cash with you. The danger of getting robbed is rather small but some risk still remains. Getting money with the EC-card at a cash-point dispenser is not a problem on Sicily. Please consider the fee of approx. 3 € that applies as well as the opening times of the banks. Occasionally cash dispensers only work during the opening times of the bank. Thus supply yourself with cash in time. A credit card is also an alternative. It is very often accepted, also outside the tourist centers. If you are planning to rent a car, you´ll definitely need a credit card because the rental companies usually accept only these for the deposit.

The Siesta, which is holy for Sicilians, was very unusual for us and we had to get used to it first. From 1 p.m. until 5 p.m., sometimes until 4 p.m., nothing happens. Towns and villages seem to be nearly deserted then, apart from the touristic bustle. Shops, public facilities, restaurants and sometimes also objects of interest are closed. Grocery stores do not open even on Wednesday and Saturday in the afternoon. One should plan the day accordingly. That was not always easy for us. Especially when you are on tour, you cannot always plan as you like. We made the one or other experience with the rhythm of Sicilian life. But as a Sicily-traveller one must simply adjust to it and adopt a bit of the Mediterranean calmness.

Italian is of course the official language on Sicily. From our own experience we know that it is useful to have some basic knowledge of Italian. In the tourist centers English, also German or French is spoken. However, particularly in the interior and outside the tourist centers you are well advised to know some Italian. According to our experience, Italians appreciate it if you try to speak Italian.

The beaches on Sicily offer something for everyone. At the east coast (region around Taormina and Giardini Naxos), where we went primarily swimming, gravel beaches dominate. The swimming breaks on our day trips we liked best. Most beaches on Sicily are freely accessible. Only in the tourist centers at the north and east coast there are more and more beach sections with sunbeds and umbrellas, where a fee is required. If you book your vacation with one of the well-known tour operators, the beach use is often included in the price. We could not complain about the quality of the water at all. We always had super clean water, also at the east coast around Taormina. In the proximity of industrial areas you should avoid swimming because here the water quality is surely not the best.
our beach tent
The sea warms up quite late in the year. Therefore temperature-sensitive people should travel to Sicily only toward the end of summer. In order to prevent injuries it is advisable to take along bathing shoes because in calm bays there are sea urchins whose spiny aquaintance one should rather not make. The only sea urchins we saw at the beach of Oliveri near Tindari. The coast around Taormina is free of sea urchins according to our experience.

We had booked half-board with our accommodation - on purpose, because eating in restaurants is quite expensive in Italy and we had no cooking opportunity in our hotel room. We ate in restaurants occasionally. In Italian restaurants some different rules apply than in Germany. One should keep a certain food sequence for example. A starter (antipasto) or a first course (primo) and a main course (secondo) are considered as minimum. The supplements must be ordered separately, otherwise only bread is served. For such a meal one pays between 10 and 15 €. Take into account that the bill always includes a cover charge (coperto) of approx. 1-3 € per person. Some restaurants add still a service charge (servizio) of usually 10%. In that case one must, in our opinion, not give an extra tip. In the tourist centers one often also gets a lower-priced tourist menu (menu turistico). For 10 to 15 € one gets a starter, a first course, a second course, supplements, desserts and occasionally a beverage in addition. We did not try such a menu, therefore we cannot pass on our experiences. In pizzerias there´s not such a strict menu sequence. Here we saw also Italians just eating a pizza.

Self-supply in Sicily is not a problem if one considers the opening times of the grocery stores. We had read that fruit and vegetable are substantially cheaper in the street sale. We can confirm this only conditionally. For the one who must whatch out for the money applies: look around and compare prices. During your Sicily vacation do not miss by any means the national beverage of the Sicilians - the wine. For each taste there is the suitable wine.

Sicily offers the whole range of accommodation - depending on what you would like to spend and your personal preference. We stayed at a small two-star-hotel called Villa Greta at the outskirts of the town of Taormina. It was okay - clean and good food (however, fish every other day). Of course, you also have to lower your sights in a two-star-hotel. Anke bothered the balcony plants that were full of lice and both of us bothered the enormous noice from the road that came up from the city center. Sleeping without ear plugs was not possible for Ronny and even with them you could still hear noises.
Villa Greta
Traffic / On tour

For exploring the island a car is best suitable. You get quickly from A to B and you can reach thereby also remote, idyllic beaches. If you do not want to stress yourself with driving to Sicily by car, you can take the plane and rent a car there. Booking a rental car is, according to our experience, a lot cheaper in Germany than on Sicily. For the rent of 4 days we payed 36 € per day to our tour operator in Germany. On Sicily the best prices start at approx. 70 € per day. Our Fiat Punto was new and in a good condition and completely sufficient for our purposes. Ronny liked the city function of the power steering. With that the Fiat could be steered nearly with one finger. If you prefer travelling from one place to the next, you can also explore the island by motorhome. The drivers should be experienced in handling such a vehicle because sometimes there are very steep and curved mountain roads as well as narrow streets in the towns.

Agave along the roadThe road system is quite well developed on Sicily and the condition of roads is likewise surprisingly good. We advanced fastest on the highway where also a fee is required. However, you do not get to see much of the landscape. Thus do not miss the many small experiences along a country road.

A very popular and typical means of transport are the scooters. They can be heard everywhere in the cities, but they are quite useful. They are pretty fast and you´ve got no parking problem. As a car driver you have to watch out for the scooters. They take the right of way, pass like crazy and speed like hell. Renting a scooter is only possible on Sicily and not that cheap as we originally thought.
You have to pay about 35 € per day. For that price we had booked a small car.

Public means of transport are quite inexpensive and the network is very well developed. Nearly every small town or village can be reached by bus, but you need a lot more time than by car. The same applies to the railway. Due to the topography of the island, the railway system only consists of a few main lines. We took only once the bus, so that we can give hardly any information about that.

But we can confirm from own experience that the way of driving of most Italian drivers is typically Mediterranean. They drive very aggressive and reckless, particularly in the cities. That´s nothing for weak nerves. You can make up for that only by driving routine because in an unfamiliar car you can get pretty much into a sweat otherwise. Parking is quite tricky as well. Sometimes cars are not parked in second, but even in third row and you must be very lucky in order to find a free parking space. Parking in the center is nearly impossible, so that it is better to park at the outskirts.