So Lynn and I came back last Sunday from a week vacation in Sicily.
I have to say, I’m glad we went there, the weather was beautiful, the food was pretty good, but overall, Sicily was a bit disappointing.
We booked a nice hotel (Baia Taormina | Tripadvisor reviews) that was about 5 miles north of Taormina, one of the biggest tourist attractions in Sicily. The hotel was right on the Mediterranean coast, but the entire eastern coast of Sicily is rocky and not sandy, so we didn’t have such a great time laying out on the beach.
Taorimina (Google maps) itself was the star attraction. A beautiful city on top of a steep hill right off the coast, the main thoroughfare has been in place since the original Greek colonists built the place, and the Medieval additions like walls and clock towers are still in place. Add to that a beautiful bay with a charming island right in the middle of it, and you end up with probably the prettiest city in Sicily.
We rented a car when we were there, which was a necessity considering our hotel was away from everything. We took quite a few trips, to the beach that the hotel gave us free passes to, into Taorimina, to Messina one night (for the best meal of the trip), a day-trip to Etna, we even drove all the way south to Siracusa, which I wanted to see because my alma mater, Syracuse University, is named after it.
I really just wanted to take a picture of me in front of some stone tablet that said “SYRACUSA”, but it turned out to have a very pretty old town called Ortiga that I would say was worth the drive. We went on a Friday though and were interrupted every hundred feet by one wedding or another, which we had to always stop long enough for Lynn to pass judgement on the bride’s dresses.
My problem with the place is that it just wasn’t all that great. The people weren’t friendly. The roads were nerve-wracking to drive, combined with the crazy Italian drivers (who often drive in the middle of a two lane road or three abreast on a two lane road), which made driving everywhere stressful (even though we brought TomTom, who was my security blanket in the car). The food was good, but not great. The sights were nice, but Sicily is pretty poor, and there is very little that is done to preserve anything so you generally just feel like you’re walking around a bunch of ruins that not even the locals care that much about, so why should you.
By far the biggest disappointment was Etna. Europe’s tallest active volcano, with a base 25 miles wide, was covered in clouds the afternoon we went. It was nice to say that I had been on an active volcano (you can still see steam from many of the craters and the lava from the last eruption a year ago is amazing to see), but if the top is in clouds then you can’t go to the main crater (which is the biggest attraction I think) and you can’t see any of the spectacular views. Unfortunately, the top is usually in clouds, and it’s impossible to predict what the weather at the top will be, so you just have to take your chances. Worst of all, Etna was erupting while we were there, and we didn’t see it. 🙁
In hindsight, the best thing about the vacation was feeling like we were on vacation. The two of us, in an executive suite that they upgraded us to, with a view of the ocean every morning, sunshine every day and going to sleep every night with full bellies and slightly bronzer skin, that’s what was best about this trip.