Western Sicily – October 2017

I lived in Italy for six months in 2007, but I never ventured south of Rome. I had the impression that Sicily was a dangerous mafia paradise. But thanks to the internet, I quickly learned that Sicily was safe and gorgeous. I started planning a one week trip. My first decision was choosing the western or eastern side of the island. I contemplated doing a two week trip and covering the entire island, but eventually decided that a one-week intro on the western side of the island would be sufficient. I invited a few friends to come on the trip, but the scheduling didn’t work out, so I did it solo.

Day 1: fly overnight from NYC to Milan
Day 2: arrive in Milan, explore Milan, overnight in Milan
Day 3: early flight to Palermo, Sicily, explore Palermo, overnight in Palermo
Day 4: visit sights in center of Palermo, overnight in Palermo
Day 5: visit sights in center of Palermo, overnight in Palermo
Day 6: pick up rental car, drive to beaches west of Palermo, overnight in Trapani
Day 7: visit Egadi Islands off coast of Trapani, visit Erice, overnight in Trapani
Day 8: visit ruins at Segesta and Selinunte, overnight in Sciacca
Day 9: visit ruins at Agrigento, beach at Scala dei Turchi, and mountains at
Caltabellota, overnight in Sciacca
Day 10: early morning drive to Palermo, fly to Rome

Alitalia (premium economy): JFK-MXP
I paid for an economy seat but placed a bid for an upgrade to premium economy. My bid was accepted the day before the flight. Premium economy offers a nicer seat, more space, better dinner, and an amenity kit. It was definitely worth it for the eight hour flight.

Alitalia (economy): LIN-PMO
Flew from the smaller airport closer to Milan to Palermo. Short, basic flight.

Hilton Garden Inn, Milan – moderate – $$
Hotels in Milan are very expensive. I choose the Hilton for the brand, the price, and its location near a Metro station. It took about 15 minutes to reach the center of Milan. The room was modern and comfortable.
Recommend: yes

Loft Piazza Marina, Palermo – moderate – $
This apartment didn’t have any reviews but the photos looked great and the location couldn’t be beat. I took a gamble and booked it and paid for it in advance. The apartment looked just like the photos, it was newly renovated and modern.
Recommend: Yes

Al 22 Apartment, Trapani – moderate – $
Good location in the center of Trapani. Parking was in a nearby public lot, but I didn’t have any issues. The apartment had high ceilings and balcony and was nicely
Recommend: Yes

Hotel Melqart, Sciacca – moderate – $
Basic and comfortable room in a good location between the port and the main square. Sciacca is built on a hill and requires many steps to get from the port to the main town.
Recommend: Yes

In Palermo, Trapani, and Sciacca, I walked to all of the sights. The last half of the week, I had a rental car and driving in Sicily is not so bad on the highways. In the towns, things get more chaotic, but I managed to keep the car intact, even if my nerves were shot.

Norman Palace and Capella Palatine, Palermo
The Capella Palatine is the main draw here due to it’s gorgeous mosaics on the ceiling of the chapel.  The entire palace is worth a visit and even though the decoration isn’t as lavish as Versailles or other palaces, I really enjoyed exploring the few rooms that are open to public.

Lo Zingaro Nature Reserve
There are eight beaches along the nature trail that cuts through this reserve.  There is a fair amount of hiking to reach some of the beaches.  My time was limited, so I only visited a few beaches, including Cala della Disa, one of the more beautiful coves. In October, the water was cold but swimming was possible.  There was also a lot of marine life in the water, so snorkeling equipment is recommended.

Favignana Island
Favignana is the largest and most populated of the Egadi Islands.  I spent several hours biking around the flat part of the islands, visiting a few beaches, including the famous Cala Rossa and Blu Marino.  I didn’t make it to the third famous beach, Cala Azul.  The main town is charming and even has an interesting museum about the island’s fishing history in a former tuna factory.

Scala dei Turchi, Agrigento
This beach is surrounded by beautiful white cliffs.  The contrast in colors between the turqouise sea, golden sand, and alabaster-colored cliffs is mesmerizing.  Make sure to walk all the way to the end of the cliffs and you will have them to yourself.

I visited three temple ruins sites in Sicily and Selinunte was by far my favorite. Segesta is beautiful, but there is only one Doric temple (that can’t be entered) and a gorgeous amphitheatre. The Valley of the Temples in Agrigento is the most famous and therefore full with tourists. Selinunte had several temples and was a calm oasis.

A lot of the things I missed were outside of Palermo.  I only had 3 days in the city and I was able to find more than enough activities to fill my days. I will definitely return to Sicily and Palermo.

Cathedral of Monreale
Mozia and saltpans
San Vito del Capo

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