Italy Tour: Jo Marino

Ciao Jerry,

We had a fabulous trip through Sicily. The people, the food, the terrain, the beauty – all were terrific. We plan to return.

We were pleased with all of our accomodations, some more than others. Our favorite was the first – in Cefal├╣. The hosts were incredibly friendly and made our stay very enjoyable. The house is set in a beautiful spot. Sharing one table with other guests – nearly all from Denmark – created a warm atmosphere. The meals were sumpious. We were sorry to move on after only one night.

The staff at Tortorici and Taormina were terrific, and the breakfast meals were great. Driving up to Castelmola was an adventure!

The facade of the hotel in Enna is being renovated. Did not affect our view or our stay there. Staff was very nice. Driving in Enna was terrible.

The accommodation at Agrigento was very nice and had a beautiful garden. But after the other accomodations, it felt a bit too elegant and aristocratic for our tastes.

The masseria at Camporeale was another beautiful place. The hosts were initially standoffish and businesslike, but after talking with them they warmed up considerably. It felt a bit strange being the only ones staying there. We also got the impression that we were expected to have cena there, though only bed and breakfast were noted. (We often did not eat cena after having had a large/late pranzo). Claudio directed us to a friend in the campagna near Salemi who was an award winning cheese maker. We found our way there, sampled some wonderful fresh ricotta, took pictures of their cheesemaking operation, and bought some aged picarino to go.

The hazienda near Erice was a nice location with a beautiful agricultural setting, but the staff was often nowhere to be found. Some of the women seemed to speak only Sicilian – or else our Italian was so bad they couldn't understand us. They also seemed to expect us to eat cena there.

Some additional comments:
1) The people we encountered throughout Sicily were incredibly friendly. If you walk into a shop and try to engage them in Italian they immediately engage. We often were given free samples just for making conversation.
2) All hospitality disappears on the roads. Its truely every one for him/herself.
3) We enjoyed the food and service everywhere we went. Excellence in food and service are obviously valued.
4) We were too ambitious trying to cover the entire island in 2 weeks. However, our spread was determined by our desire to visit ancestral paese at either end of the island. It is simply too easy to underestimate how much there is to see and experience. A better plan for a traveler with 2 weeks would be to limit travel to no more than half of the island, or else plan a 4 week trip.
5) Moving every other day was tiring. It would have been better to spend 3 or more nights in some locations and take day trips to some destinations.
6) Navigating through most of Sicily was not bad, especially if you enjoy the back country roads as we did. A GPS is essential as most roads are not marked, and signage is often missing or contradictory.
7) Finding one's way in some cities, especially those of medieval origin (e.g. Enna, Trapani), was near impossible because streets are so narrow and not marked. GPS was also often either useless or aggravated the problems. The GPS (TomTom) provided by Avis often lacked precision when streets were tightly arranged, failed to adjust quickly enough to prepare the driver for the next turn, or simply did not recognize oneway routes. We frequently were lost in Enna and Trapani. The TomTom also did not give the option for alternate routes to the next destination (e.g. We often could not route through back country because the GPS preferred the motorway).

Jerry, we again thank you for arranging our trip and answering our questions. We have recommended Umfalana to others interested in traveling.

Joe