Tag Archives: Palermo

Italy, Sicily day 5 Villa Igiea, Palermo, and Cefalu


Today was a day full of changes. From modern to ancient, from parking anxiety to “no problem”, from pampered to “the rock”.  The constant throughout?  Sicily’s seashore and wonderful cuisine.



The View from Our Hotel Room, Villa Igiea


We leave today for Cefalu with mixed feelings.  We would love to stay longer, but it is time to push on. We slept through the night again and awoke refreshed.  The “cold” was still in my nasal passages and not too bad.  We packed then went to breakfast, this time we took the elevator.


Breakfast is Served under the White Awnings

It was a moderately warm day; the patio was open and bustling.  I walked to a table being setup.  “No, this table is taken.  I’ll set one up for you.  Go to the buffet.” , which we did.  I chose a croissant, wanting to eat a light breakfast.  Ellen made a comment about eating healthy… Back to “our” table in the sun and it was taken.  A fellow had placed a book on the table.  “Mi dispace” and another table was setup, this time not in the sun.  Bummer with an incipient cold.  Still my croissant and  macchiato doppio were excellent.  Ellen had a more healthy breakfast of fruit and a cappuccino.



We took our bags down toward the front desk  to ask about Ellen’s flat iron and to check out.  She had left it with them to see if it could be resuscitated. The bellboy in the lobby came running to us to take our bags.  It seems any time you try to do something for yourself, the staff puts an end to that immediately.

Palermo & Parking


Parking Palermo Style, Our Volvo is 2nd Car on the Right

Ellen’s flat iron was kaput.  “Where could we buy a replacement?”  “On via Ruggiero Settimo”, which Via della Liberta becomes just past Teatro Massimo.   We knew exactly where that street was, we were there yesterday.  I planned on getting a SIM card this morning, this time bringing my passport along.  We asked about parking again, knowing there were two pay parking areas close to via Liberta.  “No, only one is outsize the ZTL, you cannot use the other.” That was a crucial bit of information.  Off we drove retracing yesterday’s steps at a rapid pace.  Passing the farmacia, Ellen said, “Let’s get more vitamin C.”   “Ok”, I said thinking, “crap, finding parking here is not going to be fun”.  A right turn and a left and there was a spot on the corner below a parking sign that was open. Wow, we found parking in less than 4 minutes! Ellen was concerned, “Maybe this is not a valid parking spot.  We could be towed.”  It looked good to me, off we went for our vitamin.  The car was there with no ticket on the windshield.  One down.

Continuing on we next had to find parking nearer Via della Liberta.  We needed to stop to check our map.  This time two left turns took us to a cull de sac. Lots of cars were double parked, I pulled in behind one.  While I was checking the map, Ellen said, “there’s some guy with a vest coming toward us. He’ll want us to move.”  He walked past, motioned that we were ok where we were, and he moved a car so another could get out.  We had found the parking area.  I paid the attendant two euros, he moved some cars, and we had ourselves a primo parking spot.  Ever concerned, Ellen wondered if we could park there until 14:00.  “No problem” I said.  Often that attitude gets me in trouble.  Two down.

TIM, SIM, Torquemada


Valentina, TIM is Very Lucky to Have Her

It turns out we had parked three blocks from the TIM shop that has “my” SIM card.  Ii took a number to wait my turn and Ellen went off to purchase the Italian handbag she saw the day before.  She completed her purchase long before I was served.  “il numero quarantotto,” “Parli Inglese?”  “No” But the fellow handed us off to  Valentina Cavara who did.  It took an interminable time to sort out which of TIM’s special offers was best for us, then have the SIM car programmed and inserted in my iPhone.  I had read that the 6 and 6S would work with international SIM cards and did not need to be unlocked.  WRONG! The SIM card simply would not work.  What to do?  “I can purchase a phone.  Do you have one that’s not expensive?”.  “Yes.  You would not want to buy an iPhone they are far to expensive.”   We went through the whole SIM card configuration again, but this time for a new smart phone that Valentina sold with her employee discount (!!).  Valentina also programmed a second SIM card which she said was a very special deal.  For three months we would have unlimited cellular data on this SIM, but no calling.  We left with a working local Italian phone number.  Even with the new cell phone, our cost was far less than we would pay through ATT for two months.  I am not happy with ATT’s pricing.  Anyway; Three and Four down.


One of the Piazzas We “Discovered” on our Search

We still have Ellen’s flat iron and comfortable walking shoes for Ellen to go.  We walked via Ruggiero Settimo and asked shopkeepers where we might find a flat iron.  It was fun and funny, did we want a salon to have Ellen’s hair done?  We were directed to Via Roma, Palermo’s third shopping area.  We saw outstanding historic fountains, statues, churches, monuments but no flat iron and no sneakers to Ellen’s liking.  On the bright side, it was early enough to have lunch at Torquemada.  They had been closed yesterday, but they were open now.   We ordered an appetizer of Five Diminutive Sicilian Sandwiches, think sliders done Sicilian style without the beef, and a mini pizza.  The sandwiches were great, the pizza was just OK.   Lunch: Five down.


It was not late enough that we could not possible check-in with Laura in Cefalu.  No Problem, I dialed her on my new phone and rescheduled.  It worked!  Heading back to the car, Ellen stopped into a shop that had sneakers that she liked, that fit, and that were comfortable.  In the space of five minutes (literally) she had her sneakers. Six down!

Palermo, Driving Again

We found the car parked just where we left it and (luckily) not parked in.  Driving out of Palermo, heck driving anywhere in Palermo, is a challenge. It can be fun, if you adopt “the right” and rather strange attitude toward driving.  It’s a Dr Jekyll & Mr. Hyde kind of thing.  Following the GPS out of the city was no problem.  Negotiating the traffic is the problem.  It took us the better part of an hour.  Again I called Laura and pushed our meet out another hour.


Even the autostrada was packed getting out of town. About an hour into our drive, I noticed the NAV displaying Messina 17km.  WHAT?  That cannot be right, Messina cannot possibly be 17km away.  I pulled off the autostrada to check our location, parked, and verified that we could not possibly have passed Cefalu.  Pulling out to turn around, I noticed a car pulling out behind me.  No problem, there’s plenty of room, then BEEEEEEEEP.  I stopped as a car stopped just to my left then pulled past.  The rear passenger, a man, made the typical Italian gesture of “you stupido”: holding his hand, fingers together and pointed up, while raisin and lowering the hand at the wrist.  So, around and back on the autostrada we went.  We found Cefalu, but the Nav system guided us uphill and away from the town!

Between Sky and Sea & Laura


Sweet Laura

“This can’t be right,” Ellen said flatly.  She was correct.  We switched to my new phone and Google maps to save us.  And it did to a point.  Google maps doesn’t know from pedestrian areas or ZTL’s and repeatedly guided  us up streets inaccessible to us.  We went round and round a few times until I just parked and we walked.

Laura was waiting for us outside the building when we arrived late; very late.  “Where’s your car?”  I explained how we went round and round then parked.  She was gracious about it.  We all agreed GPS can be crazy.


From the Top looking Down


The Living Room is Small and Cozy

I like booking properties with a view when I can.  In Italy this often means on the top floor and usually without an elevator.  Our Cefalu rental is no exception.  There are 64 steep steps from the doorway to the apartment.  We get our exercise that way.  (aside, I just heard the  frutta e verdura monger outside.  Every morning in Cefalu he calls out about the wonderful fruit or vegetables he has for sale.  He sells to local merchants. We can buy directly from him at his price. It’s quintessential Italy)



Looking East


Driving Cefalu, a Lighthearted Challenge

I asked Laura about local coffee shops and restaurants that she would recommend, she gave us the keys, and off she went.  She had shown us how to drive to the apartment.  We decided to schlep our bags and keep the car where it was, a ten minute walk away. We dropped our bags and headed out to find a bite and explore Cefalu.


Duomo Pizzeria & Ristorante

Just around the corner is the Duomo and its piazza.  We were famished and settled on Pizzeria Ristorante Duomo Serio not knowing what to expect.  Cefalu is very much like Taormina.  It has the same feel, though it lacks the open air Greek Amphitheater that is Taormina’s hallmark.  Not surprisingly, the Germans like Cefalu almost as much as they like Taormina.  German is the third most common language among the restaurants.   The maitre D asked if we spoke German, “Ma no”, then were were from.  We were seated and as often happens we chose the same entre for dinner, freshly made cheese ravioli with a tomato sauce, fresh basil, and hazel nuts.   Our waiter suggested I switch to fresh cheese ravioli with porcini mushrooms.  That was fine with me!  I don’t know how the Italians do it, but each pasta dish we have had was cooked perfectly with a perfect combination of flavors and seasoning.  The ravioli was outstanding.


A Typical Narrow Street and Yes, Locals Drive It

We strolled down the narrow street from the piazza to #9, our “home”, climbed the 64 steps, and figured out how to use the heater.  The apartment was cool and with my illness, some warmth was called for.  The bedroom heater worked great.  I couldn’t figure out how to work the kitchen/dining room heater.  (later I found a separate control for that unit = problem solved.)  We both slept through the night.


Cefalu is an ancient city located at the base of “the rock”.  The rock is a round stone outcropping that stands many meters high with impressive cliffs all the way around.  After the fall of the Roman empire, the people relocated to the top of the rock to avoid marauding pirates and Turks (and Turkish pirates too).  The fortifications atop The Rock are impressive and include massive walls nearly two meters thick, a crenelated wall atop the rock,, a castle, and huge cisterns.  With food and water the rock withstood many sieges.  Eventually the population moved back down to the sea and Storico Cefalu was built over time.


A View Past the Duomo to The Rock and Crenelated Wall

Cefalu is isolated on the north shore of Sicily about an hour’s drive from Palermo, perhaps two hours from Messina.  It is the only Tourist draw on this stretch of the north shore.  It is overlooked as a tourist destination, which saves it.  The locals live their lives in and around the tourists, many of whom are Italian too.  There are some trinket shops and a few sea side vendors selling their ware, but nobody is pushy.  We were only accosted once.  A woman carrying a child asked for money, I said, “ma no” (but no) and that was that.  Cefalu has maintained Its Italian roots.  The endless sea of poorly made souvenir crap so prevalent in Rome or Venice is missing here.  You get the sense that people are enjoying living in Cefalu and that tourism, while important, is not what Cefalu is about.

The view from Top of the Rock

So what is Cefalu “all about”?  It depends.  Come find out for yourself.



Italy day 4, Palermo

Italy, Sicily day 4 Villa Igiea, Palermo


Last Night, My Cold was just setting In!

We slept through the night for the first time.  Jet lag is on the wane.

I awoke late, around 9AM, and I was hungry.  Villa Igiea provides a buffet breakfast for guests.  If it is anything like I remember from 18 years ago, we are in for a treat. 


The Dining Room, Villa Igiea


And on the Entry Door

The weather is still blustery and cloudy, though I see some blue sky and sunshine too. The forecast is for intermittent rain in the morning and clearing to sunny in the afternoon. Another forecast shows rain for the next three days.  I know which “alternate facts” I’m going with!


The Hallway to Our Room

This morning the 220 volts fried Ellen’s hair straightener.  She always brings on on extended trips to contend with high humidity.  She has a favorite brand, but it is not 220 capable.  We thought the first one she fried in Rome was a fluke. This is the second.  Now we’re on a mission to find an Italian version that we know will work with 220. (You would think any device made in the US today would be 220 capable!  No, not true.)

We’re back from breakfast.  My cappuccino doppio and croissant was superb.  I had cereal and some fruit.  Ellen ordered a hand squeezed carrot, ginger, and apple juice.  It was very good, if you like a burning ginger sensation on your mouth and lips.   The buffet was as good as I remembered.

Weather is still an issue, but it will not stop us from a tour of the city on foot.  Hopefully the hotel will provide an umbrella or two! (We saw none and did not ask)  The sun just popped out and it’s shining bright through our window.  Our first time at the hotel, we had a top floor view over the marina and the bay.  This time we are one floor down and facing the marina.  We already had a room upgrade and tried to change to an upper floor, but all are booked.   We tried!

Now, off to see Palermo again.  We could take a cab or even drive, but we often prefer to walk.  We experience more this way and it works off our meals.  It is a bit of a walk from our hotel to Via Della Liberta, one of the three main shopping centers.  We’re on a hunt for a hair straightener and a SIM card for Italy.  I’m not sure if we were dodging cars or if they were dodging us.  After a while we were walking a good sidewalk and found a Farmacia for some vitamin C for my cold ( again thank you fellow air travellers ).  Success, they had foaming C tablets.  We continued on and turned left onto Via Liberta.  The first shop was Gucci, which we skipped.  The second was TIM, a mobile device shop that carries all the latest.  I stepped in and waited in line.  For a few minutes.  After a while Ellen and I agreed she should continue looking for a purse, shoes, and perhaps a hair straightener while I wait.  Cool.

I noticed a fellow who seemed irritated.  Then I noticed a numbered ticket in his hand.   He motioned to a machine.  II went over and saw that it distributed a numbered ticket if you “press here” (in Italiano).  With my new ticket #36, I asked the gentleman, “Scusi, che e suo numero?”  which is very incorrect.  It should be Scusi, qual e il tuo numero but he got it and showed me his ticket: number 32.  Cool, I’d wait.

Ellen came back.  She thought she should wait rather than going further down via Liberta. About fifteen minutes later, I was served.  We discussed plans, sort of.  Communication was fair at best.  I speak good gesture, worse Italian. He spoke good gesture, and little English.  We had come to an agreement when he asked, “Your documents please”.  Cool, but my driver’s license didn’t cut it.  He looked at the license, at me, at the license, and said, “no”.

I said, “Fa bene, a domani” and we left.  It was probably an hour between ticket in hand and “no passport”.

In the meantime, Ellen had found a purse and sneakers that she liked.  Typical of the two of us, we chose to wait and see what else was available and we walked on.


You Are Never Too Old If You’re Italian!

Via Liberta has changed.  The high end boutique shops are mostly gone, replaced by sneaker and accessory shops.   We walked past Teatro Politeama Garibaldi, often mistaken for Teatro Massimo.   Teatro Massimo is, as its name implies, massive.   There were a number of shops opposite Teatro Massimo.  Ellen visited the shops while I took a few photos of the third largest opera house in Europe.  One in Paris and another in Vienna are larger.  It is opera season, but unfortunately, there are no performances on Monday or Tuesday.


The Piazza that Fronts Teatro Massimo

Ellen found me relaxing in the piazza.  I suggested we take a tour of the theater and off we went.  The tour is inexpensive takes about half an hour and is well worth it.  The stage curtain was down; we did not get a sense of the size of the stage. The number of box seats surrounding the stage was stunning.  We visited the royal box, which is available to “us peasants” at a reasonable rate!  The royal box can seat more than 40 people, has an anteroom with over stuffed chairs and couches, and has its own elevator.


It Is Difficult to Convey the Sheer Size of the Theater

Leaving the theater we realized we were famished.  We had been walking most of the day without eating after breakfast.  We headed back toward the hotel while looking for a good place to eat.  I knew of two well regarded “cheap eats” in the area. We set off to find them.  I had an issue with my cellular data limit with ATT, and worked around it. We found that both places were closed while setting up for dinner!  It was now 15:30 and most places close between 14:30 and 15:30.

IMG_1281 IMG_1282

The Left and Right Box Seats, Teatro Massimo


Architect’s Model of The Theater


Murano Glass is Used Throughout


Detail of the Ceiling, Teatro Massimo


The Royal Box as Seen from the Stage

Aside from the tour of Teatro Massimo, our outing was unsuccessful and left us hungry and irritable.  Lesson learned: do not assume you can have lunch anytime you want.  Plan to eat between 11:30 and 13:30, period.  We did find a pasticceria that saved us. We shared a very good buffalo mozzarella and prosciutto crudo  sandwich.


The Marina and Mountains Surrounding Palermo Bay






Back “home” we recovered from our walk, cleaned up, then took the elevator down to Donna Franca Florio, Villa Igiea’s Michelin rated restaurant.  I will not go into the details of our dinner, but to say it was fabulous.



Taking a Photo & Studying the Menu


Evening’s End: Maitre D, Sommelier, Bar Hostess, General Manager

The sommelier said he had a bit of a very special wine if we were interested.  We shared a single glass of this outstanding Trapanese wine.  There are only 1000 bottles produced annually.  The vines are ancient and produce very small grapes in very limited quantity.


Wonderful, Unforgettable, Expensive.


Tomorrow is another day!

In Transit, San Francisco To Palermo


We are now ensconced in our apartment in Trapani. Night is falling and we are pretty tired. My planning was good thus far. It could be improved.  We made all our connections with time to spare, even the “tight” one in Rome.  I had called Alitalia and a representative assured me that we would have no problem at all with a hour and twenty minutes if we did not check baggage.  In Rome,  Europcar was fantastic.

We took no photos while in transit, particularly while going through Dublin’s baggage screening.

First getting from SFO to Palermo.

We closed down our house and took Uber to SFO well ahead of time, March 30th.  We planned to arrive three hours early, but frittered that away to two hours.  Ellen is a fastidious packer.

Our Uber X driver was loquacious.  The drive to SFO went quickly.  I booked our flight through justfly.com.  The rates were the lowest I could find. Justfly listed Turkish Air flights at a lower price.  I don’t know why, but I just did not want to fly Turkish Air.  Interestingly JustFly booked us through British Airways who “share” a Aer Lingus flight.  Our flight took us from SFO to Dublin to Rome with a four hour layover in Dublin, longer than optimal and not nearly sufficient time to make a trip to the city possible.  (Next Time I would take a day in Dublin before heading on to Rome)

Our  airfare was $276.00 USD for the two of us.  However Taxes and Fees including seat assignment was $1462.50, Purchase guarantee (trip insurance) was $39.98 for a grand total of $1780.48. About $840 per person.  At the time I booked seats Turkish Air was about $650, though I have no idea what additional fees might be involved.  What was strange is JustFly charged a fee to book us through British.

Aer Lingus SFO to Dublin

I called BA who suggested I call Aer Lingus for seat assignments. I had waited too long to make seat assignments on our SFO to Dublin leg and had to wait until at check-in 24 hours ahead of departure.  The Aer Lingus representative helped with seat assignments on our other outbound and two inbound legs.  She was great. The outbound leg remained a mystery until check-in.

Accessing Aer LIngus’ website 24 hours ahead,, things went fine until “seat assignment” when the website stated “all seats booked”. We were stuck with a pair of seats in the center 6 seat section.  Negotiating SFO international was easy, though  we typically fly “TSA PRE”  and don’t have to go through the “shoes off computers out” rigmarole.  Not a problem, but just inconvenient.

A word about Aer Lingus.  They really cram the seats in.  Leg room was barely adequate and obnoxiously short for a very long flight.  Unlike other international flights, wine and beer was not complimentary. One redeeming feature was individual monitors and good movie and music selection.  We suffered through our flight.


If I were to judge Dublin on its airport alone, I’d consider it a near 3rd world country.  Plane departure went smoothly and we walked quite some distance before being dumped into a “EURO” and “Non-EURO” security check. Like good little doobies we queued up in the “Non-Euro” section and got nearly to the checkpoint when an attendant who must have noticed our boarding passes sticking out of our passport shouted, “those of you who are connection to another flight must go down that corridor and not go through this checkpoint!”  She was gesturing to a corridor to the left of the point we entered the “EURO, Non-EURO” maze.  We jumped out of line and headed down the correct corridor. We both are experienced flyers and have negotiated numerous airports, but this threw us.

Next up? Another checkpoint were people appeared to be queuing for something.  We figured, OK,, let’s stop and see what’s up with this.  We waited while a couple spend probably five minutes doing something before the man in front of us had his turn.  Again we were saved by an attendant who said, “if you already have your boarding pass, you can skip this and go on”.  We had and we did.

That brought us to the security checkpoint for connecting flights. One line for “EURO” and one for “Non EURO”.  Ok, we went through our passport screening.  The fellow at the counter was friendly, our passports had no issues, and we took five steps.  The line for baggage check was backed up to the security checkpoint.  There were three conveyor belts and only one was operative.  There were three people managing baggage security and another five standing about watching the process. Had it been designed to frustrate passengers, it succeeded.  There was actually a sign posted that said “swearing, shouting at, or fighting with security personal is forbidden”. I let that sink in.

When our turn came up I gathered up the bins necessary for our computers, e-readers, shoes, belts, jackets, phones, and contents of pockets and we guided our belongings through the scanner.  Ellen’s backpack failed the scan first, then mine did as well. They tore Ellen’s bag apart, sent it through the scanner and it failed a second time.  This time EVERYTHING in the bag came out.  Did I mention that Ellen is a fastidious packer?  That means she has things organized in bags within bags of things and optimally crammed into her pack. with a practically empty pack the attendant noticed that two hair clips and a minute pair of insignificant scissors, you might find in a travel sewing kit. The issue was the two clips aligned as such to look like a scissor blade! The now empty pack and a sea of things sailed through the scanner.  My bag was next.  All this time I was trying not to show how annoyed I was becoming by this demonstration of futility.  That sign about not swearing at or fighting with came to mind.  I made eye contact with a security fellow standing maybe 30 feet away and I did not get a good feeling about it. 

The second scan of my bag went relatively smoothly, with to agents discussing its contents a while before an OK was given and I got my bag.  In the meanwhile Ellen was attempting to quickly repack her bag with limited success.

The kicker?  We found our gate number for our leg to Rome,, headed quickly toward it to find a huge congregation of people milling about a closed double door.  The entry to gates B18-B30 was closed.  Why? Nobody knew why, no reason was given.  I asked an attendant at Air Emirates if he had a clew and in that wonderful Irish lilt he said, “I don’t know. It could be fifteen minutes or it could be an hour.”  Ellen and I backtracked to hit the loo and relax a while.  While I was guarding our baggage, three security folks, one woman and two men, walked by making fun of a traveler who was particularly annoyed at having the door closed. Right or wrong, I had the impression that these folks enjoyed inconveniencing passengers and actually wanted to provoke  violence.  It was weird.  Apparently those three had opened the doors; we could access our gate.


We had priority boarding and emergency seating from Dublin to Rome which was a joy. In Rome we encountered the Italian approach to efficiency.  Four lines to four agents with no indication as to what each line was for. Were they all the same?  No.  “For boarding passes you must talk to that agent”, pointing to another agent and another line.  Boarding pass in hand we went to our gate agent and checked our larger carry-ons.  Again there were three lines and these were marked, though the signs were small and turned away making them moot.  While in line a fellow coming back from Costa Rica struck up a conversation.  Palermo is “his city”.  Time waiting for our flight flew by.  Our flight was held to allow travelers from a late flight from Brazil to make their connection to Palermo.

By the time we had baggage in hand it was 11:30 pm. I called Eurocar which stated their office would be open until midnight.  Ellen headed off to get some food for us and I headed to Europcar.  There was nobody ahead of me when I arrived.  There was nobody at the counter either! I tried calling the local rental site and heard the phone ringing.  `That’s it! By now there were three or four others queuing up behind me.  One fellow asked a neighboring vendor what was up, “He’s parking a car, he’ll be right back”, in gleaned from the Italian I understand (more than I thought I would actually). 

The attendant noticed we plan to drop the car off in Messina. “Yes, we are driving the north shore of Sicily”, said I. He replied, “Then you don’t want the car they assigned you.  Here I can give you a Golf if you want an automatic.”  I immediately asked if he had standard available.  The Italian driver loves a standard transmission and I figured I’d have a better choice.  “Yes, we have a standard Volvo, would you like that? It has a GPS NAV system at $16 euro per day.”  SCORE!

Don Ciccio’s Sea House



The living room looking into the dining room


Breakfast on the wrap-around porch

It was a bit confusing getting acquainted with the Volvo in the dark and harder finding our way out of the rental car parking lot. Once we knew how (by following another car) it was obvious.  Foreknowledge is a powerful tool.  In the dark it didn’t make sense to try to de-cypher the Italian navigation system.  I enabled cellular data and navigated to Don Ciccio’s Sea House with ease.  I only had to U-turn twice.  Getting out of the car we must have drawn the attention of every dog within a kilometer.  The barking was furious. As usual the GPS got us within about 300 feet but still one house away from our destination. Don Ciccio’s house sits behind a 12 foot wall as does every house along that street. We found and rang the bell.  Some time later a woman’s voice called out, “coming”.  And perhaps five minutes later Francesco appeared, “Do you have a car? Let me open the gate.”  We parked at his direction and found our most entertaining host ready to give us a tour, our keys, a description of the house, a ton of other interesting information, and a half bottle of wine with two glasses. Francesco is a charming individual.


Wisteria, the garden, and the hills around Palermo


We fell into bed around 1AM April 1.

Planning for Spring in Italy

Today Rick Steves, ” A Pocket Guide to Florence” arrived in the mail.

Last year we visited Rome ahead of a Seabourn cruise of the Greek Islands. The cruise landed in Venice, where we met our friends, Markus and Alexandra, before moving on to Florence for four days. We absolutely loved the Greek Islands and Italy. We vowed to return to Italy for an extended stay. We also hope to do some island hopping in Greece, but on another trip. For us, a return trip to Italy came first.

Today, thinking back on our last Italian sojourn, Florence stands out as the place to stay for an extended time. Rome and Venice are outstanding. We had a wonderful time learning how to live in both cities; walking the streets seeing the piazzas, seeing world renound art in museums and discovering lesser known ones. We both enjoy taking chances on trattorias with an occasional forgettable experience. Rome and Venice are perhaps the most stunning cities in the world. In spite of all that, for us, Florence felt like home.

I remembered vividly two Florentine restaurants where we had lunch.Unfortunately I did not remember their names and couldn’t locate them on a detailed map. But… looking back over our Florence blog, I found one is “Il Barroccio”. I remember that the other is closer to the Giardino della Gherardesca and the Four Seasons Hotel. There it was in our blog: Trattoria Cibreo. Many other restaurants were memorable for service or for their location. These two restaurants were unassuming and served the most wonderful dishes.

This trip first lands us in Palermo, Sicily where we rent a car and drive the north shore of Sicily to Messina. From Messina we take a ferry and train to Salerno. From Salerno we self-tour Capri, Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello before renting a car for a month at Salerno. From Salerno we drive the coast visiting Paestum, Pompeii, Torre del Greco, Erculo, Bacoli, Gaeta, and Sperlonga before turning inland toward Tivoli. We will visit some of the castle towns of Velletri, Genzano, Ariccia, Albano, Laziale, Castel Gandolfo, or Frascati then stop in Tivoli. The road from Tivoli to Orvieto runs near Calcata and Bagnoregio. From Orvieto we drive to Florence. All our lodging for this eighteen day trip as well as our six weeks in Florence is now booked and confirmed.

Booking accommodations was amusing if sometimes frustrating. I used bookings.com, homeaway.com, tripadvisor.com, and hotels.com. Often a listing was common to all with different prices. Sometimes one site would have a listing the others did not. Where prices differed, some included the taxes and fees in the price, some included just fees or just taxes, some included neither. The least expensive listing often was acutally the most expensive after fees and taxes. We booked six stays through bookings.com, four through homeaway.com, three through TripAdvisor, and two through hotels.com. We booked our stay at the Villa Igiea, Palermo directly.

We would book our connections now, but it is not possible to do so online. Train tickets can only be booked 120 days in advance and the 2017 ferry schedules are not yet avaiable online. Then too, it may be better not to book ahead to avoid missing a connection.

What a marvelous adventure awaits.

Here are some stock photos that present the scope of our travels from Palermo to Florence.


Lavenzo Island


Lorenzo petroglyphs

Petryglyphs on Levanzo Island

villa igiea 2 villa igiea 1

Villa Igiea, Palermo





Capri BlueGrotto capri

Capri and the Blue Grotto





AmalfiCoast amalfi

Amalfi Coast and Amalfi







sperlonga 2 Sperlonga




arricia ariccia(1)


 albano laziale

Albano Laziale

Calcata italy




tivoli 1 Tivoli 2


orvieto orvieto 2



IMG 4980 cropped