Travelling in Sicily – lessons learned

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Travelling in sicily - lessons learned

Travelling in Sicily – lessons learned


Travelling in Sicily

I am going to post a number articles on Sicily and break it down into several sections covering the areas below:

    The Aeolian islands
    Mt Etna

These posts will tell you about my experiences and will include some lessons learned in the form of 2 good and 2 bad so things that went well for me so that you have an idea how or what to do if you aren’t sure and what not to do with me as a guinea pig.

The trip was, in the majority, unplanned. This was deliberate to help you to work out what parts you may wish to plan, to show you how you can overcome obstacles if it doesn’t go to plan and how you may be able to avoid some of the school boy errors anyone new to travelling may experience.

Not everything will go to plan, this can be a good or a bad thing but it all make for and enjoyable experience, most importantly keep safe all!

Lessons Learned travelling in Sicily

Lessons Learned travelling in Sicily

Well that certainly sounds like a dark way to start an article about somewhere like Sicily but then that is just how it started for me…

The thing is it is these experiences that I want to share on this website so that you and other people like you can learn from other people’s mistakes.

Everybody will tell you best things to do and why etc but not so many people cover off what can happen to slow you down or cause you a problem.

I will of course cover off the good bits about my experience in Sicily and I will certainly be sharing some recommendations but I don’t want people to get caught out by not being prepared and this goes for any trip.

Having done plenty of travelled all around the world I thought I was pretty well prepared for a simple trip to Sicily and as I was only going for a week skipped some of the all-important bits myself.

I have a vague idea of where I wanted to go and what I wanted to see but other than booking the first nights’ accommodation a car and the last night stay near the airport I pretty much left it to be considered along the way.

This trip was with my girlfriend and so we wanted a bit of a step up to the usual hostel despite my better instinct. (There are quite a number of advantages to using hostels check out the hostels page)

After the usual hassle getting through an airport only to find the flight was delayed for over an hour we took off and eventually arrived at our destination in Sicily; Palermo airport.

It was a pretty good flight and the plane flew surprisingly low meaning the views along the flight were at times pretty spectacular.

Having already printed off the voucher for the car etc and collected our luggage we headed to the car hire section of the airport (a short ride on the courtesy bus)

We arrived only to find that our car hire firm was not actually based at the airport but instead was another 15 minute bus ride away.

After waiting ages for a rude lady to serve the locals and then some car returners we eventually got served and this was the first of our lessons learned in Sicily; make sure you take a credit card!

No I don’t usually use a credit card and don’t usually have on in my wallet as the last thing you really need is a bill following you around as you travel but this was one time I really needed one!!

While it is not always standard to provide a credit card with a car hire (particularly when you have already paid) it is quite common in Sicily and believe me once you start driving about you will soon see why!

So the T&C’s for the car hire site said to bring a driving licence, a credit card etc it also let you pay be debit card and suggested that debit card was ok if you let them know. I didn’t read thoroughly enough so lesson learned!

In the end the lady would not give us the hire car we had paid for and as we turned up later than the pickup time (the flight was delayed and the location of the car was not the airport) we lost the money as well all because we didn’t take a credit card.

As luck would have it we managed to get another car at the airport but it did cost more than double the initial booking and we wasted a lot of time we needed for our ongoing journey.

Lessons Learned in summary

So 2 good 2 bad!

2 Good lessons learned travelling in Sicily

1) Pre-book its cheaper (we did do that bit)
2) Check that your airport is where you think it is

(Saves time, effort and money if you are 15 mins away rather than an hour for example)

Luckily we had already done a little research and knew that Palermo airport wasn’t actually in Palermo and had booked our last night in the same area that the car hire firm was located.

2 lessons learned travelling in Sicily

1) Hire a car, take a CREDIT CARD – you may not get your car otherwise!
2) Make sure you read the T&C to make sure you have what they need you to have

Travelling in Sicily begins - on to Cafalu

And so the travelling in Sicily on to Cafalu

Well we certainly thought we had left plenty of time to navigate our way to our first destination Cefalu but now we were late in leaving (delayed flight and hassle with the car) and short a few quid but hey we are here to travel around so let’s get started.

I don’t know if you have ever driven in Italy but this place is crazy!! People simply do not seem to care about how they drive!!! All over the roads there are cars driving around with dents and scratches and that’s just at the airport… It may have cost a bit extra but boy am I glad we got the extra collision damage insurance even if it is extortionate..

So we get in the car and set off, the roads are in pretty good condition assuming you have your wits about you and can concentrate enough to avoid the insane driver’s one little downside though…the sat nav (borrowed from my dad) sucks! It is slow and the screen isn’t working properly should have really checked that out before we went so on to the mobile phone it is.

Now luckily we knew roughly how much this could cost and budgeted for that, the network also lets you know by text message when you arrive these days but still make sure you research this before you go or pay the price later!

Once you get onto the motorway and out of the towns and cities the drive along the coast is pretty easy although there are a lot of tunnels and some are closed it is a little different when you start to get to the town that you want to go to as the sat nav seems to drag you around some random stretches of road.

On the way to Cafalu we took a wrong turn or 2 and night was closing in fast, before we knew it we were heading up a really steep hill with a struggling car and scattered mansions. The roads were like country lanes and the sat nav had NO IDEA where we were or where we were going and we thought we were on a 1 way street as the roads were that narrow.

This is a scary prospect when you are in a foreign country, don’t speak the language and it is getting later into the night. Eventually we just decided to head back down and eventually found our route again, another half hour gone and some unnecessary stress and we just wanted to get there…that was another story!

When we finally made it to where we thought we were heading again the sat nav decided it wanted to drag us around some random streets and we ended up in the sketchiest of places I think I have had to drive down.

We turn down roads barely wide enough to fit that car with people walking about and ended up in a well know street for the locals which has ruins down a hole on the left shielded with a wall of glass and just wide enough to navigate past the wing mirrors. Then you get to the end of the road…

At the end, tightest turn through the smallest gap and after the day we had had our new worst nightmare! Luckily the little old lady sat in the street was well versed in the experience and guided us safely round, was she being nice or was it the several euros we dropped on the floor as we got out?!? I would like to think it was the first point as she said hello when we walked past the next day.

We drove around for what seemed like ages trying to get to where we were staying, even though we called the number. While the people we spoke to were friendly, they spoke little English and offered little guidance.

Eventually we parked up at the sea front, asked about a bit, called the owner of the B&B and found the poorly signposted street that you could not park on. We checked in and then had to move the car to the station for a free car park and finally settled down for a well earner beer and some food at 11pm at night.

Don’t worry this was only the beginning! I will be running through the itinerary and tell you all about the other destinations above.

Expect to hear about lots about the places I visited, some fun, some challenges and some amazing sites along the way! More photos to come as well.

I hope you enjoy.

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