First off, apologies for the recent lack of postings. The last month we have been having a lot of fun traveling and as a result, the blog has been a little neglected. A lot of content is coming your way soon!
After Malta, we spent seven days on the Italian Island of Sicily, splitting our time between the city of Catania on the Eastern side of the island, and Palermo, on the West.
For reasons that I won’t go into on the blog, we completely screwed up booking our Airbnb in Catania so for the four nights that we were there, we stayed in two different apartments.
The first one was great. We stayed with a young American/Italian couple who had a beautiful apartment and the location was in the heart of Catania. I would absolutely recommend staying there if you are visiting Catania and want an inexpensive option for accommodations. Link to Apartment
However, like I said, we had to change apartments on the 3rd night and so we walked 5 minutes down the street to our next Airbnb. This time we had our own apartment, which typically I prefer, but this apartment was really dark (all the windows were to an inside hallway) and it felt very cramped. It was fine for a quick stopover, and it was cheap, but I wouldn’t have wanted to stay there longer than two nights. Link to Apartment
(If you haven’t used Airbnb before and are thinking of trying it on your next vacation, use this link to get a $35 travel credit towards your first booking!)
Honestly, this is going to be quick because I didn’t love Catania. Maybe it’s because we had just come from a perfect four days in Malta and I was expected Catania to be the same experience, but it wasn’t. (And if I’m being really really honest with myself… I don’t think we did Sicily as whole the way that you’re supposed to “do” Sicily. The best parts of Sicily are the small beach towns around the Coast, and we stayed in the middle of two cities for the majority of our time there.)
And don’t get me wrong, the historical part of Catania is beautiful, but the city as a whole felt kind of dirty and a little sketchy. Catania has recently gotten an influx of refugees and our Airbnb host even told us to be careful walking around at night. Not exactly what I like to hear when I arrive to a new place. Plus, it didn’t help that it was insanely hot so walking around during the day was kind of miserable. (Trust me, I know that I sound like such an ungrateful brat. Forgive me. But I was expecting BIG things from Italy and this was my first experience.)
Also, keep in the mind the #1 thing to do in Catania is to visit Mt. Edna, which is the largest, active volcano in Italy. However, unless you want to go on a 4 hour hike (no thanks), the tour cost about $100/person and we’re not exactly dripping in cash these days. So unfortunately, that was a big miss.
The best thing that we did in Catania was take the bus 40 minutes to Aci Trezza, which is a beautiful coastal town North of the city. It was very easy to reach by bus (although, it took us a while to figure out the bus system) and we had an awesome afternoon swimming and sunbathing near some really awesome rock formations that are rumored to be from Homer’s Odyssey.
After four nights we took a train to the West Coast of Sicily to the capital city of Palermo. After a somewhat disappointing four days in Catania, we were excited for Sicily to redeem itself, and Palermo definitely helped. Palermo is a much bigger and cleaner city than Catania and seemed to have a lot more to see and do.
Similarly to our second Airbnb in Catania, we had our own place in Palermo and similarly to Catania, the place was very small and dark. The only windows were the front doors that led right out into the street. But, for three nights it was fine and we had more than enough space to feel comfortable. In hindsight, we should’ve stayed closer to the city center because it was a little bit of a hike everywhere we wanted to go, but it overall was fine. Link to Apartment
Palermo is a much bigger city than Catania and because it is the capital city, there seemed to be a lot more to see and do. One of the things that Palermo is best known for are their outdoor street markets. These three markets are HUGE and are anywhere from 20-50 blocks in length, selling just about anything you could think of.
Palermo is a beautiful city and definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area, but you probably only need a day in the city itself. I can’t stress enough that when you visit Sicily you should be at the beach.
While in Palermo, we did a day trip to Mondello Beach, which was about a 30 minute ride on the public bus. My biggest complaint about the beaches in Italy, is that 90% of the beach is covered with chairs and umbrellas that you obviously have to pay to sit on. I get that it’s a business and it’s how they make money, but it is still annoying that there was only about 20 feet of public beach from the end of the chair line to the water. Anyway, end rant. Mondello Beach was still beautiful and and awesome town to visit if you’re looking for a beach day in Sicily.
Verdict: I would definitely go back to Sicily if given the opportunity, but I would skip the cities next time. From what I saw of the Coast, that is 100% worth visiting and I wish we would have planned our trip to the island better. Oh well, always next time 😉