Sicily (Sicilia) is a rugged and attractive island on the southern tip of Italy , and is one of the country's 20 regions. It is separated from the mainland region of Calabria by the 5 km Straits of Messina. It can get very hot during the summer, so it is better to visit during spring and autumn, whilst it is still quite pleasant during winter.
Sicily has a long history of foreign domination, from the Greeks to the Romans, Arabs, Normans, Spanish. Even Napoleon went here for a while. The result is a mixed culture where every single domination left something to see, to taste, to hear.
Sicily is a huge island where every little city seem to have its own culture. You will find great variety of local specialities in all cities over the island.
What else ? They are proud people and most of them are a little bit conservative, but open-minded to visitors.
From Naples , it usually takes 8 hours, 10 from Rome , The train will stop at Villa San Giovanni train station for about 10-15 minutes. And then it's rolled down to the Villa S.G ferry dock, where you wil be waiting about 20 minutes before the train roll onto one of the ferries. On the ferry, you should get on the deck and watch the sea. It's a wonderful view, but don't forget the number of your train.
The 2010 timetable offers these direct trains:
But you don't have to take a direct train. You can also take a train from Rome to Villa San Giovanni, and walk onboard the rail ferries (or another BLUVIA ferry), and take a local train from Messina centrale to Palermo and Catania
Detailed information is available at:
There are running car-trains from Venezia and Rome to Catania and Palermo. This is great offer for those who don't want to ride a car all day. you park your car onto a train. And some hours later, you can get your car at the Catania train station or Palermo, depends on what city you bought a ticket to.
The cartrains also runs along with the nighttrains, so this is a great option.
Be aware: Some Trains on the island are very slow, for example it takes more than 7 hours between Siracusa and Trapani and it's about 450 km. But The IC (InterCity) trains that travels betwen Siciliy and other italian cities, runs at much greater spead.
Large, cruise-ferries link Palermo with Civitavecchia, Naples , Genoa , Livorno, Sardinia and other Mediterranean destinations (Be sure to order place for your car, or yourself, if your a pedestrian.) Because only the Messina-straight ferries are open without reservation. The are also car ferries between Milazzo, the Aeolian Islands and Naples , and between Trapani and Tunis . From Catania you can reach Naples and Malta . From Messina you can reach Salerno . See all current ferry connections at TraghettiWeb.it or Ferrylines.com .
Across the Straits of Messina, there are at least hourly ferries between Messina on Sicily and Villa San Giovanni on the mainland. There are at least twenty of them, so don't worry about timetables or waiting too long. If you only drive a car, you can also drive onboard the BLUVIA rail/train ferries. There are also several hydrofoils each day between Messina and Reggio di Calabria.
If you do worry about timetables, which are not nessesary.
This one takes you right into Messina city and connects you to the Palermo - Catania highway: .
And this one takes you to Messina Sud (Tremestieri) And does also connect you to the highway. This route is more for the people driving towards Catania:
Be careful, although public transport is very good during the week, there are not many services on Sundays - check the timetable carefully and ask the locals.
The main roads are good, with four highways (Catania-Palermo, Palermo-Mazzara and Catania-Noto which are free and Messina-Palermo where you have to pay). Little roads, mainly in mountain zones, are slower but offer great views.
A18 Messina - Catania (toll)
A18 Catania - Siracusa
A18 Siracusa - Ragusa - Gela (under costruction - open from Siracusa to Noto)
A19 Palermo - Catania (free)
A20 Messina - Palermo (toll)
A29 Palermo - Mazzara (free)
A29dir Alcamo - Trapani (free)
The bus network in Sicily is quite extensive and cheap. The main hubs are Palermo and Catania , but routes link most of the main towns frequently and most small towns at least once a day. From virtually any town you will be able to get a bus direct to Palermo. For the AST company, go to the website and click on 'Autolinee'. There is also Interbus .
There are regular ferries and hydrofoils from Sicily to its Islands, although services are somewhat reduced during Spring and Autumn and even more so during Winter. Individual companies: SIREMAR , Ustica Lines and NGI . The main routes are:
If you have less time and more money, there are flights to Pantelleria and Lampedusa.
From Enna Water Aerodrome (Nicoletti Lake) with Amphibious aircrafts you can reach the Aeolian Islands , Palermo and Siracusa.
Making the most of its island coasts, Sicily has one of the world's best cuisines to offer. Much of the island's food is made with creatures of the sea. Unlike in the northern parts of Italy, cream and butter are hardly used for typical dishes in Sicily. Instead, the natives usually substitute tomatoes, lard (rarely) or olive oil. The cuisine is very exotic and has many spices and unique flavors to offer. Sicilians cultivate a uniquely Sicilian type of olive tree, which they affectionately call the "saracena". The food is typically Mediterranean but there are strong hints of Arabic and Spanish flavor (Sicily was conquered by many peoples during its long history). Sicilians like spices and have particular affinity for almond, jasmine, rosemary, mint and basil.
Sicilians notoriously have a sweet tooth and are among the best dessert-makers in Italy. Try 'cannoli' (tubular pastries filled with sweet ricotta cheese), 'granita' (ices mixed with real crushed fruit and juices), and their most famous export, 'cassata' (Arabic-inspired cake). Make sure not to pass up the pine-nut and almond biscuits, as they are always a crowd pleaser.
'Arancini' (sometimes Arancine), fried rice balls with fillings, is a Sicilian fast food that is relatively cheap. They can be hard to find outside Sicily, so try them while you're there.
Sicilians are not big alcohol drinkers (Sicily has the lowest rate of alcoholism in all of Italy) despite the fact that the island is home to more vineyards than any other Italian region and has one of Italy's most progressive wine industries. Noted mainly in the past for strong bulk wines and often sweet Moscato and Marsala, the island has switched its emphasis toward lighter, fruitier white and red wines.
Sicily is divided into three main producing wine districts:
Best known Sicilian wines: Nero d'Avola, Bianco d'Alcamo, Malvasia, Passito di Pantelleria, Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Etna Rosso, Etna Bianco.
Some Sicilian wine producers: Planeta; Cusumano; Tasca d’Almerita; Tenuta di Donnafugata; Feudo Principi di Butera (Zonin); Morgante; Duca di Salaparuta; Benanti; Palari; Firriato; Marco De Batoli; Salvatore Murana; Icone ( ).
Sicilians enjoy a fruity lemon liqueur called Limoncello during the long, hot and dry summers.
Natives of Sicily speak Sicilian, an ancient Romance language that is considered an entirely separate language from Italian.
Most Sicilians are proficient in Italian and modern day schools are teaching English to students. Be advised that when traveling to small villages, some of the older residents may not speak Italian (they will understand though). Even though Italian is the national language, Sicilian is still very alive in Sicily. They may ask you "Comu ti senti" instead of "Come stai" or "Come ti senti"(meaning how are you feeling instead of just "how are you").
As in most of Italy, you should be aware of pickpockets. There is not too much violence, but some neighborhoods can be hazardous, especially some suburbs in big cities like Catania, Messina or Palermo.
In the train, especially during the night, keep your wits about you and try to stay with other travellers.
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