What’s YOUR Travel Style?

Do you prefer organized tours or would you rather choose your own itinerary and pace? There are definite advantages to both modes of travel, and I enjoy each. I’ve discovered that the key to maximizing pleasure is to understand exactly WHY you are taking the trip. Is your goal to see as many sights as possible? Or do you hanker for a slower pace, enjoying the companionship of a few close friends?

Lucky me—I’ve been able to do both types of trips to Sicily, so I can compare and contrast. You see, in 2017, my husband and I took an Overseas Adventure Trip (OAT), spending 16 days based in Palermo, Mazara, Piazza Armerina, Ragusa, and Catania.

Currently I’m traveling with three good friends, who planned everything, and are willing to do all the driving. Not surprisingly, this trip is far less structured than the OAT trip. Although we will be based in different cities: Ortigia, Modica, Enna, Palermo and Taormina, we will be covering similar ground.

Our first two days were somewhat grueling, with an overnight flight to Rome, followed by an afternoon flight to Catania, and a 45 minute ride to our first hotel, Algila Ortigia Charme Hotel, our home for three nights.

Across the street from our hotel

They say you can’t get a bad meal in Italy. Well, Sally and I accomplished the impossible, with TWO bad meals—a dinner on our first night and lunch on the second. Breakfasts, on the other hand, were at the hotel and were fantastic!

The world’s worst pizza. Fortunately, Sally was able to see the humor of the experience

We finally wised up and avoided the places around tourist attractions. All meals henceforth were at restaurants down little side streets and THAT is where the food exceeded expectations.

Trattoria Archimede on Via Cavour
Karen and Diane on left, Sally and me on right

Also on Via Cavour was an abundance of little shops. We discovered Sebastian’s shop, in which he was selling various flavors of ‘cello. After sampling several, Diane and I, slightly drunk by then, purchased limoncello and almondcello.

Definitely worth a visit!
Of course, we had to make purchases here. A magnet for me and a mobile for Diane and Karen

Although we did see the normal Ortigia sites, over our three night stay, it was at a much slower pace than when Mike and I visited. For our OAT trip, we only spent a half a day in Ortigia, and saw the same attractions. Of course, we didn’t spend as much time being lost and confused, because we had a guide. We also didn’t sleep as late either.

I am grateful to Sally, Diane and Karen for including me on this trip—my first since Mike died. It is comforting to be among good friends while I process my loss.

Eureka, We Found Syracusa!

For the last three days of our OAT tour, we were based in Catania.  Enroute, we stopped in Syracusa, the birthplace of Archimedes.  Remember him?  He’s the guy in the bathtub, who shouted “eureka” when he discovered something of great importance?  I don’t remember what he discovered, but I sure did like his word choice.


If you’re anything like me, you’re probably wondering why he’s holding a mirror, instead of sitting in a bathtub, like a Cialis commercial.  Well, there are a couple of stories:  The original legend was that Archimedes developed a parabolic mirror that captured the sun’s rays and then directed them toward the invaders’ wooden ships, setting  them ablaze.  Valeria, our local guide, said it was more likely that the mirror was indeed used to capture the sun’s rays, but was probably more effective temporarily blinding the enemy.  You are free to pick whichever version you prefer.   Archimedes also invented a crane with a metal hook that could pull a ship out of the water, known as “Archimedes Claw”.   Now THAT would have made one hell of a statue!

We didn’t spend much time in Syracuse, instead moving to the fortress island of Ortigia, another lovely Sicilian town just packed with Greek and Roman ruins, Medieval Norman structures, and Baroque buildings, plus great restaurants and lovely boutiques.  We weren’t there long enough!

Typical street in Ortigia.  Lots of pedestrian only walkways.

We made a stop by the Fountain of Arethusa.  You’ve all seen fountains before, so I decided to share a photo of this plaque instead.  Don’t you just love it when there is an English translation?  I hope it comes through large enough for you to read it!

P1010526 2.jpg

Arethusa was one “wiry” nymph who didn’t rejoice in the “gifts of her body”.  What a great translation!

After lunch we took a boat ride around Ortigia Bay.  (This photo is courtesy of sweet Daniel, our guide, who shared the photos he’d been taking of us during the entire trip.)See that bridge?  Wonder how we were able to fit under it?  P1180508

Don’t worry.  I’m going to show you…

Our captain instructed us all to scrunch down, then the awning was lowered.  Okay, so it isn’t the best photo I’ve ever taken, but I’ll bet got the idea!

Something else to wonder.  How do people on boats get take-out delivered?  Wonder no more, because once again, I’m going to show you.

Yes indeed.  That IS a pizza being lowered.

Our day wasn’t over.  We had one more stop before we checked into the hotel.  The World War II Museum commemorated the allies landing in Sicily.   My favorite part of the museum was entering the replica of a Sicilian town, hearing the air raid sirens go off, piling in to the bomb shelter (which shook as the “bombs” went off) then exiting to see the devastation that took place.

There was lots more to see, but I decided to share this poster with the folks back home.



Lucky Luciano was sprung from a US prison so that he could communicate with his Sicilian Cosa Nostra connections to ensure that the US knew exactly where to land.   As you can imagine, this was somewhat controversial, especially because some claim the US support of the Cosa Nostra leaders only strengthened their hold on the region after the war ended.

After settling in to the Katane Palace Hotel, Daniel took us for a quick tour, pointing out Catania’s version of “Restaurant Row”, where we had a wonderful dinner.

The perfect ending to a fantastic first day in Catania.