We had been planning this one for a while. While my mom was here, we had decided to take a getaway trip to Sicily. We chose Sicily primarily because it is a destination offered by Ryanair, a low-cost European airline. Ryanair flies out of the Baden Airpark, which is about 1.5 hours from Stuttgart. It is very close to the city of Baden-Baden, and also very close to the German border with France. Since our flight departed at 7am, we decided to find a place on AirBNB to stay overnight near the airport to avoid a long drive so early in the morning. The place we found was very cool. It was a condo/apartment owned by a single mom that just rented out her own apartment to AirBNBers. She met us at her place, gave us the tour, and left us a key. We didn’t spend very much time at all at her place, but it worked great and we would have liked to stay another night to explore Baden-Baden. We did have dinner at a nearby Chinese Restaurant, and tried to get to bed early anticipating the early departure on Friday morning.
On Friday morning, we were in the car by 5:30am and made the 20 minute drive to the Baden Airpark. We parked, checked our bags, and made it through security in time for a machine-cappuchino and a croissant. We got on the bus that took us to the airplane parked on the tarmac, and were in our seats for an on-time departure at 7am. The first thing you notice about the cabin of a Ryanair flight is that there is YELLOW everywhere.
Once we arrived in Trapani, Sicily, we immediately noticed the humidity… it was quite different from the mild climate we left in Germany! We were glad that we hadn’t worn long pants or jackets like many on the plane, because it was 80 degrees and 80 percent humidity. We got off the plane, quickly found our luggage, and then found the kiosk for our Hertz Rental Car. There was only one lady working, and the line started to back up quick. We were about fourth back, and we waited an hour. Ugh. Once we got to the front, we got the rental business out of the way and got our keys. We found our car in the parking lot and got on the road toward our hotel… we had brought our GPS from Germany to use in Sicily, and we had the address to the hotel in my phone. We started following the GPS, and then realized that it was taking us the wrong way. I knew that our hotel was in the country, and the GPS kept directing us to the city. We finally turned off the GPS and used the phone. Then things got interesting. I’m not sure what the address was that Siri wanted to get us to, but she took us through the narrowest roads I have ever encountered. At one point I was pushing my head against the roof of the car to see over the dash and onto the road (because the incline was so steep) while pulling in the mirrors because the walls of the city were so close on both sides of the car. Ronda was freaking out, Lane was outside directing traffic (and watching my mirrors) and I was just thinking about the insurance on the rental car. We made it though, found our hotel and everything was fine, but it was a crazy start to our Sicilian vacation!
Our hotel was off the beaten path, located in a beautiful valley about 40km from Trapani (where the airport is located). The hotel, called the "Relais Angimbe," had an outdoor pool and bar area, an indoor restaurant/dining room area, and was located adjacent to a vineyard. It was an amazing location and the views from the courtyard and the pool were breathtaking.
Once we got settled in to our hotel, we decided to get started exploring. Our first stop was the Segesta Archeological area, home of a completely intact Greek Theater ruin. Segesta was only about 10 minutes from our hotel, so getting there was quick and easy. There are two main areas at the Segesta site: the amphitheatre and the theatre. Tickets to see both are 6 euros each, and we purchased round trip tickets on the bus that takes you up the hill to see the amphitheatre for 1.50 each. It was totally worth it. The amphitheatre site is still under discovery, but you can certainly see why the Greeks chose that site over 2000 years ago, the view is breathtaking and the acoustics still worked!
After the amphitheatre, we walked to the Theatre. It is really amazing that it has remained intact for this long. We haven’t been to Greece yet, but I can only imagine what the sites like this look like there. The Segesta site was cool and a great first stop on our Sicily trip.
After Segesta, we wanted to go check out the beach. It was late in the day, so we pointed the GPS to the city of Castellamare del Golfo, and navigated our way down to the public beach area. Although there were hundreds of umbrellas and lots of restaurants, we had the entire place to ourselves (probably because we arrived so late). Everyone took their shoes off to walk through the sand, and Cooper eventually dove into the crashing waves and got covered in sand and saltwater. He was having the time of his life. I, one the other hand, was not impressed… I’m not a sand fan - it gets EVERYWHERE! But Cooper had a great time running up and down the beach and loved being able to go as fast and far as he wanted, almost naked and barefoot in the sand.
After a quick visit to the beach, we went back to our hotel and had dinner at the restaurant there. It was a typical Sicilian dinner and was very good. The hotel offered two options: meat and fish. Both options had unlimited wine! After dinner we went to bed early to get caught up on some sleep (and to work on the blog!).
On Saturday, we had breakfast at the hotel and made our way back towards Trapani, where we planned to take the Trapani-Erice gondola and explore the old town of Erice. We parked in the lot right at the base of the gondola and bought our tickets and jumped right on. Unfortunately the gondola cars have plexi-glass windows that are very scratched and dirty, so photos from inside the car didn’t turn out so great.
Once we arrived at the top of the mountain, Erice was buried in clouds and seemed eerie at first. We got our bearings and a map from the information office near the gondola station, and headed up the hill towards the old town. The clouds eventually burned off, and we had a great time exploring the old cobblestone streets of Erice. Also at Erice is the ruins of a Norman castle, built in the 900s on the foundation of a Greek temple. The castle itself wash’t much, but the views from inside the grounds were amazing. The vertical distance from the walls of the castle to the valley below really makes you think about the sweat that went into making something like that so long ago.
We left the castle and found a bistro for lunch: seafood pasta, pizza, spinach with cheese, and Sicilian sausage. After lunch we found some ice cream and made our way back down the mountain in the gondola.
Once we found the car, we decided to drive down the coast to check out the coastal salt pools. The region of Trapani, Sicily, is famous for its salt production, and the salt pools were one of the items recommended to visit. We found our way to the Salt Museum, which is right on the coast, and walked around to inspect the salt pools and the huge piles of salt. It was interesting, and yes, we tasted the salt. It tasted salty...
We continued down the coast to check out the town of Marsala. It was about 45 minutes on local roads, but we got into town easy and found a parking spot. Right next to our parking lot was a small carnival ride and Cooper got to ride the ferris wheel. We walked into the old part of Marsala right as a wedding was ending and there were church bells going off, the Rolls Royce limo was waiting for the newlyweds, and there was lots of activity. It was a cool sight. After a short walk to the center, we decided to sit down and enjoy a bottle of local wine and people watch. Italians and especially Sicilians are fun to watch because they talk with their whole bodies, hands everywhere yelling at each other. We finished our wine and some snacks at the wine bar and left Marsala for our hotel. Everyone was pretty exhausted from a long day of sightseeing so we called it an early night.
The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel and headed back to Trapani to catch a ferry to one of the Sicilian Islands off the coast of Trapani. Unfortunately by the time we arrived all the tickets had sold. Plan B. We went back to the hotel and got our swimsuits and beach gear and headed to the beach at Castellamare del Golfo we had visited two days ago. The beach was packed and we found a few umbrellas to rent. Cooper got busy in the sand and we enjoyed the afternoon just hanging at the beach and swimming in the warm Mediterranean water. We left the beach at around 4pm for the hotel.
Back at the hotel we realized that we had a few hours to kill before dinner. We decided to take advantage of the pool. It was a great day to do it and once again, we pinched ourselves... What a great opportunity in a gorgeous area. We had a glass of red wine and some snacks and swam around in the infinity pool in the middle of a vineyard.
For dinner we found a local pizzeria that was recommend by the hotel. When we drove up to the place, it didn't even look open. It was 19.00. We parked in the lot and noticed some activity in the kitchen, so I asked a cook who walking from his car if they were open, and he said they were about to open the doors. Shortly thereafter, the doors opened and they called us in from the parking lot. We selected a table in the courtyard and our waiter arrived quickly. He spoke English and had a great attitude. We had antipasti (gamberi e salsa rossa, bruschetta, caprese) and pizza (the ham and cheese, and the ham and cheese and sausage), as well as the risotto with speck and rocket, and the penne with white sauce. For dessert we had the tiramisu ice cream and the almond ice cream with chocolate sauce. The food was exactly what we needed, and the atmosphere was so perfectly Sicilian, it doesn't get any better. (This is from the review I left for the restaurant on Trip Advisor)
After dinner we went back to the hotel and packed for our flight the next day. It was a great day in the sun in Sicily.
On our last day, we woke up early to get on the road and to the airport on time. The only thing we needed to do was get gas in the rental car. We plugged a gas station into the GPS and made our way there. In Italy the station attendant pumps the gas for you, so when we got there, I told him in my bad Italian to fill it up. He responded in perfect English and asked me what part of the USA I was from. Turns out he is from Brooklyn. Interesting meeting him at a gas station in Sicily! We dropped the car off and headed to our gate. The flight got us back to Baden-Baden right on time and we made it home by 3pm.
Sicily was a great trip full of surprises, we were so glad we went!!!