Hi Derek, As I mentioned, we had a great trip!
Here are some of our observations/feedback on the things you arranged for us:
- The flight arrangements from Rome-Palermo and Catania-Naples were all good. Even though there was a huge line to get through Customs in Rome, and we had to change terminals, we had plenty of time to make the connection to Palermo.
- The hotel in Palermo was very good. The location is excellent. It's more like a stylish B&B than a hotel, but that was fine for us.
- We did go through with our plans to rent a car for the day and drive to Erice. Erice is a stunning location, but a bit of a disappointment in that it is basically dead except for tourists. I'm not sure what I expected but thought it would be more of a living site. We also stopped at Segesta on our way back to Palermo, which was worth it.
- The hotel outside of Agrigento is not a great hotel. It is an overnight stop for tour buses. They pull in around 3 in the afternoon, 40 or so people pile out and fill up the rooms, and then they leave the next morning before 9. The rest of the time, the hotel is pretty empty. Nevertheless, it worked out well for us (for 2 nights) because it has a spectacular swimming pool and location on the Mediterranean. This was our first off-day and we thoroughly enjoyed sitting by the pool (basically by ourselves) and not going anywhere. Also, there was a fantastic restaurant just outside the hotel grounds called Marco Polo where we ate lunch and dinner.
- The hotel in Ragusa was very difficult to get to -- I drove up the wrong way on a one-lane one-way street and had to back out! -- but was excellent. The room was great, people very friendly and helpful (they did our laundry), lovely garden to sit in and admire the view across the valleys and hills, walking distance (down 53 steps) into Ragusa Ibla for lunch and dinner.
- The hotel in Siracusa was a mixed bag. It definitely has high level service, great breakfasts, a fitness/workout room, and a pretty good location for walking around Ortigia. The room is very weird, however, because the bedroom/bathroom area is like a loft and there is no room up there for bags or clothes. But the downstairs room (which has a half-bath) is set up like an entry parlor with a table in the middle of the room, a couch and a couple of chairs. There is a closet, but otherwise no recognition of how people use hotel rooms. So you end up with suitcases around the room, and running up and down stairs to get dressed, etc.
- In Taormina (Mazzaro), the apartment was fantastic. It's a little difficult to find because every property there is right up against the next property, but the apartment was great. Not only was there a living room, dining room, kitchen (including washing machine) and balcony on the first level, but the lower level had 2 bedrooms, bath and a beautiful patio. You could see water from the balcony (which had a dining table), and there was beach access (down 103 stairs). The owner and the women who help her run and clean it couldn't have been nicer. It was a very short walk to the funicula, which operates regularly and on schedule (except in windy weather), up to Taormina proper. But there were several restaurants and a convenience grocery within easy walking distance, so it's not necessary to go up to Taormina unless you really wanted to. Also, it's an easy drive into the Mount Etna area. It is a 15 euro taxi ride to the train station. (We took a day trip to Catania by train.)
- The hotel in Sorrento (actually Sant'Angello) was also excellent. The hotel has a very nice pool area, a great breakfast with a balcony with a fantastic view, a very convenient shuttle bus into Sorrento proper, free parking (!), beach access (actually platforms or decks at the water level shared with another hotel, but very nice with elevators going down to that level). We very much enjoyed being there. And we did use it as a base to drive to Pompeii one day and the Amalfi Coast another.
- The Rome Hilton worked out very well. There is a connecting walkway from the rental car return to the hotel and also from the hotel to the terminal, so it made the final arrangements very easy. It has a decent restaurant, so eating dinner and breakfast there was good. Our only problem -- Google Maps GPS took us to a locked parking lot at the back of the building, not the front entrance (but we figured it out).
That's about it. If you have any questions about anything, don't hesitate to ask.
Thanks for your help.