disability cruising, Handicap, Traveling with disabilities

Disabled Cruisers Guide to Sicily

Sicily, Italy

At some point during its history, Sicily has been occupied by almost every major Mediterranean civilization. The area continues to serve as an important crossroad between Africa and Europe. This largest of Italy’s islands has landscape with a mesmerizing combination of crystal clear seas, rumbling volcanoes, lush vegetation and ancient ruins. Dive, swim, hike and climb across Sicily and its offshore islands. Sample the region’s unique and delicious cuisine as you travel from town to town. Whether you’re arriving in Catania, Messina, Palermo, Taormina, or Giardini Naxos, you will discover this beguiling Italian island, a rich center of Mediterranean culture and home to some of Europe’s most enchanting vistas.

Catania is an Italian city on the east coast of Sicily facing the Ionian Sea, at the foot of Mount Etna. Steep, rugged Sicily had bred a race of fierce, funny and passionate people. From this important port, drive up the coast to visit Taormina. First Greeks, then Romans used this as a place of worship and reward. View the temples and the theater, Mt. Etna in the distance, or take a stroll and shop in the little village before you leave.

Messina is the capital of the Italian province of Messina. It is located near the northeast corner of Sicily, in the Mediterranean Sea. The setting for Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, Messina has much to offer in the way of history. Its dramatic, boulder-filled harbor has challenged navigators since the days of Ulysses. Try to visit the city’s Bell Tower at the stroke of noon–the hour when one of the world’s largest and most fanciful mechanical clocks springs into action. Messina’s museum is also noteworthy for its Renaissance masterworks.

Palermo is the capital city of both the autonomous region of Sicily and the Province of Palermo. Sicily is located in the central Mediterranean. Once regarded as Europe’s grandest, most beautiful city, Palermo is still quite impressive. The Four Corners of Palermo, where each 17th-century Spanish Baroque facade is adorned with a statue, is one of the city’s most memorable sights. The Fontana Pretoria, often called the Fountain of Shame because of its nude Florentine figures, is also worth noting. Tour the famous Norman Cathedral and Capuchin catacombs. The old part of the city is a jumbled warren of streets so take care. Shops, cafes and museums are all easy to find in this walkable city. Ceramics, embroidery and coral jewelry are all popular gifts.

Taormina is one of Sicily’s most enchanting towns. From its magnificent mountainside setting, the town offers stunning views of the Ionian Sea and the peak of Mount Etna. Wander down the busy main street lined with upscale shops or explore Teatro Greco, a gorgeous Greek theater constructed in the 3rd century B.C. Discover lovely medieval churches throughout the town and trek along the hiking paths extending into the surrounding hillsides.

The disabled cruiser visiting Catania will find the city relatively accessible. The town is for the most part flat with only minor sloping hills. Most of the streets are smooth, but you will encounter winding cobblestone lanes hiding boutique stores. Piazza del Duomo is located in central Catania. It is walking distance from most of the city’s other major sights, although several bus services run through the day and stop nearby. Like any city in Italy you will encounter stairs.

The disabled cruiser visiting Messina will find the city relatively accessible. The town for the most part is flat with only minor sloping hills. Most of the streets are smooth, but you will encounter cobblestone roads. Like all cities in Italy, you will encounter stairs.

With a wheelchair or mobility scooter you need to be aware that whilst traffic can be quite considerate of pedestrians some pavements are quite narrow or non-existent and some streets need some surface TLC. Always cross the street at pedestrian crossings as it is a tad hazardous otherwise.

The disabled cruiser visiting Palermo will find that it is a large and chaotic city and best seen by walking or via public transport. Typically local buses would be handicap accessible. Consider taking the Palermo Sightseeing bus to get around. The Palermo Sightseeing would get you from attraction to attraction, but there’s still a lot of walking. Unfortunately Sicily is not the most disability-friendly destination.

Sicily is not an optimal destinations for those with disabilities, but Palermo is flat, and relatively an optimal destination in Sicily. It is found that most corners did not have curb cuts, and you are required to climb stairs to get to many sites, for example the Chiesa San Giuseppe dei Teatini, the Fontana Pretoria, and La Martorana. Due to space limitations in in some restaurants, wheelchairs cannot be accommodated.

With a wheelchair or mobility scooter you need to be aware that whilst traffic can be quite considerate of pedestrians some pavements are quite narrow or non-existent and some streets need some surface TLC. Always cross the street at pedestrian crossings as it is a tad hazardous otherwise.

The disabled cruiser visiting Taormina will find that Taormina is very hilly and has a lot of steps once you get off the main street and you should be aware of this. There are plenty of sitting places along the corso where you don’t have to buy anything, particularly in the piazzas. So you could walk a little and then sit down. The other thing is that the streets are cobbled (not deep cobbles but enough). 

Corso Umberto is Taormina’s main pedestrian “street”. Though Corso Umberto is relatively flat, the alleys off this main pedestrian street are inconveniently hilly, and there are many steps. Although the street to Taormina’s Teatro Greco is flat, there are steps to enter Taormina’s Teatro Greco and steps within Teatro Greco.

Giardini Naxos is flat and easier to maneuver than Taormina, but also less beautiful, you would find fewer challenges for the beach and restaurants. Taormina’s steps, hills, and cobblestoned streets will offer challenges.

Mt. Etna – Europe’s tallest and most active volcano has erupted over 130 times in recorded history. Enjoy views of the summit as well as the town of Catania, buried by an eruption over 300 years ago. A cable car takes tourists from 1900m above the sea level to 2500m above sea level where people can transfer to the 4×4 cars and go even higher. Tourist can also drive their own vehicles up to the 1900m mark. The cable car is very small and narrow, meaning it is not wheelchair accessible.

Language

The official language is Italian and Sicilian. Tourism is big business, so most people will speak at least a smattering of English. However, they will warm to any visitor at least attempting to speak Italian. In an emergency, dial 112 from any phone to summon police, ambulance or fire services.

Where You’re Docked

Catania – Cruise ships dock at the port, around 1 ¼ miles from the center of town. Taxis are available at the port entrance.

Messina – The cruise terminal is located in the busy port on the narrow Strait of Messina, famous for its unruly waters and conflicting currents. The port is right in the heart of downtown Messina and it is easy to walk straight off the ship and into the Piazza del Duomo, the heart of the old town area. Car hire is available in town.

Available in front Messina cruise port terminal are taxis and rent-a-car offices. The rate of the taxi should be negotiated. The closest bus and train stations are located a mile from Messina cruise port terminal at Piazza della Repubblica. Via train or bus you can also visit Taormina.

Palermo – Cruise ships dock at the “Stazione Marittima” on the Via Del Mare, not far from the city center and can easily be reached on foot. Inside the cruise terminal there are telephones, a bar/cafe, toilets, bank, and tourist information. There are taxis, shuttle buses and horse and carts available at the port. Note: traffic is loud and chaotic in Sicily.

Cabs and horse-drawn carts offering tours can be found just outside the terminal gates. In either case it is wise to negotiate a price up front. Cabs can be hired by the trip or hour. Double-decker tour buses operate around the city. Public buses run around the city and to the suburbs as well. While this is a good walking city, and you can easily walk to dining, museums and shopping, be aware the old part of the city is a jumbled warren of streets and it’s easy to get lost. Also be aware, pickpockets are particularly skilled in Palermo.

Taormina Taormina is an anchorage port. Passengers transfer to shore via ship’s tender.

Smaller ships anchor in the large bay of Giardini Naxos and transport passengers to and from a small outdoor dock on tenders. A bus journey from Giardini Naxos to Taormina takes about 25 minutes. Larger ships go to Messina or Catania; about 30 miles from Taormina; and passengers travel to Taormina from there.

Giardini Naxos is a tender port, and there’s nothing there in the way of cruise terminal facilities, just a small tented area where cruise lines provide seating and cold drinks for passengers. But Giardini Naxos is also an attractive seaside town set on a pretty bay, lined with beaches that offer water sports and some jolly local restaurants, gelaterias and cafes. So, if you’ve previously been to Taormina and fancy a day by the sea, the coastal area at Giardini Naxos will provide it. Taxis usually wait at the dock and often cruise lines run shuttle buses (sometimes free). The local train station, Taormina-Giardini is located on the seafront, about a mile south, down the hill from the town.

Shopping

Catania – The main shopping street is called Via Etnea. Ceramics are a popular buy.

Local dishes include ‘pesce spada’ (swordfish), ‘pasta alla Norma’ (pasta dressed with tomato sauce, topped with fried eggplant slices, grated ricotta salata and fresh basil), ‘arancino’ (cone-shaped rice croquette filled with meat, tomato sauce, cheese and peas) and Marsala wine.

Messina – Viale San Martino and all the adjacent streets in this neighborhood compose Messina’s principle shopping area. Good buys include ceramics and shell jewelry. There are a few beaches in the area including the Messina Strait beach near the port area.

Typical dishes include “pasta ‘ncaciata” (pasta, meat and melted cheese with boiled eggs), swordfish and “arancini di riso” (deep-fried rice balls filled with meat-sauce or butter).

Palermo – Colorful hand-painted ceramics, embroidered fabrics and coral jewelry (coral is considered a fertility symbol). 

Arancini, fritters, cazzilli, sfincione, spleen, frittola, stigghiole…are just some of the delicacies of the so-called street food that has meant Palermo. Local dishes to sample include ‘risotto con gamberi e zucchini’ (risotto with shrimp and courgette), ‘penne con salsiccia’ (spicy sausage pasta), ‘funghi e piselli’ (mushroom and peas) and stuffed calamari Sicilian style.

Taormina – Take home a bottle of specialty liqueur. Limoncello is Italy’s most famous, but in Taormina, you’ll find falling-down water available in all kinds of weird and wonderful flavors like orange, cinnamon and pomegranate. For a real taste of Sicily, buy some Marsala, a fine fortified wine first produced on the island by the Englishman John Woodhouse in 1773. Rich and addictive, Marsala is a little like sherry.

If bottles of booze are too much to lug home, you can pick up prettily ribbon packets of specialty pasta, some shaped like large conchiglie (seashells), or frilled at the edges and tinted lovely shades of delicate ochre and pale dusky pink, for a few euros in one of Taormina’s many delicatessens. While we can’t vouch for the taste, the pastas make a fine visual addition to a foodie’s kitchen. Or pick up some biscotti, candied fruits and other goodies you’ll find in ample supplies at the food shops.

Taormina has more than 80 restaurants, trattorias and pizzerias. Most are open from noon or 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. to midnight or, in some cases, early morning hours. All display full menus with prices outside, so you can take your pick depending on your budget and whether you want a seat on a terrace with a sea view.

Thick, hearty fish and vegetable stews reflect Spanish and French influences, while the Moors brought eggplant and a love of rice and richly spiced sweet-and-sour dishes. These influences now blend with the Italian love of pasta, fresh herbs, juicy tomatoes, tangy lemons and olive oil to create a fresh, flavorsome but simple cuisine enriched with locally sourced seafood, chilies, pine nuts and olives.

Local specialities include melanzane alla parmigiana (eggplant baked in cheese and tomato sauce), pesce spada affumicato (smoked swordfish), pasta con le sarde (with sardine, tomato, pine nuts and raisin sauce) and, if you’re feeling adventurous, spaghetti al nero di seppia (featuring a sauce of black squid ink).

Sicily Accessible Excursions

Whether you’re arriving in Catania, Messina, Palermo, Taormina, or Giardini Naxos, these accessible shore excursions meet your needs. These wheelchair accessible shore excursions of Sicily include an officially-certified, English speaking guide as well as round-trip transportation in a wheelchair accessible van.

Best of Mount Etna and Taormina Accessible Shore Excursion

This 8-hour Best of Mount Etna & Taormina Accessible Shore Excursion, will bring you to an ancient Greek colony, see Europe’s largest volcano (11,000 ft. Mount Etna), and experience the incredible landscape of Giardini Naxos Bay.

Your knowledgeable tour guide will pick you up from the cruise dock in a wheelchair accessible vehicle, where you’ll be able to view the amazing countryside in comfort between the attractions.

The Taormina accessible shore excursion begins in the village of Castelmola, which has a history dating back to 396 BC! You will then spend 1 or 2 hours in Taormina enjoying sights such as the ancient Greek theater of Taormina, built in the early 7th century BC and Via Valeria Road, and ancient Roman road that traverses Italy.

Your tour will then take you to Catania where you will visit Catania’s baroque city center boasts an early cathedral with stunning architecture.

Sit back and enjoy the culture, history, and beauty of Sicily with this accessible tour that is sure to have something for everyone. The Best of Mount Etna & Taormina Accessible Cruise Excursion uses a wheelchair accessible van and has a step-free tour route. However, the guide is unable to push a wheelchair.

Syracuse Wheelchair Accessible Guided Tour

Your guide and driver will pick you up from the cruise terminal in an accessible van to begin your 8-hour wheelchair accessible cruise excursion. Syracuse is situated on the southern part of the Island of Sicily, so you will enjoy panoramic views of the Sicilian coast on your way to the city. This 2700-year-old city has so much to offer, that this full day accessible guided tour of Syracuse is guaranteed to be one of the highlights of your vacation.

Your first stop is the Archeological Park of Neapolis. This vast area of ancient ruins includes a Roman amphitheater, a Greek theater, and a stone quarry and gardens area (the Latomia del Paradiso).

You will then visit the historical heart of Syracuse, Ortygia Island. It is the “old city center” and is a popular area for entertainment, shopping, and eating. Walk/roll down the streets of the old town to the Arethusa Fountain, a freshwater fountain and garden that flows to the sea. The wheelchair accessible Arethusa Fountain viewing area from above has a ramp rather than stairs, so it is easy to navigate for wheelchair users or those with limited mobility.

Afterwards, you will walk/roll through the open air, local market of Ortygia, where vendors sell fresh fish, locally grown fruits and vegetables, and handmade goods. At the end of your Syracuse wheelchair accessible guided tour, your driver will take you back to the cruise terminal where you will board your ship.

The Siracuse Wheelchair Accessible Guided Tour uses a wheelchair accessible van and has a step-free tour route. However, the guide is unable to push a wheelchair.

Best of Messina Accessible Cruise Excursion

This full-day accessible cruise excursion of Messina features and wheelchair accessible transportation.

Begin your 8-hour Best of Messina Accessible Cruise Excursion when your guide and driver pick you up from the cruise terminal in an accessible van with a wheelchair ramp. You will then begin your breathtaking views of the coast drive to the city of Messina and learn about the knights and crusaders who traveled through this port on their way to the crusades in the 12th century.

Richard the Lionheart visited the 12th century Cathedral of Messina to worship on his way to the crusades. The cathedral is decorated with beautiful sculptures and mosaics, and the bell tower is home to one of the largest astronomical clocks in the world.

Next, see the bronze statues of the Church of Christ the King and view the entire city as well as the straight of Messina from one of the best scenic spots in the city.

After touring the city of Messina, your accessible cruise excursion will continue to Tindari, or Tyndaris, which sits on a hill above the crystal waters of the Tyrrhenian coast. This Bronze Age (1500 BC) settlement became a Roman city in 254 BC and by 365 AD was one of Sicily’s most important Greek cities. Visit the Sanctuary of the Black Madonna as your guide explains the legends surrounding the mysterious appearance of the coastline shaped like the Virgin Mary. Afterwards, your guide will take you to the ruins of a 4th century BC Greek amphitheater. 

At the end of your Best of Messina Accessible Cruise Excursion, your guide and driver will drop you back at the cruise terminal where you arrived.

The Best of Messina Accessible Cruise Excursion uses a wheelchair accessible van and has a step-free tour route. However, the guide is unable to push a wheelchair.

Palermo Sicily Accessible Driving Tour

If you enjoy ancient ruins, medieval architecture, and scenic views, then this accessible driving tour of Sicily is for you. This 8-hour accessible driving tour of Sicily visits the ancient colony of Segesta and the medieval, mountain village of Erice in a wheelchair accessible van.

The tour will begin when your guide and driver pick you up from the cruise terminal in Palermo in an accessible van with a wheelchair ramp. From there you will drive across Western Sicily to your first stop Segesta, an ancient city once inhabited by Elymians and Greeks. Here you will see some wonderfully preserved ruins, a Doric temple and a Greek theater. 

You will then drive to Mount Erice, to the town of Erice, which is located at the top of the mountain, approximately 750 meters above sea level. The air is much cooler atop the mountain, and a shroud of misty clouds protects the city from the heat that the rest of Sicily has to endure. Erice is a very medieval town, and looks much younger than it actually is. The majority of the architecture and style of the city is from 12th century Venus castle to the 14th century Erice Cathedral and its cobblestone streets, 

At the end of your Sicily accessible driving tour, your guide and driver will take you back to your ship at the cruise terminal in Palermo.

The Palermo Sicily Accessible Driving Tour uses a wheelchair accessible van and has a step-free tour route. However, the guide is unable to push a wheelchair.

Monreale & Palermo Accessible Cruise Excursion

During this 8-hour Palermo accessible cruise excursion you will explore 3 cities, visit 2 cathedrals, and capture the gorgeous landscape of the Concad’Oro (Golden Shell) valley. If you love exploring the history and culture of a city, then the Monreale & Palermo Accessible Cruise Excursion is for you.

Your tour guide and driver will pick you up from your cruise port in a wheelchair accessible van. From here, you will visit the capital of Sicily and see the medieval part of the city where you will find magnificent baroque architecture and an ancient cathedral.

The accessible Palermo cruise excursion will then take you to the vibrant, outdoor market “Vucciria,” a wonderful place to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of Palermo. A short scenic drive will lead you to Monreale where you will see a magnificent baroque cathedral. Afterwards, if time allows, you will visit the Villa of the Mysteries in Bagheria to discover the cryptic contents of an early Roman villa.

You will enjoy a lively commentary by an officially-certified, English-speaking tour guide
familiar with the needs of disabled travelers and convenient pick-up and drop-off at the cruise port with this cruise excursion.

The Monreale & Palermo Accessible Cruise Excursion uses a wheelchair accessible van and has a step-free tour route. However, the guide is unable to push a wheelchair.

Highlights of Messina Accessible Shore Excursion

Your guide and driver will pick you up in a wheelchair accessible van from the Sicily port where your ship arrives to begin your 8-hour wheelchair accessible shore excursion of Messina to Tyndaris (Tindari), Cefalú, and time permitting, Santo Stefano di Camastra.

The first stop on Highlights of Messina Accessible Shore Excursion is Tyndaris (Tindari), an ancient Bronze Age (around 1500 B.C.) settlement, where you will visit a 4th century B.C. amphitheater. Tyndaris is also known for its Sanctuary of the Madonna di Tindari or the “Sanctuary of the Black Madonna.” Your officially-certified, English-speaking guide will tell you about the ancient legend surrounding this mysterious “Black Madonna” and the appearance of the shape of the Madonna in the coastline of Tindari.

Next, you will drive to Cefalú, a fabulous coastal village whose quaint, eclectic houses and crystal clear water are the picture of what makes Sicily such an inviting place to visit. Walk/roll through the winding pathways of the village and enjoy the views of the rocky coastline as you take in the sights and sounds of Sicily. Your guide will take you to the Duomo of Cefalú, the Cefalú Cathedral, which dates back to 1131. Its imposing Norman-style façade towers over the city and can be seen from a distance.

Afterwards you will visit the Museo Mandralisca. The museum houses the private collection of the Baron Enrico Piraino di Mandralisca. Its main attraction is a painting by Antonello da Messina, called Portrait of an Unknown Man, but it also includes a diverse collection of ancient artifacts from around the world.

If time permits, you will drive a little farther down the coast to the village of Santo Stefano di Camastra, where you can do some shopping for local ceramics and colorful pottery. Afterwards, your driver will return you to the cruise terminal where you will board your ship.

The HIghlights of Messina Accessible Shore Excursion uses a wheelchair accessible van and has a step-free tour route. However, the guide is unable to push a wheelchair.

Points of Interest

Disability-Cruising.com

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