Sicily, oh Sicily! A FREE Sheraton in Catania, was an excellent homebase for exploring la bella isola siciliana.
Sicily is such a beautiful island, with so many interesting and fascinating places to visit- from breathtaking, well-preserved ruins from the myriad of cultures that occupied this vibrant land during its complex history, to gorgeous beaches, a fiery volcano, bucolic countryside, pretty small towns, and energetic cities replete with masterpiece-filled museums and churches, and so much more. (We flew on Alitalia direct non-stop to Rome, and then connected to Sicily. Alitalia is a partner of Delta Airlines, one of my personal favorites because, like on jetBlue, another fave, miles on Delta DO NOT EXPIRE! This is very good for free trips…)
How do you choose where to stay when there are so many excellent choices? Well, inspired by the location of our SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest) option and empowered by the fact that we had enough SPG points to stay for completely free (even taxes are included!) for a whole week, we decided to stay at the Sheraton Four Points Hotel Catania. At the time of our stay (2015) the hotel was an SPG Category 2 property- which meant 4000 points per night from Sunday through Thursday, and 3000 points per night on the weekend. For a free full week thus, it only cost 26,000 points- a steal of a deal! (If we paid money for the room, it would have cost more than $1,500.) And we had plenty of points thanks to having been approved for the Starwood American Express credit card and meeting the minimum spending requirement of $3,000 within 90 days, which earned us a promotional bonus of 30,000 points. Piece of cake! (The ricotta, whipped cream and fresh peaches-filled Sicilian kind!).
Note that the current best promotion for this card is for a bonus of 25,000 points, but once you add in the $3,000 that you spent to meet your requirement, you now have at least 28,000 points in your account. Here is the link: https://www.americanexpress.com/us/credit-cards/site/card/starwood-preferred-guest/25330
En route to Selinunte
Given that we had a car (thanks to the best rental company Auto Europe) , the Four Points Sheraton Catania hotel was a lovely base, with big, comfortable rooms, across the street from the ocean, walking distance from romantic Aci Castello, close to a variety of good restaurants, a 15 minute ride to downtown Catania, and easy access to highways on which we would set out every day for different day-trips (which were at a distance of about an hour and a half one way by car), each one magnificent. We visited Siracusa, Taormina, Ragusa, Noto, and the outstanding collection of Roman mosaics at Piazza Armerina- The Villa Casale. We loved them all, but it was a pleasure to return to our free Catania hotel every evening, our own little Sicilian haven. We also appreciated having a garage there, for our excellent rental car, that we arranged with my favorite global rental car company: http://www.autoeurope.com/
Ricotta flavored gelato! I scream for this ice cream…
When we decided we wanted to venture further west and check out even more beauty of Sicily, we realized it was too far for day trips, so we left most of our belongings in our Catania hotel room, packed up some essentials and set out for a few days adventure around the island, driving west. Day 1 took us to Cefalu, then Palermo, and we ended the day in Erice, where we spent the night (in Il Carmine, a precious old inn that used to be a convent) and half of the next day as well. Day 2 we saw the ruins at Selinunte, and visited Sciacca, where we spent that night (at the excellent Fazio B & B). After visiting more of Sciacca during the following morning and afternoon, we went to Agrigento for a lengthy sunset visit to the impressive ruins there. Finally we returned once more to our Catania hotel.
A wonderful free trip- I highly recommend a visit to Sicily. If you have any questions, I am here to help you. Ciao,