Sicily, the largest Mediterranean island, is just off the 'toe' of Italy's 'boot.' There are an abundance of things to see and do here, so be sure to visit a mix of big cities, smaller towns, beaches and countryside sights - easy enough to do on this island the size of Wales, UK.
We are headed to Siracusa, the major city on the east of the island abut 50 minutes drive south of Catania Airport. There is actually often heavy traffic and it's difficult to find a parking spot during the rush hours (especially weekend mornings and evenings from Mar to Oct).
1: Hire a car if you want to discover those hidden gems around the major cities, like Siracusa or even Palermo. When you're tired of the hustle and bustle of the city, there are many smaller towns to head over to such as Noto, Avola, Ragusa, Taormina and Portopallo to name but a few. The days of rugged Sicily are over with more and more places becoming tourist friendly, pedestrianised and costly, so head over soon...
Parking is relatively easy out of the cities but if you find yourself in Siracusa then there are two main car parks - Talete (covered) on the east of the island and The Marina Car Park (no covering) on the west side - around 15 euros per day and €2,00 an hour - card accepted. Talete's rates are €1,50 an hour. Once you've purchased your ticket, display the ticket inside the car windshield. If you are staying with a main hotel, like the hotel Algilià or Hotel Antico Roma 1880 then there is private and safe parking for around 30 euro per day in a safe, covered and manned private garage. All car parks are within 10 minutes walk of the main parts of the island. Ask if your hotel has reserved parking places and if it is possible to receive a temporary access pass to Ortigia. There are now pedestrian zones and one notorious one is just off the main roundabout/piazza in Ortigia called Piazza Archimedes leading on to the restricted road of Via Roma. It is not possible to drive or park on this main road however if you are a guest at the Hotel Antico Roma 1880 the you are granted temporary access and can leave the car outside whilst checking in as the concierge will take care of the car if you decide to use the private parking. It's worth it for the elimination of unnecessary holiday stress!
There is parking off the island of Ortigia - a large car park called Molo Sant'Antonio (along via Bengasi/via Rodi), and only 5 minutes walk from the island over the pretty bridge. It's a pay and display car park - around 15 euros per day - with automatic ticket machines (€ 1,50/hour for cars).
2: If you do drive your own car then be sure not to park in the yellow lined spaces restricted to residents only. Over the past few years Siracusa and especially Ortigia have become rather hectic and stressful places to park. The parking attendants do keep an eye out and will not hesitate to tow your car away at the drop of a hat - no haggling accepted.
There are new road systems in place which now prevent traffic from entering the island of Ortigia. Basically when driving from Siracusa to Ortigia, one cannot enter Ortigia when the ZTL is in force (ie when the traffic lights are red) - or you will be fined around 70 euro. You will be redirected to follow the road away fro the bridge. You will need to park either just outside Ortigia or in The Marina or Talete car parks.
ZTL isn't enforced every day of the week, but only on weekends and holidays, and nights prior to holidays. The ZTL restrictions for entering Ortigia begins on Friday nights at 21.00. Then on Saturdays the ZTL is enforced from 16.30 until 2.00, and on Sundays from 11.00 until midnight.
Evenings prior to holidays are like Fridays. (The times change seasonally)
3: Siracusa, Bus navetta. Public transport is not well invested in or managed, inadequate and it isn't rare for busses to be late or cancelled. Two bus companies are active in Syracuse: the small shuttle busses "Siracusa d'amare", very useful for tourists and the local bus company AST which covers the whole town and the outer districts of Belvedere, Cassibile and Fontane Bianche.
There's also a hop-on hop-off bus service active in Syracuse all around the year. It's managed by the company "Siracusa open tour". The ticket is valid 1 day and you can get on and off how often you want, choosing between 16 different bus stops. The ticket costs € 5 and the bus passes near the main monuments of the town. There are also audioguides in different languages available on the bus. The frequency of the bus is 1 hour and thanks to a smartphone app it's always possible to verify the real time position. The terminal of the bus is in via Rodi, near the shuttle bus stop and the Molo San Antonio parking. The service is active daily from 9 am to 7 pm. For further information it's possible to contact Siracusa Open Tour phone. +39 0 931 959912 or, in English language also +39 348 34307571.
Contact Siracusa Polizia Municipale (+39 0931 462644) for any updates.
Car Hire is fast and relatively straightforward - the usual credit card deposit and license needed. Your hotel reception can help you to organise a hire car easily and the company will usually be able to met you in the hotel to set things up.