Situated at the southern tip of Italy in the Mediterranean, Sicily is a diverse island of extremes. Its history stretches back more than 3,000 years and as a strategic crossroads for southern Europe, it has the legacy of various civilizations which have influenced its way of life, culture, architecture and cuisine. The island is like a vast museum, a testament to the historic Mediterranean civilizations.
Sicily’s breath-taking natural beauty includes incandescent volcanoes that light the night sky, miles of golden beaches, a stunning mountainous coastline and clear blue seas – perfect for all water activities. Whatever your interest, there are always things to do including visiting ancient archeological sites, exploring the warm waters of the Mediterranean or fiery layers Mount Etna.
Seable offers wheelchair users, along with accompanying care takers or friends, a tailor-made tour of Sicily that will allow you experience the rich culture of this island as well as participate in some unique activities that you will remember forever. Currently, Seable is able to accommodate 3 people who use wheelchairs per tour.
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Olive Oil is very sacred to this area. On the tour with Seable you will learn about the rich history of olive oil and its impact in Sicilian culture. Not only that but you will also harvest and make Sicilian Olive Oil to take home with you.
Mount Etna is Europe highest volcano, which is still active. The excursion takes you to one of Italy’s most beautiful national parks, Parco dell’Etna, surrounding the volcano. The tour leaves in the morning in the accessible van and travels 2000m above sea level until the “rifugio sapienza” is reached. Here there is a toilet for wheelchairs but it is not very good conditions. The other option is the nearest restaurant, 5 minutes away. A cable car takes people 2500m up the volcano but is only big enough to fit 1 wheelchair at a time. The trip takes 15 minutes. At the top there in not much access but has incredible views, so people usually hang out about 15-20 minutes but not much more since there is no restroom available. This tour is from about 9am to 5pm but can be shorter if desired. If guest like, Seable can put on a BBQ in the woods near the volcano, but there isn’t any toilet in the woods. Some people don’t mind but others do.
The fishing experience is an early morning activity and lasts 3-4 hours, depending on how long everyone wants to stay out. Since there is no restroom on the docks a bar nearby is used. People are split up into 2 boats: 1 does traditional trawling the other uses fishnets. Guests learn while watching and interact wherever possible. Fishing rods are brought on both boats. Depending on the season, the catch can include bluefish, mullets, garfish, sea-bass, tuna, and mackerel. After fishing everyone heads back to land to enjoy a meal with the fish freshly caught.
Scuba Diving in the Mediterranean is a history lesson in itself. You find all kind of shipwrecks dating from the Roman Empire days to WWII. The Scuba Padi Course is accredited by the HSA (handicapped scuba association), taking place over the length of 5 days, in a mix of theory and practice. The first two days mainly consist of theory followed by a little practice in a swimming pool or shallow waters. The next 3 days include the boat excursion with the deep sea dives. Every person always dives with a buddy. There isn’t a lift in the boat that lowers people in to the ocean. Instead, the experienced scuba team gently lowers people. The duration of each trip depends on the condition of the sea and the type of dive but usually lasts about 2-3 hours. The course is run by the charity LIFE, with the same team and instructor that achieved the Guinness world records, Martino Florio (paraplegic) and Benedetta Spampinato (blind). At the end of the course you will get a license to dive that is valid worldwide and forever.
There are three accessible cultural tours for those in wheelchairs to the city center, the fishing villages and Taormina. The tours always take place in the afternoon after 4-5 because the weather is fresher.
The city center is a 10 minute drive from the hotel. The accessible van is left at the main road because it is open to pedestrians only. The group heads to the historic monuments of the city: city hall, main university, old roman ruins to then finish in a local “pizzeria” to try the Sicilian Style Pizza.
Acitrezza and Acicastello (fishing villages) are a short distance from the hotel and can easily be reached with a short stroll. According to the local legend, this is the site where the Cyclops threw rocks at Odysseus in The Odyssey. The islands are referred to as the “isole dei ciclopi” (islands of the Cyclops, or Cyclopean Isles) by the locals. This compliments the notion that the Cyclops once had a smithy below Mount Etna, which looms over the village to the northwest. In Acicastello, you will see the Norman Castle and walk around the village. At either town you can experience a local boutique fish restaurant with local specialties and fresh fish of the day.
Taormina is only a 30 minute drive from Catania and was built inside a little mountain at 200 meter above sea level. Touring this city is done by getting out of the car. Being the 1st ever tourist attraction in Sicily, Taormina is also the most advanced and almost every bar/restaurant has accessible toilets. There are many attractions in this popular city including:
Greek Theater: Taormina’s Greek theater was built in the third century BC, renovated by the Romans, and is now used for summer performances. The theater, built into the hillside, has excellent acoustics and spectacular views of the sea and Mt. Etna.
Medieval Quarter: A clocktower gate serves as the starting point for Taormina’s picturesque medieval section with its narrow streets and old shops now selling modern clothing, crafts, and souvenirs.
Corso Umberto: The lively main street through town, Corso Umberto, is lined with shops and bars. Along the street are people-filled squares good for enjoying an outdoor drink and people-watching. One of the best squares is Piazza IX Aprile with great sea views.
Piazza Vittorio Emanuele: Taormina’s tourist officeis in the unique Palazzo Corvaja, a mix of Arab, Norman, and Catalan-Gothic architecture. The palazzoalso houses the Museum of Sicilian Arts and Traditions. In the square are Santa Caterina Church and remains of a small Roman theater.
Piazza del Duomo: A Baroque fountain with a centaur, the symbol of Taormina, is at the center of Piazza del Duomo. The Church of San Nicola, also called the fortress cathedral, was built in 1400 over an older church. It has pink marble columns and interesting carvings. Its main portal was rebuilt in 1636 and has a Renaissance-style rosette.
Regional Archeological Museum: Inside Palazzo Badia Vecchia on a Roman bath site, the museum has finds from Greek and Roman sites.
Medieval Castle and Madonna della Rocca: The ruins of a medieval castle are in a picturesque position at the top of Monte Tauro where you’ll find outstanding views. There’s also a sanctuary from 1640, Madonna della Rocca.
Public Gardens: Another good view spot is the public gardens, Via Bagnoli Croce, with flowers and exotic plants.
Food & Beverage
On a tour with Seable, restaurants have been inspected by a Seable’s director to ensure accessibility rules are followed and accessible toilets are in place.
Seable’s full package includes every meal for the entire trip including water and soft drinks or local wine. Boutique restaurants are visited, specializing in Sicilian specialties and using only fresh and organic ingredients. There are also local food tastings and fishing events (eat the freshly caught fish).
Seable will arrange the accommodation at the Grand Hotel Faraglioni or the Marina Palace. Both hotels have been inspected and are 100% compatible for wheelchair users. They are very luxurious 4-star hotels, believe it or not, the only ones following completely the European rules for accessibility. Seable, however managed to get very competitive prices for customers.
Seable provides accessible transport during the entire holiday, from arrival till departure. Seable is able to organize groups of maximum 6 people, with a capacity of 3 wheelchairs at a time. There are less than 5 accessible vans available in Sicily, but Seable has access to one of the vans with a back ramp for wheelchairs and another for foldable wheelchairs. The same vehicle is used for every activity.
The Catania International Airport has been recently renovated (2007) and follows every European legislation regarding accessibility and customer care support. Read all the access details.
This post has also been published by Accessible Britain on their website here.