Trip Report Introduction. Sicily And Salzburg

I’ve got a ton of posts to crank out on our family vacation to Sicily and Salzburg.  I’m hoping to get my butt in gear.  Here’s a quick peek at what I expect to cover:

As usual, I’m running behind on my trip reports.  Our plan was for a 12-ish day trip overseas.  Our first stop would be Sicily, a repeat visit to a place we loved.  We wanted to revisit Taormina and explore a few additional spots.  After that, we’d be headed up to Salzburg for a few days.  A Sound of Music Tour awaited. We also planned to meet up with one of our daughter’s friends she hadn’t seen in a year.  We had an extra day or so in Salzburg, though we could have used at least 3 or 4 more.  Finally, we planned to take the train to Vienna for our flight home.  We ended up with only a bit more than a day in Vienna and a couple of nights at the delightful Park Hyatt Vienna.

Getting Started

Our flight over from DC was on United Airlines.  We’ve flown their business class a handful of times over the past few years.  That product hasn’t really changed, so I won’t waste your time with a new write-up.  If you’re curious, it’s substantially similar to this write-up.  Heck, that was even the same route. 🙂

United is in the process of upgrading their business class, re-branding it Polaris.  While it will take a long time to roll out the new seat, these soft goods (pillows, blankets, wine) are currently in place on flights.

We arrived in Rome with a few hours to kill before our Alitalia flight to Catania, Sicily.  I knew there were a couple of Priority Pass lounges, so we picked one and headed over.  I didn’t have high expectations.

It took about 10 minutes to walk to the AviaPartner Mosaici Executive VIP Lounge.  There was only one other group of people there when we arrived.  The lounge attendants escorted us to a seating area and offered us coffee and pastry.  My wife, never one to pass up Italian coffee, ordered a cappuccino.  She was pleasantly surprised with a great cappuccino.

The lounge featured a few different seating areas, ranging from cocktail tables to lounging chairs.  There was also a small conference room and some couches in a separate area.  The lounge itself was pretty sizable.

There are also showers available.  It was probably the most meager shower I’ve encountered in an airport.  But, given how great a shower feels after I get off a long international flight, it was still welcome.

Wimpy Shower Room At Mosaici Executive Lounge

Wimpy Shower Room At Mosaici Executive Lounge

Overall, the staff were attentive and kind. There was ample light breakfast food to tide us over for a bit and the Wifi was better than expected.  Other than a wimpy shower, this made for a relaxing stop.

Uh, Alitalia Plane Switch

We needed to get from Rome to Catania (a decent-sized airport on the East coast of Sicily).  We’d flown Blu Express the last time we made that trek.  This time, Alitalia was cheaper.  We specifically made sure we didn’t have any carry-on bags since we’d be changing carriers and didn’t want to deal with that hassle.

As we were bussed to the terminal from our United flight, there was an Alitalia transfer desk prior to baggage claim.  They instructed us to head up an escalator with our bags and proceed to our gate.  According to their website, our bags were oversized as carry-ons.  As a general rule, the carry-on baggage standards in Europe are more stingy than on the main US carriers.  I wasn’t entirely sure that they would let us pay carry-on fees at the gate or I’d have to leave security to handle outside.

I approached a customer service counter and waited a long time.  Ultimately, the agents showed a fair amount of indifference to my question about bag sizing.  It seemed we would be trying our luck at the gate.  There was a bit of confusion at the gate and the agents asked us to stand to the side with a number of other folks holding bags.  An agent came out and put claim tickets on our bags, handing us a receipt.  We were instructed to get on the bus to head to our plane.  I still can’t tell if that was par for the course or an exception was made for us, but we ultimately weren’t charged for oversize carry-on bags.

The legroom on our flight was better than I expected, though not tremendous.  The seat recline was actually pretty darn good.  The staff was polite and welcoming to our kids.

Alitalia Seat Recline

A short while later, we arrived in Catania.  The wait for our bags was a bit long, but we were outside within 30 minutes of landing.  I had learned prior to departing our trip that Hertz had expanded the Gold Plus Rewards program to allow for redemptions in a number of overseas countries, including Italy.  The process of redeeming points was super easy.  Upon arrival, the agents had a virtually brand new station wagon for us.  They helped us get our bags outside and loaded in the car.  A few minutes later, we were ready to start our vacation!

The post Trip Report Introduction.  Sicily And Salzburg was published first on Pizza in Motion


  1. Ed.

    Was the Hertz rental a stick or automatic? How is Hertz priced vs other European car rental companies? My last trip to Piedmont I had lots of fun driving a stick. It was half the cost of an automatic, and twice as much fun.

    1. dhammerer53, it was an automatic. I only priced Hertz against Sixt for this rental and they were similar. But, I ended up using points. Oh, and I would have been fine with a stick, but they didn’t charge me extra for an automatic.

      1. Ed.

        Our car rental was at MXP. I was nervous renting a stick. The last time I used a stick was close to 30 years ago. A friend of mine said it’s like riding a bike. It comes back to you, and so it did (after a couple of stalls). 🙂

        The cost was ~US$250 for a stick vs $500 for an automatic.

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