I apologize for the delay in getting back to you. I am not sure that I speak for everyone in the group, but here are my thoughts:
First of all, we had a great time on our trip to Sicily. The people we met were warm and hospitable, the scenery was beautiful, and food and accommodations were at least satisfactory and usually much more than that.
As to the specifics: Fabio was wonderful. He was organized, always got us where we needed to go, was very informative, and was great company. We didn’t spend as much time with Francesco, but again, he was helpful and the arrangements he made went off without a hitch. Michael, Mark, and I especially appreciated his recommendation of Il Borgo Aeolie on Lipari. Staff there were friendly and helpful, and the location was very good. It was an excellent choice.
The guides who took us around Siracusa, Noto, Modica, and Ragusa were all friendly and knowledgeable. We liked Barbara (Modica and Ragusa) especially.
As to specific hotels, I think the favorite was Relais La Placa in Francaville. It is beautifully decorated without being too formal and stiff. Carmelo and his wife were incredibly welcoming. The food was very good, and we were served a lovely wine made by Carmelo’s father-in-law. Carmelo happily supplied a bottle for Robin and Ed to take with them.
We liked Tenuta Arangio. The rooms were nice, everyone was friendly and helpful, and the food was very good. The walk in Vendicari was lovely – especially the part along the water and getting to the beach at the end.
Fabio’s knowledge of Etna is extensive, and he showed us things and took us to places that most visitors do not see.
We enjoyed the walk through the Alcantara River Valley.
On day six, Francesco was kind enough to drop Robin and Ed off first, and then took the rest of us to the other side of the mountain, where we met them and walked the rest of the way. The walk into Taormina on day seven was fine.
Villa Sonia, Il Piccolo Giardino, and Il Borgo were all quite nice. Staff at Villa Sonia and Il Piccolo Giardino were very friendly and helpful. The pool at Il Borgo was nice after a long day of hiking. Breakfast choices at Villa Sonia and Il Borgo were good, and dinner at Il Borgo was very good. Since we were leaving early from Il Piccolo Giardino, they packed a breakfast for us to take with us. Fossa Gelata was the most ordinary of the hotels we stayed in, and the dinner choices were limited. Although we didn’t spend much time there, it seemed like there was not very much to do. As to improvements, we couldn’t ask for much more.
Thank you for working with us to plan our trip. It was a wonderful vacation and we enjoyed it very much.