Train travel in Sicily is not for those in a hurry. It is best suited to those individuals who need to atone for their sins by doing penance, and rumor has it that a one-way ticket on Sicilian rail can be redeemed for a week out of purgatory. At least you won’t be fighting traffic and clinically insane drivers, or spend your day looking for a parking space.
Most trains in Sicily are Regionale, which, no matter how you translate it, means slow. They usually offer only 2nd class tickets and no services other than bringing your bicycle on board, presumably so that when you get fed up with the painstakingly slow train, you can quickly pedal away. On the bright side, regionale train tickets are cheap and routes are often scenic.
One rail route in Sicily that holds promise as a sightseeing journey and a step back in time is the Ragusa-Syracuse route, which takes approximately 2 hours one way. (You can also board the train at Modica, one stop east of Ragusa, which has slightly more frequent service and trims about 30 minutes off the journey.) The train is usually a rickety 1-2 car contraption, redolent of sweat and dust, but with a friendly conductor, who occasionally stops for coffee along the way. This old Sicilian train wends its way through groves of gnarled olive trees, peeks into the vegetable gardens of ramshackle houses, stops for no reason under the shady canopy of a magnificent carob tree, dips down towards the shimmering turquoise sea, and as it nears the town of Noto, is engulfed by lemon trees. In spring the scent of lemon blossoms fills the train with a scent so intoxicatingly sweet you’ll feel like you’ve skipped purgatory and gone straight to heaven. When the train finally squeals into the station at Syracuse, you can stretch your legs by walking the 20 minutes into the old quarter of Ortygia, and stroll by the seaside eating gelato. Make sure you check the return train times if you don’t want to be stranded overnight in Syracuse.
Details: You can view train schedules for all trains in Italy at www.trenitalia.it and there is a clickable option to view an English language version.