IN MAY OR SEPTEMBER A FRIEND AND I ARE THINKING OF SPENDING A WEEK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CINQUE TERRE SO WE CAN DO ALL THE WALKS AND SO ON, AND SIMILAR TIME DOING MALTA AND SICILY. WE ARE USING LOCAL TRANSPORT, EATING LOCAL FOOD AND DOING OUR OWN THING. WHERE SHOULD WE FLY INTO, WHERE SHOULD WE BASE OURSELVES IN THE CINQUE TERRE, AND HOW SHOULD WE SEE SICILY AND MALTA?
A. ANDERSON, CROMER
It's recently been announced that the Italian government plans to restrict the number of tourists visiting the Cinque Terre this year. This is a fragile coastline and it seems foreign tourists have been loving it just a little too much. More than 2.5 million tourists visited these five small villages in 2015, impacting on the local infrastructure and walking trails and testing the tempers of those who live there. The nuts and bolts of the restrictions are still in the planning stage, and since this is Italy you can expect chaos and uncertainty, but it seems that a ticketing system might be introduced. If you were to visit in May you might well be safe, since you're well ahead of the main season, but I'd be more concerned about a September visit. There's every chance you won't find out what the situation is until you actually get there. You might head for Monterosso, which is at the start of the Cinque Terre, and make your plans from there.
Flying in and out of Rome from Sydney is going to be your best bet. The train from Roma Termini, the main station, will take four to five hours to get to Monterosso.
After visiting the Cinque Terre you might want to fly to Sicily, and here you'll need to travel around the island. A guided tour might be a good idea unless you are confident about getting behind the wheel, since public transport options are limited. Based in Palermo, Tour of Sicily (tourofsicily.com) could be a good option. Virtu Ferries (virtuferries.com) operate a high-speed ferry service between Catania and Pozzallo in Sicily to Malta, and it takes only a couple of hours.
In Malta, base yourselves in Valetta; the island is pint-sized and getting around is not difficult. This also makes it easy to get to the islands of Gozo and Camino. From Malta you could fly back to Rome for your flight home.