Inspired by the magical moments we’ve experienced at Sicily’s evocative archeological sites, we planned this off-season grand tour of Sicily to relish these amazing sites when they are blissfully uncrowded. This is when the true sense of Sicily’s ancient history permeates the soul, as we view a magnificent Greek temple in exquisite solitude. A mild winter climate further enhances this tour of Sicily with a beautiful landscape cloaked in early wildflowers, the scent of almond blossoms in the air, and flamingos resting by a turquoise sea. We also explore the vibrant capital of Palermo, an energetic experience of great contrasts.
|•||Experience the colorful contrasts of Palermo, from dazzling Norman mosaics to loud street markets, and munch sweet cannoli by the Fountain of Shame|
|•||Boat to the tiny Carthaginian island of Mozia, made rich with the secret of crimson dye 2000 years ago, and see the funeral urns to sacrificial gods|
|•||Walk through the old Arab quarter in the biggest fishing port in Italy at Mazara, and view the elegant bronze Dancing Satyr caught in a fisherman’s net|
|•||Admire soaring Baroque cathedrals in Noto and Ragusa, and join the lively passeggiata in Syracuse|
|•||Touch the massive columns of a Greek temple, and stand on the stage of a Greek theatre in splendid solitude at Segesta – no crowds in off season|
Meet at 9.00 a.m. at an attractive 4-star hotel in the center of Palermo. Today we tour Palermo, taking in the wonderful contrasts of this colorful city. We visit the Norman Palazzo Reale and unusual Cathedral, followed by a stroll through the vibrant market laden with a dazzling array of fresh produce and sea creatures. After a lunch of traditional focaccia, we continue our explorations, with a visit to the Archeology Museum where we trace Sicily’s rich history through the amazing collection of finds from the entire island. Dinner together in a lively trattoria.
We head up to the Cathedral of Monreale, crowning a hilltop overlooking Palermo, and admire the glittering mosaics that cloak the interior. Continue to Segesta, where we visit the splendid Greek theatre and solitary temple in perfect harmony with the landscape. Relax over a farmhouse lunch before continuing to our hotel in the pretty town of Marsala, built of burnished golden stone and home to the sweet heady wine of the same name. Free night for dinner.
We follow the coastal vie del sale where sea salt is still gathered as it has been for centuries and the warm scirocco wind blows from North Africa. A short boat ride across the lagoon brings us to the tiny island of Mozia, which was a mighty Carthaginian stronghold until 397 BC. Visit the tiny but rich museum of amazing finds, including bronze, glass and ceramic pieces, as well as the elegant statue of the Young Man of Mozia. After lunch we visit the beautiful town of Erice, a maze of twisting cobblestone streets perched on a lofty hilltop, with breathtaking views stretching to the Egadi Islands. Tonight we dine in a family-run trattoria.
|Greek Temple in Sicily|
We head south to the magnificent Greek site of Selinunte, with its powerful Greek temples standing in regal splendor. Visit the fascinating Greek quarries where columns for an unfinished temple have been quietly waiting to be put into place for the past 2500 years. After lunch in a trattoria serving a delightful array of antipasti, we head to the town of Mazara del Vallo, where echoes of the town’s Arab past are felt in the narrow streets. Visit the tiny museum with its splendid bronze Dancing Satyr, dredged from the sea in a fisherman’s net, and restored to it original glory. Dinner in an excellent restaurant.
|Church of San Giorgio|
This morning we head to Agrigento, where we tour the Valley of the Temples, with a professional guide, including the imposing Temple of Concordia, one of the best-preserved Greek temples in the world. After a light lunch, we continue our journey to the stunning Baroque town of Ragusa Ibla with its lavish cathedral and beautiful piazza. Check into a family-run inn in the town center. Free night for dinner.
You may end the tour here with a morning transfer to the Catania airport. To continue to explore fascinating Eastern Sicily, read on!
We drive south to the recently opened Villa del Tellaro, to view the Roman mosaics, among the finest in the Mediterranean. Continue to the nature reserve of Vendicari, a sparkling gem of unspoiled coast scented with eucalyptus and wild thyme, where we’ll find hundreds of migratory birds, including many graceful flamingoes. Visit the delightful Baroque town of Noto, built of golden sandstone and bedecked with ornate carved facades and fanciful balconies. On our way back to Ragusa, we stop in Modica to taste the spicy dark chocolate inspired by the Aztecs, and brought to the Sicily by the Spanish nobility. Free night for dinner.
|Anita by the Sea|
Early departure for Syracuse, with a brief stop in Palazzolo Acreide, noted for its lovely Art Deco buildings and tiny Greek theatre, as well as superb pastry shops! Fortified by our second breakfast, we continue to Syracuse, touring the archaeological park and magnificent Greek theatre, still used for performances during theatre festivals. After a light lunch in the picturesque quarter of Ortygia, we visit the amazing cathedral, which was originally a Greek temple. The 2500 year old Greek columns are still standing, embedded in the structure of the church. On the way out of Syracuse, we take an excursion to the ancient ramparts, where Archimedes helped defend his native city from destruction. Continue to the thriving city of Catania, to a stylishly renovated 4-star hotel in the historic center, our home for 2 nights.
We begin with an excursion to the resort town of Taormina, where we visit the spectacularly situated Greek theatre. Poised above the turquoise sea with grandiose Mt. Etna, an active volcano, puffing in the background, we can admire the Greeks for choosing this fantastic setting. After enjoying some free time to stroll through the scenic town, we return to Catania. Join the evening passeggiata through the lively city to the unusual Piazza del Duomo built of dusky volcanic stone. Enjoy a sumptuous seafood feast at a popular restaurant teeming with locals in-the-know, who come here for the freshest fish in town.
Morning transfer to Catania airport. Arrivederci!