Days 1 - 3: Palermo & Monreale, Italy
Upon arrival on Day 2 you are transferred to your luxury hotel. This evening, enjoy welcome cocktails and dinner with your Travcoa Travel Director and fellow travelers.
On Day 3, stroll Palermo’s picturesque streets and admire the mixture of architectural styles. Palermo’s personality comes from the variety of people who have populated it over the ages — the Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, French, Spaniards, Austrians — each of whom left their mark. With its magnificent geographical position, legendary climate, fertile land, and abundant water, Palermo was a cradle of civilization, and has also served as a transit point, landing place, and battlefield for territorial ambitions. The 12th-century Cathedral, or duomo, is a perfect example of this cultural fusion. The cathedral hosts Gothic details dating from the 14th century, Spanish influences from the 15th century, and Neoclassical changes that were made to the exterior in the late 18th century.
Notice the Arabic and North African influences in the city’s lively Capo market. Also visit the Norman’s Royal Palace, whose Pisan Tower looks much as it did nine centuries ago. A masterpiece of Sicilian-Norman architecture, it was founded in 1185 and not completed until the 19th century. The Palace's interior evokes much of its former grandeur, and the mosaics of its Palatine Chapel are exquisite. This afternoon, travel to Monreale, worldrenowned for its 12th-century cathedral. The Cathedral of Monreale was the last and most beautiful of the Norman churches built in Sicily; a dazzling mixture of Arab, Byzantine and Norman artistic styles framed by traditional Romanesque architecture. Its collection of mosaics is one of the world's largest displays, surpassed only by Istanbul's Hagia Sophia. Amazingly, Monreale's cathedral was built in only eight years. And to give some idea of the richness of the interior mosaics, which cover the entire Cathedral, consider the fact that they contain almost 2-1/2 tons of pure gold. Try to find the portrait of Thomas Becket hidden somewhere amongst the Biblical-themed mosaics. It was one of the earliest of the wave of Becket images that spread across Europe after his murder.
Day 4: Segesta, Erice, Trapani & Palermo
For those who love the grace and beauty of ancient Greek architecture, Sicily has some of the finest examples. This morning, explore Segesta, an ancient city known for its magnificent Doric temple and ranked as one of the best-preserved Greek architectural sites to be found anywhere. The mysterious Elymis built it with help from the Greeks in 500 B.C.
Continue to the beautiful town of Erice, perched at the top of Mount San Giuliano and often covered in its own cloud. Erice is a perfectly preserved medieval town. Like many Sicilian towns, it passed from one conqueror to another, with each ruler leaving their own architectural calling card. We’ll take a cable car to the town to admire its medieval charm — an impressive 60 churches — and enjoy the magnificent views. On a clear day, you can see as far as Tunisia.
Head to Trapani to see the famous salt flats, with colors ranging from off-green to pink. Salt has been an important Sicilian resource and product throughout history. It was valued very highly in the days of the Phoenicians.
Before returning to Palermo, enjoy a private tasting of Sicily’s desert wines, among them the well-known Marsala.
Day 5: Selinunte & Agrigento
This morning, take an excursion to Selinunte, an ancient Greek city founded in the 7th century B.C. Explore the ruins of an acropolis, and numerous temples that overlook the Mediterranean Sea. During Selinunte's heyday, it was one of the most progressive Greek cities in Sicily, famous throughout Magna Grecia.
After lunch, drive to the classical city of Agrigento. It was founded by the Greeks, taken over by the Romans and then the Saracens — all of whom left their mark. Nearby is the Valley of the Temples archeological park, the world’s largest collection of Greek temples, built in the 5th century B.C. The park has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the exceptional condition of its Greek ruins.
Modern Agrigento used to be the Greek city of Akragas, in its glory days one of the most important and culturally advanced cities in the Mediterranean. (Hence the temples.) However, as it grew more successful, it became the envy of other Greek colonies, especially Siracusa (Syracuse). In 406 B.C., Hannibal and the Carthaginians, conspired with Dionysius of Siracusa and laid siege to the city. After holding out for eight months, Akragas finally fell and its citizens were removed to Gela.
Day 6: Agrigento, Piazza Armerina & Ragusa
Travel to Piazza Armerina to visit the Villa Romana del Casale, a Roman villa built in the first quarter of the 4th century. Almost every room is decorated with exceptionally fine mosaics. Dine at a traditional Sicilian trattoria before traveling on to Ragusa, perched majestically on a cliff above the sea. Heavily damaged by an earthquake in 1693, Ragusa was rebuilt incorporating many Baroque-style buildings, and is considered by many to be the most beautiful city in Sicily.
Day 7: Ragusa
Explore Ragusa, whose baroque architecture has earned it UNESCO World Heritage status. Ragusa was founded on the ancient city of Hybla Heraea when the Siculi moved into the interior to escape from the Greek colonists. Spend the morning visiting the incredible Baroque street monuments. Start with the Portal of St. George the Giardini Iblei, Palazzo Arezzo Donnafugata, the old Club of Conversation, the Duomo of St. George, and end at the Palazzo La Rocca. Following lunch, explore Donnafugata Castle, an imposing edifice that incorporates numerous architectural styles. Its massive towers frame lovely windows set in a lacework of stone that illuminates the loggia. Next, visit a local trattoria to witness a cannolo-making demonstration and taste the delicious results.
Day 8: Siracusa & Taormina
The ancient Greek city of Siracusa flourished from 733 until 211 B.C., when it was conquered by Rome. When the Roman general entered the gates, he was so amazed by the richness and beauty of the city that he refrained from destroying the temples and buildings, leaving the legacy of the Greeks intact.
Here in a city that was home to Archimedes, the ancient world co-mingles with modern life. The oldest portion of Siracusa, an island called Ortigia, harbors the famous Spring of Arethusa, of Greek mythology, as well as the Temple of Apollo. Also visit the Archaeological Museum Paolo Orsi for an understanding of Sicily’s prehistory.
Ortigia's highlights are the 5th-century B.C. Teatro Greco, where the great dramatist Aeschylus staged his plays, and the 2nd-century Amfiteatro Romano (Roman Amphitheatre), once used by gladiators.
Later this afternoon, arrive in Taormina, located high on a rocky plateau with dramatic views of Mount Etna. This romantic setting was a 19th-century haunt of the English aristocracy. During the 20th century, it was here that a self-exiled D.H. Lawrence was inspired to write Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Blessed with a mild climate, beautiful landscape, and serene vistas, it’s considered one of the world’s most picturesque resort cities.
Day 9: Taormina & Mt. Etna
Mt. Etna, known locally as Montebello (beautiful mountain), is Europe’s largest and most active volcano, with a history of eruptions going back more than 2,000 years. Take a funicular ride to the Silvestri Craters with their oddly shaped lava formations. Savor lunch at the winery of Baron Murgo di Scammacca before returning to Taormina.
Taormina has endless winding medieval streets and tiny passages, each holding its own secrets. Some lead to secluded gardens hidden by stone walls, others lead to flowerdraped terraces overlooking the coast, or to delightful town squares. The old town center is graced with fine palaces and noble residences, and the churches are each built with their own unique architecture style. Today’s highlight is a visit to the Greek Theater, built just before the Roman occupation of Sicily. In the 1st century A.D., modifications were made to the original theater and its function was changed from the presentation of music and drama to gladiator combat. Today the theater has reverted to more peaceful pursuits, and it continues to host prestigious events.
Days 10 & 11: Reggio Calabria & Depart for Home
Drive to Messina and board a ferry for a cruise across the Straits of Messina to Reggio Calabria on Italy’s mainland. This small city of less than 200,000 inhabitants is surrounded by groves of olive and citrus trees. Our destination is the National Archeological Museum of Magna Grecia, famed for its mysterious bronze warriors, and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The two Riace Warriors sculptures were made in Greece in the 5th century B.C., lost, and then re-discovered in the sea off Riace in 1972. Aside from the fact of how rare it is for Greek bronze statues to survive to the present day, they are notable for their remarkably expressive features, enhanced by the mixed media used in the detail of their eyes — made with ivory and limestone corneas, vitreous pupils and silver eyelashes. After returning to Taormina, relax or explore on your own before joining your Travcoa Travel Director and fellow travelers for a farewell cocktail and dinner party.
On Day 11, you will be trasferred to the airport in Catania for your flight back home or on to your next destination.
Grand Hotel Villa Igiea, Palermo
Hotel Villa Athena, Agrigento
Antica Badia Relais Hotel, Ragusa
San Domenico Palace Hotel, Taormina
Package price is per person, based on double occupancy. Single supplement applies. Intra-tour air pricing is subject to change. International airfare is additional. Other restrictions may apply. Contact us for complete journey details.
Deluxe rooms in the best available hotels
Three meals per day, including our unique Dine-Around program that lets you enjoy any restaurant you choose with à la carte dining, or relax with room service when available
A professional Travel Director as your personal concierge
Local sightseeing with professional English-speaking guides with unparalleled knowledge, including entrance fees for places visited
Active participation and up-close encounters to experience the cultures of your journey
Bottled water, soft drinks, coffee and tea included with meals; bottled water during sightseeing excursions
All gratuities to hotel and restaurant staff and local guides and drivers
Group or individual airport transfers on arrival and departure flights
The TravcoAssist Travel Protection Plan, including emergency medical evacuation insurance coverage for injury or illness, and 24-hour Worldwide Live Travel Assistance through Travel Guard Assistance
Due to remote or undeveloped locations on some journeys, accommodations may not always meet Western standards. Dine-Around opportunities will be limited in remote or unsecured locations.
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