Exploring Sicily - Escorted Tour Led by Expert Guides
|Adventure Travel > Peter Sommer Travels > Exploring Sicily - Escorted Tour Led by Expert Guides|
One of the 50 Best Escorted Tours (2014) - The Telegraph
Lying at the heart of the Mediterranean and commanding the narrow sea-lanes that connect east to west and north to south, Sicily attracted merchants, seafarers and settlers from every point of the compass.
The passage of time and a host of invaders have bequeathed a wealth of archaeological sites and monuments to the island. Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Byzantines and Aragonese have all left their enduring legacy on Sicily in the form of rich and diverse cultural and culinary traditions.
This tour of Sicily provides an unforgettable encounter with the island’s long history and culture. Not only does it take in the wonderfully-preserved remains of the Greek, Roman and Phoenician cities that stud its coasts, where honey-coloured ancient temples lie amid orange groves and almond trees, it also explores the baroque towns that hug its steep hills and the great modern metropolis, Palermo. The temple-crowned cities of Selinunte and Agrigento, and the ancient island-city of Motya, now rest in a serene splendour belying their dramatic and turbulent histories. From the heights of Erice, home to Venus, goddess of love, you will see the majestic sweep of the coast, before travelling east to the vine-clad slopes of Mount Etna. As well as its historical riches, the island is a place of immense natural beauty and diversity. We’ll traverse its many varied landscapes filled with springtime flowers and enjoy a number of pleasant walks to savour the romantic vistas.
Sicily’s picturesque and historic towns are a feast for the senses, and there will be plenty of time to explore their piazzas and meandering streets, or sample their increasingly renowned and varied wines before ending your day in atmospheric hotels or grand rural estates set in the heart of the Sicilian countryside. Our tour of Sicily is complemented by excellent meals in specially chosen restaurants, wineries and local trattoria, highlighting some of Sicily’s richest gastronomic traditions.
The guides who will accompany you on the tour both know Sicily intimately. Their in-depth knowledge and love of the island will be your short-cut to a superb experience of one of Europe’s most celebrated destinations.
ADDITION RATE INFORMATION
Single Supplement: £690
Day 1:Syracuse, Sicily, Italy
Transfer from Catania airport approx. 45 minutes away. Arrival and welcome dinner in Siracusa, ancient Syracuse, one of the most important of all ancient Greek cities.
Day 2:Ortigia Island, Sicily, Italy
A short journey up the beautiful Anapo valley brings us to the World Heritage Site of Pantalica, an enormous late Bronze Age necropolis, with its many tombs honeycombing the rocky hills. After lunch at the Pantalica Ranch, we drive down to the coast and visit the remains of the Greek colony of Megara Hyblaia before returning to Siracusa. An early evening tour of the island of Ortygia, the heart of the ancient city, is followed by dinner at a traditional pizzeria.
Day 3:Syracuse, Sicily, Italy
A day in Siracusa. We begin with a walk to the Archaeological Park, passing through the core of the ancient, medieval and modern city along the way. The Park itself, planted with gloriously scented lemon groves, contains some of Syracuse’s finest ancient monuments, including a Greek theatre that remains in occasional use today. Syracuse’s darker history can be witnessed at first hand in the extensive quarries, excavated by armies of slaves, where we will enter the famed Ear of Dionysius with its unusual acoustics. After visiting Castello Eurialo (the ancient Euryalus), a powerful fortress built over 2,400 years ago by the tyrant Dionysius to dominate and defend the city, we will enjoy a relaxing lunch before visiting the Paolo Orsi Archaeological Museum. The rest of the afternoon and evening will be free to explore more of the city, sample the local specialities and dine at a restaurant of your choice.
Day 4:Modica, Sicily, Italy
A full day of exploration begins with a journey south to the lovely Baroque town of Modica, rising steeply in terraces from the valley floor. Fortified by its unique chocolate, derived from the original Aztec recipe, we carry on to the Greek city of Gela on the south coast, to view its extraordinarily well-preserved city walls and get our first glimpse of the Sicilian sea. We finish the day in Agrigento.
Day 5:Agrigento, Sicily, Italy
A free morning to relax in the superb Agriturismo and enjoy its extensive grounds before heading to the medieval and modern centre of Agrigento to enjoy a sumptuous lunch, stroll through its streets, admire its churches and civic architecture, and pause at the Santo Spirito convent to try some of the nuns’ delicious cakes and biscuits.
Day 6:Agrigento, Sicily, Italy
The morning is spent exploring the heart of Agrigento, ancient Akragas, a Greek city famed for its wealth and extravagant spending. The collection of Classical temples here is one of the finest to be seen anywhere in the Mediterranean. In the afternoon, we complete our tour of the ancient city and its renowned museum, and enjoy a relaxing dinner in beautiful surroundings.
Days 7 & 8:Marsala, Sicily, Italy
A drive along the coast through Montalbano country brings us to the breathtaking ancient site of Selinunte and its famous temples, devastated by the Carthaginians in 409 BC. In the afternoon, we travel to ancient Lilybaeum to view the well-preserved remains of a Carthaginian ship and the beautiful finds from this ancient multi-cultural city, many of which retain their original painted decoration.
The following day, we continue to Sicily’s western coast and take a short boat trip to the island site of Motya, a major Phoenician city destroyed by Dionysius of Syracuse in 398 BC. The extensive remains of the city include the Tophet (a cemetery for children sacrificed to their gods) and, in the on-site museum, the Motya Charioteer, one of the most celebrated Classical Greek sculptures. After Motya, we travel to Marsala to enjoy a sumptuous Sunday lunch, and then take a leisurely walk through the ancient quarry of the Cava di Cusa, where column drums still lie unfinished in an attractive landscape of olive groves and vineyards.
Day 9:Segesta, Sicily, Italy
Our first stop is the ancient city of Segesta, with its fine Doric temple in a tranquil and beautiful setting, and the stunning views from its beautiful little theatre on the adjacent hillside. We continue on to the mediaeval town of Erice to take in the sweeping panoramic vistas from its heights and finish the day in Palermo.
Days 10 & 11:Palermo, Sicily, Italy
A free morning in Sicily’s cultural capital. Time to explore the markets, enjoy some street food or see a puppet show, surrounded by the city’s attractive mediaeval churches and nineteenth century opera houses. In the afternoon we take a short drive to Monreale where we will visit Monreale’s twelfth-century cathedral, one of the finest Norman churches, blessed with a beautiful golden cycle of Byzantine-style mosaics. After absorbing the splendid view of Palermo below, we return for a free evening to explore the city’s sights, aromas and tastes and dine at your leisure.
After a morning touring Palermo’s archaeological museum and the refined nineteenth-century Villa Whitaker, residence of the famed English wine merchants and aristocrats, we drive to the Greek city of Himera (site of two enormous battles that changed the history of the entire island) and on to a relaxing late afternoon at our hotel in the rolling hills at the foot of the Madonie Mountains on the north coast.
Day 12:Aidone, Sicily, Italy
We journey into the interior to visit the lovely archaeological museum of Aidone and have lunch in a renowned local restaurant. In the afternoon we visit the sprawling and opulent Roman villa of Piazza Armerina, with its world-famous mosaics, and then continue on to our final accommodation of the tour, on Mount Etna.
Day 13:Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy
Having caught many glimpses of Mount Etna in the distance, we finally visit it for a guided hike on the volcano’s slopes before refreshing ourselves at a nearby winery. Afterwards we visit our final site, the dramatically-situated Greek city of Taormina, perched above a beautiful stretch of coast. A farewell dinner at our beautiful Agriturismo.
Day 14:Taormina, Sicily, Italy
Transfer to Catania airport, just over an hour’s drive away.
“I thoroughly enjoyed all the facets of Sicily, the temples, the landscape, the cities, the superb lodgings and excellent food and wine! What a treat! I cannot tell how happy I am! Discovering, savouring, admiring these marvellous sites day after day with Michael’s vivid enactments was quite invigorating.” Leonie, Brussels
“There is no better way to enjoy the glorious ancient ruins and the excellent modern dining in Sicily than by joining this tour.” Jane Atkins, Florida, USA
“Exploring Sicily took us back to the ancient past of the island, its Invaders, conquerors and settlers. Every day brought new delights: classical temples, fortresses, sculptures, amphitheatres and medieval towns. The two weeks were filled with fascinating visits to a wide range of destinations.” Jane and Peter Whaley, Victoria, Australia
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