Sicilian Delights + Antiquity
9 days with Alexander+Roberts Rating:
Day 1 Welcome to Palermo
On arrival, you’ll be warmly greeted and escorted to the Plaza Opéra, our stylish boutique hotel in the heart of town. Later this afternoon, gather with your Trip Leader for a welcome cocktail and briefing. A guided walking tour ends with dinner at a nearby trattoria, owned and operated by the same family for five generations. (D)
Day 2 Exploring Palermo
Palermo is a fascinating city that resonates with the diverse cultures of the civilizations that ruled here long ago: Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Goths, Byzantines, Arabs and Normans. In the engaging company of our native Sicilian guide, today’s walking tour includes the 12th-century Cathedral c and the magnificent Palatine Chapel c, commissioned in 1130 for the Norman Kings of Sicily. Exploring along the evocative cobbled streets of the old Kalsa District, you’ll discover a rich ensemble of architectural landmarks spanning centuries of Palermo’s history. Midday finds you in the colorful Vucciria Market where our guide will help you to assemble a light Sicilian lunch, starting with arancini (stuffed rice balls) and finishing with sweet, delicious cannoli! Back at your hotel in the late afternoon, the balance of this day and evening are yours to enjoy as you wish. (B+L)
Day 3 Onward to Monreale + Menfi
After breakfast and check out, embark on the short but scenic journey to the historic hill town of Monreale to tour the impressive Cathedral c. Dating back to the 12th-century, it is heralded for its distinctive blend of Arab, Byzantine and Norman elements framed by traditional Romanesque architecture; inside, you’ll discover beautiful mosaics – golden depictions of scenes from the Old and New Testament.
After lunch, continue to Corleone. Though just a small town of fewer than 12,000 residents, a number of Mafia bosses have hailed from here – including Tommy Gagliano, one-time boss of the Lucchese crime family. Fittingly, Corleone is now home to the International Centre for Documentation on the Mafia. With an expert docent guide from the Centre, you’ll delve into the history of the Sicilian Mafia and its influence across the globe. Of note, there are fascinating exhibits on the Anti-Mafia Movement, including the infamous Maxi Trial that took place in a bunker-courthouse in Palermo from 1986 to 1992. Your day ends in Menfi where you check in to La Foresteria; our delightful resort is set amidst the vineyards, olive groves and herb gardens owned by the Planeta family. Enjoy a welcome cocktail and then sit down to a sumptuous, 4-course farm-to-table dinner accompanied by a selection of fine wines from the Planeta family vineyards. (B+L+D)
Day 4 Sicilian Food + Antiquity
After a leisurely breakfast, you’ll join one of the skilled chefs from La Foresteria’s kitchen to prepare a pasta dish, using some of the estate’s own produce and herbs. It’s a delightful 3-hour hands-on culinary experience that ends when you sit down to lunch; enjoy the delicious meal that you’ve helped to prepare, accompanied by wines personally selected by the sommelier.
Later this afternoon, you’ll visit Selinunte. Reaching its zenith in the 5th century BCE, this thriving ancient Greek city of Magna Graecia was attacked by an army of 100,000 Carthaginians. The siege lasted barely 10 days and since then, Selinunte has lain abandoned for nearly 2,500 years. Splendidly situated on a high plain overlooking the sea, this vast archaeological site is the largest in Europe and includes the impressive ruins of no less than seven temples built according to strict Doric order. This evening, you’ll enjoy a beachside dinner near Portopalo, an old Sicilian fishing village known for its fresh seafood. (B+L+D)
Day 5 Valley of the Temples + Villa del Casale
This morning you’ll explore the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento. Heralded for its ancient Greek temples and the pastoral beauty of the region, this is one of the world’s most significant archaeological sites. Among the standouts, the remarkably intact Temple of Concordia was erected around 430 BCE directly overlooking the Sacred Way that winds through the valley. Your tour ends with a midday cocktail and lunch on a terrace overlooking the Valley of Temples.
Then continue deeper into the Sicilian countryside to the charming hilltop town of Piazza Armerina to tour the magnificent Villa del Casale. Built by a 2nd-century Roman merchant who amassed a fortune importing wild beasts from Africa and selling them to the Circus in Rome, these ancient villa ruins are renowned for their finely-preserved mosaics, among the best of the late Roman period. This evening finds you at Masseria della Volpe; our enchanting countryside resort is set in a meticulously restored 19th-century manor, surrounded by olive groves and fruit orchards in the beautiful Val di Noto. This evening’s dinner features locally-sourced produce from the nearby farms. (B+L+D)
Day 6 Modica + Ragusa
You’ll spend this morning exploring the town of Modica, remarkably situated at the bottom of a gorge! Badly damaged by the 1693 earthquake, the town was rebuilt in Sicilian Baroque style; with colorful stories and insights from your expert guide, your walking tour reveals grand homes dramatically ascending the steep sides of the gorge and magnificent churches with their domes, bell towers and beautifully embellished facades. You’ll take a break from sightseeing to sample the confections of Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, a chocolatier founded in 1880.
Just to the north of Modica, you’ll spend the afternoon in Ragusa; also recognized by UNESCO for its Baroque landmarks, this World Heritage Site is set on a hilltop with commanding views of the Sicilian countryside. Enjoy a walking tour before stopping in a local shop where regional specialties make for a perfect light lunch: sample artisan cheeses and salumi accompanied by local wine or beer. Before returning to Masseria della Volpe, you’ll visit a local vineyard to taste a variety of Sicilian wines including, of course, Nero d’Avola and Marsala; freshly baked bread with olive oil and herbs enhance this experience. The evening is yours to relax, enjoy and dine as you wish. (B+L)
Day 7 From the Baroque to the Ancient Greeks: Noto + Siracusa
Like Modica and Ragusa, the ancient town of Noto is renowned for its excellent ensemble of Sicilian Baroque architecture. But what distinguishes this town and makes it so singularly captivating is the honey-colored stone that was locally quarried and used to build its many churches, palaces and homes. Enhancing your tour will be a tasting of two Sicilian desserts… Cassata is a sponge cake moistened with liqueur and layered with ricotta cheese and candied fruit. Similar to sorbet, granita is a frozen confection that used to be made of snow from Mt. Etna!
Next you’ll explore the archaeological site of Siracusa, a city that once rivaled Athens as the most important center of the ancient world. Among the highlights here are the well preserved Greek Theater that dates back to at least the 5th century BCE, the large Roman Amphitheater, and the Ear of Dionysius - a natural cave famed for its remarkable acoustic properties.
After a 4-course lunch accompanied by Sicilian wine, you’ll explore Ortygia, an island that has been inhabited for 3,000 years. At the heart of this delightful town, the impressive Baroque-style Cathedral was built on the site of an ancient Greek temple dedicated to Athena; indeed the old Doric columns of this millennia-old temple are still visible in one wall of the Cathedral!
After sightseeing you’ll check in to Donna Carmela; our stylish boutique resort is surrounded by landscaped grounds in the foothills that climb from the Ionian Sea to Mt. Etna. This evening’s dinner features traditional Sicilian dishes, prepared with modern flair and accompanied by fine local wine. (B+L+D)
Day 8 Wines of Mt. Etna + Taormina
Travel up the slopes of Mt. Etna to Rifugio Sapienza, an alpine clubhouse set at 6,000 feet with views of the volcano’s summit and the amazing twin craters that sit just below. Midday finds you at the Barone di Villagrande Estate where the noble Nicolisi family has been cultivating their vineyards and producing fine wines for 10 generations. Here on the eastern slopes of Mt. Etna overlooking the Ionian Sea, you’ll tour their estate and winery before sitting down to a 4-course lunch accompanied by a tasting of their finest vintages.
Later this afternoon, you’ll enjoy a guided walking tour in Taormina, a favorite resort of the 19th-century European aristocracy. Stroll along the winding cobblestone streets, take in the exhilarating sea views and visit the well-preserved Greco-Roman Theater, one of the island’s largest and most well-preserved sites of antiquity. After sightseeing, you’ll have some free time to wander and shop at your own pace here in Taormina – undoubtedly one of the most charming towns in the Mediterranean! This evening, enjoy congenial conversation over a home-cooked meal with a local family at their inviting countryside home. (B+L+D)
Day 9 Departure
After breakfast, you’ll be escorted to the airport in Palermo or Catania for your onward journey. (B)
All This Included
With never more than 16 guests and our engaging native guide, this exclusive journey across Sicily reveals more sites of antiquity and delves more deeply into the rich cultural legacy of the ancient civilizations that swept across this Mediterranean island, from Romans and Goths to Arabs and Normans. Along the way, you’ll sample fine wines, enjoy wonderful meals, and experience genuine Sicilian hospitality.
Palermo: Hotel Plaza Opera
Menfi: La Foresteria
Noto: Masseria della Vople
Mount Etna: Donna Carmela
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* The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines.