Small Group Tour of Sicily - 2020

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Tour Details

Small Group Tour of Sicily – 2020

Experience the diverse aspects that Sicily offers, including wonderful food and wine; lifestyle and culure, plus, art and architecture.

Palermo • Monreale • Erice • Segesta • Agrigento • Ragusa • Modica • Siracusa • Taormina • Etna • Catania

 

  • Key locations such as Palermo, Agrigento, Siracusa, Taormina, Monreale, Erice, Segesta, Ragusa and Modica
  • The tour includes 4 UNESCO World Heritage sites: the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, the late baroque towns of Ragusa and Modica, the Arab-Norman architecture in Palermo, and Mount Etna
  • The art and architecture of Sicily, where you find unique fusions of styles. As well as the Arab-Norman architecture and Sicilian baroque, you’ll see everything from Greek temples, Roman theatres through to Byzantine mosaics
  • We mix and mingle with the locals going about their normal daily lives, in particular in the markets of Ballarò in Palermo, and in Siracusa. In these places all of your senses are stimulated; curious foods on sale, the aromas of ‘panelle’ frying, the vendors calling and chatting
  • Through the week we progressively uncover how the culinary traditions are intrinsically linked with the history of Sicily; Arab couscous, Spanish chocolate, pastries from the island’s convents. We taste it all.

Departures:

25-31 May
15-21 June
06-12 September
21-27 September
03-09 October
14-20 October

Pricing:

AUD$3850 per person twin share

Inclusions:

  • All accommodation is included in 4 star hotels with central locations in Palermo, Ragusa and Taormina
  • Meals as listed in the itinerary: breakfast every morning, plus a main meal each day of 3-4 courses including wine
  • All costs/entry fees for activities listed in the itinerary are included
  • All transport during the tour is included. Travel is in our van/minibus with a professional driver
  • A tour manager is provided for the duration of the trip

Welcome to Palermo, with its many layers of civilizations and history. The city today is a vibrant, living testimony to this cultural heritage. Our hotel is located alongside the historic centre of town, and the vibrancy of this diverse city is all around you.

Starting the tour, we first look at a series of sights that provide an insight into both Palermo and Sicily – the Quattro Canti, the fountain Fontana Pretoria, and the exteriors of the Arab-Norman churches of San Cataldo and Martorana.

At this point we team up for the afternoon with a specialist expert who has a depth of knowledge about all things Sicily and Palermo. Together we travel a short distance to Monreale, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Monreale is on the outskirts of Palermo, a 30 minute drive away.

We start by visiting the cathedral at Monreale, with incredible golden mosaics. It is said to be one of the finest Norman buildings in the world.

We go on to visit the cloisters at Monreale, a particularly evocative setting lined with marble columns. You’ll be amazed at the detailed carved marble and inlaid stone.

On returning to central Palermo we visit the Church of Santa Caterina. This is a veritable jewel-box of ornate decoration – but you’d never know from the plain façade.

Later we view the largest opera house in Italy, the Teatro Massimo (external only).

In the evening we dine together, sharing a meal of Sicilian dishes where we start to discover the unique flavours on offer here: Mediterranean vegetables that combine with Arabic influences to create this unique cuisine; seafood fresh from the Tyrrhenian Sea and distinctive local wines from grape varieties grown only in Sicily.

MEALS INCLUDED: DINNER (3 COURSES INCLUDING WINE)

ACCOMMODATION: QUINTOCANTO HOTEL (4 STAR), PALERMO

For those that wish, we go together to walk through the Ballaro markets. These historic markets have formed a part of the fabric of this city for over a thousand years, and still do. Here we experience a fascinating array of sights and sounds – fresh produce from the fertile fields of Sicily, such as the ubiquitous vibrantly coloured aubergines, as well as some cuts of meat that could be described as ‘challenging’.

We depart for Erice, a charming town on a hilltop overlooking the western coast of Sicily. Erice is a medieval town, with beautiful cobbled lanes. There is a long history here, starting with a population that pre-dated the Greeks. We visit the site of the Temple of Venus, now a Norman castle. The views from this point are stunning, looking out over the Egadi Islands where the traditional tuna fishing grounds are.

Sicily is renowned for wonderful sweet pastries, and one of the best pasticcerias in Sicily is here in Erice. At the pasticceria we see the diversity and creativity of their products.

We have lunch in Erice, after which we continue on to Segesta, where we have our first glimpse of the monuments that remain from when Sicily was part of Magna Grecia (the greater Greek empire). Segesta boasts one of the most intact Greek Doric temples anywhere, and an excellent Greek theatre, both from the 5th century B.C. In fact some performances continue to be held in this theatre during the summer.

We return to Palermo in the early evening

MEALS INCLUDED: BREAKFAST AND LUNCH (3 COURSES INCLUDING WINE)

ACCOMMODATION: QUINTOCANTO HOTEL (4 STAR), PALERMO

Today we depart from Palermo and travel first to Agrigento, with its famous ‘Valley of the Temples’.

This UNESCO World Heritage site features the beautiful Temple of Concordia is one of the most photogenic spots in Sicily. We are shown around by an expert guide, who explains to us the phases of civilisation here, as well as the current discoveries that are being made. Strolling through the archaeological area gives a sense of the gravitas of history, as well as a pleasant experience of continued traditions, surrounded by almond groves and olive trees.

For lunch we stop at a farm in the countryside, where we get an opportunity to taste good, wholesome rural Sicilian produce. Much of our lunch is grown right here on the farm. We enjoy a leisurely lunch in the courtyard of the farmhouse.

After lunch we continue on to our hotel in the town of Ragusa, arriving in the early evening.

MEALS INCLUDED: BREAKFAST AND LUNCH (3 COURSES INCLUDING WINE)
ACCOMMODATION: RAGUSA – EITHER THE SAN GIORGIO PALACE HOTEL OR THE HOTEL ANTICO CONVENTO (BOTH 4 STAR HOTELS)

On waking in Ragusa, you can’t help but be charmed by the elegant palazzos and the picturesque winding streets.

We meet in the hotel reception and drive to the nearby town of Modica. While Modica is another of Sicily’s famed baroque towns, here we also have an ulterior motive, and that is chocolate. Modica is an important centre for chocolate making, and has its own distinctive style known as ‘cioccolato modicano’. This is made using a different production method to regular chocolate. We have a tasting where you can appreciate the unique qualities of this chocolate.

We also take the chance in Modica to visit a very interesting church, the Chiesa San Nicolò Inferiore, which was re-discovered by chance in 1989.

We continue on to have lunch, just outside Modica, we work our way through a range of specialities from the Ragusa and Modica area.

We also take the chance in Modica to visit a very interesting church, the Chiesa San Nicolò Inferiore, which was re-discovered by chance in 1989. We continue on to have lunch, just outside Modica, we work our way through a range of specialities from the Ragusa and Modica area.

On or return to Ragusa we spend some time together to look at specific elements of the baroque architecture that are a feature of Ragusa. Ragusa is one of the best examples of the Sicilian baroque style, with ornate edifices and intricate detailing. Some of Sicily’s architectural gems are scattered through Ragusa. The buildings we see in this style were built from 1693 onwards, and feature elegant balconies and balustrades.

We return to our hotel in the afternoon.

MEALS INCLUDED: BREAKFAST AND LUNCH (3 COURSES INCLUDING WINE)
ACCOMMODATION: RAGUSA – EITHER THE SAN GIORGIO PALACE HOTEL OR THE HOTEL ANTICO CONVENTO (BOTH 4 STAR HOTELS)

Today we visit Siracusa, a treasure trove of ancient palazzi, a fascinating old centre with many harbourside restaurants where good living comes first.

The old town of Siracusa is the island of Ortigia, the heart of Siracusa, with the remains of the ancient Greek city. We first walk through the Ortigia markets. Here the particular speciality is seafood, with the fishing fleet heading out from the adjacent port and bringing the fresh catch here each morning – the huge swordfish are an impressive sight.

We visit the Duomo (the main church), elegant and domineering in the beautiful central piazza. This church has an intriguing history, going right back to its origin as the Greek Temple of Athena. We still see the ancient Greek columns forming part of the structure of the current church.

We also see a fine Caravaggio painting, the ‘Burial of Santa Lucia’. This was painted in 1609 by Caravaggio when he spent time here in Siracusa, and depicts the patron saint of the town.

Taking advantage of our coastal location, lunch is in a restaurant that specialises in the seafood of the area. We dine on the waterfront overlooking the bay.

We leave Siracusa in the late afternoon to continue on to Taormina.

MEALS INCLUDED: BREAKFAST AND LUNCH (3 COURSES INCLUDING WINE)
ACCOMMODATION: GRAND HOTEL MIRAMARE (4 STAR), TAORMINA

We first visit the ancient theatre in Taormina, built first by the Greeks, and enlarged by the Romans. This theatre continues to be a premier location for music and drama performances to this day.

The rest of the morning and lunchtime is free time in Taormina. Visiting Taormina is like visiting an elegant film set, such is the combination of spectacular views (over the sea and Mt Etna), beautiful old buildings, plus a touch of the ancient (both Greek and Roman). We take full advantage of all three aspects (the view, the town, the ancient ruins) as we enjoy our time here. Located high on a hill, there is time available to take the cable car from Taormina down to the beach below the town, and the island Isola Bella. Around town, as well as the archaeological sites, there are numerous ceramics shops and cafes on the piazza.

In the afternoon we travel to the slopes of Mt Etna. We view the foothills of this active volcano before moving on to our cooking class, where you take an active part in preparing a complete four course meal. The dishes are typically Sicilian, a cuisine which has developed through the absorption of a myriad of influences through the ages. With today’s focus on Sicilian cooking, we have a local chef unlock some of the secrets and teach us the techniques used here. As well as this, we discuss the importance and provenance of the ingredients and produce used.

We also taste wines made from Etna’s unique microclimate and lava soils. Wine has been made in Sicily for over 2000 years, and the Etna DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) region is one of the key quality wine areas. The predominant red grape is called Nerello. Then we relax and eat!

We return to Taormina at the end of our evening.

MEALS INCLUDED: BREAKFAST AND DINNER (3 COURSES INCLUDING WINE)
ACCOMMODATION: GRAND HOTEL MIRAMARE (4 STAR), TAORMINA

Today is our departure day from Sicily. We travel to your departure point in Catania and bid you “buon viaggio”.

The tour finishes in Catania at 11 a.m.

MEALS INCLUDED: BREAKFAST

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