Highlights of Sicily

Summer-Autumn Itinerary

The best way to see Sicily is on a circular route, with Catania as the place to arrive and Siracusa the place to start. The east of the island is where it all began: prehistoric Sicily, the coast where the Greeks arrived, and Syracuse, where the first and greatest golden age of Sicily flowered. Then we follow a circular tour of the greatest sights of the island, returning to the east a restful epilogue at Taormina, before you leave for home from Catania. This is how you might understand Sicily as you enjoy her, in a relaxed and comprehensible chronological order.

Day 1

Arrive in Catania. We meet you at the airport and take you to a charming hotel in the ancient city center of Siracusa, Ortigia. When everyone has arrived, we’ll have a welcome meeting. As you will be jet-lagged, the first day will be reserved for settling in and getting oriented. That includes an afternoon walk around the incredible island-peninsula of Ortigia, its palaces, narrow lanes, unique cathedral built within a Greek temple, Jewish Quarter, Arethusa fountain, and perhaps an optional puppet show [if performing on this day, not included]. Welcome dinner at a favorite Siracusa restaurant (incl) and overnight at Siracusa. (Hotel Livingston or Royal Maniace)

Day 2

aerial view of Ortigia, the historic center of Siracusa (ancient Syracuse)

Today is our grand tour of Siracusa, for two centuries the greatest of ancient Greek cities, beginning with the world’s only surviving ancient Greek fort and its lovely overlook of the coast, with stories of great turning points of history and Plato. We continue on to one of the world’s finest Greek Theatres, the Ear of Dionysius, and the Roman Amphitheatre, with stories of Archimedes. Time off for a midday nap or swim in the sea, then we'll have a cooking class with a renowned local chef, dining on our creations (incl). Free evening and overnight at Siracusa. (Hotel Livingston or Royal Maniace)

Day 3

Day on your own in Ortigia and Siracusa[1].  Options include the world-class Paolo Orsi Archaeological Museum, the unique medieval fort guarding the harbor, other museums (incl. medieval art, papyrus, numismatic, etc.), the Jewish Quarter with its unique Byzantine-period miqwe, swimming in the sea (near the hotel), our highly praised (UNESCO world heritage) Sicilian marionette theatre[2], & other local sites and events. Of course, you might just sleep late and spend the day sitting in cafés watching street life. Dinner (on your own) and overnight in Siracusa. (Hotel Livingston or Royal Maniace)

[1] Transport to the Paolo Orsi Museum is on us.  All other sites easily reached by foot. Entrances (not included) average from € 5~10. [2] if performing on this day, entrance (€8) not included

Day 4 

The rooftops of Noto

We depart Siracusa to visit Noto, a Unesco world heritage site of honey-gold baroque, before continuing through the ancient and storied Hyblean Highlands to lunch at a dairy farm where Ornella and her farmer husband Salvo treats us to produce of the farm (incl). Afternoon visit to a panoramic overview of the charming town of Modica followed by a short walking visit to old Ragusa (Ragusa Ibla). Onto your hotel in Piazza Armerina (Torre di Renda)

Day 5

Visit of the amazing Roman villa at Piazza Armerina with the greatest mosaic floors of the ancient world. Then we travel further out across rolling countryside to the remote vineyards of Feudo Principi di Butera for a tasting and elegant light lunch (incl)[1]. Finally we take an afternoon drive on country roads to Agrigento, talking of WWII. We visit Agrigento, walking a row of temples the equal to those in Greece itself. Dinner, on your own, and overnight in Agrigento in a hotel overlooking the temples. (Hotel Colleverde).

[1] if our tour is less than half full, we might substitute an al fresco lunch in a favourite Slow Food restaurant in Piazza Armerina.

Day 6

We travel west along the less visited south coast to the ruins of the Greek city of Selinunte, the third great city of the Greek west, on its evocative windswept coastal site. We proceed through Marsala to the salt flats and romantic windmills of far western Sicily and the lovely Carthaginian island of Mozia. Dinner (incl) and overnight in the old quarter of Marsala or in a restored nobleman’s estate in the countryside. (Hotel Carmine or Baglio Oneto).

Day 7

We continue to Erice and tour the ancient mountaintop town founded by Aphrodite, ruled by Hercules, where a cult of sex once flourished. We sample the pastries at Maria Grammatico’s shop, made famous by Mary Simeti’s book Bitter Almonds. We turn north to visit the incomparably beautiful temple at Segesta, a town Virgil tells us was founded by Aeneas. Dinner at one of the best restaurants for traditional Sicilian cuisine (Altri Tempi, incl) and overnight in Palermo. (Hotel Piazza Borsa)  

Day 8

Monreale Cathedral (12C), nave

A morning walking tour of the incredible sites of old Palermo, including matchless gems like the Palatine Chapel and La Martorana. In the afternoon, you are free to pursue your own interests in Palermo (we'll have recommendations). Dinner on your own and overnight in Palermo. (Hotel Piazza Borsa)


Day 9

 In the morning, we visit the Norman cathedral of Monreale, one of the greatest buildings in the world. Then we drive along the coast to the charming seacoast town of Cefalù, Here there will be free time for lunch (on your own) at any number of seafood restaurants and another chance to swim in the Mediterranean, before continuing into the Madonie mountains to our hotel, Relais Sant’Anastasia, in an ancient abbey where monks were given license for wine-making by Norman King Roger a thousand years ago. Organic wine tasting with dinner (incl), and overnight. (Relais Sant’Anastasia)

Day 10

We drive to Taormina to check into your lovely hotel in Taormina with views over the sea. Walking tour of Taormina, focusing on the Roman theatre with its famous view of the coastline and Etna. We finish your tour with our “Arrivederci“ pizza dinner at a favourite local restaurant (incl). (Hotel Villa Belvedere)  

Day 11

We will take you to Catania airport for your flight home. (incl)

Highlights of Sicily

Winter~Spring Itinerary

Day 1 - Arrive in Catania. We meet you at the airport and take you to a charming hotel in the ancient city center of Siracusa, Ortigia. When everyone has arrived, we’ll have a welcome meeting. As you will be jet-lagged, the first day will be reserved for settling in and getting oriented. That includes an afternoon walk around the incredible island-peninsula of Ortigia, its palaces, narrow lanes, unique cathedral built within a Greek temple, Jewish Quarter, Arethusa fountain, and perhaps an optional puppet show[1]. Welcome dinner at a favorite Siracusa restaurant (incl) and overnight at Siracusa. (Hotel Livingston or Royal Maniace)

Caltagirone, Sicily's ceramics center

Day 2 – Today is our grand tour of Siracusa, for two centuries the greatest of ancient Greek cities, beginning with the world’s only surviving ancient Greek fort and its lovely overlook of the coast. We continue on to one of the world’s two finest Greek Theatres, the Ear of Dionysius, and the Roman Amphitheatre. After a midday nap, we will have a cooking class with a renowned local chef, with dinner on our creations (incl). Check out our chef Alessia on her web site: www.smileandfood.com  Free evening and overnight at Siracusa. (Hotel Livingston or Royal Maniace)

Day 3 -- We leave Siracusa visiting the Archeological museum for a quick unguided tour. Then we drive to Noto, a Unesco world heritage site of honey-gold baroque. After thiswe drive out into the country for a lunch at a dairy farm where Ornella and her farmer husband Salvo treat us to produce of the farm (incl). Then onto the charming town of Modica where chocolate is made in the traditional Aztec way brought to us by the Spaniards. Onto Ragusa Ibla and overnight. (Hotel Barocco or San Giorgio Palace)

 Day 4 - After leaving the hotel , we walk around the charming small town of Ragusa Ibla. Then we drive to Caltagirone, the ceramics capital of Sicily. After lunch on your own we drive onto Piazza Armerina and a charming country hotel with views over to the city. Dinner (incl) and overnight. (Torre di Renda)

Temple of Heracles, Agrigento

Day 5  – Visit of the amazing Roman villa at Piazza Armerina with the greatest mosaic floors of the ancient world. Then we travel further out across rolling countryside to the remote vineyards of Feudo Principi di Butera for a tasting and elegant light lunch (incl)[1]. Finally we take an afternoon drive on country roads to Agrigento. We arrive in Agrigento, walking a row of temples the equal to those in Greece itself. Dinner, on your own, and overnight in Agrigento in a hotel overlooking the temples. (Hotel Colleverde).

 Day 6  –We travel west along the less visited south coast to the ruins of the Greek city of Selinunte, the third great city of the Greek west, on its evocative windswept coastal site. We proceed through Marsala to the salt flats and romantic windmills of far western Sicily. Dinner (incl) and overnight in the old quarter of Marsala or in a restored nobleman’s estate in the countryside. (Hotel Carmine or Baglio Oneto).

Day 7 – We continue to Erice and tour the ancient mountaintop town founded by Aphrodite, ruled by Hercules, where a cult of sex once flourished. We sample the pastries at Maria Grammatico’s shop, made famous by Mary Simeti’s book Bitter Almonds. We turn north to visit the incomparably beautiful temple at Segesta, a town Virgil tells us was founded by Aeneas. Then we visit the Norman cathedral of Monreale, one of the greatest buildings in the world. Dinner at one of the best restaurants for traditional Sicilian cuisine (Altri Tempi, incl) and overnight in Palermo. (Hotel Piazza Borsa)

the west coast, looking down from Erice

Day 8 – A morning walking tour of the incredible sites of old Palermo, including matchless gems like the Palatine Chapel and La Martorana. In the afternoon, you are free to pursue your own interests in Palermo (we'll have recommendations). Dinner on your own and overnight in Palermo. (Hotel Piazza Borsa)

 

 Day 9 – In the morning, we drive along the coast to the charming seacoast town of Cefalù, before continuing into the Madonie mountains to our hotel, Relais Sant’Anastasia, in an ancient abbey where they have been making wines for a thousand years. A relaxed day. Organic wine tasting with dinner (incl), and overnight. (Relais Sant’Anastasia)

Day 10 – We drive to Taormina for a walking tour of the town, focusing on the Roman theatre with its famous view of the coastline and Etna. Check into our wonderful hotel with views of Munt Etna and the sea from the gardens, pool and main building. We finish your tour with our “Arrivederci“ pizza dinner at a favourite local restaurant (incl). (Hotel Villa Belvedere)

 Day 11 – We will take you to Catania airport for your flight home. (incl)

 

[1] if performing on this day, not included.

[2] if our tour is less than half full, we might substitute an al fresco lunch in a favourite Slow Food restaurant in Piazza Armerina.

Optional additions:

1. Taormina Extension Option (days before or after our tour)

Etna and the coastline as seen from the Roman Theatre of Taormina

After we have said goodbye and Sicily Tour’s responsibility for you has concluded (except for transfer to the airport), some people like to linger a few days in Taormina. It is, after all, Sicily’s focus for high-end shopping and elegant eating, for concerts, festivals, and visits to attractions like Daphne Phelps’ house,  and for excursions around eastern Sicily as far as the Aeolian Islands.

 If this appeals to you, let us know. With advance notice, we can arrange for you to stay over at the hotel for as many days as you like, and then still take you to Catania airport for your flight.

 Cost: € 390 per couple per day (includes only the hotel & the difference in cost of a taxi just for you over the discounted rate we get for the usual Day 11 group transfer to Catania airport).

 Just let us know if you are interested when first you sign on with us.

Cost: Ask us about the price per couple per day, which will depend on the cost options for the level of hotel you would like to use. Includes only the hotel and airport transportation. Unlimited number of days.

2. Mount Etna, by cable car and 4WD drive (day trip before or after our tour)

 Etna is the world’s most storied mountain, one of its most resonant and mythic places.  It is also Europe’s most active volcano and Sicily’s beloved grandfather (or grandmother depending on his/her mood).

lava flows 2/3rds up Mt. Etna

 We depart Taormina, ascending two-thirds up the slopes of Etna to the Rifugio Sapienza area. At this point, there will be a cable-car and 4WD service ( incl) up another 4000 feet to see up close the smoking vents in the company of an official Etna alpine guide. Later we proceed down the east slopes of Etna. Wine-tasting and outdoor light lunch (incl) at a small boutique winery with views over the Mediterranean. Finally, we take you to your hotel in Taormina.

 Please ask for a quote for this option. The cost of which is dependent on whether you have booked your own hotel or whether you wish to prolong your stay at your current hotel.

(Alternatively, you can just hike the untouristed parts of Etna on your own, following local trails, even to the very summit.  For this, all you need is transport to and from the north side (Piano Provenzano area) and your own picnic lunch.  Hiking to the top is strenuous, but not rugged and would take up to 7~8 hours to the summit and back from Piano Provenzano. Etna Guide association also offers 4WD excursions)

3. Montalbano extension option  (one day before or after our tour)

This day-trip is for fans of Inspector Montalbano, and we mean the TV series that is taking the English-speaking world by storm, not so much the novellas by Andrea Camellieri that inspired the series.  Most of the onsite filming occurs in the Iblei area of Ragusa Province and much of the delight of the series comes from the amazing ruggedly beautiful countryside.

 Already on the Highlights Tour, we’ll be visiting some of the film sites in Modica, but there are iconic filming locations, and some lovely towns and countryside, that we are not going to see on the Highlights Tour.  

 This Montalbano extension is a one-day driving tour of some of the most beautiful Montalbano sites—to include Ragusa Ibla, Scicli (a Unesco World Heritage town that stands in for the Commissariat), Donnalucata (where several episodes were filmed), and Punta Secca (site of his beachfront home)—will happen on the day before Day 1 of the Highlights Tour itinerary. We will leave from and return to Siracusa.

 Cost: € 270 / person, 2-person minimum (price includes one preliminary night extra in the Siracusa hotel, one of us as host/guide, and cost of car and petrol)

 Just let us know if you are interested when first you sign on with us.

.Cost: 270 Euro per person, 2 person-minimum. (Includes one night in a Siracusa hotel, your guide, and the cost of car and petrol).

 

HIGHLIGHTS of Sicily

cost details:

Cost: € 2790 (euros) per person. 

Cost Includes:

Ornella with one of her DOP cheeses, on our farm visit

Ornella with one of her DOP cheeses, on our farm visit

  • Accommodation on couple sharing basis. All accommodation will be three-star or higher standard, specifically selected by us for quality, ambiance, and the friendliness of staff. All hotels have websites for your inspection.
  • Ten breakfasts and and eight other meals as indicated in the itinerary.
  • A cooking class and two wine tastings at wineries.
  • Entrance fees for all activities mentioned in the itinerary, and only these.
  • Native English-speaking Sicily Tour host/guide to accompany you during all activities mentioning in the itinerary and responsible for you and available 24/7 during the tour. (All presentations will be in English or an interpreter will be present.)
  • Air conditioned chauffeur-driven bus or mini-van throughout the tour.
  • Ground transport to and from Catania airport and the beginning and end of tour, within announced arrival and departure windows. See our policies and conditions for details.
  • All applicable government taxes, services charges, and paperwork. 

Cost does NOT include:

  • Airfare to and from Catania Fontanarossa Airport
  • Passport applications and fees. Passports are required for entrance into Italy and citizens of some countries may need a visa.
  • Travel or health insurance. We recommend both. 
  • Single supplement charge equaling 30% of the full tour cost. Hotels charge us 80-90% of the price of a double room for a single room, so if you're traveling alone this supplementary fee will apply. Best to bring someone you're comfortable sharing a room with or ask us if there are other singles on the tour looking to avoid the single supplement.
  • Any activities described as "optional"
  • Any meals or beverages not specified as "included"
  • Any personal expenses, shopping, etc.