Goddesses, Saints & Heroes
Staying in Ortigia, Siracusa 4 nights, Marina di Ragusa 2 nights, Agrigento 2 nights, Marsala 3 nights, Palermo 3 nights, Lipari 4 night & Taormina 3 nights.
Visiting Monreale, Solunto, Mount Etna, the Riace bronzes in Reggio Calabria, the Aeolian islands of Lipari & Vulcano, small towns and seaside villages on the east coast, Noto, Modica and Ragusa, then the mosaics in Villa Tellaro, the Valley of the Temples at Agrigento, Selinunte, Segesta, Erice, and the Charioteer on the island of Mozia
Including front row tickets to THE TROJAN WOMEN BY EURIPIDES in the ancient Greek theatre of Siracusa.
There will also be a concert in Palermo's Teatro Massimo (2019 to be advised - 2017 was - Massenet's opera Goethe).
We include a number of excellent meals, usually on arrival at a new accommodation, and wine tastings, a private boat from Lipari to Vulcano and numerous other surprise extras and indulgences including late starts when appropriate, daily morning coffee breaks and evening aperitivi in stunning piazzas and overlooking the sea.
“We felt like old world travellers with their retinue of servants who carefully attended to and nurtured our every whim.”
This is comfortable and carefree travel staying in centrally located bases with seaview rooms, short distances travelled each day, carefully selected meals of local specialities and a curated itinerary.
Sat 11th May 2019 Day 1 Includes Breakfast , Aperativi & Dinner #1 Overnight in Ortigia, Siracusa
The tour begins in Siracusa. Catania Fontanarossa airport is the closest international arrival point. Once you have your arrival sorted fill out our client information form and we will be able to arrange to have you collected from Catania Airport.
At around 5pm we will meet in the hotel foyer for aperativi and an introductory talk to set up your perspectives on Sicily for the next three weeks.
Aperitivi and information hour with Neil Moore #1: A General Introduction to 3000 years of Sicilian History.
Then we walk out for dinner together in Ortigia in the warm open air of the piazza tonight with a direct view of the spectacular Duomo lit by the last rays of the sun
Siracusa & the Ancient Greek Theatre
Sun 12 May 2019 Day 2 Includes Breakfast & Aperativi Overnight in Ortigia, Siracusa
There is a guided tour this morning including the fabulous markets set up by the port. Siracusa was home to Archimedes and once a mega city of half a million people that was once the Mediterranean’s preeminent metropolis, now a wealth of archaeological remains.
We explore the old city of Ortigia including Piazza Duomo and the spectacular Baroque cathedral. Siracusa's Duomo is an archive of island history: the bottom most excavations have unearthed remnants of Sicily's distant past, when the Siculi inhabitants worshipped their deities here. During the 5th century BC (the same time as Agrigento's Temple of Concord was built), the Greeks erected a temple to Athena over it, and in the 7th century Siracusa's first Christian cathedral was built on top of the Greek structure. The massive columns of the original Greek temple were incorporated into the present structure and are clearly visible, embedded in the exterior wall along Via Minerva. The Greek columns were also used to dramatic advantage inside, where on one side they form chapels connected by elegant wrought-iron gates. The Baroque facade, added in the 18th century, displays a harmonious rhythm of concaves and convexes. In front, the piazza is encircled by pink and white oleanders and elegant buildings ornamented with filigree grillwork. We end with a description of the Athenian invasion of Sicily and it's disastrous finale in the harbour of Siracusa while we sip cappuccini.
Free time for lunch
The rest of the day is at leisure to wander the labyrinthine streets of this UNESCO World Heritage site. In the afternoon and prior to the performance we visit the famed Greek theatre of Siracusa, and the Latomie, the ancient stone quarries with the spectacular hand cut cavern called the 'ear of Dionysis', where the Athenian prisoners were held after the failed invasion of 415 BC. We offer you aperativi & a snack in the grounds of the Greek Theatre before the performance. We will watch the performance seated in the original Greek theatre, on the limestone seats overlooking the stage below where it would originally have been performed. Each year performances by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides grace the outdoor performance space with tall pines as the stage backdrop overlooking the Ionian sea in the distance behind.
8.30PM Siracusa's Greek Theatre
THE TROJAN WOMEN *2019 program
EURIPIDES - Istituto Nazionale del Dramma Antico (INDA)
Produced in 415 BC during the Peloponnesian War, it is often considered a commentary on the capture of the Aegean island of Melos and the subsequent slaughter and subjugation of its populace by the Athenians earlier that year (see History of Milos). 415 BC was also the year of the scandalous desecration of the hermai and the Athenians' second expedition to Sicily, events which may also have influenced the author.
We arrive back at our accommodation around 9.30pm when there will be plenty of time for a wander through the town for dinner at any of the excellent venues on offer or at the restaurant on the rooftop of the hotel with views across the sea (not included)
Mon 13 May 2019 Day 3 Includes Breakfast Overnight in Ortigia, Siracusa
We visit the Jewish area and a hidden mikvah which is refilled daily with fresh stream water.
We then take a private boat on a delightful circumference of the island of Ortigia, after which we stop for half an hour for Neil's talk involving a major Greek battle on the very spot in the Bay
Aperitivi and information hour with Neil Moore #2: Magna Grecia and the story of Greek colonization
Tue 14 May Day 4 Includes Breakfast and Lunch #2 Overnight in Ortigia, Siracusa
A morning visit to Mount Etna, one of the world’s most active volcanoes and at over 3000m the highest point on the island. We are fortunate to have information provided by an enthusiastic Sicilian vulcanologist Sandro, who teaches at the University of Catania and lives on the slopes of the volcano to feel close to its beating heart.
The drive up takes us through picturesque villages and an ever changing landscape of vineyards, orange and lemon groves, Mediterranean flora and finally the barren moonscape of the craters at the top.
We visit a local Sicilian family shop to taste local Etna wine, a selection of different types of honey, almond pastries, olives, extra virgin olive oil, taking the Red wine-route, traversing the lava of 1981, and village of Linguaglossa, Baroque churches and tasting delicious Almond and nut pastries typical of the area. Lunch at Gambino.
Noto, Scicli and transfer to Marina di Ragusa
Wed 15 May 2019 Day 5 Includes Breakfast and Dinner #3 Overnight in Marina di Ragusa
Leaving Ortigia today we transfer to the southern coast. On the way we visit Noto, a city built of honey coloured soft tufa stone in the Province of Siracusa, a 40 minute drive away. The beautiful town, rebuilt in the early 18th century after an earthquake is a masterpiece of Sicilian Baroque, dubbed the "Stone Garden" and is currently listed among UNESCO's World Heritage Sites.
Near to the coast at Marina di Ragusa we stay in a family run Masseria or large country house overlooking the Ionian sea. The property has been recently restored to maintain the qualities of its origins as a 18th century villa with beautiful architecture and design. Large comfortable rooms, a spacious garden with views of the sea, a pool and an excellent restaurant run by our hosts will accommodate us for threenights. It is ideally suited to visit the towns of Modica, Ragusa and other small towns and sites in the area.
Ragusa & Modica
Thu 16 May 2019 Day 6 Includes Breakfast and Dinner #4 Overnight in Marina di Ragusa
Marina di Ragusa
Fri 17 May 2019 Day 7 Includes Breakfast and Dinner #5 Overnight in Marina di Ragusa
Villa Romana di Piazza Armerina
Sat 18 May 2019 Day 8 Includes Breakfast and Dinner #6 Overnight Agrigento
Leaving Marina di Ragusa behind today, we transfer along the coast towards Agrigento, visiting Piazza Armerina on the way. The Villa Romana del Casale is a Roman villa built in the 4th century and located about 3 km outside the town of Piazza Armerina, Sicily, southern Italy. Containing the richest, largest and most complex collection of Roman mosaics in the world, it is one of 44 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy. We travel on to Agrigento, one of the leading cities of Magna Graecia.
This afternoon we settle into our new accommodation for two nights.
Valley of the Temples - Agrigento
Sun 19 May Day 9 Includes Breakfast and Dinner # 7 Overnight Agrigento
Today we visit one of the most striking archaeological sites in the Mediterranean. The Valley of the Temples in Agrigento comprises a large sacred area on the south side of the ancient city where seven monumental Greek temples in the Doric style were constructed during the 6th and 5th centuries BC. Now excavated and partially restored, they constitute some of the largest and best-preserved ancient Greek buildings outside of Greece itself. They are listed as a World Heritage Site. The largest is the Temple of Olympian Zeus, built to commemorate the Battle of Himera in 480BC Temples dedicated to Hephaestus, Heracles and Asclepius were also constructed in the sacred area, which includes a sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone.
Dinner at the accommodation
Mon 20 May Day 10 Includes Breakfast Wine tasting and Dinner #8 Overnight near Marsala
Leaving Agrigento we head west to visit Selinunte , one of the most striking archaeological sites in the Mediterranean. Founded by Greeks in the 7th century BC with a picturesque position right on the sea shore that bears testimony to the maritime nature of the colonists. Particularly impressive are the collapsed ruins of a temple that is amongst the largest ever built in ancient times.
Aperitivi and information hour with Neil Moore #3: The Carthaginians in Mozia and their clash with the Greeks.
We arrive at our accommodation in a historic Masseria in the countryside around Marsala in time for a swim in their infinity pool.
A relaxed dinner at the accommodation.
Erice & Trapani
Tue 21 May Day 11 Includes Breakfast and Dinner #9 Overnight near Marsala
The isolated Mount Eryx is about 750 meters high and dominates the western part of Sicily, and is home to the mythical Mother Goddess, Madre Dea. In Erice there is the Norman Castello di Venere, or Castle of Venus, which was built on top of an ancient Roman temple dedicated to Venus, the goddess of love... and before that, the same site was dedicated to the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite; and before that to the Carthaginian goddess of fertility, sexuality, and war, Astarte; and before that to the local Elymian tribe's mother goddess of nature and fertility, Potnia. The region has a long history of sensual goddess worship and the sanctuary was known for its religious prostitution, a happy ritual - for the farmers at least - which was intended to guarantee fertility to the crops below.
A short drive to the delightful port town of Trapani and a wander through the elegant pedestrian area before stopping for free time for lunch on the main Corso Vittoria Emanuele in this character filled town.
Another lovely dinner at the country estate this evening.
Wed 22 May Day 12 Includes Breakfast and Dinner #10 Overnight near Marsala
We then travel back down the mountain to the salt mounds, where we take a local boat across the water for a guided visit to the island of Mozia, the Manhattan of the ancient western Mediterranean, originally settled by Arabs. The visit is essentially to see the glorious Mozia man, an exquisite marble statue of a youth from around 400 BC, the high point of ancient Greek art.
Free time for lunch or a walk back at the port amongst the salt mounds
In the afternoon, back at the accommodation which is also a wine estate we have a tour of their cellars and an especially organised tasting of the local marsala wine, developed by an English family
A lovely dinner at the estate this evening.
Thu 23 May Day 13 Includes Breakfast a light lunch & Dinner #10 O'night Palermo
Leaving the west coast today we travel to Palermo via Segesta. Perched on a hill in totally unspoilt rolling green countryside and with views of the sea, the setting of the Temple of Segesta is superb. The Doric Temple was built by the Elymians, an indigenous population of Sicily. Greek colonists probably contributed to the building of the Temple, which took place between 430 and 420 BC.
On top of Monte Barbaro within walking distance of the temple, is the semicircular theatre, built around the same time. The wonderful views made stage scenery unnecessary as the surrounding countryside provided a natural backdrop to the action taking place on stage. Today, during the summer months, the theatre is used as a venue for Greek plays, concerts and other events. Our centrally located hotel is near the spectacular Teatro Massimo in the historic centre of the city close to numerous cafes and restaurants.
A characteristic local dinner is included tonight nearby our hotel in the historical centre of the city.
Fri 24 May Day 14 Includes Breakfast, Aperitivi & light Dinner #11 O'night Palermo
Our walking tour of the main sites in Palermo include the nearby Martorana with its fascinating collage of history in the Church of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio (more commonly known as La Martorana) and the Church of San Cataldo, instantly recognisable thanks to its trio of red domes. While in this edgy part of town we will visit the famous and chaotic Ballaró markets, in the ancient centre of Palermo and very much a characteristic part of the city, the people, and of Sicily.
We then move on to some of Palermo's principle monuments and buildings such as the Casa Professa, the Palazzo dei Normanni and Cappella Palatina with its Norman architecture Arabic arches and golden 12th century mosaics, all within close walking distance.
We meet at Teatro Massimo for a light dinner and an Opera.
Teatro Massimo, Palermo
The 2018 program - 2019 to be advised
The Marriage of Figaro - Music by Mozart
Sat 25 May 2019 Day 15 Includes Breakfast & Aperitivi Overnight in Palermo
Today we visit the Duomo of Monreale, the greatest monument of Norman Sicily with its spectacular golden mosaics. The monumental complex, consisting of the Basilica, the monastery and the Royal Palace was built in the twelfth century. The entire interior of the Basilica is overwhelming with 6,500 m2 of minute, impressive mosaics in bright colours on a gold ground. The mosaic are arranged five tiers of subjects or single figures one above another. As if that isn't enough, we then walk through to the possibly even more spectacular cloister which is lined with pointed arches atop 216 elaborately decorated spiral columns again in multicoloured mosaics. The elaborate capitals are carved with foliage, biblical scenes and allegory.
We visit the Palermo National Gallery in Palazzo Abatellis holding the totally captivating oil painting of the Annunciation (1476) by Antonello da Messina with a clearly Sicilian Madonna. It can be said that this painting, where the observer stands in the position normally granted to the angel of the annunciation, revolutionised the way artists thought about the scene.
Aperitivi and information hour with Neil Moore #4: The extraordinary achievement of the Normans in Sicily.
Cefalu & Lipari
Sun 26 May Day 16 Includes Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner #12 & #13 O'night Lipari
This morning we walk down the main street of Cefalú, Corso Ruggero and visit the Duomo, the splendid Romanesque cathedral boasting extraordinary Norman mosaics, and the Museo Mandralistica which houses a painting by Antonello da Messina. We have booked tables overlooking the water at our favourite seaside restaurant in Cefalu.
After lunch we drive to Milazzo and take the the ferry to Lipari arriving in time for dinner by the pool at our accommodation.
The Aeolian Islands
Mon 27 May Day 17 Includes Breakfast O'night Lipari
There is a walking tour of the old town of Lipari encircled by 13C-14C walls. Inside is the castle rebuilt by the Spaniards in the 16th Century on the site an earlier Norman building, housing the Archeological museum. Remainder of the day at leisure to explore the many shops and restaurants along the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, Lipari’s main street. Dinner by the sea.
Tue 28 May Day 18 Includes Breakfast O'night Lipari
We take a private small boat for the short trip to the island of Salina. We can also bath in the sea and there are excellent seafood restaurants on the island and we will book on of these where we can all meet up for lunch. Late afternoon return boat trip to Lipari.
Wed 29 May Day 19 Includes Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner #14 & #15 O'night Lipari
We take our boat again, but this time for a much shorter ride to the island of Vulcano where we have the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the island's hot sulphuric mud pool and merge with the Chthonic deities
An early evening talk#4 by Neil Moore. The Riace Bronzes and their place in the development of Greek sculpture.
Reggio-Calabria - The Riace Bronzes & Taormina
Thu 30 May Day 20 Includes Breakfast Overnight Taormina
Today leave Lipari by ferry and transfer to Taormina to the lovely family run Villa Schuler where we all have rooms overlooking the sea.
On the way the bus boards another ferry to Messina across to Reggio Calabria on the mainland where we disembark to see the Bronzi di Riace, two full-size ancient Greek bronzes of nude bearded warriors, pulled out of the sea in 1974 near the town of Riace in Calabria and now expertly cleaned. They date from the second half of the 5th Century BC, the high point of classical Greek art, and are amongst the most impressive works of art of the whole ancient world.
Fri 31 May Day 21 Includes Breakfast & Dinner #16 Overnight Taormina
A guided tour of Taormina this morning including the ancient theatre. The rest of the day is at leisure to explore the streets and shops in Taormina, or take the funiculare down to Isola Bella for a swim
Departure from Catania
Sat 01 June 2019 Day 22 Includes Breakfast Overnight Taormina
Transport to Catania Airport is one and a half hours approximately. Strategically avoiding peak hour, we are aiming for a 10AM departure from Taormina with an anticipated arrival time at the airport by 12 midday approx which is in time for any afternoon National flights departing after 1PM.
Private transfers can be arranged on request at an additional cost
Additional nights in Taormina can be arranged on request.
Optional additional nights in Taormina in your waterview rooms (a really good idea) at our selected accommodation may be available on request.
Please advise early if you might want to consider this as a possibility.
All land travel within Sicily by air-conditioned coach
21 nights 4 star accommodation in hand picked, small family run characteristic residences
Breakfast every day plus 16 included meals of characteristic cuisine
Admission to all galleries, museums, performances and archaeological sites in the itinerary
The services of local guides, tour leaders Carol Searle and Neil Moore throughout the tour
Talks on Tour
Because we enjoy the insights and information provided by local guides during the day, Neil will present you with historical overviews at strategic points during the itinerary.
Sun 7th. General Introduction, 3000 years of Sicilian History.
Wed 10th Magna Grecia and the story of Greek colonization in the west.
Sat 13th The Riace Bronzes and their place in the development of Greek sculpture.
Thurs 18th The Athenian invasion of Sicily and it's disastrous finale in the
harbour of Siracusa.
Sun 21st The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies; from modern to moribund.
Wed 24th The Carthaginians in Mozia and their clash with the Greeks.
Sat 27th The extraordinary achievement of the Normans in Sicily.
Saints & Heroes
Throughout the centuries new religions have by no means obliterated the old, with fashions in faith washing over Sicily like successive tides.
Christian cathedrals sit atop ancient Greek temples to Athena. The worship of the Virgin herself can be seen as a continuation of the ancient adulation of the Mediterranean mother goddess while the whole cult of the saints is clearly the survival of the old pantheism in a Christian guise.
Heroes too abound in this time washed land, epitomised by the extraordinary Riace bronzes and the Young Man of Mozia. Every town, city and place has its own idol both sacred and pagan, often with the two merging seamlessly into their own version of modernity.
This in depth tour will explore Sicily and the Aeolian Islands, from west to east, south to north. Enjoy leisurely stays in Palermo, Marsala, Agrigento, Siracusa, Taormina and Lipari, with visits to Cefalù, Solunto, Monreale, Segesta, Mozia, Erice, Selinunte, Agrigento, Taormina and the slopes of Mount Etna, as well as a trip to the island sink ourselves into the mud on the island of Vulcano and meld with their chthonic deities.
Your tour leaders Carol Searle and Neil Moore have lived in Italy since 1988 following their dual passions of Italian History and Art for Neil, and lifetstyle, music, food, wine & gelato for Carol. You will be taken to their favourite places and also included in their continuing exploration of the home of the Gods.
FLY INTO CATANIA
IN THUR 10, OUT MON 14 MAY
IN 14, OUT 16 MAY:
MARINA DI RAGUSA
IN 16, OUT 18 MAY:
IN 18, OUT 21 MAY:
IN 21, OUT 24 MAGGIO
IN 24, OUT 28 MAY:
IN 28 MAY, OUT 31 MAY
TOTAL 21 DAYS /20 NIGHTS
FLY OUT CATANIA
EXTRA NIGHT TAORMINA