Peoples of Sicily Tour

11 days tour to the discovery of the places mentioned in The Peoples of Sicily - A Multicultural Legacy book by Jackie Alio and Lou Mendola

Staff

Driver & Guide

Tour Type

Private

Itinerary

Tailor Made

Region

Sicily

Peoples of Sicily Tour will lead you for 11 days to the discovery of the places mentioned in The Peoples of Sicily – A Multicultural Legacy book by Jackie Alio and Lou Mendola.

Route:
Land:  Palermo airport (PMO – Falcone Borsellino International Airport), West Side
Leave: Catania airport (CTA – Fontanarossa International Airport), East Side

Complimentary For You: The Peoples of Sicily Book autographed by the authors
On Request as Exclusive Optional Service: Lecture by one of the Peoples of Sicily Author

Days
1st – LAND: Palermo airport (PMO: Falcone Borsellino International Airport)/Town
2nd – Palermo (visit: the Best of Palermo) and Monreale (visit: Dome)
3rd – Palermo/Erice, Segesta (visit: Temple and Theatre) and Winery/Palermo
4th – Palermo/Selinunte (visit: Ruins) and Turkish Steps/Agrigento
5th – Agrigento (visit: Temples) and Piazza Armerina (visit: Roman Villa)/Syracuse
6th – Syracuse (visit: the Best of Syracuse and Mikwe)
7th – Syracuse/Buscemi and Palazzolo Acreide/Syracuse
8th – Syracuse/Modica (visit: Chocolate Shop) and Ragusa (visit: Ibla)/Taormina
9th – Taormina/Etna Volcano and Winery/Taormina
10th – Taormina
11th – Taormina/LEAVE: Catania airport (CTA: Fontanarossa International Airport)

Recommended Licensed Local Guide:
-Palermo and Monreale: already included
-Segesta: to visit the Temple and Theatre
-Selinunte: to visit the Ruins
-Agrigento: to visit the Valley of the Temples
-Piazza Armerina: to visit the Roman Villa of Casale
-Syracuse: already included
-Taormina: Half Day Walking Tour: 9AM-12PM or 2PM-5PM

Inquire us to know all details and chat with our experts about routing, lodging, local guides and experiences to include in your tour!

Day 1
Palermo airport (PMO)/town
Approximately Travel Time and Unit: 39 Minutes  -  20 Miles (31 Kilometers)
Private Vehicle and Italian Speaking Driver Disposal: transfer-in only

Welcome to the warm, beautiful and pleasant island of Sicily! Upon arrival at Palermo Falcone-Borsellino Airport (PMO | Your Arrival by TBA) please proceed through Passport Control and collect your luggage inside the customs area. Then transfer in town.

Complimentary For You: the Peoples of Sicily Book autographed by the authors

Tonight Optional Lecture (Important: the lecture is on request and subject to the author availability at time of booking) with one of the author of the book The Peoples of Sicily

Lecture Topic: This year, meet the peoples!
Can the eclectic medieval experience of the world's most conquered island be a lesson for our times?
Home to Normans, Greeks, Arabs, Germans and Jews, it was for centuries a crossroads of cultures and faiths. The epitome of diversity. Here two of Sicily's leading historians introduce the place where Europe, Asia and Africa met, where bilingualism was the norm, divorce was legal, women's rights were defended and the environment was protected. All before 1250.
Day 2
Palermo and Monreale
Approximately Travel Time and Unit: Full Day  -  40 Miles (60 Kilometers)
Italian Speaking Driver Disposal: full day from h 8.30AM
Palermo and Monreale, English Speaking Local Guide included full day from h 8.30AM

Today a short drive takes you to Monreale, a small village in the hills overlooking Palermo. Here you will see the Cathedral, a masterpiece of Arab-Norman art and architecture. (Admission fee: not included). Launched in 1174 by William II, it represents scenes from the Old and New Testaments all in golden mosaics. Enlightened, tolerant and appreciative of many aspects of North African and middle-eastern culture and art, William II employed the very best Arabic and Byzantine (as well as Norman) craftsmen to work on the cathedral. The result is a fabulous and fascinating fusion of architectural styles, artistic traditions and religious symbolism. In 2015, Arab-Norman Palermo and the cathedrals of Monreale and Cefalù were granted status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We then return to Palermo. Upon arrival you will visit the Catacombs, the place where the living meet the dead (Admission fee: not included). A macabre spectacle that brings out the uses, customs and traditions of the Palermo society from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. Are they really "catacombs" in the strictest sense? By definition a catacomb is an underground cemetery characterized by tunnels and chambers, having niches for graves, and the catacombs of early-Christian Rome come to mind. One thing is for certain. The corpses preserved here are mummies. The Capuchin Monastery, with its unusual catacombs full of mummified cadavers, is a bit macabre, but worth a visit. Among some of the more outstanding embalming bodies are a military officer in an 18th century uniform complete with a tricorn and the extremely well-preserved body of a little girl named Rosalia of about seven years old who had the distinction of being the last person to be thus embalmed here in 1920. You are not very likely to see anything like this anywhere else but in Palermo. Indeed, scholars have come here from around the world to study this particular case of historical mummification. Then onto the Zisa Castle (Admission fee: not included), a 12th century palace constructed towards the end of the Norman reign when the Norman-Arab style of architecture had reached the peak of its development and sophistication. The name "Zisa" is the Sicilian for the Arabic "Al-Azizah," meaning "The Splendid." (The phrase survives in the Sicilian phrase "azzizatu," meaning "well-dressed"). This beautiful Norman Palace certainly merits its name. We then continue onto the Palatine Chapel (Admission fee: not included) located within the Palazzo dei Normanni (Norman Palace). The chapel is the finest example of Arab-Norman art in Palermo. Built by Roger II from 1130 to 1140, the chapel is adorned with extraordinary Norman-Byzantine mosaics. Together the palace, once royal residence, and its chapel are the greatest attractions of Palermo and the only must-see sight for visitors with limited time.

Our tour continue this afternoon with a stop to the Cathedral (Tips: not included) erected in 1185 by the Anglo-Norman archbishop of Palermo and King William II's minister, on the area of an earlier Byzantine basilica. We then continue onto the Four Corners which is the junction in Palermo. Effectively, it is the centre point of the four areas of the old town centre. You will almost inevitably pass through it and it is worth stopping for five minutes to have a look at its sculptures which were commissioned by the Spanish Viceroy in 1611. The sculptures on each of the four corners depict a variety of themes, including the four seasons, four Spanish kings and the four patron saints of the old town areas. Going south-east down Via Maqueda you will come across Pretoria Square which is home not only to a splendid fountain but several other impressive buildings including, on the right, the City Hall. The large central fountain, known for generations as the “Fountain of Shame”, is the focal point for sixteen nude statues of nymphs, humans, mermaids and satyrs. If you imagine this being erected during the Inquisition, it is quite easy to imagine why it received its epithet, the “Fountain of Shame”. The last but not the least is our stop at the Ballarò Open Air Market, a place overflowing with beautiful fresh fish, and local vegetables and cheeses. Originating from the era when Sicily was occupied by the moors, this 1000 year old market has run much in the same manner for centuries. It has strong Arab influences, resembling an eastern souk, and these influences are also evident in the merchandise itself. Next to mounds of ricotta and caciocavallo cheeses, barrels of olives and fat slabs of swordfish sit saffron and other spices, as well as sacks of beans and gorgeous indigenous fruits and local vegetables. Here you will have the opportunity to taste a typical palermitano dish, such as the famous Panelle (a thin paste of crushed ceci/garbanzo beans rolled into sheets, fried and served in pizza-like slices).
Day 3
Palermo/Erice, Segesta and Winery/Palermo
Approximately Travel Time and Unit: Full Day  -  150 Miles (240 Kilometers)
Private Vehicle and English Speaking Driver Escort Disposal: full day from h 8.30AM
Segesta: shuttle service to the Theatre included

Today departure for Erice uptown, which was an important religious site associated with the goddess Venus. Wander through its ancient streets and visit some of the famous homemade pastry shops—world-famous for marzipan candies and other delicacies like almond and pistachio pastries. Towering over the west of Sicily at 751m above sea level and often covered in its own personal cloud, Erice is a wonderfully preserved Mediaeval town offering the most breathtaking views and a palpable sense of history. Like so many Sicilian towns, it passed from one invader to another leaving their architectural calling cards and their cultural footprints. Amongst the most visited sites are the two castles, Pepoli Castle and Venus Castle. The former was built by the Arabs while the latter was a Norman construction with imposing towers that derived its name from the fact that it was built on the site of the ancient Temple of Venus, allegedly founded by Aeneas.

This afternoon onto Segesta to see the ancient Greek temple. It can make a valid claim to being the best preserved in the world, and its amphitheatre boasts a hilltop position on Mount Barbaro second to none. While the magnificent Doric temple, though (strictly speaking) never completed - as the roof was never added and the pillars never fluted - is impressive, it is just the highlight of a large archaeological park. Today we visit the Temple and Theatre (Admission fee: not included)

Later we travel in the country side and we soon arrive in a local Winery for our snack and Wine tastings. Later return to Palermo. (S)
Day 4
Palermo/Selinunte and Turkish Steps/Agrigento
Approximately Travel Time and Unit: Full Day  -  140 Miles (250 Kilometers)
Private Vehicle and English Speaking Driver Escort Disposal: full day from h 8.30AM 
Selinunte, English Speaking Local Guide NOT included

Today departure for Selinunte (Admission fee: not included) which is one of Sicily's great Greek archaeological sites. Situated by the sea in the south-western corner of Sicily, the isolated ruins here have stood abandoned for most of their history. The lack of later development allows modern visitors to imagine the ancient town of Selinus as it would have been two and a half thousand years ago. The archaeological park at Selinunte is huge, incorporating Greek temples, ancient town walls, the ruins of residential and commercial buildings, countryside paths and zones not yet excavated. If you are interested in Greek Sicily, this is a very important site to visit, and the temples' setting close to the sea is wonderfully picturesque.

This afternoon, on the way to join Agrigento, we drive across coastline, beaches and cliffs, including the remarkable white chalk ones of the Scala dei Turchi. The name translates as Turkish Steps, and indeed there is a striking resemblance to Pamukkale, Turkey. However the explanation on the history of the name is that the Scala dei Turchi was the place Arab pirates, locally referred to as “turks”, anchored their boats out of the wind while they pillaged the surrounding area. The "Scala dei Turchi" is a splendid, blinding, white jewel that frames the clear blue sea. One cannot describe the view and communicate it all: you have to live immersed with all your five senses in the magic of this incredible cliff of white marl. It's a fascinating place, where centuries of rain and wind have carved a natural staircase and whose white color is made more dazzling by the sunlight. Later onto Agrigento.
Day 5
Agrigento and Piazza Armerina/Syracuse
Approximately Travel Time and Unit: Full Day  -  160 Miles (250 Kilometers)
Private Vehicle and English Speaking Driver Escort Disposal: full day from h 8.30AM 
Agrigento, English Speaking Local Guide NOT included
Piazza Armerina, English Speaking Local Guide NOT included 

Today we visit Agrigento to enjoy the finest of all ancient Greek sites—the complete Doric Temples (Admission fee: not included), one of Sicily’s most famous historical attractions. This is one of the most outstanding examples of Greater Greece art and architecture, and is one of the main attractions of Sicily as well as a national monument of Italy. The area was included in the UNESCO Heritage Site list in 1997. Founded as a Greek colony in the 6th century B.C., Agrigento became one of the leading cities in the Mediterranean world. Its supremacy and pride are demonstrated by the remains of the magnificent Doric temples that dominate the ancient town, much of which still lies intact under today's fields and orchards. This splendid archaeological park consists of eight temples (and various other remains) built between about 510 BC and 430 BC: the Temple of Hera, the Temple of Concordia, the Temple of Heracles, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Temple of Castor and Pollux, the Temple of Hephaestos, the Temple of Demeter, and the Temple of Asclepius (the God of Medicine). Apart from this latter, which is to be found on the banks of the Akragas river, all are situated in the same area on rocky crests south of modern day Agrigento (not really in a Valley at all!).

Later departure for Piazza Armerina situated deep in the Sicilian hinterland, at 721 metres above sea level, one of Sicily’s most frequented tourist spots. However, it is not the town that most people come to see, but the famous Villa Romana del Casale (Admission fee: not included). Built in the middle of the 4th Century AD as a hunting lodge by a Roman patrician (it is not known for sure who the owner was) the Villa is home to some of the best preserved and extensive examples of Roman mosaics spread over around 3500mt. The villa is one of the most luxurious of its kind. It is especially noteworthy for the richness and quality of the mosaics which decorate almost every room; they are the finest mosaics in situ anywhere in the Roman world. These extraordinarily vivid mosaics, probably produced by North African artisans, deal with numerous subjects, ranging from Homeric escapades and mythological scenes to portrayals of daily life, including the famous tableau of girls exercising in their “bikinis”.

This afternoon we then continue onto Syracuse.
Day 6
Syracuse Private Vehicle and English Speaking Driver Escort Disposal: full day from h 9AM
Approximately Travel Time and Unit: -
Private Vehicle and English Speaking Driver Escort Disposal: NO 
Taxi Service Disposal: round trip transfers to the Archaeological Park
Syracuse, English Speaking Local Guide included, Full Day from h 9AM

Today we visit Syracuse starting from the Archaeological Park (Admission fee: not included) that highlights the Greek Theatre, the Roman Amphitheatre and the Paradise Quarry. The resulting park contains some of the most extraordinary monuments that classical antiquity has left us and, given their degree of interest and importance, has few equals elsewhere in Italy. Even a quick stay in Syracuse must include a visit to this archaeological site. Then stroll through the streets of Ortygia Island, the heart of the city center, to visit the Dome. This delightful pedestrian square is home to the wonderful Cathedral built on the site of an ancient Temple of Athena as can clearly be seen from the original Doric columns that were incorporated into the building’s main structure. Also on this square is the beautifully symmetrical Baroque Palazzo Beneventano and the church of Santa Lucia, the town’s patron saint. Later to the colourful daily Street Market, which sells a fantastic array of fruit, vegetables, fish and meat.

From here, this afternoon, wandering around the eastern limits of Syracuse you fill find a maze of streets that eventually open out at the southern extreme of the island and the inaccessible Castello Maniace, a true bastion built by Frederick II in 1239. Later onto the Byzantine Miqwe (Admission fee: not included), located, at 18 meters of depth and is considered the biggest and oldest Jewish ritual bath in Europe.
Day 7
Syracuse/Buscemi and Palazzolo Acreide/Syracuse
Approximately Travel Time and Unit: Full Day  -  70 Miles (100 Kilometers)
Private Vehicle and English Speaking Driver Escort Disposal: full day from h 9AM 
Today departure for Buscemi, founded during the Emirate of Sicily, although the area was settled during the Bronze Age. The Ancient Greek colony of Casmene was located in the modern communal territory of Buscemi. Buscemi was completely destroyed in the 1693 earthquake, and was later rebuilt. Baronial families who held Buscemi include the Ventimiglia and Requisenz, who had a castle whose remains are at the entrance of the town. Upon arrival we visit the Paese Museum della Vita Popolare (Admission fee: not included) highlights of the local life to understand people and how they conduct their working life. Later onto Palazzolo Acreide. The area around Palazzolo Acreide has been inhabited since ancient times. In the 10th-11th centuries B.C.E, the Siculi lived here in small villages. The town occupies the site of the ancient Akrai (Admission fee: not included), founded by Syracuse around 664 BC. The city was important as it controlled the paths of communication between the towns on the southern coast of the island. According to Thucydides, the Syracusans defeated the Athenians here in 413 BC. In the treaty between the Romans and Hiero II of Syracuse in 263 BC it was assigned to the latter. After the Roman conquest, it became a civitas stipendiaria, and was still prospering in the course of the early Christian age. The old city was probably destroyed by the Arabs, in the first half of the 9th century. The new city was built around a Norman castle, which no longer exists. An earthquake in 1693 destroyed almost the entire city, which was slowly rebuilt in the following centuries.

This afternoon we then return to Syracuse.
Day 8
Syracuse/Modica and Ragusa/Taormina
Approximately Travel Time and Unit: Full Day  -  160 Miles (250 Kilometers)
Private Vehicle and English Speaking Driver Escort Disposal: full day from h 8.30AM 
Today departure for Modica. Like the other towns in the Val di Noto, was badly damaged in the 1693 earthquake and largely rebuilt in Sicilian Baroque style. It is divided into two parts, “higher” Modica and “lower” Modica, which are connected by numerous flights of steps. Palazzi and houses rise from the bottom of the gorge seemingly stacked one on top of the other. Magnificent churches, with their inspiring domes, bell towers and intricate facades, punctuate the red-tiled roofs and one is struck by the uniform beauty of the whole. Modica has a long and varied history, complete with the usual toing and froing of successions of invaders. It came to real prominence in 1296, when Frederick II of Aragon (not to be confused with Frederick II “Stupor Mundi”) formed the “County of Modica”, a kind of “state within a state” that was initially governed by Mandfredi I Chiaramonte. Modica is custodian of a 400 year tradition of Sicilian chocolate-making. Being part of the Spanish kingdom for so many years meant that Sicily was often one of the first recipients of the new foodstuffs being brought back from South America. Cacao was one of these and today Modica still specialises in making granulous chocolate, often flavoured with chilli pepper, cinnamon or vanilla, that is based on Aztec methods and recipes. Chocolate shops abound and, for the real chocoholic, it is sometimes possible to watch the “chocolatiers” at work. Tasting of Modica chocolate is a must.

Later onto Ragusa to visit one of the most fascinating towns in Sicily, Ragusa has caused many a visitor’s jaw to drop as they first set eyes on the lower part of the town. Essentially Baroque, the Ragusa you will see today dates almost entirely from 1693. Indeed, it was in this year that Ragusa, along with its neighbours, Noto, Modica, Scicli and Catania, was razed to the ground by a terrible earthquake that hit most of the eastern side of Sicily. Public opinion on where to rebuild the town was divided, and so a compromise was made. The wealthier, more aristocratic citizens built a new town in a different site, now Ragusa “Superiore”, while the other half of the population decided to rebuild on the original site, on a ridge at the bottom of a gorge, now Ragusa Ibla. The two towns remained separated until 1926 when they were merged to become the chief town of the province, taking the place of Modica. While the upper part has its fair share of architectural delights, it is the smaller Ragusa Ibla down below that really draws visitors. Whether you approach it from Modica to the south or from Ragusa Superiore, the sight of the jumble of houses, churches and civic palazzi piled on top of each other, clinging to the walls of the gorge, is really quite breathtaking. Although seemingly Mediaeval from a distance, once you enter the town’s heart, the Baroque logic of its plan becomes more obvious.

Later continue to Taormina, the world famous resort town of Sicily.
Day 9
Taormina/Etna Volcano Off Road Experience and Farmhouse/Taormina
Approximately Travel Time and Unit: Full Day  -  40 Miles (70 Kilometers)
Season: this excursion is doable from June to October. From November to May we will provide a different route which does not involve the summit of the volcano and arrives only up to 1.500 mt.
Dress Code (June-October): use sturdy shoes, wind jacket and do not forget sun screen 
Private Jeep (WD4X4, Land Rover) and English Speaking Driver Disposal: full day from h 8.30AM 
Today meet the off-road’s driver and transfer to Etna Volcano. Our first stop is the the 2002 lava flow reachable by jeep through a winding dirt road surrounded by chestnut and oak forests. The 2002 eruption lasted from October 27th to January 29th 2003 and it is considered one of the most explosive eruptions of the past one hundred years. Continuing our excursion we will reach the Ragabo pine forest where hidden among pines and brooms, we will discover the cave of Corruccio (1350 meters above sea level) a cave formed by flowing lava. Later, driving up along the Mareneve road we will reach Piano Provenzana (1800 meters above sea level), a ski resort, theater of the great eruption of 2002. After enjoying an excellent espresso, we will take a short walk to visit the ruins of the hotel Le Betulle destroyed by a molten lava flow.

Summit Craters
From Piano Provenzana we will join a collective tour (weather and volcanic conditions permitting).
This tour begins at “Piano Provenzana” and follows a mountain trail at an altitude of 2900 meters. Traveling by large, off road vehicle, we will reach a high mountain slope framed by magnificent views of lava and volcanic sand along the rift created in the 2002 eruption. At the foot of the mountain one can admire the beautiful Peloritani, Nebrodi and Madonie mountain ranges; all surrounded by the picturesque Tyrrhenian and Ionian coast, from Siracusa to Calabria, from Taormina to the Aeolian islands. Here, one can take in the most impressive views in the world ... the multiple fumaroles and seemingly lunar landscapes created by multiple eruptions between 1923 and 2002. At an altitude of 2900 meters the North-East crater (where the volcano observatory is located), dominates the  area. In clear weather, one can see both the "Lion" and the "Bove" valleys from this point.

Later we  travel through one of the most beautiful Wine Roads of Sicily and crossing large expanses of vineyards (Etna D.O.C.), we will stop at a local farmhouse. This is the ideal place to enjoy relaxing moments surrounded by nature while sampling local cuisine and excellent wines. In fact the wines are complemented by uniquely local delicacies.

Light lunch in a local farmhouse with wine.
This afternoon we then return to Taormina (L)
Day 10
Taormina
Approximately Travel Time and Unit: -
Private Vehicle and English Speaking Driver Escort Disposal: NO 
Taormina, English Speaking Local Guide NOT included

Today is at leisure: enjoy a drink at the tables of Caffè Wunderbar (or similar) in Piazza IX Aprile may set you back a few euros, but you'll be basking where Tennessee Williams and Elizabeth Taylor basked before you. As well as the famed Greek-Roman Theatre (Admission fee: not included), there are several minor sites to be discovered around Taormina. The attractive principal thoroughfare, Corso Umberto is pedestrian and ideal for strolling and window-shopping. Picturesque lanes above and below the Corso are interesting to explore, while if you want to stretch your legs further there are attractive walks up into the hills, or down to the sea. Given its compact size, Taormina has a huge range of bars, cafes and restaurants where you can while away pleasant hours while admiring the views.
Day 11
Taormina/Catania airport
Approximately Travel Time and Unit: 50 Minutes - 45 Miles (70 Kilometers)
Private Vehicle and Italian Speaking Driver Disposal: transfer out only
Today departure for Fontanarossa Catania airport (CTA | Your Departure by TBA)
Included
  • airport transfers
  • English speaking Driver
  • Licensed Local Guide as per program
  • Meal as per Description
  • Private Jeep Ride Excursion
  • The book Peoples of Sicily in complimentary (one for each room) with a special signature by the authors
  • Visit as per itinerary
Not Included
  • Admission fees
  • Beverage and meal not specified
  • City taxes
  • Gratuities and tips
  • Hotel accommodation
  • Intercontinental/Local Flights
  • Optional Excursions
  • Travel Insurance
Contact us for more information