Sketches of Sicily

Sketches of Sicily

With its authentic culture, remarkable history and alluring legends, Sicily wraps visitors with idyllic romance. Join us for eight nights, and celebrate a land once ruled by ancient Greeks, Phoenicians, Arabs, French and Spanish. Enjoy stays in Palermo, Caltagirone and Taormina, enjoying a slow pace of life for which Italy is known. Uncover the unique traditions and raw beauty of this spirited land in bustling Palermo, the medieval landmarks of Erice and Segesta, and Agrigento’s Valley of the Temples. Explore timeworn landmarks in Taormina and chat with friendly vendors at a local market. Marvel at rainbow-hued ceramics in Caltagirone and elaborate mosaics etched with history at the Villa Romana del Casale. Along the way, savor cuisine fresh from the land and make authentic Sicilian pizza. From inspiring coastal views to ancient Syracuse, the incredible wonders of Sicily will stay with you forever. Handcrafted for your enjoyment, this eight-night, small-group journey features an extensive meal plan and a series of lectures to enhance your understanding of the region.

Trip Itinerary:

May 3 Depart gateway city

AHI FlexAir passengers depart for Palermo, Italy. Please check your luggage from your gateway city to your arrival city. Your claim checks should have the following airport code: PMO.

May 4 Palermo, Italy

Arrive at Palermo International Airport. Proceed through immigration to the baggage claim area and retrieve your luggage. After completing customs, AHI FlexAir passengers traveling on flights that qualify for the group arrival transfer and Land Program passengers who have purchased seats on the group transfer should exit the baggage claim area and proceed to the Arrivals Hall, where an AHI Travel representative will meet you.

Transfer to the Grand Hotel Piazza Borsa. Please note, if you arrive before check-in time, your room may not be immediately available.

Tonight, get to know your fellow travelers at a Welcome Reception and Dinner.

May 5 Monreale | Palermo

Discovery: Monreale and Palermo. While exploring these two cities, discover the influences of the various peoples who settled in Sicily, one of the great cultural crossroads. Visit Monreale’s Santa Maria la Nuova, a cathedral with splendid mosaics, and admire views of the Conca d’Oro, the Golden Basin. (Moderate)

Continue to Palermo and experience the ambience of a lively Sicilian market. Enjoy regional favorites during lunch before continuing your tour. Visit Palermo’s cathedral, a blend of Gothic, Moorish and Norman architecture, and step inside the Palatine Chapel in the Norman Palace to admire unusual mosaics that contain both Christian and Islamic motifs. See the Arab-Norman domes of Saint John of the Hermits and the Teatro Massimo, Italy’s largest theater.

Free Time: Tonight, enjoy an evening at leisure to absorb the charms of Palermo. Discover the “passeggiata,” the evening stroll. Throughout Italy, as the afternoon fades and the workday ends, you’ll see families, couples and groups of friends strolling through the squares and along waterfront promenades for this age-old custom. It’s a time for catching up on the latest news, people watching and socializing.

Enrichment: Mafia — Past and Present. In Sicily, the Mafia is known as Cosa Nostra. Gather with a local lecturer to examine the legacy of the Cosa Nostra and its effect on Sicilian society.

May 6 Segesta | Erice

Discovery: Ancient Segesta. Continue to ancient Segesta and see a spectacular fifth-century B.C. Doric temple, a golden giant rising out of the country landscape. The unfinished temple boasts 36 columns with triglyphs and metopes. Also, admire a theater carved into the side of Mount Barbaro. Still in use today, the theater sits atop a mountain plateau, offering a view of the sparkling Gulf of Castellamare. (Active)

Enrichment: Meet the People. Visit an award-winning, family-owned olive farm for lunch. Enjoy a tasting, learn about the process of making olive oil and visit with the family.

Discovery: Erice. Visit the lovely town of Erice, perched high above Trapani harbor. See two medieval castles and walls that date from the Phoenician era, and marvel at the Romanesque architecture of the Norman Duomo. Stroll the village’s steep, winding lanes, paved with shiny stones, and take in the delightful aroma of almond biscuits and sweets from Erice’s many pasticcerie. (Active)

Free Time: Enjoy your evening at leisure. Take some time to acquaint yourself with the aperitivo tradition, something similar to happy hour. As the day comes to a close, Italians relax with friends and family at a local bar with a cocktail and some delicious snacks that come with the drink. Some of the simpler bars will bring you bruschetta, crostini, a plate of salumi and cheese, or other small canapés. Other bars have servers who pass by with trays of appetizers, but it is becoming popular for aperitivo to feature a buffet.

May 7 Agrigento | Caltagirone

Today, explore more of the island while transferring to Caltagirone.

Discovery: Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples.Agrigento was founded in the sixth century B.C., and it features an exceptional collection of incredibly well-preserved ruins. Visit Agrigento’s Valley of the Temples, which sits on a ridge overlooking the sea and countryside. See the Temple of Hercules, thought to be the oldest of the remaining temples, and the Temple of Concord, one of the world’s best preserved Greek temples. Gaze at the faded glory of the Temple of Jupiter. While strolling these historic grounds, imagine the civilizations that created and lived here. (Moderate)

Lunch is served at a restaurant in Agrigento.

Continue to Caltagirone. Upon arrival, check in to Colle San Mauro, an agriturismo hotel nestled in the heart of the Val Di Noto. Then relax over a dinner featuring organic, locally grown ingredients and homemade wine.

May 8 Piazza Armerina | Caltagirone

Discovery: Sicily’s Mosaics and Ceramics.Visit Piazza Armerina, known for its well-preserved Villa Romana del Casale. See a display of mosaics that depict everything from scenes of daily life to flowers and plants. This visual delight is one of the best examples of Roman mosaics remaining in the world. (Moderate)

After departing Piazza Armerina, return to Caltagirone. One of eight late baroque towns in the Val di Noto, Caltagirone is known for its millennium-old tradition of creating dazzling, hand-painted ceramics. Many of Caltagirone’s buildings, as well as the city’s gardens, church facades and balconies, are embellished with these eye-catching ceramic tiles. There are also more than 80 ceramic workshops throughout the city! Board a trolley for a ride to the town, and take a walking tour. Along the way, see the unique Santa Maria de Monte, a 142-step staircase in the center of town that connects the old town with the new town. The risers between each step are painted with varying designs and styles, including floral, geometric and organic patterns. This impressive staircase was built in 1606.

Following your excursion, you may choose to return to the hotel or remain in Caltagirone for lunch and time at leisure.

Enrichment: Sicilian Agriculture. Discover the rural way of living during a tractor ride around the property, and marvel at the beauty of the Sicilian countryside, a landscape of rolling hills with fruit trees, golden wheat and vineyards. Along the way, learn more about the farm’s operations, including what types of produce and animals it raises.

Delight in another delicious dinner at the agriturismo this evening.

May 9 Taormina

Following breakfast, depart for Taormina.

Discovery: Taormina. Built on the side of Monte Tauro, Taormina has a lovely seaside location. Discover for yourself why travelers for centuries have flocked to Taormina. As you explore the city, learn about its long history filled with fascinating Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Norman chapters. Stroll past the shops and sidewalk cafés of the Corso Umberto, the city’s main boulevard, and visit Taormina’s ancient Greek theater, still used today because of its excellent acoustics. From the theater, look south for a stunning view along the coast; just southwest of Taormina is the snow-covered peak of Mount Etna, and if the day is clear, you can see all the way to Syracuse. (Moderate)

Discovery: Sicilian Pizza. Visit a family-owned restaurant to learn the secrets of making an authentic pizza during a cooking lesson, followed by lunch. Sicily’s home-grown ingredients create a wonderful base for fresh, flavorful pizza! (Mild)

Check in to the Eurostars Monte Tauro.

Free Time: Enjoy exploring Taormina on your own.

May 10 Syracuse

Discovery: Syracuse’s Archaeological Park. In historic Syracuse, visit the Archaeological Park to see the city’s great ancient ruins, including the Teatro Greco, one of the largest and best-preserved ancient theaters in Sicily, and the Roman amphitheater, where people gathered for gladiator battles. Today, crowds still visit these theaters to see plays and concerts. Enjoy a stroll through the Latomia del Paradiso, an ancient-quarry-turned-citrus-grove. (Active)

Discovery: Syracuse. Visit Syracuse’s Old Town on the island of Ortygia, a showcase of baroque and medieval architecture. Stroll the elegant Piazza del Duomo, and visit the Duomo, built on the site of the Temple of Athena. Then see the Fonte Aretusa, a seaside fountain fed by a fresh-water spring. (Moderate)

May 11 Taormina

Free time: Join today’s Elective Activity or spend the day at leisure pursuing your own interests in Taormina and its environs. Explore more of Taormina’s narrow lanes, visit its shops to find last-minute souvenirs and stop for lunch at your leisure. You can also head south to the vibrant city of Catania or visit Mount Etna. To the north, charming Messina and its beautiful fountains and churches await you.

Elective Activity: Mount Etna. Get an up-close encounter with Europe’s largest active volcano today. Begin your journey with a winding ascent along the lower slopes of the volcano to the Silvestri Crater. Watch as the scenery changes from orchids, woods and vineyards to a landscape of hardened lava fields. As you gaze at remnants of past eruptions, learn about the history of Mount Etna. Enjoy a group lunch before returning to Taormina. (Moderate) Available at an additional cost.

This evening, celebrate the conclusion of your Sicilian adventure with your fellow travelers during a Farewell Reception and Dinner.

May 12 Depart for gateway city

After breakfast, bid farewell to Sicily. AHI FlexAir passengers traveling on flights that qualify for a group transfer and Land Program passengers who have purchased seats on the group transfer depart for Catania International Airport for your return flights home. Your Travel Director will provide the details.


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