Ancient Sicily

Ancient Sicily

5,634 Views
15 Days From

$4030

$3657

Ancient Sicily

15 Days Starting in Syracusa and ending in Giardini Naxos

Visiting: Syracuse, Piazza Armerina, Agrigento, Marsala, Palermo, Cefalù, Giardini Naxos

Tour operator:

Explore!

Tour code:

SCS

Guide Type:

Fully Guided

Group size:

4 - 18

Physical rating:

Moderate

Age range:

16-

Special diets catered:

Vegetarians, Vegans

Tour operated in:

English

Interests:

Cultural

From: $4030 $3657 Operator discount: -$270 Mid-Year Mayhem Discount: -$103

NB: Prices correct on 15-Jul-2024 but subject to change.

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Tour Overview

Discover ancient Sicily on this two-week tour of the captivating island. Join local expert, Antonio Marretta, to explore remains and ruins from Syracusa to Palermo and beyond. Unwind by the shores of the Ionian Sea, witness the beauty of iconic spots such as Taormina and tick bucket-list stops like Etna off your list. Along the way, indulge in classic Sicilian cuisine and local wine.

Agrigento - Visit Sicily's most famous Classical remains in the Valley of the Temples with its remarkable Doric architecture.

Syracusa - Discover the ancient ruins in the Neapolis Archaeological Park and the lanes and piazzas of Ortygia Island.

Villa Romana del Casale - See some of the best-preserved mosaics left in Europe at this Roman villa.

Highlights

  • A leisurely two-week trip to explore Sicily in depth

  • Sicily's history is brought to life by a specialist lecturer Antonio Marretta

  • Visit Sicily's most famous Classical remains in the Valley of the Temples

Itinerary

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Day 1: Join Trip In Syracusa

Location: Syracuse

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Hotel Panorama

Our tour of Sicily starts today in Syracusa. During the Greek Classical period, this east coast city was the largest in the ancient world - even bigger than Athens. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it's also notable as being the birthplace of antiquity's greatest mathematician, Archimedes.



For those arriving in time, our tour leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 7pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no other activities planned today, so you're free to arrive at any time. If you'd like an airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Catania Fontanarossa Airport (CTA), which is about a one-hour drive away. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your tour leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.



If your flight arrives earlier in the day, you might like to walk into the historic centre of Ortygia Island, which is about 20-30 minutes from our hotel. Artemis Fountain and the Baroque cathedral are lit up beautifully at night.



Tonight will be your first opportunity to sample Sicilian cuisine and wine. According to Greek legend, the god Dionysus brought wine to Sicily, however, it's more likely that wine has been produced here since ancient times due to the island being blessed with plenty of sunshine and reliably moderate rainfall, along with fertile volcanic soils. Nowadays there's a huge variety of delicious red and white wines to choose from. You might also like to try a typically Sicilian dish such as pasta with sardines and wild fennel, aubergine stew or boiled pork in salsa verde and saffron.



Our tour guide for the next two weeks will be the knowledgeable Antonion Marretta, who has been leading trips in Sicily for more than 30 years. He has a BA in Historical and Political Sciences with further specialisation in art and archaeology and is a font of knowledge when it comes to the island. During our tour, he'll give us three one-hour lectures about Sicily and its rich history.

Day 2: See Syracusa's Historic Neapolis And Ortygia Island

Location: Syracuse

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Hotel Panorama

Meals Included: Breakfast

Syracuse, a colony of Corinth, once rivalled Athens as the most important and beautiful city in the Greek world. The sites we'll explore today include the Neapolis Archaeological Zone with its famous Greek theatre hewn out of the hillside in the 5th century BC, where Aeschylus once produced his plays; the fine Roman amphitheatre where gladiators once fought wild beasts and the quarries where the defeated Athenians were imprisoned in 413 BC. Finally, we'll make the journey to Ortygia Island and its promontory to see its unique Baroque architecture and we'll have some free time to wander.

Day 3: Drive Via The Baroque City Of Noto To Piazza Armerina

Location: Piazza Armerina

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Hotel Villa Romana

Meals Included: Breakfast

We'll leave Syracuse this morning and drive to Noto, the most beautiful Baroque city in Sicily. The town was destroyed after an earthquake devastated this part of the island in 1693 and was rebuilt between 1715 and 1780 - it still preserves a unified and homogenous architectural style and town plan. Its tufa stone has mellowed to a golden-brown colour and its unique buildings leave an impression on visitors. We'll continue on to Ragusa, another Baroque town whose buildings crown the summits of two adjacent hills. After our visit, we'll head to the medieval town of Piazza Armerina for the next two nights.

Day 4: Visit Villa Romana Del Casale And The Excavations At Morgantina

Location: Piazza Armerina

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Hotel Villa Romana

Meals Included: Breakfast

This morning, we'll drive to the impressive Villa Romana at Casale, a magnificent country mansion containing stunning Roman mosaics. After sightseeing, we'll drive the short distance to the remains of Greek Morgantina, to see the excavations and visit the museum. This large city once controlled an extensive area that now lies deserted in the countryside and the scattered buildings are only partially unearthed.



This afternoon, we'll return to Piazza Armerina.

Day 5: Drive Via Enna To Agrigento And Visit The Valley Of The Temples

Location: Agrigento

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Hotel Akrabello

Meals Included: Breakfast

Leaving Piazza Armerina, we'll drive via the hilltop stronghold of Enna located near Lake Pergusa, then drive on to Agrigento, once one of the most prosperous cities in Sicily. The ancient Acropolis, now a modern city, overlooks the valley where the lower city stood and the southern ridge where the temples still stand. We'll explore the complex of 5th-century BC Doric temples and the museum. The romantic aura of the ancient site which lines a ridge overlooking the sea is especially evocative, the golden temples encircled by almond trees and gnarled silver-grey olives. The scene provides the perfect setting for the ancient stonework. Pindar was so moved as to say that Agrigento was 'the most beautiful city built by mortal man'. The Valley of the Temples includes the 6th century Temple of Hercules, the oldest in the complex (nine columns of which were re-erected by Englishman Alexander Hardcastle in the 1920s). The perfectly proportioned Doric columns of the Temple of Concord (circa 430 BC) incorporate optical corrections such as entasis and turn honey gold in the late afternoon sunlight. The Temple of Juno, built at the end of the Tufa ridge and probably some twenty years older than the Temple of Concord, was probably burnt by the Carthaginians in 406 BC. The temples are particularly beautiful in the late afternoon light.

Day 6: Visit The Turkish Steps And Drive Via Selinunte To Marsala

Location: Marsala

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Hotel President Marsala

Meals Included: Breakfast

This morning, we'll take a short drive to Stair of the Turks or Turkish Steps for a photo stop. This white sedimentary rock in the shape of a staircase was a favourite landing point of Saracen pirates and the Moors, during the Middle Ages.



We'll then continue to the vast site of Selinunte, where earthquake-tumbled ruins litter the landscape and some temples have been partially re-erected. We'll see the ancient Acropolis, its fortifications, and the town within, perched on a plateau overlooking the Mediterranean. Selinunte was the most westerly of the Greek colonies, and despite its poor natural defences, it became a powerful and wealthy city. It was under constant threat from the Carthaginians and was in a state of perpetual warfare with its prosperous rival, the Elymnian town of Segesta to the north. An army led by the Carthaginian Hannibal sacked it in 409 BC, slaughtering some 16,000 inhabitants, then, in 250 BC the Carthaginians once again razed the city, demolished the temples, and moved the population to nearby Lilybaeum (modern Marsala). The site was effectively abandoned afterwards.



After our visit, we'll head to our hotel in Marsala.

Day 7: Ferry To Mozia Island, Free Afternoon

Location: Marsala

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Hotel President Marsala

Meals Included: Breakfast

A short drive north and a quick ferry ride brings us to the small island of Mozia, which lies off the western coast. Interestingly, Mozia was once owned by the Whitaker family of Marsala wine fame. The island is in an ideal location, surrounded by shallow waters that secure a protected and sheltered anchorage. We'll visit the museum and the site of the old Phoenician town and harbour works before returning to Marsala where we'll make a brief visit to the Phoenician Ship Museum



The rest of the afternoon is free for you to relax and enjoy the town's old quarter.

Day 8: Explore Beautiful Erice And Segesta En Route To Palermo

Location: Palermo

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Hotel Garibaldi

Meals Included: Breakfast

This morning, we'll head to picturesque Erice, a medieval town perched on a precipitous 750-metre-high mountain. Magnificent views extend over the Egadi Islands. One tradition says that Erice was founded by the legendary Aeneas who stopped here after the fall of Troy (circa 1200 BC). Its original inhabitants were a non-Greek race, though they readily adapted to Greek ways. Next, we'll head to the Doric temple at Segesta, one of the best preserved in the region. Construction most likely started around 426 BC, perhaps to impress Athenian allies, but it was never finished. Its columns were never fluted and many of the bosses used to hoist the stones into position were not chiselled off. After our visit, we drive on to Palermo.

Day 9: Excursion To The Ruins At Solunto, Afternoon Free In Palermo

Location: Palermo

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Hotel Garibaldi

Meals Included: Breakfast

This morning, we'll drive to the ruins of Solunto, a Roman town abandoned in AD 300. The ancient site was once thought to be Phoenician Solus, but we now know that the Punic settlement was at Cozzo Cannita, five miles away. The excavations are beautifully situated high above the sea on the slopes of Monte Catalfano and give a fine impression of the variety of buildings and layout of a Roman city. The site includes paved streets, houses (some with mosaics), a theatre, a bouleuterion, cisterns and baths.



The afternoon is free for you to explore more of Palermo.

Day 10: Walking Tour Of Palermo And Visit Monreale Cathedral

Location: Palermo

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Hotel Garibaldi

Meals Included: Breakfast

Sicily's capital stands at the foot of Monte Pellegrino with the fertile valley of Conca d'Oro behind. It was once one of the richest cities in Europe, between the 9th and the 12th centuries AD, when Islamic culture, Byzantine magnificence and the vigorous world of medieval Europe were merging into a fascinating civilisation. Today, the city contains numerous Islamic, Norman, and Baroque buildings, together with some noteworthy museums and art galleries.



After breakfast, we'll visit the Norman palace - Saracenic, Byzantine and Norman influences appear in its architecture and decoration and the nearby San Giovanni degli Eremiti. The rich marble and mosaics in the Cappella Palatina were mostly executed by Byzantine craftsmen.



Before lunch, we'll drive into the hills to the majestic Norman cathedral of Monreale. We'll eat and then go for a walking tour of the Gothic Cathedral, founded in 1185 by the Englishman Walter of the Mill, and the area around Quattro Canti, the Baroque city centre. Founded in 1174 by William the Good, the cathedral is famous for its extensive mosaics and beautiful cloisters showing both Romanesque and Islamic influences.

Day 11: Free Day In Palermo With The Chance To Visit Zisa Palace

Location: Palermo

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Hotel Garibaldi

Meals Included: Breakfast

Palermo has a fascinating market crammed with exotic goods and is a veritable treasure trove of artistic and cultural sites. Today is free for you to explore at your own pace.

Day 12: Drive Via The Pretty Fishing Town Of Cefalu To Giardini Naxos

Location: Cefalù

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Hotel Sporting Baia

Meals Included: Breakfast

Leaving Palermo this morning, we'll drive along the spectacular coastline to the picturesque fishing town of Cefalu. Here, we'll stop to visit the Norman Cathedral, and to see the extraordinary mosaic of Christ Pantocrator. Next, we'll continue along the coast road to the archaeological site of Tindaris.



Our journey today ends in Giardini Naxos, near Taormina.

Day 13: Visit Mount Etna; Explore Catania

Location: Giardini Naxos

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Hotel Sporting Baia

Meals Included: Breakfast

This morning, we'll travel to the base camp of Mount Etna to explore the lunar landscape, craters and lava fields of one of the most active volcanoes in Europe. We'll head directly to the cable car base at Rifugio Sapienza, which is on the south side of Etna and 1,900 metres above sea level. Here there are several cafes and gift shops, and you can also see the old Silvestri Craters. There's the option to board the cable car up to 2,500 metres where there's another cafe and gift shop and you can have a walk around on the mountainside, please note this is an additional expense, see the optional activities section for more details. From here, you have the option of boarding a four-wheel drive coach up to 2,900 metres to take a short walk (around 45 minutes) with a mountain guide to view the craters formed in the 2002/3 eruptions and the fumaroles at around 3,000 metres, which is as close to the summit as we're currently permitted to go. You then return down the mountain the same way.



From here, we'll drive to the historic city of Catania. It's known for its rich Baroque architecture, vibrant street markets, and stunning Mount Etna views. We'll walk through the centre of the city and stop to view the Piazza Duomo with its Elephant Fountain, University Square, Etnea main street and Stesicoro Square. When we\ re done sightseeing, we'll drive for around one hour back to our hotel in Giardini Naxos.

Day 14: Explore Taormina And Its Greek Theatre

Location: Giardini Naxos

Accommodation: Hotel

Accommodation Name: Hotel Sporting Baia

Meals Included: Breakfast

This morning, we'll take a local shuttle bus to Taormina, Sicily's most famous resort, situated 213 metres up on the slopes of Monte Tauro and overlooked by Castel Mola. It was a well-loved stop during the days of the 'Grand Tour' and was frequented by Goethe, Edward Lear, D.H. Lawrence and many others.



This morning, we'll visit the Graeco-Roman theatre to get one of the most famous views in Sicily - that of snow-capped Etna acting as a backdrop to the remarkably preserved columned stage. When our tour is over, you're free to have lunch here, do some shopping and then head back to Giardini Naxos when you're ready.



We'll meet again tonight for a final group meal in Giardini Naxos.

Day 15: Trip Ends In Giardini Naxos

Location: Giardini Naxos

Meals Included: Breakfast

Our trip ends after breakfast this morning at our hotel in Giardini Naxos.



There are no activities planned today, so you're free to depart from Giardini Naxos at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you'd like an airport transfer today, you'll need to depart from Catania Fontanarossa Airport (CTA), which is about a one-hour drive away.

What's Included

  • Accommodation

  • Airport Transfers at Destination

  • All Domestic Transportation (including internal flights)

  • Meals – Breakfast Only

What's Not Included

  • Tipping and Gratuities

  • Country Entry Visas

Why Book this Tour

This trip is accompanied by a guest lecturer, Mr Antonio Marretta. With a degree in History and Political Science, a specialisation in Art and Archaeology and 25 years guiding experience, there are not many questions that Antonio does not know the answer to and he delights in sharing his love of Sicily.

Meals

Breakfasts: 14

Videos

Check out our Q&As

  • Are airport transfers included in this tour?

    All customers that travel on a Explore group trip will be provided with a complimentary transfer, provided they arrive and depart into the designated airport or train station on the trip start and end dates. This is a great way to start your travels, offering you that little extra peace of mind and comfort in the knowledge that there will be someone at the airport or station waiting to take you t

  • Can you assist with pre or post tour accommodation?

    Yes, we would be delighted to book extra nights before the start or at the end of your trip, please let us know your requirements at the time of booking.

  • I'm going on a walking/cycling trip-do I need to train?

    It will depend on the grade and how fit you already are. Check the trip page for details of the walking or cycling grade and how far you’ll be walking/cycling each day. For moderate or challenging trips in particular we’d recommend doing some walks or cycles before you leave to build up your fitness and prepare you for the distances being covered.

  • Who will be my travelling companions on the tour?

    We have a wide range of ages nationalities on our small group trips and they come from all walks of life.

  • Should I get travel insurance?

    Yes–it is a condition of booking that you are fully insured when travelling with us

  • How long has the tour company been trading?

    At Explore, we're the experts in adventure travel. Our small group adventure holidays have been running since 1981. Today, Explore is one of the most trusted travel companies in the UK with over 500 trips to more than 120 countries.

  • Can I join the tour once it has departed?

    Yes, but there are no concessions for doing so, and we must have a record in your booking advising as such before the trip departs.

  • Am I contributing to any charity by booking the tour?

    Being a responsible company is a large statement, something that has to be entwined within the very fibre of a company. Discover the charities and partnerships we support as part of this at https://www.explore.co.uk/about/sustainability/charities-and-partners

  • What happens if I need to change my holiday date once I’ve booked?

    We want to be as clear as and as honest as possible about what happens if you decide to that you no longer wish to travel on your trip. Our booking conditions have details of the costs you’ll incur when you cancel-these charges depend on how long it is before your planned departure.

  • What is the accommodation like?

    We choose comfortable accommodation in the best locations possible. We opt for small, local and family-run accommodation where we can, as opposed to large chain hotels. We typically use hotels that are the equivalent of European 3-star, and you’ll usually have an en suite room. Occasionally, where we want to get off the beaten trail we may stay in more basic accommodation.

  • What Ethical Travel credentials does the tour company have?

    Sustainability is embedded within the fibre of Explore, it emanates from the inside out. But as we enter a new decade it is clearer than ever that our world needs help, and Explore has created a sustainability strategy based on the 2015 UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

  • What policies are in place for Covid-19?

    Our flexible booking and safety policies mean you're protected before and during your travels with us. Receive a full refund if your trip is cancelled, transfer your trip free of charge up to 10 days before departure minus any irrocoverable costs.

  • Do I need to be very fit to book with you?

    All our trips require some level of active participation. This could be on a cultural trip, trek, safari, expedition or voyage. It is in the interests of all members of the group that everyone should be capable of fully participating in the activities of their chosen trip.

  • What documents will I receive before I travel?

    Final documents will include a comprehensive trip itinerary, climate and country information, budgeting and packing advice visa and passport information and details on optional activities available.

  • Do you operate a “single share” option and how does it work?

    Yes on most of our trips. Most trips are based on customers sharing twin-bedded rooms. If you book a group trip as an individual, you will share a room with someone of the same sex. However, on many trips we offer the opportunity to pay a supplement to pre-book a single room, known as our single room option. On some trips a single room will be provided every night, on others it will be provided o

  • Do we have to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to travel

    It’s now a condition of booking a trip with us that customers should have one of the following before they travel - — Be vaccinated against COVID, having received the full recommended course, and allowing enough time for immunity to take effect. Full vaccination includes any booster required to keep the vaccine valid. — Have taken a negative test (rapid antigen or PCR) within 72hrs of departure.

  • Will the accommodation included meet local health and safety regulations?

    Explore will only offer hotels that have specific COVID-19 protocols in place and comply with local government guidelines. We will ensure these measures include; enhanced room cleaning, ventilation, social distancing, regular cleaning and disinfection of high frequency touch points in public areas, food safety, staff re-training and minimising contact within the properties.

Reviews from travellers on this tour

Stephen  

Ancient Sicily

I'm very grateful for the hard work and planning t

I'm very grateful for the hard work and planning that everyone at Explore, especially the office, put into making this trip possible with all the ever changing rules around COVID. Congratulations to all involved.

Robin  

Ancient Sicily

Another terrific tip with Explore (about our 20th)

Another terrific tip with Explore (about our 20th). Next trip already booked.

Lysbeth  

Ancient Sicily

Love, love, love the extra lectures.

Love, love, love the extra lectures.

Monica  

Ancient Sicily

Overall it was a great trip and excellent value fo

Overall it was a great trip and excellent value for money. My objective was to learn something about Sicily, and this was more than achieved.

Nigel  

Ancient Sicily

The trip was great, excellent value for money and

The trip was great, excellent value for money and I learned a huge amount about Sicily.

Peter  

Ancient Sicily

Keep up the standards set here!

Keep up the standards set here!

Lorraine  

Ancient Sicily

Best Explore group we have ever had the pleasure t

Best Explore group we have ever had the pleasure to travel with!

Tjaart  

Ancient Sicily

Enjoyed!!

Enjoyed!!

Valerie  

Ancient Sicily

We enjoyed the evening talks by Antonio very much

We enjoyed the evening talks by Antonio very much - they were most informative. And having him with us the whole time to impart his knowledge and to answer our questions greatly enhanced the trip.

Stephen  

Ancient Sicily (19-Sep-2020)

I'm very grateful for the hard work and planning t

I'm very grateful for the hard work and planning that everyone at Explore, especially the office, put into making this trip possible with all the ever changing rules around COVID. Congratulations to all involved.

Read all 10 reviews

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Saturday - Saturday

Aug 31, 2024 - Sep 14, 2024
$4030 $3657

Operator discount: -$270

Mid-Year Mayhem Discount: -$103

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Oct 05, 2024 - Oct 19, 2024
$4400 $4279

Mid-Year Mayhem Discount: -$121

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Apr 26, 2025 - May 10, 2025
$4200 $4085

Mid-Year Mayhem Discount: -$116

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May 10, 2025 - May 24, 2025
$4300 $4182

Mid-Year Mayhem Discount: -$118

Saturday - Saturday

May 31, 2025 - Jun 14, 2025
$4300 $4182

Mid-Year Mayhem Discount: -$118

Saturday - Saturday

Aug 30, 2025 - Sep 13, 2025
$4300 $4182

Mid-Year Mayhem Discount: -$118

Saturday - Saturday

Sep 13, 2025 - Sep 27, 2025
$4300 $4182

Mid-Year Mayhem Discount: -$118

Saturday - Saturday

Oct 04, 2025 - Oct 18, 2025
$4300 $4182

Mid-Year Mayhem Discount: -$118

Book with Confidence

  • Free Date Changes

    Explore! allows you to make 1 free date changes, as long as the change is made at least 70 days before the start of the tour.

  • Low Deposit

    Explore! requires a minimum deposit of 10% or the full booking value, whichever is less, with the final balance not due until 70 days before departure.

  • Cancellation Policy

    We don't charge a cancellation fee, here is a summary of explore! charges.

    Up to 70 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of deposit.

    At 69 days before tour starts: Forfeit 30% of booking price.

    At 41 days before tour starts: Forfeit 60% of booking price.

    At 27 days before tour starts: Forfeit 90% of booking price.

    At 13 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of booking price.

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