Classical Sicily

Classical Sicily

8 Days Starting in Syracusa and ending in Giardini Naxos

Visiting: Syracuse, Island of Ortigia, Casignana, Segesta, Palermo, Cefalù, Giardini Naxos, Mount Etna, Taormina

Tour operator:

Explore!

Tour code:

CS

Guide Type:

Fully Guided

Group size:

4 - 18

Physical rating:

Full On

Age range:

Adult

Special diets catered:

Vegetarians

Tour operated in:
English
Trip Styles:

Small Group

Activities:

Sightseeing, Walking

From:
$2440
$2373 (USD) The Big ADVENTURE Sale: $67
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Tour Overview

This all-encompassing one-week trip takes in the highlights of the largest Mediterranean island, Sicily. See its wealth of ancient historical sights, and have the chance to go up Europe's tallest active volcano, Mount Etna. Agrigento - Visit Sicily's most famous Classical remains in the Valley of the Temples with its remarkable Doric architecture Erice - Discover this walled medieval hilltop town with its maze of narrow winding cobbled streets and quaint shops Villa Romana del Casale - See some of the best preserved and most extensive mosaics left in Europe at this Roman villa

Highlights

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

  • Erice - Discover this walled medieval hilltop town with its maze of narrow winding cobbled streets and quaint shops

  • Villa Romana del Casale - See some of the best preserved and most extensive mosaics left in Europe at this Roman villa

Itinerary

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Day 1: Join Trip In Syracusa
Location: Syracuse
Accommodation: Hotel

Arrive 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 is also notable as being the birthplace of antiquity's greatest mathematician, Archimedes.

For those arriving on time our 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 are free to arrive in Syracusa at any time. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Catania Fontanarossa Airport (CTA), which is about an hours' drive. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.

If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose 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, whereas 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 is a huge variety of both delicious red and white wines to choose from.

Day 2: Discover Syracusa's Historic Neapolis And Ortygia Island
Location: Island of Ortigia
Accommodation: Hotel

We start today by driving the short distance to the city's Neapolis Archaeological Park, where a local guide will show us its famous Greek theatre hewn out of the hillside and the fine Roman amphitheatre where gladiators once fought.

We then drive over to Ortygia Island, where we have free time to have lunch and explore. This small island is the historical centre of the city and home to many landmarks such as the Fonte of Aretusa, Temple of Apollo ruins, Maniace Castle, and the narrow streets of the Jewish Quarter with its old baths found under the Residenza Alla Giudecca Hotel. Alternatively you could take a short boat trip along the rocky cave-strewn coastline. Ortygia Island is also a great place to go to a local cafe or restaurant and sit and watch the world go by. Its limestone buildings and pretty harbour front make it an ideal place to sip coffee and enjoy a cake. Perhaps try cannolo, a traditional Sicilian dessert, a crisp shell filled with sweet ricotta and chocolate chips topped with candied fruits. If you prefer a savoury snack then arancini is a rice ball stuffed with a range of fillings such as beef ragu and gooey cheese - it's simply delicious.

Leaving Syracusa this afternoon we drive for a couple of hours inland to Piazza Amerina, a charming market town set amid rolling countryside, which will be our base for the night. This isn't a town on the tourist trail and tonight you have the opportunity to dine in one of the delightful family run restaurants. As you stroll along through the peaceful streets and picturesque squares you can see the local men gathering to discuss the events of the day and to put the world to rights, like they will have done for generations.

Day 3: See The Mosaics At Villa Romana Del Casale And The Valley Of The Temples
Location: Casignana
Accommodation: Hotel

Today we will visit two of Sicily's most important historic sites. We will start at the Villa Romana del Casale, which is just a short hop from our hotel and this should mean that we get to look around before the crowds arrive. A local guide will show us the ruins of this magnificent country mansion that contains some incredibly well-preserved and beautiful Roman mosaics, such as the famed bikini girls, fishing cupids and hunting scenes featuring exotic wildlife like tigers, rhinos and elephants. The mosaics are UNESCO-Listed and spread over a remarkable 3,500 square metres.

We drive on to Agrigento, which was once one of the most prosperous cities in Sicily. The ancient acropolis, now the modern city, overlooks a southern ridge, misleadingly named the Valley of the Temples. Visiting these temples with a local guide, we will walk around the ruins of the largest Doric temple ever constructed - the Temple of Zeus. Standing next to this monumental structure you are only as tall as the first few entry steps and so you tend to feel very small starring up at the gigantic pillars above you. We will also explore the perfectly-proportioned Doric columns of the Temple of Concord, as well as the oldest temple in the complex, honouring Hercules.

Later this afternoon, we will drive for a couple of hours north along the spectacular coastline to tonight's hotel in Marsala. Our hotel this evening is about 25 minutes walk from the centre of town. We will go into the centre to the Porta Garibaldi from where our local guide will take us on a short walk through the old town. After time for dinner we'll return to our hotel.

Day 4: Explore Erice And The Greek Ruins Of Segesta En Route To Palermo
Location: Segesta
Accommodation: Hotel

This morning we drive up the twisty mountain roads to one of Sicily's best kept secrets, the delightful medieval hilltop walled town of Erice. Here we'll have the morning free to soak up the atmosphere and get lost among the maze of cobbled narrow streets. At 750 metres above sea level, we hope to have impressive views over the valley and sea below (cloud permitting). The town is home to a number of churches that you may choose to visit and perhaps you'd like to go into the courtyard of the Norman fortress, Castello di Venere or the nearby Garden of Balio, which offers excellent views. It is also worth noting that Erice is home to Sicily's most famous cake shop - Maria Grammatic.

Early afternoon will see us travelling on to Segesta - one of the best-preserved ancient sites. Once home to the Elymians, who it's believed descended from the Trojans. The two most famous monuments found here are the Doric temple and the amphitheatre that sit on the slopes of Mount Barbaro in a stunning natural setting - no modern day structures mar our appreciation of the site. Along the old entrance roads to the city is the Sanctuary of Contrada Mango and the Agora - the central meeting place of the city. Near to the amphitheatre you can see the more recent remains dating from around 1442 of a castle, mosque and church. If you visit in springtime then on a walk around the site you can spot colourful wildflowers and giant fennel. The site is large and hilly, so there is a complimentary bus service that operates in the archaeological site, which we can make use of.

On leaving magnificent Segesta, we drive for around an hour along the north coast to our hotel in Sicily's capital, Palermo where we have the evening free.

Day 5: Visit To The Palatine Chapel And Monreale Cathedral; Free Time In Palermo
Location: Palermo
Accommodation: Hotel

This morning we will get to experience some of Sicily's Norman history. In Palermo we will visit the Palatine Chapel with a local guide. This is the royal chapel of the Norman kings of Sicily and is packed with spectacular Byzantine mosaics.

Driving into the hills just a short distance out of the capital, we will go with our guide to visit the majestic Norman Cathedral of Monreale. Founded in 1174 by William the Good, the cathedral is also famous for its extensive mosaics, as well as its beautiful cloisters showing both Romanesque and Islamic influences.

Returning to Sicily's capital, the afternoon is free to enjoy Palermo. The city stands at the foot of Monte Pellegrino, with the fertile valley of Concha d'Oro behind. It was one of the richest cities in Europe from the 9th to the 12th centuries AD when Islamic culture, Byzantine magnificence and medieval Europe were merging into a fascinating civilisation. Today, the city maintains a sense of cultural diversity and is famous for its art, music and food.

You might like to visit Palermo's cathedral with its ornate facade, the grand Teatro Massimo opera house, the natural beauty of the Botanical Gardens or the extensive catacombs under the city, to name just a few of the attractions on offer.

If you fancy a snack whilst exploring then you could try panelle, which is a popular street food. It's a fritter made from chickpeas eaten in a roll like a hot sandwich. If you fancy something sweet then cassata is Sicily's most famous cake, which is normally covered in marzipan and green icing over a moist fruity sponge layered with ricotta.

Day 6: Drive Along The Coast With A Stop In Cefalu En Route To Giardini Naxos
Location: Cefalù, Giardini Naxos
Accommodation: Hotel

Leaving Palermo this morning we drive along the spectacular northern coastline to the picturesque fishing village of Cefalu. Here we stop to explore the town and have the opportunity to go for a swim. You might like to visit the Norman Cathedral, with its stupendous mosaic of Christ Pantocrator. Alternatively if you're feeling active then you can walk up the steps passed the Temple of Diana ruins to the Castle on the Rock (the ascent is 278 metres) and from here the sea views are incredible, and make the climb to get there worthwhile.

From Cefalu we'll continue our drive along the coast and make a brief stop in Messina, where you have the chance to visit to the Messina Museum or the cathedral. After stretching our legs we'll drive on to the small coastal town of Giardini Naxos, which will be our base for the next two nights. This sweet little fishing town sits in the shadow of Mount Etna and is the spot of the oldest Greek settlement in Sicily back in 735 BC. It's a great spot for relaxing beside the sea and tucking into fresh fish and gelato. Sicily has some of the creamiest and most tasty gelato in Italy, so it's definitely worth sampling.

Please note, on our 23 May, 06 June, 12 September and 10 October 2020 departures we will be staying in Taormina instead of Giardini Naxos on days 6 and 7. The towns are only a short distance apart along the coast. The itinerary inclusions will remain the same and you'll still have the opportunity to visit Mount Etna, the only difference is that you won't be visiting Giardini Naxos and your free time on day 7 will be spent in Taormina instead. If you still want to visit Giardini Naxos then it's easily accessible on the hop-on public bus from Taormina.

Day 7: Chance To Travel To Mount Etna; Afternoon In Taormina
Location: Giardini Naxos, Mount Etna, Taormina
Accommodation: Hotel

This morning, you have the opportunity to join a tour to explore the lunar landscape, craters and lava fields of Mount Etna - one of the most active volcanoes in Europe. You drive from our hotel 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. From here you can 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. 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.

Alternatively, you might prefer to enjoy a more sedate morning enjoying the coastal location of Giardini Naxos. Here there is an archaeological zone that doesn't feature a huge number of ruins but it does offer a very pleasant walk through the citrus groves. There is also a small museum here with some interesting findings from different historical periods.

This afternoon, we will all meet back up and travel the short distance to Taormina, Sicily's most famous resort. Once a favourite haven for the likes of D. H Lawrence and Oscar Wilde, Taormina is still today a popular tourist destination. After a walk around this chic and beautiful town, with its pretty medieval churches and charming streets, it's easy to understand why. With a local guide we'll visit the Greek Theatre. The snow-capped Mount Etna acts as a spectacular backdrop to the remarkably preserved columned stage and it's easy to see why this is possibly the most famous view in all of Sicily and it makes for a superb photograph. We'll also visit the Roman Odeon before having the rest of the afternoon free to explore before returning to Giardini Naxos in the early evening.

You might choose to visit the Villa Comunale Gardens which offer a peaceful escape from Taormina's bustling main street. Here you can walk amidst magnolia, hibiscus and bougainvillea trees. If you'd like to enjoy a drink and a snack then we'd recommend taking a stroll down one of Taormina's side streets where you'll find a variety of less-busy bars and restaurants than in the very centre of town.

Day 8: Trip Ends In Giardini Naxos
Location: Giardini Naxos

The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Giardini Naxos.

There are no activities planned today, so you are 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 would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Catania Fontanarossa Airport (CTA), which is about one hours' drive.

What's Included

  • All Domestic Transportation (including internal flights)

  • Accommodation

  • Fully Guided

  • Meals – Breakfast Only

What's Not Included

  • Country Entry Visas

  • Tipping and Gratuities

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Check out our Q&As

  • Will I know the names and details of all the accommodation before I depart?

    Yes

  • Can you assist with pre or post tour accommodation?

    Yes

  • Will there be an escort accompanying this tour?

    Yes

  • What is the maximum group size?

    16

  • Are children permitted to take part in the tour?

    No

  • Are the local guides on the tour English speaking?

    Yes

  • 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

Elizabeth  

Classical Sicily

28-May-2019

Very well lead holiday event to up Mount Etna on my birthday. Stunning views and memorable day to remember

Karen  

Classical Sicily

29-Nov-2017

The optional Etna trip was one of the highlights of the trip - luckily Sue conveyed this so pretty much everyone went on it (otherwise they would have missed out).

Lynda  

Classical Sicily

06-Nov-2019

Thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful and varied history of Sicily.

Adam  

Classical Sicily

21-Oct-2017

second Explore trip, and impressed that most of the others in the group had been on Explore trips before so obviously the package works well. will definitely use Explore again

Hazel  

Classical Sicily

29-May-2019

I have had 2 hip replacements and although slow was able to manage all walking, Susan very helpful and supportive

David  

Classical Sicily

10-Apr-2018

In view of the full-on nature of this trip we suppose it was inevitable that the timings would be constraining, we were lucky that everyone in the group was always prompt.

Read all 6 reviews

Dates & Availability

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Saturday - Saturday

Apr 20, 2024 - Apr 27, 2024
$2570 $2499 (USD)

The Big ADVENTURE Sale: $71 (USD)

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$2690 $2616 (USD)

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$2440 $2373 (USD)

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  • Free Date Changes

    Explore! allows you to make 1 free date changes, as long as the change is made at least 60 days before the start of the tour.

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    Explore! requires a minimum deposit of 10% or the full booking value, whichever is less, with the final balance not due until 60 days before departure.

  • Cancellation Policy

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

    Up to 60 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of deposit.

    At 59 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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