Famous for its Greek and Roman ruins, fascinating history, exotic food and delicious wines, Sicily becomes even more interesting each year during the week leading up to Easter. Ancient religious rites and customs make the island come alive with soulful and colorful festivals and unforgettable Easter processions. Framing all of these attractions is the blossoming of nature, full of fragrances, colours and incredible landscapes.
Sicily is so diverse that it feels much like a small continent. Your Sicilian sojourn will include a visit to Siracusa (the most important colony of ancient Greece), the ancient Villa del Casale in Piazza Armerina with its staggering mosaics, the well preserved Greek ruins at Agrigento and the amazing Norman Cathedral of Monreale.
This small-group journey was designed especially for the Museo Italo-Americano by Alessandra G. Ranghiasci, the Italian countess who has led our members all over her beloved country on past trips. Alessandra won’t just take you to look at things – she will also introduce you to interesting local personalities, teach you how to cook regional specialties and make sure you leave Sicily with a very good idea about what it means to be Sicilian. In 2011 and 2014 several members of the Museo came on a very similar outing and they raved so much about it when they came home that we were inspired to offer another, even better journey.
Fly from the US to Catania, the best managed airport in Sicily. Rest up before meeting your guide and co-travelers for a welcome talk and dinner. Sleep in Catania (D).
This morning we will head to beautiful, Taormina, which is considered one the greatest pearls of the Mediterranean Sea. We will start our day with a stroll along its most famous promenade at one of Sicily’s finest “pasticcerias”. After fueling up, we will enjoy a great cooking class followed by a lunch of delicious local specialties. In the afternoon we will take a walking tour that will include the city’s exquisite Greek theatre. If you have been to Taormina before, you will have time on your own to browse in this bastion of elegance and grace. Sleep in Catania (B, L)
Today we will explore Siracusa, the ancient Greek colony that outshined its master during the decline of the Greek empire. First, we will wander through the unforgettable Piazza del Duomo to behold the Fountain of Arethusa. The legends shared by our classically educated guide will bring our walking tour alive. Later we will make our way to the great archeological park of Neapolis to explore ancient wonders including the limestone cave that the 17th century painter Caravaggio dubbed “Orecchio di Dionisio.” Sleep in Noto (B, D).
Today you will tour the “Val di’ Noto,” a valley so beautiful and unique that it was declared a World Heritage site in 2002. We will stop in the countryside to taste fresh ricotta cheese (cooked over a hot stove in wooden barrels) and the most incredible hand-made Sicilian Cannoli you will ever have. Later, you can wander the baroque jewel of Noto, an amazing city built at the end of the 17th century after an earthquake destroyed Old Noto almost entirely. Sleep in Noto (B, L).
You will start your day with a lovely drive across scenic agrarian landscapes to the Piazza Armerina and the Imperial Roman Villa of Casale. This ancient Roman hunting lodge and beauty spa was well known among the Who’s Who of the 4th century. You will have plenty of time to view the original mosaics that decorate the lodge’s exercise rooms and baths. We will then make our way to Agrigento. Sleep at a resort near Agrigento (B, D).
Visit the Ancient Valley of the Temples, one of the richest archaeological areas of the world. Here a passionate and charismatic guide, known as “il professore”, will lead you among the remains of approximately 20 ancient temples including the Temple of Concord, Castor, Pollux and Hercule. Sleep at a resort near Agrigento (B, L).
You will continue north to Marsala for the Giovedi' Santo (Holy Thursday) Procession. This is one of the greatest and most colorful of the island’s famed Easter Processions. The streets of Marsala’s quaint historic center become a stage and the people of the city play different roles involved in the Passion. It’s a performance you will never forget! You will also have time to sample some of the fantastic local Marsala wine, and energy permitting, you will also take in the local museum, which displays the remains of an awesome Phoenician ship. Sleep in Marsala (B,D).
This morning you will visit Erice, a delightful medieval village nestled on a 2,200-foot hill. Enjoy amazing almond pastries in one of the traditional pastry shops. But don't forget to try the Cannoli and Cassata! These delicious treats will complement the breathtaking views over the Egadi Islands below. In the afternoon you will behold the Mysteries of Trapani, the oldest continuously running religious event in Europe! The guilds of Trapani parade 20 sculpted religious statues that portray individual scenes from the events of the Passion. The procession has been happening right here for nearly 400 years! Sleep in Marsala (B, L).
This morning we will make our way to one of the artistic highlights of our trip: the mosaics at the Norman Cathedral in Monreale. This amazing monument is a dazzling mixture of Arab, Byzantine and Norman artistic styles all framed by traditional Romanesque architecture. Nowhere else on the planet can you find such a perfect blend between the Christian and Muslim artistic worlds of the 12th century. Sleep in Palermo (B, L).
Today we will visit the small village of Piana degli Albanesi where you will hear sacred music narrating the passion of Christ and observe Greek-Orthodox rites along with other customs and practices. Rare Greek-Albanian traditions are still alive here including the “Divine Liturgy” - the reading of the Gospel in seven languages (including Arabic). During the procession of Piana degli Albanesi, the people dress in traditional Arbëresh costumes and distribute red eggs as a sign of Christ's resurrection. In the afternoon you will have some time on your own in Palermo. Sleep in Palermo (B, L, D).
This morning we will discover Cefalu, a quaint town famous for both its amazing beaches and the beauty of its historical centre. We will visit Cefalu’s imposing Norman Cathedral and intriguing Arab laundries. We will then take the time to visit the local museum, where you will marvel at the smallest painting you will probably ever see: Portrait of a Stranger, by famed Renaissance artist Antonello da Messina. Sleep in Palermo (B).
We will spend the morning visiting Palermo’s greatest attractions including the recently refurbished Palatine Chapel, Piazza Pretoria and narrow alleys packed with merchandise from all corners of the Mediterranean. This afternoon you will go back in time to enjoy a special Sicilian puppet show. The puppet theatre conveys ideals which are dear to Sicilian people: chivalry, honour, justice, faith and love. Its main themes are related to the legendary stories of Charlemagne’s knights. You will be amazed by this experience because it is unlike any other theatre on earth. Here the crowd is expected to take part...to jeer when a villain plots a dastardly deed or cheer with the victories of a hero. Sleep in Palermo (B, D).
This morning you can either start your extension in Sicily, or you can make your way to the airport of Palermo for your flight back to the States. Please note that there are no direct flights from Palermo to the USA and that you will need to pass through Rome, Milano or another gateway.
We hope that you will return home with an idea of what it means to be Sicilian!
2 nights in Catania
2 nights in Val di Noto
2 nights outside Agrigento
2 nights in Marsala
4 nights in Palermo
Price: 3,895 USD per person, double occupancy
Single room supplement: 680 USD
Deposit: 500 USD