IT6 SOUTHERN ITALY TOUR

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Sicily & Southern Italy

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS:

Guided walking tours of Palermo, Erice, Rome; Ancient Greek Temples at Agrigento; The Doric Greek temples of Paestum; Compelling Pompeii; Rome - The Vatican & the Sistine Chapel

  • DATES & PRICES
  • FULL ITINERARY
  • MAP & HOTELS
  • TRIP INFORMATION

Dates & Prices

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Prices are in US Dollars (USD), before taxes (if applicable) - All pricing reflects per-person Land Only expenses, however, we can book flights from virtually every city. Please call us for an air quote.


Start DateEnd DatePriceMore Info
Wed 02 Sep 2015Tue 15 Sep 2015 $3590$3440 Last-minute Availability
Wed 27 Apr 2016Tue 10 May 2016 $3440
Wed 29 Jun 2016Tue 12 Jul 2016 $3440
Wed 31 Aug 2016Tue 13 Sep 2016 $3440

Optional Single Supplement: $636 (number of singles limited).


Tour Overview


Sicily is an island of great natural beauty. Along the shorelines, spectacular rocky cliffs meet the deep blue, tranquil waters of the Mediterranean, while the rolling hills of the interior are awash in fragrant orange and lemon trees. Though only 4 km separate it from the mainland, this short distance has given the island enough unique history and personality for an entire continent. This distinction becomes apparent to us once our journey crosses the water to visit the highlights of the southern mainland--the Greek temples of Paestum, mysterious Pompeii, and sublime Sorrento, legendary abode of the Sirens.

Regions visited: Western Europe
Countries visited: Italy


Testimonials


Excellent transportation...lots of room to spread out on bus and wonderful, helpful driver (Salvatore). Excellent meals. Our tour leader Yvette went out of her way to meet my dietary requirements. Yvette was Superb knowledge, caring, excellent leadership skills, information very well presented. The best! Excellent tour.

The best excursions were to Pompeii, and driving up the Amalfi coast these were two of the highlights of the trip and were the most interesting and the most beautiful part of the trip.

Full Itinerary

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Day 1 Arrive in Palermo
Today we arrive in Palermo. Transfer to our hotel.

Overnight in Palermo.

Meal plan: dinner

Day 2 Palermo: City Tour
We begin our day with a walk through the narrow streets of the Vucceria outdoor market. Here we feel the very pulse of the city's daily life, passing stalls where fishmongers display whole sword fish and tuna, and several varieties of squid and octopus. Sicily is agriculturally rich and here some of the island's excellent produce is displayed: apples from the slopes of Mount Etna; oranges and lemons, introduced to Sicily by the Arabs; cactus pears, fresh figs and grapes, fat olives, fresh capers, zucchini blossoms, fresh ricotta and pungent pecorino cheese.

A short walk brings us to the Piazza Praetoria with its voluptuous 16th century Florentine fountain, decked with renaissance nudes and animal heads. At its unveiling, centuries ago, locales named it "the fountain of shame". Nearby is the baroque Quattro Canti, the 17th century crossroads that divides the old city into four, and the Municipio, a 15th century palazzo that is Palermo's city hall.

On the Piazza Bellini, we step inside the Martorana Church; a 12th century building that is a jewel of Arab-Norman architecture, and its interior encrusted with byzantine mosaics. And no visit to Sicily would be complete without a stop at Monreale, the Royal Mountain. It was here, at the end of the 12th century, that the Norman king, William II had a great cathedral built to reflect the sophistication and wealth of his kingdom. Byzantine and Greek artisans were employed to cover almost every surface of its interior with costly golden mosaics depicting Christ the Pantocrator, the apostles, and cycles form the Old and New Testaments. Next door, we walk through the cloister of the Benedictine abbey. Here, no two of the exquisite capitals on over 200 twin column are the same.

Overnight in Palermo.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 3 Palermo - Segesta - Erice: Walking Tour
En route to Erice we stop at Segesta to see the picturesque Doric temple. Sicily was part of ancient Magna Graecia. In the 8th century BC, with population rising dramatically in mainland Greece, land became expensive and resources scarce. This led to an exodus of Greeks in search of new lands. Sicily and southern Italy were to Ancient Greece what the Americas were to 16th century European explorers: the great unknown; a land of possibilities, riches and great dangers. Segesta was a successful colony, which fought with its rival Selinunte, to the south.

We continue the short distance to Erice and have a walking tour upon arrival.

Erice sits dramatically on a promontory at over 600m (2,000 feet) above the sea. The ancients considered it a sacred place; the Arabs called it Jebel Hamid, or Blessed Mountain. We enter the Carthginian Porta Trapani, passing the Chiesa Matrice, a beautiful Normanesque Gothic church built in the 15th century. Near the main square you might like to sample some Sicilian sweets at a local shop where they are made to order. The Arabs are credited with the introduction of the local fondness of desserts, including gelato for which Sicily is famous.

Farther along we come to the site where once the temple of Venus Erycina stood. From the Norman Castle, now standing in its place, the views out to sea are splendid. On a clear day, we might even see the coast of Tunisia, 145km distant. Erice is home today to an important scientific institute where international conferences and symposiums are held year round, giving Erice the sobriquet, "City of Science".

Overnight in Erice.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 4 Erice - Marsala - Selinunte - Agrigento
Today we travel by road to Agrigento via Marsala and Selinunte.

We depart Erice for Marsala, a Arabic name meaning "Harbour of God". Here, in 1860,
Garibaldi landed with his army of a thousand redshirts to take Sicily from the Spanish Bourbon rulers. In the previous century an Englishman named John Woodhouse saw the potential for a lucrative export, fortified wine, which became all the rage, especially after Admiral Nelson supplied it to his sailors instead of rum. While in Marsala we visit the museum and enjoy a wine tasting.

Our journey through the lands of Magna Graecia continues to Selinunte where we have a full site tour. The ruins of Selinunte are some of the most impressive of the ancient Greek world, and the site is one of the most captivating in Sicily. Selinos (as it was known to the Greeks) was once one of the richest and most powerful cities in the world, with over 100,000 inhabitants and an unrivalled temple-building program. The city was forgotten until the middle of the 16th century, when a Dominican monk identified its location. Excavations began in 1823, courtesy of two English archaeologists.

We continue to the agnificent series of temples at Agrigento. The five elevated temples are a picture-perfect tribute to the indomitability of paganism. Time, earthquakes, vicious Punic Wars, and the rise of Christianity have taken their toll, and the temples have been named official World Heritage landmarks. This evening we view the Valley of Temples illuminated by night.

Overnight in Agrigento.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 5 Agrigento: Site Tour - Enna
This morning we tour the Valley of Temples at Agrigento.

Then, leaving behind the ancient Greek world, we drive inland across the island where, near the town of Piazza Armerina, we explore the remarkable ruins of a Roman villa. Built at the end of the 4th century AD, this vast complex which includes extensive baths, reception rooms, and private apartments may have been an imperial villa of Diocletian's co-emperor, Maximianus. The villa contains some of the most beautiful and extensive Roman mosaics to be found anywhere, including detailed and colourful hunting scenes, images from mythology, and a charming sequence of bikini-clad ladies doing aerobics!

We continue to Enna where you will have some free time to explore the town. See the Castello di Lombardia or Torre di Federico II for stunning views; your Tour Leader will point you in the right direction.

Overnight in Enna.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 6 Enna - Siracusa (Syracuse)
Today we drive toward the eastern side of the island, coming within sight of the slopes of Mount Etna. At 3313 m (10,866 feet), Etna is one of the earth's most active volcanoes -- both a blessing and a curse for the local people. The surrounding lands are extremely fertile, but there looms the constant possibility of an eruption. The nearby city of Catania was almost completely buried by lava flows in 1669.

We arrive at Syracuse and tour of the Archaeological Park, including the Greek theatre, Monumental Altar of Hieron II, and the Latomia del Paradiso (quarry with the Ear of Dionysius). After a break for lunch we have a walking tour of Ortygia (old Siracusa), wandering the narrow streets of the old city where we see the Temple of Apollo, Fountain of Aretusa, the main piazza, and the Duomo, a former Temple of Athena. Free time to explore.

Overnight in Siracusa.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 7 Siracusa - Pantalica - Taormina
This morning we depart Siracusa and visit the Unesco World Heritage site of the Necropolis of Pantalica, best known for its extensive cemeteries of rock-cut chamber tombs dating from the 13th to the 7th centuries BC.

We drive up the west coast, with stunning views of Mt. Etna, to Taormina. On arrival we have a leisurely walking tour of the town, starting with the almost perfectly preserved Greco-Roman amphitheatre, Taormina's greatest treasure. In ancient days, the 3rd-century cliffside arena seated 5,000 spectators, with Mount Etna framed perfectly as a backdrop to the 1800 year old stage.

We see also the Palazzo Corvaia with its blend of Arab, Norman, and Catalan elements where, in 1410, Sicily's first parliament was convened. The Corso Umberto I is a charming pedestrian street that runs the length of town. There are many shops and boutiques along the way and at the Piazza IX Aprile, there are lovely views of Naxos harbour and the Italian mainland across the straits. Perched on a peak above the town is the medieval fortress. In the Piazza del Duomo
where Taormina's 15th century basilica/cathedral stands, there is a fountain topped by the symbol of the town: the statue of a female centaur.

Overnight in Taormina (or nearby Giardini-Naxos).

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 8 Taormina - Paestum
This morning we take a short ferry ride from Sicily to the Italian mainland and then proceed by motor coach to Paestum.

The three Doric Greek temples of Paestum are among the best preserved in the world, even rivaling those of Sicily and Athens. Originally built without any mortar or cement (they were simply covered by roofs of terra-cotta tiles supported by wooden beams) the temples remained standing even after the great earthquake of AD 69 reduced Pompeii's streets to a pile of rubble. After a period of native Italian control in the 5th and 4th centuries BC, it fell to the Romans in 273 BC and was renamed Paestum, remaining a Roman town until the deforestation of nearby hills turned the town into a swampy mush. Plagued by malaria and syphilitic pirates, Paestum's ruins lay relatively untouched until they were rediscovered in the 18th century.

Overnight in Paestum.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 9 Paestum - Pompeii & Herculaneum - Sorrento
Today we travel from Paestum to Sorrento.

En route we make an excursion to Pompeii, dug out from the inundation of volcanic ash and pumice stone that covered it by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. The entire area is a fantastic record of how ordinary Romans lived their lives. We will see the House of Vetti, the most elegant of the Pompeii villas and we also look at the House of Mysteries. The nearby House of Faun takes up a city block and has four different dining parlours and two spacious gardens.

Nearby Herculaneum was a small town that was buried under Vesuvius' lava. Our tour here will include the baths, which were built during the reign of Agustus. An outstanding example of how the aristocracy lived is provided at the Casa dei Cervi.

We continue to Sorrento, the place where the Greeks placed the legendary abode of the Sirens, those wicked mermaids who lured seamen to their deaths with their sweet songs. The Sorrento Peninsula, a finger of land curling around the Bay of Naples, is beautiful with its soaring mountains and colourful flora.

Overnight in Sorrento.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 10 Sorrento - the Amalfi Coast & National Archaeological Museum - Sorrento
Today we drive along the famous Amalfi Coast on a winding road carved out of the rock in the mid-19th century. This scenic and unforgettable drive takes us to Amalfi, a resort town on the peninsula of the same name where we take a walking tour of the city. We will see the beautiful Duomo cathedral with its 13th century bell tower, the main square of the town, and the Cloister of Paradise.

Continuing to Naples, we pass by the 14th-century Duomo, the colourful harbour front, and the Castel dell'Ovo, a 12th-century fortress built on the ruins of an ancient villa, before our visit to the National Archaeological Museum. This impressive facility houses one of the world's most comprehensive collections of Greek and Roman antiquities. The museum stands on top of Santa Teresa Hill and was originally built as a military barrack later transformed into a university campus. It was remodeled in 1790 to receive the treasures of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Return to Sorrento.

Overnight in Sorrento.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 11 Sorrento - Monte Cassino - Rome
Today's journey takes us to north to Rome via Monte Cassino. During the Roman Empire, the abbey located here was one of the great European centres of Christendom and one of the largest repositories of ancient learning. In 1944, Monte Cassino was destroyed by the Allied forces who suspected that it was occupied by German troops. The military cemetery on the nearby hill contains the graves of 1,100 Polish soldiers who lost their lives in the final assault.

Later we continue to Rome.

Overnight in Rome.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 12 Rome: City Tour
We begin our guided tour* of Rome at the 2,000 year old colosseum. Built to seat 55,000 spectators, this arena staged Rome's most brutal gladitorial combats. Next we walk through the Roman Forum where we will see the Curia, the Rostra, the Temple of Vesta, the Basilica of Constantine, and the Arch of Titus. Continuing onwards and upwards we reach the Campidoglio (Capitoline Hill), seat of the Roman Senate since the 12th century and the original citadel of the city. This beautiful square was redesigned by Michelangelo in the 16th century.

We arrive at Piazza Navona where we can break for lunch at one of the many restaurants and cafes on or near the square. In the square itself we can admire the impressive Fountain of the Four Rivers, with detailed figures representing the Nile, Ganges, Danube and Palata rivers.

We continue to the famous Trevi Fountain, designed by Nicholas Salvi in 1732. It's water was supplied by one of Rome's earliest aquaducts. Throwing a coin into the fountain is said to ensure your safe return to Rome. We also visit the temple-turned church called the Pantheon, and have the opportunity to admire its perfect proportions on our way to the Spanish steps, where we finish our day's tour. Balance of the day at leisure.

* NOTE: Due to traffic problems and the fact that today's sites are reasonably close to each other, much of today's tour will occur on foot and with Rome's efficient public transit system (cost of tickets included).

Overnight in Rome.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 13 Rome: the Vatican Museums & St. Peter's
Today we begin our visit to Vatican City with a guided tour through the immense Vatican Museums.* This amazing collection houses some of the most important Greek and Roman sculptures, Renaissance paintings, Flemish tapestries and mosaics in the world. Understandably this collection is visited by more than 3 million people a year. We also visit Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel to take in its breathtaking frescoes. Heading into the cavernous interior of St. Peter's Basilica, we can appreciate it's many treasures, including Michelangelo's Pieta. At the end of the tour we visit the elegantly symmetrical Piazza St. Pietro.

* NOTE: The timing of today's sightseeing can vary depending on seasonality. Early spring and late fall tours can often begin in the morning due to lighter crowds at these times of year. Busier times often dictate an afternoon visit in order to avoid morning crowds. Weather may also be a consideration. Your Tour Leader will advise further upon your arrival in Rome.

Overnight in Rome.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 14 Departure
Departure from Rome.

VIAGGIO BUONO!

Meal plan: breakfast

Tour Map

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*The red tour trail on the map does not represent the actual travel path.


Hotel List


The following is a list of sample hotels at some locations included on this tour. The hotels shown here are meant to provide a general sense of the standard of hotel we usually aim for; they are not necessarily confirmed for your chosen departure.


Hotel Politeama

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Palermo
Country: Italy

This centrally-located hotel features 94 rooms, with bathroom and shower, air conditioning, phone, mini-bar and colour TV and access to
... web.


Read More.

Hotel Augusta Lucilla Palace

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Rome
Country: Italy

Augusta Lucilla Palace Hotel is a newly refurbished 4 star Hotel situated in the historic centre of Rome, only 5
... walk from the central train station, Termini.
The hotel is newly refurbished, characterized by Roman architecture of the 19th Century. The interiors have been entirely renovated, embracing the benefits of modern technology with a touch of elegance and style.


Read More.

Starhotels Metropole

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Rome
Country: Italy

Step out of the hotel and into central Rome, with many of the city’s artistic and architectural treasures within easy
... You’ll find our hotel near the Termini railway station and the Teatro dell’Opera, from where it’s just a short walk to Rome’s most iconic monuments.

Discover the ancient splendor of the Colosseum and throw a coin into the Trevi fountain. Then explore the city’s religious heritage at the city’s many beautiful churches and famous sites, such as the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel.

Read More.


Trip Information

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►

Inclusions

Breakfast and dinner (mostly local restaurants) daily. All sightseeing and entrance fees for sites noted as 'visited' in the detailed itinerary. Gratuities for local guides, drivers, restaurant staff, porters. Airport transfers for land & air customers and for early arriving / late departing land & air customers who book their extra hotel nights through us.

Exclusions

Tour Leader gratuities, lunches, drinks, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), air taxes (if applicable), and excursions referenced as 'optional'. Airport transfers for Land Only customers. Our post-reservation trip notes offer further guidance on optional meal costs and shopping.

Seasonality and Weather

This tour is offered in spring, summer, and fall, the most popular being spring and fall when temperatures are mild, crowds thinner, and air fares lower. Spring is popular with visitors who enjoy green landscapes and wildflowers. The region has a mild Mediterranean climate with early springs, long hot and dry summers, and autumns that are bright and warm into late October. Showers are possible in spring, rare in summer, and possible in fall.

Transport and Travel Conditions

Transport throughout by private air-conditioned motor coach, 24-36 seats depending on ultimate group size (see 'group size'). Though we will have some full bus days, road travel is not particularly arduous as there are plenty of stops of interest and beautiful scenery along the way. Roads are in good condition, though a little winding on some stretches. Short daytime ferry crossing. Walking tours on cobbled surfaces.

Accommodation

Well-located, air- conditioned, mid-range hotels and inns (3 star) used throughout. Some hotels are smaller properties (3-4 story) that may not have elevators. All hotels have en suite bath, though some may have shower only. Porter service is sometimes available (see 'inclusions') though you should be independent with your luggage. Single rooms are limited and likely smaller than twins.

Staff and Support

Tour Leader throughout, driver (s), local step-on guides in various locales.

Group Size

10-21 (plus Tour Leader)