A feast for the senses, this 14-day tour begins with six nights in Palermo where centuries of diverse cultures, from the ancient Greeks to the Normans, come together. We explore the layers of the city’s cultural heritage and venture out with day trips to Segesta and Cefalù. We then travel to Naples, our base for the next six nights, where we explore the ancient sites of Vesuvius, Herculaneum and Paestum. We travel along the scenic Amalfi Coast and visit the galleries of Capodimonte and the Naples National Archaeological Museum.
Mediterranean history, art and architecture, showcasing more than 3,000 years of civilisation
Classical archaeology at leading Greek and Roman sites in Sicily and on the Bay of Naples
The lasting legacy of medieval Arab and Norman rule, expressed in the mosaics and architecture of Palermo
The ‘southern Renaissance’ of the 18th century, culminating in the period of Bourbon rule, which made Naples a major European centre of culture
Well-preserved Greek and Roman culture at Segesta, Paestum and Herculaneum
Impressive Arab-Norman mosaics in Palermo and Cefalù
Little-visited but world-famous artworks at Capodimonte and in the footsteps of Caravaggio
Private visit to Palazzo Lanza Tomasi, home of Prince Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, author of the Sicilian literary masterpiece The Leopard
Palermo and Naples’ excellent gastronomic scenes, including tastings of local specialties
Only two-hotel stays: six nights at each
Off-season travel: low visitor numbers and mild weather
Day 1: Arrive in Palermo.
Days 2–6: View Greek architecture in Segesta and Arab-Norman Byzantine mosaics in Palermo. Visit the home of author Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (The Leopard).
Days 7–13: Take the overnight ferry to Naples. Explore the ancient sites of Vesuvius, Herculaneum and Paestum. Travel along the scenic Amalfi Coast and visit the galleries of Capodimonte and the National Archaeological Museum. Dine at excellent restaurants, follow in Caravaggio’s footsteps and enjoy a performance at the historic Teatro San Carlo.
Day 14: Transfer to Rome airport for flights home.
A detailed itinerary for this tour is available. Click on the link above to view or download.
Emirates flies to Rome daily from most Australian cities. Contact us for competitive quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the letters B, L and D.
Tuesday January 9: Arrival
Passengers arriving or staying in Rome fly to Palermo on an afternoon domestic flight. Meet tour leader Robert Veel on arrival at Palermo airport to commence the tour. Transfer together by coach to the hotel in Palermo. After checking in and time to freshen up, take an orientation tour of our neighbourhood. There is a light dinner near the hotel tonight. Overnight at the Grand Hotel Piazza Borsa, Palermo (D)
Wednesday January 10: Sicily’s ancient heritage
As one of the most important sites of ancient Greek colonisation, the island preserves some of the best Greek art and architecture to be found. This morning we travel by coach to nearby Segesta, the home of the elusive Elymian people, who built a beautiful temple in the Greek style. The theatre here, oriented towards the sea, and the atmospheric ruins have inspired generations of travellers and artists. After a welcome lunch at a nearby baglio, one of the grand feudal estates that still dot Sicily, we return to Palermo. Overnight Palermo (B, L)
Thursday January 11: Norman brilliance
The Arab-Norman dynasty of Sicily, cousins of the Normans in England, were among the most sophisticated rulers of medieval Europe. In Palermo they created a tolerant and sophisticated society that was a marvel of Christendom and Islamic territories alike. Today we begin our survey of Palermo’s Norman sites at the La Martorana. Although this small church was subsequently redecorated in the Baroque style, some of its mosaics still show Roger II and donor George of Antioch, the king’s naval commander. At Palermo Cathedral we find the massive sarcophagi of a number of the Sicilian monarchs, their heavy porphyry mass a direct statement about imperial ambition. The power, knowledge and wealth of the kings are no more evident than at Roger II’s Palatine Chapel, a jewel of a structure inside the Norman Palace. Its Byzantine mosaics glitter amongst ceiling paintings and stone carvings that reflect the Arabic style of its Muslim craftsmen. After a coach transfer back to the hotel, we meet for an evening talk. Overnight Palermo (B)
Friday January 12: In William II’s Palermo
Roger II’s grandson, William II, grew up in the power struggles of the Norman dynasty. He created a visual metaphor for his power through the construction of Monreale’s massive cathedral, with its kilos and kilos of gold mosaics telling the story of his divine right to rule. The cathedral’s exquisite carved cloister is a masterpiece of Arab-Norman craftsmanship. Returning to Palermo, we visit La Zisa, the Norman’s summer palace, completed during the reign of William II. The palace has a thoroughly Moorish feel to it, and was surrounded by extensive gardens. It now holds a small but excellent Islamic museum. Overnight Palermo (B)
Saturday January 13: Cefalù
Today we take a day trip to Cefalù, visiting the cathedral and cloister built by Roger II to give thanks for a miraculous escape from shipwreck. But the cathedral is also a statement of Roger’s difficult relationship with Europe’s other rulers, who refused to acknowledge his ascendancy. The giant mosaic here of Christ the Pantocrator, both judge and compassionate ruler, is one of Roger’s most powerful commissions. After a visit to the Museo Mandralisca, a quirky museum that preserves an important portrait by Antonello da Messina, we have a group lunch in one of the town’s seaside restaurants. We return to Palermo via Bagheria’s Villa Palagonia. Now part of Palermo’s suburbs, Bagheria was once a peaceful retreat for the upper classes, and the frightening baroque sculptures at the villa were created for the Prince of Palagonia. This evening we attend an opera at the historic Teatro Massimo (schedule permitting). Overnight Palermo (B, L)
Sunday January 14: La Kalsa: Palermo’s Arabic heart
Palermo’s Al-Khalesa (“the Chosen”) quarter was the Sicilian emirate’s administrative centre from 831 to the Norman conquest in 1072. Earthquakes and World War II bombing mean that ruins still dot this quarter, but it is also home to some of the best-preserved medieval palaces in the city. We start our visit at Palazzo Abatellis, a wonderful regional museum that preserves Antonello da Messina’s exquisite Virgin Annunciate, along with Renaissance sculptures and a large fresco that shows the Grim Reaper’s Triumph of Death over the unsuspecting. We stroll through the neighbourhood, visiting Santa Maria dello Spasimo, an evocative 16th-century church that was damaged by an earthquake and never rebuilt; the nearby Magione was built ca 1190 by Matthew Aiello, William II’s powerful chancellor, and housed a Teutonic order of knights. After a break for lunch at the Antica Focacceria di San Francesco, established in 1834, there is free time for shopping or leisure. In the evening there is an optional visit to a traditional Sicilian puppet show (the opra dei pupi), schedules permitting. Overnight Palermo (B)
Monday January 15: The Leopard in Palermo
This morning we trace the life of Prince Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. He is the key chronicler of the rise and fall of Sicily’s aristocracy, most particularly in his celebrated TheLeopard – both celebration of and elegy to Sicily’s feudal past. His last home in Palermo was in Via Butera, overlooking the port. We visit the palace today to meet with the writer’s nephew and adopted son, Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi (reputedly the inspiration for The Leopard’s Tancredi) and his wife Nicoletta, the current Duchess of Palma. The family home conserves an important collection of Tomasi di Lampedusa memorabilia, including manuscripts of his works – most of which were only published posthumously. Our next stop is the lively Vucciria market, celebrated by Peter Robb in his book, Midnight in Sicily. We depart Palermo by ferry this evening for an overnight voyage to Naples, with a light dinner onboard. Overnight Ferry to Naples (B, D)
Tuesday January 16: Naples’ ancient roots
Upon arrival to Naples we head to the hotel to drop our luggage and have breakfast. We then spend the morning in Naples’s magnificent National Archaeological Museum, a treasure trove of staggering artefacts, such as wall-paintings, mosaics, statuary and everyday household objects dug up at various ancient sites on the Bay of Naples. After our guided visit, we walk down through central Naples to enjoy a traditional pizza lunch in the heart of the city. In the afternoon, we visit the Naples Cathedral and treasury, still the repository of many precious objects (and much local lore) connected with the miraculous life of 4th-century bishop Januarius. The annual liquefaction of his blood is still an important ritual for Neapolitans. At Napoli Sotterranea, we go underground and come face to face with the ancient city. There is a talk this evening. Overnight at the Hotel Royal Continental, Naples (B, L)
Wednesday January 17: The Greeks in Italy
We leave Naples early this morning for a day trip to Paestum and the Amalfi Coast. Paestum was an important colony for the Greeks in southern Italy (or Magna Graecia, “Greater Greece”), and its temples are better preserved than those in mainland Greece. But the local Lucanians and the Roman settlers also made an impact here and the site’s Archaeological Museum has a wonderful collection of paintings, jewellery and sarcophagi. The celebrated Tomb of the Diver may be our only surviving example of Greek fresco painting, and it is a wonderful meditation on the possibility of life beyond death. After a visit to a local farm to sample mozzarella di bufala, the buffalo-milk mozzarella that is a regional specialty, we continue on to the Amalfi Coast. The spectacular limestone cliffs here meet a crystal-clear sea, providing an unforgettable experience. We return to Naples in the evening. Overnight Naples (B, L)
Thursday January 18: The Angevin Renaissance
Naples’ strategic importance for the Italian peninsula and the Mediterranean Sea made it a constant target for invaders. The Anjou rulers, originally from France, based themselves in Naples after they were forced out of Sicily in the Sicilian Vespers uprising of 1282. A number of Angevin monarchs left a strong mark on the city and encouraged a cultural flourishing: Boccaccio and Giotto both worked here, for example. We visit San Giovanni a Carbonara, an Augustinian church built just outside the city walls in the 14th-century. Its medieval chapels preserve wonderful Gothic sculpture. We continue to San Martino, a spectacularly sited Carthusian monastery, now a museum. After time for lunch, we stroll around the grandiose complex, with its eccentric collection of objects – from Bourbon carriages to a fine collection of presepi, traditional Nativity scenes. We take the funicular back down to the centre, where we visit San Domenico Maggiore, the intellectual heart of the Angevin Renaissance. There is an option of continuing to the Maschio Angioino an imposing medieval fortress. Its grim exterior is now relieved by an elaborate Renaissance portal. Overnight Naples (B)
Friday January 19: Rediscovering the ancient cities
During the Enlightenment, Naples was ruled by the Bourbon dynasty, who also became rulers of Spain. They were deeply interested in the antiquities that surrounded them, hiring architects and engineers to excavate significant sites, and encouraging the collecting impulse of intellectuals and aesthetes such as Sir William Hamilton. We begin with a brief stop at the Royal Palace at Portici, built particularly to display the archaeological finds from Pompeii and Herculaneum. At Herculaneum, our local guide takes us on a tour of the well-preserved houses, shops and public buildings, many of them with their wall-paintings and even wooden elements intact. With its replanted gardens and contained layout Herculaneum is in many ways a more attractive site than world-famous Pompeii, and visited by far fewer people. This afternoon, we take our coach to Mount Vesuvius and – weather-permitting – climb to the summit for wonderful views over the Bay of Naples and into the crater. This evening we hope to attend an opera at the magnificent Teatro San Carlo (schedule permitting). Overnight Naples (B)
Saturday January 20: Painting in Naples, 1200-1700
We spend this morning at Capodimonte, located in the vast former hunting lodge of the Bourbon King Charles VII. Capodimonte now houses Naples’ most important fine arts museum, with masterpieces by Tuscans Simone Martini, Masaccio and Botticelli, alongside works by Mantegna, Bellini, Titian and Raphael. The strongly Hispano-Flemish taste of the Spanish viceroys is also reflected in works by Caravaggio, De Ribera (known in Naples as the “Spagnoletto”) and El Greco. There is ample time to wander in the extensive park – with a beautiful view over Naples – visit the lavish royal apartments, or spend more time in the magnificent art collection. Overnight Naples (B)
Sunday January 21: In Spaccanapoli with Caravaggio
We continue our examination of Naples’ fine art culture with a day dedicated to Caravaggio and his milieu. The “bad boy” of the High Renaissance fled here after legal run-ins in Rome and Genoa. His upper-class patrons respected the dramatic impact of his finely polished paintings as much as they fretted over his friendships with criminals and prostitutes! At the Pio Monte della Misericordia, we admire Caravaggio’s The Seven Works of Mercy, one of his most complex and powerful works. It is still displayed alongside the works commissioned at the same time, giving us an insight into his reception by Neapolitan contemporaries. The nearby Quadreria dei Girolamini also focuses on the 17th-century, with many works by the city’s tightly-knit artists’ clique, including paintings by the Cavalier d’Arpino, Jusepe de Ribera and the Caravaggesque Battistello Caracciolo. After a break for lunch we visit the Cappella Sansevero, which preserves Giuseppe Sanmartino’s awe-inspiring Veiled Christ, a tour-de-force of the tactile possibilities of hard marble, and the majolica cloister of Santa Chiara. Our final stop is the Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano, where the highlight is one of Caravaggio’s last works, The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula. We meet for our farewell dinner in the small port of Santa Lucia. Overnight Naples (B, D)
Monday January 22: Departure
After a morning check-out, there is a coach transfer to Fiumicino airport for those on late afternoon or early evening flights. Depending on participants’ onward travel plans, the coach may continue into central Rome. (B)
Holds a Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Education. He is a director of Academy Travel and leads tours to Europe, Scandinavia, the US & Australia.
He led his first tour to Italy in 1990 and since then has designed and led 16 tours to Italy, Turkey and the United States, as well as traveling through Asia, north Africa, the Middle East, Russia and Canada. Robert’s special interest is in Italian medieval and Renaissance history, and he has taught numerous courses in this area at the University of Sydney and elsewhere since 1990.
Hotels have been selected principally for their central location. Both hotels are excellent 4-star properties that are renovated palazzi.
Palermo, Grand Hotel Piazza Borsa (6 nights)
Set in central Palermo, just 400 metres from the Baroque square of Quattro Canti. The hotel features an ancient cloister that is used as a venue for concerts and other events. www.piazzaborsa.it
Naples, Hotel Royal Contential (6 nights)
Located on Naples’ seafront promenade, in a quiet neighbourhood. The hotel offers panoramic views across the Bay of Naples and Castello dell’Ovo. www.royalcontinentalnaples.com
What is included in the tour price? Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate public transport is also used for short distance travel on some tours
All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.
What is not included in the tour price? Open-age tours do not include the following:
Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity
You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement of these conditions when you book a place on a tour.
A deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your booking on a tour. Final payment of the tour fee, insurance and any additional travel will be due 60 days before departure.
If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:
More than 60 days before departure: $500*
60-45 days before tour start: 25% of total amount due
44-15 days before tour start: 75% of total amount due
14 days or less before departure: 100% of total amount due
*This amount may be credited to another Academy Travel tour within 12 months of the original tour you booked.
Unused Portions of the tour
We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.
Academy Travel requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. We offer a comprehensive policy with a reputable insurer if required.
Passport and Visa
A valid passport is required for all international travel. If you do not hold an Australian passport you may require a re-entry permit. Some countries require a visa to be issued before you depart Australia. We will advise you of all passport and visa requirements, but it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet passport and visa requirements before you depart.
Will the tour price change?
If the number of participants in a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates Academy Travel reserves the right to amend the advertised price. If this occurs you will be given the option of cancelling your booking and obtaining a full refund. If an Academy Travel tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all monies paid.
Will the itinerary change?
Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of Academy Travel make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make slight amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes as soon as they occur.
Full and final payment for the tour, airfare travel, insurance and any additional travel you book is due 60 days before departure. Payment may be made by bank deposit, cheque, cash or credit card. Please note there is a surcharge for payments made by credit card.
Academy Travel reserves the right to decline the booking or terminate the holiday of any traveller.