Sicily has been one of the most sought-after places in the Mediterranean. Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans and Spaniards have each settled here, making it one of the most culturally dense and diverse regions of modern Italy. The setting for this long and distinctive history is unmatched – the towering volcano of Mount Etna, rolling hillsides in the interior and the dramatic coastline. Discover the beauty, history and culture of Sicily – from ancient cities and Greek temples, to Norman mosaics and elegant baroque towns – on this new 13-day tour, timed to take advantage of low-season visitor numbers and mild weather.
The history, art and architecture of Sicily, showcasing more than 3,000 years of Mediterranean civilisation
The island’s rich classical heritage at some of Europe’s best preserved Greek and Roman archaeological sites
Palermo’s extraordinary history, where medieval Arab and Norman rule is seen today in distinctive art and architecture
Varied and dramatic landscapes, from active volcanoes to rugged seaside cliffs and pristine coastlines
The benefits of low-season travel, with fewer visitors and mild weather
Exceptionally well-preserved Greek and Roman archaeological sites in Siracusa, Agrigento and Taormina
The exuberant ‘Sicilian Baroque’ architecture of Siracusa and Noto
Delightful 4th-century mosaics in the palatial Roman villa at Piazza Armerina
Agrigento’s ‘Valley of the Temples,’ including some of the world’s finest surviving examples of Greek architecture
The remarkable medieval Arab-Norman architecture of Palermo
UNESCO World Heritage-listed mosaics in Monreale and in Palermo’s Palatine Chapel, undertaken by Byzantine masters for their Norman rulers
Sicily’s excellent wines and Arab-influenced cuisine
Days 1–5: Take a group flight from Rome. Arrive in Siracusa; tour the remarkable archaeological park and museum, and admire striking baroque architecture here and in nearby Noto and Ragusa. Take day trips to Taormina and Catania. Enjoy a Nero d’Avola wine tasting.
Day 6: Travel to Agrigento to survey the impressive Greek temples, with an excursion to the Roman villa at Piazza Armerina to admire the well-preserved mosaics.
Days 7–13: The tour ends in Palermo, exploring the city’s fascinating heritage and enjoying visits to Monreale cathedral, the Norman Palace and its Palatine Chapel. Take day trips to Cefalù, Segesta and Marsala.
A detailed itinerary for this tour is available. Click on the link above to view or download.
Emirates offers the best connections to Rome. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Thursday January 17: Arrive Siracusa
Meet your tour leader Dr Jeni Ryde at Rome Fiumicino airport to commence the tour. Take an early afternoon group flight to Catania, then transfer by private coach to our hotel in Siracusa. In the early evening we meet for welcome drinks and a light dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight Algilà Ortigia Charme Hotel, Siracusa (D)
Friday January 18: Ancient Siracusa
Siracusa was the most important Greek city of Antiquity, a formidable competitor of Athens. Today we explore the area with a local guide, visiting the main archaeological sites of the town. Highlights of our visit include the famed theatre of Siracusa, the altar of Hieron II, and the ancient quarries as well as the recently discovered Byzantine-era Jewish baths which are over 1,500 years old. We also visit the Church of Santa Lucia alla Badia to admire Caravaggio’s The Burial of St Lucy. Overnight Siracusa (B)
Saturday January 19: Taormina and Catania
The resort town of Taormina offers a breathtaking landscape and outstanding archaeology. After a talk in the hotel we travel to Taormina to stroll through the town visiting the Greek/Roman theatre and other highlights. In the afternoon we head to Catania. Lying in the shadow of Mount Etna, it was rebuilt in the Baroque style after the 1693 earthquake that devastated much of south east Italy. Many of the city’s fine buildings were constructed using black volcanic rock, Etna’s legacy. Overnight Siracusa (B)
Sunday January 20: Paolo Orsi Museum
This morning we make our way to the excellent Paolo Orsi Regional Archaeological Museum. Extensively renovated in recent years, the Paolo Orsi is one of the principal archaeological museums of Europe. The museum contains artefacts from the prehistoric, Greek and Roman periods found in archaeological excavations in the city and other sites in Sicily. Overnight Siracusa (B)
Monday January 21: Sicilian Baroque
The Sicilian Baroque style of architecture was introduced following the devastating earthquake of 1693. The epicentre was at the town of Noto which was destroyed along with other towns and villages. After the earthquake, wealthy Sicilian families, along with the church, entered into a period of extravagance. They employed architects trained in Rome, and gave them free reign to indulge in lavish creations in the Baroque style. The result is a highly decorative Baroque style that lasted barely 50 years, but left Sicily with a unique architectural identity. Today we will see wonderful examples of this style of architecture in Noto and Ragusa Ibla. Overnight Siracusa (B)
Tuesday January 22: Villa Romana del Casale
Departing Siracusa today, we head to Agrigento. En route we visit the impressive Roman villa at Piazza Armerina, thought to have been a hunting lodge of the emperor Maximian (early 4th century BCE). The villa features a series of remarkable floor mosaics spanning over 1,100 square metres, believed to have been created by North African artisans, and are the best Late Imperial mosaics outside of that continent. In the late afternoon we arrive in Agrigento and have dinner together. Overnight Hotel Colleverde Park, Agrigento (B, D)
Wednesday January 23: Valley of the Temples
The monuments within the Valley of the Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are considered to be, along with the Acropolis in Athens, the finest Greek ruins in the world. Agrigento – ancient ‘Akragas’ – was founded in the 6th century BCE and enjoyed a reputation as one of the wealthiest colonies of the Greek world. The extensive and well-preserved sacred area is testament to these riches, comprising four major temples in excellent preservation as well as a number of smaller structures. Today we tour the temple site with a local guide and visit the nearby archaeological museum. In the late afternoon we arrive in Palermo and have dinner together. Overnight Hotel Piazza Borsa, Palermo (B, D)
Thursday January 24: Palermo
Once the intellectual capital of southern Europe, Palermo has always been at the crossroads of civilization. Today Palermo is a colourful city, with the atmosphere of North Africa or perhaps Asia rather than of Europe. Once conquered by the Phoenicians, Arabs, and Spanish, Palermo today bears witness to its rich past, from Byzantine mosaics and crumbling baroque buildings, to Arabian gastronomic delicacies in La Vucciria and Ballarò markets. Splendid medieval churches, archaeological gems and first-class museums are what Sicily’s capital city does best. Today we tour some of the main historic sites of the old city, including the Palace of the Normans, the seat of the Kings of Sicily during the Norman domination, and the castle of La Zisa. Overnight Palermo (B)
Friday January 25: 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)
Saturday January 26: Monreale and Cefalu
The cathedral and abbey of Monreale, in the hills overlooking Palermo, were founded by the Norman King William II in the 12th century to demonstrate the power of the Norman Kingdom of Sicily. There are more than 6,000 square metres of mosaics here, using 2,200 kg of real gold. We spend the morning visiting the cathedral and the surrounding medieval hill town. Afterwards we travel along the north coast to Cefalù, a fishing town dominated by a splendid Norman cathedral, reputedly built after King Roger II survived a shipwreck near the town. Its imposing size dominates the landscape of the town, while the interior is embellished with the oldest in a series of brilliant mosaics found in this part of Sicily. We have lunch in Cefalù before returning to Palermo in the late afternoon. Overnight Palermo (B, L)
Sunday January 27: 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 28: 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. We continue on to the town of Marsala where we visit a wine producer to tour the vineyard and taste the famous drop. We return to the hotel in the later afternoon and have our farewell dinner in Palermo. Overnight Palermo (B, wine tasting, D)
Tuesday January 29: Departure
Our group flight departs mid-morning for Rome, where the tour ends. (B)
Dr Jeni Ryde
Has a wide-ranging knowledge of Italian history and cultural traditions. Jeni has a PhD focusing on Tourism, Heritage and Renaissance Studies.
Dr Jeni Ryde is a linguist and art history specialist with over fifteen years experience leading tours to Italy, Spain and Portugal. She is passionate about art, design and architecture both ancient and modern and particularly enjoys how both complement each other. Her special interests are the simplicity of the Romanesque and the breadth and depth of the Renaissance. When she is not traveling with Academy Travel she is able to indulge her interests in drawing, music and teaching the less fortunate.
Jeni holds two undergraduate degrees with majors in Anthropology and French and Interpreting and Translation with NAATI qualifications, two Masters degrees in Italian Linguistics and TESOL and a cross disciplinary PhD in Renaissance Art History, Tourism and Museum Management.
After an early career as an assistant director in film and television both for the ABC and BBC, she worked as an interpreter and translator and then as a senior lecturer at Western Sydney University with a focus on Italian language, history and culture. She was also head of the postgraduate programs in Languages and Interpreting and Translation. Teaching in Adult Education has included several courses in Renaissance Art History, the Italian language and Italian Cinema for U3A and other community organizations. Jeni speaks fluent Italian and Spanish and has an understanding of French and Portuguese.
Jeni first began designing and leading tours to Italy with her own company in 2002 in response to requests from travelers searching for small group tours with specific themes. She joined Academy Travel in 2009 and has since led many tours to various regions of Italy as well as Spain and Portugal.
We asked Jeni, what motivates you as a tour leader?
“I delight in being the catalyst for showing our travelers beautiful places and works of art and especially seeing their reactions – a tear in the eye before a moving painting, a sigh of wonder on entering a beautiful building, a gasp at the beauty of an exquisite landscape. This for me is the great privilege and reward of being an Academy Tour Leader.”
“Many travelers comment on my boundless energy and curiosity for paths less travelled. I like to think that people who travel with me are swept along by my waves of enthusiasm and are inspired to go beyond the obvious to explore and learn with me. I’m known for introducing many little surprises along the way! An added bonus for me is the shared experience of like-minded people enjoying each other’s company while traveling together.”
Hotels have been selected principally for their central location and are all good 4-star properties. The Algilà Ortigia Charme Hotel and Grand Hotel Piazza Borsa are renovated palazzi.
Siracusa, Algilà Ortigia Charme Hotel (5 nights)
Centrally located in the historical centre of Siracusa on the island of Ortigia. The hotel is right on the seafront, overlooking the Ionian Sea. www.algila.it
Agrigento, Hotel Colleverde Park (1 night)
Ideally located, the hotel overlooks the Valley of the Temples, and is a short walk from Agrigento’s famous archaeological site. www.colleverdehotel.it
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
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.