Sicily’s history and culture are a unique fusion of Mediterranean civilizations, encompassing Phoenician, Greek and Roman periods, as well as more recent periods of Byzantine, Arab, Norman and Spanish rule. The setting for this long and distinctive history is unmatched – the towering volcano of Mount Etna which dominates the east coast, rich rolling hillsides in the interior and rugged limestone cliffs along the coast.
The nearby Aeolian – or ‘windy’ – Islands, celebrated in the writing of Homer, retain much of the character of the ancient Mediterranean and boast majestic scenery.
Our carefully thought out itinerary progresses in a broadly historical sequence, commencing with the major Greek cities of Siracusa, Agrigento and Selinunte before moving on to the predominantly Arab and Norman world of Palermo and the north coast. We spend three days in the Aeolian Islands exploring Lipari, including a cruise to Panarea and the volcanic island of Stromboli. The journey concludes with three nights in Taormina, a celebrated European holiday spot for two centuries.
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The distinctive, flamboyant form of Baroque architecture that evolved in 17th and 18th century Sicily is recognizable not only by the typical Baroque curves and flourishes, but also by its grinning masks and putti.
Villa Romana Del Casale
The exceptionally well-preserved Imperial Roman Villa is the site of the richest, largest and most complex collection of Roman mosaics in the world, covering more than 12,000 square feet.
Agrigento, Valley of Temples
An outstanding example of the art and architecture of the Greek world, this enthralling archaeological site encompasses the ruined ancient city of Akragas, highlighted by the well-preserved Temple of Concordia.
Widely regarded as the finest example of Norman architecture in Sicily, Monreale’s splendid cathedral and abbey are lavishly decorated with colourful mosaics depicting events from the Old and New Testaments.
Taormina and Mount Etna
Near the stunning town of Taormina on the Ionian Sea lies Mount Etna, Europe’s largest volcano and the best-known symbol of Sicily.
The tour begins and ends at Rome Fiumicino airport. Emirates, Qatar and Singapore Airlines all offer suitable connections to Rome for our continuing group flight to and from Catania. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the letters B, L and D.
Friday 24 March – Arrive Siracusa
Meet your tour leader at Rome Fiumicino airport to commence the tour. There is a group flight to Catania, then transfer by coach to our hotel in Siracusa. This evening meet for a light dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight Siracusa (D)
Saturday 25 March – Ancient Siracusa
After a talk in the hotel, we visit 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 (where thousands of Greek prisoners were held during the Peloponnesian War). In the later afternoon we’ll visit the Museo Aretuseo dei Pupi, housing a collection of traditional Sicilian puppets, followed by a performance of traditional puppetry at the adjoining theatre. This evening we have our welcome dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight Siracusa (B, D)
Sunday 26 March – Paolo Orsi Archaeological 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 most important archaeological museums in southern Italy. Its artefacts, found throughout Sicily, survey the Greek, Roman, and early Christian epochs. In the afternoon we’ll visit the Byzantine-era Jewish baths which are over 1,500 years old. Overnight Siracusa (B)
Monday 27 March – Sicilian Baroque in Noto and Ragusa
Today we take a round trip of the south-east tip of Sicily, visiting the towns of Noto and Ragusa. These towns are famed for their exuberant ‘Sicilian Baroque’ architecture, created after a devastating earthquake of 1693 that destroyed the earlier towns. Overnight Siracusa (B)
Tuesday 28 March – The Villa Romana
We depart Siracusa this morning, heading westward through the geographic centre of Sicily. Today’s highlight is the Villa Romana del Casale at Piazza Armerina, featuring a series of intact floor mosaics from the 4th century AD, created by North African artisans. After lunch we continue to Agrigento, located on the south coast of Sicily, arriving in the late afternoon. Dinner tonight is in our hotel. Overnight Agrigento (B, D)
Wednesday 29 March – Agrigento Temples and Museum
Agrigento – ancient ‘Akragas’ — was founded in the 6th century BC 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 wonderfully preserved large temples as well as a number of smaller structures. Today we tour the temple site with a local guide and visit the nearby archaeological museum. The afternoon is free to relax. Tonight, we have dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight Agrigento (B, D)
Thursday 30 March – Romanticism at Selinunte
Our first stop is to see the larger than life-size Dancing Satyr of Mazara del Vallo, a Greek bronze statue that was found by a Sicilian fisherman in 1998 in the waters of the Mediterranean. We continue to Selinunte (ancient Selinus), the last of the important Greek cities on our itinerary. At its peak, Selinus had a population of 25,000 but it was comprehensively sacked and its ruins inspired generations of Romantic poets and artists, such as Goethe. Dinner tonight is in a local restaurant. Overnight Palermo (B, D)
Friday 31 March – Palermo
Palermo is a colourful city, with the atmosphere of North Africa or perhaps Asia rather than of Europe. Its heritage as a meeting point between European civilisation and the Arab and Byzantine worlds is borne out in the splendid medieval buildings of the Norman kingdoms. Today we tour some of the main historic sites of the old city, including the Norman Palace and Palatine Chapel, with its gold mosaics, and the Byzantine-influenced church of La Martorana. After lunch we visit the 12th-century retreat of La Zisa, inspired by Moorish pleasure palaces, and then stroll through some of the markets and characteristic back streets of the old city. Overnight Palermo (B)
Saturday 1 April – Glittering Monreale
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 enjoying the surrounding medieval hill town. After returning to Palermo, the afternoon is at leisure. Overnight Palermo (B)
Sunday 2 April – Segesta and Mozia
Today we take a ferry to Mozia where, among the salt pans, we explore the ruins of the former Carthaginian settlement. The island also houses a small museum with some unique pieces. We then continue to Segesta, an evocative ruin perched on a hill . The theatre and temple here are truly memorable, and have inspired artists and writers for centuries. In the late afternoon we head back to Palermo. Overnight Palermo (B, L)
Monday 3 April – Cefalù and the Aeolian Islands
We depart Palermo this morning, heading along the north coast. We spend the greater part of the day in Cefalù, a fishing town dominated by a splendid Norman cathedral, reputedly built after King Roger II survived a shipwreck near the town. There is also a Greek sanctuary above the town (a steep walk) and an idiosyncratic art gallery with some fine works. These include a wonderful portrait by Antonello da Messina. After lunch we travel to Milazzo where we take a ferry to the island of Lipari, our base on the Aeolian Islands for the next three nights. Dinner is served in our hotel. Overnight Lipari (B, D)
Tuesday 4 April – Lipari
This morning a local guide shows us the main archaeological site of Lipari, an island inhabited since at least 5,000 BC. The middle of the day is free to explore the town or relax in the hotel. Later in the afternoon we take a trip around the island by coach, enjoying the landscape and views to the other islands. Overnight Lipari (B)
Wednesday 5 April – Boat Trip to Panarea and Stromboli
Weather permitting, today we take an afternoon boat excursion to the islands of Panarea and Stromboli, 20km from Lipari, enjoying the natural beauty and unspoilt traditional lifestyle of these islands. A highlight of the excursion is the chance to view the volcano of Stromboli. We have a light dinner on Stromboli before returning to Lipari in the early evening. (Alternative plans, such as a visit to the nearby island of Vulcano, or to Milazzo, will be made if the weather is too rough for the excursion) Overnight Lipari (B, D)
Thursday 6 April – Messina
Returning to the mainland, we travel to the city of Messina to visit the fine Norman cathedral and the Regional Museum of Messina, home to masterpieces by Caravaggio and Antonello da Messina. We continue on to Taormina on the west coast of Sicily. After checking into our hotel, we have a welcome drink on the terrace. Overnight Taormina (B)
Friday 7 April – Taormina
Sitting above the sea with superb views to Mount Etna, Taormina is a memorable final destination for our journey. We spend this morning visiting the Graeco-Roman theatre and other highlights of the town. This afternoon and evening are at leisure. Overnight Taormina (B)
Saturday 8 April – With the gods on Mount Etna
Today we join our coach for an excursion to the summit of Mount Etna itself. Europe’s largest and most spectacular volcano, Mt Etna is still very active. Assuming conditions are safe we will explore the south side of the volcano, travelling by coach, cable car and finally jeep to a height of 2,900 metres. The landscape and the views are unforgettable. (Please note that the last part of the excursion involves walking over uneven surfaces. It may not be possible for all passengers to undertake this segment.) Returning to Taormina there is time for a stroll around the town before we meet for our farewell dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight Taormina (B, D)
Sunday 9 April – Departure
Our flight departs mid-afternoon for Rome, arriving in time to meet the late evening departing flight for Australia. (B)
Dr Estelle Lazer
An archaeologist with an international reputation for her work on the human victims of Pompeii in southern Italy.
Estelle has also worked on archaeological sites in the Middle East, Italy, Cyprus, the UK, Antarctica and Australia.
Estelle has also worked on archaeological sites in the Middle East, Italy, Cyprus, the UK, Antarctica and Australia.
Estelle is an Honorary Research Associate at the University of Sydney. Her work on the human victims from Pompeii has been published in academic journals and books, most notably, in an academic volume, Resurrecting Pompeii. Estelle is currently heading a project to examine the casts of the Pompeian victims for the first time, using digital X-ray and CT scanning technology. Estelle’s research has been included in three documentaries over the past few years: Pompeii: New Secrets Revealed with Mary Beard for the BBC (and the Smithsonian and Arte), Pompeii’s Final Hours: New Evidence (a three-part series for Channel Five in the UK) and Pompeii: Secrets of the Dead for National Geographic.
She has delivered invited lectures on her research at a number of Australian and international institutions, including The Australian National University, the National Museum of Singapore, Oxford University and the British Museum in the UK, Lund University, the Italian Cultural Institute, Stockholm and Stockholm University in Sweden, and Trondheim University in Norway.
Her other main field of research is historical archaeology in Antarctica and the Sub-Antarctic. Estelle spent four summers working on Mawson’s Huts, and has spent another summer studying evidence of the sealing industry as well as Australia’s first post-war Antarctic base at Heard Island.
Estelle has led tours to Italy and the Mediterranean for Academy Travel since the company’s inception in 2004, and also works extensively with our Academy Schools program for teachers and students. In addition to her obvious archaeological expertise, she particularly enjoys explaining the place of mythology in the landscape – especially in Sicily and southern Italy.
Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
All accommodation at properties mentioned in the itinerary
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Taxis may also be used for short trips on some tours. Some city stay tours may involve local transport
Lunches and dinners indicated with the letters L and D in the itinerary
Beer, wine and soft drinks at sit-down lunches and dinners. Picnic and light lunches may not include alcoholic drinks
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
All tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
On international tours only
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required, and when stated as included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Some trips may be made by public transport such as high-speed train and subway
What is not included in the tour price?
Our tours do not include the following:
Air or land travel from your home city to the tour start/end points
Local taxes and airport levies that we are not able to prepay on your behalf. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Lunches and dinners not specifically indicated with the letters L or D in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as passports, laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity
Airport Transfers on international tours
Tours may begin at either the arrival airport or the first hotel. 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
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, 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.
We require all tour participants to have adequate insurance coverage.
For domestic tours, Medicare and your private medical insurance should be used to cover any medical expenses.
Domestic travel insurance is available and strongly recommended to cover non-medical expenses such as cancellation.
For international tours, we require you to have comprehensive travel insurance. Prices vary according to your age, your pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the length of your journey abroad.