Sicily and the Aeolian Islands have a remarkable history and culture that is a blend of Mediterranean civilisations. From the well-preserved remains of Greek and Roman cities and temples, to Norman cathedrals with fine Byzantine mosaics and Arab-influenced cuisine, the island’s unique and varied history is tangible. This 17-day tour has been designed to give the first-time visitor an overview of Sicily’s diverse and fascinating past, its art and traditions, and shows how the extraordinary landscape – volcanoes, rugged coastlines and the jewel-like sea – has shaped the island’s vibrant history and culture.
A scenic private boat trip of the Aeolian Islands, from Lipari to Stromboli and Panarea
Outstanding archaeological museums in Siracusa, Agrigento and Lipari
The Sicilian Baroque architecture of Noto and Ragusa that evolved in the 17th and 18th centuries
The exceptionally well-preserved 4th-century mosaics in the imperial Roman villa at Piazza Armerina
The UNESCO World Heritage-listed mosaics in the cathedral of Monreale and Palatine Chapel in Palermo, undertaken by Byzantine masters for their Norman rulers
An excursion to the summit of Mt Etna
Days 1–4: Group flight from Rome. Arrive in Siracusa, tour archaeological sites and the old town. Day trip to Noto and Ragusa.
Days 5–6: Travel to the Greek temples at Agrigento via the Roman villa at Piazza Armerina. Days 7–10: Explore the capital Palermo, including Monreale, the Norman Palace and Palatine Chapel. Visit the tiny island of Mozia.
Days 11–13: Continue on to Cefalu en route to the Aeolian Islands. Take a private boat trip from Lipari to Stromboli and Panarea.
Days 14–17: From Taormina visit the Greco- Roman theatre and Mount Etna, before taking a group flight to Rome.
The tour begins and ends at Rome Fiumicino airport. Emirates, Etihad, 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 October 4: 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. Passengers coming from the Malta pre-tour extension arrive in Catania a short while later. This evening meet for a light dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight Siracusa (B, D)
Saturday October 5: Ancient Siracusa
After a talk in the hotel we visit the main archaeological site 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 October 6: 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 October 7: 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 destroyed the earlier towns. Overnight Siracusa (B)
Tuesday October 8: 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 October 9: 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 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. The afternoon is free to relax. Tonight, we have dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight Agrigento (B, D)
Thursday October 10: Romanticism at Selinunte
Our first stop is to see the over 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 October 11: 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 stroll through some of the markets and characteristic back streets of the old city. Overnight Palermo (B)
Saturday October 12: 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 October 13: Segesta & 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. Continue to Segesta, an evocative ruin in a hilltop location. 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 October 14: 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 (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 October 15: 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 our 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 October 16: 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 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 October 17: Messina
Returning to the mainland, we travel to the city of Messina to visit the fine Norman cathedral and the Regional Museum of Messina, housing paintings 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 October 18: 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 October 19: 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 October 20: Departure
Our flight departs mid-afternoon for Rome, arriving in time to meet the late evening departing Emirates flight for Australia. (B)
A published historian and archaeologist, with extensive experience in lecturing and leading tours to the ancient world.
Gillian Hovell, ‘The Muddy Archaeologist’, is a UK-based freelance, published historian and archaeologist with extensive experience in lecturing and leading tours to the ancient world.
After graduating from Exeter University in Latin and Ancient History, Gillian worked in BBC Television and went on to become an award-winning freelance writer, author and public speaker specialising in archaeology, ancient history (and Latin too).
Gillian shares her enthusiastic passion and extensive knowledge in person in courses and lectures and on tours and cruises, in books & freelance writing, in the field, on national and local media, and on-line. She engages with folk in social and professional environments and inspires them to see that archaeological finds and sites are full of human life and passion.
She is now a lecturer at the British Museum and for York University and provides many Lifelong Learning courses independently and for institutions and establishments in the UK and abroad. Her 2018 lecture tour of Australia was so successful that others are being planned.
Her joy is to change the way that people see their work and leisure today, human nature and the world around them. For, as she says, ‘history and archaeology are not just about the past, they’re everywhere, and they add colour, depth and meaning to our lives today.’
As an archaeologist, Gillian led and supported community archaeology projects in a hands-on way for ten years (hence the professional title of ‘The Muddy Archaeologist’). She now actively digs at major sites in the UK and Europe (from Orkney’s prehistoric Ness of Brodgar to Roman Pompeii and Vindolanda, and sites and eras in between).
Gillian is passionate about leading tours and cruises. Her wide experience stretches from the archaeology of the UK (from Neolithic Orkney to Roman Britain and beyond) to the archaeology and the ebb and flow of the Ancient Mediterranean civilisations. Her expertise includes the Neolithic temples on Malta, the Bronze Age Minoans and Mycenaeans, the ancient Greek mainland and the Aegean islands and shores, the Phoenicians, traders extraordinaire, and the artistic Etruscans. And, of course, the Romans in every corner of their Empire.
We asked Gillian, what motivates you as a tour leader?
‘The BBC mantra of “educate, inform and entertain” has never left me,’ she says. ‘I simply adore providing tours of destinations that are so much more than a load of old stones; our travels are visits into the past and a glimpse into our shared humanity.’
‘For,’, she continues, ‘on our adventures, we meet people who share their lives with us; it’s always a thrill, a joy and a privilege, whether they lived 3,000 years ago or greet us today’.
‘And, as we join together in our exploration of great sites and in our enjoyment of delicious meals, unforgettable landscapes and an exchange of ancient and modern ideas, I always hope my fellow travellers are refreshed, inspired and delighted by their voyage of discovery.’
Whether you’re a lifelong lover of the ancient world, or even if you don’t yet know that you’re interested in ancient history or archaeology, Gillian can fire your imagination and inspire you to new visions.
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.