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Sicily is an ideal destination for anyone interested in ancient history, as there are so many sites to see within such close proximity. Our experiences will be brought to life by local expert Antonio Marretta.
Explore Tour Leader
14 nights comfortable hotel
Trip maximum 16 Explore Average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Syracusa. During the Greek Classical period, this east coast city was the largest in the ancient world - even bigger than Athens. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is also notable as being the birthplace of antiquity's greatest mathematician, Archimedes.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 7pm for the welcome meeting and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner. There are no other activities planned today, so you are free to arrive in Syracusa at any time. If you would like an airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Catania Fontanarossa Airport (CTA), which is about an hours' drive. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, perhaps you might choose to walk into the historic centre of Ortygia Island, which is about 20-30 minutes from our hotel. Artemis Fountain and the Baroque cathedral are lit up beautifully at night.
Tonight will be your first opportunity to sample Sicilian cuisine and wine. According to Greek legend the god Dionysus brought wine to Sicily, whereas it's more likely that wine has been produced here since ancient times due to the island being blessed with plenty of sunshine and reliably moderate rainfall, along with fertile volcanic soils. Nowadays there is a huge variety of both delicious red and white wines to choose from. You might like to try a typically Sicilian dish such as pasta with sardines and wild fennel, aubergine stew or boiled pork in salsa verde and saffron.
Hotel Panorama (or similar)
Syracuse, a colony of Corinth, once rivalled Athens as the most important and beautiful city in the Greek world. The sites we intend to visit include the Neapolis Archaeological Zone with its famous Greek theatre hewn out of the hillside in the 5th century BC and where Aeschylus once produced his plays; the fine Roman amphitheatre where gladiators once fought wild beasts and the quarries where the defeated Athenians were imprisoned in 413 BC. Finally we'll make the journey to Ortygia Island and its promontory to see its unique Baroque architecture and where you will be free to wander.
We leave Syracuse and drive to Noto, the most beautiful Baroque city in Sicily, completely rebuilt after the earthquake that devastated this part of the island in 1693. The town was built between 1715 and 1780 and still preserves a unified and homogenous architectural style and town plan, little affected by later developments. Its tufa stone has mellowed to a golden brown colour and its unique buildings leave visitors with an impression that is hard to forget. We continue on to Ragusa, another Baroque town whose buildings crown the summits of two adjacent hills. After our visit we'll continue to the medieval town of Piazza Armerina for the next two nights.
Hotel Villa Romana (or similar)
This morning we'll drive to the impressive Villa Romana at Casale, a magnificent country mansion containing some beautiful Roman mosaics. After sightseeing we drive the short distance to the remains of Greek Morgantina, to see the exavations and visit the museum. This large city once controlling an extensive area that now lies deserted in the countryside. The scattered buildings of the site are only partially unearthed. We return to Piazza Armerina later this afternoon.
Leaving Piazza Armerina we drive via the virtually impregnable hilltop stronghold of Enna located near Lake Pergusa, then drive on to Agrigento, once one of the most prosperous cities in Sicily. The ancient Acropolis, now a modern city, overlooks the valley where the lower city stood and the southern ridge where the temples still stand. We explore the remarkable complex of 5th century BC Doric temples and the museum. The romantic aura of the ancient site which lines a ridge overlooking the sea is especially evocative, the golden temples encircled by almond trees and gnarled silver-grey olives. The scene provides a perfect setting for the ancient stonework. Pindar was so moved as to say that Agrigento was 'the most beautiful city built by mortal man'. The Valley of the Temples includes the 6th century Temple of Hercules, the oldest in the complex (nine columns of which were re-erected by Englishman Alexander Hardcastle in the 1920s). The perfectly proportioned Doric columns of the Temple of Concord (circa 430 BC) incorporate optical corrections such as entasis and turn honeygold in the late afternoon sunlight. The Temple of Juno, built at the end of the tufa ridge and probably some twenty
years older than the Temple of Concord, was probably burnt by the Carthaginians in 406 BC. The temples are particularly beautiful in the late afternoon light.
Hotel Akrabello (or similar)
This morning we take a short drive to Stair of the Turks or Turkish Steps for a photo stop. This white sedimentary rock in the shape of a staircase was a favourite landing point of Saracens pirates and the Moors, during the Middle Ages. We then continue to the vast site of Selinunte, where earthquake-tumbled ruins litter the landscape and some temples have been partially re-erected. We'll see the ancient Acropolis, its fortifications and the town within, perched on a plateau overlooking the Mediterranean. Selinunte was the most westerly of the Greek colonies, and despite its poor natural defences it became a powerful and wealthy city. It was constantly under threat from the Carthaginians and was in a state of perpetual warfare with its prosperous rival, the Elymnian town of Segesta to the north. An army led by the Carthaginian Hannibal sacked it in 409 BC, slaughtering some 16,000 inhabitants, then, in 250 BC the Carthaginians once again razed the city, demolished the temples and moved the population to nearby Lilybaeum (modern Marsala).
The site was effectively abandoned afterwards. We then continue to our hotel for the evening in Marsala.
Hotel President Marsala (or similar)
A short distance north and ferry ride away brings us to the small island of Mozia, which lies off the western coast and was once owned by the Whitaker family of Marsala wine fame. The island is in an ideal location, surrounded by shallow waters that secure a protected and sheltered anchorage. We visit the museum and the site of the old Phoenician town and harbour works. Returning to Marsala we make a brief visit to the Phoenician Ship Museum before you have the rest of the afternoon free to relax and enjoy the town's old quarter.
This morning we head to picturesque Erice, a medieval town perched on a precipitous 750 metre-high mountain. Magnificent views extend over the Egadi Islands. One tradition says that Erice was founded by the legendary Aeneas who stopped here after the fall of Troy (circa 1200 BC). Its original inhabitants were a non-Greek race, though they readily adapted to Greek ways. We then continue to the romantically situated Doric temple at Segesta, one of the best preserved and most beautiful of all. It was probably started around 426 BC, perhaps to impress Athenian allies, but it was never finished. Its columns were never fluted and many of the bosses used to hoist the stones into position were not chiseled off. After our visit we drive on to Palermo.
Hotel Garibaldi (or similar)
This morning we drive to the ruins of Solunto, a Roman town abandoned in AD 300. The ancient site was once thought to be Phoenician Solus, but we now know that the Punic settlement was at Cozzo Cannita, some 5 miles away. The excavations are beautifully situated high above the sea on the slopes of Monte Catalfano, and give a fine impression of the variety of buildings and layout of a Roman city. The site includes paved streets, houses (some with mosaics), a theatre, a bouleuterion, cisterns and baths. The afternoon is left free for you to explore more of Palermo.
Sicily's capital stands at the foot of Monte Pellegrino with the fertile valley of Conca d'Oro behind. It was once one of the richest cities in Europe from the 9th to the 12th centuries AD when Islamic culture, Byzantine magnificence and the vigorous world of medieval Europe were merging into a fascinating civilisation. Today the city contains numerous Islamic, Norman and Baroque buildings, together with some noteworthy museums and art galleries. After breakfast we'll visit the Norman palace, a fascinating mixture of styles: Saracenic, Byzantine and Norman influences appear in its architecture and decoration and the nearby San Giovanni degli Eremiti. The rich marble and mosaics in the Cappella Palatina were mostly executed by Byzantine craftsmen. The remaining time before lunch will be spent driving into the hills to the majestic Norman cathedral of Monreale. After lunch we will then go for a walk touring the Gothic Cathedral, founded 1185 by the Englishman Walter of the Mill, and the area around Quattro Canti, the Baroque city centre. Founded in 1174 by William the Good, the cathedral is famous for its extensive mosaics and beautiful cloisters showing both Romanesque and Islamic influences.
Palermo has a fascinating market crammed with exotic goods and is a veritable treasure trove of artistic and cultural sites. The day has been left free for you to explore at your own pace.
Leaving Palermo we drive along the spectacular coastline to the picturesque fishing town of Cefalu. Here we stop to visit the Norman Cathedral, to see the stupendous mosaic of Christ Pantocrator. Next we'll continue along the coast road to the archaeological site of Tindaris. Our journey today ends in Giardini Naxos, near Taormina.
Hotel Sporting Baia (or similar)
This morning, we travel to the base camp of Mount Etna to explore its lunar landscape, craters and lava fields of one of the most active volcanoes in Europe. We head directly to the cable car base at Rifugio Sapienza, which is on the south side of Etna and 1,900 metres above sea level. Here there are several cafes and gift shops and you can also see the old Silvestri Craters. There is the option to board the cable car up to 2,500 metres where there's another cafe and gift shop and you can have a walk around on the mountainside, please note this is at additional expense, see the optional activities section for more details. From here you have the option of boarding a four-wheel drive coach up to 2,900 metres to take a short walk (around 45 minutes) with a mountain guide to view the craters formed in the 2002/3 eruptions and the fumaroles at around 3,000 metres, which is as close to the summit as we're currently permitted to go. You then return down the mountain the same way.
From here we drive to the historic city of Catania. It's known for its rich Baroque architecture, vibrant street markets, and stunning Mount Etna views. We will walk through the centre of the city and stop to view the Piazza Duomo with its Elephant Fountain, University square, Etnea main street and Stesicoro square. When we are done with our sightseeing we will drive for around an hour to get back to our hotel in Giardini Naxos.
This morning we take a local shuttle bus to Taormina, Sicily's most famous resort, situated 213 m up on the slopes of Monte Tauro and overlooked by Castel Mola. It was a favourite place during the days of the 'Grand Tour' and was frequented by Goethe, Edward Lear, D.H. Lawrence and many others. This morning we'll visit the Graeco- Roman theatre for possibly the most famous view in Sicily - that of snow-capped Etna acting as a backdrop to the remarkably preserved columned stage. When our tour is over you are free to have lunch here and do some shopping and head back to Giardini Naxos when you are ready. We will meet again tonight for a final group meal in Giardini Naxos.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Giardini Naxos.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Giardini Naxos at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like an airport transfer today, you need to depart from Catania Fontanarossa Airport (CTA), which is about one hours' drive.
April/May and October/November are pleasantly warm. June/September are the hottest months. Showers are common in Autumn.
2 Pin Round
A selection of optional activities are listed below to help you budget for your holiday. Whilst the trip price you pay before you travel includes a great selection of highlights, we have also built in free time to allow you the flexibility to choose from a carefully selected range of additional excursions or to take time to relax, the choice is yours. At certain destinations along the way there may be several options to choose from and it may not be possible to fit all the activities in; your Explore Leader will be able to give advice on which are the most suitable for you. Ortygia Island, Syracusa: Entrance to Castello Maniace on day 2, €4.00 per person. Guided your of the Jewish Baths on day 2, €5.00 per person. Boat trip along the coast on day 2, €10.00 per person. May not be possible in spring/autumn due to wind conditions. Erice: On day 8 entrance for four of the most famous churches €5.00 per person or each individual church €2.00 per person. Entrance to Castello di Venere on day 8, €5.00 per person. Palermo: Entrance to the Botanical Gardens on day 11, €5.00 per person. Entrance to the catacombs on day 11, €3.00 per person. Entrance to the cathedral on day 11, free of charge or €1.50 per person to see the Norman tombs. Tour of the Teatro Massimo on day 11, €8.00 per person. Puppet theatre performance on day 11, €12.00 per person. Giardini Naxos: There are different options for the Mount Etna tour on day 13. We take the bus to 1,900 metres; 1. Take the cable car to 2,500 metres €50.00 per person 2. Cable car to 2,500 metres plus four-wheel drive coach up to 2,900 metres €78.00 per person Due to the volcanic dust and sulphur fumes on Mount Etna, we ask asthma sufferers or customers with heart conditions of any kind to take these factors into consideration when deciding if this optional excursion is right for you. In windy conditions the cable car might not be running, in which case the four-wheel drive coach normally operates from 1,900 metres up to 2,500 metres. Entrance to Giardini Naxos Archaeological Zone on day 14, €2.00 per person including museum entrance. Taormina: Entrance to the Villa Comunale Gardens on day 13 is free of charge. Please note that all optional excursions listed above are subject to change and availability and they may not all be possible to offer on every departure date.
Throughout most of the year it's best to dress for hot conditions, although light rainwear and a warm fleece/jacket for nights when temperatures can drop is recommended. If you're travelling in March, October or November then the weather can be cooler and rain more frequent, so it's best to pack layers and rainwear just in case. Anyone intending to visit Mount Etna should bring warm clothing as snow is a common occurrence (even in June). Wind and waterproof garments are therefore suggested for those wishing to visit the volcano. Women should avoid bare arms and shoulders in churches, so it's best to carry a scarf or shawl.Women should avoid bare arms and shoulders in churches, so it's best to carry a scarf or shawl.
It's best to pack comfortable walking shoes for exploring and sandals for relaxing and going to the beach to swim. You will want warmer shoes and socks if you're going to go up Mount Etna.
One main piece of baggage and daypack. Remember you are expected to carry your own luggage so don't overload yourself.
Sicily is located off the southern coast of Italy and the weather is often sunny, so a sunhat and sunscreen are essential. You should also bring a two litre water bottle, torch in case of emergencies, and insect repellent. You may also wish to bring a swimming costume and towel in order to make the most of swimming opportunities off the coastline. At any time of year it can be snowy on top of Mount Etna and considerably colder, so if you plan to travel up the volcano we'd recommend bringing gloves and a woolly hat.
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Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
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Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Italy: Visas are not required by UK, E.U Nationals, Australian, New Zealand, US and Canadian citizens. Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office. All visa information is subject to change. You should confirm all visa related questions with the relevant embassy prior to departure.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
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Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
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You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
Nothing required. Tetanus recommended. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.