ARRIVE PALERMO, ITALY
Sicily has a long history of stubborn independence from the political forces of mainland Italy, and today remains an autonomous region with its own distinct history and culture. Arrive in Palermo, Sicily’s lively capital, and transfer to your hotel located in the city’s historic center. Join your Resident Tour Director tonight for a welcome dinner.
PALERMO | Treasures of Norman Architecture
This morning, set off on a guided tour of ancient Palermo, including the Cathedral and the ninth-century Norman Royal Palace with its glittering, mosaic-laden chapel. Still in use today as the headquarters of Sicily’s Parliament, the palace is the oldest royal residence in all of Europe. Continue to the hillside town of Monreale and enter its extravagant cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dating from 1170, it is perhaps the finest surviving example of Norman architecture anywhere in the world, and its mosaic-lined walls, said to incorporate nearly 2.5 tons of gold, are breathtaking to behold. Return to Palermo and spend the rest of your day at leisure exploring more of this unique port city.
AGRIGENTO | The Dark History of Cosa Nostra
Today, travel across Sicily’s rugged mountainous countryside to the south coast. Stop in the small village of Corleone, birthplace of several Mafia bosses (including fictional characters in The Godfather). The Mafia — or as its members call it, Cosa Nostra (literally, “our thing”) — has vexed Sicily for well over a century, thriving in this land so famously resistant to official authority. Learn more about this troubled aspect of Sicilian history from a local expert. Proceeding to coastal Agrigento, discover the ancient Valley of the Temples that includes the Temple of Concord, a superb example of sacred classical architecture. Explore the ruins before checking in to your seaside resort on the nearby coast.
PIAZZA ARMERINA | Ancient Villa
Journey east to Piazza Armerina, a graceful countryside town, where you visit the incomparable Villa Romana del Casale. A luxurious example of an ancient Italian villa, this UNESCO World Heritage Site houses breathtaking mosaics originally laid in the fourth century. Continue to the east coast of Sicily and up to the 6,000-foot-plus heights of smoldering Mount Etna, taking in panoramic views of the landscape and coast. Later, arrive in charming Taormina, which has allured visitors since the 19th century with its sweeping beaches and rolling hillsides.
TAORMINA | Majestic Vantage Point
Today, a local expert introduces you to the town’s spectacular Greek amphitheater, set high above the ocean. Still in use as an arts venue today, its permanent “show” is its extraordinary view of Mount Etna, rising in the far distance beyond the stage. Later, relax or catch up on shopping with time at leisure.
MATERA | In the Mountainous Città Sotterranea
Rise early for the journey to Messina, where you board a ferry to cross the strait separating Sicily from the “toe” of the Italian mainland. Disembark in Villa San Giovanni in Calabria, and drive into Basilicata and to Matera, the ancient Città Sotterranea (Underground City), carved right into the Appenine Mountains. Thought to be one of the oldest cities in the world, Matera is a jumble of stone dwellings built alongside (and in some cases, on top of) each other, linked by narrow, jagged lanes. Settle into your incredible hotel, set within Sassi cave dwellings and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
MATERA | A Taste of Puglia
Take a walking tour of Matera, and experience this incredible ancient city up close. In addition to cave dwellings, the town includes several churches, many also carved into the rock and dating from the eighth and ninth centuries. Later in the morning, join a local chef for a Puglian cooking class. Prepare and eat an unforgettable lunch, with time to explore the town at leisure.
ALBEROBELLO | The Trulli Houses of Apulia
Journey into Puglia to nearby Locorotondo, one of Italy’s most beautiful towns, for a walking tour. Meet a cheese producer for a private tasting and buffet lunch featuring local products. Later, visit Alberobello and its rows of fantastic trulli houses, conical limestone dwellings unique to this province of Bari.
PAESTUM | Making Mozzarella
This morning, depart for the sparkling Amalfi Coast area. Stop en route in Paestum, an ancient Greek city known for its well-preserved Greek temples; see them after a tour and lunch at a nearby mozzarella-making farm. Arrive in Naples, and then taste its original Italian pizza for dinner.
CAPRI | Mediterranean Idyll
Cruise by boat across the deep blue Bay of Naples to the sun-kissed island of Capri. Visit Anacapri and charming Capri town, where cool cafés, designer boutiques and grand villas have lured everyone from emperors to celebrities. Tonight, cap off your journey with a special farewell dinner.
Transfer to the airport for your flight home.