Embark on a captivating Sicily tour with Far Horizons as we present our uniquely curated archaeology tours of Sicily’s art and archaeology. This immersive 15-day tour around Sicily, one of the crown jewels of Italy, promises to be a magnificent voyage through ancient history. Sicily’s diverse landscape is dotted with grand monuments – a testament to the waves of conquering armies that once claimed this strategic island as their launching pad for imperial aspirations.
From Phoenicians to Greeks, Romans to Spaniards, Arabs to Crusaders, and the U.S. forces in World War II, each left their indelible marks. This Sicily tour includes exploration of the island’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, such as the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, the Villa Romana del Casale, and five enchanting Late Baroque towns of the Val di Noto: Catania, Caltagirone, Modica, Ragusa, and Noto. We will also visit historical Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica, capped by a breathtaking view of the majestic Mt. Etna.
Traveling in a small, intimate group of just 13, you will wander down cobblestone streets, each turn revealing a new slice of Sicilian life. Delight in traditional Sicilian cuisine in charming, authentic restaurants and trattorias that serve dishes steeped in centuries of tradition. This is a Sicily educational tour packed with local delights and cultural gems.
Our tour of Sicily also showcases the artistic side of Italy, making it perfect for those interested in art vacations in Italy. Experience the stunning Greek temples at Segesta and Selinunte and the impressive Greek and Roman Amphitheaters in Syracuse and Taormina. Marvel at the magnificent Norman Cathedrals in Cefalù, Palermo, and Monreale, offering a peek into the island’s religious history. To complete your art tour of Italy, join us for a post-trip extension to view the renowned Riace Bronzes.
Embrace the rich, layered history of Sicily and experience the blend of cultures that shaped its unique identity.
Departure on a flight bound for Italy.
Arrive in Catania, Sicily’s second largest city and one of the UNESCO World Heritage late Baroque towns. Taste some of the city’s amazing street food as we enjoy an afternoon tour of the city. Overnight in Catania for one night. (L/D)
Begin today with a drive to Cefalù, captured in the Oscar-winning film Cinema Paradiso and a part of the UNESCO Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches. The Town’s Duomo, or Cathedral, is an incredible structure that was begun in 1131 and built in the Arab-Norman style. It is dedicated to the Redeemer which is reflected in the giant mosaic of Christ Pantocrator in the great cupola. Explore the cathedral’s cloister and admire the Byzantine motifs of the capitals that adorn the paired columns.
In the afternoon, travel to Palermo and visit the recently excavated Punic Necropolis which dates back to the 7th century. Overnight for two nights in the luxurious Grand Hotel et Des Palmes, located in the heart of the city. (B/L/D)
Once the Norman capital of Sicily, Palermo is an amazing architectural testament to the island’s multicultural heritage and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Start at the fascinating Palazzo dei Normanni, the royal palace built in the 12th century for the Norman King Roger II. Within the complex see Phoenician ruins and the Cappella Palatina, the royal chapel. Adorned with impressive glittering Norman-Byzantine mosaics and capped with a 10th-century Arab honeycomb stalactite ceiling, the chapel is one of the finest examples of Arab-Norman art in Palermo.
Continue on to the church of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio, ‘Saint Mary of the Admiral’, named after its founder George of Antioch, the admiral of King Roger. More commonly known as La Martorana, this Romanesque structure dates back to 1143. The extraordinary Norman-Byzantine mosaics that cover the interior include a depiction of King Roger II being crowned by Christ.
Nearby, we view the small Chiesa di San Cataldo, the exterior of which features Saracen-style red domes. Stop in a workshop to learn about puppeteers and how puppets are created. In the evening, enjoy an optional traditional Sicilian puppet show, listed by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. (B/L)
A short drive this morning takes us to Monreale, another part of the UNESCO Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches. The Cattedrale di Santa Maria Nuova was begun in 1174 by order of King William II and was intended to outshine the Cappella Palatina which was built by his grandfather. The interior of this building is spectacularly decorated floor to ceiling with shimmering Byzantine gold mosaics. Towering over the apse is an imposing depiction of Christ Pantocrator in blue robes with his hand blessing the people below.
In the afternoon, move on to Segesta, one of the three major cities of the indigenous Elymi people. The city contains two of the best-preserved Classical monuments on Sicily and they bear testimony of Segesta’s one-time prosperity – a 5th century BC Doric temple and a theater from the 3rd-2nd century BC with a magnificent view over the landscape towards the nearby Gulf of Castellamare.
Continue on to Marsala where we spend two nights. (B/L/D)
The origins of the lovely town of Erice are steeped in myth as its foundation is associated with the Greek hero Eryx. Perched on an enormous rock that rises steeply from the sea, it is one of the last vestiges of medieval Sicily. Surrounded by a pine forest, protected from the world by imposing ramparts and city walls, and shadowed by an impressive castle, it is without a double the island’s most picturesque town.
We will walk the narrow, cobbled streets to view the Norman Castello del Venere, built on the remains of a temple to Venus. Also see the Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista with its 12th century portal and valuable works of sacred art. Conclude the city visit at the Gothic Chiesa Matrice with its outstanding rose window.
In the afternoon, we travel by ferry through the area’s salt pans to the small island of Mozia and the Whitaker Museum which houses an impressive collection of Phoenician artifacts. In the evening return to Erice with dinner on our own. (B/L)
Drive to the charming fishing village of Mazara del Vallo and the former church of Saint Egidio. Here we will view the Hellenistic bronze statue of the Satiro Danzante, the Dancing Satyr, found in the sea in 1997 by local fishermen. Greater than life-size, the stunning 2,500 year old sculpture represents Silenus, a companion and tutor to the wine god Dionysus.
Continue to ancient Selinunte, named for the wild celery that still grows on the surrounding fertile plain. This was the wealthiest of Sicily’s Greek colonies and it is not only impressive for the acropolis and numerous temples but also for its long history of conflict between the Greek cities of the era. Here, we will meet with the archaeological staff for a private viewing of the ongoing excavations.
Drive to Favara, a town near Agrigento that has been transformed the historic center into a contemporary art complex. Overnight for one night in the charming 4-star Alba Palace. (B/L/D)
Begin this morning in Agrigento, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The magnificent Valley of the Temples was founded by Greek colonists from Gela and went on to become one of the major cities of Magna Graecia. This archaeological complex contains some of the largest and most well-preserved ancient Greek constructions found outside of Greece.
In the afternoon, visit the nearby Regional Archaeological Museum before continuing on to Piazza Armerina to visit the Villa Romana del Casale, another UNESCO World Heritage site. After nearly 1,000 years of use, this Roman luxury villa was destroyed by flood in the 12th century. The mud preserved the superb mosaic floors throughout the villa which have been carefully restored, see mythical figures, hunting scenes, and the famous ’Bikini Girls’.
Overnight for one night in the Agriturismo Gigliotto a traditional farm house inside a 15th century monastery in Piazza Armerina. (B/L/D)
Our first stop today is Morgantina, a site that has been inhabited during several periods from the late Bronze Age to the Roman Republic, and the Aidone Museum that houses the finds from the various excavations, including the renowned Venus statue and Morgantina silver.
Continue on to Caltagirone, renowned for over 1,000 years for its production of vibrantly colored ceramics. Prehistoric earthenware has been found in the surrounding hills, the local potters were world famous during the Middle Ages, and today the tradition is still maintained. Here, walk up the dazzling Santa Maria del Monte Stairway, built in 1608, where each of the 142 steps is decorated with Maiolica tiles.
Our final stop is Ragusa, one of the UNESCO World Heritage Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto, where we will spend two nights. (B/L/D)
We depart this morning for Modica, another UNESCO World Heritage Late Baroque Town, and enjoy a visit to the small Franco Libero Belgiorno Museum which has a unique collection of local Greek artifacts. Move on to the Duomo di San Giorgio which impresses with its glistening splendor. The nearby Duomo di San Pietro was constructed in the early 12th century. Later restored, the structure boasts a façade crowned by a typical Sicilian Baroque bell tower.
In the afternoon we return to explore Ragusa which has two distinct sections, the lower and older town of Ragusa Ibla, and the higher and newer Ragusa Superiore. Dinner is on our own to savor one of Ragusa’s fine restaurants. (B/L)
Today takes us into Noto, the heart of Sicily’s Baroque. Devastated by the 1693 earthquake, the towns of Val di Noto rose from the ashes and were rebuilt in the 18thcentury with splendid monuments, churches and distinguished palaces in the Baroque style. This southeastern region of Sicily is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The central Cattedrale di San Nicolò which was completed in 1776 has unique Neo-Classical elements woven into its design.
In the afternoon, we continue on to Palazzolo Acrèide and visit the hilltop Greek Theater that is part of the settlement of Akrai.
Next, we stop at the Castello Eurialo, the Castle of Euryalus, constructed in 402 BC by Dionysius I as protection against the Carthaginians. Today, it is the finest surviving example of Greek military architecture.
Depart for Syracuse and overnight for two nights on Ortygia, a small island which is the historical center of the city of Syracuse. (B/L/D)
The most important Greek city outside of Athens and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Syracuse was first colonized by the Corinthians in the 8th century BC. Our explorations begin in the Neapolis Archaeological Park where we see the great Altar of Hieron built for the public celebration of animal sacrifices; the Greek Theater, one of the largest in the Greek world and still in use today; and a stunning 2nd century Roman amphitheater. Walk through the latomie, great stone quarries that provided the building materials for the Greek city and later served as a prison for the defeated and enslaved Athenians. At one end lies the Orecchio di Dionisio, the Ear of Dionysius, a cave with an ear-shaped entrance and unusual acoustics. Legend says that Dionysius listened at the top of the quarry to hear what the slaves were plotting below.
Continue to the Paolo Orsi Archaeological Museum where Sicily’s long history can be seen in the artifacts excavated from beneath the city.
After a private boat ride on Siracusa Bay, this evening dinner is on our own. (B/L)
The oldest sector of Syracuse is on the island of Ortygia. The island’s long history is still visible in many buildings, particularly the Temple of Apollo which dates to the 6thcentury BC.
Leave Ortygia for the nearby 4th-century Catacombs of San Giovanni Evangelista and marvel at the frescoes decorating the cavern walls above the ancient crypts.
Drive on to Taormina to enjoy the evening at our own pace. Overnight for two nights in a hotel overlooking the sea in Taormina. (B/L)
Start with a walking tour of Taormina, where we will wander the streets from the Piazza del Duomo, the heart of the town. We will climb to the Roman amphitheater, the second largest ancient theater in Sicily with its magnificent view of the sea and Mt. Etna. A short drive takes us to Mt. Etna, the still smoking volcano towering over the surrounding landscape, its snow capped peak visible for many miles.
After lunch at a local winery we wind through the fantastic landscapes of rugged lava rivers marking the flanks of the volcano. Enjoy some free time to explore the meandering streets of this charming town to search for last-minute gifts to take home before joining the rest of the group for a farewell dinner at one of the city’s fine restaurants. (B/L/D)
Transfer to the airport for our return flights home. (B)
Depart for Messina and cross by ferry to Reggio Calabria. Visit the Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia, home to the recently restored and larger than life-size 5th century BC Greek statues known as the Riace Bronzes. One of these extraordinary statues is thought to be a rare survivor of the Athenian sculptor, Phidias, chief exponent of the idealizing, classical style who was praised in the highest terms by ancient writers. The statues possibly originated from the Temple of Delphi, the Athenians’ monument to the victory of Marathon. Return to Taormina and overnight. (B/L)
Transfer to the airport for our return flight home. (B)
Price is based on double occupancy and includes:
Trip prices are based on a minimum number of participants. If this minimum number is not met, trip prices are subject to change. Should the prices need to change, Far Horizons will reach out to registered guests to discuss directly.
Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement must be charged.
As a tour company that benefits from the cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy of donating to the scientific and cultural sites and projects which we visit. This has created a bond between Far Horizons and the academic and local communities that has helped us establish an extensive list of lecturers and contacts in each of our destinations. We ask that each participant donate to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person. Note that the donation is required as part of your registration for the trip and that it is non-refundable.
Prices are based on currency exchange rates keeping below a projected level. While it is unlikely, if the exchange rates should change substantially, Far Horizons reserves the right to charge an additional amount to the trip cost.
A deposit of $1000 per person is required along with your registration & health forms, which will be linked in the email confirmation you receive once you pay your deposit on our booking platform. Final payment is due 120 days before departure. Prior to departure, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information.
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $500 per person administrative fee. Cancellations received less than 120 days before the departure date will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the trip, Far Horizons will not reimburse any fees. Upon registering for the tour, the purchase of travel protection with both trip cancellation and emergency evacuation is strongly advised. Links to recommended insurance policies will be included in the email you receive confirming receipt of your deposit.
International round trip flights are not included in the cost of the trip. If Far Horizons must change the trip dates or cancel the trip for any reason, Far Horizons is not responsible for any air ticket you may have purchased. Please send your complete air schedule as soon as you have it. NOTE: Please contact Far Horizons if you would like for us to handle your air ticketing.
The private tours of archaeological sites and talks by specialists are scheduled in advance and include a donation to each. Specialists working at these sites are excited about showing their work to interested enthusiasts. However, please be aware that there may be times when the director or a member of the staff may not be on site when our groups arrive due to other commitments.
Far Horizons expects all participants to be physically active and able to walk and climb independently throughout the full touring days. This includes walking over uneven terrain (uphill and downhill) for 2 miles or more at each site. You should expect to be on your feet for much of each day, averaging as much as 5 miles of walking per day. As such, each participant should be able to walk unaided at a pace of 3 miles per hour for at least an hour at a time, and to stand unsupported for at least 60 minutes. Bearing this in mind, we suggest that, if you have not already done so, you begin walking several miles every day, ideally including stairs and hills. If you have questions about your ability to keep up with the group or the strenuous nature of this trip, please contact the Far Horizons staff.
This tour is designed for flexible, energetic people who like to be active, have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. We have designed this trip to be as comfortable as possible, while also aiming to visit some remote or unique sites that other companies do not attempt to include in their itineraries. There may be days where we have very long drives and the conditions of the roads may vary. Hotels and transportation in some remote areas may not be up to western standards. There may be times when no bellhops are available; please pack with the understanding that you need to be able to handle your own luggage at times. At times we may be walking over uneven trails for a mile or more; hiking boots are strongly recommended. Not every meal will not be haute cuisine and several lunches may be picnics or box lunches. By maintaining a flexible attitude we will soon be captivated by the beauty of the natural scenery, the hospitality of the local people, and the fascinating sites we will see. Your flexibility and patience will be appreciated.
Changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation schedules may occur. While we are committed to keeping as close to the published details as possible, sometimes it is simply not possible. Weather events, government affairs, or other factors out of our control sometimes come into play. A good book to read as well as patience, flexible attitude, and a sense of humor are essential.
The group will be walking into and around sites extensively. Please remember that many of the sites are on mountain tops and to reach them means climbing. Be prepared!.