Sicily Tour: Art & Archaeology
Sicily Tour: Experience the island’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, including Agrigento, the Villa Romana del Casale, the Late Baroque towns of the Val di Noto, Syracuse, and majestic Mt. Etna
with Professor Emma Blake
DatesSeptember 5 – 19, 2017
Why Take The Sicily Tour?
- Private tour of Selinunte by the director of the archaeological project
- Private behind-the-scenes tour at the Baglio Anselmi Museum in Marsala, with study leader Emma Blake
- Privately arranged boat tour of Syracuse Bay in a gozzo, a prewar fishing vessel, with history specialist, Pietro Beneventano del Bosco, a baron whose family has been in Sicily since the 14th century
- See five of Sicily’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Extension to Reggio Calabria to see the Bronze di Riace
- Maximum 14 participants
Sicily Tour Daily Itinerary
Day 1: Depart USA.
Day 2: Arrive Catania, Sicily, with city tour.
Day 3: Cefalù.
Day 4: Palermo.
Day 5: Monreale. Segesta.
Day 6: Erice. Mozia.
Day 7: Private tour of Selinunte.
Day 8: Agrigento. Piazza Armenia.
Day 9: Morgantina. Aidone Museum. Caltagirone.
Day 10: Modica. Ragusa.
Day 11: Noto. Transfer to Siracusa.
Day 12: Siracusa.
Day 13: Transfer to Taormina.
Day 14: Taormina.
Day 15: Depart for USA.
‘Excellent route! It built on history as we went. Lots of learning and discussing. Beautiful Country!‘ -Jeannette Dunckel
Join Far Horizons Archaeological and Cultural Trips on a 15-day tour of Sicily. Here, monumental evidence of waves of conquering armies covers the landscape. Successive groups including the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Spaniards, Arabs, Crusaders, British, and finally the advancing U.S. forces in World War II used the strategic island as a launching place for aspirations of empires. Explore the island’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, the Villa Romana del Casale, five of the eight Late Baroque towns of the Val di Noto (Catania, Caltagirone, Modica, Ragusa and Noto), Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica, and majestic Mt. Etna.Also see stunning Greek temple of Segesta, superb Greek and Roman Amphitheaters in Syracuse and Taormina as well as magnificent Norman Cathedrals in Cefalù, Palermo and Monreale! And join the archaeological staff at Selinute for a specially-arranged private tour of the excavations.With only 13 others, wander meandering cobblestone streets, savor traditional Sicilian cuisine in typical restaurants and trattorias and overnight in small characteristic and charming hotels. Also not to be missed is our post-tour extension to view the Riace Bronzes!
Emma Blake received her MA and PhD in Archaeology from the University of Cambridge and is presently an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Arizona. Her doctoral dissertation focused on monumentality on Sardinia in the Bronze Age, but since then she has shifted her fieldwork to northwest Sicily, where she has worked for many years, first as an Assistant Director on the Monte Polizzo excavations, and since 2008 as Co-Director of the Marsala Hinterland Survey, an intensive field survey along the coast adjacent to the Phoenician colony of Motya. Professor Blake’s most recent book, Social Networks and Regional Identity in Bronze Age Italy, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2014. Her travels to Sicily since 1999 and connections to this unique region make her an ideal study leader for this trip.
Day 1: Depart on the group flight to Sicily.
Day 2: Arrive in Catania, Sicily’s second largest city and one of the UNESCO World Heritage late Baroque towns. Enjoy an afternoon tour of the city. Overnight at the Hotel Romano House. (L/D)
Day 3: Begin today with a drive to Cefalù, captured in the Oscar-winning film Cinema Paradiso. The Duomo, or Cathedral, of this town 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. Also, 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 Grand Hotel Et Des Palmes. (B/L/D)
Day 4: Once the Norman capital of Sicily, Palermo is an amazing architectural testament to the island’s multicultural heritage. 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. In the evening, enjoy an optional traditional Sicilian puppet show, listed by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. (B/L)
Day 5: A short drive this morning takes us to Monreale to see the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Nuova. Building of this structure began 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 cathedral is spectacularly decorated floor to ceiling, with shimmering Byzantine mosaics, covering over 68,220 square feet in all. Here, we also find an imposing depiction of Christ Pantocrator. In the afternoon, move on to Segesta. The Doric temple at this site is one of the finest and best preserved in the Greek world. Nearby, explore the Greek Theater that dates to the 3rd century BC. Continue on to the coastal city of Marsala and overnight for two nights at Hotel Carmine. (B/L/D)
Day 6: The origins of the beautiful 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 surely 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 take a ferry to the small island of Mozia. Travel through the Salt Pans to the Whitaker Museum which houses an impressive collection of Phoenician artifacts. In the evening, return to Marsala. (B/L)
Day 7: Begin today at the Baglio Anselmi Museum in Marsala where a Punic Warship is on display. Here we will also have private, behind-the-scenes access to the museum’s storerooms with Professor Blake, an opportunity to view artifacts from the Marsala Hinterland Survey. Drive to Mazara del Vallo and view the Hellenistc bronze statue of the Satiro Danzante, the Dancing Sartyr. Continue on to Selinunte, named for the wild celery that still grows on the surrounding fertile plain, this was the wealthiest of Sicily’s Greek colonies. This site 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 Agrigento and overnight for one night. (B/L/D)
Day 8: We 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 magnificent mosaic floors throughout the villa which have been carefully restored, see mythical figures, hunting scenes, and the famous ’Bikini Girls’. Overnight in a traditional agriturismo for one night. (B/L/D)
Day 9: 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 overnight for two nights. (B/L/D)
Day 10: 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 12thcentury, the structure was later restored and 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. (B/L)
Day 11: 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 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 at the Des Étrangers Hotel & Spa on Ortygia for two nights. (B/L/D)
Day 12: The most important Greek city outside of Athens, Syracuse, was first colonized by Corinthians in the 8th century BC. Our explorations of Syracuse begin with the Neapolis Archaeological Park. 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. This evening see an optional play performed at the Greek Theater at the Neapolis. Dinner is on our own. (B/L)
Day 13: 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 your own pace. Overnight for two nights in Taormina. (B/L)
Day 14: Start with a walking tour of Taormina, where we will have time to 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 towers 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)
Day 15: Transfer to the airport for our return flight to the USA. (B)
Day 15: 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)
Day 16: Transfer to the airport for our return flight to the USA. (B)
$9,995.00 (per person, double occupancy) includes all hotels; meals as noted on the itinerary, entry fees, service of a local English -speaking guide, gratuities to guides and drivers, and ground transportation in Sicily. Prices are based upon the exchange rate for the Euro not going over 1.25. If the value of the Euro increases, the price of the trip may go up.
Single Suplement: $1,195.00. Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement will be charged.
Cost Does Not Include: Roundtrip international airfare; a separate donation as outlined below; passport or visa fees; airport taxes; beverages or food not included on regular menus; laundry; excess baggage charges; personal tips; alcoholic drinks; telephone, email, and fax charges; or other items of a personal nature.
Extension Cost: $825.00 (per person, double occupancy) includes all hotels; meals as noted on the itinerary, entry fees, service of a local English -speaking guide, and ground transportation in Sicily.
Extension Single Supplement: $165.00. Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement will be charged.
Fuel Surcharges: Far Horizons must pass on price increases when additional fuel charges are levied.
Note on Donation: 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 projects and museums 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 write a check to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person and is made by check directly to the donation project. Note that the donation is required as part of your registration for the trip and that it is non-refundable. For this trip, we have designated the archaeological work being done at Selinunte as the donation project. Please make your US$150.00 per person donation checks out to the ‘Institute of Fine Arts, New York University’ and specify ‘to be used only for the Selinunte Project’ in the memo line, and send it to Far Horizons.
A deposit of $500.00 and the separate donation check for $150.00 (made out to the designated project) are required along with your registration form. Final payment is due 90 days before departure. Upon receipt of your deposit and completed registration form, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information. Prior to the trip, we will send links to various websites of pertinent interest to the trip. Click here to download our Registration Form.
Cancellations and Refunds
Cancellations received in writing at least 90 days before departure will result in an administrative fee of $300.00 per person. Cancellations received less than 90 days before departure will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the tour, we will not reimburse any fees. Registrants are strongly advised to buy travel insurance that includes trip cancellation.
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 onsite when our groups arrive due to other commitments.
Note About Itinerary Changes
Changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation schedules may occur. A good book to read as well as a flexible attitude and a sense of humor are essential.
Walking and Standing
The group will be walking into and around sites extensively, frequently over uneven paths. All participants must be in good health, physically active, and able to walk independently and unassisted for distances that may exceed a mile or more each day. As a courtesy to your fellow travelers, you must be able to keep up with the group during the daily outings. Please remember that many of the sites are on mountain tops and to reach them means climbing. Be prepared! Additionally, please carefully choose the footwear with strong support for your feet and ankles. If you are not physically strong, are walking with a cane, or have problems with climbing, please be aware that there will be no one to assist you.