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 Thomas F.X. Noble
September 8 – 22, 2023
Why Take The Sicily Tour?
- Led by Professor Thomas F. X. Noble, lecturer for The Great Courses
- Private tour of Selinunte by the director of the archaeological project
- Private visit to puppeteer workshop
- See seven of Sicily’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Agrigento, Opera di Pupi (Sicilian Puppet theatre), Norman Palermo, Villa Romana del Casale, Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto, Syracuse, Mount Etna
- Extension to Reggio Calabria to see the Bronze di Riace
- Maximum 14 participants
(click to enlarge)
Sicily Tour Daily Itinerary
Day 1: Depart USA
Day 2: Arrive Catania, Sicily, with city tour.
Day 3: Cefalù. Palermo.
Day 4: Palermo. Opera di Pupi.
Day 5: Monreale. Segesta.
Day 6: Erice. Mozia.
Day 7: Mazara. Private tour of Selinunte.
Day 8: Agrigento. Piazza Armenia.
Day 9: Villa Romana del Casale, Morgantina and Aidone Museum. Caltagirone.
Day 10: Modica. Ragusa.
Day 11: Noto. Transfer to Syracuse.
Day 12: Syracuse.
Day 13: Ortigia. Transfer to Taormina.
Day 14: Taormina. Mount Etna.
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 journey around 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.
With only 13 others, wander meandering cobblestone streets and savor traditional Sicilian cuisine in typical restaurants and trattorias. Also see stunning Greek temples at Segesta and Selinunte, superb Greek and Roman Amphitheaters in Syracuse and Taormina as well as magnificent Norman Cathedrals in Cefalù, Palermo and Monreale!
Also not to be missed is our post-trip extension to view the Riace Bronzes!
Thomas F. X. Noble received his MA in History and Latin and his PhD in Medieval History from Michigan State University and was the Andrew V. Tackes Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame. A popular speaker for The Great Courses (formerly The Teaching Company), Professor Noble is a lecturer on ten different series including the 48 lecture course, The Foundations of Western Civilization. He is the author, coauthor, or editor of 10 books and has published more than 40 articles, chapters, and essays including From Roman Provinces to Medieval Kingdoms, and his coauthored textbook, Western Civilization: The Continuing Experiment, which is in its 5th edition. Professor Noble has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and research grants from the American Philosophical Society. He has been the invited speaker at many national and international conferences including in Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Scotland. Dr. Noble was the recipient of the Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C., Award for Excellence in Teaching from Notre Dame, and was awarded the Alumni Distinguished Professor Award and a David Harrison III Award for outstanding undergraduate advising, both from the University of Virginia.
(B) breakfast, (L) lunch, (D) dinner
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. Taste some of the city’s amazing street food as we enjoy an afternoon tour of the city. Overnight at the Romano House, a luxurious 4-star hotel in the center of Catania. (L/D)
Day 3: 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 Piazza Borso, located in the heart of the city. (B/L/D)
Day 4: 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)
Day 5: 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 Erice and overnight for two nights in the Hotel Moderno, a delightful small hotel located within the walls of the medieval city. Dinner this evening will be in one of the town’s excellent restaurants. (B/L/D)
Day 6: 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)
Day 7: 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 Hotel. (B/L/D)
Day 8: 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)
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. Overnight for two nights in the San Giorgio Palace Hotel in Ragusa Ibla. (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 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)
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 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 at the Grande Albergo Alfeo. (B/L/D)
Day 12: 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. This evening dinner is on our own. Or we may see an optional play performed in the ancient Greek Theater. (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 our own pace. Overnight for two nights in the 4-star Villa Diodoro, overlooking the sea in Taormina. (B/L)
Day 14: 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)
Day 15: Transfer to the airport for our return flight to the USA. (B)
Post-Trip Extension to View the Riace Bronzes
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)
$10,995.00 (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. Price is based upon the exchange rate for the Euro not going over 1.10. If the value of the Euro rises, the price of the trip may increase.
Single Supplement: $995.00. 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; necessary vaccines or tests; telephone, email, and fax charges; or other items of a personal nature.
Extension Cost: $995.00 (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: $155.00. 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 $750 per person 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 120 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 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $450 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. Insurance recommended by Far Horizons can be reviewed by clicking HERE.
Private Tours of Archaeological Sites
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.
Travel in Sicily
The group will be walking into and around sites extensively. All participants must be physically active and able to walk independently for distances that will exceed a mile or more each day. Please remember that many of the sites are on mountain tops and to reach them means climbing. Be prepared!. 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.
The tourist infrastructure in Sicily is well developed. Roads conditions throughout the country meet a high standard so long drives should not be uncomfortable. The hotel rooms will be ‘European’ size, which means small. If you would like to be upgraded to a larger room or suite at an additional cost, please contact the Far Horizons office. Although a European country, Italy moves at its own pace. Sicily, in particular is known for doing things con calma, no rushing. By maintaining an adaptable attitude and sense of humor you will soon be captivated by the beauty of the natural scenery, the hospitality of the local people, and the fascinating archaeology and historic sites. Your flexibility and patience will be appreciated.