Its scenery possesses a natural and varied beauty that is truly breath-taking. Rugged, sometimes snow-capped mountains reaching for the sky are interspaced with rich meadows, adorned with wild flowers: during spring and autumn, spectacularly green and lush, yet during the sun-scorched summer, transformed into pastel shades of greens, yellows and browns.
Citrus and olive groves stretch into the distance and abundant pine forests lend the air that unmistakable Mediterranean aroma. Punctuated by the occasional farmhouse and Tuscan-like hilltop village the countryside is remarkably empty. The island has a spectacularly indented coastline, with sweeping bays and blood-red volcanic rocks plunging into the deep blue sea, and snowcapped Mount Etna providing a magnificent backdrop.
Although very much Italian today, Sicily has been at the crossroads of almost every Mediterranean civilisation for thousands of years and still retains traces of them all. Founded by the Phoenicians, home to the richest cities in the Greek Empire, Sicily was then over the centuries conquered by the Romans, the Moors, Normans, Spanish, French and finally the Italians. Their magnificent relics include temples, ancient amphitheatres, churches, monasteries, villas and atmospheric old towns, with many being the most outstanding of their type in the world and, due to the climate, in a truly remarkable state of preservation.
In character, Sicilians are noticeably different from the rest of Italy with their Sicilian language still in evidence. The food is wonderful but, again, sometimes a little different from the rest of the country, with nearby African influences present in dishes like couscous.
Our tour visits the finest this remarkable island has to offer. We start in Agrigento, founded by the ancient Greeks, and famous for its remarkable Valley of the Temples – nine of them, some in phenomenal condition and all the more impressive when you consider they are almost 2,500 years old. It never ceases to amaze us – our present day civilisation believes it is so sophisticated and supposedly at the cutting edge of technology, but we wonder how many of our buildings will last as long!
Next we visit Palermo, chaotic and vibrant capital of the island, and in a beautiful setting with an atmosphere of both Europe and the Orient. The architecture ranges in style from Arabic toNorman, Baroque to Art Nouveau.
The pretty little town of Piazza Armerina possesses one of the true archaeological gems of the ancient world: the Casale villa dating from Roman times, covering a huge area, decorated with the largest expanse of ancient mosaics ever discovered and, having been covered by a mud slide many centuries ago, their condition belies their age. We also visit Taormina, one of Sicily’s most beautiful towns. Select and tasteful, Taormina retains its medieval charm, with its main street a lovely collection of 15th to 19th century townhouses, small and intimate piazzas and twisting alleyways. D.H. Lawrence was aware of its charms, making his home here for several years. Taormina’s greatest claim to fame is its Greek theatre dating from the 3rd century BC, with its breath-taking views of the bay and Mount Etna.
Italians are famous for being a friendly and accommodating race and Sicilians especially so, so there is no doubt you will be made welcome on this beautiful island.
- Guided tour of Agrigento’s ancient Greek ruins in the Valley of the Temples, one of the world’s greatest archaeological sites - entrance fees included
- Visit Palermo, Sicily’s capital with its gorgeous medieval and baroque centre, Italy’s finest outside of Rome
- Visit stunning Taormina, one of Italy’s most beautiful and stylish hilltop towns
- Guided tour of Piazza Armerina’s Roman villa, remarkably preserved with stunning frescoes and ancient mosaics - entrance fees included
- Enjoy authentic Sicilian food at a rural agriturismo
- Visit Mount Etna, the largest active volcano in Europe
- Guided tour of Monreale Cathedral with the world’s finest medieval mosaics – entrance fees included
- Visit Siracusa, one of the ancient Greek empire’s richest cities and home of Archimedes
- Return travel from a selection of regional airports, plus all hotel transfers
- Seven nights in 4-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, plus breakfast and dinner
- Services of our experienced tour manager
- Selected departures from April to November 2019
- The price of this holiday is per person based on two people sharing a twin room. Single and sea view rooms are subject to availability at the relevant supplement. The price includes return flights, seven nights’ accommodation with breakfast, dinner and one light lunch at a rural restaurant, all local taxes and transfers, all tours as mentioned, entrances to Valley of the Temples, Villa at Piazza Armerina and Monreale and the services of a Riviera Travel tour manager.
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