Palermo airport (PMO)/town
Approximately Travel Time and Unit: 39 Minutes - 20 Miles (31 Kilometers)
Private Vehicle and Italian Speaking Driver Disposal: transfer-in only
Welcome to the warm, beautiful and pleasant island of Sicily! Upon arrival at Palermo Falcone-Borsellino Airport (PMO | Your Arrival by TBA) please proceed through Passport Control and collect your luggage inside the customs area. Then transfer in town
Palermo, Street Food and Monreale
Approximately Travel Time and Unit: Full Day - 40 Miles (60 Kilometers)
English Speaking Driver Escort Disposal: full day from h 8.30AM
Monreale, English Speaking Local Guide NOT included
Palermo, English Speaking Local Guide NOT included
Palermo Walking Tour Street Food Experience from h 10.30AM with English Speaking Staff
Our tour starts with a short drive to Monreale, to see where Arab-Norman art and architecture reached its pinnacle in the Duomo (Admission fee: not included), launched in 1174 by William II. It represents scenes from the Old and New Testaments all in golden mosaics. The splendid mosaics in the interior of Monreale Cathedral are its principal artistic attraction. Their subtle beauty creates an atmosphere of solemn tranquility and perhaps even awe. The mosaics cover practically all the surfaces of the cathedral's walls, except for the ground level, up to a height of two meters, where the walls are finished in white marble bordered with polychrome inlay decoration. All of the cathedral's mosaic figures (many are icons) are placed upon a background of gold mosaic "tesserae" (tiles). The interior of the church is about 100 meters long by 40 meters wide. There are a total of 130 individual mosaic scenes depicting biblical and other religious events. The Old Testament is depicted on the walls of the central nave, starting from the Creation and ending with Jacob's Fight with the Angel.
We then return to Palermo to start Street Food Tour. It’s important to know that Palermo is in fifth place according to the “top ten cities for street food” ranking published by several Travel News Paper. The uniqueness of street food from Palermo lies not only in its variety and in his goodness, but also in the ability that every dish has to tell a historical chapter of the Sicilian capital. So, if you come to Palermo you can’t miss the chance to enjoy its extraordinary cuisine exploring 2,000 years of history: from the landing of Phoenicians to the one of Americans! With us you’ll have the chance to taste the best street food, where only locals go to fill their big bellies! We start our street food walking tour through the old squares and markets of the city center. The itinerary includes several stops at bakeries, street vendors and old inns to taste the delicious street food of Palermo and a selection of Sicilian sweet wines. Along the walking tour you will enter places hung out only by real Sicilians. Each tasting will be made official by your Tour Leader who will share with you meal information and legends. Our Streat Palermo Tour isn’t just food! It also includes stops at the main historical squares and several hidden spots of the city center to offer participants a comprehensive overview of the artistic and historical evolution of the city.
The Palermo Street Food ends in the early afternoon at the Palermo Cathedral (Tips: not included) erected in 1185 by Walter Ophamil (or Walter of the Mill), the Anglo-Norman archbishop of Palermo and King William II's minister, on the area of an earlier Byzantine basilica. By all accounts this earlier church was founded by St. Gregory and was later turned into a mosque by the Saracens after their conquest of the city in the 9th century. Ophamil is buried in a sarcophagus in the church's crypt. The medieval edifice had a basilica plan with three apses, of which only some minor architectural elements survive today.
We then continue onto the Four Corners which is the junction in Palermo. Effectively, it is the centre point of the four areas of the old town centre. You will almost inevitably pass through it and it is worth stopping for five minutes to have a look at its sculptures which were commissioned by the Spanish Viceroy in 1611. The sculptures on each of the four corners depict a variety of themes, including the four seasons, four Spanish kings and the four patron saints of the old town areas. Going south-east down Via Maqueda you will come across Piazza Pretoria which is home not only to a splendid fountain but several other impressive buildings including, on the right, the City Hall. The fountain, known for generations as the “Fountain of Shame”, has an interesting history. It was originally built in 1555 by the Florentine sculpture Francesco Camiliani for a Tuscan villa owned by the Viceroy Pedro de Toledo. His son, on inheriting the villa in 1574, thought it a little too risqu? for his tastes and sold it to the City of Palermo who erected it where it now stands. The large central fountain is the focal point for sixteen nude statues of nymphs, humans, mermaids and satyrs. If you imagine this being erected during the Inquisition, it is quite easy to imagine why it received its epithet, the “Fountain of Shame”. (L)
Palermo/Marsala Winery, Salt Way Road and Erice/Palermo
Approximately Travel Time and Unit: Full Day - 170 Miles (270 Kilometers)
Important: Marsala winery is closed on Sunday, Bank Holidays and Summer Week (middle of August)
Private Vehicle and English Speaking Driver Escort Disposal: full day from h 8.30AM
Today we drive to Marsala. Upon arrival our first stop is to the Saline (Saltpans) which is also a Nature Reserve, a place of extraordinary beauty, where alongside the exceptional natural landscapes we can appreciate the typical windmills of Marsala-Trapani coast, original examples of still fully functional industrial archeology. Saline della Laguna are located inside the Reserve. The landscape around is still strongly identified with its iconic saltpans, now far fewer in number than in the past but still retaining the distinction of being the oldest and last remaining in Sicily. Dating as far back as the Phoenicians around 2.700 years ago when salt was fundamental for preserving food, the salt pans were at their most prosperous under Aragonese rule and numbered around forty at the end of the 1800’s when over 100,000 tonnes of salt were produced each year. Today there are some ten saltpans with two main areas of production, at Nubia and at the ‘Stagnone’, the largest lagoon in Italy to the north of Marsala. The flavour of the salt is exceptional: completely natural and untreated, the salt has a higher concentration of potassium and magnesium but less sodium chloride than common salts and is available in many specialist food shops. Visit the salt pans for the dramatic landscape, punctuated by windmills, and the views across to the Egadi Islands. We then visit the Cantine Florio Winery (Cantine Florio Winery: subject to availability) to taste the Marsala wines. Marsala is a wine, dry or sweet. While the city's natives sometimes drink "vintage" Marsala, the wine produced for export is universally fortified similar to Port, Madeira and Sherry. Originally, this addition of alcohol was to ensure that it would last on long ocean voyages, but now it is made that way because of its popularity in foreign markets. Later we then travel from Marsala to Trapani to enjoy an amazing route under the name of Via del Sale (Salt Way Road). This is the best way to travel to join Erice uptown, which was an important religious site associated with the goddess Venus. Wander through its ancient streets and visit some of the famous homemade pastry shops—world-famous for marzipan candies and other delicacies like almond and pistachio pastries. Towering over the west of Sicily at 751m above sea level and often covered in its own personal cloud, Erice is a wonderfully preserved Mediaeval town offering the most breathtaking views and a palpable sense of history. Originally an Elymian city (the Elymians were around before the Greeks ever set foot in Sicily) Erice, or Eryx as it was first called, was a town of no little importance and renown and is said to have attracted the likes Hercules and Aeneas. Like so many Sicilian towns, it passed from one invader to another as all the usual suspects came and went, leaving their architectural calling cards and their cultural footprints. The name changed from Eryx, to Erice to Gebel Hamed and Monte San Giuliano but its essential character remained, obstinately repelling any attempt to change its real identity. Amongst the most visited sites are the two castles, Pepoli Castle and Venus Castle. The former was built by the Arabs while the latter was a Norman construction with imposing towers that derived its name from the fact that it was built on the site of the ancient Temple of Venus, allegedly founded by Aeneas.
Palermo/Agrigento and Piazza Armerina/Taormina
Approximately Travel Time and Unit: Full Day - 250 Miles (390 Kilometers)
Private Vehicle and English Speaking Driver Escort Disposal: full day from h 8AM
Agrigento, English Speaking Local Guide NOT included
Piazza Armerina, English Speaking Local Guide NOT included
Today early departure for Agrigento to visit the finest of all ancient Greek sites—the complete Doric Temples (Admission fee: not included), one of Sicily’s most famous historical attractions. This is one of the most outstanding examples of Greater Greece art and architecture, and is one of the main attractions of Sicily as well as a national monument of Italy. The area was included in the UNESCO Heritage Site list in 1997. Founded as a Greek colony in the 6th century B.C., Agrigento became one of the leading cities in the Mediterranean world. Its supremacy and pride are demonstrated by the remains of the magnificent Doric temples that dominate the ancient town, much of which still lies intact under today's fields and orchards. This splendid archaeological park consists of eight temples (and various other remains) built between about 510 BC and 430 BC: the Temple of Hera, the Temple of Concordia, the Temple of Heracles, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Temple of Castor and Pollux, the Temple of Hephaestos, the Temple of Demeter, and the Temple of Asclepius (the God of Medicine). Apart from this latter, which is to be found on the banks of the Akragas river, all are situated in the same area on rocky crests south of modern day Agrigento (not really in a Valley at all!).
Later this afternoon onto Piazza Armerina situated deep in the Sicilian hinterland, at 721 metres above sea level, one of Sicily’s most frequented tourist spots. However, it is not the town that most people come to see, but the famous Villa Romana del Casale (Admission fee: not included). Built in the middle of the 4th Century AD as a hunting lodge by a Roman patrician (it is not known for sure who the owner was) the Villa is home to some of the best preserved and extensive examples of Roman mosaics spread over around 3500mt. The villa is one of the most luxurious of its kind. It is especially noteworthy for the richness and quality of the mosaics which decorate almost every room; they are the finest mosaics in situ anywhere in the Roman world. These extraordinarily vivid mosaics, probably produced by North African artisans, deal with numerous subjects, ranging from Homeric escapades and mythological scenes to portrayals of daily life, including the famous tableau of girls exercising in their “bikinis”.
Later we then continue to Taormina, the world famous resort town of Sicily.
Taormina/Etna Volcano Off Road Experience and Farmhouse/Taormina
Approximately Travel Time and Unit: Full Day - 40 Miles (70 Kilometers)
Season: this excursion is doable from June to October. From November to May we will provide a different route which does not involve the summit of the volcano and arrives only up to 1.500 mt.
Dress Code (June-October): use sturdy shoes, wind jacket and do not forget sun screen
Private Jeep (WD4X4, Land Rover) and English Speaking Driver Disposal: full day from h 8.30AM
Today meet the off-road’s driver and transfer to Etna Volcano. Our first stop is the the 2002 lava flow reachable by jeep through a winding dirt road surrounded by chestnut and oak forests. The 2002 eruption lasted from October 27th to January 29th 2003 and it is considered one of the most explosive eruptions of the past one hundred years. Continuing our excursion we will reach the Ragabo pine forest where hidden among pines and brooms, we will discover the cave of Corruccio (1350 meters above sea level) a cave formed by flowing lava. Later, driving up along the Mareneve road we will reach Piano Provenzana (1800 meters above sea level), a ski resort, theater of the great eruption of 2002. After enjoying an excellent espresso, we will take a short walk to visit the ruins of the hotel Le Betulle destroyed by a molten lava flow.
From Piano Provenzana possibility to join a collective tour (weather and volcanic conditions permitting).
This tour begins at “Piano Provenzana” and follows a mountain trail at an altitude of 2900 meters. Traveling by large, off road vehicle, we will reach a high mountain slope framed by magnificent views of lava and volcanic sand along the rift created in the 2002 eruption. At the foot of the mountain one can admire the beautiful Peloritani, Nebrodi and Madonie mountain ranges; all surrounded by the picturesque Tyrrhenian and Ionian coast, from Siracusa to Calabria, from Taormina to the Aeolian islands. Here, one can take in the most impressive views in the world ... the multiple fumaroles and seemingly lunar landscapes created by multiple eruptions between 1923 and 2002. At an altitude of 2900 meters the North-East crater (where the volcano observatory is located), dominates the area. In clear weather, one can see both the "Lion" and the "Bove" valleys from this point.
Later we travel through one of the most beautiful Wine Roads of Sicily and crossing large expanses of vineyards (Etna D.O.C.), we will stop at a local farmhouse. This is the ideal place to enjoy relaxing moments surrounded by nature while sampling local cuisine and excellent wines. In fact the wines are complemented by uniquely local delicacies.
Light lunch in a local farmhouse with wine.
This afternoon we then return to Taormina (L)
Approximately Travel Time and Unit: -
Private Vehicle and English Speaking Driver Escort Disposal: NO
Taormina, English Speaking Local Guide NOT included
Today is at leisure: enjoy a drink at the tables of Caffè Wunderbar (or similar) in Piazza IX Aprile may set you back a few euros, but you'll be basking where Tennessee Williams and Elizabeth Taylor basked before you. As well as the famed Greek-Roman Theatre (Admission fee: not included), there are several minor sites to be discovered around Taormina. The attractive principal thoroughfare, Corso Umberto is pedestrian and ideal for strolling and window-shopping. Picturesque lanes above and below the Corso are interesting to explore, while if you want to stretch your legs further there are attractive walks up into the hills, or down to the sea. Given its compact size, Taormina has a huge range of bars, cafes and restaurants where you can while away pleasant hours while admiring the views.
Approximately Travel Time and Unit: 50 Minutes - 45 Miles (70 Kilometers)
Private Vehicle and Italian Speaking Driver Disposal: transfer out only
Today departure for Fontanarossa Catania airport (CTA | Your Departure by TBA)