The island of Sicily floats regally in the center of the Mediterranean Sea, a target for invaders over the centuries. The Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, North Africans, Normans and Spanish all wanted to control this bountiful territory and benefit from its riches. Sicily is a diverse and abundant tapestry just waiting to be discovered. The people are warm and friendly, and the landscapes are exceptional. Plus, you’ll marvel at the fabulous food and wine and spectacular landscapes.
Our journey will start at Catania Airport, on Sicily’s eastern coast, where guests will be met by our driver in his luxurious mini-coach. Giorgio, our friendly local chauffeur and his son Filippo will drive us throughout the trip. First stop: Ragusa Ibla, a UNESCO world heritage site and probably the most beautiful of the Sicilian Baroque hilltop towns.
We will be staying at the 4* Villa de Lauro, a boutique hotel with pool for the next three nights.
The building that houses the Villa del Lauro is a magnificent example of Baroque art, typical of the nineteenth century. The restoration, pays attention to individual details, brings to light the splendor of ancient times and has transformed the villa into a charming residence. Each room is unique and their Italian garden and pool is the perfect place to relax.
Tonight our ‘Welcome Dinner’ features home-made pasta, local salads and some spectacular Sicilian wines.
After a leisurely breakfast in the hotel, we’ll meet up in the lobby for a day exploring this magical corner of Sicily. Today is all about the Val di Noto, a valley of exceptional natural beauty. This area inspired the writer Andrea Camilleri to create and write the Montalbano Detective novels here. Montalbano is now probably the most popular detective TV series in Italy. Visits to Scicli, Punta Secca and Donnafugata will inspire and impress. Donnafugata Castle which goes back to the 14th century literally means an escaping or fleeing woman. The Palace of Donnafugata was used in the Montalbano novels and TV series, acting as the home of an evil mafia boss! Click here for more on movies made in Sicily.
Today we’ll enjoy lunch near the beach at Marina di Ragusa. It’s time to sample fabulous seafood in a wonderful, stylish and oh so Sicilian trattoria.
This afternoon we’re off to Modica to visit the oldest chocolate shop in Sicily.
Dinner tonight will be near the Duomo in the heart of town.
Today is a special day – we’ll head out to the coast for a chance to explore Siracusa and the delightful peninsula of Ortigia. Siracusa was a Greek city thousands of years ago and was the hometown of Archimedes. As you stroll through the streets of the old town you’ll be transported back into the days of Classical Greece.
Ortigia is charming and very picturesque. It’s also the town where the Ortigia Cosmetics and Perfume brand was created. They are quite literally bottling and packaging the scents and aromas of Sicily. We’ll visit the Ortigia studio for the chance to see and smell these wonderful and unique fragrances. The packaging is to die for www.ortigiasicilia.com
Dinner will be in Siracusa in the historic ‘old town’ this evening.
After another fresh and delicious breakfast in our hotel, we’ll check out and travel west towards Agrigento. Here, we’ll find an exceptional group of classical temples built on Italy’s south coast by the Greeks in the 5th century BC. These temples have been standing for 2,500 years! The temple site is now a UNESCO world heritage site. It’s possible to wander amongst the temples which are surrounded by a verdant green park. The park is home to a unique species of goat known as ‘Capra Girgentana’ who have curly horns and clearly thrive in this beautiful and historic environment.
Lunch will be close to Agrigento in a delightful ristorante with far-reaching views across the plains to the Greek temples. After lunch, we’ll travel north through Italy’s rural interior to the coastal town of Cefalu. For the next two nights, we’ll be staying at the 5-Star Abbazia Sant-Anastasia, a wine resort situated in an ancient abbey dating back to the 12th century about 20 minutes outside of Cefalu. There will be a relaxing, informal dinner tonight in the lush gardens of the inn.
Today’s the day for a joyful hike through the hills for a spectacular view of the small city of Cefalu. (Walking time is about an hour. Drink in the fresh sea air as we walk through the Sicilian countryside to the medieval ‘rocca’ fortress that overlooks the coast and medieval town.
This is probably our favorite small city in Sicily. Narrow, stone streets, a superb cathedral and a fabulous array of shops and artisan studios await us. Here’s a little more on Cefalu – the most stylish small town in Sicily. Inside the cathedral in Cefalu there’s a 12th century mosaic of Christ ‘The Almighty’, created by the Normans when they invaded and took control of Sicily in the 1100s.
There’s free time for lunch today in Cefalu – there are numerous cafes, bars and small restaurants to choose from. We’ll explore the town center, waterfront and the medieval laundry, where the washerwomen of the town worked and gossiped more than five hundred years ago. There’ll be a car service back to the hotel available in the late afternoon.
This evening, a fish supper is organized at a tiny, family-run restaurant in the center of town.
Travel along Sicily’s north coast with the sea at our feet reminds us of the island’s maritime heritage. Many wealthy families in Sicily owned farms in the countryside and a palace or large house on the coast, usually in a town. Our first stop this morning is Bagheria, a seaside location popular with the wealthy Sicilians to build their summer houses. These elaborate historic homes are mostly empty now and open to the public as museums. We’ll be visiting a small and almost unknown villa that was occupied by the last member of an aristocratic family until just five years ago. The house is filled with fabulous furniture, family photographs and incredible ladies’ gowns (from the last hundred years). We’ll have a private visit to this fairytale palace, with its overgrown garden, dusty corridors and romantic courtyard.
We’ll have lunch ‘avec les pieds dans l’eau’ as the French say! Our lunch will be at Aspra in a tiny waterfront seafood eatery. The freshest of fish is served here, adjacent to the beach – a truly Sicilian experience. From Aspra it’s just about forty minutes into Palermo, the capital city of Sicily, where we’ll stay for the next 3 nights. Our accommodation in Palermo is a stylish and contemporary palace – L’Hotellerie Palermo – located opposite the public gardens. It is a true Palermitano experience.
Palermo was the capital city of the Kingdom of Sicily for seven centuries. The city is an incredible mixture of different styles and influences. There are churches that look like mosques with domed red roof tops and vast, sprawling, historic palaces. The Palazzo Normanno was the center of the royal court and today is the home of the Sicilian Regional government. Part of Palermo’s UNESCO world heritage status are the incredible Arabo-Normano churches of the city. We’ll visit the Palazzo dei Normanni and the spectacular Cappella Palatina – a richly decorated chapel filled with mosaics.
Then around mid-day we’ll meet our own “Personal Jesus” for a wonderful walking trip of the street markets of Palermo, where we’ll sample the delicious and varied street food of the Sicilians. This is an experience not to be missed. This is a lunch on-the-go with a difference. Sampling delicious delicacies whilst learning about the streets and history of Palermo. We’ll head back to our hotel via the smallest bookshop you’ve ever seen with a charming and tiny selection of interesting and unique volumes. We’ll meet the owner and see the courtyards that make up the University of Palermo.
This evening we’ll head to Mondello for dinner on the beach. This is a favorite spot for the local Palermitani. We’ll eat at the stunning ‘Alle Terrazze’ Ristorante over-looking the Golfo di Mondello. Seafood is the specialty, but there’s every type of dish to choose from this evening.
We will complete our visit to Sicily today with a trip to the island’s west coast, traveling out of Palermo to Trapani and the incredible salt flats. These salt flats have been farmed for centuries, producing the finest sea salt for cooking and (in the old days) preserving food. The landscape is hauntingly beautiful. Then, it’s on to Marsala, where the traditional sweet Sicilian wine is harvested and fermented in oak barrels for years. We’ll enjoy a visit to a cantina where we can try a selection of Marsala wines, served with a selection of delicious Sicilian snacks.
This afternoon we’ll head back into Palermo via the Cathedral and monastic complex of Monreale, a huge religious building, highly decorated with carvings and mosaics. This evening we’ll enjoy our Farewell Dinner in a super chic and trendy bistro where modern and traditional dishes are served in a vibrant and modern atmosphere. The sommelier will help us on a journey through some (there are many) of the wonderful wines of Sicily. A fitting end to our amazing Sicily experience!
Today, we must say arrivederci – our trip has come to an end. But we’ll savor our time in Sicily and celebrate our new friendships.
There will a private vehicle transfer service to Palermo Airport for guests flying out of Palermo. Optional trip add-ons are available if desired. Buon Viaggio! We hope to see you in Sicily again soon.
Villa de Lauro, a 4 star hotel, is boutique hotel with pool. It is a magnificent example of Baroque art' typical of the nineteenth century.
Abbazia Sant-Anastasia, a wine resort situated in an ancient abbey dating back to the 12th century
Everything stated in itinerary above including all meals (unless otherwise indicated) plus wine with dinner
Beautiful, unique hotels
All guides, experts and entry fees
All transportation from arrival at Catania to departure from Palermo
Round trip airfare or other transportation to arrive in Sicily
Teas and coffees outside mealtimes
Wines, beers and spirits in addition to those served with meals
Travel and medical insurance (highly recommended).
Any personal souvenirs or purchases.
This exceptional journey will be led by geographer and art historian Janet Simmonds, a friend of Girls’ Guide with a master’s degree from the University of Oxford. Janet lives in Venice and works throughout Italy. When she’s not tripping, she writes about travel including numerous articles on Sicily. Lucky for us, Janet speaks Italian, French and English.