The Treasures of Sicily

Sicily – Jewel box of the Mediterranean

01-10 October, 2021

Golfo di Mondello, Sicily
Golfo di Mondello, Sicily
Palermo Cathedral - a vast, intricate palace of architectural brilliance
Palermo Cathedral – a vast, intricate palace of architectural brilliance
  • A small group tour for up to 8 guests:
  • Overview

Join us on a unique and exclusive tour of Sicily a veritable treasure chest of art, history, colour and culture. Fabulous food and wine and spectacular landscapes. This exceptional journey is led by Janet Simmonds, a friendly and competent Geographer and Art Historian with a Master’s degree from the University of Oxford. Janet lives in Venice and works all over Italy, when she’s not touring she writes about travel and has written numerous articles on Sicily. Janet speaks Italian, French and English. She always goes the extra mile to ensure that guests see the very best there is to see! You’ll end the tour firm friends. You might even feature in one of her articles – which are always kind and positive! Janet has recently been appointed Oxford University’s official itinerary creator in Italy.

Highlights:

  • 10 days (9 nights) to discover beautiful Sicily.
  • You’ll stay in just three privately owned superior town house properties, where modern comforts combine with historic traditions.
  • The warmest of welcomes is guaranteed.
  • Discover the exquisite Baroque towns of Val di Noto
  • Visit the filming locations of detective series Montalbano
  • Enjoy pastries and cannoli (Sicily’s delicious crispy, brandy snap desserts), an absolute must to try!
  • Explore the Greek town of Siracusa where Archimedes, Greek philosopher lived and worked
  • Learn chocolate-making skills in Modica at the oldest ‘laboratorio’ in Sicily.
  • Visit a vineyard for an exclusive visit and wine tasting.
  • Marvel at the Greek Temples built in Sicily at the same time as the Parthenon was constructed in Athens
  • Explore historic palaces in Palermo rich in history and art
  • Visit the amazing and vast ballroom where Burt Lancaster danced when he was filming the movie ‘The Leopard’
  • Enjoy lunch on a hillside over-looking the Mediterranean Sea, whilst sampling wonderful local products including cheeses, honey, hams and succulent fruits.
  • Dive into the street markets of Palermo where our own ‘Personal Jesus’ will introduce us to the street food and markets of this intoxicating city.
  • Meet local Sicilian people who will share with you the finest local produce.

Sicily is a rich tapestry just waiting to be discovered. The people are warm and friendly and the landscapes are exceptional. Janet recently wrote about Sicily in this article: Sicily – Jewel of the Mediterranean

Itinerary: 01-01 October, 2021

Day 1 – 1st October, Friday – Catania – Ragusa Ibla

Our journey will start at Catania Airport, on Sicily’s eastern coast, where guests will be met by our driver and luxurious mini-coach. Giorgio, our friendly local driver and his son Filippo will drive us throughout the tour. We’ll start with a one hour transfer to Ragusa Ibla, a UNESCO world heritage town. Probably the most beautiful of the Sicilian Baroque hilltop towns. We are staying at a boutique hotel in the heart of the old town: Boutique Hotel 1768

Every room is furnished in a funky combination of stylish retro and modern with a dash of Sicilian colour thrown in. There’s a cool atrium where we can enjoy aperitivi and conversation. There is time to relax, maybe take a nap and unpack before we meet for evening drinks on the terrace and a gentle stroll up to the wonderful cathedral. Here you feel as if you have stepped back in time. Tonight our ‘Welcome Dinner’ features home-made pasta, local salads and some spectacular Sicilian wines. O/N Boutique Hotel 1768, Ragusa Ibla

Day 2 – 2nd October, Saturday – Ragusa Ibla – Montalbano – Scicli – Modica 

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 the whole of Italy. Visits to Scicli, Punta Secca and Donnafugata will inspire and impress. Donnafugata literally means escaping or fleeing woman and the Palace of Donnafugata was used in the Montalbano novels and TV series as the home of an evil mafia boss! We’ll have a light lunch at a wonderful sandwich shop, that sells all types of delicious snacks including an amazing range of cannoli (Sicilian pastries). For more on Sicily in the Movies

This afternoon we are off to Modica to visit the oldest chocolate shop in Sicily. Here we’ll have the opportunity to try our hand at chocolate making. Of course there’s also the opportunity to buy chocolate too. O/N Boutique Hotel 1768, Ragusa Ibla

Fiat 500 convoy - Modica, Sicily - October  2015
Fiat 500 convoy – Modica, Sicily – October 2015

Day 3 – 3rd October, Sunday – Ragusa Ibla – Siracusa – Ortigia

Sunday is a special day in Sicily, the locals all come out in their Sunday best to go to church. So today there’s the opportunity to attend mass in the fabulous Duomo of San Giorgio just minutes from the hotel. As you walk up the steps to the church marvel at the intricate Baroque architecture before your eyes.

After church we’ll all get together for an aperitivo and lunch on an outdoor terrace admiring the wonderful Sicilian countryside. Later this afternoon we’ll hop on our mini-coach and head to Siracusa for a visit to this spectacular Greek town and a stroll through the historic alleys of Ortigia. Here the Ortigia Cosmetics and Perfume brand was created, quite literally bottling and packaging the scents and aromas of Sicily. We’ll visit the Ortigia studio for the chance to see 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. Stay tonight at Boutique Hotel 1768, Ragusa Ibla

Day 4 – 4th October, Monday – Ragusa – Greek Temples – Cefalu

After another fresh and delicious breakfast in our hotel we’ll head off today. We will be travelling west towards Agrigento and an exceptional group of classical temples, built on Italy’s south coast by the Greeks in the 5th century before Christ. These temples have been standing for 2500 years. The temple site is now a UNESCO world heritage site. It is 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’ they have curly horns and clearly thrive  in this beautiful and historic environment.

Lunch will be close to Agrigento in a rustic farmhouse  setting with salads and cheeses, quiches and desserts. After lunch we’ll travel north through Italy’s rural interior to the coastal town of Cefalu. For the next three nights we are staying at Boutique B & B ‘A Tonnara’ just a short walk from Cefalu. There will be a relaxing, informal dinner tonight at our boutique Bed & Breakfast with stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea. Stay tonight: www.atonnara.com

Temple of Concord, Agrigento - a beautiful water colour - held in the British Museum Collection, London
Temple of Concord, Agrigento – a beautiful water colour – held in the British Museum Collection, London

Day 5 – 5th October, Tuesday – Cefalu

Today’s the day for a joyful hike along the coast to the beautiful small city of Cefalu. Walking time about one hour. Drink in the fresh sea air as we walk through the Sicilian countryside to the medieval city of Cefalu. This is probably our favourite 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 smartest small town in Sicily

Inside the Cathedral there’s a 12th century mosaic of Christ ‘The Almighty’, created by the Normas when they invaded and took control of Sicily in the 1100s. There’s free time for lunch in Cefalu – there are numerous cafes, bars and small restaurants to choose from. We’ll explore the town centre, 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 organised at a tiny, family-run restaurant adjacent to La Tonnara (the old tuna processing factory). It’s a bit like Sicily’s equivalent of Cannery Row in Monterey! Stay tonight: www.atonnara.com

Day 6 – 6th October, Wednesday – Cefalu

Today there’s a choice of activities, either you can rest this morning and soak in the sun and the sea views from one of our hotel’s numerous terraces, or you can join us for an excursion inland to the Nebrodi Hills to see the isolated villages and winding roads of Sicily’s mountainous interior.

It was here in the Nebrodi Hills that Sicily’s legendary and fiendishly difficult car race, the infamous ‘Targa Florio’ was held until the route was deemed too dangerous in the 1970s.

We’ll meet up at lunch time for a visit to an agriturismo where Margarita and her charming husband will delight us with an olive oil tasting and local pasta sampling, including a casual lunch, washed down with a locally produced wine. Dinner this evening will be in Cefalu, in the historic centre of town.

Cathedral of Cefalu, built by the Normans 11th century www.grand-tourist.com
Cathedral of Cefalu, built by the Normans 11th century http://www.grand-tourist.com

Day 7 – 7th October, Thursday – Cefalu – Bagheria – Aspra – Palermo

Travelling 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 will 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 eaterie. 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 located opposite the public gardens. It is a true Palermitano experience:  L’Hotellerie, Palermo

Palermo, Sicily - view from our boutique Bed & Breakfast
Palermo, Sicily – view from our boutique Bed and Breakfast

Day 8 – 8th October, Friday – Palermo

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 dei Normanni was the centre 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 tour 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. Street food tour of Palermo: Our own Personal Jesus We’ll head back to our hotel via the smallest bookshop I’ve ever visited. 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 favourite spot for the local Palermitani, we’ll eat at the stunning ‘Alle Terrazze’ Ristorante over-looking the Golfo di Mondello. www.alleterrazze.it Seafood is the speciality, but there’s every type of dish to choose from this evening. O/N L’Hotellerie, Palermo

Day 9 – 9th October, Saturday – Palermo – Monreale – Trapani – Marsala

We will complete our visit to Sicily today with a trip to the island’s west coast, travelling out of Palermo to Trapani and the incredible salt flats that have been farmed for centuries, producing the finest sea salt for cooking and (in the old days) used in the preserving of 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 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 eat 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. O/N L’Hotellerie, Palermo

Day 10 – 10th October, Sunday – Departures

Today is the end of the trip – there will a private vehicle transfer service to Palermo Airport for guests flying out of Palermo. Optional add-ons are available if required. Buon Viaggio! We hope to see you in Sicily again soon. 

Trip Notes:

  • This is a small group experience – we anticipate a group size of 8 guests maximum. A large vehicle will be used – probably 24 seater, so one in three seats will be occupied.
  • Ms Simmonds reserves the right to alter the itinerary based on weather or availability. This flexibility is necessary to ensure the best possible journey experience for our guests.
  • Dietary requirements and intolerances can be accommodated – please let us know in advance.
  • Guests wishing to stay on for a couple of days can contact us to discuss their requirements.

Trip Cost: Euros € 5350 / US $ 5995 / GBP £ 4750 per person 

What’s included:

  • Breakfast is included daily
  • 7 Lunches included – typical 2-course meal, including a glass of wine per person.
  • 9 Dinners included, 3-course meal with two glasses of wine per person.
  • Teas and coffees with meals are included.
  • Accommodation, double room for single occupancy as listed in program
  • All sight-seeing as listed in itinerary
  • Entrance fees and activities as listed in itinerary
  • All transportation as listed in itinerary from arrival at Catania to departure from Palermo Airport
  • All guiding services organised and co-ordinated by Janet Simmonds

What’s not included:

  • Lunch is not included on Arrival Day and on Cefalu Day
  • Round Trip Airfare or other transportation to arrive in Sicily is not included.
  • Teas and coffees outside meal times are not included.
  • Wines, beers and spirits in addition to those served with meals – not included.
  • Travel insurance is mandatory and is not included.
The Educated Traveller admires oregano in Palermo
The Educated Traveller admires oregano in Palermo Market

To get you in the mood for a trip to Sicily – I strongly recommend this superb historical novel by Stefania Auci – it is brilliant. Now available in English translation too!

  • Written 24th May, 2020
  • Updated: 28th July, 2020

3 thoughts on “The Treasures of Sicily

  1. Sounds fantastic, Janet; I am only sorry that our current medical restrictions are such that they are unlikely to be removed even by the end of next year. However, I will look forward to seeing the video of selected highlights and wouldn’t even object to receiving the odd bottiglia di Nero D’Avola

    Liked by 1 person

  2. And don’t forget the shopping! I’ve done 3 tours with Janet and she is the best scout for whatever you’re looking for! She can find anything! And she knows the best gelato stops!

    Like

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