Student Tour - Archaeological & Cultural Sicily
West to East | 10 days

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land: Palermo PMO

leave: Catania CTA

Archaeological, Social & Cultural Sicily
10 days | 9 nights - Palermo (3 nights) Agrigento (1 night) Syracuse (3 nights) Taormina (2 nights)

Day 1 - Palermo

Welcome to Sicily! Upon arrival at Palermo airport (PMO) please proceed through the Passport Control and collect your luggage inside the customs area. Then transfer at hotel.


Day 2 - Palermo & Monreale
Today transfer to Piazza Pretoria. Then by walk we reach the famous “four corners” converge in a quartet of baroque palaces from the climax of the Spanish rule dating from 1560.  Then our short stroll will continue on to the lively Ballarò Market, a place overflowing with beautiful fresh fish, and local vegetables and cheeses.  Originating from the era when Sicily was occupied by the moors, this 1000 year old market has run much in the same manner for centuries.  It has strong Arab influences, resembling an eastern souk, and these influences are also evident in the merchandise itself.  Next to mounds of ricotta and caciocavallo cheeses, barrels of olives and fat slabs of swordfish sit saffron and other spices, as well as sacks of beans and gorgeous indigenous fruit and local vegetables.  Here we have the opportunity to taste a typical palermitano dish, such as the famous Panelle (a thin paste of crushed ceci/garbanzo beans rolled into sheets, fried and served in pizza-like slices).  This afternoon a short drive take us to Monreale, to see where the Arab-Norman art and architecture reached the pinnacle of its glory with 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. Later we return to Palermo.  (BB)


Day 3 -
Palermo/Erice, olive oil farmhouse & Segesta/Palermo

Early departure to tour western Sicily where we reach Erice uptown. The Elymians settled the medieval town of Erice, 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. Later we travel through the Saltpans to see the historic salt flats works, where the ancient tradition of harvesting salt from the sea is still practiced. Then, to an olive oil farmhouse to enjoy a light lunch. This afternoon we continue onto Segesta, one of the major cities of the ancient indigenous Elymian people, to visit the unfinished Doric temple (Admission fee: not included), late 5th century BC. Segesta's ancient Greek temple can make a valid claim to being the best preserved in the world. The archeological site, about seventy kilometers southwest of Palermo, reflects the presence of several ancient civilizations, beginning with the elusive Elymians. While the magnificent Doric temple, though (strictly speaking) never completed - as the roof was never added and the pillars never fluted - is impressive, it is just the highlight of a large archeological park. We then return to Palermo. (BB L)


Day 4 -
 Palermo/Corleone, Anti-Mafia Museum & Ficuzza Park/Agrigento
IMPORTANT: this excursion is submitted to the CIDMA availability (CIDMA fee: not included). CIDMA is an organization that collect all the docs and pictures of the most important mafia bloodsheds.
Today we drive to small village Corleone, one of the attractive places in the environ of Palermo and is known primarily as the birthplace of Mafia. Beginning in the 1960s. The village became famous (or perhaps infamous) for its Mafia, being the town in which some well-known clans had their headquarters (the Clan dei Corleonesi). The name of the town was used as the adopted surname of the title character in Francis Ford Coppola's movie, The Godfather. In the novel, Vito Andolini emigrates from the village of Corleone, his last name gets changed by a miscommunication between the man helping Vito and the man logging in the names at Ellis Island by saying 'Corleone' instead of 'Andolini' because he was unable to respond when asked for his proper name, and is given the last name of Corleone by an immigration official. The town is very nice and typical Sicilian style. 
Later we will continue to Ficuzza, a nature reserve and small hamlet in the mountains south of Palermo in the township district of Corleone. We will relax in the park and enjoy a great stroll through the Ficuzza village.  The park was founded as a support for the royal game reserve of the Bourbon dynasty.  Throughout the centuries, Ficuzza forest has been the scenario of many historical events:  illegal breeding, mafia murders, Tripolitan rebels deported during WWI, and seat of the fascist military hearquarters during WWII.  During the walk into the natural park through Ferdinando III's hunting lodge, we will enjoy a light lunch at the historic rail station.  Here we will taste typical local and country dishes in a fantastic rustic environment. Later departure for Agrigento. (BB L)


Day 5 - Agrigento &
Piazza Armerina/Syracuse

Today we visit the finest of all ancient Greek sites—the complete Doric Temples (Admission fee: not included). Later departure for Piazza Armerina. This afternoon we view the ruins of the Roman Villa of Casale (Admission Fee: not included),  built between 330 and 360 AD. There are 3500 square meters of mosaics on the villa's floors, and some surviving wall paintings. Many of the structure's walls are still standing. The style of the mosaics is said to be influenced by the North African motifs of the Romans. The art itself is impressive, but the visitor is also struck by the size of the villa, whose architectural style differs markedly from that of urban dwellings such as those of Pompeii. The villa's buildings are arranged in sections, with an impressive entrance and numerous rooms of various dimensions, some quite large. Later we then continue to Syracuse. (BB)


Day 6 - S
yracuse 

Today we visit the Archaeological Park (Admission Fee: not included) highlights the Greek Theatre, the Roman Amphitheatre and the Paradise Quarry. Then to the San Giovanni Catacombs(Admission fee: not included) excavated for the most part between 315 and 360 A.D., and remained in use until the end of the 5th century. Contrary to popular belief, burial in catacombs (or in underground tunnels carved into rock) was not an exclusively Christian custom. To save work, the tunnels in the Catacombs of San Giovanni of Syracuse were opened initially following the route of a disused Greek aqueduct (some traces of which are recognizable on the ceiling of the main gallery), which was expanded to its current dimensions.  Similarly, some existing cisterns along the route were converted into funeral chapels for families of distinction. We then continue to Ortygia island to walk around the narrow streets to explore the Aretusa Fountain. This afternoon we walk to the “Jewish quarters”, called in Italian "Giudecche" ("Jewries"), and that of Syracuse is defined by the principal street that continues to bear the name today of "Via della Giudecca". Upon arrival we visit the Mikvah (Admission fee: not included) a ritual Jewish bath, used for the purpose of purification. The site appears today to visitors as a rectangular principal room, entirely excavated in the limestone rock (to a depth of 18 meters / 59 feet) and supported by four pillars with three baths dug under the level of the floor. Its walls contain three side niches, two of which also feature a bath. One of the side niches intersected a circular well, probably of the Hellenistic period. Then we walk to the delightful pedestrian square home to the wonderful Dome built on the site of an ancient Temple of Athena as can clearly be seen from the original Doric columns that were incorporated into the building’s main structure. (BB)

 

Day 7 - Syracuse/Ragusa, Modica Chocolate & the Watermill/Syracuse

Today our first stop is Ragusa. The city is situated in the Iblean mountains and, along with Noto Valley, it is part of the UNESCO Heritage Sites in Sicily.  The main economy of the area revolves around dairy cheese & agricultural products like olives, carobs, legumes, and grains. Upon arrival we walk through the historical town of Ragusa Ibla highlights the wide array of Baroque architecture in Sicily, including several stunning palaces and churches. Light lunch in a local trattoria. This afternoon we drive in the interior of Ragusa neighbours to join the small village of Modica. This small village is custodian of a 400 year tradition of Sicilian chocolate-making. Being part of the Spanish kingdom for so many years meant that Sicily was often one of the first recipients of the new foodstuffs being brought back from South America. Cacao was one of these and today Modica still specialises in making granulous chocolate, often flavoured with chilli pepper, cinnamon or vanilla, that is based on Aztec methods and recipes. Later we move in the country side to see an old Watermill (Admission fee: not included) from the second half of the 18th century, important because uses a really old technology from the Arab domination. The watermill is still working and we can see the wheat transforming into flour, as well as the place of work and life and other rooms connected with the miller’s life. The Mill Museum presents a rich exhibition of the most typical tools used in the past when manual work was not yet substituted by the new technologies. Visiting this site takes us back into the past indulging us to value how hard our ancestry’s job was. Later we return to Syracuse. (BB L)


Day 8 -
Syracuse/Etna Volcano ascent up to 3.000 meters/Taormina

Today we drive to the Etna Natural Park-South Side (Rifugio Sapienza located at 1.900 meters) a beautiful Volcano rich in sounds, perfumes, and colors. On arrival, those interested in experiencing the Etna craters will have the opportunity to explore the Silvestri Craters and ascent to the top to experience the lava fields and incredible landscape view from Europe’s highest and most active volcano.
How to Ascent to the TOP?
from Rifugio Sapienza we can catch on the first cable car ride (Cable Car & Uni-Mog jeep fee: included) up to 2.500 meters (Montagnola). From the Montagnola (located at around 2.500 meters) we can jump on board on the UNI-MOG (mini-coach WD4X4) to reach 2.800 meters with Licensed Etna Guide. Hiking to reach 3.000 meters.
This afternoon we then return to Taormina.
(BB)


Day 9 -
Taormina

Today is at leisure: Taormina is a hill-village with a glossy sheen of glamour. 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 Theater (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. (BB)


Day 10 -
Taormina/Catania

Today transfer to Catania airport (CTA)

 

Meal Legend: L Lunch or Light Lunch  D Dinner


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