Student Tour - Peoples of Sicily
West to East | 10 days

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land: Palermo PMO

leave: Catania CTA

Peoples of Sicily
10 days | 9 nights - Palermo (4 nights) 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. Tonight at h 7:30PM we meet our Tour Escort at hotel for a short briefing and Jacqueline Alio’s presentation. Jacqueline will be pleased to travel with us with the purpose to introduce us to explore the island and discover the People of Sicily. Then we gather for a Welcome Dinner in a local restaurant.  

Day 2 -
Monreale, Palermo & Lecture

Today a short drive take us to Monreale's Cathedral & Abbey (Admission fee: not included) are good reminders that the beauty of a particularly splendid church transcends that of any single work of art, however noble. Overlooking Palermo, the town of Monreale, from the Latin "Mons Regalis" (literally 'Royal Mountain'), straddles a slope of Mount Caputo about eight kilometers south of Palermo's cathedral. Set at about three hundred metres above sea level, the town overlooks the "Conca d'Oro," as the valley beyond Palermo is known. No extended visit of Palermo is truly complete without a visit to Monreale. The cathedral and its cloister represent the largest concentration of Norman, Arab and Byzantine art in one place. True, Palermo's cathedral is larger, but Monreale's exists in something far closer to its original twelfth-century state. This wondrous place is much more than "just another church." If your impression of the overused word multicultural is at all negative, the effect of Monreale Abbey will convert you to another way of thinking. Then onto Palermo. This afternoon we visit the amazing Palatine Chapel (Admission fee: not included) the royal chapel of the Norman kings of Sicily situated on the second floor at the center of the Royal Palace. The chapel was commissioned by Roger II of Sicily in 1132 to be built upon an older chapel (now the crypt) constructed around 1080. It took eight years to build and many more to decorate with mosaics and fine art. The mosaics of the Palatine Chapel are of unparalleled elegance as concerns elongated proportions and streaming draperies of figures. They are also noted for subtle modulations of colour and luminance. The oldest are probably those covering the ceiling, the drum, and the dome. The shimmering mosaics of the transept, presumably dating from the 1140s and attributed to Byzantine artists, illustrate scenes from the Acts of the Apostles. Every composition is set within an ornamental frame, not dissimilar to that used in contemporaneous mosaic icons. Later we continue by seeing the Cathedral (Tips: not included). This majestic jewel was built in 1185 on the site of a previous Christian Basilica. Later to the Norman Royal Palace of the Zisa, built in Norman Arab style, that still keeps a Hebrew inscription and a Jewish candle-holder. Tonight at h 6PM we meet Prof. Louis Mendola for a lecture concerning Peoples of Sicily & Sicilian Genealogy and Heraldry. (BB D)

Day 3 -

Today  we drive through the interior of Sicily to reach Agrigento where we visit the finest of all ancient Greek sites—the complete Doric Temples (Admission fee: not included). Lunch in a local trattoria. This afternoon we then return to Palermo. (BB L)

Day 4 -
 Palermo/Erice, olive oil, wine & 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 archaeological park. Then to a local winery for our wines tasting. We then return to Palermo. (BB L)

Day 5 -
Palermo/Piazza Armerina/Syracuse

Today departure for Piazza Armerina to 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. Light lunch in a local trattoria. This afternoon we then continue to Syracuse. (BB L)

Day 6 - S

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 slopes & Winery/Taormina

Today departure for the Etna Volcano to experience the lava fields and incredible landscape of the Europe’s highest and most active volcano. Then to a local winery for a light lunch and wines tasting. Then toast and regards with Jacqueline Alio!!! This afternoon we then continue to Taormina, the world famous resort town of Sicily. The balance of the day is at leisure. (BB L)

Day 9 -

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 -

Today transfer to Catania airport (CTA)

Meal Legend: L Lunch or Light Lunch  D Dinner

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