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Highlights of Calabria & Sicily


From the pristine waters and the stalwart fortifications of Tropea, all the way to the smoke gently floating from the volcanoes of the Aeolian Islands – Calabria is a hidden gem for those who stray off Italy’s beaten path. Discover this less-visited part of the country before delving into the spectacular sights of bustling Sicily, volcanic valleys of Mt. Etna, timeworn streets of Syracuse, the Baroque wonders of Ragusa and rich anti-mafia history of Palermo. Starring dramatic cliffside villages, clear waters and delicious seafood, this is a chance to experience the highlights of southern Italy.

16 days, from

$6,595

per person

GROUP SIZE

12 people max

ACTIVITY LEVEL

 
2
Trip code: ZMSKC
Style: Original
Theme: Explorer

Details

Countries Visited:  Italy
Accommodation: Hotel (13 nights), Guesthouse (2 nights)
Transportation: Train , Public bus , Private vehicle , Ferry
Included Meals:

  • 15 breakfasts

Group size: Minimum 1, Max 12

  • Get up close and personal with the active volcanoes scattered across the Aeolian Islands and perhaps take a dip in one of the sulphur springs

  • Surrounded by dramatic valleys and craters set in a lunar-like landscape, towering Mt. Etna is one of the greatest natural beauties of the Mediterranean, and Europe’s largest active volcano

  • Search crumbling Greek and Roman ruins in the charming seaside town of Taormina

  • Encounter the crumbling facades of Syracuse and unearth hundreds of years of Greco-Roman history

Itinerary

Show Full Itinerary

Day 1: Amalfi

Buongiorno! Welcome to Italy, where you'll first be greeted by the Amalfi peninsula's rocky coasts, azure seas and whitewashed villages. Our adventure officially kicks off with a Welcome Meeting at 6 pm this evening where you’ll meet your group leader and fellow travellers. If you arrive early, perhaps stroll from one side of Amalfi town to the other and pay a visit to the Cattedrale di Sant'Andrea and the Chiostro del Paradiso, or laze around the beaches at your leisure.

Day 2: Civita

This morning you'll travel to Civita by boat, train and private vehicle. It's a tad complex logistically, but well worth the effort to see this gorgeous village built into the rocky hillside. Civita was founded by Albanian refugees in the Middle Ages and the Civitesi are recognised as an ethnic minority by the Italian Government. Their language, arberesh, is a mixture of Italian and Albanian and is only spoken here and in some parts of Sicily. Take a walk around this fascinating village on arrival then perhaps choose to visit a local winery and cheese producer, or just walk in the scenic hills instead.

Day 3: Pollino National Park / Civita

After breakfast today, you’ll hike into the beautiful Pollino National Park that surrounds Civita. With sheer cliffs, narrow canyons and a diverse range of wildlife including the peregrine falcon, eagle owl and the recently reintroduced Egyptian vulture, this area is a wildlife lover's paradise. If you'd like to opt out of the hike, you can kick back on the terrace of your guesthouse and enjoy the scenery and hospitality of the locals. The afternoon and evening are at your leisure.

Day 4: Tropea

After breakfast this morning, you’ll transfer from Civita to Paola, before taking the train onwards to Tropea. Tropea has a striking sense of timelessness, created by the streets full of faded buildings and the iconic fortifications that line the city’s cliffs. Explore the town as you head out on an orientation walk. You may want to visit the local Norman cathedral, the Duomo, which holds an icon of the town’s celebrated protectress, the Madonna of Romania. There’s also the Museo Diocesano, a tiny museum hiding in the Palazzo Vescovile next to the Duomo, which is full of religious art and wooden statues. If you’d prefer some time by the water, feel free to head to the beach and marvel at the looming structures on the cliffs nearby.

Day 5: Tropea

Enjoy a free day in the Mediterranean paradise of Tropea. Perhaps, reserve a spot on the beach, soak up some sun and cool off in the clear blue water, or maybe you'd prefer to sample Tropea's specialty: cipolla di Tropea. These are Italy's, and perhaps the world's, favourite onion thanks to their unique sweetness. Rumour has it you can even find a red onion ice cream in town, so why not give one a try as you kick back by the water.

Day 6: Aeolian Islands / Tropea

If the weather is fine, take an included boat trip to the Aeolian Islands of Vulcano, Lipari and Stromboli. These islands, affectionately referred to as ‘pearls of the Mediterranean’, attract all manner of adventurers and thrill seekers to their shores due to their natural beauty and volcanic activity. The trip will start with a boat ride to the aptly named Vulcano, where you’ll have a chance to dip in either the crystal waters or the famous sulphur springs as they sit in the foreground of an active volcano. Then, land on the isle of Lipari where you’ll have free time to visit the museum, have lunch, go shopping or stroll through the streets. Following Lipari, you’ll pass the isle of Panarea and travel to Stromboli to learn about the famous Sciara del Fuoco (street of fire) before spending free time on the island’s black sandy beaches. Afterwards, return to Tropea where you’ll spend the night.

Day 7: Reggio Calabria

Depart from Tropea by train as you travel onward to Reggio Calabria, the gateway to Sicily. The city’s placement in a major earthquake zone has caused much destruction over the years, meaning only few historical sites remain in comparison to the rest of Italy. However, this has resulted in a charming mix of architecture - balanced between the surviving old buildings and the modern structures. Embark on an orientation walk, before visiting the widely renowned National Archaeological Museum of Reggio. This building is arguably the most important tourism destination that the region has to offer, featuring an excellent collection of exhibits from Greek influenced sites across Calabria, including the Bronzi di Riace, two large bronze statues found on the sea floor in the 70's. Later in the evening perhaps hunt down some of the city's spectacular restaurants for grilled swordfish or pasta with cauliflower and broccoli (both are dishes typical to the area) and a glass of local wine, or wander past the city’s panoramic waterfront.

Day 8: Catania

Bid farewell to Reggio Calabria and travel by ferry to Messina in Sicily, where you’ll enjoy a felucca ride, a typical boat of the Strait of Messina for sword fishing. You'll experience the thrill of a fishing trip with the locals and learn about the traditions and natural wonders of the Strait of Messina. After your felucca experience, you’ll board a bus to the atmospheric city of Catania. The city has a unique energy to it, an interesting blend of young and old. On one hand, there’s a gritty, attractive bar culture that fuels an exuberant nightlife, full of flavour and laughter. On the other hand, the very core of the city boasts one of the fabled “Late Baroque” towns – the UNESCO World Heritage site, Val di Noto. You’ll get the opportunity to explore both sides of this curious city by walking through its grand piazzas and wide roads. The evening is yours to enjoy, so perhaps get a gelato or a granita to cool off at the end of a busy day of exploration.

Day 9: Taormina / Catania

Take a day trip to the charming city of Taormina. Start things off with an orientation walk, where you’ll notice the Greek influence in the architecture. Walk through the back streets, gardens, and perhaps visit the world-famous Greek theatre and the cathedral. The whole afternoon will be at your leisure, so there's plenty of time to explore at your own pace. Have a drink in the Mediterranean sun or dig into some traditional Sicilian pasta before heading back to Catania for your final evening. Perhaps, head out with your newfound travel companions for one final pasta dinner together and toast to the Calabrian adventures you shared.

Day 10: Catania

Enjoy a free day in the charming Catania until your 6pm group meeting.

Day 11: Syracuse

Today it’s time to come face-to-face with the volcano that towered over you yesterday, we’re taking a day trip to drive up Mt Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano. Drive up the northern flank of the volcano and strap on your walking shoes for an easy walk through the spectacular Valle del Bove (Bull Valley), a valley formed when the original crater of Etna collapsed. This is Etna’s largest valley, where many lava flows can be seen, one on top of the other. At an altitude of approx 2,000 metres, you’ll walk into the centre of an extinct crater and visit a lava cave that can be explored with helmets and torches. Who else can say they’ve walked into the crater of a volcano? Walk among the cold lava streams of Piano Provenzana, a former ski resort that has been destroyed during the last big eruption of 2002. After we’re throughly explored Etna, we’ll hit the road to Syracuse where your leader will take you on an orientation walk through the most interesting parts of the city. The evening is yours to explore, or chill out, as you wish.

Day 12: Syracuse

Wake up without an alarm today, you’ve got the day at your leisure to explore Syracuse however you like. Perhaps, wander through the streets and check out the crumbling building facades and balconies supported for centuries by a host of stone lions, tigers, bears, dragons, moors, satyrs, devils, angels, kings, paupers, wenches and cherubs. Perhaps take a boat trip around the island of Ortigia for a scenic view of the walled off cityscape. Or, you may want to participate in an optional visit to the Neapolis Archaeological Site – known as one of the world’s finest. Alternately, we’re sure you could fill your whole day just wandering aimlessly through this fascinating city, stopping by cafes, restaurants and perhaps grabbing a granita in the afternoon.

Day 13: Noto/Ragusa/Agrigento

After breakfast today we’re setting our sights for the city of Agrigento. But first, there’s one quick stop along the way that simply can’t be missed – Noto, a small slightly less-known town with limestone buildings that dazzle on a sunlit afternoon. Our next stop is the ‘new’ baroque city of Ragusa that was completely rebuilt after the devastating earthquake of 1693, resulting in two vastly different sides to the same city. After exploring the tangled alleyways and baroque palazzi, travel on to the final destination for today, Agrigento. Arrive late in the afternoon and enjoy some free time. Maybe find the historic center that extends up the Colle di Girgenti hill including Via Atenea and Viale della Vittoria, where there’s a panoramic view over the valley (Valley of the Temples) and the sea for sunset. Plus, be sure to try the famous gelato pecorino in one of the local cafés and patisseries.

Day 14: Valley of the Temples/Marsala

You’ll take a step back in time today as you explore the nearby Valley of the Temples. Your local guide will bring this classical Greek site to life as you visit the temples of Hera, Herakles, Zeus and Castor and Pollux. Try to nab a window seat today, along the way you’ll enjoy magnificent views of the sweeping landscape and Mediterranean Sea. After the guided tour in the Valley of the Temples, you’ll head on to Marsala a coastal town in the west of Sicily.

Day 15: Erice/Palermo

Today you’ll set your sights on Palermo, but not without a few scenic stops along the way. First up, we’ll explore the beautifully preserved medieval town of Erice (located more than 750 metres above sea level). Despite being handed from one ruling army to the next, there are plenty of beautiful buildings in this town, each showcasing architectural styles from a varied history. Before you get back on the road, be sure to pick yourself up a Genovesi – a traditional Sicilian pastry filled with custard or ricotta cream. With a belly full of sweets, we’re on our way to the capital of Sicily – Palermo. On arrival in Palermo the afternoon is free for you to explore as you wish. You might like to wander the labyrinth of small alleyways, buzzing colourful market squares and winding roads. Or, check out some of the main monuments like the 12th century cathedral in the old heart of the city.

Day 16: Palermo

Wake up excited and ready to explore the beautiful city of Palermo. You’ll have the option to visit nearby Monreale this morning, situated in a panoramic position above Palermo with fantastic views over the city and the sea. You’ll get a chance to visit the cathedral here, described as one of the ‘wonders of the medieval world’, and climb to its roof. Alternately, you might like to take a free morning to wander the city at your own will. In the morning, you’ll take part in a walking tour with a local guide where you’ll uncover symbolic places of rebellion and anti-mafia racketeering. Places such as the Teatro Massimo, Cape Market, Piazza della Memoria, Beati Paoli Square and more all have a rich history in civil mobilisation – plus, they are known to serve delicious street food. Dig in! You’ll get a chance to meet shop owners who have had the courage to denounce their extortionists. This evening, perhaps share a bite to eat and toast to the week that was with your group before the adventure comes to an end tomorrow.

Day 17: Palermo

Your adventures come to an end today after breakfast. If you’d like to stay and explore more in Palermo we can arrange additional accommodation on request (subject to availability).