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Premium Sicily and Puglia


Explore Sicily and unearth the natural and historical wonders of this intriguing island, placed perfectly in the heart of the Mediterranean. Then cross over to the heel of Italy's boot to find dreamy beaches, inspiring architecture and ancient wonders. This premium adventure will take you on a deep dive through southern Italy with one of our most experienced locally based leaders to help uncover all of the best best sights to see and bites to eat (this is Italy, after all).

17 days, from

$12,060

per person

GROUP SIZE

12 people max

ACTIVITY LEVEL

 
2
Trip code: ZMPAC
Style: Premium
Theme: Explorer

Details

Countries Visited:  Italy
Accommodation: Comfortable Hotel (12 nights), Feature Stay (4 nights)
Transportation: Private vehicle
Included Meals:

  • 15 breakfasts
  • 5 lunches
  • 6 dinners

Group size: Minimum 1, Max 12

  • Come face-to-face with Europe’s largest active volcano, Mount Etna, as you drive up the northern flank of the volcano and embark on a walk through the spectacular Valle del Bove (Bull Valley).

  • Stay in spectacular places including a Feature Stay historic property in Nardo, that was once a Baronial Palace, as well as a Sicilian countryside estate built within a medieval watch tower.

  • Dig in to some of southern Italy’s best eats with a genovesi tasting in Erice, mouth-watering cheese and chocolate tastings on your way to Siracusa, a cooking class in Palermo and an olive oil tasting on a farm that’s been active since Roman times.

  • Step back in time and uncover magnificent ancient monuments and ruins on a guided tour through the Valley of the Temples and Siracusa Archaeological Park, plus join an expert local guide to explore the ancient ruins of Pompeii, destroyed and preserved by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 AD.

  • Join a group of like-minded travellers on a tour takes a deep dive into the history, culture and natural beauty of southern Italy with one of our most experienced locally based leaders (legends) guiding the way.

Itinerary

Show Full Itinerary

Day 1: Palermo

Welcome to Sicily, we’re kicking things off in the region's capital – Palermo. Upon arrival, a complimentary airport transfer will take you into the city. This evening we have our first dinner together and a welcome meeting with your local guide and fellow travellers. But until then, the city is yours to explore. If you have time, you might like to get acquainted with the sights and sounds of the old heart of Palermo, and gaze upon some of the main monuments such as the uniquely styled cathedral. Or maybe you’ll choose to café-hop and try the best of Sicily’s sweets. Whatever your fancy, there’s plenty to keep you busy in Palermo.

Day 2: Palermo

Sicily's unique cuisine sees Spanish, Greek and Arab influences and combined with a gentle climate and fertile soil, it is known all over the world. Delve deeper into this all important part of culture during a hands on cooking class. Not only will get to know the recipes, you will be learning how to create Sicilian dishes with the help of a local chef. As locally sourced products are used in the preparation of dishes, the menu may differ depending on seasonality and market availability, but your resulting lunch will be a treat.

This afternoon, join a walking tour with your local guide and 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, these areas serve up some mouth-watering street food. You’ll personally meet local shop owners who have had the courage to denounce their extortionists and follow the ethical consumer campaign ‘Pago chi non paga’, a campaign promoted to support those that rebel against the Mafia.

Day 3: Marsala

Today it is time to say goodbye to beautiful Palermo as we head toward the small town of Erice. Located more than 750 meters above sea level, this beautifully preserved medieval town hosts, despite being handed from one ruling army to the next, many beautiful buildings showcasing architectural styles from its varied history. One thing that cannot be missed during your visit is Genovesi – traditional Sicilian pastries filled with custard or ricotta cream. Luckily for you, we’ve organised a special Genovesi tasting. After our visit to Erice we continue south towards Marsala, a lovely coastal town where we’ll stay tonight. Famous for its sweet dessert wines, you might choose to go out and enjoy a sip, or two, of Marsala’s delicious drinks with newfound friends or simply stroll the marble paved streets and explore at your leisure.

Day 4: Agrigento

This morning head east as you stop in the old port of Mazara del Vallo. It is here that some of the Arab influences in Sicily are most clearly visible. As you stroll through the kasbah (Arab Quarter) you will witness the artistic and cultural enrichment brought on by the arrival of Tunisian families in the 70's. Wander the winding lanes and alleyways swept with colourful murals. Then, we’ll continue to Agrigento with one final stop in our journey at Scala dei Turchi (Stair of the Turks) along the way. Scala dei Turchi is a truly spectacular coastline with white marble cliffs that offered protection from severe winds for the pirates that roamed these waters. Finally, we make our way to Agrigento where we’ll stay in a magical boutique hotel built in the 13th century. Tonight you will share a meal with your fellow travellers at your here.

Day 5: Agrigento

This morning, after breakfast, travel to the nearby Valley of the Temples. One of the largest archaeological sites in the world, it is situated where the ancient city of Akragas once stood. Your local guide will bring this classical Greek site to life as you visit the temples of Hera, Herakles, Zeus and Castor and Pollux. Along the way, enjoy magnificent views of the landscape and Mediterranean Sea. Return to Agrigento and enjoy the afternoon in any way you wish. Perhaps, head to Agrigento's old town to wander the narrow alleyways and courtyards or find a local café, grab a panino, sit and watch the world go by.

Day 6: Siracusa

Today, we kiss Agrigento goodbye and hit the road en route to Siracusa – but not without a few important stops along the way. The first stop today in Ragusa will not disappoint – it’s one of the most scenic towns in all of Sicily. Explore the town and then taste some of the locally produced Ragusano cheese. Afterwards, continue to architecturally fascinating Modica, particularly famous for its chocolate, it is a must-stop for any serious foodie. After tasting some of the local produce we continue to Noto and get acquainted with the city on a guided walking tour. Lesser-known Noto has recently gained a reputation as an architectural jewel, its limestone structures dazzle on a sunlit afternoon. Finally, we make our last stop of the day in Siracusa, where we will stay for the next two nights.

Day 7: Siracusa

This morning, enjoy an orientation walk through Ortigia – a small island just adjacent to the main town of Siracusa. Wandering the narrow streets and laneways will reveal ancient ruins, stunning fountains and authentic trattorias, all situated on the medieval island. In the afternoon head to the Neapolis Archaeological Site – known as one of the world’s finest – with your local guide by your side. Uncover the crumbling ruins of the ancient Greek and Roman town; from the Greek theatre to the Roman amphitheatre and ancient stone quarries. Covering an area of 35 hectares, there’s plenty of land to explore and plenty of history to learn about on this guided tour.

Day 8: Catania

Today, come face-to-face with Europe’s largest active volcano on a daytrip up Mt Etna. Drive up the northern flank of the volcano and embark on an easy walk through the spectacular Valle del Bove (Bull Valley), a valley formed when the original crater of Etna collapsed. At an altitude of approximately 2,000 metres, walk into the centre of an extinct crater and visit a lava cave that can be explored with helmets and torches. 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 exploring the fiery natural wonder, continue 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. This afternoon, you’ll get the opportunity to explore both sides of this curious city by wandering through its grand piazzas and wide roads.

Day 9: Catania

After breakfast today, take a day trip to the charming city of Taormina. Start things off with a guided walk, where you’ll notice Greek influence in the architecture. Walk through the back streets, gardens, and visit the world-famous Greek theatre and the cathedral. The 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 for our final night in Catania. This evening, enjoy a farewell dinner at a local restaurant with your newfound travel friends and group leader.

Day 10: Polignano a Mare

After breakfast, depart Sicily on an unescorted flight to Bari, via Rome. The Puglia portion of your adventure kicks off in the coastal town of Polignano a Mare, where you’ll be collected from the Bari airport on arrival and transferred to your hotel. A welcome meeting will take place here at 6pm for you to meet your local leader and the fellow travellers joining you on your adventure. If you arrive with time to spare, Polignano a Mare is blessed with beautiful beaches, coves and caves to explore. Feeling peckish? Why not pop into a local cornetteria for a decadent Italian croissant. After your welcome meeting, get to know your group over an included dinner, where your local leader will introduce you to Puglia’s cuisine.

Day 11: Polignano a Mare

Leave the coastline behind as you travel inland by private vehicle to the little town of Alberobello. Set among a tranquil landscape of olive groves, the town is famed for its unique beehive-shaped trulli; dwellings built from limestone in the 14th century. While the origins of the buildings are unclear, one theory suggests the houses were created to be easily dismantled in a feudal tax-evasion scheme. Whatever their purpose, the buildings truly are a sight to behold and make the Apulia region unlike anywhere else in the world. Join a local guide for an insider’s look at the town, wandering through the old town quarter of Rione Monti, dotted with thousands of trulli, and Rione Aia Piccola, where trulli still serve as family homes. Your guide will point out the different shapes of spires and the religious and mystic symbols adorning the roofs. Finally, stand in awe of the Church de Sant’Antonio, a huge cathedral built in the trulli style. Return to Polignano a Mare for an evening at leisure – your leader will have tips on the best places to grab dinner tonight.

Day 12: Nardo

This morning, travel to the small city of Ostuni and explore its whitewashed streets flanked with Gothic, Romanesque and Byzantine buildings. Then, continue to a local olive oil producer on a farm that has been active since Roman times, with some trees thought to be close to 3000 years old. Here you’ll learn how production techniques have changed over the centuries, taste some of the olive oil for yourself, and enjoy an included lunch of regional favourites. From here, continue your journey south, arriving in the beautiful city of Lecce. With its ornate baroque buildings, lively university and ancient Roman ruins, Lecce’s narrow streets are a delight to explore. Let a local guide show you hidden corners and share the city’s history with you this afternoon, then later in the day, travel out to the quiet town of Nardo. Here you’ll settle into your Feature Stay accommodation, a 13th century Baronial Palace converted into a spectacular hotel by a local architect. Spend the evening exploring the hotel and grounds, featuring artwork and sculptures by local artists, as well as a citrus grove and excellent onsite restaurant.

Day 13: Nardo

Before breakfast, you may like to take a walk through your Feature Stay’s historic ‘secret garden’ where it seems as if figures from days gone by could walk around the corner at any minute. Join an expert local guide for a walking tour through Nardo’s charming old town where there are more than a dozen grand palazzos, many of which were once home to the region’s nobility. Your guide will also point out the town’s many fine museums which you may like to visit this afternoon. And of course, you will stop at Piazza Salandra. Widely regarded as one of the most beautiful baroque squares in the whole of southern Italy, you may like to return here this evening to join the locals for passeggiata, an early evening stroll that’s a tradition throughout Italy. This afternoon, perhaps head to the beach, which is only 15 minutes away, or join a pasta making or wine tasting class at your hotel.

Day 14: Matera

Enjoy a final morning at your Feature Stay hotel, sitting back with a coffee and soaking up the scenery. Then it’s time to say goodbye and travel on to Matera, an ancient city perched on a rocky outcrop. And when we say ancient, we really mean it – Matera is believed to be the third-longest continuously inhabited human settlement in the world. You’ll be exploring the city’s famous sassi houses in depth tomorrow, so this evening why not take a walk around Matera to discover its churches, traditional restaurants and thousands of years of human history.

Day 15: Matera

Today you will dive into Matera’s incredible old town, made famous by sassi; more than 3000 stone houses formed from natural grottoes and tufo cliffs, some dating back as far as the 8th century. Join a local guide who will lead you through a labyrinth of staircases and alleyways that cut their way through limestone ravines, dipping in and out of ancient sassi houses as you go. Up until the late 1950s, the sassi were considered the ‘Shame of Italy’ due to the gruelling living conditions and poverty suffered by those who lived here – a result of the city’s rapid population growth. The Italian government intervened, and 15,000 inhabitants were forcibly relocated. Today, the sassi are undergoing extensive restoration, with some dwellings featuring exhibits that recreate inhabited caves. You’ll also pay a visit to an ancient underground neighbourhood, made up of houses, streets. cisterns, and churches.

Day 16: Naples

Begin the day by driving to the storied town of Pompeii, home to one of Europe’s most well-known archaeological sites – the ruins of Pompeii, caused by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 AD. Today you will join a local guide to discover the remains of this once thriving Roman trading centre. After the eruption, the city was covered in a layer of ash and remained undisturbed until the 18th century, when the ruins were rediscovered. Walk among well-preserved villas, temples, theatres, markets and chariot-marked streets, and visit the magnificent amphitheatre and the ‘Villa of Mysteries’ as your expert guide helps you to imagine what life here once looked like. You can also visit the Roman Forum and basilica, temples, public baths, and the tiny Odeon created for music recitals. Later in the day, travel to the buzzing city of Naples where you will join your group for a final dinner and a chance to look back on all you’ve seen on your journey.

Day 17: Naples

Your Italian adventure comes to an end after breakfast this morning. If you would like to spend more time discovering Naples, just get in touch ahead of time and we’d be happy to arrange additional accommodation (subject to availability).