Italy, the Deep South & Sicily

Garry O’Day will be escorting this beautiful tour which departures Rome on 28th August, 2020.

Explore the ancient villages and towns of Puglia and Matera before crossing to the glorious island of Sicily. Sleep in the ancient sassi of Matera and the delightful Trulli cottages of Alberobello. Stand on the highest active volcano in Europe, feast in mafia country and cruise to San Vito Lo Capo… ‘va bene’!

This tour requires a moderate level of fitness due to the unique places we visit and stay. This tour is not suited to anyone who has mobility issues.


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Highlights

  • Stay 3 nights in the ‘Bee Hive’ Trulli cottages of Alberobello

  • Explore the baroque city of Lecce and relax in the ‘white city’ of Ostuni

  • Stay 2 nights in the beautifully restored ‘Sassi’ caves of ancient Matera – a truly remarkable experience

  • Visit the coastal towns of Monopoli and Polignano a Mare, famous for its gelato

  • Stay 4 nights in the stunning town of Taormina

  • Explore the ancient Greek and Roman ruins of Syracuse

  • Visit beautiful Ortigia Island, the historical heart of ancient Syracuse

  • Take a dramatic cable car and 4WD bus to stand at the top of Mount Etna

  • Enjoy a sumptuous lunch in ‘The Godfather Country’

  • Stay 2 nights in Agrigento, with spectacular views over the Valley of the Temples

  • See the extraordinary mosaics in Villa Romana del Casale, Piazza Armerina

  • Enjoy an olive oil tasting and light lunch at Mandranova Estate

  • Stay 3 nights near Marsala in a converted Baglio farmhouse

  • Explore the fishing port of Sciacca

  • Enjoy a lunchtime seafood feast at Vittorio’s famous beachside restaurant

  • Visit the ancient city of Erice and Segesta’s romantic temples

  • Cruise through the Zingaro marine reserve to San Vito Lo Capo

  • Enjoy a Baglio wine tasting


 

Meet Garry O’Day, your travel escort and find out more about this tour.

Tour Itinerary

Day 1: Rome Welcome

Your tour commences this evening in the eternal city of Rome. Join us tonight for a welcome drink before dinner in your hotel. This is an ideal chance to meet, and get to know, your Tour Manager and fellow travellers.  Meals: D
Hotel: Hotel Victoria

Day 2: To Alberobello in the Puglia region

Driving across the spine of Italy – the Apennine Mountains – we continue deep into the Puglia region to the remarkable city of Alberobello where we stay three nights. This is one of the most unusual towns you will ever see. The whole city centre is a mass of whitewashed ‘bee hive’ type houses called ‘Trulli’ which date back hundreds of years. Puglia is known as Italy’s bread basket and is also justifiably famous for its olive oils, wine and local produce. Dinner tonight is included in a local restaurant. Meals: BD
Hotel: Trulli cottages’ scattered around town

Day 3: Alberobello sightseeing, 'My Time' and wine tasting

This morning we are joined by a local guide who will take us on a walking tour of this remarkable ‘bee hive’ town. In the afternoon we will enjoy a relaxing tasting of local wines. The rest of your afternoon and evening are at leisure.  Meals: B

Day 4: Ancient Lecce and the white city of Ostuni

Driving down into the Salentine Peninsula – the ‘heel of Italy’ – we spend the morning exploring the city of Lecce on a walking tour with our local guide. Dating back to the early Greek empire, the city boasts numerous baroque monuments and also has a Roman amphitheatre on the central square. Later we visit ‘La Città Bianca’ (the ‘white city’) of Ostuni. Perched on a hill, with views down over the coast, we enjoy time at leisure amongst the winding streets and white washed alleys. Meals: B

Day 5: Polignano a Mare and ancient Matera

Passing hamlets and typical Pugliese ‘masserie’, fortified large estate-farms we reach the port of Monopoli. Later we continue to the nearby coastal town of Polignano a Mare. Built directly on the cliffs over the sea, Polignano is famous for its gelato and ice cream parlours and makes a perfect lunch stop. Crossing to the ‘ankle’ of Italy we reach the extraordinary city of Matera. On arrival we visit the Murgia Timone, a huge rock plateau riddled with ancient man made stone caves or ‘Sassi’, to take in the views directly over the ‘la Gravina’ ravine to the old town. Reputed to be the oldest inhabited settlement in Italy, your view encompasses rock churches and numerous Sassi (including the cave complex hotel we will be staying in) with the more ‘modern’ baroque town on top of the hill. Your next two nights will be memorable! This evening we enjoy dinner in a local trattoria. Meals: BD
Hotel: Le Grotte della Civita

Day 6: Matera sightseeing and 'My Time'

This morning we are joined by a local guide who will show us around this extraordinary town from the ancient rock hewn churches to the baroque city above. We have included entrance to view the rock wall frescoes in the church of Madonna de Idris and San Giovanni*. Your afternoon and evening are free to relax and explore. Meals: B
*Closed Mondays

Day 7: Cross the Straits of Messina to Sicily

Driving across Calabria and down the toe of Italy we reach the Mediterranean, where we catch the ferry across the Straits of Messina to Sicily. Following the coast we arrive at the stunning town of Taormina where we stay the next four wonderful nights. Meals: BD
Hotel: The Hotel Excelsior Palace

Day 8: 'My Time' in Taormina

A totally free day to relax and explore the boutiques, handicraft shops and restaurants which make Taormina so famous. Make sure you visit the Greek Amphitheatre with its striking views and also wander through Villa Comunale, one of the most beautiful little gardens in all of Sicily.  Meals: B

Day 9: Ancient ruins of Syracuse and Ortigia Island

Driving past Catania we reach the city of Syracuse, where we are joined by a local guide. First stop will be at the temples and massive amphitheatre in the 2500 year old Greek and Roman ruins. We will also visit the overgrown quarries and test the amazing acoustics in the famous ‘Ear of Dionysus’ cavern. Later we cross onto Ortigia Island, the heart of ancient Syracuse, to wander through the delightful backstreets to the breathtaking architecture of the main square, Piazza del Duomo. Enjoy time to find a quiet café or trattoria for a leisurely lunch. Meals: B

Day 10: Mt Etna adventure followed by a leisurely lunch

What an adventure today! First we drive up the slopes of Mount Etna to Sapienza Refuge, lying at the south of the crater at an elevation of 1910 metres. Here we board a cable car up to a restaurant and museum at 2500 metres where we meet our local guide who will drive us in a large 4WD bus up to the (usually snow covered) viewing crater area at 2920 metres. You will now be standing on the highest active volcano in Europe with views across to the steaming caldera on one side and the Sicilian coastline far below. All around you will see craters, caldera and petrified lava flow. Following this magnificent experience we descend to the village of Forza d’Agro, just north of Taormina. This area was the setting for some scenes from the film ‘The Godfather’, and is the perfect location for another leisurely, typically ‘Italian style’ lunch. The rest of the day and evening is free back in beautiful Taormina.  Meals: BL

Day 11: Piazza Armerina and Agrigento

Cutting through the heart of Sicily we reach Piazza Armerina where a local guide will take us through the opulent Villa Romana del Casale. UNESCO heritage listed and one of the great sites of Sicily, this massive 1700 year old Villa was covered by a mud slide in the 12th century which beautifully preserved its breathtaking mosaics. Later we arrive in Agrigento on the south coast, where we stay two nights. Meals: BD
Hotel: The Colleverde Park Hotel

Day 12: Valley of the Temples and lunch at Mandranova

This morning we are joined by a local guide who will take us through the famous UNESCO heritage Listed Valley of the Temples. Originally the ancient city of Akragas, and built out of sandstone tufa, the golden amber hue of the giant complex of ruins and temples blend perfectly with the natural surroundings. This afternoon we will drive east to the farm of Mandranova, to enjoy an olive oil tasting and light lunch. Meals: BLD

Day 13: Sciacca and lunch at the famous Vittorio's restaurant

First stop this morning will be in the fishing port of Sciacca. Encircled by 16th century walls, the fascinating old town is where Arab, Norman and Greek cultures co-existed. We then follow the coast to the beach at Porto Palo where we enjoy a delicious seafood lunch at Vittorio’s restaurant (specially mentioned in the acclaimed BBC2 series ‘Sicily Unpacked’). Later we continue to our hotel inland from Marsala where we stay the next three nights. Meals: BLD
Hotel: The Baglio Oneto

Day 14: Temple ruins at Segesta and Erice

This morning we visit the Temple ruins at Segesta. Later we visit the city of Erice. Standing on top of Mount Erice, 750 metres above sea level and overlooking the port of Trapani, the views out to San Vito Lo Capo and the Aegadian Islands are fantastic. Here you will still find the remains of the ancient Phoenician fortifications and in the old city there are still two castles. Pepoli Castle which dates from Saracen times and the Venus Castle built by the Normans. Time to relax and wander through the quaint old alleys and cobblestoned streets of the old town, and find a trattoria in a peaceful courtyard to enjoy lunch. This evening before dinner we will enjoy a wine tasting. Meals: BD

Day 15: Zingaro marine nature reserve cruise

After enjoying free time for your morning coffee at the authentic fishing port of Castellammare del Golfo, we board a boat to enjoy a scenic cruise through the Zingaro marine nature reserve, past Scopello and the faraglioni’ rocks to San Vito Lo Capo.  Meals: BD

Day 16: Palermo sightseeing and 'Farewell to Sicily' dinner

Arriving in Palermo this morning we are joined by a local guide for a panoramic tour to explore the palaces and squares of this most Sicilian of cities! Entrance is included to visit the Palatine Chapel, in the Palace of the Normans, which is adorned in extraordinary 12th century mosaics. You will also have time to shop, or sit and enjoy a leisurely lunch. Later we arrive at our superb hotel. Tonight we will enjoy our ‘Farewell to Sicily’ dinner. Meals: BD
Hotel: The Grand Hotel Villa Igiea

Day 17: Palermo

Your tour ends today after breakfast.  Meals: B