Classical Sicily

Guests walking up to Segesta
Guests walking up to Segesta
Segesta from afar
Segesta from afar
The Temple of Hera at Agrigento
The Temple of Hera at Agrigento
La Martorana
La Martorana
Dr Denise Allen in action at the Regional Archaeological Museum
Dr Denise Allen in action at the Regional Archaeological Museum
La Cuba, Palermo
La Cuba, Palermo
Guests at La Cuba, Palermo
Guests at La Cuba, Palermo
La Zisa
La Zisa
Christ Pantocrator mosaics in the cathedral in Monreale, Palermo
Christ Pantocrator mosaics in the cathedral in Monreale, Palermo
Inside the Oratorio di Santa Cita
Inside the Oratorio di Santa Cita
Startlingly contemporary-looking mosaic at Piazza Armerina
Startlingly contemporary-looking mosaic at Piazza Armerina
Graeco-Roman theater at Taormina
Graeco-Roman theater at Taormina

The largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily arguably has the richest history of any region in Italy. The classically beautiful heart of the Mediterranean has been praised by poets and became the prize of countless cultures - Phoenicians, Greeks & Romans and later the Normans. During the Greek and later the Norman periods, Sicily was the creative centre of philosophy, art and learning. On this sun-soaked island, we find wonderfully preserved Greek temples, Roman villas and Norman cathedrals (many filled with stunning mosaics).

This trip show cases the wonderful monuments from all the cultures which found their homes on Sicily. We explore the Normano-Arabic churches of Palermo, alongside some of the best preserved Greek temples in the world – and the most important late antique villa in Italy.

  • See truly exceptional mosaics at the Villa Romana, Piazza Armerina
  • Visit Arab-Norman churches with their blend of Byzantine and Arabic art
  • See the cathedral at Monreale which is covered in opulent mosaics
  • Discover the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Have a special access evening visit to the Cappella Palatina

Themes

  • Romans
  • Prehistory
  • Medieval
  • Historic Churches
  • Cultural Excursion
  • Ancient Greek

Practicalities

  • Special Access
  • All Inclusive

Itinerary 2019

Day 1

We depart from London and arrive in Sicily.
Hotel: Hotel Piazza Borsa Palermo, or similar
Meals: Dinner included

Day 2

After a comfortable night’s sleep and a filling breakfast, we drive out to the rolling hills, where we find the ancient Greek city of Segesta, home to an elegant but unfinished 5th century BC Doric temple and the remains of an impressive hilltop theatre.


This afternoon we make our way to Monreale, the former hunting ground of the Norman kings of Sicily. Here we discover an opulent Norman-Byzantine cathedral and abbey founded by the King William II in 1174. The site recently achieved UNESCO World Heritage status thanks to its stunning construction and mosaic work: a brilliant testament to the former opulence of Norman rule.

Hotel: Hotel Piazza Borsa Palermo, or similar
Meals: All meals included

Day 3

Today is ours to experience the wonders of Palermo. Our encounter begins at the newly reopened Archaeological Museum, which houses one of the most significant collection of Punic and Ancient Greek art in all of Italy. Here we find famous metopes from the Selinus temples we will visit later on our trip, as well as a fascinating array of artefacts discovered underwater. Don’t miss the Phoenician sarcophagi, thought to date from the 5th century BC.

Later we visit the beautifully-decorated church of La Martorana, built by the admiral of the Norman Emir George of Antioch, and the quiet simplicity of the neighbouring Chiesa di San Cataldo. After lunch, we go to the Palermo Cathedral, a 12th-century construction that replaced a Moorish mosque and which houses the tombs of some of the Norman Kings.

This evening we enjoy a special private visit to the Cappella Palatina, an extravagant chapel erected for the Norman kings, glittering with mosaics and gold leaf.
Hotel: Hotel Piazza Borsa Palermo, or similar
Meals: All meals included

Day 4

This morning we drive to Marsala, the Carthaginian fortified port of Lilybaeum and visit the museum with its remains of a Carthaginian warship which sank in the First Punic War, along with fascinating Punic funerary stelai.

After lunch, we cross by boat to the island of Motya, a stronghold of the Phoenicians, and, later, the Carthaginians. Founded in the 8th century BC, and surrounded by the Stagnone Lagoon, this once flourishing city earned its wealth as a commercial centre with a thriving trade in salt. Walking around the island, we find traces of its tragic demise in 397 BC at the hands of the Syracusan tyrant Dionysius the Elder.

While on Motya we visit the Archaeological Museum, taking time to admire its world-renowned statue of the charioteer, a striking sculpture from the early 5th century BC. We also look at the walls, which bear witness to the Syracusan sacking, and proceed to the newly re-examined Sanctuary once known as the cothon or harbour and to the tophet

Hotel: Hotel Carmine or Hotel Baglio Oneto
Meals: All meals included

Day 5

Driving eastwards we stop at the quarries of the Cave di Cusa, used by Selinus for their titanic temples. Their heavy work was abandoned in 409 BC when Carthaginians mercilessly sacked their city, a common refrain in the violent history of Sicily. We can still see the remnants of columns on site, sadly destined to remain both unfinished and in situ.

We then travel on to Selinus itself to see the temples of the eastern sanctuary, including the incredible Temple G, one of the largest temples of the Greek world. Still unfinished at the time of the Carthaginian sacking in 409 BC, its columns, which are almost 3.5 metres in diametres, have collapsed like a stack of cards.

We finish the day at the Acropolis of Selinus, dramatically positioned on plains overlooking the Mediterranean sea. Here we not only see remains of ancient temples but of Punic housing inhabited by the Carthaginians who took over the site after the sacking.

Hotel: Hotel Foresteria Baglio della Luna
Meals: All meals included

Day 6

We spend a whole day exploring the magnificent remains of Agrigento today, the site of the ancient Greek city of Akragas. It is estimated that between 200,000 to 800,000 citizens resided here at the height of the city’s power, and extensive remains attest to a vast and mighty settlement.

We take in the Valley of the Temples, a World Heritage Site of seven Doric sanctuaries, including the remarkably well-preserved Temple of Concordia, with its elegant walls and columns. We also view the remains of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, another gigantic, Sicilian temple, with an unusual layout characterised by the enormous telemons pieced together in the temple area, which once bore the weight of its roof.

Hotel: Hotel Foresteria Baglio della Luna
Meals: All meals included

Day 7

Our journey takes us through central Sicily, stopping at the magnificent Villa Romana del Casale in Piazza Armerina. This 4th century country house is noted for its superb collection of lavish mosaics – the largest in the world – which can now be viewed from a newly installed network of raised walkways. Here we find the famous depiction of the “Bikini Girls”, as well as lively images of hunting and games.

We proceed to Morgantina, a city founded by the native Sikels under their leader Ducetius. The last of the Sicilian towns to succumb to Roman rule, the city was later captured by slaves in the First Servile war in the Roman period. Morgantina has been the focus of intensive excavations in recent decades, and research here is still ongoing. We find an exciting collection of remains including a bouleuterion – an ancient Greek political chamber – a theatre, kilns and houses complete with mosaics.

Hotel: Hotel Maniace or similar
Meals: All meals included

Day 8

Today is all about Syracuse, the ancient capital of the island. This splendid World Heritage Site was the most opulent city in the Classical period, famed for its artistic traditions, as much as it was for its violent tyrants and intellectuals, such as Archimedes. Cicero described Syracuse as “the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all”.

We discover traces of Syracuse’s glorious past at the fine Paolo Orsi Archaeological Museum, where we will explore a staggering array of vases, statues, along with a unique treasury, containing a collection of jewels and coins from the area. Later we head to the Neapolis Archaeological Park, home to an incredible theatre where the tragedies of Aeschylus were once performed in the playwright’s presence. We also find an ancient quarry dotted with catacombs and a huge grotto carved into the cliffs.

In the afternoon we walk around the small island of Ortygia, the oldest part of the ancient city, and the site of the remarkable 5th Century BC Temple of Athena which has been converted into the Cathedral of Our Lady’s Nativity but which retains the columns and structure of the original Greek temple.

Hotel: Hotel Royal Maniace or similar
Meals: All meals included

Day 9

Continuing our immersion into the classical world, this morning is free for us to explore the rest of Syracuse at our leisure.

We then drive to Noto, a Baroque fantasy of a town, created after the terrible earthquake of 1693 and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Prepare to be blown away by this incredible treasure trove of elaborate churches and palaces.

This afternoon we visit the Roman villa at Tellaro. Discovered beneath a traditional farmhouse, and surrounded by luscious vineyards, the villa contains exceptionally fine mosaics depicting vibrant scenes such as the ransom of the body of Hector, and a banquet attended by lady Africa.
Hotel: Hotel Royal Maniace or similar
Meals: All meals included

Day 10

In the morning of our last full day, we shall visit the catacombs of San Giovanni in Syracuse. The second largest series outside Rome these ancient Greek cisterns became a Roman burial ground.

Later on, we head into the city of Catania where we wonder at its roman past, with the odeon theatre and Piazza Duomo.
Hotel: Hotel Royal Maniace or similar
Meals: All meals included

Day 11

Following breakfast, we make our way back to the airport where we catch our return flight to London.
Meals: Breakfast included

Itinerary 2020

Day 1

We depart from London and arrive in Sicily.

Hotel: Hotel Piazza Borsa Palermo, or similar
Meals: Dinner included

Day 2

After breakfast, we drive out to the rolling hills, where we find the ancient Greek city of Segesta, home to an elegant but unfinished 5th century BC Doric temple and the remains of an impressive hilltop theatre. This afternoon we make our way to Monreale, the former hunting ground of the Norman kings of Sicily. Here, we discover an opulent Norman-Byzantine cathedral and abbey, founded by King William II in 1174. The site recently achieved UNESCO World Heritage status thanks to its stunning construction and mosaic work – a brilliant testament to the former opulence of Norman rule.

Hotel: Hotel Piazza Borsa Palermo, or similar
Meals: All meals included

Day 3

Today is ours to explore the wonders of Palermo. We start at the Archaeological Museum, which houses one of the most significant collections of Punic and Ancient Greek art in all of Italy. Here, we find famous metopes from the Selinus temples, as well as a fascinating array of artefacts discovered underwater. Later, we visit the beautifully decorated church of La Martorana and the neighbouring Chiesa di San Cataldo. After lunch, we go to the Palermo Cathedral, a 12th century construction that replaced a Moorish mosque and which houses the tombs of some of the Norman Kings. This evening, we enjoy a special private visit to the Cappella Palatina, an extravagant chapel, glittering with mosaics and gold leaf.

Hotel: Hotel Piazza Borsa Palermo, or similar
Meals: All meals included

Day 4

This morning we drive to Marsala, Carthaginian Lilybaeum, and visit the museum with its remains of a Carthaginian warship sunk in the first Punic war, along with fascinating Punic funerary stelai. After lunch, we cross by boat to the island of Motya, a stronghold of the Phoenicians, sacked in 397 BC by the Syracusan tyrant Dionysius the Elder. While on Motya we visit the Archaeological Museum, taking time to admire its world-renowned statue of the charioteer, a striking sculpture from the early 5th century BC.

Hotel: Hotel Carmine or similar
Meals: All meals included

Day 5

We start the day at the quarries of the Cave di Cusa, used by Selinus for their titanic temples. Their heavy work was abandoned in 409 BC when Carthaginians mercilessly sacked their city, a common refrain in the violent history of Sicily. We can still see the remnants of columns on site, sadly destined to remain both unfinished and in situ. We then travel on to Selinus itself to see the temples of the eastern sanctuary, including the incredible Temple G, one of the largest temples of the Greek world. We finish the day at the Acropolis of Selinus, dramatically positioned on plains overlooking the Mediterranean sea. Here we not only see remains of ancient temples, but of Punic housing inhabited by Carthaginians who took over the site after the sacking.

Hotel: Hotel Costazzurra or Foresteria Baglio della Luna
Meals: All meals included

Day 6

We spend a whole day exploring the magnificent remains of Agrigento today, the site of the ancient Greek city of Akragas. We take in the Valley of the Temples, a World Heritage Site of seven Doric sanctuaries, including the remarkably wellpreserved Temple of Concordia, with its elegant walls and columns. We also view the remains of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, another gigantic, Sicilian temple, with an unusual layout characterised by enormous telemons, which once bore the weight of its roof.

Hotel: Hotel Costazzurra or Foresteria Baglio della Luna
Meals: All meals included

Day 7

Our journey takes us through central Sicily, stopping at the magnificent Villa Romana del Casale in Piazza Armerina. This late antique villa is noted for its superb collection of mosaics – the largest in the world – which can now be viewed from a newly installed network of raised walkways. Here we find the famous depiction of the “Bikini Girls”, as well as lively images of hunting and ancient games. We proceed to Morgantina, a city founded by the native Sikels under their leader Ducetius. The last of the Sicilian towns to succumb to Roman rule, the city was later captured by slaves in the First Servile War in the Roman period. Morgantina has been the focus of intensive excavations in recent decades, and research here is still ongoing. We find an exciting collection of remains, including a bouleuterion – an ancient Greek political chamber – a theatre, kilns and houses complete with mosaics.

Hotel: Hotel Maniace
Meals: All meals included

Day 8

Today is all about Syracuse, which Cicero described as “the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all”. We discover traces of Syracuse’s glorious past in the exceptional Paolo Orsi Archaeological Museum, where we will explore a staggering array of vases and statues, along with a unique treasury containing a collection of jewels and coins from the area. Later, we make our way to the Neapolis Archaeological Park, home to an incredible theatre where Aeschylus’ tragedies were once performed in the playwright’s presence. In the afternoon we walk around Ortygia, the oldest part of the ancient city, and the site of the remarkable 5th century BC Temple of Athena, which has been converted into the Cathedral of Our Lady’s Nativity.

Hotel: Hotel Royal Maniace
Meals: Breakfast and lunch included

Day 9

We start the day with a visit to the little-known Greek city of Akrai, where we see the remains of a theatre. We proceed to Noto, a baroque fantasy of a city that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here, we have lunch before exploring the city with its elaborate balconies and dramatically placed churches. This afternoon we visit the late Roman villa at Tellaro, which contains fine mosaics depicting scenes such as the ransom of Hector’s body, and a hunting scene reminiscent of those seen in Piazza Armerina.

Hotel: Hotel Royal Maniace
Meals: Breakfast and dinner included

Day 10

In the morning of our last full day, we shall visit the catacombs of San Giovanni in Syracuse, underground Greek cisterns transformed into Christian burials in the Paleochristian era. Here, we also visit the Norman basilica of San Giovanni, felled by the 1693 earthquake, along with the crypt that boasts well-preserved frescoes. The afternoon is yours to enjoy. Explore splendid Ortigia for the Caravaggio painting in the church of Santa Lucia, the Byzantine Jewish baths or, perhaps, the ruins of the Temple of Artemis.

Hotel: Hotel Royal Maniace
Meals: Breakfast and dinner included

Day 11

Following breakfast, we make our way back to the airport where we catch our return flight to London.

Meals: Breakfast included

What's Included

  1. Expert Guide Lecturer
  2. Tour Manager
  3. Local Travel - Private a/c coach
  4. Meals - Most meals included with wine at dinner
  5. Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
  6. Field Notes
  7. Hotels
  8. Flights

Travel Information

For full information about Passport validity and Visa requirements as well as Health and Vaccination information please click here.

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2019 Tour Details

Thu 5th Sep - Sun 15th Sep

Call for availability

Guaranteed Departure

£2,895

inc.

ex. flights: £2,695

sgl supp: £425

SIC19G

Led By: Dr Eireann Marshall

Thu 19th Sep - Sun 29th Sep

Available

Guaranteed Departure

£2,695

inc.

sgl supp: £425

SIC19H

Led By: Doru Bogdan

Thu 3rd Oct - Sun 13th Oct

Call for Availability

Guaranteed Departure

£2,715

inc.

sgl supp: £425

SIC19J

Led By: Dr Denise Allen

Thu 10th Oct - Sun 20th Oct

Call for availability

Guaranteed Departure

£2,725

inc.

sgl supp: £425

SIC19K

Led By: Dr Gillian Shepherd

2020 Tour Details

Thu 19th Mar - Sun 29th Mar

Available

£3,245

inc.

sgl supp: £490

SIC20A

Led By: Dr Neil Faulkner

Thu 30th Apr - Sun 10th May

Available

£3,295

inc.

sgl supp: £490

SIC20B

Led By: Dr Neil Faulkner

Thu 14th May - Sun 24th May

Available

£3,345

inc.

sgl supp: £490

SIC20C

Led By: Dr Eireann Marshall

Thu 21st May - Sun 31st May

Available

£3,345

inc.

sgl supp: £490

SIC20D

Led By: Tony O'Connor

Thu 10th Sep - Sun 20th Sep

Available

£3,345

inc.

sgl supp: £490

SIC20E

Led By: Oliver Gilkes

Thu 17th Sep - Sun 27th Sep

Available

£3,345

inc.

sgl supp: £490

SIC20F

Led By: Dr Gillian Shepherd

Thu 1st Oct - Sun 11th Oct

Available

£3,295

inc.

sgl supp: £490

SIC20G

Led By: Doru Bogdan

Thu 8th Oct - Sun 18th Oct

Available

£3,295

inc.

sgl supp: £490

SIC20H

Led By: Dr Eireann Marshall

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