FROM SICILY TO FLORENCE
Days 1 & 2 Taormina, Island of Sicily
Upon arrival in Milan, board your connecting flight to Catania, on the island of Sicily.. You are welcomed to Catania and transferred to your luxurious hotel in the charming seaside town of Taormina. Goethe described Taormina as “a patch of paradise,” with its breathtaking views, pastel buildings, garden terraces and citrus trees. Join your fellow travelers at a festive party Sunday evening to learn more about the events and adventures ahead.
The next day explore Taormina ’s well-preserved Greek theater, built in the third century B.C. Tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides are still performed here. The historic theater offers a grand panorama of Mt. Etna and the Ionian Sea. Afterward visit volatile Mt. Etna, Europe ’s largest active volcano.
Day 3 Syracuse
On Tuesday drive to ancient Syracuse, a great Greek city from 733 until 211 B.C. when it was conquered by Rome. Fortunately the conquering Roman General Marcellus was so amazed by the city’s richness and beauty that he refrained from destroying the Greek temples and buildings. Explore the ruins of the Greek theater, where the great dramatist Aeschylus staged plays, and the more modern amphitheater where man fought beast to a gory finish. Return to Taormina for the night.
Day 4 Agrigento
A drive through local villages and the picturesque Sicilian countryside takes you to the classical city of Agrigento. Visit the Valley of the Temples, site of some of the best preserved Greek remains in the world. Later, witness the temples beautifully illuminated at night.
Days 5 & 6 Palermo
Your last stop in Sicily is the city of Palermo, Sicily ’s capital and largest port overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea. Your hotel, once an aristocratic estate, is one of Sicily ’s most opulent retreats.
Friday visit the Royal Palace, the heart of the Norman kingdom in Sicily. Built in the 1130s, the palace reflects the wealth and luxury of its royal history. Its Palatine Chapel is one of Sicily ’s most glorious treasures with a painted Arabic ceiling, Byzantine art, mosaics and granite pillars.
Descend to the 19th-century Catacombs of the Capuchins, where the Sicilians buried their dead. Mummies, naturally preserved by the dry air, line the corridors. Explore the stunning Norman Cathedral of Monreale and marvel at its dazzling mosaics and Benedictine cloisters. Palazzo Conte Federico, built on Punic-Roman city walls, is one of the oldest and most important buildings in Palermo. Examine its Baroque ceiling frescoes by Vito D’Anna, the grand stairway, Marabitti’s lion fountain and the beautiful sculptures. Enjoy the lavish yet personal atmosphere of the palace, home to Conte Federico and his family.
Day 7 Segeste, Erice, Trapani
Today’s excursion takes us first to Segeste to visit the Doric Temple and Acropolis, then to Erice, a beautiful Phoenician and Hellenistic town. Perched on the mountain of the same name, Erice offers a glorious view over the sea. In antiquity, Erice was famous for its temples where in succession the Phoenicians worshiped Astarte, the Greeks venerated Aphrodite and the Romans celebrated Venus. The little town now takes the shape of a perfect equilateral triangle, hemmed in by the Castello di Venere and the Chiesa Madre, exactly in the center of the triangle is the Church of St. Peter. An intricate maze of narrow, cobblestone streets provides unexpected glimpses of churches and monasteries scattered throughout the town.
Continue to Trapani to visit the ex-Carmelite convent converted to the Pepoli Museum and its fine collections of coral jewels. South of the town, enjoy the unusual view of the saltpans. Return to Palermo in the afternoon.
Day 8 Rome
Today fly to Rome and upon arrival transfer to your luxury hotel.
Day 9 Monte Cassino, Capri
Journey south to Monte Cassino, located between Rome and Naples. Here St. Benedict founded the Roman Catholic Benedictine order. About A.D. 529, St. Benedict sought refuge from persecution inside the ruined city of Cassino. After our visit to the Abbey of Monte Cassino, continue to the Bay of Naples, then cross the bay by hydrofoil to the Isle of Capri, the land that has drawn emperors, writers and artists for centuries. Enjoy the island’s mountainous landscape, quaint villages and resort atmosphere.
Day 10 Sorrento, Pompeii
Arrive Sorrento by hydrofoil this morning and continue to the ancient city of Pompeii, buried beneath the ashes of Mt. Versuvius in A.D. 79. Explore the excavated city’s commercial district, temples and patrician villas. From Pompeii, venture along the Amalfi Coast road. Enjoy breathtaking views of coastal mountains and sheer cliffs plunging into the sea. Discover the charming hillside village of Positano, considered the pearl of the Amalfi Coast. Return to Capri via hydrofoil.
Day 11 Capri
Weather permitting, spend the morning exploring the stunning Blue Grotto by boat; hidden for centuries, it was rediscovered in 1826. The dramatic shades of blue in the water are due to a natural phenomenon of light refraction. In the event of unfavorable weather, visit the charming Villa San Michelle, original home of physician and author Axel Munthe. The home and gardens are now a museum furnished with antiques from Capri ’s classical era. The afternoon is free to explore Capri on your own.
Day 12 Rome, Vatican City
Return to Naples this morning by hydrofoil and continue north to Rome. This afternoon experience the glorious High Renaissance and Baroque architecture of St. Peter’s Basilica. Examine Michelangelo’s dome and his exquisite Pieta. Then view the incomparable collections in the Vatican Museums and the stunning Sistine Chapel.
Day 13 Rome
Today travel along the old Appian Way and descend to the Catacombs hidden beneath. Guided by friars, discover the funerary tunnels, adorned with mosaics, paintings, sculptures and epigraphs, where early Christians secretly buried their dead. Enjoy the panoramic view from Palatine Hill, where Marc Antony, Cicero, Nero and the first settlers of Rome lived. See the ruins of the ancient Roman and Imperial Forums, the Arch of Constantine, built in A.D. 315, and the Colosseum, where gladiators and wild beasts fought to the death. In the afternoon explore the Pantheon, one of the architectural wonders of the world. Built by Agrippa in 27 B.C. and rebuilt by Hadrian in A.D. 125, this is the most well-preserved Roman building whicg houses the tombs of Italian kings and the artist Raphael.
Day 14 Siena
Leave Rome and continue north to the medieval city of Siena in the heart of Tuscany, famed for its Chianti wine and Sienna lined hills. Visit the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, home of Duccio’s famous La Maesta, and Siena ’s Duomo, a Gothic architectural masterpiece.
Day 15 San Gimignano & Pisa
Travel north through the hills of Tuscany, stopping at the enchanting 14th-century town of San Gimignano, where no cars are allowed within the city walls. Stroll the narrow streets viewing fortress-like palaces and medieval towers. Continue your scenic drive to the ancient Maritime Republic of Pisa on the banks of the Arno River. View the Leaning Tower of Pisa, where Galileo reputedly dropped objects to test his theories of gravity and velocity. Explore the Field of Miracles, baptistry and cathedral of the Piazza del Duomo. Return to Siena for the night.
Days 16,17 & 18 Florence
Depart Siena for Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance. Visit Florence ’s oldest building, the Romanesque Baptistry, adorned with pink, white and green marble. Ghiberti competed with other artists for the right to sculpt the finely detailed bronze doors, called the “Gates of Paradise” by Michelangelo. Explore the Galleria dell’Academia, where Michelangelo’s masterpiece David is displayed.
Tuesday visit the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, the Medici palace for almost 100 years. Examine the frescoes of Gozzoli depicting his festive, fairytale interpretation of the journey of the Magi. Continue to the Uffizi Galleries, bequeathed to the people of Tuscany by the last Medici, housing art which was collected over three centuries.
Wednesday morning view the Church of Santa Croce, housing the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo and Dante. Then visit the striking Duomo Cathedral with its red-tiled dome. You are free to continue exploring Florence on your own this afternoon. This evening, enjoy a festive dinner party and bid farewell to your fellow travelers.