Travel on this exciting Mediterranean vacation in Sicily, with its idyllic climate, dramatic vistas, and hearty cuisine that embodies all things Italian. But Sicily is also rich with its own culture, which is distinct from that of mainland Italy. You'll explore some of Sicily’s most enticing regions—in the vibrant capital city of Palermo, you’ll uncover Sicily’s Arab, Norman, and Roman heritage amid a rich tapestry of Mediterranean cultures. You’ll also enjoy two nights in lovely Agrigento, where you’ll discover the Valley of the Temples, one of the world’s largest and best-preserved sites of Greek ruins, on an included tour. Next, discover the ancient city of Siracusa, known for its rich history of ancient civilizations. Then discover the cliffside resort town of Taormina, where you'll marvel at sweeping ocean and mountain views, presided over by the mighty Mount Etna. Your vacation concludes with two nights in Rome, including a tour of the city's highlights. When you join our newest Grand Circle Land Tour it's all yours, at an incredible value.
Depart today on your flight to Palermo, Sicily.
Arrival times vary throughout the day, depending on your city of departure. You'll be met at the airport and assisted to your hotel to begin your Mediterranean vacation. This evening, join your fellow travelers, including those who took our Amalfi Coast, Italy pre-trip extension, and Program Director for an orientation walk near your hotel, and a Welcome Drink and traveler's introduction before a Welcome Dinner in a local restaurant.
After breakfast you’ll take a tour of the Santa Cita Oratory, a small chapel in Palermo. The oratory was built in the 16th century as a gesture of thanks to the Virgin of the Rosary for success in the 1571 Battle of Lepanto. While there, look for the intricate stucco sculpting on the interior walls that depicts the victorious battle.
Mid-morning, you'll travel on an included tour to Monreale, where you’ll witness the Arab-Norman splendor of the Monreale Cathedral, also known as the Duomo. When you return to Palermo, you'll get acquainted with Sicily’s capital on a stroll through the Capo Market—a lively Arab-style open market offering the colorful sights and smells of local cuisine, produce, and spices.
This afternoon, enjoy an included lunch at a local restaurant, and continue your discoveries of Palermo on a panoramic driving tour. Later, you'll enjoy an exclusive Discovery Series language lesson on Italian With & Without Words, and in the evening, dinner will be on your own.
You have a full day to relax or explore at your own pace. You could visit the Archaeological Museum, featuring a noteworthy Etruscan collection and artifacts from the Hellenic temples at Selinunte. Tour the Abatellis Palace, admiring its gallery of Renaissance paintings. Visit the Mercato delle Pulci, a flea market well known for its antiques. Or take a stroll through the shopping area.
Or, set off for an optional excursion to Cefalu, where you'll enjoy a walking tour. This enchanting fishing village and summertime resort sits on a rocky outcrop in the center of Sicily's north coast. A perfect town for strolling, Cefalu is close to beaches and the blue waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. The Greeks thought the rocky outcrop, the Rocca, resembled a head—kephalos in Greek—thus, the name of the town. Cefalu lies in a scenic locale between the massive peak and a long, sweeping beach. Against this backdrop rise the lofty twin towers of the cathedral built by Roger II in 1130. This splendid cathedral is one of the finest examples of Arab-Norman architecture and contains luminous mosaics.If you want to see even more regional art, this optional tour includes a trip to the Mandralisca Museum, as well as free time to explore independently. Afterwards, enjoy a special lunch at a local restaurant.
Enjoy dinner on your own this evening.
This morning, set out through the Sicilian countryside on your way to the historic hilltop town of Corleone, inspiration for The Godfather book and films.
You’ll enjoy a walk through the town, followed by a chance to learn about Corleone’s Past & Present during an informative discussion headed by some of the region’s younger residents. Then, enjoy a true Sicilian lunch at a local restaurant.
This afternoon, you'll arrive at your hotel in Agrigento with time to relax and explore the neighborhood. Return to the hotel for dinner this evening.
After breakfast at your hotel this morning, you’ll visit the extraordinary Valley of the Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on an included tour. These are among the greatest Greek ruins in the world, and the splendor of the temples—seven in the Doric style, built during the fifth and sixth centuries BC—rivals those in Athens. Here you’ll see the Temple of Juno, with its excellent views of the entire valley, and the Temple of Concordia, beautifully preserved. The oldest ruin is traditionally named the Temple of Hercules, which includes the remnant of a large altar.
This afternoon, you’ll have free time to explore Agrigento. Later, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
This morning, you'll enjoy a very special experience—the chance to meet Sicilian schoolchildren at the Istituto Comprensivo M. L. King in Caltanissetta, part of Grand Circle Foundation's World Classroom project. An elementary school with 400 students, M.L. King is working to ensure that Sicily's children get a quality education—no small concern, given that Sicilian students are many times more likely than those of mainland Italy to drop out before graduating high school.
En route to Siracusa today, you’ll enjoy an agriturismo farmhouse lunch in the countryside nearby the town of Caltanissetta. You’re sure to savor this special lunch served at the Messana family farm.
Arrive at your hotel in Siracusa in the late afternoon. You’ll have time to relax and reflect on your day’s discoveries before an orientation walk and dinner on your own.
This morning you’ll enjoy a guided tour of Ortygia, the historical gem of Siracusa. We will admire the architectural splendor of ancient medieval streets, Baroque structures, and the cathedral—which was fashioned out of an ancient Greek temple.
Of all the Greek cities of antiquity that flourished outside of Greece, Siracusa was the most important in all of the Mediterranean, and a formidable seafaring power nearly equal to Athens. In the heyday of its power, it dared to take on both Carthage and Rome. At one time, its wealth and size were unmatched by any other city in the ancient world, and today it is one of the richest historical sites in Europe.
It is said that Siracusa is the birthplace of comedy in Greek theater, and was the only school of classical drama outside of Athens. During your free time you can visit remarkable Greek and Roman ruins, including the cave called "the Ear of Dionysius," because of its unusual shape, resembling a human ear. The cave is more than 200 feet long, and has such good acoustics that the ripping of paper can sound like a gunshot. It is said that the tyrant Dionysius forced his prisoners into the cave at night and was able to hear every word they said.
After lunch on your own, the rest of the afternoon is at leisure to make your own discoveries. Dinner is at a local restaurant this evening.
Enjoy the day exploring Siracusa on your own. Perhaps you'll visit the Temple of Apollo, the oldest known Doric temple in western Europe, or the legendary Fountain of Arethusa. Maybe you'll take the day to stroll and see where your discoveries take you.
Or discover the Baroque Heritage of Sicily on a full-day optional excursion. where you’ll witness some of the best examples of the Sicilian Baroque in Val di Noto (southeast Sicily)—part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your day begins with a visit to the Ragusa Ibla (Ancient Ragusa), where you’ll tour the majestic Church of Saint George. This afternoon, your journey continues in the city of Modica, where you’ll entice your taste buds with local chocolates during a tasting. The price of this tour includes lunch.
Dinner is on your own this evening.
After breakfast, depart for Taormina. On the way, you’ll visit the small village of Savoca. This sleepy town of 1,700 hugs lush hillsides. Here, many of the scenes of the movie The Godfather were shot, including the marriage of Michael Corleone and Appolonia Vitelli. Enjoy lunch on your own, and free time to further explore.
Later this afternoon, you’ll check into your hotel and have some free time to relax. Afterwards, enjoy dinner in a local restaurant.
This morning, you'll embark upon a walking tour of Taormina, Sicily's most famous resort. Dating from the third and fourth centuries BC, Taormina is perched dramatically high on a rocky promontory overlooking the Ionian Sea. It's a charming medieval town with typical cobblestone streets leading into spacious squares graced by lovely 15th-century palazzi.
Your tour includes a visit to the extraordinary classical Greco-Roman theater. This is Taormina's most-visited site, offering a view of rare beauty: Mount Etna and the seacoast. In the third century BC, the Greeks carved this theater on the slopes of Mount Tauro out of rock, and even today, the superb acoustics of the theater allow listeners in the last rows to hear a whisper on stage.
Enjoy an afternoon to explore on your own, perhaps taking the local funivia (cable car) up the hill for a view of the sea.
Early this evening, you'll hear a lecture about the World War II Allied landing in Sicily during the 1943 "Husky" mission. An important moment during the war for Italy, you'll learn about what it meant to the people of Sicily, as well as how the local mafia became involved.
Tonight, dinner is at a local restaurant.
You have a day to relax, do some shopping, and explore on your own.
Or, set off on an optional excursion to the ancient Greek town of Reggio. After breakfast, we'll travel by ferry across the straits of Messina to this Calabrian town, which was of great strategic importance during ancient times. We’ll visit the Palazzo della Regione, which is one of the most popular destinations in the area. Here the famous bronze statues of two Greek warriors are on display, after a long restoration. After the tour, we'll enjoy an included lunch at a traditional restaurant in Scilla, an old fishing village.
This afternoon, enjoy some free time to explore. In the early evening, you'll hear a fascinating discussion about Italian Volcanoes, including stories about famed Mount Etna. Dinner is on your own tonight.
After breakfast, visit magnificent Mount Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano. The peak has changed in size over the years, but is presently listed around 10,000 feet. Etna has been active in modern times, destroying the village of Mascali in 1928, and erupting again in 1971, 1992, 2001, and 2002. It was beneath this mountain that Zeus crushed the multi-headed, hundred-handed, snake-infested dragon Typhoeus, thus attaining dominion over Olympus. Zeus forever banned the dragon to the infernal regions of Tartarus under Mount Etna. The Greeks warned that whenever Typhoeus tried to break out of his confinement, lava would spill forth and earthquakes would crack open the land. Your included tour goes up to the 6,000-foot mark to view evidence of the volcano’s activity at Silvestri Crater.
This afternoon, in Mitogio, a Sicilian family will welcome you for a traditional Home-Hosted Lunch, a delightful way to experience everyday life.
Tonight, dinner is on your own.
This morning, you'll transfer from Taormina to the airport in Catania for our afternoon flight to Rome. You’ll visit a history museum depicting the landing of Allied troops on the southern coast of Sicily in July of 1943. Then, experience a slice of local life when you visit a fish market before lunch on your own.
Arriving in Rome in the late afternoon, enjoy an orientation walk of your neighborhood and dinner on your own. Enjoy lunch on your own, and free time to further explore. After arriving at our hotel in Rome, you may join an orientation walk of the area with your Program Director. Tonight, take your Program Director’s suggestions on where to enjoy a Roman dinner on your own.
After breakfast this morning, you’ll enjoy a panoramic tour of the "Eternal City" that gives you an overview of its main points of interest. You'll see and view the landmarks and monuments that are the signature attractions of this beautiful city.
Following lunch on your own, enjoy the afternoon at leisure to make your own discoveries. You might stroll along Via del Corso, an almost mile-long stretch of palaces and shops, or spend time in the beautiful gardens of the Villa Borghese. Or stroll the Campo dei Fiori and explore the piazza with its booksellers, inns, small shops, and colorful morning markets.
This evening, join your fellow travelers this evening for a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant.
This morning, transfer to the Rome airport for your flight home. You'll be given a box breakfast to take with you. Or, extend your Mediterranean vacation with our optional post-trip extension to Malta.