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2016 Discover Sicily: Heart of the Mediterranean

Sold out in 2016

Palermo • Agrigento • Siracusa • Taormina • Rome

Courtesy Silvia Santamaria and Ian Cross
Bazaar: Sicily

Delve into eastern Sicily’s cultural gems, from a bustling fish market to wine produced on Mount Etna and colorful ceramics.

Trip Experience

Explore the historic side of Sicily at the Valley of the Temples and uncover the flavor that's all its own.

Courtesy CNN
CNNGo Roman masterpiece

Learn the secret to making Italian pizza and see where the locals shop for bargains in Rome.

Trip Extension: Amalfi Coast, Italy

Lose yourself along Italy's beautiful Costiera Amalfitana on this optional extension.

Courtesy CNN
Gorgeous Rome

Take in the full beauty of Italy's capital, from cafes and contemporary art museums to the iconic treasures of Rome.

Courtesy CNN
Italy's Capital of Contradictions

Join a wine expert and a local musician on a stroll through some of the hidden gems of Rome.

Program Director

Meet Italian Program Director Gabriella Prestigiacomo, who shares how a few years spent abroad led her back to Sicily and family.

Program Director

Meet Program Director Marcello Torrisi and hear how he likes living in Catania and what makes this island unique.

Courtesy Travel
Rome's Unwritten Epicurean Rules

Pick up a few unspoken edicts behind Rome's laid-back culinary culture to live as the locals do.

Courtesy Small World Productions

Join travel expert Rudy Maxa for a tour of Sicily’s timeless treasures.

Courtesy Small World Productions

See how ancient and modern Rome exist side by side with travel expert Rudy Maxa.

Trip Itinerary

Get more information about your detailed itinerary, like optional tours, exclusive Discovery Series events, and more.

Courtesy Lawrence Edward Clift
Teatro Greco, Taormina, Sicily

Rise up for a bird’s-eye view of the Greco-Roman theater of Taormina, Sicily, and its environs.

Courtesy Rodolfo Bonucci
The Colosseum in Rome

Soar above one of Rome’s, and the world’s, most famous ancient sites—the Colosseum.

Sold out in 2016
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Find the Adventure That’s Right for You

Our Activity Level rating system ranks adventures on a scale of 1 to 5 to help you determine if a trip is right for you. See the descriptions below for more information about the physical requirements associated with each rating.

Activity Level 1:

1 2 3 4 5


Travelers should be able to climb 25 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 1-2 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last at least 1-2 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

Activity Level 2:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderately Easy

Travelers should be able to climb 40 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 2-3 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for at least 2-3 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

Activity Level 3:

1 2 3 4 5


Travelers should be able to climb 60 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 3 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 3 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 5,000 to 7,000 feet.

Activity Level 4:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderately Strenuous

Travelers should be able to climb 80 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 4 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 7,000 to 9,000 feet.

Activity Level 5:

1 2 3 4 5


Travelers should be able to climb 100 or more stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 8 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 10,000 feet or more.

Itinerary Overview

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 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.

Day-to-Day Itinerary

  • 5 nights from only $995

    If you’ve chosen this extension, begin your discoveries in Italy on the beautiful Amalfi Coast. For five nights, your home base will be Sorrento, the perfect place to relax and use as a home base for explorations to nearby Ravello and Amalfi. There are also opportunities to explore nearby Capri, and the ruins of Pompeii, immersing yourself in the history and culture of this vibrant region.

    View Extension Itinerary
Palermo Rome Expand All
  • 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 followed by a Welcome Drink and light dinner at a local restaurant.

  • Travel to Monreale after breakfast to witness the Arab-Norman splendor of the Monreale Cathedral, also known as the Duomo, during an included tour. Then head to Palermo and get acquainted with Sicily's capital on a stroll through its city center, taking in notable sites including the Palermo Cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century.

    Enjoy lunch on your own, and the afternoon to spend as you please. This evening, partake an exclusive Discovery Series Italian With & Without Words language lesson before heading to a local restaurant for your Welcome Dinner.

  • 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, an enchanting fishing village and summertime resort that sits on a rocky outcrop in the center of Sicily's northern coast. The Greeks thought the rocky outcrop, the Rocca, resembled a head—kephalosin Greek—thus, the name of the town. Cefalu lies in a scenic locale between the massive peak and a long, sweeping beach. Take in the highlights of the village, including its splended cathedral, during a morning tour and then head to a nearby town for lunch in a seaside villa.

    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. Take a walk through the town with a local expert, 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 lunch at a local restaurant.

    Arrive at your hotel in Agrigento with time to relax and explore the neighborhood this afternoon. This evening, you'll dine with your fellow travelers at a local restaurant.

  • 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 savor lunch at the Messana family country house in nearby the town of Caltanissetta.

    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.

    Enjoy lunch and the afternoon 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, visit the small village of Savoca, a sleepy town of 1,700 nestled against lush hillsides where many scenes from The Godfather were shot, including the marriage of Michael Corleone and Appolonia Vitelli. Set off on a walk through town before lunch on your own and free time to further explore.

    Continue on to Taormina, where you'll check into your hotel and have some free time to relax before dinner at a local restaurant.

  • This morning,  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. Witness the extraordinary classical Greco-Roman theater—Taormina's most-visited site, offering a view of the 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.

    Spend lunch the afternoon exploring on your own, perhaps taking the local funivia (cable car) up the hill for a view of the sea. Early this evening, partake in a discussion about Italian Volcanoes, including stories about infamous Mount Etna. Tonight, dinner is at a local restaurant.

  • The day is yours to relax, do some shopping, and explore on your own.

    You can also choose to join a full-day optional excursion to gain a new perspective on life at the base of Mount Etna. Visit a luthier in Randazzo to learn about the ancient craft of making and repairing string instruments. Then, stop by a local winery for a tour before heading to a pistachio farm northwest of the volcano to explore the grounds, learn about this valued product, and enjoy lunch on the grounds.

  • 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.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    This morning, transfer to the airport in Catania for our afternoon flight to Rome. On the way, 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.

    Arrive in Rome in the late afternoon, and enjoy dinner on your own.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    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.

    • Meals included:

    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.


    6 nights from only $895

    Encounter the Mediterranean climate and rich history of Malta

    Due to their strategic position, the Maltese Islands have been occupied, conquered, and defended by a multitude of peoples—producing a proud history that encompasses 7,000 years. You’ll be welcomed by a warm, friendly people and bask in their sun-kissed Mediterranean climate as you share the rich heritage of their country.

    View Extension Itinerary

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