AIA Tours: land

Sicily: Archaeology, Art & Cuisine

Tour Dates: September 14-25, 2021 (12 days)

Tour Leader(s): Gerald Schaus ,

Travel with our engaging AIA lecturer and host, archaeologist Gerry Schauss. Discover and learn about many of the most impressive archaeological monuments found anywhere in the Mediterranean, such as Agrigento, Selinunte, Segesta, and Syracuse. Admire spectacular, sunlit landscapes of undulating vineyards and Mediterranean Sea vistas. See two of the finest examples of Norman architecture: Monreale Cathedral and the Royal Palace of Palermo (Palazzo dei Normanni). View extensive archaeological collections at several excellent museums. Savor fine cuisine, with wine included at group dinners. Feel pampered with seven nights at 5-star hotels and two nights at a four-star hotel, all chosen for their generous comfort and prime locations. Relax and enjoy traveling with a maximum of just 16 guests plus your expert lecturer, trip manager, and local guides.

Choose to extend your trip for three nights to discover Malta’s renowned and extraordinary prehistoric monuments.

Tour Prices per person (10 nights)

13-16 participants double occupancy $6,895
Single Supplement (limited availability) $1,295

Optional Mala Post-Tour Extension Prices per person (3 nights)
13-16 participants double occupancy $2,495
Single Supplement (limited availability) $385

Single room supplements will be charges when requested or required. With fewer than 13 participants on the main tour and/or fewer than 13 participants on the extension, a small group surcharge will be added.

Agrigento © poudou99

Roman mosaic in the Villa Romana del Casale, Piazza Armerina © Jose Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro

Erice, Sicily © Norbert Nagel

Ear of Dionysius, Archaeological Park, Syracuse © Laurel Lodged

Coastline of Ortygia, the historic center of Syracuse © Fausto Schiliro

The Doric Greek Temple E at Selinunte © Frank Manogil

Stagnone Nature Reserve © Adri8826

Itinerary


Main Tour Itinerary
Tuesday, September 14, 2021: Depart home for Palermo, Sicily, Italy
Wednesday, September 15: Arrive Palermo | Private transfer to hotel | Orientation meeting
Thursday, September 16: Palermo: Royal Palace of Palermo & Cappella Palatina, Archaeological Museum | Welcome dinner
Friday, September 17: Monreale | Winery lunch | Segesta | Erice | Marsala
Saturday, September 18: Island of Mozia | Marsala: Archaeological Museum
Sunday, September 19:  Selinunte | Agrigento
Monday, September 20: Agrigento: Archaeological Museum, Valley of the Temples
Tuesday, September 21: Piazza Armerina | Morgantina | Archaeological Museum of Aidone
Wednesday, September 22: Catania walking tour | Ortygia, Syracuse
Thursday, September 23: Syracuse: AM walking tour of Ortygia | PM at leisure
Friday, September 24: Syracuse: Neapolis Archaeological Park, Archaeological Museum | PM at leisure | Farewell dinner
Saturday, September 25: Fly home OR Continue on the optional Malta extension

Optional, Post-Tour Extension to Malta
Saturday, September 25: Syracuse, Sicily | Ferry to Valletta, Malta | Mdina | Ħaġar Qim & Mnajdra Temples | San Ġiljan
Sunday, September 26: Valletta walking tour, National Museum of Archaeology | Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum | Tarxien
Monday, September 27: Gozo: Ggantija, Cittadella, Museum of Archaeology | Farewell dinner
Tuesday, September 28: Fly home

 

View Detailed Itinerary

(B)= Breakfast, (L)= Lunch, (R)=Reception, (D)= Dinner

Tuesday, September 14, 2021: Depart home for Palermo, Sicily, Italy
Depart home on overnight flights to Palermo.

Wednesday, September 15: Arrive Palermo | Private transfer to hotel | Orientation meeting
Upon arrival at Palermo’s Falcone Borsellino Airport (PMO), you will be met and transferred privately to our hotel in Palermo’s city center. Take some time to relax before gathering for an orientation meeting. Dinner is on your own this evening. Overnight at the the 4-star Hotel Politeama for two nights.

Thursday, September 16: Palermo: Royal Palace of Palermo & Cappella Palatina, Archaeological Museum | Welcome dinner
Set out on foot for a guided tour of the city of Palermo, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2015 (together with the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale; we will visit the latter tomorrow). Stroll through the Royal Palace of Palermo (Palazzo dei Normanni) and its spectacular, mosaic-filled chapel (Cappella Palatina). After an independent lunch in one of Palermo’s many trattorias, we re-group to spend the afternoon exploring the Regional Archaeological Museum Antonio Salinas, hosting one of the largest Italian collections of artifacts from Sicily ranging from prehistory to the Middle Ages. This evening we gather for a welcome reception and dinner at a local restaurant. (B,R,D)

Friday, September 17: Monreale | Winery lunch | Segesta | Erice | Marsala
This morning we drive to nearby Monreale to visit its famous cathedral, one of the world’s greatest extant examples of Norman architecture. Wander through Moorish-style arcades and examine its exquisite, gold mosaics illustrating biblical tales. After lunch at a local winery, visit Segesta’s well-preserved 5th-century B.C. Doric Greek temple and 3rd-century B.C. Greek theater, scenically set on Mount Barbaro. Continue to Erice, whose walled, medieval town is perched on a mountain with a striking view over the port of Trapani and sea. After dinner at a local restaurant we take the cable car down to Trapani and then drive to Marsala, where we check-in to our hotel. Overnight at the 4-star Grand Hotel Palace for two nights. (B,L,D)

Saturday, September 18: Island of Mozia | Marsala: Archaeological Museum
Board a private boat and set out for the Stagnone Nature Reserve, home to a mini archipelago the centerpiece of which is the small Island of Mozia (ancient Motya). Originally settled by the Phoenicians in the 8th century B.C, it was sacked by Syracuse in the 4th century B.C. Take a leisurely walking tour of the island to see some of the archaeological remains and also visit the Whitaker Museum, which houses a unique collection of Phoenician artifacts and Greek vases found on the island. Return to Marsala for lunch, and then explore Marsala’s Regional Archaeological Museum Baglio Anselmi, which houses artifacts from Motya and ancient Lilybaeum (modern Marsala), including the wreck of a 3rd-century B.C. Punic warship that was found near Marsala in 1969. Dinner is on your own this evening. (B,L)

Sunday, September 19:  Selinunte | Agrigento
Depart Marsala this morning for Selinunte (ancient Selinos), perched on a clifftop overlooking the sea. We stop just outside of Selinunte to visit the ancient stone quarries, and then visit Selinunte itself. This was the westernmost Greek colony, established in the 7th century B.C., and today its vast ruins comprise temples, fortifications, and houses. After a casual seaside lunch we drive to Agrigento, founded as a Greek colony in the 6th century B.C., and settle in to our hotel. Gather for dinner this evening. Overnight at the 4-star Hôtel Foresteria Baglio della Luna for two nights. (B,L,D)

Monday, September 20: Agrigento: Archaeological Museum, Valley of the Temples
Spend this morning exploring the Regional Archaeological Museum of Agrigento, which displays over 5,500 artifacts from the prehistoric through the Greco-Roman periods. Particularly noteworthy are the kouros (Archaic Greek statue) known as the “Ephebe of Agrigento,” and the giant Telamon (load-bearing statue) from the Temple of Olympian Zeus. After an independent lunch we explore the striking Valley of the Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage site, with very well-preserved Doric Greek temples to Concordia, Hera, Herakles, and more. Return to our hotel and gather for dinner this evening. (B,D)

Tuesday, September 21: Piazza Armerina | Morgantina | Archaeological Museum of Aidone
This morning we drive to the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Villa Romana del Casale, near the town of Piazza Armerina. The villa’s exquisite mosaics—some of the best preserved in the Roman world—were buried in mud for centuries until they were rediscovered in the late 19th century. After an independent lunch in the charming village of Aidone, we explore the nearby archaeological site of Morgantina, a large ancient Greek settlement. Excavations since the 1950s have revealed what remains of a street grid, private homes, and public spaces—especially the agora (gathering place) with its theater and a sanctuary dedicated to Demeter and Persephone. Return to Aidone to visit its Archaeological Museum, housed in a former Capuchin monastery, which displays artifacts from Morgantina including the beautiful, 5th-century B.C. “Venus of Morgantina” statue. Our accommodations tonight are at a lovely, family-run farming estate on nearly 500 acres. Overnight at the 4-star Agriturismo Il Drago. (B,D)

Wednesday, September 22: Catania walking tour | Ortygia, Syracuse
Today we drive eastward to the ancient port city of Catania, where we take a leisurely orientation tour and appreciate the beauty of its Baroque architecture. Catania is one of the eight towns included in the UNESCO World Heritage listing “Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto (South-Eastern Sicily), rebuilt after the devastating earthquake of 1693. After a visit to its Archaeological Museum and Roman amphitheater, we stroll through the colorful fish market for an independent lunch of street food. Continue driving southward to Syracuse, stopping just outside the city at the impressive Euryalus Fortress (also known as Castello Eurialo), a 3rd/4th century B.C. defensive structure overlooking the city that was at least partly designed by the famous Greek engineer/mathematician Archimedes. Upon arrival in Syracuse, a city that once rivaled ancient Athens in terms of culture and economic strength, we check-in to our hotel on the island of Ortygia, Syracuse’s historical center. Gather this evening for dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight at the 5-star Ortea Palace Luxury Hotel for three nights. (B,D)

Thursday, September 23: Syracuse: AM walking tour of Ortygia | PM at leisure
This morning we set out on a walking tour of Ortygia, which was colonized by Greeks from Corinth in 734 B.C. This is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site “Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica.” Call at the massive Cathedral with a Baroque façade, built in the local white stone over a 5th-century B.C. Temple of Athena. See the 6th-century B.C. Temple of Apollo, which served as a church, mosque, and military barracks at various points throughout its history. Meet a local artisan who makes by hand pupi (marionettes), and learn about opera dei pupi, a theatrical marionette representation of Frankish romantic poems that is one of Sicily’s characteristic cultural traditions. Lunch and the balance of the day are at leisure to relax or pursue individual interests. (B)

Friday, September 24: Syracuse: Neapolis Archaeological Park, Archaeological Museum | PM at leisure | Farewell dinner
Spend the morning exploring the Parco Archeologico della Neapolis (Neapolis Archaeological Park), which includes the well-preserved, 5th-century B.C. Greek theater, with a 16,000-person capacity; and the Orecchio di Dionisio (Ear of Dionysius), a limestone cave that was named after its similarity in shape to the human ear (not to mention the impressive acoustic effects of the cave) and the tyrant Dionysius, who kept prisoners in the adjacent quarry. End the morning with a visit to the modern Paolo Orsi Regional Archaeological Museum, with one of Sicily’s largest and most interesting archaeological collections, documenting the island from prehistory to the late Roman period. Enjoy lunch on your own and the afternoon at leisure to relax, pack, or perhaps do some last-minute shopping. We gather this evening for a festive farewell dinner overlooking the Mediterranean. (B,D)

Saturday, September 25: Fly home OR Continue on the optional Malta extension
Travelers who are not continuing on the optional extension to Malta will be transferred privately this morning to Catania-Fontanarossa Airport (CTA) for their flights homeward. (B)

 

Malta (Optional Post-Tour Extension)

September 25-28, 2021 (4 days) with archaeologist Gerry Schaus

Saturday, September 25, 2021: Syracuse, Sicily | Ferry to Valletta, Malta | Mdina | Ħaġar Qim & Mnajdra Temples | San Ġiljan
This morning we depart Syracuse for Pozzallo, where we catch a ferry to the island nation of Malta. (The trip takes about two hours.) Malta’s strategic location in the center of the Mediterranean has endowed it with a myriad of cultural influences and a long, fascinating history. Upon arrival in Valletta, Malta’s capital city, we drive to the hilltop, walled city of Mdina, whose ancient streets, built to protect residents from high temperatures and approaching enemies, are a succession of curves and crossroads. Walk to St. Paul’s Cathedral, one of Malta’s most important examples of Baroque architecture, and to St. Paul’s Catacombs, a complex of underground rock-cut tombs and passages that represent the earliest evidence of Christianity on Malta. After lunch at a local restaurant we drive to the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra (part of the “Megalithic Temples of Malta”). Ħaġar Qim stands on a hilltop overlooking the sea and the islet of Fifla, and at the bottom of the hill is Mnajdra. First excavated in 1839, the remains date to between 3600-3200 B.C., a period known as the Ġgantija phase in Maltese prehistory. Transfer to our seaside hotel in San Ġiljan (St. Julian’s) and gather for dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight at the 4-star De Vilhena Boutique Hotel for three nights. (B,L,D)

Sunday, September 26: Valletta walking tour, National Museum of Archaeology | Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum | Tarxien
This morning we explore Valletta, a UNESCO World Heritage site, during a guided walking tour. Enjoy a wonderful panoramic view of the city from the Upper Barakka Gardens, and then visit St. John’s Co-Cathedral, featuring impressive Baroque architecture and precious works of art. Continue to the National Museum of Archaeology, which exhibits a spectacular range of artifacts from Malta’s Neolithic (5000 B.C.) to Phoenician (400 B.C.) periods. After an independent lunch we visit (permission pending) the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum, a UNESCO World Heritage site that was discovered in 1902. In the interest of the site’s conservation, only 80 visitors are allowed per day, and we hope to be among them. The Hypogeum is a prehistoric burial complex made up of interconnecting, rock-cut chambers on three levels, and was in use from about 4000-2500 B.C. End our fascinating day at Tarxien, part of the “Megalithic Temples of Malta” UNESCO World Heritage site, which dates from 3600-2500 B.C. and is renowned for its detailed carvings. Return to our hotel in San Ġiljan and enjoy dinner at leisure. (B)

Monday, September 27: Gozo: Ggantija, Cittadella, Museum of Archaeology | Farewell dinner
Set out early today to visit Malta’s sister island of Gozo, barely 20 minutes from the mainland by ferry. Our explorations begin at the two temples at Ggantija, part of the “Megalithic Temples of Malta” UNESCO World Heritage site, which date from about 3600 to 3200 B.C. Stroll through the Cittadella (Citadel), a small, fortified town in the island’s center that was first settled in the Bronze Age; take some time for an independent lunch; and re-group to visit the Gozo Museum of Archaeology, which illustrates the cultural history of Gozo from prehistory to the early modern period. Return by ferry to Malta and drive to our hotel in San Ġiljan. This evening we gather for a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. (B,D)

Tuesday, September 28: Fly home
This morning you are transferred privately to Malta International Airport (MLA) for flights homeward. (B)


For reservations or questions, please email us at aia@studytours.org (and include your full name) or call us toll-free at (800) 748-6262 (toll: 603-756-2884).

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