Day 1 - Palermo
Our journey starts in the bustling city of Palermo, the capital of Sicily. Palermo can easily be reached by boat, train or plane. Whilst at your discretion, we recommend arriving and departing by train where possible within Europe, as this method of transports minimises carbon emissions. There are no activities planned today so you may arrive at any time. Please make your own way to the joining hotel (details are in your travel documents). In the evening we meet our tour leader and our fellow travelling companions at a Welcome Meeting (this is usually at 6pm, but you will be advised as to the exact time and place in a notice, located near the reception at our hotel), where our tour leader will give us a briefing on what lies ahead on our tour. Afterwards we dine together in a local restaurant.
Hotel Joli or similar
Day 2 - Monreale - Palermo
This morning we take a stroll through the old heart of Palermo, admiring some of its main monuments such as the cathedral, which has a wonderful mix of styles. Originally built in the 12th century, it has been modified a number of times, most notably in the 18th century with the addition of its dome. We also spend some time wandering through some of the city’s colourful markets. Our private minibus then transfers us to nearby Monreale, situated in a panoramic position above Palermo with fantastic views over the city and the sea. From here we take our time to visit its stunning cathedral, described as one of the ‘wonders of the medieval world’, and climb to its roof. We stroll through the old historical centre and have time to buy some picnic supplies before travelling on to the wonderful Zingaro Nature Reserve - the oldest in Sicily. We find a spot to enjoy a picnic lunch before commencing a beautiful coastal walk along the pristine Mediterranean landscape. Upon completion of our walk there is time to relax on the beach or perhaps take a swim before transferring to the charming small village of Scopello at the entrance of the reserve, where we can enjoy an ‘aperitivo’. We return to our hotel in the centre of Palermo, where the evening is free to enjoy an optional dinner in one of the nearby local restaurants that serve traditional Sicilian cuisine. (Total walking time: sightseeing walks in Palermo and Monreale + ‘Zingaro’ walk: around 2 hours; approx. walking distance: 8 km. Total driving time today: around 2 hours)
Hotel Joli or similar
Day 3 - Cefalù - Madonie Regional Park - Tyndaris - Montalbano
This morning we take a short stroll through the old heart of Palermo, passing the famous fish market before we travel along the northern coast to the beautiful small town of Cefalù, one of Sicily’s ‘undiscovered treasures’. We are dropped off at the town’s Roca, the mountain with a castle built on top that overlooks the old city centre. From here we embark on a wonderful short round walk before continuing down into the old town and discovering its charming narrow alleyways and imposing Norman cathedral. After lunch there may be the possibility for a swim before we continue our travels along the north coast to Tindari. After visiting the intriguing ruins of the old Greek city of Tyndaris, we can pay a short visit to the sanctuary - one of the most important places of worship in Sicily, before visiting the intriguing ruins of the old Greek city of Tyndaris, where we take a wonderful afternoon walk through the ruins, overlooking the Mediterranean. Energy levels permitting we can continue our walk down to the coast. We walk along spectacular sand formations and green-blue lakes, before returning to our bus. We drive inland to the charming medieval town of Montalbano, dominated by its impressive castle, listed as one of the hundred most beautiful small towns of Italy. We settle in a great hotel, overlooking the coast and the Eolian Islands. (Total walking time: around 3hours; approx. walking distance: 7 km. Total driving time today: around 3 hours)
Hotel Federico or similar
Breakfast | Dinner
Day 4 - The Malabotta Forest & the megalithic site of Argimusco
Today is a relaxed day. After a leisurely breakfast this morning, we start the day with a short walk through the alleys of Montalbano Elicona, with its interesting medieval town centre and a visit to its impressive castle, recently restored. We then travel on by private bus to the forest of Malabotta, a beautiful and unknown nature reserve of inland Sicily. From here we embark on a round walk, partly through the forest, partly along strange rock formations, locally known as ‘megaliti’. An ancient megalithic site, now known as the ‘Sicilian Stonehenge’ has recently been discovered here. We have our lunch with local specialties in the forest, with views of Mount Etna, in front of us. If energy levels permit we continue our walk to Moio dell’Alcantara, where we can see the ‘Vulcanetto’, a small volcano just outside the village. We then return to our hotel, in time for a nice ‘aperitivo’ at sunset, before having dinner at the hotel. (Total walking time: approx. 4 hours; walking distance: approx. 9 km).
Hotel Federico or similar
Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 5 - Taormina – Castelmola - Isola Bella
Today we travel on to our next base, the wonderful resort town of Taormina, situated in one of the most dramatic spots of the whole Mediterranean. Our bus first brings takes us to the charming hilltop town of Castelmola, a small fortified city, from where we enjoy stunning views over the surrounding area, the city of Taormina, Mount Etna and the Mediterranean Sea. After a stroll through its medieval streets, an optional visit to the castle and perhaps a drink on one of the terraces, we walk on, down to Taormina, along a beautiful panoramic footpath. Through pleasant agricultural landscape, with breathtaking views of the coastline and glorious Etna, we reach the charming Taormina, not without reason one of Italy’s foremost resort towns. The Greek influence is noticeable in the architecture and wandering the back streets is a great way to transport you back in time to the days when this part of Italy remained a stronghold for their Aegean neighbours. With picturesque ruins and the backdrop of Etna, views are grand to say the least. Here we make a first orientation walk through the charming small streets of town, its gardens and of course to visit the world famous Greek/Roman theatre and the cathedral. The whole afternoon is at leisure, so plenty of time for another stroll along Taormina’s main boulevard, with its many beautiful shops, or to have a drink in the shade of an oleander tree, or return to the hotel and enjoy its panoramic swimming pool. Those who want can join in for an optional walk down to the sea, which we reach in front of the beautiful Isola Bella (what’s in a name!). Here we have time for a swim/ relax at the beach and a drink in the Mediterranean sun. In the late afternoon we take the cable car back up to town and from there we return to our hotel, passing along a spectacular medieval staircase. From our hotel we have perhaps the best possible views on Mount Etna and the Mediterranean Sea, which can even be enjoyed from the swimming pool! Tonight we have dinner together in a great restaurant, with stunning views over Taormina and the Sicilian coastline. After dinner we can take a 5 minute walk to one of the most spectacular viewpoints of the area. (Total walking time: approx. 3.5 hours; walking distance: approx. 9-11 km).
Hotel Sole Castello or similar
Breakfast | Dinner
Day 6 - The many faces of Mt. Etna: the Alcantara canyon, recent flows & old craters
After breakfast a private minibus picks us up from our base for a full day visit to Mount Etna. Firstly we drive into the valley of the Alcantara river, irrigated by a complex system of basins and canals, dating back to the times of the Arab domination of Sicily. We stop at the unique canyon cut through an ancient lava flow of Mount Etna. Here we take a short & easy, but spectacular walk through the canyon. We then travel on towards Francavilla, where we walk along the river, through a pleasant terraced landscape of orchards and fruit trees and pass a few hamlets built of lava stone and will also have the opportunity to see many strange lava formations, sculpted by the Alcantara River. We may also have the opportunity to dive into one of the ‘gurne’, natural ‘swimming pools’. We then continue along the Alcantara river, up to the charming little town of Linguaglossa, where we can enjoy a typical ‘granita’ or a coffee and a wonderful sweet (almond/pistachio) cake from this area. Our journey then takes us up along the scenic Via ‘MareNeve’, the road of the sea and snow. From here we can see the most recent lava flows, some of which date back only a few years, reminding us of the fact that the Etna is still an active volcano! We walk on one of these recent lava flows, with a visit to some of the spots where the lava burst. This walk really gives us the feeling of the immense forces still working beneath us. Our bus then brings us to the Sartorius Mountains, a completely different landscape, and from here we walk, partly through the forest, partly over older lava flows, ending at a mountain hut with spectacular views over the Strait of Messina. There is time alsol today to enjoy a wine tasting in one of the renowned wineries of Mount Etna . whilst overlooking the sea. It’s then on to the southern side of Mount Etna, perhaps the best-known part, again completely different in landscape. We settle into our next base, a charming hotel on the southern slopes of Mount Etna and the highest hotel on the Etna. (Total walking time: approx. 4 hours; walking distance: approx.7 km. Total driving time today: around 1.5 hours).
Hotel Corsaro or similar
Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 7 - The top of Mount Etna
Today we travel towards the very top of Mount Etna, for a full day visit to the top of the volcano.After breakfast we travel up by cable car and 4x4 vehicles, until we reach almost 3000 metres in altitude. Then, together with a specialist volcano guide we start the a relatively easy walk towards the very top, which we will notice, is not just one, but a series of crater peaks. After a short stop for a snack and a drink we visit the other highest craters here, a unique experience! Then we start our downhill walk, passing along a marvellous viewpoint above the Valle del Bove, Etna’s largest valley, in which many lava flows can be seen, one atop of the other. If there is volcanic activity going on your specialist guide can take you there, to allow you to observe these impressive forces of nature from a safe point. We then walk back to the cable car. Those who want a longer walk – all downhill - can walk all the way back to our base. In case of adverse weather conditions, we do not go all the way to the top, but will instead take a round walk over one of the most impressive cones, the Montagnola, and along the edge of the Bove Valley. Back near our base, we can go for a short, but spectacular, walk along the Monti Silvestri, through the barren landscape formed by the explosion of 1892. After a short stop for a drink we then walk back to our base and spend another night on the top of Mt. Etna, with approx. 4-5 hours; walking distance: approx. 13-17 km. (different options available, according to weather conditions and fitness)
Hotel Corsaro or similar
Breakfast | Dinner
Day 8 - Pantalica - Valle dell’Anapo - Ragusa
This morning we drive south under the shadow of Mount Etna to the charming baroque town of Sortino, which dominates the Anapo River valley.. After a short stop in Sortino , where we can take a short stroll and buy our picnic supplies we drive to the entrance of the canyon of the Anapo River. This one of the most intriguing places in Sicily. The valley has been inhabited since prehistoric times and many civilisations have left their mark here. We take a walk through the valley, firstly through the higher parts along the various prehistoric burial sites, known as the necropolis of Pantalica, and its most impressive monument - the Palace of the Prince. We also encounter small chapels, Byzantine villages and, at the edge of the canyon, beautiful baroque churches. We enjoy a picnic lunch on a nice spot in the valley. After lunch we continue our walk following the course of an old railway. Along the river there are several good spots for a rest and perhaps a swim in one of the small lakes. At the end of our walk, we are picked up by our vehicle and are transferred to the town of Ragusa, one of the most scenic Sicilian towns and that also blends in wonderfully into its surrounding landscape. The ‘new’ baroque city of Ragusa was completely rebuilt after the devastating earthquake of 1693, but the historic part of the town still features older monuments. Both parts of the town deserve a visit. At night we can stroll through the wonderful baroque streets and choose from a range of restaurant options for dinner. (Total walking time: around 3,5 hours; approx. walking distance: 9 km. Total driving time today is around 2.5 hours)
Montreal Hotel or similar
Day 9 - Ibla – Modica - Noto - Vendicari Nature Reserve
Today we start with a short stroll through Ragusa, which is equally beautiful by day, as it is at night. We then travel on to Modica, yet another wonderful baroque city, famous for its precious chocolate, made for centuries according to the same secret recipe. A short coffee break allows us to soak up its atmosphere. Then we travel on to the nature reserve of Vendicari, one of the last remaining pristine bits of coastline in Sicily. Here we do a relaxed coastal walk, with the possibility to go for a swim. By mid afternoon we leave for nearby Noto, perhaps the best known of the baroque cities, where we admire the wonderful colours of its many monuments in the beautiful late afternoon light. At the end of the afternoon, we will be picked up by our bus again. Shortly we arrive in Siracusa, an ancient town on the sea, which was of immense importance as Greek Syracuse. Our hotel is located in the middle of the lovely historical heart, located on the island of Ortigia. Here you will see that the much of its charm lies in wandering down the narrow medieval lanes, past romantically crumbling Baroque and medieval palaces and churches. We can eat something together in one of the lively restaurants in the historical centre, and if energy levels permit we make a nice roundwalk in the evening to savour its typical Mediterranean atmosphere. Total walking time: approx. 3.5 hours; walking distance: approx. 9 km. Total driving time today is around 2 hours.
Alla Giudecca or similar
Day 10 - Syracuse - Ortigia - Neapolis
After breakfast we walk directly from our hotel through the most interesting parts of the old town. We discover many archaeological areas (some are amongst the world’s finest), countless baroque churches and many other important monuments. The character of the city is enchanting with its crumbling facades with balconies supported for centuries by a host of stone lions, tigers, bears, dragons, Moors, satyrs, devils, angels, kings, paupers, wenches and cherubs. We also walk along limestone-paved streets overhung with drying laundry and ancient scaffolding and discover some of the most expansive piazzas that Italy has to offer. Passing some open doors will give us a glimpse of an ornate secret court yard, whilst others open right on to someone's dining room where lunch is being prepared. We have ample time to stroll around the old city, visit its monuments and enjoy a coffee or savour a granita in one of the lively bars. Syracuse’s superb archaeological zone boasts the largest Greek theatre, which is still used today for live performances. The rest of the day is free and your tour leader can help with some suggestions of things to see and do. Options include a boat trip around the island of Ortigia or a bike ride through the old city. From Syracuse it’s easy to reach the nature reserve of Fiume Ciane, the only place in Europe where the papyrus plant grows, or a local beach. The city also has a great shopping district to explore. This evening we can gather together for an optional farewell dinner - a great opportunity to reflect on our just-completed adventure. (Total walking time: around 2,5 hours; approx. walking distance: 6 km)
Alla Giudecca or similar
Day 11 - Syracuse
Our trip comes to an end after breakfast in Syracuse. There are a number of shuttle bus and train services to onward destinations including Catania (airport) and Messina. The bus station is within walking distance of the hotel and the train station is also close by. Arrivederci!