Taormina Sicily

Tuscany Culinary

Duration: July 18-26, 2015
Location: Tuscany, Italy
Price: $3,999 ppdo

    2 hands-on cooking lessons with local chefs
    Explore Florence, San Gimignano and Montepulciano
    Visit several Chianti and Montalcino vineyards and, of course, sample their famous wines

Sun-Drenched Sicily

Home to every great Mediterranean civilization at one point in history, Sicily is a unique mélange of art and history. From the vibrant streets of Palermo and the ancient Greek temples of Agrigento to the gorgeous beach of Mazzaro’ and the lava-strewn landscape of Mt. Etna, Sicily is a perfect destination for a cultural holiday!

On this 10-night deluxe tour of Sicily, we’ll explore the best of what this island has to offer. With our local private guides, we’ll explore the magnificent art and architecture of the island. We’ll dine on the freshest traditional food paired with wonderful local wines, we’ll walk on an active volcano and learn about its geology, and we’ll even have free time to discover the island’s unique treasures on our own.

Join us on one of our upcoming luxurious small-group tours of Italy!

Tour Details

The following are included in the trip’s price:

• First-class accommodations
• All breakfasts, 1 multi-course wine-tasting lunch and 1 regular lunch, 5 multi-course dinners, some with wine
• A cooking lesson followed by dinner (one of the 5 included dinners) in Ragusa
• Lunch on the water in Cefalu
• A visit and tour/tasting at a local DOP cheese farm in Modica
• Full-time tour director from Buon Gusto Tours, who is with you throughout the trip
• Expert local guides at all historic sites
• Admissions to historic sites, tastings, and other scheduled events as noted in the daily itinerary
• Gratuities for local guides, hotels, meals, and baggage
• Transportation during the tour
• Transfers upon arrival and departure in Italy
• Pre-trip planning help

Trip Itinerary

Day 1: D
We arrive in Palermo and check in to our beautiful 4-star hotel in the heart of the historic district. After time to settle in and perhaps rest, we’ll convene in the evening for a welcome dinner of typical Sicilian cuisine at a wonderful trattoria within walking distance from our hotel.

Day 2: B
Today we set off to discover Sicily’s rich history, literally 3,000 years in the making. The Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Germans, French, Spanish, and Italians all have influenced the fabric of this island, most noticeably in its cuisine and architecture. We’ll first visit the hilltop town of Monreale to have a private guided tour of its impressive 12th-century Arab-Norman cathedral, with one of the largest and most beautiful displays of mosaic artwork in the world. Then we’ll head back to Palermo, the capital of Sicily, for an introduction, visiting the Palatine Chapel and a lively outdoor market selling every kind of regional delicacy. Free evening in Palermo.

Day 3: B, L
Nestled between the sea and an enormous rocky promontory, Cefalu is a wonderful combination of narrow medieval streets, small squares, and historic sites. Today, we’ll head to this quaint town where some scenes from the film Cinema Paradiso were shot, for a guided tour followed by a seaside luncheon of local specialties. Afterward, we have a very special opportunity to learn to play bocce with a native…winner buys wine for all! The rest of the afternoon is free to explore the town on our own and maybe even climb to the top of La Rocca, the large rock that dominates the town. We then head back to Palermo for a free evening.

Day 4: B, D
This morning, we’ll depart Palermo and head to the westernmost point of Sicily—Marsala, the namesake of the world-famous sweet wine. This quiet seaside town was once a main base for the Carthaginians, but its modern fame came in 1773, when a British merchant discovered that the local wine was as delicious as, and less expensive than, the Port wine England had been importing from Portugal for years. Thus began the exportation of Marsala wine across the British Empire.

We’ll head first to a world-renowned winery for a tour and tasting, and then have a private guided tour of town and free time for lunch and exploration. We’ll continue on to our 5-star hotel set inside the archaeological park of the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento. After some free time to relax, we’ll reconvene for a gourmet dinner at the hotel’s restaurant.

Day 5: B
Some argue that Sicily boasts better preserved Greek temples than exist in Greece itself. This morning we’ll see for ourselves when we visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Valley of Temples with our local expert guide. Founded as a Greek colony in the 5th century BC, Akragas (Agrigento) was one of the most important Greek colonies in Sicily. Set on a gorgeous plateau filled with olive and almond trees, the Valley of the Temples houses the remains of 7 Greek temples, one of which is described as “the most impressive surviving Doric temple in the Greek world after the Parthenon in Athens,” according to UNESCO.

After lunch, we’ll head to another UNESCO site, the Villa Romana del Casale in Piazza Armerina. This luxury Roman villa, constructed in the 3rd century AD, contains the most splendid Roman mosaics still in existence. We then head back to our hotel for a free evening.

Day 6: B, D
After a leisurely breakfast, we’ll head to one of the most picturesque hill towns in Sicily—Ragusa. We’ll explore and stay in the ancient part of town, Ragusa Ibla, a fantastical labyrinth of crooked lanes and tiny piazzas set amid a cascade of terracotta roofs. After checking in to our hotel in the historic city center, we’ll have a private guided walking tour of town, followed by free time to discover the town at leisure. We’ll reconvene at the hotel in the early evening for an informal cooking lesson followed by a dinner of our own creation.

Day 7: B
Ragusa is known for some great local red wines and its wonderful traditional cheese: caciocavallo. The milk comes only from cows that graze in the fields of the area, and the cheese is made in local farms with respect for the ancient traditions that have been handed down for generations. Today, we’ll visit one of these farms, meet the farmer, see how the delicate cheese is made, and, of course, sample it. Free afternoon and evening in Ragusa Ibla.

Day 8: B, D
This morning, we head to the northeastern part of the island, stopping first in the ancient town of Siracusa on the way to our final destination. With our private expert guide, we explore this UNESCO World Heritage site with its impressive ancient Greek Theater before heading to the nearby island of Ortygia. This tiny town is packed with 2,500 years of history and houses arguably one of the most beautiful piazzas in all of Italy, awash in white limestone. The Cathedral, built on the site of an ancient Temple of Athena, has been described as “all of Sicily in a single building.” It was built as a Greek temple, expanded by the Romans, converted by the Byzantines into a basilica, made into a mosque by the Arabs, added onto by the Normans, adorned by the Spanish—and these elements remain visible today, 25 centuries after it was built. We continue on to our gorgeous 5-star hotel with dazzling sea views in the resort town of Taormina, our home for the next 3 nights. Gourmet dinner at the hotel.

Day 9: B
By this point in the tour, we’re ready for a little relaxation, and so today is all about that! We board our private boat for a leisurely half-day tour of the area, with plenty of time for swimming and sunbathing. Our tour director will pack some light snacks and refreshments for us to enjoy while on board. We’ll return to the hotel by mid-afternoon, and the rest of the day and evening is ours to enjoy at leisure.

Day 10: B, L, D
While yesterday was about relaxation, today will be about adventure! We depart for Mt. Etna, the largest and most active of Europe’s volcanoes, rising 11,000 feet above sea level. Our minibus will take us to a level of 6,266 feet, and our private expert guide will explain the geology of the area. After some time to walk on the dormant craters and take photos, we descend to the lower slopes via coach and end up at a winery owned by a Baron for an elaborate wine-tasting lunch. Then it’s on to Taormina, where we’ll visit the ancient Greek theater with our guide. The afternoon will then be free to enjoy the cafes and boutiques that line the car-free Corso Umberto, the gorgeous main street through town. We reconvene in the evening for a grand farewell dinner at our hotel.

Day 11: B
Early morning departure from Catania Airport.

Give us a call if you’re ready to experience the magic of a small-group tour of Italy!