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 ~ The Sicilian ~ Ten day tour Palermo to Taormina Riviera from Globus    

 Agrigento Valley of the Temples Sicily

       Sicily is my favorite place on earth!     

          For an island the size of the state of Vermont, Sicily is extremely diverse with varied micro climates, architecture, customs, and cuisine depending on where you are located.     
Due to its desirable location, surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Ionian on the east, and the Tyrrhenian to the north, this one little island could control shipping routes. 
That is why it was conquered by everyone from the Normans to the Arabs. 
Spaniards, Romans, and Greeks, along with the Moors and Hapsburgs all held power in Sicily at one time or another.  
Each ruling party left their mark with beautiful buildings, gastronomy, and customs that one would normally find in other parts of the world.     

     When I saw that Globus had come out with a new Sicilian tour, I decided to sign up for it.  
Although I have been to the island several times before, this tour visited some places that I had yet to experience. 
Driving in Sicily is not something I recommend, the roads are very narrow, curvy and mountainous. 
Having the opportunity to sit back and enjoy the scenery without worrying about directions or other drivers was appealing to me.

     This is a ten-day package starting in Palermo and ending Giardini Naxos which is nearby Taormina right on the beach.     
The tour visits the gorgeous Monreale cathedral while in Palermo, you may have seen photos of the golden mosaics, absolutely stunning! 
The building itself is one of the best examples of Norman architecture in the world.  
Another thing we did in Palermo that I enjoyed was the visit the Capo market.  
Listening to all the vendors call out their products and seeing the fresh food is such a delightful experience.  
I have been to many Italian markets but none as large as this one.  

     We also tasted some of the local specialties, I knew what to expect but got quite a chuckle when my travel mates found out they were eating spleen sandwiches!
Once they got past the notion, most enjoyed it, later I showed a few people how to find the real delicacy speen and lung sandwiches. 
Independently I visited the Catacombe dei Cappuccini while in Palermo. It is quite fascinating albeit a little creepy.
The monks had perfected a form of mummification and it soon became a status symbol to be displayed in the catacombes.
There is one very famous mummy of a little girl,  Rosalia Lombardo, that looks just like a doll.

     Departing Palermo we headed to Erice which is high up on a mountain, the views are lovely, you could see all the way down the coast. 
The group had a lot of free time which I enjoyed being able to wander about on my own. 
After a treat of some Marsala wine and cookies on we headed to the salt flats near Trapani, this was interesting as they still do everything manually.  
No machines are used to harvest the salt, windmills control the water level in the flats and men shovel it out by hand.

     The next two stops were my main motivation for booking the tour and they did not let me down!     

     We traveled to the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, arriving quite early, there were no crowds yet, nor was it uncomfortably warm out.  
Our local guide was great, he made the site come alive, giving a lot of facts but not in a way that would be boring. 
The Concordia temple is just magnificent, so much better in my opinion than the Acropolis in Athens.
The only temples I have seen that were more impressive were in Paestem in southern Italy.    

     The following day we headed to Piazza Armerina to see the famous "Bikini Girls" mosaic.  
I was surprised how many mosaics there were in the villa, it was huge and much more complex than I thought it would be, a real treat! 
Walls and floors were full of murals telling tales, the "Bikini Girls" were athletes not sunbathers, you could see that they were valued for their skills.

    Moving south we stopped in the ceramic city of Caltagirone to see the famous staircase.  
It is quite beautiful with each tile hand painted on the 142 steps.  
Several times a year they turn it into a giant luminary or make a design with potted plants but sadly not on the day I visited. 
I enjoyed looking at the ceramic decorations, the church dome is even done in ceramic.    

     On to Ragusa for two nights. Ragusa is split in two, lower Ragusa called the Ibla is the old town filled with beautiful baroque buildings.
Sicilian baroque is different than Spanish it incorporates balconies, curves stairways and putti which are like cherubs and other faces on the exterior of the building.
From Ragusa we did an excursion to Modica for the chocolate!  
Modica is the only place in Italy where you can get this special chocolate that is made by hand the same way the Aztecs did with no heat.  
It has a unique grainy texture to it which sounds like it would not be good, but it is wonderful! 
The Spaniards brought the chocolate with them when they came to Modica and it stuck.      

     The rest of the sites on the tour I had visited in the past so, my husband and I actually went and did our own thing a few times. 
This is perfectly fine to do on a group tour, it is your vacation you paid for it, enjoy it the way you want, just let the tour director know what you are up to.     

     The tour visited Noto and Syracuse which both have stunning Sicilian Baroque architecture.
 Syracuse has a nice set of ruins and one of my favorites, the "Ear of Dionysius" which is a huge limestone cave.
The story behind the name is that Dionysius used the cave as a prison for his enemies and then would stand outside the opening and listen to them talk.

     Arriving at the hotel in Giardini Naxos you can sign up to visit Mt. Etna as an optional excursion. 
I have visited both the north and south side of the volcano several times, so I went swimming instead, the hotel is directly on the beach and also had a nice pool.     
For lovers of the Godfather series the tour winds up with a visit to the Church of Santa Lucia and Bar Vitelli in Savoca both scenes in the movie. 

     The farewell dinner is set in a restaurant with stunning views.

All in all I thought this was a great tour, the price was fantastic for everything included.
We had breakfast daily, one lunch and six dinners with wine plus the VIP skip the line admission to all of the attractions.
I liked that I could participate as much or as little as I liked in group activities.
My husband and I continued on afterwards with a post stay in Mazzaro which is the beach below Taormina.

It is hard to get too much time in Sicily!

Sicily my love - Video

 

Sicilian Baroque

 

Sensational Sicily - Video

 

Agrigento - Video

                                                                                                       

(196 Reviews)
99% Recommended

Ann Castagna Morin

Southampton, MA
Luxury River Cruise & European travel specialist

I have had a sense of wanderlust since I was a child, always yearning to go off and explore the world.

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