Best of Sicily (Self-Drive):
Palermo, Agrigento, Ragusa & Taormina
Sicily has been a crossroads of civilization for several millennia, and the record of its many ruling groups can be found in its architecture. Among the greatest sights are the classical Greek temples and theaters, built in the 5th century B.C. when Sicily was an important part of greater Greece.
2 Nights Palermo
1 Night Agrigento
1 Night Ragusa
3 Nights Taormina
One 3-Course Dinner in
Private Palermo &
Private Agrigento Tour
Private Piazza Amerina Tour
Private Siracusa Tour
Private Taormina Tour
One 3-Course Dinner in
5-Day Compact Manual
Map & Sicily Guidebook
After arriving in Palermo, check into your hotel, then spend the afternoon exploring this capital of Sicily. Founded in the 8th century BC by Phoenicians, this city has known Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ostrogoth, Arab and Norman masters, and shows traces of many of these cultures. The street markets near the Piazza del Carmine or La Vucciria will give you a taste of daily life. You will see many of Palermo's important monuments on your city tour tomorrow. This evening, you will have dinner on your own.
Your guide will meet you in your hotel lobby for a private half-day tour of Palermo and Monreale. You will first drive to Monreale, located on a small hill just outside Palermo. In the 9th century the Arabs captured Palermo and turned its cathedral into a mosque. The Bishop of Palermo fled to Monreale, where he built a small church to keep the flame of Christianity alive. 240 years later, the Normans drove the Arabs out, and made Monreale their new capital. A new cathedral was built there and dedicated in 1182. King William II employed both Christian and Arab artisans to decorate this cathedral; the result is a unique blending of styles unlike any other. The highlight is the stunning gold mosaic of Christ Pantocrator, covering the apse behind the altar. You'll never forget seeing this amazing representation of Christ. You should also see the Cloister, with 108 pairs of columns, each with a different mosaic pattern, plus a covered arcade of Arabic arches. Returning to Palermo, your English-speaking guide will take you on a city tour, covering many of the highlights: the Norman Palace, the Palatine Chapel and the Cathedral. Completed in 1140, the Palatine Chapel inside the Palace is one of the finest examples of Arab-Norman art anywhere, with its amazing mosaics reminiscent of those at Monreale. This evening, you will have a 3-course dinner at Gagini, an historic restaurant with candle-lit tables, overlooking La Vucciria neighborhood. (Beverages not included)
(Breakfast, Dinner, Accommodations, Palermo)
This morning after breakfast, you will pick up your rental car and drive south for two hours across the island to Agrigento and the splendid Valley of the Temples-home to eight Greek temples built between 510 and 430 BC. This stunning collection of buildings will leave you thinking you're in Greece!
(Breakfast, Palermo; Accommodations, Agrigento)
After breakfast, you will meet your local guide for a four-hour tour of the temples. Then you will take the 1.5 hour drive to Piazza Armerina, where you will have a private guided tour of the Villa del Casale-a large Roman country villa with magnificent mosaics, some of the best-preserved anywhere. It was covered by a landslide in the 12th century and only rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century-which accounts for its excellent state of preservation. After touring the Villa, you will take the 1.5 hour drive south to Ragusa, a town rebuilt after an earthquake in 1893, now almost entirely in the Baroque style. The town consists of two parts: Ragusa Superiore, sitting on a hilltop, and all newly built since the earthquake; and Ragusa Ibla, site of the original town, in the valley below. Both parts are worth exploring on foot for their architectural details and major buildings.
(Breakfast, Agrigento; Accommodations, Ragusa)
After breakfast at your hotel, you'll drive 1 1/5 hours to Siracusa on Sicily's east coast. In ancient times, Siracusa was an important Greek city-state, during certain periods as important as Athens. Archimedes was born here, and some of Sophocles' plays premiered here. There is a rich classical Greek heritage of temples and theaters, as well as a large Roman amphitheater and temples from a later period. You will have a private English-speaking guide to give you a tour of the most important sites; this will last between 3 and 4 hours. The 5th century B.C. Greek theater has amazing acoustics, and is not to be missed. After finishing your tour, drive for 1 1/5 hours up the Ionian coast to Taormina, where you'll base for the last 3 nights of your vacation. Taormina sits at the foot of Mt. Etna-the most active volcano in Europe, with frequent eruptions-so the setting is pretty dramatic. Find your hotel and relax after a pretty full day.
(Breakfast, Ragusa; Accommodations, Taormina)
After breakfast, your English-speaking guide will meet you at your hotel for a private walking tour of Taormina lasting between 3 and 4 hours. Perched on a rocky promontory above the sea, Taormina has been the most popular tourist destination in Sicily for over two centuries, and has attracted writers, artists and movie stars to sojourn there. The town has beautifully restored medieval buildings and breathtaking views from almost every vantage point. As with much of Sicily, you can see evidence of its Greek origins as well as later occupations by the Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, French, Germans and Spanish, over the centuries. By far the main attraction is the Greco-Roman Theater, in a spectacular setting with views of Mt. Etna and of the sea. After your tour, you'll have the afternoon free before having a three-course dinner at Ristorante La Piazzetta, in a courtyard setting and featuring local fish (beverages not included).
(Breakfast, Dinner, Accommodations, Taormina)
Today is a free day for optional excursions. You can take a cable car down to one of the beautiful beaches; or take a drive along the coastline and admire the many attractive offshore islands in this area. There are also handicraft shops in Taormina that offer typical local products.
(Breakfast, Accommodations, Taormina)
After breakfast at your hotel, drive 45 minutes to Catania, where you will drop your rental car, before continuing on to your next Avanti adventure.
** Itinerary and inclusions are subject to change