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Treasures of Sicily – Jewel Box of the Mediterranean

£4364 pp

Italy

9 nights/10 days

Join a women only group of 6-12

Treasures of Sicily – Jewel Box of the Mediterranean

What You'll Do

Experience Sicily like never before, on a luxurious tour of this Mediterranean gem that gets you truly under the skin of the island, soaking up Italian, Greek and Turkish cultures, trying incredible local food and wine, and exploring the stunning, varied landscape.

The island of Sicily floats regally in the center of the Mediterranean Sea, a treasure trove for invaders over the centuries; the Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, North Africans, Normans and Spanish all wanted to control this bountiful territory and benefit from its riches. Sicily is a diverse and abundant tapestry just waiting to be discovered. The people are warm and friendly, and the landscapes are exceptional.

On this amazing ten-day women-only group adventure of this unique, magical little island, you’ll explore incredible cities, magical, glittering coastlines and tiny fishing villages, atmospheric towns with fascinating histories, otherworldly salt flats and rugged mountainsides.

You’ll visit little local seafood restaurants serving up the freshest of fish, stunning ‘ristorantes’ that offer the very finest Sicilian cuisine and wines, as well as cultural spots and hidden gems such as tiny bookshops, awe-inspiring churches and fascinating villas left on the hillside to become museums.

This exceptional journey will be led by Geographer and Art Historian Janet Simmonds, who has a passion for Sicily and a master’s degree from the University of Oxford. Janet lives in Venice and works all over Italy. When she’s not touring, she writes about travel including numerous articles on Sicily. 

Experience
Highlights

Learn chocolate-making skills in Modica at the oldest ‘laboratorio’ in Sicily

Visit a vineyard for an exclusive visit and wine tasting

Marvel at the Greek Temples built in Sicily at the same time as the Parthenon in Athens

Meet local Sicilian people who will share with you the finest local produce of Sicily

Your Local Host:

Doni Belau

An inveterate traveler, I’ve been to nearly 70 countries (and counting). I come alive when I travel, when I’m exploring, and when I’m seeing, tasting and feeling something new. I love to help other women experience this sensation as I truly feel it helps us see a larger world of possibilities within ourselves. The experiences I offer are an invitation to travel with me to explore another part of the world while we explore another part of ourselves.

Experience Itinerary

Welcome to Sicily

Your journey will start at Catania Airport, on Sicily’s eastern coast, where guests will be met by your driver in his luxurious mini-coach. Giorgio, your friendly local chauffeur and his son Filippo will drive you throughout the trip. First stop: Ragusa Ibla, a UNESCO world heritage site and probably the most beautiful of the Sicilian Baroque hilltop towns.

You will be staying at a boutique hotel in the heart of the old town: Boutique Hotel 1768. Every room is furnished in a funky combination of stylish retro and modern with a dash of Sicilian colour thrown in.

There’s a cool atrium where you can enjoy your ‘aperitivi’ and conversation. Theres time to relax, take a nap and unpack before you meet for evening drinks on the terrace and a gentle stroll up to the wonderful cathedral. Here you will feel as if you have stepped back in time.

Tonight your ‘Welcome Dinner’ features home-made pasta, local salads and some spectacular Sicilian wines.

Accommodation

Boutique Hotel 1768, Ragusa Ibla

hotel lobby in palermo

Detective Montalbano in the Val di Noto

After a leisurely breakfast in the hotel, you’ll meet up in the lobby for a day exploring this magical corner of Sicily. Today is all about the Val di Noto, a valley of exceptional natural beauty.

This area inspired the writer Andrea Camilleri to create and write the Montalbano Detective novels here. Montalbano is now probably the most popular detective TV series in Italy.

Visits to Scicli, Punta Secca and Donnafugata will inspire and impress. Donnafugata Castle, which dates back to the 14th century, literally means an escaping or fleeing woman

Today you’ll enjoy a light lunch at a wonderful sandwich shop, that sells all types of delicious Sicilian local snacks including an amazing range of cannoli (Sicilian pastries).

This afternoon youre off to Modica to visit the oldest chocolate shop in Sicily. Here you’ll have the opportunity to try your hand at chocolate making. Of course, there’s also the opportunity to taste and buy chocolate too.

Dinner tonight will be near the Duomo at Trattoria La Rusticana where Detective Montalbano dines in the TV series.

Accommodation

Boutique Hotel 1768, Ragusa Ibla

Sunday Traditions and Siracusa

Sunday is a special day in Sicily; the locals all come out in their Sunday best to go to church. Today, there’s an opportunity, if you wish, to attend mass in the fabulous Duomo of San Giorgio just minutes from the hotel.

As you walk up the steps to the church, marvel at the intricate Baroque architecture before your eyes.

After church you’ll all get together for an aperitivo and lunch on an outdoor terrace, admiring the wonderful Sicilian countryside.

Later this afternoon you’ll hop on your mini-coach and head to Siracusa for a visit to this spectacular Greek town, including a stroll through the historic alleys of Ortigia.

The Ortigia Cosmetics and Perfume brand was created here. They are quite literally bottling and packaging the scents and aromas of Sicily. You’ll visit the Ortigia studio for the chance to see and smell these wonderful and unique fragrances.

Dinner will be in Siracusa in the historic ‘old town’ this evening.

Accommodation

Boutique Hotel 1768, Ragusa Ibla

Ancient Temples and Rustic Experiences

After another fresh and delicious breakfast in our hotel, you’ll travel west towards Agrigento. Here, you’ll find an exceptional group of classical temples built on Italy’s south coast by the Greeks in the 5th century BC. These temples have been standing for 2,500 years!

The temple site is now a UNESCO world heritage site. Its possible to wander amongst the temples which are surrounded by a verdant green park. The park is home to a unique species of goat known as ‘Capra Girgentanawho have curly horns and clearly thrive in this beautiful and historic environment.

Lunch will be close to Agrigento in a rustic farmhouse setting with salads, cheeses, quiches and desserts. After lunch, you’ll travel north through Italy’s rural interior to the coastal town of Cefalu.

For the next three nights, youre staying at the boutique B&B ‘A Tonnara’ just a short walk from Cefalu. There will be a relaxing, informal dinner tonight at your B&B with stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea.

Accommodation

Atonnara, Cefalu

bed with sea view in sicily

Explore Stunning Cefalu

Today’s the day for a joyful hike along the coast to the beautiful small city of Cefalu. Walking time about one hour. Drink in the fresh sea air as you walk through the Sicilian countryside to the medieval city of Cefalu.

This is probably our favorite small city in Sicily. Narrow, stone streets, a superb cathedral and a fabulous array of shops and artisan studios await you.

Inside the cathedral in Cefalu there’s a 12th century mosaic of Christ ‘The Almighty’, created by the Normans when they invaded and took control of Sicily in the 1100s.

There’s free time for lunch today in Cefalu – there are numerous cafes, bars and small restaurants to choose from. You’ll explore the town center, waterfront and the medieval laundry, where the washerwomen of the town worked and gossiped more than five hundred years ago. There’ll be a car service back to the hotel available in the late afternoon.

This evening, a fish supper is organized at a tiny, family-run restaurant adjacent to La Tonnara (the old tuna processing factory). 

Accommodation

Atonnara, Cefalu

sea view from hotel in sicily

Olive Oil in the Nebrodi Hills

Today there’s a choice of activities; either you can rest this morning and soak in the sun and the sea views from one of your hotel’s numerous terraces, or you can join an excursion inland to the Nebrodi Hills to see the isolated villages and winding roads of Sicily’s mountainous interior.

It was here in the Nebrodi Hills that Sicily’s legendary and fiendishly difficult car race, the infamous ‘Targa Florio’, was held until the route was deemed too dangerous in the 1970s.

You’ll meet up at lunchtime for a visit to an agriturismo where Margarita and her charming husband will delight you with an olive oil tasting and local pasta sampling, including a casual lunch, washed down with a locally produced wine.

Dinner this evening will be in Cefalu, in the historic center of town after a sunset drink at the beach.

Accommodation

Atonnara, Cefalu

A North Coast Adventure

Travelling along Sicily’s north coast with the sea at your feet reminds you of the island’s maritime heritage. Many wealthy families in Sicily owned farms in the countryside and a palace or large house on the coast, usually in a town.

Your first stop this morning is Bagheria, a seaside location historically popular with the wealthy Sicilians who built their summer houses here. These very elaborate historic homes are mostly empty now and some are open to the public as museums.

You’ll be visiting a small, and almost unknown villa that was occupied by the last member of an aristocratic family until just five years ago. The house is filled with fabulous furniture, family photographs and incredible ladies gowns (from the last hundred years).

Youll have a private visit to this fairytale palace, with its overgrown garden, dusty corridors and romantic courtyard.

Your lunch will be at Aspra in a tiny waterfront seafood eatery. The freshest of fish is served here, adjacent to the beach. A truly Sicilian experience.

From Aspra it’s just about forty minutes into Palermo, the capital city of Sicily, where you’ll stay for the next 3 nights. Our accommodation in Palermo is a stylish and contemporary palace located opposite the public gardens. It is a true Palermitano experience.

Accommodation

L’Hotellerie, Palermo

four poster bed in hotel room

Explore Magical Palermo

Palermo was the capital city of the Kingdom of Sicily for seven centuries. The city is an incredible mixture of different styles and influences. There are churches that look like mosques with domed red rooftops and vast, sprawling, historic palaces.

The Palazzo Normanno was the center of the royal court and today is the home of the Sicilian Regional government. Part of Palermo’s UNESCO world heritage status is the incredible Arabo-Normano churches of the city. You’ll visit the Palazzo dei Normanni and the spectacular Cappella Palatina – a richly decorated chapel filled with mosaics.

Then around mid-day, you’ll meet our own Personal Jesus for a wonderful walking tour of the street markets of Palermo, where you’ll sample the delicious and varied street food of the Sicilians.

This is an experience not to be missed. This is a lunch on-the-go with a difference. Sampling delicious delicacies whilst learning about the streets and history of Palermo.

You’ll head back to our hotel via the smallest bookshop you’ve ever seen with a charming and tiny selection of interesting and unique volumes. You’ll meet the owner and see the courtyards that make up the University of Palermo.

This evening you’ll head to Mondello for dinner on the beach. This is a favorite spot for the local Palermitani. You’ll eat at the stunning ‘Alle Terrazze Ristorante over-looking the Golfo di Mondello. Seafood is the specialty, but there’s every type of dish to choose from this evening.

Accommodation

L’Hotellerie, Palermo

hotel lobby in palermo

Salt Flats and Sicilian Wine

You will complete your visit to Sicily today with a trip to the island’s west coast, travelling out of Palermo to Trapani and the incredible salt flats.

These salt flats have been farmed for centuries, producing the finest sea salt for cooking and (in the old days) preserving food. The landscape is hauntingly beautiful.

Then, it’s on to Marsala, where the traditional sweet Sicilian wine is harvested and fermented in oak barrels for years. You’ll enjoy a visit to a cantina where you can try a selection of Marsala wines, served with a selection of delicious Sicilian snacks.

This afternoon you’ll head back into Palermo via the Cathedral and monastic complex of Monreale, a huge religious building, highly decorated with carvings and mosaics.

This evening you’ll enjoy our Farewell Dinner in a super chic and trendy bistro where modern and traditional dishes are served in a vibrant and modern atmosphere. The sommelier will help you on a journey through some (there are many) of the wonderful wines of Sicily. A fitting end to your amazing Sicily experience.

Accommodation

L’Hotellerie, Palermo

Farewell to Sicily

Today is the end of the trip – there will a private vehicle transfer service to Palermo Airport for guests flying out of Palermo. Optional add-ons are available if desired. Buon Viaggio! We hope to see you in Sicily again soon.

Location Information

Your journey begins when you arrive in Catania Airport, where your driver for the experience will pick you up and help you to your first accommodation in Ragusa Ibla. From there, your experience takes in the highlights, and the hidden gems, of the stunning island of Sicily.

From Val di Noto and Siracusa in the south, the Cefalu and Palermo in the north, you’ll get right under the skin of Sicily and really see what makes the place and the people tick. Your second accommodation is located in the small, beautiful city of Cefalu on the north coast.

The final place you’ll stay is in the fascinating weave of cultures that is Palermo, a city that lies suspended between Europe and Africa, with a rich heritage and incredible culture.

  • Breakfast daily
  • 7 Lunches included, these are typical 2-course meals, including one glass of wine per person
  • 9 Dinners, these are 3-course meals with two glasses of wine per person
  • Teas and coffees with meals
  • Accommodation, double room for single occupancy as listed in program
  • All sight-seeing as listed in itinerary
  • Entrance fees and activities as listed in itinerary
  • All transportation as listed in itinerary from arrival at Catania to departure from Palermo
  • All guiding services organised and coordinated by Janet Simmonds

FAQs

All our trips are organized and priced based on single occupancy at all the places we stay. If you’re traveling with a friend/relative, or would prefer to save some money by sharing a room, we can usually organize double occupancy and a reduction in cost.

Vegetarians will be well fed in all cafés and restaurants as well as those allergic to seafood or gluten. Options are plentiful.