(Southern Italy Cruise)
Join the most in-depth Sicily expedition cruise yet as you delve into one of the most fascinating islands in the Mediterranean. In Malta, visit Valletta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an architectural masterpiece. Follow ancient trade routes aboard a luxuriously outfitted expedition ship, charting a course for the Roman theaters and villas of Taormina, Piazza Amerina, and Lipari. And, of course, no Sicily and Palermo trip is complete without food and wine! You'll stop at several vineyards, visit local outdoor markets, and savor the best local cuisine. Cin, cin!
Circumnavigation of Sicily Expedition Highlights:
•Attend cooking demonstrations where you will learn how to prepare traditional Sicilian dishes, plus enjoy several wine tastings from the Marsala and Licata regions.
•A Palermo tour, including ornate Baroque churches, domed Arab mosques, and the 12th-century cathedral.
•An evening cruise near the active Stromboli Volcano for sunset photos and a chance to see the Stromboli “fireworks” from the ship’s deck.
•In true Sicily adventure travel style, a cable car excursion up Mt. Etna, then 4x4 vehicle tour to the main crater, at 9,000 feet.
•The Saint John Catacombs, the Archaeological Park, and the oldest temple in Sicily, the 6th-century B.C. Apollo Temple, all in the Syracuse region.
•Shipboard gratuities are included in your itinerary pricing.
Cruise Departure Dates (2014):
A group transfer from the airport will bring you to your hotel for the evening.
This evening, attend a welcome reception with dinner at the hotel.
The Grand Hotel Excelsior (5*) is ideally located on the doorstep of a UNESCO World Heritage Site – the Capital City of Valletta, with all its major attractions, culture, art treasures, and historical architectural gems. This acclaimed Valletta Malta hotel prides itself in providing the discerning traveller with magnificent accommodation, breathtaking views of Marsamxett harbour and Manoel Island, and an unforgettable dining experience. Its central position allows for easy travel to all parts of the Maltese islands.
After breakfast, explore historic Valletta, Malta’s enchanting capital city built by the Knights of St. John in the 16th century. Explore the fortress, ramparts, churches, and the national museum, then continue to the Tarxien Temples, monolithic edifices built between 3000 and 1900 B.C.
Welcome aboard!Take some time to get settled in to your stateroom, and to explore the length of your ship. You'll begin the circumnavigation of Sicily shortly.
Port charges are included in your itinerary pricing.
The Island Sky, built in 1992 and recently refurbished, is a spacious, yet intimate, expedition vessel. Public spaces available include a large lounge, elegant bar with piano, library stocked with fiction and reference books along with a selection of games, and a single sitting dining room. Outside decks feature a bar, spa pool, and a rear sun deck where meals are served in pleasant weather. For excursions ashore, the Island Sky carries a fleet of Zodiacs, and bridge visits allow for the chance to see her expert officers and crew at work.
This morning, enjoy a guided tour of Agrigento, a World Heritage Site. The exquisite architecture of the Valley of the Temples dates back to the 4th and 5th centuries B.C. and includes the Temple of Zeus—the largest Doric temple from Greek antiquity. A scenic drive through rolling countryside brings you to the Butera Winery and Villa. After a lunch of delicious Sicilian fare, accompanied by local wines, continue on to Licata for a short tour of the town center.
After breakfast, disembark in Mazara and drive to the sprawling 7th-century B.C. site of Selinunte. Local guides lead you through these Greek ruins to the Sanctuary of Demetra Malophoros and the Acropolis. Return to the ship for lunch, then drive to Marsala for a walking tour, including the Regional Museum that houses a Carthaginian shipwreck. Make a stop at Cantine Florio, one of Sicily’s ancient wine estates, to enjoy local specialties accompanied by Marsala wines.
Step ashore in the thriving fishing town of Trapani for a visit to the bustling fish market. Then depart overland to visit Erice, a charming medieval village perched high on a mountain-top with stunning views of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Alternatively, visit the ruins of Segesta, once the center of the ancient Elymian civilization, and home to a magnificent Doric temple. Both groups will enjoy a typical Sicilian lunch near Monreale, then tour the fabled Cathedral, built in 1174. Hailed as Italy’s most beautiful Norman church, the interior is covered with mosaics, gold leaf, and stone intarsia. The rest of the evening is at leisure for you to explore Palermo, as the Island Sky remains pier-side overnight.
Palermo is famous for its jumbled and picturesque streets punctuated with ornate Baroque churches, domed Arab mosques, and glittering Byzantine mosaics. Visit the impressive 12th-century Cathedral and the Palatine Chapel in the Norman castle; today the building serves as the seat of the Sicilian government. Highlights of your walking tour through the town center include the Massimo Theater, Quattro Canti, Town Hall, and Martorana Church. Board the ship this afternoon for a sunset cruise along the northern coast of Sicily.
Situated on the northern coast, Cefalù is of Greek origin; its name, meaning “head,” derives from its position below a precipitous rocky headland. A walking tour includes the splendid Norman-Arab Cathedral, begun in 1131 and famous for its glittering Byzantine mosaics; a medieval wash-house; and the Osterio Magno, the 11th-century residence of King Ruggiero II. Lunch is a highlight today as you join a local chef at Tasca Lanza Estate who will teach you how to prepare traditional Sicilian dishes. There will also be time for wine sampling and a chance to explore the lovely grounds of the Estate, or to simply relax among your scenic surroundings.
Take a walking tour through the center of Lipari to reach the impressive fort, built in 1556 upon the ruins of an ancient Greek acropolis. Within the fort walls you will find the superb Aeolian Archaeological Museum and the lovely Norman St. Bartolomeo Church. Visit a local pizzeria for lunch and an interactive pizza–making demonstration. In the early evening the ship cruises past active Stromboli Volcano for sunset photos, with the chance to watch for the Stromboli “fireworks” as darkness falls.
This morning, board coaches for an excursion to 9,500-foot-high Mt. Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano. Take a cable car up Etna’s pock-marked slopes, then continue in 4x4 vehicles to reach the main crater at 9,000 feet, with the opportunity for a short hike. In the afternoon, a walking tour of charming Taormina takes you to the 3rd-century Greco-Roman Theater, renowned for acoustic effects that make it a favorite concert venue to this day. Then take a stroll along the lively pedestrian-only Corso Umberto and explore its many narrow off-shooting lanes that lead to pretty piazzas lined with shops.
Visit the famous morning fish market in Catania’s town square where a colorful variety of local products are on display. An inland drive takes you through a series of photogenic villages to Piazza Armerina, famous for its superb Roman mosaics in the Villa Romana del Casale. Enjoy lunch at a Sicilian restaurant near the Greek site of Morgantina, then tour the ruins and visit the small, but excellent Aidone Museum. Return to Catania with free time before dinner on board, or choose to enjoy the local cuisine on your own, and perhaps sample some of the wines from the many vineyards nourished by the rich volcanic soil of Mt. Etna.
Founded by the Corinthians in the 8th century B.C., Syracuse was one of the most powerful Greek cities—defending its sovereignty against such rivals as Carthage, the Etruscans, and the Romans, who later overtook the city, followed by the Arabs. Begin at the Saint John Catacombs with their maze of underground passageways then drive to the Archaeological Park, a World Heritage Site. Highlights include the Roman Amphitheater of Augustus; the Ear of Dionysius, a grotto with an extraordinary echo; and the massive 15,000-seat Greek Theater. Return to the ship, at port in Ortygia, for lunch, before striking out for a walking tour of the old town. Highlights include the ruins of the 6th-century B.C. Apollo Temple—the oldest in Sicily—and the Piazza Duomo, built around the ancient Temple of Minerva (Athena).
This morning you'll disembark your ship as you're bid farewell by the crew.
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