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Sicily

No other island in the Mediterranean is of more strategic value than Sicily. This has seen the island fought over from the time of Carthage to World War 2 and has left it with a remarkable wealth of artistic and archaeological heritage. From the extremely well-preserved temples of Segesta and Selinute to the sparkling Byzantine and Norman treasures of Palermo and Monreale, Sicily never fails to impress. Add to the mix the Greek theatre of Taormina and the natural spectacle of Vesuvius and you cannot help but agree with Goethe's observation that "Sicily is the key to everything".

Taormina Walking Tour

Taormina, Sicily
Half Day Tender Extensive Walking
Nowhere is the beauty of Sicily more apparent than in the hilltop town of Taormina.

Nowhere is the beauty of Sicily more apparent than in the hilltop town of Taormina. Today we will tender ashore for a short, scenic drive to this idyllic spot with its mountainous backdrop, lemon-blossom scented air and narrow, medieval “streets”. This walking tour proceeds past the Cathedral and the 15th-century Palazzo Corvaja with its black and white lava decoration.

The highlight is a guided tour of the theatre. Originally built by the Greeks in the 3rd century BC and rebuilt by the Romans in the 2nd century AD, the site offers heart-skipping views of the sea and Mount Etna. Your tour concludes with a stroll along the pedestrian Corso Umberto. In the small lanes and twisting viuzze you can shop for colourful ceramics, seek out the wines that won the praise of Pliny or dine on the mullet favoured by Ovid. Passengers wishing to linger in Taormina after the tour can do so, as we have a later return transfer back to the ship.

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Sicilian Landscapes

Taormina, Sicily
Half Day Tender Significant StepsUphill Sections
As you disembark for a drive through Naxos, founded by Greek colonists in the 8th-century BC, the magnificent bay, Taormina and Mount Etna are just a taste of what's to come.

When seeking locations for The Godfather trilogy about the notorious Corleone family, the filmmakers felt the town of the same name was too developed and chose, instead, two remote mountain villages: Savoca and Forza d'Agro. Both are reached by a drive through scenery that exemplifies the sensual beauty of Italy.

As you disembark for a drive through Naxos, founded by Greek colonists in the 8th century BC, the magnificent bay, Taormina and Mount Etna are just a taste of what's to come. Enjoy the coastal scenery before turning inland to the Peloritani Mountains, where Savoca is set in a saddle between two hills. Here, the Bar Vitelli seems undisturbed from the time when Francis Ford Coppola was here and has a collection about the film. From the bar, a leisurely walking tour traces the wedding path of Michael Corleone and his bride up the main street past the 15th and 16th century churches to Santa Lucia, where they were married. Climb to the hill's summit for panoramas of a Norman Castle and the Strait of Messina. Also visit the Cappuccini Church where mummified bodies stand fully dressed in the crypt's shadowy niches.

Your excursion into Godfather Country winds to the nearby village of Forza d'Agro, where Al Pacino and Sophia Coppola came to shoot scenes for Godfather III. Landmarks include the Church of S. Agostino with its Gothic-Catalan portal, the Baroque Mother Church and the Arab-Norman Castle of Capo Sant'Alessio. You don't need to be a film buff to appreciate this choice part of Sicily.

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Syracuse

Catania, Sicily
Half Day Archaeological Site
Many a conqueror set his sights on Syracuse, one of the largest and wealthiest cities of ancient Europe that, at the height of its power, rivalled Athens, Carthage and Rome.

This tour begins in the ancient heart of Syracuse at the archeological park of Neapolis, a 16,000 capacity Roman amphitheatre cut into the hillside. This extraordinary archeological site was originally used for gladiator fights, circuses and the staging of entertaining naval battles known as naumachia. Today it remains one of the largest of its kind in Italy.

Next we will visit the Altar of Hieron, thought to have been built by Hiero II in the third century BC as a table for the sacrificing of bulls to Zeus Eleutherios (Zeus the Liberator). Then it is just a short walk to the Greek Theatre, once the centre of the city’s political and cultural life; its excellent acoustics made it ideal for the oratorical and theatrical performances of the day.

Near to the theatre are the subterranian latomìe – stone quarries that in ancient times were used as prisons. The most famous of these are the Rope-makers’ Cave, so called because it was once used by manufacters of string or “cordari” – and the Orecchio di Dionisio (Ear of Dionysius). These man-made vaults are supported by pillars of stones that have been carved out by the quarrymen.

From here we will transfer to Ortygia for a walking tour of this quaint island-town’s best attractions, including the Piazza Archimede, the Cathedral and the Arethusa Spring, before a return to the coaches for our drive back to Catania

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Taormina Walking Tour

Catania, Sicily
Half Day Tender Extensive Walking
Nowhere is the beauty of Sicily more apparent than in the hilltop town of Taormina.

Perched on a terrace overlooking the sea, Taormina has a delightful medieval character with plenty of interesting historical sites to explore on this tour.

During a stroll around the city we will see the Palazzo Corvaia, which incorporates a 10th-century Saracen fortress constructed on Roman foundations into a 15th-century Moorish Gothic design, creating an architectural style that is notable for its lancet windows.

We will visit the Ancient Greek Theatre, the second largest of its kind in Sicily; this amphitheatre dates from the 3rd century BC and is still frequently used for operas, concerts and theatrical performances.

Finally, we will have time to stroll along the Corso Umberto, the main street of Taormina, into some of the smaller lanes and alleyways, or vuizze, of the city, where you will be able to shop for some local handcrafts, before a short sightseeing drive through Via Etnea, Villa Bellini, Piazza Stesicoro and Piazza Duomo, on our way back to Catania

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A Special Visit to Palazzo Gangi

Palermo, Sicily
Extension visit
Among Palermo’s most delightful secrets are the aristocratic, privately-owned residences. *Note: As space is very limited, we recommend you register at the earliest opportunity once on board.

Among Palermo’s most delightful secrets are the aristocratic, privately-owned residences. When the Princes Gangi decided to remodel the 15th-century ancestral palace of the Princes Valguarnera, it was a vast undertaking that spread over the 18th century and continues today under the auspices of Princess Carine Vanni Mantegna. Sicily’s leading artists were summoned to assist in creating a showcase.

Today, we’ll visit the fabulous results. The palazzo is especially noted for its Sicilian Baroque ballroom decorated with Murano chandeliers, gold fittings and glittering mirrors. Here, in 1882 Wagner composed the opening bars of Parsifal and in 1963 Luchino Visconti filmed the magnificent ball scene of The Leopard. The visit to Palazzo Gangi is exclusive to guests of Voyages to Antiquity.

Note: Please check with the Tour Office on board for details on how to register for this programme which is operated as an extension to included excursions. However, as space is very limited, we recommend you register at the earliest opportunity once on board.

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Optional $ 55
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UNESCO World Heritage Site

Monreale

Palermo, Sicily
Half Day Significant Steps
Travel just a short distance out of Palermo to discover Monreale Cathedral, considered by many to be the most beautiful Norman church in Italy.

Travel just a short distance out of Palermo to discover Monreale Cathedral, considered by many to be the most beautiful Norman church in Italy. Designed by William the Good in 1174, the church offers visions of beauty, grace and the divine. The exterior’s thick walls and powerful towers have the look of an austere fortress, but just step inside: it is the interior that is this cathedral’s true glory. The large nave with its side aisles and grey granite columns draws the eyes upward to 12th-century gold mosaics that cover over one and a half acres of wall space.

The tour also visits the Benedictine cloisters, a magnificent synthesis of Romanesque and Arab architecture. Admire the serenity of the courtyard with its graceful arcade featuring 216 sets of twin columns and pointed Arabic arches. Later, enjoy free time in the main square before we return to the ship.

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Erice

Trapani, Sicily
Half Day Cobbled StreetsUphill Sections
The Norman architecture may lead you to believe that this is a town out of the Middle Ages, but, in fact, this exquisite hill-top town has origins that reach back to pre-history.

Upon seeing Pepoli Castle soaring 2,500 feet above the sea, the Norman architecture may lead you to believe that this is a town out of the Middle Ages, but, in fact, this exquisite hill-top town has origins that reach back to prehistory. There is evidence of a cult to a goddess of fertility, Venus Erycina, that can still be seen inside the castle, along with a sacred well and Roman bath. The Norman walls encircling the town incorporate original Phoenician fortifications – you can still see letters from the Phoenician alphabet carved in their surface. Stroll upwards along winding, cobblestone streets to grand squares with 14th-century churches and wander atmospheric byways dotted with Englishstyle gardens.

Following the guided tour, there will be free time to explore the tempting shops that feature such local specialities as marzipan pastries or check out the panoramic views of Trapani and the Egadi Islands.

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Optional $ 48
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Segesta

Trapani, Sicily
Half Day Archaeological SiteUphill Sections
Drive to Segesta, once an advanced centre of the Elymian civilization, founded in the 5th to 4th century BC by a combination of exiled Trojans, Phocaeans from Greece and Sicans of Sicily.

It is an hour and a quarter drive to Segesta, once an advanced center of the Elymian civilization. The city is thought to have been founded in the 5th to 4th century BC by a combination of exiled Trojans, Phocaeans from Greece and Sicans of Sicily. Segesta was well defended, located on a vast plateau between two peaks and surrounded by walls.

Presiding in splendid isolation is a stunning Greek theater and the majestic 36-columned, 5th-century BC Doric temple. This archaeological jewel is in an extraordinary state of preservation and makes a superb sight amid its surroundings of rolling hills.

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Discover Erice

Trapani, Sicily
Half Day Cobbled StreetsUphill Sections
The Norman architecture may lead you to believe that this is a town out of the Middle Ages, but, in fact, this exquisite hill-top town has origins that reach back to pre-history.

Upon seeing Pepoli Castle soaring 2,500 feet above the sea, the Norman architecture may lead you to believe that this is a town out of the Middle Ages, but, in fact, this exquisite hill-top town has origins that reach back to prehistory. There is evidence of a cult to a goddess of fertility, Venus Erycina, that can still be seen inside the castle, along with a sacred well and Roman bath. The Norman walls encircling the town incorporate original Phoenician fortifications – you can still see letters from the Phoenician alphabet carved in their surface. Stroll upwards along winding, cobblestone streets to grand squares with 14th-century churches and wander atmospheric byways dotted with Englishstyle gardens.

Following the guided tour, there will be free time to explore the tempting shops that feature such local specialities as marzipan pastries or check out the panoramic views of Trapani and the Egadi Islands.

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