Greek Temples and Wildflowers: Sicily

April 16-28, 2013

TempleinSicilyA unique journey in SICILIA, Crossroads of the Mediterranean

Not to be missed is this opportunity to discover the great natural beauty and magnificent cultural heritage of the Mediterranean’s most legendary island at its loveliest, in spring.

The ancient Greeks believed that Persephone emerged each year–in Sicily, in spring–from her captivity in the underworld. To this day, Sicily bursts into to bloom each spring after months of dormancy during late summer, fall and winter.

Join us on a singular exploration of "Persephone’s island" at its most beautiful with long sunny days, comfortable daytime temperatures, cool evenings—and the countryside carpeted with flowers.

We’ll begin in Palermo, Sicily’s capital—and during the Belle Époque one of itVegetablesPalermoMarkets most stylish cities. Blessed with a spectacular natural harbor, a rich architectural heritage, good restaurants, colorful daily food markets, and a superb opera house, Palermo’s unusual history and exotic atmosphere never cease to fascinate.

It is here, and in nearby Monreale, that we will find the splendid religious and civic structures that Monreale Sicilyare a unique fusion of Romanesque, Byzantine and Arab styles, built when Sicily was the center of the glittering 12th century Norman kingdom. The mosaics created to decorate them are among Europe’s most exquisite artistic achievements.

During our sojourn in Palermo, we’ll be guests at a gala dinner in a private home, an aristocratic 15th century palazzo located in the oldest part of the city, not far from the Norman kings’ magnificent palace. We’ll also begin a succession of days in which to savor several artistic achievements of Magna Grecia, literally "Greater Greece", the vast expanse of Greek city states west of the Aegean of which Sicily was arguably the most important part: a vital crossroads to ancient Greek colonies in the western Mediterranean, as well as an agricultural and trade center of considerable power.Doric Temple at Segesta

We’ll marvel at rare "archaic" sculptures in Palermo’s archeological museum and visit the enchanting Doric temple at Segesta, in an evocative setting not far from the medieval town of Erice where, after a walk up into the town past tidy stone houses, we will be rewarded with a repast of local specialties.

We’ll go well off the beaten path for experiences not included in conventional group trips and impossible on a cruise. These are but a few of the delightful surprises in store for our travelers, family, and friends during our stay in northwestern Sicily!

The middle part of our journey will take us south to more spectacular sites: Selinunte, where soaring Doric columns rise from vast fields of wildflowers overlooking an azure blue sea; the legendary "Valley of the Temples" in Agrigento, amidst ancient olive trees; the extraordinary ruins of an aristocratic Roman villa inland, near Piazza Armerina; and magnificent Siracusa – ancient Syracuse – the "New York" of the ancient Greek world.

Palazzi in SiracusaIn Siracusa, thanks to the location of our stylish, historic hotel, you will be able to explore serendipitously the island of Ortigia– the heart of the old medieval city and the site of the original Greek settlement–an almost entirely pedestrian-only district with many elegant palazzi, small shops, a vibrant morning food market, a great variety of restaurants and trattorie, and piazzas made to order for relaxing over a cappuccino or early evening aperitivo. After much restoration in recent years, Ortigia has emerged as arguably Sicily’s most engaging historic city center. We will stay in Ortigia for three nights!

Mt. EtnaOn our way up the east coast, we’ll take in the fantastic landscape of Mt. Etna before checking in to our superbly located, historic hotel in Taormina—it’s private garden is a veritable oasis from the hustle and bustle of what is unquestionably one of southern Europe’s most popular and colorful destinations. Three luxurious nights here will enable us to explore this celebrated hill town’s many treasures in a leisurely fashion, including the dramatically situated Teatro antico, as well as to relax in the hotel’s lush garden, or by the pool, above the coast where the Greeks first landed in Sicily in 735 BC.

Our singular journey in this Mediterranean land of myth and legend will be enhanced by top local guides, each of whom possesses an impressive command of Sicily’s complex history and rich heritage. Among our visits–in towns and in the countryside–will be several that would be difficult, if not entirely impossible, for you to experience on your own.

San Domenico PalaceTwo, three, or four nights at each of our superbly located first-class and deluxe hotels–in Palermo, Agrigento, Siracusa, and Taormina–will ensure an unrushed pace.

We’ll also enjoy wonderful meals, in both elegant restaurants and charming, family-fun inns, prepared from fresh, local ingredients and based on centuries of tradition to which foreign rulers–Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, French and Spanish–all contributed to create one of Italy’s most sophisticated regional cuisines.

If you have missed past trips to Sicily, here is your chance to truly experience this legendary island. And, after a long, gray winter, Sicily in spring is the perfect tonic!

Space will be limited to a maximum of 12 persons to ensure a journey of the highest quality.

Temple Ruins in SicilyThe Sicily tour will begin in Palermo on Tuesday, April 16, 2013, and will end in Taormina on Sunday, April 28.

Note: The airport serving Taormina is Catania. There are no non-stop flights from the USA to Sicily; travelers usually change in Rome, Milano, or another European "gateway" city, according to the airline of their choice.

To receive detailed tour information and reservation form, contact the Office of Alumnae and Alumni at 434-947-8102 or Sharon Bouck Smith ’66 at Travel Designs: 607-587-8324, or e-mail: info@travel-designs.com