We ascend the ever active volcano, Mt Etna which is a thrill and an education in the evolution of life. Sicilian cooking embraces the aromas and tastes of the sun, the sea and the fertile soil. Thus we find a wonderful blend of woodland and sea flavors, swordfish, pine nuts, raisins and wild fennel, oranges and lemons simply bursting with sweet juices, ricotta cheese to make desserts such as cannoli.
Specialties made with these ingredients are delicious, hearty and great fun at the end of every exciting day. Sicily is the heartbeat of the Mediterranean, a mythical island of great enchantment, bathed in sun, blessed by its plants, flowers and fruit, and home to a people who are warm and hospitable and greet the stranger as a far flung friend.
Day 1: Palermo airport - Saint Anastasia winery. We meet at 14:00 at the Palermo airport and drive along the coast towards Cefalu, then climb into the foothills of the Madonie to the recently restored monastery of Saint Anastasia, now a fine hotel and winery. Relax and enjoy this dramatic setting, sipping an aperitif on the terrace which has spectacular views of the Aeolian islands.
Day 2: Madonie Mountains National Park. We continue into the heart of the Madonie mountains, an area seldom visited and of ancient traditions. We stroll through the cobbled streets of Geraci Siculo where time seems to have stood still. Our hiking trail climbs through pine forests to Pizzo Corvo where we emerge and cross mountain pastures through awe-inspiring scenery with occasional views of Mountain Etna; the sleeping giant which looms at a distance of over 50 miles as we approach Petralia Soprana. Here a mountain feast awaits us (4 hours/8 miles).
Day 3: Cefalu and Monreale Cathedral. Visit Cefalu's charming old quarters, the Norman Cathedral and the old fishing town at your leisure. A short walk onto the Rocca promontory with walls and castle ruins offers magnificent views of the harbor, town and emerald blue sea. After a picnic lunch we drive along the coast to Monreale Cathedral to admire one of the finest examples of 12th century gilded Byzantine mosaics (2 hours/4 miles).
Day 4: Lo Zingaro Nature Reserve. Walking from Scopello, we ascend into the the Zingaro Nature Reserve to enjoy the rugged, Sicilian coastline and learn how locals used to make a living form tuna fishing and basket weaving. If lucky, we may spot a peregrine falcon. High above the coast, admire the colors of the Mediterranean. After stopping to visit an abandoned tuna cannery in a cove, and perhaps now weary but definitely satisfied, we return to relax or go for a swim in some local hot springs (5 hours/10 miles).
Day 5: Segesta. We visit the Greco-Trojan city of Segesta at the top of Monte Barbaro to see the 4th century BC theater which has a stunning view overlooking the countryside and sea, walking down afterward to the unfinished Doric temple - situated one a truly incredible setting - and then on to a forest track on the other side of the river gorge for a picnic lunch with a panoramic view of the temple (3 hours/6 miles).
Day 6: A walk in the Egadi islands. From the western port of Trapani we take a hydrofoil to Levanzo and walk across the farming hinterland to the other side of the island where we descend a rocky path to a hidden cave, the Grotta del Genovese. Through an enlarged rabbit warren lit with gas lamps we enter the cave to see a treasure of Paleolithic and Neolithic drawings. We continue on around the island, past i faraglioni rocks with views of Favignana and Marettimo, the other two islands of this archipelago, set in crystal clear blue waters. We return mid afternoon to explore the charming town of Erice (3.5 hours/7 miles).
Day 7: Walking tour of the Acropolis of Selinunte. Selinunte, Europe's largest archaeological park, is a wonderful opportunity to explore an entire ancient Greek city. With two harbors, fortifications and many temples scattered across the excavations, it is set in an almost unequaled location. After a picnic lunch and time to the digest historic and gastronomic delights, a most rewarding day is ended with a scenic journey down the coast to Agrigento.
Day 8: Walking tour of Agrigento and Valley of the Templese. We visit the museum of Agrigento with a local guide. Inside is an excellent collection of artifacts, temple decorations, a giant statue from the temple of Zeus, votive offerings and a model of the largest temple in Magna Graecia. We then walk through the Valley of the Temples, discussing Greek civilization and why Pindar described Akragas as "most beautiful of mortal cities".
Day 9: Piazza Armerina and Roman Villa Casale. We make an early start to drive to Piazza Armerina, located in the agricultural heart of Sicily known as "the bread basket of Rome". Here we visit the Roman Imperial Villa Casale, one of the finest ever to have been discovered. Forty of the best-preserved mosaic floors tell us of the life of the rich roman citizens. A pleasant walk takes us over a hill, past fresh water fountains and enters the medieval town of Piazza Armerina where we stop for a delicious gelato (2.5 hours/5 miles).
Day 10: Taormina. Free morning to explore the charming streets of Taormina, perched above the Ionian sea with Mt. Etna in the distance - Sicily's most beautiful resort. We walk down (a few!) steps from our hotel past a Norman castle and take the Via Crucis to emerge in the heart of Taormina. Visit the Greco-Roman amphitheater, do a little shopping and sit in a street cafe and watch the world go by, meeting for a late lunch in the fishing cove of Mazzaro where, weather permitting, we can take a boat trip in the bay with a local fisherman. (1 hour/3 miles).
Day 11: Mount Etna. We drive towards the slopes of Mt. Etna, the active volcano, watching an ever changing landscape of lava fields, pioneer flowers and shrubs, ancient and new craters. Once we reach the end of the drivable road at 6000 ft, weather permitting we ascend to Mt Etna using four wheel drive vehicles and then on foot. Sometimes Mt. Etna even chooses to erupt especially for us. We end the day in Siracusa on the island of Ortigia (2-4 hours).
Day 12: Walking tour of Siracusa. We learn about Siracusa, arch enemy of Athens, once capital of Magna Graecia and the most powerful city of the Greek world. Our local guide talks us through the historical scenery as we explore the Ear of Dionysius, the Greek theater, the Roman amphitheater and the Altar of Hieron. The day ends on the island of Ortigia at the 2500 year-old building which today is the Cathedral of Siracusa. Then a free afternoon to relax and explore the old quarter of Ortigia.
Day 13: Departure from Catania airport. Scheduled departure from our hotel at 9:00 for Catania airport (1 hour). If you wish, we can help to extend your stay or make other independent departure arrangements.
- Walking level: moderate
- We travel in our own very comfortable 12-seat minibus, transporting you and your luggage safely from place to place. The minibus travels with us on most days and is available for anyone wishing to opt out of all or part of any days walk.
Dates for 2013 :- 5-7th October
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Europe Italy Outdoor: Land Rambler Walking Tours Cultural Journey
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