Sicily A Tour to Change hearts and minds

We love Italy and have been curious about Sicily for some time. Before finding the Rick Steves’ Best of Sicily Tour, we had never taken a group tour like this before. Being somewhat skeptical, we were soon convinced by the reviews of previous tour participants to go with Rick Steves. The promises of guided time with plenty of free time along with the potential of unforgettable life experiences all proved true, providing us with an ideal and memorable experience. (https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/italy/sicily)

Any preconceived notions about Sicily have been completely dispensed with. We found Sicily to be welcoming, intriguing, comfortable and not yet 'over-discovered', making it even more special. We came away with a new found understanding and admiration for it's people, who have endured and overcome much. From ridding themselves of the Mafia to welcoming displaced and desperate refugees to their lands, the people of Sicily are diverse, yet strongly united in the love they have for their land and culture.

Sicily is fascinating, exotic and ancient, yet modern. An enticing enigma, a confluence of the many cultures who have occupied this island over the centuries, so much more than being only Italian. It isn't. In our view, Sicily is a country and an experience unto itself. We loved our time there, leaving us wanting more. We have to know and love Sicily. It's in our blood, literally, with several of our ancestors having emigrated to America in centuries past. We shall return.

Our thanks go to the Rick Steves organization and specifically our tour guide, Sarah Murdoch, our always cheerful and skilled driver Tony, as well as the best group of tour friends we could have hoped for. (https://adventureswithsarah.net)

What follows is an overview of our experience, told mostly through images, for we believe that a picture can represent a "thousand" words or more with a little guidance and some imagination. We hope you enjoy this presentation and feel inspired to perhaps indulge your own curiosity about Sicily someday. You won't be disappointed. Amonini!

First night, first view, from our hotel rooftop in Palermo.

First up is Palermo. A city that's a blend of ancient cultures, Greek, Roman, Arab, Norman, and others with influences that continue to this day within its art, architecture, food, and people.

The nightly Passeggiata, or evening stroll, on the Via Vittorio Emanuele. Locals and visitors alike walk this main boulevard together without traffic, for this nightly ritual.
Off the Via Vittorio Emanuele.....so much to see and do.
Still too early for dinner.
Churches abound.
In the Quattro Canti, Piaza Vigliena, in the Baroque style circa 1620's.
The Quattro Canti is also beautiful at night.
The Fountain of Shame, aka Fontana Pretoria, is a most amusing story circa 1574.
Fountain of Shame at night, after a day's protest (in pink).
A variety of architectural style and influence.
At the corner of yesterday and today.
Access to the Palermo City Hall where we hear personal stories of the brave people who fought and won against the Mafia.
An evening with the Contessa at her palazzo.
The Ballaro Market and our 'street food' tour.
The Cappella Palatina in the cathedral of Monreale. A fascinating story dating back to the first and second centuries. In 1174 King William II, a Norman king, commissioned a new cathedral be built. Using Arab, Byzantine, and Norman craftsmen a beautiful fusion of architectural styles, religous symbolism, and artistic technique was created.
The Cloisters at Monreale. The work continues to this day.
On the way to Segesta, Sarah explains the simplicity and complexities of the Sicilian flag.
Segesta. A well preserved Doric Temple from around 420 BC.
At the Greek Theatre, Sarah leads some of group in God Bless America.
Our coach, riding in comfort and safety.
Lunch at La Pasticceria de Maria Grammitco. On a hill top near Erice.
Our baking lesson with Maria Grammatico and her staff. With almond 'Nun's Cookies' and a Sicilan favorite, cannoli. Delizioso!
Fascinating and picturesque Erice, which sits very high up on a hill.
The Trapani Salt Flats where salt has been mined from the sea for hundreds of years.
A short boat ride to the island of Mozia originally settled by Carthaginians around 2700 years ago. Great ruins and museum.
We're treated to a fantastic picnic lunch on the island of Mozia.
Trapani, by the sea on the northwest corner of Sicily. Founded by Elymians , conquered by many diiferent cultures, and bombed by allies in WWII. Trapani has persevered and today is a beautiful and intriguing city.
The Villa Romana Del Casale. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for having the richest and largest collections of Roman Mosaics in the world. The story behind this treasure from the early 4th century is fascinating.
Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples. Once the ancient Greek city of Akragas. Amazing to see and appreciate that they're still standing. Fantastic ruins.
Dinner for all and our 'country hotel'. You could see the temple ruins lit up at night from the hotel's lawn patio.
Citta Ragusa sits on a hilltop between two valleys in a most picturesque setting. A small city with a village feel, we found the people warm and inviting. It was a place to relax and restore.
Modica, home of some of the best chocolate on the planet. We arrived on a Sunday morning just before church let out. It's also a beautiful hillside commune with a stunning church at it's center.
Siracusa (Syracuse) on the was coast of Sicily on the Ionian Sea.
Siracusa, a city with a rich Greek history and culture founded around 2700 years ago. Birthplace of Archimedes. The Archimedes and DaVinci museum is a must see. Our hotel was situated right on the water, providing us with built-in views of the beautiful sea.
Exotic Catania, an ancient port city in the shadow of Mount Etna, on the east coast of Sicily looking out to the Ionian Sea.
Catania is our last stop on this tour. We end our journey with a wonderful evening at the Benanti Winery and Vineyard. A tour and fine food with their award winning wines provides a fitting end to this rich and rewarding experience.
Taormina has been added to the Rick Steves' Best of Sicily in 11 Days Tour for 2018. It's a welcomed addiition, making a good thing even better. We spent two nights and three days there on our own after our tour last year and loved it. Surrounded by views of the sea and majestic Mount Etna, Taormina is a perfect combination of natural beauty, history, and Sicilian sophistication.

A saluti!


All photos by Ken and Carolyn Sabatini

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