Click here to view future tours

28 April 2019Classical Sicily Tour
15 April 2018The History & Art of Madrid & Central Spain
08 May 2017Houses and History of Norfolk

Click on a row and scroll to display more details about the tour

Classical Sicily Tour

This year 26 members enjoyed the Society’s Annual Tour exploring the delights of ‘Classical Sicily’ during a seven day stay starting in scenic Taormina.


Our first visit was to Europe’s highest volcano, Mount Etna. We were lucky as it was the only day of our stay it was not enveloped in clouds. Then decision time - who would like to make it to the top (assisted by the mini bus, cable car plus some walking) or prefer a warming cup of coffee and explore the exhibitions and shops?!  Returning from the heady heights, we had a guided tour of Taormina including the Duomo (Cathedral) and the 4thcentury BC Greek Amphitheatre.
Every morning, as we travelled towards our destinations, Ludo explained the fascinating and complicated history of the island. Basically, it ranged from the prehistoric tribes to the ancient Greeks and Romans to the medieval Arabs, Normans, Angevins, Bourbons, and Mafia. In 1860 Sicily joined Italy, thanks to Garibaldi, and it wasn't until the 1980's and 90's that the criminal organization we call the Mafia began to lose its dominance over corrupt local governments. Fortunately, we were not tested at the end of the day!
For those interested, there is a list of the dates at the end of this report.
Next, a day of wonders! We saw the most important and powerful Greek City from the 5thto the 3rd centuries BC, Siracusa, the home to the Temple of Apollo, Sicily’s earliest Doric temple; the Parco Archeologico featuring the Altar of Hieron ll and the spectacular Teatro Greco.  The heart of the city includes the island of Ortigia, with to the Piazza Duomo, baroque palaces and full of close- knit lanes.  Lunch was enjoyed at a working farmhouse which made a relaxing contrast to the day.
Heading towards to Enna, one of the most ancient towns on the island, the day was spent admiring some of the finest surviving mosaics from Roman antiquity at Piazza Amerina and the Villa Romana del Casale.  Depicting fascinating scenes from daily life, the mosaics are as remarkable for their anthropological value as their artistry.
Day 4 saw us at the Archaeological and Landscape Park of the Valley of the Temples, near Agrigento. This is one of the most impressive complexes and the largest archaeological site in the world, covering 1,300 hectares. The Doric temples, dating from the 5th century BC, straddle a low bridge, with nine of the ten temples still visible and some still beautifully preserved. The area was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.  Much of the excavation and restoration of the temples was due to the efforts of archaeologist Domenico Antonio lo Faso Pietrasanta (1783 –1863).
Then came a complete contrast to the previous day – the magnificent splendour of the Cathedral of Monreale, (City of the Golden Temple) one of the great sites of Norman Sicily, adorned with a rich profusion of glittering Sicilian and Byzantine mosaics. According to a legend, William ll of Sicily fell asleep under a carob tree while hunting in the woods near Monreale. The Holy Virgin appeared to him in dream, urging him to build a church there. After removing the tree, a treasure of golden coins was found in its roots, which was supposed to finance the construction. It is more likely that the church was part of a plan of large constructions in competition with the then Bishop of Palermo,  who had ordered the large Cathedral of Palermo.  The construction of Monreale, started in 1172 and only was completed in 1267. 
Our final day was spent at Cefalu on the coast, a charming medieval seaside town with a splendid cathedral built in the 12th century with glittering Sicilian and Byzantine mosaics.  Following our guided tour and lunch at a seafood restaurant, we travelled to Palermo Airport for our flight home. 
A very interesting and enjoyable tour experiencing the fascinating history, interesting culture and amazing ancient Greco-Roman architecture. We were very lucky with the weather as the previous week had seen almost continuous rain!
Many thanks to Ludo, our excellent Tour Manager from Tailored Travel, who helped to make the tour such a success. Our driver deserves special praise for his brilliant driving and expert manoeuvring of the coach in very tight situations.   Sitting in the front, Wynne and I tried hard not to close our eyes and breathe in!

My sincere thanks to John Crane for allowing me to use 8 of his photographs and the last two were taken by me. 
 Wendy Collett, Tour Organiser