Trip Report - Sicilian Odyssey - Sept 2022
My husband and I returned from this wonderful tour last week. We had a group of 21, and a fabulous, knowledgeable and caring tour director. We chose late September, hoping for good weather, and that is what we encountered. Sicily is beautiful - seaside towns, impressive Greek and Roman ruins, beautiful ancient mosaics, lovely hillside towns, rolling fields of wheat, vegetables, citrus and olive trees. The food and wine were great.
We arrived in Ortigia after a two night stay in Rome. It was a good way to start to get over jet lag. We had time to walk around the town and visit the Cathedral. Although a Cathedral visit is included on the tour, we were glad that we explored it earlier, as it was much more crowded when we visited with the group. That evening, we had a nice dinner at a small restaurant, A Putia Di Giugio.
The next day, we walked to the castle, had lunch at the market area (Fratelli Burcio for sandwiches), explored some more. The tour commenced that evening, with the Welcome cocktails and a nice dinner at the hotel.
Some highlights the next day included the Greek Theater in Siracusa and the visit to and lunch at a Palazzo in Ortigia and a pre-dinner surprise. We dined on our own at a restaurant with a lovely courtyard, Scialai.
The next day we headed to the countryside for a two night stay. On the way we stopped in a couple of hillside towns, one known for its Sicilian Baroque architecture. One town, in the province of Ragusa, was a special treat for me. As a fan of the Inspector Montalbano books, it was fun to see the town in which the television series was filmed.
The following day, we visited the Villa Romana del Casale, and its 4th Century mosaics. The mosaics are impressive, as they are well preserved and there are a lot of them. For the most part, they are viewed from above while walking on raised walkways. We then visited a Baroque town, Modica, also known for its delicious chocolate.
We then headed to the province of Agrigento and visited the very impressive Valley of the Temples. After lunch, we arrived at the seaside Vendura Resort. We had time to swim, relax, use the gym, spa, etc. It was a nice rest break, as we did not leave until 11:45 am the next day. After a wine pairing lunch, we drove through farmland to Palermo.
Palermo was a very pleasant surprise for me. Our hotel was nicely located near pedestrian only streets (but watch out for bikes and scooters). A few of the group accepted our tour director's offer of a short orientation walk. It was very helpful. We had dinner on our own that evening at a restaurant serving exclusively fish entrees, Osteria Mercede.
The next day, we had a walking tour of the Palermo city center, including the stunning Palatine Chapel and the Opera House (Teatro Massimo). We had time on our own for more exploration and then a group dinner at a Baronessa's house.
On Day 8, we headed for beautiful Taormina, stopping at Cefalu on the way. In Taormina we stayed at the beachside Belmond San' Andrea hotel. A couple of months prior to departure, we were notified we would stay there rather than the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo, which is located up the hill in the center of town. The San' Andrea was wonderful- we had lovely balcony rooms overlooking the beach and a small harbor. Abour 45 minutes after arrival, we were transported up to the town, where we toured the Greek Theater, had an aperitif, and then had dinner on our own. Our tour director made recommendations and reservations. We had a very nice dinner at Rosso di Vino, a lovely restaurant at the far end of the main walking street. On the way, we stopped in a plaza to view Mt. Etna at sundown.
The last day, 11 in our group chose the Mt. Etna tour (we had booked it at the time we reserved the trip), which included a wine pairing lunch at a vineyard on the slopes. Very interesting and very good. Others shopped or enjoyed the pool, beach or spa at the hotel. We had some time when we returned from Etna, and simply enjoyed our balcony and the lovely views. In retrospect, I wish we had another night at this property.
Attire was quite casual. Bring good walking/gym shoes. There is significant walking on cobble stones, uneven ground. inclines and stairs. We did need a sweater and light jacket for Mt. Etna. We had some drizzle one day at the beginning, so light rain jacket and travel umbrella recommended.
Hotels were excellent. A couple are renovated older properties with quirky rooms, as is often the case in Europe. Two of our rooms were lovely suites with an upstairs and downstairs. I know that one couple asked to be changed to a more regular room. Some of the rooms have showers in high tubs.
I have tried to keep this brief. I would be happy to answer any questions.