Sicily and Naples: Two weeks of Music, Art, and History - Plus 4 Days in Rome SOLD OUT - WAIT LIST, September 22 to October 06, 2019

Sicily and Southern Italy are a world apart from Milan, Florence, Venice, or even Rome, offering an amazing diversity of history, art, cuisine, architecture, and culture dating back to the Golden Age of Greece. For centuries, this region was the wealthiest in Italy and has the monuments to prove it, from Greek temples to grandiose baroque churches. This has been our most popular itinerary since our first trip south in 2002; over those 15 years, we have found all the best places to stay, eat, and visit, plus some tricks to make the most effective use of your time.  All our guides are specialists - most with PhDs - in archeology, history, and/or art history.

Palermo, Catania, and Naples: each lays claim to the most spectacular opera house in Italy and even an unbiased observer is hard-pressed to say which is the grandest. We will attend Bellini’s Il Pirata at the glorious Teatro Massimo Bellini in Catania, named after the city’s most famous son, and Rossini’s Barber of Seville at Palermo’s Teatro Massimo. At Teatro San Carlo in Naples, another house steeped in tradition, we will see Verdi’s La Traviata.

You can spend three or four additional days with us on an optional extension to Rome, allowing you to explore the artistic treasures of the “Eternal City” in depth and context with our PhD art historian guide of long-standing or on your own. In addition, we will
provide tickets for Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the Rome Opera, and assist with any additional performances that become available; we hope for a performance in Renzo Piano’s boldly modern Parco de la Musica.
 
This tour is limited to 20 participants; space will be allotted according to the order in which deposits are received.

PRICES AND CONTENTS

Prices, per person

Sicily and Naples
  $ 4,950 sharing a double
$ 5,975 single occupancy

4-day Rome extension
(hotel and transportation only)
$ 675 sharing a double
$ 895 single occupancy

Prices are stated in
U.S. Dollars

calculated on an exchange rate of $1.15 to the Euro.




Package prices include

Accommodation in these
carefully chosen four-star hotels


Grand Hotel et des Palmes

Hotel Museum Costazzura

Relais Parco Cavalonga

Hotel Palace Catania

Grand Hotel Oriente

Four nights in Rome optional
Hotel Quirinale


Breakfast each day

Lunch or dinner on 11 days

Wine tastings

Airport transfers

Ground transport by
private coach

Flight from Catania to Naples
(tourist class)

  Minimum of three performances,
  four if including Rome

  Tours with expert guides as described to the right



Optional performances may be available at additional cost
(subject to availability)



You may tentatively reserve space by submitting the online reservation form, accessed via the button below; we will advise you of the prices when published and send you a final reservation form. Your place on the tour will be confirmed when we receive that form, completed and signed,
along with your deposit.


Suggested Flights:

Outbound via United
and Lufthansa
Departing Houston Sept. 22,
one stop, arriving Palermo
Sept. 23 at about 11:00 AM


Return from Rome Oct. 6/9
via Munich or Frankfurt,
arriving Houston
that afternoon


If there is sufficient interest,
we will explore the potential
for a Group Air Package
 

Advantages of
Group Air:


♦Best available prices
♦Prices locked in
♦Advance payment
not required
♦In case of delay or cancellation,
the group is usually
rebooked together

If you wish to participate
in group air arrangements,
we need to know
as soon as possible.




*Please note:
Rosh Hashanah begins
at sundown on
Sunday September 29.
If you wish to attend services that evening, we will assist you in making arrangements.
We will also provide tickets
for the Monday evening performance of Il Pirata.
All daytime activities on Monday are extra-cost options.

 
 
YOUR ITINERARY
 


September 22: Depart for Palermo. We plan to offer group air arrangements. See the details in the column to the left.

September 23-25: Palermo with Monreale and Erice
Palermo’s strategic military and trading position attracted invaders from around the world, including the Carthaginians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Normans, the Swabians, the French, and the Spanish Bourbons. Each group left a mark, exemplified by the city’s wonderful architectural and artistic diversity. The Palatine Chapel, built by Moorish craftsmen for the Normans, is an unusually beautiful mix of Byzantine, Moorish and Western architecture.  We will visit the splendid art collection housed in the 15th-century Palazzo Abatellis, which contains Antonello da Messina’s masterpiece, L’Annunziata.  Time permitting, we will explore St. John of the Hermits Monastery, Chiesa del Jesu Nuovo (a Norman church built upon a mosque with five cupolas and a subtropical garden), the Church of the Martorana with its majestic mosaic decorations, and the Cathedral, which houses royal and imperial tombs.
 
A day trip will take us to Monreale and Erice. The Cathedral at Monreale, from the exterior, is one of the greatest extant examples of Norman architecture in the world. However, the interior is Byzantine, boasting glittering mosaics that cover the walls from almost the floor to the ceiling, depicting scenes from the Old and New Testament. Our next stop is the wonderfully preserved medieval hilltop town of Erice, offering breathtaking views over the Tyrrhenian Sea. We will stroll in the town and visit the legendary pastry shop of Maria Grammatico, made famous by the chef’s gripping memoir, Bitter Almonds; the visit will allow us the opportunity to taste the famous marzipan cakes made with almonds in a variety of flavors as well as Maria’s mouth-watering cannolis – which were airlifted daily to the late Pope. Lunch will be provided at a local agriturismo.

Our visit to the Sicilian capital concludes at Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emmanuele, the largest opera house in Italy and third largest in Europe; we'll see a performance of Rossini's sparkling comedy, The Barber of Seville.
 
September 26: Selinunte and Agrigento
Today we drive southwest from Palermo to Selinunte, the westernmost outpost of Greek civilization in Sicily.  Destroyed by Carthaginians twice (first as victors and second as defenders, fleeing mighty Rome), the city was abandoned in 250 BC. The archeological park at Selinunte is the largest and most imposing in Europe, containing numerous temples, sanctuaries, and altars. Then we continue to The Valley of the Temples at Agrigento, without a doubt one of the most outstanding monuments of Greater Greek art and architecture. In its heyday in the 5th century BC, the Greek city of Akragas rivaled Athens and Syracuse; eight well-preserved Greek temples attest to that fact and are included in the UNESCO World Heritage list.

September 27: Villa Romana del Casale and Caltagirone
Today we drive through Sicily’s rugged, ravishing interior to our intimate relais hotel close to the famous baroque cities of the Val di Noto, stopping at Piazza Armerina to see the remains of a Roman country villa, one of the most sumptuous private homes of the late Roman era (4th c. AD).  Built by the emperor Maximilian, the villa’s extensive floor mosaics are the finest in situ anywhere in the Roman world. We also make a stop at Caltagirone for lunch (on your own). The capital of the Sicilian pottery industry, Caltagirone is one of eight World Heritage-listed "Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto." The most famous sight there is the Stairway of Santa Maria del Monte, a staircase connecting the Upper and Lower Towns, whose 142 steps are covered in splendid polychrome ceramic tiles, offering breathtaking views over the town. The centuries-old art of pottery-making has been part of the history of Caltagirone since ancient times; the culture of pottery is evident everywhere: ceramics adorn the streets, balconies, squares, fountains, churches, and palaces. You can admire (and buy) local artists’ handmade artefacts in the over 120 ceramic shops. Tonight’s dinner, at our relais hotel, will include a wine tasting.

September 28: Val di Noto (Modica, Noto, and Ragusa) to Catania
Today we explore three splendid jewels of Baroque city planning, all among the World Heritage-listed "Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto": Ragusa, Modica, and Noto. All three were damaged in the 1693 earthquake and rebuilt in the most extreme version of the Sicilian Baroque. The opulence of ornamentation, inside and out, of not only public but also private buildings, attests to the cities’ wealth in the 18th  century. Fortunately for us, these cities fell from economic importance long before the building boom of the late 19th century, so much of their fabric remains intact. In the 15th century, when Modica was under Spanish control, chocolate (N.B. the word comes from the Maya word “xocoatl” meaning bitter water) brought from the Aztec areas of South America was introduced to Modica. Here, they still make chocolate using the ancient Aztec recipe. We will visit the oldest chocolate maker in Sicily and taste their wonderful chocolates, including chocolate liquor with chili pepper and chocolates with different spices: cinnamon, cardamom, orange peels, marjoram, nutmeg, red chili pepper etc. We end up in Catania, Sicily’s second largest city and our base of operations for the next three days.

September 29: Catania *  see note at bottom left column, concerning Jewish Holidays
 
Despite a history dating back thousands of years, Catania is a baroque city, having been almost completely destroyed in the 1693 earthquake and eruption of Mt. Etna and rebuilt during the 18th century.  Our walking tour will focus on the city center and include not only the prime monuments and sites associated with Catania’s favorite son, Vincenzo Bellini, but also the exciting sights, sounds, and scents of the city’s vibrant outdoor market. Our performance in Catania is Bellini’s Il Pirata at the legendary Teatro Massimo Bellini. Designed by the same architect as the Paris Opéra, Charles Garnier, Teatro Bellini was considered the best opera house in the world by Caruso and many of the grand singers of opera’s “Golden Age.” It continues to be a favorite of singers and conductors (Hans Graf among them) as well.
 
September 30: Free in Catania - or choose either of two optional activities:

Day-trip to Syracuse (lunch included) Once part of Magna Graecia, together with Messina and Catania, Syracuse is everything you would expect or imagine Sicily to be – golden limestone buildings exuding the scent of the past, a quiet maze of streets, charming alleys, and squares with fountains. It feels like time has stopped, or rather, stalled in the period following the 1693 earthquake that destroyed every city in the eastern part of Sicily. But the ruins of the ancient temples of Athena and Apollo are a  reminder of the ancient Greek city where Archimedes fought heroically against the Romans during the siege of Syracuse (212 BC). The columns of the Temple of Minerva have been visibly incorporated into a Christian cathedral, whose façade is an example of Sicilian Baroque at its most flamboyant. Nearby are massive fortifications, designed by Archimedes, which the Romans breached by not by skill or force but by treachery. There are also notable reminders of the Byzantine era and period of Norman dominion. We will make a point to see Caravaggio’s Burial of St. Lucy in the church of Santa Lucia alla Badia.

Sicilian Cooking Class, from Market to Table.  Start with a visit to the famous Catania Fish Market to purchase ingredients; then head back to begin cooking and, eventually, eating. WIth a Sicilian chef by your side, you will learn about the history of the Sicilian cuisine and prepare a delicious 3-course meal (e.g. caponata, ravioli or pasta, fish, and a Sicilian dessert such as cannoli). The final tasting includes a typical Sicilian aperitif and two glasses of Sicilian wine per person.

October 1: Taormina and Etna Winery
Today we drive to Taormina, a favorite haunt of such notables as Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, Rita Hayworth, and Greta Garbo as well as the place where Sofia Loren famously turned down Cary Grant’s proposal of marriage. Absent the hordes of summer tourists, it is possible to enjoy Taormina’s medieval character as you stroll through the intimate piazzas surrounded by palaces dating from the 15th to the 19th century. Of course, we will visit the Greek theater (3rd c. BC) with its spectacular views across the sea to Calabria and inland to Etna. Our wine tasting lunch will be at a winery famous for producing wines from grapes grown in the volcanic soil on the slopes of Mt. Etna. Afterwards, we drive to Catania airport for our short (one-hour) flight to Naples.

October 1 – 4: Naples, Pompeii, and the Amalfi Coast
Our sightseeing in Naples includes the Cathedral of San Gennaro; Gesú Nuovo and Capella San Severo, two baroque masterpieces of exuberant multi-colored marble; and Santa Chiara, an austere Gothic building with a delightful tile-encrusted Rococo cloister.
 
One morning we will explore Pompeii, the city destroyed by an eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD.  The fascination with this wealthy first-century resort town, buried for centuries in volcanic ash, lies not only in the impressive theatre, temples, and forum, but also in the many commercial buildings and domestic dwellings, from cramped apartments to luxurious villas.
 
An afternoon is reserved for the Capodimonte Museum, one of the world’s great art museums set, like Paris’s Louvre, in a former Royal Palace. We will explore the highlights of the collection, from Tiziano, Massaccio, Lorenzo Lotto, and Parmigianino, to Caravaggio and Ribera, while getting a glimpse of Naples still life artists such as Ruoppolo and Recco, as well as a woman painter influenced by Caravaggio, Gentilleschi.

André Gide wrote that the Amalfi Coast is “so beautiful that nothing more beautiful can be seen on this earth.” We will dedicate a full day to that stretch where mountains plunge into the azure sea, visiting towns and cities whose very names invoke idyllic images: Sorrento, Positano (a favorite of Paul Klee and Tennessee Williams), Amalfi, and Ravello (where Wagner composed parts of Parsifal).

Verdi's La Traviata at the stunning Teatro San Carlo is a highlight of our visit to Naples, reminding us of its glory days when it was capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

Naples to Rome: October 5
En route to Rome, we stop at the 18th-century Royal Palace of Caserta, constructed for the Bourbon kings of Naples. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the monumental complex was meant to rival Versailles, bringing together a magnificent palace, park and gardens, as well as natural woodland and hunting lodges.

From that point, you have two choices:
  • Go directly to Rome airport where you can relax at a very nice hotel that offers shuttle service to the nearby terminals, making your trip home tomorrow as easy as possible.
  • Continue to our hotel in the heart of Rome for four days. We’ve arranged for rooms at the excellent hotel, located 5 minutes from the Rome Opera House. Rome Opera has announced its 2019 performances, and we can secure tickets to Mozart’s Don Giovanni. When we know the full performance season, we’ll send you a list of “what’s on” and get you tickets for the events of your choice. If several of the group agree on an itinerary, we can set up special tours with our great specialist guide on history, art, and architecture.
ROME EXTENSION (October 5-9)
In Rome, we can arrange for special tours with our great specialist guide on history, art, and architecture; he brings the characters and situations of Rome’s long history and rich treasury of art vividly to life. Even the “standard” sites like the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, or Trevi Fountain are seen through new eyes.

One possibility is a full day dedicated to the Vatican. Descend to the necropolis under St. Peter’s to learn the history of the site from the pre-Christian era to around 1400, seeing the foundations of the earlier Basilica of Constantine and the actual grave of St. Peter. Then tour the glorious interior of St. Peter’s. Even if you have “seen it before,” you probably haven’t had this masterpiece of architecture explained in the depth that our art historian provides.

We can also arrange a visit to the Pallavicini Palace specifically to see the ceiling fresco by Guido Reni in the Casino dell’Aurora. Continue to the exquisite churches of San Ignazio (Andrea Pozzo) and San Carlino (Borromini) nearby, ending at the Cornaro Chapel to see The Ecstasy of Santa Teresa, one of the most inspired monuments of art history.

Another possibility is an “art walk,” starting at the Piazza del Popolo with its superb Church of Santa Maria, which houses not only Caravaggio’s Crucifixion of St. Peter and Conversion on the Road to Damascus but also an Assumption of the Virgin by Annibale Carracci, frescoes by Pinturicchio, sculptures by Andrea Bregno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and the Chigi Chapel, designed by Raffaello Sanzio. Learn about the rivalry between Borromini and Bernini as you stroll to the Piazza Navona passing some of Rome’s most noted baroque monuments – plus the Pantheon for good measure.  If you want a great lunch to cap off your morning walk, one of Rome’s most famous trattorias, Da Constanza, is hidden away in a little street nearby; our guide will help you find it.
 
Christ Pantocrator, Monreale
Christ Pantocrator, Monreale
Teatro Massimo Vincenzo Bellini
Teatro Massimo Vincenzo Bellini
Chiesa del Gesù Nuovo
Chiesa del Gesù Nuovo
Capella Palatina
Capella Palatina
L'Annunciata (Antonello da Messina)
L'Annunciata (Antonello da Messina)
Selinunte
Selinunte
Valley of Temples
Valley of Temples
Villa Romana
Villa Romana
Stairway of Santa Maria del Monte, Caltagirone
Stairway of Santa Maria del Monte, Caltagirone
View from Ragusa Ibla
View from Ragusa Ibla
Noto Cathedral
Noto Cathedral
Corbels at Noto
Corbels at Noto
Catania Cathedral
Catania Cathedral
Siracusa Cathedral
Siracusa Cathedral
Fish Market at Catania
Fish Market at Catania
Cooking Class
Cooking Class
Etna from Taormina
Etna from Taormina
Norman Castle, Naples
Norman Castle, Naples
Pompeii Street with Vesuvius
Pompeii Street with Vesuvius
Mural, Pompeii
Mural, Pompeii
At Ravello
At Ravello
Positano
Positano
Roman Forum
Roman Forum
The Conversion of Saul (Caravaggio)
The Conversion of Saul (Caravaggio)
Trevi Fountain
Trevi Fountain
Antiquities at the Vatican Museum
Antiquities at the Vatican Museum
 
deandaltontours  | 2011
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