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Best of Sicily (Off-Season) in 11 Days Tour
Rick Steves' most popular off-season tour immerses you in the culture, cuisine and history of Sicily. On your spring or autumn ramble across the island, your Rick Steves guide will introduce you to the tasty pleasures of local fruits, pastries and traditional cooking, Italy's brightest pottery and boldest wines, Europe's most amazing ancient Greek ruins, the steamy power of Mount Etna, and picture-perfect hilltop villages. Join us for the Best of Sicily (Off-Season) in 11 Days!
You also may be interested in the late spring, summer and fall departures of our Best of Sicily in 11 Days tour.
- A small, friendly group of 24-28 people — half the size of most tour groups
- Full-time services of a professional Rick Steves guide and local experts who will make the fascinating history, art and culture of Sicily come alive for you
- All tours and admissions — at no extra cost — covering at least 18 group sightseeing events • Palermo walking tour • Palazzo Federico tour • Monreale Cathedral tour • Sicilian cooking demonstration • Erice orientation walk • Segesta • Marsala Salt Flats boat cruise (weather permitting) • Valley of the Temples tour • Villa Romana del Casale • Ragusa orientation walk • Sicilian cooking class • Syracuse Ortygia island neighborhood walk • Syracuse Neapolis Archaeological Park tour • Catacombs di San Giovanni • Puppet Theatre performance • Museo dello Sbarco tour (WWII) • Tour of Catania fish market • Wine tasting at Sicilian winery… and more
- All group transportation from Palermo to Catania
- 10 nights accommodations in memorable, centrally-located hotels
- All breakfasts and half your dinners
- All tips for guides and driver
- Free stuff including a Sicily guidebook, Italian phrase book, map, moneybelt and earplugs
- Guaranteed tour price, locked in the moment you make your deposit
- Optional single supplements — this tour has a limited number of private rooms for solo travelers for an additional fee
- Tour alum discount of $50 for each tour you've taken prior to 2015
- 50% discount on a consulting appointment with our in-house experts to assist with your pre- or post-tour travel plans
- Flexibility should you need to transfer, or cancel/interrupt your tour
- Fine print: You are responsible for the cost of your drinks and free-time sightseeing. See our Tour Conditions Agreement for important details regarding everything listed above
Daily Activity Key
- Light = 2-4 miles of mostly level walking throughout the day.
- Moderate = 2-6 miles walking throughout the day with some hills and stairs.
- Strenuous = 2-8 miles walking throughout the day with lots of hills, stairs and uneven terrain.
Day 1: Welcome to Sicily
We'll gather at our hotel in Palermo around 4 p.m. for a welcome meeting. Then we'll begin our Sicilian adventure together by joining a contessa for a personal tour of her family's home, the Palazzo Federico. We'll end our evening getting to know one another at a "Welcome to Sicily" dinner together. Sleep in Palermo (2 nights). No bus. Walking: light.
Day 2: Palermo and Monreale
Let's meet our coach and driver, and head up to the hill-topping town of Monreale, renowned for its Arab-flavored cathedral. We'll tour the cathedral's interior of glittering, golden mosaics as well as the story-telling columns of the cloister. Then we'll return to Palermo, where we'll take a walking tour of Palermo's back streets, churches and colorful Capo street market — all spiced with an evocative whiff of Africa. Then we'll set you free to explore more of this exciting, energetic city, and discover that perfect trattoria for dinner on your own. Bus: 1 hr. Walking: strenuous.
Day 3: Ancient Segesta and Mountaintop Erice
This morning we'll head toward the island's western coast, stopping at the ancient Greek site of Segesta to meander through its magnificent Doric temple and hilltop theatre. Then we'll continue to the enchanting medieval mountaintop town of Erice. Believed by Romans to be the home of Venus, Erice eventually evolved into a center for Christian convents and home to heavenly pastries (which we'll learn about and taste). Then we'll drive down to the bustling port town of Trapani and check into our hotel. After an evening orientation walk, we'll set you free for dinner. Sleep in Trapani (2 nights). Bus: 3 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 4: Salt Harvesting and Seaside Trapani
Today we'll drive down to the Trapani “salt-pans” — a coastal wetland and nature reserve where sea salt has been harvested for nearly 3,000 years. We'll learn about the history and process of salt harvesting as we tour the area by boat. Then we'll have a tasty lunch that includes the region's specialties: sun-dried tomatoes, Castelvetrano olives and Marsala wine. You'll be free to spend the rest of your day exploring the seaside town of Trapani. This evening find that perfect terrace, savor your favorite apertivo, and watch the sun dip below the horizon. Boat: 1 hr. Bus: 2 hrs. Walking: light to strenuous (your choice).
Day 5: Ancient Agrigento and Country Living
This morning we'll take a magical history tour through the ruins of Agrigento, one of the richest of the Greek colonies and a thriving democracy 2,500 years ago. We'll also tour the vast collection of artifacts at Agrigento's Archaeological Museum. This afternoon we'll head to our agriturismo, a tranquil countryside hotel. You'll have plenty of time to soak in the scenery before tonight's hearty seafood dinner together. Sleep near Agrigento (1 night). Bus: 3 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 6: Colorful Mosaics and a Hill Town
The Romans also colonized Sicily, which we'll learn about at today's first destination, the Villa Romana del Casale. Here we'll spend much of our morning surrounded by the world's most rich and colorful collection of Roman mosaics — including the time-bending “bikini girls” mosaic, discovered less than 60 years ago. On the road again, we'll head to the hilltop town of Ragusa. After we check into our hotel, we'll take an orientation walk through Ragusa, where you'll be free for dinner. Sleep in Ragusa (2 nights). Bus: 4 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 7: Charming Ragusa
The day is yours to wander along Ragusa's narrow streets and soak in the simple pace and traditions of everyday Sicilian life. Enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of this delectable hill town. Tonight we'll gather for a Sicilian cooking lesson featuring the region's traditional recipes. No bus. Walking: light to strenuous (your choice).
Day 8: Sicilian Baroque and Ortygia
We'll begin our day with a short drive to Noto, where we'll see a perfect example of Sicilian Baroque on our tour of the Cathedral of St. Nicholas. After free time for lunch, it's on to Syracuse, in ancient times "the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all." This evening we'll take a walk through the city's historic old town on the island of Ortygia, ending with dinner together. Sleep in Syracuse (2 nights). Bus: 3 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 9: Syracuse, Past and Present
This morning we'll experience the roots of modern drama at Syracuse's impressive Neapolis Archaeological Park, where an ancient Greek theatre is carved into the rock. We'll continue our ancient education by learning about the Roman persecution of Christians with a guided tour of the Catacombs di San Giovanni, which are second in size only to those in Rome. The afternoon is yours to wander through Syracuse's delightful jumble of Greek, Roman, Medieval and Baroque layers — or settle on a quiet park bench with a harbor view. This evening we'll meet to enjoy a lively performance of Sicily's traditional puppet theatre, where language is no barrier to entertainment. No bus. Walking: strenuous.
Day 10: War, Wine and Catania
After breakfast, we'll head north to Catania, where we'll tour the Museum of the 1943 Landings in Sicily (Museo dello Sbarco). We'll learn how, nearly a year before D-Day, Allied troops found themselves fighting against — and at the same time liberating — their Italian adversaries. Then, after a tour of Catania's famous fish market, we'll take a drive up the slopes of Mount Etna to a local winery. We'll gather tonight back in Catania for a farewell dinner, to say arrivederci, share travel memories and toast to new friends. Salute! Sleep in Catania (1 night). Bus: 2 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 11: Tour Over After Breakfast
Breakfast is provided, but there are no group activities today. It's a breeze to reach Catania's airport by shuttle bus or taxi. Your guide will help you with any post-tour planning, leaving you well prepared for the road ahead. Grazie e ciao!
Itinerary specifics subject to change.
Our tours are physically active! It’s an essential part of the Rick Steves tour experience. On our Best of Sicily (Off-Season) in 11 Days tour — among other things — you'll need to happily...
- Carry/roll your luggage over uneven pavement (several blocks possible) and up stairways to reach your hotel; then up several flights of stairs to reach your room.
- Be on your feet, walking and standing for up to three hours, indoors and outdoors, in all weather conditions.
- Sleep with street noise and no (or weak) air conditioning.
- After orientation and transportation lessons, be able to navigate towns and cities on your own.
- Scramble around ancient sites with rocky paths and slippery stairs.
We've put together some specific information on what you should know about this tour before you go. You'll also find more general information about "Getting Ready for Your Tour" on our Tour FAQ.
Prior to your tour departure, you will receive detailed directions on how to get from the airport to your first tour hotel, as well as contact information for your first and last hotels in case you wish to book pre- or post-tour hotel accommodations.
Many tour members arrive a day or two before the tour begins — and those who don't, wish they had. This allows you ample time to get over jet lag and make the most of the first few days of the tour.
There is more than one way to get to and from your tour. Meridiana (www.meridiana.it) is the only airline that operates a non-stop flight from the US (JFK) to Palermo. All other flights to Sicily require at least one connection, typically through Rome, Milan, London, Amsterdam or Naples.
Most tour members will arrange to fly into Palermo and out of Catania (“multi-city” on flight booking websites). Booking round-trip to one city will require a connecting flight, a train or bus trip, and possibly additional overnight stay in Sicily.
For information about flying within Europe, ask your travel agent or check Rick's list of European budget airlines.
For information about traveling by train, read Rick's train travel and rail pass tips and decide if your travel plans merit a rail pass.
If you have additional European travel or tour questions, contact the Tour Department at 425-608-4217 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sightseeing On Your Own
If you arrive in Sicily before your tour begins, use your Sicily guidebook to get oriented. Ride the public transportation, try out a few words of Italian, and get over your jet lag with lots of fresh air and exercise.
Here are suggestions for sightseeing in Palermo that we do not do as a group: Cappella Palatina, Teatro Massimo (closed Mondays), Marionette Museum, Museo Archeologico Regionale A. Salinas, Palazzo Abatellis, Capuchin Crypt, Palazzo Mirto.
For advice on what (and what not!) to pack, see Rick's packing tips.