Rick Steves’ Best of Sicily (Off-Season) Tour, Day by Day
Rick Steves' most popular off-season tour immerses you in the culture, cuisine, and history of Sicily. On your early spring or late fall 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, picture-perfect hilltop villages…and interesting people!
Ready to be serenaded by Sicily? Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli (our favorite photographer) tagged along on a tour to create this day-by-day slideshow of our 2016 Best of Sicily (Off-Season) in 11 Days tour. Let's go!
Day 1: Welcome to Sicily
We'll gather at our hotel in Palermo at 3 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).
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, blending Byzantine, Arab, Berber Jews, Gothic and Norman tradition, heritage and art. 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 (pictured) 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.
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 (pictured). 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). This afternoon we'll enjoy a tasty lunch that includes the region's specialties: sun-dried tomatoes, Castelvetrano olives, and Marsala wine, before driving to the bustling port town of Trapani and checking into our hotel. After an evening orientation walk, we'll set you free for dinner. Sleep in Trapani (2 nights).
Day 4: Salt Harvesting and Seaside Trapani
Today we'll drive down to the Trapani "salt-pans" (pictured) — a coastal wetland and nature reserve where sea salt has been harvested for nearly 3,000 years. We'll tour the ancient Phoenician island of Mozia and learn about this bygone civilization. Then our guide will explain the history and process of salt harvesting as we tour the area by boat. 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.
Day 5: Ancient Agrigento and Country Living
This morning we'll take a magical history tour through the ruins of Agrigento (pictured), 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 tranquil countryside hotel. You'll have plenty of time to soak in the scenery before tonight's hearty dinner together. Sleep in or near Agrigento (1 night).
Day 6: Roman Mosaics and Ragusa
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. This afternoon we'll enjoy a leisurely lunch in the countryside (pictured). 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).
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.
Day 8: Hill Town Visit and Ortygia
This morning we'll take a drive to your guide's favorite hill town in the Ragusa region. After free time for exploring and 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 a lively performance of Sicily's traditional puppet theatre, where language is no barrier to entertainment. Tonight we'll enjoy dinner together. Sleep in Syracuse (2 nights).
Day 9: Syracuse, Past and Present
This morning we'll learn more about Ortygia and take a closer look at this small fishing island. We'll explore the local market, stroll through centuries in the Cathedral of Syracuse, and marvel at the masterpiece of the Piazza del Duomo. Then 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.
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).
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 are, of course, subject to change. Learn more about our 2016 Best of Sicily (Off-Season) in 11 Days tour