Tour begins at 5:00 PM at the Grand Hotel Wagner. A transfer from the Palermo Airport to Grand Hotel Wagner, located in the city's historic medieval heart, is included. Please join us this evening at Villa Chiaramonte Bordonaro - a historic villa in the center of Palermo, built by the same architect who designed the Teatro Massimo - for a memorable Tauck Exclusive evening offering your first true taste of Sicilian culture and cuisine... featuring a welcome reception followed by a tour of the villa and a welcome dinner hosted by a member of the Bordonaro family.
Monreale & More of Palermo
Start the morning with an overview of Palermo on which you'll see vestiges of the Normans - such as the Palazzo Reale, the palace of the Norman kings - as well as 16th-century Renaissance masterpieces including the Porto Nuova, a triumphal arch constructed in 1535, and the famed Fontana Pretoria. Then head out of the city for an excursion to Monreale, perched high above Sicily's Conca d'Oro (Golden Basin). One of the architectural wonders of the medieval world, the Norman Cathedral of Monreale is the last, and thought by some the most beautiful, Norman church built in Sicily. "Splendid" doesn't do justice to the riches it contains and which you'll see on your visit - such as the mosaics throughout, which gleam with about 2,200 kilos of gold, or the Benedictine cloister courtyard featuring over 220 ornately carved columns. Return to Palermo and join your local guide for a walking tour through Mercado di Capo, one of the city's four major street markets with Arabic origins, then enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. After some free time in Palermo this afternoon, join us for a guided tour of the grand Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele on the Piazza Verdi. Opened in 1897 after more than two decades under construction, it is Italy's largest opera house, and the third-largest in Europe; the final scenes of The Godfather, Part III were shot here. Enjoy an evening on your own in Palermo tonight.
"The Godfather," a wine tasting & more in Corleone
Drive along the Yellow Roads of Sicily past olive, grape and prickly pear groves to Corleone, a name synonymous with the Mafia movie, The Godfather. Your guided visit to CIDMA, the documentation center dedicated to studying the Mafia, sheds light on the Anti-Mafia movement currently underway. Outside of town, the Principe di Corleone winery tempts with a wine tasting and a Sicilian lunch. Arrive at Vedura Golf & Spa Resort, your Rocco Forte Hotel in Sciacca, late afternoon; have dinner at your choice of restaurants at the resort.
A day at leisure in Sciacca
Today, your day is free to enjoy the amenities of your Rocco Forte Hotel, the Verdura Golf & Spa Resort (some at additional cost) - including a 60-meter infinity swimming pool, golf on three Kyle Phillips courses, six clay tennis courts, running trails and world-class spa treatments from The Verdura Spa - as well as more than a mile of beautiful coastline. If you wish, spend the afternoon exploring the town Sciacca, known for its high-quality pottery and ceramics, created by local artisans using traditional techniques and closely guarded secrets passed down through the generations. Join us for dinner this evening at a restaurant right on Sciacca's harbor.
Temples in Agrigento & Baroque Ragusa Ibla
The Valley of the Temples at Agrigento must have been the favorite neighborhood of the gods if the number of temples there is any indication. Explore temples honoring deities the likes of Zeus, Hercules, Concord, Pollux and Castor in this amazing archaeological site with a local guide; see the Tomb of Theron, reputed to be the Greek tyrant of Agrigento, and the Porta Aurea. After lunch featuring views of the temples, your Sicily tour continues on to Ragusa Ibla, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the lower part of the ancient hill town of Ragusa. Situated on a limestone hill and separated from the upper town by a deep ravine, Ragusa Ibla is rich in Baroque architecture, much of it built after an earthquake destroyed a large portion of the town in 1693. With your local guide, see Piazza Odierna, with St. George's Gate and its adjacent gardens, and the Church of San Giueseppe; and visit the 18th-century Baroque Duomo di San Giorgio, sporting massive ornate columns and a Neo-Classical dome completed in 1820. Enjoy dinner at your resort in Ragusa this evening.
Modica chocolate-making & Noto in the Baroque Valley
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the area of Sicily known as the Baroque Valley suffered a cataclysmic earthquake in 1693 that destroyed local villages including Modica and Noto. Not wanting to tempt fate, the residents decided to move the towns to a safer location and rebuilt them in a style that came to be known as Sicilian Baroque, marked by a unique flamboyance and use of elaborate decorative embellishments. This style contributes much to Sicily's architectural character and soul, as you'll discover on visits to both Modica and Noto today. Making chocolate with a recipe and technique that early Spanish explorers learned from the Aztecs is a cultural treasure in Modica; visit a chocolate shop founded in 1880 to see how it's still done in the traditional way. Later, join your Tauck Director for a walking tour of the Sicilian Baroque town of Noto through the Porto Reale and along the Corso Vittorio Emmanuele; see the Basilica di San Salvatore and the Duomo San Corrado. This afternoon, continue on to Siracusa for a two-night stay.
Ancient Siracusa, then & now
Join Tauck's local expert for a visit to the Neapolis Archaeological Park to discover some of the treasures the ancient Greeks - and then the Romans - left behind in Siracusa. Explore the 16,000-seat Greek theatre, one of the largest of its kind in the world and still in use today; and the 3rd-century Roman amphitheatre, once used for the same sort of "entertainment" featured at Rome's Colosseum. At the Orecchio di Dioniso, or Ear of Dionysius, listen carefully to see if you can hear what the tyrant emperor heard as he took advantage of the cave's excellent acoustics to eavesdrop on prisoners. Have lunch at the Palazzo of Barone Pietro di Beneventano, a Baroque townhouse, with a tasting of his family's wines. Enjoy the evening on your own tonight in Siracusa.
Fiery Mt. Etna, a winery tour & Taormina on the sea
Hot-headed Mt. Etna, one of the world's most active volcanoes, made its debut thousands of years ago in the days of Greek mythology. You'll have a chance to see it this morning, hopefully before the clouds roll in! Wine tasting is on the menu during lunch and a tour at a local winery, after which we'll head to seaside Taormina for a two-night stay.
Taormina, a "Patch of Paradise" & the Teatro Greco
It was J. W. Goethe who described lovely Taormina as a "patch of paradise," and the Sicels, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Saracens, Arabs, Normans and Spaniards who chose to live here over the centuries obviously agreed with him - and each left their own stamp on its landscapes and its culture. From its cliff-top perch, the town looks down over two sparkling bays and out at views of the ever-present Mt. Etna as well, making it hard to imagine a more perfect spot. Starting in the town's historic center, a walk through Taormina with a local guide reveals relics of its Greek and Roman past, and includes a stroll along the Corso Umberto; end at the spectacular Teatro Greco, originally built by the Greeks about 3 BC and later remodeled by the Romans. Spend the rest of the day as you please. This evening, please join us for our farewell reception and dinner at your hotel, where views of Taormina's coastline and the sea are a fitting tribute to Tauck's compelling Sicily tours.
Tour ends: Taormina. Fly home anytime. A transfer is included from the NH Collection Taormina to Catania Airport for your flight home; allow three hours for flight check-in.