LIBERTYVILLE, Illinois - Few places are as interesting as Sicily, the island that belongs to Italy, but was ruled over the millennia by Phoenicians, Greeks, Arabs, Normans, and Spanish - all of whom left behind customs, cuisine, art, and architecture.
TourCrafters has put together a small-group, escorted, English-speaking tour of the eastern part of Sicily (Sicily Orientia, from US$815) and another of the western portion (Sicily Occidentia, from US$815). These are the only strictly-English-speaking tours in Sicily and both provide insight into the fascinating culture of this island that floats at the toe of Italy's boot.
The land-only eastern tour, which starts in Taormina every Friday, includes two nights' accommodation in the Hotel Villa Diodoro in Taormina; two nights at the Grand Hotel Piazza Borsa in Palermo (both 4-star superior hotels); daily buffet breakfasts; three dinners with wine, water, and coffee; sightseeing with local guides; a professional tour director; and transportation by air-conditioned motorcoach or minivan.
The tour covers the highlights of eastern Sicily: the charming resort town of Taormina and Mount Etna, the largest active volcano in Europe; the ancient city of Siracusa and its Archaeological Park; and the world-famous Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, with its 5th century BC Greek temples. (There's also an optional âGodfatherâ excursion to the villages seen in Coppola's Godfather films.) The tour ends in the exotic city of Palermo.
The western tour, also land-only, starts in Palermo every Monday and includes four nights at the 4-star superior Grand Hotel Piazza Borsa; daily buffet breakfasts; three dinners with wine, water, and coffee; two lunches; a cooking lesson; a wine tasting; a special Mafia lecture in the Corleone area; sightseeing; professional tour director; and air-conditioned transportation.
From Palermo there are excursions to Segesta to see the magnificent Doric temple; to the seaport of Marsala, known for its sweet wines, for a wine tasting; to Monreale to visit the 12th century mosaic-covered Norman cathedral, and to the Corleone area for a cooking lesson and lecture on the Mafia. There's also a comprehensive sightseeing tour of Palermo itself, a city full of character and fascinating architecture.
The per person price for each tour is US$815 double occupancy; US$1,069 single; or US$779 triple. Both tours are 5-days/4 nights, land only and the prices are valid until the middle of November. Prices do not include air fare or arrival and departure transfers, city tax (to be paid in euros directly to the hotels) and tips. (Note that TourCrafters' reservation agents can arrange air transportation.)
For more information, visit www.tourcrafters.it and click âItaly.â For reservations, call 800-482-5995.