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Sicily's Ancient Landscapes & Timeless Traditions 2015

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Trip Extensions

Post-trip: Calabria: Southern Italy’s Heartland

Sprawling down rugged mountain slopes to the sea, Calabria has nourished rich cultures in dramatic settings for nearly 3,000 years. From mysterious megaliths pre-dating the Greeks to buffalo farms still making prized cheeses today, explore local gems spanning the millennia. As you hike Raganello Gorge, make local cuisine, and soak in views from the First Pearl of the Amalfi, you’ll find it easy to fall in love with Calabria.

It's Included:
Ferry to Calabria
Accommodations for 3 nights in Monterosso, 2 nights in Civita, 2 nights in Vietri sul Mare
16 meals—7 breakfasts, 4 lunches, and 5 dinners
13 small group activities
Services of a resident, English-speaking OAT Trip Leader
NEW for 2015: Gratuities for local guides, drivers, and luggage porters
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    We depart this morning for Calabria, on the toe of the Italian peninsula, crossing the Strait of Messina by ferry boat. After our ferry arrives in Villa San Giovanni, we travel overland to Reggio di Calabria, the oldest city in the region and Calabria’s most populous. We’ll enjoy a visit to the Bronzes of Riace, two life-size Greek warrior statues dating back to the 5th-century Greek era here but not discovered until 1971. It took a decade to restore them and present them to the public, and we’ll get to see them up close at the Archaeological Museum.

    After time here for lunch on your own, we continue on to Monterosso, our home base for the next two nights. We arrive late this afternoon and settle into our hotel. Tonight, we enjoy dinner together.

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    Monterosso spills from the hillside down to the waters of the sea, a bucolic town where people grow and pick much of their own food, where mealtimes are important parts of communal life, and where the sound of church bells still tells the time. After breakfast this morning, we walk through the village, appreciating not just the charm of the brick and stone houses hugging the steep lanes, but greeting the local people we meet and witnessing their daily routines.

    We’ll have a chance to experience the local lifestyle firsthand this morning as we pick vegetables in a garden (or, depending on season, try our hands at olive-picking or wine-pressing). Then, we’ll enjoy a cooking class followed by lunch together, perhaps more fully appreciating the connection between field and table in this agriculturally-rich region.

    Later today, we’ll have dinner at the Palazzo Massara, whose family members can trace their roots in Monterosso to the 16th century.

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    Today begins with a journey deep in the Calabrian forest to witness a series of eons-old stones as enigmatic and undefined as Stonehenge. These strange megaliths are the handiwork of the Pelasgians, who settled the region several thousand years ago. Then, we’ll continue to Serra San Bruno, a picturesque town founded in the 11th century. We'll learn about the region's centuries-old charcoal-making tradition and enjoy a walking tour of the ancient town. After a picnic lunch at an ancient sanctuary, we return to Monterosso.

    Dinner this evening is at a local restaurant.

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    After breakfast, we depart overland for a visit to the seaside town of Pizzo Calabro. Named after a variation on the word for bird’s beak, Pizzo projects over the sea on a promontory. Home to a 15th-century castle and a 17th century baroque church, Pizzo is nonetheless best known as the birthplace of Tartufo, a popular dessert of ice cream filled with molten chocolate. We'll pause for a visit to Chiesetta di Piedigrotta, an eerie  cave-chapel located just outside town facing the sea.

    After lunch on your own, we'll continue to Civita, where we’ll enjoy the next two nights. Occupying a bluff of volcanic rock on the slopes of Mount Pollino, Civita has survived 2,500 years since it was first recorded by the Etruscans. In the 15th century it became an enclave for Albanian refugees from the Ottoman invasion, and it has retained its heritage ever since, with its Italo-Albanians now recognized as an ethnic minority in Italy. We’ll learn more about this culture in a visit to the Arberesh Museum of traditional Albanian costumes. After checking in to our hotel in Civita, we set off on a hike to the Devil’s Bridge. Soaring 75-feet about the river below, the arch-like Devil’s bridge connects two stone cliffs and affords a bird-eye view of the canyon floor. After our hike, we'll return to the village by 4-wheel-drive vehicles in time for dinner at a local restaurant.

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    After breakfast, we set off on 4-wheel-drive vehicles to explore the scenic landscapes of Monte Pollino. At the village of San Lorenzo Bellizzi, you may wish to join an elective hike in Raganello Gorges, a rocky landscape that is home to eagles, peregrine falcons, kestrels, weasels, and foxes. Then, following lunch at a local trattoria, we continue to Civita. Along the way, we'll stop at Santa Maria delle Armi, an ancient sanctuary complex built into a mountainside.

    This evening, enjoy dinner on your own in Civita.

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    After breakfast, we depart for Vietri sul Mare. Along the way, we'll stop for a visit to a farm that produces buffalo mozzarella. The main highway through this region is lined with domestic water buffalo farms and locals consider the resulting cheese the only true mozzarella. Today, we’ll witness how this local delicacy is made. After a light lunch at the farm, we visit nearby Paestum, enjoying free time to explore this 7th-century BCE Greek outpost on your own. Paestum, in its 2600 years, has experienced great upheaval: it was wrested from Greek control into Roman hands, abandoned during the Middle Ages, and restored after the 19th century, then made familiar to Americans when Allied Forces used the beaches here for the successful World War II invasion which drove back German forces. Today, Paestum is best known for the three Doric temples to Hera and Poseidon which remain here.

    We arrive in Vietri sul Mare (Vietri on the Sea) late in the afternoon. Nicknamed “the first pearl of the Amalfi,” the seaside village is the beginning of the Amalfi Coast road. Known throughout the region for its ceramics, Vietri sul Mar has been turning out vividly-colored housewares since the 15th century, and its bright wares have come to define the decorative aesthetic of the Amalfi region.

    After we’ve settled in at our hotel, we'll hop on a shuttle into the heart of Vietri village. Dinner is on your own tonight.

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    After breakfast, the day is at leisure to explore Vietri sul Mare on your own. Or, you may join an optional tour to Positano and Amalfi. This optional tour begins with a walking tour in Positano, which many consider the most picturesque town along the Amalfi Coast. Then we'll take a boat ride to Amalfi. Lunch is on your own here, and you will have time to take in the town's surroundings of dramatic cliffs and stunning coastal scenery. Please note: Boat ride is weather permitting, and is only available between April and October. During other months, we'll ride to Amalfi by minivan.  

    Tonight we celebrate our Calabria sojourn with a Farewell Dinner together in a local restaurant.

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    After breakfast, transfer overland to the airport in Naples for your flight home.