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Click 'Select to Compare' to see a side-by-side comparison of up to adventures below—includingactivity level, pricing, traveler excellence rating, trip highlights, and more
Watch a detailed overview of the unique history and cultural riches you’ll uncover on this adventure.
Small Group Adventure
Days in Italy
Sicily: Palermo, Mazara del Vallo, Piazza Armerina, Ragusa, Catania
5 nights from only $1495
5 nights from only $1595
Discover the legendary landmarks you’ll explore and the cultural connections you’ll make in the Mediterranean.
Small Ship Adventure
Days in Sicily
4 nights from only $1595
5 nights from only $945
Small Ship Adventure
Italy: Rome, Pozzuoli, Naples, Sorrento, Paestum, Salerno • Sicily: Aeolian Islands, Strait of Messina, Mount Etna, Noto • Malta: Valletta, Vittoriosa, Hagar Qim, Mdina
5 nights from only $1795
See a detailed overview of the experiences that await when you combine new our eastern and western Italy cruises.
Small Ship Adventure
Italy: Rome, Pozzuoli, Naples, Sorrento, Paestum, Salerno • Sicily: Salina, Strait of Messina, Mount Etna, Taormina • Malta: Valletta, Hagar Qim, Vittoriosa, Mdina • Sicily: Siracusa • Italy: Otranto, Alberobello, Monopoli, Manfredonia, Ortona, Urbino, Ravenna, Venice
6 nights from only $1695
Our Activity Level rating system ranks adventures on a scale of 1 to 5 to help you determine if a trip is right for you. See the descriptions below for more information about the physical requirements associated with each rating.
Activity Level 1:
Travelers should be able to climb 25 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 1-2 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last at least 1-2 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.
Activity Level 2:
Travelers should be able to climb 40 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 2-3 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for at least 2-3 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.
Activity Level 3:
Travelers should be able to climb 60 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 3 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 3 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 5,000 to 7,000 feet.
Activity Level 4:
Travelers should be able to climb 80 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 4 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 7,000 to 9,000 feet.
Activity Level 5:
Travelers should be able to climb 100 or more stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 8 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 10,000 feet or more.
*This information is not available for our trip extensions. You must reserve the main trip to participate on this extension.
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Watch this video showcasing what makes this country so unforgettable
Let chef Joseph DiPerri guide you through preparing traditional pasta Bolognese in this short film.
Watch your fellow travelers favorite films & videos
Mary's Experience in Sicily
Watch as Mary Strow discovers the charms of Sicily—from rolling out a batch of fresh pasta to bonding with her fellow travelers over Italian songs.
Smart Travels with Rudy Maxa: Sicily
Join Emmy award-winning travel expert Rudy Maxa for a tour of Sicily’s timeless treasures.
Produced by Small World Productions
The Real Sicily
Enjoy this heartfelt personal journey from the vibrant streets of Palermo to a tiny Sicilian hill town where change takes centuries.
Produced by Giorgio Litt
Allow travel expert Judith Jones to lead you on a tour through eastern Sicily, where she visits the island's famously raucous open-air markets, sips wine made from grapes grown on the slopes of Mount Etna, and delves into the history and traditions of Sicilian puppet-making.
Produced by Silvia Santamaria and Ian Cross
There are pros and cons to visiting a destination during any time of the year. Find out what you can expect during your ideal travel time, from weather and climate, to holidays, festivals, and more.
Come wintertime in Sicily, the temperatures cool down, the crowds thin out, and many attractions close or hold shorter visiting hours. But while some activities may slow down at this time, others are in full swing. The local opera season runs from November to July—so the winter months are a prime opportunity to watch a classic Italian opera or a newer production at one of Palermo’s or Catania’s famous opera houses, including the Teatro Massimo.
In addition, with its wealth of local produce, Sicily offers bountiful shopping options year-round. But during the winter, the citrus trees grow heavy with fruit, making a trip to the outdoor market for oranges, mandarins, or lemons a worthwhile endeavor. The more adventurous of travelers, however, may prefer to grab a pair of skis to ride down Mt. Etna, Sicily’s active volcano.
In February, the white and pink flowers of Sicily’s almond trees open in full bloom, a joyful sign for all Sicilians that the winter is ending. The finest spring scenes are found in the Valley of the Temples, where a parade through the trees kicks off Agrigento’s Festa del Fiore del Mandorlo in honor of the blooms and the coming spring season. The rest of the 10-day festival features folk dance, music, and other performances.
March and April bring springtime to Sicily, when days grow longer, temperatures warm, and a mix of sunshine and rain showers kick off the growing season. The season’s bounty can be seen throughout the island: In the countryside, colorful wildflowers garnish the hillsides, while in towns and cities Sicily’s legendary outdoor markets serve up wild strawberries and artichokes—perfect for making carciofi ripieni (stuffed artichokes).
Visitors to Sicily in spring will benefit from pleasant exploring weather and fewer crowds—but be aware that not all attractions or even hotels will be open until Easter, which marks the unofficial start of the tourist season.
In devout Sicily, Easter is a week-long affair celebrated con gusto from the capital city of Palermo to tiny fishing villages along the coast. Throughout the Holy Week, colorful—yet somber—processions of heavy wooden floats make their way through cobbled streets and piazzas thronged with the faithful. The festivities culminate on Easter Sunday, a day Sicilians spend at Mass and with their families.
Similar to spring in the states, the prime time for warm weather in Sicily is spring. Strategically avoiding crowds of summer visitors, you’ll arrive in time to witness the blossoming of captivating wildflowers. Given the pleasant weather, walking and hiking the Aeolian Islands—a spectacular archipelago of volcanic islands to Sicily’s north—is a popular activity among visitors.
Should you visit Sicily during May and June, you may witness Matanza. This is arguably the best time of year for fisherman residing in western parts of Sicily. Around this time, Mediterranean Bluefin Tuna swim past the coasts allowing the fisherman to capture them easily. This tradition dates back hundreds of years. Since Sicilians are famous for their fishing skills, a lot of their traditional dishes include fish; make sure to try breaded fried tuna steaks, a local specialty.
Summer in Sicily is a scorcher, with bright, sun-drenched days and temperatures that can soar over 100˚F. To beat the heat, locals and visitors alike flock to the island’s sandy beaches for a cooling dip in the Mediterranean. (As this is Sicily’s peak tourist season, expect to share the sand with plenty of other beachgoers.) At night, take in a concert or play in one of the island’s many open-air Greek amphitheaters—a timeworn tradition stretching back a millennium.
But as temperatures on the island warm up, the pace slows down. Look to locals and Italians on their annual vacation for instruction on how to master “la dolce far niente,” the sweetness of doing nothing.
With pleasant temperatures, warm seas, and no summer crowds to deal with, September, October, and November are great months for exploring Sicily. By late November, both chilly weather and rain start making their way across the island and many seaside communities begin closing up for the oncoming winter months—while opera season gets into full swing in cities like Palermo and Catania.
Along with the colors of fall to enjoy in the varied landscapes of Sicily, it’s also olive harvest time during these months, which varies across the island depending on the altitude at which the olives are grown.
Sicily's unique and diverse island climate and topography means that grape harvest season lasts for up to 100 days—the longest in the world. Don’t miss the opportunity for a pleasant nature hike to observe the hues and changing colors of the island’s rolling vineyards during this special time of year.
Click on map markers below to view information about top Sicily experiences
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*Destinations shown on this map are approximations of exact locations
Sicily's capital, Palermo, is a city vibrating with life and steeped in culture and history. Over its more than 2,700-year history, Palermo has inherited a fusion of traditions from a succession of rulers of Byzantine, Arab, and Norman descent—from maze-like streets and souk-style markets to countless castles and cathedrals whose architectural styles coexist. A visit to Monreale just outside Palermo reveals Norman and Byzantine edifices while a walk through the historic quarter of Kalsa evokes a period of Arab rule. The graffiti-marked walls in prisoner cells at Palazzo Chiaramonte Steri unveil a darker period of history in Palermo, while its modern architecture and wide boulevards demonstrate the innovative spirit that followed Italy’s unification in the 19th century.
With its characteristic blend of Eastern and Western influences, Palermo’s artistic legacy manifests in the architecture of these historic buildings, the sculptures and paintings preserved in its museums, and its musical style. Opera remains a popular source of entertainment in Palermo, which is home to a collection of ornate opera houses. But most notably, it boasts Italy’s largest opera house: Teatro Massimo, which hosted its inaugural performance in 1897.
Then, tucked within the ancient streets, Palermo’s famous outdoor markets buzz with the calls of sellers inviting shoppers into their stalls and residents making their regular visits to peruse the home supplies, local produce, and fresh fish. With some having operated for centuries, these markets form the center of Palermo’s commercial history. But they also prove to be the best place to taste authentic street food, like chickpea fritters or a thin slice of sfincione, or Sicilian pizza.
Agrigento, on the southern coast, is one of Sicily's oldest settlements, dating back to the sixth century BC. Between the clifftop modern city and the sparkling turquoise Mediterranean Sea lies the Valley of the Temples. This UNESCO World Heritage Site puts Sicily's Greek legacy on full display, bringing visitors back into the past as soon as they step through the ancient walls into what was the legendary city of Akragas. The star of the show, the Concordia temple, has remained nearly intact since its construction in 430 BC—its impressive facade may look familiar, as it inspired the UNESCO logo.
Also worth exploring are the smaller temples, whose partially ruined state lends an air of windswept beauty to the site, and the Kolymbetra Garden. This valley was filled with water via a complex tunnel system during the Greek era. In the ninth century, Moorish conquerors turned the valley into a lush garden, and it remains in this state today.
In March, this atmospheric valley hosts a celebration, the Festival of the Flowering Almond Tree. The delicate blooms herald the arrival of spring, and for ten days, partiers welcome warm weather with music, dance, and a parade.
Get to know a young Sicilian shepherd, and discover how he and his family tend to their flock and use a mix of old and new techniques to produce pecorino and ricotta cheese.
The famous Roman orator Cicero called Syracuse (Siracusa) “the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all.” Nestled along Sicily’s Mediterranean southeastern coast, Syracuse was founded in 734 BC by Greek colonists from Corinth and soon developed into one of the wealthiest city-states of the ancient world. In a great military battle in 413 BC, Syracuse held off invading Athenians and continued to flourish until it was conquered by the Romans some two centuries later. Archimedes, the most-famous mathematician and inventor in ancient Greece, was born here in 287 BC—and is said to have ran naked through the city streets shouting “Eureka” upon his discovery of water volume after he stepped into his bath. Modern-day Syracuse is divided into two distinct areas—the mainland and the island of Ortygia (also, Ortigia), the ancient city jutting out into the sea that was first inhabited by the Greeks. An archaeological park on the mainland is home to a remarkably preserved ancient Greek theater where the plays of Aeschylus and Euripides are still performed each summer—just as they were more than 2,000 years ago. With its remarkable Duomo, fine examples of Baroque art and architecture, and dramatic Greek and Roman ruins, Syracuse is still one of the most beautiful Sicilian cities of them all.
Perched on the side of a mountain and overlooking the Ionian Sea, Taormina was once described by Ernest Hemingway as “so pretty it hurts to look.” While this fashionable destination on Sicily’s eastern coast has been attracting travelers for well over a century, Taormina is not just a seaside resort for the rich and famous. Thought to have been first inhabited around 700 BC, Taormina was ruled by a host of people over the centuries, including the Arabs, Normans, Spanish, and of course, the Greeks, who left a remarkable amphitheater here as their legacy. With its breathtaking views of Mount Etna, it is considered the most dramatically situated Greek theater in the world. Built in the third century BC, it was expanded by the Romans, who enlarged the stage and added a partial roof to the structure. While the roof is no longer in existence, the horseshoe-shaped theater continues to host dramatic performances and a variety of international arts and film festivals.
Enjoy a panoramic glance above the Greco-Roman theater of Taormina, Sicily, and its surrounding environs.
While ancient navigators considered it the highest point on Earth, Mount Etna is actually about 10,900 feet high. It is not just the highest volcano in Europe, but one of most active in the entire world. On a clear day, the magnificent silhouette of this imposing volcano situated near the city of Catania can be seen from well over half of Sicily. Living up to its volatile reputation, Etna is in an almost constant state of activity—yet it’s a relatively safe volcano to visit. Eruptions tend more toward plumes of ash and smoke with slow lava flows rather than massive explosions. And since Etna’s volcanic soil is extremely fertile, the mountain’s lower slopes are also home to many picturesque villages, orchards, and vineyards where the area’s renowned DOC wines are produced. Amidst the lush greenery and varied landscapes, Etna’s slopes are also dotted with a variety of caves, craters, and old lava flows that resemble frozen black rivers. As of May 2013, UNESCO recognized Mount Etna as a World Heritage Site, thanks to it being “globally recognized on basis of its notoriety, scientific importance, cultural and educational value, superlative natural phenomena and exceptional aesthetic importance as iconic volcanic site.”
Ragusa is a city with two souls—Ragusa Superiore and Ragusa Ibla, each district set like a crowning jewel on its own hilltop. Ragusa Ibla is the original, a jumble of medieval palaces, churches, and piazzas connected by a warren of stairs and narrow streets. It was nearly leveled in the great earthquake of 1693, and wealthy townspeople rebuilt on an even higher hilltop nearby. Most development over the last few centuries has taken place in the "new" city, Ragusa Superiore, leaving the lower ancient town intact. This well-preserved historic center seems designed for getting lost—though wandering here is a real pleasure. Highlights of exploring Ragusa Ibla include baroque cathedrals, the local wine-flavored gelato, and the Giardini Iblei public garden.
Immerse yourself in Sicily with this selection of articles, recipes, and more
Enjoy the sweet delight of these traditional Sicilian cookies—along with the aroma of cinnamon and fruit in your kitchen.
Although it’s part of the Italian Peninsula, Sicily has a culture all its own—discover what sets the island apart.
Get a sampling of what you can expect to savor in Sicily—from hearty stews to crispy potatoes.
Learn how to make traditional arancini di riso with this recipe.
from Harriet's Corner
In a country renowned for its culinary traditions, no part of Italy rules the dessert quite like Sicily. Influenced by Arab cultures as early as the tenth century, Sicilians are renowned for their sweets, which often incorporate apricots, figs, sugar, citrus, raisins, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon. At no time of year is consuming dessert more popular than Christmas, which makes now a great time to try one of the island’s most iconic treats—cuccidati, fig-stuffed cookies (pronounced goo-ji-data).
1 cup dried figs, chopped6 Tbsp. brandy1 (8-oz.) jar honey1/4 cup raisins1/4 cup dates1/4 cup dried cherries1/4 cup citron or candied pineapple1 cup walnut pieces, toasted1 cup whole, blanched almonds, toasted1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon2 pinches ground cloveRind of 1 lemon (remove white pith)Rind of 1 orange (remove white pith)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour1/3 cup sugar3/4 tsp. baking powder1/2 tsp. salt8 Tbsp. butter, chilled and cut into small pieces3 eggs (1 whisked with 1 tsp. water, to make an egg wash)1/4 cup milk
1 cup confectioners' sugar1/2 tsp. vanilla extract1 to 2 Tbsp. milkColored sprinkles, or small dots
Yield: 5 dozen cookies
by Amanda Read, for O.A.T.
‘To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is to not have seen Italy at all, for in Sicily lies the key to everything.’ —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Italian Journey
Perhaps Goethe was a bit overzealous when he called Sicily the “key to everything” (or maybe he had enjoyed a bit too much Sicilian wine), but he was certainly on to something. Sicily’s natural beauty, culture, and history are outstanding. But Sicily’s doors don’t necessarily swing open to its visitors as easily as its more well-known Italian neighbors to the north. Like a cautious gambler, the island won’t normally reveal its hand easily. If Venice and Rome are like exquisitely made up divas, then Sicily is the naturally gorgeous girl next door who is blissfully unaware of her charms. Those who dare to unlock Sicily’s mysteries will find an authentic, Old-World Italian island full of life and character—a true diamond in the rough.
Situated in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily lies at the tip of the “boot” of the Italian peninsula. Thanks to its fertile volcanic soils and its advantageous position at the crossroads of Europe’s oldest trade routes, Sicily became a desirable catch for endless invaders and occupiers. Everyone wanted her, and the island became the playground for numerous cultures.
The Greeks were the first to be attracted to Sicily’s shores almost 3,000 years ago. Romans, Carthaginians, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, and Spaniards followed—just to name a few. Each of these peoples left their unique mark on Sicily, before being pushed out by the next wave of intruders, resulting in one of the most captivating cultural mélanges in the world. Where else can one see ancient Greek temples, Roman amphitheaters, Norman fortresses, and Baroque cathedrals all in one place?
While the cultural treasures left behind by Sicily’s numerous conquerors were certainly a blessing, almost 3,000 years of foreign domination also took its toll on the island. Plundered and subjugated by so many different powers, Sicily ended up a rather poor and impoverished region. Having been exploited for so long, Sicilians built up a strong sense of kinship among themselves while trying to survive in a cruel world, as well as a deep-rooted mistrust of all sorts of government authority. This is originally how the mafia gained a toehold here. Formed as a secret organization to fight against the rulers who had crushed the country and its people for centuries, it later became something more sinister.
Locals think of themselves as Sicilian first and Italian second; when Sicilians visit the Italian mainland, they are off to “Il Continente.” Although the Strait of Messina separating Sicily from the rest of Italy is only 2.5 miles wide, the cultural gap couldn’t be greater. Sicily seems a world apart.
And speaking about differences: not only does the Sicilian dialect sound distinctly different than those of other parts of Italy, the cuisine here differs even more. The food alone makes a trip here worthwhile. One could consider it the original fusion cuisine—a blend of ingredients from Arab, North African, Greek, Italian, and Spanish traditions to create exquisite and exotic dishes. This diversity makes the Sicilian kitchen the most versatile in the Mediterranean.
Sicily’s rich culinary tradition dates back to when the first Greek colonists arrived here in the eighth century BC. In fact, the very first cookbook in Europe was written in Sicily by the ancient Greek chef Mithoecus. And one of Sicily’s classics, Spaghetti con le Sarde—pasta with sardines, pine nuts, wild fennel, and raisins—is thought to date back to the Arab’s first expedition into Sicily in the year AD 827. The story goes that the army cooks were ordered to forage for food and found sardines at the port, wild fennel from the fields, and raisins drying in the vineyards. Somehow the combination worked.
Perhaps the thing that most distinguishes Sicily from the rest of the country, though, is its people and their unique way of living. Those who enjoy Italy for its warm-hearted people and their joy of life (la dolce vita) will never forget the intensity of the Sicilian experience. It is here where they have truly mastered the sweet art of doing nothing (dolce far niente). Sicily is still authentic, Old World Italy at its best.
by Tom Lepisto
In Italy, antipasti is a variety of tasty tidbits served “before the pasta” in a multi-course meal. And if there’s a spot that’s serving it best, Sicily is a top contender. Here’s what you can look forward to savoring if you find yourself on the island:
Caponata:This classic, stew-like appetizer has a sweet-and-sour flavor, and is made from sautéed eggplant, tomato sauce, Sicilian olives, onions, capers, celery, and sometimes anchovies.
Polpette di melanzane:
Cooked, shredded eggplant is mixed with eggs, then breaded, fried, and rolled into balls. They’re typically served with tomato sauce.
Carciofi ripieni:Whole artichokes are stuffed with sautéed garlic and breadcrumbs prior to being steamed. If you want to mix it up, you can fry the hearts and eat them on the side.
Arancinette:These are a smaller version of arancini (rice balls), blending risotto with pasta sauce or besciamella—the Italian version of béchamel.
Peperoni ripieni:The baked peppers in this colorful dish are stuffed with pine nuts, currants, and cheeses that can include Caciocavallo and grated Pecorino Romano.
Panelle:Though simply seasoned with parsley and salt, the chickpea flour gives these fritters a subtly nutty flavor. (It’s best to eat them while they’re hot.)
Frittata:This omelet-like wonder of layered eggs, cheese, and tomato sauce is often cut into bite-sized squares.
Potato croquettes:Potatoes are a regional staple, and in this dish they’re mashed, pressed into mini logs, breaded with parsley, and fried.
Marinated mushrooms:Portobellos are sliced and flavor-soaked in wine, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, pepper, and bay leaves.
Courtesy of Epicurious
3 cups leftover cooked risotto1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese2 tablespoons heavy cream2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, chives, oregano, or basil1 large egg yolkSalt and freshly ground pepper5 ounces mozzarella or Fontina cheeseAll-purpose flour for dredgingEgg wash: 1 large egg whisked with 2 tablespoons cold milk or water1 cup fresh white bread crumbsVegetable oil for deep-frying2 cups tomato sauce
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 24 hours
Servings: 8 appetizer servings
See the experts make arancini in this film:
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