Treasures of Sicily

We both came away feeling we had had a great vacation.

November 2018 - Ed Foley - Italy

Normally I buy a guide book and read up about the place we are visiting before we go on holiday. Although wife bought me a book I didn't really read it. As a result I arrived in Sicily with little knowledge and the usual preconceptions. Our visit started in Catania. We were met at the airport and herded onto a bus that seemed uncared for, and transported to a hotel that seemed similarly unloved. Neither were dirty or unpleasant, they both just seemed as if their best days were some time in the past. We had a really nice meal that evening and prepared for the tour to start the next day. It began with a walking tour of Catania, which was pleasant enough but seemed much like a number of other Italian towns we had visited. I felt much the same about Siracusa. Even the roman ruins didn't seem exceptional. However we had switched to a much nicer coach and the next morning we traveled to Piazza Armerina and the tour really came alive for both of us. The mosaics of the villa were simply stunning. Our tour guide let us wander around on our own which was absolutely the best decision. The narrow pathways and the excellent signage made trying to conduct a guided tour both unnecessary and irritating. In the afternoon we headed onto the Valle dei Templi. The temples were fascinating but really brought alive by the obvious expertise and enthusiasm of our local guide Enzo. By now I was really beginning to enjoy this trip. The tour of the museum the next morning dented my enthusiasm a bit but we carried on that afternoon to Selinunte, where we were shown around by Giorgio, our tour guide. I was really warming to his informal style and thoroughly enjoyed walking around the ruins. In the afternoon we headed up to Palermo. It is worthwhile saying that by now the hotels had improved considerably and the hotels at Agrigento, Palermo and Naxos were all very comfortable, modern and spacious. Unfortunately our arrival in Palermo coincided with a visit by the Pope, which made walking around the city difficult and a visit to the cathedral impossible. However, for me and my wife this was the highlight of the entire tour. The mosaics in the Norman chapel and churches came as a complete surprise to us both. Again our local guide Elena, did a fantastic job guiding us around the busy streets and highlighting every aspect of the city and its attraction. The following morning we headed towards Monreale where we visited the cathedral and the cloisters, again guided by Giorgio, who seemed to have an interesting anecdote for every nook and cranny of the buildings. At the end of the visit to the cloisters we began heading back towards Catania along the northern coast, stopping at Cefalu for lunch and Messina for the view. We enjoyed wandering around the town of Cefalu and the visit to its duomo. Again we were both impressed by Giorgio's expertise at managing the group and the way he remained interesting and informative about everything we visited and some things we only glimpsed in the distance. I thought he did a great job throughout the entire week. Always entertaining, usually informative but never intrusive. The next day was really the end of the tour. In the morning we visited Etna. The peak was covered in cloud so we didn't go to the top and judging from the comments I don't think we missed a lot. In the afternoon we visited Taomina. This was a lovely note to end on. The visit to the teatro antico was brilliant and we really enjoyed the final aperitivi overlooking the sea. Thank you and Giorgio, Enzo and Elena for a really enjoyable week. We both came away feeling we had had a great vacation.


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