Rick Steves' most exotic tour in Italy will immerse you in the distinctive culture, crafts and history of Sicily. On your eye-opening loop around the island, your Rick Steves guide will introduce you to the hearty welcome and home cooking of a Sicilian family farm, the steamy power of Mount Etna, Italy's brightest pottery and boldest wines, Europe's most amazing Ancient Greek ruins, and slow sunsets from picture-perfect seaside villages. Join us for the Best of Sicily in 10 Days!
You'll get all this!
- An extra-small group, limited to 24-28 people — less than half the size of most tour groups
- Full-time services of a professional Rick Steves guide and local experts who will make the fascinating history, art and culture of Sicily come alive for you
- All tours and admissions — at no extra cost — covering at least 18 group sightseeing events • Palermo walking tour • Puppet Theatre performance • Monreale Cathedral tour • Cefalù orientation walk • Visit to Mount Etna (weather permitting) • Wine tasting at Sicilian winery • Taormina walking tour • Taormina's Teatro Greco tour • Sicilian cooking demonstration • Museo dello Sbarco tour (WWII) • Syracuse Ortygia island neighborhood walk • Syracuse Neapolis Archaeological Park tour • Paolo Orsi Archaeological Museum tour • Caltagirone orientation walk • Maiolica ceramics demonstration • Villa Romana del Casale • Valley of the Temples tour • Theater and Temple at Segesta...and more
- All group transportation from Palermo to Palermo
- 9 nights accommodations in memorable, centrally-located hotels
- All breakfasts and half your dinners
- All tips for guides and driver
- Free stuff including Best of Sicily Sightseeing Guide, Italian phrase book, map, moneybelt and earplugs
- Guaranteed tour price, locked in the moment you make your deposit
- Optional single supplements — this tour has a limited number of private rooms for solo travelers for an additional fee
- Tour alum discount of $50 for each tour you've taken prior to 2013
- 50% discount on a consulting appointment with our in-house experts to assist with your pre- or post-tour travel plans
- Flexibility should you need to transfer, or cancel/interrupt your tour
- Fine print: You are responsible for the cost of your drinks and free-time sightseeing. See our Tour Conditions Agreement for important details regarding everything listed above
- Light = 2-4 miles of mostly level walking throughout the day.
- Moderate = 2-6 miles walking throughout the day with some hills and stairs.
- Strenuous = 2-8 miles walking throughout the day with lots of hills, stairs and uneven terrain.
Day 1: Welcome to Sicily
We'll gather at our hotel in Palermo (with easy, direct shuttle service from the airport) at around 3 p.m. for a get-acquainted session. Then we'll dive into the colorful street life of this energetic and exciting city — all spiced with an evocative whiff of Africa. Prepare to be caught off-guard by its surprises — including tasty ones, as Palermo's restaurants seem to have deliciously rewritten the Italian cookbook. We'll enjoy a performance of Sicily's traditional puppet theatre and end our evening with a "Welcome to Sicily" dinner together. Sleep in Palermo (1 night). No bus. Walking: light.
Day 2: Spicy Palermo and Seaside Cefalù
Ready, set, go! This morning we'll meet a local guide who will give us a personal introduction to Palermo's backstreets, churches and scintillating street markets. After free time for lunch, we'll meet our coach and driver, and head up to the hill-topping town of Monreale, renowned for its Arab-flavored cathedral. With our local guide, we'll tour the cathedral's interior of glittering, golden mosaics. Then we're off to the salty fishing harbor and old town of Cefalù, tucked against a towering cliff, where we'll check into our old town hotel. After some time to relax, we'll take an orientation walk before setting you free for dinner. Sleep in Cefalù (2 nights). Bus: 2 hrs. Walking: strenuous.
Day 3: Free Day to Explore Cefalù
Your day is free to wander through old Cefalù. Treat yourself to some of Sicily's oldest Byzantine art inside the Norman cathedral, scramble up "la Rocca" to admire spectacular views from the cliff-top ruins above the town, or plant yourself on one of Sicily's best beaches. This evening join in the local passeggiata to feel the pulse of Sicilian culture before finding the perfect place to eat your way through a seafood menu. No bus. Walking: light to strenuous (your choice).
Day 4: Mount Etna and Seductive Taormina
Today we'll head toward the island's eastern coast and our destination is the lava-crusted slopes of steamy, 10,000-foot Mount Etna. We'll drive up the mountain (weather permitting) and see for miles and miles as we learn about Etna's geology and its millennia-long impact on the surrounding area. Next we'll visit a winery on the slopes of Mount Etna, where we'll taste some of Sicily's deservedly famous wines and enjoy lunch before heading downhill to Taormina. Your evening is free to find that perfect terrace, savor your favorite apertivo, and watch the sun dip below the horizon. Sleep in Taormina (2 nights). Bus: 4 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 5: Old-World Elegance of Taormina
You are free this morning to luxuriate in this cliff-hanging, old-world resort town. Wander through its elegant gardens, posh cafes and shops, ride a cable car down to the beach or explore the nearby mountain-top village of Castelmola. Any way you slice it, you'll have a ringside seat to savor il dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing), Sicilian style. Later in the afternoon we'll meet an informative local guide for a walking tour of Taormina and its remarkably-situated Ancient Greek theater, still used today for open-air performances. We'll continue into the evening with a cooking demonstration followed by dinner together. No bus. Walking: light to moderate (your choice).
Day 6: WWII and Country Living
We'll begin our day with a short drive to Catania, where we'll tour the museum of the 1943 landings in Sicily (Museo dello Sbarco). We'll learn how, a full year before D-Day, Allied troops found themselves fighting against — and at the same time liberating — their Italian adversaries. On the road again, we'll stop at a local farm to learn about life in rural Sicily, culminating with a midday feast. Then it's on to Syracuse (Siracusa), in ancient times "the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all." This evening we'll take a walk through the city's historic old town on the island of Ortygia. Sleep in Ortygia (2 nights). Bus: 3 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 7: Syracuse, Past and Present
This morning we'll learn about the roots of modern drama at Syracuse's impressive Neapolis Archaeological Park, comparing an Ancient Greek theater to a later Roman amphitheater on the same site. We'll continue our ancient education with a guided tour of Sicily's best archaeological museum, the Paolo Orsi Archaeological Museum. The rest of the day is yours to wander through Syracuse's delightful jumble of Greek, Roman, Medieval and Baroque layers — or settle on a quiet park bench with a harbor view. No bus. Walking: strenuous.
Day 8: Colorful Maiolica and Mosaics
Today we'll drive inland to the pottery-famous hill town of Caltagirone, where we'll learn from a local artisan how the region's colorful Maiolica ceramics are made. Our focus on color continues to the Villa Romana del Casale, where we'll study the world's richest collection of Roman mosaics (including the time-bending "bikini girls" mosaic, discovered in the late 1950s). Then we'll kick back at our countryside hotel. You'll have some time to relax by the pool before we enjoy a hearty dinner together. Sleep in the country near Piazza Armerina (1 night). Bus: 3 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 9: Ancient Agrigento, Greek Temples and Return to Palermo
This morning we'll take a magical history tour through Agrigento's amazing "Valley of the Temples" where the remains of several dramatically-situated Greek temples await your discovery. After lunch, we'll continue our Greek temple education by visiting the magnificent Doric temple and hilltop theater dominating the surrounding countryside at Segesta. In the evening, we'll drive to Palermo and check back into our hotel. We'll gather together tonight for an arrivederci dinner to share travel memories and toast new friends. Salute! Sleep in Palermo (1 night). Bus: 5 hrs. Walking: strenuous.
Day 10: Tour Over After Breakfast
It's a breeze to reach Palermo's airport by direct shuttle bus. Your guide will help you with any post-tour planning, leaving you well prepared for the road ahead. Grazie e ciao!
Itinerary specifics subject to change.
Rick Steves tours are physically active!
This is an integral, essential part of the Rick Steves tour experience. On our Best of Sicily in 10 Days tour — among other things — you'll need to happily...
- Carry/roll your luggage over uneven pavement (several blocks possible) and up stairways to reach your hotel; then up several flights of stairs to reach your room.
- Be on your feet, walking and standing for up to three hours, indoors and outdoors, in all weather conditions.
- Sleep with street noise and no (or weak) air conditioning.
- After orientation and transportation lessons, be able to navigate towns and cities on your own.
- Scramble around ancient sites over worn, slippery steps, dirt paths, broken stones, loose gravel and even climb around a dormant crater!
We've put together some specific information on what you should know about this tour before you go. You'll also find more general information about "Getting Ready for Your Tour" on our Tour FAQ.
Sightseeing On Your Own
If you arrive in Sicily before your tour begins, use your Rick Steves' Best of Sicily Sightseeing Guide to get oriented. Ride the public transportation, try out a few words of Italian, and get over your jet lag with lots of fresh air and exercise.
Here are suggestions for sightseeing in Palermo that we do not do as a group: Cappella Palatina, Teatro Massimo (closed Mondays), Marionette Museum, Museo Archeologico Regionale A. Salinas, Palazzo Abatellis, Cappucchin Crypt, Palazzo Mirto.
Most tour members arrive a day or two before the tour begins — and those who don't, wish they had. This allows you ample time to get over jet lag and make the most of the first few days of the tour.
There is more than one way to get to and from your tour. We recommend talking to your travel agent about "open jaw" airline tickets (flying into and out of different cities). Only one airline, Meridiana, operates a non-stop flight from the US to Palermo (see www.meridiana.it). All other flights will require at least one connection in another European city (Rome, Milan, London, Amsterdam, or Naples).
Flying within Europe can be reasonable. Ask your travel agent or check Rick's list of European budget airlines. For links to helpful rail and air websites, go to www.ricksteves.com/plan/links and look under "Transportation."
If you have extra time and flexibility, you might want to check into a flight into and out of another city and then purchase a flight on a low-cost carrier to/from Palermo. This could save you money, but you will need to spend at least one additional night in Europe in order to make the connection. Along with Ryan Air and Easy Jet, check flights on Meridiana (www.meridiana.it), Wind Jet (www.volawindjet.it), or Blu-Express (www.blu-express.com).
Read Rick's Guide to Eurail Passes and decide if your travel plans merit a railpass (or contact our Rail Department for advice at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425/771-8303 ext. 214).
Prior to your tour departure, you will receive detailed directions on how to get from the airport to your first tour hotel, as well as contact information for your first and last hotels in case you wish to book pre- or post-tour hotel accommodations.
If you need more information about additional European travel or for specific questions about your tour, contact the Tour Department at 425/608-4217 or email email@example.com.
See a chart with monthly rain and temperature information for this tour.
While it is important to pack light, there is one item you may wish to include when packing for this tour. This tour has several opportunities for swimming. You may want to consider a swimsuit and perhaps a lightweight microfiber towel.
For ideas on what to pack, check Rick's Packing List and our Women's Packing List.
Tour Guide Raves
Alfio Di Mauro
"I can't say enough good things about Alfio. I've done many guided trips with great guides, but he was by far the best ever. He made everyone feel that they were an important member of the group and was so gracious and accommodating of individual concerns. His sense of humor and love of Sicily was infectious. He made the trip."
— Madelyn in Portsmouth, NH
"Nina was fantastic! She provided great, interesting commentary throughout the tour. She was very knowledgeable and passionate about Sicily. I loved some of her stories — including her discussion of Italy's politics. She and the folks on the tour truly made the tour for me."
— Norm in Washington, DC
Favorite tour memories from recent alums:
"Many 'wow' moments...spectacular views from high places, in Taormina, Syracuse, the agriturismo farm and Cefalù especially; the Greek theatre in Taormina; and fantastic mosaics at the Roman villa and in Monreale. In Taormina, seeing children at a festival unleash hundreds of balloons into the sky — it was magic. Buying luscious fresh strawberries and cherries from vendors on the street and having them for a picnic later at the farm."
— Joan in Tuscaloosa, AL
"Sicily! What a surprise destination. I knew that I would enjoy it, but it was so much more than I could have imagined. I can't wait to return. First sight at the Temples at Agrigento are a 'wow' plus!"
— Chuck in Marlton, NJ
"La Villa del Casale di Piazza Armerina was unbelievable and had to be the biggest 'WOW' moment!"
— Marian in Dover, DE
To see more comments on Rick Steves' tours, read through our tour member reviews.
Videos & More
This region is rich in history, art and culture. To help you get the most from your trip, we've put together this collection of travel resources from Rick's TV shows, radio interviews and articles, as well as recommended books, films and music.
Rick Steves' TV Clips & Shows
- Spartacus (1960)
- The Godfather: Part II (1974)
- Cinema Paradiso (1990)
- Ciao, Professore! (1994)
- Il Postino (1995)
Rick Steves' Radio Interviews
(For more radio interviews on this region, see Rick's Audio Europe™ files for iPod, PC & MP3.)
Rick Steves Audio Europe™
- Opera: Puccini, Rossini, Verdi, Andrea Bocelli, Enrico Caruso, Luciano Pavarotti, Ezio Pinza, Three Tenors
- Classical: Vivaldi's Four Seasons
- Pop/rock: Dean Martin, Mina, Laura Pausini, Eros Ramazzotti
- Movie Soundtrack: Big Night
Rick Steves' Articles
(For more articles on this region, see Rick's Best Destinations.)
- Italian Neighbors; Italian Education — Tim Parks
- The Italians — Luigi Barzini
- Excellent Cadavers — Alexander Stille
- Midnight in Sicily — Peter Robb
- The Stone Boudoir — Theresa Maggio
- A Soldier of the Great War — Mark Helprin
- A Bell for Adano — John Hersey
- Decameron — Giovanni Boccaccio
- To Each His Own — Leonardo Sciascia
- The Leopard — Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa