Helping you plan your holiday...
Explore stunning Sicily in winter on a relaxing 8-day holiday by rail. Discover Grecian ruins and Italian traditions, explore the charms of Erice and the 'living Nativity' of Custonaci on Christmas Day, and witness the majesty of Mount Etna as we circle the volcano's base on the Circumetnea Train, all during our unforgettable Italian escape.
We meet at the airport today, where we board our flight to Catania in Italy. On arrival, we transfer to our hotel in Palermo, the 4-Star Grand Hotel Federico II.
After breakfast today, we begin our explorations with a guided tour of Palermo. During our introduction to Sicily's capital, we discover both the medieval quarter and the 'new' city, which dates back to the 17th century. With a long history of invasion, Palermo features a number of different architectural styles vying for attention, each revealing a little of the city's past by its age and design. After time to admire Palermo, we continue to nearby Monreale, for a guided tour of this charming hilltop town. Featuring winding lanes and alleys, with fine views out to sea, Monreale is best known for is incredible cathedral, which legend says was inspired by a vision of the Virgin Mary - a point of interest on our tour. We discover the intriguing fusion of Byzantine, Norman and Arabic architectural styles, as well as the lavish interiors, decorated with superb mosaics depicting scenes from Biblical scripture. After our tour, we return to Palermo in time for dinner.
Today is Christmas Eve, and our tour takes us to Agrigento, one of Sicily's oldest towns. Agrigento is famed for its outstanding Valley of the Temples - an incredible complex of Greek Doric structures built in the 5th century BC. On arrival we enjoy a guided tour of the valley, which enjoys UNESCO World Heritage status, and its array of striking remains. Some of the temples are in remarkable condition, and during our tour we see the Temple of the Concord, which is the best preserved Doric temple in the Greek world. After time to enjoy Agrigento, we return to Palermo, where we enjoy a delicious Christmas Eve dinner - a traditional way to celebrate Christmas in Italy.
Today is Christmas Day, and to celebrate, we take a tour of some of Sicily's most famous Christmas displays. Our first stop is Erice, a charming ancient town with medieval walls, perched atop Mount Eryx. Each year in December, the spirit of the season takes over the winding streets and quaint architecture of Erice, transforming the town into a delightful Christmas village, filled with delicate Nativity scenes and a bustling Christmas Market. During our time here, we take in some of the intricate Nativity scenes dotted around the town, before continuing our Christmas celebrations in Custonaci. Custonaci is famed for its 'living Nativity scene', a popular Italian custom where residents or actors take on the roles of traditional figures found in the Nativity story. Known as 'presepi viventi', these special pageants are often on display for several days over the Christmas period, sometimes featuring hints or allusions to local customs in the props or scenery. Custonaci's presepi viventi, housed in a large cavern, is considered one of the best in Sicily, with over 160 costumed participants creating an immersive Nativity - the perfect way to celebrate Christmas. After time to explore this fascinating scene, we return to our hotel for a delicious Christmas Day dinner.
We continue today, on Boxing Day, to Taormina, an ancient mountain-side city which enjoys incredible views of nearby Mount Etna. On arrival into Taormina, we check in to the 4-Star Hotel Villa Diodoro.
Enjoy a day at leisure in Taormina on Day 6.
For our final excursion, we travel to glorious Mount Etna, a true Italian icon. Boasting the title of Europe's largest active volcano, Mount Etna is the highlight of any Sicilian adventure. We approach the awe-inspiring mountain by rail, travelling around the base of the mountain on the Circumetnea Train. The summit is not accessible at this time of year, though we take in the enormity of Etna's imposing form as we travel around the bottom of the volcano, enjoying superb views of the mountain from the train.
Today we bid a fond farewell to Sicily as we board our flight back to London from Catania Airport.
Please note that while every departure of this tour features the same excursions, they may not necessarily be in the order listed above.
Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.
An escorted experience and all travel arrangements
Comfortable accommodation in your destination
Delicious meals included
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
Helping you plan your holiday...