Southern Italy & Sicily
Savor the highlights of Sicily then travel to the “boot heel” of Apulia and the breathtaking Amalfi Coast—where each region reflects a unique history, architecture, and cuisine.
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This tour is specially designed for a small group of 16 to 24 Smithsonian travelers and offers outstanding travel value. Prices include airfare, airline taxes, fuel surcharges, and departure fees.
Explore Italy’s southernmost regions—from striking Sicily to the “boot heel” of Apulia and the breathtaking Amalfi coast—where each region reflects a unique history, architecture, and cuisine. Begin with four days in Sicily, staying in lovely Taormina, featuring the renowned Greek Theater, an excursion to Mt. Etna, Agrigento’s “Valley of the Temples,” and lunch at a family-run farm.
Crossing to the mainland, travel to Apulia to visit the town of Lecce with its barocco leccese (ornate sandstone carvings). Discover Alberobello, famous for their 400 trulli (conical houses designated a World Heritage site), and stop at Ostuni, known as the “white town” for its tightly packed whitewashed homes set over the Adriatic sea. In Matera, walk amid ancient troglodyte churches and sassi houses, and stay in a renovated cave dwelling in the historic district. Then spend three full days on the stunning Amalfi coast. Here, you’ll explore fascinating Pompeii, take the famous breathtaking drive along the coastal cliffs from sorrento to Amalfi, and visit the storied isle of Capri, a popular resort since Roman times.
Days 1-2 — Depart U.S. for Taormina, Italy
Depart the U.S. for Taormina, Italy. Upon arrival on Italy’s autonomous island of Sicily transfer to Taormina and the boutique hotel overlooking the Ionian Sea. Gather for a welcome dinner at the hotel. (D)
Day 3 — Taormina
Take a walking tour of this delightful medieval town, including the spectacular ancient Greek theater dating to the 3rd century B.C., the popular 13th-century cathedral, and grand Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. This afternoon is at leisure, perhaps to relax by the hotel pool, visit a lovely Taormina beach, or stroll along Corso Umberto, lined with shops and restaurants. Lunch and dinner are on your own today to enjoy the varied Mediterranean cuisine. (B)
Day 4 — Taormina, Agrigento
On today’s excursion visit the “Valley of the Temples,” the architectural zone of Agrigento, whose Doric temples and sanctuaries date to Greek rule in the 5th century B.C. Known in its heyday as the “most beautiful city of mortals,” Agrigento’s highlight is the stunning, well-preserved Temple of Concordia (c. 430 B.C.). A visit to the museum here lends context to our explorations. Late this afternoon return to the hotel, and enjoy dinner. (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Taormina, Mount Etna
This morning’s tour ventures to the world’s largest active volcano. The ancients believed Mt. Etna to be the forge of Vulcan, god of fire; today, modern-day Sicilians have a very personal relationship with the volcano, which frequently erupts but is seldom destructive. Centuries of lava flows have resulted in a rich, fertile landscape where citrus groves and vineyards thrive. Enjoy a small group highlight: lunch at a family-run working farm amidst acres of lemon and kiwi. After returning to the hotel mid-afternoon, the remainder of the day is at leisure. (B,L)
Day 6 — Matera
Depart Sicily today for the mainland region of Basilicata, a day-long transfer that includes a ferry ride from Sicily to Calabria. Late this afternoon you arrive in Matera, whose historic troglodyte churches and dwellings (Sassi) have been designated a World Heritage site and where the hotel is a renovated cave dwelling in the city’s historic district. (B,D)
Day 7 — Matera
Today explore this city of art and folklore, with its unique ancient urban structure still intact. Home to more than 100 rock churches, Matera resembles ancient Jerusalem and has been used by international film directors as a stand-in for the holy city. Following a guided walking tour, the remainder of the day is at leisure to explore independently before dinner tonight at a local restaurant. (B,D)
Day 8 — Alberobello, Ostuni, Lecce
Depart Matera and stop in Alberobello, whose 400 or so trulli – whitewashed conical houses with grey-stone roofs – rank as a World Heritage site. Take a walking tour along the pristine cobblestone alleys, stepping inside an artisan’s workshop or trulli tipici, a recreation of an inhabited home. After lunch at a local restaurant, continue to Ostuni, the “white town” known as an architectural gem for its tightly packed whitewashed homes high on a hill above the Mediterranean. Arrive in Lecce, capital of Apulia’s southern Lecci province, in time for dinner together at the hotel. (B,L,D)
Day 9 — Lecce
Discover the “Florence of the South,” so named for the unique decorative style for which Lecce is known: barocco leccese, the ornate and intricate sandstone carvings of cherubs and monsters, fruits and flowers that adorn local buildings from top to bottom. See Palazzo Vescovile (c. 1632), the exuberantly decorated church of Santa Croce, and the duomo with its lovely piazza. The remainder of the day is at leisure. Tonight we enjoy a wine tasting and dinner in the gardens of a Lecce palazzo. (B,D)
Day 10 — Lecce and Otranto
Today’s excursion takes you to the beautiful walled town of Otranto, overlooking the Adriatic. On a walking tour here see the imposing 15th-century Aragonese castle with its traditional moat, and the Romanesque cathedral whose impressive wall-to-wall mosaic floor was created in 1166. Continue to the fishing port of Gallipoli, the “Ionian Pearl” perched on a rocky island in the Gulf of Taranto. Return to Lecce mid-afternoon; dinner tonight is on your own. (B, L)
Day 11 — Lecce, Polignano, Sorrento
This morning, depart by coach for Polignano a Mare, a historic coastal town set on limestone cliffs above the Adriatic. After lunch at a trattoria, travel on to Sorrento, overlooking the Bay of Naples. (B,L)
Day 12 — Sorrento, Pompeii
At the evocative World Heritage site of Pompeii, take a special guided tour of the city that faced the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Walk along ancient streets, view the remains of homes and shops, and learn about the ongoing archaeological work. Late this afternoon gather for a hands-on Neopolitan cuisine cooking lesson, followed by dinner to savor the fruits of your labors. (B,D)
Day 13 — Sorrento, Capri
Board a hydrofoil to the storied Isle of Capri, a popular resort since Roman times. Explore cozy Capri town, and visit the terraced Gardens of Augustus with stunning views of the azure sea, then enjoy free time for lunch and to explore on your own before returning to Sorrento early afternoon. The remainder of the day is at leisure. (B)
Day 14 — Sorrento, Amalfi Coast
Embark on a breathtaking drive along the winding, cliff-top Amalfi Coast between Sorrento and Amalfi above the glistening Tyrrhenian Sea – with stops for photos along the way. This afternoon is at leisure. Tonight bid “arrivederci” to Italy and your fellow travelers at a farewell dinner. (B,D)
Day 15 — Depart for the U.S.
This morning, transfer to the Naples airport and connect with your return flight to the U.S. (B)