Italy small group tour
Sicily is an absolutely fascinating place to visit, being a crossroads of civilizations with a range of diverse influences. With our 7 days in Sicily small group tour we provide a well rounded experience covering the diverse aspects that the island offers. Your Sicily Holiday includes wonderful food and wine, including a cooking lesson and winetasting; the lifestyle and culture of the people, with visits to markets and a farm; the art and architecture, seeing several Sicilian baroque towns. And of course the history, with visits to ancient Greek and Roman sites including Segesta and Agrigento. We enjoy long lunches, taking time over the multiple courses to enjoy the atmosphere and to relax.
- Key locations such as Palermo, Agrigento, Siracusa, Taormina, Monreale, Erice, Segesta, Ragusa and Modica
- The tour includes 4 UNESCO World Heritage sites: the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, the late baroque towns of Ragusa and Modica, the Arab-Norman architecture in Palermo, and Mount Etna
- The art and architecture of Sicily, where you find unique fusions of styles. As well as the Arab-Norman architecture and Sicilian baroque, you’ll see everything from Greek temples, Roman theatres through to Byzantine mosaics
- We mix and mingle with the locals going about their normal daily lives, in particular in the markets of Ballarò in Palermo, and in Siracusa. In these places all of your senses are stimulated; curious foods on sale, the aromas of ‘panelle’ frying, the vendors calling and chatting
- Through the week we progressively uncover how the culinary traditions are intrinsically linked with the history of Sicily; Arab couscous, Spanish chocolate, pastries from the island’s convents. We taste it all
- Our tours are a balance between being informative (historical details, examples of the culture and lifestyle) as well as having everything that makes for an enjoyable trip (long lunches in good restaurants, a relaxed pace, free time in places we visit)
- We stay for the week in good 4 star hotels in Palermo, Ragusa and Taormina; always close to the centre of town so you can easily pop out for a gelato in the evening
- Our Small Group Tour has a maximum of 14 people
- You have our tour manager with you throughout the week, available to provide support and assistance when you need it. Many people appreciate having someone to turn to who is familiar with the local area, whether it be for help getting something from a pharmacy / drugstore, or simply where to find the best gelato!
- This is the trip that you’d design for yourself. We are Italy... with pleasure
- Our 7 days in Sicily tour starts in Palermo and finishes in Catania
“I am widely travelled and have never been on a tour before so went with some trepidation.It was the absolute highlight of my travels in Italy and definitely the best food I had the whole time. I cannot recommend Italy with Pleasure more highly don't even think about it just book with them you will not be disappointed I am sure.”
“Our time travelling with ‘Italy with Pleasure’ was our best experience. Believe all that they say in their brochure... family run, hands on and very professional. Their standards are high and they are very responsive to everyone’s needs. They source excellent restaurants... way beyond our experiences with other companies we travelled with. We highly recommend this company, have mentioned it to friends and fellow travellers”
“The itinerary was well organized and done at a comfortable pace: touring in the morning followed by mouth-watering lunch featuring the specialties of the area as well as fine wines of the area. All of the restaurants were excellent as was the food. It was a wonderful week and I will have many fond memories of my stay. This tour is a gem and I highly recommend it!”
“The tour group was quite small, 8 people all delightful. We were driven to some very interesting towns and other sites, where guides introduced us to the art and history... The tour was full but not too intense so we felt we had enough time to enjoyed the excellent food and wine which were highlights of the tour for us. I wholeheartedly recommend this tour.”
“The places that we visited were fascinating and very unique, and the food and wine was delectable. I didn't know what to expect of the trip, but it more than fulfilled any hopes that I had for a great week. Everything was well organised and the atmosphere was friendly and relaxed. I can thoroughly recommend the tour.”
See these and other reviews on TripAdvisor
The hotels we use for this tour are good quality hotels and all are centrally located in Palermo, Ragusa and Taormina. This makes it easy for you to spend time independently discovering these wonderful places. All of the hotels we use are 4 star rated.
In Palermo we stay in either the Hotel Quintocanto or the Eurostars Central Palace. These hotels are both conveniently located right in the centre of Palermo, many of the key areas to see are in your neightbourhood.
In Ragusa we stay in the heart of the baroque historic centre of Ragusa Ibla, amongst the unique Sicilian baroque palazzi. Here we stay in either the San Giorgio Palace Hotel or the Hotel Antico Convento.
In Taormina we stay in the Grand Hotel Miramare or the Excelsior Palace Hotel, both of which boast wonderful views. The hotels are a short stroll from the centre of Taormina.
Welcome to Palermo, with its many layers of civilizations and history. The city today is a vibrant, living testimony to this cultural heritage. Our hotel is located alongside the historic centre of town, and the vibrancy of this diverse city is all around you.
Starting the tour, we first look at a series of sights that provide an insight into both Palermo and Sicily – the Quattro Canti, the fountain Fontana Pretoria, and the exteriors of the Arab-Norman churches of San Cataldo and Martorana.
At this point we team up for the afternoon with a specialist expert who has a depth of knowledge about all things Sicily and Palermo. Together we travel a short distance to Monreale, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Monreale is on the outskirts of Palermo, a 30 minute drive.
We start by visiting the cathedral at Monreale, with incredible golden mosaics. It is said to be one of the finest Norman buildings in the world.
We go on to visit the cloisters at Monreale, a particularly evocative setting lined with marble columns. You’ll be amazed at the detailed carved marble and inlaid stone.
On returning to central Palermo we visit the Oratorio of Santa Cita. In this 'oratorio', a private chapel constructed in the 16th century, you will find sumptuous rococo stucco sculptures decorating the interior. The quality and detail of the sculptural elements are a wonderful surprise to many who visit here. This chapel really is a masterpiece of craftmanship.
After wandering through the Vucciria market area, we view the largest opera house in Italy, the Teatro Massimo (external only).
In the evening we dine together, sharing a meal of Sicilian dishes where we start to discover the unique flavours on offer here: Mediterranean vegetables that combine with Arabic influences to create this unique cuisine; seafood fresh from the Tyrrhenian Sea and distinctive local wines from grape varieties grown only in Sicily.
Dinner (3 courses including wine)
The Quintocanto Hotel Hotel OR the Eurostars Central Palace (both 4 star)
In the morning we go together to walk through the Ballaro markets. These historic markets have formed a part of the fabric of this city for over a thousand years, and still do. Here we experience a fascinating array of sights and sounds – fresh produce from the fertile fields of Sicily, such as the ubiquitous, vibrantly coloured aubergines, as well as some cuts of meat that could be described as ‘challenging’.
We depart for Erice, a charming town on a hilltop overlooking the western coast of Sicily. Erice is a medieval town, with beautiful cobbled lanes. There is a long history here, starting with a population that pre-dated the Greeks. We visit the site of the Temple of Venus, now a Norman castle. The views from this point are stunning, looking out over the Egadi Islands where the traditional tuna fishing grounds are.
For lunch we enjoy the traditional dish for this part of Sicily, which some people are surprised to find out is couscous. This western end of Sicily was most influenced by the Arab rule and for many centuries their own take on couscous has been made here.
We have lunch in Erice, after which we continue on to Segesta, where we have our first glimpse of the monuments that remain from when Sicily was part of Magna Grecia (the greater Greek region). Segesta boasts one of the most intact Greek-era Doric temples anywhere, and an excellent Greek theatre, both from the 5th century B.C. In fact some performances continue to be held in this theatre during the summer.
We return to Palermo in the early evening
Breakfast and Lunch (3 courses including wine)
The Quintocanto Hotel or the Eurostars Central Palace (both 4 star)
Today we depart from Palermo and travel first to Agrigento, with its famous ‘Valley of the Temples’.
This UNESCO World Heritage site features the beautiful Temple of Concordia, one of the most photogenic spots in Sicily. We are shown around by an expert guide, who explains the phases of civilisation here, as well as the current discoveries that are being made.
Strolling through the archaeological area gives a sense of the gravitas of history, as well as a pleasant experience of continued traditions, surrounded by almond groves and olive trees.
For lunch we stop at a farm in the countryside, where we get an opportunity to taste good, wholesome rural Sicilian produce. Much of our lunch is grown right here on the farm. We enjoy a leisurely lunch in the courtyard of the farmhouse.
After lunch we continue on to our hotel in the town of Ragusa, arriving in the early evening.
Meals included:Breakfast and Lunch (2-3 courses including wine)
The San Giorgio Palace Hotel or the Hotel Antico Convento (both 4 star hotels)
On waking in Ragusa, you can’t help but be charmed by the elegant palazzos and the picturesque winding streets.
We drive to the nearby town of Modica. While Modica is another of Sicily’s famed baroque towns, here we also have an ulterior motive, and that is chocolate. Modica is an important centre for chocolate making, and has its own distinctive style known as ‘cioccolato modicano’. This is made using a different production method to regular chocolate, based on Aztec techniques brought in during the period of Spanish rule. We have a tasting where you can appreciate the unique qualities of this chocolate. Later in the morning, we visit the Cava d’Ispica, a site where early civilisations of the area used to inhabit, and we can see many examples of these ancient populations.
We continue on to have lunch just outside Modica.
We work our way through a range of specialities from the Ragusa and Modica area. On our return to Ragusa we spend some time together to look at specific elements of the baroque architecture that are a feature of Ragusa. Ragusa is one of the best examples of the Sicilian baroque style, with ornate edifices and intricate detailing. Some of Sicily’s architectural gems are scattered through Ragusa. The buildings we see in this style were built from 1693 onwards and feature elegant balconies and balustrades. We return to our hotel in the afternoon.
Meals included:Breakfast and Lunch (3 courses including wine)
The San Giorgio Palace Hotel OR the Hotel Antico Convento (both 4 star hotels)
Today we visit Siracusa, a treasure trove of ancient palazzi; a fascinating old centre with many harbourside restaurants where good living comes first.
The old town of Siracusa is the island of Ortigia, the heart of Siracusa, with the remains of the ancient Greek city.
We first walk through the Ortigia markets. Here the particular speciality is seafood, with the fishing fleet heading out from the adjacent port and bringing the fresh catch here each morning – the huge swordfish are an impressive sight.
We visit the Duomo (the main church), elegant and domineering in the beautiful central piazza. This church has an intriguing history, going right back to its origin as the Greek Temple of Athena. We still see the ancient Greek columns forming part of the structure of the current church.
We also see a fine Caravaggio painting, the ‘Burial of Santa Lucia’. This was painted in 1609 by Caravaggio when he spent time here in Siracusa, and depicts the patron saint of the town.
Taking advantage of our coastal location, lunch is in a restaurant that specialises in the seafood of the area. We leave Siracusa in the late afternoon to continue on to Taormina.
Breakfast and Lunch (3 courses including wine)
The Grand Hotel Miramare OR the Hotel Excelsior Palace (both 4 star)
We first visit the ancient theatre in Taormina, built first by the Greeks and enlarged by the Romans. This theatre continues to be a premier location for music and drama performances to this day.
The rest of the morning and lunchtime is free time in Taormina. Visiting Taormina is like visiting an elegant film set, such is the combination of spectacular views (over the sea and Mt Etna), beautiful old buildings, plus a touch of the ancient (both Greek and Roman). We take full advantage of all three aspects (the view, the town, the ancient ruins) as we enjoy our time here.
Located high on a hill, there is time available to take the cable car from Taormina down to the beach below the town, and the island Isola Bella. Around town, as well as the archaeological sites, there are numerous ceramic shops and cafes on the piazza.
In the afternoon we travel to the slopes of Mt Etna, up to a height of around 1900m / 6200 ft. Here you get up close to view some of the craters from relatively recent eruptions (1892 - not too recent to be a worry!). These craters are very accessible so this visit is suitable for all ages.
We go on to taste wines made from Etna’s unique microclimate and lava soils. Wine has been made in Sicily for over 2000 years, and the Etna DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) region is one of the key quality wine areas. The predominant red grape is called Nerello – these wines are reminiscent of pinot noir – and the whites made from Carricante can be excellent.
We continue on to our cooking class, where you take an active part in preparing a complete three course meal. The dishes are typically Sicilian, a cuisine which has developed through the absorption of a myriad of influences through the ages. With today’s focus on Sicilian cooking, we have a local chef unlock some of the secrets and teach us the techniques used here. As well as this, we discuss the importance and provenance of the ingredients and produce used. Then we relax and eat!
We return to Taormina at the end of our evening.
Breakfast and Dinner (3 courses including wine)
The Grand Hotel Miramare OR the Hotel Excelsior Palace (both 4 star)
By now you know the local barista by name - and he knows which coffee you order - but we must say 'arrivederci'.
We organise transport for you to your departure point in Catania and bid you “buon viaggio”.
The tour finishes in Catania at 11 a.m.
Sicily Tour Dates 2022:
23 - 29 May
5 - 11 September
19 - 25 September
3 - 9 October
10 - 16 October
Tour Price: €2400
* Price is denominated in Euros. Prices listed are based on twin share
* Single supplement of €200 for solo travellers
Tour Price Includes:
- All accommodation is included in 4 star hotels with central locations in Palermo, Ragusa and Taormina
- Meals as listed in the itinerary: breakfast every morning, plus a main meal each day of 3-4 courses including wine
- All costs/entry fees for activities listed in the itinerary are included
- All transport during the tour is included. Travel is in our van/minibus with a professional driver
- 'Italy With Pleasure' provides a tour manager for the duration of the trip