Palermo, Agrigento, Noto, Siracusa and Taormina

Around Sicily, the cradle of Italian civilization, at the discovery of the culture and spirit of this wonderful island


  • Palermo, Greeks, Arabs and Normans mix in a unique style
  • Agrigento & Siracusa, when Greeks ruled Sicily
  • Piazza Armerina, the home of Roman patricians
  • Noto, the triumph of the Baroque
  • Taormina, living in the shade of the Volcano


Accommodations with Continental Breakfast:

  • Days 1 & 2: 3* to 4* Hotel in Palermo city centre
  • Day 3: 3* to 4* Country House in Agrigento area
  • Days 4 & 5: 3* to 4* Hotel in Noto city centre
  • Days 6 & 7: 3* to 5* Hotel in Taormina city centre

Activities - Transfers:

  • Day 1: Full-day private walking tour of Palermo city centre with an Authorised Tourist Guide, including Cappella Palatina, Ballarò market and the Cathedral of Monreale
  • Day 2: Full-day private tour with an Authorised Tourist Guide of Western Sicily: Erice, Trapani and the Salt Mines
  • Day 3: Transfer to Agrigento – 2-hour private guided tour of the Valley of the Temples Archeological Park with an Authorised Tourist Guide - Visit of a wine cellar in Agrigento area with tasting
  • Day 4: Transfer to Piazza Armerina – 2-hour private guided visit of Villa Romana del Casale Archeological Area with an Authorised Tourist Guide- Transfer to Noto
  • Day 5: Full-day private tour of Val di Noto area with an Authorised Tourist Guide: Noto, Ragusa Ibla, Modica
  • Day 6: Transfer to Siracusa - 3-hour private walking tour of Siracusa city centre with an Authorised Tourist Guide - Transfer to Taormina
  • Day 7: Free time in Taormina – 3-hour Sicilian cooking class in Taormina area

Admission Tickets to:

  • Cappella Palatina in Palermo
  • Valley of the Temples Archeological Area in Agrigento
  • Villa Romana del Casale Archeological Area in Piazza Armerina

Optional transfers from and to Airports / Railway Stations

All transfers by private car / minivan

Full assistance 24 hours/day by our Back Office

day 1 - palermo

Benvenuti in Sicilia, welcome to Sicily.

First a Greek and Roman city, then a capital of the Arab world, and later conquered by both the Normans and the Swabians – this is Palermo, a place where preciosities left by the Arab and Norman rules coexist along with the Baroque and Art Nouveau styles of the buildings and monuments, the city streets and markets, gardens and theatres. The influence of Palermo’s enormously multi-ethnic past is visible in its Cathedral, a majestic work begun in the 12th Century and rehashed several times.

Founded on top of a preexisting basilica, the Cathedral was transformed into a mosque by the Moors and subsequently returned to its Christian designation by the Normans. Now supporting the 17th-century dome and featuring a Medieval bell tower, it is adorned with Gothic decorations and holds the relics of Santa Rosalia, the city’s Patron Saint. The tombs of Emperors Roger II and Frederick II are also located here. 

The Norman Palace stands nearby: originally an Arab structure, it has always been the seat of power. It contains the Palatine Chapel, rich in Byzantine-inspired mosaics, a mirable example of how different cultures, religions and way of thinking apparently incompatible can coexist.
The elegant Martorana the Church of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio, with its high, arcaded bell tower, dates back to the Norman epoch; meanwhile, the monumental Pretoria fountain that inhabits the neighbouring homonymous piazza is Baroque. The road that conducts to the Martorana Cathedral crosses Piazza Vigliena, also called the Quattro Canti or “Four Songs,” an intersection embellished by statues and fountains from the 17th Century. On Piazza della Pretoria lies the 17th-Century Palace of the Municipio, with its splendid fountain from the 1500s, composed of 644 marble groups. It is in this district that the streets carry Italian, Arabic and Hebrew names. From here, moreover, one can move down toward the sea, passing by the Vuccirìa, the oldest and most-animated market in the entire city; it is located in Piazza San Domenico, home to the same-named Church, among the most interesting Baroque structures in Palermo. Another building dating back to the Norman era is the deconsecrated Church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti, built on the foundations of an old Mosque, and boasting red domes in oriental style.


In the city’s ancient centre stands an imposing 14th-century construction called the Steri (from the Latin “hosterium”, meaning fortified palace); once a prison and tribunal, today it is the seat of the university rectorate. Nearby are the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli and Palazzo Abatellis, which houses the Regional Gallery, and its paintings and artworks ranging from the Middle Ages to the 1700s.

The more modern section of the city lies closer to the sea. From the neoclassical Teatro Massimo – a temple for opera-goers – visitors will catch a glimpse of the city’s other important theatre, the Politeama Garibaldi. Erected in the mid-1800s, this Theatre is in the Pompeiian style. Not to be left out, the Teatro dei Pupi (a marionette theatre) is just as characteristic and puts on performances featuring Charles the Great and his paladins or courtiers. The street known as Via Libertà, covered by shady trees, carries into a district where 19th-Century and Art Nouveau architecture reign, with the symbolic and splendid square-grid streets that bustle with activity.

Palermo’s surroundings are just as enchanting as the city itself. In particular, Mondello Beach is beloved for its crystal-clear sea, but not only; it also features a very particular type of food vendor not found everywhere: octopus vendors or “polipar”, who sell this delicious seafood to the delight of beach-goers. Just a few miles from Palermo, you will not miss Monreale, located in a panoramic position on the Conca D’Oro. Monreale is one of the most renowned touristic spots of Sicily and all of Italy for its artistic legacy, represented by the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Nuova. The undisputed highlight of Monreale Cathedral is its richly mosaiced interior. Dating from the 12th and 13th centuries, the golden mosaics completely cover the walls of the nave, aisles, transept and apse - amounting to 68,220 square feet in total.

Food in Sicily is excellent and Palermo is no exception: taste it at the markets at Vuccirìa and Ballarò, with panoplies of street food to satisfy the gamut of palates and preferences (for an overview of Sicilian cuisine see the article in our BLOG).

DAY 2 – marsala & erice

The road running along the west coast of Sicily, with its many salt marshes, which have given rise to one of the oldest salt-extracting industries in the world, is famous as “The Salt Road”. Between Trapani and Marsala, the marshes are now protected, in part because of the interesting birdlife, and also as important sites of industrial archaeology.

Castle of Venus

A natural and cultural landscape where the salt draws a fine line joining the land to the sea. A calm sea, closed by islands in a kind of lagoon inhabited by the Phoenicians and the Greeks. The first striking thing is the colours: the yellow of the stones, the blue of the sea, the green of the Mediterranean bush and the white of salt.

Along the way, you will stop at "Stagnone di Marsala", Marsala’s Pond, which includes several salt mines, Isola Lunga and an archipelago of small islets including the nice Mozia. Many salt mines are decommissioned, while in others they still work. The whole salt mines complex, a natural reserve, is a magical place to take photographs. The best time is just before sunset when the flats take on amazing colours.

At 750 meters on sea level, with a historic centre of just 512 inhabitants, Erice is one of the most beautiful villages in Sicily. Known in antiquity as a city of one hundred churches and a hundred convents, it is dominated by the Norman castle, the Castle of Venus, which looks towards Mount Cofano.

day 3 - agrigento

Agrigento’s millenary history, like that of Sicily, has left precious traces that can be admired when visiting the ancient centres of both the Provincial Capital and the towns scattered over the territory.  As in all of Southern Italy, Agrigento knows that among its riches are its typical food and local specialities. It is a land that offers tourists innumerable sights and endless panoramas. In the Valley of the Temples (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) the fascination of ancient history blends with the beauty of nature. 

The sea on one side, the old city-hill on the other, the majestic Doric style temples rising in the centre of it all, and the tones of the “tufo” stone with which they are constructed create a picture-perfect setting. 

The Temple of Concordia is the most well-preserved of the temples, having been transformed into a church. The Temple of Juno still boasts 25 of its original 34 columns to support its structure. Then, the Temple of the Dioscuri is considered the most symbolic temple, while the Temple of Hercules is the oldest of them all. Together with the Temple of Zeus, these five giants dominate the Valley. 

Valley of the temples

Leaving the Valley and heading towards the city, one comes across the remains of the  Hellenistic-Roman Quarter with its houses decorated in beautiful mosaics. The ancient shops, wells, cisterns and the sewer system lend a rather-detailed idea of how the ancient city looked.  Evidence abounds from the Greek era: be sure to see the fascinating objects at the Regional Archaeological Museum; they originate from the ancient area of Akragas. 

Through the Porta di Ponte, you can enter into the ancient quarter of  Agrigento, still conveying the image of a Medieval village, with its narrow roads and steep, winding alleys all converging towards the main road. Stroll through the ancient city and wander to the Cathedral, where a grand stairway leads to the churchyard and bell tower, the construction of which has never been completed. 

The archaeological itinerary continues at Eraclea Minoa, today the ruins of an ancient Greek city located on a gentle slope that seems to fall into the blue sea. The long white beach stretches out from Capo Bianco (White Cape) and arrives at the edges of a magnificent pinewood.

day 4 - Piazza armerina

Here we are in Piazza Armerina where we can admire the splendid polychrome mosaics of the famous Villa Romana del Casale, a World Heritage Site since 1997. This majestic Imperial villa is a magnificent rural abode, fascinating, above all, for its captivating mosaics, considered the most beautiful and best-preserved of their kind.

Dated back to 320-350 A.D., the villa most likely belonged to a member of Rome’s senatorial class, probably a governor of the Eternal City itself (Praefectus Urbi). However, some scholars would maintain that the villa was built and eventually expanded upon the official commission of an Imperial functionary of a rather high order; they have identified this person to be Maximian, a Tetrarch (one of four co-Emperors) of Diocletian. 

Archaeologists undertook an important excavation project in the mid-18th Century, bringing to light more than 10.000 sq. mt. of mosaic flooring – figurative and geometric – along with wall mosaics, columns, statues, capitals and coins. The theme of the mosaics? They are essentially, in part, paeans to the homeowner himself, and they are done, one might add, with a certain profundity and eloquence. Moreover, much of the house exhibits a definite influence from North African art styles, leading diggers and academics to believe that some of the construction workers from the African Continent. In the mosaics, the viewer can detect varying styles and narrative cycles: one is dedicated to mythology and Homeric poems, while another refers to nature and scenes from the Roman aristocracy’s quotidian life.

Mosaics in Piazza Armerina

Today, visitors will find many different sections of the villa open for observation: the spa complex; the porticoed, entryway courtyard and honorary arch; the Vestibule and central, peristyled courtyard; the servants' quarters that include the Piccola Caccia room, the Grande Caccia corridor (spaces that contain small and large hunting scenes, respectively) and the Palestrite room; the northern main apartments with a mosaic of Ulysses and Polyphemus and the room of Amore and Psiche; the southern main apartments with a mosaic of the myth of Arion and the room of Eros and Pan; the Triclinium (formal Roman dining room) and portico; and the Basilica. 

day 5 – VAL di NOTO

In southeastern Sicily, Val di Noto (the Noto Valley) – with its eight gorgeous late-Baroque cities – became one of the Italian UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2002. The eight, Caltagirone, Militello Val di Catania, Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo, Ragusa and Scicli, already existed during the Medieval Age but were rebuilt (in part or entirely) after the catastrophic earthquake of 1693. Having followed the stylistic model predominant during the era, the cities’ architecture, urban plan and decorations constitute the culmination of one of the last periods of Baroque’s flourish in Europe.

Known in antiquity as Ibla, Ragusa features two rather different city centres, one reconstructed from the ground up, in the new style, after the events of 1693, and the other according to its original Medieval look. Used as a location of the extremely popular Police Inspector Montalbano Tv series, Ragusa Ibla’s historical centre is the cradle of Sicilian baroque, with its Cathedral, situated in the beautiful square of the Dome, and the “Giardino Ibleo”.

Of rare beauty, Modica and its old Castle centre are located high on one of the hills running in the Iblei Mountains, while the other, newly-constructed one lies down in the valley. Among the spectacular urban monuments, the Cathedral of San Giorgio and the Church of St. Peter (the “Duomo” of the lower city) certainly deserve a visit. You will not miss a bite of the famous “Cioccolato di Modica”, chocolate obtained directly from cocoa beans with techniques dating back to the 17th century. A delight to the palate!

Ducezio Palace in Noto Valley

Noto is a rare masterpiece and the clearest example of theatrical tastes in 18th-century architecture whose local limestone has been burnt gold by the sun. Noto’s Baroque is, in fact, a game of elegant curves, floral weaves, perspective views, palaces and gardens, capitals and ornaments that adorn the facades of churches and monasteries.

Finally, the last pearl on the string of the Noto Valley's cities is the magnificent Scicli, where churches and patrician villas make for a visibly-striking urban panorama. Specifically, Palazzo Beneventano (especially its glorious facade) is an architectonic and artistic masterpiece.

day 6 - SIRACUSA

Syracuse was defined by Cicero as “the most beautiful city in Magna Graecia.”  He was right, of course. Still today the echoes of its ancient grandeur reverberate from the streets, churches and monuments, corroborating its religious and cultural importance: Syracuse is a destination no traveller should pass up and, with Sicily's Mediterranean climate, can be visited in any season of the year. 

Made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, the city conserves ancient vestiges in every niche and corner, from Classical testimonies to Baroque splendours, all within a landscape of enchanting beauty. The UNESCO Site is constituted by two different areas: the cave necropolis of Pantalica and the historic centre of Syracuse. Both evidence the development and progression of ancient civilizations.

Syracuse Cathedral

Thanks to its enviable geographic position, Syracuse was a crucial crossroads of commercial exchange from when the Greeks settled it. Today it is a living artefact, connoting the customs and traditions of the many Mediterranean populations that passed through and dominated it, from the Byzantines, Bourbons, and Arabs to the Normans and Aragonese. Sùraka, as Syracuse is known in Sicilian dialect (meaning an abundance of water) was one of the principal settlements in Magna Grecia, a place of artistic brilliance and commercial power. It was also one of the most important centres of Christianity during the Middle Ages, and it later saw its Baroque golden age after the earthquake of 1693. The oldest urban nucleus, however, resides on the little island of Ortygia, where we find the Temple of Apollo, the most ancient in Sicily. The remains from the Temple of Athena (5th Century B.C.) were later converted into the Cathedral, while the Temple of Zeus “rui culonne” (two columns), since what is left of the entire structure consists of just two columns. During the 4th century B.C., Syracuse expanded via the residential quarters of Tyche and (the monumental) Neapolis (already existing were Ortygia, Acradina and Epipoli). Traces left by the Roman conquest include the beloved Amphitheatre, while just as magnificent is Castello di Maniace, a Byzantine citadel commissioned by Frederick II of Swabia.
Not far from Syracuse, situated near open quarries is the Cave Necropolis of Pantalica; it is environmental wonder meets archaeological treasure. Pantalica became a settlement on the plateau of the Iblei Mountains for those coastal inhabitants fleeing the Sicels and other Italic populations that landed here in the first half of the 8th Century B.C. (the period to which these scenographic necropolises date).  The complex is made up of approximately 5,000 tombs dug into the rock, along with the Anaktoron (Prince’s Palace) positioned at the top of a hill, a reminder of the grandiose Mycenaean palaces. 

DAY 7 – TAormina

Taormina 'the Mediterranean Pearl', is located on a natural terrace sheer above the sea. The Greek Theatre is one of the most suggestive spots, sited on a fantastic position and dipped into the blooming nature of this land. It is hard to say if the audience, today as well as at that time, attend the performances without sustaining the fascination of the wonderful view that it is possible to admire from the ancient stalls. The view goes straight across the sea and reaches the Calabria coasts, the town of Siracusa and the Etna's peak.

Taormina Greek Theatre

Then, take a walk in the Villa Comunale, offering typical Mediterranean maquis vegetation with a nice view sheer above the sea. 

The coast offers charming sandy beaches lapped by crystal-clear water: the ones of Giardini Naxos and Mazzarò are the most frequented. The beach of Isola Bella, in front of Capo Sant' Andrea, is today a protected natural oasis.  After spending the day at the beach you can go shopping in the workshops on the main street, where you can find everything – from pottery to jewels, from clothes to souvenirs – or you can have a rest, seating at the bar's table taking a lemon slush served with a hot brioche or a typical cassata siciliana. 

The main food is, of course, fish: sardines, swordfish according to the best Sicilian tradition, but also eggplants, ricotta, olives and any good product that grows under the sun of this land. A must-try is the fine DOC wine of Etna and, at the end of the meal, a typical dessert like cannoli with ricotta cheese, Sant'Agata nougat and marzapan.

The tour is over, but the memories of a fantastic journey will accompany you for a lifetime!

Arrivederci for another tour with VITOR, Visit Italy on the Road.