Italy, the Deep South & Sicily Tour

17 days only $6,789 pp twin share

  • Leisurely 2, 3 and 4 night stays
  • Small group size with a maximum of 28 travellers
  • Genuinely inclusive, no additional on tour costs
  • Character hotels in superb locations
  • Designed for Australians & New Zealanders
  • Guaranteed group departures

Tour Overview

This amazing 17 day escorted tour fills a void by plunging deep into the south where Italy intensifies, where the food and wine is richer and more aromatic and the sights so striking and different.

Commencing in Rome and ending in Palermo in Sicily we spend 5 nights in the regions of Puglia and Matera - the heel and ankle of Italy, before crossing to the glorious island of Sicily for a further 11 nights. Where we stay makes so much of a difference. Avoiding the usual run of the mill hotels, we choose to stay in the white washed, ‘Bee Hive’ Trulli cottages in Alberobello, the extraordinary luxurious ‘Sassi’ caves in Matera, Baglio ‘farmhouse’ hotels and delightful villas. Staying 4 nights in the heart of Taormina we experience a cable car ride and 4WD journey to the top of smouldering Mount Etna, before enjoying a lazy lunch in ‘Godfather country’. See the stunning Roman mosaics at Piazza Armerina and in Agrigento we wake up to views across The Valley of the Temples. After a morning in hilltop Erice we enjoy a delightful cruise to Cape San Vito. Add special dinners, wine tastings and a host of unique highlights and extra visits and you will immediately see how Italy’s deep south and Sicily is quite extraordinary. 

 

Please note: This tour is not suitable for anyone with any mobility issues, walking difficulties or limitations

 

Highlights

  • Spend 3 nights in Puglia in the ‘Bee Hive’ Trulli cottages of Alberobello, visit the ‘white city’ of Ostuni, Polignano a Mare, baroque Lecce, sample local wines and indulge in a typical ‘Italian style’ lunch in Monopoli
  • Enjoy a memorable 2 night stay in the beautifully restored ‘Sassi’ caves of ancient Matera and visit the age old  carved rock churches
  • Relax over 4 nights in romantic Taormina and visit Syracuse, take a cable car and 4WD bus to stand at the top of Mount Etna, enjoy lunch in ‘The Godfather Country’
  • See the mosaics in Piazza Armerina, and explore hilltop Enna
  • Spend 2 nights in Agrigento, visit the Valley of the Temples, enjoy a tasting and light lunch at an olive oil farm
  • Spend 3 nights in a converted Baglio farmhouse, explore Sciacca, the ancient city of Erice and Segesta’s romantic temples
  • Enjoy a seafood feast at Vittorio’s restaurant, cruise through the Zingaro marine reserve to San Vito Lo Capo, and enjoy a Baglio wine tasting
  • Stay 1 night in Palermo in a sumptuous Villa and visit the famous Duomo in Monreale 
Message from the Mo

Italy intensifies as you plunge deeper

Travel guru Rick Steves once wrote, “If you like Italy as far south as Rome, go further south. It just gets better. If Italy is getting a little overwhelming by the time you get down to Rome, think twice about going further. Italy intensifies as you plunge deeper.” Rick is so right! Sicily, of course, stands out, having absorbed a myriad of influences from a long history of invaders, empire builders and exotic sea traders. Turn one corner and find a massive Greek Temple or Roman Amphitheatre. Around the next you will find a delightful baroque square or verdant vineyards springing from the volcanic ash of mighty Mount Etna.

Puglia and Matera are just as evocative. The fresh produce is amazing and endless hills of olive groves testify to Puglia’s reputation as the food basket of Italy. When designing the tour I leapt at the opportunity for us to stay in the beautifully converted, white washed, beehive style ‘Trulli’ town houses. And then there is Matera. Italy’s oldest inhabited town where the rock faces are riddled with ancient caves or ‘sassi’. Mel Gibson even filmed ‘the Passion of Christ’ here as many reckon Matera actually looks authentically like Jerusalem would have done 2,000 years ago! Ancient? It has been said, “Matera is the only place in the world where people can boast to be still living in the same houses of their ancestors of 9,000 years ago”. What an experience!

Tour Itinerary

Day 1: Rome

Your tour commences this evening with a welcome drink and dinner in your central Rome hotel. This is an ideal chance to meet, and get to know, your Tour Manager and fellow travellers.
Meals:
D
Hotel:
Hotel Massimo D’Azeglio

Day 2: Alberobello

Driving across the spine of Italy – the Apennine Mountains - we continue deep into the Puglia to the remarkable city of Alberobello where we stay three nights. This is one of the most unusual towns you will ever see. The whole city centre is a mass of whitewashed ‘bee hive’ type houses called ‘Trulli’ which date back hundreds of years. Puglia is known as Italy’s bread basket and is also justifiably famous for its olive oils, wine and local produce. Dinner tonight is included in a local restaurant.
Meals:
B
D
Hotel:
Trulli cottages scattered around town

Day 3: Alberobello

This morning we are joined by a local guide who will take us on a walking tour of this remarkable ‘bee hive’ town. In the afternoon we will enjoy a relaxing tasting of local wines. The rest of your afternoon and evening are at leisure.
Meals:
B

Day 4: Alberobello

Driving down into the Salentine Peninsula - the ‘heel of Italy’ - we spend the morning exploring the city of Lecce on a walking tour with our local guide. Dating back to the early Greek empire, the city boasts numerous baroque monuments and also has a Roman amphitheatre on the central square. Later we visit ‘La Città Bianca’ (the ‘white city’) of Ostuni. Perched on a hill, with views down over the coast, we enjoy time at leisure amongst the winding streets and white washed alleys.
Meals:
B

Day 5: Matera

Passing hamlets and typical Pugliese ‘masserie’, fortified large estate-farms we reach the coastal town of Polignano a Mare. Built directly on the cliffs over the sea, Polignano is famous for its gelato and ice cream parlours and makes a perfect morning stop. Later we continue to the nearby port of Monopoli where we indulge in a fabulous, typical ‘Italian style’ lunch at the family run Osteria Perricci. Crossing to the ‘ankle’ of Italy we reach the extraordinary city of Matera. On arrival we visit the Murgia Timone, a huge rock plateau riddled with ancient man made stone caves or ‘Sassi’, to take in the views directly over the ‘la Gravina’ ravine to the old town. Reputed to be the oldest inhabited settlement in Italy, your view encompasses rock churches and numerous Sassi (including the cave complex hotel we will be staying in) with the more ‘modern’ baroque town on top of the hill. Your next two nights will be memorable!
Meals:
B
L
Hotel:
Le Grotte della Civita

Day 6: Matera

This morning we are joined by a local guide who will show us around this extraordinary town from the ancient rock hewn churches to the baroque city above. We have included entrance to view the rock wall frescoes in the church of Madonna de Idris and San Giovanni in Monterrone. Your afternoon is free to relax and explore. This evening we enjoy dinner tonight in a local trattoria.
Meals:
B
D

Day 7: Taormina

Driving across Calabria and down the toe of Italy we reach the Mediterranean, where we catch the ferry across the Straits of Messina to Sicily. Following the coast we arrive at the stunning town of Taormina where we stay the next four wonderful nights.
Meals:
B
D
Hotel:
The Hotel Excelsior Palace

Day 8: Taormina

A totally free day to relax and explore the boutiques, handicraft shops and restaurants on your doorstep which make Taormina so famous. Make sure you visit the Greek Amphitheatre with its striking views and also wander through Villa Comunale, one of the most beautiful little gardens in all of Sicily.
Meals:
B

Day 9: Taormina

Driving past Catania we reach the city of Syracuse, where we are joined by a local guide. First stop will be at the temples and massive amphitheatre in the 2,500 year old Greek and Roman ruins. We will also visit the overgrown quarries and test the amazing acoustics in the famous ‘Ear of Dionysus’ cavern. Later we cross onto Ortigia Island, the heart of ancient Syracuse, to wander through the delightful backstreets to the breathtaking architecture of the main square, Piazza del Duomo. Enjoy time to find a quiet café or trattoria for a leisurely lunch.
Meals:
B

Day 10: Taormina

What an adventure today! First we drive up the slopes of Mount Etna to Sapienza Refuge, lying at the south of the crater at an elevation of 1910 metres. Here we board a cable car up to a restaurant and museum at 2500 metres where we meet our local guide who will drive us in a large 4WD bus up to the (usually snow covered) viewing crater area at 2920 metres. You will now be standing on the highest active volcano in Europe with views across to the steaming caldera on one side and the Sicilian coastline far below. All around you will see craters, caldera and petrified lava flow. Following this magnificent experience we descend to the village of Forza d’Agro, just north of Taormina. This area was the setting for some scenes from the film ‘The Godfather’, and is the perfect location for another leisurely, typically ‘Italian style’ lunch. The rest of the day and evening is free back in beautiful Taormina.

Meals:
B
L
Mount Etna, Sicily

Mt Etna - some stop far below thinking they are ‘there’. Some take the chairlift up to the snow fields and stop. We go even higher including the guided 4WD bus tour up to where the ‘internally warmed’ earth melts most of the snow, vast horizons unfold and where, at 2900 metres, you will stand facing the steaming caldera. What an experience! What photo opportunities! What memories!

Day 11: Agrigento

Cutting through the heart of Sicily we reach Piazza Armerina where a local guide will take us through the opulent Villa Romana del Casale. UNESCO heritage listed and one of the great sites of Sicily, this massive 1700 year old Villa was covered by a mud slide in the 12th century which beautifully preserved its breathtaking mosaics. Later we visit the historical hilltop city of Enna, before arriving in Agrigento on the south coast, where we stay two nights.
Meals:
B
D
Hotel:
The Colleverde Park Hotel

Day 12: Agrigento

This morning we are joined by a local guide who will take us through the famous UNESCO heritage listed Valley of the Temples. Originally the ancient city of Akragas, and built out of sandstone tufa, the golden amber hue of the giant complex of ruins and temples blend perfectly with the natural surroundings. This afternoon we will drive east to the farm of Mandranova, to learn how they make their olive oil and enjoy an olive oil tasting and light lunch.
Meals:
B
L
D

Day 13: Near Marsala

First stop this morning will be in the fishing port of Sciacca. Encircled by 16th century walls, the fascinating old town is where Arab, Norman and Greek cultures co-existed. We then follow the coast to the beach at Porto Palo where we enjoy a delicious seafood lunch at Vittorio’s restaurant (specially mentioned in the acclaimed BBC2 series ‘Sicily Unpacked’). Later we continue to our hotel inland from Marsala where we stay the next three nights.

Meals:
B
L
D
Hotel:
the Baglio Oneto
Vittorios Restaurant

On Day 13 we visit the fishing port of Sciacca, on Sicily's south coast. Earlier that day restaurant owner Vittorio (known locally as the 'wild boar') will have been down at the fish market selecting seafood and fish for his beachside restaurant down the road in Port Palo. And that's where we go for a leisurely lunch. Featured in the acclaimed BBC2 series ‘Sicily Unpacked’, Michelin master chef Giorgio Locatelli enthuses over Vittorio's simple cooking style - nothing fancy, but so memorable!

Day 14: Near Marsala

This morning we visit the city of Erice. Standing on top of Mount Erice, 750 metres above sea level and overlooking the port of Trapani, the views out to San Vito Lo Capo and the Aegadian Islands are fantastic. Here you will still find the remains of the ancient Phoenician fortifications and in the old city there are still two castles. Pepoli Castle which dates from Saracen times and the Venus Castle built by the Normans. Time to relax and wander through the quaint old alleys and cobble paved streets of the old town, and find a trattoria in a peaceful courtyard to enjoy lunch. In the afternoon en route back to our Baglio we will also make a stop at the Temple ruins at Segesta. This evening before dinner we will enjoy a wine tasting in the lovely old Baglio cantina.
Meals:
B
D

Day 15: Near Marsala

After enjoying free time for your morning coffee at the authentic fishing port of Castellammare del Golfo, we board a boat to enjoy a scenic cruise through the Zingaro marine nature reserve, past Scopello and the faraglioni' rocks to San Vito Lo Capo.
Meals:
B
D

Day 16: Palermo

Arriving in Palermo this morning we are joined by a local guide for a panoramic tour to explore the palaces and squares of this most Sicilian of cities! You will also have time to shop, or sit and enjoy a leisurely lunch. In the afternoon we will visit the wonderful Duomo in nearby Monreale. This extraordinary architectural achievement is a blend of Arabic, Byzantine and Roman styles, with its magnificent mosaics and cloister. Later we arrive at our superb hotel. Tonight we will enjoy our ‘Farewell to Sicily’ dinner.
Meals:
B
D
Hotel:
The Grand Hotel Villa Igiea

Day 17: Palermo

Sadly your tour ends this morning after breakfast.
Meals:
B

Incredible Value Inclusions

  • All the sightseeing, scenic drives and excursions (as per the itinerary)
  • Fully escorted by our experienced Tour Manager
  • Travel in a first class air-conditioned touring coach
  • End of tour tips to Tour Manager and Driver, tips for local guides
  • 16 nights authentic, specially selected hotel accommodation 
  • Hotel porterage (1 bag per person)
  • Breakfast daily  
  • 10 dinners including welcome and farewell dinners, local restaurant dinners in Alberobello and Matera 
  • 3 typically ‘Italian style’ lunches in Monopoli, ‘Godfather Country’ & Vittorio’s at Porto Palo, light lunch at Mandranova Olive Oil farm
  • Local guides – Alberobello, Lecce, Matera, Syracuse, Mt Etna, Piazza Armerina, Agrigento and Palermo
  • Entrances: the rock churches of Madonna de Idris and San Giovanni in Monterrone, Syracuse’s ruins and ‘Ear of Dionysus’, Ortigia Duomo, Villa Romana del Casale in Piazza Armerina, Agrigento’s Valley of the Temples, Segesta historical ruins, Monreale Duomo
  • Experience a cable car and 4WD bus to the top of Mount Etna, a Zingaro cruise to San Vito Lo Capo, shuttle bus to/from Segesta ruins  
  • Welcome drink, wine tastings in Alberobello and in a Sicilian Baglio, olive oil tasting at the Mandranova farm
  • Free WIFI available on most coaches and at hotels

Your Hotels

Trulli Cottages, Alberobello

Trulli Cottages, Alberobello – 3 Nights

Picturesque Trulli dot the Alberobello landscape and provide an amazing unique stay for guests. We have selected to stay in a number of beautifully renovated Trulli set amongst the winding backstreets of this UNESCO heritage listed town. Bursting with character each Trulli is unique and varies in size, shape, layout and decor. No two are the same.

Le Grotte Della Civita, Matera , Le Grotte Della Civita, Matera

Le Grotte Della Civita, Matera – 2 Nights

A hotel experience you will never forget. With rooms set out in a series of ‘Sassi’ or caves, dating back into pre-history, each are beautifully renovated and offer exceptional appeal. Each Sassi is large in size and feature all modern conveniences amongst luxury. Breakfast is served in a converted rock church featuring classical music.

Hotel Excelsior Palace, Taormina

Hotel Excelsior Palace, Taormina – 4 Nights

Perched on a headland and built with a Moorish style, the sweeping views along the Taormina coast from this first class hotel and gardens are spectacular. To one side is the coastline of the Ionian Sea, and on the other you are greeted with panoramic views of Mount Etna and the hillside village of Castelmola.
Colleverde Park Hotel, Agrigento

Colleverde Park Hotel, Agrigento – 2 Nights

Offering spectacular views (as pictured) directly over the Valley of the Temples and the Mediterranean Sea, the Colleverde Park Hotel is located near the city centre of Agrigento. This elegant hotel is set amongst beautiful gardens and offers classic style hotel rooms.
Baglio Oneto, Near Marsala

Baglio Oneto, Near Marsala – 3 Nights

Set on a hill amongst vineyards, with views across to the Egadi Islands, this was originally a feudal dwelling and later a notable farmhouse estate built in the late 18th century. The hotel section has been designed to maintain the architectural integrity of the ancient Baglio. The ‘La Calandra Restaurant’ serves excellent local food accompanied by local wines.
Grand Hotel Villa Igiea, Palermo

Grand Hotel Villa Igiea, Palermo – 1 Night

Offering panoramic views across the Bay of Palermo, the 5 star Grand Hotel Villa Igiea allows you to immerse yourself in Palermo’s rich cultural heritage and absorb in the beauty of Sicily’s coastline. With rooms that feature all the modern conveniences and an authentic dining room and seaside terrace this is the perfect way to end your tour!

Tour Reviews

We had 27 on our tour and never felt crowded on the bus. The quality of the accommodation was excellent overall. I loved the experience of staying in the cave in Matera and had the added thrill of waking up to see "Roman soldiers" donkeys ,camels and a bullock drawn cart just outside .There was a film crew shooting a movie about the life of Christ. The pace of the tour was just right and the Sicilian countryside is stunning and rugged. The food was of a very high standard and there was so much of it.The wine flowed freely too!

I have previously done 5 Trafalgar tours and Albatross Tours is far superior

 

Lona

Tour Rating 5-Star

I am gluten free and the food which was provided for me was excellent. The tour was absolutely brilliant and I will definitely travel with Albatross Tours again.

Pauline

Polignanon a Mare

Tour Rating 5-Star

It was an absolutely fabulous tour. The tour included everything we could have wished for and Gilberto was a wonderful guide/host.  He was not only extremely professional and knowledgeable, outstandingly courteous but also fun to be with.
 
The accommodation overall was excellent and it was a special treat in Alberobello and Matera. The experience of staying in a Trulli cottage and the Sassi caves was a truly unique and a special experience. We loved the pace of the tour with no 'one night stands' and also that the tour was 'active' as we needed to walk off the wonderful food and wine!
 
We are certainly happy to recommend this tour, it exceeded our expectations.
 

Judy & Andy

Tour Rating 5-Star

Overall an excellent tour. The tour highlights were the Trulli and Sassi accommodation. Sicily is extremely different from other areas of Italy and I think Albatross Tours did a magnificent job in highlighting all the areas we visited. The accommodation was excellent and the entire tour was brilliant. The best we have ever experienced!
 

Patricia

Tour Rating 5-Star

We had a wonderful time, guest travelling companions, eye opening and hilarious on occassions. The guide at the Valley of the Temples is a gem! All the places we visited were so interesting, both historically and visually. The underground churches at Matera, Villa Romana, Taormina, Mt Etna and of course, Erice. Erice was so interesting to explore! Of course we were very very spoilt, and fortunate, to be in such a small group. The entire tour from start to finish wsa handled magnificently by Gilberto. He was funny, informative, looked out for everyones welfare, and a gentleman - his blood should be bottled! The dinner at L'Altro restaurant in Alberobello was trully memorable. This is a tour jam packed with sensory stimulation. Well done.. more please!
 

Russell

Tour Rating 4-Star

An excellent itinerary and following immediately after 'The Italian Grande' tour provided a great overview of the entire country. Accommodation, particuarly the Trulli cottages and Sassi stays was outstanding. The days were balanced well with free time and a whole complete rest day mid tour was well timed. Gilberto was warm and friendly company handling any questions and potential difficulties with good humour and discretion. Thank you for a wonderful tour.
 

Jean

Tour Rating 4-Star

Our guide Gilberto was just wonderful! He was always there to help. The accommodation was really great and on the odd occasion that the room did not suit for personal reasons, it was sorted immediately.
The food and wine was over the top. I have been on exclusive small group gourmet tours at prices well in excess of this tour and not experienced the generosity of food and wine we experienced. At one evening dinner we asked for the food to slow down as there was too much! At one lunch we had 10 starters, 4 mains and sweets. We all waddled home!
We had 16 on our tour and that was a great number. Pre-dinner we would all meet at a passengers room for drinkies and nibbles. The tour was very personal and just naturally led to this type of entertainment.
Overall we cannot fault this tour and would highly recommend it to any prospective traveller. We have been travelling for the last 12 years to a large number of destinations with numerous travel companies and we found Albatross Tours to be up there with the very best. To get the accommodation, tour sites, food and wine that Albatross Tours provide you would need to go with a group like Scenic Tours but you would still only go to the same places as every other tour company. That's where Albatross shines. We visited exclusive areas that only small groups can access Albatross deliver what they preach.
 
We would travel again without hesitation with Albatross Tours.
 

Kevin

Tour Rating 5-Star

Dates and Prices

Start Date End Date Twin Share PP Price (AUD) Single Supplement (AUD) Availability
2 Sep 2015 18 Sep 2015 $6,789 $1,629 Space Limited
23 Sep 2015 9 Oct 2015 $6,789 $1,629 Space Available