This 2-week tour includes all the classical sites that would be visited in a 1-week tour, but this itinerary takes a more in-depth look at the history of the island, exploring the unique baroque heritage in southeast Sicily, the Carthaginian strongholds of Marsala and Mozia in the west, and the Aeolian islands, where the oldest traces of Sicilian civilization are found. It's not all museum and archaeological sites though: The tour includes exploration of the endless, crystalline coastlines of Sicily, permitting a day or two of total relaxation.
Days 1 & 2: Palermo & Monreale
The capital of Sicily has been a crossroads for cultures and civilizations for 8 millennia. Start at the Norman Palace (open only Fri-Mon) bright and early to avoid the crowds; make sure to visit the Palatine Chapel to see the formidable mix of eastern and western art, especially the mosaics. Walk along Villa Bonanno to the Cathedral in Corso Vittorio Emanuele, just to admire the exterior; continue along Vittorio Emanuele to the imposing Four Corners. Admire the Tuscan fountain in Piazza Pretoria and, just behind it, take in two splendid Arabo-Norman churches, La Martorana and San Cataldo. Make your way down Corso Vittorio Emanuele again; on the first left after Via Roma you'll stumble upon the raucous Vucciria market. Lunch like a Palermitan would: Standing up, eating food from any of the impromptu fry-up places in the neighborhood (don't ask, just eat). Spend the afternoon taking in the area of the new city, and unwind in the chic pedestrian area of Via Principe di Belmonte.
The following day, spend the morning gaping at the impressive mosaics in the Duomo of Monreale, which lies 15km (12 miles) south of Palermo. Make your way next door to visit the annexed Cloisters, where no two-column capitals are alike. Spend your last evening in Sicily blending in with the locals: Enjoy a meal or a cocktail in Via Principe di Belmonte, the elegant pedestrian area of town. For the truly adventurous, take a walking tour of old Palermo: The floodlit monuments are spectacular.
Day 3: A Side Trip to Cefalù
This splendid Norman gem, about an hour east of Palermo, is a sleepy fishing village for most of the year, but in the summer it comes alive with tourists and hubbub. Arrive in the morning to view the imposing 12th-century cathedral that dominates the town and is adorned on the inside with impressive mosaics, the first commissioned by the Normans in western Sicily. Visit the recently reopened cloisters next to the cathedral, and then make your way down to the sea for lunch. Spend the afternoon wandering the winding cobblestone streets and cool off at the Medieval Wash Basin. End your visit with one of the delectable sweets concocted by Pasticceria Serio, in Via Giglio.
Day 4: Segesta to Erice
Day 4 of the journey brings you to the westernmost reaches of Sicily. As you make your way up to the hilltop village of Erice, take in the stunning views over land and sea as you head to this peaceful oasis far removed from city chaos. Be sure to re-energize at Maria Grammatico's pastry shop, and take some of her divine sweets for the road. Head back down by cable car and make your way to Segesta to view the miraculously well-preserved Doric temple and the still-working Greek theater, with a hillside backdrop stretching out to sea.
Day 5: Trapani to Marsala & Motya
After making your way down from Erice, stop and have a brief look around the center and port area of Trapani, with its distinct African feel. As you head down this Carthaginian territory you'll bypass the centuries-old windmills used for harvesting salt. This is unequivocally wine country, and you'll want to visit one of the two Marsala producers, Florio or Pellegrino. After your visit to the wineries (if you're not too inebriated), head to the jetty to cross the lagoon to the island of Motya, to see Carthaginian life up close and personal.
Day 6: Selinunte
The largest archaeological park in Europe offers a glimpse of the mighty Greek commercial power before it was turned into heaps of rubble. The temples are simply called by letters of the alphabet as they are still being studied and many have been painstakingly restored. Temple E is in particularly good condition and is one of the best examples of Sicilian Doric. Spend the rest of the day on the beach at Marinella, with the temples as your backdrop.
Day 7: Agrigento & the Valley of the Temples
Head east along the scenic coastal route to make your way to the spectacular Valley of the Temples to view the best-preserved group of temples in the world. The Temple of Concord, in near-perfect condition, is the most amazing. Try to see them at night or when they are floodlit; the visual is truly stunning. After visiting the temples, head to the nearby Archaeological Museum to witness some of the most impressive artifacts of the area, especially the telamoni -- the giants who held up the temple of Zeus. Although the city itself offers some fine churches, don't waste too much time visiting there. Overnight in the area.
Day 8: Piazza Armerina & Ragusa
As you trek farther east, make your way inland to visit Piazza Armerina and the marvelous dwelling of Villa Romana del Casale. Discovered by pure chance, it had been underground for centuries, perhaps covered by a mudslide. Besides the trappings of Roman luxury, the main reason to come here is the 3,500 sq m (11,500 sq ft.) of splendid mosaics that depict scenes of everyday life. When you're finished, make your way to something very different: The elegant Ragusa, the southernmost provincial capital in Italy. This baroque gem overlooking the Hyblean Mountains is actually two cities, Ragusa Superiore and the more ancient Ragusa Ibla. After exploring the town, spend the night at one of the fine hotels on the beach, at Marina di Ragusa.
Day 9: Noto & Syracuse
The southeast is famed for its unique baroque architecture, and Noto offers many examples. It has been declared a Unesco World Heritage site for its distinctive urban planning. After wandering around what seems like a throwback to the baronial era of the 18th century, make your way farther east to even more remote times, in Syracuse. It was one of the most powerful colonies of Magna Graecia, and its grand Greek Theater and endless ruins are a testament to its former glory. Have dinner at the delightful Ortygia Island, the old town center, in one of the many eateries in and around the Piazza Duomo, but have a look inside the cathedral first. If time allows, visit Palazzo Bellomo, home to Caravaggio's The Burial of St. Lucy.
Days 10 &11: Mount Etna & Taormina
Make your way north to visit the highest active volcano in Europe for a spectacular blend of fire, ice, and moonlike scenarios. If the weather is good and the volcano inactive, start from the base at Rifugio Sapienza and take the cable car and jeep up to the main crater to witness a thrilling combination of fire, ice, mountains, and sea. (Bring warm clothes for the trip.) Make your way down and continue your trip to Taormina, the island's chicest town. Get there in time for an aperitivo at the Wünderbar in Piazza IX Aprile and feel as if you're living La Dolce Vita. Spend the next morning visiting the majestic Greco-Roman Theater and shopping in the lovely little boutiques -- yes, they're pricey, but it's location, location, location. Spend the afternoon down at the beach at Mazzarò or exploring the first Greek colony in Sicily, at Naxos.
Days 12 & 13: The Aeolian Islands
The earliest traces of Sicilian civilization lie here on these unspoiled, verdant islands. Take an early ferry or hydrofoil from Milazzo and make your first stopover at Vulcano, if you're not put off by the stench of sulphur coming from the nearby mud baths. Hop on the next boat to Lipari and make your base there. Hire a scooter and head to Cava di Pomice, where the waters are emerald green due to the pumice washed up on the shore. Spend the next day island hopping: Either head east to the tiny yet exclusive Panarea and then to romantic Stromboli, or head west to the idyllic Salina, the natural reserve of Filicudi, or the remote Alicudi, where cars are prohibited.
Day 14: Catania
Your last day in Sicily should allow you enough time to visit Sicily's second-largest city. Start in the morning with a granita and brioche and head to the fish market to see what makes the locals tick. Visit the nearby cathedral and pay your respects to Vincenzo Bellini, one of Catania's most famous sons, who is buried here. Next, make your way west along Via Vittorio Emanuele II (walk, don't even think of using a car), to visit the Roman Amphitheater and Odeon; try not to miss the other Roman Theater at Piazza Stesicoro. Have a scrumptious cannolo and bid goodbye to Sicily.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.