Port of call & excursions
- Length : 3h30
Gozo, thought by some to be the legendary Calypso’s isle from Homer’s Odyssey, is home to the famous Ġgantija Temples, an incomparably important archaeological site dating to around 3600 to 3200 B.C. The “giant’s tower” at the site is one of the oldest such constructs to be found anywhere in the world.
After visiting this awe inspiring 6-millenniums-old temple, we continue to Victoria, Gozo’s capital. The city is at the geographic center of the island, and it is also its social and commercial center. As we browse Victoria’s market and narrow winding streets we will find everything from delicious fresh produce, cheeses and wines, to antiques, craft goods, fishing nets and knitwear.
Our overview of this remarkable tiny island concludes with a stop at Dwejra, where we will enjoy a panoramic view of Gozo’s inland sea.
- This excursion involves considerable walking over uneven terrain. You should wear comfortable, sturdy shoes. And as always, use protection from the sun.
Valletta Archaeology Museum
- Length : 2h30
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Valletta has a long and varied history, and this excursion is designed to introduce us to the some of its earliest and most intriguing periods.
From the pier, we will board our coach for the brief ride to the historical center of Valletta. Once there, our guide will lead us through this beautiful city to the Archaeological Museum, housed in the Auberge de Provence. The building is an example of fine Baroque architecture, built in 1571 according to the plan of Girolamo Cassar, architect for the Order of St. John. The museum exhibits a spectacular range of artefacts dating back to Malta’s Neolithic period (5000 B.C.) up to the Phoenician period (400 BC). On display are the earliest tools used by the prehistoric people to facilitate their daily tasks and representations of animal and human figures – elements that not only show the great artistic skills of the first dwellers of the island but also give us an insight of their daily lives.
We will have some time at leisure before walking back to meet our coach and return to the ship.
- This tour is mainly a walking tour over flat and cobblestone streets with some steps, covering approximately 3 km (1.8 mile). We recommend you wear comfortable shoes and protect yourself from the sun.
- Length : 3h00
Ortygia, a tiny island just off the coast, is the original center of the ancient city of Syracuse. We meet our guide at the pier and begin our exploration on foot of this tangle of narrow streets that open onto splendid piazzas. We arrive at the Piazza Pancali to discover the 6th century B.C. Temple of Apollo, the oldest Doric temple in Sicily.
The Fountain of Arethusa is one of Ortygia’s most beautiful monuments, reflecting the legend that the nymph Aretusa was turned into a beautiful spring by Artemis to help her escape the pursuit of a crazed lover.
The Piazza del Duomo is absolutely stunning. As the name suggests, this is the site of the Cathedral (Duomo) of Syracuse, a Unesco World Heritage Site, as is the entire city. Originally built in the 5th century B.C. as a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena and later turned into a Christian basilica, it features a Baroque façade, constructed during the restoration following the 1693 earthquake.
- This excursion involves approximately a mile and a quarter of walking over uneven terrain and cobble stones as well as steps. We recommend you wear comfortable walking shoes and protect yourself from the sun. Appropriate dress is requested to enter religious sites (shoulders and knees must be covered).
Village Squares and Wine Tasting
- Length : 3h00
We depart the harbor in our minivan and travel to Qala on the eastern end of this tiny island. The views from various vantage points in Qala – the Village Square, the Belvedere, and St. Mary of the Rocks Chapel – are breathtaking as they look across the narrow passage to Comino Island and to Malta. Legend has it that the church, which faces Comino, was built that way so that parishioners on the smaller island could follow Holy Mass from across the straits when weather was too bad for the priest to visit in person.
We next visit Xewkija, which lies midway between Mgarr Harbor and Victoria. The oldest village on Gozo, Xewkija takes pride in its venerable tradition of worthy craftsman. In particular, the village produces the best Gozitan stone masons and the finest workers in Maltese stone. The present day parish church – as well as the remains of an ancient church – testify to their skill.
Our final stop before returning the pier is at the Tal-Massar Winery just outside the village of Gharb. We will sample some typical Maltese snacks and enjoy locally produced wine as we gaze out over the hills to the sea beyond.
- This excursion involves walking over rough and uneven terrain at the vineyard and some uphill walking. We advise you to wear comfortable walking shoes and protect yourself from the sun.
Archaeological Site and Museum
- Length : 4h00
Colonized by the Greeks in the 8th century B.C., Syracuse became one of the most powerful and prestigious cities of the ancient world, rivaling even Athens. Our exploration of the remains of this flourishing culture begins with a guided tour of the extensive archaeological site, where we visit the Roman Amphitheatre of Augustus, used for fights between gladiators and wild beasts, the Altar of Hieron, constructed in the 2nd century B.C. to celebrate the “Eleutherian Feast,” the Latomie of Paradise, huge caverns once used as prisons, and the Ear of Dionysius, an enormous grotto with extraordinary echo. A highlight is sure to be the 15,000 seat Greek Theater, one of the largest in the Hellenic World, constructed in the 5th century B.C. and successively enlarged.
From the archaeological area we continue to the Paolo Orsi Archaeological Museum, the largest and most complete in Sicily and one of the best collections in all of Europe. It houses materials found in Sicily from prehistoric times through the Romans, but focuses mainly on the civilization of the Greek colonial period.
- This excursion involves approximately one half mile of walking over uneven terrain as well as a few steps. We recommend you wear comfortable walking shoes and protect yourself from the sun.
- Length : 4h00
Noto has origins in the ancient past, having been founded in the 5th century B.C. during the period of Greek colonization, but it was completely destroyed in an earthquake in 1693. The subsequent rebuilding of the city according to 18th-century ideas of architectural design and town planning has made Noto the quintessential example of Sicilian Baroque. The town is built on terraces connected by monumental flights of steps and is filled with churches and palaces with varying degrees of embellishment, but sharing a common architectural theme
We will walk across the Public Gardens, where busts of the artists who contributed to Noto’s urban culture and style are on display. The centrally located Cathedral should be open again after restoration following the earthquake of 1990. And other impressive buildingins abound: the Churches of St. Domenico and of St. Charles (del Colleggio), the Ducezio Palace and Villadorata Palace. Noto was declared a heritage site by UNESCO, and United Nations funds provide financial support for the reconstruction of monuments.
At the end of our tour of this beautiful city, we will stop at Cafè Sicilia, a local bar specializing in gelato and sorbet, where we will sample some of the treats for which Noto is famous – especially a granita with brioche and coffee.
- Restoration works on the monuments of Noto (after damage suffered during the 1990 earthquake) should be completed by the time we arrive, but access to some church interiors may still be restricted.
This excursion involves approximately 1.2 miles of walking mostly over easy terrain, except for steps to enter churches. We recommend you wear comfortable walking shoes. Appropriate dress is recommended to enter religious sites (shoulders and knees must be covered). Because of the steps, this tour is not recommended for guests with limited mobility.70.00 €
Mount Etna and Wine Tasting
- Length : 6h00
Our Wine Spectator local expert, Marco Scapagnini, will meet us at the pier and take us up the winding roads that work their way along the slopes of Mt. Etna, the largest active volcano in Europe. Our first stop will be at Monti Sartorius, a group of small inactive craters that are easy to visit and walk around. The view from here is amazing, looking out to sea and the beaches below.
After taking time to appreciate the power of this site, we continue on to the beautiful Cavanera Winery. The local oenologist will greet us and take us on a tour through the vineyard, explaining how the vines thrive in the volcanic soil and pointing out the very old vines that have survived natural disasters and parasites over the years.
We will visit the cave where Cavanera makes their famous sparkling wines from the local Pino Nero (Nerello Mascalese), before sitting down to lunch in the panoramic veranda. We will feast on specially selected local organic products, Cavanera’s own extra virgin olive oil on warm bread, and a variety of cheeses and local cured meats. We will sample some of the best of Cavanera’s Etna wines, including the critically acclaimed Cavanera Riserva.
- Because this excursion is limited to no more than 30 participants, we strongly suggest pre-booking. Because it can be quite windy on Mt. Etna, we encourage our guests on this excursion to bring a warm sweater or a jacket. Comfortable and sturdy walking shoes are also recommended for the uneven ground around Monti Sartorius.
Mount Etna and Local Pastries
- Length : 5h00
Our visit to Mt. Etna begins with a scenic drive on roads that wind their way up the slopes of this ancient volcano, passing through small towns and villages along the way. Etna is Europe’s largest active volcano, with some slopes soaring above 3,000 meters, to nearly 11,000 feet. The slopes are covered with scores of cones and craters.
After about an hour’s drive, we will arrive at one of these craters, Crateri Silvestri, which is at 1,950 meters (6,400 feet) above sea level. From this vantage point, we can gaze out across the Catania Gulf and survey the woods, orchards and vineyards that stretch out below us. We will have ample time to explore the crater and to take in the stunning views that present themselves in every direction.
Before returning to our ship, we stop in one of the small towns we admired on the way up the mountain to sample the famous local pastries made from the produce of the rich volcanic soil.
- Because it can be quite windy on Mt. Etna, we encourage our guests on this excursion to bring a warm sweater or a jacket. Comfortable and sturdy walking shoes are also recommended for the uneven ground surrounding the crater.
Palermo, Capo Market and Opera House
- Length : 3h30
Our exploration of the heart of this ancient and remarkably diverse city begins with a guided coach tour through crowded, picturesque streets. Everywhere we look, we are confronted with an amalgam of Byzantine, Saracen, and Norman architecture. We pass through the bustling crossroads of Quattro Canti that marks the center of Palermo and drive by the UNESCO recognized Palazzo Reale, originally built by the Arabs and enlarged by the Normans, and which now serves as the seat of Sicilian government. We also view the 12th century Cathedral which houses the tombs of Sicilian Kings together with remains of Santa Rosalia.
We disembark our coach near Porta Carini and continue on foot to the “Capo market.” One of the busiest markets in Palermo, it attracts hundreds of people every day. Vendors loudly trumpet their wares in an effort to capture our attention. Capo is primarily a food market, so we will see a wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables, meat and fish. Street vendors of all sorts will offer us samples.
Our walking tour continues as we make our way to the Opera House of Palermo. The Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele is located in Piazza Verdi and is dedicated to King Vittorio Emanuele II. It is the largest Opera House in Italy, and one of the largest in Europe (third, after the Opéra National de Paris and the K. K. Hof-Opernhaus in Vienna). Our guided tour of this landmark includes the stunning Auditorium, renowned world-wide for its acoustics, as well as several of the more interesting ante rooms – the Foyer, the Royal sitting room and Royal Box, the Pompeian Hall (also called the echo room), and the Coat of Arms Room.
There will be time before returning to the pier for independent exploration of the area around the theater.
- The visits to the market and to the Opera House are on foot, over mostly flat surfaces with some steps at the Opera House. Total walking is about 2/3 of a mile. We recommend sturdy shoes and sun protection.
Capo Market and Cooking School
- Length : 6h00
Our Wine Spectator local guide and driver will meet us at the pier and take is directly to Mercato del Capo. One of the busiest markets in Palermo, it attracts hundreds of people every day. We will be met at the market by the Duccess Nicoletta Palma, who will lead us through the vendors competing for our attention as we purchase the groceries for our lunch. Once we have gathered what we need, we will proceed to the Duchess’s Palazzo, where the Duke, Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi, will welcome everyone to his home. Gioacchino is a direct descendent of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, author of the iconic Sicilian novel, Il Gattopardo. We will have an opportunity to admire the manuscript of this classic work from 1958.
After a brief tour of the Palazzo, we will join Nicoletta in her kitchen and devote ourselves to her "Leopard-style” cooking class. Our preparations and cooking will take about 2 hours, after which we will claim our seats at the table with the Duke and Duchess for a royal lunch that we have assisted preparing and that includes pairings of three wines.
- This excursion is strictly limited to no more than 24 participants (two groups of 12). We suggest you book your space as soon as possible.
Shopping in the market involves about an hour of standing and walking. Wear comfortable shoes and bring protection from the sun.
* Subject to availability.