springtime in sicily
March 30-April 10, 2020
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and has a population of approximately five million. It also has a very interesting and extensive railway system with most lines still in use, but several threatened with closure.
Our visit will be in the early spring to take advantage of the pleasant temperatures at that time of year. Sicily has seen a variety of different cultures, including the original Italic people, the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Saracens, Normans, Spaniards and French, each contributing to the island’s culture, particularly in the areas of cuisine and architecture.
Our tour of Sicily travels over almost every currently active railway line on the island, both standard and narrow gauge, with time to ride the new tramway systems in Messina and Palermo and visit the island’s railway museums.
~ Beautiful scenery
~ Best time to visit the island for mild temperatures
~ Off train activities to see ancient and natural wonders
~ Five nights in Palermo and six nights in Catania
~ Good quality rail system
~ Several special charter trains
Chance to travel on the whole rail system if you choose
Day 1 Monday March 30: (D)
Arrive in Catania, Sicily. Meet group and transfer to our hotel in Palermo.
Day 2 Tuesday March 31: (B)
We board our tour coach for a guided tour of Palermo in the morning and then Mondelo beach and Monreale in the afternoon. Palermo millenary history has given it a great artistic and architectural heritage ranging from the remains of the Punic walls to the Art Nouveau villas, moving from residences in Arab-Norman style with Baroque churches and Neoclassical theatres. Mondelo beach is a famous seaside resort and very crowded in summer, but fortunately not in April, with its liberty style villas and a wonderful landscape around. The Cathedral of Monreale, dedicated to Santa Maria Nuova, was built in 1174 and is one of the greatest extant examples of Norman architecture. It is a national Monument of Italy and one of the most important attractions of Sicily.
Day 3 Wednesday April 1: (B)
Today we will take FS Trenitalia service trains on a return trip to Messina, covering both the new faster, direct line between Barcelona and Patty on an InterCity service (planned departure 10.05) and returning via the old line via Falcone on local, Regional services. Messina is located near the northeast corner of Sicily, at the Strait of Messina, just opposite Villa San Giovanni on the Mainland. We should have time in Messina to visit the 5 mile long light rail system (Tranvia di Messina), opened in 2003 and linking the central railway station to the city centre and harbour area, and have time to visit the local FS depot. Arrival back in Palermo should be at 7:30pm.
Day 4 Thursday April 2: (B)
Today, we have the opportunity to explore the western side of Sicily as we travel to Trapani, stopping on the way in Segesta to visit the Greek Temple, the best preserved in Sicily, and in Erice, a famous touristic place, the old town located on a 750 meter hill, weather permitting, we will reach the summit of Erice by cable car with a beautiful panoramic view of Trapani and the Egady Islands. Trapani sits on a low-lying promontory jutting out into the Mediterranean Sea in front of the Egady Islands. Much of Trapani’s economy still depends on the sea; fishing and canning are the main local industries. The nearby coast is lined with numerous salt-pans. Expensive coral is also an important export as is Marsala wine. From Trapani we return by train to Palermo.
Day 5 Friday April 3: (B)
Today we take an FS Trenitalia service train from Palermo Centrale at 8.41am to Agrigento, located two hours away on the southern coast of the island. For the culture option, we will have a guided visit to the Valley of the Temples, one of the most outstanding examples of Greater Greece art and architecture, being one of the main attractions of Sicily as well as a national monument of Italy. The area was included in the Unesco Heritatge Site in 1997 and the valley includes remains of seven temples, all in Doric style. For rail enthusiasts, we board a special FS train at Agrigento Centrale, destined for a return trip over the branch from Agrigento Bassa to Porto Empedocle Sucursale (last mile and terminal station reopened in 2016 after 38 years), a line with no regular passenger service. Using FS service trains, the whole group returns to Palermo where there is the possibility to travel on the new Palermo tramway lines before returning to the hotel.
Day 6 Saturday April 4: (B)
This morning we travel by train across Sicily from the Tyrrhenian Sea to the Ionian Sea through the mountainous interior of the island. Departing Palermo at 9.38am, we travel on the line through Roccapalumba, Caltanissetta and Enna to arrive in Catania in time for lunch at 12.25pm where we will stay in a centrally located 4 star hotel for 6 nights. Catania is located on the east coast of the island, at the foot of the active Etna Volcano. Catania has had a long and eventful history, having been founded in the 8th century BC. In the 14th century and the Renaissance. Catania was one of Italy’s most important and flourishing cultural, artistic and political centers, including the opening in 1434 of the first university in Sicily. Today Catania is one of the main economic, tourist and educational centers in the island, being an important hub of the technological industry, thus gaining the nickname of the “European Silicon Valley”. In the afternoon we will have a guided tour of Catania, Acicastello and Acitrezza by tourist open bus.
Day 7 Sunday April 5: (B)
Our charter bus takes us to visit the Roman Villa del Casale, famous for its splendid mosaics, located near the town of Piazza Armerina. After a lunch break our coach take us to Enna, where we visit the Castello di Lombardia and, on the way, back to Catania there is a stop at Villarosa station, in order to see the collected railway items in the Treno Museo and to visit the Folk Museum at Villapriolo village.
Day 8 Monday April 6: (B)
Today our charter bus takes us to the hilltop town Taormina. The town is known for the Teatro Antico di Taormina, an ancient Greco-Roman theatre still used today. Near the theatre, cliffs drop to the sea forming coves with sandy beaches. We will have a guided visit of the city and the famous Greek theatre. After our lunch break we continue our trip to Messina for a short visit to Messina Marittima Ferry station and return to Catania with a regional train.
Day 9 Tuesday April 7: (B)
Today we will enjoy a whole-day guided tour of Syracuse, which is located in the south eastern corner of the island of Sicily on the Ionian sea. The city is notable for its rich Greek history, amphitheatres, architecture and as the birthplace of the pre-eminent mathematician and engineer Archimedes. This 2,700 year-old city played a key role in ancient times, when it was one of the major powers of the Mediterranean world.
Day 10 Wednesday April 8:(B)
Today we board our FCE special train with the 1937 Fiat railcar Aln 56 from Catania to Riposto. The Ferrovia Circumetnea (FCCE) is a 950 mm (3ft 1 in) narrow-gauge railway line constructed between 1889 and 1895 and now is the only one remaining of the narrow-gauge network. As the name suggest, the line (69 mile length) follows a route which almost encircles the Etna Volcano. From its terminal in Catania the line starts off in a westward direction and loops around Etna in a clockwise manner, eventually reaching its other terminal at the seaside town of Riposto, approximately 18 miles to the North-East of Catania. The original terminal was at Catania Porto although Catania Central (the mainline station) was the last stop for the trains. At the end of 2016 new sections of FCE underground opened the section from Catania Stesicoro (town center) and to Catania Nesima converted as the other tracks, to standard gauge and moved underground as a metro line (now 8 km in length).
After a visit at FCE Borgo depot and workshop, we get on our special train leaving Catania at 9.30am, stop at Bronte to see the FCE museum and arrive in Randazzo to have lunch. We will restart there and get off at Garre FCE station where by FS regional train we close the circle arriving in Catania and travelling on FCE underground, stop at a new particular FCE-U station where our bus will take us to our hotel.
Day 11 Thursday April 9: (B, L)
Today our bus will take us to 6,348 feet above sea level to Mount Etna at the Refugio Sapienza. This is the end point by car. The Silvestri Crateri, the volcanic craters formed in 1893, are within walking distance from here and well worth a visit. After Etna we will visit the famous winery Gambino with included full rich aperitif as farewell lunch.
Day 12 Friday April 10: (B)
Free morning or Catania FS depot visit. In the early afternoon coach transfer to Catania Airport from where we take the flights back to London Gatwick, Bristol, Luton or Manchester. You can, if you wish stay on in Catania for a few more days.
ALL PRICES ARE PER PERSON
DOUBLE ROOM OCCUPANCY$2,895
SINGLE ROOM SUPPLEMENT$595
DEPOSIT TO HOLD SPACE CONFIRMED$500
FINAL PAYMENT DUE BY JANUARY 30, 2020
TOUR CONDITIONS FOR 2020 **PLEASE READ CAREFULLY**
Tour Price: All tour prices are subject to change without notice, at any time. All prices based on double room occupancy. Those people that use a credit card for payments a 3% conveyance fee will be added to the tour price. We reserve the right to change tour prices if necessary without prior notice.