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Jewish Sicily Sicily's Culture & Jewish History


Uncovering Sicily’s Culture and Jewish History

The isle of Sicily is home to many intermingling histories — having been settled by Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Jewish traders, and the Spanish.  Its historic towns boast signs of an ancient past alongside a vibrant present. As the largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily has always been a center of international commerce for millenia.  This week-long tour of Sicily explores the isle’s rich Jewish history – from Palermo’s Jewish quarter to the Miqwè of Siracusa.


TOUR ITINERARY  { 10 days / 9 nights }

DAY 1:

WELCOME TO SICILY

Meet and greet at Palermo airport and transfer to your hotel. Meet your private, Sicilian guide for an unforgettable half-day tour of Jewish Palermo. Begin in the historical center of the city, walking the narrow streets of the Jewish quarter and discovering its fascinating historic buildings. Visit the site of the synagogue and, with the help of descriptions left by Jewish medieval travelers, experience the largest Jewish community of the capital city.  Later, head to the Duomo and explore the imposing Norman Palace for a deeper understanding of the relationship between the Jews and religious and political power. Afterwards, visit the splendid Zisa Palace, built in the Norman-Arab style, which still bears a Hebrew inscription and contains an ornate menorah. The tour ends in the splendid Norman royal palace of the Zisa, built in Norman Arab style, that still houses a Hebrew inscription and a Jewish candle-holder. Overnight stay in Palermo at Grand Hotel Villa Igiea (5*).

DAY 2:

COOKING CLASS WITH DUCHESS NICOLETTA

A cooking tour with the Duchess Nicoletta is not simply a cooking lesson, it's also a fascinating journey through Sicilian culture — a chance to discover the hidden culinary treasures of Palermo. In the morning, Nicoletta will take you to a lively open-air market, which are very popular in Sicily, to buy fresh seasonal ingredients. This will be followed by a quick stroll through the streets of Palermo, one of the most beautiful cities on the Mediterranean Sea, to admire the baroque Piazza of the Quattro Canti, the exuberant Piazza Marina Garden and the Norman Palazzo Chiaramonte. The cooking class will be held in an extraordinary location, an 18th century palace by the sea. The Duchess Nicoletta Polo will teach you how to create an entire Sicilian menu in a spacious kitchen where old copper pots with the shiny blue and white Sicilian tiles create a magical atmosphere. After lunch in the elegant dining room, there will be a tour of the lush terrace and the beautifully restored palace, the last home of Prince Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, author of the world-famous novel “The Leopard.” In the afternoon, we will head to Monreale to visit its wonderful Duomo and the Cloister. Overnight stay in Palermo at Grand Hotel Villa Igiea (5*).

 

 

DAY 3:

SEGESTA, ERICE & MARSALA

After breakfast, you will depart to tour Western Sicily. The first stop on the tour is the archaeological park of Segesta. You will see the perfectly-preserved Doric temple built outside the city walls. After the visit, you will reach the medieval town of Erice, settled by the Elymians and an important religious site associated with goddesses of fertility. Wander through its ancient streets and visit some of Sicily’s most famous pastry-shops, world-famous for marzipan candies and other delicacies like almond and pistachio pastries. In the afternoon, we will head to the seaside city of Marsala. After a short visit to the Tapestries Museum, including scenes from the Jewish Wars, we will stop in a local Marsala winery for a tasting of the local wine. Overnight stay in Agrigento at Villa Athena (5*).

DAY 4:

AGRIGENTO & THE VALLEY OF THE TEMPLES (Cannoli and Extra Virgin Olive Oil Tastings)

After breakfast, you will depart from to Agrigento’s city center, which houses a Jewish community from 70 to 1492 A.D. Travelling back in time, we will trace the steps and the history of these Jewish families. We will visit the “Giudecca”, Agrigento’s Jewish quarter, the third most important site of its kind in Sicily, where the synagogue, the miqwè, the houses and the shops were built. Next, we will enjoy sweets made by the Sisters of the Convent of Santo Spirito, located in the old section of the city. In the afternoon, we will enjoy an unforgettable guided walking tour of one of the most remarkable sites in the world—the legendary Valley of the Temples, where the remains of seven Greek temples stand in a breathtaking setting of almond groves and olive trees. Afterward, we will head to the Mandranova Estate. This farm stands out among the colors and fragrances of the immense olive groves. You will have the chance to meet the owners, Silvia and Giuseppe, while touring the farm. In addition to a scenic stroll through the ancient olive groves, you will observe how oil is pressed from ripe olives. At the end, you will enjoy a tasting of the best Sicilian Extra Virgin Olive Oil before enjoying an exquisite Sicilian lunch on site. Overnight stay in Agrigento at Villa Athena (5*).

DAY 5:

AGIRA & PIAZZA ARMERINA

After breakfast, you will depart for Agira. Here, you will explore the site of the synagogue and the magnificent stone portal of the aron hakodesh bearing a Hebrew inscription. The portal is a stunning example of Jewish architecture in Sicily. Then, we will continue to Piazza Armerina which contains one of the richest, largest and most complex collection of late Roman mosaics in the world. These treasures managed to remain intact thanks to a flood which covered them in mud in the XIIth century. Overnight stay in Noto (Seven Rooms Villadorata)

DAY 6:

JEWISH TOUR OF SYRACUSE & ARCHEOLOGICAL PARK

After breakfast, departure for a fascinating day tour of Jewish Syracuse. Begin in the Archaeological Park. Here, you will see remarkable Greek and Roman ruins, including the cave called “The Ear of Dionysius.” Then, we will continue to Acradina, the site of the earliest Jewish settlement in Sicily. Visit the catacombs of San Giovanni and the crypt of San Marciano. On the island of Ortigia, we will walk the narrow streets of the Giudecca (the ancient Jewish quarter). Discover the site of the synagogue and the Miqwè—the Jewish ritual bath, which lies eleven meters below ground level—the oldest in Europe. End your tour at the Bellomo Gallery, where tombstones from the Jewish medieval cemetery are displayed. In the afternoon, return to Baroque city of Noto for time at lesiure. Overnight stay in Noto (Seven Rooms Villadorata)

 

DAY 7:

RAGUSA, SCILI AND MODICA  (Breakfast, Lunch & Chocolate and herbs tasting)

Breakfast at the hotel. The first stop today will be in Scicli, visiting the “Aromi Farm” with the owner Enrico. This farm cultivates local plants and aromatic herbs. The farm produces more than 120 different varieties of plants and herbs using traditional methods of cultivation. You will sample the different varieties of herbs and see how they are used alongside other local products in Sicilian cooking for lunch.  Lunch at the farm. In the afternoon, you will be transferred to Ragusa Ibla and finally to Modica. In Modica, you can admire picturesque lanes and narrow streets, many old workshops and St. George’s Church, the only one displaying a nave. You will then visit the Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, the oldest pastry shop of Sicily, to taste the famous chocolate of Modica. The owner Pierpaolo Ruta will explain the secrets of the Modican Chocolate, which is made with only two ingredients, cocoa and sugar. Overnight stay in Noto (Seven Rooms Villadorata)

DAY 8:

CATANIA & MOUNT ETNA (Jewish Tour & Wine tasting)

Breakfast at the hotel and check out. Transfer to Catania, a city situated between the Ionian Sea and the majestic Mount Etna. In 1669, there was a violent eruption of the Volcano and it covered everything with lava. Less than thirty years later (1693), when the city was still nursing its wounds, an earthquake destroyed the remaining city. Catania managed to react to these natural calamities and started a huge building project that employed black lava rock and light colored limestone. Today, Catania is one of the greatest baroque cities of the Mediterranean. The city radiates a romantic beauty with its broad boulevards, spacious squares, and grand cathedrals, striking in their black and white colors, lava and limestone, crumbling plaster, and marble columns. First stop, the “Pescheria”, a daily fish and vegetable market. Transfer then to Mount Etna to enjoy a tour of the volcano, including wine tasting and lunch at a vineyard fed by rich volcanic soils. Overnight stay in Taormina

DAY 9:

MESSINA & TAORMINA

Breakfast in hotel. Meet your private driver and guide and drive to Messina to explore the city center and its ancient Jewish quarter.  Visit the Norman Cathedral – with its Latin inscription against the Jewish city- community and the beautiful Palazzo Penso – Jewish family heritage. It will follow a visit to the Regional Archaeological Museum that, amongst its artistic treasures, has a priceless Hebrew synagogue inscription.  Then, we will drive back to the seaside jewel of Taormina. Here, we will visit Taormina’s Greek Theatre and its antiquarium, where Greek inscriptions demonstrate the Jewish presence in the city since the classic age. Later, you will enjoy a walking tour of the site of the Jewish quarter. Overnight stay in Taormina

 

DAY 10:

DEPARTURE: Catania Airport

Breakfast and Private Transfer to Catania Airport for departure.

+ DAY 1

DAY 1:

WELCOME TO SICILY

Meet and greet at Palermo airport and transfer to your hotel. Meet your private, Sicilian guide for an unforgettable half-day tour of Jewish Palermo. Begin in the historical center of the city, walking the narrow streets of the Jewish quarter and discovering its fascinating historic buildings. Visit the site of the synagogue and, with the help of descriptions left by Jewish medieval travelers, experience the largest Jewish community of the capital city.  Later, head to the Duomo and explore the imposing Norman Palace for a deeper understanding of the relationship between the Jews and religious and political power. Afterwards, visit the splendid Zisa Palace, built in the Norman-Arab style, which still bears a Hebrew inscription and contains an ornate menorah. The tour ends in the splendid Norman royal palace of the Zisa, built in Norman Arab style, that still houses a Hebrew inscription and a Jewish candle-holder. Overnight stay in Palermo at Grand Hotel Villa Igiea (5*).

+ DAY 2

DAY 2:

COOKING CLASS WITH DUCHESS NICOLETTA

A cooking tour with the Duchess Nicoletta is not simply a cooking lesson, it's also a fascinating journey through Sicilian culture — a chance to discover the hidden culinary treasures of Palermo. In the morning, Nicoletta will take you to a lively open-air market, which are very popular in Sicily, to buy fresh seasonal ingredients. This will be followed by a quick stroll through the streets of Palermo, one of the most beautiful cities on the Mediterranean Sea, to admire the baroque Piazza of the Quattro Canti, the exuberant Piazza Marina Garden and the Norman Palazzo Chiaramonte. The cooking class will be held in an extraordinary location, an 18th century palace by the sea. The Duchess Nicoletta Polo will teach you how to create an entire Sicilian menu in a spacious kitchen where old copper pots with the shiny blue and white Sicilian tiles create a magical atmosphere. After lunch in the elegant dining room, there will be a tour of the lush terrace and the beautifully restored palace, the last home of Prince Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, author of the world-famous novel “The Leopard.” In the afternoon, we will head to Monreale to visit its wonderful Duomo and the Cloister. Overnight stay in Palermo at Grand Hotel Villa Igiea (5*).

 

 

+ DAY 3

DAY 3:

SEGESTA, ERICE & MARSALA

After breakfast, you will depart to tour Western Sicily. The first stop on the tour is the archaeological park of Segesta. You will see the perfectly-preserved Doric temple built outside the city walls. After the visit, you will reach the medieval town of Erice, settled by the Elymians and an important religious site associated with goddesses of fertility. Wander through its ancient streets and visit some of Sicily’s most famous pastry-shops, world-famous for marzipan candies and other delicacies like almond and pistachio pastries. In the afternoon, we will head to the seaside city of Marsala. After a short visit to the Tapestries Museum, including scenes from the Jewish Wars, we will stop in a local Marsala winery for a tasting of the local wine. Overnight stay in Agrigento at Villa Athena (5*).

+ DAY 4

DAY 4:

AGRIGENTO & THE VALLEY OF THE TEMPLES (Cannoli and Extra Virgin Olive Oil Tastings)

After breakfast, you will depart from to Agrigento’s city center, which houses a Jewish community from 70 to 1492 A.D. Travelling back in time, we will trace the steps and the history of these Jewish families. We will visit the “Giudecca”, Agrigento’s Jewish quarter, the third most important site of its kind in Sicily, where the synagogue, the miqwè, the houses and the shops were built. Next, we will enjoy sweets made by the Sisters of the Convent of Santo Spirito, located in the old section of the city. In the afternoon, we will enjoy an unforgettable guided walking tour of one of the most remarkable sites in the world—the legendary Valley of the Temples, where the remains of seven Greek temples stand in a breathtaking setting of almond groves and olive trees. Afterward, we will head to the Mandranova Estate. This farm stands out among the colors and fragrances of the immense olive groves. You will have the chance to meet the owners, Silvia and Giuseppe, while touring the farm. In addition to a scenic stroll through the ancient olive groves, you will observe how oil is pressed from ripe olives. At the end, you will enjoy a tasting of the best Sicilian Extra Virgin Olive Oil before enjoying an exquisite Sicilian lunch on site. Overnight stay in Agrigento at Villa Athena (5*).

+ DAY 5

DAY 5:

AGIRA & PIAZZA ARMERINA

After breakfast, you will depart for Agira. Here, you will explore the site of the synagogue and the magnificent stone portal of the aron hakodesh bearing a Hebrew inscription. The portal is a stunning example of Jewish architecture in Sicily. Then, we will continue to Piazza Armerina which contains one of the richest, largest and most complex collection of late Roman mosaics in the world. These treasures managed to remain intact thanks to a flood which covered them in mud in the XIIth century. Overnight stay in Noto (Seven Rooms Villadorata)

+ DAY 6

DAY 6:

JEWISH TOUR OF SYRACUSE & ARCHEOLOGICAL PARK

After breakfast, departure for a fascinating day tour of Jewish Syracuse. Begin in the Archaeological Park. Here, you will see remarkable Greek and Roman ruins, including the cave called “The Ear of Dionysius.” Then, we will continue to Acradina, the site of the earliest Jewish settlement in Sicily. Visit the catacombs of San Giovanni and the crypt of San Marciano. On the island of Ortigia, we will walk the narrow streets of the Giudecca (the ancient Jewish quarter). Discover the site of the synagogue and the Miqwè—the Jewish ritual bath, which lies eleven meters below ground level—the oldest in Europe. End your tour at the Bellomo Gallery, where tombstones from the Jewish medieval cemetery are displayed. In the afternoon, return to Baroque city of Noto for time at lesiure. Overnight stay in Noto (Seven Rooms Villadorata)

 

+ DAY 7

DAY 7:

RAGUSA, SCILI AND MODICA  (Breakfast, Lunch & Chocolate and herbs tasting)

Breakfast at the hotel. The first stop today will be in Scicli, visiting the “Aromi Farm” with the owner Enrico. This farm cultivates local plants and aromatic herbs. The farm produces more than 120 different varieties of plants and herbs using traditional methods of cultivation. You will sample the different varieties of herbs and see how they are used alongside other local products in Sicilian cooking for lunch.  Lunch at the farm. In the afternoon, you will be transferred to Ragusa Ibla and finally to Modica. In Modica, you can admire picturesque lanes and narrow streets, many old workshops and St. George’s Church, the only one displaying a nave. You will then visit the Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, the oldest pastry shop of Sicily, to taste the famous chocolate of Modica. The owner Pierpaolo Ruta will explain the secrets of the Modican Chocolate, which is made with only two ingredients, cocoa and sugar. Overnight stay in Noto (Seven Rooms Villadorata)

+ DAY 8

DAY 8:

CATANIA & MOUNT ETNA (Jewish Tour & Wine tasting)

Breakfast at the hotel and check out. Transfer to Catania, a city situated between the Ionian Sea and the majestic Mount Etna. In 1669, there was a violent eruption of the Volcano and it covered everything with lava. Less than thirty years later (1693), when the city was still nursing its wounds, an earthquake destroyed the remaining city. Catania managed to react to these natural calamities and started a huge building project that employed black lava rock and light colored limestone. Today, Catania is one of the greatest baroque cities of the Mediterranean. The city radiates a romantic beauty with its broad boulevards, spacious squares, and grand cathedrals, striking in their black and white colors, lava and limestone, crumbling plaster, and marble columns. First stop, the “Pescheria”, a daily fish and vegetable market. Transfer then to Mount Etna to enjoy a tour of the volcano, including wine tasting and lunch at a vineyard fed by rich volcanic soils. Overnight stay in Taormina

+ DAY 9

DAY 9:

MESSINA & TAORMINA

Breakfast in hotel. Meet your private driver and guide and drive to Messina to explore the city center and its ancient Jewish quarter.  Visit the Norman Cathedral – with its Latin inscription against the Jewish city- community and the beautiful Palazzo Penso – Jewish family heritage. It will follow a visit to the Regional Archaeological Museum that, amongst its artistic treasures, has a priceless Hebrew synagogue inscription.  Then, we will drive back to the seaside jewel of Taormina. Here, we will visit Taormina’s Greek Theatre and its antiquarium, where Greek inscriptions demonstrate the Jewish presence in the city since the classic age. Later, you will enjoy a walking tour of the site of the Jewish quarter. Overnight stay in Taormina

 

+ DAY 10

DAY 10:

DEPARTURE: Catania Airport

Breakfast and Private Transfer to Catania Airport for departure.


Price: please inquire for pricing and specifics »


INCLUDED:

  • daily transfers, as noted in the itinerary
  • deluxe accommodations, as noted in the itinerary
  • meals / tastings, as described in the itinerary
  • experiential activities, as described in the itinerary
  • guided visits & entrance fees to historic sites, as described in the itinerary

 

NOT INCLUDED

  • Air Transportation
  • Meals, when not indicated in the itinerary