Situated just off the coast of southern Italy, Sicily is not only the largest island in the Mediterranean, but also one of the most culturally diverse locations in all of Europe.
Throughout centuries, Sicily has been occupied by the French, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Germanic tribes, Arabs and Normans, and every one of these peoples has managed to leave their own distinct mark on Sicilian culture.
Because of this mass cultural proliferation, Sicilian art, food, and architecture remains as charming as it is diverse. Away from throngs of distracting tourists, Sicily is a unique opportunity for complete cultural immersion and, with us, an opportunity to travel the way traveling should be done.
Italy to the Max specializes in providing intimate, exclusive tours that allow our travelers to truly experience Italian culture. Sicily is one of the greatest cultural melting pots in Italy and our professional, native guides are always enthusiastic about sharing the captivating qualities of their island with you. Here are a few of the exclusive Sicilian tours that we would love to share with you.
FROM TAORMINA OR CATANIA: EASTERN SICILY
With the professional skill of your driver and guide, this tour focuses on providing you with an intimate look at the breathtaking views and charming small towns of the North Eastern Sicilian coast.
After your driver picks you up from the hotel you will make your way to Savoca, a small hamlet dating back to the 3rd century. Famous as one of the most iconic sets from the Godfather, Savoca is nestled into the mountainside overlooking the coast.
After soaking in the view, you can take a leisurely walk through the town, exploring or visiting the three small churches of Santa Lucia, San Michele and Chiesa Madre before finding the Bar Vitelli. Enjoy outdoor seating and soak up the culture of this authentic town as you enjoy a frozen Sicilian granita just like Al Pacino as Michael Corleone.
From here it’s only a short drive to your next stop, Forza d’Agro, a quaint little village at the foot of a monolithic stone Arab-Norman fortress, which overlooks the water and is one of the best preserved medieval hamlets on the island.
Forza d’Agro, with its stone roads, grand buildings and noble palazzos, was once the residence of many noble families. Here you will enjoy lunch in a local restaurant where you will get the opportunity to soak up the view a little bit longer while experiencing a table of traditional Sicilian cuisine.
Next is the Alcantara Gorge, a beautiful nature reserve beside the location where the Alcantara River once met an ancient lava stream. You will have plenty of opportunities for pictures as you soak in the view of the impressive volcanic formation.
Your very last stop of the day is the small town of Castelmola. Listed as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, Castelmola is famous for having inspired D.H. Lawrence’s highly controversial novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Explore the scenic village and try some of the famous, locally produced Castelmola almond wine, and then your driver will escort you back to your hotel.
FULL DAY PALERMO
This full-day, immersive Sicilian tour begins in the small town of Monreale. Overlooking the famed olive and orange groves of La Conca d’oro valley, Monreale traces its history back roughly a millennium and is the perfect place to begin. Here, with the help your driver/guide, you will tour the Monreale cathedral, widely considered to be one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in the world, featuring 70,000 square feet of mosaic tiles detailed with 24 carat gold. The cathedral terrace offers one of the best views of the Palermo region and will prepare you for the day to come.
Entering into the city, your next stop will be at the Capuchin Catacombs. Although originally intended exclusively for the burial of friars, this form of mummification quickly became a sign of status and now the crypts house over 8,000 immaculately preserved bodies.
From here you will make your way to the Palazzo dei Normanni where the Kings of Sicily ruled during the Norman domination, and now houses the regional parliament of Sicily, though the true attraction here is the Cappella Palatina. This is the royal chapel where the kings of Sicily would come to worship, featuring a breathtaking balance of the Norman, Arabic, and Byzantine architecture that so characterizes Sicily.
Before lunch your driver will take you through the Porta Nuova, a 430 year old gate that marks the entrance to the heart of Palermo, where you will find yourself in the cathedral that houses the sarcophagus of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, one of the most powerful rulers of the medieval era and lifetime Sicilian resident.
Lunch is a charming affair on the beautiful beach of Mondello. Once a small fishing village, the authentic, waterfront villas have been preserved and now remain standing as an ideal example of European Noveau architecture.
Once you have finished your scenic meal your driver will escort you deeper into Palermo to the city square I Quattro Canti and the Piazza Pretoria fountain. These historic monuments mark the crossing of the two main roads during the ancient era and, after having started in the remote countryside, the square which is situated at the very center of the region is the perfect place to bring this tour to a close.
EXCURSION FROM PALERMO: SEGESTA ERICE & MARSALA
With the help of your personal driver and guide, this tour offers you the chance to spend a day discovering the beautiful western coast of Sicily. Leaving Palermo in the morning you will follow the Sicilian coast until you reach Castellammare, the largest harbor on the island and the home to a very well preserved medieval fortress. This quaint fishing village with its towering stone protector is a prime example of Sicilian uniqueness, and perfectly showcases the blend between ancient and modern that makes Italy such an ideal travel destination.
Next stop is the charming, historic town of Erice. This Phoenician village sits atop a mountain overlooking the sea. At this 2,500 ft elevation the endless view reaches even the coast of Africa, with the jagged Tunisian beaches easily visible on clear days.
Featuring narrow alleyways set between stone buildings, two castles, a history of cults, and one of the most breathtaking views in Italy, this is the perfect place to stop and explore.
At Maria Grammatico, the most famous pastry shop on the island, you will be able to sample some of the finest Sicilian dolci in the world along with almond cookies, and crunchy, melt-in-your-mouth cannolis.
Your tour takes you out of Erice and down through the Saline di Trapani road, a highway that winds its way through the salt pans mined since the arrival of the Phoenicians in the medieval era. There will be plenty of opportunities for photos before you reach your next destination, an authentic Baglio, a traditional Sicilian farmhouse. At this private location you will be served a savory Italian meal and sample some of the locally crafted olive oil that is unique to this region.
Your next stop is the famous archeological dig site of Segesta, one of the best examples of living history on the island with the enormous stone Doric temple still largely intact.
Beside the temple there still stands a remarkably well preserved Greek auditorium that you are free to walk through and experience the amazing acoustic techniques designed around 450 B.C.E.
Enjoy one last stunning view of the coast of Sicily from the volcanic vent Monte Barbaro, one of many dormant volcanoes around Italy, before returing back to your hotel.