Sicily and Malta 2018 Tour Itinerary

Please note: The daily itinerary may change slightly due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances.
Included Meals B = Breakfast L = Lunch D = Dinner

Sunday, October 7 (Depart U.S.)

Depart Minneapolis/St. Paul and connect with the transatlantic, overnight flight to Europe. (Meals in-flight)

Monday, October 8 (Arrive Palermo)

Connect in Europe with the continuing flight to Palermo, Sicily. Welcome to Italy's southernmost region, an island unto itself, yet only about two miles from Italy's "toe": Seductively beautiful and perfectly placed in the heart of the Mediterra­nean, Sicily has been luring passersby since the time of legends. Discover a dazzling diversity of landscape and cultural treasures. Transfer to the hotel for check-in followed by time to refresh be­fore a welcome dinner. Hotel Mercure Palermo Excelsior City (Meals in-flight, D) www.excelsior­

Tuesday, October 9 (Palermo/Enna)

After breakfast and hotel check-out, embark on a panoramic tour of the Capital of Sicily. As a cross­roads of civilizations, Palermo has come to display a vibrant mix of Byzantine mosaics, Norman archi­tecture, Arabesque domes and baroque churches all framed by souk-like markets and date palms. View the eclectic Cathedral, the Quattro Canti in Old Town, the Norman Palace and government buildings, and the largest opera house in Italy. Depart to Monreale to tour the Cathedral with its splendid 12th century mosaics - this is the finest example of Norman architecture in Sicily. See the adjacent cloisters of the Benedictine monastery with Moorish architecture. Later today arrive in Enna, a busy agricultural and mining town in the center of the country. It is the legendary home of Persephone, and has one of the most splendid views of the interior of the island. Hotel Sicilia (B, D)

Wednesday, October 10 (Enna)

Travel to Agrigento above the southern coast of Sicily to visit the Valley of the Temples. These re­nowned archaeological treasures date from the 5th century B.C. and include the Temple of Juno, Concord, Heracles, Zeus, Castor and Pollux. De­part to Piazza Armerina and visit the Villa Romana del Casale, which dates to the late 3rd-early 4th century A.D.The ruins feature the richest, largest and most complex collection of late Roman mosa­ics in the world. Return to the hotel for dinner and overnight. Hotel Sicilia (B,D)

Thursday, October 11 (Enna/Catania)

Depart Enna and drive eastward. If weather per­mits, ascend Mount Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe. Continue to Taormina called "the pearl of the Ionic Sea;' founded in 400 BC and beautifully located overlooking the sea and the peak of Mount Etna. Visit the well-preserved amphitheater and enjoy time at leisure to shop for handmade lace, coral jewels, ceramics, home­made sweets and preserves along "Corso Umber­to": Continue to Catania, on the central east coast of the island. This is a splendid baroque city as a result of being rebuilt after a late 17th century earthquake. Mercure Grand Hotel Excelsior (B, D) 

Friday, October 12 (Sicily/Valletta, Malta)

Enjoy a relaxed start to the day. After hotel check­out, travel to Siracusa, south along the coast from Catania. Visit the most important archaeologi­cal center in Magna Graecia including the Greek theatre, the Roman amphitheater, the necropolis and the famous Latomia del Paradiso cave system with a room known as the "Ear of Dyonisius" for its acoustics. There will be time on the island of Ortigia, the small baroque old city centre built by the Aragonians. Travel back to Catania stopping for dinner en route. Board a late evening flight south to Malta. Upon arrival transfer to the hotel for an eight-night stay. Grand Hotel Excelsior (B, D)

Saturday, October 13 (Valletta)

Sleep in this morning and make a late departure for the day's activities. With 7000 years of history, Malta is steeped in culture and heritage - richly so considering it is only one-tenth the size of Rhode Island! Learn about this history during a multi­media presentation at Malta Experience and get an overview of the archaeological remains at the National Archaeological Museum. This evening gather for a Welcome to Malta dinner at a local restaurant. Grand Hotel Excelsior (B, D) 

Sunday, October 14 (Valletta)

Ferry five miles to the nearby island of Gozo this morning. The legendary Calypso's Isle described in Homer's "Odyssey" is an idyllic place of quaint fish­ing villages and peaceful bays. After visiting the Archaeological Museum, discover a wide range of historical sites from the Gigantija Temples (3300 BCE) to the citadel which encompasses the old city center (reconstructed by the Knights of Saint John after the medieval walls were destroyed by the Turks in 1551). Enjoy a typical Gozitan lunch, then visit the locally sacred Ta' Pinu Chapel and see the rock-cut salt pans from which the locals harvest salt. Ferry back to the main island for an evening at leisure. Grand Hotel Excelsior (B, L)

Monday, October 15 (Valletta)

Begin the day at Casa Rocca Piccola, the 16th century palazzo of the 9th Marquis of Piro. This exquisitely furnished and maintained palace is still a privately-owned and much-loved family home. Next is St. John's Co-Cathedral. Apart from its place among the most magnificent Baroque churches in the world, St John's Co-Cathedral is also an architectural metaphor for the Order of the Knights of St John, who built it between 1573 and 1578. The simple post-siege façade reflects the Knights' military pragmatism, while the gilded vaults, painted ceilings, polychrome marble floors and general Baroque exuberance of the lavish interior reveal the sophistication, power and wealth of the Order. Grand Hotel Excelsior (B)

Tuesday, October 16 (Valletta)

The temple of Ħaġar Qim stands on a hilltop over­looking the sea and the islet of Fifla, south-west of Valletta. At the bottom of the hill lies another remarkable temple site, Mnajdra, found above the Southern cliffs. Both sites display megalithic creations from the Neolithic era and several struc­tures are designed for alignment with the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. Weather permitting we will take a boat ride to the Blue Grotto where this fascinating natural grotto combines with sunlight and the surrounding chain of caves to reflect the phosphorescent colors of the submerged flora and the deep dark shade of blue of the sea. Be­fore returning to Valletta enjoy a gorgeous view of the sea at the high point of the islands plus seeing some Punic caves there. Grand Hotel Excelsior. (B)

Wednesday, October 17 (Valletta)

Today's excursion outside of Valletta takes us first to Mosta to see the 19th century parish church of Santa Maria, better known as the Mosta Dome. It has a stunning blue, gold and white interior, where you can also see the bomb that fell through it in 1942 as around 300 parishioners waited to hear Mass. Drive to Mdina and Rabat where Phoe­nicians arrived in the 9th-8th centuries BCE and were followed by waves of others. Enjoy walking tours of the old city centers - Mdina's walls date to about 400 CE. and Rabat's narrow streets and alleys are lined with churches. Tour the Malta Aviation Museum situated on the site of the former Royal Air Force airfield in the village of Ta'Qali. Enjoy a stop at a local winery to sample the Maltese vin­tages. Grand Hotel Excelsior (B)

Thursday, October 18 (Valletta)

Explore the Birgu district of Valetta. Dominating the tip of Vittoriosa, Fort St Angelo has always been of great importance because of its strate­gic position. Because of the role it has played throughout Maltese history, particularly during the Great Siege of 1565, the fort has great emo­tional significance for the Maltese people. After touring the fort explore the Malta at War Muse­um, which documents the great ordeal suffered by the brave people of Malta and their defenders during the dark days of the Malta Blitz (1940-43) in WW2. Continue to visit the Tarxien Temples site - a complex of four megalithic structures built be­tween 3600 and 2500 BCE and discovered in 1913 by local farmers. Continue to Marsaxlokk village located in the south-eastern part of Malta, which is famous for its big Sunday fish market and its many decorative "eyed" painted boats called Luz­zus. Grand Hotel Excelsior (B)

Friday, October 19, (Valletta)

Guarding the entrance to both Marsamxett and Grand Harbours is Fort St. Elmo, named after the patron saint of mariners. Although now much al­tered, this fort was built by the Knights in 1552 in a mere four months, and bore the brunt of Turkish arms during the Great Siege of 1565. After touring the fort and the stunning National War Museum, proceed to the Grandmaster's Palace, which is now the Office of the President of Malta. Tour the impressive State Rooms and the Palace Armoury, one of the most visible and tangible symbols of the past glories of the Sovereign Hospitaller Mili­tary Order of Malta. Lastly tour a more recent ves­tige of war - the Lascaris War Rooms. This secret underground complex of tunnels and chambers housed the War Headquarters from where the de­fense of Malta was conducted during the Second World War. Tonight gather for a festive farewell dinner at a typical Maltese restaurant. Grand Ho­tel Excelsior (B, D) 

Saturday, October 20 (Return flights to U.S.)

Transfer to the airport for the return flights. Arrive home this same day enriched with your many dis­coveries of history and culture in the Mediterra­nean. (B, meals in-flight)