• Sicily water view, Italy

    Walking Vacation: For the Love of Sicily

    <p>I envy the grandchildren of the first Sicilian nonna I ever met. Hungry after a country walk, we landed at the front door of her small village café just as she was closing for the afternoon. She didn’t know us. She could have retreated behind her shutters for a cool nap. “Sit,” she said instead. “I’ll take care of you.” Did she ever. The simple meal was delicious. And on this <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/sicily/" target="_blank">walking vacation</a>, she started my love affair with the Sicilian people.</p> <h3><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/itineraries/" target="_blank">DOWNLOAD AN ITINERARY FOR YOUR SICILY WALKING VACATION TODAY!</a></h3> <p>It helped that we were with my friend Sergio that day. He has guided Classic Journeys on the island for 20 years, and he’s been an honorary son of Sicily for far longer. I’m not sure if he knows every Sicilian, though there were plenty of days when it seemed like he did. And the people were warm and hospitable beyond every expectation.</p> <p>Take Mirella, cousin to the owner of Villa Dafne, a working farm with more than 700 sheep and a significant herd of cattle. When Sergio introduced us, Mirella’s wide smile was greeting enough. But then she herded us to the kitchen, pulled out aprons, poured wine all around…and put us to work cooking a communal lunch. I don’t know if we produced the best-ever batch of agnello al forno con patate, but it’s hard to imagine that the typical lamb dish has ever tasted better. I can still hear Mirella’s laugh as our conversation rambled to the farm-to-table food fad. For generations, her family has grown its own meals. Our trend is her tradition, and she was happy to share.<br><br><img alt="Group making lunch at Villa Dafne" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7m4&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002rbz" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>Even Sergio has to admit that Sicilians can’t be blamed for sometimes eyeing outsiders carefully. After all, the island was invaded and fell under the rule of 15 or so civilizations over the last few millennia. From Phoenicians and Greeks to Romans and Normans, they had their way with Sicily, often for centuries. A touch of caution is understandable, but get past it and you quickly feel how that history has made today’s Sicilians fiercely proud and independent.</p> <p>Liliana showed us that side of the province’s personality in Siracusa. This city is as remarkable as they come. There, the world’s largest ancient Greek theater sits cheek by jowl with a Roman amphitheater built for gladiator fights. The cathedral is a remodeled Greek Temple of Minerva. Guiding us through, she had a historian’s gift for bringing it to life. But she also showed us a Sicilian’s pride in how those piles of carved marble became the roots of modern life on the island.<br><br><img alt="View of Greek theater" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7m4&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002rcE" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>Stone of another sort — the hardened lava flows on the slopes of Mt. Etna — affects Sicilian life in ways that are very current. Just ask Giuseppe. Sergio likes to say that this energetic guide “leaps like a rabbit across the lava fields.” But it’s his lively imagination that will get to you. For Giuseppe, leading us across this incredible terrain was more than an excuse for a geology lecture. He drove home how Sicily lives in the long shadow of Europe’s most active volcano. From mild burps to occasional dramatic eruptions, Etna has been a constant in Sicilian life for thousands of years, and Giuseppe helped me understand how that feels and what it means.</p> <p>Ultimately, I came to appreciate that Sicilians are romantics who don’t wear their hearts on their sleeves. Our friend Alessandra proved that point in Agrigento. It’s the site of the world’s best-preserved ancient Greek building, the Temple of Concordia. Only a few hundred feet away, we settled into the only hotel in the archeological zone. From the dining patio, the temple was all we could see. But Alessandra whispered special advice, so that the tourists couldn’t hear. “After sunset fades, go to the lower terrace so that only the night is between you and the temple. You will not forget it.” I did, and true to her promise the temple floated like a mirage in the darkness. If I close my eyes right now, I can see it perfectly.<br><br><img alt="Temple of Concordia" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7m4&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002rcJ" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>After this <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/walkingtours/" target="_blank">walking vacation</a>, I saw all of Sicily differently. Past the volcanoes and beautiful islands, through the dusty layers of civilization, I found some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met…and some of the warmest hospitality that’s been offered to me in any place I’ve visited.</p> <p>Read more about our walking vacations in Sicily:</p> <p><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/sicily-ancient-history-italian-style/" target="_blank">Ancient History Italian-Style</a></p> <p><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/italian-travel-destination-next/" target="_blank">Which Italian Travel Destination Next?</a></p> <p><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/sweet-on-sicily/" target="_blank">Sweet on Sicily</a></p>

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  • Cathedral of Monreale in Palermo, Sicily, Italy

    Sicily: Ancient History, Italian Style

    <p>The food, the history and those jaw-dropping views: Italy’s heart — and soul — is best discovered amid the ancient cobblestones of Sicily. Once you’ve decided to experience this vibrant region, make it the trip of a lifetime with our excursion to the historically rich town of Siracusa — a highlight of our Sicilian tour. Nestled in the southeast corner of Sicily, this seaside gem was once called the greatest city in Greece. Today, it’s home to a staggering amount of Greek and Roman architectural landmarks, the secrets of which our local guides love sharing.</p> <p>The journey begins on the tiny island of Ortygia, the heart of Siracusa. Here, wander the archaeological park that contains both a 15,000-seat Greek theater and an ancient Roman amphitheater. Learn the stories of the original Greek settlers from 734 B.C. and the thrilling tales of gladiator battles that later filled the Roman amphitheater. After a traditional picnic lunch of Italian delights, wander more ruins, including old limestone quarries that are now filled with fragrant orange and lemon groves. Combining the crystal blue waters with the historical context of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, Siracusa will stay with you long after your journey concludes.<br><br><img alt="Roman amphitheater" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7m9&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002omL" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></p> <h3><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/sicily/itinerary/" target="_blank">LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS EXTRAORDINARY<br>CULTURAL WALKING ADVENTURE.</a></h3> <p>Sicily offers even more archaeologically significant sites — these constructed by Mother Nature — at nearby Mt. Etna, Europe’s highest active volcano. Our guides will take you through scenic pathways of exquisite lava formations and lava rivers culminating with a picnic at 7,000 ft. Fortified with a basket lunch of bruschetta, sausages and homemade Italian pastas you’ll enjoy breathtaking views as a reward for the trek. Downhill the walk meanders through a lesser-known route of fruit orchards, olive groves and vineyards before concluding in the charming village of Linguaglosso, where you’ll spend the night.</p> <p>Take further advantage of the unique Sicilian geography by getting a first-hand account of the impact of volcanic activity in the region. Our guides will arrange for an hour-long aliscafi (hydrofoil) ride to the Geophysical Observatory on the Aeolian island of Lipari. Local scientists share their research and provide a window into the mouth of an active volcano on Lipari’s nearby sister island. Afterward, consider the impact of those volcanoes as our guides lead you on a quiet, coastal walk through an olive plantation back to the scenic port.<br><br><img alt="Lipari" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7m9&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002omQ" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>This weeklong Sicilian adventure also takes you to hilltop vistas and private beaches. Starting in Palermo, the trip begins with a night in a villa hotel a quiet oasis, near the city center. But the exploration quickly follows with a trip to the historic town of Monreale, known for its ancient Romanesque cloister and its treasure trove of Sicily’s finest mosaics. Here, you’ll be treated like a visiting friend with the gourmet, seafood meal served in our friend, Antonio’s scenic restaurant.</p> <p><b>In Vino Veritas.</b></p> <p>What would a Sicilian escape be without wine? We’ll guide you through the Regaleali estate, known for its stellar selection of regional wines. Get a private, behind-the-scenes tour given by our local friends, who’ll treat us to lunch in their kitchen and an escorted tour on the grounds of their estate.</p> <p>From Greek ruins to volcanic research, experience Sicily like a local. And enjoy the majesty of this cultural keystone as only we can guide you.</p> <p>You might also enjoy the <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/amalfi/" target="_blank">Amalfi Coast and Capri</a> or a <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/amalficulinary/" target="_blank">culinary tour</a> of the region.</p>

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  • Oberoi Amarvilas pool, India

    Immersed in Luxury

    <h2>OUR PERFECTLY SITED, UTTERLY UNIQUE HOTELS PUT YOU IN THE CENTER OF EVERYTHING</h2>   <p><b>DESERT PEARL INN IN UTAH</b></p> <p>A river—the Virgin River—runs through the grounds of the Desert Pearl, just next door to <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/grandcanyon/" target="_blank" title="Bryce, Grand Canyon &amp; Zion walking tour">Zion National Park</a>. The lodge is an utterly natural expression of this place, timbered in historic trestlewood with rooms that open to views of towering red rock and the tree-lined river. And the stargazing is astonishing in the transparent nighttime sky. We love the Desert Pearl for how it brings a day in sun and sandstone to a cool, casual close. It’s a perfect oasis in the gorgeous western desert.<br><br><img alt="Desert Pearl Inn" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7me&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002ry0" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/itineraries/" target="_blank" title="Download an itinerary">We handpick super accommodations for each of our trips. Download a daily itinerary to learn more!</a><br> </p> <p><b>HOTEL RIO SAGRADO IN PERU</b></p> <p>You’ll feel why the Incas held this valley sacred. There’s the rush of the Urubamba River, as it cuts through fertile fields at the edge of Hotel Rio Sagrado. The luxury accommodations are crafted of local materials in a simple tribute to an Andean village. From rooms nestled into the rising wall of the valley, you can’t see any other human structure or any of the hotel’s other rooms. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/peru/" target="_blank" title="Peru travel adventures">You’ve been to Cusco already. Machu Picchu is yet to come.</a> But in this peaceful place, it’s just you and nature.<br><br><img alt="Rio Sagrado" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7me&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002ry5" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p><b>THE OBEROI AMARVILAS IN INDIA</b></p> <p>Prepare for <i>The Gasp</i>. It’s unavoidable as you realize, “This is my private terrace, and that vision before me is the Taj Mahal.” Quite simply, <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/india/" target="_blank" title="India travel tours">this is the view every traveler dreams of and that only a precious few ever see</a>. Anywhere else, the cascading fountains, terraced lawns and pavilions would be attraction enough. But as the only hotel in Agra to offer uninterrupted views of the Taj Mahal from each room, this princely hotel is a wonder in its own right.<br><br><img alt="Oberoi Amarvilas" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7me&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002ryA" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p><b>HOTEL VILLA ATHENA IN SICILY</b></p> <p>The mega-star of this 5-star hotel in Agrigento is the 2,500-year-old Temple of Concordia. Just a few hundred feet away from the former 18th century mansion, it dominates the view. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/sicily/" target="_blank" title="Deluxe Sicily waling tour">At al fresco breakfast, its columns gleam white. After dusk, the amber-lit temple casts a romantic glow on the UNESCO World Heritage Site where the hotel is located</a>. Roam the sculpted gardens, slip into the pool, try to concentrate on a glass of Etna Rosso, but the temple won’t let go of your eye. Villa Athena is one of the most remarkably sited hotels anywhere.<br><br><img alt="Villa Athena" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7me&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002ryF" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p><b>NAYARA HOTEL SPA &amp; GARDEN</b></p> <p><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/costarica/" target="_blank" title="Costa Rica vacation packages">If there is a soundtrack for falling in love, it might very well be the relaxing and exotic sounds of the Costa Rican rainforest that surrounds…no, nearly swallows the Nayara hotel. </a>As your hammock sways on the deck of your private casita, you’re serenaded by exotic birds and gentle, tropical breezes. There is no telling where the lush green hotel grounds end and the rainforest begins. From almost every spot on the property, you can look up to see the Arenal volcano that despite its imposing size and proximity has a way of bringing a sense of calm serenity to this beautiful place.<br><br><img alt="Nayara hotel" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7me&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002ryK" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p><b>RAFFLES GRAND HOTEL D’ANGKOR</b></p> <p>The doorman is wearing orange pants, which means it must be Monday at the Raffles Grand Hotel D’Angkor, one time a Royal Palace. As they did when Cambodian kings resided here, the lobby staff wear a different color trouser each day of the week. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/vietnam/" target="_blank" title="Vietnam vacation packages">At every turn you feel the strong pull of tradition and custom throughout the stately hotel, itself just a few miles from the legendary Angkor Wat temple complex</a>. Uncluttered, minimalistic Art Deco décor accented with Cambodian art and artifacts throughout the common spaces and guest rooms make the hotel—and the people who stay here—feel downright noble.<br><br><img alt="Raffles Grand Hotel D&#39;Angkor" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7me&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002ryP" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p><b>IGUANA CROSSING BOUTIQUE HOTEL</b><br><br>What an odd name for a hotel, you think…until you arrive and see the marine iguanas from the nearby wetlands perched along the rocky path that separates the hotel from the Sea of Isabela. Surrounded by a ring of six shield volcanoes and constructed with native materials, Iguana Crossing feels as though it is an extension of its natural surroundings. Ocean-view rooms and a rooftop Jacuzzi are among the amenities that make leaving the hotel so difficult. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/galapagos/" target="_blank" title="Galapagos Islands tours">Thankfully, just beyond the property are miles of isolated beaches, mangrove lagoons and wildlife more diverse than any corner of the globe, calling you to play and explore the island paradise</a>.<br><br><img alt="Iguana Crossing" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7me&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002ryj" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></p>

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