22 days
Duration
Europe
Destination
Level 3 - Moderate
Activity

Ancient History of Southern Italy, group tours for mature travelers

Ancient History of Southern Italy, group tours for mature travelers. This small group tour explores Southern Italy, traversing the lesser known islands and southern regions of the country. After arriving in Bari, we explore this picturesque port city, shaped by an almost continuous stream of invasion and conquest. The tour also includes Calabria, its brooding mountainous terrain stretching southwards between the Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas; Sicily, the Mediterranean’s largest island, epitomizing centuries of successive waves of colonisation; and the Aeolian Islands, steeped in antiquity and scattered like a string of pearls in the Tyrrhenian Sea. During our educational tour, you will witness the dramatic, rugged countryside of Southern Italy. It encompasses the many civilisations that have shaped the Ancient History of Southern Italy. As we explore the diversity of Southern Italy we learn about the influence of the early Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Saracens, Normans, Angevins and Aragonese while we search for evidence of their colonisation. For the mediaeval traveller, religious houses provided a safe and convenient refuge. This tradition still exists in Italy and, as travellers, participants in this tour will sometimes stay in the modern day version of these ancient religious houses.

Ancient History of Southern Italy Itinerary

After meeting in Bari, our escorted small group tour begins in earnest in Apulia. Here we take a walking tour of the city and explore the distinctive food and wine of the region. From there we head to the nearby Alberobello. Because of its location, Apulia was a major thoroughfare between the ancient Greek and Roman worlds and has been subjected to constant colonisation and invasion, which has shaped the very nature of its people. This heritage has resulted in a rich mixture of historic architectural styles. Now a secluded off the beaten tourist track part of Italy, Apulia has many surprises on offer. Our next stop is Calabria, before Sicily, where we spend ten nights exploring the region. We then head back to Naples, where our educational tour concludes. Other highlights of this small group tour include visiting the rock dwellings and “Sassi” of Matera, and discovering the culture and countryside of Sicily, from the ancient citadel of Lipari on the Aeolian Islands to the superlative Greek remains. We also experience the 12th century mosaics in the cathedral of Monreale, and take in the Norman Capella Palatina in Palermo, with its Byzantine artistry. Another highlight is the chance to explore Apulia, with its peculiar conical-roofed, stone trulli church and houses. For more details, click the ‘Top 5’ or ‘Itinerary’ buttons above! If you’re keen to experience this tour, please call or send an email. Or, to book, simply fill in the form on the right hand side of this page.

PDF of Tour PDF of Reading List

1
Visit the rock dwellings and “Sassi” of Matera.
2
Discover the culture and countryside of Sicily from the ancient citadel of Lipari on the Aeolian Islands to the superlative Greek remains.
3
Marvel at12th century mosaics in the cathedral of Monreale and the Norman Capella Palatina in Palermo, with its Byzantine artistry.
4
Calabria in the 'toe' of Italy with cliff-hugging Tropea and Byzantine Gerace.
5
Explore Apulia with its peculiar conical-roofed, stone trulli church and houses.

Overview: After your arrival in Bari, make your own way to the group hotel. In the evening the groups gets together for a welcome dinner and tour orientation. Bari is a port city on the Adriatic Sea, and the capital of southern Italy’s Puglia (Apulia) region. Its mazelike old town, Bari Vecchia, is on a headland next to the port. (D)

Accommodation: Bari hotel or similar

Overview: In the morning we enjoy a tour of Bari before heading south to the town of Alberobello, also in Apulia. This Italian region, often referred to as the spur and heel of Italy's boot, is a strategically located peninsula jutting into the Mediterranean Sea. Because of its location, it was a major thoroughfare between the ancient Greek and Roman worlds and has been subjected to constant colonisation and invasion, which has shaped the very nature of its people. This heritage has resulted in a rich mixture of historic architectural styles. Now a  secluded off the beaten tourist track part of Italy, Apulia has appeal for the many surprises that it offers. (B, D)

Accommodation: Trulli e Puglia or similar

Traveller Experience: We learn about the history and cultural heritage of Apulia, a region of varying architectural styles shaped by its strategic location and the many marauding invaders who sought to control its ancient trade routes. We explore the Baroque, traditional Apulian, Greco-Roman, and Norman castles, churches, monuments and other edifices as we travel throughout the hidden countryside of the region. We also visit neighbouring Basilicata to experience Matera with its cave houses carved into steep ravines.

Overview: Today we meet our local guide for a full day tour of the area including a visit to the towns of Locorotondo and Martina Franca. Locorotondo is known as one of the most beautiful villages of Italy, with its whitewashed cone-roofed trulli houses as well as its wines, the historic centre is on a hill with lovely views over the Valle d’ Intria. Martina Franca is another picturesque town with winding alleys, whitewashed houses in its old quarter but also features lovely baroque and rococo buildings and airy piazzas. (B, D)

Accommodation: Trulli e Puglia or similar

Overview: Our destination today is Matera, located approximately one hour from Alberobello. Matera is a striking and atmospheric town located in the remote southern region of Basilicata (also called Lucania). It’s famous for its extensive cave-dwelling districts, the sassi. The old town is a UNESCO heritage site. (B)

Accommodation: Trulli e Puglia or similar

Overview: After breakfast  we travel to Lecce, also known as “The Florence of the South”  due to rich baroque architecture of the city. We enjoy a guided tour of the main sights followed by some free time to explore before returning to Alberobello. (B, D)

Accommodation: Trulli e Puglia or similar

Overview: Ostuni, another small hilltop town is perhaps one of the most well known ones in the region. The area has been inhabited since the Stone age, then destroyed during the Punic Wars and later rebuilt by the Greeks, who named it Ostuni, from the Greek Astu neon (“new town”). We have plenty of time to explore the town before returning to our hotel. (B)

Accommodation: Trulli e Puglia or similar

Overview: Today we depart Apulia region and travel southwest to the town of Metaponto, in the Basilicata region.  The town is located by the Ionioan Coast and is composed by the main village and Metaponto Lido, the beach area. Between them lie the ruins of Metapontum, an ancient Greek Achaen colony. (B)

Accommodation: Hotel Turismo or similar

Overview: En route to Briatico we pause at Cosenza where visit Sila National Park with a guided tour. Calabria, the toe of Italy was occupied by the Greeks. Ever since those living in this part of Italy supported Hannibal's cause against the Romans, the region has been dominated by foreign powers: Romans, Saracens, Normans, Swabians, Aragonese and Spanish. This has  given rise to a proud and independent culture reflected in the magnificence of the environment. From this rugged and dramatic land of rural villages and mountainous landscape, many Italian emigrants brought to the Antipodes their traditional culture that has helped shaped the persona of their new countries. (B, D))

Accommodation: Casa Sacro Cuore or similar

Overview: In the morning we transfer to Stilo, a small town that has been named one of the most beautiful hamlets of Italy. The local economy is based on the agriculture, mainly the production of wine, cheese, olive oil and cereals. There we visit the main sights and then continue to Gerace, a town that stands on a hill formed of congolomerates of sea fossils from 60 millions years ago. The main attractions of Gerace are the remains of the old Norman Castle and the perfectly preserved medieval town. (B, D)

Accommodation: Casa Sacro Cuore or similar

Overview: After breakfast we depart Calabria and head to Sicily. On the way we stop at Tropea, a lovely seaside town, the most famous views of Tropea are the large rock outcrop jutting into the sea opposite the centre of town. We continue to Reggio Calabria where we visit the Museo Nazionale Della Magna Grecia. Later we make our way to the port in for our ferry Sicily.  The Mediterranean's largest island suffered, like Calabria, from its strategic position near 'the middle of the world'. Its history recounts stories of constant invasion and colonisation and its cultural heritage has been shaped by the many different peoples who have occupied it over centuries. Its natural features range from the lofty, smouldering Mount Etna to the tiny volcanic Aeolian Islands where we discover many examples of former civilizations: from Phoenician and Carthaginian cities to Greek temples, Roman relics, Byzantine mosaics, Saracen domes and Norman castles and churches. We overnight in Milazzo tonight. (B, D)

Accommodation: Hotel Garibaldi or similar

Overview: We start our day by travelling to the Aeolian Islands, seven small inhabited islands off the northern shore of Scily. The archipelago was formed by volcanic activity and two of the islands still have active volcanoes .We visit Volcano and Lipari before returning to Sicily and transfer to  Acireale. (B, D)

Accommodation: Convento San Biagio or similar

Overview: Today we explore Siracusa, located approximately one hour driver south of Acireale. Siracusa is a large town including island and mainland districts. Many of its attractions are archaeological and historical. It was home to Archimedes and its Greek theatre still stands, with classic dramas still performed there each year.  We visit the main sights with our local guide and also explore the island of Ortygia, the historical heart of Siracusa.

Accommodation: Convento San Biagio or similar

Overview: After breakfast we enjoy a city tour of Catania, the birthplace of composer Bellini. The town is situated between the Ionian Sea and Mount Etna. Here we visit the ruins from the ancient city and see the wealth of fine baroque architecture. There will be some free time to discover the city on your own before we return to our hotel. (B)

Accommodation: Convento San Biagio or similar

Overview: Our local guide will spend the day with us visiting the Etna area and Taormina, with its famous Greek theatre high above the sea and facing Etna. (B, D)

Accommodation: Convento San Biagio or similar

Overview: Today we depart to Agrigento via Caltagirone where we visit the town’s main sights including rhe Roman Villa of Piazza Amerina. (B, D)

Accommodation: Hotel del Viale or similar

Overview: In the morning we visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Valle dei Templi (Valley of the Temples), one of the greatest legacies of ancient Greece. The ruins are what remains of the ancient Greek city of Akragas. The town’s archaeological museum is also on our places to explore today, it has a wide range of exhibits from the area. (B)

Accommodation: Hotel del Viale or similar

Overview: Today we depart for Palemo, en route we stop for a guided tour of Selinunte, home of one of Sicily’s great Greek archaeological sites, the archaeological park encompasses temples, ancient town walls, ruins of residential and commercial buildings as well as zones not yet excavated. As it’s set next to the sea in the south-western corner of Sicily it offers great views. We continue on to Erice for a short visit before continuing to Palermo. (B, D)

Accommodation: Casa del Vangelo il Cenacolo P. Placido Rivilli or similar

Overview: Our travels takes us to Cefalu, a charming historic seaside town where we have a guided tour. The remainder of the day is free to enjoy on your own. (B)

Accommodation: Casa del Vangelo il Cenacolo P. Placido Rivilli or similar

Overview: Today we travel west to the town of Segesta, originally founded by the Elyman people – one of the three indigenous peoples of Sicily – and later integrated with the Greeks. The archaeological complex is set up high in the mountainous area, where we visit the Doric Temples and Hellenic Theatre. Later we drive back via Alcamo where we have the opportunity to visit a local wine producer and taste their wine. (B, D)

Accommodation: Casa del Vangelo il Cenacolo P. Placido Rivilli or similar

Overview: On our last day in Sicily we explore Palermo ona full day tour of Sicily’s cultural, economic and touristic capital. We also take a short trip to Monreale, a town just outside Palermo and famous of its mosaic filled Norman cathedral. Later we transfer to the port for our overnight ferry to Naples. (B)

Accommodation: Onboard the ferry

Overview: On arrival we are picked up at the port and taken for an orientation tour of Naples before checking into our hotel. The afternoon is free to relax and in the evening we gather for the last time as a group for our farewell dinner. (B, D)

Accommodation: Naples Hotel or similar

Overview: Our tour concludes today after breakfast at the hotel. (B)

What's included in our Tour
  • 20 nights hotel accommodation
  • 1 night on board overnight ferry from Palermo to Naples (Single cabins may not be available)
  • 20 Typical local breakfasts at hotels.
  • 13 dinners at the hotel or local restaurants.
  • Touring by comfortable and modern coach.
  • Transport, lectures and field trips as indicated.
  • Applicable entry fees and services of local guides.
  • Services of a Tour Leader.
  • Service Charges and Gratuities.
  • Detailed Tour Information Booklet.
What's not included in our Tour
  • International airfares and taxes
  • Airport transfers
  • Meals not included in the itinerary
  • Comprehensive travel insurance
  • Items of personal nature like laundry, phone calls, etc
Hidden_South_Italy
Ancient History of Southern Italy

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