April 27, 2012, we flew from Las Vegas to Rome to start an 18 day
tour of Italy, including Sicily. We were joined on this trip with
Barbara's sister Colleen and her husband Mark which made it extra
fun. The first 14 days were with Grand European Tours through their
local affiliate, Insight Tours. Then we were on our own for 4 extra
days. The tour was called "Country Roads of Southern Italy
& Sicily". As the name implies, we concentrated on Sicily
and Southern Italy, including the Puglia region along the heel,
sole and toe of the boot. We spent 2-3 days at each stop and the
hotels were all first rate.
We only had 22 people on the tour so we all had plenty of room to
stretch out on the 40 passenger coach. It was a nice mix of people
from all over the world including couples from New Zealand, Australia,
Singapore and Canada and a single lady from South Africa. Our tour
director, Ernesta, was excellent. She not only handled all the logistics
superbly, but also entertained us with insights into Italian customs,
language and idiosyncrasies. We had local guides in all cities and
attractions that gave us the details about the area. To make things
easier, we wore "whisperers". These are radio transmitters
with ear buds so that we could hear the guides talking even as we
wandered around taking pictures. Our bus driver, Marco, was amazing.
Many of the roads we traveled on were more like 1-1/2 lanes wide
and very curvy. And how he maneuvered through the traffic snarled,
chaotic streets of Rome we'll never know. We sure wouldn't want
to drive a car where he took us, let alone a large bus.
the Puglia region, we visited the Trulli's in Alberobello and the
Sassi's in Matera.
In Sicily, we spent 3 nights in Taormina Mare where we visited the
spectacular Greek Theater with its views of spewing Mt. Etna. We
visited the hill top village of Savoca where "The Godfather"
was filmed and then climbed one of the craters on Mt. Etna. On our
way to Palermo we stopped in Agrigento to tour the Greek ruins in
the Valley of the Temples. The
city tour in Palermo took us to the Palermo Cathedral and the Palatine
Chapel to admire the mosaics. Before taking the overnight ferry
from Palermo to Naples (we all had berths on the ship), we drove
to the charming fishing village of Cefalu. Back on the mainland,
we visited the excavated ruins of Pompeii which was buried in 79
AD by Mt. Vesuvius. We toured a factory in Sorrento where they make
inlaid wood music boxes and furniture.
Then crossed the Bay of Naples to the Isle of Capri. On our return
to Rome, we visited the Colosseum and St. Peter's Basilica.
the formal tour, we spent 4 extra days on our own. We took the train
from Rome to Florence, spending 2 days there. Then a train to Pisa
and back to Rome. We had perfect weather the whole time, no rain
and temperatures in the 70's. The only glitch in the plan was we
were unable to tour the Amalfi coast down to Positano due to a landslide
closing the road. But with all that we were able to see we were
more than satisfied with the trip. We'll just have to plan a return
visit to see what we missed!
To read about each place we visited and see a few photos from that
area, go to Italy Newsletters
You can view more photos from our trip by going to the
Photo Gallery. And if you want to see a full size picture, just
click on the photo.
There is a map of our route at Italy Map.
Locations Visited Photos Map