On the oriental coast of the island the Sicily tours are some truthful paths of wonder.
Starting from Noto and Ragusa’s baroques, Modica’s famous chocolate and going on with the magnificent archaeological sites and Greek theatres of Siracusa and Tindari until getting to the Etna and Taormina tours.
SIRACUSA: FROM NEAPOLIS TO ORTIGIA
One of the cities you can’t miss is Siracusa, one among the most evocative cities in the island which is not to be missed in the Sicily tours. If you haven’t found yet what to see while in Siracusa, you must know that it’s a city that fascinates its visitors for the richness of its heredity from classical age, which has an invaluable patrimony, over 2000 years old. During one of our eastern Sicily tours, the Archaeologic Park of the Neapolis is a good spot to better understand the city and to get into an unforgettable experience. The majestic Greek Theatre is in the oldest area of the city, in the most representative part of the polis, which is also the biggest in Sicily. In the archaeologic Park you can even find a multitude of caves, for example the Ear of Dionysus, an artificial cave that has a particular shape resembling the ear of a donkey. Thanks to this cave the tyrant could listen to the prisoners’ conversations while hidden in a cavity found on the top of the rock. To lose oneself in the Greek tradition, you have to visit Ortigia, in particular the splendid Cathedral dedicated to Santa Lucia with the magnificent dorian columns of the Athena Temple which constitute the main structure. Some chapels have been carved between one column and the other one through which you have access to the aisles. Among these ones, the Chapel of Santa Lucia, who is the patron saint of Siracusa, and the chapel of the Crucifix with two important canvas from antonellian school from the XVth century. Another relevant testimony is the Temple of Apollo, of which only some parts of the pillars remain. The Maniace Castle, which is based on the extreme tip of Ortigia, outstands for one of its halls, which is sustained by some columns made of limestone, and its windows that give a strategical view.
SICILIAN TOURS: NOTO AND RAGUSA’S BAROQUES
If you’re planning a tour of Sicily, the tour of Noto and Ragusa’s baroques has to be on your list.
- Noto, the “Garden of stone”: Noto was given its name by Arabs and has kept it until nowadays because it has gained a renowned aura, but was in its origin called Neai by Siculi, Neeton by Greeks and Neetum by Romans. The original site is based 8 km north from Monte Alveria, known as Noto Antica which already existed in Bronze Age (2200 – 1450 b.C .), in Greek Age (V sec. b.C.) and in Roman Age. Most of the buildings and the churches are located in the surroundings of Corso Vittorio Emanuele, the main artery of the city. From its beginning, overcome the monumental Porta Reale, which was built in 1838 in honour of Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies with the symbols of the city, you reach on your right to the Church of Saint Francis from Assisi all’Immacolata, flamboyant and emerging on the road. Still on the right there’s the Monastery with annexe Church of SS Salvatore guesting the nuns from the high Sicilian nobility during ‘700. Opposite to it, on the left, you can find the City Museum based in the premises of the previous Monastery of Santa Chiara, which is composed of two sections: the archaeological one and the artistic one. Neighbouring is the Church of Santa Chiara which keeps a fresco of Saint Mary with Child from the XVIth century, attributed to Antonello Gagini. Continuing on the right, you’ll find yourself in front of the breath-taking setting of the Cathedral Minor Basilica of San Nicolò, which was included by UNESCO in the World Heritage Sites and is also national monument from 1940.
- Ragusa Ibla: where time stopped: After the discovery of Noto, Noto and Ragusa’s baroques tour continues with your visit to Ragusa: the city boasts old roots since the hill of Ibla has been home to Siculi from about XVth century b.C.
In 2002, Ibla has been declared by the UNESCO World Heritage Site for its baroque architecture, together with 7 more municipalities of Val di Noto.
The point of joint between “High City” (Ragusa) and “Low City” (Ibla) is the Church of Santa Maria delle Scale, which preserves a gothic pulpit on the exterior and 4 chapels in gothic-Catalan and renaissance style. From the churchyard, you can admire one of the most beautiful panorama of Ragusa Ibla. Descending the flight of steps of more than 300 steps towards Ibla you reach a little square where, on the left, the scenic Palazzo Nicastro (or della Cancelleria) arises in its rich decorations, running along which you’ll find yourself in front of the Church of Madonna dell’Idria. Adjacent the church of Idria, Palazzo Cosentini offers the imaginative big mantels with grotesque figures and big masks among the best ones in Ragusa. In the subjacent Repubblica square rises the Church of Anime Sante del Purgatorio on the top of a flamboyant flight of steps. Continuing on descending you reach the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi all’Immacolata which emerges on the site of the old Convent of Minor Conventual friars. From there the visit ends in the Giardino Ibleo, a precious oasis sculpted in a wonderful setting with its beauties.
MODICA AND PIAZZA ARMERINA: THE HEART OF SICILY
If you’re fond of chocolate, Modica is another stop-over to include in your Sicily tours. This city is best known for the typical production of local chocolate, which has Aztec derivation. To stroll in its historical centre, that had to be built again after the terrible heartquake of 1693, means immersing yourself in late baroque architecture, visiting impressing churches and flights of stairs such as the majestic Cathedral of Saint George, symbol of the Sicilian baroque, and Saint Peter’s Church.
Piazza Armerina is a district of the province of Enna, widely known because Villa Romana del Casale is there: it is an ancient and luxurious Roman villa with 60 rooms and 3500 m2 of floors decorated with exquisite mosaics. Villa Romana del Casale and Valle dei Templi in Agrigento were the first sites in Sicily to be enrolled by UNESCO in the World heritage sites list in 1997. On grounds of its enrolment, the rests of the villa of Piazza Armerina are considered the most exceptional example of luxury of the villas in the Roman world, and the magnificent mosaics, which adorn almost every room in its interior, are exceptional for their artistic qualities and extensions. Your visit to Piazza Armerina can’t exclude a stop-over in this place that represents one of the most important Sicilian locations. Some other points of interest in Piazza Armerina are the Cathedral of Maria Santissima delle Vittorie, which emerges on the highest point of the city, the Aragon Castle, the Church of Saint Rocco with its front made of yellow tuff and the meridian near the main portal, the Church of Saint Peter and Garibaldi Theatre.
ETNA VOLCANO AND TAORMINA
Moving on the Ionic coast of Sicily there are two more essential sites that you must include in your Sicily tours: Etna volcano, the most active in Europe, and Taormina, also known as the “Pearl of the Mediterranean”. The Etna tours are very diversified: you can choose among a visit to the canteens of Catania’s province, a tour of Etna by bike or helicopter, or a Etna trekking tour. Most of these tours include a tasting of local products (for example some wine tasting with the famous Nerello Mascalese) that will help you taste Sicily in all of its facets. If you also want to spend some time to visit Taormina, famous for its wonderful Roman-Greek Theatre and its exclusive shops, you can choose our Taormina Etna Tour, which comprehends an excursion to both sites.
TINDARI: FROM THE GREEK COLONY TO THE BLACK VIRGIN MARY
In the province of Messina, the Greek colony of Tindari offers one of the most interesting Sicily tours with its archaeological area, which includes a humble greek theatre (the only one of the Tyrrhenian coast of Sicily) and the Hellenistic-late Roman town with some blocks or insulae (among the best ones is the insula IV) and the basilica. Tindari is well-known even for the religious tourism for the presence of the Sanctuary dedicated to the Black Virgin Mary, an effigy with oriental origins, which veneration has been attested from Xth century.
Now that you’ve better learnt about the Sicily tours, you’ll just have to choose Discover Messina Sicily and make a fantastic experience with us, unique and unforgettable.