14 Days: A Spiritual Journey to Southern Italy & Sicily- Pompeii, Sorrento, Siracusa, Taormina, Palermo
DAY 1: DEPART
We depart for Rome.
DAY 2: ARRIVE ROME / SORRENTO
We arrive in Rome and are met by our tour manager. Boarding our motor coach we depart Rome for the lovely old town of Sorrento. Sorrento can trace its ancestry back to the Etruscans. You can stroll the old streets where the shop windows display “intarsia”, fine pictures done with inlaid woods. At the end of our visit you’ll understand why “Come Back to Sorrento” ranks as one of the most familiar songs in the world. Dinner is at our hotel. (D)
DAY 3: SORRENTO: POMPEII EXCURSION
Today we make our way to Pompeii, best known for its burial! The town was buried on August 24 in the Year 70 AD, when Mount Vesuvius erupted. The town of Pompeii was damaged mostly by the layers of ash after the eruption, whereas the nearby Herculaneum (which appears to have been a wealthy resort area at the time), was buried in mud. We will visit the ruins, then make our way the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary in Pompeii, where we celebrate Mass. We return to Sorrento for dinner and a special Tarantella Show. (B, D)
DAY 4: SORRENTO / AMALFI / SALERNO /PAESTUM / CONSENZA /REGGIO CALABRIA
This morning we enjoy a scenic drive along the Amalfi Coast, one of the most striking drives in all of Europe. In Amalfi we visit the Cathedral and celebrate Mass at the tomb of St. Andrew. After Mass, we continue on to Salerno, site of the Allied invasion in September 1943. Next we visit the ruins of the “Lost City” of Paestum, site of the best preserved Greek temples north of Sicily. Our final stop of the day is Cosenza, where we visit the Sanctuary of San Francesco di Paola. The Sanctuary’s primitive 16th century decorations were enriched in the following ages when the Sanctuary became more and more important. The Chapel dedicated to the Saint was made by Francesco Schiaffino in the 18th century. We continue on to Reggio Calabria for dinner and the evening. (B, D)
DAY 5: REGGIO CALABRIA / GIARDINI NAXOS
After breakfast we depart to Sicily and Giardini Naxos. This afternoon we enjoy a visit to the famous Alcantara Gorge. Lost in the sands of time, a small volcano north of Mount Etna woke and poured enormous quantities of lava down to the sea and beyond, to form Capo Schiso. The route taken by the river of lava was followed by a torrent of water exposing two sheer cliffs of very hard basalt that had cooled and hardened into fascinating prism-like shapes. The name of the river, and of its valley, Al Qantarah, dates back to the period of Arab occupation and refers to the arched bridge built by the Romans that was capable of withstanding the forces of the river and is an impressive sight even today. Dinner and overnight are in Giardini Naxos. (B, D)
DAY 6: GIARDINI NAXOS: EXCURSION TO SIRACUSA & TAORMINA
After breakfast we depart on our excursion to Siracusa. Siracusa lies on the eastern coast of Sicily, in a charming setting with a picturesque harbour bounded by the Maddalena Peninsula and the Island of Ortygia. Syracuse was one of the most important colonies of Magna Graecia and was founded by Corinthian settlers in 734 B.C. We’ll visit the Cathedral, and the archaeological area including the Greek Theatre and the Roman Amphitheatre with the famous Ear of Dionysius. We go to the Island of Ortygia, the heart of Syracuse and site of the first Sicel settlements. We continue our visit with the Santuario della Madonna delle Lacrime (Our Lady of Tears). It was constructed in 1954 to honor a modest chalk drawing of the Virgin, from which real tears began to flow out of the eyes and heart. The picture, once owned by the Lannuso family, whose home had become a site of pilgrimage, is now preserved in the Sanctuary.
In the afternoon, we continue to Taormina, a charming and beautiful town and one of the chief glories of Sicily. Here we visit the Greek Theatre. The Theatre as we find it today is undoubtedly of the Roman period. The ancient Greek origins of the complex are evidenced by some inscriptions on the steps and the remains of a little temple. We return to Giardini Naxos for dinner and the evening. (B, D)
DAY 7: GIARDINI NAXOS / PIAZZA ARMERINA / AGRIGENTO
This morning we depart to Agrigento. On the way to Agrigento we stop in Piazza Armerina. This small inland village is known for the famous Roman Villa del Casale. The Villa is one of the finest examples of Roman country dwellings on the island. The splendour of the mosaic decorations in the floors has made this ancient Roman villa world famous. We continue to Agrigento, one of the most popular tourist resorts in Sicily, and an internationally celebrated archaeological, architectural and artistic centre. We’ll visit the famous Valley of the Temples, including the largest Doric temple in the world, the Temple of Jupiter. We conclude our day at the Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Catena. Dinner and overnight are in Agrigento. (B, D)
DAY 8: AGRIGENTO / CEFALU / PALERMO
After breakfast we depart for Palermo via Cefalu, a resort town on the north coast of Sicily. Here we visit the splendid Norman Cathedral. Having completed their conquest of Sicily by about 1091, the Normans began to build churches, importing the Norman style and incorporating elements of the Byzantine and Islamic style, already present in Sicily. This cathedral was built under the patronage of King (Count) Roger the II. It is sometimes defined as “Sicilian Romanesque.”
We continue our journey to Palermo, Sicily’s main port, nestled in the middle of a wide bay. At one time, it was the favoured haunt of writers, poets and artists, seduced by its esoteric beauty. Palermo manages to hang on to its essential fascination, drawing its personality from the peoples who have populated its streets over the ages – Byzantine, Arab, Norman and others – who have left their indelible mark not only in the form of a rich artistic heritage but in the very vital rhythm of life in the city. Dinner is at our accommodations. (B, D)
DAY 9: PALERMO / MONREALE / ROME
We’ll visit the Cathedral and the Royal Palace (Palazzo dei Normanni) with the Palatine Chapel, considered one of the best monuments of Norman art in the Sicilian capital. We continue our tour with a visit to Mount Pellegrino (Pilgrims’ Mountain) and Saint Rosalie’s Shrine. Mount Pellegrino offers a panoramic view of Palermo and the Sea but it is most famous for the Sanctuary of Saint Rosalie. This medieval Saint sought a hermit’s life on Mount Pellegrino and many miracles were attributed to her. Here we celebrate Mass.
Early this afternoon, we travel the short distance to Monreale, slightly south of Palermo on a panoramic upland overlooking the Conca d’Oro and the Oreto River valley. We visit the Cathedral (Santa Maria la Nuovo) begun in 1174. This cathedral was built at the order of William II. The interior walls of the Cathedral are completely decorated with mosaics. After spending some time in Monreale, we transfer to Palermo airport to board our flight to Rome. Dinner will be served at our hospice near St. Peter’s. (B, D)
DAY 10: ROME: PAPAL AUDIENCE, PLUS SANTA MARIA DEL POPOLO, PANTHEON, ST. MARY MAJOR & ST. PAUL’S OUTSIDE THE WALLS
This morning we make our way to Vatican City to attend the General Papal Audience (subject to the Holy Father’s schedule).
This afternoon we pray at the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, entering Rome through the Porta del Popolo, the traditional entrance to the Eternal City since the Middle Ages. We visit as well the Pantheon, the Roman temple of “all the gods”. The Pantheon became a church in the middle ages, and in time this magnificent building with its awe-inspiring domed interior became a symbol of Rome itself. Our next stop is one of Rome’s splendid Major Basilicas – Santa Maria Maggiore, also known as St. Mary Major. Here we celebrate Mass. Our last stop of the day is the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, housing the Tomb of St. Paul the Apostle, affectionately known as the Apostle of the Gentiles. Dinner is at our accommodations. (B, D)
DAY 11: ROME: VATICAN MUSEUM, BASILICA OF ST. PETER & SCAVI TOUR
This morning we have a private Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica. We then enjoy a tour of the Vatican Museum, an incredible collection of art accumulated by the popes, and the Sistine Chapel, featuring Michelangelo’s masterworks. Our tour ends with a visit of the Basilica of St. Peter. Here we see another of Michelangelo’s works, the statue of the Blessed Mother holding her crucified son. We know it as the Pieta. We’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the magnificent view of Rome from the Dome.
In the afternoon we have a guided visit and tour of the Scavi, the underground excavations beneath St. Peter’s Basilica (these tickets are always subject to final confirmation 48 hours before the proposed visit). The remainder of the afternoon is at our leisure. Dinner is at our accommodations. (B, D)
DAY 12: ROME: EXCURSION TO MONTECASSINO
This morning we visit the Benedictine Abbey of Montecassino, perhaps the most famous monastery in the world, founded by Benedict of Norcia in the year 529. Here, Benedict wrote his RULE OF ST. BENEDICT. He died here, forty days after his sister Scholastica. Both are buried here. Montecassino served as a beacon of civilization throughout the Middle Ages. Western Monasticism, a movement that influenced much of the social and economic history of Europe had its roots here. Here we celebrate the final Mass of our journey. We return to Rome for some leisure time, followed by dinner at a local restaurant. (B, D)
DAY 13: ROME: FULL DAY AT LEISURE OR OPTIONAL EXCURSION TO FLORENCE
Today we enjoy a day at leisure in Rome for shopping, revisiting favorite sites, or strolling through the streets of Rome to experience its unique flavor, or you may wish to join an optional excursion to Florence. For those not opting for the sightseeing tour, our local manager will advise you of the possibilities of Mass at nearby churches. Dinner is on our own this evening, and our tour manager will have some suggestions on where to dine in the area. (B)
OPTIONAL EXCURSION TO FLORENCE – Leaving Rome, the coach passes North through three of the most beautiful regions of Italy: Latium, Umbria and Tuscany. We arrive in Florence at about 11:30 am and we visit the Academy with the statue of David by Michelangelo. Admire the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore with Giotto’s Belltower and the Baptistry. Proceed to Piazza della Signoria, and visit the court-yard of Palazzo Medici. Take lunch in a local restaurant. Continue to Santa Croce Square with visit of a leather factory, and from there we will reach Piazzale Michelangelo. Around 5:00 pm is our departure to Rome with arrival at about 8:30-9:00 p.m. Cost TBA.
DAY 14: RETURN
After breakfast we transfer to airport for our return flight home. (B)
While no changes are anticipated, there might be occasions when certain alterations become necessary to this itinerary due to changes in airline schedules or for other reasons. All Masses are subject to final church schedules.