Susan Worner Tours

Sicily – Autumn Gardens from Taormina to Siracusa

28 September – 05 October 2017

Sicily – the mythic garden of Persephone – is abundant with colour and luminosity. We visit gardens in the east of the island, some created by the English in former times, others planted more recently, and add some cultural elements to the programme. Mount Etna is part of Sicilian life with its rich volcanic soil assuring delicious fruit, vegetables and excellent wine.

An island of great contrasts, Sicily has been invaded by Greeks, Romans, Normans and Spaniards, all of whom have influenced its culture and character. Lord Nelson was rewarded with an estate in the foothills of Etna by the Sicilians for his aid in a maritime campaign.

Warm weather after the late summer thunderstorms encourages new growth on terraced hillside gardens. The olive trees are heavy with fruit and the orange groves are soon ready for harvest.

The first few days are spent in the attractive town of Taormina at the comfortable, welcoming Hotel Villa Belvedere, with superb views over the bay and to Mount Etna. We head south to Ortigia, our base for a couple of days in a beautiful historical part of Siracusa, at the well-situated Grand Hotel overlooking the harbour. The views from their rooftop restaurant are stunning.

The group will be a maximum of 16 participants. We use a comfortable small coach and travel is just over one hour on certain days.

 

Itinerary

DAY ONE – THURSDAY 28 SEPTEMBER LD

Morning flight from London Gatwick to Catania on the eastern side of the island. You will be met at the airport for the transfer to Hotel Villa Belvedere. Lunch is served in the lush garden near the pool. Relaxed short visit to the gardens laid out by Florence Trevelyan at the end of the nineteenth century. An aperitivo is served on the terrace before we walk to a nearby restaurant for dinner together, enjoying delicious local specialities.

DAY TWO – FRIDAY 29 SEPTEMBER BL

Catania’s vibrant market in the Baroque centre of town is amazing, with its choice of fish and much mouth-watering local produce. After exploring the Duomo Square and admiring the lava stone elephant statue, we return along the coastline to have lunch at Donna Carmela and visit their fascinating nursery Faro Piante. Evening at leisure.

DAY THREE – SATURDAY 30 SEPTEMBER BLD

Morning guided visit of the old town of Taormina and the ruins of the Greco–Roman theatre, a remarkable archaeological site. Light lunch in the hotel garden. Mount Etna holds a fascination for everyone: we take the southern road up through the lava flows, discovering the indigenous Mount Etna broom. We return through the vine-covered hillsides, passing farms and small villages, and enjoy dinner on a wine estate.

DAY FOUR –SUNDAY 01 OCTOBER BL

A full day in Taormina. Casa Cuseni is a private garden above the town walls created by Robert Kitson, an early twentieth-century painter from Leeds, who discovered Sicily on a grand tour.The villa and terraced gardens have a strong Arts & Crafts influence with exuberant plantings.We can view the fascinating, well-preserved interiors created by Sir Frank Branwyn before enjoying a delicious buffet lunch on the garden terrace. Early evening aperitivo in the delightful San Domenico Palace gardens with fabulous views to Mount Etna. Evening at leisure.

DAY FIVE – MONDAY 02 OCTOBER BLD

We head south to visit the estate of San Giuliano at Villasmundo. Surrounded by extensive citrus orchards, the late fifteenth-century fortified farmhouse has a giardinetto divided into four distinct areas. The traditional Arabic irrigation channels, saie, are still in use. The head gardener, Rachel Lamb, will give us an interesting insight into gardening in Sicily. Aperitivo and lunch in the garden.We leave southwards for Siracusa to the Ortigia Peninsula to check in at the Grand Hotel, our base for three nights. Afternoon guided visit of the historical centre: the Duomo is quite spectacular.Dinner together in the hotel restaurant with views over the bay and old town from the rooftop terrace.

DAY SIX –TUESDAY 03 OCTOBER BL

We depart inland to visit the gardens of Princess Maria Carla Borghese near Lentini. A collection of succulents is intertwined with roses and jasmine, agaves and palms that give structure, and beyond is an avenue of stone pines evocative of Roman landscapes. Buffet lunch in the garden with the owner. Returning to Ortigia, the evening is free to discover restaurants.

DAY SEVEN – WEDNESDAY 04 OCTOBER BD

Morning visit with our superb local guide to the Greek amphitheatre, an amazing archaeological site. A discovery of a garden in an old limestone quarry follows. In Siracusa, excavated ruins in the ancient Latomia dei Paradiso date back to the fifth century BC. Afternoon at leisure. Join the early evening passegiata in Ortigia, before arriving at a typical local restaurant for dinner.

DAY EIGHT – THURSDAY 05 OCTOBER BL

We depart from the hotel in Ortigia to a private garden in the foothills of Mount Etna on the edge of Catania. On a hillside amongst Etna lava, the terraces are planted with a rich collection of plants and trees. The garden is still being developed on a higher level in the mandarin orchard. The enthusiastic owner who accompanies us invites us for lunch. In the afternoon we leave for Catania airport for the return flight.



“The loveliest region of Italy:a stunning orgy of colours, scents, and lights… a great delight” Sigmund Freud
Map of Sicily

Tour Costs

£2,480 per person sharing Single supplement £580

Included:

All flights and transport in modern, comfortable minibus.
Accommodation with ensuite bathroom, delicious meals as indicated.
Garden visits.
Excellent local guides, accompanied by Susan Worner

Not included:

Alcoholic drinks (except the first evening’s aperitivo).
Items of a personal nature.
Fully comprehensive travel insurance.
Tips to guides & staff.

Hotels

Villa Belvedere, Taormina
www.villabelvedere.it/en
Grand Hotel, Ortigia, Siracusa
www.grandhotelortigia.it

Activity Level:

Some steep, terraced gardens. Reasonable amount of walking.

Notes

The climate in September/October is sunny and warm, sometimes windy.
B – BreakfastL – LunchD – Dinner