15th to 19th May 2020:
A special tour hosted by Rachel Lamb
and led by Kirsty Fergusson
The surprising thing about Sicily is the lushness and the range of plants grown, particularly in the Catania region. The slopes of mineral-rich Mount Etna support groves of citrus, olives, pistachio, palms and outsized flowering specimens of species only known as diminutive houseplants in UK. We introduce you to some passionate local gardeners as well as show you some wonderful Palazzos, villas and a fine wine estate: this is an island with a rich history and deep traditions. The tour includes special invitations to lunch in some wonderful Sicilian homes. We stay at two fine hotels. Hotel Eurostars Centrale Palace 4* is in the heart of Palermo, within walking distance of the Cathedral. Originally a private Palazzo it maintains its vintage frescos and antique furniture. In Taormina Mare we stay at the Belmond Villa Sant’ Andrea 5* where all reserved rooms have sea views: a secluded retreat with subtropical gardens retaining all the charm of a private residence. Our host is English born Rachel Lamb, a highly experienced continental gardener trained in the UK, now working at a range of wonderful properties in Southern Italy. Rachel has much to tell us about the art of Mediterranean gardening.
Day 1: Friday 15th May
Flight BA2594 departs from London Gatwick at 07:15, arriving in Catania Airport at 11:25. We drive across the island through outstanding scenery to Palermo, stopping en route at the award winning Tenuta Regaleali to taste their fine wines accompanied by a light lunch. Established in 1830 it has been managed by eight generations of the Tasca d’Almerita family. We then check into Hotel Eurostars Centrale with time to settle before dining together in the hotel’s stunning panoramic roof top restaurant.
Day 2: Saturday 16th May
We start the day with a visit to Palermo’s world-famous Orto Botanico. Established in 1789 it holds important collections cycads, palms, a tropical orchard and majestic trees. We then walk through the old town for lunch at a local restaurant followed by a visit to a sumptuous private Palazzo. Later in the afternoon, we drive to the hills just out of Palermo for a special visit to the house and gardens of Villa Tasca. A garden that has successfully embraced change, it is no accident that the highly controlled and manicured parterre of the earlier Baroque garden has evolved into the equally artificial Irregular Garden. The Bosco that was traditionally located at the perimeter of the Baroque garden was just as easily turned into the ‘wild’ Romantic garden seen today. We are invited to participate in a drink and Sicilian canapes before returning to Palermo and the Hotel Eurostars Centrale Palace.
Day 3: Sunday 17th May
At Villa Palagonia we experience the eccentricities of this crumbling villa where the garden wall is decorated with grotesque caricatures and bizarre creatures. Leaving Palermo, we drive across Sicily to a private garden that was designed and owned by Ettore Paternò del Toscano, Sicily’s most important twentieth-century landscape architect. We are invited to lunch on arrival and then shown around the garden. Later, we drive to Taormina Mare and Belmond Villa Sant’ Andrea with time to settle before dining together in the hotel restaurant.
Day 4: Monday 18th May
We journey south to Il Biviere for a guided tour of Princess Borghese’s extraordinary family garden created on land once occupied by a lake. After a delicious lunch we are invited to San Giuliano, a citrus growing estate also renowned for its wonderful garden belonging to the family of Marchesi Paternò Castello di San Giuliano for more than 800 years. Rachel Lamb has been involved in these gardens for a number of years and will reveal some of the secrets of this beautiful garden. We will also visit a marmalade kitchen concealed amongst the orange groves where delectable single fruit marmalades are produced for export all over the world. Return to Taormina Mare with time to rest before venturing up to Taormina with a chance to see the Greek Theatre prior to dining at the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo before return to Belmond Villa Sant’ Andrea.
Day 5: Tuesday 19th May
We first visit the home of Rossella Pezzino de Geronimo for a very personal tour of her luxurious garden, Le Stanze in Fiore. Rossella will lead you through the story of her life as depicted in her garden – an exceptional experience. The garden tour is followed by a special invitation to lunch showcasing Sicilian specialities, many from recipes passed down from Rossella’s grandmother. A short distance away is another fascinating, private family garden on the foothills of Etna. Passionate plantswoman, Valerie Ciancio, explains the experience of gardening on a volcano. Returning to Catania Airport with time to obtain food if required and to check in for the 19:40 flight BA2595 to London Gatwick arriving at 21:55
How much & what’s included:
The price per person: £3398
Single supplement: £580 (levied by the hotels).
The price includes two nights’ accommodation at Hotel Eurostars Centrale Palace 4* and two nights’ accommodation at Belmond Villa Sant’ Andrea 5*; buffet breakfast each day; five lunches with garden owners; three evening meals (wine included); and return flights from London Gatwick. Please contact the Boxwood office if you wish to obtain a quotation to upgrade to Club Class. The price does not include extras at the hotels or travel insurance. Those wishing to make their own flight arrangements should state this on the booking form and we will deduct £161 per person from the tour price. Please note that Boxwood Tours use hotels of character featuring a variety of rooms & styles.
This tour is financially protected by the ATOL scheme. When you pay you will be supplied with an ATOL Certificate. Please ask for it and check to ensure that everything you booked (flights, hotels and other services) is listed on it. Please see our booking conditions for further information or for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOLCertificate