ESSENTIAL SICILY: Syracuse to Taormina
A special tour hosted by Rachel Lamb and led by Patience Shone
The surprising thing about Sicily is the lushness and the range of plants grown, particularly in the Catania region on the slopes of mineral-rich Mount Etna with groves of citrus, olives, pistachio, palms and outsized flowering specimens of species only known as diminutive houseplants in UK. We will introduce you to some passionate local gardeners and to the fine Baroque architecture of Noto and Ortigia. The tour includes special invitations to lunch in some wonderful Sicilian homes. By the end of April, wild flowers carpet the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily and the scent of zagara, or citrus blossom will lead us to groves of blood oranges and to private gardens packed with ornamental citrus and other glories. You stay at two fine hotels: Algilà Ortigia is a small charming hotel in the heart of ancient Ortigia surrounded by Baroque churches, Greek temples and waterfront promenades. San Domenico is a converted 15th century monastery in the heart of old Taormina with wonderful views of the sea & Mount Etna and blessed with fragrant terraced gardens. Rachel Lamb has worked with Boxwood in the past to lead tours around the gardens of San Giuliano. Rachel is a highly experienced continental gardener trained in the UK, now working at a range of wonderful properties in Southern Italy and has much to tell us first-hand about Mediterranean gardening.
Day 1: Sunday 30th April
Flight BA2594 departs from London Gatwick at 16:50 arriving in Catania Airport at 20:55. We will drive from the airport directly to Algilà Ortigia Hotel with a light supper available before retiring.
Day 2: Monday 1st May
We start the tour with a guided tour of Princess Borghese’s extraordinary family garden at Il Biviere. Close by, we discover San Giorgio, a citrus estate owned by Rudolf & Benedikta von Freyberg where we are invited to a delicious home-cooked lunch with a citrus theme before Rudolf shows us the organic plantation and garden where he has been growing Sicily’s unique blood oranges for 30 years. This estate is described in Helena Attlee’s book The Land Where Lemons Grow, a BBC Radio 4 ‘Book of the Week’ and Sunday Times bestseller. We return to Ortigia with time to rest before enjoying drinks overlooking the fine Duomo and an evening meal at a local restaurant.
Day 3: Tuesday 2nd May
Syracuse has many wondrous stories to tell embedded in the strata of its history. At the outskirts of the town we stroll down a track to the wild flower strewn Greek Theatre and peer down to the citrus filled ancient quarries before heading to the beautiful Baroque town of Noto with free time to explore and to find your own lunch in this outstandingly elegant town. In the afternoon, we visit a private garden designed by Ettore Paternò del Toscano, who has been a strong influence in many eastern Sicilian gardens. We then return to the hotel for a free evening to enjoy the special ambience and restaurants of Ortigia.
Day 4: Wednesday 3rd May
This morning we travel to San Giuliano, a citrus growing estate also renowned for its wonderful garden that has belonged to the family of Marchesi Paternò Castello di San Giuliano for more than 800 years. Rachel Lamb has been involved in these gardens for 14 years and can 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. Following a delicious lunch we travel north to the outskirts of Catania to see a private family garden on the foothills of Etna. Passionate plantswoman, Valerie Ciancio, will tell the story of gardening on Etna. In Taormina, we check in at the Hotel San Domenico where all rooms enjoy sea views, with time to rest before dining together in the restaurant.
Day 5: Thursday 4th May
Drive to Catania to see the fine collection of indigenous Sicilian plants at the Orto Botanico before visiting the home of Rossella Pezzino for a special invitation to lunch and a personal tour of her garden. The garden tells the story of her life - an exceptional experience. Returning to Taormina, we view Casa Cuseni, an Arts & Crafts house and terraced garden designed by Robert Hawthorn Kitson. Following wine on the terrace, we return to the hotel for a final meal together.
Day 6: Friday 5th May
Return to Catania airport in good time to check in for the 12:25 BA2595 return flight to London Gatwick arriving at 14:45.
How much & what's included
The price per person: £2998.00
Single supplement: £595 (per person, levied by the hotels).
The price includes 3 nights’ accommodation at Hotel Algilà Ortigia and 2 nights’ accommodation at Hotel San Domenico; buffet breakfast each day; three lunches with garden owners; three evening meals (wine included); and return flights from London Gatwick.
Please note that if you wish to arrange your own flights we will be happy to deduct £156 per person from the tour price if we are notified at the time of booking.
To make a reservation please make a deposit of £200 using the online booking facility below.
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