Gardens and Palaces of Eastern Sicily Tour

7 nights starting from
£1920

  • Our base, Acireale – a delightful Baroque town

  • I Giardini del Biviere Gardens

  • Catania’s Palazzo Fiorini

  • Nelson’s Castle – that he never saw

  • Le Stanze in Fiore Gardens

  • Taormina and the Casa Cuseni

This delightful new tour, based just north of Catania in the picturesque Baroque town of Acireale, is the latest itinerary designed by local expert and enthusiast, Tullio Scurria, who has led tours in Sicily for Travel Editions for some two decades. This tour focusses on the gardens and palaces in a relatively small area of this lovely region as well as visiting some of the area’s most beautiful towns and cities. Overlooked by the looming presence of Mount Etna, it is an area with a rich architectural, botanic and artistic heritage as well as stunning mountain and coastal scenery, explored in the company of your genial and knowledgeable host.

Available Departures

From

10 - May - 2025 £ 1920.00 Travel Info Book Now

Provisional Timings

London Gatwick

Departing: 10th May 2025 at 15:35

Returning: 17th May 2025 at 11:25

ITINERARY

Day 1: Fly to Catania and transfer to hotel for dinner and overnight.
Fly from London Gatwick to Catania and transfer to the Grande Hotel Maugeri in Acireale. Welcome drink and dinner at the hotel.

Day 2: Palaces & Gardens – Parco Paterno del Toscano, Acireale guided tour and Palazzo Fiorini
Our first visit of this lovely tour is to the the Parco Paternò del Toscano at Sant’Agata Li Battiati, a private garden which covers more than three hectares on the slopes of Mount Etna. Agave and Yucca plants clamber up the lava outcrops, the residue of ancient flows. At the top of the garden stands the main house which blends in effortlessly with the surrounding landscape thanks to a system of asymmetrical terracing. The result is a unique rock garden with breath-taking views, one of the most charming masterpieces of the landscape gardener from whom the park has inherited its name, Ettore Paternò. Return to Acirerale for lunch with wine in a local trattoria. After lunch, a guided walking tour of Acireale, a gorgeous Sicilian town at the foot of Mount Etna, off the tourist track, but with beautiful churches and palaces in Sicilian Baroque style. Highlights here include a hidden gem from the 19th century - the Palazzo Fiorini, a beautiful palace with magnificent interiors and stunning ceilings. Rest of the afternoon and evening at leisure.

Day 3: I Giardini del Biviere & Palazzo Biscari
This morning we head south to Lentini where the Princess Borghese estate is located. The marvellous Mediterranean garden, I Giardini del Biviere, is renowned throughout the world and we will be met by Princess Donna Maria Carla Borghese’s daughter in law. She will introduce the story of her family, and the history of the site and how, starting in 1968, the Princess has turned what was once a desolate drained lake with its ancient harbour into a tranquil green haven. This Borghese Garden is a member of the Italian Greatest Gardens Association and has had a host of visitors from the UK since the Queen Mother visited it in 1988. We then drive to Catania, one of Italy's most important centres to visit the Palazzo Biscari, a monumental and sumptuous Baroque private palace, the most important in Catania with highly decorative interiors in Rococo style;  Lunch (not included) and afternoon at leisure in Catania. Return to Acireale for a free evening.

Day 4: Nelson Castle and Pistachio region
Today we drive through the region of pistacchio cultivation and the Etna Wine Valley to visit Nelson’s Castle. En-route we will stop in the town of Bronte, the home of pistacchio nuts to see the Etna “sciara” land where vast quantities of pistachio are grown.  After a coffee stop – accompanied with cake or cannoli filled with pistacchio cream - we go to the nearby town of Maniaci to visit Nelson’s Castle, a Sicilian mansion – formerly a Benedictine Abbey, founded by the Normans in the XII Century - in the foothills of Mount Etna, part of a 160,000 sq metre estate that was gifted to Lord Nelson in 1799 by King Ferdinand IV of Naples - at the time his ally in the war with France - together with the title of the Duke of Bronte. The Duchy has been passed down through Nelson's ancestors until they sold it to Bronte's Council in 1981. Lord Nelson shipped Victorian furniture from England to the house and mingled it with Sicilian majolicas, brocades, statues, paintings and archaeological wonders many of which are still there to be seen, untouched. He had a team of gardeners who built a greenhouse and create an English-style luxuriant garden with herbs and exotic plants and restyled the Abbey into a sumptuous mansion. Despite his hard work and investment, Lord Nelson never actually set foot in his dream mansion, being killed in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. After included lunch with Etna wine, we will return to Acireale through the Etna Wine Valley. Evening at leisure.

Day 5: Free day at leisure in Acireale
Today is a full day at leisure to enjoy our base in delightful Acireale.

Day 6: Le Stanze in Fiore Gardens
Today we visit Le Stanze in Fiore, a private garden, located just outside Catania City Centre, that surrounds a nineteenth-century neoclassical country villa. The project was begun with the aim of creating a contemporary flower garden combining well-known Mediterranean flower species with rare tropical and subtropical plants. The garden is arranged like a series of rooms, with a natural, rather than a geometric look; a place that is revealed a little at a time, in which the common thread is the colour and scent of the climbing plants and flowering shrubs. A guided tour is hosted by the owner herself, at the end of which we can relax and enjoy a lunch with wine in the garden, with a menu of delicious finger food. After lunch, return to hotel for the afternoon and evening at leisure in Acireale.

Day 7: Casa Cuseni, Taormina and Giardino di Casa Pennisi
Today we drive to Taormina - a town built on a great natural terrace that has been famous since ancient times for its unrivalled views - to visit Casa Cuseni, an English Lord’s House on the Island of the ‘Gattopardo’. Built in the classical style by Robert Hawthorn Kitson (1873-1947) a British painter who left England to settle in Taormina in the 1900s, the villa has one of the most important theosophical gardens parks in Europe. His construction in this garden of a Temple of King Solomon, a gigantic Menorah, three Mikvehs for ritual baths, a pathway of purification of an initiation path based on the model of the Divine Comedy, made this space a place of resistance against the colonialist ideology of the great world empires, a place of brotherhood and peace. It is beautifully planted on 13 levels with fantastic views over Naxos Bay and Mount Etna and based on a design by Sir Franck Brangwyn RA, who also designed the secret dining room which is the only interior left in the world designed by him and considered one of the best examples of the Arts & Crafts Movement in the world. Casa Cuseni has been an international artistic centre and hotel for artists, that has hosted celebrities from the world of literature and painting, from Ernest Hemingway, who wrote his first short story here, to Tennessee Williams, Roald Dahl, Ezra Pound, Denis Mack Smith, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Sir George Clausen, Henry Faulkner and Lord Bertrand Russell.  It has been declared an Italian National Monument and now also hosts a museum of fine art. Time at leisure in Taormina to enjoy this beautiful town perched high above the coast, with its winding narrow streets, medieval palazzi, a charming Duomo, interesting “Giardini pubblici” and the staggering Greek theatre with its commanding view of snow-capped Etna in the distance. Lunch at leisure (not included). In the afternoon we will return to Acireale to visit Il Giardino di Casa Pennisi, which has withstood the threat of development, maintaining its original structure and dimension, even though it is based in the heart of Acireale, where it was planted at the end of the XIX Century to house the prestigious Grand Hotel des Bains. This evening a farewell fish dinner with wine, in one of the typical fish restaurants along the famous Acitrezza coastline.

Day 8: Departure
Day free in Acireale before returning to Catania Airport for the return flight to London Gatwick.

NB: Exact order of excursions may vary according to local conditions, weather and tour manager’s discretion

Please note this tour has been classed as ‘Demanding’ due to the nature of some of the gardens visited being on hills and the uneven ground some of the gardens have.

Please note the maximum group size on this tour is 35 passengers.

INCLUDED

  • Return flights from London Gatwick to Catania 
  • Seven nights’ accommodation on bed and breakfast basis at the four-star Grand Hotel Maugeri  in Acireale,  based on shared occupancy of a twin/double room
  • Return transfers from Catania Airport to the hotel
  • Welcome drink and dinner at the hotel on the first evening
  • Farewell fish dinner at local restaurant
  • Three lunches
  • Full touring itinerary with entrance fees as detailed, conducted by tour manager
  • Tour manager, local expert and enthusiast, Tullio Scuirria, throughout

NOT INCLUDED

  • Double for sole use supplement 
  • Holiday insurance
  • Meals other than those stated
  • Items of a personal nature such as drinks, laundry, telephone calls 
  • Porterage and gratuities

HOTEL

Grande Albergo Maugeri, Acireale

The four-star Grande Albergo Maugeri is located in the heart of the beautiful historic centre of Acireale, famous for its picturesque cathedral and Baroque buildings. The hotel has a well-regarded restaurant, American bar and very comfortable bedrooms with all modern amenities including en-suite bathroom, TV, telephone, wifi, air-conditioning, safe, minibar and hairdryer.

Hotel Website

Administation
Brochure Description
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Accommodation
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Sightseeing Tours
Overall Impression

The whole tour was first class. Auri was a very good and spirited tour manager. The content was excellent. I would only make two comments. Given that the party is 'on holiday' and that they are mainly of an older generation, I do think the start times in the morning are a bit too enthusiastic. By this i mean start times of 8.30 and 9am having had breakfast. I do think start times some half an hour later would be better appreciated. Secondly the trip started and ended on a Saturday (at half term) so travelling was crowded. Again could this be avoided (Ie a weekday start)?

Review by Coates who travelled 18-May-2024


Administation
Brochure Description
Flight/Train/Ferry
Accommodation
Tour Manager
Sightseeing Tours
Overall Impression

The tour was exceptional, in concept, content, and delivery. The guide, Aureliano, was remarkable in his breadth of knowledge, choice of what to tell us, delivery of information in an accessible and often entertaining commentary, and in his sensitivity to the needs of the group, some of whom were elderly and needed assistance with difficult bits of terrain. It was a pleasure to be with him and to feel so well cared for. The group was compatible and we were all sorry to be saying goodbye at the end, and to say goodbye to Aure. It was a triumph for Aureliano. I would come back again and take the same tour with him again! Suggestions: 1.You were right to bill this tour as 'strenuous.' At times it was. What people found most difficult, was the amount of standing while being told things by passionate garden and palace owners. There needed to be more opportunity to sit at those times - especially with the three-hour garden tour and lectures on each of twelve garden rooms to stand through. However interesting, that was an ordeal for some. Next time I would take my own folding seat or lightweight shooting-stick. 2. I would have liked more 'naming of plants.' The garden owners were mostly knowledgeable about their plantings and origins of trees, but, mostly didn't name them. This tour had plenty of fairly well-informed gardeners who would have appreciated a little more botany.

Review by Nichol Findlay who travelled 18-May-2024

Travel Editions feedback:

Many thanks for the feedback on the grading of the tour. We are planning to provide more detail on tour gradings, and can pass on this feedback to the various attractions too. Pleased to hear that you enjoyed the tour, and look forward to seeing you on another Travel Editions tour in the future.


Administation
Brochure Description
Flight/Train/Ferry
Accommodation
Tour Manager
Sightseeing Tours
Overall Impression

A truly delightful week (made even more so by the superb weather). The tour manager (Auri) was exceptionally enthusiastic, knowledgeable and fun - he went out of his way to attend to and fix anything that wasn't perfect; he is a great ambassador for Travel Editions.

Review by Jones who travelled 18-May-2024


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