Friday, July 22, 2011

Tours of Sicily in 2012

Our commercial people are reminding me - as they do two or three times throughout the year - about the tours of Sicily offered by our partners next year. They all include Taormina (shown here). "Low season" begins in November and the tours cost less from then through March than they do beginning in April during (as you probably guessed) the "high season."

For years we've talked about visiting Sicily during the cooler months. Not that it's ever too cold in Sicily. The weather in Sicily is usually bearable, if not absolutely delightful, even during the coldest season. Most travel firms schedule their tours only during the high season. Best of Sicily's tours are available almost every week of the year, and for some tours the 2012 low-season price is the same as the price in 2010 . Of course, it's not too late to consider a tour this year.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Visit Greece - in Sicily!

As much as we love Greece, the strikes, protests and other situations in that nation across the Ionian from us make it a tricky vacation destination this summer. We hope things improve for our neighbors, who are experiencing a profound economic crisis, but for now...

Discover Greece in Sicily! Our island was one of the most highly populated Greek regions of the ancient world. Syracuse rivalled Athens in importance. The temple at Segesta (shown here) is considered by some archaeologists to be the best-preserved Greek temple in the world. And the temples at Agrigento are equally impressive. There are ancient Greek amphitheatres at Taormina, Segesta, Agrigento, Siracusa and elsewhere.

On a medieval note, Sicily even has a few churches - like the Martorana in central Palermo - that were built for Greek Orthodox congregations. Featuring walls covered with mosaic icons, they are jewels of Byzantine art and culture. Monreale Abbey, Cefal├╣ Cathedral and the Palatine Chapel of Palermo's timeless Norman Palace boast similar architectural details. (At right, Christ Pantokrator in Monreale.)

While you're here, you might even try some Greek food. But Sicily's heritage isn't just Greek. It's Phoenician, Roman, Arab, Norman, German, Spanish, Italian and much more.

See our sights page for more ideas.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Grimaldi of Sicily

Monaco's royal wedding this weekend reminded our history editor that the "real" Grimaldi family is Sicilian. That's because the Sicilian branch of the family descends in the direct male line from the Grimaldi family that lived in Genoa in the Middle Ages, while the princedom of Monaco has been transmitted through female heirs twice. Today's rulers of the Principality of Monaco are actually de Polignacs. An academic issue, to be sure.

Read about Prince Albert's Sicilian cousins in our article on the Grimaldis of Sicily.