Sicily, the island just under the “Italian boot” . The biggest island in the Mediterranean Sea, it is well known for its history (Magna Greece) and for the stunning unique beauty of its landscapes. Separated by the Messina Strait from the Continent, Sicily still conserves antique traditions and traditional customs, which represent the ‘uncommon’ for many visitors. Its territories spread from Catania to the Volcano Etna, to the crystalline waters of Ortygia or Noto, where a famous gay beach hosts tourists from all over the world: ‘Marianelli Beach‘, just close to a natural park.
Sicily is a cradle of LGBTQ+ experiences, as it is considered the most gay-friendly island of the Italy.
Catania is also the place where tolerance allowed youngsters to meet and love near an iconic tree … and sadly where the Second World War imposed a hard exile for many gay men.
Eight days in Sicily, in Catania, with excursions to the Volcano Etna on 4×4 Jeep as a full day excursion and a sea tour to Taormina the pearl of the Mediterranean, a “buen retiro” for many gay artists during the 19th and 20th century… from here a stunning view on the Messina Strait: if you are lucky, you can easily see Reggio Calabria on the other side of it.
You will also enjoy a one-day excursion to Syracuse and to the Island of Ortygia: the most famous Greek theatre in the world, still in use and the breath-taking nature of Ortygia Island framed into green-and-blue shades of the oldest quarter of Syracuse. Then the small town of Noto, the capital of the astonishing Sicilian baroque architecture.
You will enjoy the sunbathing and the swimming on two boat excursions (Catania and Taormina), cool down with almond granitas and natural drinks, share your activities with friends and finish your trip with a typical Sicilian dinner pairing with Etna-wine tastings.
Day 1 - Saturday, August 19, 2023
Catania has an international airport (CTA): you can easily fly from Milan or Rome airports.
• Shuttles and taxis are available to take you to Plaza Hotel, only 10 minutes from the town centre, which is a great example of Baroque architecture. The Fountain of the Elephant is its icon, as well as the castle and the marvelous cathedral.
• Check in at Plaza Hotel (or similar), Catania.
• 6:30/7:00 PM Meet & greet with your local guide, Emanuele, who will brief you with all infos about your stay.
• Free evening
Day 2 - Sunday, August 20, 2023
• Take your time to cool down and relax.
• Catania has a rocky coastline. Nevertheless, sunbathing is possible, thanks to platforms on the rocks which make it simple to reach the sea. Do not forget your snorkeling equipment if you like diving!
• 10:00 AM – The escorted tour of the town with your tour leader and guide starts: during three hours, you will discover how the LGBTQ+ community thrived, but also how it was harassed during centuries: the “Arvulu Russu“ (the big tree, in dialect) is the place where the gay community used to meet and gather. Here love stories began and finished and it is where the gay community tried to protect itself against Fascism. Also Castle Ursino and the Cathedral have so much to tell!
• 1:00 PM – Enjoy some street food before going back to hotel!
• Rest of the day free.
Day 3 - Monday, August 21, 2023
• 8.00 AM: departure for Volcano Etna. The tour is in English. Trekking shoes and clothes are mandatory.
• Ready for a completely different kind of off-road Jeep tour adventure? Discover one of the most active volcanoes in the world with our Etna Jeep Tour. We will pick you up at your accommodation with one of our off-road vehicles (including the popular Land Rover 110) and heading in the direction of the volcano.
• We are passing idyllic Sicilian villages and some of Sicily’s most famous wine-growing regions and whilst gaining altitude, you will learn a lot about the country, the population and their culture. You will certainly remember the impressive play of colours of the black lava and the extraordinary vegetation on Mount Etna. As we pass by the lava flows of recent years, we will see centuries-old forests and we will stop at some of the most beautiful places on Mount Etna. During an easy but impressive hike of approx. 45 min. on the craters in the surrounding, you will see the unique landscape with the old and new lava.
• Of course, a competent English-speaking guide will accompany you during this guided trip on Mount Etna and you will learn a lot about the history of the volcano with its myths and the current situation there. You will continue the adventurous jeep tour on an off-road track through the pine forests and you will get further insight into the unique and diverse flora and fauna which inhabits the lava rocks.
• Like the speleologists, you will be equipped with helmets and flashlights to explore one of the famous lava caves on foot with your guide. These caves were created by a lava flow and they still have special properties. Centuries ago, residents close to Mount Etna used these caves for the ice production.
• A typical Sicilian lunch awaits you in a mountain chalet on Mount Etna. With traditional antipasti, pasta of the season and a delicious dessert, accompanied by water, Sicilian wine and a good coffee you will get to know the local cuisine.
• Well-rested, the adventure continues to the famous Alcantara-Gorge, which was formed thousands of years ago in the north of the volcano by a lava flow. Along the way, we drive through the famous Sicilian mountain village “Castiglione di Sicilia”. There you will get to see one of Sicily’s most famous wine-growing regions and you will enjoy an impressive view along the wine route.
• Arriving at our destination we will take a short 15 minute hike past olive trees, flowers and exotic plants that only grow in this place. Outside the usual tourist crowds, you can experience the Sicilian untouched nature up close. After our short hike we reach the “Gurne dell’Alcantara”, which was formed thousands of years ago in the north of the volcano by a lava flow. A magical place awaits you there with a small lake surrounded by basalt rocks and small waterfalls of the Alcantara. The “Laghetto di Venere” (Pond of Venus) invites you to refresh your feet in the clear and cold water after a long day.
• 6:30 PM After all these unforgettable impressions you will return to hotel.
Day 4 - Tuesday, August 22, 2023
• Chill down and relax!
• Sunbath, visit the town, go shopping, stroll around, try a typical sweet like the “cassata” (pastry roll with ricotta cheese and candied fruits) or sit outside drinking a smooth almond milk!
• 3:00 PM – boat cruise along the Catania Coast – Departure from Port of Catania (Club Nautico)
Take to the waves off coastal Sicily by yacht on this sailing experience in Catania. With refreshments and a delicious aperitive on board included, cruise through the clear waters and admire uninterrupted views over Catania’s volcanic shoreline. Swim in the sea or sunbathe on deck, master the basics of sailing from the crew, and enjoy the waves of beautiful Sicily. You sail along the Etna Gulf, admiring the sulfur chimneys, bathing near the Caves of Ulysses.
Bring your swimsuit, cap and towel. Do not forget your sun cream. In case you cannot swim, please advise the skipper before departure.
6:00 PM – End of boat cruise and back to hotel.
Day 5 - Wednesday, August 23, 2023
Today is dedicated to a full-day in Taormina, the “Pearl of the Mediterranean”.
• 09.00 AM – pick up at your hotel by van to Taormina.
• After arrival (around 10:00 AM), you have the time for a good almond ‘granita’ (smashed ice with almond syrup) before you start you visit to town. You are invited at the local ‘Van Gloeden’ art collection’ at ‘Casa Cuseni’ as part of your itinerary.
Van Gloeden was a photographer and art collector who lived in Sicily in the early 20th century. He used to invite local young men to his villa and take photos of their naked bodies. His art collection is conserved at Casa Cuseni.
Free time for lunch.
• 2:30 PM – Boat cruise along the coast of Taormina and the Blue Grotto – Departure from Pontile Portum Giardini-Naxos.
Taormina’s bay and the coast of Giardini Naxos offer scenery of incomparable beauty characterized by a succession of small beaches and picturesque caves: the Blue Grotto and the Cave of Lovers. Through this boat excursion in Taormina, we will offer you moments of relaxing among the wonders of this coastline stretch, undoubtedly the most beautiful of the eastern Sicily.
Once inside the Marine Park of Isola Bella Taormina we will stop for a dip in the turquoise waters of this beautiful bay, once back in the boat you will be welcomed with a refreshing drink accompanied by some tasty sliced fruit. The tour will continue into the Bay of Mazzarò and the Bay of the Mermaids. Sunbathing and snorkeling equipment are mandatory.
• 04:00 PM – End of boat cruise and transfer to Catania
• Rest of the day free.
Day 6 - Thursday, August 24, 2023
• Today is dedicated to Syracuse, the main town of ancient Magna Greece.
• 9:00 AM – pick up at your hotel and set off to Syracuse.
• From the Greek culture of the performing arts in open theatre to the evocative baroque town of Noto, pairing with the beautiful island of Ortigia.
• Experience history in the town of Syracuse personally. You will visit the Neapolis Archaeological Park: the Greek Theatre, the “Latomia del Paradiso”, the Ear of Dionysius”, the Cave of Cordari and Hieron Altar, the island of Ortigia.
• After lunch (not included in the excursion fare) the tour will continue towards Noto: a real museum under the open sky where you can admire the charming Sicilian baroque buildings.
• Before going back to Catania, dive the blue water of Marianelli Beach, the well known gay oasis where you can have some time for swimming and cooling down. Do not forget your swimsuit and towel!
• 06:00 PM: transfer back to Catania
• Free evening.
Day 7 - Friday, August 25, 2023
• This is your last day in Catania.
• Go back to the places you liked, go shopping, discover hidden gems of Catania on your own.
• 8:00 PM – Dinner in a typical restaurant of Sicilian cuisine.
Day 8 - Saturday, August 26, 2023
• Check out Catania hotel
• End of services.