MEDITERRANEAN STUDIES ASSOCIATION
POST TOUR

29 MAY - 2 JUNE 2016

SICILY

 

DAY 1 SUNDAY MAY 29 MORNING

MONREALE

Monreale, (Royal Mountain), is world-renowned for its cathedral and cloister, a mixture of Arab, Byzantine and Norman artistic styles, a perfect blend of what the Christian and Muslim worlds of the 12th century had to offer. Work on the cathedral started in 1174 and the major work was finished before William II's death in 1189. Two massive square bell towers flank the main church entrance. The portico is not an original part of the structure The dazzling mosaics in the interior of Monreale Cathedral are what make the church world-famous. Their splendid and delicate beauty creates an atmosphere of indescribable awe. The mosaics cover practically all the surfaces of the cathedral's walls. The interior of the church is 330 feet long and 130 feet wide. There are a total of 130 mosaic scenes depicting biblical religious events.The masterpiece and key representation of the whole cycle is the domineeringly majestic Christ Pantocrator located on the central apse over the main altar, the image is 42 feet across and seven 22 feet high.

 

 

 

 

 

Attached to the Cathedral is the magnificient Benedctine Abbey and cloister with 228 columns and 26 arches.

 

CEFALU

We will visit and overnight in the beautiful town of CEFALU with a visit to 12th Century Norman Cathedral, begun in 1131 during the reign of Roger II. The floor plan and artistic style, typical of many cathedrals built in Northern Europe during the same period, differ somewhat from the simple Romanesque lines of Monreale's cathedral.

 

The church was one of the first Sicilian cathedrals built on the Western model, with a long nave and distinct transept. Near the ruins of the fortress at the top of the mountain are the remnants of the so-called Temple of Diana, probably a Sicanian structure. Several medieval buildings still stand in the city itself. These include the lavatoio (lavandai), a medieval wash house fed by freshwater springs, and the Osteria Magna (Great Guesthouse), where King Roger stayed during his visits to Cefalù.

OVERNIGHT AT HOTEL BELVIDERE IN CEFALU. See website. See photos:

DAY 2 MONDAY MAY 30 DEPART CEFALU FOR AGRIGENTO

Visit the Valley of the Temples. Located on a plateau overlooking Sicily's southern coast, Agrigento was founded as Akragas around 582 BC by a group of colonists from Gela, descendants of Greeks from Rhodes and Crete. Akragas was renamed Agrigentum by the Romans and renamed Agrigento in 1927. Agrigento was destroyed several times during the Punic Wars, suffering particularly extensive damage during a siege by Roman forces in 261 BC, but always rebuilt. The Greek poet Pindar (518-438 BC) described Akragas as "the most beautiful city of the mortals." In the Valley of the Temples are ruins of numerous temples but also necropoli, houses, streets and everything else one would expect to find in an ancient city. There is a small amphitheatre, and a fine archeological museum. Unfortunately, most of the temples at Agrigento are in ruins, with pieces strewn about, and several appear to have never been completed. Part of the Temple of Juno, built around 450 BC, is still intact. Its style has been compared to that of the temples at Paestum.

The Temple of Concord, built around 440 BC, is in far better condition. Despite its location virtually in the shadow of a modern city, the Valley of the Temples is surrounded by olive groves and almond orchards that render its ambience altogether natural.

 

ENNA - AFTERNOON AND OVERNIGHT DAY 2

The city of Enna is located on a mountaintop almost in the exact center of Sicily, affording a panoramic view overlooking the scenic valleys of Sicily's rugged interior. Enna's position makes it a natural strategic defensive position.

Historically, it is unique, being the only important city of ancient Sicily not founded by foreign invaders; it was established by one of Sicily's three indigenous peoples, the Siculi, from whom the name "Sicily" itself derives. This makes Enna one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities on the island. Although scholars are not certain exactly when Enna was founded, most agree a major settlement existed there as early as 1200 BC. Enna was occupied by the Romans in 258 BC during the first Punic War. Enna's main attraction is the Lombard Castle, built by Frederick II in the early part of the 13th century. Many historians, however, agree that the castle was erected upon the ruins of an earlier fortification, possibly Arab or Byzantine. That older fortress could have been built on the remnants of an earlier structure dating to the Roman period. The "Lombard Castle" originally had 20 towers, but only six have survive today. One of these courtyards serves as an open-air theatre; archaeological excavations are being conducted in the others. Enna's other noted medieval fortification is Frederick's Tower, which stands twenty four meters high on top of a hill in a public park on the other side of town. It is a fine example of medieval defense-tower construction.

 

View of Lombard Castle's principle surviving tower from the exterior

 

Overnight at the Hotel Sicilia. See website. See photos:

 

DAY 3 TUESDAY MAY 31

MORNING SIGHSEEING ENNA AND DEPART FOR MT. ETNA


Mount Etna on the east coast of Sicily between Messina and Catania, is the tallest active volcano in the Europe, 10,922 ft and the highest mountain south of the Alps. In Greek Mythology, the forges of Hephaestus (Vulcan) were located underneath it.

 

Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is in an almost constant state of activity.


Mt. Etna, as seen from the International Space Station

The fertile volcanic soils support extensive agriculture, with vineyards and orchards spread across the lower slopes of the mountain.

 

LATE AFTERNOON ARRIVAL AND OVERNIGHT SIRACUSA

DAY 4 SIRACUSA (SYRACUSE)

The historic city of Siracusa (Syracuse) is notable for its rich Greek history, culture, amphitheatres...

...architecture, and as the birthplace of the famous mathematician and engineer Archimedes.

 

Founded in 734 BC the city played a key role in the ancient world when it was one of the major powers of the Mediterranean world. Located in the southeast corner of Sicily, Syracuse was founded in 734 by Greek settlers from Corinth. The nucleus of the ancient city was the small island of Ortygia...

 

...and from that humble origin grew into one of the great cities of the Mediterranean.


One of the most important events in the cities history was the Athenian expedition to Sicily from 415 BC to 413 BC, during the Peloponnesian War. Athens suffered a monumental defeat at the hands of Syracuse which lead to their loss of the Peloponnesian War and the Golden Age of Greek Civilization.



Syracuse later became part of the Roman Republic and Byzantine Empire. Palermo overtook Syracuse in importance and became the capital of the Kingdom of Sicily. Eventually the kingdom would be united with the Kingdom of Naples until the Italian unification of 1860.

 

OVERNIGHT IN SIRACUSA AT HOTEL GUTKOWSKI. See website. See photos:


DAY 5 - TAORMINA WITH DROP OFF IN CATANIA

Taormina, built on a cliff of Mt. Tauro overlooking the Ionian Sea and in the shadow of Mt. Etna has long been Sicily's most famous resort town. It was here that D.H. Lawrence was inspired to write Lady Chatterly's Lover, one of the most passionate and erotic love stories of its era (One can see the home where he lived).


D.H. Lawrence

Taormina has endlessly winding medieval streets and tiny passages, each with its own great restaurants, cafés and ice cream bars.

Taormina is beautiful by day and in the evenings. The beauty of Taormina is enhanced by the distant spectacle of Mount Etna's nocturnal fires spewing its lava flows along the snow-covered slopes of Europe's greatest volcano.

Within its stone walls, Taormina has fascinating archeological monuments and medieval homes.


                                                                                                                                           

Corvaja Palace

 

Magnificent views of the sea complete the picture.

The most famous is the view overlooking the Greco-Roman amphitheatre, one of Sicily's largest, with Mount Etna and the sea in the background.