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Commences Rome 29 September and ends Rome 18 October 2019

 

I am forever fascinated by these two wondrous islands:  Sicily for its bold magnificence, sophistication and elegance; and Sardinia for its majestic scenery and distinctive charm. I do hope you will join me in September on this wonderful journey exploring these extraordinary Italian islands.
 

As Sicily lies at the crossroads of the Mediterranean, it has always attracted interest throughout the ages.  It is the largest island in the Mediterranean offering extensive fertile plains, valuable mineral deposits, salt deposits and excellent natural harbours.  Settlers were drawn to Sicily, setting a pattern of conquest after conquest that has left us with a legacy of the island’s fascinating history with, in many cases, ruins that we visit that testify to the grandeur of these ancient civilisations. 
 

During the Bronze Age, three tribal groups shared the island of Sicily: the Elymians in western Sicily, the Sicanians in the centre and the Sicels in the east.  During the Early Iron Age, the Phoenicians and later their cousin Carthaginians established trading posts on the western shores of the island.  In the course of our journey we will visit a number of sites stemming from this period, including bustling Palermo and the tiny lagoon island of Mozia near Marsala.  While what we see and learn about in Palermo is a kaleidoscope of layer upon layer of history from ancient times until the present, what enchants us in Mozia is the insight it gives us into the Punic world. 

Palazzo dei Normanni, Palermo, Sicily 'Giovane di Mozia'

The Ancient Greek world expanded into the western Mediterranean in the 8th century BC, with settlements being established not only on the rim of the Italian peninsula but also in eastern and southern Sicily.  Agrigento, Syracuse and Taormina, all of which we visit, were amongst the most prosperous Greek cities of their time and were held in high regard.

Mosaics at the Villa Romana del Casale, Sicily Agrigento, Sicily

As an outcome of the Punic Wars, the Romans invaded and quickly took the entire island of Sicily towards the end of the 3rd century BC. It remained a critical part of the Roman Empire in the West until waves of barbarians, including Vandal and Ostrogoth tribes, invaded the island from the 5th century AD. An archaeological site, a Roman villa, which we visit near Piazza Armerina, is renowned for having the most outstanding display of Roman floor mosaics in situ. Breathtakingly superb!

Sicily fell under the sway of the Byzantine Empire during the first half of the 6th century. Constantinople managed to hold this valuable possession for little more than 200 years when it fell to Muslim Arabs. The Arab period in Sicily’s history provided Sicily with a fillip. The capital was moved from the Syracuse to Palermo, which became a cultural hub of the Mediterranean, where Christians, Muslims and Jews lived in a certain harmony. Furthermore, it was the Arabs who revolutionised agricultural practices in Sicily by introducing irrigation into farming. They also introduced the cultivation of citrus fruits and other crops. The Arab period was a vibrant period.

Lemon trees Church of San Cataldo, Palermo, Sicily

The Normans constituted the next wave of Sicilian history. A band of Norman knights took southern Italy and Sicily during the 11th century. By the beginning of the 12th century, Sicily had become a Norman kingdom, which endured until the second half of the 13th century. Magnificent Byzantine mosaics in Cefalù, Monreale and Palermo remind us of this vital Norman period, not to mention the hallmarks of the period’s distinctive Arab-Norman architectural style, which we’ll see at a number of places including the Palazzo dei Normanni, a site we visit in Palermo.

Politics and intrigues of the late 13th century saw Sicily fall under the sway of the Angevines, a change which left a bitter taste in the mouths of Sicilians. Within decades the Kingdom of Aragon in northern Spain had laid claim to Sicily by hereditary birthright and Sicily remained part of the Spanish realm, in one way or another and with few interruptions, until the unification of Italy in the mid-19th century.

Cagliari, Sardinia Typical vineyard, Sardinia

Both Sicily and Sardinia have glorious landscapes. As we drive across Sicily we see anything from huge durum wheat farms to vineyard clad hillsides or valleys with extensive prickly-pear farms and, of course, olive groves and citrus and almond orchards. Because of a violent earthquake that rocked eastern Sicily in 1693, towns were rebuilt according to the architectural taste of the day, namely in the baroque style. For this reason we explore a number of outstandingly baroque towns such as Catania, Modica, Noto, Ragusa and Syracuse. Our Sicilian journey will include a visit to Lipari in the beautiful Aeolian Islands immediately to the north of the province of Messina. A flight from Palermo in north-western Sicily to Cagliari in southern Sardinia will transport us from the busy vibrant world of Sicily to one of the world’s oldest landforms, much like Australia, to an island that is sparsely populated, also much like Australia.

From one world to another. There is little in Sardinia that reminds us of Sicily, not even the local language nor the food. Most of Sardinia is comprised of rugged mountains, so rugged that even the Romans gave up trying to tame the mountain people. The plain to the south of the island comprises productive agricultural districts, where one might see almond and citrus orchards, olive groves and fields under wheat or spelt, while in the north one comes across vineyards.

Sardinian countryside with the Nuraghe at Barumini Mural in Fonni, Sardinia

Sardinia, the Mediterranean’s second largest island, was settled during the Early Stone Age. Obsidian trade was of great importance to the local people because of the toughness of this glass-like black volcanic rock, from which one could make spearheads, for example. During this period of settlement, the locals built nuraghi, which were tall stone towers, used either for defensive purposes or as dwellings, sometimes with a cluster of lesser dwellings surrounding the tower. Thousands of nuraghi ruins dot the landscape but we explore by far the most sought-after to visit.

Our journey in Sardinia takes us up into the craggy heights of the mountains where we stay to discover a very distinctive and formerly remote country town known for its wall murals or trompes-l’oeil that depict a myriad of scenes, some quite disturbing. This tells us a story about the lives of the local people and gives an insight into how they live.

At a relaxing pace we explore the Archipelago of La Maddalena, with its glorious scenery. We also visit Porto Cervo and the Costa Smeralda, famous for the Agha Khan’s resort development, which was initiated in the 1960s and is now a fashionable resort!

La Maddalena Archipelago, Sardinia Alghero, Sardinia

Our journey in the north will take us to Alghero on the western coast of Sardinia. Originally established as a town by the Arabs, it came under the sway of the Genovese and then later of the Kingdom of Aragon, when it was re-established as a settlement populated by burghers from Catalan in northern Spain. The local inhabitants were ousted in order to make way for the migrants from Barcelona. Even today, the locals here speak an old form of Catalan and their dialect is studied by academics from Spain.


Rome


Sardinia also had its waves of invasions. After its Byzantine period, two of the most powerful maritime republics of the Middle Ages, Genoa and Pisa, vied to have control of Sardinia. At the time of the War of the Spanish Succession in the early 18th century, Hapsburg Austria took control of the island before it passed to the dukes of Savoy. In taking Sardinia, the Savoyards were elevated from dukes to monarchs, as Sardinia had been decreed a kingdom in the 13th century by Pope Boniface. During the mid-19th century the Kingdom of Sardinia-Savoy was responsible for taking the entire Italian peninsula and Sicily by force or by bloodless treaty to create the modern Kingdom of Italy, which established its first capital in Florence and then, when Rome fell in 1870, in Rome. Italy abandoned the monarchic system after World War II, when by public plebiscite Italians chose to function as a republic.
 


I look forward to your joining me on this wonderful trip, which also includes the opportunity to enjoy a marvellous variety of food and wine experiences. Because we start and finish our journey in Rome, you will have ample opportunity to extend your stay in the Eternal City!

With best wishes,

Hugh Morgan
Golden Compass Program Leader

 

Highlights

  • The dramatic architecture of cities such as Syracuse, Nota, Catania and Taormina
  • The stunning scenery of Mt Etna and the volcanic Aeolian islands
  • The lively port of Palermo with the Mediaeval city of Erice
  • The outstanding Greek temples at Agrigento and the amazing Roman mosaics of Piazza Armerina
  • The ancient Nuragic and Roman sites of Sardinia
  • The charming ports of Cagliari and Olbia
  • The brooding mountainous interior of Sardinia around Fonni

Program Includes

  • 19 nights en-suite accommodation
  • All local flights between Rome, Sicily and Sardinia
  • Typical breakfast and dinner daily
  • Touring by comfortable and modern  coach
  • Transport and field trips as indicated
  • Applicable entry fees and services of local guides
  • Services of a Program Leader
  • Gratuities and necessary tips
  • Detailed Program Information Booklet

Price from: $10,980
Single Supplement: $1,230

Sicily and Sardinia

We are pleased to announce that we still have availability on our guaranteed Sicily & Sardinia tour in late September/October with our ever-popular Italian expert, Hugh Morgan, as leader. So if you are planning on being in Europe this summer, this is an ideal time of the year to join us in Italy to avoid the crowds and enjoy the milder weather. Italy contains the greatest number of UNESCO sites in the world, offers some of the world’s best scenery and certainly has some of its most enjoyable food and wine!

We also have guaranteed an exciting new 11-night tour - Legendary Outback Track Safari in South Australia and Birdsville in October which features Lake Eyre, Australia’s biggest lake, which is right now filling in a way not seen for 45 years. This could be the opportunity of a lifetime to witness this very special natural event.

Each tour offers the opportunity to travel with a small group of like-minded people and to experience vastly different regions with expert guidance and insights of our outstanding local guide and our Program Leader.


Sicily & Sardinia

Commences Rome 29 September and ends Rome 18 October 2019


Su Nuraxi, Sardinia

Sicily is the Mediterranean's largest island and has suffered from its strategic position as an island in the Mediterranean - 'the middle of the world'. Its history recounts stories of constant invasion and colonisation and its cultural heritage has been shaped by the many different peoples who have occupied it over the centuries. Its natural features range from the lofty, smouldering Mount Etna to the fertile central plains where we discover many examples of former civilisations.
 

Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean but remains surprisingly unexplored. It has rugged mountainous interiors with stunning coastal scenery as well as quaint hilltop towns and pretty fishing ports. It has a rich Neolithic history and the island still boasts over 7,000 nuraghi, fortified tower houses from a prehistoric civilisation. Later the island was settled by the Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines and Saracens. In the Middle Ages, the island was fought over by the Pisans and Genoese before falling to the Spanish in 1295. Part of the Kingdom of Sardinia under Vittorio Amedeo of Savoy, Sardinia finally became part of the unified Italy in 1861. Many say that the island offers an almost primeval landscape of rocks sculpted by the wind and sea. D H Lawrence noted that Sardinia was “left outside time and history”. 

Program Includes

  • 19 nights en-suite accommodation
  • All local flights between Rome, Sicily and Sardinia
  • Typical breakfast and dinner daily
  • Touring by comfortable and modern coach
  • Transport and field trips as indicated
  • Applicable entry fees and services of local guides
  • Services of a Program Leader
  • Gratuities and necessary tips

Price from: $10,680
Single Supplement: $1,230

Click here to find out more


Legendary Outback Track Safari in South Australia and Birdsville

Commences Adelaide 05 October and ends in Adelaide on 16 October 2019


Birdsville Hotel, Queensland

Follow in the footsteps of early explorers and pioneers along the three famous Outback tracks of Oodnadatta, Birdsville and Strzelecki. All are remote, harsh, and beautiful 4WD tracks steeped in history. Be transported back in time as you hear tales of the people who opened up this great vast country with stories of hardship, strength, family values and the Australian pioneering spirit. Sleep in the unique Desert Cave Hotel in Coober Pedy and experience perhaps the best night’s sleep you’ve had in a while.
 We also overnight at William Creek, the smallest settlement in South Australia with a population of three humans and a dog. It is part of a largest cattle station in the world – Anna Creek, approximately the land area of England. We venture to the magnificent Lake Eyre, Australia’s largest inland lake. Also included is the not to be missed spectacular champagne sunset on top of 'Big Red', a 40-metre sand dune at the edge of the great Simpson Desert. Explore the Outback town of Birdsville, just across the QLD / SA border and stay at its historic 133-year-old famous Birdsville Hotel. Hear the tragic story of explorers Burke and Wills and view the 'Dig Tree' in Innamincka; discover the ancient beauty of Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary and the famous Ridgetop tour; and explore the unforgettable Flinders Ranges, including the geological wonder of Wilpena Pound.  

Program Includes

  • Touring by comfortable and modern 4WD vehicle with professional driver guide
  • Breakfast daily, 9 lunches and 9 dinners
  • 11 nights en-suite accommodation
  • Transport and field trips as indicated including entry fees and permits
  • Opal mine tour at Coober Pedy
  • Big Red sunset tour
  • Ridgetop tour at Arkaroola

Per Person twin share from: $6,360
Single Supplement: $915

Click here to find out more

 


Below are just a few of our tours still on offer for the remainder of 2019. Please remember that all are accompanied by our experienced and knowledgeable Program Leaders, with whom you have always enjoyed travelling. Please remember, however, that places are strictly limited on some tours so please just click on your chosen tour for more details and call us at your earliest convenience to hold your place, as space will soon fill on our most popular programs.

 
Tour Date Status
Adriatic Discovery 27 August - 19 September 2019 Only 2 Places Left
Trans-Caucasus Journey 07 September - 26 September 2019 Only 3 Places Left
Highlights of Bulgaria and Romania 26 September - 13 October 2019 Only 3 Places Left
Sicily & Sardinia 29 September - 18 October 2019 Guaranteed Departure
Legendary Outback Track Safari in
South Australia & Birdsville
05 October - 16 October 2019 Only 3 Places Left
Treasures of India 10 October - 31 October 2019 Places Available
Persia & Iran - Past & Present 01 November - 16 November 2019 Places Available
Japan Autumn Colours 04 November - 16 November 2019 Guaranteed Departure
Norfolk Island 08 November - 15 November 2019 Places Available
Oman and Dubai: An Arabian Adventure 17 November - 2 December 2019 Places Available

 

 

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2019 Guaranteed Departures

2019 Guaranteed Departures

New guaranteed departures for 2019!

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Gold Rewards Program

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Japan Autumn Colours Tour: 04 November - 16 November 2019

The autumn season in Japan is visually stunning and this tour is carefully arranged to experience an authentic Japan with an insightful look at the culture, both old and new.

 



Inclusive of field trips, local guides, gratuities and many meals.