Sicily Biking Adventure

“All of Sicily is a dimension of the imagination.”
Leonardo Sciascia

Sicily is a wondrous destination, a fabulous island in the heart of the Mediterranean sea. It boasts the best of Italian cuisine and culture but is also separate, an autonomous province and geographically unique, sort of the soccer ball being kicked by the toe of the boot that is the shape of Italy.

Sicily is home to a balmy but pleasant climate, spectacular vistas, crystal clear waters, and the highest active volcano in Europe, Mt. Etna. It hosts five Unesco World Heritage Sites and reveals thousands of years of Greek, Arab, and of course, Roman influence. Sicilian cuisine is a wonderful fusion of French, Arabic, and North African dishes and we’ll include cheese and chocolate tastings, seaside picnics, and hearty dinners on this tour.

We love Sicily as a cycling destination but be prepared – while there are beautiful flat stretches of cycling there are also hills each day of the tour. This is a great trip for moderate to advanced cyclists looking for a challenge but there will always be a support van and this is also our first bicycle tour with the option of renting e-bikes (which you pedal normally but use a battery engine for extra power up hills). To top it off, those interested can extend this trip by one day to hike up Mt. Etna.

Trip Favorite Moments & Reviews

“Best part of this trip was the BIKING! Seriously exhilarating downhills, low traffic country roads, GPS aided directions, and no-worry uphills(thanks to my E-Bike) combined to make this my favorite biking trip to date.”

Pat K.

“One special memory is riding along the beach and jumping into the sea. And then being out in the middle of nowhere ,riding my bike to a castle for the night, and coming upon a flock of sheep with the grandfather and grandson tending the sheep.The grandfather smiled wide for the photo, exposing a mouth with few teeth, but joy was all over his face.”

Seanna B.

Details

Other Info: Bike rental €25 per day. E-bike rental €40 per day.

Option to add a guided hike up Mt. Etna ($550 per person/optional single supplement of $250). This includes two nights of lodging at the 4-star Hotel Una Palace in Catania (double occupancy), two breakfasts, one dinner, a packed lunch on the day of the climb, transportation to and from Mt Etna, two Zephyr guides and an interpretive guide on the mountain. The hike up Mt. Etna is moderately challenging but there will be an easier route available (using a tram to get part of the way up).

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Trip Highlights

  • Bike through the breathtaking Sicilian countryside, taking in rocky landscapes, charming villages, and vast seascapes
  • Learn about the ancient history of the island, via multiple UNESCO archaeological sites
  • Savor some of the best Mediterranean cuisine – a mixture of Arabic, Spanish, and Italian traditions
  • Join our long-time Italian guide Giovanni and fall in love with his country as you see it through his eyes.
DAY 1

Welcome to stunning Sicily! We meet in the city of Catania (home to one of Sicily’s major airports) at 10:00 AM and immediately shuttle to the Villa Romana del Casale, a fourth-century agricultural estate that houses one of the greatest collection of Roman mosaics in the world and is a UNESCO world heritage site. There we’ll have a short introductory chat about our trip, get introduced to our bikes, and head off on our first ride. Our destination is Caltagirone, a ceramics-crazy city that also features the famous Scalinata di Santa Maria del Monte, 142 steps connecting the lower town with the upper old town, each step with a ceramic backing. Distance: 36 Kilometers main route (other distances available)

DAY 2

Today we cycle under the slopes of the Iblei Mountains, through a beautiful valley full of farmers’ fields that has been populated for almost 2000 years. We will pass through the village of Grammichele with its hexagonal plan and its beautiful square then move to our destination, the Castello Camemi, a lovingly restored castle that is now a hotel. Long route option will include a challenging ride to the Monti Iblei with stunning views over the valleys below. Distance: 58 Kilometers main route (other distances available)

DAY 3

Our route today has a variety of scenery and includes route options up into the hills above the valley. We’ll cycle down a small road lined with prickly pear cactus and pass through the nice village of Vizzini, home to the famous Sicilian writer Giovanni Verga. We then have a climb through the olive groves to Monterosso Almo and Giarratana where you will see the beautiful terraced fields of the Ragusano Territory to the gorges below the old town of Ragusa Ibla to our hotel in the heart of the old town.
Distance: 65 Kilometers main route (other distances available)

DAY 4

Today you are in a for a real treat! We only travel a short distance, from Ragusa to Modica, but our route does not take the direct path. Instead, we ride along the seaside to explore the fourteenth-century Castle of Donnafugata then descend down to the coast on minor roads next to carob trees and through olive groves to the fishing village of Punta Secca (setting of Detective Montalbano TV series) and the wonderful Baroque village of Scicli (UNESCO World Heritage status). We finally reach another Baroque village with UNESCO World Heritage status, Modica, our home for the evening. Modica is considered Italy’s chocolate capital and in the evening we will have a chocolate tasting and aperitif. Our hotel in Modica is situated in the heart of town. Distance: 74 Kilometers main route (other distances available)

DAY 5

Today our destination is the small town of Noto, which is considered the apex of towns in the “Sicily Baroque” style, which came about because of the mammoth rebuilding required after an earthquake in 1693. On our ride there, we’ll participate in a tasty organic cheese sampling at a local farm. The ride is through the stunning Ragusana Countryside with lots of olive groves, stone walls, and terraced fields. In town that night, we’ll splurge on the famous local granitas, a sweet Sicilian dessert treat.
Distance: 58 Kilometers main route (other distances available)

DAY 6

We’ll take a rest day from moving hotels, engaging in a loop route in the splendid countryside around Noto, much of it along the sea. We first visit the Riserva di Vendicari, a seaside preserve of ancient ruins including quarries from the 5th century BC. We’ll then pass through the fishing village of Marzamemi where we’ll have a refreshing picnic lunch on the beach. In Noto that night we’ll continue our dining on incredible Sicilian cuisine with time to walk the streets of the small town after dinner.
Distance: 81 Kilometers main route (other distances available)

DAY 7

We parallel the sea today with beautiful vistas the entire day on our way to our next stop, the city of Syracuse. The entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is famous for its 2,700 years of history and current structures from ancient times. The island of Ortygia, part of the city, is the central historic core. Syracuse is a bit larger town, with a population of 118,000, and so offers plenty of sightseeing, shopping, and tempting gelaterias and wine bars. Distance: 40 Kilometers main route (other distances available)

DAY 8

On the last day of our tour, we’ll grab breakfast and head out for a walking tour of the beautiful town of Syracuse. We’ll enjoy lunch together before saying our farewells. We will then shuttle you either to the Catania airport to catch your flight home (or if you are staying on to hike up Mt. Etna, to our next hotel).

OPTIONAL DAY 9

Today is an optional add-on excursion to climb up Mt. Etna, which has a number of claims to fame: UNESCO World Heritage Site, the highest active volcano in Europe, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, and the tallest mountain in Italy south of the alps. Standing at 10,922 feet in altitude (depending on the current state of eruption, which can add lava flow or blow off rock), the hike is not technical and so requires just very good fitness. The trail ascends about 4,000 feet and takes about four hours to reach the top. This is an optional hike and will require an additional fee.

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Trip Accommodations

NIGHT 1 >> HOTEL NH CALTAGIRONE VILLA SAN MAURO / CALTAGIRONE

This four-star hotel has a view over the surrounding countryside and sits just outside the beautiful city of Caltagirone. The pool and veranda will be welcome at the end of the day!

NIGHT 2 >> CASTELLO CAMEMI / VIZZINI SCALO

As its name implies, this magnificent hotel is an actual castle, with stone walls surrounding a courtyard paved in lava stone and located in the Val di Noto, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

NIGHT 3 >> HOTEL DELL'OROLOGIO / RAGUSA

This hotel is located in Ragusa Ibla, the ancient historic center of this Unesco-recognized town. Occupying six separate buildings, all originally local residences, no two rooms in the hotel are alike.

NIGHT 4 >> HOTEL RELAIS MODICA / MODICA

Located in the center of the Baroque town of Modica, very near the duomo di San Giorgio and the Castello dei Conti, this hotel is small and intimate - so much so that we sometimes also book rooms at the nearby Hotel Le Magnolie and split the group.

NIGHTS 5 & 6 >> HOTEL FLORA / NOTO

This hotel in the heart of the Baroque city of Noto only has 16 rooms; it overlooks the "stone gardens" in the center of the city.

NIGHT 7 >> ANTICO HOTEL ROMA 1880 / SIRACUSA

This hotel of traditional Sicilian limestone architecture is located on the island of Ortigia, the old town center of Siracusa, and right now to the original temple of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom/

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Arrival & Departure

We will meet at a designated hotel in Catania at 10 AM on the first day of the tour. We recommend flying into the Catania Fontanarossa Airport (CTA) the day before to recover from your travels and ensure you meet us on time. There are not many direct flights from the US to CTA, but you can easily connect or book a direct flight through Rome, Vienna, and Munich.

The tour ends with an early afternoon transfer from Siracusa back to Catania. Those wishing can extend their tour by two nights to hike up Mt. Etna with your guides.

WHAT'S INCLUDED
  • Two Zephyr guides accompany each trip, with a third added as necessary.
  • Double occupancy lodging is included. If you are traveling solo, we will match you with another traveler of the same gender. However, you may pay a single supplement to have your own room.
  • All of your dinners and breakfasts are included. Gratuity for these meals is also included. In general, we leave lunches open so that you have time to explore and enjoy the local flavors en route.
  • All your transportation is included once you meet your guides on the first day.
  • All group activities are included.
  • NOT INCLUDED Beverages, desserts, lunches, gratuities to your guides, personal expenses, bike rentals, and travel to and from the destination.
Best time to visit

We like the shoulder seasons of spring and fall because there are fewer tourists and more pleasant temperatures. September is still a bit hot but late in the month, it does start to cool down. Plus, it avoids more likelihood of rain later in the fall.  The olive groves and farmer’s fields are laden with olives, fruit, vegetables, and wine grapes!

Weather

We like to travel to Sicily in September (see above). The average high temperature in our tour area in late September is around 80 degrees, while overnight lows are in the low 60s. On average, it only rains a handful of days per month during this time of year. You should expect mostly clear, hot days and pleasant evenings.

Extending your vacation

Though we see the most beautiful biking routes, we don’t have enough time to show you all of Sicily. We recommend extending your stay to explore the rest of this amazing island that we don’t have a chance to cover during our tour. Head to historic Palermo and check out one of its famous street markets, taste your way through Sicilian wine country in Taormina, or explore the Greek temples of Agrigento, Selinunte, and Segesta. You might also consider spending a few days in Rome if your flight connects through there.

Ability Level

This Adventure is rated Moderate/Difficult due to Sicily’s hilly terrain. Although we do not expect you to be a pro athlete or in perfect shape, we do expect you to be physically active on a regular basis and, perhaps more importantly, have the attitude that a workout on vacation can be a blast. You have the option to rent an e-bike (bicycles that use an integrated electric motor that can be used for propulsion) but you will still need to have the ability to ride a bike for long periods of time.

Type of people who will enjoy this tour

This adventure is for people who are looking for a culturally interesting active vacation.  Though the breathtaking landscapes, delicious food, and intriguing Sicilian culture are quite enticing, you’ll want to be in moderate shape so you get to enjoy each day’s bike ride.

Changes to Your Itinerary

While everything under “What is Included” will remain the same, the actual restaurants, hotels, and activities listed in our itineraries are subject to modifications. Changes that are out of our control are common – a restaurant closes or loses its awesome chef, a winery changes its visiting hours, a hotel gets remodeled, a road or trail undergoes construction. You are entrusting us to create an outstanding vacation for you and so it is possible we may take the liberty of making necessary changes (even at the last minute, during the guides’ scout trip) to the itinerary that will improve your overall trip experience.

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