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Journey between Etna and the Alcantara River in the Heart of Eastern Sicily

The Alcantara river is located on the eastern side of Sicily. Starting in the north in the Nebrodi Mountains, it heads impetuously towards the south and, enriched by one of its tributaries, makes an elbow turn towards the east, continuing its path between the volcanic massif of Etna, the southern part of the Nebrodi and the Peloritani Mountains, to finally flow into the Ionian Sea between Messina and Catania.
The basin, 48 kilometers long, has a hilly-mountainous morphology in the higher areas with often harsh and barren landscapes, typical of the Nebrodi and Peloritani. In recent decades, numerous reforestations have been carried out on the left side of the river in order to stabilize the slopes and improve the landscape. The right side of the basin is largely covered by the Etna lava flows that have filled the existing hydrographic networks. Along this ancient river road, there have been numerous human settlements since prehistoric times up to the present day and along its course, you will find perched villages, Byzantine churches and ancient millstones carved into the rock for the pressing of the grapes. The proximity to the volcano and its almost lunar territory, but predominantly rich in minerals, make Etna wine (mentioned even in Homer’s Odyssey) a precious protagonist of the interesting and rich local food and wine.

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7 days

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Best season : All year round

Included / Not Included

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Assistance upon arrival at the airport in Catania

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6 nights in 3-star minimum hotel/ Country Resort with double room accommodation

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Car rental with insurance

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Dinners at the hotel

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3 Entrances to the Museums

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Entrance to the Alcantara Gorges Park

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Guided tour of prehistoric site with tasting

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Visit the top craters in 4X4 Jeep

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Travel accessories and telephone with Italian SIM

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Directions and suggestions for best bars and restaurants

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Telephone assistance in Italian, English, Spanish and French

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Flights to/from your home city

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Meals where not mentioned

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Travel Insurance (strongly recommended)

Itinerary

Upon your arrival at the airport, you will find an Italy-Trails representative who will welcome you and give you the travel material. You will then pick up your rental car and travel to reach the town of Giardini Naxos and the hotel where you will stay. You can leave your luggage and, if the season permits, take a refreshing swim in the beautiful bay. In the afternoon, you can visit the archaeological park of the first western Greek colony, the remains of the city of Naxos, destroyed in 402 BC, and the attached antiquarium. Dinner at the hotel and overnight in Giardini Naxos.

In the morning after breakfast at the hotel, you will leave Giardini Naxos and follow along a beautiful coastal road to reach the splendid city of Taormina. You can stroll through the main street full of shops and taste a typical local granita while enjoying the enchanting view of the Giardini Bay from above. Then, you will have the opportunity to visit the splendid archaeological park and the Roman Theater. You will then return to Giardini where you will take the road that will lead you to the Alcantara Gorges. Once you reach the gorges, you can swim in the icy waters of the river in the middle of a high canyon. Dinner and overnight in the Country Resort hotel, a former ancient monastery surrounded by greenery.

In the morning after breakfast, you will resume the ancient road that runs alongside the Alcantara until you reach Francavilla. You can visit the village where, in 1719, the famous battle between the Kingdom of Spain and the Austrian Empire took place, battling for the conquest of the Kingdom of Sicily. But the town boasts a much older history that reached the peak of its prestige in the Middle Ages. The castle built on the hill overlooking the town is from this era, but you can also visit the Archaeological Museum where the discoveries of a sanctuary dedicated to the Greek Goddess, Demeter, and some particular terracotta pictures (pinaches) depicting the daily life of Greek women are exhibited. You can also visit an ancient monastery where the few monks who live there continue to produce ancient recipes, such as the pungent local herbs liquor and natural soaps, giving you an idea of how cloistered life could once be. After having lunch in Francavilla, you will continue towards Castiglione di Sicilia. Along the way, you can admire the suggestive church of San Nicola which rises right on the banks of the Alcantara next to the royal road that connected Messina to Palermo through the interior of the island. Built in the Norman era, the church has some remarkable Byzantine frescoes in the apse: Christ Pantocrator with the twelve apostles and, on the side walls, an image of Madonna holding baby Jesus in her arms. The mural is very similar to the Madonna del Pileri in the church of Santa Maria di Randazzo (11th century), with the difference that one holds the child with the right arm the other with the left. Castiglione, considered one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, is a characteristic medieval center between Etna and Alcantara, rich in a historical-architectural and naturalistic-landscape heritage that make it the center of a series of tourist itineraries among the most important of Sicily. Thanks to the presence of numerous wineries, agritourism, restaurants and wine bars, it is also a privileged destination in the food and wine itineraries. As the last stop of the day, you will visit the Lauria Castle which stands on a rock in the center of the village. To end the day, you will return to your Resort where you will have dinner and spend the night.

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itinerary for this trip to Italy

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