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Carsons and StichtsOn April 27, 2012, we flew from Las Vegas to Rome to start an 18 day tour of Italy, including Sicily. We were joined on this trip with Barbara's sister Colleen and her husband Mark which made it extra fun. The first 14 days were with Grand European Tours through their local affiliate, Insight Tours. Then we were on our own for 4 extra days. The tour was called "Country Roads of Southern Italy & Sicily". As the name implies, we concentrated on Sicily and Southern Italy, including the Puglia region along the heel, sole and toe of the boot. We spent 2-3 days at each stop and the hotels were all first rate.Tour Group We only had 22 people on the tour so we all had plenty of room to stretch out on the 40 passenger coach. It was a nice mix of people from all over the world including couples from New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and Canada and a single lady from South Africa. Our tour director, Ernesta, was excellent. She not only handled all the logistics superbly, but also entertained us with insights into Italian customs, language and idiosyncrasies. We had local guides in all cities and attractions that gave us the details about the area. To make things easier, we wore "whisperers". These are radio transmitters with ear buds so that we could hear the guides talking even as we wandered around taking pictures. Our bus driver, Marco, was amazing. Many of the roads we traveled on were more like 1-1/2 lanes wide and very curvy. And how he maneuvered through the traffic snarled, chaotic streets of Rome we'll never know. We sure wouldn't want to drive a car where he took us, let alone a large bus.

TrulliIn the Puglia region, we visited the Trulli's in Alberobello and the Sassi's in Matera.Sassi In Sicily, we spent 3 nights in Taormina Mare where we visited the spectacular Greek Theater with its views of spewing Mt. Etna. We visited the hill top village of Savoca where "The Godfather" was filmed and then climbed one of the craters on Mt. Etna. On our way to Palermo we stopped in Agrigento to tour the Greek ruins in the Valley of the Temples. Valley of the TemplesThe city tour in Palermo took us to the Palermo Cathedral and the Palatine Chapel to admire the mosaics. Before taking the overnight ferry from Palermo to Naples (we all had berths on the ship), we drove to the charming fishing village of Cefalu. Back on the mainland, we visited the excavated ruins of Pompeii which was buried in 79 AD by Mt. Vesuvius. We toured a factory in Sorrento where they make inlaid wood music boxes and furniture.Colosseum Then crossed the Bay of Naples to the Isle of Capri. On our return to Rome, we visited the Colosseum and St. Peter's Basilica.


Leaning Tower of PisaFollowing the formal tour, we spent 4 extra days on our own. We took the train from Rome to Florence, spending 2 days there. Then a train to Pisa and back to Rome. We had perfect weather the whole time, no rain and temperatures in the 70's. The only glitch in the plan was we were unable to tour the Amalfi coast down to Positano due to a landslide closing the road. But with all that we were able to see we were more than satisfied with the trip. We'll just have to plan a return visit to see what we missed!

To read about each place we visited and see a few photos from that area, go to Italy Newsletters

You can view more photos from our trip by going to the Photo Gallery. And if you want to see a full size picture, just click on the photo.

There is a map of our route at Italy Map.


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