Countries
Italy - Vatican City, Naples, Salerno, Sicily, and Malta
Highlights
Join Helen Young to admire the languid opulence of the gardens of Sorrento, Positano, Ischia and Capri, the rugged beauty in Sicily and Malta and the formal gardens of the Pope’s retreat of Castel Gandolfo and the Vatican Gardens in Rome.

Gardens of the Amalfi Coast, Sicily and Malta with Helen Young

 

The coastline of Italy’s Tyrrhenian Sea, gracefully easing down from Rome to the Amalfi Coast, joins hands with the historic Ionian islands of Sicily and Malta. For hundreds of years, travellers have come to bask in the beauty of these shores, and have built magnificent gardens to glorify this home of la dolce vita. Join Helen Young to admire the languid opulence of the gardens of Sorrento, Positano and the isles of Ischia and Capri, and the rugged beauty of the Mediterranean gardens of Sicily and Malta. In Rome, get a glimpse of the formal gardens of the Pope’s exclusive retreat of Castel Gandolfo, and wander through the captivating Vatican Gardens.

 

AT A GLANCE…

• Visit Sorrento, Positano, Ischia and Capri, whose naturalistic gardens overflow with verdant growth and colourful blossoms
• In Sicily, see gardens raised in the shadow of Mt Etna, and wander through picturesque Taormina and Syracuse
• Explore the gardens and palaces of Malta, where gardens of palm trees and succulents grow from the honey-coloured earth
• In Rome, visit the Pope’s private gardens at Castel Gandolfo, newly opened to the public for the first time, as well as the Vatican Gardens
• Optional post-tour to Gozo, Malta’s charming second island

 

ITINERARY

THURSDAY 03 MAY 2018

Suggested departure from Australia or New Zealand on Emirates flights via Dubai. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements.

 

FRI 04 MAY / ARRIVE ROME

Mid-afternoon arrival in Rome, and check in to your hotel. In the evening, join Helen and your fellow travellers for a welcome reception. (R)

 

SAT 05 MAY / ROME

Today, enjoy a full-day tour of the private gardens and palaces of the Vatican City and the Pope’s lakeside residence of Castel Gandolfo. First stop is the Vatican itself for a guided tour of the Vatican Museums, and the Vatican Gardens, which cover more than half of the Vatican City’s 44 hectares in central Rome. Then board the dedicated ‘Papal Express’ train bound for Castel Gandolfo, an exclave of the Vatican City perched above Lazio’s Lake Albano. Opened to the public only in 2014 by Pope Francis, visitors can now stroll through the Barberini Gardens. After lunch, explore the Apostolic Palace. Return by train to central Rome for an evening at leisure. (BL)

 

SUN 06 MAY / ROME – SORRENTO

After checking out of your hotel, travel to the remarkable landscape garden of Ninfa, described as ‘the most romantic garden in the world’. The settlement of Ninfa (from Latin ‘nymphaeum’ meaning ‘temple of the water nymphs’) was a flourishing Mediæval town with over 150 houses, a church, a castle, a town hall and a defensive wall, before being abandoned in the 17th century due to fears of malaria. It was not until the 20th century that the noble Caetani family established Ninfa as a landscape garden amidst the crumbling ruins. After free time for lunch, drive to Sorrento and check in to your hotel, followed by dinner. (BD)

 

MON 07 MAY / SORRENTO

Depart by ferry for a day-trip to the island of Capri, the iconic summertime retreat of the Amalfi Coast. Visit first the gardens of Villa San Michele, built by a 19th century Swedish doctor and philanthropist who created a terraced residence replete with intimate leafy walkways, Greek bronzes in its corridors and a red granite sphinx perched on the Siren Heights overlooking the Gulf of Naples. Enjoy lunch in a typical local restaurant and experience the true stile di Capri. After lunch, return to Sorrento, followed by an evening at leisure. (BL)

 

TUE 08 MAY / SORRENTO

This morning, depart by ferry for a tour of the gardens of Ischia, the picturesque volcanic isle lying off the northern horn of the Gulf of Naples. Explore the garden of La Mortella, named for the myrtle trees that grew on the site in the 1950s before British composer Sir William Walton turned it into the luxuriant gardens seen today. The garden’s key feature is its central Fountain of the Four Ponds filled with water lilies, strelitzia and Egyptian papyrus plants. After lunch, return to Sorrento. (BL)

 

WED 09 MAY / SORRENTO – RAVELLO

Check out from your hotel and drive to Positano, the glory of the Amalfi Coast. Enjoy a guided tour of Hotel Il San Pietro, a terraced garden and hotel built on the spot where St Peter supposedly first set foot on Italian soil, and after lunch in this spectacular setting, spend some free time in Positano in the afternoon. Continue to Ravello and check in to your hotel. (BL)

 

THU 10 MAY / RAVELLO

In the morning, explore Ravello with an orientation walking tour. Visit Villa Rufolo, whose 13th century origins are evident in its Arab-Norman tower and Moorish cloisters, and whose terraces look out over the Bay of Salerno. Villa Rufolo’s gardens overflow with terraces of orange, red and pink blossoms, shaded by palm trees so typical of Mediterranean gardens. Explore Villa Cimbrone, quiet hideaway of DH Lawrence, Winston Churchill other famous figures, whose Mediæval-style castle-palace incorporates elements inspired by Saracenic, Byzantine, Moorish and Renaissance architecture. Its garden features a 500 metre-long central nave shaded by cypress, acacia and arbutus, leading under a bridge hung with roses and wisteria.
After the conclusion of the walking tour, enjoy free time for lunch and the remainder of the afternoon and evening at leisure in Ravello. (B)

 

FRI 11 MAY / RAVELLO – CATANIA

After checking out of your hotel, travel to the town of Portici, in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, to visit the Orto Botanico and the Queen’s Apartments. Raised from the rich volcanic earth, the Orto Botanico is part of the University of Naples, and contains some 4,000 plant specimens, with a focus on Mediterranean plants. Most notable is its collection of desert plants, including some 600 species of cacti and succulents, raised in a 1,000 square metre glasshouse. Transfer to Naples airport and fly to the city of Catania in Sicily. (B)

 

SAT 12 MAY / CATANIA

In the morning, discover Catania with an orientation tour of the city centre. Explore the fascinating Orto Botanico of the University of Catania, which is divided into the Hortus Generalis (plant species from around the world) and the Hortus Siculus (Sicilian native plants). Wander the paths of the Giardino Bellini, Catania’s oldest urban park, where the planting is changed daily to depict the day’s date. Travel to the Giardino della Villa Trinità, a three-hectare garden on the slopes of Mount Etna, where citrus trees, palms, succulents and irises are set amongst the saje (traditional handmade irrigation channels) and the natural lava outcrops. Enjoy lunch in the garden before returning to your hotel for an evening at leisure. (BL)

 

SUN 13 MAY / CATANIA

Depart for a full-day tour to Taormina, an ancient city set between the towering Mount Etna and the azure waters of the Ionian Sea. Visit the Giardino della Villa Comunale, developed in the late 19th century by Lady Florence Trevelyan, a Scotswoman who had immigrated to Sicily after having an affair with the Prince of Wales, and her husband Salvatore Cacciola, a professor of histology and long-time mayor of Taormina. The garden’s olives, pines, palms, cypresses and creepers are typical of the Mediterranean biome. Continue to Casa Cuseni, ‘an English garden in the soil of Sicily’ designed by a trio of 19th century British artists. Casa Cuseni blends the familiar English garden design with the indigenous flora of the Mediterranean. Enjoy free time in Taormina for lunch and a stroll, before returning to Catania. (B)

 

MON 14 MAY / CATANIA – SYRACUSE

Depart Catania bound for Syracuse. En route visit the centuries-old estates of two noble families which have each been given a new lease on life with the addition of sumptuous gardens by their present owners. Travel first to the Villa Borghese and Giardino del Biviere in Lentini. In the 1960s, Principessa Maria Carla Borghese decided to turn the dry rocky bed of a drained lake into a lush garden, populated with plants drawn from her travels throughout the Mediterranean and gifted to her by foreign visitors. Next, visit the Estate of San Giuliano in Villasmundo for lunch, followed by a guided tour of the gardens. Created by the Marchese of San Giuliano in 1974, the garden is quartered into Arabian, Tropical, Mediterranean and Scented Flower sectors. Continue to Syracuse and check in to your hotel, followed by an evening at leisure. (BL)

 

TUE 15 MAY / SYRACUSE

Explore central Syracuse with a walking tour of Ortigia Island, the heart of the old city, and a visit to the Galleria Regionale del Palazzo Bellomo to discover its collection of art treasures from deconsecrated churches and convents. After lunch at a local restaurant, delve into the Hellenistic past of Syracuse with a tour of the Ancient Greek Theatre, recessed into the Temenite Hill and overlooking the Bay of Syracuse, and the 3rd century BC Altar of King Hiero II, the largest known altar from antiquity. Also visit the ancient quarries which supplied the doughty and durable limestone of which Greek Syracuse was built. (BL)

 

WED 16 MAY / SYRACUSE – VALLETTA

Enjoy a morning and early afternoon at leisure with late check out from your hotel, before departing for the city of Noto, the last stronghold of the Arabs against the conquering Normans in the 11th century. In Noto, watch organisers put the finishing touches on the famous Infiorata di Noto flower festival. In the afternoon, depart for the port city of Pozzallo, and after dinner at a local restaurant board the ferry to Malta, arriving in the late evening. (BD)

 

THU 17 MAY / VALLETTA

In the morning, take in the sights of Valletta, Malta’s honey-coloured capital city, with a walking tour of the Upper Barrakka Gardens, St John’s Co-Cathedral and the Armoury of the Grandmaster of the Knights of St John. After lunch at a local restaurant, visit the 5,500-year-old temple complex of Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra, whose Stone Age megaliths, one of the national symbols of Malta, are around a millennium older than even the most ancient of Egypt’s pyramids. Return to Valletta for an evening at leisure. (BL)

 

FRI 18 MAY / VALLETTA

After a morning visit to the Argotti Botanical Gardens in Valletta, travel to the town of Rabat and enter St Paul’s Grotto, the cave where the Apostle Paul is said to have lived after he was shipwrecked on the shores of Malta in 60 AD. Continue to Mdina, which served as the capital of Malta from antiquity to the Middle Ages, and discover the Siculo-Norman, Gothic and Baroque architecture of the houses of Malta’s noble families. After a visit to the Cathedral of St Paul, built on the spot where the Roman governor greeted the shipwrecked saint, enjoy a farewell lunch. After lunch, visit Naxxar’s 18th century Palazzo Parisio, residence of the Scicluna family, whose gilded ballroom has seen the palace dubbed ‘a miniature Versailles’. After a tour of the palace and its luxuriant Baroque gardens, enjoy some free time for afternoon tea before returning to Valletta. (BL)

 

SAT 19 MAY / DEPART VALLETTA

Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast. Suggested departure for Australia or New Zealand on Emirates flights via Dubai. (B)
OR
Join an optional two-night extension tour to Gozo.

 

POST TOUR EXTENSION ITINERARY

19–21 May 2018 (3 days) – Locally Guided

 

SATURDAY 19 MAY 2018 / VALLETTA – VICTORIA

After breakfast, drive to the port city of Ċirkewwa for a ferry ride to the picturesque island of Gozo. On arrival, proceed to Victoria, the capital of Gozo, with free time for lunch before a walking tour of the sights of the city. Built on one of the three hills of Gozo, Victoria is dominated by its honey-coloured Mediæval citadel. In the afternoon, check in to your hotel for dinner. (BD)

 

SUN 20 MAY / VICTORIA

Enjoy a full-day tour of the highlights of Gozo. In the morning, travel to Dwejra Bay, where the Mediterranean creeps through a natural archway underneath great limestone cliffs and forms the gentle, teal-coloured lagoon known as the Inland Sea. Explore the megaliths of Ġgantija, a 5,000-year-old temple complex dedicated to a Stone Age fertility goddess and continue to Calypso’s Cave, where the nymph Calypso was said to have trapped Odysseus for seven years. (For safety reasons, it is not possible to enter the cave – but given what happened to Odysseus, it is just as well!) Enjoy lunch in the beguiling fishing village of Xlendi, set between the steep hills and the deep sea. Visit the Villa Rundle Gardens, a Mediterranean-style garden established around 1915 by the British Governor of Malta, before returning to your hotel for an evening at leisure. (BL)

 

MON 21 MAY / VICTORIA – VALLETTA

After breakfast, check out from hotel and return to Malta island by ferry. Transfer to Valletta Airport arriving by 12:30, where tour arrangements conclude. Suggested departure for Australia or New Zealand on Emirates flights via Dubai departing from 15:30 onwards. (B)

 

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PRICING in $AUD

Per person, twin-share: AUD $9,950
Single supplement*: AUD $1,750
Deposit per person (at time of booking): AUD $500
Final payment due: 02 March 2018
*Single travellers may request to share. Please advise at time of booking.

Tour code: GD1802
Fitness level: Above Average - please see booking conditions for fitness level definitions.
Suggested airline: Emirates - please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.

Tour price includes:
• Accommodation in centrally located hotels with breakfast daily (B)
• Meals as per itinerary (L=Lunch, D=Dinner, R=Reception), including wines
• Economy class flight from Naples to Catania
• Comprehensive sightseeing, including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
• Transportation throughout in comfortable air-conditioned coaches
• Gratuities for local guides and drivers
• Hotel porterage (one piece per person)

Tour price does not include:
• International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
• Transfers on arrival and departure
• Airport porterage
• Items of a personal nature, including telephone, laundry, taxis, room service, etc.
• Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours for assistance)

Your hotels:
Rome – Hotel Ponte Sisto****
Sorrento – Grand Hotel Cesare Augusto****
Ravello – Hotel Bonadies****
Catania – Mercure Excelsior****
Syracuse – Hotel des Étrangers*****
Valletta – Hotel Phoenicia*****
NB. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted


POST TOUR EXTENSION PRICING
Prices in $AUD

Per person, twin-share: AUD $1,750
Single supplement*: AUD $250
Deposit per person (at time of booking): AUD $500
Final payment due: 02 March 2018
*Single travellers may request to share. Please advise at time of booking.
Tour code: GD1802A
Fitness level: Moderate - please see booking conditions for fitness level definitions.
Suggested airlines: Emirates - please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.

Tour price includes:
• Accommodation in centrally located hotels with breakfast daily (B)
• Meals as per itinerary (L=Lunch, D=Dinner, R=Reception), including wines
• Comprehensive sightseeing, including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
• Transportation throughout in comfortable air-conditioned coaches
• Gratuities for local guides and drivers
• Hotel porterage (one piece per person)

Tour price does not include:
• International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
• Transfers on arrival and departure
• Airport porterage
• Items of a personal nature, including telephone, laundry, taxis, room service, etc.
• Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours for assistance)

Your hotel: Gozo – Hotel Kempinski San Lawrenz*****
NB. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted