B.C. Archaeology

Study Tours of the Ancient World


The Temple of Concord at Agrigento

"Sicily is the pearl of this century... Since old times, travelers from the most far away
country... boast of its merits, praise its territory, rave about its extraordinary beauty, and
highlight its strengths... because it brings together the best aspects from every other country."

Al-Idrisi, The Book of Roger


This 2-week study tour of Malta and Sicily has an emphasis on the archaeology and history of these two islands in the central Mediterranean. The tour begins in Malta as we fly into the capital Valetta. In the afternoon we go for a walk around the edge of the harbour to see the walls of the Knights of St John. The following day we explore some of the ancient sites on the island. We visit the Ghar Dalam Cave which preserves evidence of pigmy elephants and hippos from the Palaeolithic era. We then explore the wonderful megalithic stone temples at Mnadjara and Hagar Qim. These spectacular monuments were created in the period from 3500-3000 BC and are a wonder of ancient engineering skill.

The following day we explore the centre of the main island of Malta. We visit the mediaeval walled city of Mdina and tour the Museum of Roman Antiquities displaying finds from across the island. We walk through the old quarter of Mdina for spectacular views across the island. In the afternoon we visit the Catacombs of St Paul which preserve extensive burial apartments from the early Christian period. We also see the site of 'Clapham Junction', a pre-historic limestone terrace with cart ruts.

The next day we take a day trip by ferry to the nearby island of Gozo. Here we visit the megalithic temple of Ggantija which dates back to 3600 BC. We also take a walk through the medieval hill town of Victoria. The next day we explore the famous Hypogeum burial site and Tarxien Temples. In the afternoon we explore the splendid 16th Century buildings in Valetta. We take a walk through the old quarter of the city, stopping to visit the stunning Co-Cathedral of St John, a magnificent baroque Cathedral built by the Knights of St John and the Grand Master's Palace with its fascinating armoury.

Our tour then heads to Sicily - we fly into Catania and are met by our bus which will take us to Syracuse. After freshening up we take a walk around the island of Ortygia, stopping to see the impressive Cathedral of Syracuse which is a converted Greek temple originally dedicated to Athena. The next morning we visit the impressive Archaeological Museum in Syracuse which houses a collection of artefacts from across the island. After lunch we explore the Archaeological Park which includes a magnificent Greek theatre and Roman amphitheatre.

We travel by bus to the centre of Sicily where we visit the beautiful ancient site of Morgantina which preserves many Greek and Roman houses with mosaics and frescoes. After lunch we visit Piazza Armerina, a spectacular Roman villa. Built for an imperial owner, the complex is lavishly decorated with mosaics which have few parallels in the Roman Empire.

Our tour then includes a day exploring the stunning Greek temples at the site of Agrigento. Built in the Doric order they are amongst the best preserved Classical temples anywhere. After lunch we visit the museum of Agrigento which includes a beautiful collection of sculpture and vases from the local area. The following day we head to Palermo which preserves magnificent remains from the Norman period (11th and 12th Century). We visit the Norman Cathedral of Palermo and the royal Palace with its stunning Palatine Chapel decorated with gold mosaic. The following day we explore some of the Norman churches in the centre of Palermo and see the stunning Monreale Cathedral located in the hills overlooking the city.

We then visit the site of Solunto, to the east of Palermo, which has well preserved Roman houses. Our program concludes in Catania where we explore the old quarter of the city including the 13th Century Castello Ursino, the ancient theatre and the Cathedral. We visit the slopes of Mt Etna to see the volcanic landscape and spend a day in the stunning hill town of Taormina which retains an ancient theatre with magnificent views over Mt Etna and the sea. The tour flies out to Rome for our connections to Australia.

The Palatine Chapel in Palermo

Day 1: Arrive Malta
You should arrive in Malta. In the afternoon we go for a short walk around the harbour edge to see the walls of Valletta. Overnight Valletta.

Day 2: Ghar Dalam - Mnadjara - Hagar Qim
In the morning we head by bus to the south of Malta to visit the cave of Ghar Dalam where we see the remains of prehistoric dwarf elephants and rhinoceroses. We have some lunch at a local café. We then head to Mnadjara to see a megalithic temple of the 4th Millennium and the nearby temple of Hagar Qim. Overnight Valletta.

The Neolithic temple of Hagar Qim
The walls of Valetta

Day 3: Mdina Roman Museum - catacombs, 'Clapham Junction'
In the morning we visit the mediaeval city of Mdina. We see the Museum of Roman antiquities (known as the Domus Romana) with its well preserved floor mosaic, statues and household objects. We have some lunch and then explore the atmospheric St Paul's Catacombs - there is some free time to explore the old city or relax in a local café. We stop briefly to see the prehistoric cart ruts at 'Clapham Junction'. Overnight Valletta.

Day 4: Gozo - Ggantija Temple - Victoria old city
We drive by bus to the west of Malta where we take the 20 minute ferry trip to the island of Gozo. We visit the magnificent megalithic temple of Ggantija, one of the oldest manmade structures on earth (5600 years old). We visit the historic citadel of Victoria where we experience the wonderful views across the island. Overnight Valletta.

Day 5: Tarxien/Hypogeum - Valletta Cathedral, Palace, Museum
In the morning we see the prehistoric temples at Tarxien and the prehistoric underground burial place known as the Hypogeum. We then do a walking tour of the Valletta, a fortified city built by the Knights of St John to guard against Ottoman incursion. Our visit includes the Co-Cathedral of St John, and the Palace of the Grand Masters with its armory. We also see the Museum with its fascinating collection of artefacts. Overnight Valletta.

Baroque Victoria
Cathedral of St John

Day 6: Fly to Catania - bus to Syracuse - Ortygia Island
In the morning we fly to Catania on the east coast of Sicily. We are met by our bus and transferred to our hotel in Syracuse. In the afternoon we take a walk around ancient Syracuse (Ortygia Island) where we see the Temple of Apollo, the Temple of Athena (now the Cathedral of Syracuse) and the Spring of Arethusa. Overnight Syracuse.

Day 7: Syracuse - Museum - Archaeological Park
The morning is set aside to explore the fascinating artefacts in the Paolo Orsi Archaeological Museum. The Museum contains finds from all over Sicily. After lunch we explore the remains of the Archaeological Park of Syracuse which includes the remains of the ancient Greek theatre (first constructed in the 5th Century BC), a Roman amphitheatre, and the enormous ancient quarries. Overnight Syracuse.

Day 8: Morgantina - Piazza Armerina mosaics
We drive inland through scenic mountainous countryside to the town of Aidone. Here we visit the ancient site of Morgantina, an ancient Greek and roman city which preserves fascinating mosaics and wall frescoes. After lunch we visit the remarkable Villa Romana del Casale near Piazza Armerina, one of the most luxurious and well-appointed Roman villas ever found. Almost every room preserves stunning mosaics dealing with a wide variety of subjects. Overnight Agrigento.

Amphitheatre of Syracuse
Roman mosaics at Piazza Armerina

Day 9: Agrigento - Valley of the Temples - Agrigento Museum
In the morning we visit the archaeological remains at Agrigento, the ancient Greek city of Akragas. The ruins include well preserved Doric temples dedicated to Hera, Concordia and Heracles which are dramatically situated on a ridge overlooking the sea. The enormous Temple of Zeus lies ruined nearby. After lunch we visit the Museum of Agrigento which preserved an excellent collection of remains from the local region including superb painted Greek vases from tombs. Overnight Agrigento.

Day 10: Palermo - Norman Palace - Cathedral
This morning we head north to Palermo, the capital of Sicily. In the afternoon we see the fascinating Norman palace. A highlight is the superb Palatine Chapel built by Roger II in 1132 and decorated with magnificent golden mosaics. We also see the Cathedral of Palermo. Overnight Palermo.

Day 11: Palermo - Monreale - Churches of Martorana and San Cataldo
In the morning we see the magnificent Norman Cathedral at Monreale. Begun by King William II in 1174, the Cathedral is decorated with magnificent Byzantine style gilded mosaics which occupy an astonishing 6500 sq metres. In the afternoon we explore the gold mosaics in the Norman church of the Martorana and the nearby San Cataldo which includes numerous Arab elements in its design. Overnight Palermo.

Day 12: Solunto - drive to Catania
We leave our hotel in Palermo and head to the Classical site of Solunto. Spectacularly located on a rocky peninsula, the ancient remains of the Phoenician/Greek/Roman colony include mosaics and wall frescoes, a theatre and bath complex. In the afternoon we head inland through the mountains until we reach the town of Catania where we check into our hotel. Overnight Catania.

Monreale cathedral
The Roman ruins of Solunto

Day 13: Mt Etna - Catania old quarter
In the morning we had by bus to Mt Etna where we experience the ancient lava flows and take the cable car towards the summit of the volcano. If the summit is clear of clouds, the view is magnificent. In the afternoon we take a walk around the heart of Catania where we visit the Cathedral, ancient Roman theatre and amphitheatre and the 13th Century Castello Ursino. Here we see how the moat filled with lava during an eruption of Mt Etna in 1693. Overnight Catania.

Day 14: Taormina
This morning we head to Giardini Naxos where we take the cable car to the hill town of Taormina. We explore the remarkable Greek and Roman theatre which has stunning views along the coast to the Straits of Messina and towards Mt Etna. After lunch there is some free time to explore the old town with its numerous shopping opportunities. Overnight Catania.

Day 15: Depart Catania to Rome
In the morning we fly from Catania Airport to Rome. Passengers can connect with an international flight.

* Please note that the Company reserves the right to make alterations to the itinerary in the period up to 60 days prior to a tour departure. The itinerary may also be subject to minor re-arrangement due to the scheduling of the operators and availability of access. If this occurs, the Company will endeavour to provide a comparable alternative.


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