This 12-day tour includes a stop in my favorite part of Calabria, my adopted home province – Catanzaro. We’ll visit an ancient olive grove, a thriving mulberry orchard, the swiss-like La Sila mountains, we’ll have award-winning wine, delicious Calabrese food, cocktails, and more before traveling south across the Strait of Messina to Sicily. We’ll spend some time in Ortigia, the historical heart of Siracusa. From there, we head to Malta where we’ll explore the UNESCO city of Valletta, hit the water with a private boating excursion, visit a Maltese farm, cook local specialties, and have a private dinner curated just for our group and based on ancient recipes from the Knights of Malta.
During this 12-day tour, you will feast on local Calabrese dishes, enjoy intimate wine-tasting experiences, and have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to enjoy a corsair’s celebratory dinner while sipping wines from the Grand Master’s wine list inside the former Royal Naval Bakery in Birgu, Malta.
Accommodations and Transportation:
Abundant wine is included with all meals.
Group Excursions and Experiences:
We will meet you at the Lamezia Terme airport upon your arrival at 11:00am, or if you are able to take our advice and arrive a day early, you will sleep in and we’ll meet you directly at your centrally-located hotel to kick off the tour! We will hit the ground running in nearby Maida, where we’ll meet with our friend, Mariangela, and her crew consisting mainly of women, young adults, and disadvantaged people. She will give us an in-depth look into their family-run business known for its olive oil production. We’ll visit the olive fields, wander the orchards, and learn what they are doing to be more sustainable. Then, we will have our first group lunch, complete with delicious traditional Calabrian foods.
Following lunch, we will drive to Catanzaro Lido to check into our hotel, located on the pretty Catanzaro Lido lungomare.
You’ll have a few hours to rest and recover, then we’ll meet in the evening for a tour of Scolacium, one of the most significant monuments in Medieval Calabria. We’ll explore the ruins they say may have been discovered by Ulysses and walk through time with the Greeks and Romans.
We’ll follow that up with a Calabrese aperitivo, complete with spritzes, wines, local cheese, salamis, bread, and lots of snacks.
This morning we’ll take an in-depth look into Catanzaro’s ancient silk tradition. Since the 1600s, Catanzaro has been home to one of the most important silk industries in Europe, and once supplied tapestries to the Vatican. We’ll join our friends, Miriam and Domenico, who have brought new life to this dying tradition. From their base nestled in a beautiful Mulberry Tree orchard, they breed silkworms and give visitors hands-on experiences at extracting silk. Following our visit, we will be their special guests for a delicious multi-course lunch, with wine. After lunch, we’ll return to Catanzaro Lido, and you’ll have the evening on your own.
You’ll have free time this morning to walk to the Catanzaro Lido mercatino – one of our very favorite experiences in southern Italy. You’ll see street vendors, fruit and veggie stands, fishmongers, and more, then we will head across the narrowest strip of Italy to hit the Tyrrhenian Coast where we’ll visit our friend Giovanni for an intimate look at his thriving vineyard. We will learn how he revived the quasi-extinct zibibbo grape, fought the vicious red tape of the Italian system, and within a decade won a NY Times award for creating one of the best white wines in the world!
You’ll get to taste a variety of their wines where you can judge for yourself, and have an aperitivo overlooking the mesmerizing Costa degli Dei aka the Coast of the Gods, then we’ll head to the center of Pizzo for a late seafood lunch before finishing the day with a delectable chocolate and hazelnut gelato truffle.
Full and content, we’ll return to Catanzaro Lido and you’ll have the rest of the day on your own.
La Sila Mountains are divided into three areas – La Sila Grande (Big Sila), La Sila Piccola (Little Sila), and La Sila Greca (Greek Sila). Today we are heading into La Sila Piccola where we’ll explore the town of Taverna and learn more about its most iconic citizen – the world-famous Italian Baroque artist, Mattia Pretti. Born in this small mountain town in 1612, he became well-known for his Caravaggio-esque influence. His works can be seen all over the world and as we will discover later on in the tour, he has a strong connection to Malta where he was appointed as a member of the Order of Saint John!
Full of knowledge, but hungry for more, we will visit a local bottega for a sampling of products including provola cheese, potatoes from La Sila, salamis, soppressata, sausage, grilled vegetables, and wine. There will be wine.
After lunch, we’ll have an optional stroll through the park, then in the early evening we’ll return to Catanzaro Lido. Evening on your own.
You’ll have breakfast, then will prepare to bid farewell to Calabria. Just before crossing, however, we’ll stop in the charming town of Scilla, the mythological home of Scylla. This seven-headed sea monster was once a beautiful nymph who was transformed into a hideous and deadly monster by a jealous enchantress. She is said to live in a rocky outcrop on one side of a well-known strait – the Strait of Messina perhaps?
We’ll have a quick look at the town, then will head onto the ferry and cross the Straits to the island of Sicily, directly towards Charybdis, the voracious mythological monster who sits on the shores opposite Scylla where she would gulp the sea waters and then forcefully send it back three times stronger causing whirlpools that either swallowed ships or caused violent shipwrecks.
In Sicily, we will stop in Messina, self-proclaimed home of the best rustici in southern Italy. We’ll put that to the test, then we will drive to our new home for the next two nights – a noble hotel in Ortigia, the historical heart of Siracusa. This ancient Greek city, which is also an UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a labyrinth of charming side streets that take you through the numerous important monuments and along the beautiful coastline. You’ll have the evening on your own. Overnight in Ortigia.
You can sleep in, then we’ll meet up with a local culinary expert who will introduce you to the best foods in her hometown. You’ll visit the bustling market for a literal “eye-to-eye” meeting with the local catch of the day, then you’ll sample nuts, olives, breads, cheeses, cookies, and more. You’ll have a wine pairing with some of her favorite Sicilian wines and will polish it all off with Sicilian sweets.
Following this progressive-style lunch, you’ll have the rest of the day on your own for resting, walking through the town, or shopping! (Shopping… the answer is always shopping!). Evening and overnight on your own in Ortigia.
After breakfast, we will check out of our hotel and head to the nearby Archaeological Park of Siracusa. It is a true testament to the ancient past of this city with remnants of ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. As we explore this impressive site, we’ll marvel at the idea that once upon a time epic plays were performed in the Greek Theatre, or that thrilling gladiator contests took place in the Roman Amphitheatre. We’ll pop into the Orecchio di Dionisio, a limestone cave with an ear-like shape and extraordinary acoustics.
After, we’ll have lunch nearby, then will say arrivederci to Italy as we make our way to Malta, an archipelago in the central Mediterranean Sea between Sicily and the North African coast.
We’ll get settled on the ferry, then following a 90-minute ride, we’ll arrive in Valletta, the capital of Malta and an UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its rich history and culture. We will check into our hotel. Overnight Valletta.
*This day could change, depending on the hours and availability of the ferry to Malta.
This morning, we will meet for a visit to St.John’s Co-Cathedral. This Baroque-style church was built in the 17th Century and is one of the most important landmarks on the island. We’ll admire the work of Calabrian painter Mattia Preti, who was commissioned to paint the vaulted ceilings with images depicting the life of a St. John the Baptist, as well as other paintings on display in the cathedral. Along with Preti’s works of art, you’ll also find two masterpieces by Caravaggio.
Following our tour of the Co-Cathedral, you can either continue along with the guide to learn more about Valletta’s fascinating history, or you can have time on your own to shop, have lunch, or explore on your own.
In the early afternoon, we’ll cross the island and have a guided tour of Mdina. We will start outside of the walled town in Rabat, an ancient city dating back more than 2000 years, which was once part of the old Roman colony of Melita. During the Arab period, the walled city became known as Mdina, but an area just outside the gates was named Rabat, which means suburb in Maltese. Rabat has a rich cultural history with its Catacombs of St. Paul and many remains dating back to the Roman period.
Once we enter the walled city of Mdina, once the capital of Malta, we will see one of the finest examples of a medieval walled city in all of Europe. Surprises await us at every turn, but none more delicious than those our Maltese food specialist will show us as we walk. We’ll embark on an unforgettable food adventure as we explore this mesmerizing ancient city while immersing ourselves in its rich flavors. Indulge in mouthwatering delights like pastizzi, a popular local street food, as well as, savory Maltese tapas and rabbit dishes. This experience will truly ignite all your senses and you’ll end the day, full and happy.
This morning we are making our way to the Northern region of Malta on the western coast for a day trip to Dingli Cliffs, a stunning natural landmark, offering breathtaking panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea from the highest point on the island. This is where we’ll roll up our sleeves and learn how to make authentic Maltese dishes. We will start with a visit to the rich fertile farmland that has been producing bountiful crops for decades. Here we’ll get our hands dirty as we harvest the fresh seasonal vegetables and herbs that will be the key ingredients needed to prepare our dishes. Then we’ll move from farm to kitchen and learn about the traditional Maltese recipes that have been passed down over generations. In true family-style, we will be guided by our farmer/chef as he lets us in on some of his family recipes that are heavily inspired by his grandmother. We’ll feast on our home-cooked three-course meal and get a chance to truly savor the real taste of traditional Maltese family cuisine. After lunch, we’ll return to Valletta and have the rest of the day on your own.
This morning we will discover some of the traditional arts and crafts of Malta. We will meet directly with artisans and mingle with the local rural community. We will visit a local ‘Boċċi Club’ to participate in the game that is played all over the Maltese Islands.
We will meet with a local weaver and instrument-maker and learn how they are passing on their knowledge about the ancient music that was played by their Maltese ancestors. We will have time for lunch on your own, then in the late evening, we’ll reconvene and head to the marina, where we’ll enjoy a private sailing excursion through the harbors. We will have time to swim and snorkel and will also be treated to a very special Maltese “BBQ” dinner grilled by our skipper and served to us on the boat.
You’ll have the final morning on your own today. You can choose to relax and sleep in, shop in Valletta, take a day trip to Gozo, or more. We will have ideas and can help you plan.
In the early evening, we will meet for our farewell dinner – an exclusive private experience where we’ll dine inside the former Royal Naval Bakery on ancient recipes that have been passed down from the Knights of Malta.
You’ll have breakfast, then you’ll have a transfer to the Valletta Airport. Saħħa, Malta
Group airport transfers are included at the scheduled times. Travelers arriving outside these times should inquire about private transfers.
We love private tours and can often include extra fun elements that aren’t available to individual travelers. If you’d like a bilingual escort or driver, just let us know. We’ll be happy to plan your custom vacation accordingly.
This is a great question because there is sometimes overlap amongst the three which leads to confusion. To keep it quick though, a travel consultant is a local expert, meaning she only focuses on a specific part of the world, in some cases one country, in other cases (like mine) part of one country. This person usually lives (or has lived for an extended amount of time) in the place she consults on and has an intimate knowledge of the area.
A travel agent is similar in that she helps her clients put their trips together. A travel agent can specialize in a country but oftentimes hasn’t lived there and/or may not have traveled to all of the places her clients are going. A travel agent can search for and book flights and cruises that travel consultants can’t or choose not to book.
I often work with travel agents who want to ensure they are offering the best service to their clients. The travel agent will contact me and together we’ll put the Calabria/southern Italy section of their client’s vacation together.
A tour operator packages trip elements into travel packages that they either sell directly or through travel agents. Some travel consultants (like me) are registered as a tour operator for legal business purposes.
When you book a custom vacation, there is more going into your trip than simply recommending a hotel or a cooking class. I am invested in my clients’ trips and I work with them to choose the right base locations, to map out their ideal route and to ensure the hotels, guides, excursions and activities are right for them.
It’s been estimated the average person spends 100 hours researching, planning and booking a vacation. My clients either don’t have this kind of time to devote to planning their trip or they want to ensure they are making the right decisions for their vacation.
Besides the fact that I’m being paid by my clients to plan their trips, I choose not to accept commissions from hotels, car companies, chefs or other vendors because I don’t like the potential conflict of interest. If I don’t accept commission from anyone, then my clients know I always have their best interest in mind.
I don’t – but I can either coordinate with your travel agent, recommend an agent to you for group travel or tell you about the airlines I personally choose when I’m traveling.