“I travel to learn” Mark Twain
Italy is one of the world’s premier destinations, justly famed for its art, architecture and archaeology; its glorious history, its rich, inventive and varied cuisines, award-winning wines, beautiful rolling hills, steep mountains and mile after mile of stunning coastline. Many of our guests have visited Italy before but return with Peter Sommer Travels in order to explore one of its regions or cities in greater depth, visiting sites, enjoying museums and sampling foods and wines that most other travellers will never even know exist.
Italians are always keen to talk and share their knowledge and information, and the background noise in any town or city is filled with enthusiastic and animated discussions. This hustle and bustle forms a fascinating backdrop to any travel in Italy, and many of our guests have told us how much they would like to learn Italian, to be able to understand more fully what is going on around them, and to really immerse themselves in the culture and society.
We at Peter Sommer Travels firmly believe that it is never too late to travel somewhere that you have never been before, to experience new sites, sounds or flavours, and to learn something new every single day. To that end, we’ve teamed up with the foremost language centre in Siracusa (Sicily), and have crafted a week-long tour that combines an in-depth Italian language course with an exploration of the entire sweep of history (from prehistoric times to the modern era) of one of the greatest cities in the Ancient World.
The language course is designed in such a way that a complete beginner will be able to learn how to deal with everyday situations as a tourist in this glorious country: from booking a hotel room to ordering a meal, navigating the local markets to enquiring about ticket prices and striking up a polite conversation. Those who already have a grasp of the language (no matter how advanced) will be able to hone their skills and progress rapidly along the path to full fluency.
It isn’t all language, history, art and archaeology though, as no trip to Italy would be complete without considering the excellent food and wine on offer! We take a trip to the historic open-air food market in Siracusa with one of the famous local chefs, get hands-on with a cooking class, enjoy a wine-tasting dinner, and have several opportunities to sample a range of superb local delicacies.
Your guide is the fabulous Marcello Baglioni, rated Sicily’s Top Travel Specialist by Condé Nast Traveler magazine and one of their World’s Top 126 Travel Specialists.
Day 1: Our hotel is on the island of Ortygia, the UNESCO World Heritage site at Siracusa’s heart, about 45 minutes from Catania airport. Welcome drinks and dinner.
Day 2: The day begins with a walk through the Pantalica Valley Necropolis, one of Sicily’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites: a place of great natural beauty where winding pathways edged with wild flowers lead to a myriad of rock-cut tombs carved into the cliff faces. Lunch is a series of local delicacies, olive oil, honey and preserves produced at a nearby farmhouse. We return to Ortygia in the late afternoon and, after a brief rest, an early evening tour of the island of Ortygia (the heart of the ancient city) is followed by dinner at a traditional pizzeria.
Day 3: Your language classes begin with a full morning at the Italian Academy: a tour of the facilities and an introduction to the staff and teachers before classes begin followed by lunch at a local eatery. In the afternoon we will begin exploring the city’s long history with a visit to the Syracuse Archaeological Park before touring Castello Eurialo (the ancient Euryalus), a powerful fortress built over 2,400 years ago by the tyrant Dionysius to dominate and defend the city. A free evening to explore and dine at leisure.
Day 4: A second full morning of classes at the Italian Academy is followed by lunch at a nearby eatery. In the afternoon we will visit the rich collections of the Paolo Orsi Archaeological Museum before delving underground to visit the extensive San Giovanni catacombs, site of some of the earliest Christian burials in the city, and the place in which some of the most beautiful art of this period was rediscovered. After time to rest and relax, dinner will be served at a local trattoria, where the food will be matched with some outstanding Sicilian wines by a local Sommelier.
Day 5: The day begins with a stroll through Ortygia’s bustling food market, sampling the local produce in preparation for a cooking class in a local restaurant. After enjoying the fruits of your labours, it is time to head to the Italian Academy for a third session of classes. An evening free to explore and dine.
Day 6: The fourth session of classes at the Italian Academy will be followed by free time for you to rest, relax and enjoy lunch at your leisure, before meeting with Marcello to further explore the Christian and Jewish heritage of Siracusa, culminating in a tour of the superb collection in the Bellomo Art Museum. An evening free to explore and dine.
Day 7: The morning will be entirely given over to the fifth and final session of classes at the Italian Academy, after which you will have the afternoon free with ample time to shop and enjoy Siracusa before a sumptuous farewell dinner.
Day 8: Transfer to Catania airport, about an hour away.