We just got our tour roster and the list of hotels for our upcoming Sicily tour (April 26 departure). There are 28 people on the tour. I am so excited and counting down the days.
Out of three RS trips, that has been my fave so far.
How exciting for you. Be sure to come back and do a trip report when you are finished. Have a great trip!
@Carol now retired
I plan on doing a trip report for each trip we take as I think it will be helpful to those who are going on a tour or planning on going on one.
Thanks, Dan. I have heard that others love this tour as well.
This was also one of our favorite tours, your going to love the Roman Villa and the Almond cookies with Maria. The Roman Amphitheater at Taormina is breath taking!
One of the great things about it is that the distances are short so you don't spend a lot of time on the bus getting from one place to the other. The best food and hotels of our four RS tours.
We are on the Sicily tour starting April 17. We have 27 people on the roster, and Jamie is our guide. It's actually happening! Have a great trip.
We will be in Sicily from April 21 - May 5. A genealogy trip for a cousin-in-law. Here’s to good weather, everything else is gravy.
On the Sicily tour right now! Day 4. Having a great time. Trapani is a lovely town.
@grostmanburrill That’s wonderful. Thanks for checking in. Keep us posted how it’s going.
I just got back from this trip. Our guide was Alfio. Fantastic tour and fantastic guide!
Depart for Palermo tomorrow. Alfio will be our guide and only 15 on our tour. Ready to go!
It’s been 7 years since we took a RS tour. The tour roster only lists first names of the group members and city/state in addition to our tour guide Tomasso Pante. Is this usual? Odysseys Unlimited lists first and last names of the group members. Just curious.
We are on the April 3rd departure. Only 15 on the tour. We are very excited - been waiting for 2 years - we were scheduled on this tour in early March 2020 - the week before departure, everything shut down due to COVID.
Mary, your description of the roster (first name, city, state/country) is a what we received on our previous & upcoming RSE tours.
Just throwing this out for those who enjoy having advance background info…
Meeting Maria Grammatico was an absolute highlight of our Sicily tour several years ago. We ended up spending much more time with her because of a sudden (and long) downpour. If a visit and baking class with Maria is still on the itinerary, those on the tour might enjoy reading Bitter Almonds: Recollections & Recipes from a Sicilian Girlhood, a memoir written by Mary Taylor Simeti, about Maria’s challenging childhood in a cloister. We happened to be there on a day when Mary Simeti was visiting, and I was able to purchase a book signed by both Maria and Ms Simeti. I wish that I’d read the book before the tour…it would have added even more depth and appreciation to our visit. I see that it’s available on Amazon. Enjoy Sicilia!
Thanks, Cathy. I will look for that book. Edited to add that you can get the book on IBooks.
This is one we have in our top 3!
Excellent trip. We got to Palermo 2 days early and realized it was Palm Sunday. We were over by the cathedral and got to experience a beautiful ceremony—lots of traditions. The next week included several religious parades. Extra bonus to a great tour.
That sounds fabulous, Patty. What a great memory for you. We will be in Italy after Easter so we will miss the celebration.
The tour payment was made yesterday, so we’ll see you at the welcome meeting!
@Patty Can you hear me squealing? It’s not often I meet people on the forum who will be on the same tour. It won’t be long before we meet in person. Can’t wait. 😃
I took this wonderful RS tour back in 2014 with Tomasso Pante as our very excellent guide. The itinerary was a little bit different back then.
One memorable activity, at least for me: during our free afternoon in Taormina, 4 or 5 of us shared a 2+ hour taxi trip uphill to the ancient stone hill town of Castelmola, of Greek origin, in the hills far above Taormina. We wandered the lanes of the town for about an hour, although the local “castle?” was closed for repairs. On the return trip, we stopped at the “church in the rocks” which is indeed a small church carved into the rocks, very intimate and much less ornate or grand than other churches. From the “patio” outside the church, there was a spectacular view down to Taormina, especially a view of the ancient theater which we had visited that morning.
In Palermo, when we went up to Monreale to see the church with spectacular mosaics, we had a little free time before catching the bus back to Palermo. I wandered the area back behind the church, and came upon a small family mosaic workshop. Some of the family were really expert artisans and did repairs to the church mosaics as needed. They also produced some mosaic art pieces on various themes, that got very pricey when large. I bought a small piece, maybe 3 x 4 inches, with an intricate mosaic scene of the church with sunset sky behind it. Yes, just a souvenir, although a special and favorite one. Which I have displayed at eye height next to my easy chair, and which I appreciate very often, including at this very moment.
My most favorite spot was actually Erice, which was not part of the itinerary at the time, but where I spent 2 nights before the tour. Misty and mysterious in the early morning and evening. Wonderful food there, as elsewhere in Sicily. My first dinner, Couscous di Pesce, followed by grilled lamb chops, then a creamy Sicilian pastry, accompanied by local red wine. I still drool!
Enjoy Sicily, big hugs for Tomasso for those who are lucky enough to tour with him.
PS: About the name list for the tour, RS is very protective of the privacy of their travelers. Even during the tour, in my years of RS tour experience, the guide will not initiate the creation of a travel group contact list. But some member of the group has usually taken the initiative to start a written or electronic list, which everyone participated in.
@Larry Thanks for the tips. We are taking notes. The jaunt you took in Taormina sounds right up our alley as we are photographers. It sounds spectacular. And your memory of that meal is why we travel. We are collecting memories and not things. I will look for that mosaic shop if I have time. Maybe they make micromosaics which would undoubtedly be out of my price range but a girl can look, right?
Tomasso was the guide for our 2019 tour of Southern Italy. It will be fun to see him again.
We're also on the April 19 RS tour of Sicily, and appreciate your restaurant and touring recommendations. Very excited for this trip!!
We are signed up for the May 22 trip and can’t wait! This trip was postponed from fall 2020. I am enjoying seeing everyone’s comments.
Just returned from the Best of Sicily tour, it was excellent -- fun group (15 of us), great guide (Alfio), awesome sights, amazing food and many, many laughs. Enjoy!
We are on the May 15 Sicily tour with 27 others. Seeing the complete itinerary, hotel list, and tour roster is making it seem very real!
Any other folks on this forum on that tour?
How many of you are planning trip reports? We're waiting for the 2023 tour list to come out and we'll be signing up for this one.
Allan, I plan on doing a trip report. It may take me a while as we are going to be away for a month. What would you most like to know about the tour? Some have mentioned that they are curious about how many miles we walk on the tour which is supposed to be quite strenuous. Perhaps interesting food, weather? What to wear? Covid restrictions? I will try to incorporate what people seem to want to know the most.
What would you most like to know about the tour?
Mary, I enjoy trip reports that read more like a personal diary with your inner impressions rather than a dry summary of where you went. What did you like, and why. If you ruled the world, what would you have changed about the tour...stuff that I can't read from the itinerary.
I guess if there is one thing I'm most curious/nervous about this tour is the food. Even the faintest sight or smell of seafood is enough to make me gag and I'm quite nervous that this trip will be heavy on it.
Allan, thanks for your input on a tour report. I will try to incorporate those thoughts and impressions into mine. I am basically a vegan so I am with you on the seafood, etc. The few RS tours that I have taken seem to offer some choice on the meal because I am sure there are others who don’t like fish. My husband eats everything so he will be really happy with the food but is stressing about what I will eat far more than I am. If I don’t eat, I don’t eat but I am sure there will be some kind of veggie available.
For anyone interested, here is a link to my 2018 trip report for the Sicily tour. It’s written as if it were a journal.
@Allan. We took the tour in 2019. Yes, there was a lot of seafood, everywhere. You need to discuss with tour leader ahead of time, and she will arrange non-seafood meals for you (expect a lot of Pasta Norma) but I think most of the group meals included seafood. You just cant escape it. Then, three of the highlights of the tour were walks through the markets in Palermo, Ortigia, and Catania, where you see and smell seafood in all its forms.
I dont eat shellfish, so avoided that and ate well just the same. But, take it as a learning experience and consider the markets as a class in marine biology 🙂. Best tour we've taken.
Great tour report, Annie. As your trip was four years ago, we’ll see what changes have been made to the tour especially in light of covid. Thanks for your input, Stan. On our original forms, I listed that I was vegan but I am not sure the guides even look at those. On past tours, we just informed the guide that I was vegan and he/she accommodated me. But I don’t expect any special treatment on the tour. We’ll see what happens on this one. I have already communicated with our guide Tommaso via FB on another matter and he was super nice to respond despite the fact that he is undoubtedly very busy.
This was my last RS tour before the pandemic shut everything down (November 2019). My highlights were the Villa Romana Casale mosaics, Ortygia and Agrigento. I can't think of a single low point on the itinerary at all and the food was spectacular.
Sounds like I may be surviving on cannoli and gelato. There's worse ways to travel...
LOL! and there’s also bread, water and wine and pizza. I also hear there is a special pistachio liqueur that is like a pistachio Bailey’s.
@Mary, yes the guides absolutely look at this and take things like allergies into account. Every tour. It will come up in the very first meeting: the tour leader will ask the group about allergies and diet and food issues. They take all that down, and when getting ready for the pre-arranged group dinners, the tour leader will call ahead and tell the restaurant how many celiacs, vegans, non-seafood, etc., people there are, so they will be ready. Its not an uncommon thing, and not unknown to restaurants. They will check again when you are at the restaurant to see you get taken care of. I always had a good non-shellfish meal. Sicily was the best food on any of our four tours. Rick's got you covered.
Thanks, Stan. If you knew me, you would know I hate to cause a fuss. The three tours we have taken with RS Athens guides didn’t ask about food issues but my husband took the guide aside to give him/her a heads up. And they have all been really kind and gracious. As I said, he worries about this more than I do. And I could stand to lose some weight so . . .
Just drinking my espresso and eating my hard boiled eggs is a major
Annie, loved your report. Your comment about breakfast as a major sightseeing event may be one of the best sentences I've read from a Trip Report.
Mary, here's a post I made a couple of years ago asking what people wanted to read in Trip reports. What I took from it is that everyone is looking for different information, and so write for yourself and how you want to portray the trip. If people have questions, they'll ask.
We have been watching YouTube videos of Sicily by a young couple called Global Expats and they did several YouTube videos including the places we will be visiting on the Sicily tour and one whole segment on pistachio desserts. As young bloggers go, they are not annoying.
Allan, thanks for the link to your post. It seems there isn’t any consensus on what to put in a trip, report. With the couple I have posted, I have focused on things that I would have wanted to know before I went. Where is your France tour report? I would love to read it.
Here's the link to part 1. https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/tours/rs-loire-valley-to-the-south-of-france-part-1
I made the mistake of breaking it up into 5 parts which makes it frustrating to find. If you scroll to the last comment in part 1, there are links parts 2-5.
Thanks for the link to the tour report. I feel like I have gotten to know you better having read it. The sound and light show is also done in Reims and Beaune among other venues in the world. It’s a thing now. My husband and I would have been in a canoe with you on that river. I’m sorry that was disappointing. It sounded like fun. My husband and I were the only ones on our tour of Jordan who opted to snorkel the Red Sea. The others (all Aussies) stayed on the boat. I never could figure that one out. You’ve come all that way and you’re going to just sit on the boat and sing Waltzing Matilda?We saw a documentary on the recreation of the Lascaux cave. It is quite extraordinary how they recreated down to the last minute detail. We would have enjoyed the recreation. Yes, the Carrieres des Lumieres is wonderful. We were there in the heat of the summer so it also provided some welcome relief. We enjoyed Les Baux but used it as a base to explore the region. We found Carcassonne too touristy ourselves though others seem excited to see it. Yes, the tours foster an esprit de corps and we all help each other. We have made lifelong friends on the tours we have taken. My husband is an introvert also but the tours have helped him come out of his shell a lot. And I agree that there is never enough time in some places on a tour and sometimes too much.
I took this tour also. If you have any knee problems, I would recommend a walking stick. Good walking shoes too. That graph on the tour page is correct “most active”. The food was excellent!!!
Thanks, Sharon. I had the knee issue taken care of in 2018 so I’ll be fine. We live on the side of a mountain and are walking 3 miles a day so hopefully we’ll do well on this tour. I have heard it is the most strenuous of all the tours.
I recently went on my first RS tour to Portugal. That tour went so well, I am now booked on my 2nd RS tour. Sicily here I come (in June)!
Considering Sicily in October 2022. Question for those that have been. Is there free time? I've been on a heavy schedule for the past two years launch a business. I love the thought of not having to think/plan a trip like this. I traveled with a group that lived by the motto that "everything is optional." My only concern is about wanting some time/space to myself occasionally. I understand you have to be on the bus at certain times and I don't want to violate the "no grumps" policy. Thoughts???? This would be my first RS trip. Thank you.
I took a look at the itinerary. On Day 1 other than the initial meeting with the group and choosing a tour buddy, you can go your own way until the group dinner which is on the roof of the hotel where you’ll be staying. Day 2 you will have the afternoon and evening free to do your own thing. Day 3 you have the late afternoon and evening free. Day 4 is not a transfer day so you could opt out. If you look at the rest of the itinerary you will see other opportunities to do your own thing. This is your vacation so do as you please. But maybe a tour is not what you need right now but a more relaxing vacation on a beach somewhere or just do a trip on your own. Personally I can’t see paying for a tour and not participating. But you do you.
Thank you for reviewing the itinerary. I will go back and look. I enjoy tours because I don't want to plan all of the events and hotels in my own for a solo trip. I have looked into a villa in Brindisi that would be more of a beach vacation. I last 30 minutes sitting on the beach and go crazy. 🤣
I received a message from RS Tours saying, "You can certainly skip any activity or meal if you choose so. Its your trip and perfectly fine to pass on an activity. A sight, walking tour, etc. We just ask that you inform the guide. That way we aren't looking for you. It's your vacation and people often skip something. No worries at all about that."
I'm planning to participate, I recently had the experience on a trip this spring that "required" attendance at all events. Not my cup of tea.
Appreciate all your information above on your experience. Thank you 😊