The Real Deal: Round-trip airfare, 12 nights' accommodations, and sightseeing tours, from $2,909 per person—including taxes.
When: Depart Apr. 17, May 8, 15, June 19, 2008.
Gateways: Boston, D.C., New York City; add $175 for Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia; $195 for Atlanta, Detroit, Miami; $210 for Cincinnati, Dallas, St. Louis; $270 for L.A., Milwaukee, San Francisco; additional gateways are available.
The fine print: Included are breakfast buffet daily, three 3-course dinners (with wine or beer), a bottle of champagne upon arrival, airport-hotel transfers, local transportation by motor coach, and all taxes—including hotel service charges, tips, and fuel surcharges. Guided sightseeing tours, select entrance fees, and the services of an English-speaking tour director are also part of the package. Based on double occupancy; single supplement is $335. This special offer can only be booked over the phone. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book by: Mar. 31, 2008.
Contact: Go Ahead Tours, 800/590-1170, goaheadtours.com.
Why it's a deal: This package is not only valid for travel during perhaps the best time for visiting Sicily—April through June—but it also throws in a two-night Rome extension that would normally cost $349 per person. For comparison purposes, according to a recent Kayak search, the lowest round-trip fare between New York and Palermo, Sicily, departing on June 19, starts at $1,292 (multiple carriers). For an additional $1,617, or about $135 per day, Go Ahead provides airfare and virtually everything else: 10 nights' accommodations in Sicily, two nights in Rome, breakfast daily, three dinners, tips and taxes, airport-hotel transfers, motor-coach transportation, sightseeing tours, admission fees, and the services of a bilingual tour director.
Trip details: There's no Web site for the Scenes of Sicily package with the free Rome extension for the high-season dates specified above, but the day-by-day itinerary for the Sicily part of the trip is described here. Note that the starting price of $2,249 listed there applies only to off-season winter travel to Sicily—it does not include the two nights in Rome.
For an additional $660, the special Scenes of Sicily with Rome promotion covers round-trip flights between the U.S. and Palermo on Alitalia at the start of the high season (spring/early summer) as well as 10 nights' accommodations in Sicily and two nights in Rome.
For the first three nights, you'll stay at the 93-room Mercure Palermo Centro hotel in the center of the city, a little over 200 yards from Teatro Politeama and Teatro Massimo. You'll set out on a guided tour that covers major attractions: the glittering mosaics of Cappella Palatina; the once-scandalous nude figures of the 16th-century "fountain of shame"; Quattro Canti (Four Corners), four Spanish baroque-style palaces at the heart of Palermo's historic district; and the Duomo.
The tour ends with a trip to Monreale, about four miles south of Palermo, famous for the elaborate mosaic-covered interior of the Santa Maria la Nuova cathedral, whose mix of Arab, Byzantine, and Norman influences are a testament to the array of conquerors who have swept through Sicily.
You have a day to explore Palermo on your own or to join an optional full-day excursion to the ruins of Segesta, where you can see a Doric temple from the Hellenistic period and a well-preserved Greek theater. There's also a stop at the hilltop medieval village of Erice on Monte San Giuliano, surrounded by Phoenician and Norman fortifications ($79 per person).
Next you'll ride 80 miles south to Agrigento, established by the Greeks in the 6th century B.C. An afternoon tour takes you to the Valley of the Temples, an archeological park poised on a ridge south of Agrigento, where you can admire classical Greek monuments dedicated to gods and goddesses—such as the Temple of Zeus, Temple of Concord, and Temple of Hera—and take in the view of the Mediterranean Sea below. You'll stay overnight at the 120-room Jolly Hotel Della Valle, close to the ancient valley.
After a quick stop at Piazza Armerina, site of the mosaic-filled Villa Romana del Casale, you continue on to Siracusa, which once rivaled Athens as the heart of Greek civilization. Your home base for three nights is the 100-room Jolly Hotel Siracusa, about half a mile from the Neapolis Archaeological Park (which you'll tour) and the Paolo Orsi Archaeological Museum. The island of Ortygia is about a mile away and can be reached by crossing the Ponte Umbertino bridge.
For your final three nights in Sicily, you'll check in to the 32-room Villa Bianca on Mazzarò Bay, close to the beach and a short walk to the cable car that connects the hotel to the center of Taormina, a coastal resort town at the top of Mount Tauro. A sightseeing tour lets you check out the Teatro Greco, a Greek amphitheater that dates back to the 2nd century A.D., and soak up the views of Mount Etna, Europe's largest active volcano. Optional activities include a half-day hike to Mount Etna with lunch, or a traditional Sicilian dinner at a local restaurant (each is $59 per person).
Then comes the free Rome extension, with a 90-minute flight to Rome from Taormina on Alitalia and two nights at the 40-room Hotel Camelia, about halfway between the Termini train station and the Villa Borghese (about a 20- to 30-minute walk from the Spanish Steps).
You can find inspiration on what to see and do by reading "." If you prefer guided tours and activities, Go Ahead's offerings include a half-day tour of Rome's imperial landmarks ($79), a four-course dinner as you enjoy an opera performance ($85), and a half-day tour of Vatican City ($99); all prices are per person.
Need more time to explore the Eternal City? You can extend your stay for an additional $110 per night for a double room; $160 for a single. Go Ahead will arrange your return flight accordingly.
April through June is an ideal time to visit Sicily, as the temperatures are mild and the summer crowd hasn't arrived yet. Before you go, check the weather forecast, the latest exchange rate, and the local time at BudgetTravel.com.