Valletta.jpg

MALTA: Valletta - Rabat - Mdna - Mosta - Gozo, etc.

SICILY: Siracusa, Modica, Noto, Agrigento, Catania

 

July 13 to 24 - September 11 to 22, 2019 -  ( 4 people mini - 6 people maxi)

 

The Maltese islands lie virtually at the center of the Mediterranean, 93km south of Sicily and 288km north of Africa. The archipelago consists of three islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino. Malta became a member of the European Union in 2004. With a history 6,000 years long, every square inch of land, temples and monuments bear witness to these past civilizations. The long relationship between the Islanders and the various nationalities that occupied Malta over the centuries has created a marriage of styles and traditions, giving the Islands a fascinating eclectic culture. For those of you with an appetite for culture, Malta and Gozo are strewn with fascinating historical and archaeological sites, some of which date back earlier than the Pyramids. The islands of Malta have a high concentration of UNESCO World Heritage sites, including its capital city Valletta. The islands of Malta, although small in size, are unique due to their intriguing and colorful past, definitely a must to visit.

Itinerary:

Day one: July 13 ~ September 11: Leave the US (Airfare not included) You will receive a list of airlines flying to Malta.

Day two: July 14 ~ September 12: Arrive Malta. You will be picked -up at the airport to be taken to the hotel. Your room has water view. In the evening we will all  meet for dinner. Night in Valetta

Day three to Six: July 15 ~ 18 ~ September 13 to 16: We will visit Malta and Gozo. Nights in Valetta

Day seven: July 19 ~ September 17: We will fly to Catania, Sicily, only 50 minutes away.. SIGNING FOR THIS TOUR  IS URGENT BECAUSE OF THE  FLIGHTS TICKETS, included in the tour price. 

Day Seven: July 19 ~ September 17: we will visit Siracusa. Night in Modica

Day Eight: July 20 ~ September 18: Modica and Noto, exceptional Baroque cities, rebuilt after a devastating earthquake. Night in Modica

Day NineJuly 21 ~  September 19: Agrigento and the extraordinary well kept Greek Temples. Night in Agrigento

Day Ten: July 22 ~ September 20: the fantastic Villa Romana del Casale 

Day Eleven: July 23 ~ September 21: visiting Catania. a dark city because mostly built with lava stone, but filled with beautiful architecture.

On the day of Departure, July 24 September 22, you will be driven to the airport.

Valletta — the capital, named for Jean Parisot de la Valette, a French nobleman who was Grand Master of the Order of St. John and leader of the defenders during the Turkish siege of Malta in 1565.

Valletta is a UNESCO World Heritage site for the massive number of historical buildings found in a tiny space.

Until the arrival of the Knights, Mount Sceberras, on which Valletta stands, lying between two natural harbors, was an arid tongue of land. La Valette soon realized that if the Order was to maintain its hold on Malta, it had to provide adequate defenses. Therefore, he drew up a plan for a new fortified city on the Sceberras peninsula.

Work started in earnest in March 1566 - first on the bastions and, soon after, on the more important buildings. The new city was to be called Valletta in honor of La Valette. The Grand Master didn’t live to see its completion and he died in 1568. His successor, Pietro del Monte continued with the work at the same pace. By 1571, the Knights transferred their quarters from Vittoriosa (Birgu) to their new capital.

By the 16th century, Valletta had grown into a sizeable city. People from all parts of the island flocked to live within its safe fortifications especially as Mdina, until then Malta's capital, lost much of its lure. More lavish palaces and churches with graceful facades and rich sculptural motifs were built. The new city, with its strong bastions and deep moats, became a bulwark of great strategic importance. Valletta’s street plan is unique and planned with its defense in mind. Based on a more or less uniform grid, some of the streets fall steeply as you get closer to the tip of the peninsula. The stairs in some of the streets do not conform to normal dimensions since they were constructed in a way so as to allow knights in heavy armor to be able to climb the steps.

We will get deep into the story of the Order of the Knights of St John, understand where the were coming from, their struggle, their power and how Malta was transformed under their influences.

Some of the buildings they used for government purposes, for living, for worshiping will all be visited. The decor and architecture in some of them is absolutely astonishing.

Dominating Palace Square, the Grand Master's Palace has always been the house of government in Malta, first by the knights, then the British and now hosts the President’s office. When parliament is not in session you can visit the palace for free, and there is an awful lot to see in here.

In the interior of the palace is the famous Council Chamber, adorned with valuable Gobelins tapestries woven in France for Grand Master Ramón Perellos y Roccaf.

The other rooms and passages of the palace are splendidly furnished with art objects, old coat of arms and armor.
Particularly notable are the former Hall of the Supreme Council of the Knights, which hosts fine frescoes and the Hall of the Ambassadors, where portraits of Grand Masters and European rulers hang.

On the basement floor is the Armory, one of the largest collections of its kind in the world, though reduced to a fraction of its former size by the depredations of the French. Among its principal treasures are a suit of armor made in Milan for the Grand Master, Adrien de Wignacourt (1690-97) and a full-length panoply made for Grand Master Martin Garzes by Sigismund Wold of Landshut.

The Co-Cathedral of St John is nothing short of a gem and quite simply a must to visit. Described as the first complete example of high Baroque anywhere, it epitomizes the spiritual and military role of its patrons.
The Cathedral is a showcase to Mattia Preti who intricately carved stone wall designs, as well as the painted vaulted ceiling and side altars with scenes from the life of St John. Among the treasures found in the Cathedral are the unique Caravaggio painting depicting the beheading of St John, the extraordinary paving of more than 300 marble tomb slabs (the burial place of several former European princes), and the splendid vaulted central nave with frescoes of Mattia Preti. It is a sight that will astonish you with its incredible décor.

Marsaxlokk — fishing village south of the island. A big market is held every Sunday. Good fish restaurants.

Mdina — Malta's well-preserved quiet old capital (pronounced 'im-dina'). Called the Silent City, Mdina sits in the center of the main island Malta. The city was heavily damaged during WWII, but a very good restoration project brought the city back to its quiet and simple splendor. There so many interesting and beautiful small details on all those buildings, that you could spend days looking at all of them. And each door has its own special and specific knocker. It is a delight to walk around such a clean and restful place.

Vittoriosa was originally (and still is by the Maltese) called Birgu {Borgo} and, having been a Phoenician/Carthaginian settlement as well as a Greek trading post, is probably older than Mdina.

When the Knights of St. John were given control of Malta by the Pope and the Holy Roman emperor they didn't choose landlocked Mdina as their base but naval Birgu instead. They promptly set out to strengthen the ancient defenses and build an 'Auberge' for each of the different 'Langues' (a Langue is a group of knights sharing a common language, an Auberge a residence for each Langue).

The Turkish Sultan Suleiman_the_Magnificent decided to try and take Malta in 1565 and sent an armada with 30-40,000 men under the leadership of admiral Turgut_Reis withBirgu and Senglea, as main objective. The siege of Birgu and Senglea lasted several months and culminated in a dramatic episode when the Turks finally breached the defenses. Grand master of the Knights, Jean de la Vallette, then decided to blow up the bridge linking the town to Fort St. Angelo at the end of the peninsula, so that none of the knights would be able to withdraw and would have to die making a last stand on the central square side by side with the locals of Birgu who had fought with them. Just as the Turks were pouring into the town,  a group of Maltese who had ridden down from Mdina torched the virtually unguarded Turkish camp giving them the impression that they were being attacked from the rear. The Turks retreated in disarray mere yards from their objective, a victory which would have changed the course of Mediterranean history.

In recognition of this event the name Vittoriosa meaning victory was given to the town. The Knights were hailed in Europe as saviors of the west and acquired huge funds with which they set forth to build Valletta, thus ending Birgu's short spell as capital of Malta.

The area of the Grand Harbour became very important during the 19th century for Malta as it became a stop-over for any British ships between Gibraltar and the Suez canal. In this area, in particular further south around Senglea became the industrial centre of the country with many docks for shipbuilding being constructed. Sadly this made it a main target for an extremely harsh bombing campaign during WWII. The area around the Grand Harbour counts as one of the most intensely bombed in the world which caused incalculable damage to this historic area. As the main industry has moved away from the area, and the tourist areas are concentrated in Sliema and further north the Cottonera is mercifully spared from the unchecked tourist development which has scarred other parts of the country, this area is surprisingly devoid of any tourism. Part of fort St Angelo has been recently returned to the Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta (one of the orders which trace their origin to the original Hospitalet order of Knights of St John) and is being conserved and restored. Tourist activity has increased in Birgu in recent years, with restaurants and a marina for magnificent yachts opening (and some new flats of questionable taste being built near Fort St Angelo).

Rabat — hosts numerous historical attractions such as St. Paul's catacombs which are some of the most prominent features of Malta’s paleochristian archaeology. The archaeological clearing of the site has revealed an extensive system of underground galleries and tombs dated from the fourth to the ninth centuries AD. There is also the Domus Romana, a  ruined Roman-era house located on the boundary between Mdina and Rabat, Malta. It was built in the 1st century BC as an aristocratic town house (domus) within the Roman city of Melite. In the 11th century, a Muslim cemetery was established on the remains of the domus. The site was discovered in 1881, and archaeological excavations revealed several well preserved Roman mosaics, statues and other artifacts, as well as a number of tombstones and other remains from the cemetery.

Hagar Qim and Mnajdra - Two very beautiful stone age temples set on the Cliffside of south west Malta. Their majesty is now protected by tents and a 2 story new building nearby with a museum related to the site. Built around 3600 BC these structures are older than the pyramids.

The site consists of a central building and the remains of at least two more structures. The large forecourt and the monumental façade of the central structure follow the pattern typical of Maltese Prehistoric Temples. Along the external wall one may find some of the largest megaliths used in the building of these structures, such as a 16ft high stone and a huge megalith estimated to weigh close to 20 tons.

Mosta Dome - the third largest dome in Europe and the ninth largest dome in the world. On 9 April 1942, a bomb struck the Parish Church of the Assumption while a religious ceremony was taking place with more than 300 people attending. Luckily the bomb didn't explode. The Rotunda of Mosta is built in the neoclassical style, and its structure is based on the Pantheon in Rome. Construction started in 1833 and took 28 years to complete. The wall supporting the dome are 30ft thick. The diameter of the dome is 122ft.

The Casa Rocca Piccola - a Maltese Noble Family House on Triq ir-Republika, offering a glimpse into nobility having lived continuously on in that palazzo for over 400 years. Beside beautiful and priceless furniture, decorative objects and paintings, the palazzo houses the largest Maltese collection of antique costumes as well as the second air-raid shelter dug in Malta.

Gozo 

The island of Gozo has long been associated with Ogygia, the island home of the nymph Calypso in Homer's Odyssey. In that story, Calypso, possessed of great supernatural powers, and in love with Odysseus, holds him captive for a number of years, until finally releasing him to continue his journey home.

The island has a population of around 37,342 people (as of March 2014) - (all of Malta combined has 445,000), and its inhabitants are known as Gozitans (Maltese: Għawdxin). It is rich in historic locations such as the Ġgantija temples, which, along with the other Megalithic Temples of Malta, are among the world's oldest free-standing structures

Victoria is the capital city of Gozo.

In the heart of Victoria lies the Cittadella (Citadel), formerly known as il Castello, which has been the center of activity of the island since possibly Neolithic times, but is known to be first fortified during the Bronze Age c. 1500 BC. It was later developed by the Phoenicians and continued into becoming a complex Acropolis by Roman times.

The north side of the Citadel dates back to the Aragonese domination period. The south flank, overlooking Victoria, was re-constructed under the Knights of St. John, namely between 1599 and 1603, after Ottomans invaded the city in 1551. The massive defensive stone walls of the fortifications rise above the town and were built by the Knights to protect the village communities from foraging corsairs attempting to take slaves and threatened invasion of Moslem forces fighting Christendom.

Within its walls lies a fine 17th century baroque Cathedral designed by Lorenzo Gafà, the Maltese architect who also built the Cathedral of Mdina. It is said that it lies on the site where a Roman temple dedicated to Juno once stood. It is most famous for the remarkable trompe l'oeil painting on its ceiling, which depicts the interior of a dome that was never built.

An incredible amount of restoration has been done in and around the Cittadella. It is now a beautiful site, where buildings have been renovated give us a sense of the strength of that fortress, and how people manage to live within its walls.

Palazzo Parisio

Palazzo Parisio is a 19th century stately home with a history, architecture and interior unique in Malta. Originally built in 1733 by the Portuguese Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena, who ruled the island during the time of the Knights of St. John, it was later bought and embellished by Marquis Giuseppe Scicluna in 1898.  As a pillar of the establishment, banker and philanthropist, it was his vision and passion that inspired the magnificent interior of this wonderful family home.

Described as a miniature Versailles, it is a glorious showcase of Maltese and Italian craftsmanship at the turn of the 19th century, with lavishly decorated ceilings, murals and frescoes, fine stucco work, magnificent antique furniture, rare paintings and extravagant gilding. The ornate gilded Ballroom of mirrors is unique in Malta with its exuberant style, flamboyant decoration and unparalleled plasterwork. It is still used today for private functions, weddings and important corporate hospitality events. The magnificent walled gardens rank amongst the finest in Malta and the only privately owned gardens open to the public. Classically baroque in style, they are a charming mixture of Italian symmetry and Mediterranean color and perfume, with seasonal appeal all year round.

SICILY 

Palazzo Parisio -  A baroque salon
Palazzo Parisio -  a bedroom

The island of Ortigia is the historical center of Siracusa. It is a charming  neighborhood where you will enjoy wandering its narrow streets bordered with almost crumbling buildings next to beautifully restored ones. There is also the strange Palazzo Impellizzeri, lined with faces, and not too fare the majestic ruins of the Greek Temple of Apollo. 

Siracusa's Duomo, Piazza Duomo, an elliptical open space lined with harmonious designed buildings, is an important site. It was built on the spot where the Greek Temple of Athena once stood.  The massive Doric columns of the temple are still there, a bit out of wack after an earthquake. Some walls are Norman in origin, but they are also remnant of the church transformed into a mosque between the 7th and the 11th century.  The pleasant  Baroque facade was built after  the 1693 earthquake. 

On the same square in the church of Santa Lucia alla Badia which contains the Burial of St Lucy by Caravaggio. Caravaggio had escaped from prison on Malta in 1608, fleeing to Syracuse, where he was able  commission for the present altarpiece. Caravaggio painted it in 1608, for the Franciscan church of Santa Lucia al Sepolcro. The choice of subject was driven by the fact that St. Lucy was the patron saint of Syracuse and had been interred below the church

Modica, Noto: Two small cities which were practically destroyed in the 1693 Earthquake and rebuilt in a imposing Sicilian Baroque Style. They have all their own charm, are on the UNESCO-list of Baroque towns of South-East Sicily, and all have a different personality.

 

Agrigento: This splendid archaeological park consists of eight temples (and various other remains) built between about 510 BC and 430 BC: the Temple of Hera, the Temple of Concordia, the Temple of Heracles, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Temple of Castor and Pollux, the Temple of Hephaestos, the Temple of Demeter, and the Temple of Asclepius (the God of Medicine). 

It is one of the most outstanding examples of Greater Greece art and architecture. The area was included in the UNESCO Heritage Site list in 1997. The archaeological park and landscape of the Valley of the Temples is the largest archaeological site in the world with 1,300 hectares.

Villa Romana del Casale: is a Roman villa urbana built in the first quarter of the 4th century and located about 3 km outside the town of Piazza Armerina, Sicily, southern Italy. It contains the richest, largest and most complex collection of Roman mosaics in the world,[1] and has been designated as one of 49 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy.

a mosaic on the floor of the room dubbed the "Chamber of the Ten Maidens" (Sala delle Dieci Ragazze in Italian). Informally called "the bikini girls", the maidens appear in a mosaic artwork which scholars named Coronation of the Winner. The young women perform sports including weight-lifting, discus throwing, running and ball-games. A girl in a toga offers a crown and victor's palm frond to "the winner"

Catania has had a long and eventful history, having been founded in the 8th century BC.[1] In 1434, the first university in Sicily was founded in the city. In the 14th century and into the Renaissance period, Catania was one of Italy's most important cultural, artistic and political centers. The city has a rich culture and history, hosting many museums, restaurants, churches, parks and theaters. Catania is well known for its street food. It is the birth place of Bellini who wrote many operas including Norma.

Included:

  • 5 nights hotel in Malta  

  • 2 nights in Catania

  • 1 night in Agrigento

  • 2 nights in Pietre Nere

  • 10 Breakfasts

  • 6 Lunches

  • 4 Dinners

  • Pick-up Malta Airport & Drop-off at Catania airport

  • Transportation to scheduled sites

  • Private guides

  • Entrance fees to scheduled sites

  • Reference books, Maps

  • Accident/Medical insurance

  • Gratuity, Taxes

  • Air from Malta to Catania

 

 $4555 per person in double occupancy

 $5255 per person in single occupancy

 

Agrigento

6 PARTICIPANTS MAXIMUM