Best of Sicily Tours 2017.
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Travel Agents: Contact our director to find out how you can plan a unique tour of Sicily for your group (even if you're not a travel agent).

Sicily Info
Airports
Weather
Sights to See
Localities
Travel Faqs
Food
Wines
Hotels
Sicily Books
Sicily Map
Agrigento
Catania
Cefalù
Erice
Madonie Mts.
Marsala
Mount Etna
Palermo
Piazza Armerina
Segesta
Siracusa
Taormina
Trapani
Wine Region

IMPORTANT:
A growing num­ber of in­depen­dent "guides" in Si­cily offer ex­cur­sions (driv­ing you from place to place). Un­fortunate­ly, most of those found on the inter­net are not li­censed as tour guides, tour oper­ators or taxi driv­ers. This means that they probab­ly lack ac­cident in­surance that covers a client who (for ex­ample) in­curs an in­jury while walk­ing from the guide's parked car to an archeo­logi­cal site, such as the temples at Agri­gento and Se­gesta. Worse yet, some of these "guides" may de­ceive you into believ­ing that they are li­censed when they are not. In Italian law, on­ly a proper­ly li­censed com­pany qual­i­fies for the in­sur­ance de­scribed. In Italy the tour­ism/trav­el in­dustry is high­ly reg­u­lat­ed for your pro­tec­tion.

Tours About Us Details Conditions Contact FAQs

"Are all tours of Sicily the same?"
Planning, service and even your guide's knowledge spell the difference between an exceptional, memorable tour and an ordinary one. We offer the exceptional ones.

It's not just what you see but how you see it:
 "Very well thought-out tour, relaxing, intimate and time for individuals... very special. We will certainly share the experience with our friends..." — Julie C.
 "Our guide was delightful, well informed and knowledgeable of Italian history. He was friendly, courteous and always took good care of us. We enjoyed his company..." — Marjorie B.
Read more comments from people who enjoyed our tours >>>

A few great reasons to visit Sicily.
Taormina's Greek amphitheatre and Mt Etna, Norman-Arab churches in Palermo, Segesta's Greek temple, Palermo's Palatine Chapel

The most important part of a Best of Sicily tour? Your satisfaction.
We offer more scheduled start-dates for tours of Sicily than than any other company in the world, and reserving your tour or shore excursion has never been easier. Our most popular regular (scheduled) and personal tours are described via the following links. Purchase conditions, contact details and other information follow on this page. For something even more personalized (or specialized), consider our sister company, Sicily Concierge. On each of the following pages, the  BOOK NOW  button will take you to a detailed description of the service or itinerary, where you'll be guided through the selection, reservation and payment process, but please contact us with any questions.

Golden Sicily. A favorite, with almost weekly departures all year. Reserve before May 31st and get a free book. Tours of Sicily with departures almost every week of the year. Shore Excursions from Palermo - private shore trips in western Sicily: Monreale, Palermo, Erice, Segesta, Cefalù.
Day Tours from Palermo - regularly-scheduled with frequent departures: Erice-Segesta, Agrigento, Monreale, Piazza Armerina, Palermo cooking classes. Shore Excursions from Messina - private shore trips in eastern Sicily: Taormina, Etna, Messina, winery visits. Tours of Italy including Sicily - the peninsula plus Sicily.

About Us
Online since 1999, Best of Sicily is the most popular international destination guide for Sicily, and the most widely-read publication about Sicily, with over two million readers per year – six thousand on a typical day. While you read these words, at least two hundred other visitors are reading something on our website. We also publish books about Sicily (and we've even designed a few tours based on them). In response to the demand for travel services of a high quality, we've been offering personalized and regularly-scheduled tours of Sicily since 2005, with thousands of satisfied participants since then. Small group size and attention to detail are what distinguish our tours from those of most of our competitors. These tours and excursions are not "outsourced" by referral but planned and operated by us and by experienced experts who work closely with us in Sicily, where we are based. They are anything but "mass market" services. Our tour itineraries are often imitated, but what really separates us from the crowd is our unique staff of diligent, professional travel agents who know the travel field.

Details
The travel services branch of Best of Sicily is Tradizione Turismo (Chat & Tour) of Palermo, Italy, described further at Terms & Conditions. This is a real company, legally registered as a tour operator and fully insured, with a number of employees and an office in a commercial district of Palermo. Yes, an office you can actually visit, with normal business hours and English-speaking staff — experienced travel agents with real credentials, not a "virtual" tour service run from somebody's tablet as he drives around Sicily (much as we love tablets and Sicily).

CONTACT
EMAIL: tours@bestofsicily.com
TEL: +39 091 626 9685, FAX: +39 091 380 9900
From the United States or Canada: 1 718 473 0803.
Please remember that there's a six-hour time difference between Central European Time here in Italy and North American Eastern Time in (for example) Toronto and New York.
From the UK: +44 208 133 6934.
From Australia: +61 280 113 849.
Offices: Via Generale Sirtori 25, 90145 Palermo, Italy

Terms & Conditions
Credit cards.Client will be advised of specific hotels to be used in his/her tour 20 (twenty) days before the tour's start date. Payment may be effected by bank wire transfer or major credit card. Prices are indicated in euros and valid through 31 December 2017. In the event of currency conversion to euros, the conversion rate shall be that of the day of payment; in the event of several payments for a single service the conversion rate may vary slightly based on the day's current exchange rate. All services are to be prepaid at least sixty days prior to the beginning of the tour ("start date" herein also referred to as the "departure"), with an initial payment or deposit (of at least 20% of the total cost) required to reserve a place in the tour, and in any event the balance or full price made payable within 60 (sixty) days of departure. In the event of cancellation by the client, the following portion of the total tour price will be claimed by the agency: €100.00 fixed fee 60+ days prior to departure, 25% 45-59 days before departure, 50% 15-44 days before departure, 80% 8-14 days before departure, 100% within 7 (seven) days of departure. At its discretion, the tour operator agency may waive such claims. (Deposits paid to reserve tours sold at a special discount are not refundable.)

If purchased directly from the Italian tour operator (i.e. Tradizione Turismo by Chat & Tour Srl) via this website, service shall be governed by the laws of the Italian Republic and the European Union. Local laws may also apply for any tour purchased through a travel agent outside Italy. It is the responsibility of each participant to be in possession of the necessary travel document, such as a valid passport. Basic services are insured in compliance with Italian law. Certain fees indicated (i.e. costs cited which are outside the actual tour price), particularly admission fees at archeological sites, are understood to be beyond the tour operator agency's control and therefore subject to change without notice.

Hotel ratings are those established by the Italian travel commission and may differ from those indicated in privately-published travel guide books or websites. Tours begin in cities indicated and on the dates specified. Unless the tour is purchased by a travel agent representing us, billing is processed through the tour operator, based here in Palermo, Italy (i.e. Chat & Tour's Tradizione Turismo). In the event that the tour operator agency effects cancellation of a tour at any time prior to departure, its sole responsibility and liability is limited to refunding the client the amount it has received in payment for the tour up to that date. The tour operator reserves the right to cancel or reschedule any tour departure in accordance with operating requirements or circumstances beyond its control (force majeure).

City Tax: Following the example of Rome, Paris and New York, a few Sicilian cities have begun to tax hotel stays. The law prohibits billing or collection of the "city tax" by travel agents, so you may be required to pay this tax of €2-€4 directly to the hotel at check-out.

LEGAL: Tradizione Turismo by Chat & Tour, Via Generale Sirtori 25, 90145 - Palermo, Italy. Full Travel Agency Licence Number: 996/VII/Tur-Sicily - IATA Tids 96 27583 0 - VAT (Partita IVA): IT04943140824 - ASTA Member Number: 900166379 · Site Member: ID 9310610 - NTA Member: TID 034 250.

Frequently Asked Questions

 Which hotels do you use?
 What's "high" and "low" season?
 Who are your tour participants?
 Is there much walking in these tours? What's the level of physical activity?
 Do you provide testimonials or references?
 Are all fees included in the price of the tours?
 What about tips (gratuities) to guides and drivers?
 What are "optional exursions" and how are they planned and priced?
 How many participants are there in each group?
 What's the difference between you and my local travel agent?
 Can you plan a customized tour for my group?
 Are the tours guided/escorted?
 What's the quality like?
 Are these "low budget" or "mass market" tours?
 How are these tours really different from others?
 Are airfare and transportation from the airport included?
 Why are there so few departures in August?
 Can I deviate from the tour to visit a place off the itinerary?
 How can I extend my stay before or after the tour?
 Do you offer food and wine tours?
 What if I'm reluctant to purchase a tour over the internet?
 What's the difference between a tour operator and a travel agent?
 What's your connection with Sicily Concierge?
 What if my question isn't answered on this page?

Which hotels do you use?
Hotels are rated at least 4-star by the Italian Tourism Board, being selected for their ambience, service and convenient location. Some are rated 5-star. Often overlooked by tour operators, convenient hotel location makes it easier to reach shopping and dining. While hotels are listed for each tour, the hotels actually selected for your tour may vary depending on the season, the number of participants and availability. In other words, there are occasional (rare) substitutions. In Italy, incidentally, the differences between hotel rankings are often subtle and do not always reflect lodging quality but rather things like the size of the hotel's restaurant or its season of operation.

What's "high" and "low" season?
Used by hotels and airlines, these terms refer to pricing based on the differing volume of travel activity throughout the typical year. During promotions, some of our tours are priced lower from November through March (low season) than they would from April through October (high season). We sincerely believe that the winter is a perfect season to visit Sicily. Check out our weather and climate page for information on average seasonal temperatures and precipitation.

Who are your tour participants?
Our scheduled tours are purchased by clients from around the world, rather than from a single country or community — though we also plan tours for specific groups (contact our director for details). By nature, most of our clients enjoy contact with others, including participants from different countries. It's one of the things that makes our tours different from those sold by most travel agents. The tour language is English.

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Is there much walking in these tours? What's the level of physical activity?
These tours are fairly active and feature at least "moderate" walking along stairs or over uneven surfaces. These are not hiking tours but the amount of walking, while not excessive, is substantial, and comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Though suitable to most people, these tours really are not appropriate for anybody whose walking ability is significantly restricted or challenged by a physical condition (chronic back pain, a leg or hip injury, etc.), or who requires the aid of a device for support to facilitate walking. Many of the places visited are full of steps or sloping pavement surfaces (Taormina and Erice are hilltop towns having cobble-stone streets, closed to traffic, and few actual sidewalks). In some cases motor vehicles simply are not allowed to transport participants to areas (such as archeological sites or medieval streets) frequented by visitors, so a certain amount of walking is necessary. Ramps and elevators (lifts) are the exception rather than the rule, and facilities for wheelchairs are limited. We understand that our observations may discourage some from joining our tours, but we would be misleading you if we did not bring these realities to your attention.

Do you provide testimonials or references?
We frequently review client satisfaction – based on questionnaires completed following each tour – to maintain quality, and a few remarks are included on our comments page

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Are all costs included in the price of the tours?
Fees and other costs are included as indicated in the description of the tour. All breakfasts are included. Otherwise, some, but not all, meals are included. Where beverages are not included, you can order them yourself. In our Golden tour, for example, beverages are not included. Gratuities (tips) to guides/escorts are not included (see the following question). In most cases, entrance fees at archeological sites are not included, and these average about €70 during a one-week tour. Optional excursion costs are not included (see below). The summary of each tour explains precisely what is (and isn't) included.

What about tips for guides and/or drivers?
This is customary but never obligatory. As a very general rule, for escort-guides we might suggest a minimum of four euros per day per person for a 7-day tour, slightly more if the group is very small (5 participants or less). The tip to a driver normally would be slightly less. If the guide is also the driver, the four-euro suggestion would apply. Any tipping should be done at the very end of a complete tour, rather than day-by-day. While we're on the subject of tipping, please note that about 10% is customary in restaurants, and about one euro per person for porterage of bags (or 50 cents per bag if there's more than one bag) at hotels.

What are optional excursions and how are these planned and priced?
Though the practice is rare on our tours, your guide or driver may occasionally offer you the possibility of planning or joining an excursion that is not included in the itinerary or cost of the tour. On a free day, for example, an excursion from Taormina to Mount Etna might be offered if this is not already included in your itinerary. The cost of such an excursion is paid in advance when you purchase your tour.

How many participants are there in each group?
Group size varies according to the tour or excursion. For most tours we guarantee a departure even with as few as 2 participants. Our groups rarely have more than 16 participants, never more than 24, and they're usually from various countries. Most participants prefer to be part of a smaller group. In fact, the relatively small group size is one of the advantages of our tours. (When we have a large number of participants, we divide a potentially large tour into two or three smaller groups.)

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What's the difference between you and my local travel agent?
REAL travel agents.We're Sicily specialists based "on site" here in Sicily, we offer frequent departures, and in most cases our prices are more affordable than those of comparable tours offered at "retail" by a travel agent outside Italy. Our tours are not a "re-sale" product connected to an expensive advertising campaign, nor are they a generic "package" sold (or re-sold) by a mass tourism company. Instead, you're buying the tour directly from a registered tour operator and travel agent who oversees every detail of your tour directly. (These are the kind of companies that actually organize the various tours promoted by your local travel agent and by numerous firms which market tours.) You can usually reserve your place as little as twenty (20) days before the beginning of the tour. That's an option few local travel agents can beat – except for those selling mass market tours having more than thirty participants. Unlike a travel agent thousands of miles away from Sicily, we can address specific needs, whether it's getting ballet tickets at Palermo's opera house or finding you a driver for a special excursion on an extra day following the tour. The best travel agents provide useful, personalized services (and those who wish to offer this tour may contact us), but there's really no substitute for being present where the tours actually take place.

Can you create a customized tour for my group?
Yes! Contact us with your requirements and we'll provide you with a quote. This service is available to travel agents or to anybody who wants to organize a group tour. Best of all, your customized tour may not cost much more than one of our regular scheduled tours.

Are the tours guided?
Each tour is escorted by an English-speaking tour escort. The complexites of Italian labor law have created several confusing and overlapping "official" categories of "guides" including licensed guides authorized to lecture (in foreign languages) at archeological sites in particular regions of Italy, specialized (but usually monolingual) guides employed locally at specific historical sites, tour escorts who accompany groups around Italy, and so forth. Our approach attempts to simplify this. If your group has only 2 or 3 participants you'll have a driver/guide. Larger groups (at least 4 participants) have a minibus driver plus an escort. Certain excursions require specialized guides – for example the geologists who operate jeep excursions on Mount Etna – and we occasionally use the services of licensed or local guides. It's really a question of having the most practical, efficient solution for each situation.

What's the quality like?
It's exceptional. You may find a few tours of Sicily priced for less, but we've ensured that our features, though affordable, are of high quality. The restaurants, for example, are superior to the typical "tourist" offerings, and the tour escorts and other personnel are selected for their exceptional professionalism. (This, in itself, distinguishes our services.) The planning is efficient, too, with lodging in just three or four hotels instead of numerous check-ins, and few stretches of travel lasting more than ninety minutes. These tours offer certain features typical of more expensive tours, such as small group size. (Unless you enjoy being part of a big crowd, smaller is better.) Each tour has its own particular features which make it a unique experience. Our entire approach to providing you with the best possible service sets these tours apart from others. This reflects a "young" attitude rather than the "conventional" generic mentality of mass-market tour operators who pack 50 people on a bus with a mediocre "guide." It's our special emphasis on quality that is often lacking in competitors' Sicily tours.

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Are these "low budget" or "mass market" tours?
No!!! If you search, you'll find many cheaper tours with larger group sizes and rather inconvenient itineraries, typically sold under creative names such as "Endless Pleasures of Sicily Tour." In purchasing any tour, it's always best to compare features. Our tours represent a different approach because they may be purchased directly from the organizing agency, and they are the only tours of Sicily promoted by Sicily's most widely-read international publication (this website), based on readers' real-life preferences rather than on what a tour operator guesses that clients prefer.

How are these tours different from others?
Realistically, it's simple enough to compare basic features, but there's just so much that can be conveyed with charts, descriptions and figures (our itineraries are frequently imitated by competitors). The real difference is that a team of seasoned Sicily-based travel experts has met the challenge of developing a satisfying travel experience at an affordable price in a market where impersonal "mass tourism" – not attention to detail – is the norm. In other words, the people behind the tour are as important as the places you visit and the hotels you stay in. Best of Sicily is a slightly different kind of destination guide, and we offer slightly different kinds of tours. We've fine-tuned our services over the years. Our popular Golden Sicily tour has been offered for eleven years with exceptional success. According to the best statistics available (from a trade industry source), in 2016 we sold more tours of Sicily directly to the public than any other Sicily-based agency.

Are airfare and transportation from the airport included in the tour price?
Airfare is not included, but transportation from the airport is included in some tours. See the summary for details. For good flight prices, try an airline with frequent direct or connecting flights to Palermo and Catania, such as Alitalia or Ryan Air. From the airport, it's easy to get to your hotel in Palermo, with hourly bus and train departures or by taxi. Palermo is about thirty minutes from its airport. (See our arrival page for details.) We recommend Air Malta for flights to Valletta (Malta). In reserving flights, please bear in mind that for most tours arrivals and departures are not from the same city because most of our tours travel across Sicily instead of going around it in a circuit. You will probably have to arrive at Catania and depart from Palermo, or vice versa.

Why are there so few departures scheduled in August?
Because it's the most chaotic month in Italy, when Italians go on vacation en masse, and northern Europeans flock to Italy. In August, you can expect delayed flights, long lines and crowds everywhere – particularly in favorite spots like Taormina. Worse, the middle of the month (Ferragosto) finds many shops and even restaurants in less popular localities closed. Here in Sicily, August is endlessly sunny but unbearably hot, too. As the vacation (holiday) season and heat actually begin in late July, we schedule fewer tours in August.

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Can I deviate from the tour to visit a place off the itinerary?
We generally encourage you, instead of cancelling a particular sight or stop and then catching up to the group further along the itinerary, to plan an extension of your stay in Sicily for a day or two following the tour. (See the following question.) We can arrange transportation to a specific sight or locality you'd like to visit.

How can I extend my stay before or after the tour?
In the description of each tour there's a section on pre-nights and post-nights; in other words, additional days before or after the tour. We can usually reserve lodging at the same hotel used for the tour at the priority rate. Otherwise, if you wish, it's easy to book a hotel on our hotel page, where flights, car rentals and other services are also available. Nowadays, many visitors prefer independent travel, often with an escorted visit such as our tours for a portion of their trip. When carefully planned, the two services complement each other very well.

Do you offer food and wine tours?
All our tours offer plenty of opportunities to sample Sicilian cuisine and wines, and some include wine tastings and (as options) cooking classes. We suggest that you carefully compare these tours to those promoted by various firms as "culinary tours" (food and wine tours reflect a growing international interest in Sicilian cuisine). You may actually prefer ours!

What if I'm reluctant to purchase a tour (or other travel service) over the internet?
Here is an interesting "review" from an American gentleman who participated in one of our tours in 2011:

After evaluating a lot of tours, in October 2011 my wife and I chose a Best of Sicily tour. We chose that tour for several reasons: they promised small groups (maximum 20 people but they said it would typically be 14 or 16); they guaranteed departures provided at least two people sign up (so my wife and I met that qualification); they went to the areas we were interested in seeing during our week in Sicily; the hotels were okay based on TripAdvisor reviews; they had a mix of meals that were included with the tour package as well as meals that we would purchase on our own (we have been burned by tours that provide all your meals in the hotel where you are staying); and their website made it clear that they really understood Sicily. Initially, I was uncomfortable working through a tour company that was only located in Sicily rather than a larger company, but Vincenzo at Best of Sicily was extremely responsive to my many e-mail questions, so I became more comfortable over time. The tour was great! We had only six people on our tour, and we traveled with our tour guide, Giuseppe, in a mini-van. That meant that he could maneuver down the narrow streets of Palermo, Catania, etc. and go to places the large tour busses couldn't. Although I grew up in New York City where I drove a taxi for a while, I would not have been comfortable driving in the larger Sicilian cities where they just don't seem to have any rules. On the other hand, it sure was a lot of fun sitting in the passenger seat. Giuseppe was fantastic and I would highly recommend him as a tour guide due to his personality and comprehensive knowledge of Sicily. We purchased the optional "transfer package" which included someone picking us up and dropping us off at the Palermo airport, as well as the entrance fees to the places we visited. The overall pace of the tour was great. We covered a lot of ground but didn't feel rushed. Giuseppe's restaurant selection (he frequently gave us options for lunch or dinner) was outstanding. Because we were in a small group, we were able to go to small restaurants that could not accommodate bus loads of tourists. During our scheduled free day in Taormina, four of the six of us opted for an excursion from sea level to the top of Mount Etna, which is nearly 11,000 feet in elevation and was reached by a combination of our mini-van; a cable car ride; and special all-wheel drive buses for traveling over the volcanic ash at the top. The trip to the top of Mount Etna, which was spewing large clouds of smoke into the air, was a great experience. Lunch on a working olive farm and a trip to Erice, located on the top of a high mountain, on our last day was the perfect ending to a great tour. I managed to take 1,525 digital pictures during our seven days in Sicily. It was beautiful!

What's the difference between a tour operator and a travel agent?
Today, when there are various kinds of travel service sellers, the distinctions are often blurred and may actually overlap. Speaking generally, a tour operator organizes a tour and sells it to local travel agents (who sell it to you), while a receptive agent handles logistics "on site" (in Sicily in our case). The internet has changed much of this because "virtual" travel agents (perhaps lacking large offices or full-time staff) now flourish. Meanwhile, some larger tour operators sell their tours (typically at low cost, perhaps including airfare, with 40 or 50 people stuffed into a large bus) directly to the public. The company that organizes our tours (Tradizione Turismo of Palermo) is one of very few in Sicily registered as both a tour operator and travel agent. In addition to these scheduled tours, they offer specialised travel services through Sicily Concierge.

What's your connection with Sicily Concierge?
Sicily Concierge is the personalized travel division of Tradizione Turismo, housed in the same offices in Palermo, promoted through Best of Sicily. This is one of just a handful of Sicily-based firms registered as both travel agent and tour operator that works with a clientele from around the world — boasting more (native) English-speaking staff than any other Italian travel company south of Rome.

What if my question isn't answered on this page?
Email us right now at: tours@bestofsicily.com. You'll have a reply almost immediately.

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