Magical Sicily BY KAREN DION
"To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything.”-Goethe
Located at a strategic crossroads of the western world, the magical island of Sicily has an unparalleled historical legacy. Nowhere else have Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, French, Germans, Spanish, Italians, and even British left such an indelible impression. Whether you enjoy gazing at majestic Greek temples, exploring ancient Roman villas and aqueducts, or marveling at the architecture of the Norman cathedrals or Baroque churches, Sicily offers something for everyone.
Inhabited since before 10,000 BC by indigenous tribes, Sicily was colonized by Greece in the 8th century BC. In the three centuries following, Sicily became populated by the Greeks, earning the name Magna Graecia (Greater Greece). After the Punic Wars in the 3rd century BC, Sicily became a province of Rome. Important chiefly for its grain fields, the empire made little effort to Romanize the region, which remained largely Greek in culture. After the fall of Rome, Sicily fell into the hands of the Germanic tribes for several hundred years, followed of periods of rule by the Muslims, Normans, Spanish, and Bourbons before the unification of Italy in 1861. This eclectic history is beautifully reflected in the country’s unique art and architecture, where the fusion of cultures is uniquely evident.
Nowhere is Sicily’s rich cultural history more tangible, however, than in it's cuisine. From Arancine to Caponata, Sicilian food is world-famous. Though similar to Italian cuisine, Sicilian cuisine is infused with Arab, Greek, Spanish, French, and even African influences. Dishes incorporate fresh produce grown locally including olives, oranges, lemon, aubergines (eggplants), tomatoes, pistachios, almonds, and grapes. Sicily is also well-known for it’s delectable pastries and traditional desserts like cannoli, marzipan, and granita. And thanks to a sunny climate and rocky soil, Sicily is full of lush vineyards and exceptional wineries. In fact, Sicily has been billed by wine connoisseurs as Italy’s most exciting “new” wine region, boasting about 700 producers cultivating more than 20 kinds of indigenous grapes.
Sicily's spectacular topography and temperate climate make it an attractive destination to travelers worldwide. Encompassing 9927 square miles, Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean, separated from the mainland of Italy by the Strait of Messina. The island is known for its rugged topography and is home to two active volcanos, Stromboli and Etna, both of which have erupted within the last hundred years. And Sicilians enjoy a relatively mild climate with hot and dry summers and wet, mild winters. April to June and late September to October are the best months for traveling in Sicily when temperatures are usually mild and there are fewer crowds.
Steeped in rich and diverse cultural history and surrounded by the sparkling Mediterranean sea, Sicily offers a dazzling array of sensory pleasures and historical treasures. From the ever-present scent of lemon trees and the exotic flavors of Sicilian food, to the majestic Greek temples in Agrigento and the drama of Mt. Etna erupting above the city of Catania, Sicily attracts the curious and adventurous traveller who wants to experience the cultural richness and breathtaking landscapes of this legendary island.
Come and join us at Story Land & Sea as we explore the “Best of Sicily” in 2017!
HIGHLIGHTING DESTINATIONS OF INTEREST
Karen is a graduate of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA, as well as the International Guide Academy in Denver, CO. When not leading tours for Story Land & Sea, Karen works as a Health & Wellness Coach, helping clients achieve well-being in all aspects of their lives. “Travel is an integral component of my personal wellness. It helps me stay curious, flexible, and open to new experiences, all important qualities for living optimally.”
It is regarded by many as one of Europe's most charming and beautiful cities and is becoming one of the most popular travel destinations in Central Europe. Millions of tourists visit the city every year This magical city of bridges, cathedrals, gold-tipped towers and church domes, has been mirrored in the surface of the swan-filled Vltava River for more than ten centuries. Almost undamaged by WWII, Prague's medieval centre remains a wonderful mixture of cobbled lanes, walled courtyards, cathedrals and countless church spires all in the shadow of her majestic 9th century castle that looks eastward as the sun sets behind her.
Story’s involvement in Prague include our Frommer recognized small group tour experiences along with our Story Local Host® stays. In the context of our London & Paris Tour, travelers are able to extend to the beautiful city for a 3-night extension. Both our small group tour experiences with a Tour Captain or with a Story Local Host® provide great insight into Prague. Prague’s Charles University is on our path as we trek through the Jewish Quarter past the Old Jewish Cemetery and Synagogue over the Vltava River to the Castle District.
The Prague Castle was founded around 880AD and is the largest medieval castle in all of Europe. The Castle District (Hradcany) is located above the “lesser town.” The castle was once the seat of the Kings of Bohemia and today the President of the Czech Republic rules from here.
Prague is also a modern and vibrant city full of energy, music, cultural art, fine dining and special events catering to the independent traveller's thirst for adventure. Prague was founded in the later 9th century, and soon became the seat of Bohemian kings, some of whom ruled as emperors of the Holy Roman Empire. The city thrived under the rule of Charles IV, who ordered the building of the New Town in the 14th century - many of the city's most important attractions date back to that age. The city also went under Habsburg rule and became the capital of a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1918, after World War I, the city became the capital of Czechoslovakia. After 1989 many foreigners, especially young people, moved to Prague. In 1992, its historic centre was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In 1993, Czechoslovakia split into two countries and Prague became capital city of the new Czech Republic. The Vltava River runs through Prague, which is home to about 1.2 million people.
Prague has a temperate climate with variations throughout the year. In the winter, Prague has definitely its own magic. The snow may cover the surface but it sooner or later melts, so it doesn't usually last too long. Spring season is one of the best times to come for a visit, especially in the month of May with the flora beginning to bloom after months of hibernation. Certainly, the summer is a very popular time to travel, and you can expect to see an influx of tourism throughout the warmer months. The weather is warm and sunny but sometimes the heat waves become quite hot..and, this is also the country's rainy season. Colorful and chilly - these two characteristics define the fall/autumn season. Getting dressed warmly is a must because the wind and overcast sky may get in your way. Nevertheless, there are also beautiful sunshine days that practically call you out for a walk.
Jodie comes to us from Pittsburgh, PA. She is a graduate of the Indiana University of PA, a two-time graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, and a graduate of the International Guide Academy.
Bohemian Jewel: Prague BY JODIE HEDRICK
Story Land & Sea® enjoys all of our destinations in our portfolio of tours, but Prague, Praha in Czech, is considered one of our true European jewels. The capital city and largest city of the Czech Republic, Prague, is one of the largest cities of Central Europe and has served as the capital of the historic region of Bohemia for centuries.
Zermatt is one of the top ski resorts in all of Europe where the rich and famous can be found relaxing in the charming town or skiing on the snow capped mountains year around. It seems to have a magnetic pull for all people, and why shouldn’t it? Hasn’t everyone dreamed of having adventures in the Iconic Swiss Alps?
As you ascend to the 5,300 ft. town of Zermatt, you may catch a glimpse of the Majestic Matterhorn peak. Once you arrive in town you’ll want to stroll the quaint main street, sip authentic Swiss hot chocolate made from a family recipe passed down generations and eat fresh crepes and pastries. There is a plethora of shops including winter sport wear, the world famous Lindt chocolate shop and of course Swiss watch shops! At some point during your visit to Switzerland, I highly recommend you indulge in rich cheese fondue made from local Swiss cheeses, herbs and wine. Also the chocolate fondue is not to be missed!
Ryane is a graduate from Texas Woman’s University and practiced as an Occupational Therapist for a decade. She then graduated from International Guide Academy, becoming a Certified International Tour Manager. She now enjoys leading tours for Story Land and Sea and providing her guests with spectacular adventures around the globe.
Zermatt, Switzerland: Prague BY RYANE MOATES, CITM
BOOMERANG: MANY HAPPY RETURNS
The boomerang is designed to return to its thrower just like our program will bring big returns to you. Discover how you can earn substantial travel credits, and possibly have your future trips paid for by referring your friends and family.
Program Terms & Conditions:
Certain restrictions apply. Savings are good on escorted tours of 9 days or more. Good with direct bookings and with new bookings only. Travel industry professionals may not participate in this program. One credit reward per household. Rewards will be credited after the referee has completed travel. Reward credit may not be redeemed in cash.
This campaign is good only for new bookings that initially contact Story Land & Sea® Tours beginning on or after August 4, 2016.
Rewards for duplicate referrals that book within the specified time and rules of the program will be awarded to the first alumni who referred. Any disputes arising from this program will be determined by the sole discretion of Story Land & Sea® Tours. The rewards earned through this program may not be combined with any other promotions.
And the "Reward" goes to...
With our shiny new brand comes shiny new incentives for you to earn more travel for less.
The ancient Australian boomerang inspired us to craft our first alumni & friends referral program a few years back and now we've had opportunity to re-imagine the program for even greater savings.
From personal experience you already know Story Land & Sea® creates memorable journeys, and now you can share the Story Land & Sea® Way of Travel with your friends and family.
It's easy: Simply provide Story Land & Sea® with names of friends and family you would like to refer to us. Voila. We said it was easy.
So what do your friends and family earn?
These referred travelers will save $100 per traveler when they mention your name at the time of their booking.
What will you earn?
You will earn credit for every new traveler's name you provide who books a tour with Story Land & Sea®.
Keep reading. It's exciting and easy when you see what your referrals will bring you!
The chart below shows that your first 1 to 3 referrals earn $100 per person for a total of $300, then your 4th referral earns an additional $500! It goes up from there (see chart below). Just imagine, when you refer two couples who book you will earn $800 in credit rewards.
See below and find out how you can earn travel credit up to a $5,000 value for every additional 12th referral.
We can't wait to see you and your friends on another Story Land & Sea® Tour!
BOOMERANG WILL HIGHLIGHT ALUMNI REWARD INCENTIVES
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WHAT'S NEXT IN YOUR STORY OF TRAVEL?
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SO THE STORY GOES
Off Book May 23rd
In just a few days I head to Greece to begin our Story Small Ships® Tall Masted Sailing Adventure through the Greek Isles and on to the Dalmatian Coast. It is going to be an amazing journey and I am very thankful we have had such a strong turnout for our first cruise. I'll report back to you after my return of course complete with photos!
In 2018 we are launching a luxury yacht itinerary onboard the Wind Star by Windstar Cruises — look for details about this cruise on our website by clicking here.
Okay, good travels!
Join us May 23, 2017 to Eastern Europe for an Off-Book Itinerary including Krakow, Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, Prague and Paris.
2018 Luxury Yacht
Join us in October 2018 from the Greek Isles to Sicily and the Amalfi Coast! Details online here.
Discover something we're in love with: Luggage Forward takes your suitcases ahead of you and when you arrive your hotel, voila, there they are. Find out more:
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On a clear day you can take the Gornergrat railway cogwheel train, which is the second highest railway in Europe, to the top of Gornergrat Mountain. Standing on the 10,300 ft. peak you are surrounded by the breathtaking view of 29 Alpine Peaks including the stunning 14,700 ft. Matterhorn!
You may prefer to get off the beaten path to explore the local personality of the region by wandering through residential areas. If you follow the sound of tinkling bells you are sure to find a flock of sheep grazing the rolling green hills. Walking to the far Southwest edge of town you will come upon Gorner Gorge. If you dare to make that hike, which is a bit of a challenge for both the legs and lungs, you will be rewarded with the sights of a beautiful waterfall and the uniquely green-colored water of the Vispa River that artistically cuts and cascades its way through the gorge.
Zermatt became world renowned when the first person to successfully ascend the Matterhorn Mountain set out from the town. The British explorer Edward Whymper had tried and failed eight times to summit this famous peak which straddles the border of Italy and Switzerland. His unsuccessful attempts were from the Italian side but he remained undaunted. In July of 1865, he set out again, choosing to start his mission from the Swiss side. This time, Edward and his climbing team of 7 reached the summit. The glorious triumph was quickly overshadowed by tragedy. On the way down, 4 of the climbers fell to their death. Edward and two guides were the only ones to return. The dramatic events, the rumors and scandal can all be relived with a visit to the Matterhorn Museum in Zermatt. You can even see the broken rope that was responsible for the detachment and death of the 4 climbers.
There are many more things to do in the town of Zermatt. You could take a gondola ride up to a beautiful mountain peak and ski, snow board or mountain bike down. You could explore Hinterdorf, the historic part of town made up of the hut-like dwellings of the early mountain people who lived in the area. It is really moving to visit the Mountaineer’s Cemetery where you will find the graves of those who lost their lives pursuing their dream of climbing one of the surrounding mountains. Whatever you choose to do, you are sure to enjoy the majesty, mystery, adventure and charm of this Swiss town.
I think mountain climbers and Story travelers are very similar in their view on travel. British mountain climber, George Leigh Mallory stated it well when he said:
"There is something in man which responds to the challenge of a mountain and goes out to meet it. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the purpose of life."