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Small group

A Norman Southern Italy and Sicily Specialty Small Group Program

01-09 June 2024

This unique program is for those who love medieval history and are curious of how the road to modern Italy started and who helped make it. Few know that it began with the Norman conquest of Southern Italy and the foundation of the Kingdom of Sicily in 1130. We will learn about the main protagonists of this age of warriors such as William Iron arm, his brothers Drogo and Humphrey as well as the cunning Robert Guiscard and his Lombard wife Sikelgaita who was present at her husband’s battles dressed for war. We will also discover the younger brother Roger I who conquered much of Sicily and gave us a son Roger II who founded the Kingdom of Sicily. And finally, we will meet Roger I’s great grandson, Frederick II, who ruled not only over Southern Italy and Sicily but was also the Holy Roman Emperor and lord of Germany and much of Northern Italy, and the King of Jerusalem.

On this amazing program, we see many castles and fortifications built and controlled by the Normans as well as soaring majestic cathedrals that combined Eastern with Western influences with Northern and Southern European traditions. We will also learn about the origins of the Italian language, visit a castle that was built in part to house the holy grail, and see how Sicily through its Byzantine and Arab cultural associations, was able to help lead Italy towards the Renaissance. And finally, we will discover how the foundation of the Norman kingdom of Sicily in large part played a role in the foundation of modern Italy. 

Naples, Italy
Palermo, Italy
Package Type
Guide Type
Fully Guided
Small group
9 days
Product type
Private Vacations


Welcome to the Naples area and Italy!

We will meet you at the airport for a private transfer to your accommodation located in the heart of the historical Campi Flegrei region.


Enjoy a delicious welcome supper with some traditional Neapolitan fare with local wine. There will be special guests who join us such as Davide Carnevale who specializes in Italian medieval art.

Overnight near Pozzuoli

Today we go back in history and discover how volcanism influenced Greek mythology which in turn influenced the foundation of the Roman empire itself right here!

To see and enjoy includes, but is not limited to, Lago d'Averno, Cumae, the Flavian Amphitheater of Pozzuoli, and a walk around the restored ancient city of Pozzuoli with Greek, Roman, and Norman traces still visible.

There will also be a few surprises along the way today so get ready!


Overnight near Pozzuoli

Today we head downtown where we will enjoy a tour of Naples by foot.

This fascinating city is approximately 2,500 years old.

We will explore the Greek and Roman periods right up to the middle ages when Naples became a capital city of the kingdom of Sicily.

Tracing our steps through the Castel Nuovo, the San Carlo opera house and the Galleria Umberto, the highlight will be a walk in the most ancient part of the city where we visit stupendous churches such as Gesu Nuovo and Santa Chiara before going underground to admire the Greco-Roman ruins hidden under a medieval church.

Napes offers a palimpsest of epochs above and below the earth and the streets feel not unlike what the Normans saw when they conquered the city in the 11th century.

Overnight in Pozzuoli

After breakfast we leave for a drive across the boot of Italy stopping in Castel del Monte. This UNESCO heritage site was a lodge for Frederick II, part Norman and part German who represented everything we admire about the Kingdom of Sicily from tolerance to culture including art, architecture, falconry, and literature. Even the Italian language was born in Frederick's kingdom and this stop is a wonderful place to discover the Kingdom and its ruler. 

Next, we move on to Barletta for a brief visit to discover the Norman Castle and the Colossus of Barletta which is a giant bronze statue of a Roman Emperor. 

After some time in Barletta, we visit nearby Bari where we have some free time for lunch before we walk through the compact historical city center that although made in antiquity, has kept its current form since the middles ages. The highlight here in "Bari Vecchia" is the Basilica of San Nicola. This Norman era church displays, in Romanesque relief, the conquest of the city by the Normans and holds the body of Saint Nicholas who is also known as "Santa Klaus" today. Finally, we will enjoy the amazingly friendly people as well as local arts and crafts stores. 

We continue to nearby Matera for an evening of rest and relaxation amongst one of the oldest inhabited places in Europe. This off the beaten path city will amaze anyone who has never visited for its caves, traditions and artwork predate even the Greeks. 

Overnight in Matera

Today after breakfast we will enjoy some time to see Matera and its caves by day before moving to nearby Venosa. Venosa was a major city along the Roman Appian Way and birthplace of the famous poet Quintus Horatius Flaccus. We, however, will visit the amazing ruins of the Abbey of Santissima Trinita where many of the first Normans, including William Iron arm and Robert Guiscard were buried. It is from this small unassuming city of Venosa that Norman power radiated out across the Mediterranean world in the 11th century. 

Next, we move to Melfi for some free time for lunch before visiting the amazing Norman castle. The castle was first occupied by Robert Guiscard but became known for the Kingdom of Sicily's first legal constitution created by Frederick II in 1231. More than just a castle there is also an Archaeological museum inside with artifacts dating back more than 2,500 years! 

Later in the afternoon we head back to Naples and its port to board our ferry ship for an overnight trip to Palermo. More than just a place to catch a rest, sailing the seas at night under the twinkling stars is an event in itself. For those night owls, you will see lava and occasional volcanic explosions in the distance as we sail past the Aeolian islands.

Overnight in a sleeper cabin

Welcome to Palermo! As we disembark from our ferry, we will be met by our private transportation who will take us for a traditional breakfast at the Antica Caffe Spinnato. Exploding in taste from everything from Cornetti to Cannoli, your first impression of Palermo will be wonderful. Our transportation will take our luggage to our nearby hotel. 

After breakfast we will explore the historical center of Palermo. This was the polyglot capital city of the Normans, and we will discover art, architecture, and artifacts with traces of Arab, Norman, French, and Spanish rule everywhere around us. Some highlights of this amazing and unforgettable morning will include the Royal Palace of the Norman rulers, the Cathedral of Palermo where Roger II and Frederick II lie in repose, the Arabesque Zisa castle, as well as the local bizarre or marketplace of the city that has been part of local life for more than 1,200 years. 

The rest of the afternoon is free to explore on your own as there is a lot to enjoy in this eclectic city.

Overnight in Palermo

Today after a Sicilian breakfast that inevitably includes the Blood Orange (red orange juice), we head East to first visit the Norman Castle of Caccamo. 

This is one of the largest and best-preserved castles of medieval Italy and is perched on a cliff more than 1,600 feet above the sea. 

Stupendous and awe-inspiring, this castle must be visited in person to appreciate just how beautiful yet powerful it is. 

Next, we head to Cefalu, which was founded by the Siculian people before becoming a Greek village. 

We will however visit the wonderous Norman Cathedral of Cefalu that was built on the orders of King Roger II. This cathedral is an UNESCO world heritage site for its combination of Arab and Norman art and architecture. Located near the seashore, the elegance of the cathedral is matched by the beauty of the Sicilian landscape itself. 

After free time for lunch here, we head back to Palermo for more time to explore this amazing city. 

Today after another delicious breakfast, we depart for Erice. 

Along the way we will see one of Sicily"s most beautiful coastlines near Castellammare del Golfo with its famous turquoise waters before making an ascent up the side of a mountain to reach Erice itself. We will be amazed at the Cyclopean walls that the Phoenicians left when they were engaged in a struggle for primacy against Rome 2,200 years ago. But we will also enjoy seeing two castles here, the first being the Pepoli Castle, constructed by the Arabs. 

The second is the Venus Castle which was constructed by the Normans. The Norman castle was constructed on top of a temple of Venus and thus its name, but Greek mythology holds that the founder of the temple was originally Aeneas who was a Trojan fleeing Troy after its fall to the Greeks. Mythology, History, and amazing views across the Mediterranean make this a very special visit. 

Later, we head back towards Palermo but with a stop in Monreale, also a UNESCO world heritage site for its Norman-Byzantine mosaics. This cathedral is one of the most important attractions in Sicily and Europe and will be a real highlight of our special week together. 

Evening: We will enjoy a farewell supper, Sicilian style. We came, we saw, and we conquered Southern Italy and Sicily together! Well, at least we can say we ate our way across the old Norman kingdom. 

Overnight in exotic Palermo 

Good morning and after one final breakfast, we whisk you off to the airport for your flight home.

We hope you were amazed by this special program that was created only for those who have a passion for medieval Italian history and culture and who dare to go off the beaten path to discover the real Italy. 


3 nights in the Villa Luisa Hotel Residence in Pozzuoli (Naples) or similar

1 night in Matera at Il Nespolo Sassi or similar

3 nights in the Hotel Politema in Palermo or similar

1 night of overnight Ferry with Cabin beds

Discovery tours of the Campi Flegrei, Puglia (Castel del Monte, Barletta, and historical center of Bari), Basilicata (Matera and Venosa), Palermo, Caccamo Castle and Cefalu and the Castle of Erice

Transportation in private minibus during touring of the Puglia and Basilicata Regions as well as touring outside of Palermo in Sicily

Private Transfer from Naples airport or train station to hotel and hotel in Palermo to airport

Entries include: Day ticket of the Campi Flegrei, entry into Castel del Monte and Melfi, entry into the Zisa Palace of Palermo as well as the Norman Royal Palace of Palermo, and entry into the stupendous Castle of Erice.

Welcoming Supper on Day 1, a farewell supper on Day 8, as well as a special arrival breakfast in Palermo.

Train tickets in and out of Naples back to Pozzuoli and our hotel

Special commentary by Joseph Walker on the history and culture of the Normans and Southern Italy and Sicily 

Not included

Documents of a personal nature such as a passport with at least 6 months validity

Airfare - should arrive in Naples on June 01 and plan to leave from Palermo on June 09 unless extending your stay (We can assist upon request).

Tips or gratuities

Meals not listed as included

Travel Insurance (high recommended and we can assist if requested)

Anything specifically not mentioned under “included”

Dates & availability
Important information


To reserve your spot please make a 30% deposit when signing up

The balance is due on or before March 29, 2024 

Airfare and insurance: We recommend travel insurance and getting your airfare as soon as possible. If you need assistance in these important areas, please contact us at and we will set up a quick chat with you to assist you promptly.  

Program leader

Joseph Walker / Sean Everette

Joseph Walker has a long history of creating and leading specialty groups, cultural retreats, and workshops in Italy.

Joseph lived in Italy for 17 years, is fluent in Italian, and keeps an active office in Rome. He can be found many times a year in this amazing country visiting places of historical and cultural importance.

Getting off the beaten path is a way of life for Joseph. Beyond being a published author, Joseph was a consultant on medieval Italy for programs that were shown on the History Channel, the BBC, and the Discovery Channel.

He was even also known as the guide to the stars as he has personally guided several well-known celebrities from Hollywood, the NBA, the music industry, and the Whitehouse.

Finally, Joseph is a US Navy veteran and manages a full-time tourism and travel company.

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