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For three thousand years Western Sicily has been valued as the very centre of the Mediterranean, a stepping stone between two vast continents. Severed from the sun-baked mainland by the Straits of Messina, and on roughly the same latitude as Tunisia’s north coast, Sicily has an identity, culture and even language distinctly different from the rest of Italy. Phoenicians traded here in the 8c BC; Greeks in the 6c BC built the outstanding Doric temples of Selinunte and Segesta; in the 9th c AD Arabs governed their emirate of Sicily from Palermo, producing eye-stoppingly intricate works of art. By the 11c the brilliant Viking Normans confirmed Palermo as the operating centre of their Eastern Empire, conjoining Arab and Norman cultures to create the mosaic-studded cathedrals and chapels of Palermo, Monreale and Cefalu. By 1409, the island had become a dependency of Spain and the heartland of Mediterranean Catholicism, which ripples and flowers through the undulating facades of the Baroque churches of Palermo and Bagheria.

Napoleon was only kept from occupying Sicily by Nelson taking up residence in Palermo, initiating a new British-inspired destiny for the island culminating in support for Garibaldi, who landed at Marsala in 1860 with his ‘Expedition of the Thousand.’ Meanwhile, Joseph Whitaker, born in Sicily but from a West Yorkshire family, developed his family’s Marsalan wine industry and bought the island of Moziain order to engage in major archaeological explorations of the vast 8c BC Phoenician town there.

Altogether we celebrate the intricate seductiveness of the land that Vincent Cronin saw as the Golden Honeycomb of legend, a dazzling artefact made by Daedalus and given to the shrine of Aphrodite in Erice, near Marsala. The image of the Golden Honeycomb encapsulates the thriving activity, golden geometry, complexity, warmth of colour, and the marriage between island and sun, of this most magical corner of Sicily.

COST £2625 members, £2675 non-members, £100 single room supplement, £250 deposit, includes Alitalia flights London-Palermo-London, four nights accommodation in Palermo, three nights accommodation in Marsala, all breakfasts, four dinners with wine, one picnic lunch, one private guided visit to winery and private wine tasting, all lectures, all entrance fees, all private minibus travel during the tour, all gratuities, VAT.