Knights to Malta

This tour, organized in conjunction with the Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, features all the major sights of Malta, including the sister-island of Gozo, plus Mount Etna, Syracuse, and other attractions of Sicily. The pace will be relaxed, as multiple overnights are planned in deluxe hotels. Historian Jacques Pauwels, PhD, will be the tour conductor.

BOOKING INFORMATION

February 22 - March 06, 2018

$4,395 from Toronto

Single room supplement: $875

GUARANTEED DEPARTURE

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VIEW TERMS & CONDITIONS DOWNLOAD PDF OF ITINERARY

*If the tour is SOLD OUT, please contact us to be added to the waitlist.


ITINERARY

Day 1 - Thursday, February 22:

Late afternoon departure for Frankfurt with Air Canada. Dinner and a light breakfast will be served on board.

Day 2 - Friday, February 23:

Early morning arrival in Rome, and connecting flight to Valletta, Malta, arriving in late morning. Transfer to the centrally-located 5-star/deluxe Grand Hotel Excelsior, check-in, and free time to settle in. In late afternoon, we head for the “Malta Experience,” an audio-visual introduction to the history of the island and the Order of St. John. Welcome dinner in the restaurant of our hotel.

Day 3 - Saturday, February 24:

After breakfast, walking tour of the fortified historical centre of Malta’s capital, Valletta, classified in its entirety as a UNESCO World Heritage Site; Valletta will also be Europe’s “cultural capital” in 2018. The old town is inextricably linked to the history of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, originally an order of “fighting monks,” similar to the Knights Templar, established in the context of the Crusades. Built after the 1565 Great Siege of Malta, and named after Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Valette, Among the highlights of our visit will be St. John's Cathedral with its stunning baroque interior, decorated with paintings by artists such as Caravaggio and Flemish tapestries, and a crypt with tombs of grand masters, including La Valette; Republic Street, the main shopping street; the imposing walls and gates ramparts built by the Knights in the late 16th century, featured on UNESCO’s tentative list of world heritage sites; the 17th-century Manoel Theatre, a miniature version of Milan’s La Scala; the National Library on Republic Square, where the archives of the Knights of St. John are kept; and the ‘Holy Infirmary,’ with a capacity of over 600 beds a state-of-the-art hospital at the time of its establishment by the Order in 1574. The afternoon is free to shop and/or explore Valletta on your own. Dinner in a typical restaurant.

Day 4 - Sunday, February 25:

This morning we visit the Grand Master’s Palace. This building is now home to Malta’s President and Parliament, but the staterooms and the impressive collection of armour and weapons are open to the public. Then we tour some of Valletta’s outlying sites, such as the Valletta Waterfront, the Grand Harbour, Barrakka Gardens, and Fort St. Elmo, built at the tip of the peninsula in 1551, where Malta’s National War Museum conjures up tales of the Great Siege of 1565 as well as World War II by means of exhibits such as the George Cross given to the island by King George VI and some of the airplanes used to defend the city. The afternoon is free for activities such as visits to art galleries and museums such as: 
- The National Museum of Fine Arts, located in the former residence of French and British governors of the island, featuring paintings and artefacts associated with the Order of St. John;

No group dinner this evening.

Day 5 - Monday, February 26:

Today we explore two more UNESCO World Heritage Sites, both associated with the island’s prehistory. First, the megalithic temples of Tarxien and similar sites, featuring monumental prehistoric buildings constructed during the 4th and 3rd millennium BC. These impressive free-standing monuments are similar to Stonehenge and are just about as old as the pyramids of Egypt! Second, the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, a subterranean combination of burial place and sanctuary, dating back to somewhere between 4000 and 2500 BC. No group dinner.

Day 6 - Tuesday, February 27:

Full-day excursion to Malta’s second island, Gozo. (There is a third one, tiny Comino.) Our focus will be on Victoria (a.k.a. Rabat), the small fortified capital, situated on a hill dominating the surrounding countryside and the coast, already inhabited in the Bronze Age and an important settlement in Phoenician and Roman times; Victoria is featured on UNESCO’s tentative list. Lunch included!

Day 7 - Wednesday, February 28:

Morning excursion to Malta’s picturesque “Old City,” located high on a ridge in the island’s interior, known to the Romans as Melita and later divided into two parts, Mdina and Rabat; this was the island’s capital before the Order arrived and decided to settle on the coast. Mdina/Rabat boasts ancient city walls and gates, fine residences of aristocratic families, as well as churches and catacombs, associated with the arrival here in 60AD of St. Paul, who reportedly converted the Roman governor to Christianity. Return to Valletta via the coastal resorts of Sliema and St. Julian’s. Afternoon free in Valletta. Final dinner in Malta in the hotel.

Day 8 - Thursday, March 01:

After breakfast, we make our way to transfer to Catania, Sicily, either by ferry or via a short flight. Arrival in Catania and immediate transfer to the magnificent historical city of Syracuse, situated on the shores of the Ionian Sea, where we will stay in the five-star/deluxe Grand Hotel Ortigia, situated in the historical centre, a tiny island called Ortygia by the ancient Greeks, who founded the city and turned it into their metropolis on this island, the biggest in the entire Mediterranean Sea. Dinner at the rooftop restaurant of our hotel.

Day 9 - Friday, March 02:

Morning sightseeing tour of Syracuse, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  We start with the wonderful Archaeological Zone with the Greek theatre, the Roman amphitheatre, and the garden known as the Latomia of Paradise, featuring the “Ear of Dionysios,” a cave with amazing acoustic properties. Afterwards we explore Ortygia, the original Greek settlement, which features the ruins of the Temple of Apollo, the romantic Fountain of Arethusa (featuring papyrus reeds) and the Cathedral, a former temple dedicated to the goddess Athena. Afternoon visit to the excellent local Archaeological Museum, followed by free time to shop or explore the city on your own. No group dinner this evening. 

Day 10 - Saturday, March 03:

Full-day excursion to Catania and Taormina. We first motor to Catania, the island’s biggest city after Palermo, for a walking tour of the historical centre and the amazing fish market. Continue along the rugged coastline, associated with Homer’s story of Ulysses, to the idyllic resort of Taormina, spectacularly situated on a rocky plateau, featuring wonderful views of Mount Etna and the sea as far as the coast of Calabria, the tip of the Italian “boot”! Our walking tour will include a visit to the amazing Greco-Roman Theatre. Return to Syracuse in late afternoon. Today, lunch OR dinner will be included.

Day 11 - Sunday, March 04:

This morning we explore the slopes of Mount Etna, the huge, still active volcano whose massive, 3,000-meter high cone dominates the entire island, featuring desolate lunar landscapes of molten lava and homes abandoned during past eruptions, but also prosperous villages living in the shadow of Europe’s biggest, and still very active volcano. We return to Syracuse after a visit to the Agira Canadian War Cemetery, with the tombs of almost 500 Canadians who gave their lives for the liberation of the island in the summer of 1943. Return to Syracuse in late afternoon. This evening, “arrivederci”- dinner in a typical restaurant.

Day 12 - Monday, March 05:

After breakfast, transfer to Catania Airport and short flight to Rome, arriving at Fiumicino Airport around noon. Transfer by private coach to the historical centre of the “Eternal City,” and panoramic tour during which we will view many famous attractions, such as the Colosseum, the Forum, Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, and of course the Vatican with St. Peter’s Basilica. At the end of the tour we check into the 4-star Hotel Holiday Inn EUR Parco dei Medici, located in a residential district on the western outskirts of the site, close to Fiumicino Airport. No group dinner this evening, but the hotel has a fine restaurant, and restaurants in the city centre may be reached by taxi. 

Day 13 - Tuesday, March 06:

After breakfast, short transfer to Fiumicino Airport by hotel shuttle service, and non-stop return flight to Toronto with Air Canada, departing at 11AM and arriving at 3PM.

ITINERARY PDF

EXPLORE THE AREA

INCLUDED

Return flight with Air Canada and partner carriers, including all airport taxes, security fees and fuel surcharges; Accommodation in 5-star hotels in Malta and Sicily and a 4-star hotel in Rome, based on double occupancy – the single room supplement is $875; Breakfast and a total of seven dinners (or sometimes full lunch); All transfers, sightseeing, and excursions as described in the itinerary.

NOT INCLUDED

All items of a personal nature; Wine, beer, mineral water and similar beverages with dinners; Gratuities to local guides and drivers, totaling maximum 30 Euros or about $45; Travel insurance, available on request.

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