Savoring Sicily: Study Trip Explores the Storied Island and Nearby Malta

May 2, 2023

In March, Decorative Arts Trust members enjoyed a Study Trip Abroad tracing the northern coast of Sicily, from Taormina to Cefalù to Palermo, with stunning stops along the way. By all accounts, the trip was molto bene! 

Taormina, Catania, Reggio Calabria, and Cefalù

The tours began in Taormina’s San Domenico Palace Hotel, a location made famous by recent appearances on HBO’s series The White Lotus. After a walking tour that included Taormina’s Duomo, the Palazzo dei Duchi di Santo Stefano, and the Villa Comunale gardens, members gathered for the opening night reception with introductory remarks from art historian Christopher Newall.

The group then traveled to nearby Catania for a walking tour of the city’s Duomo and famous fish market. We were captivated by Palazzo Biscari’s private apartments, especially the cloud staircase. Returning to Taormina, participants enjoyed a visit to the Graeco-Roman theater, Roman odeon, and Palazzo Corvaja.

An excursion to Reggio Calabria’s Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia introduced the group to the striking Riace Bronzes and other archaeological treasures from the Italian mainland. The group split for afternoon activities, with one team exploring the Museo Archaeologico in Naxos and the other savoring the Tenuta Tascante vineyard on the slopes of Mt. Etna.

Departing westward from Taormina, guests enjoyed an introduction to the rich countryside of Sicily’s interior. In Cefalù, participants explored the city’s lovely Duomo and the Museo Mandralisca’s collection.


Our Palermo headquarters was the Grand Hotel Villa Igiea, where we gathered for a welcome reception and a presentation by Christopher Newall in the Art Nouveau Salone Basile designed by architect Ernesto Basile, who figured throughout our time in Sicily’s capital. Visits to La Martorana, San Cataldo, Santa Caterina d’Alessandria, and the Oratorio del Rosario di Santa Cita wowed us with their magnificence, and Palazzo Butera offered an exquisite look into early-18th-century royal life.

At the Parco della Favorita, we reveled in a visit to the unique Palazzina Cinese. The Palazzo Francavilla featured a beautiful library designed by Ernesto Basile, and Palazzo Abatellis’s architecture and collection were enthralling. Capella Palatina did not disappoint with its shimmering mosaics.

Dining at Palazzo Lanza Tomasi, Palazzo Alliata di Pietratagliata, and Villa Chiaramonte Bordonaro gave us the opportunity to recount our adventures in beautiful surrounds.

Segesta, Erice, and Monreale

A side trip to Segesta allowed us to appreciate the countryside as well as the famous Greek Temple and theater. Continuing on to Erice, we explored this charming Medieval town, admiring the Chiesa Matrice and the hillside Castello di Venere. Monreale’s Duomo and cloisters were truly spectacular.


The Optional Extension to Malta gave members a look at a nearby but very different island, as Malta is its own country with a unique language. After checking into Valletta’s Phoenicia Hotel, a walking tour of the capital city acquainted us with the Upper Barrakka Gardens, and Renzo Piano’s Parliament House, New City Gate, and Royal Opera House/Piazza Teatru Rjal. The ornate St. John’s Co-Cathedral was breathtaking, and the Ħaġar Qim temple complex taught us about life in the 3000s BCE. A harbor cruise from Sliema to Vittoriosa led us to beautiful Mdina, and the gorgeous St. Paul’s Cathedral and stately Palazzo Falson. In Attard, we enjoyed in Villa Bologna, and then we capped off the trip at the Casa Bernard in Rabat.

Overall, the weather was perfect, the sites were amazing, and the company was top-notch. Thank you to all of the members who joined us on this trip!

Learn more about the Decorative Arts Trust’s upcoming programs on our Calendar of Events webpage. To stay apprised of registration announcements, sign up for our email list and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

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Formerly known as the "blog,” the Bulletin features new research and scholarship, travelogues, book reviews, and museum and gallery exhibitions. The Bulletin complements The Magazine of the Decorative Arts Trust, our biannual members publication.


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