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Italy's a Blast: From Etna to Vesuvius - A Family Odyssey

Program Number: 18207RJ
Start and End Dates:
6/23/2014 - 7/5/2014;
Duration: 12 nights
Location: Italy
Price starting at: $3,372.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Family Programs
Meals: 33; 11 Breakfasts, 11 Lunches, 11 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian; Gluten Free    

Program intended for grandchildren from 11 - 13 years of age.

With a treasure trove of archaeological sites and the incomparable Pompeii, the Italian coastal region of Campania and the island of Sicily offer the perfect combination of adventure and history. Mount Etna is the backdrop for the mythology of the Cyclops, Polyphemus, who captured Ulysses and his men; Etna was also the forge of the Greek god Hephaestus whom the Romans called Vulcanus. From classical mythology to modern science at seismological centers, join experts at the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum as they explain what happened that fateful day in August 79 CE when Vesuvius erupted. See the cities literally frozen in time for a unique glimpse of life in ancient times.


• A ride to a vent rim of Sicily’s Mount Etna, a hike on a portion of Mt. Vesuvius' crater and a visit to a seismology center are just the “tip of the volcano” in this active learning adventure.
• In Cumae, the first Greek settlement near Naples, visit the cave sanctuary of the mythological prophetess Sibyl. See also the Solfatara Caldera, an alien landscape of bubbling mud pits and spewing steam vents.
• Learn about life in Roman times as you explore the archaeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum buried by the eruption in August of 79 CE.

Activity Particulars

Elevation 5,000-10,000 feet in volcanic areas; walk on tended path incline with flowerbed-size lava pebbles. At archaeological sites, walk about two miles a day on uneven cobblestone pavement.

Itinerary Summary

Arrival Catania, coach to Giardini-Naxos, 4 nights; overnight ferry to the port of Naples, 1 night; coach to Sorrento, 4 nights; coach to Naples for departure.

Overnight flight from the U.S.A.
1 night
Arrival Giardini-Naxos
5 nights

Discover the mythological stories set in Sicily, from Ulysses and the Cyclops Polyphemus, who lived in caves near Etna, to Vulcan the god of the forge, who made lightening bolts. After a lecture on volcanic soil, agriculture and geology, explore an inactive crater and ride toward the summit of Mount Etna. In Taormina, visit an open-air Greek theater with the expansive volcanic slope in the background.

Overnight ferry to the port of Naples
1 night
Coach to Sorrento
5 nights

After sailing between Capri and Sorrento into the Bay of Naples, enjoy watching Mount Vesuvius rise in the distance. Ride up its summit, have lunch on its slopes, learn about the devastating eruption in 79 CE and visit the seismic laboratory to view the instruments in use today. Join experts for an exploration of the archaeological wonders of Pompeii, a middle- and working-class city, and Herculaneum, a luxury resort town. See the gladiators’ barracks and walk into the amphitheater to see where they fought. Walk along the main street, V. dell’Abbondanza, and observe first-century political graffiti and old billboards. In the Naples Archaeological Museum, view the treasures and artifacts recovered from the cities, including plaster casts of the deceased; bronze statues; the famed Alexander Mosaic and the Farnese Bull, a 12 foot tall grouping sculptured from one solid block of marble.


“Dolce far niente,” the “sweetness of doing nothing.” This ode to leisure is a distinctly Italian phrase, and yet the expression does not do justice to the hard-work ethos of the nation’s inhabitants. The monuments, art and civilization bequeathed to the people of modern Italy are a testament to the industry of their forebearers, and the legacy lives on in today’s Italians, who work hard to better enjoy the sweetness of repose.

Giardini-Naxos: Four-star beach front hotel with swimming pool. Overnight ferry: Clean, comfortable (but small) berths with private bath and shower. Sorrento: Four-star hotel in the heart of the city with roof top swimming pool.
Meals and Lodgings
   Hellenia Yachting Hotel
  Giardini-Naxos, Italy 5 nights
   TTT Lines
  Overnight Ferry, Italy 1 night
   Hotel Cesare Augusto
  Sorrento, Italy 5 nights
 Hellenia Yachting Hotel
Type: Four-Star Hotel
  Description: The Hellenia Yachting Hotel is not in Taormina proper, but seaside just a few miles to the south in the quiet beach community of Giardini-Naxos
  Contact info: Via Jannuzzo, 41
Giardini-Naxos, NA 98035 Italy
phone: +39 0942 51737
  Room amenities: Each room is equipped with private bath, a television set, mini bar, hair dryer, complimentary toiletries, and safe box for valuables.
  Facility amenities: The hotel has elegant and modern decor. Situated on the shore, a small private beach for hotel guests and swimming pool, open May to September. Large dining room, elevators to all floors, laundry service. Wi-Fi connectivity in the lobby and on the terrace (charges apply). For checking emails, an internet point is located in the lobby. Laundry service available.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: varies by season To book additional nights at the hotel, email Lavinia Tour, Trinity College’s partnering agency in Rome, Another option is to book directly through the hotel’s online reservation system Indicate to the hotel or agency at the time of your booking that you are with the Road Scholar group and every effort will be made to ensure continuity of room assignment.

 TTT Lines
Type: Cabin
  Description: The boat carries 75 cars and has a capacity for 950 passengers. Sitting lounge, restaurant and observation decks.
  Ship Information: Built in 2002. Italian flag, 22 knot max speed. Length is 186.50 m, max width 26,60 mt, Capacity 950 passengers. Lounging chairs, 78 cabins, all with private bath and shower.
  Contact info: xxx
Catania,   Italy
phone: +xxx
  Room amenities: cabins are small. Bunk beds and small desk.
  Facility amenities: Restaurant, snack bar, lounge.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Bathroom: shower stall
  Elevators available: Yes

 Hotel Cesare Augusto
Type: Four-Star Hotel
  Description: Sorrento has been a mecca for illustrious visitors – writers, musicians, and royalty – since the 1700s. Exceptional for its cleanliness and safety in a region not often associated with these virtues, Sorrento is the ideal base for exploration of the bay’s resources, while offering a vibrant life of its own. Our programs reside at a comfortable four-star facility overlooking lemon and orange groves, and mere minutes on foot from the old town.
  Contact info: Viale degli Aranci, 108
Sorrento, NA 80067 Italy
phone: +39 081 8782700
  Room amenities: Each room has soundproof windows, small terrace, private bath, minibar, satellite TV, hair dryer, safe for valuables and individual temperature control (air conditioning in the summer; heat in the winter)
  Facility amenities: Relax in the spacious lounge in the lobby. Enjoy a drink made by a professional barista in the lobby lounge. A rooftop pool with lounge, snack and bar service is open May-Sept. Free Wi-Fi connection throughout the hotel.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights after: varies by season You can book additional nights directly through the hotel’s online reservation system Indicate to the hotel that you are with the Road Scholar group and every effort will be made to ensure continuity of room assignment. Another option is to use online hotel consolidator services such as or Expedia.
  Check out time: 12:00 PM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Lunch provided for morning arrivals. Check in 2:00 pm. Meet in lobby at 4:00 for neighborhood walk You will be staying at Hellenia Yachting Hotel that night.
  End of Program:
after breakfast, transfers to airport. Check out 11:00 am You will be staying at Hotel Cesare Augusto the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required.
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
  Train or bus availability: Bus service from Catania Airport to a stop near the hotel.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Giardini-Naxos
  Nearest city or town:  Catania
  Nearest highway: Autostrada
  Nearest airport:  Catania Fontanarossa Airport
  Transportation to site: To reach the program site on your own, there are two options - taxi or public bus. Taxi fare direct from the airport to the hotel is approx. EUR 100. More economical option is public shuttle bus operated by ETNA TRASPORTI; email: Service runs hourly from Catania airport to Giardini Naxos. The stop is to the right of the terminal exit. Purchase a one-way ticket to Giardini Naxos from the kiosk or directly from the driver. The stop closest to the hotel is Recanati. The ride should take just over one hour. Buses leave every hour from 7:00 am to 7:45 pm, reduced service on Sundays and holidays. Fare is EUR 10 per person including luggage. When you get off at Recanati and get your luggage from the storage compartment in the belly of the bus, walk in the direction the bus was going, turn right at the corner and the hotel is about 100 yards on the left side of the street. Prices are valid as of March 2013 and subject to change.
  From End of Program
  Location:  Sorrento
  Nearest city or town:  Sorrento
  Nearest highway: Autostrada
  Nearest airport:  Naples
  Transportation from site: To reach the Naples airport on your own, you have two options. The first is with public bus: Curreri Co. buses leave from the the train station in Sorrento to the Naples airport. The ticket (EUR 10 pp) can be purchased on board the bus. The ride takes about 1.5 hours with various stops along the way. Fare is EUR 10. The second option, a private transfer direct from the hotel to the airport can be arranged through the hotel. Fare is approx. EUR 150 for the private car and driver service.
Elevation Note: On Etna day, coach to 6500 ft above sea level

Equipment Requirements: sneakers with good traction for excursions to Mount Etna and Vesuvius
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Departures from points in North America
(Monday, June 23)
 Depart From: Depart from points in North America
 In Transit: Overnight flights across the Atlantic Ocean arrive in Sicily the following day.

Day 2: Welcome to Giardini Naxos
(Tuesday, June 24)
 Lunch: Lunch at hotel restaurant.
 Afternoon: Enjoy a welcome refreshment, meet the group leaders and your fellow travelers in an informal gathering in the hotel dining room.
 Dinner: Dinner at hotel restaurant.
Accommodations: Hellenia Yachting Hotel
Meals Included: Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Orientation Walk/ Characters From Mythology
(Wednesday, June 25)
 Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Orientation Session gives practical information for the program. A classroom session on the mythological stories set in Sicily - from Ulysses and Polyphemus in the caves of Etna to Vulcan/Hephaestus who used the volcanoes as a forge to make Jupiter/Zeus's lightening bolts.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Relax by the pool or have a swim or walk on the small private beach of the hotel.
 Dinner: Dinner at hotel restaurant.
Accommodations: Hellenia Yachting Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Mount Etna
(Thursday, June 26)

Note: Uneven terrain on trails. For grotto exploration helmets and flashlights provided. Wear closed shoes, bring jacket or fleece. Weather can be much different at higher elevations.

 Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Coach to the slopes of Mt. Etna to explore inactive craters. Weather and conditions permitting, expert-led walk along the edge of one of the side craters. Etna is typically snow capped 11 months of the year.
 Lunch: Lunch at a trattoria on the slopes of Mt. Etna. Traditional menu with local fresh produce.
 Afternoon: Excursion continues on Mt. Etna. A local guide leads the day's activities.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
Accommodations: Hellenia Yachting Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Greeks and Romans in Sicily / Taormina
(Friday, June 27)

Note: Taormina is a located on a hill-top and the Greek theater is at the top. Uneven terrain and steps in the ancient theater.

 Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Learn about the ancient Greek and Roman colonies in Sicily.
 Lunch: At local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Guided visit to the open air Greek theater which has as its backdrop the expansive slopes of the volcano Etna. Free time to wander around this charming world class attraction.
 Dinner: At hotel restaurant.
Accommodations: Hellenia Yachting Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Volcano in the classroom / Free time
(Saturday, June 28)
 Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: With the supervision of the group leaders, the children present a volcanic eruption in the classroom.
 Lunch: At local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Free afternoon to explore and prepare luggage for the next day's departure.
 Dinner: At hotel restaurant.
Accommodations: Hellenia Yachting Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Explore Catania's coast / Overnight boat to Naples
(Sunday, June 29)
 Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at hotel.
 Morning: Coach to Catania
 Lunch: Lunch at local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Board the ferry for the overnight passage to Naples. Hope for clear skies to be able to see the smoke from the volcanoes on the island of Stromboli.
 Dinner: Dinner on board ferry.
 Evening: Sail through the Strait of Messina. Keep vigil as the ship passes the mythological vortex of Scilla.
Accommodations: TTT Lines
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: Welcome to Naples / Phlegrean Fields
(Monday, June 30)

Note: Uneven terrain at the Phlegreian Fields

 Breakfast: Continental breakfast on board the ferry
 Morning: Sail past the island of Capri and observe Vesuvius rising in the distance. Disembark in Naples. Coach from the port of Naples to Cumae, the cave sanctuary of the mythological Sybil prophetess who predicted the future. She is depicted by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: At the Phlegreian Fields, visit the caldaras of Solfatara, site of a collapsed volcano where pools of bubbling mud indicate fissures and steam vents spew forth an odor of sulfur, as the name of the Solfatara suggests. Following the visit, proceed to Sorrento and check in to the hotel.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
Accommodations: Hotel Cesare Augusto
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Vesuvius Observatory Station
(Tuesday, July 1)

Note: uneven terrain on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius.

 Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Lecture on the Eruption of 79 CE.
 Lunch: Lunch at hotel restaurant.
 Afternoon: Coach to the slope of Mount Vesuvius. At the observatory, the local guide illustrates the seismic instruments. After ride up to the crest. Weather permitting, it is possible to walk around the crater for those wishing to do so.
 Dinner: Dinner at a local Agriturismo or working farm on the slopes of the volcano. It will give you grounds of comparison between Etna's produce and Vesuvius' produce. At the conclusion, coach back to Sorrento.
Accommodations: Hotel Cesare Augusto
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10: Discover Pompeii
(Wednesday, July 2)

Note: Extensive walking and standing during the expert-led visit to the vast archaeological site of Pompeii.

 Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Lecture on how Pompeii came to be destroyed in 79 CE and rediscovered in the 1700's.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Guided visit of Pompeii archaeological site. Wander the streets of the city frozen in time in August of 79 CE. Walk into the amphitheater, see where the gladiators trained, walk down Via Abbondanza, the main street, observe 1st century political grafitti. Notice the similarities between Pompeii, where bars, restaurants, shops and bakeries line the streets, and that in any modern city in Italy.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
Accommodations: Hotel Cesare Augusto
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11: Herculaneum / National Archeological Museum in Naples
(Thursday, July 3)

Note: Extended walking and standing during the expert-led visit to the archaeological site of Herculaneum

 Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Coach to Herculaneum, the upper class city destroyed by the intense pyroclastic mud flow from Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE. The Villa of the Papyri was discovered and was recreated for the Getty Museum in Malibu, California.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Visit the Archaeological Museum in Naples which houses treasures and artifacts found in Pompeii and Herculaneum, including the famed Alexander Mosaic and the Farnese Bull and dancing women from the Villa of the Papyri.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
Accommodations: Hotel Cesare Augusto
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 12: Boat to the Island of Capri
(Friday, July 4)
 Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: A boat ride across the Bay of Naples to the island of Capri.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Boat returns to Sorrento late afternoon. Some free time to explore Sorrento, relax by the pool or pack.
 Dinner: Farwell dinner at the hotel
Accommodations: Hotel Cesare Augusto
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 13: Transfer to Naples Airport
(Saturday, July 5)
 Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at the hotel; continental style for participants with early morning departures.
 Morning: Coach to and Depart from Naples airport
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

A History of Contemporary Italy, Society and Politics, 1943-1988

Author: Paul Ginsborg

Description: A contemporary history of the Italian post war experience through 1988.

Ancient Sicily, Monuments Past & Present

Author: G. Messineo, E. Borgia

Description: In this illuminating overview, ingenious overlays depict 17 important sites as they appear today and how they may have appeared in the past.

Campania Basilicata Map

Author: Touring Club Italiano

Description: A colorful, durable map of Campania, including Naples and the Amalfi Coast.

Eyewitness Guide Naples & Amalfi Coast

Author: Eyewitness Guides

Description: This superb guide features color photography, dozens of excellent neighborhood maps and a district-by-district synopsis of the region's attractions.

Eyewitness Volcano & Earthquake

Author: Susanna Van Rose

Description: This entry in the series includes spectacular photographs of erupting volcanoes along with an introduction to the science of plate tectonics.

Herculaneum: Italy's Buried Treasure

Author: Joseph Jay Deiss

Description: An artful and wonderfully written description of daily life of the Romans at the time of the destruction of Herculaneum.

In the Shadow of Vesuvius

Author: Jordan Lancaster

Description: A sparkling portrait of Naples from its volcanic origins to its lively present. Lancaster's cultural history explores the city's tumultuous past, its spirited inhabitants and the mythical allure that's drawn so many travelers to its siren song.

Into The Volcano

Author: Donna O'Meara

Description: O'Meara's lively, illustrated eyewitness accounts of adventures in volcanology include Arenal in Costa Rica, Kilauea in Hawaii and Stromboli off the coast of Italy. Geared for grades 5 to 8, this is a great introduction to volcanoes for the whole family.

Italian Journey, 1786-1788

Author: Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, W.H. Auden (Translator), Elizabeth Meyer (Translator)

Description: "Sicily is the key to everything" is only one of Goethe's many astute observations included in this Penguin Classics edition of his journals and letters from his grand tour of southern Italy.

Italy, Enchantment of the World

Author: Jean F. Blashfield

Description: This illustrated, factual survey by Children's Press introduces youngsters ages 9-12 to the people, daily life, history and culture of Italy. Filled with drawings, maps and photographs, this primer has much to offer the entire family.


Author: Peter Connolly

Description: Connolly looks at the volcanic eruption that destroyed Pompeii in 79 A.D., examines archaeological excavations, and investigates the architecture, culture and life of the ancient Roman city. Featuring full-color photographs, illustrations and sketches on every page.

Pompeii, A Novel

Author: Robert Harris

Description: In this fast-paced historical novel set in Pompeii, a young engineer sets out to repair the Roman aqueducts and discovers the imminent eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Full of suspense and period detail.

Pompeii, Public and Private Life

Author: Paul Zanker, Deborah Schneider (Translator)

Description: A comprehensive guide to the architecture, people and culture of Pompeii, focusing on both grand public spaces and private villas. With 21 color illustrations and 55 halftones, including site plans, models, mosaics and sculpture.

Pompeii, The Day a City Died

Author: Robert Etienne

Description: This indispensable pocket guide illustrates daily life in the city as told by its evocative frescoes, mosaics and treasures.

Sicily Map

Author: Touring Club Italiano

Description: A detailed map of Sicily (1:200,000), printed on water and tear-resistant paper.

The Last Girls of Pompeii

Author: Kathryn Lasky

Description: Intoxicated by Pompeii even as a child, Kathyrn Lasky sets her dramatic tale for ages 10 and up on the streets and byways of ancient Pompeii in the days just before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Though fictional, Lasky draws from her visit to Pompeii and the writings of Pliny and others to evoke the world of the two girls.

The Leopard

Author: Giuseppe Di Lampedusa

Description: Evoking a lost world of privilege and tradition, Giuseppe Di Lampedusa's memorable tale, set on a rural Sicilian estate during the days of independence, follows the world-weary Don Fabrizio, Prince of Salina. A classic, now in a 50th anniversary edition.

The Volcano Lover, A Romance

Author: Susan Sontag

Description: A steamy and evocative historical novel by social critic Sontag, set in 18th-century Naples. The sweeping story focuses on the British Ambassador to the King in Naples, his passionate and notorious love, and her infatuation with Lord Nelson.


Author: Gillian Darley

Description: Gillian Darley unveils the human responses to Vesuvius, both feared and celebrated, from a cast of characters as far-flung as Pliny the Younger and David Hockney in this entry in Harvard University Press's excellent Wonders of the World series, a perfect introduction for travelers to Pompeii and Herculaneum.

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