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Opera in Sicily - Five performances in historic theatres in beautiful Baroque cities

Five concert performances with superb musicians from Germany, Ireland, Italy and Britain: La Venexiana, Irish National Opera, Ensemble 1700, The Mozartists and alumni of the National Opera Studio all appear.

A range of works, from Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea to Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, plus a gala concert of arias compèred by Sir Thomas Allen. Handel’s The Triumph of Time and Truth (an opera in all but name) and L’Olimpiade by Vivaldi complete the set.

Bewitchingly beautiful historic theatres, unknown to many and tucked away in some of the loveliest towns in Sicily.

The Island of Ortygia, the ancient heart of Syracuse, is our base for the festival – one of the largest areas of unremittingly picturesque townscape in Italy, it is almost completely surrounded by the waters of the Mediterranean.

Daily talks by John Allison, editor of Opera magazine.

Accessible exclusively to those who take a package which includes accommodation, travel, meals, daily talks and much else.

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Watch the video from our 2019 festival, 'Opera in Sicily', for an idea of what it is like to join a Martin Randall Festival.


18 - 24 Oct 2024 £5,440 Book this tour

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Sicily is an island of many surprises, and its collection of historic opera houses must rank high among them.

Few visitors ever get a glimpse of any of the bewitchingly beautiful auditoria, many of which are well restored and in serviceable working order. Even locals have few opportunities: in the island’s smaller towns and cities, performances are rare and often of little interest to a wider audience.

This festival fills them with the sounds and life-enhancing experiences for which they were built. If only for a couple of hours, these four historic theatres are joyously transformed – exclusively for participants on Opera in Sicily.

Mostly nineteenth-century by date if basically seventeenth-century in design, these theatres are characterised by a horseshoe plan, several tiers of boxes and sumptuous decoration. Some are bathed in a heavenly symphony of white, crimson and gold, others are sonorously hued

with elaborately painted mythological scenes, beguiling personifications and trompe-l’oeil ornamentation.

Owing their genesis to the surge of pride and optimism that followed the unification of Italy in 1860, they were conceived as community facilities and funded by public subscription. Most, however, are small, echoing the court theatres on which they were modelled, and can only comfortably seat between 100 and 300. So in the 21st century they are hopelessly uneconomic for classical music of any ambition.

The unique formula pioneered by Martin Randall Travel enables us to mount five performances in the finest of these theatres. There will be concert performances of four operas by Irish, German, British and Italian companies and an aria recital by alumni of the National Opera Studio of England.

The audience is accommodated in a selection of hotels on the Island of Ortygia, the ancient heart of Syracuse. One of the largest areas of unremittingly picturesque townscape in Italy, it has the added charm of being almost completely surrounded by the waters of the Mediterranean. Two of the operas are performed here, and the others in the amazingly lovely nearby towns of Ragusa, Noto and Modica.

Discover the place

The south-eastern corner of Sicily – from the ancient city of Syracuse southwards to Capo Pássero and including the Baroque towns of Modica and Noto – is distinctive in so many ways.

The landscape is surprisingly varied, and searingly beautiful. A limestone scarp runs parallel to the shore, with hill country and great ravines to the interior. This is the most fertile and well managed part of the island, with dry-stone walls reminiscent of the Cotswolds and a prosperous and diverse agriculture.

Evidence of the ancient past is all around, never more strikingly than in the Doric temples and fortifications of Ortygia in Syracuse and the Greek theatre a mile away on the mainland. 

As Cicero informed the Roman Senate: ‘You will often have been told that Syracuse is the largest of Greek cities and the loveliest of all cities. Gentlemen, what you have been told is true’. This is the base we have chosen for this festival.

In 1693 an earthquake devastated Sicily’s Ionian seaboard. In the following half century the huge campaign of rebuilding that occurred was testament to the native wealth of the island, even though this was largely in the hands of feudal landlords and religious orders.

A very particular form of Baroque architecture is manifest in sumptuous palaces, magnificent churches and monastic houses. Locally quarried limestone was used – although friable and vulnerable, its golden yellow colour is distinctive and beautiful.

These Baroque cities are also astonishing for their dramatic streetscape: churches with soaring belfries, such as San Giorgio at Modica, or the surging curvilinear façade of San Domenico at Noto.

The many theatres, opera houses and concert halls that were constructed are indicative of the sophistication and love of entertainment of the Sicilian aristocracy and townspeople, and of the aesthetic elegance they valued so highly. 

Meet the musicians

The Mozartists

Under the direction of conductor Ian Page, The Mozartists (formerly Classical Opera) have established themselves among the most exciting period-instrument ensembles in Europe, attracting recognition for their fresh, dramatic and stylish performances, their imaginative and innovative programming, and their ability to discover and nurture outstanding young artists.

On stage and in concert, they have performed many of Mozart’s operas, and given the UK premières of operas by Gluck and Telemann (among others). They appear regularly at the most prestigious venues in London, and have presented Mozart’s La finta semplice and Il re pastore at the Royal Opera House. They have also performed at many of the leading festivals in the UK and in Europe.

In 2015, the company launched MOZART 250, a ground-breaking 27-year project following the chronological trajectory of Mozart’s life, works and influences. Each year MOZART 250 explores the music being composed and performed by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously, and this major initiative has already incorporated music by over 40 composers.

The Mozartists’ extensive discography has attracted widespread acclaim. In 2012 they embarked on a major new recording cycle of the complete Mozart operas, and the first seven releases in the series have all received outstanding reviews.

Ian Page

Ian Page is the founder, conductor and artistic director of The Mozartists, and has established an outstanding reputation as one of the world’s leading interpreters of the music of Mozart and his contemporaries.

With The Mozartists, he has conducted most of Mozart’s operas, including the world premières of the ‘original’ version of Mitridate, re di Ponto and a new completion of Zaide. He has also conducted the UK premières of Gluck’s La clemenza di Tito and Telemann’s Orpheus among others, and the first new staging for 250 years of J.C. Bach’s Adriano in Siria.

He made his Royal Opera House début conducting his own new performing edition of Thomas Arne’s Artaxerxes. Other engagements have included English Touring Opera’s 25th anniversary production of Le nozze di Figaro, the opening two concerts at the 2016 Eisenstadt Haydn Festival, and Handel’s Ariodante – with Ann Hallenberg in the title role – at the 2019 Drottningholm Festival in Sweden.

La Venexiana

La Venexiana was founded in 1997 by Claudio Cavina, who directed it with a fierce passion and dedication until 2016.Years of intense activity involving both concert work and recording have made the group a significant reference point within the early music world, particularly having showcased composers such as Luzzaschi, d’India, Marenzio and da Venosa. Claudio Monteverdi has been a special focus, with the Monteverdi Edition promoted by Glossa, and most recently celebrated with the re-releasing of Orfeo (Choc du Monde de la Musique, the First Choice of the BBC Classical Music and Gramophone Editor’s Choice 2007, Gramophone Award 2008 – Baroque Opera) accompanied by the complete re-issuing of the madrigals.

The group also focuses on the sacred and theatrical music of Scarlatti, Handel, Steffani, Cavalli, in interpretations that are both lively and troubled – like the composers themselves. Its fundamental philosophy is that in music it is always better to take risks than to remain half-hearted: a route followed by Round M, a recording project which takes in both Monteverdi and jazz, or indeed the utopian and visionary project re-introducing today’s public to Arianna by Monteverdi (the first live performance of which took place on Martin Randall Travel’s Monteverdi in Venice festival in 2015).

Gabriele Palomba

Gabriele Palmoba has collaborated with La Venexiana since 1997 and is now the artistic director and musical conductor of the ensemble.

Palmoba graduated from the Civic School of Milan with a Lute Diploma under the guidance of Paul Beier. He performs as a soloist and continuo player in Italy and abroad, playing for European festivals and theatres with many important early music ensembles.

With Emanuela Galli and Franco Pavan, he took part in an important project related to Renaissance lute music. On the occasion of the fifth centenary of Petrucci’s printing (2007), this project continued with the release of a CD dedicated entirely to the first publication of music for lute by Spinacino and, as soloist, with a monograph on Giovanni Maria da Crema and Alberto da Mantova.

National Opera Studio

The National Opera Studio exists to train talented young musicians to become the leading artists of their generation. They aim to make a significant contribution to the opera ecosystem and the wider creative and cultural life of the UK through the provision of top-quality professional training, and by their engagement and position in the sector.

At its core, the National Opera Studio (NOS) provides intensive and bespoke professional training at the highest level for a small group of singers and repetiteurs each year, and prepares them for life on an international operatic stage. They work in partnership with six of the leading opera companies in the UK: English National Opera, Glyndebourne, Opera North, the Royal Opera House, Scottish Opera and Welsh National Opera.

Their Young Artists are with them for nine months, and undergo a rigorous programme that is individually designed around their particular vocal and developmental needs. In addition to the coaching programme, Young Artists work closely with leading directors, conductors and opera orchestras.

The time that Young Artists spend at the Studio often makes the single biggest difference to their future prospects as top-level solo artists. NOS repetiteurs have become festival directors, conductors, artistic directors, and can be found on the music and artistic staff of major companies, both in the UK and abroad

Irish National Opera

Irish National Opera is Ireland’s largest opera company and provides inspirational, vibrant and ground-breaking opera of exceptional quality with a wide national reach, accessible to everyone. INO responded creatively to the challenges posed by the global pandemic, commissioning and producing 20 Shots of Opera, 20 new short operas for film described by The Wall Street Journal as “an exhilarating jaunt through up-to-the-minute lyric creativity”.

The company’s Vivaldi’s Bajazet, a co-production with the Royal Opera House, received an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera 2022 for conductor Peter Whelan and the Irish Baroque Orchestra, and its production of Brian Irvine and Netia Jones’ Least Like The Other, Searching for Rosemary Kennedy received a 2023 Olivier Award nomination for Best New Opera Production. INO received an inaugural Next Stage Grant (Fedora Platform and Opera Europa with the support of Kearney) to develop the Isolde App, and its virtual reality opera, Finola Merivale’s Out of the Ordinary/As an nGnách, won the Fedora Platform Digital Prize.

Peter Whelan

Olivier award-winner Peter Whelan is among the most dynamic and versatile exponents of historical performance of his generation, with a remarkable career as a conductor and director. He is Artistic Director of the Irish Baroque Orchestra as well as Curator for Early Music of Norwegian Wind Ensemble. Peter is an acclaimed solo artist with an extensive and award-winning discography as a solo bassoonist.

As conductor, Peter has a particular passion for exploring and championing neglected music from the Baroque and Classical eras. Orchestral highlights of the 2022-23 season included Antwerp Symphony Orchestra and Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra, as well as returns to the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland and Irish National Opera for Così fan tutte.

Recent opera productions have included the Marriage of Figaro, Magic Flute and Acis and Galatea with Irish National Opera and Handel’s Radamisto with English Touring Opera. He made his debut at San Francisco Opera for Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice in 2022.

Peter’s artistic direction in live performance and the recording studio has been widely praised for its “rich insight, style and charisma” (Guardian), its “stylish verve” (BBC Music Magazine) and “phenomenally energetic direction” (Artsdesk). As a champion of early music, Peter represents “the very best of contemporary trends in bringing this music to life: flex and zest with tempi, lithe and vigorous … an incredible alertness to colors and moods summoned by the cut-and-thrust harmonic footwork of this music” (Operawire).

Ensemble 1700

Ensemble 1700 was founded by Dorothee Oberlinger in 2002. Under her direction, the ensemble has become a first-class European specialist ensemble for Baroque music.

Following its opera debut in 2017, Ensemble 1700 has also made a name for itself as an opera producer, and has staged and recorded operas and serenatas by Handel, Bononcini, Telemann, A. and G. Scarlatti, Ristori and Bernasconi. These have included both historic and present-day stage directions on the most influential early music stages in continental Europe.

The CD recording Polifemo by G.B. Bononcini (2020, Sony DHM) was awarded the Diapason d’Or, the Joker (Crescendo BE) and Opus Klassik (2021).

Dorothee Oberlinger

Recorder player, ensemble leader, conductor, festival director at Potsdam-Sanssouci Music Festival and Arolsen Baroque Festival, and head of the Early Music Department at the Salzburg Mozarteum: Dorothee Oberlinger is one of the most influential Early Music personalities in Europe.

Following her debut with Handel’s Lucio Cornelio Silla 2017 at the International Handel Festival Göttingen, she is a sought-after opera conductor of her own Ensemble 1700 and State Theatre orchestras in Germany. She has been awarded the most important music prizes, including the Telemann Prize, and has received the Federal Cross of Merit First Class.

Arrive a day early

Thursday 17 October

We are offering the option of arriving at your hotel in Syracuse a day before the festival begins.

Fly from London to Catania, directly or via Milan, or make your own way independently. Coach transfer to Syracuse.

Day 1

Friday 18 October

Fly from London to Catania, directly or via Milan, or make your own way independently. Coach transfer to Syracuse. For travel options, see 'Practicalities'.

The Island of Ortygia, the ancient heart of Syracuse, is densely packed with structures from ancient Greek to Stile Liberty. Meandering alleys lead to little piazze and seaside promenades, past romantically crumbling or lovingly restored Baroque palaces and churches.

Depending on the arrival of your flight, there is free time to become acquainted with Ortygia.

Settle into your chosen hotel before a drinks reception and dinner.

Day 2

Saturday 19 October

There is a morning lecture on the music followed by some free time or the option of an art historical or architectural walk. The first opera is this afternoon.

Syracuse’s Teatro Comunale is the largest and grandest of the theatres engaged for this festival – though there are only about 300 seats with good sightlines. Unused for 70 years, the recent refurbishment allows occasional access to an auditorium with sumptuous ornamentation and an elaborate ceiling painting.

Performance, 4.30pm

Teatro Massimo Comunale, Syracuse

Claudio Monteverdi



La Venexiana

Gabriele Palomba conductor, Carlotta Colombo Poppea, Emanuela Galli Nerone, Marta Fumagalli Ottone, Maria Chiara Gallo Ottavia, Salvo Vitale Seneca.

Composed in 1643, the last year of Monteverdi’s life, L’incoronazione di Poppea tends towards astonishing modernity – although, of course, the composer created it within the typically Venetian anti-heroic and ironic theatrical conventions of his time. Exclusively among Monteverdi’s operas, the libretto is historical rather than mythological: the Emperor Nero is determined to marry his mistress, Poppea.

Action is relatively subdued, for this is an intense drama of emotional and political brutality, presenting realistically self-obsessed people in situations motivated by sexual lust and political avarice. Its celebration of amoral libertine triumph set the tone for Venetian opera for decades to come – and seems closer to modern-day attitudes of hedonistic materialism and ruthless ambition than most of the operas that have been written since.

Dinner for everyone follows the performance.

Day 3

Sunday 20 October

A morning lecture on the music precedes some free time in Syracuse before setting off by coach at c. 1.45pm for the early afternoon opera in Noto. Alternatively, leave for Noto directly after the lecture to have time to see something of it before the performance, including optional walks in the company of a lecturer.

Spread across a broad hillside, Noto was rebuilt after an earthquake in 1693 to become one of the loveliest and most homogeneous Baroque towns in the world. A striking feature is the extraordinary number of religious foundations that built for themselves premises of palatial grandeur. The whole city is constructed of honey-coloured stone, with façades enlivened with sculpted balconies and elaborate ironwork.

The opera house opened in 1870 and is dressed in exceedingly pretty, enriched Neo-Classical garb. As with most of the other opera houses in this festival, four tiers of boxes surround the horseshoe-shaped auditorium.

Performance, 3.00pm

Teatro Tina di Lorenzo, Noto

Antonio Vivaldi



Irish National Opera

Peter Whelan conductor

Gemma Ní Bhriain Megacle, Meili Li Licida, Alexandra Urquiola Aristea, Sarah Richmond Argene, Chuma Sijeqa Clistene, Rachel Redmond Aminta, Benjamin Russell Alcandro.

Olivier Award winning conductor Peter Whelan conducts Irish National Opera’s concert performance of L’Olimpiade. With tangled relationships, forbidden love, an unsuccessful assassination and an execution avoided, L’Olimpiade brims with opportunities for all seven characters, showing their personalities and feelings through arias that range from the explosive and almost instrumentally virtuosic, to the slow exploration of more tender thoughts.

Dinner in Noto is included for everyone, after the performance. Coaches return to Syracuse by c. 10.00pm.


Day 4

Monday 21 October

Another morning lecture, before coaches depart during the day for Ragusa, where today’s performance takes place.

Ragusa Ibla is a wonderfully picturesque hilltop city surmounted by the great dome of the cathedral of St George. The street pattern remains that of a medieval hilltown, a maze of stepped streets with breathtaking views. (Ragusa Superiore, occupying a neighbouring hilltop, was rebuilt after 1683 on a regular grid plan.)

The Teatro Donnafugata, located in the heart of Ragusa Ibla, is part of the Palazzo Arezzo di Donnafugata. It was built in the second half of the 19th century, and then restored between 1997 and 2004. A tiny gem of a theatre, it only seats around 100 people, making it one of the smallest in Europe. The performance here is therefore repeated several times.

Performances, 11.30am, 2.15pm, 4.30pm

Teatro Donnafugata, Ragusa

Gala Concert

National Opera Studio

Sir Thomas Allen compère


Alumni singers and pianists from the National Opera Studio perform a programme of some well-known and some more obscure operatic arias and ensembles. Sir Thomas Allen, established star of the great opera houses of the world, compères the event. The programme includes music by Mozart, Rossini, Verdi and Strauss.

Coaches return to Syracuse after each performance in time for an independent dinner, or an optional dinner if you choose to attend.

Day 5

Tuesday 22 October

There is an entirely free morning in Syracuse, before departing for Modica at 1.30pm. Alternatively, depart at 9.30am for time to explore Modica.

The exceedingly lovely town of Modica is dramatically situated at a conjunction of valleys at the foot of Monti Iblei. The theatre is in a broad meandering tree-lined avenue in Modica Bassa (‘lower Modica’), the more recent (though still historic) part of the town. Its gorgeous interior was recently restored and is embellished with trompe l’oeil decoration and paintings.

The land rises steeply to the east, where there is a delightful congestion of amber buildings, including the great churches of San Pietro and San Giorgio (the cathedral). A net of alleys, narrow streets and steps leads to the oldest part of the town, Modica Alta (‘Upper Modica’).

Performance, 3.30pm

Teatro Garibaldi, Modica

George Frideric Handel



Ensemble 1700

Dorothee Oberlinger conductor, Anna Dennis Bellezza, Dennis Orellana Piacere, Alois Mühlbacher Disinganno, Stefan Sbonnik Tempo

An opera disguised as an oratorio: as the Pope had demanded all opera stages in Rome to be pulled down, the 22-year-old Handel cunningly conceived The Triumph of Time and Truth as his very first oratorio. It was to become one of his greatest works.

The allegories of Beauty, Pleasure, Truth and Time battle in ravishing arias, duets and quartets as Bellezza follows the thorny path to self-knowledge. Ultimately, Bellezza triumphs over Piacere in a culmination of unsurpassed melodic richness, psychological realism and dramatic irony in this eternal masterpiece of music.

Coaches return to Syracuse after each performance in time for an independent dinner, or an optional dinner if you choose to attend.

Day 6

Wednesday 23 October

A final morning lecture, then the day is free before returning to the Teatro Comunale for the last performance of the festival.

Performance, 3.30pm

Teatro Massimo Comunale, Syracuse

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart


The Mozartists

Ian Page conductor

Cast to be confirmed.

The Marriage of Figaro is widely considered to be the greatest opera ever written – an astonishing fusion of music and drama, of comedy and profundity – and over the 238 years since its first performance it has never lost its ability to captivate and exhilarate audiences.

The Mozartists’ concert staging will place Mozart’s scintillating score at the heart of the story-telling, with their winning combination of world-class young singers and vibrant period instruments bringing fresh insights and dramatic flair to this ultimate miracle of composition.

Dinner for everyone follows the performance.

Day 7

Thursday 24 October

Coaches take participants to Catania airport. Fly to London directly or via Milan, or leave the festival independently.

Image of John Allison

Dr John Allison

Editor of Opera magazine and music critic. He was born in South Africa and completed his PhD degree while playing the piano and working as assistant organist at Cape Town cathedral. Since moving to London in 1989 he has written for publications around the world, authored two books and served on the juries of many international competitions. He co-founded the International Opera Awards in 2013. He reviews for the Daily Telegraph and has previously held positions as music critic on The Sunday Telegraph and The Times.

Image of Ian Page

Ian Page

Conductor and artistic director of The Mozartists, and is one of the leading Mozart interpreters of his generation. His visionary MOZART 250 project follows the chronological trajectory of the composer’s life, works and influences across 27 years, and his numerous recordings include the first seven releases in a projected complete cycle of the Mozart Operas. Twitter: @IanPageMozart | Website:

The festival package

The price includes:

– All five performances.

– Accommodation for six nights – choose between six options.

– Return flights between London and Sicily.

– Breakfasts, four dinners and interval drinks.

– Talks on the music by an opera expert.

– Travel by comfortable private coach.

– The assistance of festival staff and a detailed programme booklet.

Optional extras:

– A choice of pre- and post-festival tours: Gastronomic Puglia, 10–16 October 2024; Palermo Revealed, 12–17 October 2024; Sicily: From the Greeks to the Baroque, 25–3 November 2024.

– Arriving a day early at your festival hotel.

– Extra dinners, so that each evening is spent in the company of other participants. Details will be available at a later stage.

– A range of walks and visits led by art historians. Details will be available at a later stage.

Accommodation & prices

There is a choice of six hotels in Syracuse (Ortygia): 3- 4- or 5-star. These are the best hotels on the island.

They differ in size, architecture and style, and have Sicilian charm of varying degrees. They range from rustic and family run to luxury resort hotels.

Coaches cannot enter Ortygia, and so stop at the bridge that connects the island with mainland Syracuse. Walking distances are indicated within the accommodation details. Luggage is transferred separately by minivan.

Your choice of hotel is the sole determinant of the different prices.

The prices given are all per person and include flights.

If you choose to make your own travel arrangements, there is a reduction of £300 per person on the prices given.

Hotel Livingston (3/4*)

This small, family-run hotel is situated on the curve of the Lungomare at the tip of the island, looking south-east. This is the much quieter side of town. The decor is traditional, and somewhat dated, but very well maintained. Bedrooms have dark wood panelling and a mix of green or red brocade fabric furnishing. It is a comfortable hotel but rather plain, and more the standard of a 3-star.

Rooms have all modern amenities: air-conditioning/heating, hairdryer, safe, WiFi. Bathrooms mostly have showers, or baths with shower attachments. 

There is a breakfast room but no restaurant or bar. Good restaurants (and cafés) are nearby.

Walk to coach: c. 20 minutes.

Prices, per person

Arriving 17 October

Two sharing:

Standard double £4,340

Junior suite £4,880

Single occupancy:

Standard double £4,840

Arriving 18 October

Two sharing:

Standard double £4,220

Junior suite £4,680

Single occupancy:

Standard double £4,650


Hotel Gutkowski (3*)

This boutique hotel occupies two 19th-century palazzi located on the Lungomare which looks onto the open sea. Decor is minimalist and somewhat quirky, featuring local art and artefacts. It has the feel of a seaside hotel, light and airy with wood painted in greys and blues, exposed sandstone and terracotta tiles. There is a roof terrace. Some rooms are quite small, and there may be details in need of maintenance or renewal, but most guests would feel the charm of the people who run it compensates for such minor defects. 

All rooms have air-conditioning/heating, hairdryers, safes, WiFi. Some have showers, some have baths. Classic rooms vary in size and shape. Basic rooms are very small, but still comfortable, light and airy.

There is a small restaurant, which has become known locally for its good authentic food. 

Walk to coach: c. 10 minutes.


Prices, per person

Arriving 17 October

Two sharing:

Classic double £4,340

Single occupancy:

Classic double £4,840

Arriving 18 October

Two sharing:

Classic double £4,220

Single occupancy:

Classic double £4,650

Antico Hotel Roma 1880 (4*)

A 4-star hotel situated near the cathedral in a pretty pink palazzo. The location could not be better; in fine weather the breakfast and restaurant extend onto Piazza Minerva, the heart of the historic centre. Staff are friendly in the main – many are local and have worked here for a long time, so are able to give extensive and reliable advice.

Currently, decor is simple, featuring a peach/yellow palette. Standard rooms have parquet floors and slightly dated furnishings, but are comfortable and well maintained. The hotel is undergoing a major renovation in winter 2023.

Most rooms only have showers although a bath may be available on request. All rooms are equipped with air-conditioning/heating and have safes and hairdryers. WiFi is accessible in the rooms as well as in the public areas. There is a restaurant.

Walk to coach: c. 15 minutes.

Prices, per person

Arriving 17 October

Two sharing:

Superior double £5,090

Junior suite £5,520

Suite £6,420

Single occupancy:

Superior double £5,810

Junior suite £6,830

Arriving 18 October

Two sharing

Superior double £4,830

Junior suite £5,220

Suite £5,740

Single occupancy

Superior double £5,450

Junior suite £6,340

Algilà Ortigia Charme Hotel (4*)

A delightful 4-star hotel in two adjacent Baroque palazzi overlooking the Ionian Sea. There are sea views from many rooms (those listed below as ‘sea view’ have direct views, but many not in this category have lateral sea views from windows or balconies). Designed by Syracuse-born theatre designer Manuel Giliberto, decor features majolica tiles, kilims and antique furniture. It has the most charm and best taste of all the hotels on Ortygia. It is slightly further from the Duomo than some of the other hotels (c. 10 minutes on foot).

All the rooms are air-conditioned/heated, and are equipped with hairdryers and safes. Some rooms are split over two levels, with two or three steps into the room or separating the levels. All rooms have walk-in showers, in some cases the shower is separated from the bathroom, and higher category rooms may also have baths. WiFi is available throughout the hotel. The hotel also has a restaurant.

Walk to coach: c. 10 minutes.

Prices, per person

Arriving 17 October

Two sharing:

Classic double £5,180

Superior double £5,270

Junior suite £5,720

Full sea view £5,580

Suite £6,280

Deluxe spa £6,720

Single occupancy:

Classic double £6,040

Superior double £6,240

Junior suite £6,830

Full sea view £6,710

Arriving 18 October

Two sharing:

Classic double £4,970

Superior double £5,040

Junior suite £5,450

Full sea view £5,310

Suite £5,980

Deluxe spa £6,390

Single occupancy:

Classic double £5,710

Superior double £5,870

Junior suite £6,390

Full sea view £6,270

Ortea Palace Hotel (5*)

A 5* luxury hotel in the island’s former 1920s post office building. It is well located for the coach stop but about a 10-minute walk from the Duomo. Following many years spent renovating the building, it finally opened in 2020. The result is luxurious, if rather showy and ostentatious. The dominant colour is white, emphasising the quality of the Sicilian light, with white walls and expanses of white marble omnipresent. Staff are very friendly and willing. The restaurant and bar are in the covered courtyard.

Décor in the bedrooms continues the white theme, with more marble and modern furnishings and artworks, sometimes in rather outrageous taste. Classic rooms overlook the internal courtyard, while the rest have fabulous views over the sea and city.

WiFi is available throughout; all rooms have safes, air-conditioning/heating and hairdryers. Most bedrooms are duplexes, with (sturdy) stairs separating sleeping from sitting areas. Only twin suites can be twin bedded. Some bathrooms have showers only, while some also have a separate bathtubs.

There is an extensive spa, with a large pool and a full range of spa treatments available, with one complimentary entry for hotel guests.

Walk to coach: c. 5 minutes.

Prices, per person

Arriving 17 October

Two sharing:

Classic double £6,130

Junior suite (sea view) £6,920

Twin junior suite (sea view) £6,920

Executive suite (sea view) £9,260

Single occupancy:

Classic £7,230

Junior suite (sea view) £9,040

Arriving 18 October

Two sharing

Classic double £5,870

Junior suite (sea view) £6,410

Twin junior suite (sea view) £6,410

Executive suite (sea view) £8,350

Single occupancy:

Classic £6,810

Junior suite (sea view) £8,230

Grand Hotel des Ètrangers (5*)

The Grand Hotel des Ètrangers offers a level of luxury and elegance not found in any of the other hotels. It is in two Stile Liberty palazzi, on the waterfront overlooking the sheltered bay of Syracuse. A full renovation has just been completed, though period features such as the mosaic floor and ceiling in the entrance remain. Decor is elegant and lavish throughout, with a focus on the quality and provenance of materials. A balance is carefully struck between modern high-end and the hotel’s art deco roots. Staff are infallibly polite, and service clearly aims for the cosmopolitan approach of European luxury city hotels.

WiFi is available throughout the hotel, and all rooms have safes, air-conditioning/heating and hairdryers. The restaurant and bar are on the top floor and have fabulous views. There is a swimming pool and spa.

Junior suites and Suites are available on request and for a supplement. If you are interested, please note this in the ‘Further information’ box on the booking form.

Walk to coach: c. 15 minutes.

Prices, per person

Arriving 17 October

Two sharing:

Superior double £6,620

Deluxe double (sea view) £7,290

Single occupancy:

Superior double £8,390

Deluxe double (sea view) £9,470

Arriving 18 October

Two sharing:

Superior double £6,190

Deluxe double (sea view) £6,710

Single occupancy:

Superior double £7,710

Deluxe double (sea view) £8,770


Travel options

Flights with British Airways, from London Gatwick to Catania, or with ITA Airways (formerly Alitalia) from London City to Catania, via Milan, are included in the price.

There is the option to fly out on 17 October, the day before the festival begins.

The majority of these flight options are indirect flights because British Airways only offers one direct flight per day between London and Catania in this period. 

Please be aware that flight times are subject to change, and in our experience on these routes, can change more than once.

Alternatively you can choose to make your own travel arrangements, and select our ‘No flights’ price.

Festival flight options

Arriving 17 October (a day early):

Option 1, BA

17 October: London Gatwick to Catania (BA2610), depart 07.15 and arrive 11.30.

24 October: Catania to London Gatwick (BA2611), depart 12.20 and arrive 14.35.

Option 2, ITA

17 October: London City to Catania via Milan Linate (AZ217 & AZ1723), depart 07.40 and arrive 14.40.

24 October: Catania to London City via Milan Linate (AZ1714 & AZ220), depart 14.30 and arrive 18.20.

Option 3, ITA

17 October: London City to Catania via Milan Linate (AZ227 & AZ1727), depart 13.10 and arrive 19.55.

24 October: Catania to London City via Milan Linate (AZ1714 & AZ220), depart 14.30 and arrive 18.20.

Arriving 18 October:

Option 4, BA

18 October: London Gatwick to Catania (BA2610), depart 07.20 and arrive 11.35.

24 October: Catania to London Gatwick (BA2611), depart 12.20 and arrive 14.35.

Option 5, ITA

18 October: London City to Catania via Milan Linate (AZ217 & AZ1723), depart 07.40 and arrive 14.40.

24 October: Catania to London City via Milan Linate (AZ1714 & AZ220), depart 14.30 and arrive 18.20.

Connecting flights

It may be possible to arrange connecting flights with British Airways from Edinburgh, Manchester, Glasgow, Aberdeen or Belfast. Please request these on your booking form if you require them.

The no-flights option

You can choose not to take any of our flight options and to make your own arrangements for joining and leaving the festival.

Price reduction for ‘no flights’: £300. Ryanair and Easyjet operate direct flights to Catania in October. Although we cannot make a group booking with them or indeed recommend them, we can advise on timetables and routes once they are published (see below). You are welcome to join our airport coach transfers if your flights coincide with any of our flight options.

17th October: London Luton to Catania (FR628) 08.45–12.55.
18th October: London Luton to Catania (FR5059) 18.25–22.30.
24th October: Catania to London Luton (FR629) 13.45–16.05.

17th October: London Gatwick to Catania (EZY8285) 05.45–09.55; London Luton to Catania (EZY2491) 07.00–11.15.
18th October: London Gatwick to Catania (EZY8285) 07.00–11.10; London Gatwick to Catania (EZY8287) 10.15–14.25; London Luton to Catania (EZY2491) 08.00–12.15.
24th October: Catania to London Gatwick (EZY8286) 10.30–12.50; Catania to London Luton (EZY2492) 11.50–14.20.

Flights for Pre- and post-festival tour participants

The prices for these tours include the option of a return flight – out at the start of the tour, and back at the end of the festival or vice versa.

We charge for flights, if you are taking them, as part of your pre- or post-festival tour booking. You therefore pay the ‘no flights’ price for the festival regardless.

Optional walks and visits

If you choose to arrive a day early, on 17 October, a range of visits will be available on 18 October – and where there is free time in Syracuse and elsewhere, optional walks and visits will usually be offered. These will be led by:

Dr R.T. Cobianchi. Art historian specialising in the art and architecture of the Renaissance and Baroque. His interests also span from the iconography of the late Middle Ages to the sculpture of Neo-Classicism.

John McNeill. Architectural historian of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. He lectures for Oxford University’s Department of Continuing Education and is Honorary Secretary of the British Archaeological Association.

Details and the option to book these will be sent nearer to departure.

More about the performances

Private. All the performances are planned and administered by us, and the audience consists exclusively of those who have taken the festival package.

Seating. Specific seats are not reserved. You sit where you want.

Audience size. There will be up to 220 participants on the festival. At the one venue which cannot accommodate this number, the opera is repeated.

Historical venues. All four theatres were built in the 19th century, and though they have been refurbished, some of the seat may be less comfortable than those in a modern opera house. Many are in boxes rather than in the stalls (orchestra), though we are limiting audience capacity so everyone has good sight-lines. If you are uneasy with the idea of sitting anywhere other than in the stalls, please talk to us before booking.

Acoustics. This festival is more concerned with locale and authenticity than with acoustic perfection. The venues may have idiosyncrasies or reverberations of the sort not found in modern concert halls. However, as most are theatres and therefore purpose-built for this genre of music, acoustics are generally very good.

Changes. Musicians fall ill, venues may close for repairs, airlines alter schedules: there are many circumstances which could necessitate changes to the programme. We ask you to be understanding should they occur.

Participation in our festivals is a very different experience from conventional group travel.

No repetitive or redundant announcements, no herding by elevated umbrella, no unnecessary roll calls, little hanging around. We work on the assumption that you are adults, and our staff cultivate the virtue of unobtrusiveness.

Though there will be up to 220 participants, you will often find yourself in smaller groups – the audience is divided between six hotels, and into different restaurants for some of the dinners.

For those who are not averse to group activities there are extra meals, walks and visits to sign up to. You choose the level of participation that suits you.

We provide sufficient information to enable you to navigate the festival events without needing to be led. However, festival staff are also stationed around the events to direct you if needed.

Fitness for the festival

This is a physically demanding festival and fitness is essential. Within towns and cities, you will be expected to walk for anything up to 20 minutes and at a pace which is unlikely to slow others down when moving together.

Some hotels are a 20-minute walk from where coaches can stop, a walk that is repeated each time we leave Ortygia.

Many streets are uneven or cobbled and there are some ascents and descents, although mostly you will only need to be capable of these if you opt to spend more free time in Noto, Ragusa or Modica. There are often stairs to negotiate in the theatres, which do not have lifts.

There is a lot of driving. Average distance by coach per day (including airport transfers): 48 miles.

If you have a medical condition or a disability which may affect your holiday or necessitate special arrangements being made for you, please discuss these with us before booking – or, if the condition develops or changes subsequently, as soon as possible before departure.

Are you fit enough to join the tour?

Travel advice

Before booking, please refer to the FCDO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting

'The festival was full of interest. We are so impressed with the planning and organisation – it is almost worth going on your tours for that alone! We can't speak highly enough of the team.'

'A real triumph which richly deserves to be repeated.'

'Very interesting mix. I thought the L’Issipile cast was world class and Odhecaton was also superb. How Martin Randall Travel produced this quality and brought so many musicians and singers to Sicily, I do not know! Full marks!'

'The MRT staff provided a five star service throughout.'

'I came home feeling awash in wonderful music, and I think, most especially the Scarlotti in the Chiesa Santa Lucia – with the Caravaggio Burial Of Saint Lucy over the altar. I am just sorry that I couldn't tell Martin Randall in person what a brilliant tour I thought this was.'