The author of Battle of Britain, Normandy '44, Dam Busters, and Fortress Malta, James Holland is a bestselling historian, writer, and broadcaster. He has written and presented the BAFTA-shortlisted BBC TV documentaries Battle of Britain and Dambusters, and Normandy 44 - a special BBC anniversary film telling the full story of the wider D-Day campaign. Co-founder and programme director of the Chalke Valley History Festival, James has his own collection at the Imperial War Museum, and is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.
Sicily's World War Two battlefields with James Holland
Join one of Britain's most eminent military historians and a leading battlefield guide on this fascinating journey uncovering the in-depth story behind one of the most pivotal moments in World War Two.
In the summer of 1943, with North Africa finally in their hands, the Allies turned their attention to Sicily and the invasion of Italy. On July 10th, a combined force of British, Canadian and American troops staged amphibious and airborne landings at the Gulf of Gela.
The original plan was for a strong advance by the British northwards along the east coast to Messina, with the Americans in a supporting role. But General Montgomery's forces were held up by stiff resistance in the rugged hills south of Mount Etna, leaving General Patton to lead the advance northwest, toward Palermo and then on to Messina.
Supported by a series of amphibious landings on the north coast, General Patton's troops entered Messina shortly before the first elements of General Montgomery's Eighth Army. The delay in capturing the island allowed a large portion of the German and Italian forces to escape across the Straits of Messina to the mainland.
Fighting would continue on the Italian mainland for many months. It took four Allied offensives between January and May 1944 to break the German defences and open the road to Rome, and it was not until June 4th, 1944 that the Allies finally entered the city.
On this exciting tour you will follow in the footsteps of the Allied forces as they invade continental Europe from the Mediterranean Sea. Accompanied by acclaimed World War Two historian James Holland, you'll be at the heart of the action, tracing the Allies' struggle to gain control of Sicily.
Staying in beautiful four-star hotels in Ragusa, Siracusa, Enna, Catania and Taormina, you'll experience all of this island's beauty, from its rugged landscapes and unique culture, to its delicious local cuisine. You will also enjoy expert insights, visits, exclusive talks and Q&As, as well as receiving a complimentary copy of James' latest book, Sicily '43.
Reasons to book
Exclusive insights from James Holland
Beautiful hotel stays
Your expert guide
- Battlefield visits with James Holland
- Free copy of James' latest book Sicily '43
- Seven nights' accommodation in four-star hotels with breakfast
- A packed lunch each day
- A welcome drink on arrival at your hotel
- Three dinners at your hotels
- A farewell dinner at the Hotel Caesar Palace
- Return flights
- Coach travel
- Museum entrance fees
- Services of an experienced guide and tour manager
Day1Arrive in SicilyCatania, Italy
On arrival to Catania, you will be met for a coach transfer to your hotel, the four-star Mediteraneo Palace Hotel, Ragusa. Tonight, you will have a welcome drink and evening background talk to prepare for the week ahead.
Day2American LandingsCapo Soprano, Sicily, Italy
Today, visit Gela Beach and Pier. This small village on coast hosted a stiff battle to repel Allied landings in July 1943. Next, head to the Greek fortifications of Capo Soprano, where US Rangers captured guns and made stand. You'll also visit Castellucio di Gela, the launch point for an Italian counter-attack on 11 July, and the Niscemi German viewpoint which looks south across the Plain of Gela, where you'll stop for a picnic lunch.
This afternoon, you'll revisit the site of the Priolo Battle of US 505th Paratroopers, the Y-Junction which was the scene of bitter fighting and where you can still see the remains of Italian defences. Ponte Drillo was another scene of heavy fighting on D-Day and 11 July. Look at bunkers and gun positions here as well as a small museum of relics. Then its on to Biazzo Ridge, site of the Battle between the 505th Parachute Infantry and Hermann Göring Division troops. Back to the hotel this evening.
Day3British LandingsMarzamemi, Sicily, Italy
Check out of the hotel this morning and depart for Marzamemi, where you'll study the landings of 231 Malta Brigade. Then it's on to the Blockhouses on SP26, where the Malta Brigade halted Italian Mobile Group X. You'll revisit the 5th Division Landings at Acid North, seeing the invasion beach and then on to Capo Murro di Porco, site of Paddy Mayne's SRS assault and capture of Italian guns. A packed lunch is included.
This afternoon, visit Ponte Grande, site of the British glider assault of Ponte Grande Bridge. Afterwards, drive to your next hotel in Syracuse and spend the afternoon and evening at leisure.
Day4British Advance and the Catania PlainCatania, Italy
Check out and depart from hotel this morning on the Melilli-Villasmundo road, for your first visit to the site of the Battle of the Gorge between Schmalz Group and 15th Brigade. Then drive north through Lentini and visit Primosole Bridge, where the Battle of Primosole Bridge took place between Fallschirmjäger and the 1st Parachute Brigade and the Durham Brigade. Another interesting site will be Lemon Bridge, where the Battle of Lemon Bridge took place between the 13th Brigade and Hermann Göring Regiment.
Before lunch, you'll visit the Catania Plain and learn about the death of Hedley Verity, examining the 15th Brigade's attack on the night of the 19th/20th. A packed lunch will be provided.
This afternoon visit the German War Cemetery at Misterbianco and admire the view from the German side of the Catania Plain, before driving to Villalba, the home of Mafia chief, Don Calo Vizzini. Around 6pm you'll drive to Enna and spend the night at the four-star Park Hotel Paradiso.
Day5Eighth Army’s Left HookTroina, Sicily, Italy
Check out and depart from your hotel this morning, for your visit to Castello Lombardia, a castle in Enna with wide views over the island. Next, you'll visit Assoro, studying the Canadian assault of this ancient hilltop town and Agira, home to the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery. Just before lunch, you'll arrive in Troina and enjoy an introduction to the Battle for Troina. A packed lunch will be provided.
This afternoon, visit the Monastery of Santo Michele and its ruins. Then, drive to Catania and check in to the four-star Mercure Excelsior Hotel, Catania.
Day6Breaking the Etna LinesTaormina, Italy
This morning, visit Catania Museum. This historical museum informs on the Sicily Landings of 1943. Afterwards, depart Catania for Gerbini, where you'll learn about air power in the Sicilian campaign. Next, on to Sferro, site of the 51st Highland Division's attack. A packed lunch is included. After lunch, you'll head on to Centuripe to visit the Chiesa di San Nicola with moving war memorials in its side chapels.
Later this afternoon, head to Pedara, the scene of bitter fighting around Tre Monti, then drive through th main piazza in Trecastagni. Back to Taormina this evening, to check into the four-star Hotel Caesar Palace Hotel, Giardini Naxos, near Taormina.
Day7The end in SicilyGanziri, Sicily, Italy
Depart the hotel this morning, heading onto Ganziri to visit one of the main evacuation points. Then onto Messina to visit the Sacario di Cristo Re panoramas and cover the conclusion of the Sicilian campaign. Tonight, you'll return to the four-star Caesar Palace Hotel in Taormina.
Day8Depart SicilyCatania, Italy
Board the coach this morning and return to the airport for your flight home (drop off no later than midday).
Four-star hotel in the centre of Ragusa
Situated in the centre of Ragusa, the four-star Mediterraneo Palace hotel is just a two-minute walk from the Cathedral. The modern rooms are soundproofed and come with a TV, free WiFi, air conditioning, minibar and tea & coffee making facilities. The en-suite offers free toiletries and a hairdryer. The hotel also boasts a restaurant serving Mediterranean cuisine and Sicilian specialities.
Park Hotel Paradiso
Four-star Sicilian hotel surrounded by mountains
Surrounded by Sicilian mountains, the Park Hotel Paradiso is perfectly located only a short distance from bars and restaurants. The hotel offers a restaurant and piano bar, plus a spa, hot tub and sauna. The en-suite rooms are decorated in contemporary design and feature air conditioning, a refrigerator, free WiFi and tea & coffee making facilities. The en-suite offers free toiletries, hairdryer and a washing machine.
Grand Hotel Villa Politi
Four-star hotel in the centre of an amphitheatre
Rising on an ancient cliff, the Grand Hotel Villa Politi lies in the centre of a spectacular natural amphitheatre within the ancient quarries of Latomie dei Cappuccini. The en-suite rooms feature Art Nouveau furniture and are soundproofed with a TV, WiFi, air conditioning, minibar and slippers. The en-suite offers free toiletries and a hairdryer.
Mercure Excelsior Catania
Four-star hotel with views of Mount Etna and Piazza Giovanni Verga
Set in the heart of Catania just one mile from Catania Cathedral, the Mercure Excelsior offers classic architecture with modern facilities. The en-suite rooms feature a balcony with views of either Mount Etna or Piazza Giovanni Verga Square. They come with free WiFi, a ir conditioning, a minibar and a kettle. The en-suite offers free toiletries, hairdryer and slippers.
Hotel Caesar Palace
Four-star hotel with stunning pool and beachside location
This modern hotel is set in Giardini Naxos, renowned for its ancient archaeological sites. It is less than a mile from the beach and approximately four miles from Taormina. The en-suite rooms feature air conditioning, flat-screen TV, a kettle and free WiFi and the bathrooms have free toiletries and a hairdryer.
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