Sicily and Malta: Crossroads of Culture — WAIT LISTED

Led by Mary Griep, Professor Emerita of Art and Art History, and Randolph Jennings, Communications Consultant
February 3–14, 2018


See participant-submitted photos

You’re invited to join us on two captivating Mediterranean islands. We will explore Sicily and Malta as places of cultural crossroads, through the lens of art and architecture. The first week will be spent exploring Sicily where Punic, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Norman, Baroque and contemporary sites share a small island. We will examine Sicily’s wide range of cultures, looking closely at the ways that art and architecture respond not only to their own time and place, but also contain reflections and echoes of other times, peoples, and places.

Our first stop will be the majestic Greek amphitheater and temple at Segesta, moving on to Palermo, a fascinating city where the arts and culture of the 11th century Norman conquerors met the Byzantine and Arab culture of Sicily. We will spend two days exploring the architectural masterpieces built by Roger the 1st, the 12th-century ruler whose Arab Norman palaces and cathedrals represent a unique fusion of northern European and Arab styles. We will then travel across the island, stopping at the 3rd-century Villa Romana del Casale in Piazza Amerino, where meticulously restored mosaics are the highlight of a Roman provincial villa, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We’ll conclude our Sicily adventure with two days in Syracuse, home to Greek, Roman, medieval, and Baroque art and architecture.

A short flight will take us to Malta, which has been at the center of trade for several millennia. We will visit Neolithic sites (Hagar Qim and Mnajdra Temples, c. 3600 B.C.) that predate the Egyptian pyramids. We’ll visit the medieval city of Medina and we trace the successive layers of human cultures that have contributed to the intriguing cultural patina that makes the island mysterious and distinctive. We’ll talk about successive waves of Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Knights of the Order of St. John, French, and eventually British who have ruled and shaped the culture. Our time in Malta will coincide with the celebration of Carnivale in Valetta, the Baroque capital of the island and Europe’s Cultural Capital for 2018.

See the Itinerary.

Program Leaders  

Mary Griep, St. Olaf Professor Emerita of Art, has led St. Olaf study abroad programs in France and Italy, the Bahamas, Greece and Turkey, Sicily and Italy, and twice led the Term in Asia. She and her husband, Randolph Jennings, a communications consultant, lived in Chiang Mai, Thailand from 2001-2004, with Mary working as Artist-in- Residence at the Institute for the Study of Religion and Culture, and Randy serving as a program director in the international study office of Payap University.

Mary’s long-term Anastylosis project, a series of large drawings of 12th century sacred spaces, began during an Interim program in France, and took its initial shape during her artist residency in Chiang Mai, with drawings of Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Thatbinyinyu in Burma, and a number of wats (temples) in Thailand. Through this work, she developed a deep appreciation for the religious, artistic, and architectural influences that shape cultures. She is in the early stages of creating a new drawing based on the Arab Norman Cathedral in Palermo, Sicily.

In 2017, Mary and Randy led an Interim program in Sicily and Italy, exploring Italian arts in context, and laying the groundwork for this study-travel program. They look forward to continuing their exploration of the beautiful and dynamic cultures of Sicily and Malta, and to sharing the excitement (and some great meals) with a lively group of fellow travelers.

What to Expect  

Sicily and Malta are NOT handicapped accessible. Though we will transfer between cities by air-conditioned private motor coach, you should be prepared for lots of walking. We will move around each day primarily on foot.

Hotels will be tourist class (typically three or four star) with private baths, air conditioning and English-speaking staff. In smaller towns, we often secure the best hotel available, which may be two star (small sleeping rooms, and fewer amenities such as in-room coffee making service). Even at higher-star hotels, rooms are typically much smaller than guests are used to in the United States.

Most days we will depart the hotel between 8 and 9 a.m.; we will coordinate our departure time in order to maximize our time at that day’s sites. We will stop for lunch at some point in the early afternoon (usually between 12 noon and 2 p.m.). Often we will resume our program after lunch, visiting another site or museum. Some days will have several hours of free time; others will have very little or none at all. We try to return to the hotel in time to relax and freshen up for dinner. Sicily and Malta are both Mediterranean countries, which means they run on a later schedule than Americans are used to. Group dinners could be scheduled as late as 7 or 8 pm. This can make for long (busy, but enjoyable) days.

To participate in this program you must be capable, without assistance, of walking a minimum of five miles per day, standing for 2 to 3 hours at a time, of climbing uneven stairs that may not have handrails, of climbing in and out of a variety of transportation vehicles, of keeping pace with an active group of travelers on long days of traveling, of dealing with the emotional highs and lows that can occur when experiencing a different culture, and of being capable of traveling with a group for several hours each day. You are responsible for judging the appropriateness of these travel activities to your physical, mental and behavioral capabilities.

Temperatures in February average highs in the upper 50s (Fahrenheit) and lows in the low 50s. Keep in mind that these are averages and that actual temperatures could vary by 5–10 degrees either higher or lower. We recommend bringing light layers that can be added or removed as needed throughout the day.

You should plan on seeing your family physician or a travel doctor at least four to six weeks prior to departure, preferably earlier, to talk about routine vaccinations. For more information on travel health, visit or

Program Fee  

The program fee is $3,600 per person, based on double occupancy. This fee includes discussions led by Mary Griep and Randy Jennings, assistance by a national guide, accommodations, daily breakfasts and group meals as listed on the itinerary, admission for group activities, ground transportation during the program (excluding airport transfers on arrival and departure), gratuities to group guides, drivers, and meal servers, and limited medical coverage while overseas. For single occupancy, add $500.

Airfare to Sicily and from Malta is not included. Participants are solely responsible for all expenses not specifically included in the program fee. Examples of excluded expenses are: International Airfare • Airport transfers at the beginning and end of the program • Any passport and visa fees • Any recommended immunizations or vaccinations • Baggage and trip cancellation insurance • Beverages, including at group meals • Laundry • Dry cleaning • Phone charges • Room service or other items of a personal nature • Expenses incurred during free time or non-group activities • Lunch and dinner, unless specifically included on program itinerary.

More Information and Documents   

Recommended Immunizations: No vaccines or immunizations are required for entry into Italy or Malta. Please visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for up to date recommendations.

Entry Visa: No visa is required for entry into Italy or Malta for stays of up to 90 days. However, please look at your passport now to verify it will be valid through your travel dates. If your passport will expire between November 2017 and August 2018, I recommend you renew it by October 2017, latest. Visit for renewal instructions and the necessary forms and for up-to-date information on entry requirements.

As a general precaution
— Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months after your return date
— You should carry a photocopy of the photo/biographical information page of your passport and keep it in a location separate from your passport.


Payment and Refund Schedule

Terms and Conditions

Release and Waiver

For Participants   

Traveler Information Form

Make a Payment

Payment and Refund Schedule


Flight Info

I am delighted to share that “Sicily and Malta: Crossroads of Culture,” February 3-14, 2018, is an official GO. Participants should feel free to purchase overseas flights. Some notes:

  • The arrival and departure airports are different. You will fly in to Palermo, Sicily and out of Valetta, Malta
  • The program starts with a welcome session and dinner in Cinisi, Sicily (near Palermo) on Sunday, February 4
  • You may depart Valetta any time on Wednesday, February 14
  • You may, of course, arrive early or extend your stay after the program. I will be happy to ask the tour operator for assistance in booking extra hotel nights at the group hotels
  • All transportation between Palermo and Valetta is included in the program fee

You may book your own flights or use any travel agent of your choosing. Or, may we recommend our long-time travel agent, Darla Orchard of Travel Leaders. She can be reached at 715-629-1870 or