Slow Food & Leisurely Wine Tour of Southern Italy and Sicily

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Total Trip:

14 Days
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Countries Visited:

Italy
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Places Visited:

Catania, Tropea, Matera, Lecce, Benevento, Ravello, Amalfi, Positano, Messina, Calabria, Otronto, Pizzo, Alberobello, Paestum, San Marco dei Cavoti, Praiano
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Departure Dates:

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
Through the beauty of the cuisine, you will discover endless passion, embrace unfamiliar flavors, and take pleasure in history and gastronomy while exploring Southern Italy. Olive trees captivate with produce ready for harvest and grapevines absorb vibrant minerals, adding depth to sophisticated wines; lemon trees offer fragrant hints of citrus and the coastline erupts with revitalizing aromas of the sea. Celebrate zesty sauces and inspiring seafood, mouthwatering stews and refreshing salads during

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Day 1

Catania – In View of Mount Etna

Catania shimmers with baroque beauty lining the wide boulevards and standing above the foundations laid by Ionian Greeks in the 8th century. The famous fish market bustles with activity in the morning, beneath the looming peak of Mount Etna. The snowcapped summit resembles the passing clouds against the thick pillars and soaring domes of Catania’s architecture. Your flight lands at Catania-Fontanarossa Airport. Your private transfer greets you upon your arrival and escorts you to a magnificent hotel at the heart of Sicily’s second largest city.

The gray hues of the stone originate from lava, casting a marvelous, distinctive sheen over the streets. Catania maintains a magnetic allure with cafes filled with energetic locals and spirited piazzas filled with the aromas of grilled fish garnished with orange zest and octopus grilled over an open flame. In the evening, you have the perfect welcome to Sicily with a traditional dish of Pasta alla Norma, a Catania specialty. The aroma of sautéed eggplant lingers in the dining room, accompanied by the sweetness of tomato sauce and the richness of ricotta tossed over succulent noodles.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Accommodation

included

Dinner

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Day 2

Catania – Baroque Immersion

The aroma of fresh-baked brioche drifts out of the bakeries of Catania in the morning. Cafes serve the soft, sweet buns besides the refreshing chilled citrus flavors of granitas, a semi-frozen dessert. Your guide greets you in the hotel lobby after breakfast, eager to lead you on an immersive tour of the baroque splendor, ancient foundations, and enticing treats of the city. The fish market opens before sunrise with fishermen brining their daily catches to the lanes displaying mounds of anchovies, boxes of mussels, and gorgeous mullets ready to be served with onions. The aroma of arancini, stuffed, fried rice balls, drifts from popular street vendors near the public piazzas.

You wander through the delicate aromatics and arrive at the Duomo, the city’s main cathedral framing the principal piazza at the edge of Via Etnea. The cathedral was rebuilt in the 18th century after the destructive earthquake in the 1600s that nearly demolished the town. The elephant at the center of the piazza and was modeled after Bernini’s Elephant in Rome. The elephant was crafted out of black-lava stone and surmounted by a soaring Egyptian obelisk. The cathedral façade glistens with streaks of silver in the sunlight beneath the elaborate dome. The Fountain of Amenano marks the entrance to the bustling fish market.

What's Included:

included

Tour

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast

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Day 3

Catania – The Wines of Sicily

The flavors of Sicily emanate from the mixture of cultures, enriched by the surrounding landscape and shaped by the artistic aesthetic of the vintners. After breakfast, your guide leads you to the baroque city of Noto to wander amongst the 17th-century churches, houses, and palaces framing Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Pass through the stunning 19th-century Porta Reale Gateway and explore the city before entering the Nero d’Avola wine region. Vines spread across the hills and valley growing an abundance of Nero d’Avola, the most popular red grape of the region. Almond trees grow in groves dividing the vineyards, with lemons thriving near Syracuse and melons rumbling along the pebbled grounds closer to Noto.

A mixture of sweet, tart, and savory herbaceous aromas emanate from the olive trees, artichoke vines, and tomato plants growing near the dangling purple grapes. Your guide leads you on a tour of your first winery, producing wines in the region since 2002. The cellar features brick floors beneath a vaulted, white ceiling retaining the cool subterranean temperature. Stacked oak barrels contain the fruits of the vineyard’s labor, filling the air with a saccharine scent. You learn about the modernized irrigation systems of the region and the winery’s vines growing out of clay and rich, volcanic minerals that feed the grapes while also fortifying the flavor. In the tasting room, your guide pours a sample of the Nero D’Avola, finding scents of dark cherry and prune drifting from the glass.

What's Included:

included

Tour

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast

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Day 4

Tropea – At the Heart of Messina

The morning light washes over the cobblestone streets of the city center, allowing patrons of the cafes to enjoy the warmth of the city at the outdoor tables. They sip frothy cappuccinos and nibble at fresh ciambella, a large donut coated in granulated sugar. Your private transfer greets you in the hotel after breakfast and escorts you way from Catania, making your way to Messina. The city crowns the eastern edges of Sicily, standing only a few miles from the coast of mainland Italy.

The harbor fills with fishing boats returning from the open sea, barges ready to set out into the waters, and ferries traveling to and from Calabria across the strait. Messina remains an important transport center for Sicily and the whole of Italy. Wide boulevards wind through the heart of Messina framed by elegant buildings erected at the turn of the 20th century. Restaurants highlight swordfish as the catch of the day, emphasizing the tender meat celebrated by seafood lovers the world over.

Visit Piazza del Duomo to relish the daily life of the city amidst the preserved historic architecture, embellished by the gorgeous 16th-century Orion Fountain. The bell tower was originally erected in the 18th century to complement the 12th-century cathedral constructed by the Romans. The tower stands nearly 200 feet tall and was decorated with an astronomical clock highlighting the history of the city. You find a hint of the sea drifting along the streets, accompanied by the captivating aromas of grilled swordfish fading to the spiced aroma of canestrato cheese.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Tour

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 5

Tropea – Pleasures of the Local Flavors of Calabria

In the morning, you can see the indigo and sapphire hues of the Tyrrhenian Sea from your window. The breeze carries the sweet and salty aroma of the water through the gorgeous promenade of your hotel. The palm trees rustle above the walkways, leading to the white sand beaches. At breakfast, the scent of freshly baked cornetto, a croissant coated with caramelized sugar and stuffed with peach, hazelnut cream, or poached apples, accompanied by a creamy cappuccino. Your guide greets you in the morning, keen on introducing you to the often-overlooked wonders of the Calabria region, taking you first to the monastery of Santa Maria dell’Isola for views of the historic grounds perched atop a cliff overlooking the town and the coastline.

The medieval edifice resembles a fairytale castle crafted out of white stone, contrasting the cypress trees overtaking the rocky summit. The original structure was erected in the 4th century, with the surrounding town renowned for the legend of having been founded by Hercules. The structure was renovated during the Renaissance with a façade rebuilt after an early 20th-century earthquake. The interior contains a 12th-century Byzantine portrait of the Virgin Mary, accented by subtle aromas of frankincense. You follow your hunger into town to sample the enticing pecorino cheeses, spiced salami, and sweet red onion often used in salads, pastas, and sautéed with meats.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Tour

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 6

Matera – Above the Caves of Matera

The morning light washes over the indigo waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. The white stones of the city glint against the lapping waves along shoreline. At breakfast, you enjoy the delicate sweetness of a brioche garnished with homemade fig jam. Your private transfer greets you in the hotel lobby and escorts you to the unique city of Matera, stopping en route in Cosenza. The charm of Cosenza derives from the natural daily life of locals far removed from the usual tourism of many cities around Italy.

Italians and Europeans often visit the city as a stopover to Sila National Park. Antique shops fill windows with candleholders and remarkable artwork, each dating back centuries. Studios are sprouting about Old Town, with young artists eager to recapture the beauty of the city’s glory. The tan and seasoned colors of the facades continue to glow against the cobbled plazas. You continue to Matera to find a city of perched above the Gravina Gorge separated by medieval architecture spanning the hillside and a honeycomb of caves tunneled into the gorge walls.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Tour

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast, Dinner

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Day 7

Matera – Adventures in the Subterranean City

The aroma of freshly baked bread drifts out of the bakeries along the upper-city in the morning, passing beneath the façade of San Pietro Barisano Church. The interior contains hints of myrrh settled into the walls alongside the 15th and 16th-century frescoes. An empty frame on the altarpiece recalls the decades in which the upper-city was abandoned for the network of niches carved in the gorge walls. Your guide greets you after breakfast and leads you through the streets of the upper and lower city, shining a light on Matera’s nickname the “Subterranean City.”

Remnants of communities in the area date back nearly nine millennia, with inhabitants residing in the limestone caves until the late 1960s. The white hues of the city follow the stairwells nestled between the homes and the tan colors of the church tower soaring over the cave terraces.  You enter into the Sassi to experience the preserved life that once inhabited the world beneath the medieval architecture. The cool air contrasts the mountain warmth outside.

You can view the mouths of open caves across the ravine. Inside the Casa Grotta di Vico Solitario, you have access to life in the caves up to 18th century, where families lived with their farm animals, including donkeys, chickens, and pigs. A bed, small table, and dresser provide insight into the décor of the time. In the afternoon, you find a spiced aroma of Pane cotto, a traditional dish of the region containing chopped onions and hot pepper fried in olive oil with water and eggs before being poured on a slice of grilled bread.

What's Included:

included

Tour

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast, Dinner

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Day 8

Lecce – Traversing the Trulli

At breakfast, you indulge in the creamy texture and chocolaty aroma of a fresh cappuccino. Your private transfer greets you after the meal and escorts you to Lecce, in the region of Puglia, stopping en route in the town of Alberobello. Small white structures overtake the hillside with conical stone roofs creating a captivating, fantastical feature. The whitewashed limestone walls reflect the sunlight, keeping the interior of distinctive, historic homes cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Narrow lanes lead between the trulli, the oldest of which dates back to the 14th century.

The slanted, conical roofs help collect rainwater during the wet season. You can venture to the hill that overlooks the town for a breathtaking view of the sunlight glinting off the white walls and rounded rooftops rising like rolling knolls across the landscape. You can find shelter from the sun in a charming café filled with the aroma of fresh coffee. You sip a refreshing frozen macchiato, embracing the balance of bitter and sweet, amidst the cold. Cafes serve the popular Puglia pasta of orecchiette, which takes its name from its shape, folded to resemble ears.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Tour

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 9

Lecce – Beneath the Sandstone Carvings

The bakeries of Lecce fill their window displays with fresh fruttone, pastries, in the morning. The small, delicate shortbread cakes are stuffed with almond paste and pear marmalade beneath a top layer of chocolate icing. The pastry creates balanced arrays of buttery, rich, and sweet aromas. Your guide greets you at the hotel and leads you on a private tour of Lecce, often referred to as the “Florence of the South.” The first settlers of the region date back to prehistoric civilizations, with the beauty of the architecture preserved from the medieval, renaissance, and baroque eras. The white and tan structures feature the aesthetic of the Kingdom of Naples in the 17th century, embodied in the Basilica di Santa Croce.

The ornate façade contains images of beasts and allegorical statues connecting myth to religion and religion to daily life in the city. Sheep and dodo birds adorn the exterior amongst cherubs and gargoyles, guiding your eye upwards to the shimmering rose window at the center of the upper-story. The interior contains four aisles framed by the intricately adorned columns. You continue your exploration of Lecce inside a private kitchen, under the guidance of a celebrated private chef. The kitchen already contains hints of creamy extra virgin olive oil and herbaceous basil. The chef introduces you to the staple ingredients utilized in Puglia cuisine, including eggplant, pecorino and ricotta cheeses, fresh mussels, and quality lamb to create an unforgettable meal in true regional style.

What's Included:

included

Tour

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast, Dinner

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Day 10

Lecce – Tasting at the Edge of Italy

The scent of chocolate and sugar emanates from the confectionaries crafting supple mustaccioli in the morning. The nougat resembles a cookie coated in chocolate but has a cake-like consistency, with hints of cinnamon and almonds. Your guide escorts you out of Lecce for the day to the city of Otronto, located deep in the heel of Italy’s boot-like formation. The layers of Greek, Roman, Turkish, and Napoleonic history come to life along the cobbled streets of Old Town against the backdrop of gold sand beaches of the Adriatic Sea.

The imposing castle retains its ramparts leading to robust 15th-century towers opening to a small port. Fishing boats wade in the turquoise water in view of the seafood restaurants along the promenade. A cool breeze rushes over the shoreline and fades behind the historical ramparts. The cathedral was erected in the 11th century with enchanting mosaics added in the 12th century. The feature overtakes the length of the nave and depicts scenes from the Old Testament and tales of chivalry leading to an extraordinary image of the Tree of Life.

Venture outside of Otronto to visit a local winery specializing in Negroamaro di Terra d’Otranto. Olive groves shade the edges of the estate against the endless rows of vines. The estate utilizes contemporary methods with traditional techniques to ensure the best quality and integrity of the heritage of the grapes. In the tasting room, your guide pours a sample, which fills the glass with notes of refined oak and dried red fruits.

What's Included:

included

Tour

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 11

Benevento – Celebrating Treats

Leave behind the baroque charms of Lecce in the morning for the landmarks of Bari, en route to San Marco dei Cavoti. The aroma of the sea sweeps through the city, emanating from the Adriatic coastline. The 16th-century Palazzo Sedile dei Nobili frames the public Piazza Mercantile, where the city’s former council would meet. Mosaics adorn the grounds inside the Romanesque façade of St. Nicholas Basilica, hiding the subterranean crypts and relics. Pasta makers shape orecchiette by hand around the city center, offering a glimpse of the ease in making the traditional regional pasta when crafted by seasoned hands. The town of San Marco dei Cavoti overtakes the limestone cliffs hills in the region of Campania.

The painted tower homes contrast the gray striations of the rock and the verdant trees cascading over the precipices leading down into the lush valley. The 14th-century Provencal Tower adorns the heart of town, casting a shadow over the main piazza. The aroma of chocolate emanates from a family-owned confectionary. The picturesque village encompasses tradition, embraced by the chocolaterie, while also inspired by unique flavors and original ideas. Indulge in the flavors of decadent pralines and handmade hazelnut spread after learning about the origin of the artisan factory and the inspiration deriving from the source of the products.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 12

Ravello – Along Ancient Roads

You make your way to the Bay of Naples to discover the gates to the ancient city of Pompeii. The daylight washes over the pristine sapphire coastline and highlights the looming peak of Mount Vesuvius, best known for its eruption in 79 AD that preserved the ancient streets of Pompeii in ash and pumice stone. Lemon groves thrive in the region, producing fruit larger than softballs. The citrus aroma lingers in the air around the gates to the historic city. Your guide leads you on an encompassing tour of the legendary Roman port, whose streets provide remarkable understanding into the daily lives of the citizenry. Follow in the footsteps of the past Roman citizens by wandering along the cobbled lanes to reach the former Forum.

A 10-foot tall altar is all that remains of the Temple of Jupiter while 48 ionic columns connote the former Temple of Apollo. The fuming summit of Mount Vesuvius rises above the city in the background on the opposite banks of the Bay of Naples. After traversing the excavated areas of the city, including seeing the mosaics and frescoes in the House of Menander, you continue into the newer excavations before departing for Positano, located at the northern border of the Amalfi Coast. The famous coastline reaches 25 miles long, with Positano providing a perfect introduction amidst the scent of the sea mixed with vibrant lemons along the terraced homes bordering the narrow cobbled streets. Step into an artisan wine shop to learn the secrets of the refreshing citrus-based liqueur of limoncello.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Tour

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

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Day 13

Ravello – Ancient Views and Cheesy Pleasures

The town of Ravello crowns the ridges of the Amalfi Coast’s mountains, at a height of nearly 1,200 feet above sea level. In the morning, the herbaceous aroma of wildflowers accompanies the vibrant scent of fresh espresso drifting out of the local cafes in view of the 13th-century cathedral. Locals and visitors alike venture to the 12th-century grounds of the Villa Cimbrone to enjoy the views of the Infinity Terrace, famous for remarkable panorama of the coastline stretching from the promontories in the south to the cliffs in the north. Your guide greets you after breakfast and escorts you to the ancient temples of Paestum, site of the oldest Greek settlements on mainland Italy.

Before returning to Ravello, you stop at a traditional Campanian dairy farm. Your guide leads you through the vast farmland, where cows and sheep graze on the verdant, wild grass. The farm manages to integrate modern technology with traditional practices, allowing you to enjoy the authentic milking process and churning the dairy into cheese. The farmers take pride in their product and the way in which their cheese meets the market, directly from their hands to the buyer. You watch as the farmers heat the milk and extract the curds. The farmer then churns the curds while they are still hot, turning the curds from soft to pliable.

What's Included:

included

Tour

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast, Dinner

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Day 14

Ravello – Savoring the Flavor of Southern Italy

The boats return to the shore at the small marina of Praiano. Cream-colored homes shimmer against the backdrop of limestone crags and spotted verdant forest. Stone stairwells connect the town to the peaceful shores of Vettica Beach located 300 feet below Piazza San Gennaro at the heart of town. Cafes set out tables and chairs along the cobblestones, offering patrons an unobstructed view of the coastline and the water leading to the cliffs of the Island of Capri.

In the early afternoon, the scent of grilling seafood dressed in lemon and capers fills the air, drifting out of a restaurant located in the town’s former boatyard. After breakfast, your private transfer greets you at the hotel in Ravello and escorts you to Naples International Airport for your flight home. For a fabulous addition to your time in Southern Italy, you could extend your vacation in Naples, following the tradition of culinary mastery with a private pizza cooking class.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Breakfast

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Trip Highlights

  • Delight in the most popular varietals of grapes on the island of Sicily with a private vineyard tour around the Nero d’Avola Wine Region
  • Discover the coastal beauty of the often-overlooked town of Tropea while sampling renowned salami and pecorino cheeses in view of Santa Maria dell’Isola Monastery
  • Relish the classic flavor and buoyant texture of buffalo mozzarella made fresh at a dairy farm in Campania
  • Enjoy the refreshing citrus flavor of limoncello after a demonstration of crafting the traditional Southern Italian digestif
  • Learn how to craft the succulent texture and complementary flavors of regional Puglian cuisine during a private cooking class in Lecce
  • Bask in the array of flavors cultivated to accompany chocolate while exploring an artisan factory in the small town of San Marco dei Cavoti
  • Wander along with the vibrant fish market at the heart of Catania
  • Witness the charm and beauty of baroque and medieval cities across Southern Italy, including the unique subterranean city of Matera
  • Traverse the streets of Alberobello to view the fairytale-like architecture of trulli, whitewashed homes with conical rooftops
  • Taste the variety of flavors and captivating textures of hand-crafted gelato in the town of Pizzo, including the celebrated chocolate truffle  
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Detailed Description

The pleasure of Southern Italy derives from the historic cities and enchanting cuisine shaped to perfection over millennia. Your 14-day gastronomical tour encompasses the rich flavors developed by chefs and harmonious relationship between farmers and the landscape. Your epicurean adventure begins with your arrival in Catania, Sicily. Your private transfer greets you at Catania-Fontanarossa Airport, transferring you to a luxurious hotel at the heart of the bustling baroque city. The remainder of the day is yours to enjoy stunning architecture and vibrant culture at your leisure. In the evening, you will have your first taste of Catania with a traditional dish of Pasta alla Norma.

The following morning, your guide leads you on a stunning tour of Sicily’s second largest city to discover the palaces and remarkable churches. Sample the regional prosecco and local cuisine, embracing the active life of the famous fish market. Next, have a private tour of the architecture at Noto to sample the pastries before traversing the Nero d’Avola wine route to taste the stunning Nero d’Avola wine varietals. Venture north to reach Tropea in mainland Calabria. Traverse the historical streets and balanced flavors of Messina before taking the ferry over the Strait of the Messina to mainland Italy. Relish the stunning monuments and beaches around Tropea, traversing the galleries of Santa Maria dell’Isola Monastery before visiting the cafes in town to taste pecorino, salami, and celebrated sweet red onion.

Transfer to Matera, stopping in Cosenza to view a traditional Southern Italian city off the beaten path. Next, you have a private tour of Matera to visit the Sassi, the network of caves carved beneath the medieval streets and utilized for restaurants, homes, and shops until the late 1960s. Sample the traditional Altamura bread for a taste of the city’s inventiveness over the years. Next, you continue east to Lecce, stopping in Alberobello to view the trulli homes. Wander along the fairytale architecture before arriving in the baroque tradition of the architecture in Lecce. Explore the baroque charms of Lecce before partaking in a cooking class teaching you the staples of producing customary Puglian cuisine, from orecchiette to puccia.

Travel to the fortified seaside streets of Otronto to tour the serene streets and architecture. In the afternoon, you visit a vineyard to enjoy a quality lunch paired with wines produced on the property. Next, you travel to San Marco dei Cavoti for a lesson in chocolate making at an artisan factory in the heart of the cliff-top village. Transfer to Ravello along the Amalfi Coast, stopping to tour Pompeii and relish a private limoncello-making demonstration in the serene town of Positano, the gateway to Amalfi.

You visit the ancient Greek temples of Paestum before visiting a private dairy farm for a demonstration on how to produce the celebrated buffalo mozzarella. Your private transfer meets you at the hotel in Ravello on the final day and escorts you to Naples International Airport for your flight home. You could extend your stay in Southern Italy and make your way to Naples for a private pizza-making class in the birthplace of Italy’s most famous dish. 

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Starting Price

$3845 per person (excluding international flights)

This trip is customizable for your private travel.
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What's Included

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.

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