Join us on our journey to Italy. Marvel at ancient sacred spaces, medieval hill towns, famous art, extraordinary shopping, breathtaking scenery, delicious dining and secrets of Italian cooking. A public audience with Pope Benedict XVI is an optional highlight of our day at the Vatican.
Your Italian adventure begins as you are greeted at the airport by an experienced Tour Manager who will make your tour both carefree and enlightening. After a short transfer into the city, check into your hotel situated in a charming neighborhood close to Vatican City and just minutes away from Rome’s historic center. Relax, unpack and plan your afternoon.
Perhaps you will take the Metro to the Forum to see the world’s first Senate building and walk cobbled streets still marked with chariot tracks. Or maybe you will go to Piazza Navona, the heart of the Renaissance with three glorious fountains, or to Trastevere, the artsy part of town where serpentine lanes lead to piazzas with large fountains and little shops.
By the time the welcome party begins at your hotel, nearly everyone will have had a gelato, the world famous Italian ice cream. Comparing flavors can be as interesting as comparing the afternoon’s adventures.
Relaxing in the Renaissance
The next day, enjoy a panoramic tour of the Eternal City’s most famous sites. See the 2,000-year-old Coliseum and marbled forums of conquering Caesars; famous Trevi Fountain and the Church of St. Peter in Chains to see Michaleangelo’s statue of Moses. Pass ancient Roman walls, elegant Renaissance palaces, Baroque churches and trattorias with fashionably dressed outdoor diners. Everywhere you look you will see another fantastic fountain, each designed to catch the breath as past generations caught buckets of water from spouting fish and mythological creatures.
Explore more of Rome as we continue via motorcoach to the historic hill town of Tivoli. Walls raised in 400 BC still aspire to protect the citizens and temples from 200 BC remind us of forgotten pagan gods. We step into the Renaissance through the doors of Villa d’Este built in the 1550s for the son of Lucretia Borgia. Lavishly frescoed reception rooms are just a prelude to the garden of greenery and 500 fantastic fountains from a miniature reproduction of Rome to the gigantic Water Organ that cascades musically into shady pools. Our delicious dinner in Tivoli with wine and music is traditionally Italian with many courses leisurely served.
The Heart of Christianity
The next day is devoted to an optional tour of Vatican City, where you are invited to a public audience with Pope Benedict XVI (Papal schedule permitting.) Visit the Vatican Museum containing some of the world’s greatest sculpture, famous paintings from every era, rooms decorated by Raphael for a papal apartment and ending in the Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo’s breathtaking frescos on the ceiling. Together, we marvel at the treasures of St. Peter’s Basilica and the unique features of Christianity’s largest church and its colonnades reaching out to embrace the faithful.
On to the Middle Ages
We move on to Siena, passing ancient hill towns, olive groves and vineyards to one of Italy’s best-preserved medieval towns filled with marble churches and Gothic architecture. Strolling through Piazza del Campo we may hear the echo of 900 years of pounding hooves as this is home to the Palio, the annual two-minute gallop that draws people from all over the world. Our hotel for the next four nights is in the popular resort town of Montecatini with 14th century baths and timeless Tuscan vistas, including a funicular tram that swoops you up for a bird’s eye view.
We take a break from sightseeing to learn the secrets of Tuscan cuisine by accompanying an accomplished chef to the market to select the freshest ingredients. In the kitchen of their villa, they will share secrets of Italian cooking and teach us how to prepare the memorable Tuscan meal we enjoy together before an afternoon at leisure.
Stepping Back in Time
Tucked into the hills we find the unspoiled medieval village of Lucca and enjoy its sprinkling of palaces, towers and splendid churches all within an easy walk. Also see Pisa’s 900-year-old cathedral and its incredible Leaning Tower. An optional tour of Florence takes us back to the art and history of the Renaissance, studded with household names like Michelangelo, da Vinci and the Medicis.
A Florentine delight is choosing what to do first while enjoying a cappuccino at an outdoor table. Purchase leather goods handcrafted by artisans, stroll the Ponte Vecchio that gleams with gold and has spanned the picturesque Arno River since the 1300s, find artistic treasures you have always wanted to see, explore marbled churches, or venture down the little lanes to the homes of Dante and Michelangelo and the studio of Leonardo da Vinci.
Departing this delightful country, you will understand why one Italian phrase is so often repeated: "non basta una vita – one lifetime is not enough."
Days Two through Four
Cardinal Hotel, Rome, Italy
Days Five through Eight
Grand Hotel Vittoria, Montecatini Terme, Italy
Dates and Rates
|2012 Departure Dates
||Per Person Twin
||Single Room Add
Call for air rates and schedules from your city to Rome and from Florence, Italy