Essence of Italy Tour: Cities, Ruins, Canals, History & Beauty

A 11 day trip to Italy 
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The quintessence of Italy is the combined stories of history, art, and nature that spread throughout the country. On this custom tailored tour you will be shown Italy’s magnificent spirit through the storied ruins, the Renaissance masterworks, romantic canals, and whispered flavors. From celebrated artists such as Leonardo da Vinci to coveted museums including the Uffizi Gallery, you will be taken into and beyond the cities of Rome, Florence, and Venice finding the allure of architecture, ambiance, landscapes, creating the essence of Italy along the way.

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General Information

Photos
Mosaics of the Byzantine Empire located in Ravenna.
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Rome, Naples, Pompeii, Assisi, Deruta, Montefalco, Florence, Ravenna, Venice

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1 – Essential Rome

Welcome to Rome, a city that has seen history from the Etruscans to the Visigoths and the modern European Union. The city is expansive, filled with ruins and luxuries; you can see the remnants of Roman grandeur along the cobblestone streets. You will be met at the airport and taken to your luxurious accommodation situated within the city center. Venture out onto a guided walk through the ancient buildings to get acquainted with the “Eternal City.” The city is boisterous with joviality. Vespas buzz as they weave through the wide streets. The buildings help guide you through the maze-like walkways to an open square where you find the large stone façade of the Pantheon.

The imposing building was built during the reign of Hadrian around the second century to replace the once burnt down Pantheon commissioned by Emperor Augustus. The portico boasts magnificent Corinthian columns made of granite, while the structure itself continues to have the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. When you enter you find an interior that was once dedicated to the many gods of pagan Rome. Look up and find a series of intersecting arches that help maintain the weight of the structure while circles and squares create a decorative theme throughout. Within the wonder of the Pantheon you have found a quintessential part of the city.

What’s Included: transfer, guided walk, dinner, accommodation

Day 2 – Charming Past

The energy of the city is tangible, buzzing from the endless history that surrounds you. After a tasty Italian style breakfast of fresh espresso and buttery scented brioches you will once again be guided through the city, only this time on a grander scale. The icon images of Rome unfold before your eyes, from the Roman and Imperial Forums to the inspiring Colosseum. The Romans began construction on the amphitheater under Emperor Vespasian and completed it in the year 80 AD under Vespasian’s successor. There is no confusing the structure with any other; it is unique in its build and size, rising 157-feet in height at the outer wall.  You can hear your guide tell stories of gladiators and possible reenactments of naval battles that took place along the theater floor as an estimated 50,000 people watched mesmerized by every advance. The large arches on the exterior wall and the exposed subsection of the theater grounds provide alluring myths to the storied past.

There are many things to do and see when in Rome, but one site not to be missed is the Vatican Museum. You continue to Saint Peter’s Basilica, watched over by Michelangelo’s dome, where the large piazza is encircled by pillars that guide you directly to the cathedral. The excitement isn’t just from the image that has garnered illustriousness over centuries but also from the varied and gathered history of the area. Once inside the Vatican Museum you will be one step closer to the specific symbol of the Michelangelo, the Sistine Chapel. The chapel itself is a collection of works from various Renaissance artists, but that which receives the most accolades begins with the ceiling guiding eyes to the powerful detail of The Last Judgment at the end wall. Michelangelo, who always thought of himself more of a sculptor than a painter, worked on the ceiling for four years, creating one of, if not the most, recognized ceilings in the world. The majesty is immediate when you enter the colorful room but looking up will certainly bring you into the immaculate images, divided into nine stories of Genesis, including the celebrated Creation of Adam

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 3 – The Quintessential Flavors of Rome

The allure of Rome’s vitality isn’t just within its ruins and history but also within the praised food that has helped bring Italian cuisine to the forefront of the world’s palette. Spend the morning traversing the coveted markets of the city including one of Rome’s oldest, in Campo dei Fiori, which has been bustling since 1869. In the morning the square is jovial with visitors and vendors laughing and tasting. The market is filled with the luscious aromas of fresh seasonal produce, from zucchini to oranges.  The large square is bursting with stalls squeezing beneath the brightly colored buildings. Your cooking course begins before you ever touch a pan, as you delight in the vibrant variety of vegetables and fruits expanding across the piazza. Savor the typical Italian cuisine that brings you deeper into the zesty flavors of Rome and your time within Italy. Learn the delicate flavors of  carciofi all giudia, lightly fried artichoke in olive oil, a dish that was once popular in the Roman Jewish community.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, cooking class, accommodation

Day 4 – Southern Pearls

There is more to Southern Italy than large platters of food and expansive golden fields. Naples has been an international city for centuries, always considered an important port city, along with being the gateway to the Bay of Naples and the Amalfi Coast. Venture outside of Rome in the early morning to traverse Naples and find yourself in the preserved city of Pompeii. The ruins and the ash covered city have been protected from the elements of time by the very thing that caused the opulent city’s demise. You can see Mount Vesuvius peeking into the sky, towering above the city it once erupted over in the year 79AD.

Pompeii continues to capture people’s imaginations. The city offers tremendous insight into the lives of the Roman colonies that may have otherwise gone unnoticed or been lost to history. Detailed accounts of the city’s destruction can be found, including one in which the eruption is described as a firestorm. Follow your guide through the large expanse of streets to explore the highlights of the city’s vast history. The Central Thermal Baths sit within a remarkable complex constructed after an earthquake in 62AD, taking much of the needed material from nearby fallen buildings. The lavish decoration and grander space come from the windows that open outward, giving needed light to the dark stone. Whether discovering the multitude of mosaics or traversing the Roman temples, you will find Pompeii is a city that continually combines both beauty and history.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, tour, accommodation

Day 5 – In and Around Piety

Today you will enter the region of Umbria, known for its lush hills that are often overshadowed by the fame of Tuscany. The landscape is its own reward offering a natural beauty along the greenery that will fade to a brilliant gold. However, it is not just within the scenery that the splendor of the region lies. You will soon discover the secrets that the region has to offer as you make your way through the famous traditional earthenware of Deruta and onto Montefalco. For lunch you will taste the delectable flavors of the town: creamy sheep’s cheese known as pecorino, revered local ham and sausages, all accompanied by the famous Sagrantino wine. The wine is a rich ruby, with an intense mature fruit aroma and velvety texture that brings you into a relaxed comfort as you overlook the Umbrian hills.  

After lunch you will come to Assisi, a town situated on a hill that climbs over the valley. From below, the city looks to be made of immaculate stone, carrying over the hillside. The cathedral’s exterior is a stretching magnificence that reaches to the sheer decline of the bluff. The connection of art and deep spirituality is apparent in the interior double-leveled basilica constructed in the 13th century. Saint Francis’s tomb was hidden for almost 600 years before being rediscovered in 1818 and which is now visited by pilgrims and curious tourists. The subdued light of the lower church offers a quieter scene of the verve and piety of Saint Francis with frescoes that depict the saint in his earlier life. Filled with the herbaceous scents of frankincense and myrrh, there is also an enjoyable noiselessness that fills the smaller chamber. Strolling through the rising cobblestone street of San Rufino will eventually bring you to the Rocca Maggiore, the large fortress. The long walkway and octagonal tower will open up the vast view of the valley below showing off the sweeping land all the way to the rival city of Perugia. 

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, tour, accommodation

Day 6 – The Tuscan Marvels

Florence is a city marked by the Masters, from literature to art, architecture to papacy. The historic city center continues to sparkle in the eye of an unforgettable past, home to Dante Alighieri, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Giotto, and more. Today you will explore the vast beauty of the city just by walking through the streets. The Duomo, or Santa Maria del Fiore, is an example of brilliance and ingenuity, maintaining its status as the largest brick dome in the world. The construction took almost 80 years to complete and was eventually finished in 1380, with the exception of Brunelleschi’s dome, completed in 1436.  The intricate gothic façade shimmers with colorful marble while the interior is a marvelous cavern decorated with luscious stained glass windows and a fabulous fresco celebrating Dante’s Divine Comedy.

After a delicious lunch you will begin to explore the Florence that Michelangelo once called home. You will discover the few David replicas that decorate the city, including the one at Piazzale Michelangelo which overlooks the historic city center, and the statue that sits in front of the municipality building of Palazzo Vecchio. Step into the Galleria dell’Accademia, an art school that has continually taught countless students the diverse crafts of the art world. The walls are pristine and the halls are quiet. The open space of the museum is filled with classic musical instruments and intricate sculptures, none more iconic than Michelangelo’s David standing proudly on its own at the end of a long hall. Its allure is unquestionable. The sensational design and construction is breathtaking. The sculpture’s sheer size of over 14 feet tall amazes and causes you to wonder how anyone could have created such a splendid piece of artwork.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, tour, transfer, accommodation

Day 7 – Essential Secretes Revealed

Strolling through Piazza Signoria you will witness the imposing brick façade of the Palazzo Vecchio which gives way to the neo-classical beauty of the Uffizi Gallery as it stretches along and encircles the cobblestone plaza. The Uffizi Gallery is one of the most famous museums in the world, filled with artistry from Botticelli to Da Vinci, Raphael to Titian. Originally constructed for the Medici, the museum took its current form in 18th century when it opened to the public, taking the stately halls and turning them into opulent viewing galleries. It feels like walking through the hallways of a palace and sneaking glances at the riches of royals; in a way that is exactly what you are doing. Botticelli’s Primavera, is on display. It was painted in the late 15th century and continues to mesmerize audiences today.

Venus stands at the center of the painting with the Three Graces dancing to her right while Amor hovers above, ready to let loose his arrow. If you look closely you can see the terror of the Chloris on the right side of the painting as Zephyrus, the wind god, reaches for her. As you continue your exploration through the gallery you will come to the secret passageway of the Medici’s, known as the Vasari Corridor, usually closed to the public. The corridor was built in 1564 linking the Old Palace with the Pitti Palace across the Arno River. You can walk through the entire corridor sheltered from the outside city, crossing the goldsmiths of the Ponte Vecchio, and taking in the views of the city from the river, and those of hidden masterworks dating back as far as the 16th century.

What’s Included: breakfast, dinner, tour, accommodation

Day 8 – Northern Capitals

The Renaissance streets of Florence will soon be left behind as you make your way northbound towards the canal city of Venice. En route you will stop at Ravenna whose charm was once within the reach of the Venetian empire. Much of the city’s character lies in its stone buildings, open squares, and the celebrated churches that have graced Ravenna since the ages of the Byzantines. The Neonian Baptistery is an octagonal building that was constructed in the 5th century and is the oldest monument in the city. The brick exterior brings a bit of forceful structure but gentle coloration to the architecture while the shape brings a distinctive quality not often witnessed.

It looks as though the building has been sucked beneath the level ground until you are told that street level in the city has risen almost 10 feet since its original construct. Inlaid marble reaches across the walls with images of saints. The soft atmosphere brings an echoed silence from the inside the walls. Within the baptistery’s central cupola is a marvelous mosaic lining the circular structure, with a depiction of the Baptism of Christ at the center. For lunch you will test the fame of Ravenna’s pastas including freshly made Tagliatelle and Tortellini, before arriving in the celebrated city of Venice.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, tour, accommodation

Day 9 – Beside the Storied Canals

The morning sun glistens off of the waterway getting you ready to explore the iconic Italian city. Saint Mark’s Square is a magnificent open plaza surrounded by the quintessential Venetian architecture of the Doge’s Palace and the towering Byzantine domes of Saint Mark’s Basilica. Follow your guide through the staples of the city, over the Rialto Bridge, through the Rialto Market and into “hidden Venice,” found in the Chiesa dei Frari. The construction of the church was completed in 1396 giving rise to the Italian Gothic style brick that rises over the low-lying square.

The magnificent church houses the tomb of the Renaissance master Titian, along with several masterworks themselves. The series of vaulted windows rises behind the altar giving natural light to polished columns and lofted interior. Left of the aisle you can see Titian’s Madonna di Ca’ Pesaro; those who looked closely at the Madonna said that she was modeled after Titian’s late wife. Soon you will find yourself in the open air of the city, climbing aboard a gondola and journeying down the treasured canals, romanticized in stories, movies, and music. In the evening you will dine on luscious traditional Venetian cuisine followed by the elegant sounds of a traditional baroque concert.

What’s Included: breakfast, dinner, tour, accommodation

Day 10 – Roman Returns

Soon you will leave the famous waters of Venice beyond, watching the Byzantine domes of Saint Mark’s Square fall behind the horizon in exchange for the luxuries of Rome. The city once again comes alive for you, vivacious in its never-ending display of history. The afternoon is yours to explore the streets at your own pace, whether with speed and focus or meandering discovery. For an enjoyable moment in the sun you can do as many Romans do and linger along the Spanish Steps. The stairway mixes curves, vistas, terraces, and straight flights into a Roman Baroque style dating back to 1725. The baroque fountain at the lower end of the stairs is known as the Fountain of the Old Boat, and looks like a sinking ship having been modeled after the legend of an old boat taken by the Tiber River during a flood. Visitors and locals walk up and down the stairway nestled between two strong buildings; some people take the time to sit along the steps, sipping a glass of wine or eating a small sandwich and letting the day easily pass by. In the evening you will have one last taste of traditional Roman dishes to help say farewell to the essence of Italy.

What’s Included: breakfast, dinner, transfer, accommodation

Day 11 – The Essence Continues

There is effortlessness to the morning in Rome; you can look out and see the day begin with the scent of fresh espresso and sweet brioches. People stroll to work while vibrant florists stay open all evening for a reason of which no one is certain. Before a private transfer takes you to the airport you can enjoy one last walk through the historic center, taking in the grandeur of the Trevi Fountain in the morning shade. Visit the neo-classical statues representing Roman gods. Turn around, throw a coin over your shoulder and make sure it goes in; it’s a sign that you will soon come back to Rome.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer

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Price

Starting Price 

$3,020
This trip is customizable for your private travel.

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.