Highlights of Italy Tour 2019-2020

A 13 day trip to Italy 
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The endless variety of Italy is highlighted on this custom tailored 2019-2020 tour along the country’s best sites, within marvelous cities and magnificent landscapes. Witness the intricate detail of Michelangelo’s David. Wander through the antiquity of Rome, where the sensational Colosseum continues to tower over the columns of the Forum. From the romantic canals of Venice to the astounding remains of Pompeii, you will wander along Italy at its best, immersing yourself in exceptional coastline and breathtaking cliff sides, and a different world of which many have only dreamed. 

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Most tours are customized for private travel.

General Information

Photos
Arno River Rafting through Florence. Photo Credit: Firenze Rafting
Rafting under Ponte Vecchio. Photo Credit: Firenze Rafting
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Venice, Florence, Siena, Chianti, Pisa, Rome, Pompeii, Sorrento, Amalfi Coast, Amalfi, Positano, Capri

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1 – The Best View

The plane arrives in Venice and you can sense the history and celebration of the city no matter the time of year, from Carnival to autumn. You are met at the airport by a private transfer and guided along the water taxi, traversing the Grand Canal where boats and gondolas roam, viewing the arching domes and pink bell tower that rise over St. Mark’s square. Arrive at your hotel located near the historic city center. The energetic cheerful sounds of active visitors are contagious, bringing more excitement to your lavish surroundings. Step out onto the streets and visit the city that has been built on the water. Striding into St. Mark’s Square is an experience in and of itself. The cobblestones are filled with cooing pigeons and jovial children chasing the birds through the open plaza.

You can see people beneath the impressive Byzantine domes of the cathedral with their arms stretched out taking photos as the famous aviaries of Venice line their upper body; St. Mark’s Square is the only area in the city where feeding the birds is legal. You can buy a pack of bird seed from a vendor and hear the feed sprinkle over the stone and the rush of flapping wings, all beneath the encompassing majesty of the opulent façade of the Doge’s Palace and the ancient frescoes that glitter beneath the recessed arches of the basilica. In the evening you will enjoy a traditional Venetian dinner welcoming you to Italy and reminding you that this is only the beginning.

What’s Included: transfer, dinner, accommodation

Day 2 – Within the Patronized Grandeur

The images of Venice are fresh in your mind and right outside your window as you wake in the morning to the scent of fresh cappuccino, a subtle reminder of your surroundings; not that you needed to be reminded. As you make your way back to St. Mark’s Square you will travel deeper into Venice’s stunning history with a tour of the Doge’s Palace. The Palazzo Ducale features quintessential Venetian exterior architecture, a large square structure with arched colonnade wrapping around the palace and along the canal. The interior is even more lavish. The Guariento Room was once linked to the armory by a single staircase; however, it now houses a fresco created by Guariento in the 14th century that was almost destroyed two centuries later. During your visit it is hard to know what rooms were galleries or halls, dormitories or armories, as even the most common room tends to be gilded and decorated. The main fresco of the Guariento Room depicts a version of Paradise within the reminders of a fire centuries ago.

After your magnificent stroll through the iconic square you will journey through the treasured canals of the city by gondola. There is a scent of misty stone throughout the city that is often overtaken by a drifting aroma of luscious cooking. Along the way you will witness glittering windows filled with displays of Murano glass or Carnival masks. As you wade through the waterway you will find what feels like a hidden neighborhood, winding through the artery of the city that has for so long been the image of Romance throughout the world, within the legends of Casanova and even movies such as Indian Jones and the Last Crusade. Private docks continue to stretch from buildings constructed during the Venetian Renaissance, some even older, and offer the best views of the city.

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 3 – No Less than a Renaissance  

The gentle bells of the Campanile di San Marco continue to ring at the hour and feel as though they summon in the morning. After a delicate breakfast of fresh brioche you will board the first-class compartment of a comfortable train, arriving shortly  in the Renaissance city of Florence. At the station you will be met by a private transfer and taken to your accommodation at the heart of the ancient city. The charm of Florence is immediate, within the streets, along the luster of buildings, and even as you step out and see the outdoor museum that has captivated visitors and locals for centuries, from Dante to da Vinci. There is always the alluring aroma of fresh pizza around Piazza Signoria while the creamy and unique flavors of gelato from Perché No will have your mouth watering before you even take a bite.

For an unforgettable adventure, float down the Arno River along the scenic waterways of Florence. Take a break along the way and enjoy a picnic on the shores of the famous river provided by your local guides at Firenze Rafting.

After a brief introduction to the marvelous city of the Renaissance you will come to the Gallerie dell’Accademia, a pristine museum attached to the art school that has guided sculptors and painters throughout history and continues to do so today. Within the cavernous space of the museum you will find the lofty walls dressed with vibrant paintings. Admire the artistry of the sculpture Rape of the Sabines by Giambologna, which features three different people who look to climb over one another in an elegant frozen dance. To the left of the entrance you will find a crowded hall, long and pristine with an open dome at the far end spotlighting the jewel of the exhibit, Michelangelo’s David. No matter how fast you walk through the hall it feels like slow motion, as you make your way to this work that has only been imagined up until this point. The dedicated detail of the statue sculpted in the early 16th century and standing over 14 feet tall is brushed with realism in its remarkable depiction of David before his battle with Goliath. In the evening you will indulge in the traditional dishes of Tuscany, tasting minestra di farro, a succulent soup with beans, sage, garlic, and faro.

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

Day 4 – Artistry for All

The early morning rush of Florence sweeps you up into the cobblestones and comes not from the people but from the city itself, an energetic sunrise that quickly washes away the sleepy night and drapes the city in an electric light that bounces off of the walls.  The energy of the morning will bring you to the Uffizi Gallery. What was once a palace built for the Medici family in the 16th century now holds some of the most magnificent images of the Renaissance. The palace structure is apparent in the pillars that wrap around the square with elegance. Enter the museum and climb the quintessential staircase, wide and made of echoing stone, before coming to the long stretch of hall adorned by statues and classically designed ceilings. The galleries are as decadent as the hallway, where you can imagine a Medici waking just to view one of the masterpieces held within the space, such as Botticelli’s the Adoration of the Magi, or the almost surreal realism of Belinni’s Sacred Allegory.

Later in the day you will meet your guide at Mercate Centrale, the old central market, housed within a brick pavilion. Delectible aromas rush through the open space, from garlic to fresh spinach, prosciutto to honey. You can hear the sizzle of sausages being cooked at one of the many small eateries; local bakers, butchers, and farmers have inhabited the market for generations, continuing their craft without ever having thought of themselves as artisans before present day. Your guide will take you through the market picking out the freshest ingredients which are essential to making Tuscan food, including aromatic fennel. Soon your guide will then demonstrate their knowledge as decorated chef, as they guide you through the cuisine, from the ingredients chosen to the proper ways to slice, julienne, and cut the produce. All the while, your instructor will give you hints and tips as the kitchen begins to fill with lovely fragrances. The only thing better than the scent of the dishes is the taste, as you learn to create and then devour your masterpiece.

What’s Included: breakfast, cooking course, tour, accommodation

Day 5 – The Wandering Hills

The Renaissance world of Florence is surrounded by arguably some of the most beautiful scenery in Italy, the coveted Tuscan hills, where you will come to the medieval walls of Siena. The city is known for its remarkable charm and bareback horse races that take place July 2nd and August 16th within the main square, Piazza del Campo. The angled plaza is watched over by the soaring medieval tower attached to the Palazzo Pubblico, dating back to the 13th century. You can look up and see the magnificent crown on the bell tower, a stone color that stands against the rustic earthen hue of the palace below. Venture through the courtyard and find the high archways of the colonnade which lead to the romantic windows decorated with a Moorish angle.

The city was meant to be explored at a leisurely pace that fits in with the atmosphere; let the buildings surround you and the essence of the city overtake you. The people are friendly and proud of their history. Whether sitting in the main square with a caffé and watching the people come and go or spending the mid-morning in awe of the spectacular Duomo, there is endless majesty to be found. In the afternoon you will find yourself within the Tuscan hills along the open, rolling greenery near the amiable medieval municipality of Chianti. You will delight in a Tuscan lunch and taste the variety of regional wines, including the slightly spiced Chianti itself.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer, lunch, wine tasting, accommodation

Day 6 – View from the Tower

Just outside of the city of Florence is the quiet city of Pisa, where during the day the main streets come alive with cheerful visitors coming to witness the sensational tower. Within the square known as the Field of Miracles you will find the spectacular architecture that has inspired visitors to come to Pisa for centuries. It is not necessarily just the tower,  but also the incredible Duomo beside it. The plaza sits next to the oldest city wall constructed in the 12th century and perfectly preserved. The sheer magnitude of the cathedral is as impressive as the artistry, similar to that of the Leaning Tower, with thin columns creating long arched colonnades that encircle the rotunda. If you look closely you will notice that the Cathedral and the Baptistery are also listing, but by no means to the degree of the tower. Due to the heavy material and soft grounds, as the terrain sunk, the buildings began to tilt. There is much more to Pisa than the Field of Miracles, having been a consistent university town since the 14th century; visit the crafts market outside of Porta Nuova where the true cultural market resides.

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 7 – Known Antiquity

Today you will leave the rolling Tuscan hills behind you and come to the Eternal City, Rome. The energy rushes through the streets with vigor giving a lavish taste of the past and present combined into one. As you make your way to your accommodation in the historic city center you catch a glimpse of the Altare della Patria, a monument built to honor the first king of a united Italy, Victor Emmanuel. The monument is affectionately known to the Romans as “The Wedding Cake.” After you settle into your comfortable accommodations you can step out into the incredible city which teems with historical significance, from ruins to churches, fountains to markets.

Meander through the historical center and come to the remarkable Pantheon. The ancient temple constructed in 125AD was dedicated to all the pagan gods; however, in the Middle Ages it was consecrated as a church. The impressive dome remains the largest unreinforced concrete dome ever constructed. Step past the immaculate pillared pediment; once inside you will marvel at the arched vault ceilings said to symbolize the heavens. Sunken panels are evenly spaced along the ceiling as the polished marble floor lends echo to your footsteps.  In the evening you will enjoy a typical Roman dinner at a local trattoria. Traditional dishes such as saltimbocca, veal cutlet cooked in white wine with sage leaves and draped with prosciutto, give a succulent and decadent end to the illuminating day.

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

Day 8 – History’s Best

This morning you can see the sun shine over Rome’s antiquity as you wake up to the inviting aroma of fresh espresso. The dark roast gives you an extra zip before you are met by your guide and venture out into a historic day. Come to one of the most recognizable icons of Rome, the Colosseum, filled with lofty arches that circle around in a grand scale of human ingenuity and historic preservation. The Roman Forum is situated adjacent to the imposing rotunda, where the Corinthian columns of past buildings continue to straddle the hill.

What was once the center of politics and social living has remained at the forefront of people’ thoughts in regards to the vast history of Rome. The Arch of Septimius Severus is a delicately molded quadrangular with a central large arch flanked by detailed reliefs and smaller arches built to commemorate the victory of the Parthians. As you venture through the hillside you find the remaining columns from the Temple of Saturn, along with what remains of the Basilica Julia. At the heart of ancient Rome you can almost hear the ancient city come alive, mixing with the modern streets and the people who continue to visit a city that has captured hearts and minds for thousands of years. The afternoon is at your leisure to explore the many pleasantries of the city, from Piazza Navona to the Trevi Fountain. In the evening you could even enjoy an indulgent dining experience in one of the many delicious restaurants of Rome city center, whose ambiance will make you feel like one of the family.  

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 9 – The Opulence of a Church

The opulence of Saint Peter’s Square guides you in, encircled by a colonnade that leads on either side to St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican’s heart. An obelisk rises tall at the center of the square like a beacon calling to pilgrims and priests, visitors and locals, letting everyone know they have arrived within the cobblestone safety of the principality. Once in the Vatican Museum, it is hard not freeze in overwhelmed excitement. The collections seem to go on for days, containing one of the largest art collections in the world with over nine-miles of pieces, and filled with paintings and sculptures, busts and jewelry, all within the luxurious halls of immaculate architecture.

As you walk through the gilded halls of the map room you find the paneled arched gallery glistening in the light around colorful art pieces that run from floor to ceiling. The crown jewel of the museum is the Sistine Chapel, home to Michelangelo’s famous work which took four years to complete. You arrive in the gallery, which is filled with an aroma reminiscent of myrrh, and come to a room filled with people all craning their necks upwards. The paneled paintings are remarkable, filled with impeccable detail. If you look closely at the tree from which Eve took the forbidden fruit you can see that the shapes of the leaves are in tune with a Fig Tree, a detail often hidden from a quick glance. In the evening you can enjoy a sweet, creamy taste of gelato as you sit in Piazza Navona, like so many Romans do, listening to the gentle strum of guitar and the late night buzz of the city.

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 10 – What Remains

The abrupt end to the city of Pompeii has left a sensational mark on history and remains today, giving insight into the Roman past and its shaping of the rest of the world. The city was covered in ash during a large eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD; its peak continues to grace the skyline in the distance. The city became an important commercial port with upwards of 20,000 people before being covered in a wall of ash and mud. The city was immense in ancient standards, stretching far and wide beneath the looming volcano. The earthen scent of stone and soil mixes into the greenery that has developed in the main square.

As you are guided through the site you will pass what were once shops and homes, filled with relics, form earthenware to mosaics and which continue to decorate the city after almost two millennia. Within the House of Faun you will find one of the most impressive private residences of the city and the excavated mosaic of Alexander the Great in battle. The detail of the artwork is in the characteristics of the warriors and their horses, creating the scene with propriety and realism, and a  sense of perspective along the battlefield. After your tour you will come to Sorrento, the graceful city built along the bay, which rises into the cliffs, making a safe, relaxed, and stunning atmosphere for you to perch. 

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

Day 11 – Stretching the Coast

Just over the hills of Sorrento you will find the sparkling waters and remarkable cliffs of the Amalfi Coast. The remarkable sweep of coastal cities, twisting roadway, and immaculate scenery has captured the hearts of movie stars and visitors throughout time; you can see why as you gaze out over the sapphire water that brushes against the rocky alcoves below. The ride along the coast is an adventure in itself as your guide weaves along the narrow two-way road. Pass the lovely city of Positano that climbs up the mountainside, touching down at the water with pink and white houses as the soft scent of citrus mixes with that of the sweet sea.

Once in the city of Amalfi you will immediately notice how the buildings run along the jutting mountain and weave into the recess. The quaint atmosphere comes from how small the city feels, and the lovely architecture that would blend into the craggy hillside if not for the bright colors. The Cathedral of Saint Andrea has a long, wide stairway that leads up to the elevated portico where a tripartite of archways awaits you. The entire complex dates back to the 13th century. The sparkling interior comes as much from the immaculate architecture as from the frescoes that you can see decorating the ceilings surrounded by glinted frames. From Amalfi you will take an easy and delightful boat trip to the island of Capri, home to the famous Blue Grotto. The water glows a florescent azure within the cave’s dim light, caused by an underwater cavity that captures the sunlight and creates a colorful reflection.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer, boat trip, accommodation

Day 12 – Side of Greece

Dating back to a time before the Roman’s held immense power, the temples of Paestum decorate the open fields of the southern countryside with the best preserved Greek ruins in Italy. Stepping in front of the Temple of Hera is a daunting and exhilarating moment. The large, girthed pillars hold together the sensational pediment that encircles a large expanse dating back to the original construction in the 7th century BC. The magnitude of the temple, along with the surrounding landscapes, from the green grass to the mountainous distance, gives a lovely grace to the antiquity. Later in the day you will return to Rome with the city at your whim in the afternoon. When the evening settles over the city’s grandeur you will enjoy a farewell dinner, filled with the flavors that you have fallen in love with over your time in Italy.

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

Day 13 – Of the Fond Farewells

There is never an easy way to say goodbye, especially when it’s to the best of a country so ready to embrace you as one of its own. From Roman ruins to Grecian temples, Venetian waterways to Florentine art, you have made your way through the extraordinary cities of Italy. You have fallen in love with the fabulous countryside, and witnessed the variety of flavors, textures, and history that have mesmerized countless people before you. As you make your way to the airport to make your flight home you know that the best of Italy will be there to one day welcome you back.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer

For ideas on how to customize this trip, browse the luxury travel reviews for ideas and to read about traveler's experiences.

Price

Starting Price 

$3,570
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.