Your Italy vacation begins as the morning breaks clear and crisp as you coast to the ground near the famous Seven Hills of Rome, the modern day capital of Italy. After breezing your way through customs, you’ll be taken from the airport to your chic and elegant hotel situated in the heart of this magnificent metropolis. Drop off your bags, freshen up after your flight, and maybe head down to find a local café for your first taste of Italian espresso before setting out for a glimpse of the incredible offerings of Rome.
The afternoon is yours, free to uncover the magic of this ancient and august capital: venture into the hallowed halls of the Pantheon and marvel at the oculus in the center of the beautiful dome, or walk along the famed Spanish Steps, the widest staircase in Europe made famous by Gregory Peck and Aubrey Hepburn in the classic Roman Holiday. This evening, stop by one of Rome’s famous restaurants for southern Italian comfort, including some of the best pizza on the peninsula.
Masterpieces of human creativity and stunning monuments to the glory of God await you, as you head to one of the holiest sites in Christendom and the smallest sovereign state in the world: Vatican City. Begin by touring the halls of the world famous Vatican Museum, housing some of the greatest works of religious art as well as the best-known works of the Italian Renaissance, like Raphael’s monumental fresco The School of Athens. The museum ends in spectacular fashion as you crane your neck upwards to take in all the glorious detail of the world’s most famous ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo’s beatific vision and seemingly divine skills are on full display throughout the length of this magnificent structure, and his colossal altar fresco, The Last Judgment, is truly breathtaking in its savage beauty and fearsome imagery.
After leaving the Vatican Museums, you’ll enter the venerable Basilica of St. Peter, towering majestically above the banks of the Tiber and the swelling city beyond. See the statue of Peter himself in the main nave, his foot rubbed to a dull but spotless sheen by the constant touch of pilgrims, or gaze upon the crowning glory of the young Michelangelo, the most famous Pieta in the canon. Your tour continues with an exploration of the altar area and the crypts below where some of the greatest popes in history still lie buried.
Rome is a city where even history has history, where the past is so vibrant and multifaceted that you could only hope to know even half of it. Today, you experience the city’s secret side, a hidden story centuries in the making. You’ll learn about the eerie and suspicious history of the Templar Order in Rome, the sensational life of Caravaggio – one of the Renaissance’s most talented, flamboyant and troubled painters – and the feud between Borromini and Bernini that gave Rome some of its greatest works of art, like the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi and the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone. While you’ll be enthralled by the tales of these famous Romans, you’ll wind past some of the city’s best and most famous sites, from the Piazza Navona and the Trevi Fountain, to the expansive Spanish Steps.
The evening features a delicious dinner in a typical Roman trattoria, filled with the boisterous love and good-hearted cheer of an Italian crowd enjoying another beautiful night in this city of never-ending glory.
Say goodbye to the streets of Rome and head north, towards the gentle green undulations of picturesque Tuscany, one of Italy’s most famous regions and the home to some of the most sensational natural scenery in the entire country. Here the iconic amber hills are dotted with the tall, thin trunks of trees jutting into a sapphire sky, and your eye might catch the ochre roof of a country villa that could be centuries old, a relic of a time when this was the heartlands of the Italian nobility.
Your private driver will take you first to Siena, one of the country’s loveliest and best-preserved medieval towns, where the stolid walls and winding cobblestone lanes evoke an Italian past filled with the amorous stanzas of Tuscan sonnets and the joys of rustic elegance. Walk the famous Il Campo in the heart of Siena, the site of the twice annual Palio, one of the most famous horse races in Europe, before setting out for a bucolic and scrumptious lunch at a nearby farmhouse, surrounded by grape vines and olive trees and the comforting warmth of Italian smiles.
Continue your Tuscan excursion at the towered town of San Gimignano, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its incredible skyline, the result of a Renaissance arms race that led to a city crowned by panoply of soaring structures. The voyage ends in Florence, the capital of Tuscany and the heart of the Italian Renaissance, where an incredible hotel and a delicious and authentic Florentine dinner await.
This is the city where some of the greatest artists in the Western World honed their skills and plied their trade; this is where the ambition of one family turned a relatively small northern city into a dominant power on the Italian continent; and this is where great testaments to this tremendous past can still be found. Your morning is spent on a private tour of the best sites of Florence, from the off-center tower of the Pallazzo Vecchio to the bustling of the nearby Piazza della Signoria, and from the multicolored façade of the city’s famous Duomo and Giotto’s climbing bell tower to the graceful expanse of the Ponte Vecchio, where you can find some of the best jewelry in the city.
The afternoon can be spent discovering the artistic hotspots of Florence, home to truly sensational works of painting and sculpture. The Uffizi houses one of the largest collections of Renaissance art in the world, while the Accademia showcases the works of Michelangelo, including the inspiring and breathtaking David. From the timeless pieces of the 15th and 16th century to the stirring works of more recent artists, you’ll find Florence one of the great art cities on the planet.
Your respite in Tuscany flies swiftly by, and you find yourself on board a train that will take you across the rugged and beautiful north of Italy, where small towns like Bologna and Padua greet you with a simple smile and offerings of some of the best and most authentic Italian food you can imagine. Your trek is sure to be filled with memorable exploits and unforgettable sights, capped off by your ultimate arrival in Venice, the romantic and resplendent Queen of the Adriatic, the Floating City that has inspired artists, poets, actors and intellectuals since its heyday as the Most Serene Republic of Venice.
In the afternoon, get out and explore this remarkable place. Take a water taxi along the Grand Canal and check out the city’s central attractions: the Byzantine domes and lavish detailing of St. Mark’s Basilica, the soaring grace of the red-bricked campanile climbing more than 300 feet above the Piazza San Marco, the shimmer of the water across the lagoon, and the haze of the islands of Venice beyond. This is a city of startling beauty, of peaceful splendor and timeless elegance: it is truly a city unlike anywhere else on Earth.
For your last full day in Italy, venture further afield to the other islands of Venice to learn about this area’s incredible history and discover the cultural artifacts that are still produced to this day. The nearby island of Murano, for instance, is known around the world for its high quality glass-work, particularly lampworking, while the charming island of Burano greets you with its brightly hued homes and store fronts that line the edge of the lagoon: it is also one of the best places to find lacework in southern Europe.
There are a number of excellent museums to visit in Venice as well. The Doge’s Palace, adjacent to St. Mark’s Basilica, features a number of excellent exhibits dedicated to Venice’s rich and fascinating past, including a trip over the celebrated Bridge of Sighs, where convicted felons allegedly whispered their terrible longings for the city before entering the depths of the jail cells of the Ducal Palace. Art lovers will find themselves surrounded by choice as well – the Gallerie dell’Accademia has a great collection of Renaissance art, and the Peggy Guggenheim’s collection offers a fantastic assortment of modern art situated in a magnificent part of the city.
Today is your departure day. As you board your plane, say goodbye to a place that most definitely captured your heart and lifted your spirit with its sights, colors and aromas. The mesmerizing images will stay with you forever, and this may well be just an “Arrivederci.”
The soaring rise of the dome of Santa Maria del Fiori jutting gracefully into the Tuscan sky, the sleek lines of a gondola cutting across the Grand Canal, the amazing scene at the Trevi Fountain: all this and more await visitors to Florence, Venice and Rome, three of Italy’s best destinations. This 8-day Italy tour will give you the perfect introduction to these Big Three, showing the best sights, sounds and tastes that this amazing country has to offer.
Take in the scene at the incredible Colosseum and the endless exhibits of the Vatican Museum before setting off for a secret tour of resplendent, glorious Rome. Gaze at the offerings at the Uffizi and the Accademia, or simply watch the flow of Florentines from an outside table at a café on the Piazza della Signoria. Finally, wind your way through Venice’s curvy streets and mysterious canals, discovering the jewels of the city that exist off the the wide Grand Canal.
These are the cities of song and myth, and are the metropolises that gave the world stirring acts of culture and the best-known moments in history. They’ve been calling for visitors for centuries, promising to share their lessons and secrets, freely offering their minds and hearts: it’s time to accept their offer.
$4795 per person (excluding international flights)
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