Visions of the Past: Art & History Tour of Rome and Elba Island

A 10 day trip to Italy 
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The splendors of Rome and the beaches of Elba offer the perfect escape into mystique, legend, and opulent history. Your 10-day tour immerses you in the continued grandeur of empires and the stunning beauty of the Mediterranean landscape. Witness captivating mythology captured by Bernini in timeless sculptures. Enjoy kneading soft dough against your skin as you shape delectable pasta. Embrace the lavish palaces of Napoleon during his island exile and bask in the warm sunlight glinting off the turquoise Mediterranean Sea. Legend and history blend into an exciting getaway when relaxing in the luxuries of Rome and Elba.

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General Information

Seahorse in Pianosa Island. Photo Credit: Diving in Elba
School of Fish. Photo Credit: Diving in Elba
Ship Wreck. Photo Credit: Diving in Elba
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Rome, Vatican City, Elba, Rio Marina, Anello Occidentale, Monte Capanne, Marciana, Costa del Sole, Orbetello, Cerveteri, Portoferraio 

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Rome – Collecting Iconic Rome

The city of Rome sprouted from mythology, founded by the brothers Romulus and Remus. A hint of mystique emanates from the boulevards and meandering narrow cobblestone alleys. The city has evolved over more than 3,000 years, connecting its past to the ruins of the Roman Empire, medieval castles, Renaissance artwork, baroque piazzas, and the daily bustle of locals sipping espresso en route to the office. Your flight lands at Fiumicino Airport where you meet your private transfer at baggage claim. The allure of Rome grips you from the moment you enter the lavish lobby of your hotel.

The former palace contains gilded window frames and antique furniture harkening back to the days of when ambassadors strolled along the polished marble floors and gazed at the colorful mosaics. Your guide meets you in the lobby after you have had time to settle into the comforts of your room. The sunlight glints off the golden brick buildings bordering the cobblestone lanes of the historic city center. You make your way through the iconic opulence of the Eternal City, beginning with the Trevi Fountain.

The water system has helped bring water to Rome since the Aqua Virgo Aqueduct was erected in the 1st century BC. The gorgeous edifice now framing the water source was erected in the 18th century under the patronage of Pope Clemens XII. The structure stands on the back of Palazzo Poli at a height of 86 feet. The imposing figure of Oceanus stands at the center of the fountain framed by a neoclassical arch. Horses pull the shell chariot and offer a sense of symmetry to the quintessential fountain of Rome. 

What’s Included: transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 2: Rome – A Classic View

Cafés set out tables and chairs along the edges of Piazza Navona in the morning. Artists flock to the square to paint the baroque palaces and detailed figures adorning the central fountains. The scent of espresso drifts out of the café doors across the city. Your guide meets you in the lobby after breakfast and escorts you on an encompassing tour of Rome’s ancient history and the gorgeous structures that have overtaken the antique hillsides. The Colosseum continues to strike wonder into the hearts of visitors from around the world. The outer walls stand more than 155 feet tall and once supported 240 masts, which held together the massive awning shading the upwards of 50,000 spectators. The scent of seasoned stone emanates from the walls inside the entrance arches.

The tunnel opens to the sun-drenched Hypogeum, the former arena floor once covered by a wood stage. The sunken labyrinth once contained gladiators and wild animals waiting for their turn to enter the arena erupting with cheers and jeers. You heart beats rapidly with the knowledge that you are standing where tens of thousands of Romans had stood before you, each eager to watch the games. Imperial Rome and the Renaissance mix on Palatine Hill, the oldest settlement in Rome. The knoll stands at the center of Rome’s seven hills, crowned by the imposing frame of Domus Flavia, the 1st century home to Emperor Domitian. In the afternoon, you meet your cooking instructor at a private kitchen eager to learn the art and soul of Roman cuisine.

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

Day 3: Rome – A Taste of Rome

At breakfast, you relish the flavor of a sweet, buttery brioche accompanied by a rich espresso. The flavors contrast one another with bitter and sweet for a perfect combination. The market at Campo de’ Fiori opens to the fanfare of locals intent on buying fresh produce for their evening meal. Eggplants shine dark purple in their crates and tomatoes glow a succulent ruby. The citrus aroma of oranges emanates from the produce stands beside an artisan bread maker offering samples of fresh loaves and homemade olive oil.

Your guide leads you from the hotel into the heart of a mid-morning dessert with a private gelato tour of Rome. The radiant colors of the freshly made gelato shine in the windows of the gelateria. The interior fills with the aromas of vanilla, cream, and cinnamon. Each store has their specialty, from refreshing strawberry to indulgent chocolate and truffle. At your last stop, the gelato maker invites you behind the counter to try your hand at crafting one of the flavors on offer in the shop. You blend egg yolks and sugar until frothy, straining the mixture into a bowl before freezing the concoction.

It is a labor of creativity and passion. Satisfy your sweet tooth before venturing to Vatican City for an after-hours tour of the famous Museum. The marble floors and glinting chandeliers remind you of an elegant palace. The small groups allow you to enjoy the art, architecture, and history of the museum without the expected crowds. When you reach the Raphael Rooms, you have an unobstructed view of School of Athens, in which the master artist used bright colors and the allegory of philosophers in Ancient Greece to pay homage to the artists of his day.

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

Day 4: Rome – On the Grounds of the Borghese

The ancient world gave birth to the Renaissance and the Baroque movements, with artists who gathered inspiration from the classics. Rome returns to life in the morning with flower stalls on the corner of the streets offering bouquets to passersby. The familiar aroma of espresso returns to the open cafes. You set out with your guide to the grounds of the Borghese Villa, which overlooks Piazza del Popolo. The gardens crown the otherwise urban expanse in a refreshing emerald canopy. Cardinal Scipione Borghese established the villa in the 17th century, filling the halls and galleries with luxurious furniture, elaborate frescoes, and opulent portraits.

The private collection boasts works by Caravaggio, Raphael, and Titian. The neoclassical décor provides a perfect frame for the works strung along the walls. The entrance hall contains mosaics from the 4th century AD depicting gladiators in combat. The high walls of the hallway contain a stunning bas-relief depicting a horse and its rider falling through the air. The stunning artistry connotes the passion with which Cardinal Scipione collected the works of his day, including in Sala I, which contains the sculptures of Gian Lorenzo Bernini in spectacular fashion, highlighting the flamboyance of pagan myths.

Your guide points out the detail of Daphne’s hands transitioning into swirling leaves in the sculpture Apollo e Dafne. After exploring the aesthetic splendor of the villa, you enter into the gardens, often referred to as Rome’s Central Park. Azaleas and hydrangeas blossom in the mixture of trees, fountains, and statues. Locals jog and bike ride along the trails, enjoying the touch of the countryside at the heart of the city. You open your picnic lunch of traditional Italian delicacies to enjoy in the comforting shade of the Borghese Park.  

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

Day 5: Rome – Transitioning Rome

The morning light washes over the ancient bridge connecting the historic city center of Rome to Castel Sant’Angelo. Statues designed by Bernini and crafted by his students adorn the walkway leading to the papal castle. Today you have a unique tour of Rome, taking you to the stunning and often overlooked churches highlighting the evolution of the Catholic Church in the Eternal City, along with religion’s connection to art across the millennia. San Giovanni in Laterano was established before the papal exile to Avignon, making it the original Episcopal church of the pope as of the early 4th century. The façade contains an inscription in Latin stating, “Mother and head of all the churches of the city and the world.”

The baroque décor was crafted between the 16th and 17th centuries but have maintained the integrity of the Constantinian design. The interior contains the aroma of frankincense and myrrh, offering a hint of spice to accompany the artistic elegance and historic significance. Architects took the bronze doors from the ancient Curia in the Roman Forum. Timber adorns the ceilings and mosaics imitate the images of the early Christian original artwork. Your guide explains that the octagonal baptistery of San Giovanni in Fonte is the oldest of its kind of all of Christendom. The Holy Staircase consists of 28 marble steps of which legend states were taken from Pilate’s palace in Jerusalem in the 4th century.

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 6: Rome – Ancient Life Above and Below Rome

The Appian Way was once the most important road of the Roman Empire, connecting the imperial capital to the southern port of Brindisi on the Adriatic Coast. A 10-mile portion of the road remains intact and protected inside a regional park. The roadway was originally erected in the 4th century BC to allow the legions easier movement across the empire. The original stones remain in place, connected by mortar. Tombs of important Romans rise out from alongside the pathway.

It was illegal to bury people inside the city proper, allowing wealthy noblemen or merchants to build lavish tombs for their families, including the preserved tomb of Cecilia Metella, the wife of a famous general. The white stone continues to shimmer in the sunlight against the emerald trees surrounding the stone base. Beneath the street winds a network of catacombs belonging to early Christians. The walls are damp and cool to the touch. Your footsteps echo deep into the cavernous space.

The Catacombs of St. Sebastian were created in the 4th century AD and descend four stories beneath the Appian Way. Roman saints, including St. Sebastian, were interned in the hollows, inspiring early Christians to be buried in saintly company. You pass a grotto decorated with a fish, an image combining pagan life with Christian messages. You return to your hotel and freshen up for your dinner cruise on the Tiber River. The boat disembarks and glides down the waterway, offering unique views of the city glowing against the night sky.

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

Day 7: Elba – The Treasured Land and Sea

Today you meet your private transfer after breakfast and venture north to the Tuscan port of Piombino. En route, you stop to see the ancient Etruscan tombs at Cerveteri. The necropolis encompasses more than one mile, containing magnificent monumental tombs crafted out of tufa rock. From a distance, the mounds look like natural hills, but upon closer inspection you find edifices illustrating the prestige of families able to afford quality in both life and death. A private guide leads you through the walkways beside sporadic mounds. Doorways open to steps leading down into the edge of the tombs offering views to precious metals, illustrated vases, and jewelry imported from Greece and the Near East.

Cypress trees grow in the UNESCO heritage site as they have for thousands of years, casting slivers of shade over the historic tombs. The world of the Etruscans, a civilization thriving before the rise of Rome, comes to life in the way the culture respected the cycle of life. You continue northbound and board the ferry to Portoferraio, Elba. The water sprays around the boat while on the Mediterranean Sea. The vibrant turquoise hues surround you. In the distance, you find an outline of the limestone cliffs and verdant hilltops of the island. The ferry docks, you have a private transfer to your hotel located in a historic villa overlooking the gorgeous seaside promontories and precipices with a view of the fortress positioned dramatically above the town of Portoferraio.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer, accommodation

Day 8: Elba – An Elba Panorama 

Elba is one of the seven Tuscany islands that mythology states grew from stones that had fallen from Venus’s tiara as she rose from the waves. The harbor in Portoferraio glints with 16th-century hilltop fortifications established by the Medici family. The palaces resided in by Napoleon during his exile exude opulence and prestige fitting of the former emperor in search of world rule. At breakfast, you sip on a refreshing cappuccino and relish the frothy top layer. The aroma of the lush grass outside the villa blends with the scent of the sea clinging to the breeze.

You venture to the town of Marciana after your meal to visit the serene streets perched above the sea on the northern slope of Mount Capanne. The mountain summit reaches a height of more than 3,340 feet above sea level. Granite rock offers flecks of gray, white, and black between the verdant chestnut trees and shrubs. The town overlooks the precipices to the sea, offering a spectacular panorama of the turquoise Mediterranean Sea. The medieval design of the town provides narrow alleyways and steep steps meandering between the 10th-century castles of Fortezza Pisana and the Zecca.

A gondola offers a pristine view of the red-tiled roofs of Marciana. The greenery below gives way to the high-altitude boulders, along with the glowing rooftops of Portoferraio in the distance. The gondola connects Marciana to the Monte Capanne summit. Upon your return to town, you can relax at the marina beneath the town, watching the masts of the sailboats wade in the calm water. A rampart edges the breakwater with a stone tower. Sit at a café table on along the promenade and enjoy a glass of wine in the aroma of freshly-made decadent risotto cooked in squid ink.      

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 9: Elba – True History Around Elba

Today is at your leisure, allowing you to relish the sunlight by basking on the shores of Fetovaia Beach or participate in an exclusive scuba dive excursion along the coastal waters of Pianosa island with Diving in Elba. After breakfast, you can even visit the Sanctuary of the Madonna delle Grazie, which overlooks the gulf. The limestone promontories near your villa slope down into the crystalline turquoise waters of the Elba Nature and National Park, the largest protected area in Italy, encompassing 148,263 acres of sea and nearly 44,480 acres of land.

For an unforgettable day around the island, you venture to the marina at Portoferraio and board a sailboat. Your skipper introduces you to the tasks at hand, allowing you to take part in casting the sails and catching the wind. The sea splashes against the hull of the boat. You feel exhilarated while calling out to the captain. The shoreline of the island fades as you travel between Elba and Corsica in search of dolphins and whales. Once out to sea, the skipper has you draw in the sails to enjoy the calm and relaxing movement of the water.

For your dive excursion of a lifetime with Diving in Elba, your guide will escort you to the dive center where you will begin your adventure. The experts at Diving in Elba will take you to the island of Pianosa. Since 2013 the National Park has given special access to just a few dive centers to dive along the marine park of Pianosa Island. This place, once a prison, is now an underwater paradise where you can come face to face with several spectacular species of fish and other sea life. After a long day of diving in the one of the most exclusive dive locations in Italy, make yourself comfortable for your scenic boat ride back to shore and enjoy a satisfying meal.

What’s Included: breakfast, accommodation

Day 10: Elba – Closing the Distance

In the morning, the sunlight washes over the signs of 17th-century Spanish Rule at Porto Azzurro. The Fort of San Giacomo soars above the contemporary life of the port, overlooking the docks, pizzeria, and boutique shops in a sweeping panorama. The baroque church of San Giacomo Apostolo rises out of the village once dominated by the Pisan navy. The 11th-century tabernacles provide insight into the true age of the structure beneath the Spanish embellishments resembling the churches of Barcelona. After breakfast, you have a private transfer to the airport at Marina di Campo for your flight to Galileo Galilei Airport in Pisa, where you make your connection home. 

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer 


Starting Price 

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.