ROMEWelcome and farewell dinners with wine at a local restaurant; guided sightseeing, visit the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Square and Basilica, the Colosseum and Roman ForumORVIETORide a funicular though the ramparts and visit the cathedralFLORENCE Guided walking tour, visit Michelangelo’s David, and Signoria SquarePISA Marvel at the legendary Leaning Tower VENICEPrivate boat ride; guided walking tour, visit St. Mark’s Square and Basilica, Doges’ Palace and the Bridge of Sighs; glassblower demonstration; prosecco aperitivoASSISIGuided sightseeing, visit St. Clare’s Church and St. Francis’ BasilicaPOMPEIIGuided walking tour of the excavations NAPLES–CAPRI–SORRENTO By jetfoilCAPRI Funicular ride; guided sightseeing, open taxi ride to Anacapri, visit Villa San Michele, boat ride around the island; a special dinner with wine and seaviewHeadsets throughout the tour
DAY 1Arrive in Rome, Italy
Welcome to Rome! At 5 pm, meet your Tour Director and traveling companions, and leave the hotel for a special welcome dinner with wine at one of Rome’s lively restaurants. (Dinner)
Sightseeing with your Local Guide starts with a visit to the VATICAN MUSEUMS and SISTINE CHAPEL, world famous for Michelangelo’s ceiling paintings and The Last Judgement. Continue to monumental ST. PETER’S SQUARE and BASILICA. Cross the Tiber and visit the COLOSSEUM and the ROMAN FORUM, where Roman legions marched in triumph. To make the most of your stay, join our optional Roman Highlights excursion, and see the sites and squares of medieval Rome made famous in the movie Angels and Demons. (Breakfast)
The Roman Forum
"Visitors can be a little confused by the Roman Forum; at first glance, it is a rather lifeless array of marble fragments. But we must remember that in ancient times, this space was far more than the temples and monuments whose ruins we can explore today. It was filled with bustling, noisy life as the popular crossroads of the city – the predecessor, in fact, of the modern Italian piazza. Every morning at dawn, average Romans would escape their cramped, dark apartment blocks (called insulae, or “islands”) and spent their days outdoors. "
"In the early 1500s, Rome was full of neglected ruins from the days of the ancient Empire, which still contained artworks buried amongst the rubble. The Renaissance had seen a sudden growth of interest in all things classical, and the popes – cultivated men who were in touch with the intellectual currents of the day – were the richest art collectors in Italy. They began offering substantial cash rewards for any sculptures, until Rome was scoured by freelance treasure hunters on the hunt for pagan masterpieces. The most dramatic discovery occurred in 1506, when a Roman father-and-son team of excavators reported a promising find near the ruined Baths of Titus. The artist Michelangelo himself excitedly hurried over to help with the work, followed by the pope’s official agent, Guiliano da Sangallo. When the excavators brushed away the dirt of 1,000 years, they found an enormous marble sculpture, perfectly intact, of a muscular Trojan hero being attacked by giant snakes. Guilano cried out in amazement, “This is the very Laocoön described by (the ancient Roman author) Pliny!” The sculpture was carted off to the Vatican Museum."
"Thanks to Hollywood recreations such as Gladiator, nothing symbolizes the cruelty of Imperial Rome as much as the Colosseum. In truth, the games held there were even more extreme and theatrical than modern film directors dare to suggest. A day at the Empire’s most famous arena was a total entertainment package, mixing bouts of savage violence with solemn religious pageantry, sexual titillation, slapstick comedy and kitschy stage shows."
Following the Tiber Valley, reach Orvieto, perched high atop a volcanic rock. Access, denied to many a would-be conqueror through the ages, is easy for you. Ride a modern FUNICULAR right through the forbidding ramparts. Time to browse through tempting shops in the lanes off Piazza del Duomo and to visit the gothic CATHEDRAL with its San Brizio Chapel. Next, drive through the Chianti wine area to the spa resort of Montecatini in Tuscany. (Breakfast)
DAY 4Tuscany. Excursion to Florence
All day dedicated to Florence, “Cradle of the Renaissance.” Your guided walking tour includes a visit to Michelangelo’s David in the ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS. Admire the magnificent cathedral, Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Baptistry’s heavy bronze “Gate of Paradise,” and sculpture-studded SIGNORIA SQUARE. The afternoon is free to shop for Florentine leather goods and gold jewelry sold by the ounce, which are attractive buys, or to join an optional excursion to the magnificent Uffizi Gallery. (Breakfast, Dinner)
La Piazza Della Signoria
"What’s the best vantage point to ponder the most illustrious town square in Florence, the Signoria? An outdoor table in the venerable Caffè Rivoire – preferably over a delicious, if not painfully expensive cioccolata con pane, a dark and mud-thick hot chocolate. Late at night, when the crowds have gone, you can search the long shadows and imagine that very little has changed here since the 1400s. The Signoria is the most elegant sculpture garden in Europe. Masterpieces include the splendid Neptune Fountain by Ammannati, Hercules and Cacus by Bandinelli and a precise copy of Michelangelo’s David, all strategically poised in front of the Palazzo Vecchio. This grand public space has been the centerpiece of Florence since the 15th Century, the golden age when the city was established as the most beautiful in Europe. Eminent merchants in their ostentatious finery met here to discuss business in the midst of Florence’s raucous daily life."
"While the Uffizi Museum is world famous, few of the millions of visitors wandering its luminous corridors realize how much we really owe to its architect, Giorgio Vasari – a figure who defined our very notion of the Renaissance. A true Renaissance man in our modern definition of the term, Vasari was an accomplished painter and an inspired designer, but his true genius was actually as a writer. In 1550, he published Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects of Italy, a classic of biography from which much of our knowledge of the Renaissance artists is drawn."
DAY 5Tuscany–Pisa–Venice Island
A short drive to Pisa. Take the traditional picture pushing back the amazing Leaning Tower, 180 feet high and no less than 12 feet out of the perpendicular. Next, enjoy a comfortable drive north to Venice, a powerful magnet for romantics and art lovers from around the world. (Breakfast)
"It was the most perfect experiment in the history of science. Holding both a cannon ball and a small musket ball, the 30-something Pisa native Galileo Galilei scaled the steps of his city’s famous Leaning Tower, and held them dramatically over the edge. Eight stories below, the town’s most learned scholars and priests were gathered as observers. They watched as the two balls dropped to the ground at the same speed – disproving, with a single stroke, the ancient idea that objects fall at different rates depending on their weight and size. This archaic concept, which had been espoused by the ancient Greek author Aristotle, had been accepted without question for more than 2,000 years, Galileo’s great innovation was to put it to a practical test of observation. Unfortunately, this famous story is probably not true. Galileo never wrote about it himself – it was recounted in a late biography penned by his secretary, Vincenzo Viviani. Most historians now believe that it was Galileo’s imaginative disciples who invented the Leaning Tower tale in order to make the theory so clear that even a child could understand it. "
DAY 6Venice Island
Enter in style by PRIVATE BOAT to meet your Local Guide. Highlights of your walking tour are ST. MARK’S SQUARE and its byzantine BASILICA, lavish DOGES’ PALACE and the BRIDGE OF SIGHS. Also watch skilled GLASSBLOWERS fashion their delicate objects in an age-old traditional manner. Enjoy a traditional PROSECCO APERITIVO, and tonight is your chance to join an optional excursion to the island of Burano. (Breakfast)
Bridge of Sighs
"The world’s most poetically-named bridge, Il Ponte dei Sospiri, the Bridge of Sighs, was built in 1614 so that prisoners of the Venetian state could be transferred in secret from the Doge’s Palace to the so-called Nuovi Prigioni, or New Prisons. The wistful name was actually conceived by the English poet Lord Byron in the early 1800s that imagined the horror of prisoners taking their last glimpse of Venice before going underground to captivity. "
DAY 7Venice Island–Assisi
A scenic drive through the Apennine Mountains to peaceful Assisi, where your Local Guide will take you for a visit to ST. CLARE’S CHURCH and ST. FRANCIS’ BASILICA built above the Saint’s grave. (Breakfast, Dinner)
"Saint Francis may be Assisi’s most internationally famous son, the charismatic preacher who has been the subject of numerous bio-pics. But his female counterpart, Saint Clare, evokes almost as much devotion amongst Italians. Her life story reads like a medieval inversion of The Sound of Music: A beautiful young woman born into a wealthy family, she was betrothed at an early age to a dashing local noble and seemed destined for a conventional life of luxury and pleasure. But her future was transformed in 1210, when she saw the handsome young Francis, espousing the sacred virtues of poverty in the streets of Assisi. Clare immediately cut off her long golden hair, took a vow of celibacy, gave away all her fine clothes and began to dress in a simple cassock. She soon founded her own religious order for women, the Poor Sisters of Saint Clare, which demonstrated a devotion to good works that matches the all-male Franciscan order of monks. In fact, she is often known to Catholics as alter Franciscus, another Francis."
Arrive at fascinating POMPEII. Meet your Local Guide and start your highlight visit of this Roman city both destroyed and preserved by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. See a patrician home, public baths, and shops that give a striking picture of what day-to-day life was like in Rome at its apex of power. Next, drive to Naples, cross the blue bay by JETFOIL to the beautiful Isle of Capri for your two-night stay, and ride the FUNICULAR to Capri village. (Breakfast)
"Rising like a whale from the ocean, the spectacular island of Capri has held a particular attraction for celebrities trying to “get away from it all” over the centuries. In former times, it lured the writers Goethe, Oscar Wilde and Graham Greene; these days, it attracts American stars like Leonardo di Caprio, Harrison Ford and Mariah Carey. But Capri first became famous in 26 AD, when the Roman Emperor Tiberius “dropped out” here to escape the political in-fighting in Rome. For 16 years, he ruled the Empire from his luxurious cliff-side palace – flashing his orders to the mainland via a lighthouse. Protected by 500 foot cliffs, Capri had only one landing point, and his villa, located on a remote headland offered sweeping 300 degree views of the ocean. B"
"While wandering the superbly-preserved streets of Pompeii keep an eye out for the cauponae or early fast-food restaurants beloved by the ancient Romans. Located on several corners and looking like open-air bars, these one-room establishments were where busy citizens could grab a quick meal and glass of wine on the run. They were identified by colorful signs over their doors (one place excavated in Pompeii had a Phoenix, another, an elephant and pygmy). And like modern coffee bars in Italy today, customers stood at an L-shaped brick counter to order. There were jars full of hot and cold food, as well as amphorae of wine, which they could consume on the spot or take out to a few wooden seats provided on the street or, in some cases, a small back garden."
This morning, enjoy sightseeing with a Local Guide. Highlight is your OPEN TAXI RIDE to Anacapri to visit Axel Munthe’s famous VILLA SAN MICHELE. Then, enjoy a BOAT CRUISE (weather permitting) around the island. Afternoon at leisure with the chance to wander through the beautiful AUGUSTUS GARDENS. Later, a special dinner with wine and seaview awaits you—the perfect ending of your Capri visit. (Breakfast, Dinner)
Speed across the glittering bay to the charming resort of Sorrento. Enjoy time to stroll around and check out the local shops before returning to Rome. This evening, enjoy a special farewell dinner with wine in a local restaurant to celebrate the success of your vacation. (Breakfast, Dinner)
"Italian movie stars and pop idols are still snapping up real estate around the seaside town of Sorrento – Siren’s Point – unaware that 2,000 years ago it was also the very heart of the ancient Romans’ favorite holiday destination. In fact, the entire sun-drenched coastline from the Bay of Naples south to the precipitous Amalfi Coast has always been lined with sumptuous luxury villas, qualifying it as the Hamptons of Antiquity. Aristocrats would flock here in summer to relax by the beach, swim in marble pools, sail to nearby islands in their silk-canopied yachts and enjoy seafood banquets al fresco beneath the stars. "
Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. (Breakfast)
Motorcoach with free Wi-Fi; private boat ride in Venice; jetfoil; funicular; open-taxi ride and island cruise in Capri
Full buffet breakfast, 5 three-course dinners, including special dinners with wine in Rome and Capri