Best of Italy
Day 1- USA – Venice
Your journey begins with an overnight flight. Buongiorno (Good Morning) Welcome to Italy, a land rich in history, culture, art and romance. Mari Angela picks us up from the airport and once we settle into the hotel we will help you plan your first relaxing evening in the magical city of Venice.
Day 2- Venice
Now that we are well rested today the tour officially begins! Be amazed by Venice with its 117 tiny islands surrounded by a latticework of 150 canals and 400 bridges (UNESCO). This evening we dine like kings with a glorious welcome dinner.
Day 3- Venice – Gondola Boatyard & Ride – Classical Music Concert
This morning, explore the traditional Venetian craftsmanship behind one of the city’s symbols: the sleek, iconic gondola boats. We visit a local boatyard, one of only two still active in the city, and glide along the canals during a gondola ride. Afterwards, enjoy an afternoon at leisure in the floating city. Perhaps you’ll follow the advice of the locals who say the best way to discover Venice is to “get lost.” Or, Mari and I can help you explore St. Mark’s Square adorned with marbled palaces and seek out the perfect view over the Bridge of Sighs. This evening, delve into Venice’s classical music heritage while we all enjoy a live performance of the Four Seasons composed by the great Venetian Antonio Vivaldi.
Day 4- Venice-Po River Sailing-Romagna Countryside
Say “Arriverderci” to Venice as we journey towards the Romagna region, famous for its epicurean lifestyle and its joie de vivre. Along the way, we visit the Po Delta (UNESCO). Since ancient times, this delta has been the border between the Venice and the Ravenna regions, once two independent states. These wetlands will give you a glimpse into what Venice and Ravenna looked like to ancient Roman settlers making their way here from the south. We’ll explore these wetlands by pontoon boat learning about how the ecosystem here actually aided the Romans in escaping the barbarians that harried them. You’ll also learn about the lives of fisherman and farmers whose lives have changed very little over the last 1000 years. Take in the tranquil scenery before stopping for lunch we have planned at a local restaurant. In the afternoon we continue to your hotel nestled among vineyards in the Romagna countryside and settle in for your 3-night stay. It’s great not having to pack and unpack every night!
Day 5- Romagna Countryside – Choice on Tour
Today, it’s your choice! Bask in the bucolic landscape at your wine resort hotel and pamper yourself with an organic wine-infused mud treatment in the onsite spa –OR– spend the day exploring Ravenna (UNESCO).
During the darkness that enveloped the last days of the Roman Empire, Ravenna emerged as a center of power thanks to its strategic position. The city’s rulers – the Byzantines, the Goths – adorned its churches with dazzling mosaics. During a guided walking tour, discover the city’s most illustrious monuments including the mosaics that inspired Cole Porter’s Night and Day. This evening, join the local chef for a hands-on cooking class centered on Romagna’s most typical pasta dishes with colorful names such as garganelli or strozzapreti (priest-stranglers), and enjoy the results of your work for dinner.
Day 6- Romagna Countryside – SanMarino-Romagna Countryside
Today we journey to the landlocked Republic of San Marino, the fifth-smallest country in the world. Perched at the top of Mount Titano, the old town of San Marino (UNESCO) gives visitors sweeping views over the Adriatic Riviera and the gentle rolling hills of the Romagna countryside. We will walk along the town’s intricate system of fortification towers, walls, gates and bastions. I recommend we stop for a cappuccino and people watching. This evening we wrap up your stay in the Romagna Countryside with a wine-pairing dinner at our wine resort hotel.
Day 7- Romagna Countryside-Emilia Food Valley-Florence
Today takes us to the Emilia region, Italy’s foodie haven where we meet students and teachers at a vocational high school for an Impact Moment dedicated to the Culinary Arts and Agriculture. Here, Italy’s future chefs and farmers learn how to make Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese according to traditional codes, dating back to the 1300s. Students also try their hand aging Balsamic vinegar, a generational process taking anywhere from 12 to 25 years. Enjoy a delicious farm-to-table light lunch prepared by the culinary students using ingredients from the School’s farm. Later we continue to Florence (UNESCO), the “Cradle of the Renaissance” and your home for the next 2 nights.
Day 8- Florence
This morning, we meet a local expert for a walking tour of a city that is a work of art all on its own. Our guide will highlight the Piazza del Duomo, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and the Baptistery. We also visit the Piazza della Signoria with its impressive Palazzo Vecchio. The remainder of the day is yours to explore. Mari and I will help you choose which of Florence’s cultural riches you may want to visit next. Perhaps the Uffizi or the Academy Gallery, where Michelangelo’s David is kept. Florence has wonderful shopping, cafes and restaurants. I have personally written a 12 page guide to Florence that you find will be very helpful.
Day 9- Florence-Chiusi-Rome
This morning we traverse southern Tuscany, the ancient land of the Etruscans. This mysterious civilization predated the Romans, who assimilated them erasing most of their way of life even though many early kings of Rome were Etruscans. By all accounts, they were an advanced society and culture. On a guided walking tour of Chiusi, once part of the Etruscan Dodecapolis, we explore the town’s underground water system which has so many twists and turns that it was nicknamed Labyrinth of King Porsenna. You’ll also visit the small archeological museum housing some of the most interesting artifacts archeologists found in the surrounding hills. Later we arrive in Rome (UNESCO) in the afternoon and settle in for a 3-night stay. Again it’s really a treat having a long stay and not having to pack and unpack every night.
Day 10- Rome
This morning, it’s your choice! Explore Rome in 1 of 3 ways: delve into Rome’s second Golden Age on a walking tour exploring its Renaissance and Baroque heritage and featuring Caravaggio’s paintings, alongside the Pantheon and Navona Square –OR– explore Rome’s Christian heritage on a panoramic tour featuring the Catacombs and the medieval basilica of St. Sabina on the Aventine Hill –OR– uncover Rome’s most recent archeological discoveries on a tour of the Ara Pacis, the Mausoleum of Emperor Augustus and the Spanish Steps. The afternoon is yours to explore. Mari and I will help you book additional tickets for optional tours, maybe an in depth visit of the Coliseum. Perhaps we walk to the Capitol Hill with its monumental piazza designed by Michelangelo. Grabbing a pizza and gelato on the way of course.
Day 11- Rome
Your visit begins with a buffet breakfast in the Pinecone Courtyard with views of Michelangelo’s cupola – the dome sheltering St. Peter’s Basilica. Then, one hour ahead of the Vatican Museums’ opening to the general public, we enjoy the ability to roam freely through one of the world’s greatest Art collections. With the aid of an audio guide, you’ll be able to independently explore the Museums’ highlights, including Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. I will help you make the most of a free afternoon. Perhaps there was something yesterday that you missed. Maybe you’ll want to stroll through the Borghese Gardens for views of the city’s skyline or join an early morning “Breakfast with Michelangelo” option at the Vatican Museums. Gather tonight to toast the end of your Italian adventure during a food tour in Rome’s bohemian Trastevere district.
Day 12-Rome – USA
Our tour comes to a close today, after breakfast Mari will take us all to the airport with our last hugs and kisses knowing that we have many fond memories from this incredible trip.