Wonders of Italy

Day 1: Depart North America
Overnight flight from North America to Rome, Italy.

Day 2: Arrive in Rome
On arrival in Rome, we will be met by our guide, who will travel with us until we return to Rome. We will then make our way leisurely up the coast and through southern Tuscany travelling via Grosseto to Montecatini. Our next six nights will be spent at the Albergo Belvedere in Montecatini Terme, a popular hill town and spa centre. This evening we gather with our guide for dinner at the hotel. (D)

Day 3: Montecatini and Lucca
This morning we shall enjoy a walking tour of our resort spa town. Known for its mineral springs, the city sports no less than nine active thermal spas, all of which have drawn a host of celebrities over the decades. Located above the town, Montecatini Alto is reached by a funicular railway. Members can enjoy a free afternoon or join our local guide for an excursion to the walled medieval centre of Lucca, located a few kilometers towards the coast. Following a leisurely afternoon we will gather for our Welcome Reception and Dinner at the former Medici Villa. (B,D)

Day 4: Florence
Florence was the cradle of Renaissance, a fountainhead of genius and still one of the art world’s most prestigious cities. This morning, we take a guided walking tour of the city’s unique treasures. See the open-air museum of Piazza Della Signoria, Santa Croce, which houses the tombs of Michelangelo and Galileo, and the cathedral where you see Giotto’s bell tower and Baptistery with its impressive “Gates of Paradise. All these buildings demonstrate the traditions of Florentine art and architecture from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. After some free time to explore on our own, we will return to Montecatini for dinner and overnight. (B,D)

Day 5: Mediterranrean Coast
Today, we head to the Mediterranean coast and the ancient centre of Pisa, once one of the most important city states on the Mediterranean. Its proud and wealthy merchants dedicated some of their wealth to build a fine cathedral and baptistery, but today it is the bell tower which attracts most notice – by leaning four meters from the perpendicular! Then we follow the shores northbound to Carrara where we will see the quarry and visit the museum and showroom of the world’s most famous Italian marble. (B,D)

Day 6: Apennine Mountains
Today we shall enjoy a scenic drive into the Apennine Mountains and then partake in a special cooking class. Here we shall see and learn how to prepare delicious pasta (Ravioli and Lasagna) and a typical Tuscan dish, Girarosto, which is typically prepared on an open fire place. For desert, we will prepare a Chestnut cake. Of course, we will then be able to enjoy the fruits of our labour as we sit down and savour what we have prepared. We return to Montecatini in the early afternoon with time to relax at our spa resort. (B,L)

Day 7: Vinci
This morning we visit Vinci, a very typical little Italian village with a very famous son. It was in this village that the world’s greatest genius, Leonardo da Vinci, was born and lived. We shall visit his birth place and museum. Afterwards, continue into the Chianti Wine region where we will visit one of the area’s best wineries. After a tour through the vineyards and the wine cellar, we will have lunch featuring some of the local wine and a wine grower’s meal, including Tuscan antipasti – a cold platter speciality. Back to Montecatini. (B,D)

Day 8: Siena
We say farewell to our mountain retreat and will spend the morning exploring Siena: walk through the vast Piazza del Campo to see the magnificent frescoes of the Palazzo Pubblico and visit the amazing zebra-striped Cathedral with its superb marble paving and fine pulpit. We shall then have some time on our own to wander amongst the vibrant city streets and to have some lunch. Later on, we drive through the cypress and olive groves of Tuscany, as we climb up to the medieval hilltop village of San Gimignano. In medieval times, each merchant family built its own fortress tower and residential area. Many still remain today – hence the nickname “town of the Fine Towers”. Later this afternoon we enjoy a scenic drive through southern Tuscany en route to our new “base” in the spa centre of Chianciano Terme at the Albergo Moderno (3 nights). (B,L)

Day 9: Umbria and Gubbio
Today we explore Umbria and the charming little village of Gubbio, one of the most remote and rugged of the Umbrian hill towns. We will visit the unique Palazzo de’ Consoli and the Church of San Francesco, dating from 1256. We then continue to Assisi, on the slopes of Mount Subasio where we will visit the great Basilica of St. Francis and admire the frescoes by Giotto, Simone Martine and others illustrating the Saint’s life. We will have ample time to appreciate Assisi’s medieval charm before we head back to Chianciano Terme. (B, D)

Day 10: Montepulciano
A short drive will bring us to Montepulciano, a splendid town for strolling. We will walk up the Viale di Sangallo and the Via Roma to the Piazza Grande, where we will find the Duomo and the Palazzo Communale. On our way down we will tour one of the many caves and cellars, connecting the houses with an elaborate and ingenious system of underground catacombs. After ample time to explore the shops with elegant antiques and antique jewellery, beautiful linens and delicious truffles, oils, vinegar and other culinary treats, we shall enjoy lunch at an old wine and olive farm. Return to Chianciano, balance of day at leisure. (B,L)

Day 11: Orvieto
Before descending from the hills into Rome we will visit the medieval city of Orvieto, which dates from the earliest Etruscan settlements in the 9th Century BC. Much of the city as we see it toady dates from the medieval period (12th to 15th Centuries). Following a brief city tour we shall continue to Rome, arriving later this afternoon. Our home for the next three nights will be the first class Hotel President. (B,D)

Day 12: the Eternal City
This morning our local guide will introduce us to the Eternal City, set on the seven hills. Our panoramic tour will feature many of Rome’s most important sites (Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and more). After a lunch break on own, our exploration of Rome continues as we delve into the ancient Roman sites, including the Forum and the Coliseum. (B,D)

Day 13: the Vactican and St. Peter’s Basilica 
Today, we shall proceed to the Vatican for a visit to St Peter’s Basilica plus a special guided exploration of the huge Vatican Museum and the exquisite Sistine Chapel. Following some free time this afternoon, we conclude our Italian adventure with a Farewell evening at a charming theatre restaurant in Trastevere, Rome’s left bank, with a very good Italian folk show, including opera music and famous Italian songs. (B,D)

Day 14: Return home to North America
It is time to say farewell to Rome as we transfer to the airport and catch our flight back to North America.