Grande Italia Tour
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Lake Como is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful lakes in Italy and has been a popular retreat for aristocrats and wealthy people since Roman times. It continues to be a very popular tourist attraction currently, many celebrities have or had homes on the shores of Lake Como, such as Madonna, George Clooney, Gianni Versace, and Sylvester Stallone. After our long international flight this will be the perfect spot to relax. Lake Como is only a 40 minute drive from the Malpensa Airport but it serves as our entry into another world. After arriving and checking in you will be free to relax as you choose. We will gather for dinner this evening to get to know each other a little better.
timeless love story of Romeo and Juliet is the prime reason to admire her. As you walk through the streets or underneath the balconies of the houses of the two ill-fated lovers, you can't help feeling passionate emotions yourself. Verona is also the city of the Arena an ancient amphitheatre built by the Romans now serving as one of the largest opera houses and the Adige River that encircles the city. Today we will have our first Pranza in Italy and savor some of Verona’s gastronomic delights.
Venice Finally, we arrive in what may well be the most enchanting city in the entire world. Who hasn’t wanted to visit this romantic place, with its water-filled canals and famous Venetian glass? Venice, where cars are not allowed and gondolier’s pole there brightly painted boats thru the maze of canals calling out ooorriii as that reach an intersecting waterway warning others of their approach. Each turn of the canal creates a new opportunity for a breathtaking vista and fresh seafood beckons from every neighborhood trattoria. After we check in you are on your own to begin your exploration of this enchanting city.
beginning with the Rialto Market Area. The busy markets of Venice are an integral part of local life, providing a great place to find bargains or just to browse and listen to the local banter. The markets start coming to life at dawn and begin to wind down by early afternoon, so it’s worth arriving as early as possible. Nearby there is a large and popular fish market, with an enormous selection of fresh fish and seafood, in all shapes and sizes. We will continue our walk along the Grand Canal passing Ponte Rialto this stone bridge dates back to 1588. The Architect Antonio Ponte won the competition to design the bridge against such competitors as Michelangelo, Palladio and Sansovino. Here we can take a vaporetto to Piazza San Marco, a ride along the pallazzo lined banks of the Grand Canal is an unforgettable experience. Disembarking at the square we will be able to explore the major attractions of the city such as Basilica di San Marco, beautiful on the outside with its big onion domes and multi-colored marble pillars and on the inside spectacular floor-to-ceiling mosaics. The Basilica was named for St Mark whose body was allegedly stolen from his tomb in Alexandria and brought to Venice and then built to enshrine the body of the man who became the city’s patron saint. Next stop Palazzo Ducale the pink home of the doges (dukes) who ruled Venice for many years. Adjoining the palazzo is the
famous Bridge of Sighs and in front of the palace you will see the Campanile di San Marco otherwise known as the bell tower of Venice. If you like, you can climb up for a spectacular view of the city and lagoon, but don’t forget your camera. We will have lunch near the San Marco area then I will leave you to roam the streets of Venice on your own. Perhaps you might want to visit some of the numerous shops that specialize in art, antiques and collectables or visit Mondonovo Maschere. If you are lucky you might see the renowned artist himself Guerrino Lovato creating a Venetian mask. This evening we will gather for a gondolier ride complete with serenade.
We will visit one of the prominent glass blowers and watch them recreate this Renaissance Art form then browse the many glass shops located there, returning to the vaporetto and embarking for Burano. You will find Burano a charming picturesque fishing village; each house is painted a different color. Know for handmade lace (what else was a woman to do when her husband was always at sea?) it really is a quiet restful place with real old fashioned village charm and has several wonderful trattoria’s where we will enjoy our lunch before heading back to Venice. I would like to introduce you to a famous cookie in Burano “baicole” meant to be enjoyed with a glass of white wine.
During the 14th and 16th centuries Florence was considered one of the most important cities in Europe due to its political, economical, and cultural achievements. Assisted by the Medici’s the Florentines reinvented money, in the form of the gold florin which was the engine that drove Europe out of the "Dark Ages." They financed the development of industry all over Europe, the English kings during the Hundred Years Wars and the papacy, including the construction of Avignon and the reconstruction of Rome when the papacy returned from the "Babylonian captivity". Today the historic center of the city has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site and Florence continues to thrive. Our Hotel is located in this area, after checking in you will have an opportunity to explore on your own until time to meet at 8:00 for dinner.
Florence is known as the birthplace of the Renaissance, and for good reason. It is home to some of the most famous artwork in the world, by geniuses such as Botticelli,
Brunelleschi, Cellini, Donatello, Fra Angelico, Ghiberti, Giotto, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael. Even if you’re not well-schooled in art history, Michelangelo’s David, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Giotto’s campanile (bell tower) and Brunelleschi’s dome on the Duomo are a few of the sights with which you are probably familiar. Today as we tour Florence, we’ll see many of the sites described above as well as several others. We will visit the Uffizi and the Accademia Galleries, with our private expert guide we’ll skip the long lines and have immediate entrance, Ponte
Vecchio Bridge known for its gold merchants, at the Piazza Duoma we’ll enter the famous Duoma (again, I caution you to assume modest dress in order to gain entry) Piazza della Signora known as Florence’s living room and the Mercato di San Lorenzo where we’ll find some of the best bargains in town for leather items such as coats, wallets, belts, etc as well as other clothing souvenirs, and jewelry. What ever you want you can probably find it at San Lorenzo’s for a good price!
visit to the antique ageing cellars with an introduction to vinification techniques; visit to the private museum of antique etchings on the theme of Bacco, the God of wine. We will have the opportunity to taste 5 well known Ruffino wines from the Chianti area. We will enjoy a sumptuous lunch today in the Tuscan countryside before we return to Florence.
We will want to spend some time looking around this lovely city and have lunch at one of my favorite Osteria’s. Our main reason for today’s trip is to share with you what I believe is one of the most exciting experiences you can have in Italy. The first time I witnessed this event was nearly 15 years ago and I still remember it vividly. I planned this whole tour to coincide with this particular day. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do. The Palio di Siena (known locally as Il Palio) is a horse race held twice each year on July 2 and August 16 in Siena, in which ten horses and riders, dressed in their appropriate colors, represent ten of the seventeen Contrade, or city wards. The il Palio being held during our visit, on August 16 is named Palio dell'Assunta, in honor of the Assumption of Mary. A magnificent pageant, the Corteo Storico, a parade of people from each contrade dressed in medieval costume precedes the race, which attracts visitors and spectators from around the world. The race itself, in which the jockeys ride bareback, involves circling the Piazza del Campo (on which a thick layer of dirt has been laid) 3 times and usually lasts no more than 1 or 2 minutes. It is not uncommon for a few of the jockeys to be thrown off their horses while making the treacherous turns in the piazza and indeed it is not unusual to see unmounted horses finishing the race without their jockeys. The Palio in fact is won by the horse who represents his Contrada, and not by the jockeys. A horse who wins without a jockey is known locally as winning "scosso." The Palio di Siena is more than a simple horse race. It is the culmination of ongoing rivalry and competition between the contrades. Tremendous passion and pride go into the preparation leading up to the day of the race. Formal and informal rituals take place as the day proceeds, with each contrade participating in a strategy of horsemanship, alliances and animosities. There are final clandestine
meetings among the heads of the Contrade and then between them and the jockeys, the two hour pageant of the Corteo Storico, then all this is crowned by the race. Although this appears to be just a great public spectacle, the passions displayed by the locals is very real. I was once told “that for a Siena resident in the matter of pride the family is always of primary importance but after that -3rd comes Italy - 2nd comes Siena but 1st and foremost comes the Contrade”!
At 12: 10 today
we will again board our train and relax into our first class seats as we travel thru the regions of Tuscany and Latium on our way to Rome our final stop. There is no better time to visit Rome than now, most of its palaces and monuments have been recently restored. Rome is a city so rich in art, historic ruins, monuments and exquisite sites, making it difficult to describe it in a few words. I find it hard to believe that the vast Imperial Roman Empire began with a small settlement of shepherds and farmers here, near the Tiber River on Palatino, one of the seven hills on which Rome was built. Many Roman archaeological treasures have been found in this area. It is said that this is where Romulus founded the city and where Augustus, the first Emperor, built his home. As the city grew it extended over six other hills: Quirinale, Viminale, Esquilino, Celio, Aventino and Capitolino, creating “the 7 hills of Rome.” Rome's early history is shrouded in legend. According to Roman tradition, the city was founded by Romulus on 21 April 753 BC. Today centuries later, boasting over 2.7 million residents the former capital of the Roman Empire has managed to preserve its charm and independence. When we arrive at the main station in Rome about 2:00 in the afternoon, we’ll check into our hotel, located conveniently within walking distance to most of the attractions and shopping areas, after that you can enjoy some free time until we gather about 8:00 PM for dinner near the Trevi Fountain made famous in the movie “La Dolce Vita.” You might want to have a few coins handy for good luck. Maybe you don’t believe in such things but it nice to know the coins are gathered regularly for charity.
Today we will have a chance to see, “Roma the Eternal City” up close and personal. We’ll visit the, Coliseum whose real name was Flavian Amphitheatre, built by two emperors of the Flavian family; Vespasian began it in 72 AD and his son Titus ended it in 80 AD. Various spectacles were given in the coliseum to enthrall the possible 50,000 spectators who attended. There were contests between gladiators, battles with wild beast taking place with men who had committed a violation and were condemned to do so (often unarmed) and for a time mock naval battles were offered , until it was decided that it was to difficult to flood the amphitheater. As we cross over a patch of ancient Roman road we will find the Roman Forums. We can walk down Via Dei Fori Imperial and imagine what it was like to do so over 2500 years ago, a time
when we could have seen the Palatino, temples and basilicas, numerous arches, House of the Vestals, Greek Library, Latin Library, Trajans market and Caesars Forum in their full glory. Now you will know why people referred to the “Glory of Rome,” imagine how awe struck those ancient visitors to Rome must have been. Continuing our walk we will finally come to the National Monument of Victor Emmanuel II built in honor of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy, sometimes referred to as the wedding cake. The monument holds the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with an eternal flame, built under the Statue of Italy after World War I. On our way to the Piazza Navona we’ll have a chance to see, the best preserved ancient Roman temple the Pantheon dedicated to all gods and stop at a nearby trattoria for lunch to experience the other flavors of Rome its wonderful food. The rest of the day will be yours to spend as you choose.
Today’s adventure begins at 9:30 AM, our departure time for Mazzano an ancient and very charming village just outside Rome. Here you will find a lavish garden, filled with fresh herbs, vegetables and cooperative hens willing to share their fresh eggs with you. After selecting everything needed for our cooking lesson the chef will teach us how to prepare and serve our food appetizingly. Finally we get to taste our efforts at our luncheon. While eating our food and sipping some of the best wines Italia has to offer we can enjoy the splendid view overlooking the forest and the river below. Following lunch, we will visit a nearby village called Calcata. From afar it looks like one huge castle, but as you enter you realize that it’s a close knit group of small houses belonging to various artists who sell their one-of-a-kind creations at reasonable prices. Next we will make your w ay to Monte Gelato, where many Indiana Jones movies
from the seventies and eighties were filmed. Here we will find a very charming and picturesque spot made up of numerous mini waterfalls, thin bridges and an old mill. At the end of this enchanting day in the countryside we return to Rome with our souvenir apron and luncheon recipes in hand as a reminder of our unique experience.
Please note: It will not be necessary to wait in long lines we have purchased reserved guided tour tickets for the museums which will take about 2 hours to cover the highlights. It is advisable to wear comfortable clothing and shoes but be aware no one wearing shorts will be admitted.
If you want us to try to secure a spot on the Uffici degli Scavi tour (a descent into Peter’s Tomb where experts believe St. Peter was buried in AD 64) we will attempt to do so for you. It must be booked well in advance, requires a letter from your Parrish priest and cost 10 euro.
During our Vatican tour we will have the opportunity to see such magnificent sites as:
the Sistine Chapel it took him 4 years to complete the world’s most famous fresco. Thanks to a massive restoration effort in the 1990’s, you can once again enjoy this colorful vibrant masterpiece as it was in 1512. joy Start your visual journey at the Separation of Light and Darkness, and then look over to the Creation of Sun, Moon and Planets; the Separation of Land and Sea; the Creation of Fishes and Birds; the Creation of Adam; the Creation of Eve; the Temptation and Expulsion from Paradise; the Sacrifice of Noah; the Flood; and the Drunkenness of Noah. Once you’ve viewed the ceiling, turn your attention to the altar wall to see Michelangelo’s much later Last Judgment.
Stanze di Raffaello, Loggia di Raffaello, Cappella di Niccolo V: The Raphael Rooms are among the finest museum offerings in the world. These rooms were originally used as the Papal Suite and designed by Raphael when he was only 26 years old. If you can, look at these in the order in which they were painted, starting with the study Stanza della Segnatura, completed between 1508 and 1511 featuring the triumph of Truth, Good, and Beauty. Most notable here is the School of Athens, which features portraits of famous people of the day. Leonardo da Vinci is pointing up to the heavens a la Plato; Michelangelo (who was painting the nearby Sistine Chapel when Raphael did this work) is alone in front of the steps; and even a self-portrait of Raphael is on the right-hand corner and now for a bit of sculpture artistry.
This evening we will gather for a special farewell dinner and bid; “Arrivederci a Roma”. Your return flight is early tomorrow morning or perhaps you have booked an extension. in that case you will leave by train for Napoli with more adventures and visual delights awaiting you. Pompeii once buried in volcano ash is now revealed to enthrall you. You
will also visit the relaxing Coast of Almalfi, considered by some to be the most beautiful scenery in the world and a side trip to the picturesque Isle of Capri before returning to Rome for your international flight.
or leave for Extension Tour for Naples and the Almalfi Coast.
Call us today for complete details: 305.775.8949.