Day 1 | Rome
Welcome to Rome, an exciting city harbouring lost empires that bombard you with glorious sites and architecture. Amongst Rome’s world-famous landmarks is the Coliseum, where animals and gladiators fought in epic battles and met their deaths for the entertainment of the spectators. Throw three coins into the Trevi Fountain and climb the Spanish Steps located at Piazza di Spagna. Visit Rome’s most beloved square and one of the world’s most beautiful piazzas, the Piazza Navona where beside two of Bernini’s famous fountains you can eat at some of the great sidewalk cafes or restaurants as local artists endeavor to sell their paintings to tourists. Try the Roman specialties of spaghetti alla carbonara or gnocci alla Romana.
Day 2 | Rome sightseeing & at leisure
Enjoy another day in the “Eternal City” as you visit more of Rome’s highlights – places where culture, history, arts and archeology of the past are gloriously brought to life. At Vatican City visit St. Peter’s Cathedral and enjoy its statues and fountains. The Vatican Museum features masterpieces by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael and from the Museum you have access to the Sistine Chapel. Rome is a shopper’s paradise with Prada, Gucchi, Bulgari, Valentino as well as the many stores serving the younger generation and lower priced Italian apparel. When you are ready for a nice glass of wine there are several wine bars on the side streets, and many restaurants where you can sample more of the Roman specialties such as the roast lamb called abbacchio al forno. At night enjoy Rome as the Romans do by walking among the sensual delights of the wonderful lighted monuments, which appear even more spectacular at night.
Day 3 | Rome – Naples – Pompeii – Vesuvius – Amalfi Coast – Ravello – Sorrento
Pick up your rental car and drive to Naples, a vibrant city of winding streets and the birthplace of pizza! About 20 km south of Naples are the amazing ruins of Pompeii. During a long catastrophic eruption of the volcano Vesuvius in AD 79 Pompeii was completely buried. Since then, its excavation has provided an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city at the height of the Roman Empire. Mount Vesuvius dominates the Bay of Naples with its characteristic cone. Try some of the local foods, the calzone (folded pizza) topped with mozzarella, spaghetti prepared with shellfish (alle vongole) and the delicate red and white wines of the area. Continue your drive along the beautiful Amalfi Coast. The resort of Amalfi has a vibrant and typical Italian ambience with breathtaking views and unique beauty. Another pearl of the Amalfi Coast is the town of Ravello, founded in the 4th century, situated in a splendid position on a rocky spur astride the Dragon’s and Reginna’s Valleys. The beautiful town of Positano appears to be leaning against a jagged mountain rock face, with its many multicolored houses that seem to be built in a single cluster all on top of each other. It is a town of little steps and narrow passageways filled with wonderful shops, lively bars and cafes, and restaurants specializing in seafood. Your journey ends as you arrive in Sorrento for your two-night stay. Have a nightcap of Sorrento’s famous limoncello, an alcoholic digestif made from lemon rinds and sugar
Day 4 | Sorrento
The resort of Sorrento has many names – Land of Mermaids, Land of Colors, Land of Orange and Lemon Groves. It is famed for its sea cliffs, whose steep slopes look out over the azure waters to the islands of Ischia, Capri and the Bay of Naples, an exceptional landscape where sea and mountain, deep valley and citrus grove plateaux alternate. There are many places of interest in this magic area, including archaeological findings dating back to Etruscan, Greek and Italic times.
Day 5 | Sorrento – Assisi
Leave Sorrento and drive north to the peaceful town of Assisi, rich in its religious heritage. Situated in green Umbria, on the slopes of Monte Subasio, it’s a perfect town for wandering and exploring and it is here that we have arranged your overnight stay. The town’s picturesque narrow lanes conceal so many surprises – a hidden restaurant, a faded fresco, a stunning view. For hundreds of years Assisi has been dominated by the unpretentious figure of St. Francis, whose followers filled this little town with churches, monasteries and shrines. The grandest of these is the Basilica di San Francesco, built to honor the humble saint who lies in its crypt. You will find a friendly, welcoming atmosphere and many excellent restaurants.
Day 6 | Assisi – Ravenna – Bologna
Leave Assisi for the beautiful drive to Ravenna, once the seat of the Roman Empire. The historic center is mostly pedestrian only. Mosaics hold the pride of place in Ravenna’s vast artistic heritage. The material used was so resistant that these 5th and 6th centuries mosaic pictures are exceptionally well preserved and can be admired today as they were when the artist first formed them. Then on to the city of Bologna, which has one of the best-preserved historic centers in Italy and is home to the oldest university in the Western world, the Alma Mater Studiorum founded in 1088. The region has a fine gastronomic reputation – sample its Bologna salami and mortadella, its prosciutto ham, parmigiano cheese and of course spaghetti Bolognese. Try the region’s fruity sparkling red wine Lambrusco, and the white Albano. Bologna contains a wealth of important Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque artistic monuments. The central streets of the city are largely pedestrianized and follow the grid pattern of the early Roman settlement. Remains of a medieval system of fortifications are still visible and numerous sections of its ramparts have survived. We have booked your overnight stay at this fascinating city.
Day 7 | Bologna – Ferrara – Padua – Venice (Mestre)
Leave historic Bologna for Ferrara, a town of broad streets and numerous palaces. The town is surrounded by some of the best preserved Renaissance walls in Italy, and in its center is the Castello, a prominent square building with four towers surrounded by a moat. Your journey now takes you to the pictureque city of Padua, with its network of arcaded streets opening onto a large communal piazza. End your day in Venice, the City of Water, often cited as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Having a car, it makes much more sense to stay in Mestre, where we have arranged a two-night stay, and to take public transport across the causeway. There are no roads in Venice and just one parking garage. Typical food of the region is the bigoli (a type of spagehetti), risotto with chicory, excellent fish dishes including shellfish, dried cod, sardines, and the black spahetti made with squid ink. Accompany this with the wines of the district, the rose or red sparkling Valpolicella and Bardolino.
Day 8 | Venice Sightseeing
To be in Venice is to be a believer in fairy tales, for the only way to get around this 1,500-year-old city is by foot or by water. Take the classical Venetian gondola or motorized waterbuses which ply regular routes along the major canals between the city’s islands. You will be awed by the magical beauty of this city filled with palaces and art. Wander the alleyways and bridges, stroll across the Bridge of Sighs – connecting the Doge’s Palace with the prisons where prisoners would suffer their final torment as they view Venice for the last time – relax in the Piazza San Marco in the very heart of Venice, which opens up on to the Grand Canal. With its water-lapped palaces its panoramic view across the water from the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) it is precisely as Canaletto painted it. You will surely be awed at the Basilica whose exterior is richly decorated by marble and mosaic and the relics of St. Mark resting in the main alter. There are numerous beautiful churches, palaces and museums, many fine shops and restaurants serving excellent food. The Ghetto (Jewish quarter) is a hauntingly beautiful and secret corner of the Canneregio district close to the bustling Strada Nuova. Visit the museum here and the synagogue.
Day 9 | Venice (Mestre) – Vicenza – Verona – Lake Garda – Bergamo – Milan
From Venice travel through the town of Vicenza, noted for its splendid churches and palaces, many designed by Andrea Palladio. Your journey then continues to Verona where its Roman Amphitheater, commonly known as The Arena, is one of the biggest, holding over 22,000 spectators, and best preserved. Here every year the opera Aida is performed with live elephants. In front of the Arena is the Piazza Bra, a huge square with such interesting buildings as the Palazzo Barbieri (the Town Hall) and Gran Guardia Palace.
Day 10 | Milan – Genoa – Portofino – Cinque Terre – Viareggio – Pisa
From Milan drive to Italy’s greatest seaport Genoa – a city of surprises and contrasts where the most splendid palaces stand beside the humblest alleyways.
In central Genoa is the Piazza de Ferrari, around which are the Opera and the Palace of the Doges, as well as a house where Christopher Columbus is said to have been born. Other interesting landmarks include the Palazzo Rosso and the Old Harbor which is now transformed into a mall. Take a break to try some of the region’s dishes; polenta, creamy Gorgonzola and Panettone, a fruitcake with raisins and candied lemon peel. Leave Genoa as you take the coast road to Portofino and Cinque Terre, “the Five Lands”. These comprise five villages, Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomagiore and their surrounding hillsides. Over centuries man has built terraces on the rugged steep landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the sea and part of its charm is the lack of visible “modern” development. Then south to the fashionable seaside resort of Viareggio with its lovely beaches and end your day in the pleasant town of Pisa for your overnight stay. Although it is known worldwide for its Leaning Tower it has more than 20 other historic churches and several palaces.
Day 11 | Pisa – Lucca – Florence
From Pisa drive the short distance to the beautiful Tuscan town of Lucca. One of Tuscany’s best-kept secrets it has some of Italy’s finest medieval and Renaissance architecture protected by massively thick walls. Wander through the town’s squares and streets and visit its antique markets. It is in Tuscany that Italian cooking was born. For lunch try the region’s famous soup ribollita. Chianti is the most popular wine of the area. Leave delightful Lucca and continue to one of the most beautiful and ancient cities in the world – Florence, where we have booked your two-night accommodation. One is overwhelmed by the beauty and culture to be seen by simply walking around this unique and ancient city. Not to be missed is the Piazza del Duomo in the city center; the Piazza della Signoria where a copy of Michelangelo’s David stands (the original is also in Florence in the Galleria Dell’Accademia), and the beautiful Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in Florence.
Day 12 | Visit Siena – San Gimignano – Arezzo – Cortona
Drive by the flourishing vineyards and olive groves of the unique Tuscan countryside to the hilltop medieval towers of San Gimignano. In the heart of the town are four fine squares, each with its own historic buildings. On to the gentle, mystical and passionate city of Siena. As you stroll through its narrow streets, lined with palaces and mansions, you become enlivened with the clay colored (hence the color, burnt siena) and medieval past of this beautiful city. The famous Piazza del Campo is shaped like a fan, paved with brick and encircled by a ring of stone slabs. This is the site of the famous Palio horse race held every July and August. Drive through the glorious Tuscan countryside to the ancient town of Arezzo. Visit the Piazza Grande, the most noteworthy medieval square in the city. Drive on to the quiet town of Cortona, whose ramparts cling to the steep slopes of a hill clad in olive groves. From the Piazza del Duomo see the lovely view over the valley. Then back to Florence and a traditional Tuscan dinner – try the bistecca (grilled steak) or fagioli all’ucelletto (beans with quail). A notable red wine is the Nobile di Montepulciano, and Vernaccia di San Gimignano is a favorite white wine.
Day 13 | Florence – Montepulciano – Orvieto – Rome
Leave Florence and drive through rolling countryside to the highest of the Tuscan hill-towns, Montepulciano, which is encircled by walls and fortifications. From Tuscany cross into Umbria and on to the walled 2,000 year-old city of Orvieto, home to famous Etruscan ruins and known for its fine Cathedral, for its ceramics and for its highly prized Orvieto white wine. Then back to Rome for your overnight stay. For your last evening meal there are many more foods to try from this Lazio area – the abbacchio al forno (roast lamb), and the many fettucine dishes will satisfy the most discerning gourmet.
Day 14 | Depart back
Return Rental Car, Depart Rome.