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|Itinerary at a Glance
|5||Rome, Orvieto, & Perugia|
|6||Perugia, Assisi, & Perugia|
|7||Perugia, Gubbio, & Cortona|
|9||Cortona, Siena, San Gimignano, Florence|
|11||Florence, Modena, Parma & Milan|
|Highlights||Papal Audience (subject to Holy Father's schedule), Vatican City, 4 Major Basilicas of Rome, St. Francis Basilica and Tomb, Gubbio, Cortona, Siena, San Gimignano, Cathedral of Florence, the Accademia of Fine Arts in Florence, Modena, Parma, Cathedral of Milan, The Last Supper.|
From breathtaking cathedrals and mesmerizing artistic masterpieces to delightful medieval villages and a succulent culinary tradition, Italy has it all. It’s no wonder then that travelers have flocked here for millennia, whether for inspiration or just a bit of respite from everyday life. But for pilgrims, Italy, with its rich spiritual heritage and vital role in Christian history, holds even more significance. This tour will take you on an unforgettable journey through Italy’s sacred sites and other splendors at a price that can’t be beat. Marvel at the majesty of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Attend an audience with the Pope (subject to Holy Father's schedule). Visit the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi. Contemplate the timelessness of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper in Milan. Immerse yourself in the serene countryside of Umbria and Tuscany. Discover how prosciutto and parmesan cheese are really supposed to taste. Just make sure to reserve your spot soon, because this tour is sure to sell out quickly!
Day 2, Tuesday: Rome. Welcome to Rome, the Eternal City! After going through customs, transfer to your centrally located hotel for check-in. Take some time to rest from your journey and then spend the rest of the day getting acquainted with this marvelous city on your own. Tonight, meet your fellow travelers for a delicious welcome dinner at a local restaurant. (D)
Day 3, Wednesday: Rome. Start the day with a once-in-a-lifetime experience by joining pilgrims from all over the world for a Papal Audience and receiving a Papal Blessing. Then delve into the history of Christianity at some of Rome’s oldest and most significant churches: View the manger baby Jesus was laid in following his birth at St. Mary Major, one of Rome’s four ancient major basilicas. Admire Michelangelo’s powerful and astonishing statue of Moses at St. Peter in Chains, where you will also find the chains that are believed to have bound St. Peter when he was held captive in the Mamertine Prison. Walk up the marble Holy Stairs, climbed by Jesus Christ to stand trial before Pontius Pilate, at St. John Lateran, which is ranked above all other churches in the Catholic Church, including St. Peter’s Basilica. End your day with a visit to St. Paul Outside the Walls, the site of Apostle Paul's tomb (please note that the sarcophagus is only partially visible below the main altar). If time permits, we may also stop by one of the nearby catacombs. Enjoy some traditional Roman cuisine on your own at one of the many nearby restaurants. Breakfast provided.
Day 4, Thursday: Rome. This morning you find out why St. Peter’s Basilica has been called the “the greatest of all churches of Christendom” on a close-up tour of the religious and architectural landmark. Then explore the religious and artistic treasures of the Vatican Museums. No matter how often you’ve seen it or heard it described, the exquisite Sistine Chapel will take your breath away with its lifelike frescoes and spectacular ceiling painted by Michelangelo. The rest of the day is at leisure. Don’t be afraid to wander—you are sure to find a gem, whether it be a gelateria or a hidden church—around the corner. Breakfast provided.
Day 5, Friday: Rome, Orvieto & Perugia. Today you leave bustling Rome behind for two charming towns. First is Orvieto, built by Etruscans on top of volcanic cliffs jutting out of the Umbrian countryside. You will visit Orvieto’s magnificent Cathedral and Papal Palace, a testament to the town’s power and wealth during the Middle Ages, when it also served as a papal city. On display at the Cathedral is the Corporal of Bolsena, which dates from a Eucharistic miracle in 1263. Savor a lunch made from fresh local ingredients, and then head to Perugia, the stunning capital of Umbria. A brief tour will orient you to the town, and you will have a chance to sample some of Perugia’s world-famous chocolates at a coffee shop before or after dinner. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Our journeys today will cover 140 miles and take approximately 3½ hours.
Day 6, Saturday: Perugia & Assisi. After breakfast a short motorcar ride will take us to Assisi, a nearby town closely associated with St. Francis. Born in 1182, St. Francis was a humble man who traveled extensively preaching about the love of God and who founded the Order of the Friars Minor in 1210. Around the same time he met St. Clare of Assisi, and soon after the female branch of the Franciscan Order was established. Visit St. Francis Basilica and Tomb and St. Clare's Church, as well as St. Mary of Angels, which lies at the foot of the town. This is where St. Francis lived, died, and began the Franciscan Order, in a simple chapel he himself built, the Porziuncola. Here you will also see the thornless rose bush. After lunch at a local restaurant, return to Perugia for overnight. Breakfast & lunch provided.
Our journeys today will cover 36 miles and take approximately 1½ hours.
Day 7, Sunday: Perugia, Gubbio & Cortona. After Sunday Mass, travel to ancient and picturesque Gubbio. The hills above the town were already occupied in the Bronze Age, and the town was an important Umbrian center in pre-Roman times as well. Its importance extended into the Middle of Ages, when it sent one thousand knights to fight in the First Crusade. Our sightseeing includes the Roman Theatre, the second largest preserved Roman theater in the world; the Roman Mausoleum; the 12th-century Cathedral; and Palazzo Ducale. After lunch at a local restaurant continue to Cortona, a lovely hillside town distinguished by steep and narrow medieval streets and magnificent views of the Chiana Valley below. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Our journeys today will cover 110 miles and take approximately 3 hours.
Day 8, Monday: Cortona. One of Tuscany’s oldest hill towns, Cortona was conquered and enlarged by the Etruscans before becoming a Roman colony. We will learn about Cortona’s history with a visit to the Etruscan Museum Academy, which showcases items from Etruscan, Roman, and Egyptian civilizations, as well as art and artifacts from the Medieval and Renaissance eras. We will also visit several delightful Renaissance churches, including Santa Maria Nuova, Santa Maria delle Grazie al Calcinaio, and the town Cathedral. Above all, Cortona is where you will first get a taste of Tuscany’s fabled good life. Breakfast provided.
Day 9, Tuesday: Cortona, Siena, San Gimignano & Florence. After breakfast you will continue your journey through Tuscany to Siena, a town whose historic centre has been declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site and is famous for its cuisine, art, museums, medieval cityscape and the Palio – a horse race held twice a year. Like other Tuscan hill towns, Siena was first settled during Etruscan times, between 900 and 400 B.C., and prospered as a city-state, becoming a major center of money lending and an important player in the wool trade.
During the 10th and 11th centuries, walls were built to completely surround the city, and a second set was finished by the end of the 13th century. Many of these walls still exist today. Siena's university, founded in 1240 and famed for its faculties of law and medicine, is still among the most important Italian universities. Siena rivaled Florence in the arts throughout the 13th and 14th centuries until it was devastated by the Black Death of 1348 and suffered from ill-advised financial enterprises. The picturesque city remains an important cultural center, especially for humanist disciplines. Your sightseeing will include Siena's Cathedral, one of the great examples of Italian Romanesque, gothic architecture. The shell-shaped town square Piazza del Campo, which houses the Palazzo Pubblico and the Torre del Mangia, is another architectural treasure. It is famous for hosting the Palio horse race and the Sanctuary of Saint Catherine, incorporating the old house of St. Catherine of Siena, the miraculous Crucifix from which the saint received her stigmata, and a 15th century statue of St. Catherine.
After lunch travel to San Gimignano, a small walled medieval hill town famous for its architecture, especially its towers seen from several miles outside the town. Unlike in Bologna or Florence, where most towers were brought down due to wars, catastrophes, or urban renewal, San Gimignano has managed to conserve fourteen towers of varying height, which have become its symbol internationally. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance eras, it was a stopping point for Catholic pilgrims on their way to Rome and the Vatican, as it sits on the medieval Via Francigena. The city flourished until 1348, when the Black Death that affected all of Europe compelled it to submit to Florence. San Gimignano became a secondary center until the 19th century, when its status as a tourist and artistic resort began to be recognized. The major shrine of Saint Fina, a 13th century Italian saint born in San Gimignano in 1238, and her home still stands in the town. You will visit the Collegiata, Sant'Agostino--housing a wide representation of artworks from some of the main Italian renaissance artists--and the Museum San Gimignano 1300, a massive multimedia recreation of the city as it existed 700 years ago. Architects, historians, and a team of artists worked nearly three years to create this spectacular and unprecedented exhibition. It includes 800 meticulously handcrafted structures, 72 towers, street scenes, and figurines. Continue to Florence for dinner and overnight. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.
Our journeys today will cover 130 miles and take approximately 3½ hours.
Day 10, Wednesday: Florence. This morning, a local expert will guide us on a leisurely walking tour of Florence's highlights: the Ponte Vecchio, the Piazza del Duomo, the Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore, and the Baptistery. Our tour culminates with a visit to the Accademia of Fine Arts, home to Michelangelo's David. In the afternoon, travel to the nearby Vicchiomaggio Castle in the Tuscan Chianti countryside to visit a wine estate and learn about the winemaking process in this famous region. Enjoy wine tasting and dinner at a local restaurant before returning to Florence. Breakfast & dinner provided.
Day 11, Thursday: Florence, Modena, Parma & Milan. After breakfast continue to Milan. The first stop will be Modena, an ancient town in the region of Emilia Romagna. It is best known as "the capital of engines" because of the factories of famous Italian sports cars such as Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati. One of the city's most famous citizens was one of the greatest tenors of all times, Luciano Pavarotti. Modena is also well known in culinary circles for the production of balsamic vinegar. You will visit a local factory to see its production and taste samples. The Cathedral of Modena and the annexed campanile and the Piazza Grande (where the Town Hall is located) are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You will also view the Ducal Palace of Modena before continuing to Parma, a city famous for its ham, cheese, architecture and a fine countryside. This is the home of the University of Parma, one of the oldest universities in the world. After a ham and cheese tasting lunch, a brief city tour will include viewings of 12th-century Romanesque Cathedral and its Baptistery and the abbey church of St. John the Evangelist. Arrive in Milan in the early evening. Breakfast & lunch provided.
Our journeys today will cover 230 miles and take approximately 5 hours.
Day 12, Friday: Milan. After breakfast we will enjoy views of the second largest Italian city and arguably the fashion capital of the world. A sightseeing tour will include the Cathedral of Milan, maybe the most recognizable gothic cathedral in the world, as well as the world's best known opera, the Teatro alla Scala, and its museum. A highlight of the visit will be a viewing of Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper at Santa Maria delle Grazie. (Due to the small size of the church, each viewing is limited to 15 minutes and to 25 people per time slot; larger groups will split accordingly.) Afternoon at leisure (or shopping?). Breakfast provided.
Day 13, Saturday: Milan & USA. Transfer to the airport for your flight home. Breakfast provided.