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ITALIAN MASTERPIECES

16 nights / 17 days – arrival city ROME departure city VENICE

DAY 1: ROME
Upon arrival in Rome after entrance formalities, we meet our tour director and bus driver and continue to our hotel in Rome. We will celebrate Mass on our way to the hotel. No other European capital rivals “The Eternal City” for its artistic and architectural treasures with a rich, vivacious and romantic culture. Rome has one foot in the past, and one in the present. The ancient rubs shoulders with the medieval and the modern runs into the renaissance. The evening is at your leisure, for as stroll in nearby “Piazza Del Popolo.” Dinner and overnight in Rome.

DAY 2: ROME
This morning we begin our exploration of Rome “The City of Martyrs and Saints”. We first visit the Vatican Museums, a group of impressive buildings with hundreds of rooms, hall, galleries, libraries and chapels overflowing with art treasures. The most beautiful of the chapels is “The Sistine Chapel” world famous for Michelangelo’s ceiling paintings and “The Last Judgment.” We then visit St. Peter’s Basilica the largest church in the world, built over the tomb of St. Peter. This is where Peter preached and died and where he is buried along with 148 of his papal successors. Upon entering the Basilica, we find Michelangelo’s Pieta and many works of art from Giotto and Bernini. This afternoon there will be free time for lunch and to explore the Vatican area on your own, and to shop. You can climb the 419 steps to the top of Michelangelo’s dome, the view from the top of the dome, makes the trip worthwhile. You can visit the jewels of the Vatican, or the tombs of the Popes. We will visit Villa Borghese in central Rome and admire beautiful fountains, small temples, the water clock, and more. Dinner and overnight at our hotel.

DAY 3: ROME
After Breakfast we visit “Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica” and celebrate mass. This Basilica was built on the spot where a 3rd century Pope witnessed a miraculous midsummer snow fall. Our city tour begins with a picture stop in Piazza Venezia with the Memorial to King Victor Emanuel II and the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We than continue to Ancient Rome, The Capitoline Hill, The Roman Forum, Coliseum, Arch of Constantine, Circus Maximus etc. After our lunch break we visit the Trevi Fountain, where we toss a coin or three in the world’s most spectacular wishing well to ensure our return to Rome. We visit the Pantheon, in Piazza Della Rotunda, the most impressive and best preserved ancient monument. We also visit “Piazza Navona” one of the most beautiful Piazzas in Rome with many beautiful statues and Bernini’s Fountain of Four Rivers. Time for shopping in these Piazzas. Return to the hotel for dinner and overnight.

DAY 4: ROME/ NAPOLI/POMPEI
This morning we return to monumental St. Peter’s Square to attend the Audience with the Holy Father Pope Francis. After the blessing we will travel south towards the Capania Region for an orientation city tour or Naples, the birth place of Caruso, Sophia Loren and “O Sole Mio.” The city has an incredible vitality that can be seen in the street markets of Piazza Dante and tasted in the world’s best pizza. To appreciate Naples you must have a good sense of humor and adventure; shoe shines boys, wrist watch peddlers… are all out to get your attention. We drive up to Posillipo Hill for a sweeping view of the Bay of Naples. Our orientation tour takes us to the city centre to admire the remarkable triumphal Arch of the New Castle, St. Charles Theater, the Royal Palace, Galleria Umberto, The semicircular Piazza Plebiscite, Castle Nuovo, and the Port. We continue to Pompeii for dinner and overnight.

DAY 5: POMPEI/CAPRI/SORRENTO/POMPEI
This morning we visit Pompeii, the prosperous Roman city both destroyed and preserved by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD. We walk through the cobbled street of this former Roman resort to the Forum, the Temples of Jupiter and Apollo, the Cardo, the 5,000 seats Theatre. We continue driving to citrus-scented Sorrento and the Main Square for a leisurely lunch stop and exploration. We travel by ferry to the enchanting isle of Capri, one of the world’s most glamorous places majestically situated in a crystal-clear sea. Upon arrival at Marina Grande, we ascend by funicular to Capri town and Ana Capri. Time to stroll about and enjoy the resort atmosphere of this Royal Retreat. Capri is the jewel of the Tyrrhenian Sea which has forever inspired artists and poets. We visit “The Gardens of Augustus” located at the end of Via G. Matteotti, for a beautiful view of the “Faraglioni Islands. Dinner and Overnight in Pompeii.

DAY 6: POMPEI/AMALFI COAST (Unesco World Heritage)/ POSITANO/AMALFI/VIETRI/ PAOLA
This morning we leave Pompeii and drive along the Amalfi Coast to Positano for a panoramic picture of its white Moorish houses clinging to slopes among orange and lemon groves. We continue to Amalfi, walk through the town and see the Duomo of Saint Andrea and the Piazza. Amalfitans use to say “the sun, the moon, the stars and Amalfi.” We continue south along the Gulf of Salerno to Paola in the province of Cosenza. Here we visit the monastery of San Francesco Di Paola the Founder of the Minus Order. Time permitting we will find some great shopping opportunities. Dinner and overnight in Paola.

DAY 7: PAOLA/REGGIO CALABRIA/ MESSINA/TAORMINA
This morning we continue south along the Violet Coast to Reggio Calabria, a city with a beautiful seaside promenade, tempting ice cream parlors, a national museum with treasures of the Magna Graecia, and the Bronzi of Riace (the museum is temporarily under renovation, but expected to reopen before June). The Bronzi were discovered off Calabria’s Ionian Coast in 1972. They represent the Greek conception of heroism, beauty, classical composure, and dynamic vitality. They are a very rare find wrapped in mystery, for no one knows who they are or what their intended destination was. From “Via Marina” we travel to Villa San Giovanni and take the ferry to Messina, “The door to Sicily.” In the main square we find “The Great Living Clock” representing astronomical, historical, and religious figures. Sicily is the largest Italian island and all the nearby civilizations had great interest in this Mediterranean Island. The Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, and Aragonese ruled in Sicily. They realized that this island is a paradise with lush vegetation, a rich marine life, world’s tastiest sea food, rolling vineyards, olive groves, and Taormina. We visit upper Taormina, spectacularly situated on a terrace “of Mount Tauru,” overlooking the sea and facing Mount Etna, Europe’s highest volcano. Taormina is world known for its beautiful monuments, lovely shops and glorious sub-tropical terraced gardens that we visit. We stroll along elegant Corso Umberto to Piazza 9 Aprile for a splendid panoramic view across the bay to the Ionian Sea. Dinner and overnight at our hotel in Taormina.

DAY 8: TAORMINA/MONTE ETNA
This morning we pass through villages dramatically located on the slopes of Mt. Etna Europe’s most active volcano. Mt. Etna was the greatest attraction to the ancient Greeks; it was the realm of Vulcan the God of Fire. Over 1,200 square meters of Etna’s surface is covered with solidified lava. Etna is also home to various species of vegetation and animals and offers spectacular view of the area. Free afternoon in lower Taormina to shop, relax on this beautiful beach resort and admire “Isola Bella.” Dinner and overnight at our hotel in Taormina.

DAY 9: TAORMINA/PIAZZA ARMERINA/CEFALU/PALERMO
This morning we depart for Piazza Armerina a maze of steep streets, and rich in the atmosphere of Sicilian life. Here we visit the elaborate Villa Romana Del Casale. This is a Roman Country Villa dating back to the 3rd century AD. It is noted for its famous mosaics which cover almost the entire floor of the Villa. We continue to Cefalu a romantic medieval town built on the site of an Ancient Greek settlement just east of Palermo. It is now a heaven of tranquility, a refuge and a sanctuary of religious inspiration. In the cathedral of Cefalu, we find a beautiful mosaic picture of Jesus Christ. Our final destination is Palermo, a busy and colorful city full of interesting squares, market places, churches, and palazzos in every style, from Moorish to Baroque. Dinner and overnight in Palermo.

DAY 10: PALERMO/MONREALE/CRUISE SHIP TO NAPLES
Palermo, situated at the foot of Monte Pellegrino, has always attracted every culture touching the Mediterranean world. It was founded by The Phoenicians; it came under Roman, Byzantine, and Saracean rule until the Normans conquered it in 1702. Its distinctive aspect is its Arab-Norman identity, mixed with Byzantine and Jewish elements. We begin sightseeing in Quattro Canti Square, at the busy intersection of Corso Victorio Emanuele and Via Maqueda, the oldest part of town. During our city tour of the historic centre the impressive Cathedral of Palermo (from the outside), the Teatro Massimo (from the outside). The closing scene of the God Father part III was filmed here. We visit some of the very interesting markets in some of the many Piazza’s of Palermo; “Ballaro” in Piazza Carmine, Liberta Square, and “Borgho Vecchio” which stays open late. Great places for shopping! Sicilian Pastries must be tried: Cassata, Sicilian Cannoli and Frutta Di Martorana. Afternoon drive to Monreale. The incredible mosaics in the Norman-Saracen Cathedral of Santa Maria La Nuova inspired Jacque Cartier to name his Canadian city Montreal. We board our overnight cruise ship across the Tyrrhenian Sea arriving in Naples in early morning. Dinner on board the cruise ship.

DAY 11: NAPOLI/SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO/VASTO
After disembarking in Naples we travel through the Campania and Apulia regions to San Giovanni Rotondo. St. Padre Pio lived here for 50 years as a Capuchin monk at the monastery of our Lady of Grace. Canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2002, St. Padre Pio is Italy’s most loved Saint. We visit the Capuchin monastery of St. Maria Delle Grazie, with a small museum depicting the life of Padre Pio, some of his personal items and his bedroom, exactly the way it was 40 years ago. Padre Pio is revered for his pious life, his miraculous intercession, and his having received the Stigmata, the sign’s of Christ’s wounds. He possessed the spiritual gift of “Bilocution” (Being in two places at the same time). He could also read souls, prophesize, and make personal visits with the order of Sanctity, and miraculous healing. We visit the new church of San Pio of Pietrelcina, the second-largest in the country after St. Peter. We continue to Vasto and ancient Adriatic city with a splendid coast line with golden sand, crystal clear waters, genuine foods and wine. Dinner and overnight at our hotel in Vasto.

DAY 12: VASTO/NORCIA/ASSISI
After breakfast we depart Vasto for Norcia located in the Umbrian Valley. St. Benedict was born in this charming town. Norcia is the Italian capital of the black truffle. Cheese and cured pork products are well known all over Italy. “Norcineria” is the name adopted from this village by cured pork butchers shops all over Italy. Be sure to try a plate of sausage and lentils while there. We continue in the Umbrian Valley to Assisi, the birth place of St. Francis and St. Clare. We visit the Basilica of Saint Francis with Giotto’s Frescos depicting scenes from the life of St. Francis and built above the Saint’s grave. We then visit the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels with the Porziuncula. We visit the Cappella Del Transito, the chapel where Francis died. After lunch we continue to the Basilica of St. Clare, to view her remains and see the miraculous Crucifix that spoke to St. Francis. Time to relax and enjoy this mystic town. Dinner and overnight in Assisi.

DAY 13: ASSISI/SIENA/FIRENZE/MONTECATINI
This morning we travel in the very heart of the Chianty Vine Yards and to Siena the jewel of Tuscany. This is the home of St. Catherine the patron saint of Italy. The beauty of Siena is best experienced by walking through its historic streets and relaxing at the outdoor cafes in the Piazza Del Campo, site of the Palio Horses Races. The participants are members of the ancient city districts competing for the banner “The Palio.” We visit the Basilica of St. Dominic, with the relics of St. Catherine, and the house where St. Catherine lived, which is now a sanctuary. Upon arrival in Florence, we visit Piazzale Michelangelo to enjoy a panoramic view of this elegant city. Then we embark on a walking tour of Florence with our local guide to see the city’s highlights: Piazza Santa Croce, the beautiful Piazza Signoria, the Palazzo Vecchi, Piazza Del Duomo, the Cathedral and Giotto’s Campanile. We admire the magnificent door of the Baptistery, known as the “Gate of Paradise” (Ghiberti’s Masterpiece). Time to shop for Florentine gold and leather goods. Continue to Montecatini for dinner and overnight.

DAY 14: MONTECATINI/CINQUE TERRE/MONTECATINI
We depart Montecatini for a day excursion to Cinque Terre where “cultivation is culture”. The Cinque Terre consists of five villages, Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso Al Mare. These villages are strung along cliffs in the region of Liguria, northern Italy’s Riviera. It is a national park with a protected marine area under Unesco. These “Five Lands” are extremely charming with indescribable panoramic views. We arrive in Riomaggiore, a town with tall houses marching up the hill, here we have a choice to walk from Riomaggiore to Manarola (1km) or continue from Manarola to Corniglia (1hr and 20min), or take the train from either villages to Monterosso Al Mare. You can walk the sea coastal path of all five villages in five hours (start training if you are planning to walk five hours). Remember, the train goes through all five villages in only twenty minutes. We meet our bus in Monterosso, the largest of the “Five Lands”. Dinner and overnight at our hotel in Montecatini.

DAY 15: MONTECATINI/MARANELLO/PADOVA
This morning we leave the Tuscany Region and travel toward Maranello to visit the Ferrari factory and museum. It will be an extraordinary experience to participate in the world of Ferrari, offered via cars and big screens films. There is the possibility to turn into a formula 1 driver on board of a semi-professional simulator (extra fee). We travel through the Veneto Region to Padua. Galileo lectured in Padua’s 13th century university; Dante, Petrarch and Tasso studied here. We visit the Basilica of St. Anthony, a mixture of Gothic, Romanesque and Byzantine Architecture with the relics of the Saint. Dinner and overnight in Padua.

DAY 16: PADOVA/MURANO/BURANO/VENEZIA/PADOVA
A This morning we enjoy views of Venice as we cross the lagoon by boat to the island of Murano made up of 5 islands. This island is world famous mainly for the skills of its glass blowers. Here we find beautiful glass ornaments in every imaginable shape. We continue to Burano a fascinating place with very colorful houses, canals and great restaurants. We will enjoy a seafood lunch before going to Venice, the city where everything and everyone floats. This lovely Lagoon-city on the Adriatic coast is like a giant maze with tiny alleys and hidden piazzas linked by narrow foot bridges over 400 large and small canals. It is with good reason that Venetians call their city “La Serenissima” (the most serene). Venice awakes each morning with a refreshing absence of speeding cars, and roaring mopeds. We arrive by boat, in St. Mark’s Square. We visit St. Mark’s Basilica, a masterpiece of Venetian – Byzantine architecture built in 830 to shelter the tomb of St. Mark. We view the marble Ducal Palace, and the famous “Bridge of Sighs”. On foot is the best way to explore Venice. Perhaps you might take on optional “Gondola Ride” across the “Grand Canal” or walk on the Rialto Bridge and visit the market. To experience the real Venice head towards the side streets to “Strada Nova” and you’ll see how Venice’s citizens live and shop. Dinner and overnight at our hotel in Padua.

DAY 17: VENEZIA
Today we bid farewell to Venice and Italy and transfer to the Venice airport. As our pilgrimage comes to a close we will be returning home with fond memories of an unforgettable “Italian holiday”.

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