Best of Italy
In this journey to the classic sites of Italy, you will experience this wonderful land of pasta, piazzas and paintings. You will visit many important and treasure filled cities such as Como, Milan, Verona, Venice, Florence, Assisi, and Rome. In between, you will also appreciate charming towns such as Ravenna, Pisa, Sienna and those along the breathtaking Amalfi Drive. You stroll through the streets of the rediscovered Roman city of Pompeii, admire the beauty of Sorrento and have a boat ride to the enchanting island of Capri. Sample the food, relax in the sun-warmed squares and wonder just how one country could have produced so much stunning art. It’s all here for you to enjoy.
DAY 1: TORONTO – MILAN
Depart Toronto on your wide-bodied overnight flight bound for Milan.
DAY 2: MILAN – COMO (D)
Arrive in marvelous Milan, capital of Lombardy. After clearing customs and immigration, you will be met and transferred to your hotel in Como. Como is a lively and pleasant town with an appealing historical centre and a scenic location at the southern end of the east branch of Lake Como.
Upon arrival, check-in to your hotel. Remainder of the day is at leisure to explore on your own.
The impressive cathedral (Duomo), was built and added to over a period of centuries, so you can admire Gothic and Renaissance features including some fine tapestries and paintings. The town's earlier cathedral San Fedele was built in the 10th century and is another fine sight, as are the tall nine-hundred-year-old gateway, Porta Vittoria, and the Romanesque church Sant'Abbondio.
Dinner and overnight in Como.
DAY 3:: MILAN (B)
This morning’s sightseeing tour includes a visit to the great Gothic Cathedral whose façade is decorated with 135 lacy pinnacles and 2,245 statues, the enormous and always fascinating Piazza del Duomo, the animated glass covered Galleria which is a huge collection of shops, cafes and popular meeting place of the Milanese, and the Refectory adjacent to the Santa Maria delle Grazie to see Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of “The Last Supper”. The afternoon is at leisure for personal sightseeing or shopping.
Return to Como for overnight.
DAY 4: COMO – VERONA – VENICE (B/D)
Board your air-conditioned deluxe motorcoach and breeze over the Autostrada Serenissima past the southern tip of Lake Garda, largest of the lovely Lombardi lakes, to the legendary city of Romeo and Juliet, Verona. Your sightseeing tour here will feature a visit to the third century Roman amphitheater.
See the central marketplace Piazza delle Erbe, crowded with colourful umbrella-covered stalls and the 13th century balconied house reputedly belonging to Juliet’s family. Continue on and cross the Venetian Plain to the captivating “City in the Sea”, Venice. Dinner and overnight in Venice.
DAY 5: VENICE (B)
The “Queen of the Adriatic” is considered by many to be the most unusual city in the world. Built for defense on a group of tiny islands, it is a labyrinth of 150 canals; graced by hundreds of bridges and abounded with narrow alleys and canyon-like footpaths. The vast S-shaped Grand Canal flows serenely under the Rialto Bridge and past more than 200 palaces lining its two and a half mile course. Much of the architectural splendor of Venice is of Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance marble.
This morning’s walking tour includes a visit of St. Mark’s Cathedral to see the Pala d’Oro, a magnificent jewel encrusted altar piece whose origin dates back to 1105. Next you will visit the Doge’s Palace which is of striking beauty. It contains works of the great Venetian masters: Tintoretto, Bellini, Tiepolo, Veronese, Tiziano and Carpaccio.
Then visit the famous Bridge of Sighs built in the 16th century. Walk around Mark’s Square and see the Clock Tower whose two huge bronze Moors parade and strike the time every quarter hour; the Campanile rising above the square and more.
The afternoon is at leisure. You may want to go island-hopping to Burano, picturesque centre of the Venetian lace industry; to Murano; the centuries-old glass-blowing centre or to Lido, Venice’s beach resort. These islands are a short and easy journey via vaporetto.
DAY 6: VENICE (B)
The entire day is at leisure for personal sightseeing or shopping.
DAY 7: VENICE – RAVENNA – FLORENCE (B/D)
Today you drive through the fertile delta of the Po River to Ravenna, the former “Imperial City”. Wrapped in nostalgic charm, this glorious town offers the finest evidence of early Christian art which you will see in the Church of St. Vitalis.
Then over the Apennine mountain range, admiring spectacular vistas of green and rugged scenery, to Florence, centre of art, architecture, history and shopping. Upon arrival, check-in to hotel. Dinner and overnight in Florence.
DAY 8: FLORENCE – PISA – FLORENCE (B)
Dante, Petrarch, Boccacio and Galileo contributed to the intellectual life of Florence while Michelangelo, Giotto, Cimabue, Ghiberti, Donatello, Botticelli and the della Robbias left their aesthetic imprints. And the legacy of the Medici family is monumental.
Today’s tour begins with a visit to the Cathedral (with its magnificent dome by Brunelleschi) and the Uffizi Gallery that is the result of a process of acquisition, selection and rearrangement stretching over several centuries and consists mostly of antique sculpture and paintings ranging from the 13c to 18c.
Next you will see the Baptistery’s incomparable bronze doors by Pisano and Ghiberti, said by Michelangelo to be worthy of the Gates of Paradise; then the famous Ponte Vecchio which is a 14th century double-decked bridge lined with a beehive of shops); the Piazza della Signoria, the city’s most handsome square, which is an outdoor museum of marvelous statuary and fountains; lovely Piazza del Duomo; Giotto’s Campanile; the Piazzale Michelangelo with its sweeping view of the River Arno, the City and environs.
In the afternoon motor to Pisa to visit its grandiose Cathedral and to see one of the world’s most unique monuments, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Return to Florence.
DAY 9: FLORENCE (B)
The entire day is at leisure for personal sightseeing or shopping. Florence is a shopper's paradise: countless shops laden with jewelry of Florentine gold and silver, exquisite leather goods, chic fashion houses and of course the straw market for great bargains.
We suggest that you visit the Accademia Museum where you can see an extraordinary group of Michelangelo sculptures. There are seven in all, the most admired of them is David; the most famous male nude in the history of art.
DAY 10: FLORENCE – SIENA – ASSISI (B/D)
Depart Florence this morning and travel to Assisi via the medieval walled city of Siena. It is one of Italy’s great art centres with a profusion of fine architecture. Perched on three dramatic hills, Siena’s Piazza del Campo is shaped like a gigantic seashell and considered to be one of the most magnificent in the world. Here you will see the remarkable black and white Cathedral.
Continue through Umbrian landscapes to Assisi, birthplace of St. Francis. A sightseeing tour will take you to the massive Franciscan Convent and the two-storied basilica which was built over his tomb. Both structures are decorated with famous frescoes, notably those of Giotto and Cimabue, which mirror the works and simple life of St. Francis.
Dinner and overnight in Assisi.
DAY 11: ASSISI – SORRENTO (B/D)
Depart Assisi and travel to Sorrento, a resort town of colourful gardens, with nearby orange, lemon and olive groves, it faces the Bay of Naples and is praised by poets and writers alike. Upon arrival, check-in to your hotel. Remainder of your time is at leisure to explore this charming town.
Dinner and overnight in Sorrento.
DAY 12: SORRENTO – AMALFI DRIVE – CAPRI – SORRENTO (B)
This morning you will motor along the unforgettable, serpentine Amalfi Drive past Positano to Amalfi. Sheer cliffs and hillsides, colourful houses and flowers overlooking sparkling waters make this one of Italy’s greatest treasures. Words can not describe the beauty of the Amalfi Drive.
Completing the circular tour at Sorrento, we board the afternoon ferry boat to the fabled island of Capri. As you near the port of Marina Grande look towards the left on top of the cliff – here you will see Villa Jorvis. Although it is now in ruins, it was the home of the Roman Emperor, Tiberius, who at that time was the most powerful man in the world. Capri remains one of Italy’s loveliest places.
Your tour of the island will feature Anacapri. You will ascend to the exhilarating heights of Anacapri from which the view toward the mainland and its breathtaking seascapes is unsurpassed. After the tour you will have free time to explore the island. If you wish, you can visit Grotta Azzura (Blue Grotto). Please beware – the motorboat, rowboat, and grotto admission are charged separately, and if there is a line of boats waiting their turn, you’ll have little time to enjoy the grotto’s marvellous colours. Negotiate a price before you get in the boat.
Return to Sorrento to overnight.
DAY 13: SORRENTO – POMPEII – ROME (B/D)
Leaving Sorrento behind, continue your journey to see yet another treasure, Pompeii. The sumptuous town that was buried under lava during a volcanic eruption of Vesuvius that started in August 24, AD 79. The city itself tells the story clearly, especially in the tragic casts of figures caught under the ash, crouching under tables, struggling upstairs, a mother holding up her baby, etc. The molten ash made sculptor’s mold of them which have been used to recreate the bodies displayed in the museum (Antiquarium) at the entrance to the excavations and returned to their original locations. At Pompeii the fascination lies in the glimpses of everyday life frozen in time.
Continue to Italy’s great capital, Rome. Dinner and overnight in Rome.
DAY 14: ROME (B/D)
This morning enjoy a guided tour of this historical city. Rome’s past and present come alive as we see Piazza and Palazzo Venezia (where Mussolini frequently harangued his cheering Black Shirts), the legendary Trevi Fountain, the Roman Forum, the Circus Maximus and the Imperial Palaces on Palatino Hill. Your last stop on the tour will be a visit the Colosseum which was the site of ferocious gladiatorial contests, fights between men and wild beasts, chariot races and the massacres of Christians.
In the afternoon you will visit the famous Vatican City. The Vatican has its own flag and national anthem, mints its own coinage, prints its own postage stamps, has its own polyglot daily newspaper and is an independent state ruled by the Pope, the only absolute sovereign in Europe. All these activities take place in an area just over 100 acres, a considerable part of which is taken up by St. Peter's, the worlds’ largest basilica in the worlds’ smallest state. Your guided tour will include a visit to the Vatican Museum displaying wondrous treasures assembled over hundreds of years, and the glorious Sistine Chapel which features Michelangelo’s famed ceiling frescoes.
This evening enjoy a farewell dinner in “Italian style”.
DAY 15:: ROME (B)
The entire day is at leisure to explore this beautiful Roman city.
DAY 16: ROME – TORONTO (B)
After breakfast, board coach and transfer to the airport for you flight home arriving the same day.
Italia!Dawn broke early, banishing night’s darkness with a gentle nudge. Kissed the glistening snow-capped peaks of the majestic Swiss Alps; then beamed her golden smile far and wide to light the morning sky. Our Alitalia jet had just crossed the Italian border where the scenery was so breathtaking...