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Package details include
Few countries evoke more romantic images of the Mediterranean lifestyle than Italy. Discover ancient ruins, medieval towns and world-class food and wine in a nation that knows how to celebrate la dolce vita.
This AAA Sojourns EXCLUSIVE vacation begins in Venice, Queen of the Adriatic, and arguably the most romantic city in the world. Explore her winding streets on a guided tour of St. Mark's Square followed by a once-in-a-lifetime gondola ride through the graceful canals. In the Rialto district, a gourmet tour of cutting edge wine bars let you discover the best of local wine and cicheti (snacks). And your culinary exploration continues at a cooking class in Florence, where a chef will guide you through the preparations of a typical three-course meal of local specialties. After, you and fellow students will dine on your creations.
Then get ready for a truly authentic Tuscan experience on a day trip to Barone Ricasoli Winery. Located in the 10th century Broglio Castle near the town of Greve, Barone Ricasoli Winery is the oldest winery in Italy and is believed to be the second oldest in the world. The formula for Chianti Classico wine was invented here and it continues to be the largest winery in the Chianti region with state-of-the-art winemaking facilities.
And though in the Ricasoli family for 800 years and still their family residence, some areas of the stunning 140-room castle and gardens are open to visitors. Explore the castle and castle museum, savor a wine cellar tour and tasting, then sit down to a typical Tuscan lunch at the excellent onsite cafe.
Also enjoy a moveable feast of culture on a guided tour of Florence. Birthplace of the Renaissance, admire Florence's Brunelleschi Dome and Giotto’s Bell Tower. See the Baptistery and Gates of Paradise doors, the beautiful Piazza della Signoria, and the Renaissance masterpiece, Michelangelo’s David.
And in Rome, step back in time to Ancient Rome as you tour the mighty Colosseum, stroll the ancient Forum and climb Palatine hill. A guided tour of the Vatican Museums' priceless works of art also includes the incomparable Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica. And don't miss the Campidoglio, most sacred of Rome’s seven hills, where you'll enjoy panoramic views.
• 7 nights in 4-star hotels: 2 nights in Venice, 3 nights in Florence and 2 nights in Rome
• Meals - Daily breakfast, 1 lunch and 4 dinners
• All on-tour transportation including high speed rail between cities plus English-speaking tour guide
• Tastes - Gourmet food tour in Venice, cooking class in Florence and Chianti winery excursion
• Sights - Sightseeing tours and entrance fees in Venice, Florence and Rome as per itinerary
• Round-trip arrival/departure transfers and tips for baggage handling and hotels
Day 1 – Arrive in Venice
Upon arrival at Venice’s airport, meet your tour manager for transfer by private boat to your hotel. After check-in, enjoy the day at leisure before joining the group for a welcome dinner at a local restaurant.
Accommodation: Principe Palace or similar – 2 nights
Day 2 – Venice Sights & Gourmet Tour
After breakfast depart for St. Mark’s Square for a guided tour of the Basilica and the Doge's Palace. The square is the principal public square in Venice and boasts a number of historically and architecturally significant attractions. Following lunch on your own, experience a once-in-a-lifetime gondola ride through the city’s canals. A tradition in Venice for centuries, a gondola ride gives you a completely different perspective of the city than exploring it on foot.
Then disembark in the bustling Rialto area for a gourmet discovery tour. Sample local wine and cicheti (snacks) at cozy wine bars interspersed with exploring the narrow winding streets through the nizioleti (literally "small sheets" but meaning street signs), that tell much about the story and people of old Venice.
Day 3 – Venice to Florence & Cooking Class
After breakfast, we transfer by private boat to the Venice railway station for a high speed rail journey to Florence. Upon arrival, transfer to your Florence hotel by private minibus for check-in and time to relax.
In the afternoon, enjoy a hands-on cooking class with a local chef who offers his expertise on classic Tuscan dishes. You’ll prepare a three course seasonal menu using the finest ingredients from the market. This intimate experience is specially prepared for our group so you can experience what it is like to be chef for a day. Then enjoy an aperitif before sitting down to savor the delicious meal you and your fellow travelers just prepared together.
Accommodation: Hotel Adler or similar – 3 nights
Day 4 – Florence Sights
After breakfast enjoy a guided tour of Florence’s historical city center mixed with an exploration of Tuscan cuisine. We start at the bustling central market to shop for the best in seasonal food and wine. A walking tour of this market is really a full immersion in the culinary products of Tuscany.
Then on to the Cathedral with its famous dome by Brunelleschi and the gold Gates of Paradise doors of the Baptistery. We continue to Piazza Signoria, the political heart of Florence since the 1300s when Florence was considered the richest city in Europe. Proceed to Ponte Vecchio, the bridge which attracts so much curiosity not only because of its unique and charming appearance but also due to the fabulous jewelry shops lining the bridge. Our tour finishes at Santa Croce Church, one of the most important in Florence and containing the tombs of the most famous Florentine citizens.
Day 5 – Chianti Tour & Tasting
After breakfast, depart Florence for the town of Greve in the Chianti region. En route, stop to taste the famous finocchiona (Tuscan salami) by the historical Macelleria Falorni. Continue to Gaiole in Chianti for a guided visit of the Ricasoli Wine Cellar housed in Brolio Castle which dates back to the 10th century. This unique experience allows the visitor to learn a great deal about the Ricasoli family history. After exploring the castle, the tour continues in the spacious wineries where the famed Barone Ricasoli wines are produced. Here it is possible to admire the huge rooms where the wines are aged in barriques and then continue on to the tasting area.
At the end of the visit you will also get a chance to taste the local olive oil at the osteria (a café-type restaurant serving wine and local specialties) where we will be served a typical Tuscan lunch. Return to Florence where the remainder of the day is on your own.
Day 6 – Florence to Rome & Ancient Rome
After breakfast we transfer to the Florence railway station for the high speed rail journey to Rome. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel via motor coach for check-in and lunch on your own.
In the afternoon, enjoy a tour of the sites of Ancient Rome. Visit the Campidoglio, most sacred of Rome’s seven hills, for a breathtaking panoramic view of the Forum. Stop by Caesar’s cremation site and see The Via Sacra, the temple of Vesta and much more. Climb Palatine hill with its imperial memories. And visit the Colosseum, ancient Rome’s most outstanding landmark and the site of spectacular gladiator combats and gruesome executions; our extensive visit of the Colosseum includes both the ground and upper structures.
We end our tour with a stroll along the Avenue of Imperial Fora a series of monumental public squares dedicated to Augustus, Caesar and Trajan and others. Constructed over a period of one and half centuries, between 46 BC and 113 AD, the forums were the center of the Roman Republic. Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant.
Accommodation: Centrally located 4-star hotel – 2 nights
Day 7 – Vatican Museums Tour
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel and then depart for a guided visit of the Vatican Museums. Our tour takes us through the Vatican palaces, the Sistine Chapel, St Peter’s Pinecone Courtyard and Candelabras Gallery with its many sculptures from Roman and Greek periods. The Sistine Chapel’s amazing ceiling with the "Creation" and dramatic "Judgment’s Day" on the altar wall, have overwhelmed visitors since their unveiling in the 16th century.
From the Sistine Chapel we then proceed to the world largest church, St Peter’s Vatican Basilica with Michelangelo’s Pieta and Bernini’s spectacular baroque monuments. At St Peter’s Square, overlooked by Michelangelo’s imposing dome and embraced by Bernini’s elegant colonnade, we end our Vatican experience. Enjoy lunch and the remainder of the afternoon on your own. Tonight, say farewell to your fellow travelers at a special farewell dinner.
Day 8 – Depart Rome
After breakfast, transfer to the Rome airport for your flight home.