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This well-rounded journey through Italy begins with two days in The Eternal City of Rome. You'll have VIP entry into the Vatican Museums with its priceless art treasures and be among the select few to admire the famous Bramante Staircase. Your guide will also take you on a private tour of St. Peter's Basilica, the Colosseum and Roman Forum, and the Sistine Chapel, where Michelangelo’s frescoed ceiling continues to dazzle new generations of visitors. Then head north for Assisi, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the birthplace of St. Francis who founded the Franciscan religious order here in 1208. A walking tour includes the Basilica of St. Francis featuring priceless medieval frescos of the beloved saint.
Glory in gorgeous Venice, a city of canals, graceful bridges and narrow winding walkways. Cruise the spectacular Grand Canal to St. Mark's Square where a walking tour includes the Basilica, Bridge of Sighs and the Doge's Palace. Observe a traditional glass-blowing demonstration and delight in Venice's unique magic as you are serenaded through the atmospheric canals by gondola. On to Pisa to see the famous Leaning Tower before continuing to Florence, birthplace of the Renaissance and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Stand in awe beside Michelangelo’s monumental statue of David in the Academy Gallery on a walking tour. Your guide will bring this magnificent city's rich history to life as you also visit the Piazza della Signoria, Santa Croce Basilica and more.
See another side of Italy in the picturesque resort town of Sorrento. Stroll to the Piazza Tasso where the bars and cafes spring to life during long summer evenings. From here, cruise to the famous Isle of Capri, one of the most picturesque locations in Campania, and in the style of the jet-set, ride up to town by open top taxi. Before returning to Rome for a final night, walk with a guide through the city of Pompeii, buried in 79 AD by the volcanic eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius. Frozen in time by volcanic ash, Pompeii is one of the few places where an ancient city has been preserved in exact detail - everything from jars and tables to paintings and people.
• 9 nights in Premium Hotels, including service charges, taxes and luggage handling: 3 nights in Rome, 1 night in Assisi, 1 night in Venice, 2 nights in Florence and 2 nights in Sorrento
• Daily buffet breakfast, welcome reception and 4 dinners
• Local sightseeing by luxury air-conditioned, 40-seat motor coach with extended legroom and onboard restroom
• Accompanied by a professional Tour Director
• All guided visits and walking tours as per itinerary
• Airport arrival and departure transfers on Days 2 and 11
Day 1 - Depart the U.S.
Board your overnight flight to Rome (cost of airfare not included).
Days 2 & 3 – Papal and Imperial Rome Sightseeing
Welcome to Rome, a glorious city filled with Classical antiquities, medieval buildings, Renaissance palaces and baroque churches. On arrival at Rome’s Fiumicino Leonardo da Vinci Airport, transfers leave for the tour hotel at 9:30am, 12:30pm & 3:30pm local time. Check-in to your well-located hotel, La Griffe, which boasts a palatial 19th century exterior and is situated on the Via Nazionale between Piazza Venezia and Piazza della Republica. Tonight meet your Tour Director for a Welcome Reception, drinks and a light informal meal.
The following day is devoted to exploring the Eternal City. Join a local expert for an in-depth visit to the Vatican Museums full of priceless art treasures collected by the Popes. Insight Vacations has arranged special VIP entrance to avoid the crowds, together with behind the scenes access to the Bramante Staircase - a marvel of Renaissance architecture normally off-limits to the general public. Next move on to the Sistine Chapel where the Popes are elected. Enjoy clear commentary via your audio headset as you admire Michelangelo’s famous ceiling. At St. Peter’s Basilica, marvel at another of Michelangelo’s works, the emotive Pieta. Conclude your sightseeing on the other side of the Tiber River where you’ll stroll through the ruins of the ancient Roman Forum and visit the Colosseum, scene of many gladiatorial contests.
Accommodation: La Griffe - 2 nights
Day 4 – In Search of St. Francis
Today, we leave Rome and follow the valley of the River Tiber to the hills of Umbria, which form part of the Apennines Mountains. Your destination is peaceful Assisi, one of Italy’s most beautiful mountain towns. See the famous Church of St. Mary of the Angels, much venerated as the place of St. Francis’ death, before continuing up Mount Subasio to the upper town. Step inside the huge Basilica of St. Francis, built in the 13th century, where the frescoes by Giotto heralded a new era in Italian art.
Accommodation: Hotel Giotto - 1 night
Day 5 – Venice and Gondola Ride
A pleasant drive today takes us to the romantic city of Venice, and what better way to see it than from a private launch? Cruise past Palladian churches and 13th century palaces to St. Mark’s Square. See the Doges’ Palace connected to the prisons by the Bridge of Sighs. It was from here that Casanova made his daring escape. Admire the mosaics of St. Mark’s Basilica and watch one of the few remaining masters blow molten glass into a unique creation at a Venetian glass showroom.
Check-in to one of two superb hotels, both within walking distance to St Mark’s Square. Plus, no visit to Venice would be complete without a gondola serenade. Relax and enjoy the atmosphere, music and songs as you drift along the romantic canals.
Accommodation: St. Elena Hotel or Carlton on the Grand Canal, hotel choice will depend on day of week - 1 night
Days 6 & 7 – Pisa and Florence, birthplace of the Renaissance
This morning, cross the plain of the Po River and traverse the Apennines to reach the peaceful landscapes of Tuscany. Follow the river to the coastal town of Pisa to see the famous Leaning Tower. There is time to also admire the marble Cathedral and Baptistery before continuing to Florence.
Upon arrival in Florence, join a local expert for a walking tour of the historic city center. A highlight is the visit to the Academy Gallery to see Michelangelo’s monumental figure of David. Continue to the multi-colored marble Cathedral to see Giotto’s bell tower and Gates of Paradise before visiting the Piazza della Signoria, still the political heart of Florence. The area around Santa Croce Basilica is famous for the quality of its luxury goods; see a demonstration of leather work in the very place this craft first established itself.
During your stay in Florence, enjoy upgraded guestrooms at one of two elegant hotels plus a chance to sample some of the robust red wines of Tuscany. There’s also free time to shop or continue sightseeing. This evening, savor fine Florentine cuisine: tasty starters and rich pastas accompanied by Chianti wine.
Accommodation: NH Firenze or Athenaeum, hotel choice will depend on day of week - 2 nights
Days 8 & 9 – Sorrento and Capri, the Isle of Dreams
We head south today through the rich volcanic hills of Frascati. Pause at the Commonwealth War Cemetery, overlooked by the austere monastery of Montecassino before arriving at the picturesque resort of Sorrento. After hotel check-in, perhaps stroll to the Piazza Tasso where the bars and cafés turn up the volume and spring to life in the evenings.
Next morning, investigate the art of intarsio, or marquetry wood inlaying, before cruising to Capri, the isle of dreams. Under the Mediterranean sun, take an open top taxi up to Capri Town, where you can explore the narrow alleyways, browse in exclusive boutiques and enjoy the views over the Tyrrhenian Sea. Perhaps join an optional tour to visit Axel Munthe’s Villa San Michele?
Descend to the port by funicular railway and return to Sorrento for some relaxation time. Later, immerse yourself in the Italian culture and work up an appetite on a traditional evening stroll. Afterwards, you’ll be provided with a selection of local restaurants for your dining pleasure.
Accommodation: Hotel La Favorita - 2 nights
Day 10 – Pompeii, a Town Frozen in Time
This morning we visit Pompeii, the opulent Roman town which was preserved by layers of ash from the disastrous eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. A walking tour with a local expert through the cobbled streets and extensive excavations reveals the daily life of ancient Roman civilization.
Later, we head back to Rome. Tonight, join your fellow passengers for an unforgettable Celebration Dinner of delicious Italian cuisine, wine, music and spine-tingling operetta - a true Italian experience!
Accommodation: Sheraton Hotel - 1 night
Day 11 – Return to USA
Arrivederci Roma! Sadly, your tour comes to an end after breakfast today. Departure transfers arrive at Rome’s Fiumicino Leonardo da Vinci Airport at 7am & 9:30am.
Limitations & Restrictions
*Prices are per person based on double occupancy, are subject to availability at time of booking, and may change without notice. Current prices are based on 2014 Preview pricing and are subject to change after October 1, 2013. Single supplement may apply. Except for packages including air transportation, unless stated otherwise, airfare, taxes and government fees are not included. Offers valid for new bookings only. Member Benefits are per person and apply to first and second traveler only. Member Benefits are available only with advertised fare and are subject to change without notice. Your travel arrangements may be modified or canceled subject to the travel providers’ policies. Blackout dates and other restrictions may apply. We make every effort for accuracy at time of printing but reserve the right to correct errors. AAA Travel strongly recommends the purchase of trip protection insurance. Except for packages including air transportation, fares may not reflect additional fuel supplement or port charges and vary by provider.
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