Days 1 — U.S./Pisa, Italy
Depart for Pisa and arrive the next morning. Drive to Italy's spectacular Ligurian coast and check into our hotel. Take a stroll through town before our welcome reception and dinner.
Accommodations: Hotel Vis a Vis | Meals: (D)
Day 2 — The Cinque Terre
Nestled in the folds of a rugged coastline, the five pastel-hued villages of the Cinque Terre tumble picturesquely from the rocky cliffs to the sea. Travel through steep, vine-covered hills to Manarola, and set out along a coastal walking path that links the villages. Follow the trail as it winds along the hillside, offering incomparable views, and learn about the history and geologic features of this region from our guide. Board a ferry and cruise north to Vernazza to take in the stunning coastline from a different perspective. Enjoy lunch on your own in Vernazza—a village open to pedestrians only. This afternoon, take an optional vigorous hike or return to the hotel for time at leisure.
Accommodations: Hotel Vis a Vis Meals: (B)
Day 3 — Carrara/Lucca/Florence
Begin the day in Carrara, home to the marble quarries where Michelangelo chose the massive blocks that he transformed into masterpieces. Here, walls of shining white marble soar skyward, cut out of the mountains and accessible only by narrow switchbacks. Continue to the lovely walled city of Lucca and set out on a walking tour highlighting its Romanesque churches. Ride a bicycle atop the city walls or take advantage of free time to explore the town. Arrive in Florence, and enjoy an evening on your own.
Accommodations: Hotel Brunelleschi | Meals: (B)
Day 4 — Florence
Take a morning walking tour of the historic center of Florence. In Piazza della Repubblica, discover the city’s beginnings as a Roman settlement. Stroll through narrow streets past the fortified houses and towers that marked the medieval town, and emerge onto the open Piazza della Signoria, the political center of the city since the Middle Ages. Immerse yourself in the world of Michelangelo this afternoon. Visit San Lorenzo, the parish church of the Medici family—Michelangelo’s patrons—to view the Medici Tombs and the Chapel of the Princes. Encounter Michelangelo’s peerless “David” and the evocative “Prisoners” at the Accademia.
Accommodations: Hotel Brunelleschi | Meals: (B,D)
Day 5 — Florence/Gargonza
Travel south into the Chianti region. Visit the renowned Badia a Coltibuono vineyard and fortified former abbey for a wine tasting and lunch. Then continue to Gargonza, a medieval hamlet superbly situated in the Tuscan countryside. This afternoon, settle into the privately owned 13th-century castello of Count and Countess Guicciardini—our home for the next three nights. Take the rest of the day to read, relax, and enjoy the swimming pool, set in an olive grove with a glorious view.
Accommodations: Castello di Gargonza | Melas: (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Siena
A short drive brings us to the Tuscan gem of Siena. Soak up the medieval flavor of the city on a walking tour that includes the Piazza del Campo; the Palazzo Pubblico; and the colorful, marble-clad cathedral. Stop for lunch on your own in one of Siena's many trattorias, and spend the afternoon exploring at leisure.
Accommodations: Castello di Gargonza | Meals: (B,D)
Day 7 — Tuscan Countryside
Venture into the Tuscan countryside on a morning hike through the scenic landscape near Gargonza. During a free afternoon at the castello, stroll the gardens, relax by the pool, or try your hand at a game of bocce. Later, you may join the castello’s chef for a cooking lesson and a tasting of several fine local vintages.
Accommodations: Castello di Gargonza | Meals: (B,L,D)
Day 8 — Pienza/Rome
Drive through gorgeous scenery on the way to Pienza, an architectural treasure trove. Stroll through the heart of the town before sampling local specialties such as pici (hand-rolled pasta) and fresh pecorino cheese. Continue to Rome, arriving in the afternoon. Head into Vatican City to visit massive St. Peter's Basilica. Within its walls are the priceless works of Renaissance and Baroque masters, including Raphael, Michelangelo, and Bernini. Enjoy a specially arranged visit to the Vatican Museums this afternoon where we we will have access to rooms normally closed to the public. Our visit culminates with a rare opportunity to visit the breathtaking Sistine Chapel after hours and examine the masterpieces without the crowds.
Accommodations: Grand Hotel de la Minerve | Meals: (B,L)
Day 9 — Rome
On a morning walking tour, visit the Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain. After lunch on your own, stroll through the ancient Forum and the Colosseum. Toast your journey at a grand Roman farewell dinner tonight.
Accommodations: Grand Hotel de la Minerve | Meals: (B,D)
Day 10 — Rome/U.S.
Transfer to the airport for your return flight home.
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