DAY 1: DEPART USA
We depart USA en route to Milan with complimentary meals and beverages served aloft.
DAY 2: ARRIVE MILAN / TRANSFER TO PADUA
We arrive in Milan and are met by our Catholic Travel Centre representative, who will accompany us throughout our journey. Boarding our motor coach we transfer to Padua. We check-in at our accommodations in Padua and before dinner we visit the Basilica of St. Anthony. Here we celebrate the opening Mass of our pilgrimage. Then we meet our local guide to enjoy a tour of the Basilica. Dinner is served at our accommodations. (B, D)
DAY 3: PADUA: VISIT TO VENICE
Today we enjoy an excursion to Venice, known as ‘The Queen of the Adriatic’. “A unique position, the grace of her buildings, the changing colors, and not least the total absence of wheeled transport, make Venice the most charming and poetic city in the world.”
Our visit begins at the Basilica of St. Mark–golden mosaics from the Second Golden Age of Icons adorn this magnificent Byzantine basilica built to honor the body of St. Mark brought from Alexandria in Egypt. Popes John XXIII and John Paul I were Patriarchs of Venice. After Mass we visit the Piazza di San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale (the palace of the Doge, the political leader of the Republic of Venice). Dinner is at our accommodations. (B, D)
DAY 4: PADUA / FLORENCE
This morning we make our way to the home of the Medici family and the Jewel of the Renaissance – Florence. We visit the Duomo–Santa Maria in Fiore and the nearby Baptistery of San Giovanni, whose bronze doors by Ghiberti are said to be rivaled only by the gates of heaven. Down the street is the Academia, where we marvel at Michelangelo’s “David”. We celebrate Mass at a frescoed chapel in the Franciscan Church of Santa Croce. The balance of the day is at leisure to shop (the gold, leather, and straw markets) or to sightsee. Dinner and overnight are in Florence. (B, D)
DAY 5: FLORENCE / PISA / SIENA / ASSISI
This morning we depart for Pisa with its Leaning Tower, said to be the most instantly identifiable landmark in the Western World. It is also on the list of endangered monuments and you will hear about the various solutions proposed to counteract the sinking of its foundation (the tower is now leaning 11 feet off the vertical). We see Pisa’s sumptuous Duomo, known for its horizontal marble stripes, and the ornate Baptistery.
We depart Pisa for Siena, the home of St. Catherine. We visit the austere church of San Domenico–“which contains the only authentic portrait of Catherine in the chapel where she received the Dominican habit and where several of her miracles occurred”. Here we celebrate Mass. We will also visit the Eucharistic Miracle at the Church of St. Francis. Our final stop of the day is the tiny Umbrian town of Assisi, nestled on the side of Mt. Subasio. This was the home of Ss. Francis and Clare. Dinner and the evening are at our accommodations in Assisi. (B, D)
DAY 6: ASSISI: VISIT SITES OF ST. FRANCIS & ST. CLARE
This morning our guide will meet us for a visit of the Basilica of St. Francis, where we visit the Tomb of St. Francis. Here we celebrate Mass. We will also enjoy a walking tour of town, including the Church of San Rufino (with St. Francis’ baptismal font), and the Basilica of St. Clare (where her incorrupt body lies in repose.)
This afternoon we meet at the Piazza near St. Clare’s Church and take taxis up the winding road (buses cannot make these sharp turns) to the Eremo delle Carceri (Hermitage), secluded some 2 1/2 miles outside the town of Assisi. Here is where St. Francis often retired to pray. Here, in the midst of the lush green forest and the singing birds, one gets a deep sense of the spirit of St. Francis. We take some time for our own private reflections here, then return to the town down below for dinner and the evening. (B, D)
DAY 7: ASSISI: EXCURSION TO CASCIA & LORETO
This morning we depart to Cascia, where we visit the Shrine of St. Rita, one of the most popular of the Italian saints. She was a married woman, a mother, a widow, a nun, a stigmatist, and later, a mystic. The Basilica of St. Rita contains her incorrupt body, several relics from her life, and a Eucharistic miracle from before her time.
We continue on to Loreto for a visit of the Holy House of Loreto. Legend tells us that in1291 the Virgin Mary’s House was miraculously transported by angels from Nazareth to Croatia, then further transported here in 1294. We find the Holy House inside the Basilica. Here we celebrate Mass. We return to Assisi for dinner and the evening. (B, D)
DAY 8: ASSISI / ORVIETO / ROME
This morning we visit the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels. The Basilica contains the Porziuncola chapel, constructed in part by St. Francis. Nearby marks the site where Francis surrendered to ‘Sister Death’.
Today we travel to Orvieto, the town that sits on a 1,000-foot high rock formation, poetically crowned by Italy’s most renowned Gothic cathedral. Because of its strategic location, Orvieto for centuries served as a refuge for the popes in troubled times. We visit the famous Cathedral housing the corporeale of the Miracle of the Eucharist in Bolsena. Here we celebrate Mass. Our tour continues on to Rome for dinner and overnight at our accommodations in Rome. (B, D)
DAY 9: ROME: VATICAN DAY
This morning we visit the Basilica of St. Peter housing the Tomb of St. Peter. Here we celebrate Mass. We will visit the nearby tomb of Pope John Paul II ( time permitting ). We continue with a tour of the Vatican Museum, where our visit is highlighted by the Sistine Chapel, featuring Michelangelo’s masterworks. We then visit the Basilica of St. Peter with our local guide. We will see Michelangelo’s famous statue of the Blessed Mother holding her crucified Son. We know it as The Pieta.
We have some time for lunch on our own. Later we have a guided visit and tour of the Scavi, the underground excavations beneath St. Peter’s Basilica (these tickets are always subject to final confirmation 48 hours before the proposed visit). Dinner and the evening are at our accommodations. (B, D)
DAY 10: ROME: PAPAL AUDIENCE & MAJOR BASILICAS
This morning we celebrate Mass at a local church in the Vatican area and then we transfer to the Papal Audience Hall for the General Audience with the Holy Father (subject to Vatican schedule).
This afternoon we visit the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. One of the chapels here is built on soil brought from Jerusalem centuries ago and scattered here by Helena, mother of Constantine. The Chapel of the Relics contains Relics of the Passion (three fragments of the Cross, a nail, two thorns from the Crown, and a finger of the Apostle St. Thomas.)
We continue to the Papal Basilica of St. John Lateran. It is here that St. Francis persuaded Pope Innocent III to give permission to begin the Franciscan Order. The night before, the Pope had seen a man in a dream and the man was supporting the tottering building of St. John Lateran. The next day, when Francis appeared before Pope Innocent, His Holiness recognized the face from the dream and consented to Francis’ request.
Nearby is the Scala Santa, purportedly the stairs which Christ climbed prior to his condemnation by Pontius Pilate.
Next we visit the Basilica of St. Mary Major, the largest church in Rome dedicated to our Blessed Mother. Nearby is the Church of St. Alphonsus, bearing the original icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Dinner is at our accommodations. (B, D)
DAY 11: ROME: ST. PAUL’S BASILICA & ANCIENT ROME
We begin this morning with Mass and a visit to the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, housing the Tomb of St. Paul, affectionately known as the Apostle of the Gentiles. We see the Abbey of Tre Fontane, the traditional site of St. Paul’s execution. Paul was executed in the aftermath of the fires that demolished Rome in 64 AD. The Annals of the Roman historian Tacitus describe the persecution of the Christians, who were blamed without grounds for the fire that destroyed three-quarters of the city. We also visit the nearby Church of Our Lady of Revelation. Our final stop of the morning is the Church of Santa Susanna, the parish church for the American community in Rome.
This afternoon we continue with a tour of some of the sites of Ancient Rome, including the Forum and Coliseum. Its real name was the Flavian Amphitheatre, after the emperors who built it in the first century after Christ. Coliseum refers to the ‘colossal’ statue of Nero that at one time stood at the entrance. We will drive by the Forum and enter into the Coliseum. We will also visit the Mamertine Prison, the traditional site of imprisonment of Peter and Paul. Our tour also includes the Church of St. Peter in Chains, featuring Michelangelo’s famous statue of Moses. This evening we gather for a festive farewell dinner at a local restaurant. (B, D)
DAY 12: RETURN USA
This morning we transfer to the Rome airport for our return flight to the USA. (B)
NOTE: While no changes are anticipated, there might be occasions when certain alterations become necessary to this itinerary due to changes in airline schedules or for other reasons. All Masses are subject to final church schedules.