15 Days: A Grand Pilgrimage Journey – Milan, Padua, Venice, La Verna, Loreto, Siena, San Gimignano

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DAY 1: DEPART USA

Depart our home city airport en route to Milan, with complimentary meals and beverages served aloft.

DAY 2: MILAN / VENICE MESTRE

We arrive in Milan (the See of Ss. Ambrose and Charles Borromeo and Paul VI). We are greeted by our Catholic Travel Centre representative and proceed downtown to see DaVinci’s Cenacolo (The Last Supper) to visit the Duomo, “the most magnificent Gothic building in Northern Italy”) the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio (“the most interesting church in Milan and the prototype of the Lombard Basilica and the Tomb of St. Ambrose). We will celebrate the opening Mass of our pilgrimage at the church Santa Maria delle Grazie. After dinner at the local restaurant in Milan we continue to Venice Mestre. (D)

DAY 3: VENICE: VISIT OF THE CITY

Today we enjoy a full day 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). The balance of our day is free to explore this exotic city before returning to Venice Mestre for dinner. (B, D)

DAY 4: VENICE MESTRE / PADUA / LA VERNA / MONTECATINI TERME

After breakfast, we make our way to Padua to visit the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua and celebrate Mass. We board our motorcoach and proceed to the tiny monastery at La Verna where St. Francis received the stigmata in 1224. We continue to the spa town of Montecatini-Terme for dinner and the evening. (B, D)

DAY 5: MONTECATINI: FLORENCE – Academy, San Marco, Santa Croce

Florence is known as the city of the Medici Family and Machiavelli. We visit the Duomo–Santa Maria in Fiore; the Baptistery of San Giovanni (bronze doors by Ghilberti); at the Academia we marvel at Michelangelo’s David; and we admire the frescoes by Giotto in the former monastery of San Marco. We celebrate Mass at a frescoed chapel in the Franciscan church of Santa Croce. We return to Montecatini Terme for dinner and the evening. (B, D)

DAY 6: MONTECATINI – Pisa / Livorno Excursion

Our day begins with a visit to Pisa, where we view the much-photographed Leaning Tower of Pisa. Then we are on our way to Livorno. Here we visit the Church of Mother Seton (named after Elizabeth Anne Seton, the first American born saint). Mass will be celebrated here. After lunch on our own and time for reflection, we visit the Sanctuary of Monte Nero. Here at Monte Nero Mother Seton became more resolved to convert to the Catholic faith based on her experience of the Eucharist. Dinner awaits us at our hotel in Montecatini-Terme. We will enjoy some time at leisure in this beautiful spa town. (B, D)

DAY 7: MONTECATINI / SAN GIMIGNANO / SIENA / ASSISI

Departing Montecatini, our first stop is the medieval walled and towered city of San Gimignano which has “preserved its appearance more completely than any other town in Tuscany, or perhaps in Italy.” The movie Brother Sun and Sister Moon was filmed here. Then we proceed to 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.” After Mass we make our way to Assisi in time for dinner. (B, D)

DAY 8: ASSISI – Visit of Assisi

We visit this “quiet medieval town, imbued with the mystical spirit of one of the most fascinating characters of history”. We start with the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels, the namesake for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Here we celebrate Mass and view the Porziuncola, the tiny church inside the Basilica. Nearby is the place that Francis surrendered to ‘Sister Death.’
Our guided tour includes San Rufino (with St. Francis’ baptismal font), Santa Chiara Church (home to the San Damiano Cross). We will have some leisure time this afternoon, and some persons may wish to take our minivans up to the Hermitage above Assisi, to find the place of quiet repose where St. Francis often retired to pray. Others may opt to stay in Assisi and walk the medieval streets. (B, D)

DAY 9: ASSISI – Loreto Excursion

We depart Assisi for Loreto, home to the Holy House of Loreto, which tradition says was the House of the Holy Family in Nazareth, miraculously transported here in 1294. The Shrine of Loreto remains one of the most venerated shrines in our Catholic tradition. Mass will be celebrated here. After a visit here, we return to Assisi for dinner and the evening. (B, D

DAY 10: ASSISI / ORVIETO / ROME

This morning we start wit the visit of the St. Francis’ Basilica . Here we celebrate the Mass.
We depart Assisi for the charming hilltop town of Orvieto. The town 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. But Orvieto’s claim to fame is really much more significant:

“It was during one of Orvieto’s papal visitations, in the 1260’s (Urban IV), that the Miracle of Bolsena occurred. A Bohemian priest named Peter, passing through on his way to Rome, was asked to celebrate Mass in the town of Bolsena. Father Peter had long been secretly skeptical about the doctrine of transubstantiation, but during this Mass the Host itself answered his doubts by dripping blood on the altar linen. Marveling, Peter took the linen to the pope in Orvieto, who declared it a miracle and instituted the feast of Corpus Christi. Thomas Aquinas, also in Orvieto at the time, was instructed to compose a suitable office for the new holy day, while the pope promised Orvieto a magnificent new cathedral to enshrine the blood-stained relic.” (Cadogan Guide).

We take some time to sample some of Orvieto’s famous wine. We will have time for shopping (the area is famous not only for its wine, but also its lace and ceramics!). Dinner is at the restaurant close to our hotel in Rome. (B, D)

DAY 11: St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, Catacombs, Piazza Navona

This morning we visit the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, housing the Tomb of St. Paul the Apostle, affectionately known as the Apostle of the Gentiles. Here we celebrate Mass. Our morning’s tour concludes with a visit to the Catacombs of St. Calixtus, the underground burial grounds of the early Christians.
This afternoon we enjoy a walking tour of the Eternal City. We begin our walking tour starting at the Trevi Fountain, where we toss our traditional three coins. From here we continue to the Piazza Trinita dei Monti at the top of the Spanish Steps, affording a romantic panoramic view of the city of Rome. Our tour continues across the city to the Pantheon and we finish our day at the Piazza Navona. We will have some time for browsing and shopping. Dinner on our own. ( B )

DAY 12: ROME – AM: Papal Audience PM: Major Basilicas

We make our way to Vatican City to attend the General Papal Audience at Pope Paul VI Audience Hall (subject to the Holy Father’s schedule). After our visit we may want to shop at some of excellent religious articles shops in the Vatican area.

This afternoon we visit the Papal Basilica of St. John Lateran where we celebrate Mass. 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.

Just up the street we visit the Basilica of St. Mary Major, the largest church in Rome dedicated to the Blessed Mother. We make a stop at the Motherhouse of the Redemptorist Fathers whose church bears the original icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Dinner is at a local restaurant close to our hotel. (B, D)

DAY 13: ROME- Vatican Museum, Basilica of St. Peter, and Leisure Time

Today we begin with Mass at the Basilica of St. Peter, and then visit the Vatican Museum where the Sistine Chapel, featuring Michelangelo’s masterworks highlights our visit. After our visit here, we take some time for lunch on our own in the vicinity of St. Peter’s. Our guide will show us the Basilica of St. Peter. The balance of the afternoon is on our own in the vicinity of St. Peter. Dinner will be served at the local restaurant close to our hotel .(B, D)

DAY 14: ROME: MORNING LEISURE / AFTERNOON – TIVOLI

This morning is at our leisure in Rome. In the afternoon we drive through the Roman countryside up to Tivoli, built on the slopes of the Sabine Hills. We will visit Villa d’Este, one of the most enchanting of the late Renaissance, famous for its gardens, fountains, cascades and statues.
Tonight we will gather together at a local restaurant in Tivoli for a farewell dinner. (B, D)

DAY 15, RETURN USA

After breakfast we transfer to the 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.