15 Days: Italy Extravaganza- Como, Milan, Venice, Padua, Florence, Assisi, Orvieto, Sorrento, Rome

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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: ARRIVE MILAN / TRANSFER TO COMO

Upon arrival in Milan, we meet our Catholic Travel Centre tour escort who will accompany us throughout our journey. We transfer to our motor coach and make our way north to the town of Como, gloriously nestled in a beautiful mountain setting. We will stop along the way for Mass at a local church within walking distance of our hotel. Dinner awaits us at our hotel this evening. (D)

DAY 3: COMO SIGHTSEEING

This morning we start our day with Mass at the Cathedral, followed by a walking tour of the town. The rest of the morning is at our leisure to breathe the fresh mountain air and stroll among the many shops. Then this afternoon we enjoy a cruise on the scenic Lake Como. Tonight, dinner is on our own, and our tour escort will have some restaurant recommendations for those interested. (B)

DAY 4: COMO / MILAN SIGHTSEEING / VENICE

We depart Como this morning and make our way to Milan, the See of Ss. Ambrose and Charles Borromeo and Paul VI. In Milan we celebrate Mass at the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio (the most interesting church in Milan and the prototype of the Lombard Basilica and the Tomb of St. Ambrose). Then we see DaVinci’s Cenacolo (The Last Supper) and visit the Duomo (“the most magnificent Gothic building in Northern Italy”). We continue on our way to Venice for the evening. Dinner is on our own. (B)

DAY 5: VENICE: SIGHTSEEING

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). We will also have time to visit the island of Murano, famous for its glass. Dinner is on our own this evening, and our tour escort will have suggestions for us on where to dine. (B)

DAY 6: VENICE / BOLOGNA / FLORENCE AREA

We depart Venice and make our way to Bologna, where we celebrate Mass at the Tomb of St. Dominic. Afterwards, lunch awaits us at Papagallo Restaurant. Then we are back on our motor coach as we continue to the spa town of Montecatini Terme, located just outside of Florence and our home for the next few evenings. Dinner is on your own. (B, L)

DAY 7: MONTECATINI TERME: FULL DAY EXCURSION TO FLORENCE

Florence is known as the city of the Medici Family and Machiavelli. This morning we celebrate Mass at Santa Croce. At the Academia we marvel at Michelangelo’s David and we see Fra Angelico’s frescoes at the San Marco Monastery. We visit the Duomo–Santa Maria in Fiore; the Baptistery of San Giovanni (bronze doors by Ghilberti). The afternoon is free for shopping or more sightseeing. Dinner is on our own this evening in Florence, then we return to our accommodations in Montecatini Terme for the evening’s rest. (B)

DAY 8: MONTECATINI TERME / SIENA / ASSISI

We depart to Siena, the home of St. Catherine. We celebrate Mass in 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”. Just down the street is the Sanctuary of St. Catherine, built on the site of her former home.

After lunch on our own, we continue to the tiny Umbrian town of Assisi, nestled on the side of Mt. Subasio. We arrive in time to visit the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels (namesake for the city of Los Angeles). The Basilica contains the Porziuncola Chapel, constructed in part by St. Francis. Nearby marks the site where Francis surrendered to ‘Sister Death’. We check-in to our hotel for dinner and the evening. (B, D)

DAY 9: ASSISI: VISIT OF ASSISI

Today we visit this “quiet medieval town, imbued with the mystical spirit of one of the most fascinating characters of history”. Our local tour guide will lead us on a brief walking tour of the town, visiting some of the major Franciscan sights.

After lunch on our own, we make our way by taxis to the Carceri Hermitage, a secluded spot set in the verdant foliage (buses cannot make the sharp turns). It is here where Francis often retired to pray, and one can truly breathe the spirit of the mendicant saint in this lovely setting. We celebrate Mass at the Hermitage and later this afternoon, we make our way to a local winery for some wine tasting and a snack. Dinner is served at our accommodations this evening. (B, D)

DAY 10: ASSISI / ROME

This morning we celebrate Mass at the Tomb of St. Francis. After Mass, we depart Assisi and make our way to Rome. Our first stop is the Catacombs of San Callisto, housing the tombs of the early Christians, including some of the first popes. We continue our tour with a visit to the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, built over the tomb of the Apostle to the Gentiles. We check-in to our hotel, and dinner is on our own this evening. Our tour escort will have some suggestions for us. (B)

DAY 11: ROME: AM: ST. PETER’S BASILICA, BASILICA OF ST. MARY MAJOR, BASILICA OF ST. JOHN LATERAN & SCAVI

We begin our day with Mass at the Tomb of St. Peter, then we have a guided tour of the Basilica. Here we view one of the artist Michelangelo’s most stunning works – the sculpture of Mary holding her crucified Son. We know the statue as the Pieta.

This afternoon we make a special visit to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, the largest church in Rome dedicated to the Blessed Mother. We also visit 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.

Nearby, we can pay a visit to the Church of St. Alphonsus, where we can view the original icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

After lunch on our own, we go back to the Vatican area for a guided tour of the Scavi, the excavations beneath the Basilica of St. Peter (always subject to confirmation 48 hours prior).
We will also have some time to visit the many fine religious article shops in the area. The evening is at our leisure, and dinner is on our own. (B)

DAY 12: ROME: PAPAL AUDIENCE & PRIVATE VATICAN MUSEUM

This morning we transfer to the Papal Audience Hall for the General Audience with the Holy Father (subject to Vatican schedule).

After lunch and some time at leisure we celebrate Mass at the Church of Santa Maria in Trasportina. After Mass, we gather for a special, private visit of the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, featuring more of Michelangelo’s masterful work (subject to Vatican schedule). Tonight, we gather for dinner at a local restaurant, including wine and music. (B, D)

DAY 13: ROME / MONTECASSINO / SORRENTO

Today we make our way to the Benedictine Abbey of Montecassino, perhaps the most famous monastery in the world, founded by Benedict of Norcia in the year 529. Here, Benedict wrote his RULE OF ST. BENEDICT. He died here, forty days after his sister Scholastica. Both are buried here. Montecassino served as a beacon of civilization throughout the Middle Ages. Western Monasticism, a movement that influenced much of the social and economic history of Europe had its roots here. We celebrate Mass, then continue to Sorrento and check-in to our hotel. Dinner is on our own, and our tour escort will have some suggestions on where to dine. (B)

DAY 14: SORRENTO: VISIT OF AMALFI DRIVE & POMPEII / ROME

We depart this morning and enjoy a scenic drive along the Amalfi Drive, one of the most striking drives in all of Europe. In Amalfi, we visit the Cathedral and celebrate Mass. We continue to Pompeii, where we visit the ruins of the ancient city buried by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. We make our way back to Rome this evening and check-in to our hotel in preparation for our return home tomorrow. Dinner is on our own. (B)

DAY 15: RETURN USA

This morning we transfer to the Rome airport to board 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.