9 Days: Rome & the Assisi of St. Francis

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DAY 1: DEPART USA

Depart en route to Rome, with complimentary meals and beverages served aloft.

DAY 2: ARRIVE ROME

We arrive in Rome and are met by our Catholic Travel Centre representative, who will accompany us throughout our tour. We pass via the Appian Way and enjoy a panoramic tour of the city while our rooms are prepared at the hotel. Time permitting, we proceed to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, the largest church in Rome dedicated to the Blessed Mother. Then, we proceed to our hotel for check-in. Tonight we enjoy a welcome dinner at a nearby restaurant. (D)

DAY 3: ROME – MAJOR BASILICAS

Today we celebrate Mass at 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’s request. Nearby is the Scala Santa, the legendary stairs which Christ climbed prior to his condemnation by Pontius Pilate.

Our next visit is the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. One of the chapels 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). Before returning to our hotel, we make a stop at the Church of St. Alphonsus, which houses the original icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. This afternoon we will have some time for shopping. Dinner is at the hotel. (B,D)

DAY 4: ROME – ASSISI EXCURSION

Today we make a full day’s excursion to Assisi, home of St. Francis and St. Clare. We visit the Basilica constructed over St. Francis’ tomb. After Mass at the Basilica, we enjoy lunch together at a nearby hotel. After lunch we visit the Church of St. Clare, where St. Clare lies in repose. Here too we see the original ‘San Damiano’ crucifix that spoke to Francis, urging him to “rebuild My Church.” Francis interpreted the dream literally and went to work on repairing the building at San Damiano. Only later did he understand the deeper meaning of the dream.

After some time on our own in the upper town, we visit in the town below. We focus on the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels, containing the Porziuncola, built by St. Francis and his followers. Nearby marks the spot where Francis surrendered to ‘Sister Death’. We return to Rome. Dinner is on our own. (B,L)

DAY 5: ROME – PAPAL AUDIENCE & ST. PAUL’s, PLUS CATACOMBS

This morning 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). Afterward we take time to shop at some of the excellent religious articles shops in the Vatican area. This afternoon 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 day’s tour concludes with a visit to the Catacombs of St. Calixtus. Dinner is at our hotel. (B,D)

DAY 6: ROME – ST. PETER’S BASILICA; SITES OF ANCIENT ROME & VATICAN MUSEUM

This morning we request a visit of the Scavi, the excavations beneath the Basilica of St. Peter’s (tours of the Scavi are always subject to reconfirmation by the Vatican 24 hours prior to the hour). Following our proposed visit of the Scavi, our guide will take us on a tour of St. Peter’s Basilica. We will have some time to explore the Basilica on our own.

This afternoon we enjoy 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. Our last stop on our tour will be the Church of St. Peter in Chains, featuring Michelangelo’s famous statue of Moses. We return to our hotel.

This evening, we have scheduled our private tour of the Vatican Museum (again, always subject to final confirmation by the Vatican 24 hours prior to our visit). Dinner follows at a local restaurant. (B,D)

DAY 7: ROME – LEISURE / OPTIONAL EXCURSION TO FLORENCE OR POMPEII

Today is at leisure in Rome for shopping. Perhaps this would be a good day to stroll around the city, do some shopping, or visit your own personal favorite Roman sites. If you would like to travel outside the city, you may select from a variety of optional tours. For those not opting for the sightseeing tours, our local escort will advise you of the possibilities of Mass at nearby churches. Dinner is on our own this evening, and our tour escort will have some suggestions on where to dine in the area. (B)

OPTIONAL EXCURSION TO FLORENCE — Leaving Rome, the coach passes north through three of the most beautiful regions of Italy: Latium, Umbria and Tuscany. We arrive in Florence at about 11:30 am and we visit the Academy with the statue of David by Michelangelo. Admire the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore with Giotto’s Belltower and the Baptistry. Proceed to Piazza della Signoria, and visit the court-yard of Palazzo Medici. Lunch in a local restaurant. Continue to Santa Croce Square with visit of a leather factory, and from there we reach Piazzale Michelangelo. Around 5:00 pm departure to Rome with arrival at about 8:30-9:00 p.m.

OPTIONAL EXCURSION TO NAPLES, POMPEII & SORRENTO — After leaving Rome our route follows the Autostrada del Sole southwards. Halfway to Naples, the Abbey of Montecassino, completely rebuilt after the total destruction in the Second World War, can be seen high up on the hill to our left. Then we are on into the fertile countryside surrounding Naples. First we have a short sightseeing tour of Naples. Then on to Pompeii for lunch at a restaurant and a visit to the excavations of this Roman city, which was completely destroyed by the volcanic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Continue back to Rome via Sorrento. Return to Rome approx. 10:30 p.m.

Note: These optional excursions are operated by a local tour company in Rome, and are not operated exclusively by Catholic Travel Centre. You may register for these tours on the spot in Rome, by speaking directly with your group’s tour escort. Reservations should be made with your escort upon your group’s arrival in Rome.

DAY 8: ROME: WALKING TOUR OF CENTRAL ROME

This morning we will enjoy a 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. This afternoon we have some time at leisure for last minute shopping. Then we gather for Mass at a local church, the final Mass of our pilgrimage. From Mass, we make our way to a local restaurant for a festive farewell dinner. (B,D)

DAY 9: RETURN USA

This morning we transfer to the Rome airport for our return flight to the United States. (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.