DAY 1: DEPART USA
We depart en route to Milan, with complimentary meals and beverages served aloft.
DAY 2: ARRIVE MILAN / VERONA / 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, nestled snugly aboard our private motor coach, we proceed to Milan’s Duomo, “the most magnificent Gothic building in Northern Italy”; DaVinci’s Cenacolo (The Last Supper); the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio (“the most interesting church in Milan and the prototype of the Lombard basilica and the Tomb of St. Ambrose”). After our visit, we travel to Verona to walk a bit around this quaint town. “Among the cities of the Venetia it is second only to Venice for the interest of its monuments, and is especially notable for the quantity of its Roman remains.” Family feuding here produced the story of Romeo and Juliet. We continue on to our hotel in Venice-Mestre for dinner and the evening. (D)
DAY 3: VENICE: VISIT OF THE CITY
Venice is known as ‘The Queen of the Adriatic.’ In 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 walking tour, this morning, will introduce us to the major sites, beginning 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. Here we celebrate the opening Mass of our journey together. 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 Doges, the political leaders of the Republic of Venice).
This afternoon, we are free for shopping, personal adventure or an optional romantic gondola ride through the inner canals of Venice. We will have the opportunity to explore the culinary delights of Venice tonight, as dinner will be on our own. We transfer back to our hotel in the Mestre area for the overnight at our hotel. (B)
DAY 4: VENICE-MESTRE: EXCURSION TO THE PROSECCO WINE REGION
This morning we take some time to sleep in or just enjoy leisurely cup of coffee. Later today, we travel north of Venice to the beautiful Prosecco wine country for a visit of the Villa Sandi Winery, famed for its floral Prosecco wines, both still and sparkling. Villa Sandi is a stunning villa dating from 1622, furnished with antique furniture, elegant chandeliers and classic Italian sculpture and art. Below the villa are several kilometers of underground tunnels, used in by the Italian Army in World War I, they now house almost a million bottles of aging wine.
After enjoying a tour of the Villa and a wine tasting, we continue to the charming town of Treviso. The town is characterized by a system of rivers and canals with medieval painted houses and buildings reflecting in the clear water. After lunch on our own, we have some time to stroll the maze of ancient alleys with picture postcard views before returning to Mestre for dinner and the evening. (B, D)
DAY 5: VENICE-MESTRE / BOLOGNA / SIENA
This morning, we depart Mestre for Siena, stopping first in the University town of Bologna, famous, not only for its University, but also for its heritage of gourmet tradition. Many of the most famous Italian foods and wine come from Bologna, including, Tortellini, Mortadella, Parmigiano Reggiano and Lambrusco, a sparkling red wine grown between Bologna and Reggio Emilia. We enjoy lunch on our own to sample a bit of Bologna’s cuisine, before continuing to Siena for dinner and the evening. (B, D)
DAY 6: SIENA: VISIT OF THE TOWN & ENOTECA ITALIANA WINE TASTING
In the mid 14th Century, Siena served as home to the Benincasa family, a family of wool-dyers. One of their twenty-five children was named Caterina Benincasa. History remembers her as St. Catherine of Siena. Because of her intervention with Pope Gregory XI, the papacy returned to Rome from Provence, France. She, along with St. Teresa of Avila and St. Therese of Lisieux, is one of the few women granted the title of ‘Doctor’ in the Roman Catholic Church. Along with St. Francis, she serves as a co-patron saint of Italy.
We begin this morning at the Duomo, originally designed and completed between 1215 and 1263. Here we celebrate Mass. The main square of this medieval town is absolutely charming, and we will have some time to enjoy the atmosphere. We also 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.” Just down the street is the Sanctuary of St. Catherine, built on the site of her former home.
After lunch on our own and some time at leisure, we visit the Enoteca Italiana , the 16th-century Fortezza Medicea, housing the official state-mandated National Wine Museum. Seated in the tunnel-like brick halls or out on the terraces if weather permits, we sample a choice selection of Italian wines. We end our day with dinner at a local restaurant. (B, D)
DAY 7: SIENA: EXCURSION TO BADIA A PASSIGNANO ABBEY & VINEYARDS
Today, we travel to Badia for a visit of. Badia a Passignano vineyards and Abbey.
We begin our visit with Mass at the abbey. Although the monastery archives only go back to the year 891, the monastery is thought to be much older. In 1049, Badia passed into the Vallombrosano order, a reformed branch of the Benedictines specializing in winegrowing and forestry and was established by San Giovanni Gualberto. Since then the shepherd’s staff – the order’s symbol – has been present throughout the abbey. Over time, the order became so powerful that it owned a quarter of Tuscany.
After the Council of Trent in 1545, the abbey became an important theological, literary and scientific study centre. About 100 monks lived there with 6,000 documents, many written in Hebrew and Greek; the monastery chronicles report that Galileo Galilei taught mathematics here from 1587-1588. The monastery and the order are especially well-known for their huge libraries of medieval classical and musical texts; for promoting scientific research and for cultivating large areas of land, especially with vines and reforestation. The vineyards are located in one of the most beautiful and productive areas of Chianti Classico.
This afternoon we enjoy lunch at the vineyard and the opportunity to taste some truly fine wines. We return to Siena for the evening. Dinner tonight is on our own. For those of us wishing to dine as a group, our tour escort will have some suggestions. (B, L)
DAY 8: SIENA / FLORENCE: VISIT OF THE CITY & LEISURE WITH AN OPTIONAL INCLUDED ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS VISIT
This morning, we travel to Florence, known as ‘The Jewel of the Renaissance.’ Florence’s recorded history began in 59 BC when Julius Caesar allocated the Arno valley to his veterans. They built an army camp, named Florentia, in a chessboard pattern that can still be found in the city center. Situated on a main trade route the settlement expanded rapidly, and in the 3rd Century AD, the Emperor Diocletianus made Florentia capital of the province of Tuscia. Florence today is a sublime blend of beauty, culture and history. Florence is also known as the city of the Medici Family and Machievelli.
We stop at Viali dei Colli (Avenues on the Hills) to enjoy the vista from the Piazzale Michelangelo with its wide view over the town. Next, we visit and celebrate Mass at the Duomo, the heart of the city with its cupola by Brunelleschi, completed in 1240, its campanile by Giotto and Baptistery with incomparable bronze doors by Ghiberti.
Moving on, we make our way to the Basilica of Santa Croce. Among the most famous, here lie Galileo, Rossini, Michelangelo and Macchiaveli. After lunch on our own, the balance of the day is at leisure in the city. Those who have visited Florence before might want to make their way to the famous Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge), the only bridge to survive the bombings of World War II. Today, the bridge houses the city’s gold shops, so you may wish to make a stop here or, just relax and stroll about the city. For first-timers to Florence, there is an optional included visit to the Academy of Fine Arts to view Michelangelo’s renowned statue of David. Dinner is served at our hotel. (B, D)
DAY 9: FLORENCE: UFFIZI GALLERY & VISIT OF LUCA
This morning we visit the Uffizi Gallery. The Gallery was the first museum ever to be opened to the public: in fact, the Grand Duke granted permission to visit it on request from the year 1591. Its four centuries of history make the Uffizi Gallery the oldest museum in the world. It contains one of the most important collections of art of all times, including masterworks by Leonardo da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Raphael & Botticelli. Leaving Florence, we travel through the famous ‘Chianti Classico” region stopping for a bit of wine tasting.
Later this afternoon, we travel the short distance to Lucca. Lucca is a medieval walled town, with beautiful historic buildings; an elegant landscape of churches and palaces, soft pastel plasters, delicate facades and art nouveau shop fronts on wide promenades. Known for its devotion to the arts, Lucca is also home to Giacomo Puccini, who was born in here in 1858. The surrounding hills produce some excellent wines and arguably the finest olive oil anywhere. We see the 12th century church of San Frediano,with its mosaic panel on it s façade, as well as the circular Piazza Anfiteatro.
We will stroll through San Michele in Foro, located on what was ancient Lucca’s forum, and have some time to wander the medieval streets where Tuscan artists and sculptors display their work. We enjoy a special Farwell dinner at a local restaurant in Lucca, before returning to Florence for the evening. (B, D)
DAY 10: GOODBYE TO ITALY
Breakfast is included today, afterwards we bid farewell to Italy as we transfer to the Florence airport to begin our journey home. (B)
B=Breakfast L= Lunch D=Dinner