DAY 1: DEPART THE USA
We depart the USA en route to Rome, with complimentary meals and beverages served aloft.
DAY 2: ARRIVE ROME / TRANSFER TO ASSISI
We arrive in Rome and are met by our Catholic Travel Centre escort, and proceed to the town of Assisi, clinging to the side of Mount Subasio. This charming medieval town was home to Saints Francis and Clare. Dinner is served at our accommodations. (D)
DAY 3: ASSISI: VISIT OF THE TOWN & ARNOLDO CAPRAI VINEYARD
This morning we celebrate Mass at the Tomb Altar in the Basilica of St. Francis followed by a guided tour. After Mass and our visit of the Basilica, we will enjoy a walking tour of the 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).
After lunch on our own, we visit the Arnoldo Caprai Vineyard for a taste of their excellent Sagrantino wines. We return to Assisi for the evening. Dinner is on our own to explore the local restaurants. (B)
DAY 4: ASSISI: EXCURSION TO PERUGIA & LUNGAROTTI
Today we enjoy an excursion to the marvelous hilltop town of Perugia, totally enveloped by its Etruscan, Roman and Medieval walls. When Rome was little more that an encampment of huts, Perugia was already a strong-hold of the region. Over the centuries, various popes have found asylum from the tumults of Rome within its walls, and it was the meeting-place of five conclaves.
Today, Perugia is home to Perugina chocolates known as Perugina Baci (baci means ‘kisses;). The delicacy is a piece of gianduja (chocolate, nougat & ground hazelnuts) on top of which sits a whole hazelnut. This structure is covered in several layers of dark chocolate Inside the wrapper you’ll find a little “love note.” Similar to a fortune cookie, it’s a piece of paper on which is written a little romantic expression.
We take some time in Perugia for shopping (and tasting some of the world famous chocolate) before continuing on to the famous Lungarotti vineyards, credited for putting Umbria on the world’s fine winemaking map. After sampling some of their excellent vintage and light snacks, we return to Assisi for the evening. Dinner is on our own. (B)
DAY 5: ASSISI / ORVIETO / ROME
This morning we depart Assisi for Orvieto, stopping first at the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels, containing the Porziuncola, built by St. Francis and the Mother Church of the Franciscan Order.
After our visit, we continue on to the 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 visit the Cathedral and celebrate Mass. After Mass, we enjoy a light lunch, before visiting one of Orvieto;s underground wine cellars. Orvieto is famous for its Orvieto Classico dry white wine.
After our visit, we continue on to Rome for the evening. Dinner tonight is on our own. For those of us who wish to dine as a group, our tour escort will have some suggestions. (B, L)
DAY 6: ROME: VATICAN DAY
This morning we celebrate Mass at the Basilica of St. Peter housing the Tomb of St. Peter. . After Mass, we visit the Vatican Museums, whose treasures include the ancient Rome exhibits with the famous Laocoon statue. Purchased by Pope Julius II some 500 years ago, the museums can trace their origins to this one sculpture. We see as well, the High Renaissance murals of Raphael, which he was painting at the same time Michelangelo completed the Sistine, another marvel.
The restoration of the Sistine frescoes reveals startling bright colors – a new light on Michelangelo! The Sistine was commissioned by Pope Sixtus IV to mark the Holy Year 1475. On the Feast of All Saints, 1512, Pope Julius II inaugurated the Sistine Chapel with a solemn Mass. In the words of His Holiness John Paul II: “….Precisely here, in this sacred space, the Cardinals gather, awaiting the manifestation of the will of Christ with regard to the person of the Successor of St. Peter….”
After lunch on our own, our guide will take us on a tour of the Basilica. With Michelangelo’s dome, it is the most prominent building inside Vatican City. Built over the site of “Old Saint Peter’s” constructed by the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century, the new Basilica began construction in 1506. The building absorbed the attention of twenty popes and ten architects before completion in 1626. There are over 100 tombs located within the Basilica. These include 91 popes.
Here we see the Papal Altar covered with the sumptuous bronze baldachin by Bernini, and the apse, aglow with golden mosaic. In addition to many sculptures and monuments by Bernini and other great artists, we will see Michelangelo’s famous statue of The Pieta. We also visit the tomb of John Paul II.
This afternoon, we visit Castelli Romani region, renowned for the production of wine. We stop first at the tiny town of Castelgandolfo, home of the Pope’s summer residence, after some time at leisure to stroll about the town, we continue to the hill town of Frascati, for a tasting of their famous white wines. We enjoy dinner at a local restaurant, before returning to Rome for the evening. (B, D)
DAY 7: ROME: ST. PAUL’S OUT SIDE THE WALLS, CATACOMBS & COLISEUM
This morning we make our way to 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.
After his execution and burial in Rome in the 1st century AD, Saint Paul’s followers erected a shrine (cella memoriae) over the grave. Early Christians frequently visited the site to honor the great Apostle. The first church on the site was, founded by Emperor Constantine in 324. In 386, Emperor Theodosius began the construction of a much larger basilica. According to the inscription on the triumphal arch, it was consecrated in 390, by Siricius, and completed in 395 under Emperor Honorius. Although heavily restored, the present basilica looks much the same as it did in the 4th century.
Pope Benedict XVI has proclaimed a year, beginning in June 2008, dedicated to St. Paul, marking the 2,000th anniversary of the apostle’s birth, St. Paul was born in Tarsus between 6 and 10 AD. After his conversion he became the church’s foremost evangelizer, especially among the Gentiles. His letters to his followers have greatly influenced church thinking throughout the centuries and continue to do so today.
Next, we visit the Catacombs of St. Calixtus housing many of the tombs of the early Popes. Called by Pope John XXIII “the sublimest and most famous in Rome”, these underground burial places for 16 popes, a large number of martyrs and a great many Christians, contain an intricate network of passages and chambers hewn from the soft Roman tufa.
Later, we view the Roman Forum from the outside. The saying goes that Rome was the center of the world, and the Forum was the center of Rome. It served as the religious and civic ‘hub’ of the city. We see the Capitoline Hill (home to the temples) and the Palatine Hills, home to the royal residences
Our final stop of the day is the 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. Originally on this spot stood a pool, around which was built Emperor Nero’s famous ‘Golden House.’ The construction was completed with the help of Jewish slaves brought here in 70 AD. The Coliseum served as the center for violent sports, and traditionally, as the site of the martyrdom of many Christians. The balance of the day is at leisure. Dinner tonight is at our hotel. (B, D)
DAY 8: MAJOR BASILICAS & INTERNATIONAL WINE ACADEMY
After breakfast, we visit two of the major basilicas of Rome: St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran. The Basilica of St. Mary Major, the largest church in Rome dedicated to the Blessed Mother, is the primary church of Our Lady in the world. Here we celebrate the final Mass of our Pilgrimage
Next, we 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, the legendary stairs which Christ climbed prior to his condemnation by Pontius Pilate.
Rome gives us an introduction to Italian wines with a tasting of some of Italy’s finest producers. The Academy is exclusively located at the top of the Spanish Steps in the same area where the spectacular banquets of Lucullus once took place. After our tasting, we walk the short distance to Trevi Fountain, where we toss the traditional three coins into the fountain to make our three wishes -one for love, one for money, and one to return to Rome. Our day in Rome comes to an end with dinner at a local restaurant. (B, D)
DAY 9: PAPAL AUDIENCE & TIVIOLI
This morning, after breakfast, we make our way to Vatican City to attend the General Papal Audience with Pope Benedict XVI (subject to the Holy Father’s schedule). The General Audience usually takes place in the Pope Paul VI Audience Hall.
This afternoon, we journey to the North West of Rome, to the area once inhabited by the Roman elite. Our route on the Via Tiburtina takes us past the travertine quarries that have helped Tivoli economically since ancient times, as almost all of Rome is built of this stone. Even today Tivoli ships travertine all over the world.
But it is not the travertine that has made Tivoli world famous but the incredible number of fantastic fountains and gardens of its villas. Tivoli, called Tibur by the ancient Romans, is set on a cliff with a beautiful view of the Roman Campagna. Here we visit Villa d’ Este created by the Cardinal Ippolito d’Este, grandson of the Borgia pope Alexander VI, in the 16th Century.
Villa d’Este is probably the most fantastic villa and series of gardens and fountains ever seen in Italy. As we wander among the symmetrical gardens set on terraces, marveling at the beautiful lawns and flowers, every corner turned will reveal another incredible fountain, there will be too many to count, along with pools and man-made waterfalls.
After our walk back through time, viewing the lifestyle of a Renaissance Cardinal, we enjoy a special Farewell dinner at La Sibilla Restaurant. The restaurant gardens contain the ancient Roman temples of Sibyl and Vesta. We return to Rome for the evening. (B, D)
DAY 10: RETURN TO THE USA
This morning we transfer to the Rome airport for our return flight to the United States. (B)
B=Breakfast L=lunch D=Dinner
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.