DAY 1: DEPART USA
We depart USA 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 journey. We board our motor coach and transfer to our hotel. Dinner tonight is at our hotel. (D)
DAY 3: ROME: PAPAL AUDIENCE, MAJOR BASILICA’S & ANCIENT ROME
This morning we celebrate Mass at a local church. After Mass we proceed to the Pope Paul VI Audience Hall in Vatican City to attend the General Audience with the Holy Father (subject to Vatican schedule).
This afternoon 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, 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.
Our day concludes with a visit 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. Dinner tonight is at our accommodations. (B, D)
DAY 4: ROME: ST. PETER’S BASILICA, SCAVI TOUR & VATICAN MUSEUMS
We begin our day with Mass at the tomb of St. Peter, followed by a guided tour of the Scavi, the excavations beneath the Basilica of St. Peter (always subject to confirmation 48 hours prior). Then we make our way upstairs for 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.
We will have some time to visit the many fine religious article shops in the area. Later this afternoon we gather for a special, private visit of the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, featuring more of Michelangelo’s masterful work (subject to final confirmation). Dinner will be served at our hotel. ( B, D )
DAY 5: ROME / RIVO TORTO / ASSISI
Today we have an early morning departure for Assisi, stopping first at Rivo Torto church, once a vacant animal shed where Francis and his early companions found shelter. Francis and his followers were evicted by an irascible peasant and his donkey. These early friars then begged use of St. Mary of the Angels, paying an annual rent of a basket of fish. We continue on to the tiny Umbrian town of Assisi, nestled on the side of Mt. Subasio. This was the home of Ss. Francis and Clare. We visit the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels. Here we celebrate Mass. The Basilica contains the Porziuncola Chapel, constructed in part by St. Francis. Nearby marks the site where Francis surrendered to ‘Sister Death’. The balance of the day is at leisure. Dinner is served at our hotel. (B, D)
DAY 6: ASSISI: VISIT OF THE TOWN
Today we visit this “quiet medieval town, imbued with the mystical spirit of one of the most fascinating characters of history”. We begin with Mass at St. Francis Basilica, followed by a tour. We continue with a walking tour of the city, visiting the major sites associated with St. Francis, including the Chiesa Nuova, built over the home of Francis’ family and the Church of San Rufino, with the baptismal font of the Saint. Then we make our way to 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. The afternoon is at leisure. Dinner is served at our hotel. (B, D)
DAY 7: ASSISI / SIENA /PISA /MONTECATINI TERME
We depart Assisi and stop in 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”. We visit as well the sanctuary that was built over the Saint’s former home. After Mass we make our way to Pisa, home to the famous Leaning Tower. After a visit, we continue to our hotel in Montecatini Terme, the grande dame of Italian spas, sitting in the “Valley of the Mists”. Dinner will be served at our hotel. (B, D)
NOTE: YOU MAY OVERNIGHT IN FLORENCE FOR AN ADDITIONAL COST
DAY 8: MONTECATINI TERME: FLORENCE EXCURSION & VISIT OF THE CITY
Florence is known as the city of the Medici Family and Machiavelli. We visit the Duomo–Santa Maria in Fiore, with Brunelleschi’s stunning cupola; and the Baptistery of San Giovanni . The doors of the Baptistry feature Lorenzo Ghilberti’s masterwork, relief sculptures of ten notable scenes from the Old Testament. Michelangelo named these doors ‘The Gates of Paradise.” We celebrate Mass at a frescoed chapel in the Franciscan church of Santa Croce.
This afternoon is at leisure. You may wish to visit the Church of San Lorenzo. San Lorenzo served as the parish church of the Medici family and contains the Medici Chapels, fashioned by Michelangelo. Or you may wish to see the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine, home to the stunning Brancacci Chapel with its frescoes depicting the life of St. Peter.
Others may simply choose to explore the city, or stroll and browse along the Ponte Vecchio, perhaps to do a little shopping. Dinner is at a local restaurant. We return to our hotel for the evening. (B, D)
DAY 9: MONTECATINI TERME / PADUA
After breakfast we depart for the town of Padua, where we visit the Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua. Here we celebrate Mass. After Mass we enjoy a guided tour by a Franciscan Friar. Dinner and the evening are in Padua. (B, D)
DAY10: PADUA: EXCURSION TO VENICE
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. We return to Padua in the evening to enjoy a festive farewell dinner at a local restaurant. (B, D)
DAY 11: RETURN
This morning we transfer to the Venice 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.