Arrival – Rome
Upon arrival at Rome’s international airport, meet your local guide and transfer to central Rome for a half-day’s walking tour through the core of ancient city. From the magnificent Trajan’s Column, our guide will show you along the Via dei Fori Imperiali (street of the Imperial Forums). You will see the Forum of Trajan, the biggest and most splendid of all, whose markets offered the Roman citizen goods to be found all over the ancient world. On foot you will reach the Capitoline Hill , once the town’s political and religious center, today the seat of the Rome Municipality. A stairway will lead you to the Piazza del Campidoglio, the magnificent result of a single project by Michelangelo, featuring a copy of the most famous equestrian statue in the world, that of Marcus Aurelius. Behind the piazza you will find a natural terrace providing the best panoramic view of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Walking through the valley of the Forum, the great ancient city will revive before your eyes: the Curia, seat of the Roman Senate; the State Archive; the basilicas and palaces of justice; the temple of Vesta and the House of the Vestals, virgins charged with maintaining the sacred, ever-burning fire. On all sides you’ll see temples and columns and triumphal arches erected to commemorate the gods and men of Roman history. From the Forum, the guide will lead you to the Palatine, linked with the fabled origins of Rome. Here Romolus is said to have founded the town in 753 B.C., and here, starting with Augustus, the emperors settled. From the valley of the Roman Forum you can admire the Domus Tiberiana, only partially excavated, and the ruins of the Imperial Palaces. Leaving the Forum you will find the Arch of Constantine, erected to commemorate his victory over at the Milvian Bridge (312 AD); tradition holds that before the battle, Constantine looked toward the sun and saw a cross on which was written “In this sign you will conquer.” After the victory he legalized Christianity. The tour ends at the Colosseum, setting for the bloody fights of the gladiators – and symbol of Rome’s grandeur. Reboard your bus and transfer to a hotel for dinner and overnight.
Vatican / Early Christian Churches
Meet the guide at your hotel and transfer to the Vatican Museum. Passing through the Court of the Pigna, designed in the 16th century, you will enter the Belvedere Palace to reach the heart of the museum, the Belvedere Courtyard. You will quickly pass the secondary galleries to reach the Greek Cross Room, where the splendid Sarcophagi of St. Helene and St. Constance are housed. Walking through the Galleries of the Candelabra, the Maps and the Tapestries, you will reach the Apostolic Palace, the oldest section in the complex of the Vatican. Your guide will show you the Apartments of Julius II, splendidly decorated by Raphael and his assistants, and then the Sistine Chapel, with Michelangelo’s Genesis and Last Judgement. On leaving the Sistine Chapel, you will descend the Royal Stairway, designed by Bernini. The guide will conduct you to the Basilica of St. Peter, which harbors 2000 years of history and much of the world’s great art, including Michelangelo’s Pietà. The visit ends at St. Peter’s Square, whose surrounding colonnade is an architectural masterpiece by Bernini, under the symbolic protection of the “Cuppolone”, as the Romans call Michelangelo’s dome. The afternoon is dedicated to two important basilicas: San John di Lateran and the Holy Cross of Jerusalem, built on properties donated by the Emperor Constantine’s family. You will also visit the Santa Scala, the Holy Steps, reputed to be those that Christ ascended when led to Pontius Pilate. Martin Luther made a point of ascending them when called by the Pope to Rome! Return to the hotel in the late afternoon for dinner and overnight
Pauline Sites / Fountains & Squares
Spend half a day with your guide, visiting sites linked to the Apostle Paul. THE CATACOMBS OF SAN SEBASTIAN Located on the ancient Appian Way, this is the place where the bodies of Paul and Peter were kept, according to tradition, during the persecution of Christians by Valeriano (253 – 260 AD). The catacombs afforded Christians the opportunity to venerate the tombs of the two Apostles. Even today the place is still called MEMORIA APOSTOLORUM. “Graffiti” in Latin and Aramaic, in the catacombs and in the Basilica of San Sebastian, testify to this tradition. The Basilica itself was built over the catacombs during the “Peace of Constantine,” in the name of the two Apostles. THE ABBEY OF THE THREE FOUNTAINS is traditionally known as the place of Paul’s martyrdom, where, it is said, three springs gushed out at each spot touched by his head in its fall. ST. PAUL OUTSiDE THE WALLS is a Benedictine Abbey which shares its name and centuries of history with the adjoining basilica. Here, in 2005, archaeologists discovered what they believe to be the bones of Saint Paul. The rest of the day is at leisure. You may choose to explore the Baroque center of Rome, with the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps. Relax in a coffee bar or do shop in the fashion district around via Condotti… Dinner is on your own tonight. Taste typical Roman food in some nice “trattoria” in the city center or in the medieval area of Rome, Trastevere.
Rome / Assisi / Florence
In the early morning, depart northward through the Umbrian hills. covered with olive groves and vineyards, to reach Assisi. Upon arrival, meet your local guide and take an unforgettable walk through the narrow streets of the ancient town, which flanks Monte Subasio. You will visit the Church of Santa Chiara, the site where St. Francis was born, and go on to the house where he spent the first years of his life. You will then reach the very heart of the town, the Piazza del Comune (Town Hall Square), with its Roman and medieval buildings. Near the ancient city walls, you will visit the Basilica of St Francis, containing the Saint’s tomb. The interiors are decorated with frescoes from the 12th and 13th centuries. Take some leisure time for lunch before transfering by bus to the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, where you will visit the small Portiuncola chapel and the site where St. Francis died in 1226. Reboard your bus and continue toward Florence (Firenze), a two-hour journey. Dinner and overnight at a hotel.
Your guide will meet you at the hotel this morning and stay with you for a full-day tour of the city. Discover the cradle of the Renaissance, where one breathes art in the medieval streets, in the craftsmen’s workshops, and in the palaces. Here the mementos of the Medici family are united with the splendor of Michelangelo, Da Vinci and Botticelli. You will visit the Baptistry of St. John, the Duomo with the Medici Chapel, the Church of St. Lorenzo, Piazza della Signoria, and the Basilica of Santa Croce, called the Pantheon of the Glories, for it contains the tombs of Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Galileo and many other illustrious Italians. The tour ends at the Accademia Gallery. which houses Michelangelo’s David. The rest of the day is at leisure to explore additional treasures of Florence and shop on your own. The outdoor Market of San Lorenzo boasts leather products, and the Ponte Vecchio, lined since medieval times with goldsmiths’ shops, is a must for Florence’s other specialty, gold jewelry. Dinner and overnight in Florence.
Florence / Siena or Pisa / Castelgandolfo
Depart Florence soon after breakfast .
Drive through the scenic Tuscan countryside to reach Siena in about an hour a half. Famed for the rich red color of its cityscape, Siena is home of the Palio, a horse race dating from medieval times, which takes place each July in the city’s central square. Enjoy Siena’s major treasures, including its fabulous Gothic cathedral. Proceed through the cypress groves and vineyards of Chianti country to the highway for the south. After a drive of 3.5 hours, you will reach the village of Castelgandolfo. Dinner at your hotel and overnight.
Instead of stopping in Siena, you may choose to visit and its “Leaning Tower” before proceeding to Castelgandolfo for dinner and overnight. Castelgandolfo is a quaint old village built on a lake. Here is the Pope’s summer residence. Relax in a 4-star hotel on the lake with a wonderful view of Rome.
Naples / Pompei / Castelgandolfo
On the 7-day tour, today is departure day. In the early morning, the bus will transfer you to the airport for your flight back home. On the 8-day tour, depart Castelgandolfo soon after breakfast and take the highway south. You will reach Naples in about two hours. Enjoy an orientation tour of this picturesque city, which slopes from the hills toward the sea like a theater. Bounded on one side by Vesuvius and on the other by the Phlegraean fields, the scene is one of extraordinary beauty, sung by poets and writers through the ages: Virgil, Boccaccio, Milton, Shelley, Cervantes, Goethe, Byron…
After the orientation, take free time to taste the best “pizza” and “espresso” in the world.
Continue to Pompei for a guided archaeological journey through the ancient city, which was buried under ash and lapilli by an eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. Daily life of the Imperial Age has here been petrified, as if under a spell, in its gestures and secrets, and in the panic felt by its inhabitants during their final moments. Return to Castelgandolfo for dinner and overnight.
Early morning transfer to the airport for your flight back home.