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Central Italy, Amalfi Coast, and Tuscany

Central Italy, Amalfi Coast and Tuscany

Day 1 – USA…ROME
Depart from USA aboard a major European transatlantic carrier where you will have dinner, breakfast, and entertainment aloft.

Day 2 – ROME…SORRENTO
Arrive in ROME’s Fiumicino Airport by mid-day and meet with your Renaissance Group tour escort after clearing customs.  You will be escorted to your private motorcoach for the drive to your hotel in SORRENTO.  According to ancient Greek legend, the area around Sorrento was known as the Temple of the Sirens.  Sailors of antiquity were powerless to resist the beautiful song of these maidens who would lure them and their ships to their doom on the reefs.  Homer’s Ulysses escaped the sirens by having his oarsmen plug their ears and strapping himself to the mast of his ship as he sailed past the fatal place.  Today’s visitors to Sorrento have less to fear.  You will enjoy a dinner and overnight in SORRENTO.

Day 3 – SORRENTO…CAPRI…SORRENTO
After breakfast at your hotel, depart for an exciting hydrofoil cruise to the Isle of CAPRI.  Enjoy this resort island’s many shops and boutiques.  Lunch will be served in a typical restaurant.  Evening departure back to SORRENTO which sits high above the cliffs and commands a breathtaking view of the Bay of Naples.  Overnight in the hotel.  

Day 4 – SORRENTO…POMPEI…CASERTA…LENOLA…ROME
After breakfast in your hotel, there will be a full-day excursion to the excavations of POMPEII, the most popular tourist attraction in Italy that offers the richest insight into the daily life of the early Romans.  It is also a town sadly known for the ancient volcanic tragedy.  The ancient Roman city was buried under volcanic ashes for nearly 2000 years and remains the best-preserved city of the classical era.  You will stroll through her ancient streets and go through houses that still boast preserved frescos on their walls and detailed mosaic floors.  On the way to Rome you will stop in CASERTA.  The Caserta Palace, is former Royal residence in Caserta, near Naples, once used by the Kings of Naples. It was the largest palace and probably the largest building erected in Europe in the 18th century. In 1996, the Palace of Caserta was listed among the World Heritage Sites on the ground that it was "the swan song of the spectacular art of the Baroque, from which it adopted all the features needed to create the illusions of multidirectional space.”  The palace has some 1,200 rooms, two dozen state apartments, and a royal theatre modelled after the Teatro San Carlo of Naples.  Your bus will continue on to the medieval hilltop town of LENOLA for a bucolic country lunch and visit of its Shrine of the Madonna del Colle (Our Lady of the Hills) built during the Renaissance.  Dinner on your own and overnight in ROME.

Day 5 – ROME
After breakfast in your hotel, you will be guided through a full-day visit of the Eternal City.  Rome means history:  from Etruscan tombs to Republican meeting rooms, Imperial temples, early Christian churches, medieval bell towers, Renaissance palaces, and baroque basilicas. In this city, there is a phenomenal concentration of history, legend, and monuments.  You will see the Catacombs and the Coliseum.  Visit at the Basilica of St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls.  A Farewell Dinner is planned for tonight and you will overnight in your hotel.  

Day 6 – ROME
After breakfast in your hotel, you will be driven to VATICAN CITY for celebration of a private Mass for your group, followed by an audience with Pope Benedict XVI.  Walk through the beauty and immensity which is St. Peter's Basilica.  The basilica, dominated by the magnificent dome of Michelangelo and Bernini’s splendid square and colonnade, forms a superb entryway to the greatest church of Christendom.  In the afternoon, you will see other major basilicas of Rome.  Dinner will be at a typical Roman restaurant where you will experience the cuisine of central Italy.  Overnight at your hotel.

Day 7 – ROME…ASSISI…SIENA
After breakfast in your hotel, you will be driven to SIENA, stopping first at the medieval town of ASSISI, the birthplace of St. Francis.  In 1208, Francesco founded his order of the Grey-Friars. After his encounter with Clare, daughter of a noble Assisi family, in 1212 he founded for her a second order. In 1224 he received the stigmata and died in 1226. Only two years later he was proclaimed saint.  St. Clare was also canonized merely two years after her death in 1253.  You will view the beloved saint’s famous basilica, a building nearly destroyed during the horrendous earthquake of 1997 when its roof collapsed.  You will be shown the magnificent frescos which have now been almost completely restored.  Lunch in a local restaurant.  Overnight in your villa in SIENA’s countryside

Day 8 – SIENA…PIENZA…MONTEPULCIANO…SIENA
 After breakfast in your hotel, there will be a visit of the countryside starting with a stop at the Papal Palace, Piccolomini, in PIENZA (entrance fee to palace included). Your tour guide will escort you in the afternoon to MONTEPULCIANO for a visit of the old cellars and for a taste of its famous wines. Dinner and overnight in your villa in Siena’s countryside.

Day 9– SIENA
After a buffet breakfast at your villa, you will leave for a full-day excursion of SIENA.  The visit, with a local guide, includes entrance fees to the Duomo and the Baptistery.  This city has conserved its pure medieval character that prevailed during the 13th-14th centuries.  Walking along Siena’s narrow gothic alleys and streets, one discovers magnificent palaces, patrician mansions, stores, and boutiques.  The famous Piazza del Campo is where all roads converge and where the city competes in the yearly “Palio,” a highly contested horse race.  Mass will be celebrated in St. Catherine’s Church.  Lunch in a typical restaurant.  Overnight in your villa in Siena’s countryside.
 
Day 10– SIENA…FLORENCE…SIENA
After breakfast in your hotel, you will be mesmerized on an unbelievable tour of the city of FLORENCE, the heart of the Renaissance and city of artistic wealth and beauty that holds many treasures for you to discover.  Begin your visit at the Uffizi Gallery and then to the beautiful Piazza Del Duomo to see the delicately patterned green, white, and pink cathedral of Santa Maria Del Fiore crowned by Brunelleschi’s cupola.  See Giotto’s Bell Tower and the Romanesque Baptistry of St. John with its exquisite bronze doors which Michelangelo called, “the Gates of Paradise.”  Later, visit the Academy of Fine Arts for a view of Michelangelo’s superb “David” and many of the master’s unfinished works. You will marvel at the other celebrated landmarks such as the Piazza della Signoria, with its City Hall; the Ponte Vecchio, the famous old Florentine bridge which rises over the Arno River and where the boutiques of the most ancient jewelers are located; and the Piazzale Michelangelo, from where you will enjoy a superb view on the city.  Your last stop will be at the Church of the Holy Cross (Santa Croce) which contains the tombs of the Florentine masters.  Overnight in your hotel.

Day 11 – SIENA…(optional)ORVIETO…SIENA
Following breakfast at your hotel, your day is free to spend at your leisure in Siena or you can take the optional tour to ORVIETO.  The city was once one of the twelve great cities of the Etruscan Empire before it became a stronghold of the Papal States in the Middle Ages.  You will visit its famous cathedral nicknamed “the Golden Lily of Cathedrals.”  You will be shown the most remarkable structure which is the Duomo, built in 1263.  The black-and-white marble banding the main body of the church overshadows the rich rainbow colors of the façade.  The Duomo is a visual feast of harmonious blend of mosaic and sculpture, plain stone and dazzling color.  Originally planned in the Romanesque style, Gothic features were incorporated as the architects changed during its construction; because after it took 30 years to plan it required 3 centuries to complete.  The Duomo was built to commemorate the Miracle of Bolsena.  A Bohemian priest passing through the town of Bolsena (near Orvieto) had his doubts about transubstantiation dispelled when blood began to drip from the Host onto the altar linen while he celebrated Mass.  The linen was presented to Pope Urban IV, in Orvieto at the time, who declared the event a miracle and set the wheels in motion for the construction of the Duomo.  Pope Urban also declared the new feast day of Corpus Domini.  Today, the Cappella del Corporale houses the blood-stained linen, preserved in a silver reliquary decorated by artists of the Sienese school.  Farewell dinner and overnight in the villa.  

Day 12 – SIENA…USA
After breakfast you will check out and be transferred to the airport for your return flight home where you will arrive on the same day.


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