Tour begins: 3:00 PM, The Bauer Venezia. A transfer from Marco Polo Airport (or the Santa Lucia Train Station) is included to The Bauer Venezia, your hotel just off the Grand Canal. Your entrée to Venice begins with a guided visit to Byzantine St. Mark's Basilica, followed by a short orientation walk. Join us for a welcome reception at your hotel and walk to dinner at a local restaurant.
Glass art of Murano
A private boat transports you across the Venetian Lagoon to the studio of Fabio Follon, a contemporary glassmaker known for his exceptional technique and talent, on the island of Murano. Learn about the island's history of glassmaking and the deft hands it takes to work to create a gorgeous piece from start to finish. Back in Venice, on a walking tour in the San Polo district, stop to visit Chiesa dei Frari; inside are Renaissance masterpieces, like Titian's Madonna di ca' Pesaro, modeled after his wife; his brazenly colored Assumption of the Virgin; and the artist's monumental tomb. Continue on to Palazzo Tiepolo Passi for lunch with the resident-contessa, who shares her family's 16th-century home. After a little lunch with a contessa at her palazzo - followed by a serenaded gondola ride - the afternoon and evening are yours to explore as you wish.
The Renaissance by way of Padua
Today's drive heads out along the Brenta Canal, built in the 16th century to connect the Venetian Republic with her inland "empire." The city's newly landed aristocracy lined the canal with magnificent villas - like La Malcontenta, designed by Andrea Palladio (called "unhappy" for the exiled wife who lived here); Mocenigo, now part of the University of Venice, and Villa Widman in the village of Mira Pointe. At Villa Pisani, commissioned by a patrician family in the 18th century and now a national museum, you'll tour the sumptuous rooms, frescoes and gardens that have been called home by doges, kings and emperors. Continuing on to Padua for lunch, stop to visit the Scrovegni Chapel whose wall-to-wall frescoes are considered a masterpiece of Western art. From here the pace accelerates on a high-speed train to Florence, in First Class.
Florence, the Uffizi & the Castello di Nipozzano
Discover your Florence surroundings on a morning walk: the green-and-white marble Renaissance façade of Basilica Santa Maria Novella and Signoria Square, the civil center of Florence and an open-air museum of sculptures. End at the Uffizi for a private tour of works by Giotto, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. After time to explore on your own, late afternoon takes you to Castello di Nipozzano in Chianti Rufina for an exclusive visit to the wine cellars of the Frescobaldi family. An aperitivo of sparkling wine and finger foods is followed by dinner and Frescobaldi wines, paired perfectly to each course.
Insider art and politics in Firenze
Open to the Culturious only, Opificio delle Pietre Dure is today's first stop. Once a workshop specializing in designs using pietre dure (hard stones like lapis lazuli and malachite) this prestigious institute, rarely open to the public, now specializes in art restoration. A former student who now specializes in ivory, explains the process of restoring works like Leonardo da Vinci's Adoration of the Magi - currently undergoing restoration here. After a free afternoon in Florence, join us at Palazzo Bargellini for a visit with concert pianist Gregorio Nardi and his wife Annagret; their welcome includes a tour - once the home of Nardi's grandfather, a beloved former mayor of the city - a piano recital, conversation and an aperitivo before an evening spent as you please.
Rome... and the Vatican seldom seen
Travel by first-class rail to Rome; your hotel is set within the Via Giulia, located in the famous "Rione Regola", built by the most inspired architects and artists of the Renaissance. The Pantheon beckons, as well as the colorful Piazza Navona. Drop in at the Church of San Luigi dei Franchesi for a look at rogue painter Caravaggio's famous The Calling of Saint Matthew. Tonight it's another Tauck Exclusive - an after-hours visit to the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums, including rooms not usually open to the public like the Gallery of Statues and the Cabinet of the Masks. No crowds, no hassles... just amazement.
A true taste of Trastevere in Rome
A morning tour by motor coach provides a broader look at Rome, from Via Veneto to monumental Piazza Venezia, with stops to view the Colosseum and Circus Maximus. Continue on to the district of Trastevere, where labyrinthine alleys will have you reaching for your camera on a guided walking tour. At Basilica di Santa Maria, one of Rome's oldest churches, enjoy spectacular early mosaics. Next, meet a culinary expert at the Piazza San Cosimato food market (open since the 900s) before lunch at a local restaurant. As you enjoy antipasto, the chef demonstrates a mouth-watering pasta dish - for your enjoyment with seasonal wines, of course. After some free time, join us for a farewell reception in your hotel's garden, followed by a farewell dinner on the hotel's rooftop (weather permitting) overlooking the city of Rome... you are now an Italy "insider."
Tour ends: Rome. Fly home anytime. A transfer is included from Hotel Indigo® Rome - St. George to Leonardo da Vinci Airport in Fiumicino. You should allow three hours for check-in.