Day 1: Milan
Arrive at Milan Malpensa Airport. If your cruise/tour package includes a group arrival transfer or if you have purchased a private arrival transfer, you will be greeted by a Uniworld representative and transferred to the hotel.
Day 2: Milan
Milan is a mecca for Italian fashionistas, famous for its innovative design and stylish flair. Venture inside the city’s hulking Gothic cathedral, as well as its cathedral to capitalism, Europe’s oldest shopping arcade. The highlight today is pure genius—Da Vinci’s revolutionary The Last Supper mural, the most famous religious painting in history. Fashion and finance, opera and furniture design, telecom companies and trade fairs—bustling Milan, Italy’s financial and industrial center, is a modern global city whose roots sink deep into the history of Italy. Founded 2,500 years ago, Milan retains traces of every epoch, from Roman, medieval and Renaissance up to the current moment, and it boasts a dazzling bounty of artistic and cultural landmarks, which are yours to experience today.Featured Excursions:Milan city tour with visit to Da Vinci’s The Last SupperYour hotel is in the heart of the city, so it’s easy to see the highlights of the neighborhood on a short walk with your guide. Il Duomo, the magnificent cathedral begun in the 14th century and finished 500 years later (the last part to be finished, one of its five great doors, wasn’t installed until 1965), offers one of the most spectacular Gothic façades in the world. Step inside with a local expert for a tour of the ravishing interior, then walk across the square and under the splendid triumphal arch that welcomes visitors and shoppers into the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. Learn a bit about the history of this area as you stroll through the beautiful 19th-century glass-covered arcade; it’s the oldest shopping mall in Europe and is still wildly popular, housing the flagships of leading fashion designers and trendy restaurants. You’ll emerge in Piazza della Scala, home to the internationally celebrated opera house whose name comes from the square, Teatro alla Scala. Directly opposite it is Milan’s city hall—which happens to be a stunning Renaissance palace. It’s just one of the palaces and fortresses that were the heart of medieval civic power, where the Viscontis and then the Sforzas reigned, each ruler adding to the city’s splendor and tumultuous history. It’s hard to pinpoint a highlight among so many, but Santa Maria delle Grazie, a beautiful Gothic and Renaissance church, offers you a sight you will never forget. The Last Supper is not in the church itself; it adorns the walls of a modest adjoining building that was the Dominican refectory. Your tour ends after you’ve had an opportunity to admire Da Vinci’s revolutionary work or spend some free time exploring the area on your own. Note: The order of sightseeing varies according to the availability of time slots at Santa Maria delle Grazie.
Day 3: Milan, Verona (Valpolicella), Transfer to Venice (Embark)
En route to Venice, you’ll stop in the literary hometown of Shakespeare’s famously star-crossed lovers to see the sights and the famous balcony—yes, that balcony. Later, enjoy lunch at a historic wine estate owned by descendants of Dante, the great Italian poet who penned The Inferno. You’ll check out of your hotel this morning and head toward the Adriatic coast and magical Venice, but the day includes two delightful stops en route: Verona, forever associated with Romeo and Juliet, and the Valpolicella wine country.Featured Excursions:Verona, “City of Romeo and Juliet”Discover the real roots of Shakespeare’s tragic tale with a visit to fair Verona. The Scaligeri family ruled the city for two centuries, routinely murdering one another to gain power; an echo of these savage family feuds found their way into the Bard’s tragedy. Your walking tour passes the house where Romeo purportedly lived, as well as the pretty 14th-century stone house where legend says Juliet listened to her Romeo’s vows. (It’s certainly a destination for lovers now: They leave love notes on the walls). Stop by the imposing Scaligeri tombs, ramble along Via Mazzini and through Piazza delle Erbe, the bustling city square laid out where the ancient Roman forum once stood. You’ll have a little free time to explore on your own after your tour. You might step into one of the beautiful and historic churches nearby or take an elevator up to the top of Torre dei Lamberti for a great view of the old city and its surroundings.Exclusive Valpolicella wine estate lunchYour journey continues from Verona through the lovely vine-clad hills of the Valpolicella wine country. These vineyards grow Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes—and even Garganega, the grape used for Soave wines. While the everyday Valpolicella red wine is popular and easy-drinking, the region also produces Amarone, a lush and unmistakable red that is the result of a unique wine-making process: Grapes are air-dried on bamboo racks for several months before being crushed for fermentation, giving the wine a luscious depth of flavor. Modest farmhouses and great estates alike produce delightful wines, but the Serego Alighieri estate, which belongs to descendants of Dante Alighieri, is one of the oldest and loveliest. The stately villa stands amid gracious gardens and fertile vineyards, welcoming you in for a tour of the grounds and cellars. You’ll see the drying racks and learn about the process before savoring a delectable three-course lunch carefully paired with Serego Alighieri wines.This evening you’ll arrive in Venice and embark. Unpack, relax and enjoy your first evening on the Venetian Lagoon.
Day 4: Venice
If ever there was a city that could be described as “bewitching” and “ethereal,” Venice is it. An expert guide will show you iconic sites as well as quiet lanes and secret spots known only to locals (shhhh….). Also on deck today: a scenic cruise around the Venetian Lagoon and an experience that’s sure to be a highlight of your trip—an extremely rare after-hours visit to St. Mark’s Basilica. Hoping to escape marauding Huns, Goths and Vandals as the Roman Empire collapsed in the fifth century, refugees built a little settlement they called Venice on tiny islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. By the 12th century, Venice was the wealthiest and most powerful city-state in Europe, controlling the Mediterranean and all European trade with the East. Its merchant-aristocrats lavished their wealth on palaces and churches, art and music, creating a city that is truly like no other. Now, seawater laps at the foot of thousand-year-old houses— and sometimes rises above the doorsteps—but the glorious palaces and romantic canals enchant visitors just as they have for centuries. Today you will embark on your own personal voyage of discovery through this entrancing city.Featured Excursions:Venice walking discovery tourVenice has no need to designate a pedestrians-only historic district: No cars are permitted within the island city; all transportation is by foot or water. Begin your exploration—on foot, of course—by strolling through the historic Castello district. It’s the largest of Venice’s six districts; back in the 13th century it was home to the Arsenal, where Venice’s ships were built (Venetians boasted that they could build a complete ship in a single day) and where the famous Biennale art exhibition now takes place. As you pass 800-year-old homes, you’ll hear the murmur of the soft local dialect through the open windows, clothes flap from lines strung over tiny canals and kids kick soccer balls along cobbled alleys—it’s a real, living, breathing neighborhood, not just a historic site. You will soon arrive at the most famous plaza in Italy, St. Mark’s Square, and the Doge’s Palace. Venetians elected their first doge, or duke, in AD 697 and began building the palace around AD 800. The palace complex, as it exists now, mostly dates to the 14th and 15th centuries, and it brims with jaw-dropping artistic gems, including Tintoretto’s wall-sized Paradise and works by Veronese, Tiepolo and Titian. Justice—and sometimes injustice, for Venice was a supremely political city—was meted out in the palace, and those convicted of crimes were led across the Bridge of Sighs to prison. Follow their footsteps to the prison and gaze into the cells: Casanova escaped from one of these cells; other, less fortunate prisoners whiled away their time by inscribing graffiti on the walls, which you can still read. Your tour ends at the Rialto (the oldest part of the city) and the famous 16th-century stone bridge spanning the Grand Canal. After a scenic cruise around the Venetian Lagoon, you can spend the afternoon exploring on your own. In addition to its well-known museums, Venice is also home to some highly specialized ones: Displays at the Correr are devoted to the history of Venice; the Museo della Musica contains 17th- and 18th-century musical instruments and exhibits about composer Antonio Vivaldi (known as the Red Priest for his hair color), who taught music to the daughters of Venetian noblemen; and the Museo Ebraico examines the history of the Jewish community that was confined to an island known as Ghetto Nuovo. The latter was one of Europe’s wealthiest and most cultured Jewish communities, made up in part with refugees from the Spanish Inquisition.Exclusive evening opening of St. Mark’s BasilicaThe doors of this icon open especially for you tonight, so you can see the glorious church in the evening light— without the crowds. You’ll find it almost impossible not to gaze heavenward as you enter St. Mark’s. High overhead, magnificent domes are sheathed in mosaics telling the story of the New Testament, but you should not miss the intricate pattern of marble and mosaic tile under your feet. Ahead of you is the famous altarpiece made by 10th-century Byzantine artisans who gilded it and decorated it with precious gems (some of which were subsequently stolen by Napoleon). The building, which exemplifies the city’s historic connection to Byzantium and the Eastern Mediterranean, was finished in the 11th century and incorporates the remnants of earlier churches; gold glass-tile mosaics line the interior walls and cupolas, giving the church its nickname, Church of Gold. It houses treasures collected—one way or another—by Venetians over the centuries: The relics of St. Mark, patron saint of the city, were stolen from Alexandria, and the Tetrarch, a group of four crowned figures, was looted from Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade. Every successful Venetian voyager returned with something to decorate the basilica—a frieze, a statue—and the result is one of the most stunning works of art and architecture in this amazing city. Note: It is not always possible to arrange an after-hours visit to St. Mark’s Basilica. If religious functions or festivities are taking place in the evening, we will visit during regular hours.A special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.
Day 5: Chioggia
Join a local expert for a stroll around this picturesque fishing village, a popular place with artists, or “Go Active” with a bike ride along the beaches lining the lagoon. The seaside air and sweeping views are simply spectacular. The River Countess sails from Venice, cruising through the lagoon, past the Lido, the colorful fishermen’s houses of Pellestrina and the huge ongoing flood-control project called MOSE (which is designed to protect Venice from rising seawater), before docking in Chioggia, sometimes called “Little Venice,” at the southern end of the lagoon. Special attention to: We are obliged to comply with Italian Maritime Authorities who require that the ship is only manned by crew during the Adriatic Sea passage. We thank you for your cooperation.Featured Excursions:Chioggia walking discovery tourChioggia spreads over several islands, and though it boasts notable landmarks, including a 17th-century cathedral graced with work by Tiepolo, it’s essentially a fishing village. As you stroll through the picturesque town, you’ll see immediately why it’s a favorite destination for painters. Canals are lined with colorful fishing boats, fishermen mend nets and neighbors chat from their windows. Fishermen bring their catch into this port every day before it’s sent to Venice and other destinations, and the fish market is an amazing sight—and sound, as the market criers vie with one another to call attention to their catches. You’ll have a lovely view of Vena Canal from the white marble bridge at the end of Corso del Popolo, the town’s main boulevard, but if you are ambitious and would like a view of the whole village, climb the bell tower of San Andrea.Exclusive guided “Let's Go” bicycle tour of Chioggia’s beachesMeet your local bike guide dockside for a scenic ride along the lagoon. Your first stop is Piazza Vigo, with its famous—and beautiful—white marble bridge that links the square to San Domenico, a church standing on its own little island (you’re likely to see your ship cruise past right about now). Mount your bike again to pedal around Lusenzo Lagoon, the placid body of water between Chioggia and Sottomarina, delighting in the gloriously luminous air and serene views. Take a break at the end of San Marco street before heading back to Chioggia and the cathedral—you may extend your tour with a visit to the cathedral, which has a 14th-century bell tower, though the church itself was rebuilt in the 17th century and given an unusual white-and-gray interior. Or you could simply spend a little free time enjoying Chioggia’s broad main boulevard, Corso del Popolo, with its inviting shops and sidewalk cafés.
Day 6: Polesella (Bologna or Ferrara)
Bologna or Ferrara? Let your passions be your guide today. If you have an appetite for pasta, head to Bologna—the heart of Italian culinary traditions—and learn how to make (and eat!) your own lunch. Or indulge your appetite for art with an excursion to Ferrara, an ancient center for the arts that once rivaled Medici Florence. Today you face a tough decision: Do you spend a full day in Bologna, the culinary capital of Northern Italy, or visit UNESCO-designated Ferrara, a beautifully preserved Renaissance city?Featured Excursions:Full-day excursion to Bologna with exclusive pasta-making workshop and lunchDoes Bologna have the best food in Northern Italy? Taste and decide for yourself today. Of course there’s Bolognese sauce, but that’s just one possible topping for the exceptional pasta available here. There are those who believe that the best tortellini in the world is made in Bologna. Locals also claim to have invented the first chocolate bars, and even if others dispute that claim, there’s no denying that the chocolate shops offer some very special treats. Bologna’s green market brims with local produce, and its specialty food stores and food halls are unmatched; locally made mortadella, luscious balsamic vinegar from nearby Modena, ham from Parma and, of course, great rounds of Parmesan cheese all contribute to the lavish displays. Participate in a workshop on making pasta, enjoy lunch at a celebrated restaurant and then stroll with your guide under the famous arcades to see some of the lovely, historic buildings in the city center: The huge basilica dates to the 14th century, and the two leaning towers that loom above Piazza di Porta Ravegnana were built in the 12th century, as were the structures that housed Europe’s first university.Half-day excursion to Ferrara with lunch onboardSquare towers rise sternly above the moat that still surrounds Castle Estense, the huge fortress the Este family built in the center of Ferrara in the 14th century. It was a demonstration of both power and caution, since the Estes had just put down an uprising, but it is just one of the family palaces to grace the city they developed. They turned Ferrara into a center for the arts and artists—particularly for musicians and composers—that rivaled Medici Florence. Here the Renaissance concept of the ideal city took shape—it was the first planned city in Italy that did not follow a Roman model—and as you take a brief walking tour through the historic center, you will see the Estes’ vision throughout it, from the street layout that parallels the river to the many family palaces. But not all of Ferrara is Renaissance: The medieval walls still surround the old city (providing a popular walking and biking route for locals and visitors alike), the Gothic cathedral dates to the 12th century, and tiny cobbled lanes might make you think you were visiting the Middle Ages—were it not for the bicycles that Ferrara’s citizens ride everywhere. Your local expert will introduce you to the highlights of Ferrara, and you’ll have some time to explore on your own before returning to the ship for lunch.
Day 7: Taglio di Po, Chioggia
Chioggia is such a delight that we’ll return there today to experience something completely different. You can visit the village’s bustling once-a-week market—a colorful and boisterous scene, and quintessentially Italian—or for something really unique, hop aboard a small boat to go mussel harvesting with local fishermen out in the lagoon. Dip into a lively local scene with a stroll through Chioggia, or, if weather permits, take a small boat out to the lagoon to take part in a mussel harvest. Special attention to: We are obliged to comply with Italian Maritime Authorities who require that the ship is only manned by crew during the Adriatic Sea passage. We thank you for your cooperation.Featured Excursions:Chioggia market visit with lunch onboardChioggia is the quintessential Venetian Lagoon fishing village. Founded in the fifth century, it was known as the pantry of Venice because of its many small truck farms, which supplied Venetian households with produce until just a few decades ago. It is still a thriving fishing port; its wholesale fish market is one of the largest in Italy. On Thursdays, Chioggia also hosts a huge outdoor market along its main thoroughfare, Corso del Popolo, where stands sell everything from locally grown melons and beets (pretty candy-striped Chioggia beets are treasured by U.S. chefs) to colorful straw handbags. Spend some time exploring the market before heading back to the ship for lunch.Chioggia mussel harvesting experienceDo you love succulent, salty mussels? They’ve been a staple of Venetian cooking for many years, in part because the waters of the lagoon support such a bounty of fish and shellfish. Board a small boat and head out to the mussel banks, the area where the mollusks thrive, to take part in a mussel harvest. You’ll see mussel ropes suspended from poles in the shallow waters and, after a little instruction from the fisherman, help harvest the shellfish. Then return to the ship for lunch.You’ll sail back to Venice this evening.
Day 8: Venice Islands (Burano, Mazzorbo, Torcello)
Venice is an island surrounded by hundreds of smaller islands, three of which you’ll visit today—Burano, famous for its lace-makers and houses painted in eye-popping colors; Mazzorbo, where you’ll taste a historic golden-hued wine; and Torcello, home to beautiful Byzantine mosaics.Featured Excursions:Full-day “The Magical Islands of Venice”The Venetian lagoon is dotted with islands, each with its own history, heritage and charm. Your first island of the day is an exceptionally colorful one. Hot pink, chartreuse, orange, lemon yellow—Burano’s brightly painted fishermen’s cottages are an artist’s dream. The sizzling colors may look random, but they are strictly regulated: An owner needs state permission to change the color of the house. Burano is even better known for its lace-making tradition than for its colors; the exquisite craft has been practiced here for 400 years, handed down from mother to daughter since the first workshop was set up at the end of the 16th century. Visit a historic lace-making atelier to see some of this delicate work and, if you like, purchase items to take home. Enjoy lunch on your own at one of Burano’s charming restaurants, then rejoin the group for a visit to the neighboring island, Mazzorbo. Here you’ll find a different craft practiced: wine-making. Visit an ambitious wine estate devoted to making wine with Dorona grapes, which tolerate the salt air—and the occasional saltwater bath during very high tides—and produce a luscious golden wine. These grapes grew here long ago in a walled vineyard that has been brought back into verdant production. Enjoy a tasting in lovely surroundings. Then it’s on to Torcello, perhaps the most surprising of all these islands. It was settled before Venice was founded, and at one time it was the greatest, most populous city in the lagoon; now, however, only a handful of people live there. Its centerpiece is the basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, the oldest church in the lagoon and a monument to Torcello’s lost might. The doors open early for you so you can see the stunning 11th-century mosaic of the Last Judgment without the crowds—and with expert commentary from your art historian guide.
Day 9: Venice
Lovers of food and wine flock to Italy to immerse themselves in a truly farm-to-table epicurean experience. If that sounds like you, you’ll love today’s walking tour to the famous fish and produce market next to the Rialto Bridge. Prefer a more visual feast? Join an art historian for a highlights tour of the Accademia gallery. Further your acquaintance with the city called the “Queen of the Adriatic” with a tour of its marvelous food markets (your ship’s chef might just lead your expedition) or take a tour of the stunning Academy museum.Featured Excursions:Exclusive “Do as the Locals Do” Venice walking tourBack when Venice was at the height of its power, only the Rialto Bridge spanned the Grand Canal—and the city’s famous Rialto markets for fish and produce have sprawled at its feet as long as the bridge has arched over the water. Here you’ll find violet artichokes from the nearby island of Sant’Erasmo, honey from the salt marshes, white asparagus from Giare—and Venetians shopping for their dinners in the historic heart of the city. Join them as you explore the colorful, noisy and fun arcades with your guide (the ship’s chef often leads this expedition), who knows Venice’s culinary arts intimately. Freshly caught local fish is sold to knowledgeable customers under the Gothic arches of the covered fish market, which was probably originally built in the 11th century. At the end of the tour, join your guide at a bacaro (a casual wine bar) or the Venetian version of happy hour, called ombra e cicchetti—a drink (often a glass of rosecco) with a bite of something delicious—perhaps crostini with salt cod spread or another Venetian fish specialty.“Venetian Painters at the Accademia” tour with art historian guideJoin an art historian on an exclusive guided visit to the Academy. Probably the greatest collection of Venetian Renaissance paintings in the world, it includes works by Tiepolo, Veronese, Tintoretto, Bellini and Canaletto. There are more than 20 galleries, each one containing extraordinary masterpieces, with exhibits generally laid out in chronological order. There are far too many to see in a single visit; fortunately, your guide brings a specialist’s knowledge to the history of Venetian painting and will show you what was unique about Venetian art as it developed from the 14th through the 16th centuries. Note: Photography is not permitted inside the Academy, and large bags, especially backpacks, must be left in lockers.A special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Gala Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.
Day 10: Venice (Disembark), Transfer to Florence
Quick – what’s the most famous statue in the world? Many art experts would say Michelangelo’s marble masterpiece David. See what all the fuss is about today in Florence, when you’ll view this larger-than-life wonder with your very own eyes. After disembarking the ship, you’ll travel cross-country to Florence. The birthplace of Italy’s national poet, Dante Alighieri, and of the Renaissance, Florence offers innumerable treasures of art and architecture. The city rose to international prominence in the 14th century under the rule of the Medici family, who played a significant part in European politics for the next 300 years. Besides being masterful politicians, the Medici were the greatest patrons of art in Europe, employing Michelangelo, Brunelleschi, Titian, Fra Angelico and Giotto, to name only a few. These are the treasures awaiting you, along with Renaissance architecture, seductive vistas—and world-famous gelato. You’ll stop for lunch in the Tuscan hills outside of Florence. Take a seat on the sun-dappled patio of a well-known restaurant and prepare to savor a traditional Tuscan meal; then, refreshed and well fed, you’ll be ready to begin your exploration of this Renaissance city.Featured Excursions:Guided Accademia Gallery tour with visit to Michelangelo’s DavidThe Academy houses what may well be the most famous sculpture in the world: Michelangelo’s David. The 16-foot-tall marble figure was always intended to be displayed outdoors, but it was moved inside in 1876 to protect it from the weather—and no matter how many photos or posters of the figure you may have seen, you will still be amazed by the reality. It’s one of five Michelangelo sculptures in the gallery’s collection, which also contains Botticelli’s Madonna and Child and Madonna of the Sea. Following your visit to the Academy, walk from the museum to your hotel, where your luggage will be waiting. Check in and relax—or go out and see a bit of the neighborhood. The Duomo and Piazza della Signoria are not far. Perhaps you’d like to stroll a bit farther to the Ponte Vecchio for a view of the city at sundown before choosing a trattoria for your evening meal.
Day 11: Florence
If you’re not up to speed on the famous Medici family, no worries—you will be after today’s walking tour of Florence’s architectural treasures, which reveals the enduring influence of these powerful patrons of the arts. Later, feel free to embrace the spirit of la dolce vita as you explore the streets of Florence at your leisure. Gelato, anyone? After breakfast at the hotel, start the day with a walking tour that will introduce you to the heart of this historic city.Featured Excursions:“Architectural Treasures of Renaissance Florence” walking discovery tourGet an up-close view on foot of some of the city’s most glorious monuments, among them the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and the Florence Baptistery; the Uffizi Gallery; the Piazza della Repubblica, the center of the city since Roman times; and the Ponte Vecchio, with its glittering jewelry shops. Step into Santa Croce, where Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli and Rossini are buried. Wherever you walk, you’ll spot the Medici family emblem—red balls on a gold shield—affixed to building after building, a sure sign that Medici money built it. The number of balls, called palle, on the crest varied; sometimes there were 12, sometimes five or six. After your tour, continue to explore on your own. You don’t even need to enter a museum to see the work of major artists. Stroll along the Loggia dei Lanzi, a 14th-century arched gallery near the Palazzo Vecchio, to see Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine Women and other statues, some of them dating to antiquity. Cross the Arno to see the Pitti Palace, home of the Medici, and the old merchant quarter. If you want a break from Renaissance architecture, remember that the city is home to Gucci and Ferragamo, so chic boutiques line the streets alongside the palaces and galleries. There are those who believe that no trip to Florence is complete without trying the gelato from at least two or three places, and the best gelato is the subject of spirited debate. Taste and judge for yourself. At the end of the day, rejoin the group for a delectable dinner.
Day 12: Florence, Transfer to Rome
The legendary beauty of the Tuscan countryside is the theme for today, along with superb food and wine—we are in Italy, after all. On the drive to Rome, stop for lunch at a gorgeous castle in the Chianti region, where you’ll tour the cellars and taste the estate’s fine red wines. You have a few hours to enjoy Florence on your own. Many museums open at eight o’clock, so if you’d like to visit the Bargello, with its early Michelangelo sculptures, or the Uffizi, this is your chance.Featured Excursions:Chianti tasting and lunch at Castello di Verrazzano wine estateVineyards climb the verdant hills, and the green spires of cypresses mark roadways and houses in picture-perfect Chianti as you travel south via motorcoach through the storied Tuscan countryside, known the world over for its red wines. As lunchtime nears, your motorcoach will turn up a scenic lane and drive toward the gorgeous estate of Castello di Verrazzano. Parts of the castle, which belonged to the powerful Verrazzano family during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, date to the seventh century. The family-owned estate produces acclaimed wines; you’ll tour the cellars and enjoy a tasting of these fine reds, along with a delicious Tuscan lunch in an idyllic setting. Once in Rome, you will check into your hotel. You can unpack and relax this evening or go out on your own to begin your exploration of the ancient and modern capital of Italy.
Day 13: Rome
A list of Rome’s top cultural sites reads like a roll call of history—the ancient Forum, the Pantheon and St. Peter’s Cathedral, just to name a few. You could spend an eternity in the “Eternal City” and not exhaust all there is to do and see. Not planning to stay forever? We’ll show you the highlights on a discovery tour that includes a look inside the Colosseum and a heart of the city stroll. It is impossible to overestimate the significance of Rome in European history. The Eternal City was founded 2,700 years ago and at one time ruled most of the known world, from Northern Africa all the way to the Scottish border, building roads and aqueducts that still carry traffic and water, and giving rise to the French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian languages.Featured Excursions:“Imperial Rome and the Heart of the City” discovery tourToday offers you a sweeping overview of the Eternal City, from the Colosseum to the beauties of the baroque era. A panoramic tour of the city built on seven hills will show you the highlights as you ride past St. Peter’s Basilica, the Arch of Titus and the Villa Borghese; every vista offers legends, history, beauty and mystique. When you reach the Colosseum, you’ll step down from the motorcoach and enter one of the city’s icons, built in the first century by the emperor Vespasian. The enormous arena held 55,000 spectators and was a marvel of sophisticated engineering: The entire floor of the arena could be filled with water so naval battles could be reenacted; trap doors opened to permit lions to spring out of their cages to attack other animals or slaves; and the entire area could be covered by a vast awning to protect spectators. Half of it collapsed in a ninth-century earthquake, but not all of the damage occurred naturally—like many other Roman structures, the Colosseum provided building materials for newer monuments, including St. Peter’s Basilica. Your local guide will take you through the parts of it that are open to visitors and fill you in on its history and uses through the centuries. Though the third level had the least desirable seating in ancient days (that’s why women were relegated to those seats), it offers spectacular views of both the interior of the arena and the neighborhood around it. Notice the cats lounging in the sun here? They are considered part of Rome’s bio-heritage and are protected by city law. You’ll head next to the heart of the baroque city, in an area where no cars are allowed, beginning in Piazza Navona. It was laid out on top of the ruins of Domitian’s arena, which is why it has a long, semi-oval shape, and it is dominated by a spectacular fountain by Bernini— which happens to be a favorite meeting place for locals. Ramble through the narrow alleys, lined with shops, homes and sidewalk cafés, for a few blocks to the Pantheon. Erected as a temple to all the gods of Rome and boasting a huge dome, the Pantheon was converted into a Christian church early in the seventh century. After seeing the Pantheon, choose a café for lunch on your own; there are many delectable options in the area. After lunch, you are welcome to continue on with your guide to the Trevi Fountain. The 18th-century fountain dominates the tiny square it’s in; you’ll be dazzled by the sparkle of its waters in the sunshine as you come upon it from the shadowy lanes that lead to it. It’s not far from Giolitti, the oldest gelato purveyor in Rome, which you really shouldn’t miss. What will be your favorite flavor? Champagne? Blueberry? Be sure to ask for a dollop of whipped cream on top, just as the locals do. After your break, head over to the Spanish Steps. In May, flowers cascade down the steps, which connect the church at the top of hill with the square at the bottom, but the Spanish Steps are beautiful at any time of year. The afternoon is yours to explore on your own. The options are endless—the monuments of ancient Rome and the beauties of the Renaissance may beckon equally. Or you might want to check out modern Italian design in the chic shops on Via del Corso or join the hip Roman foodies sampling the delicacies at ’Gusto, an unorthodox food emporium.
Day 14: Rome
Your final day in Italy may be one of your most memorable yet. Venture within the indescribably vast Vatican Museums, where a local expert will show you the best of the best on a perfectly paced “espresso” tour. For the finale, the Sistine Chapel, famous for its resplendent and vividly colored ceiling frescos by Michelangelo. In a word, sublime. This is the last full day of your Italian adventure. Spend the morning among the amazing treasures collected or commissioned by the popes over the centuries.Featured Excursions:Guided Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel visitIt takes far more than a single day to see all of the Vatican Museums—there are 14 individual museums in 13 papal palaces, so your guide will be invaluable in navigating this overwhelming bounty of treasures. Just a couple of the legendary ancient sculptures on this morning’s agenda: the Apollo Belvedere and the Laocoön. The tour encompasses the Sistine Chapel, with its spectacular ceiling frescoes by Michelangelo, and St. Peter’s Basilica, whose dome was designed by Michelangelo. Relax over lunch with the group, then decide what to do next on your own. Castel Sant’Angelo is just a short walk away, and the Piazza Navona—the heart of baroque Rome—is only about 20 minutes away. Of course you could go farther afield to Capitoline Hill (Piazza del Campidoglio, at the foot of the hill, was designed by Michelangelo, though his design wasn’t completed until the 17th century), the Forum or the Baths of Caracalla—you decide!
Day 15: Depart Rome
If your cruise/tour package includes a group departure transfer or if you have purchased a private departure transfer, you will be transferred to Rome Leonardo da Vinci Airport for your flight home.