When you think of Italy... you evoke thoughts of leisurely cruises on picturesque lakes lined with villas against the backdrop of the Italian Alps... the Byzantine grandeur of San Marco and serenades aboard gondolas in the age-old canals of Venice... Florentine art and architecture that sing of life in the Renaissance, and a stroll in the garden where opera was born... a glass of Chianti in a sidewalk café in hilltop Siena... the haunting ruins of Imperial Rome... hand-painted frescoes whose eloquence is most poignantly experienced in the Sistine Chapel, after the day’s crowds depart...
From Michelangelo's masterpieces to the glories of Ancient Rome, the art and drama of the ages inspire our journeys in Italy including Lake Como, Venice, Florence, Siena and Rome. View the inspiring treasures of the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel during a special after-hours guided visit. Confirmed reservations provide an opportunity to view the original works of the masters at the Uffizi Gallery and Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence. In Venice, stay at a top award-winning hotel on a private island in the Venetian Lagoon, see St. Mark's Basilica and Square, and take a gondola ride on the canals complete with a serenade. Visit the medieval town of Siena in the Tuscan countryside. Take a high-speed train ride to Florence. And of course, you'll also have ample time to pursue what interests you most in Venice, Florence, and Rome...
Arrive Milan and on to Bellagio
Tour begins: 6:30 PM, Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni. A transfer is included from Milan's Malpensa Airport to Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio. As you travel Italy Tauck-style, you'll see the best of this ancient country, from great cities to countryside villages and towns that are off-the-beaten track! Begin by heading through the beautiful northern Italian countryside from Milan to your historic 19th-century grand hotel in beautiful Bellagio on the shores of bejeweled Lake Como. Meet your fellow traveling companions at a welcome cocktail reception and dinner at your hotel.
A Villa on Fashionable Lake Como
Your travels take you by private boat from Bellagio to visit Villa del Balbianello; set on a wooded peninsula that juts into the lake, it was built in the late 18th century on the site of a Franciscan monastery. Noted for its exquisite landscaping and sculpture, the villa features spectacular terraced gardens ablaze with magnolias, cypresses, azaleas and more against dramatic views of the distant Alps and the famous shore of Lake Como, and appeared as a location in the James Bond film Casino Royale and in Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones. After lunch on Isola Comacina, return to Bellagio and enjoy the afternoon and evening to explore as you wish; enjoy dinner on your own tonight.
From Lake Como to Venice
Journey across northern Italy from the lakes to Venice, among the world's best-loved cities, designed along an intricate system of canals within a lagoon. Upon arrival, head to St. Mark's Square, the heart of Venice, for lunch at a local restaurant, followed by an iconic, must-do Venetian experience – gliding through the city's historic canals aboard a gondola as local musicians serenade you with traditional Italian songs. Then transfer by private boat to your home for the next two nights in Venice – the San Clemente Palace Kempinski Venice, named the #1 hotel in Venice as the winner of Condé Nast Traveler's "Top Hotels in Italy/Venice" Reader's Choice Award! Occupying its own private island in the Venetian Lagoon complete with a beautiful pool, grounds and gardens, this award-winning retreat is accessible only by private boat or water taxi. Enjoy free time this evening and dinner at your leisure at the hotel.
St. Mark's & Venice as you please
Start the day in Venice with guided visits to Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square) and St. Mark's Basilica, one of the greatest buildings in Europe with its exquisite mosaics and detailed carving. Spend the rest of the day and evening experiencing more of Venice at your leisure – perhaps exploring the small islands of the Venetian Lagoon; viewing one of the world’s largest collections of Venetian art at the Galleria dell’Accademia; or visiting the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, a head-turning display of modern art housed in Guggenheim’s former home on the Grand Canal, the 18th-century Palazzo Venier dei Leoni; your Tauck Director can offer recommendations. Your hotel provides private boat shuttles between its private dock at St. Mark's Square and the hotel on San Clemente Island throughout the afternoon and evening.
High-speed rail to Florence
Travel Italy by high-speed rail today from Venice to Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance. Get an introduction to the city’s architectural landmarks and great artists from a local art historian; view Lorenzo Ghiberti's bronze doors with detailed panels at the Baptistry, part of the Duomo of Santa Maria del Fiori complex. Your art lecture is a fitting prelude to today's visit to Galleria dell'Accademia, Europe's oldest art school and home to many of the world's most beloved paintings and sculpture, including Michelangelo's famed statue of David. Later, a walking tour explores the historical center of Florence, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Have dinner this evening at a Florentine restaurant in the heart of the city.
The Uffizi & time at leisure in Florence
The day is free to explore Florence as you please; perhaps you may want to visit the Pitti Palace, the Medici Chapels or stroll across the Ponte Vecchio to the lovely Boboli Gardens. Tonight, we invite you to join us for a Tauck Exclusive – an after-hours visit to Florence's extraordinary Uffizi Gallery, Italy's largest art museum and one of the first art galleries in the world (subject to availability and day of the tour may vary), where you'll gaze at some of the world's greatest art masterpieces on a guided tour with a local expert. You'll be introduced to masterpiece works by Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raphael, Lippi, Leonardo da Vinci, and many more Renaissance masters; you have time to study, and contemplate, without the day crowds.
Through Tuscany & Umbria via Siena to Rome
Travel Italy through lush Tuscan landscapes this morning, featuring olive groves, cypress trees, and vineyards, including the region that produces Chianti wine. Stop in the medieval hill town of Siena, and wander through its narrow centuries-old streets. See the Piazza del Campo where the Palio bareback horse race is held, and visit the Duomo, one of Italy's great cathedrals, with scenes inlaid in the marble floors and sculpture by Michelangelo. Continue through scenic Umbria and Lazio to your final destination – Rome, the Eternal City that was the center of the once-powerful Roman Empire, and is today the capital of modern Italy – for a three-night stay at one of Europe's finest hotels. Indulge this evening with dinner at a Roman neighborhood restaurant known for its regional cuisine.
St. Peter's & after-hours at the Vatican Museums
Your first full day in Rome begins with a visit to one of the world's most famous houses of worship, immense St. Peter's Basilica, and St. Peter's Square. The remainder of the day is free to explore Rome as you please before this evening's Tauck Exclusive! An after-hours guided visit to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel (subject to availability; day and time of the visit may vary) gives you privileged access to the treasures of the Vatican, without the day's crowds. See the Candelabra Gallery, Map Gallery and the Tapestries; it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see some of the world's great masterpieces, including Michelangelo's famous Sistine Chapel ceiling frescoes, without the usual crowds. Up close and unhurried, you'll have a chance to see firsthand why the chapel's floor is as famous as its celebrated ceiling!
The glories of Imperial Rome
Get an insider's view of Imperial Rome from a local guide on a city sightseeing tour – view such can't-miss sights as the Roman Forum, Circus Maximus, the Colosseum and more. Opened in AD 80, the Colosseum once reigned supreme as an entertainment venue used by Roman emperors to maximize their popularity with the general public. Spend some more time this afternoon exploring the "Eternal City" as you wish prior to this evening's farewell cocktail party and dinner at your hotel in Rome – a fitting finale to your extraordinary adventure to three of Italy's greatest cities.
Tour ends: Rome. Fly home anytime. A transfer is included from The St. Regis Rome to Leonardo da Vinci Airport in Fiumicino; allow 3 hours for check-in.