On your one-week trip through Italy, all roads lead to Rome… through the Eternal City from Venice, labyrinthine city of art, romance, and palazzo-lined waterways… or from Florence, hip center of fashion, finance and culture, where Gucci, da Vinci, the Renaissance, and gold currency were born… They are the backroads that embark on a sojourn through the vineyards of Tuscany, sampling wine and local cuisine… They arrive at the hub of the Ancient World, in the heart of the modern metropolis, close to the Colosseum, the Appian Way and the Vatican, to discover the glories of Rome.
Day 1 – Welcome to Venice
Welcome to Venice! Arrive at the Luna Hotel Baglioni, a five-star luxury hotel in the heart of the city, with its own private jetty. Once an aristocratic palace, its splendidly appointed rooms, marbled floors and frescoed ceilings retain the elegance of a bygone era. You are only steps away from Piazza San Marco and close to the city’s most famous landmarks. Dine tonight at Antico Martini, one of Venice’s top restaurants, in an intimate, picture perfect setting opposite the La Fenice opera house.
Day 2 – St. Mark’s Basilica and the Amazing Doge’s Palace
Eccentric, romantic, and innovative, Venice defies the tides of history. Its famous canals, once a defense against barbarian armies, belie its vulnerability and uniqueness as a timeless city on the edge, teeming with art and restless energy. You can feel that ancient energy on a guided tour of St. Mark’s Basilica, adorned with domes, columns and spires, its gilded, soaring walls and ceilings profusely decorated with Byzantine mosaics and relics. No less inspiring is the adjacent Doge’s Palace, a mass of pink marble that seems to float on tiers of Gothic arcades. Once the seat of power in the Venetian empire, the palace is now a museum of art treasures and a work of art itself in every intricate detail. Experience Venice up close and in style on a gondola ride through its maze of water lanes.
Day 3 – Michelangelo’s David & more in Florence
Travel to Florence by high-speed rail, with first-class seating and amenities. A transfer is included from Santa Maria Novella Train Station to your five-star hotel in the center of the city. Built in 1894, the Hotel Helvetia & Bristol exudes Belle Èpoque charm and elegance, only a short walk from the Duomo and the most exclusive shopping areas. A buffet lunch is followed by a walking tour of this busy financial center and birthplace of the Renaissance. Visit the Gallery of the Accademia di Belle Arti, the exhibition hall of Europe’s first art academy, which houses Michelangelo’s David. Standing 16 feet tall in its rotunda, the power of this sculpture resonates in the hearts and minds of all who stand in its presence.
Day 4 – Culture, couture and the art of the Uffizi
The power of art and wealth are alternating currents in the city where the Medici crest still adorns public buildings. Your day begins with an art lecture at the hotel, followed by a visit to one of the oldest, most famous galleries in the world. The Uffizi (“the offices”), conceived in 1581 as a massive government facility, was converted ten years later to a public museum which today holds some of the most important artworks of all time. With its 45 exhibition halls and thousands of masterpieces, it is an art immersion unlikely to be experienced anywhere else. The afternoon is yours to explore the city’s contemporary culture. Besides Michelangelo and Boticelli, Florence is also the home of Gucci and Ferragamo, and a wealth of shops and galleries on the edge of modern culture.
Day 5 – A taste of Tuscany in the Chianti Classico
Journey outside the city of Florence for a to the ancient monastery of Badia de Passignano in the Chianti Classico region, where the monks are known for their love of learning (Galileo taught here in 1587) and their cultivation of grapes. Tour the wine cellar with a sommelier, sample its famous Chiantis, and have lunch at Osteria di Passignano… a celebration of traditional Tuscan cuisine paired with some of the famous wines produced in surrounding vineyards… followed by a little extra-virgin olive oil tasting with the chef.
Day 6 – Rome … the Eternal City
A high-speed rail journey whisks you from Florence to Rome and the Regina Baglioni, in the heart of the city. Your five-star hotel on the Via Veneto is an Art Deco masterpiece that has entertained poets and princes, in easy reach of the Villa Borghese gardens, the Trevi Fountain, and the most stylish boutiques and restaurants. Lunch at a local restaurant before a tour of the Eternal City where monumental art is part of everyday life. Visit the Colosseum, the iconic symbol of Rome, and its most breathtaking feat of Roman engineering; its empty shell still resonates with its history of gladiator contests, mock battles, and violent spectacles. From a high vantage point, view the imposing remains of the great Forum, once the hub of the ancient city, where Romans gathered by the thousands for political, judicial, and religious events.
Day 7 – The Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel – after hours
Stand in awe of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, on a vast piazza surrounded by colonnades. The great dome, designed by Michelangelo, is one of the largest in the world; it houses a soaring ornate cathedral, the tombs of popes since Early Christian times, and galleries of ancient masterpieces, including Michelangelo’s Pieta. Return to the hotel for an afternoon at leisure, then come back in the evening when the crowds are gone for an after-hours tour of the Vatican and its museums – unparalleled repositories of relics, archaeological treasures, paintings, sculptures, maps, and tapestries collected over centuries – and the magnificent Sistine Chapel. Outside the galleries, Vatican City is illuminated against the night sky – and your visit is one that you won’t soon forget.
Day 8 – Journey Home
Your tour ends in Rome. Consider extending your vacation with an additional tour or cruise.