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Delve into Italian history, art, and culture as you venture from ancient Rome to Renaissance Florence, the seaside villages of Cinque Terre, the canals of Venice, and more. Enjoy family-friendly activities while exploring intriguing ruins and picturesque hill towns, medieval palaces, and fresco-adorned churches. Step inside the Colosseum to see how the ancient Romans lived, climb to the top of Pisa’s famous leaning tower, discover the Tuscan treasures of Siena and Lucca, and learn how to make pasta in the countryside near Parma. Then meet your pen pals in Venice, teaming up for a treasure hunt through the city.
Walk in the footsteps of ancient Romans in the Colosseum, explore the enchanting Boboli Gardens in Florence, and visit a traditional mask-making workshop in Venice
In the Veneto region, visit a prehistoric cave where National Geographic-funded excavations have uncovered fascinating clues about the lives of Neanderthals.
Explore the charming coastal villages of Cinque Terre.
Try your hand at making pasta at a family-run farm, and sample gelato, focaccia, and other local delicacies.
Itinerary - 10 Days
Day 1 — Rome
Benvenuti in Italia! Upon arrival in Rome, transfer to our hotel in center of the city. Our adventure kicks off with a traditional merenda, at a local cafe. Later, meet up for a welcome dinner featuring delicious Roman cuisine.
Hotel Della Conciliazione (D)
Day 2 — Rome
Explore the world of the ancient Romans, one of history’s greatest empires. Venture inside the Colosseum and imagine the gladiatorial contests that took place here before cheering crowds. Stroll amid the sprawling ruins of the Roman Forum, where Julius Caesar once addressed his subjects. Discover the subterranean ruins of the Stadium of Domitian, also known as the Circus Agonalis, which lies beneath Piazza Navona. Designed to hold some 20,000 spectators, the stadium was built in ancient times as Rome’s first permanent athletic venue. This afternoon, head into the winding streets of Trastevere to search for pizza ingredients, followed by a pizza-making party.
(B, L, D)
Day 3 — Rome
This morning, take a guided tour of Rome’s Baroque treasures with an art historian. Toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain to ensure your return to the Eternal City, and climb the Spanish Steps. In Piazza Colonna, gaze up at the Column of Marcus Aurelius, completed in the 2nd century AD, and explore the adjacent Piazza di Montecitorio with its Egyptian obelisk. Marvel at the 2,000-year-old Pantheon and wind your way to Piazza Navona, coming face-to-face with Bernini’s ornate Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi. This afternoon, explore the Vatican museums and see Michelangelo’s masterpiece: the frescoed ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Gaze at the soaring architecture of St. Peter’s Basilica, which took more than 100 years to construct, and venture inside to see works by Renaissance and Baroque masters.
Day 4 — Siena/Florence
Travel north into the cypress-dotted hills of Tuscany. Arrive in Siena, once a historic rival to Florence and home to beautiful palaces and Gothic churches. Stroll through the shell-shaped Piazza del Campo, the social center of the city. Explore the 13th-century Duomo, one of the finest examples of Italian Gothic architecture, and visit the cathedral’s museum, which showcases Duccio’s glittering Maestà altarpiece and other famous works. Have lunch at a traditional trattoria. This afternoon, venture to the hilltop town of Chiusdino, where a poet shares the colorful history of the abbey of San Galgano and the nearby chapel at Montesiepi. Continue to Florence and check into our hotel this evening.
Palazzo Castri 1874 (B, L)
Day 5 — Florence
Spend the day exploring one of Italy’s most enchanting cities. Gaze up at the iconic Duomo and visit Palazzo Vecchio, enjoying a reenactment of Medici court life. Wander through the Giardino di Boboli and view Michelangelo’s famous “David” at the Accademia. (B, D)
Day 6 — Pisa/Lucca/Levanto
Head west toward the Ligurian coast, stopping to visit historic Pisa. Climb the leaning tower that has made this city famous all over the world, and take in amazing views from the top. Explore the cathedral and enjoy a riverside stroll to Piazza dei Cavalieri, or Knights’ Square, which became the 16th-century headquarters of the Order of the Knights of St. Stephen. Continue to the Tuscan town of Lucca this afternoon. Enjoy time on your own to explore the city’s cobbled streets and charming squares. Arrive in the seaside town of Levanto in time for dinner.
Park Hotel Argento (B, L, D)
Day 7 — Cinque Terre
Take a short train ride to Riomaggiore, one of the
five villages that make up the beautiful Cinque
Terre, or “five lands.” Visit nearby Manarola, then
cruise to picturesque Vernazza. Conclude our excursion in Monterosso al Mare with a gelato treat
and freshly made focaccia
(B, L, D)
Day 8 — Emilia Romagna/Grotta di Fumane/Venice
Head north to Emilia-Romagna, the birthplace of classic Italian specialties such as tortellini and parmesan cheese. Visit a family-run farm, or agriturismo, in the countryside near Parma, where we’ll learn how to make fresh pasta—then enjoy it for lunch. Continue north to the Veneto region, home to one of Europe’s most significant archaeological sites: Grotta di Fumane. First excavated in 1964, this cave has yielded a treasure trove of prehistoric artifacts. Learn about National Geographic-sponsored excavations here, which have provided fascinating clues about the lives of Neanderthals. Arrive in Venice this evening, and enjoy a private after-hours visit to Basilica di San Marco. Venture into the shadowy crypt, view luminous mosaics up close, and discover the cathedral’s many treasures without the crowds.
Venice Palazzo Giovanelli (B, L,)
Day 9 — Venice
Meet our Italian pen pals for a fun and educational treasure hunt through the city. Team up and follow clues that will lead you down winding streets, over beautiful bridges, and into the city’s hidden corners. This afternoon, visit an artisan studio to get a hands-on introduction to the centuries-old art of Venetian mask making. Watch how the mold for a mask is constructed and wrapped with papier-mâché, then use the tools of the trade to create your very own masterpiece. Next, we’ll make our way to a squero, or gondola boatyard, where these iconic Venetian vessels are built and repaired. Observe craftsmen at work and learn about the city’s rich legacy of gondola making, as covered in a 2005 National Geographic Traveler magazine article. Celebrate our adventure at a farewell dinner this evening.
(B, L, D)
Day 10 — Venice
After breakfast, depart by water taxi for the airport and connect with your flight home.
Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $1,100. International airfare to/from Italy is not included in the expedition cost.
About this Expedition
We tap into National Geographic’s vast network to design unique travel experiences for the whole family, filled with hands-on activities and memorable moments. A special aspect of this expedition is the Kid-to-Kid Connection, which links every young traveler with a pen pal of similar age in Italy. On this family expedition, kids will meet their pen pals in Venice, where the city's narrow lanes, canals, and bridges provide a backdrop for a fun treasure hunt through the city. Kids will team up with their new friends and follow clues in Italian and English, learning about local legends, famous artists, and other historic highlights of the city.
Our dynamic Expedition Leaders enrich each experience with their insights, knowledge, and energy, and a Young Explorer Leader joins every group to facilitate fun activities that help kids get the most out of the places we go. As we travel, we’ll also meet up with fascinating people doing meaningful work in the field.