Expedition Details

 

Immerse yourself in the lively rhythms of life in Italy on an unforgettable journey to some of its lesser-known treasures. Walk between the picturesque villages of the Cinque Terre, explore the Carrara quarries where Michelangelo chose his marble, and settle into a restored medieval castello to discover traditional Tuscany. Delve into the cultural centers of Florence and Siena, and step behind the scenes on an insider’s tour of Rome.

Trip Highlights

  • Walk through terraced vineyards and charming seaside villages tucked into the dramatic slopes of the Cinque Terre.
  • Gaze at Michelangelo's astonishing frescoes during a private after-hours visit to the Sistine Chapel.
  • Stay in a 13th-century castello while exploring Tuscany’s beautiful hill towns.
  • Discover the town of Lucca on foot or ride a bike atop its medieval city walls.

Itinerary - 11 Days

Days 1 & 2 — U.S./Pisa, Italy

Depart for Pisa and arrive the next morning. Drive to Siestri Levante, Italy’s spectacular Ligurian coast and check into our hotel. Take a stroll through town before our welcome reception and dinner.
Hotel Vis à Vis (D)

Day 3 — The Cinque Terre

Nestled in the folds of a rugged coastline, the five pastel-hued villages of the Cinque Terre tumble picturesquely from the rocky cliffs to the sea. Travel through steep, vine-covered hills to Manarola, and set out along a coastal walking path that links the villages. Follow the trail as it winds along the hillside, offering incomparable views, and learn about the history and geologic features of this region from our guide. Board a ferry and cruise north to Vernazza to take in the stunning coastline from a different perspective. Enjoy lunch on your own in Vernazza—a village open to pedestrians only. This afternoon, take an optional vigorous hike or return to the hotel for time at leisure.
Hotel Vis à Vis (B)

Day 4 — Carrara/Lucca/Florence

Begin the day in Carrara, home to the marble quarries where Michelangelo chose the massive blocks that he transformed into masterpieces. Here, walls of shining white marble soar skyward, cut out of the mountains and accessible only by narrow switchbacks. Continue to the lovely walled city of Lucca and set out on a walking tour highlighting its Romanesque churches. Ride a bicycle atop the city walls or take advantage of free time to explore the town. Arrive in Florence, and enjoy an evening on your own.
Hotel Brunelleschi (B)

Day 5 — Florence

Take a morning walking tour of the historic center of Florence. In Piazza della Repubblica, discover the city’s beginnings as a Roman settlement. Stroll through narrow streets past the fortified houses and towers that marked the medieval town, and emerge onto the open Piazza della Signoria, the political center of the city since the Middle Ages. Immerse yourself in the world of Michelangelo this afternoon. A native son of Florence, Michelangelo attracted the city’s most powerful patrons, the Medici family, and inspired generations of artists. Encounter Michelangelo’s peerless “David” and the evocative “Prisoners” at the Accademia.
Hotel Brunelleschi (B,D)

Day 6 — Florence/Gargonza

Travel south into the Chianti region. Visit the renowned Badia a Coltibuono vineyard and fortified former abbey for a wine tasting and lunch. Then continue to Gargonza, a medieval hamlet superbly situated in the Tuscan countryside. This afternoon, settle into the privately owned 13th-century castello of Count and Countess Guicciardini—our home for the next three nights. Take the rest of the day to read, relax, and enjoy the swimming pool, set in an olive grove with a glorious view.
Castello di Gargonza (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Siena

A short drive brings us to the Tuscan gem of Siena. Soak up the medieval flavor of the city on a walking tour that includes the Piazza del Campo; the Palazzo Pubblico; and the colorful, marble-clad cathedral. Stop for lunch on your own in one of Siena's many trattorias, and spend the afternoon exploring at leisure.
Castello di Gargonza (B,D)

Day 8 — Tuscan Countryside

Venture into the Tuscan countryside on a morning hike through the scenic landscape near Gargonza. During a free afternoon at the castello, stroll the gardens, relax by the pool, or try your hand at a game of bocce. Later, you may join the castello’s chef for a cooking lesson and a tasting of several fine local vintages.
Castello di Gargonza (B,L,D)

Day 9 — Pienza/Rome

Drive through gorgeous scenery on the way to Pienza, an architectural treasure trove. Stroll through the heart of the town before sampling local specialties such as pici (hand-rolled pasta) and fresh pecorino cheese. Continue to Rome, arriving in the afternoon. Head into Vatican City to visit massive St. Peter's Basilica. Within its walls are the priceless works of Renaissance and Baroque masters, including Raphael, Michelangelo, and Bernini. Enjoy a specially arranged visit to the Vatican Museums this afternoon where we we will have access to rooms normally closed to the public. Our visit culminates with a rare opportunity to visit the breathtaking Sistine Chapel after hours and examine the masterpieces without the crowds.
Grand Hotel de la Minerve (B,L)

Day 10 — Rome

On a morning walking tour, visit the Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain. After lunch on your own, stroll through the ancient Forum and the Colosseum. Toast your journey at a grand Roman farewell dinner tonight.
Grand Hotel de la Minerve (B,D)

Day 11 — Rome/U.S.

Transfer to the airport for your return flight home.
(B)

Optional Extension

Related Trips

National Geographic Expert

Tim Jepson

Tim JepsonWriter Tim Jepson is a passionate and lifelong devotee of Italy. Since graduating from Oxford he has spent many years living in and writing about the country. He has authored more than a dozen books, two articles for National Geographic Traveler, and five National Geographic guidebooks to Italy's cities and regions. Tim has also worked on programs about Italy for the BBC and commercial television. A keen hiker, Tim takes pleasure in studying the food, wine, art, and culture of the country.

Tim will join the following departures:

Sep 10 - 20, 2014
Oct 08 - 18, 2014
Apr 15 - 25, 2015
Oct 07 - 17, 2015

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Dates

2014
  • Aug 10 - 20, 2014 ALT
  • Sep 10 - 20, 2014 (waitlist only)
  • Oct 08 - 18, 2014 (waitlist only)
2015
  • Apr 15 - 25, 2015
  • Jun 03 - 13, 2015
  • Aug 10 - 20, 2015 ALT
  • Sep 16 - 26, 2015
  • Oct 07 - 17, 2015

ALT indicates a departure that has a slightly different itinerary than the one shown on this page. Click the ALT icon to see the day-to-day itinerary.

Expedition Cost

2014

$6,395

2015

$6,595

Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $1,690 in 2014 and $1,705 in 2015. Add $650 to the cost of the August 10, 2015 departure, which includes a ticket to the Palio horse race in Siena.

International airfare to Pisa and return from Rome is not included in the expedition cost.