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Tap into the rhythms of la dolce vita on an unforgettable journey through Italy. Explore the winding canals and architectural wonders of Venice, walk through the picturesque villages of the Cinque Terre, and settle into a restored medieval castello to savor the cuisine and traditions of Tuscany. Delve into the country’s enduring legacies among Florence’s Renaissance masterpieces and amid the ruins of the Roman Empire.
Marvel at the works of Italian masters during afterhours visits to the Vatican museums and Venice’s Scuola Grande di San Rocco, and tour Florence’s iconic Uffizi Gallery with an art historian.
Learn the secrets of Tuscan cuisine while enjoying meals and excellent Italian wines at local restaurants, wineries, and family homes.
Explore the Roman Forum and the ruins underneath the Colosseum in the company of a renowned archaeologist.
Stay three nights in the Tuscan countryside at a family-owned and operated 13th-century castello, and get to know members of the family.
Itinerary - 10 Days
Day 1 — Venice, Italy
Arrive in Venice and transfer by motorboat to our hotel overlooking the famous Grand Canal. Spend the afternoon on a guided stroll through the “floating city.” Enjoy a welcome reception and dinner at a Venetian restaurant. Venezia Palazzo Barocci (D)
Day 2 — Venice
Set out on foot for a guided tour of this UNESCO World Heritage city. Stroll through Piazza San Marco and its golden mosaic-filled basilica. Admire the Gothic arches of the Doge’s Palace, and see the 16th-century Sansovinian Library and the iconic Rialto Bridge. After lunch at a wine bar, meet a local artisan to learn the science of traditional gondola construction. Later, view paintings by such masters as Tintoretto and Titian during an afterhours visit to Scuola Grande di San Rocco and access impressive collections of ancient jewelry and coins that are closed to the public. Venezia Palazzo Barocci (B,L)
Day 3 — Florence
Hop aboard a high-speed train to Florence,
and after lunch set out on a walking tour of its historic center. In Piazza della Repubblica, discover the city’s beginnings as a Roman settlement. Wander 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. See the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio and encounter Michelangelo’s peerless “David” and the evocative “Prisoners” at the Accademia. Cap off your day with a special dinner in the home of a Florentine family. Gallery Hotel Art (B,L,D)
Day 4 — Florence
This morning an art historian will guide us through the iconic Uffizi Gallery. Commissioned in 1560 by Cosimo I de’ Medici and designed by the great architect Giorgio Vasari, the Uffizi has drawn visitors to view the masterpieces within for centuries. Spend the afternoon exploring the city at your own pace; perhaps take a short walk to the Basicilia di Santa Croce or wander across the river Arno to stroll the lovely Boboli Gardens. Gallery Hotel Art (B)
Day 5 — Tuscan Countryside
Travel south into the Chianti region. Visit
the renowned Badia a Coltibuono winery 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 the Guicciardini family—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 6 — 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 7 — 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 8 — Rome
Travel further south to eternal Rome and enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. Venture into the Colosseum and discover subterranean ruins where gladiators prepared for battle. Stroll the ruins of the Roman Forum, and enjoy a specially arranged visit inside the Chiesa di San Lorenzo in Miranda, formerly the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina erected in A.D. 141. Here, meet archaeologist Dr. Valerie Higgins of the American University in Rome, a top expert in the field of Roman archaeology who recently appeared in the popular National Geographic documentary series The Story of God. Rose Garden Palace (B,L)
Day 9 — Rome
Take in the sacred grandeur of Vatican City with an early morning visit to its museums and the breathtaking Sistine Chapel before they open to the public. Visit St. Peter’s Square and its soaring basilica before enjoying some free time to explore on your own. Later this afternoon, gather for a walking tour including the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and the Piazza Navona. Toast our Italian sojourn at a festive farewell dinner tonight. Rose Garden Palace (B,D)
Writer 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.
Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives on bumpy roads, or easy hikes.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.