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Inside Italy

Alternate Itinerary
August 10 - 20, 2014 (10 Days)

Day 1 — Pisa, Italy/Lucca

Arrive in Pisa and drive to Lucca, one of Tuscany's best preserved towns, entirely circled by medieval city walls. Take a stroll through town before our welcome reception and dinner.
San Luca Palace Hotel (D)

Day 2 — 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. Get an early start as we 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 to Riomaggiore, offering incomparable views, and learn about the history and geologic features of this region from our guide. In Riomaggiore, board a local 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.
San Luca Palace Hotel (B)

Day 3 — 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 from the mountains and accessible only by narrow switchbacks. Return to Lucca in time for lunch and an optional bicycle ride atop the city walls. Transfer to Florence, and enjoy an evening on your own.
Hotel Brunelleschi (B)

Day 4 — 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. Visit San Lorenzo, the parish church of the Medici family—Michelangelo's patrons—to view the Medici Tombs and the Chapel of the Princes. Then encounter Michelangelo's peerless "David" and the evocative "Prisoners" at the Accademia.
Hotel Brunelleschi (B,D)

Day 5 — Florence/Siena/Gargonza

Travel south into the Chianti region, stopping along the way in 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. Enjoy lunch on your own in one of Siena's many trattoria. 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.
Castello di Gargonza (B,L,D)

Day 6 — The Palio

Witness one of the world's most spectacular pageants: Siena's Palio. Divided into contrade, or neighborhoods, since medieval times, Siena brims with color and spirit during the Palio. Arrive this afternoon in time to meander through the feverishly busy courtyards, piazzas, and streets as competing contrade make their final preparations. In the late afternoon, take a seat in the stands high above the 60,000-spectator throng to see the fanfare of each contrada as it parades around the track. Then experience the exhilarating finale: a wild, bareback horse race around the Piazza del Campo.
Castello di Gargonza (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Tuscan Countryside

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

Day 8 — 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 and enjoy a specially arranged visit to the Vatican Museums where 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 9 — Rome

Begin the day in Vatican City with a visit to the massive St. Peter's Basilica. Within its walls are the priceless works of Renaissance and Baroque masters, including Raphael, Michelangelo, and Bernini. Continue on to 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.

Day 10 — Rome

Transfer to the airport for your flight home.