Last week we were talking about Europe: how its wonderfulness will soon be available to all once again, just like 2020 never happened. In that article I offered suggestions for indulgent river cruises as a way to see several destinations in a single trip without feeling like a bouncing ball rushing from town to town. Instead, you’re floating gently on a lazy river, enjoying sumptuous cuisine while still taking in the sites and exploring the culture, history and flavors of some of the world’s oldest and most fascinating locations that you’ve only read about or seen on a screen.
This week’s article continues the ‘let’s explore Europe’ thread by focusing on Italy as part of the "Spotlight On..." series. Italy is the most visited of European nations - which is not to say the other wonderful countries are not worth your time. However, this article is not a book, so we‘ll have to explore those other countries in future articles. Deal?
I have created an 11-day itinerary for you, similar to this one about Croatia, so that you can see yourself vicariously enjoying your journey along with the family and friends who are breathlessly awaiting the vacation you will take together. Your actual itinerary would be planned according to your desires, of course…off the beaten path, cultural immersion, food and wine, art and architecture, Renaissance treasures…whatever your pleasure, I’ll create your unforgettable journey with the help of my partners in-country. This one, I call “The Best of Italy”.
The Best of Italy (11 days)
Day 1: Welcome to Rome. It’s a glorious city filled with classic antiquities, medieval buildings, Renaissance palaces and Baroque churches. You’ll be transferred privately to your hotel for a welcome dinner with your travel-mates
Day 2: VIP Vatican. The day is devoted to the Eternal City. Join your local guide for an in-depth visit to the Vatican Museums, with special VIP entry to avoid the lines and gain behind-the-scenes access to the Bramante Staircase, a marvel of Renaissance architecture normally off-limits to visitors. Visit the Sistine Chapel to admire Michelangelo’s famous ceiling; continue to St. Peter’s Basilica, to wonder at the emotive ‘Pietà,’ and stand beneath the dome completed after his death. Cross the Tiber river to enjoy ancient Rome: the Circus Maximus, the beautifully preserved Arch of Constantine, walking on the ancient pavement, and the iconic Colosseum. Later, perhaps continue your exploration to see the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain and Pizza Navona.
Day 3: Tuscan Hills and Medieval Florence. Travel through Tuscany to the house of the Italian Renaissance diplomat and writer, Niccolo Machiavelli. Indulge in a private picnic of seasonal produce on the grounds of the estate, then drive to the Chianti Hills and the city of Florence where you will be privy to the secrets of traditional Florentine leatherwork at a local workshop, and see a gold demonstration.
Day 4: Florence. Choose between a visit to the Accademia Museum with an art historian to see Michelangelo's David or alternatively, wander through the market stalls on a guided shopping tour to enjoy all the treats and trinkets on show. Visit Piazza della Signoria, an open-air gallery of Renaissance masterpieces and gaze at statues such as Neptune, Hercules and Cacus, along the front of the Palazzo Vecchio.
Day 5: Pisa to Venice. Travel to Pisa and see the famous Leaning Tower in the Square of Miracles, the baptistery and colonnaded bell tower behind the cathedral. Enjoy the scenery as you cross the spectacular Apennine Mountains, through the Emilia-Romagna region - one of Europe's most intensely farmed fertile plains. Continue through the marshes of the Venetian Lagoon before crossing the causeway into the floating city of Venice. Evenings are quiet as day-trippers desert the city to return to the mainland. This evening, indulge in a delicious dinner at a local restaurant and enjoy the tranquility.
Day 6 Venice In the morning, admire the age-old skill of glassblowing by skilled artisans. In the afternoon, your private boat takes you past historic churches and 13th century palaces to St. Mark's Square. The first sight is the pink marble of the Doge's Palace, connected to the prisons by the Bridge of Sighs. It was from here that Casanova made his daring escape. Turn the corner, and the gilded regalia of St. Mark's Basilica comes into view. Afterwards, board a traditional gondola for a serenade along the romantic canals. This. This is why you came to Venice!
Day 7 – Peaceful Assisi, dotted with medieval churches, colorful frescoes and shady courtyards. See the Church of St. Mary of the Angels, much venerated as the place of St. Francis' death. With your local guide, step inside the huge Basilica of St. Francis, built in the 13th century. Enjoy the tranquility of the historic old town during your free time.
Day 8: Sorrento. Travel south passing Cassino, the scene of a fierce battle during World War II. Follow the spectacular clifftop road to the picturesque resort of Sorrento, overlooking the Bay of Naples to Mount Vesuvius. After checking in to your hotel, spend the rest of the day at your leisure.
Day 9: Capri, the Isle of Dreams. Cross the Bay of Naples to the beautiful Isle of Capri, a rock rising from the Mediterranean! and visited by many notables from Tiberius Caesar to Gracie Fields. From the marina, ascend to Capri town by open-top taxis and meet your local guide for n exploration of the narrow alleyways to browse exclusive boutiques and stunning views over the Tyrrhenian Sea. Descend to the port by funicular railway and return to Sorrento, where you spend the day at your leisure. Perhaps explore the iconic, colorful Amalfi Coast?
Day 10 Pompeii to Rome. On to Pompeii preserved by layers of ash from the disastrous eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. A walk with your local guide through the cobbled streets and extensive excavations reveals the daily life of ancient Roman civilization. Visit the Forum and peer into shops and villas, then continue to your hotel in Rome. In the evening, enjoy an elegant four-course Celebration dinner which includes a private performance of popular songs and arias from some of Italy's best-loved operas.
Day 11: Arrivederci Roma! Bid farewell to the glories of Italy and head home with a phone full of new photos and a brain swimming with new memories.
Is there a destination you'd like me to spotlight?
'til next week.
Did you miss any of my articles? They are all here.
I create indulgent, transformative vacations for people who crave immersive travel. If you’re too busy to take time to plan the details of your own well-deserved escape, don't know where to begin, or are longing to make unforgettable memories with those you love, then don’t wait another day. Let's talk.
Contact: GLOBAL EXOTIC ADVENTURES-Juliet Weller, Founder