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The Best of Italy: Rome, Florence and Venice

Program Number: 18206RJ
Start and End Dates:
9/30/2014 - 10/13/2014; 10/31/2015 - 11/13/2015; 4/2/2016 - 4/15/2016; 4/9/2016 - 4/22/2016; 4/16/2016 - 4/29/2016; 4/23/2016 - 5/6/2016; 4/30/2016 - 5/13/2016; 5/10/2016 - 5/23/2016; 5/14/2016 - 5/27/2016; 5/21/2016 - 6/3/2016; 5/28/2016 - 6/10/2016; 9/6/2016 - 9/19/2016; 9/10/2016 - 9/23/2016; 9/17/2016 - 9/30/2016; 9/24/2016 - 10/7/2016; 10/1/2016 - 10/14/2016; 10/8/2016 - 10/21/2016; 10/15/2016 - 10/28/2016; 10/22/2016 - 11/4/2016; 10/26/2016 - 11/8/2016; 10/30/2016 - 11/12/2016;
Duration: 13 nights
Location: Italy
Price starting at: $4,821.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 30; 12 Breakfasts, 9 Lunches, 9 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian; Gluten Free    

Experience the beauty of three historic capitals of Classical, Medieval and Renaissance acclaim as local experts lead you on a journey through some of Italy’s greatest cities. Follow the path of legendary artists, scientists and philosophers from the classical remnants of Rome to the preserved treasures of Florence and Venice.


• Trace Roman history through the ages as you visit the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Borghese Museum and the Vatican Museum.
• Journey to Florence and Venice via a high speed EuroStar train, reaching speeds of over 120 mph.
• View the "David" — a Renaissance period masterpiece in Florence — and ride in a gondola through the canals of Venice.

Activity Particulars

Extensive walking in traffic-free urban centers which prevent tourist coaches from parking or loading passengers at sites. The distances traversed on foot can reach 4 mi/day—always interspersed with rest time, typically at a meal. Standing for extended periods of time during site visits. Special attention needs to be paid to the uneven aspect of cobblestone streets. Elevator use in some historic buildings is restricted. Not all staircases have banisters. Venice is unique as a city with no vehicles besides public or private boats that run along the Grand Canal. Extensive walking in Venice includes crossing bridges that span minor canals. As with many things, the effort expended has its aesthetic reward.

Date Specific Information


Active Level. Exclusive off-hour visit to the Sistine Chapel as an art historian explains the art of Michelangelo and the art of Raphael in the Stanze. Enjoy a crowd-free stroll down the decorated corridors of a portion of the Vatican Library and the Corridor of the Maps.

Itinerary Summary

Arrival Rome, 4 nights; train to Florence, 4 nights; train to
Venice, 4 nights; departure.

Overnight flight from the U.S.A.
1 night
Arrival Rome
4 nights

Begin to unravel the multiple layers of Roman history as you examine some of the masterpieces preserved in the National Museum of Palazzo Massimo alle Terme. Lectures offer insight on various aspects of Roman culture, architecture and artists, such as Michelangelo and Bernini. Marvel at the stunning Ceiling and the imposing Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel. Visit the Colosseum and the Roman Forum and delight in the art collection at the Borghese Gallery.

Train to Florence
4 nights

Considered the “cradle of the Renaissance,” Florence retains a treasure trove of works by Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Verrocchio, Donatello and Botticelli. Learn from resident professors of art history the development of styles and feast your artistic senses during visits to the National Sculpture Gallery of the Bargello, the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia — where the newly restored David is housed. Learn about the Duomo complex and Brunelleschi's Dome. Savor the sights, smells, and tastes of Florence as you stroll through traffic free streets, visiting markets and sampling gelato just steps away from breathtaking churches.

Train to Venice
4 nights

Journey to Venice via train and then explore the city along its historic and scenic canals. Notice the grandeur of patrician palaces, with arches indicating near-Eastern influence before exploring St. Mark’s Cathedral and the Ducal Palace. On an excursion to the island of Murano observe a master-craftsman shape genuine Venetian glass in a workshop. Docents will illustrate and illuminate the richness of Venetian history, legends, personages, and of course the art. Venice invites you into its maze.


“Dolce far niente,” the “sweetness of doing nothing.” This ode to leisure is a distinctly Italian phrase, and yet the expression does not do justice to the hard-work ethos of the nation’s inhabitants. The monuments, art and civilization bequeathed to the people of modern Italy are a testament to the industry of their forebearers, and the legacy lives on in today’s Italians, who work hard to better enjoy the sweetness of repose.

Rome: Four-star hotel near the Piazza della Repubblica, the Termini train station, and the Rome Opera House. Florence: Four-star hotel was an ex-Franciscan convent from the 15th century and its modern restoration showcases the ancient frescoes, stone arches and vaulted ceilings. Venice: Four-star hotel with a terrace and private dock on the Grand Canal.
Meals and Lodgings
   Hotel Palazzo Carpegna
  Rome, Italy 4 nights
   Grand Hotel Cavour
  Florence, Italy 4 nights
   Hotel Principe
  Venice, Italy 4 nights
 Hotel Palazzo Carpegna
Type: Four-Star Hotel
  Description: A calm oasis in a metropolitan city with a private park and garden and its own Renaissance style church on the property. Business class hotel with conference center equipped with large and medium size meeting halls. Built in neoclassical style architecture with echoes of the Renaissance.
  Contact info: Via Aurelia 481
Rome,  00165 Italy
phone: +39 06 660011
  Room amenities: Individual climate control; free Wi-Fi or wired or TV internet service; flat screen TV with satellite connection; mini-bar, hair dryer, electronic safe; direct dial telephone; toiletries; desk with chair; modern appointments.
  Facility amenities: 24 hour desk operation; spacious and comfortable common areas; free high speed Wi-Fi in common areas, three full service restaurants. "Cornelia" metro stop about 400 yards from the hotel, makes an easy way to reach other areas of Rome.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: varies by season You can book additional nights directly through the hotel’s online reservation system Indicate to the hotel that you are with the Road Scholar group and every effort will be made to ensure continuity of room assignment. Another option is to make reservations through online hotel consolidators such as or expedia.
  Check in time: 2:00 PM

 Grand Hotel Cavour
Type: Four-Star Hotel
  Description: Beautifully appointed hotel, located between the apse of the Duomo and the Bargello Museum. Convenient to the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia.
  Contact info: Via del Proconsolo 3
Florence, NA 50122 Italy
phone: +39 055-266-271
  Room amenities: Individual controls for AC and heat; free Wi-Fi for registered guests; request access code and password from personnel at the reception desk; mini-bar; safe; satellite TV with LCD screens; direct dial telephones; heated towel rack; hair dryer and allergy-free cotton sheets. Nicely appointed furniture with desk.
  Facility amenities: Marble floors and columns, comfortable lounge, American bar, free Wi-Fi for guests; request access code and password from the personnel at the reception desk, 24 hour desk, roof garden overlooking the Florence skyline offers spectacular views of the Duomo and Palazzo Vecchio. There is a MiniSPA with Turkish bath, aromatherapy and a tea corner; exercise room with the latest equipment such as stationary bikes and treadmill machines.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes

 Hotel Principe
Type: Four-Star Hotel
  Description: Overlooking the Grand Canal, with a splendid terrace on the water, the Hotel Principe, is one of the 4 star hotels in Venice in a perfect position for discovering the charm and beauty of Venice on foot, or for easily reaching the Rialto or St. Mark's Square with a vaporetto, which stops just steps from the hotel.The hotel has a private dock on the Grand Canal for gondola and water taxi access.
  Contact info: Lista di Spagna 146/147
Venice, NA 30121 Italy
phone: +39 041 220 4010
  Room amenities: Hair dryer, AC/heat individual controls, mini-bar, safe, satellite television, complimentary toiletries.
  Facility amenities: Restaurant and terrace overlook the Grand Canal, snack bar, complimentary internet point in the lobby and free wi-fi throughout the hotel.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights after: varies by season You can book additional nights directly through the hotel’s online reservation system Indicate to the hotel that you are with the Road Scholar group and every effort will be made to ensure continuity of room assignment. Another option is to use online hotel consolidators such as or expedia.
  Check out time: 10:00 AM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Lunch provided for morning arrivals. Hotel check in 2:00 pm. Meet in lobby at 4:00 for neighborhood walk You will be staying at Hotel Palazzo Carpegna that night.
  End of Program:
After breakfast, transfers to airport. Hotel check out 11:00 am You will be staying at Hotel Principe the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required.
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
  Train or bus availability: Train service connects Rome's airport to Roma Termini, the main station. Trains from Europe and Italy stop at Termini. The hotel is beyond St. Peter's so recommend taking a taxi. The hotel gives directions by subway from Termini, we discourage this.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Rome
  Nearest city or town:  Rome
  Nearest highway: autostrada
  Nearest airport:  Leonardo da Vinci/Fiumicino
  Transportation to site: To reach the hotel on your own from the Rome airport you have three options: public transportation, shared ride shuttle service and taxi. Train and taxi: In the airport terminal public area, follow the signs for the train. The Leonardo Express goes to Roma Termini, the main train station. Purchase the tickets at the ticket window, stamp the ticket in the yellow box on the platform. Fare is EUR 14 pp. The ride takes 30 min. At Roma Termini station exit, take a taxi to the hotel. Fare will be about EUR 20. For door to door service from the airport to the hotel you have 2 options: shared ride shuttle van or taxi. You can book shuttle service online at Fares are about EUR 27 for 1 person; discounts apply if you book for multiple passengers. Taxi fare from the airport to the hotel is EUR 50. Max 4 persons per taxi. Proceed to the airport exit and look for the well marked TAXI stand where the authorized metered taxis await their fares in an orderly fashion. Do not accept a ride from anyone approaching you on foot offering car service. You can also contact the hotel in Rome to arrange a driver to be in the airport arrivals area holding a sign with your name.
  From End of Program
  Location:  Venice
  Nearest city or town:  Venice
  Nearest highway: autostrada
  Nearest airport:  Marco Polo
  Transportation from site: To reach the Venice airport on your own, there is public transportation by bus from Piazzale Roma, the point that connects Venice to the mainland. Piazzale Roma is a 10 min. walk from the Hotel Principe. Note that the walk from the hotel to the bus stop entails crossing a high bridge that has long shallow steps and no ramp. The bus (fare EUR 6, 25 min. ride) leaves you off directly in front of the airport terminal. For direct service from the hotel dock to the airport dock, it is possible to book a water taxi. Fare is approx. EUR 100. Supplemental fees apply for service before 8 am. Max 10 passengers per taxi boat. When the water taxi arrives at the airport dock you can get a cart for the 10 min. walk to the terminal along a covered path. If you are continuing your travels by train, from the hotel you can reach the train station on foot very easily from the hotel.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Flights depart from North America.
(Tuesday, September 30)

Note: Suggest sleeping on flight; makes adjusting to new time zone easier.

 In Transit: Overnight flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Arrivals in Rome the following day.

Day 2: Orientation and Welcome Reception
(Wednesday, October 1)

Note: Transfer to the Hotel Palazzo Carpegna, situated on a large plot with landscaped gardens in a suburban setting along the old Via Aurelia road. The neighborhood is served by many stores, restaurants, metro and bus stops with easy access to the heart of Rome.

 Arrive To: Rome airport and clear customs, join others for transfer.
 Morning: Transfer to hotel. Check-in time is afternoon. Your room might not be ready for occupancy if you arrive early morning, however, the staff at the reception desk will accept your luggage and place it in the deposit. After which you can explore the area around the hotel or relax in the quiet gardens.
 Lunch: Lunch at the hotel.
 Afternoon: Program overview and orientation, distribution of on-site materials including the detailed and most updated daily schedule. At the Welcome reception a chance to meet your fellow Road Scholars. A brief neighborhood walk to locate ATM's, banks, pharmacies, grocery stores, eateries.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel.
Accommodations: Hotel Palazzo Carpegna
Meals Included: Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Welcome to Rome / Forum and Colosseum
(Thursday, October 2)

Note: Steep steps to reach the top level of the Colosseum. An elevator for visitors is available. The walk around the Roman Forum is on uneven paths and original pavement of cobblestone.

 Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Orientation session continues. A Classicist begins to unravel the multiple layers of Roman history with a lecture in the classroom.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Board coach for an expert led visit to the Roman Forum and Colosseum. Forum was the civic and religious center dating back to the 8th century CE. The Flavian Amphitheater is the official name of the Colosseum. Coach to the hotel late afternoon.
 Dinner: Dinner at a local restaurant.
Accommodations: Hotel Palazzo Carpegna
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Borghese Gallery / St. Peter's Basilica
(Friday, October 3)

Note: Coach to Borghese Gallery, two flights of stairs; return to hotel area for lunch. St. Peter's Basilica has no pews to sit and rest while the expert explains the art and history of the site.

 Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: Coach to the Borghese Gallery, the private pleasure and reception palace of Cardinal Scipio Borghese, an avid art collector and patron of the young Bernini. On display in the Gallery are important paintings by Caravaggio, Raphael, Botticelli and Titian and the emotionally charged sculptures by Bernini, a true evocation of the Baroque. Coach to the Vatican for lunch.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant serving typical Roman dishes.
 Afternoon: At St. Peter's Basilica the local expert expounds on the history of the site, the construction of "New St. Peter's" and focuses on some of the major works of art, including Michelangelo's Pieta'.
 Dinner: Dinner on your own, suggestions given on site.
Accommodations: Hotel Palazzo Carpegna
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 5: Piazza Walk / Exclusive off-hours private Vatican Museum visit - Hall of Maps, Raphael Stanze and Sistine Chapel
(Saturday, October 4)

Note: Piazza walk, with break for lunch, is just over one mile. At the Vatican Museum, enjoy a crowd-free walk to the Sistine Chapel along the museum corridors.

 Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Piazza walks include Navona, built over the seating of the stadium of Domitian (81-96 CE); to the Pantheon, the celestial and solar observatory engineered by Hadrian in 122 CE. The interior forms a sphere of 142 ft across and vertically. The oculus is 29 feet across and is the sole source of light when the doors are closed. Raphael is buried in the far left niche. to the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, where you will learn about its misnomer.
 Lunch: Lunch on your own. Transportation provided to the hotel.
 Afternoon: Free time after lunch.Late afternoon departure by coach to the Vatican Museums for the highlight of the trip, an exclusive private visit to the Stanze of Raphael and the Sistine Chapel along the long corridors. On-site lecture by an art historian illuminates the masterpieces. Enjoy a crowd-free walk. The appointment is from 6-8, dinner follows.
 Dinner: Dinner will be after the private visit of the Sistine Chapel at a restaurant close to the Vatican Museums.
Accommodations: Hotel Palazzo Carpegna
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 6: Palazzo Massimo Antiquities / Train to Florence
(Sunday, October 5)

Note: Transfer to Piazza della Repubblica, located one block from the train station. Comfortable train ride to Florence. Transfer to hotel and city orientation.

 Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Check out of the hotel. Your bags will be delivered by courier to the Florence hotel. Coach to the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme for an expert-led visit. The collection includes some masterpieces of Roman art including frescoes from the dining room walls from the Villa of Livia, wife of the Emperor August Caesar. Notable as well are the bronze pieces of the Seated Boxer and a Doryphoros (Spear Holder.)
 Lunch: Lunch at a restaurant near Piazza della Repubblica.
 Afternoon: Short walk to the station. Travel by high speed train to Florence. Transportation to the hotel.
 Dinner: Dinner at a restaurant in the vicinity of the hotel.
 Evening: Evening walk to orient you to the location of ATM's, pharmacies, stores and shops. Florence is much smaller than Rome and can easily be traversed in 30 minutes. On a walk, you will see the Duomo, the main cathedral and Palazzo Vecchio, the 13th C. city hall, still in use.
Accommodations: Grand Hotel Cavour
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Bargello Museum / Gates of Paradise / Free Afternoon
(Monday, October 6)

Note: Very short walk to the Bargello. One steep flight of stairs leads to the second floor gallery.

 Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: An art historian leads you through the Bargello museum and examines the development of sculpture from antiquity through the Renaissance with special emphasis on the works of Ghiberti, Donatello and Michelangelo. Notable works include Donatello's David and bronzes by Cellini and Giambologna. Expert continues to the Duomo, As of May 2014, the Duomo Museum (original Gates of Paradise) is closed for restoration. Bronze copies of the Gates of Paradise, mounted on the doors of the Baptistery, are visible any time of the day.
 Lunch: Lunch on your own.
 Afternoon: Free Afternoon
 Dinner: Imagine having dinner at the palace of Pauline Borghese (you remember her sculpture by Canova in the Borghese Gallery.) In anticipation of her brother Napoleon Bonaparte's visit, she had her palace remodeled. Now as a conference and entertainment center, enjoy a nice Renaissance dinner complete with musicians and dancers.
Accommodations: Grand Hotel Cavour
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 8: Renaissance Florence / Uffizi Gallery
(Tuesday, October 7)

Note: An elevator for disabled visitors may be available at the Uffizi. There is a long flight of stairs to reach the exhibition rooms of the gallery.

 Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: Morning lecture on medieval and Renaissance art in preparation for the visit to the Uffizi Gallery.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: For the self guided visit of the Uffizi we will enter as a group, but you are free to spend as much time as you wish. The museum houses a most extensive collection of art, tracing the development from Gothic to medieval to Renaissance to Mannerist paintings in the world. You will find many recognizable masterpieces, including DaVinci's Annunciation, Botticelli's Birth of Venus and the Primavera, some Titians, Michelangelo's Holy Family, and a few Caravaggios as well as Artemisia Gentileschi. There is a coffee bar at the end of the second corridor, on top of the Loggia, with a wonderful view of the watch tower and Duomo where you can get a refreshment and rest.
 Dinner: Dinner at a local restaurant.
Accommodations: Grand Hotel Cavour
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Accademia / The Medici
(Wednesday, October 8)

Note: Stairs to reach the second floor of the Accademia.

 Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Walk to the Accademia. Expert-led visit of the gallery (Michelangelo's David) and an onsite lecture by an art historian. Free time to explore the lively market area of San Lorenzo.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: At the hotel, an illustrated lecture on the intrigues of the influential Medici Family. Some free time to explore Florence on your own.
 Dinner: Dinner on your own.
Accommodations: Grand Hotel Cavour
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 10: Transfer to Venice / Introduction Venice
(Thursday, October 9)

Note: High speed train to Venice, minimal walking around Venice on arrival day.

 Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Train to Venice, short walk to the hotel. Your bags will be delivered by courier from the hotel in Florence to the hotel in Venice.
 Lunch: Lunch at the hotel.
 Afternoon: A local historian presents Venice Through the Centuries from its origins as a scattering of islands to the Venetian Maritime Republic that dominated the Mediterranean until Napoleon invaded in 1797. Neighborhood walk will indicate the location of ATMs, pharmacies, stores and shops.
 Dinner: Dinner at a local restaurant.
Accommodations: Hotel Principe
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11: Murano / St. Mark's Square: Basilica
(Friday, October 10)

Note: Enjoyable boat ride to the island, minimal effort to walk around the small island of Murano. Leisurely boat ride to S. Mark's Square. Walks in Venice involve crossing multiple bridges that span the minor canals.

 Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Vaporetto to the island of Murano for a glassblowing demonstration by master artisans. Some free time to stroll the narrow streets along the canals.
 Lunch: Lunch on your own.
 Afternoon: Travel to Piazza S. Marco by vaporetto. The expert leading the visit of S. Mark's Cathedral points out the architectural elements from the Byzantine style of the 13th century. The interior of the basilica is dazzling with more than 45,000 sq. ft. of mosaics on the walls and ceiling, giving the impression of streets of gold.
 Dinner: Dinner at a local restaurant.
Accommodations: Hotel Principe
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 12: Rialto / Accademia
(Saturday, October 11)

Note: On all walks in Venice you will encounter ramps or steps on bridges that span minor canals. A flight of stairs from the entrance to the galleries at the Accademia; no elevator in the historic building.

 Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Vaporetto to the Rialto Bridge. Expert-led visit of the Frari Church to admire works by Bellini, Titian and Donatello. Walk through the Rialto district, the lively open air market.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: On-site lecture and visit to the Accademia museum; the paintings are grouped according to period and school. The museum contains a great collection of art by such notables as Veronese, Veneziano, Bellini, Tintoretto and Giorgione. Some free time before your independent dinner.
 Dinner: Dinner on your own.
Accommodations: Hotel Principe
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 13: Doge's Palace / Free Afternoon / Farewell Dinner
(Sunday, October 12)

Note: The visit through the many rooms of the Doge's Palace requires climbing a few flights of stairs. Narrow passages through the rooms of the Prisons and over the Bridge of Sighs.

 Breakfast: Buffet breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: Vaporetto to St. Mark's and the Ducal Palace, seat of civic and political power. Experience the city from a different point of view as you enjoy a gondola ride along the canals of Venice.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Free Afternoon. With your vaporetto pass you can easily explore many neighborhoods of Venice.
 Dinner: Farewell dinner at the hotel.
Accommodations: Hotel Principe
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 14: Departures
(Monday, October 13)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel; continental style for participants with early morning departures.
 Morning: Departure transfer to Venice Airport.
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

Ancient Rome: Art, Architecture, and History

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Description: This lively, illustrated survey of Ancient Rome's monuments, history and art is a terrific introduction.

Blue Guide Concise Italy

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Brunelleschi's Dome, How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture

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Description: The story of the design and construction of the dome in the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, a tale rife with politics, cut-throat competition and mighty inspiration.

Eyewitness Guide Italy

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Italy Map

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Description: A handy, laminated map.

Italy in Mind

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Italy, A Short History

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La Bella Figura, A Field Guide to the Italian Mind

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Description: Italians themselves love this guide to the Italian character, which addresses the apparently never-ending passion for beauty, disorder and high emotion. Severgnini opens the book with a snapshot of the hubbub at Malpensa Airport, then moves on to Tuscany, Rome, Naples and Sardinia.

La Bella Lingua

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Description: Inebriated with the sounds of Italian, lovesick for its phrases and enamored of its earthy idioms, Hales, "a sensible woman of sturdy Polish stock," dives into the Italian of the piazza, literature, movies and streets in this charming memoir.

Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling

Author: Ross King

Description: Presented with flair and backed by a wealth of research, King's captivating chronicle of Michelangelo's painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel tells the story of its conception and creation.

The Art of the Renaissance

Author: Peter Murray

Description: A classic, illustrated survey of the world of the Renaissance and its art. With chapters on Florence and its artists, the Netherlands, early illustrated books and many individual artists.

The City of Florence, Historical Vistas and Personal Sightings

Author: R.W.B. Lewis

Description: A vivid tour of the city and its riches by the fine biographer of Edith Wharton and Henry James. Lewis has written what he calls "a partial biography of Florence," beautifully interweaving the personal and the historical.

The Colosseum

Author: Keith Hopkins, Mary Beard

Description: This engaging overview of the history of the Colosseum deconstructs Hollywood-perpetrated misconceptions of gladiator-eating lions, Nero fiddling and other myths.

The House of Medici, Its Rise and Fall

Author: Christopher Hibbert

Description: A well-written, entertaining history of the Medicis in Renaissance Florence. Great to read before going to Florence, where the influence of the Medicis and the artists they supported is still very much in evidence.

The World of Venice

Author: Jan Morris

Description: Morris displays her talent for research, anecdote and well-wrought prose in this spirited history of a beloved city.

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