14299
Italy
Cinque Terre, Carrara and Medieval Hill Towns
Explore the Cinque Terre — the Italian Riviera’s colorful villages carved above the Mediterranean Sea — and learn about medieval life, Michelangelo and the history of nearby Lerici.
Rating (4.95)
Program No. 14299RJ
Length
12 days
Starts at
2,999
Flights start at
825
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12 days
11 nights
24 meals
10 B 6 L 8 D
Getting There
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DAY
1
In Transit to Program
In Flight
DAY
2
Arrive Pisa, Neighborhood Walk, Welcome Reception
Lerici
L,D
Hotel Shelley e delle Palme

Activity note: Hotel check in 3:00 p.m.

Lunch: At the hotel, we will have a buffet lunch with a variety of salads, cheeses, fresh fruit, and focaccia bread plus a glass of local white or red wine; water included, other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We’ll then check in to the hotel. After you get your room, take some time to freshen up then meet back in the hotel lobby at 4:00 p.m. for an orientation walk with our Group Leader in the neighborhood to identify ATMs, pharmacies, stores, restaurants, etc. Walking in and around the seaside town of Lerici, we’ll have spectacular views of the castle from the outside courtyard. Our short walk will circle back to the hotel where we will gather for a welcome drink.

Dinner: At a restaurant in town, we’ll have a plated set meal; water included, other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day tomorrow.

DAY
3
Orientation, Walk to San Terenzo, Welcome to Liguria
Lerici
B,L,D
Hotel Shelley e delle Palme

Activity note: Walking up to 1 mile.

Breakfast: In the hotel’s 6th-floor breakfast room, the buffet offers choices such as cold cuts, cheeses, cereals, yogurt, fruit, croissant, focaccia, pastries, jam, milk, juice, coffee, tea, water. Enjoy the view of the marina and castle.

Morning: Orientation: The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Transportation during the program will be via motorcoach unless specified otherwise. Breakfasts will be buffets. Other included meals will be primarily plated and served from a set regional menu with water included and other beverages available for purchase. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. Next, we’ll go on a walking field trip with our Group Leader in and around Lerici including the massive castle that dates from 1241. The castle is perched on a bay that is part of the Golfo della Spezia (Gulf of La Spezia), also known as the Golfo Poeti (Gulf of Poets) for the writers and poets who have found this a treasured spot for centuries, including Dante, Petrarch, Byron, and Shelley. We will explore areas of the castle that are closed to the public and enjoy beautiful views of the bay before returning to the hotel.

Lunch: We will walk along the seaside promenade to a restaurant in San Terenzo and have a plated meal with an assortment of seafood and vegetable antipasti, a pasta dish, glass of wine, and water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Back at the hotel, a local expert will provide an introduction to the region of Liguria, discussing its geography, history as a maritime power, role in the World War II Resistance Movement, and UNESCO World Heritage sites. From the UNESCO inscription: “The Ligurian coast between Cinque Terre and Portovenere is a cultural landscape of great scenic and cultural value. The layout and disposition of the small towns and the shaping of the surrounding landscape, overcoming the disadvantages of a steep, uneven terrain, encapsulate the continuous history of human settlement in this region over the past millennium.”

Dinner: At a pizzeria on the waterfront in Lerici, we’ll enjoy a variety of pizzas; choice of soft drink, beer, wine, and water; other beverages available for purchase. In addition to pizza “classica” there are local favorites that have won awards at the World Pizza Championships.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
4
Culinary Tradition in Liguria, Portovenere
Lerici
B,D
Hotel Shelley e delle Palme

Activity note: Walking approximately 300 yards to dock. Getting on/off a boat. Boat ride from Lerici to Portovenere approximately 1/2 hour. Portovenere is closed to traffic. Walking on uneven paved road; graded rise and uneven steps (no railing) to church on promontory.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We’ll gather for a presentation by a local expert on culinary traditions of Liguria and Lunigiana — the northwest corner of Tuscany — areas known for their fruity olive oil, aromatic herbs, seafood, and wine. We’ll than take a short walk to the dock for our boat ride across the Bay of Lerici to Portovenere.

Lunch: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like in Portovenere. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Afternoon: We’ll meet a local expert who will lead our exploration as we stroll along the tightly stacked houses, colorful and tall, that were constructed in a row as an impenetrable fortress. We’ll walk on to the marina and the 12th-century chapel set on the promontory that juts out into the sea. The rocky Byron Grotto (Cala dell’Arpaia) is dedicated to George Gordon Byron — Lord Byron — who lived, loved, and swam here. The heart of Portovenere is closed to traffic and has a mix of shops, art galleries and cafes. We’ll then take the boat back across the bay back to Lerici and return to our hotel.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll have a plated set meal featuring regional dishes including savory meat and vegetables; a glass of wine and water included, other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. You might like to take a walk in town and stop for a hot beverage or gelato.

DAY
5
Boat Excursion to the Cinque Terre
Lerici
B,D
Hotel Shelley e delle Palme

Activity note: Walking from hotel to dock. Boating as weather permits. Boat ride to Monterosso approximately 1.5 hours; open-air and inside seating. Boat ride from Monterosso to Vernazza approximately 1/4 hour; return ride from Vernazza to Lerici approximately 1.5 hours. Elective hike from Monterosso to Vernazza about 3 miles, approximately 2.5 hours; rugged, uneven footpath with steep inclines (up to 920 feet overall), uneven stone steps, no railings.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We’ll walk from the hotel to the dock with our Group Leader and board a boat for the ride to Monterosso, marveling at the sight of the rocky coast and terraced vineyards of the Cinque Terre. In Monterosso, the northernmost village, a local expert will lead a walking field trip as we explore the beachfront and inner narrow streets lined with colorful houses and shops. Those who wish to embark on a physical challenge can elect to go on a self-directed scenic hike from Monterosso to Vernazza. The roughly 2.5 hour walk is nearly 3 miles along a rugged path, narrowing at some points, with steep inclines, uneven stone steps, no guardrail nor handrails. The total difference in altitude along the hiking trail is from sea level to 920 feet, not all in one ascent. Those electing to hike will meet the rest of the group in Vernazza. Note: In case of inclement weather or dangerous sea conditions, the Group Leader will make every effort to switch the date of the boating field trip.

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like in Monterosso. There are cafés, foccacerie, and trattorie to suit every taste and budget.

Afternoon: The Group Leader will announce a time and place to meet to board the boat for transfer to Vernazza where there will be some independent time to visit the small natural harbor/marina or climb the steps to the lookout tower. The town has one main road and a large square at the marina. You might like to explore the rocky fortress at the top of the town or relax at a café. Those electing to hike will rendezvous in Vernazza. The entire group will take the boat to Lerici later in the afternoon then walk back to the hotel.

Dinner: At a waterfront restaurant, we’ll have a plated set meal featuring seafood dishes; a glass of wine and water included, other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. You might enjoy a walk along the seafront.

DAY
6
Pontremoli, Fosdinovo, Ancient Monoliths, Winery
Lerici
B,L,D
Hotel Shelley e delle Palme

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. The drive to Pontremoli is about 30 miles, approximately 1/2 hour. Walking up to 1 mile in the traffic-free center.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We’ll gather for a classroom session with a local expert to learn how the traditions of booksellers and pilgrim routes in Lunigiana that date back to the Middle Ages are still flourishing today. After a break, we’ll board a motorcoach and ride to Pontremoli in Lunigiana. A local expert will lead our exploration of the 11th century Castle of Piagnaro that houses the recently renovated Museum of Statue Stele, prehistoric monoliths of human figures found in the area.

Lunch: At Antica Trattoria Pelliccia in Pontremoli, we’ll have a plated set meal featuring local specialties; a glass of wine and water included; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We will continue our exploration of Pontremoli with a walking field trip along the traffic-free, cobblestoned streets. Our local expert will provide some historical background on the town, apparent in its medieval bridges, baroque residences, and elegant coffee shops. Our walk will end at the edge of town with a stunning panorama of the surrounding countryside. Moving on down towards the coast, we will arrive at a winery in the low hills above Luni. The winery includes a small museum we’ll explore to see tools used in tending the vineyards, harvesting, pressing, ageing, and bottling the final product.

Dinner: At the winery, we’ll have a family-style meal of tasty local products with Lunigiana wines; water included, other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Returning to the hotel, the remainder of the evening is at leisure.

DAY
7
Malaspina Castle, Focaccia Workshop
Lerici
B,L
Hotel Shelley e delle Palme

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. The drive to Fosdinovo is about 10 miles, approximately 1/2 hour along winding country roads. Walking approximately 2 miles throughout the day. Fosdinovo is traffic-free; hilly roads and sidewalks paved with cobblestones. Motorcoach drop-off point at bottom of Malaspina castle with graded ramp of low steps leading to entrance; stairs to upper floor.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We will continue our field trip and ride through the Lunigiana hills to Fosdinovo for an expert-led exploration of Malaspina Castle that originated in the 11th century. The exterior of this massive fortress recalls its defensive purposes, expanded over generations. Inside are courtyards, galleries, and rooms that display historic furnishings, tapestries, and frescoes. It was the home of a noble family, the Malaspinas, who hosted Dante Alighieri when the Florentines banished him. The Marchesi Torrigiani Malaspina family resides in the castle to this day. Back aboard our motorcoach, we’ll ride towards Lerici and stop at an agriturismo. What is an agriturismo? These are typically independently-owned farms that offer accommodations and meals as an adjunct to farming. The food is farm fresh!

Lunch: At the agriturismo, we’ll have a plated set meal of farm to table dishes; local wine and water included.

Afternoon: Next, the owner of the agriturismo will give us a demonstration on making focaccia. We’ll see and learn the technique of kneading the dough to the right consistency for a perfect Ligurian focaccia. Returning to the hotel, the remainder of the afternoon is free.

Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions for everything from small plates at a wine bar to a full-course dinner at a trattoria or restaurant.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
8
Poets of the Gulf, Tellaro
Lerici
B,L
Hotel Shelley e delle Palme

Activity note: Getting on/off a public bus. Walking up to 2.5 miles, approximately 1 hour; paved road.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We’ll be joined by a local expert who will lead a classroom session on English poets and writers who lived around the Gulf of La Spezia and for whom the natural harbor is called the “Gulf of Poets.” After a short break, we’ll board a public bus and ride to Tellaro, a colorful village at the eastern end of the Gulf of La Spezia. Tellaro is designated as one of the “Borghi più belli d’Italia” (most beautiful villages in Italy). We’ll take a leisurely stroll with our local expert along the narrow paved path that winds down to the marina and the small church dedicated to St. George. One of the colorful local legends is that in 1660, a giant octopus saved the village from marauding Saracen pirates by ringing the church bell to warn the people.

Lunch: At a restaurant in Tellaro, we’ll have a plated set meal featuring authentic pasta al pesto made from local olive oil and fragrant Ligurian basil; a traditional glass of white wine and water are included, other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Our local expert will walk back with us along the 2.5 mile paved road that connects Tellaro and Lerici. There are no sidewalks but the traffic is light and pedestrian-friendly. The walk takes about an hour including stops to enjoy panoramic vistas of the sea below. Those who prefer may return by public bus.

Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
9
Cinque Terre Winery, Scenic Vineyard Walk
Lerici
B,D
Hotel Shelley e delle Palme

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. The drive to the vineyard is about 25 miles, approximately 1 hour; winding country roads. Walking up to 1 mile; minor inclines, uneven pavement. Use of public train transportation. From motorcoach drop-off point, elective short walk on narrow, uneven path to terraced vineyard; single file, no railings, benches available.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We’ll board a motorcoach and ride up into the hills above the Gulf of La Spezia and begin our walk in the Volastra hillside. During our walk, we’ll visit the Cinque Terre Cooperative winery and experience first-hand the terraced vineyards and local wine products. Yes, we’ll taste wines! Re-boarding the motorcoach, we’ll ride the short distance to Manarola, one of the five villages of the Cinque Terre.

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like in Manarola among the focaccerias, cafés, and trattorias.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll explore the village of Manarola with our local expert and walk along a scenic path with vistas of the village perched on the mountain that drops into the sea. Our walk will take us to the marina and promenade around the promontory for excellent photo opportunities of the colorful village before we head to the train station. Boarding the public train in Manarola, we’ll ride a short distance to Corniglia for a brief walking exploration of the middle village of the Cinque Terre and learn how terraces were built by the local population. We’ll then take the train to La Spezia and transfer to the motorcoach for the ride back to Lerici.

Dinner: At a local restaurant specializing in seafood, we’ll have a plated set meal featuring seafood dishes; glass of wine and water included, other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. You might like to take a stroll along Lerici's seafront promenade right outside the hotel.

DAY
10
Life in Italy Today, Free Time
Lerici
B,D
Hotel Shelley e delle Palme

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: With a local expert, we’ll learn about institutions and traditions that prevail in Italy today. Among the topics we’ll discuss are the education system, health care, and the role of the family, plus Q&A.

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Afternoon: Free time. Take this opportunity to see and do what interests you most.

Dinner: At a restaurant on Lerici seafront, we’ll have a plated set meal featuring seafood dishes; glass of wine and water included, other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
11
Carrara Marble Quarries, Transfer to Pisa
Pisa
B,L,D
Hotel Bologna

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. The drive from Lerici to the marble quarries is about 18 miles, approximately 1 hour along steep, winding narrow road. Drive from Carrara to Pisa is about 45 miles, approximately 40 minutes on highway. Walking up to 1.5 miles total and standing at field trip sites; dirt path at quarry, slight incline. Walk from the hotel to Leaning Tower in Pisa 1 mile; city sidewalks, mostly flat, some uneven stone pavers.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: A local expert will give us a classroom presentation on Michelangelo and Carrara marble. The artist — who considered himself primarily a sculptor rather than a painter — traveled to the quarries of Carrara dozens of times during his lifetime to select the blocks of characteristic white marble he wanted. After checking out of the hotel, we’ll board a motorcoach for the ride to Carrara at the foot of the Apuan Alps. We’ll visit a sculptors' workshop (work schedules permitting). With a local expert, we’ll ride on to the still active marble quarries and learn the fascinating technique of modern stone excavation. In recent years, nearly a million tons of marble have been removed annually, resulting in a battle between environmentalists and companies that extract the stone.

Lunch: At a wine bar/restaurant in the heart of Carrara, we’ll have a set meal featuring a variety of antipasti served family style including the thick tomato soup known in Tuscany as pappa al pomodoro; glass of wine and water included, other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: A local expert will lead a walk through Carrara’s main square where we will see historic as well as modern marble monuments. We’ll then board the motorcoach for late afternoon check-in at our hotel in Pisa. After some time to freshen up, we’ll walk to the Piazza dei Miracoli where the white marble of the Cathedral, Baptistery, and Leaning Tower contrast with the manicured green lawns of the square.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll have a plated set meal; glass of wine and water included, other beverages available for purchase. Share favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends during our farewell dinner as we drink a toast and bid arrivederci Italia.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.

DAY
12
Program Concludes
In Flight
B

Activity note: Hotel check out 11:00 a.m. See your program’s travel details regarding transfers.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet. For those with early morning departures, the hotel will prepare a bag breakfast with a roll or pastry, fruit, and juice. This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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