18206
Italy

The Best of Italy: Rome, Florence and Venice

Learn about three great Italian cities as you visit Rome’s preserved ruins, explore Renaissance architecture in Florence and discover renowned cathedrals and cuisine of Venice.
Rating (4.89)
Program No. 18206RJ
Length
14 days
Starts at
4,699
Flights start at
775
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14 days
13 nights
27 meals
12 B 8 L 7 D
DAY
1
In Transit to Program
In Flight
DAY
2
Arrive Rome, Check-in, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Rome
L,D
Hotel Diana

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 12:00 p.m. Transfer from Rome airport to hotel is 20 miles (50-minute ride). Walking approximately 1 mile.

Lunch: At the hotel restaurant a fixed menu, plated table service. Water is included; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Check in and settle in. At 4:00 p.m. we gather in the meeting room for an Orientation session. 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. Breakfasts will be buffets. Other included meals will be plated and served from a set menu unless indicated otherwise; water is included, other beverages will be available for purchase. Evenings at leisure offer opportunities to make the program more meaningful and memorable through personal independent exploration, attending performances or other events, or simply relaxing and making new friends among fellow participants. The Group Leader will always be happy to offer suggestions. Transportation will be provided primarily by motorcoach and high-speed train. 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 will join our Group Leader in a welcome cocktail (or fruit juice).

Dinner: At the hotel's rooftop restaurant, we will have a plated and served meal; water included, other beverages available for purchase.

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

DAY
3
Colosseum, Forum, Vatican Art Treasures Lecture
Rome
B,L,D
Hotel Diana

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. Walking up to 5 miles throughout the day with extended periods of standing during site visits; uneven paths, cobblestones, loose gravel, and dirt paths. Elevator available in the Colosseum. Unavoidable stairs at sites.

Breakfast: At the hotel, the breakfast buffet offers choices such as an egg dish, sliced cold cuts, cheeses, cereal, muesli, yogurt, fresh fruit, breads and pastries, jams, honey, butter, and a selection of hot and cold beverages.

Morning: Coach or vans to the closest drop off point near the Roman Forum where a local expert will spur our imagination to envision the buildings now in ruin. The field trip will continue to the Colosseum where we will hear some interesting anecdotes about Roman entertainment so many centuries ago. Built in the year 80 CE and officially known as the Flavian Amphitheater, the Colosseum was the greatest in the Roman Empire. It measured 620 by 513 feet and could hold more than 50,000 spectators. Architects and researchers are still not sure how the many wonders that have been described were managed. Historical records as well as popular culture in our time have made it an iconic symbol of gladiatorial combat and the sacrifice of untold numbers of slaves, prisoners of war, condemned criminals, and animals from throughout the empire. Those with the energy and stamina are welcome to climb the 10-foot high steps to the upper level.

Lunch: At a restaurant in the Piazza del Colosseo.

Afternoon: After riding back to the hotel, we will be joined in the hotel meeting room by an art historian who will provide background on art treasures of the Vatican in preparation for our field trip.

Dinner: We will walk to a characteristic trattoria near the hotel for a plated and served set meal featuring regional cooking; water and a glass of wine included, other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
4
Vatican, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica, Roman History
Rome
B,L
Hotel Diana

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach and escalator. Walking up to 6 miles throughout the day with extended periods of standing during site visits; standing in line while museum-issued listening devices are distributed; walking two long corridors (0.5 mile each); marble floors; crowded conditions, no public seating. Unavoidable stairs at sites: one at entrance, one to access corridor to Sistine Chapel, one to enter Sistine Chapel.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Setting out by motorcoach, we will reach the closest drop-off point for our reserved entrance to the Vatican Museums. A local expert will lead our exploration as we see portions of this vast collection of 70 galleries that contain masterpieces of painting, sculpture, and other works of art gathered over centuries. There could be unannounced closings of some galleries, so our expert will make the best use of the time and discuss the most significant works available. We will then move on to the Sistine Chapel, one of the most justly renowned structures in the world, with Michelangelo's frescoes on the ceiling illustrating scenes from the book of Genesis and the Last Judgment behind the main altar. From there, our expert will lead us down a back staircase down to the Basilica of St. Peter. In a side chapel — now behind protective glass — we can see the famous Pietà, Michelangelo's early masterpiece and the only one he signed. Above the altar stands Gian Lorenzo Bernini's bronze baldacchino (canopy), more than 100 feet high. Stepping out onto the front porch, we will admire the colonnade designed by Bernini, evoking the embracing arms of the Church.

Lunch: At a restaurant near the Vatican Museums. A set menu of typical Roman dishes. Water is included; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: After lunch, coach back to the hotel. Following a short break, we gather in the hotel meeting room where we're joined by a history professor for a presentation on Ancient Rome. We'll learn about the multiple layers of Roman history we have observed during our explorations.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions and give directions.

Evening: At leisure. You might enjoy a stroll and perhaps a drink or gelato at a café near the hotel.

DAY
5
Piazza Navona, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Galleria Borghese
Rome
B,L
Hotel Diana

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. Walking up to 6 miles throughout the day with extended periods of standing during site visits; cobblestones, marble flooring, and urban stone sidewalks. Elevator available at the Galleria Borghese. Unavoidable stairs in museum.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: A local expert will lead our walking field trip to three landmarks in the heart of Rome: Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, and the Baroque Trevi Fountain. The Pantheon is the best-preserved monument from ancient Rome. Conventional history says it was commissioned by the Emperor Hadrian to replace two previous buildings and constructed circa 118-125 CE, but more recent studies have suggested it was earlier. The design achievements and original purpose continue to baffle archaeologists, architects, and historians today. The niches along the interior perimeter are illuminated by the sun at different times of the year and day through the oculus in the ceiling, the only source of natural light. We will explore the interior with a local expert. Next we visit the Fontana di Trevi, the largest in the city and one of the most beautiful. The great fountain we see today replaced a number of earlier versions that had served as the terminus of one of Rome's aqueducts. It was completed in 1743. We will learn about its architecture and the meaning of the symbolic figures and gestures. We will end our walk in Piazza Navona where we will learn how the long oval piazza was built by Emperor Domitian (81-96 CE) for track and field games. The buildings lining the piazza have the footprint of the bleachers. Now the quintessential Baroque piazza, it is home to artists and performers. Bernini's fountain of the Four Rivers—sits in the middle and Borromini's church of St. Agnes is on the west side.

Lunch: After the Piazze walk, we'll board a coach that will take us to a local restaurant, near Galleria Borghese, for a plated and served set meal featuring regional cooking; water included, other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We will walk to the Borghese Gallery, the private pleasure and reception palace of Cardinal Scipio Borghese (1577-1633), a nephew of Pope Paul V, an avid art collector, and patron of the young Bernini. We will enter at our reserved time with a local expert who will lead our exploration. On display in the Gallery are important paintings by Caravaggio, Raphael, Botticelli and Titian. The highlight of the collection are the emotionally charged sculptures by Bernini, a true evocation of the Baroque. At the end of our field trip, we will walk to the motorcoach pick up point to return to the hotel.

Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like in Rome. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. You can also consult your list of suggested restaurants in your program materials.

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

DAY
6
High-Speed Train to Florence, Renaissance Art
Florence
B,L,D
Rivoli Boutique Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off a train. Walking up to 3 miles throughout the day with extended periods of standing during site visits and waiting for the train; cobblestones, marble flooring, and urban stone sidewalks. High-speed train to Florence takes 1.5 hours (175 miles). Hotel check-in from 2:00 p.m.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Bags will be picked up early morning outside rooms for delivery to hotel in Florence. We'll set out on foot for Roma Termini, the main train station, and board a high-speed train with reserved seats and set out for our next program site. Upon arrival in Florence, we will walk from the train station to our lunch destination.

Lunch: At a neighborhood restaurant, we will have a plated and served light lunch from a set menu; water included, other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We'll check in and settle in. In the afternoon, we will be joined in the hotel meeting room by an art historian who will provide an overview of medieval and Renaissance art in preparation for our field trip to the Uffizi Gallery. After a short break, we will set out on foot for a neighborhood walk with our Group Leader to see the location of ATMs, pharmacies, stores, and shops.

Dinner: At Ristorante Benedicta, the fine restaurant in the lobby of the hotel, we will have a plated and served meal from a set menu featuring Tuscan fare; water and a glass of wine included, other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. You might like to go out on your own or with other Road Scholars for a stroll in the heart of Florence.

DAY
7
Duomo & Museum, Accademia
Florence
B,D
Rivoli Boutique Hotel

Activity note: Walking up to 5 miles throughout the day with extended periods of standing during site visits; cobblestones, marble flooring, and some uneven urban stone sidewalks. Elevator available at the Opera del Duomo Museum. Some unavoidable stairs in the museum.

Breakfast: At the hotel, the breakfast buffet offers choices such as an egg dish, sliced cold cuts, cheeses, cereal, muesli, yogurt, fresh fruit, breads and pastries, jams, honey, butter, and a selection of hot and cold beverages.

Morning: We will walk to the Duomo and meet a museum docent who will lead our exploration of Florence’s most famous landmark, officially known as the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore but known by everyone simply as the Duomo. It is the third-largest church in the world. The magnificent dome, designed by Filippo Brunelleschi and completed in 1434, was startlingly innovative at the time and is considered one of the wonders of the Renaissance. We will also explore the Duomo Museum complex, recently renovated and modernized. It includes more than 750 works of art covering more than seven centuries of history including medieval and Renaissance statues and reliefs in marble, bronze and silver by the leading artists of the day.

Lunch: On your own. The Group Leader will have suggestions.

Afternoon: We will walk to the Accademia for a lecture on one of the most famous statues in the world, Michelangelo's David. In addition to admiring this extraordinary figure, will also see the unfinished statues known as the Prisoners. It has been suggested that Michelangelo left them in their incomplete state to symbolize the struggle of humankind to free spirit from matter. We will then have time for independent exploration in the Accademia that includes works by other great sculptors and artists — many of which were collected by the Medici and donated to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany — and a Museum of Musical Instruments.

Dinner: At Ristorante Benedicta, the fine restaurant in the lobby of the hotel, we will have a plated and served meal from a set menu featuring Tuscan fare; water and a glass of wine included, other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
8
History of Florence, The Medici, Uffizi
Florence
B,L
Rivoli Boutique Hotel

Activity note: Walking up to 4 miles total throughout the day with extended periods of standing during site visits; marble flooring, cobblestones and some uneven urban stone sidewalks and streets. Unavoidable steps in the Uffizi.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: In the hotel meeting room a local expert presents Medieval Florence and the Medici family. We'll learn of the Roman origins of the city and how, by the end of the 15th century, the Medici family had established a powerful dynasty and went on to rule Florence, transforming it into a cradle of the Renaissance. The Medici rebuilt large areas of the city in Renaissance style; became patrons of the humanities, arts, and science; and collected art treasures.The Group Leader will add a short session to discuss the logistics of moving around in Venice when we transfer two days from now.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we will have a plated and served set meal featuring regional cooking; water included, other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We will walk to the reserved entrance of the Uffizi Gallery for our self-directed field trip. You are free to see what interests you most and spend as much time as you wish. This is the most extensive collection of Renaissance art in the world, tracing the development from Gothic to medieval to Renaissance to Mannerist paintings as well as architecture and sculpture. You will find many recognizable masterpieces, including Leonardo da Vinci's Annunciation, Botticelli's Birth of Venus and Primavera, some Titians, Michelangelo's Holy Family, and a few Caravaggios as well as Artemisia Gentileschi. There is a suggested guide to seeing some of the most famous masterpieces at www.uffizi.org. 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: On your own to enjoy what you like in Florence. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. You can also consult your list of suggested restaurants in your program materials.

Evening: At leisure. You might like to take the long walk back to the hotel along the Arno River.

DAY
9
Free Time
Florence
B,D
Rivoli Boutique Hotel

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Free time. The historic San Lorenzo Market is nearby. The indoor market is an amazing wonderland of foods and local specialties while the street outside is lined with hundreds of bancarelle — stalls and carts selling a variety of products including leather and clothing. The historic center of Florence, including the Duomo, Baptistery, and Campanile, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From the inscription: "Florence was built on the site of an Etruscan settlement and the later ancient Roman colony of Florentia (founded in 59 BCE). This Tuscan city became a symbol of the Renaissance during the early Medici period (between the 15th and the 16th centuries), reaching extraordinary levels of economic and cultural development."

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like in Florence. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. You can also consult your list of suggested restaurants in your program materials. You might like to have a light lunch in a café or restaurant in Piazza della Signoria or at the food court of the Mercato di San Lorenzo where many vendors offer farm-to-table foods.

Afternoon: Free time continues.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we will have a plated and served set meal featuring regional cooking; water and wine included, other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. Enjoy a stroll along the bank of the Arno River to the Ponte Vecchio.

DAY
10
High-Speed Train to Venice, History of Venice Lecture
Venice
B,L
Hotel Principe

Activity note: Getting on/off a train. Walking up to 4 miles throughout the day with periods of standing while waiting for the train; cobblestones, marble flooring, and some uneven urban stone sidewalks. Unavoidable stairs in train stations. High-speed train to Venice takes 2.15 hours (150 miles). Hotel check-in from 3:00 p.m.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We will check out of the hotel, depositing bags in the lobby where the Group Leader will supervise loading onto a van headed directly to Venice where they will be delivered to our hotel. We will walk to the Florence train station where we will board the high-speed train to Venice that departs mid-morning, arriving just in time for lunch at the hotel after a short walk.

Lunch: At the hotel restaurant, we will have a plated and served set meal featuring regional cooking; water included, other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We will check in to our rooms and have some time to freshen up and relax. We will gather in the lobby around 4:00 p.m. and proceed to the hotel meeting room where a local historian will share insights into Venice's legacy. Then, setting out on foot with our Group Leader, we will go for a neighborhood walk to see the location of ATMs, pharmacies, stores, and vaporetto stops in the area around the hotel. We will have passes for the vaporetto, Venice’s public transportation system by boat, valid for unlimited rides on the major routes during our stay. You can reach all six of the city’s sestieri — districts — by vaporetto.

Dinner: On your own. The Group Leader will have suggestions.

Evening: At leisure. The hotel is within walking distance of important Venetian highlights.

DAY
11
Rialto, St. Mark's Basilica, Gondola Ride
Venice
B,L
Hotel Principe

Activity note: Getting on/off vaporetto and gondola (assistance offered). Walking up to 4 miles throughout the day with extended periods of standing during site visits; cobblestones, marble flooring, and some uneven urban stone sidewalks. Elevator available in San Marco. Unavoidable stairs on bridges and in museum. Crossing multiple bridges that span canals; some bridges may lack handrails.

Breakfast: At the hotel, the breakfast buffet offers choices such as an egg dish, sliced cold cuts, cheeses, cereal, muesli, yogurt, fresh fruit, breads and pastries, jams, honey, butter, and a selection of hot and cold beverages.

Morning: Venice has six sestieri (districts). We will take the vaporetto to the Rialto area, part of the San Polo sestiere, and meet a local expert who will lead our walking field trip through one of the oldest parts of the city. The Rialto Bridge, oldest in Venice, links San Polo with the sestiere of San Marco. The top of the Rialto Bridge is an excellent vantage point for photographing the busy traffic on the Grand Canal. Our field trip will conclude at the Rialto markets where we will have some time to browse independently. Venetians have gotten their food here since 1097! Barges loaded with fresh produce arrive at dawn. A few hours later, customers begin to peruse the stands and carts of vendors selling an amazing variety of fruits, vegetables, seafood, and other provisions.

Lunch: At a restaurant near the Rialto, we’ll have a plated and served meal with an antipasto dish, a main course, and salad; water included, other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We will take a short walk to the Basilica of San Marco for an expert-led exploration of the cathedral that was begun in 1063 CE. Named for the city’s patron saint whose remains are believed to be held in the cathedral, San Marco evolved over centuries into an extraordinary ecclesiastical and architectural monument that has to be seen in person to be fully appreciated. Its mosaics are one of the most arresting features of the church, dating from the 11th to 19th centuries. Biblical and allegorical images, in rich colors on golden backgrounds, cover more than 86,000 square feet (8,000 square meters) of the interior surfaces. The musical tradition of San Marco is just as rich, particularly the polychoral style with antiphonal choirs that was essentially invented here. Given the city’s watery atmosphere as well as natural disasters and wars through its history, maintenance, protection, and restoration of all elements of the church are a major concern. Then, we will experience the city from a different point of view with a gondola ride along the canals. The remainder of the afternoon is free. You may return to the hotel via vaporetto or on foot as you prefer.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions and give directions.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
12
St. Mark's Square, Palazzo Ducale,
Venice
B,D
Hotel Principe

Activity note: Getting on/off vaporetto. Walking up to 4 miles throughout the day with extended periods of standing during site visits; cobblestones, marble flooring, and some uneven urban stone sidewalks. Elevator available in Palazzo Ducale. Unavoidable stairs on bridges and in museums. Crossing multiple bridges that span canals; some bridges may lack handrails.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Free time. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. You might like to use your vaporetto pass to ride up and down the Grand Canal, explore the Lido, or investigate some of the fascinating little streets and learn the difference between a calle, salizada, ramo, and ruga.

Lunch: On your own.

Afternoon: We will meet at the designated time in Piazza San Marco, St. Mark's Square. This is the largest public space in the city, called the "drawing room of Europe" in the 19th century. It is also one of the most impressive public squares anywhere with the Basilica di San Marco (Basilica of St Mark), Campanile (bell tower), and Palazzo Ducale (Ducal Palace), commonly called the Doge’s Palace. We will meet a local expert who will lead our exploration of the Doge’s Palace that was the seat of civic and political power. Doge in the Venetian dialect was equivalent to duke but the Doges of Venice served as head of state for more than a thousand years. They embellished the residential quarters and ceremonial chambers of the Great Council with lavish artwork, including murals by Tintoretto and Veronese. We will see the spacious courtrooms and the Prisons, connected by the Bridge of Sighs. Those convicted of crimes walked from the courtroom to prison across the infamous bridge, so called because of prisoners’ reaction knowing it was their last glimpse of light and air.

Dinner: At a restaurant near the hotel, we will have a plated and served set meal featuring regional cooking; water and wine included , other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: At leisure. For anyone with an ounce of curiosity and zest for living, it is impossible to be bored in Venice!

DAY
13
Boat to Murano, Free Time
Venice
B,D
Hotel Principe

Activity note: Getting on/off boat and vaporetto. Walking up to 3 miles throughout the day with extended periods of standing during site visits; cobblestones, marble flooring, and some uneven urban stone sidewalks. Unavoidable stairs on bridges and in glass workshop. Crossing multiple bridges that span canals; some bridges may lack handrails.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We will take a private boat to the island of Murano. A district of Venice although a mile off in the lagoon, Murano is a mix of low houses and glass-making workshops. We will learn about the craft of glass-making as we observe a demonstration of glass-blowing at a workshop. We will also have some time to stroll through the narrow streets along the canals.

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like. There are various cafés and trattorie on Murano. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. You can also consult your list of suggested restaurants in your program materials.

Afternoon: Free time. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. With your vaporetto pass, you can easily take the boat from Murano to explore the island of Burano, whose leaning tower rivals that in Pisa. Burano is famous for Venetian lace, and there are shops where you can watch artisans create their handiwork. Or, return to main cluster of islands that make up Venice by getting off the vaporetto at San Marco or the stop closest to the hotel.

Dinner: At the hotel, we will enjoy our farewell dinner, plated and served from a set menu, with wine included to toast new Road Scholar friendships. Recap your adventures and share your favorite memories.

Evening: At leisure. You might like to have a ride down the Grand Canal when the boats are not as crowded and the light from the palazzi shine and create ripple effects on the water. Then prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.

DAY
14
Program Concludes, In Transit From Program
In Flight
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out 11:00 a.m. See your program’s travel details regarding transfers. At the hotel’s private dock, bags will be loaded onto the boat and then off the boat at the airport dock. A few steps from the boat to the dock and you are in the water transportation wing of the airport. Follow the signs to the main terminal. Carts are available or use the moving walkway.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet; for those with early departures, the hotel will prepare a bagged breakfast with a fruit, a roll or pastry, fruit juice, and water to take with you. 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!