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 (4.93)
Program No. 18206RJ
Length
14 days
Starts at
4,299
Flights start at
750
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14 days
13 nights
30 meals
12 B 9 L 9 D
Getting There
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DAY
1
In Transit to Program
In Flight
DAY
2
Arrive Rome, Neighborhood Walk, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Rome
L,D
Hotel dei Mellini

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 2:00 p.m. Walking approximately 1 mile.

Morning: After clearing customs, proceed to the first public area of the Arrivals terminal where a representative with a Road Scholar sign will lead Road Scholars to a motorcoach for transfer to the hotel. The Group Leader will be in the lobby to greet arriving Road Scholars. In the late morning, leaving luggage with the desk clerk, we will join the Group Leader for an introductory walk in the neighborhood to identify ATMs, pharmacies, stores, restaurants, etc.

Lunch: In the hotel restaurant, we will have a buffet style meal; water included, other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: 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. 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. Transportation will be provided primarily by motorcoach. Venice has no vehicular traffic. In addition to the Grand Canal, there are 177 smaller canals and about 400 bridges. Vaporettos (bus boats) travel up and down the Grand Canal as it winds from the Santa Lucia train station to Piazza San Marco. There are 15 stops along the route. All walks in Venice, even the shortest, entail crossing bridges, some of which have ramps and others steps. Periods in the daily 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 restaurant, we will enjoy a dinner buffet; water and a glass of wine are included, other beverages available for purchase.

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

DAY
3
Roman History, Exploring Rome, Colosseum & Forum
Rome
B,L,D
Hotel dei Mellini

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. Walking up to 3 miles throughout the day with extended periods of standing; uneven paths, cobblestones. At Colosseum, steep, uneven steps to reach upper level; elevator available but requires walking about 250 feet. At Roman Forum, mix of uneven gravel, dirt paths, cobblestones.

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: In the hotel meeting room, we will be joined by a professor of history who will begin to unravel the multiple layers of Roman history and set the stage for our explorations. After a short break, we will board a motorcoach for a brief ride to the closest drop off point in the pedestrian-only area of the Colosseum/Forum. A local expert will lead our exploration of the Colosseum and share 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 (190 by 155 meters) 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" high steps to the upper level.

Lunch: At a restaurant in the Piazza del Colosseo.

Afternoon: Our field trip continues to the Via dei Fori Imperiali (Road of the Imperial Forums). With the ruins of temples and columns as the backdrop, our local expert will describe the Forum as the center of commercial, civic, and religious activity of ancient Rome. After riding back to the hotel, we will have some time to freshen up and relax before dinner.

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 Museums, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica
Rome
B,D
Hotel dei Mellini

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; drop-off point for Vatican Museums is about 500 feet along stone pave sidewalks to entrance; standing in line while museum-issued listening devices are distributed; walking 2 long corridors (1/2 mile each); riding an escalator; climbing 3 flights of stairs: one at entrance, one to access corridor to Sistine Chapel, one to enter Sistine Chapel; marble floors; crowded conditions; extensive standing throughout field trip, no public seating.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: 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. Setting out by motorcoach, we will reach the closest drop-off point for 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 Pietá, Michelangelo's early masterpiece and the only one he signed. Above the altar stands 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. At the conclusion of our visit, we will walk across the Piazza San Pietro and reboard the motorcoach back to the hotel.

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

Afternoon: Free time. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

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

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

DAY
5
Borghese Gallery Art Treasures, Piazza Walk
Rome
B,L
Hotel dei Mellini

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. Walking up to 3 miles throughout the day; from drop-off point at Gallery Borghese, gravel path (500 feet) leads from to museum entrance; steps down to ticket office, up to entrance; marble tile flooring. Stairs to reach the picture gallery on the 2nd floor. Small elevator (cap 3 persons) for disabled visitors. Walking over cobblestones and uneven pavement on the Piazza Walk.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We will hop aboard a motorcoach and ride 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 and ride to a point near Piazza Navona.

Lunch: We will walk to a restaurant just off the Piazza Navona for a plated and served set meal featuring regional cooking; water included, other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: 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.

Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions, from small plates to a full-course dinner.

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

DAY
6
Palazzo Massimo, Train to Florence, Neighborhood Walk
Florence
B,L,D
Rivoli Boutique Hotel

Activity note: Bags will be picked up early morning outside rooms for delivery to hotel in Florence. Van from hotel to train station. Walk to the station from the restaurant is less than a mile. High speed train to Florence 1.5 hours. In Florence, short walk (less than 1/2 mile) from train station to hotel. Neighborhood walk approximately 1 mile.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We will board a motorcoach to the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme for a self-guided visit. The spacious, light filled exhibition spaces hold a fine collection of ancient Roman art. Notable are the seated bronze boxer and frescoes from Villa Livia, Augustus Caesar's wife's dining room. You are welcome to explore at your own pace and see what interests you most. The group leader will set a time and place to meet to set out on foot for a nearby restaurant.

Lunch: At a restaurant near the Termini train station, we will have a plated and served lunch from a set menu; water included, other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: We walk to the Termini train station for the high speed train ride to Florence. Upon arrival, we will walk from the train station to our hotel and check in with some time to freshen up and relax. In the late afternoon, we will go on 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, Free Time, Medieval History, The Medici
Florence
B,L
Rivoli Boutique Hotel

Activity note: Walking about 2 miles to/from field trip sites; extensive walking in Duomo; generally flat terrain, uneven sidewalks, cobblestoned streets.

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 Il Duomo di Firenze 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 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 reopened after a major renovation and modernization. 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: At a restaurant near the Duomo and mercato, we will have a plated and served set meal featuring regional cooking; water included, other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: 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 BC). 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.” Late afternoon, we will re-group at the hotel for a presentation by a local expert on medieval Florence and the Medici family. By the end of the 15th century, they 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.

Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
8
Bargello, Renaissance Art, Accademia
Florence
B,L,D
Rivoli Boutique Hotel

Activity note: Walking up to 3 miles to/from field trip sites; urban sidewalks, uneven stone pavers, cobblestoned streets, inclines; extensive walking and standing while at museums. At Bargello, long flight of stone steps to upper level, elevator available.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: 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 tomorrow. The Group Leader will also discuss the logistics of moving around in Venice when we transfer two days from now. After a short break, we will set out to the National Museum of the Bargello, situated in one of the oldest buildings in Florence, where an art historian will give us on Florentine Renaissance sculpture as well as historic and artistic background on works by Donatello, Cellini, Michelangeo, and della Robbia.

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

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

DAY
9
Uffizi Gallery, Free Time
Florence
B,D
Rivoli Boutique Hotel

Activity note: Walking up to 3 miles. Long flight of stairs to reach exhibition rooms; a small elevator (cap. 3 persons) for disabled visitors may be available; crowded conditions.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: 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 the “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.

Lunch: On your own. 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. Explore Florence at your own pace to see and do what interests you most.

Dinner: Hotel plated meal.

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

DAY
10
Transfer to Venice
Venice
B,L,D
Hotel Principe

Activity note: Walk from hotel to train station about 350 yards. High speed train to Venice 2 hours. Walk from Venice train station (Santa Lucia) about 400 yards; flat, stone paved pedestrian street.

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. Walking to the Florence train station we will take 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 of the city’s sestiere — six districts — by vaporetto.

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

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

DAY
11
St. Mark's Square, Ducal Palace
Venice
B,L,D
Hotel Principe

Activity note: Getting on/off vaporetto boat. Walk from hotel to nearest vaporetto stop 500+ feet; from vaporetto stop to Piazza San Marco 500 feet; from San Marco to Rialto and back 1 mile. Extended standing and walking at Ducal Palace; narrow and low passages walking over the Bridge of Sighs; crossing multiple bridges that span canals; climbing flights of stairs.

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 board a vaporetto and travel along the Grand Canal to the 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.

Lunch: At a trattoria, we will have a plated and served meal from a set menu featuring Venetian dishes; water included, other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Free time. 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.

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

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
12
Rialto, St. Mark's Basilica, Gondola Ride
Venice
B,L
Hotel Principe

Activity note: Getting on/off vaporetto boat, in/out of gondola (assistance offered). Walk from hotel to nearest vaporetto stop 500+ feet; 1/2 mile ride to Rialto stop; bridge has about 40 low-rise steps. Walking from Rialto Bridge to San Marco 1/2 mile; multiple bridges, occasionally uneven stone pavement; extensive standing and walking in basilica.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Venice has six sestieri (districts). We will take the vaporetto to the Rialto area, part of the San Polo sestieri, and meet a local expert who will lead our walking field trip through one of the oldest parts of the city. The Riato bridge, oldest in Venice, links San Polo with the sestieri 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 the 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: On your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions from small plates to a full-course dinner.

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

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

Activity note: Getting on/off a vaporetto. Total walking in streets is about 2 miles, low bridges.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We will take a vaporetto 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. There are various cafés and trattorias on Murano.

Afternoon: Free time. 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 crafters 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 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 and off the boat at the airport; steps to road, walking about 300 yards to terminal.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet depending on departure times. 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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