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Italy

Italian Extravaganza: Rome, Florence and Venice at Their Finest

Program No. 22221RJ
With top instructors and ample time, discover Italy’s incredible art, architecture, history, food and more in three of the world’s most spectacular cities – Rome, Florence and Venice.
Length
12 days
Rating (5)
Activity Level
Starts at
6,449
Flights start at
1,000

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Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Apr 23 - May 4, 2023
Starting at
6,449
May 7 - May 18, 2023
Starting at
6,449
May 21 - Jun 1, 2023
Starting at
6,449
Sep 3 - Sep 14, 2023
Starting at
6,449
Sep 17 - Sep 28, 2023
Starting at
6,449
Oct 1 - Oct 12, 2023
Starting at
6,449
Oct 15 - Oct 26, 2023
Starting at
6,449
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Apr 23 - May 4, 2023
Starting at
7,729
May 7 - May 18, 2023
Starting at
7,729
May 21 - Jun 1, 2023
Starting at
7,729
Sep 3 - Sep 14, 2023
Starting at
7,729
Sep 17 - Sep 28, 2023
Starting at
7,729
Oct 1 - Oct 12, 2023
Starting at
7,729
Oct 15 - Oct 26, 2023
Starting at
7,729

At a Glance

Italy must be savored like a fine wine — and there’s no better way to sample its many flavors than by exploring three of its most famous cities: Rome, Florence and Venice. With local experts to introduce you to the very best of each city’s historic treasures and cultural wonders, you’ll enjoy reserved entrance times to major museums and attend a special, after-hours private exploration of the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel with your group leader. Walk in the footsteps of the Romans at the Colosseum and navigate the canals of Venice by gondola. Along the way, enjoy ample free-time opportunities to explore charming piazzas, sample local delicacies at a farm in the countryside and get a first-hand view into what locals call “bella vita” — the good life.
Activity Level
Let's Go!
Field trips require extensive walking as the areas you explore are mostly car-free; up to four miles per day, with breaks. Many cobblestone streets.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you’ll…

  • Enjoy reserved entrance times to major museums including the Borghese Gallery, the Uffizi and Galleria dell’Accademia, the Doge’s Palace and a special, private field trip to the Sistine Chapel.
  • Delight in the musical offerings of Venice during an evening concert.
  • Savor a meal in a farm restaurant in the Tuscan countryside.

General Notes

Program includes independent time to explore the city and several meals on your own. Group Leaders will provide directions for self-directed excursions. Suggestions for free-time activities provided in preparatory materials. The off-hour visits in the Sistine Chapel follows a two hour prescribed route. Those wishing to explore the museum more fully are encouraged to make independent reservations during the flexible free time. Instructions will be included in the second mailing.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Italy Map
by Borch Maps
A convenient laminated map of Italy at a scale of 1:800,000 with excellent topographic detail, an index and large maps of Sicily and Sardinia.
La Bella Figura, A Field Guide to the Italian Mind
by Beppe Severgnini
Italians themselves love this guide to the Italian character, which addresses their 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.
The Raphael Affair
by Iain Pears
In the first of the popular Jonathan Argyll art mysteries, Argyll sneaks into a small church near Campo dei Fiori identify an undiscovered Raphael -- unfortunately for him, the painting has disappeared.
Eyewitness Guide Italy
by Eyewitness Guides
Another gem in the Eyewitness series, this superb guide is handsome, convenient and up-to-date. Featuring color photography, dozens of excellent local maps and a region-by-region synopsis of the country's attractions.
City of Fortune: How Venice Ruled the Seas
by Roger Crowley
An enticing read on the rise and decline of the Venice, from the Crusades to the 18th century.
The City of Florence, Historical Vistas and Personal Sightings
by R.W.B. Lewis
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.
La Bella Lingua
by Dianne Hales
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.
The House of Medici, Its Rise and Fall
by Christopher Hibbert
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.
Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
by Ross King
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.
Ancient Rome: Art, Architecture, and History
by Ada Gabucci (Editor)
This lively, illustrated survey of Ancient Rome's monuments, history and art is a terrific introduction.
Blue Guide Concise Italy
by Paul Blanchard
The first ever guide to all of Italy by the venerable Blue Guides (which publishes individual guides to Northern, Southern, Central, Rome, Tuscany, Sicily et al), this lavishly illustrated, handy and compact guide covers key sights, museums, churches, art, dining and accommodations throughout Italy.
Venice: An Illustrated Miscellany
by Philippe Sollers
An illustrated literary stroll through the cultural heritage of Italy’s most romantic city that leads from Shakespeare through Henry James, Simone de Beauvoir and Antonio Vivaldi.
The Art of the Renaissance
by Peter Murray
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 Colosseum
by Keith Hopkins, Mary Beard
This engaging overview of the history of the Colosseum deconstructs Hollywood-perpetrated misconceptions of gladiator-eating lions, Nero fiddling and other myths.
Italy in Mind
by Alice Powers
A terrific collection of some of the best literary writing on Italy, including pieces by Melville, Lawrence, Henry James, Mary McCarthy and many others.
Brunelleschi's Dome
by Ross King
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.
The World of Venice
by Jan Morris
Morris displays her talent for research, telling anecdote and well-wrought prose in this spirited portrait of a beloved city, its history and inhabitants. If you are going to read one book on Venice, we recommend this favorite.
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12 days
11 nights
20 meals
10 B 3 L 7 D
DAY
1
In Transit to Program
In Flight
DAY
2
Arrive Rome, Neighborhood Walk, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Rome
D
Hotel dei Mellini

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 2:00 p.m.

Afternoon: After checking in to the hotel and getting your room, take some time to freshen up and relax before our Orientation session. Orientation: 4:00 p.m. We will gather in the meeting room where 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. We will review COVID-19 protocols and will adhere to local COVID-19 guidelines and requirements throughout the program. Breakfasts will be buffets. Other included meals will be plated and served from a set menu unless indicated otherwise; water is included at all meals, other beverages will be available for purchase. Transportation will be provided primarily by motorcoach or high-speed train. Venice has no vehicular traffic. In addition to the Grand Canal, there are 177 smaller canals and about 400 bridges. Vaporetti (bus boats) travel up and down the Grand Canal as it winds from 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 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.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

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

DAY
3
Forum, Colosseum, Free Time
Rome
B,D
Hotel dei Mellini

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach or van (depending on group size); city driving. Walking up to 4 miles throughout the day, extended standing and walking in Colosseum and Roman Forum archaeological park. Steep, uneven steps to reach upper level at Colosseum; elevator available at one end of arena but requires walking about 250 feet longer. At Roman Forum, mix of uneven gravel, dirt paths, cobblestones, inclines.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We will ride to the closest drop off point near the Roman Forum where a local expert will spur our imaginations to envision the buildings now in ruin. Our 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: On your own to have what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Afternoon: Free time. This period of time has been set aside for your 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. Please note that the period scheduled for free time is subject to change depending on local circumstances and opportunities for independent exploration.

Dinner: We'll meet at the hotel to set out for dinner at a local restaurant.

Evening: After walking back to the hotel, rest of the evening is at leisure.

DAY
4
Roman History, Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel Private Visit
Rome
B,D
Hotel dei Mellini

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach or van; 6 miles, 20 minutes ride. Walking up to 4 miles throughout the day. Extended standing during museum visit. Unavoidable steps/stairs.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We will be joined in the hotel meeting room by a history professor who will begin to unravel the multiple layers of Roman history we have observed during our explorations.

Lunch: On your own to enjoy the local fare of your choice. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Afternoon: Free time. Take this opportunity see and do what interests you most in the early afternoon. Later in the afternoon, we will set out from the hotel and ride to the Vatican for an early dinner.

Dinner: At a restaurant near the Vatican Museums.

Evening: Next, we will enjoy one of the most exciting highlights of our program. We will board vans or a coach and to the Vatican Museums for a privileged private visit after regular closing hours to view selected collections of the museum and the Sistine Chapel, one of the foremost artistic achievements in human history. Michelangelo’s struggles with the pope who commissioned him, Paul III, have been told and re-told in numerous books and movies. Through his exceptional talent and sheer stamina, Michelangelo created what has been called a “shrine of the theology of the human body.” Note: Our allotted time is two hours along a specified route that includes the Gallery of Maps, Hall of Tapestries, and the Stanze di Raffaello (Raphael Rooms) adorned with impressive frescoes. At 9:15 p.m., we will ride back to the hotel by motorcoach. There are 26 sections of the Vatican Museums. If you wish to see more, please plan to attend during free time while we are in Rome. Note that the visit does not include St. Peter's Basilica.

DAY
5
Borghese Gallery, Free Time
Rome
B,D
Hotel dei Mellini

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach or van. Walking up to 3 miles throughout the day; 500 feet from drop-off point at Borghese Gallery to museum entrance; gravel paths, steps down to ticket office, up to entrance; marble tile flooring. Stairs to second floor picture gallery; small elevator (3-person capacity) for disabled visitors.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: From the hotel, we will board a motorcoach or van and ride to the Borghese Gallery where we have a reserved entrance time. A local expert will lead our exploration. The Borghese Gallery is one of the finest art museums in Europe, distinguished by its collection of ancient sculpture and paintings from the Italian Baroque era. The Villa Borghese that houses the collection was built from 1613-1616 and remained in the hands of the Borghese family until it was acquired by the Italian government in 1902. The art collection was gathered primarily by Pope Paul V, formerly Camillo Borghese, and his nephew, Cardinal Scipione Borghese, in the 17th Century. The family were not only collectors, but patrons of the arts who commissioned many works. Among the artists represented are Bernini, Canova, Caravaggio, Raphael, and Titian, to name but a few. Note: The museum strictly limits the number of attendees each day; groups are allotted no more than two hours. The museum does not permit taking any kinds of photos or videos. We will ride back to the hotel after our field trip.

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like. If you wish to stay on in the museum, there is a sandwich bar and café. The museum is set in the Borghese Gardens, a large public park with paths for pleasant strolls. You can exit the park at the gate that leads to Via Veneto, the boulevard famous in the 1960s for its elegant cafés and shops.

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: We'll set out from the hotel on foot to a local restaurant.

Evening: Walking back to the hotel, rest of the evening is at leisure. Prepare for check-out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
6
Train to Florence, Renaissance Art
Florence
B,L
Hotel Berchielli

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach and train.170 miles, 1.5 hours. Walking up to 3 miles over uneven terrain at the winery and stone urban sidewalks in the city.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: The bags will be loaded onto a van and delivered to the hotel. After checking out of the hotel, we will board a motorcoach to Roma Termini, the main train station of Rome from where we will board a high-speed train to Florence.

Lunch: When we arrive in Florence we'll walk to a restaurant on our way to the hotel.

Afternoon: Continuing our walk to the hotel we'll check in and have some time to freshen up and relax before our next activity. We will gather in the hotel meeting room for a presentation by an art historian on medieval and Renaissance art in preparation for our self-directed field trip to the Uffizi Gallery.

Dinner: On your own to sample local fare. The Group Leader will have suggestions for restaurants in the vicinity of the hotel.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
7
Accademia, Tuscan Farm Lunch
Florence
B,D
Hotel Berchielli

Activity note: Getting on/off motorcoach. 7 miles, 20 minutes ride. Walking up to 4 miles, extended periods of standing; uneven stone streets and sidewalks. Unavoidable steps/stairs.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We will walk to the Accademia — Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze — for an onsite lecture focusing 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.

Lunch: On your own.

Afternoon: We'll meet at the appointed time at the nearby Piazza San Marco meeting point to board a motorcoach and head for the hills above the city to a medieval village and farm. Weather permitting we can explore the olive groves and enjoy the view of the city below.

Dinner: At the farm restaurant.

Evening: Returning to the hotel by motorcoach, the rest of the evening is at leisure.

DAY
8
Free Time, Self-guided Visit Uffizi
Florence
B,L
Hotel Berchielli

Activity note: Walking up to 4 miles throughout the day; uneven urban sidewalks, streets paved in stone.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We'll set out on foot for our exclusive field trip to walk through the Vasari Corridor that connects the Palazzo Vecchio with the Palazzo Pitti across the river. This enclosed private passageway allowed members of the Medici to move about undetected and unbothered between their seat of government, a local church, and their private residence. After years of closure for critical refurbishment, the Corridor has been reopened as an expansion of the Uffizi, housing an impressive collection of self-portraits along its half-mile path.

Lunch: At a neighborhood restaurant.

Afternoon: We will walk together to the Uffizi for our reserved entrance to the Gallery. We will enter together as a group, passing the security check before beginning our self-directed field trip. Everyone will be free to see what interests each of us most at our own pace. The Uffizi Gallery 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. We will find many recognizable masterpieces, including Leonardo da Vinci’s “Annunciation,” Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” and “Primavera,” Michelangelo’s “Holy Family,” some Titians, 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 to get a refreshment and rest.

Dinner: On your own.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
9
Transfer to Venice, Welcome to Venice, Musical Performance
Venice
B,L
Hotel Giorgione

Activity note: Getting on/off a high-speed train, approximately 2 hours. Getting on/off a vaporetto (public transportation vessel); expect some wave movement. Walking up to 3 miles throughout the day; uneven stone paved pedestrian only streets and alleys. The city of canals is all pedestrian; bridges spanning minor canals have ramps or stairs.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We’ll check out of the hotel and deposit 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 ride to Florence Santa Maria Novella station and board the high-speed train, then sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenic countryside on the ride to Venice. Upon arrival, the Group Leader will distribute passes for the vaporetto that we will hop aboard and begin our trip along the Grand Canal. Along the way, we will see grand palazzi, bridges, churches, and markets. We will get off at Ca’ d’Oro, the stop closest to the hotel, then take a short walk to the hotel, drop off any hand luggage, and walk straight to the restaurant for lunch.

Lunch: At a restaurant close to the hotel.

Afternoon: We will walk back to the hotel, check in to our rooms, and have some time to freshen up and relax. At approximately 4:00 p.m., we will gather in the lobby and set out on a neighborhood walk with our Group Leader to see the location of ATMs, pharmacies, stores, and vaporetto stops in the area around the hotel. Returning to the hotel, we will gather in the meeting room where a local expert will give us an overview of Venice.

Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Evening: We will set out to attend a musical performance — concert or recital — from current offerings. Our program was planned far in advance when details of performances were not available. When confirmed, the information will be included in the final schedule provided onsite.

DAY
10
Ducal Palace, Gondola Ride, Free Time, St. Mark’s Basilica
Venice
B,D
Hotel Giorgione

Activity note: Getting on/off a vaporetto and gondola; assistance offered getting on/off gondola Walking up to 4 miles throughout the day, extended standing during field trips. Bridges to cross; some with ramps, some with steps. No elevators in historic buildings.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: With our Group Leader, we will hop on a vaporetto to reach St. Mark’s Square where a local expert will lead our exploration of the Piazza San Marco and Palazzo Ducale. Doges were the leaders of Venice, elected for life from among an aristocratic elite, with substantial temporal power as chief magistrates. What became known as “La Serenissima” — the most Serene Republic of Venice — was in reality anything but unless one was among the aristocratic elite. Even then, people were not safe from the network of official spies, the CIA of their day. The Doge’s official residence was the Palazzo Ducale, which included not only grand living quarters but also government offices, opulent ceremonial chambers for the Great Council, courtrooms, and a jail. Those convicted of crimes walked from the courtroom to prison across the Bridge of Sighs, so called because prisoners sighed knowing it was their last glimpse of light and air. Next, weather permitting, we will take a gondola ride through back canals to see Venice from a different point of view.

Lunch: On your own to sample local fare.

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.

Dinner: At a restaurant in the vicinity of the hotel.

Evening: We will enjoy a special night visit to St. Mark’s Basilica. Our Study Leader will take us through the mosaic-clad symbol of Venice that points to its Byzantine origins. The Basilica is named for the evangelist St. Mark to house his supposed relics, taken from Egypt by Venetian merchants in 828 CE. Our local expert will point out the amazing features in this symbol of Venetian wealth and power such as 43,000 square feet covered in brilliant, gilded, glass mosaics and adorned with extraordinary images by great artists from the history of Christianity. The Basilica will be open exclusively for our Road Scholar group. We’ll also visit the crypt that sits under sea level. Special lights create a magical atmosphere and bring alive the shimmering mosaics laid in 1071 by artists from Constantinople. We will then take the vaporetto from San Marco to the stop nearest the hotel. Those who wish to walk back are welcome to do so.

DAY
11
Guggenheim Collection, Free Time
Venice
B,D
Hotel Giorgione

Activity note: Getting on/off a vaporetto. Walking up to 4 miles throughout the day; narrow crowded alleys, bridges, uneven pavement. Bridges to cross; some with ramps, some with steps. No elevators in historic buildings; unavoidable stairs/steps.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We will walk from the hotel and take the vaporetto to the Accademia stop for an expert-led visit of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, one of Europe’s premier small museums devoted to modern art. Peggy Guggenheim was the daughter of multi-millionaire Benjamin Guggenheim, who perished on the Titanic. After becoming part of American expatriate society in Europe, she met and mingled with artists and intellectuals of the day, first in Paris and then London before returning to the United States. She was an active art dealer as well as a collector, giving some artists the support they needed to gain public recognition. One of her protégés was Jackson Pollock. She eventually returned to Europe and settled in Venice in a palazzo on the Grand Canal where she held exhibitions of her exceptional collection. The museum displays some of the best examples of works by artists such as Braque, Calder, Giacometti, Kandinsky, Magritte, Miro, Mondrian, Picasso, Pollock, Rothko, and many other pioneers of modern art.

Lunch: On your own.

Afternoon: Free Time

Dinner: From the hotel we will set out together on foot for our farewell dinner at a local restaurant. Recap your adventures and share your favorite memories.

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

DAY
12
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. Roll bags to the taxi dock close to the hotel. At the dock, bags will be loaded onto the boat. Ride is 1/2 hour. Bags will be unloaded at the airport dock. Airport water transportation wing is a few steps from boat to dock. Follow signs the main terminal. Carts available or use moving walkway.

Breakfast: At the hotel (depending on departure times). For those with an early departure, a boxed continental breakfast will be provided. 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!






Important registration tip:
If you want to attend the live lecture, please do not wait until the last minute to enroll.
If you enroll after a lecture is complete, we’ll send you a recording of the event.