April 29 - May 10, 2015
A sweep through Italy from Rome, to the Amalfi Coast, Puglia, Tuscany and Cinque Terra. This is a trip for women who adore Italy and want the most of it squeezed out of each Italian day. We cover food and wine centers, ancient Rome and hilltop Tuscan villages, jet setters' Capri and pre-historic areas of 'the boot' of Italy: Puglia. Ancient villages, farmhouse restaurants, dramatic coastlines and just a tad of time for shopping. Ceramics? Coral? Leather? Jewelry?
Day 1 - Wednesday April 29: ARRIVE ROME
Arrive today in Rome. Transfer to your hotel is provided at 1 pm. The balance of the day is at leisure. We’ll get together this evening for a light dinner in a nearby restaurant. (D)
Hotel Empire Palace 4* or similar
Day 2 - Thursday April 30: ROME-NAPLES-POMPEII-SORRENTO
This morning, depart by private coach for Naples. Upon arrival in Naples, our local guide will take us for a walking tour of the historical center to admire the PIAZZA DEL PLEBISCITO, ROYAL PALACE, GALLERY OF UMBERTO I, and the SAN CARLO OPERA HOUSE.
From Naples, we will continue to POMPEII, and enjoy a short visit to a coral and cameo factory. Lunch will be at a local restaurant, followed by a visit to the excavations of this ancient Roman city. Pompeii was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvio in 79BC and buried under 6 to 20 feet of ash and stones. Proceed to SORRENTO, a charming town on the Sorrentine Peninsula, famous for the cultivation of oranges, lemons and olives. Dinner and overnight at the hotel. (BLD) Hotel Vesuvio 4* or similar
Day 3 - Friday May 1: SORRENTO - CAPRI - SORRENTO
After breakfast depart for the island of Capri. We will board the ferry and arrive in MARINA GRANDE. Once on the island, we will visit the BLUE GROTTO (weather permitting), the AUGUSTUS GARDENS and stop at the famous "Piazzetta." (etta is an affectionate reference to the small size of the Piazza)
A Minibus will take us up to ANACAPRI. After lunch in Anacapri, we return to Marina Grande where we board the ferry for the transfer back to Sorrento. Dinner and overnight at the hotel. (BLD)
Day 4 - Saturday May 2: SORRENTO - CASTEL DEL MONTE - CASTELLANA CAVES - NOCI (Puglia)
Depart for APULIA after breakfast this morning. Along the way we visit CASTEL DEL MONTE, with its imposing octagonal castle with eight octagonal towers at each side, built in 1250 by the emperor Federico II, on a hill that dominates the entire valley.
There will be time at leisure for lunch. The journey then continues to the CASTELLANA CAVES, discovered in 1938. The Grottos of Castellana are one of the most important attractions of Puglia. The tour winds along a distance of 2 miles, a unique guided tour of the caves, some more than 196 feet deep with an amazing scenario made of stalactites, stalagmites, concretions, incredible shapes, and canyons. There are caves with fantastic calcifications and amazing colors that excite the imagination. Later, depart for NOCI. Dinner and overnight at the Hotel. (BD)
Hotel Cavaliere 4* or similar
Day 5 - Sunday May 3: NOCI - LECCE - OSTUNI - ALBEROBELLO - NOCI
Today's tour begins in LECCE, famous for baroque arts and architecture developed between the end of the 16th century and the first half of the 17th century. During the tour admire the rich and beautiful decoration of the S.Oronzo church, the BASILICA OF SANTA CROCE and the CELESTINI PALACE and the ROMAN AMPHITHEATRE.
The tour will continue to the village of OSTUNI, also called "white town" because of its white walls and white painted houses. Lunch is at leisure. In the afternoon, continue to ALBEROBELLO, the town of the "TRULLI" that is part of the UNESCO Heritage List. The trulli are typical houses with a cone roof, used as homes and to store farmers' utensils. Return to the hotel in Noci. Dinner and overnight at the hotel. (BD)
Day 6 - Monday May 4: NOCI - MATERA - ROME
Depart this morning for MATERA. This town is internationally known for the "SASSI" (stones), which originated from a prehistoric (troglodyte) settlement, and are suspected to be the first settlements in Italy. The Sassi are houses in the tuff rock itself, which is characteristic of the Basilicata & Apulia regions. One of the peculiarities of this ancient city is that there is a great similarity with the ancient sites in and around Jerusalem. This caught the eye of film directors and movie studios and the Sassi were the set of various films such as "The Gospel according to St. Matthew"(Pasolini 1964), "King David" (Bruce Beresford 1985), "The Passion of the Christ" (Gibson 2004) and the " Nativity story" (Hardwicke 2006). Matera is also part of the UNESCO Heritage List. There is time to enjoy a snack in Matera, before departing for Rome. Arrive in Rome and overnight at the hotel. (B)
Hotel Empire Palace 4* or similar
Day 7 - Tuesday May 5: ROME
The day is at leisure to explore the city on your own. Optional full or half day tours of Rome are available. (B)
Day 8 -Wednesday May 6: ROMA-MONTEPULCIANO-PIENZA -SIENA
Today we begin a delightful trip through the rolling hills of the Chianti Region. We will reach the hilltop town of MONTEPULCIANO, an ancient village rich with medieval and Renaissance buildings and famous for producing one of the oldest wines of Italy, the "Nobile di Montepulciano". We will stop for a visit to a wine cellar and experience a tasting of wines and local products like ham, cheese, and salami.
Proceed to PIENZA, the Renaissance town built under Pope Pius II and also well known for its pecorino cheese. The tour will proceed to SIENA, where we will enjoy a visit of the old city centre. Walk along the medieval streets and admire the splendid palaces. The sightseeing tour will end in the Piazza del Campo with its spectacular Cathedral. This is one of the most beautiful squares in the world and site of the famous 600-year-old horse-race, called "Il Palio". Dinner and overnight at the hotel. (BD) Hotel Garden 4* or similar
Day 9 - Thursday May 7: SIENA-SAN GIMIGNANO-TAVERNELLE-CHIANTI AREA- LUCCA - PISA-LA SPEZIA
After breakfast at the hotel, depart for SAN GIMIGNANO, a tiny city that has remained intact through the centuries; situated on a hilltop and famous for its numerous towers, frescoes and other art treasures. We will then proceed to Tavernelle Val di Pesa, located within the CHIANTI CLASSICO "Gallo Nero" region, where we will make a stop at the farmhouse LA TANCIA to enjoy an excellent wine tasting with a light lunch. The tour continues on to LUCCA, where we have free time. Our expert tour leader will also take us for a pleasant walk into the enchanting historical center to admire the Anfiteatro Square, the Guinigi Tower, the San Martino Dome and local antique shops.
In the early afternoon, we will then proceed to PISA. Upon arrival we will take a walking tour of the Piazza dei Miracoli, with its famous Leaning Tower (exterior visit), The Baptistery (exterior visit) and other beautiful monuments. Depart to LA SPEZIA. Dinner and overnight at the hotel. (BLD) Hotel NH La Spezia 4* or similar
Day 10 - Friday May 8: LA SPEZIA-PORTOVENERE-GOLFO DEI POETI - CINQUE TERRE - LA SPEZIA
After breakfast, depart by boat for an unforgettable day dedicated to the discovery of one of the most amazing and enchanting landscape in the world. "CINQUE TERRE," (five villages ) is an area suspended between sea and land, hanging from sheer cliffs surrounded by hills and vineyards. We enter into a little piece of heaven. By touring the coastline by boat, we admire this amazing landscape from the seaside, as if in a postcard.
During the tour, the boat will reach Portovenere and all the villages. We will be able to stop and visit at leisure.
PORTOVENERE: Located on the Gulf of Poets, Portovenere is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its picturesque harbor is lined with brightly colored houses, while narrow medieval streets lined with shops lead up the hill from the ancient city gate to the castle.
RIOMAGGIORE: Caught between two steep terraced hills descending in steep cliffs to the sea, the ancient village of Riomaggiore strikes visitors with its delightfully colored houses built vertically.
If you stop in Riomaggiore, you can reach Manarola through an unforgettable walking path along the coast called, "VIA DELL'AMORE".
MANAROLA: Built on a high rock over 200 feet above sea level, it is one of the most charming and romantic villages. The tiny harbor features a boat ramp, picturesque multicolored houses facing the sea and a tiny piazza with seafood restaurants.
CORNIGLIA: Corniglia is an ancient Roman village that has a long and rich agricultural tradition. The village is surrounded on three sides by vineyards and terraces. Its architecture is closer to that of a rural inland village than that of a coastal village.
VERNAZZA: The small fishing village Vernazza is probably the most characteristic of the Cinque Terre and is classified as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. It is surrounded by very steeply terraced olive groves, which are said to produce some of the finest olive oil in the country.
MONTEROSSO: It is the largest of the five coastal villages. Its amazing beaches, its beautiful reefs and the sea's crystal clear waters, make this small village one of the most hospitable of the Ligurian Riviera.
Once in Monterosso we will board the train from Monterosso and arrive in La Spezia. Dinner and overnight at the hotel. (BD)
Day 11 - Saturday May 9: LA SPEZIA- CARRARA MARBLE CAVES - MONTECARLO DI LUCCA- ROME
After breakfast at the hotel, the tour takes us to CARRARA for a visit of the impressive marble quarries carved deep into the mountain. This is where Michelangelo obtained the raw material to create his superb masterpieces. At the quarry museum see ancient tools, sculptures and the quarryman's house.
Continue to MONTECARLO DI LUCCA, a lovely town located in the hills around Lucca. This area is ideal for the production of top quality wine and extra virgin olive oil. We will stop and visit a farmhouse where the owners will have us taste delicious Tuscan food specialties, from olive oil to cheese, to bread and wine and of course pasta, which is paired with different wines. Depart for Rome and arrive in the evening. (B)
Hotel Empire Palace 4* or similar
Day 12 - Sunday May 10: DEPART ROME
You will be transferred to Rome Airport at 9:00 am for your onward flight.