Seasoned tour leaders Len and Mary Friesen are inviting you to experience another one of their favourite places—Italy! See some of the wonders of our world, including the Colosseum in Rome and St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. Wander the canals of Venice, or as the Friesens call it, “The St. Petersburg of the South.” Learn about Julius Caesar, St. Peter, St. Francis of Assisi, the Poor Sisters of Clare, Michelangelo, Mussolini, and pirates of the Mediterranean—among others. On this tour, you’ll gain a better understanding of the forces that have shaped so much of human activity over the centuries, from Roman civilization, to the Catholic faith, to the Renaissance. Find out why Italy is called the country of Romance—a word that literally means “in the footsteps of Rome”. This well-paced tour includes opportunities to explore on your own and lots of time to stop, look, listen, and taste. Travel will be on foot and by train or other public transit—so you can mingle with the locals. The Friesens have been to Italy several times and have curated this tour of some the best parts of the country. Len is a history professor at Wilfrid Laurier University and Mary is an educator and special education consultant; together they have led several tours that combine learning and leisure.
Italy: Bella Terra
Thursday, April 4 Rome
Arrive in Rome after a day of travelling. Greet your tour leaders and gather with your travel companions for a welcome dinner and tour overview at your hotel.
Friday, April 5 Rome
This morning, take a guided tour of some of Rome’s impressive ruins, including the mighty Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Continue your walking tour this afternoon to see the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps. Make a wish at the 86 foot (26.3 metres) high Trevi Fountain, one of the most famous baroque fountains in the world. Pause on the Spanish Steps to overlook the city from this butterfly-shaped staircase. After dinner at the hotel, rest or stroll the city streets by night with Len and Mary.
Saturday, April 6 Rome
The UNESCO World Heritage site of Vatican City is rich in culture and history. See the renowned city as well as St. Peter’s Basilica—the largest church in the world. Explore the city on your own this afternoon, or join Len and Mary for a walk which may include touring Trastevere, a district of narrow streets and ancient churches. If you’d rather, find a spot in a local café or piazza (city square) and watch modern day Romans going about their business.
Sunday, April 7 Assisi
Enjoy the scenery and chat with fellow travellers on a train bound for Assisi. After dinner at a local restaurant, spend the evening resting, or explore the city on foot alongside with the Friesens. Incredibly, this beautiful hillside town has been preserved to look much as it did in St. Francis’s time.
Monday, April 8 Assisi
As a group, spend the morning at the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi—an important pilgrimage destination for people touched by the life and writings of the 12th century Catholic friar. Dine near the ancient Roman ruins of the Central Piazza, then discover more of Assisi at your leisure. If you’d rather, you can take a guided walk to the Basilica of St. Clare with Len and Mary. Along the way, learn about the Order of the Poor Clares, or ascend the heights of St. Francis’s hermitage.
Tuesday, April 9 Florence
If time permits, return to the Basilica of St. Francis for a final visit in the morning. Board a direct train to Florence and enjoy another relaxing train ride across the Italian countryside. Dine at your hotel upon arrival. Get acquainted with the city on an evening walkabout and receive an overview of the next few days with your tour leaders.
Wednesday, April 10 Florence
Immerse yourself in the art of Italian Renaissance painters, including Botticelli, Giotto, Cimabue, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael at the Uffizi Gallery. A knowledgeable local guide will give you insight into the works of these and other Italian painters. After lunch near the Piazza della Signoria, investigate the city of Florence on foot. See the Ponte Vecchio, the beautiful Santa Maria Duomo Cathedral, and the intriguing octagonally shaped, marble-clad Baptistry of San Giovanni, a church from the 4th or 5th century which is believed to have been built on the site of an even more ancient Roman place of worship. If you choose, take part in an evening visit to Piazzale Michelangelo for stunning, panoramic views of Florence.
Thursday, April 11 Florence
Tour Florence Cathedral, Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze (with Michelangelo’s incomparable “David”) and other architectural wonders of this culturally rich city. In the afternoon, get to know the city a little better—browse the shops, or sit in a café and marvel at the renaissance beauty of Florence, Italy.
Friday, April 12 Venice
After a final few hours in Florence, travel on to Venice. Begin your afternoon with a leisurely cruise down the canals with a guide pointing out the sights as you sail through this beautiful UNESCO Heritage city.
Saturday, April 13 Venice
On your last day in this lovely country, explore St. Mark’s Square and the Basilica. Climb the steps of the Campanile in the Piazza to see Venice from above. With suggestions from Len and Mary, discover some of Venice’s many canals and bridges (including the Rialto bridge and nearby market), or some of the city’s piazzas. This evening, share favourite memories of your tour over dinner at a local restaurant.
Sunday, April 14
Depart for North America.
Post-tour extension: Cinque Terre
Join Len and Mary for three days in the glorious Cinque Terre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with five ancient seaside villages on the Italian Riviera. Set amidst lemon groves and a rugged coastline that tumbles into the sea, and with quaint narrow streets, the Cinque Terre is a walker’s paradise.
Sunday, April 14 Venice to the Cinque Terre
Travel by train from Venice to the Cinque Terre (or “Five Lands”). En route, hear stories of Pisa as you pass through this famous city, and see the chalk white cliffs of the most famous marble quarry in the world: Carerra, the source of Michelangelo’s David and countless other monuments. Settle into Monterosso al Mare, the only village with a beach and beachside promenade.
Monday, April 15 A Walking Tour from Monterosso to Corniglia
Today, see three of the five villages as you walk from Monterosso to the ancient fishing village of Vernazza where you’ll have lunch. From there, head to the mountain-top village of Corniglia (the only one of the villages not on the sea). Relax on the train back to your base in Monterosso for a leisurely evening overlooking the waters of the Ligurian Sea.
Tuesday, April 16 A Walking Tour From Corniglia to Riomaggiore.
This morning, take the slow area train back to Corniglia and continue your walks through the south end of the Cinque Terre. Go first to Manarola, perhaps the oldest of the villages. From there it is a short walk to the final village of Riomattiore, from which you will take the slow train back to Monterosso. At some point today you will stop at an ancient square for Italian coffee and sweets, explore an ancient church and narrow streets, and savour lunch overlooking this World Heritage Site. See lemon groves on almost every hillside.
Wednesday, April 17 Monterosso to Milan
Depart from the Cinque Terre this morning, but your trip is not over as you head by train for Milan. Tour the Duomo (Cathedral), one of the greatest Gothic churches in the world. You’ll also take the “Lift” which will allow you to walk on the roof. Enjoy a final meal together in the heart of ancient Milan.
Thursday, April 18
Say farewell to your fellow travellers as you board your flights for home.
For further information, please contact us. We would be happy to be of assistance.