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Italy

It is easy to understand why Verdi once said "You may have the universe if I may have Italy". Home not only to the great treasures of ancient Rome and the Renaissance, Italy is also the birthplace of La Dolce Vita. Add to this the great archaeological treasures of Pompeii and Herculaneum and the stunning beauty of the Amalfi Coast, and few would argue with the great composer. Our range of itineraries mean that you can explore all that this magnificent country has to offer: from the canals of Venice to the monumental grandeur of Imperial Rome.

The Mosaics of Aquileia

Trieste, Italy
Half Day
Until 452 AD Aquileia was one of the largest and wealthiest cities in the known world, with a population of over 100,000, until it was sacked and destroyed by Attila the Hun during his last attempt at conquering Rome before death, forcing the survivors to flee to the nearby lagoons of the north Adriatic coast and paving the way for modern Venice.

Until 452 AD Aquileia was one of the largest and wealthiest cities in the known world, with a population of over 100,000, until it was sacked and destroyed by Attila the Hun during his last attempt at conquering Rome before death, forcing the survivors to flee to the nearby lagoons of the north Adriatic coast and paving the way for modern Venice.

During the Middle Ages Aquileia rose again as a Christian outpost. Its first church was built in the 4th-century and was overlaid by a flat-roofed basilica in 1031, which gradually evolved into a more Romanesque-Gothic structure. Between the 11th and 14th-centuries, a magnificent mosaic at the centre of the nave was completely covered over by plain flooring, until the beginning of the 20th-century when it was rediscovered during renovations.

This vast mosaic covers 760 square metres and is cordoned off today, but visitors can still get close enough to admire its incredible decoration, including a boatload of angels catching different species of fish, representing the people of the world being saved by the church, as well as many other allegoric animals and portraits of local donors. After exploring the main church, the so-called “Crypt of Frescoes” contains more Paleochristian mosaics and wall decorations depicting scenes from the Old Testament. Then finally, the “Crypt of Excavations” has more mosaics, alongside the archaeological remains of a Roman villa.

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Discovering Trieste

Trieste, Italy
Half Day
From the time of the ancient Romans and the Austro-Hungarian Empire to the fin de siècle of the 19th-century, the Italian seaport of Trieste has always been one of the most unusual cities in Europe.

From the time of the ancient Romans and the Austro-Hungarian Empire to the fin de siècle of the 19th-century, the Italian seaport of Trieste has always been one of the most unusual cities in Europe. Frequently overlooked by visitors due to its relative isolation from the rest of Italy on the eastern side of the Adriatic, Trieste has remained something of a hidden gem and is well worth going off the beaten track to explore.

 

The city centre has a host of highlights, including the Castle of San Giusto, which first broke ground on the site of an ancient Roman settlement in 1468 and took almost two centuries to complete. At the foot of the hill is the largest sea-facing square in Europe, the Piazza dell’Unita, which is dominated by the 19th-century Palazzo del Governo (Government House). The square is also home to several other important monuments, including the 18th-century allegorical Fountain of the Four Continents, which was designed to reflect Trieste’s place as a thriving free port and international trade centre.

 

The neoclassical Stock Exchange is one of the oldest functioning exchanges in the world, while in the old town, the well-preserved ruins of the 1st-century AD Roman amphitheatre is large enough to have seated 6,000 spectators. The 18th-century Canal Grade is highly reminiscent of a Venetian waterway and was once the hub of Trieste’s commercial activity, but today its banks are lined with stylish cafes, theatres and museums. There are also plenty of wonderful churches to see, including a Serb-Orthodox chapel, Jewish Temple, Greek-Orthodox sanctuary and Catholic Cathedral.

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Walking Tour of Venice

Venice, Italy
Half Day Extensive WalkingBoat Ride
Whether it is your first time or fifteenth in Venice, it is easy to get lost amid the labyrinth of bridges, footpaths and waterways, but save that pleasure for later.

Whether it is your first or fifteenth time in Venice, it is easy to get lost amid the labyrinth of bridges, footpaths and waterways, but save that pleasure for later. On this walking tour, a knowledgeable guide will navigate the city for you, uncovering its treasures as he or she shares its tales. Travel by boat down the beautiful Guidecca Canal to the heart of Venice, St Mark’s Square, and disembark at the bustling Riva degli Schiavoni. Stand in the regally proportioned square so famous for its pigeons and pealing bell towers. Sights here include the Campanile and the 15thcentury clock tower where two huge bronze statues strike the hour.

Walk to St Mark's Basilica, a masterpiece of Byzantine architecture, and admire its façade mosaics and golden dome, both superbly restored to their original grandeur. Next, take in the beauty of the Doge's Palace, a 14th-century Gothic masterpiece with pink marble exterior and lacy stone arches. For nearly a thousand years, this was the seat of the Venetian government and the residence of the Republic's elected leader, the Doge. After viewing this sight from outside, you'll have free time to explore the shops and cafes around St Mark's Square, where necklaces of Venetian glass make a treasured souvenir.

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Murano & Burano

Venice, Italy
Half Day Boat Ride
Travel by boat to two islands of the Venetian Lagoon: Murano of glass-making fame, and Burano with its gaily painted fishermen's houses. En route, your guide will provide information, then enjoy independent exploration at each destination.

Travel by boat to two islands of the Venetian Lagoon: Murano of glass-making fame, and Burano with its gaily painted fishermen's houses. En route, your guide will provide information, then enjoy independent exploration at each destination.

Start with a visit to Murano, "the island of glass." In the 13th century the glass factories moved here from the city to prevent fires and by the 15th century this was the leading glassproducing center in Europe, noted especially for its chandeliers. To this day glass-making is the heart of the local economy. You'll have the opportunity to watch a master at work and see why these artisans once enjoyed privileges reserved for the ruling elite, including immunity from prosecution and the right to bear arms. The island's 11th-century Camaldolese Benedictine Monastery of St Michael fostered map making, critical to the era of navigation.

Your next stop, Burano, is actually an archipelago of islands connected by bridges. Stroll along canals lined with brightly painted boats and just-as-colorful houses. While the men fished, the women specialized in delicate lace, and the island was an important trading hub in the 16th century. Today, lace made by the time-consuming traditional methods is highly prized and can be seen in the Lace making Museum. 

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Special Evening Visit to Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista

Venice, Italy
Half Day
San Giovanni Evangelista is one of five mediaeval “Scuola Grandi” Great Schools that once provided charitable and artistic patronage to the people of Venice and played an important part in the complex Venetian social system of its day. This very special event inside its magnificent rooms is exclusive to Voyages to Antiquity and begins with a fascinating guided tour around the complex, after which an apéritif will be served in the pilgrim’s gathering place, the grand Sala delle Colonne (“Hall of Columns”).

San Giovanni Evangelista is one of five mediaeval “Scuola Grandi” Great Schools that once provided charitable and artistic patronage to the people of Venice and played an important part in the complex Venetian social system of its day. This very special event inside its magnificent rooms is exclusive to Voyages to Antiquity and begins with a fascinating guided tour around the complex, after which an apéritif will be served in the pilgrim’s gathering place, the grand Sala delle Colonne (“Hall of Columns”).

 

Founded in 1261, San Giovanni Evangelista is the second oldest scuola in Venice and is famed throughout the Christian world for possessing a piece of the True Cross, which was donated to the school by a French knight and governor of Jerusalem, Philippe de Mézières, in 1369. The arrival of this most Holy Relic transformed the scuola from a confraternity of flagellants into a powerful Renaissance guild capable of commissioning paintings by many important artists, including Gentile Bellini, Vittore Carpaccio and Titian.

 

Most of these works are now on display in the Gallerie dell’Accademies, but San Giovanni is still home to some wonderful pieces, including Domenico Tintoretto’s 17th-century rendition of the Crucifixion, as well as episodes from the life of St John the Evangelist. During your tour you will be able to see Codussi’s magnificent vaulted Scalone Monumentale (Great Staircase), followed by the elegant 18th-century Salone, that was designed by Giorgio Massari to house a series of scenes by Tiepolo from the Book of Revelation. The Sala Dell’Albergo is where the school governors would originally have convened, but it is the Oratory of the Cross, where the piece of the True Cross is kept inside its Gothic reliquary, that is the spiritual and symbolic centre of the scuola.

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Renaissance Urbino

Urbino (Ancona), Italy
Full Day Extensive WalkingUphill Sections
Situated on a hilltop, Urbino is a small town with a big history. This place had a huge influence on Renaissance culture and Urbino’s Ducal Palace is one of the finest buildings of the period. In the fifteenth century, Urbino was ruled by the Montefeltro family, and reached its peak during the reign of the Duke Federico da Montefeltro.

Situated on a hilltop, Urbino is a small town with a big history. This place had a huge influence on Renaissance culture and Urbino’s Ducal Palace is one of the finest buildings of the period. In the fifteenth century, Urbino was ruled by the Montefeltro family, and reached its peak during the reign of the Duke Federico da Montefeltro.

Urbino was also the birthplace of the artist Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio 1483-1520) and your tour includes a visit to the house where he lived up to age of 14. This modest dwelling contains memoirs and artistic furniture of that period. Raphael was born here in 1483 and trained at home at least until the age of 11, when his father died. There is a small mural attributed to the boy painter in one room, but the house is chiefly interesting as an atmospheric 15th-century home/workshop.

Your visit continues to Palazzo Ducale, Italy’s most beautiful Renaissance palace built for Duke Federico da Montefeltro, who ruled Urbino between 1444 and 1482. Today the palace is enriched with a comprehensive library, famous paintings including works by Piero della Francesca, Raphael and Titian and refined architecture.

Another of Urbino’s magnificent buildings is the Duomo built in 1789 on top of a sixthcentury sacred site. Completed in 1604, it was destroyed by an earthquake and then rebuilt. The duomo now has a neo-classical appearance and houses several important artworks, including a painting of the Last Supper by Federico Barocci. The Museo Diocesano has a collection of glass, ceramics, and religious items. After visiting the cathedral there is some free time for lunch on your own in one of Urbino’s many restaurants (you may wish to try Antica Osteria della Stella, an ancient inn that claims to have hosted Raphael and Piero della Francesca) and souvenir shopping.

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Ancient Lecce

Lecce (Brindisi), Italy
Half day
Lecce is a city of outstanding historical and architectural treasures. With its abundance of ancient ruins, Baroque churches and noble palaces carved out of honey-coloured local stone, it is a place that will stay long in the memory.

Lecce is a city of outstanding historical and architectural treasures. With its abundance of ancient ruins, Baroque churches and noble palaces carved out of honey-coloured local stone, it is a place that will stay long in the memory.

Set in the heart of the Salento region on the south-eastern tip of Italy’s “boot”, Lecce was founded in the 5th century BC and was later an important Roman city. The 25,000-seat amphitheatre dating from the 1st century BC in the Piazza St Oronzo is a magnificent legacy of the city’s Roman past and it is here that your tour begins. You will also pass by the Roman column that marks the end of the Appian Way and then continue on to the city centre to discover the remarkable buildings from a later time.

From the 16th to the 18th century, Lecce flourished under a period of great splendour and was duly embellished with Rococo and Baroque monuments. The local limestone was particularly easy to work, making the creation of decorative relief and delicate detail relatively easy and created a style known as Lecce Baroque.

You will visit the Santa Croce Basilica, which is sumptuously decorated and represents the triumph of Baroque art in Lecce. Nearby, admire the impressive façade of the Governor’s Palace (the former monastery of the Celestine monks). Visit one of the finest and most impressive squares in southern Italy – Piazza Duomo.

Explore the elegant streets of Lecce adjacent to the square and you will discover that the typical local crafts of the town, such as papier-mâché or Leccese stone items, are traditional art forms here. The objects created in the artisans’ workshops are crafted according to ancient traditions handed down from generation to generation.

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Paestum

Salerno, Italy
Half Day Archaeological Site
Imagine the surprise of the King of Naples when his 17th-century road project revealed three Greek temples in a state of near perfection amid a malaria-infested swamp. He had discovered Paestum, a major city of classic times, surviving untouched since the fall of the Roman Empire.

Imagine the surprise of the King of Naples when his 17th-century road project revealed three Greek temples in a state of near perfection amid a malaria-infested swamp. He had discovered Paestum, a major city of classic times, surviving untouched since the fall of the Roman Empire.

Drive from the ship to the east-west mountain ridge that acted as a boundary between the colonies of Magna Graecia (Greater Greece) and the indigenous Lucanian people. Mythology credits Jason and the Argonauts with the city’s founding but, more likely if less romantically, the honour belongs to the Greeks who settled here in 600BC, naming the site Poseidonia to honour the god of the seas. The city was occupied by the Lucans in 400BC, but evidence suggests that the two cultures prospered together. In 273BC, the city became a Roman colony and was renamed Paestum. Three exquisite Greek temples, built between 530BC and 460BC, are at the heart of the city and are complemented by magnificent Roman discoveries that include baths, an amphitheatre and the remains of a forum.

We will also visit the site’s museum, where the tomb frescoes, discovered by a local farmer in 1969, are worthy of special note. Thankfully, moist conditions enabled these Greek paintings to survive the centuries without drying and flaking and maintain their colours. The various themes include a banquet attended by male lovers, a spirited chariot race and a diver captured in midplunge. They are among the world’s rare surviving examples of ancient Greek painting.

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Ravello

Salerno, Italy
Half Day Cobbled StreetsUphill Sections
Settle back for a beautiful drive along the legendary Amalfi Coast to magnificent Ravello.

Settle back for a beautiful drive along the legendary Amalfi Coast to magnificent Ravello. From the harbour, the narrow main road winds along sheer cliffs and offers breathtaking panoramas at every hairpin turn. Many consider this the most beautiful drive in the world and it certainly is a fitting prelude to Ravello. Perched 1,150 feet above the Bay of Salerno, the town is a vision of antique towers, graceful arches and flowering gardens that contrast with the rugged surrounding landscape. Its beauty has drawn poets, artists and musicians over the millennia. Boccaccio wrote of Ravello in his Decameron and, more recently, the author Gore Vidal made the town his home.

Our first stop will be at the aristocratic Villa Rufolo, which has hosted Pope Adrian IV and King Robert of Anjou. The 11th-century Arab style structure has a fountain-decked garden that so entranced Wagner he called it "the garden of Klingsor" after the legendary sorcerer and guardian of a magic garden from his opera Parsifal. The terrace is the setting for Ravello's annual music festival. Later, you'll have time to browse Ravello's cafes, shops and such gems as the cathedral's pulpit which features mosaics of lions and parrots in its sumptuous design.

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Pompeii Tour

Sorrento, Italy
Half Day Tender Extensive WalkingArchaeological Site
Discover what many consider to be the world's finest example of an ancient Roman town. The patricians who built their mansions in Pompeii came to escape the turmoil in Rome, but a different sort of violence awaited them in their southern retreats. In 79AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted at 10am and, within three hours, extinguished these affluent communities even as it preserved their remains for our discovery.

The patricians who built their mansions in Pompeii came to escape the turmoil in Rome, but a different sort of violence awaited them in their southern retreats. In 79AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted at 10am and, within three hours, extinguished these affluent communities even as it preserved their remains for our discovery. Begin with a scenic hour drive along the Bay of Naples to Pompeii.

On the walking tour, you will be guided expertly through this spectacular site. Places not to be missed include the aristocratic mansions, temples, theatres, markets and large forum. At every turn, inscriptions bring the hustle and bustle of this ancient city to life: there are notices of wine sales and apartment vacancies, upcoming gladiatorial events in the theatre and political announcements.

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Herculaneum Tour

Sorrento, Italy
Half Day Tender Extensive Walking
A scenic hour drive takes us to Herculaneum which was engulfed by volcanic mud in the same eruption that claimed Pompeii. Fortunately for us, this mud sealed and protected entire buildings: today inlaid marble floors, paintings, mosaics and carbonised woods can all be seen.

A scenic hour drive takes us to Herculaneum which was engulfed by volcanic mud in the same eruption that claimed Pompeii. Fortunately for us, this mud sealed and protected entire buildings: today inlaid marble floors, paintings, mosaics and carbonised woods can all be seen. These range from the sculpture of the Drunken Hercules in the House of the Stags to mosaics of tritons in the city baths. Herculaneum was a wealthier town than Pompeii with an extraordinary density of fine houses, with far more lavish use of coloured marble cladding. The discovery in recent years of some 300 skeletons along the sea shore came as a surprise since it was known that the town itself had been largely evacuated.

Following our visit, we will return to central Sorrento where you have the option of exploring independently or returning to the ship in the company of the guide.

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Pompeii and Naples Archaeological Museum

Sorrento, Italy
Full Day Tender Extensive WalkingLunch IncludedArchaeological Site
The day will begin with a drive along the coast of Sorrento, in the bay of Naples, to the remarkable ruins of Pompeii at the foot of Mount Vesuvius, which dates back to the 6th century BC, until it was engulfed by lava erupting from Vesuvius in August 79AD. From the casts of the bodies of its inhabitants, to the ancient surgical implements and beautiful frescoes, nowhere else gives us such an insight into the lives of the ancients.

The day will begin with a drive along the coast of Sorrento, in the bay of Naples, to the remarkable ruins of Pompeii at the foot of Mount Vesuvius, which dates back to the 6th century BC, until it was engulfed by lava erupting from Vesuvius in August 79AD. From the casts of the bodies of its inhabitants, to the ancient surgical implements and beautiful frescoes, nowhere else gives us such an insight into the lives of the ancients.

During your guided tour here you will be able to admire the luxurious mansions and fabulous art of the wealthy patricians, alongside some more modest homes, as well as the public baths, temples, theatres, markets and huge forum.

Some 15,000 paintings and inscriptions were found here and in nearby Herculaneum, revealing an astonishing similarity with modern times: public notices about wine sales, apartment vacancies and upcoming events, including theatre performances and gladiator fights; political announcements, personal love notes and innuendoes.

Following your guided tour, you will have free time to explore and lunch at a restaurant, before you are driven to Naples Archaeological Museum, one of the most important of its kind in Europe. The core of the displays here are built around the Farnese Collection, including bronze statues, marbles, paintings and furnishings from the sites uncovered in Pompeii and Herculaneum. The museum also contains finds from excavations in Cumae and ancient Campania. Also worthy of note are the so-called Borgia collection of Etruscan and Egyptian relics, and the Santangelo collection of antique coins.

Note: The price of this excursion already allows a credit for the unused half day excursion

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Ostia Antica

Rome, Italy
Half Day
Buried for centuries, this well-preserved archaeological site is far less visited than Pompeii, yet in many ways provides a more complete picture of daily life in the Roman Empire. Ostia Antica was ancient Rome's main port on the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Buried for centuries, this well-preserved archaeological site is far less visited than Pompeii, yet in many ways provides a more complete picture of daily life in the Roman Empire. Ostia Antica was ancient Rome's main port on the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Anco Marzio (640BC to 616BC), the fourth king of Rome, is traditionally named the founder of this city at the mouth "ostia" of the Tiber. At the city's peak, about 100,000 people from all classes and all parts of the Mediterranean lived here until decline began due to silting river, barbarian invasions and malaria. Excavations reveal a hard-working city with apartments, warehouses, bakeries, bars, plus public and religious buildings.

Your tour of the archaeological zone begins at Via delle Tombe, leading to the city gates. Stroll along the Decumanus Maximus, the main road. Visit the Baths of Neptune with beautiful black-and-white mosaics of the god's wife, Amphitrite. Walk to the theater, the Forum and such public buildings as the Capitolium and the Temple of Rome and Augustus. A variety of religious buildings include several temples dedicated to the cult of Mithras, Egyptian and Roman gods, plus a 1st century BC Jewish synagogue and a Christian basilica.

See the large thermal baths, the 20-hole public latrine and the living complex called the House of Diana. The Termopolium with its marble counter where ancient Romans could have a quick lunch features a fresco representing the food on sale. Round out your visit with a stop at the Museum Ostiense, displaying some of the wonderful sculptures and mosaics found at this remarkable site.

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Rome: The Colosseum & St Peter in Chains

Rome, Italy
Half Day
This tour begins at the Flavius Amphitheatre, better known as the Colosseum of Rome, the biggest and most imposing stadium of the ancient Roman world. Built with a series of arches, it remains an extraordinary feat of engineering.

This tour begins at the Flavius Amphitheatre, better known as the Colosseum of Rome, the biggest and most imposing stadium of the ancient Roman world. Built with a series of arches, it remains an extraordinary feat of engineering.

At its peak, the Colosseum could hold an average of 65,000 spectators and once featured a canvas roof to protect the crowds from the sun. First commissioned by Emperor Vespasian of the Flavia family, this huge elliptical amphitheatre was opened by his son Titus in 80AD, during a week-long celebration featuring combats between gladiators and beasts, mock sea battles and executions.

After a guided walk around the site, it’s only a short stroll to the Arch of Constantine. Built in 315AD to honour the first Christian Emperor, the arch is the largest of its kind in existence and spans the site of the ancient Via Triumphalis, the route used by emperors for entering the city in triumph.

From here you, will re-board your coach for the short journey to the Colle Oppio, where you will see some of the remains of Nero’s Residence, known as the Golden House, and the Baths of Titus, before your visit to the Basilica of St. Peter in Chains, famous for the statue of Moses by Michelangelo. Legend has it that one day the great Master said to his statue, “You are so beautiful. Why don’t you speak to me?”

Finally, we will drive to Via della Conciliazione for a glimpse of St Peter’s Basilica and Square.

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Exploring the Vatican

Rome, Italy
Half Day PM Extensive Walking
At the Vatican Museums, you will wander through the fascinating Candelabra Gallery, the Gallery of Tapestries and the Gallery of Maps. Then pass through the magnificent Stanza of Raphael, where in the 16th century the young artist decorated the rooms of Pope Julius II's residence with his masterpieces, including the "School of Athens," depicting Aristotle, Plato and other philosophers.

Enjoy a dazzling visit to what is considered one of the world's most important art collections, the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel.

At the Vatican Museums, you will wander through the fascinating Candelabra Gallery, the Gallery of Tapestries and the Gallery of Maps. Then pass through the magnificent Stanza of Raphael, where in the 16th century the young artist decorated the rooms of Pope Julius II's residence with his masterpieces, including the "School of Athens," depicting Aristotle, Plato and other philosophers.

Your tour will then move to the Vatican's most celebrated building, the Sistine Chapel, where Michelangelo painted the chapel's extraordinary ceiling with nine scenes from Genesis, including the Creation of Man, the Expulsion of Adam and Eve, as well as The Flood.

On the wall behind the main altar, The Last Judgment, painted twenty years later, provides further testament to the artist's genius. Though working against his will and in a medium he disliked (he saw himself as a sculptor), Michelangelo managed to fill the room with masterpieces and left a legacy at which the world can only marvel.

Finally, there will be a visit to St Peter’s Basilica, the most important basilica in the Christian World, where inside an almost unimaginable wealth of art treasures await. The basilica is built on the site of the church where St Peter, the first Pope, is said to be buried. Fronting the basilica is one of Rome’s most famous squares, Bernini’s elliptical Piazza San Pietro, an extraordinary sight punctuated by an Egyptian obelisk and a graceful colonnade.

Note: The price of this excursion already allows a credit for the unused half day excursion

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UNESCO World Heritage Site

Tivoli & the Villa d'Este

Rome, Italy
Half Day Extensive Walking
Among the world's most beautiful gardens, the grounds of the Villa d'Este embody Renaissance culture at its most refined and are a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Among the world's most beautiful gardens, the grounds of the Villa d'Este embody Renaissance culture at its most refined and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Your visit to this remarkable place starts with a drive to Tivoli, a small town in a lovely wooded area on the slopes of the Apennines. The region is rich in caves, waterfalls and legend (a local Sybil prophesied the birth of Jesus). In the hills, opulent villas date to a time when Tivoli was the resort of Roman emperors. Your destination is the 16thcentury Villa d'Este, famed for its spectacular gardens, which feature the Avenue of the Hundred Fountains, the Rotunda of Cypresses and an Organ Fountain that still makes music. With their grottoes, terraces and water displays, these gardens had a profound influence on European mannerist and baroque style garden design.

Originally a Benedictine convent, the palace was the residence of the exiled Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, governor of Tivoli from 1550. He envisioned a garden set amid hanging cliffs and enlisted the painter-architectarchaeologist Pirro Ligorio to design them. Their innovative construction and the series of terraces upon terraces call to mind the hanging gardens of Babylon. The Aniene River laces the property and the control of its waters, along with the gravity-powered fountains evoke the engineering skill of the Romans.

Following your visit, enjoy free time to wander through the colourful open air market offering souvenirs, fruit, and a variety of local products.

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The Churches of Florence

Florence (Livorno), Italy
Full Day Extensive WalkingCobbled Streets
The fascinating city of Florence is a place that engulfs the senses and stretches your mind at every turn. This is the birthplace of the Renaissance and was home to many of Italy’s artistic giants, all of whom left behind an astonishing legacy of art waiting to be discovered.

The fascinating city of Florence is a place that engulfs the senses and stretches your mind at every turn. This is the birthplace of the Renaissance and was home to many of Italy’s artistic giants, all of whom left behind an astonishing legacy of art waiting to be discovered.

Your tour begins at the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, more commonly known as the Duomo because of its magnificent dome. The fourth largest church in the world, the cathedral was designed by Cambio in 1296, but it was the great Renaissance architect Brunelleschi who gave it its crowning glory, the dome.

Other highlights of the Piazza del Duomo include the 14th-century Gothic Campanile or bell tower, designed by Giotto, and the Romanesque Baptistery featuring Ghiberti’s Bronze Doors decorated with scenes from the life of Christ. Then there is free time to relax over lunch on your own.

Then we will continue to Piazza della Signoria, the most impressive square in Florence and the political centre of the city since the 14th century.

Surrounding the square are the Palazzo Vecchio – a municipal hall begun in 1299 – and the 14th-century Gothic Loggia dei Lanzi. Built at the end of the 14th century, it was once the Assembly Hall, before becoming the Guardroom of the Lanzi (foot soldiers). In the Piazza are the Fountain of the Neptune by Ammannati and a copy of Michelangelo’s David.

Finally, the tour will finish at Santa Croce, Italy’s largest and most famous Franciscan Gothic church, where many important Italians are entombed, including Michelangelo, Galileo, Rossini and Machiavelli.

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Renaissance Florence

Florence (Livorno), Italy
Full Day Extensive WalkingCobbled Streets
Discover the town that gave birth to the Italian Renaissance and view the period's outpouring of art in the renowned Uffizi Museum.

Discover the town that gave birth to the Italian Renaissance and view the period's outpouring of art in the renowned Uffizi Gallery. From the port of Livorno, it is a about an hour and a half drive through the Tuscan hills to Florence where you begin a tour through the history and art of this timeless city.

A highlight of the morning is a visit to the Accademia, Europe's first school of drawing, where Michelangelo's colossal statue of David presides over a rich collection of paintings and sculptures.

Enjoy a guided walking tour past such landmarks as the 10th-century Ponte Vecchio spanning the River Arno. View the Duomo cathedral flanked by Giotto's Bell Tower. So dense is Florence with monuments, every step reveals new marvels. See the Baptistry, where Ghiberti and Donatello competed to design the bronze doors. Admire the Basilica di Santa Croce where Michelangelo and Machiavelli are interred. Pause in Piazza Signoria, in 1497 the site of Fra Savonarola's Bonfire of the Vanities. Then there is free time to relax over lunch on your own.

The centrepiece of this tour is an afternoon visit to the world-renowned Uffizi Gallery. The 16th-century palace, built when Cosimo Medici was the First Grand Duke of Tuscany, houses such Renaissance masterpieces as The Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci, the exquisite Madonnas of Filippo Lippi, and an entire room of Botticellis, including The Birth of Venus. Foreign artists from Rembrandt to Rubens are also represented. Later, savour your impressions on a panoramic drive back to the ship.

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Lucca and Pisa

Pisa & Lucca (Livorno), Italy
Full Day Extensive WalkingCobbled Streets
Enchanting Lucca, situated on the banks of the River Serchio, in the northwest corner of Tuscany, endears itself to everyone who visits. Hidden behind imposing Renaissance walls, its cobbled streets, handsome piazzas and shady promenades make it a perfect destination to explore by foot.

Enchanting Lucca, situated on the banks of the River Serchio, in the northwest corner of Tuscany, endears itself to everyone who visits. Hidden behind imposing Renaissance walls, its cobbled streets, handsome piazzas and shady promenades make it a perfect destination to explore by foot. Always important, this town began life as a Roman colony in 177 BC, and grew in importance to become the provincial capital of Tuscany in the Middle Ages.

This fascinating walking tour will begin with a stroll to the Cathedral of San Martino with its Romanesque façade. Its decorated interior is rich in reliefs, fine sculpture and religious artefacts. Then on to the arena and a series of arches that are the remains of the colossal ancient Roman amphitheatre that once graced the centre of town. You will walk through the “Piazza” and find the Church of San Frediano, founded in the 6th century. Its Romanesque style is a monument to a 12th century restoration project, and its impressive façade features a mosaic depicting Christ and the Apostles. After your tour of Lucca, enjoy some free time for lunch on your own and to explore this picturesque town.

Next, continue by road to Pisa, a city internationally famous for its superb and unusual architecture. Unfortunately, most of Pisa was bombed during World War II, but one section miraculously survived intact: the Piazza del Duomo, now known as the Piazza dei Miracoli because of its remarkable escape from destruction. As you approach the Square of Miracles, the city’s most famous symbol, the precarious Leaning Tower, appears before you. Begun in 1174, the tower started to lean when construction reached the third story. Attempts to make the remaining floors slightly higher on the leaning side only made it worse. Legend says that Pisa’s most illustrious son Galileo (born in 1564) conducted his famous experiments on gravity by dropping metal balls from the top of the 187-foot-high tower.

Next, visit Pisa’s magnificent Cathedral, a Romanesque basilica of white marble that is renowned for its beautifully carved pulpit and paintings and, on the door facing the tower, the Romanesque panels portraying the life of Christ. Admire its famous pulpit designed by Giovanni Pisano, who decorated it with nine biblical reliefs. Enter the lovely Gothic Baptistry and view its marble font under a conical dome and famous organ, noted for its fine echo. Also admire its pulpit, carved by Giovanni’s father, Nicola Pisano.

Then, relax and savour your experience as you return to Livorno.

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Napoleon's Isle of Exile

Elba, Italy
Half Day Uphill Sections
Follow the path of Napoleon Bonaparte as you explore the island where he was exiled from 1814 to 1815. The highlight is a walking tour that visits the Emperor's principal residence.

Follow the path of Napoleon Bonaparte as you explore the island where he was exiled from 1814 to 1815. The highlight is a walking tour that visits the Emperor's principal residence, an elaborate villa overlooking the city, much of it unchanged from when he lived here.

Start your adventure with a scenic drive from Portoferraio, the main town and port, to Golfo Stella. Visit the fishing harbour of Porto Azzuro, dominated by a medieval fortress. Wander the charming streets where shops feature crafts of minerals and crystals mined in Elba's mountains. Continue to Punta delle Grotte, the ruins of a Roman villa, for magnificent views of Portoferraio, which Greek mythology called Argos, port of the Argonauts.

Your walking tour of Portoferraio begins in the Old Town and visits sites of Napoleon's exile. While his stay was short, he left a lasting heritage as you'll see in your visit to Villa dei Mulini with its original art, furniture and library filled with the books he loved, or the San Martin Napoleon Museum. Also visit the first-floor apartment where he stayed when he first arrived on Elba.

On your walk see such landmarks as the star-shaped Fort Stella designed by Cosimo di Medici, the theatre Napoleon built and historic Piazza Cavour.

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Capoliveri and Wine Tasting

Elba, Italy
Half Day
This tour takes you to the village of Capoliveri, followed by the old country farm of “La Chiusa” that is nestled in a vineyard overlooking the ocean. Here you will visit the estate’s cellar to learn how the wine is handled and produced, before tasting some of the farm’s excellent produce.

This tour takes you to the village of Capoliveri, followed by the old country farm of “La Chiusa” that is nestled in a vineyard overlooking the ocean. Here you will visit the estate’s cellar to learn how the wine is handled and produced, before tasting some of the farm’s excellent produce.

Enjoy a delightful drive from the island’s capital of Portoferraio, through some of the most beautiful terrain on this charming island, with panoramic views over the Bays of “Lacona”, “Laconella” and “Golfo Stella”, before arriving in Capoliveri, which has retained much of its gracefully elegant medieval atmosphere and architecture. Here you will have some free time to take a leisurely stroll through the winding streets or browse the town’s quaint shops.

During our drive back to Portoferraio we will stop at “La Chiusa” for a delicious sampling of the local wine, with a light snack of assorted bruschetta, Tuscan salami, cheese and the traditional Italian almond biscuits, cantuccini, which will be served al fresco in a beautiful garden facing the sea.

After enjoying this pleasant stop, we will then resume our drive back to Portoferraio, and return to Aegean Odyssey

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Lucca and Pisa

Florence (Livorno), Italy
Full Day Extensive WalkingCobbled Streets
Enchanting Lucca, situated on the banks of the River Serchio, in the northwest corner of Tuscany, endears itself to everyone who visits. Hidden behind imposing Renaissance walls, its cobbled streets, handsome piazzas and shady promenades make it a perfect destination to explore by foot.

Enchanting Lucca, situated on the banks of the River Serchio, in the northwest corner of Tuscany, endears itself to everyone who visits. Hidden behind imposing Renaissance walls, its cobbled streets, handsome piazzas and shady promenades make it a perfect destination to explore by foot. Always important, this town began life as a Roman colony in 177 BC, and grew in importance to become the provincial capital of Tuscany in the Middle Ages.

This fascinating walking tour will begin with a stroll to the Cathedral of San Martino with its Romanesque façade. Its decorated interior is rich in reliefs, fine sculpture and religious artefacts. Then on to the arena and a series of arches that are the remains of the colossal ancient Roman amphitheatre that once graced the centre of town. You will walk through the “Piazza” and find the Church of San Frediano, founded in the 6th century. Its Romanesque style is a monument to a 12th century restoration project, and its impressive façade features a mosaic depicting Christ and the Apostles. After your tour of Lucca, enjoy some free time for lunch on your own and to explore this picturesque town.

Next, continue by road to Pisa, a city internationally famous for its superb and unusual architecture. Unfortunately, most of Pisa was bombed during World War II, but one section miraculously survived intact: the Piazza del Duomo, now known as the Piazza dei Miracoli because of its remarkable escape from destruction. As you approach the Square of Miracles, the city’s most famous symbol, the precarious Leaning Tower, appears before you. Begun in 1174, the tower started to lean when construction reached the third story. Attempts to make the remaining floors slightly higher on the leaning side only made it worse. Legend says that Pisa’s most illustrious son Galileo (born in 1564) conducted his famous experiments on gravity by dropping metal balls from the top of the 187-foot-high tower.

Next, visit Pisa’s magnificent Cathedral, a Romanesque basilica of white marble that is renowned for its beautifully carved pulpit and paintings and, on the door facing the tower, the Romanesque panels portraying the life of Christ. Admire its famous pulpit designed by Giovanni Pisano, who decorated it with nine biblical reliefs. Enter the lovely Gothic Baptistry and view its marble font under a conical dome and famous organ, noted for its fine echo. Also admire its pulpit, carved by Giovanni’s father, Nicola Pisano.

Then, relax and savour your experience as you return to Livorno.

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UNESCO World Heritage Site

Villa d'Este & Tivoli

Rome, Italy
Half Day Extensive Walking

Among the world's most beautiful gardens, the grounds of the Villa d'Este embody Renaissance culture at its most refined and are a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Your visit to this remarkable place starts with a drive to Tivoli, a small town in a lovely wooded area on the slopes of the Apennines. The region is rich in caves, waterfalls and legend (a local Sybil prophesied the birth of Jesus). In the hills, opulent villas date to a time when Tivoli was the resort of Roman emperors. Your destination is the 16th-century Villa d'Este, famed for its spectacular gardens, which feature the Avenue of the Hundred Fountains, the Rotunda of Cypresses and an Organ Fountain that still makes music. With their grottoes, terraces and water displays, these gardens had a profound influence on European mannerist and baroque style garden design.

Originally a Benedictine convent, the palace was the residence of the exiled Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, governor of Tivoli from 1550. He envisioned a garden set amid hanging cliffs and enlisted the painter-architectarchaeologist Pirro Ligorio to design them. Their innovative construction and the series of terraces upon terraces call to mind the hanging gardens of Babylon. The Aniene River laces the property and the control of its waters, along with the gravity-powered fountains evoke the engineering skill of the Romans.

Following your visit, enjoy free time to wander through the colorful open air market offering souvenirs, fruit, and a variety of local products.

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Pompeii and Herculaneum

Sorrento, Italy
Full Day Tender Extensive WalkingLunch IncludedArchaeological Site
The patricians who built their mansions in Pompeii and Herculaneum came to escape the turmoil in Rome, but a different sort of violence awaited them in their southern retreats. *Note: Only available on our June 15 sailing.

The patricians who built their mansions in Pompeii and Herculaneum came to escape the turmoil in Rome, but a different sort of violence awaited them in their southern retreats.

In 79AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted at 10am and, within three hours, extinguished these affluent communities even as it preserved their remains for our discovery. Begin with a scenic hour drive along the Bay of Naples to Pompeii. On the walking tour, you will be guided expertly through this spectacular site. Places not to be missed include the aristocratic mansions, temples, theatres, markets and large forum.

At every turn, inscriptions bring the hustle and bustle of this ancient city to life: there are notices of wine sales and apartment vacancies, upcoming gladiatorial events in the theatre and political announcements. Enjoy a typical Italian lunch at a local restaurant (included in this tour).

In the afternoon, we head to Herculaneum which was engulfed by volcanic mud in the same eruption that claimed Pompeii. This mud sealed and protected entire buildings: today inlaid marble floors, paintings, mosaics and carbonised woods can all be seen. These range from the sculpture of the Drunken Hercules in the House of the Stags to mosaics of tritons in the city baths.

Following our visit, we will return to central Sorrento where you have the option of exploring independently or returning to the ship in the company of the guide.

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UNESCO World Heritage Site

Renaissance Urbino

Ancona, Italy
Full day Extensive Walking
Situated on a hilltop, Urbino is a small town with a big history. This place had a huge influence on Renaissance culture and Urbino’s Ducal Palace is one of the finest buildings of the period. In the fifteenth century, Urbino was ruled by the Montefeltro family, and reached its peak during the reign of the Duke Federico da Montefeltro.

Situated on a hilltop, Urbino is a small town with a big history. This place had a huge influence on Renaissance culture and Urbino’s Ducal Palace is one of the finest buildings of the period. In the fifteenth century, Urbino was ruled by the Montefeltro family, and reached its peak during the reign of the Duke Federico da Montefeltro.

Urbino was also the birthplace of the artist Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio 1483-1520) and your tour includes a visit to the house where he lived up to age of 14. This modest dwelling contains memoirs and artistic furniture of that period. Raphael was born here in 1483 and trained at home at least until the age of 11, when his father died. There is a small mural attributed to the boy painter in one room, but the house is chiefly interesting as an atmospheric 15th-century home/workshop.

Your visit continues to Palazzo Ducale, Italy’s most beautiful Renaissance palace built for Duke Federico da Montefeltro, who ruled Urbino between 1444 and 1482. Today the palace is enriched with a comprehensive library, famous paintings including works by Piero della Francesca, Raphael and Titian and refined architecture.

Another of Urbino’s magnificent buildings is the Duomo built in 1789 on top of a sixthcentury sacred site. Completed in 1604, it was destroyed by an earthquake and then rebuilt. The duomo now has a neo-classical appearance and houses several important artworks, including a painting of the Last Supper by Federico Barocci. The Museo Diocesano has a collection of glass, ceramics, and religious items. After visiting the cathedral there is some free time for lunch on your own in one of Urbino’s many restaurants (you may wish to try Antica Osteria della Stella, an ancient inn that claims to have hosted Raphael and Piero della Francesca) and souvenir shopping.

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