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Tuscany & the Amalfi Coast 2014

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Trip Extensions

Pre-trip: Venice, Italy

Begin your travel in Italy by exploring Venice, an architectural masterpiece famous for its canals and numerous bridges. Venice instills in visitors an indelible fascination, from the elegance of the Piazza San Marco to the grandeur of the Basilica. Walking its streets or floating along in one of its gondolas, the sights you encounter cast a spell that is unforgettable.

It's Included:
Accommodations for 4 nights at the Royal San Marco Hotel or similar
4 meals: 4 breakfasts
2 included tours: Venice walking tour, Murano & Burano
Exclusive services of a Grand Circle Hospitality Desk representative
All transfers
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    Depart U.S. today for your journey to Venice, Italy.

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    After arriving in Venice, you’ll be met at the airport and assisted to your hotel. Then you’ll join your fellow travelers for a Welcome Drink and a Welcome Briefing. You can inquire at the Hospitality Desk for suggestions on where to enjoy dinner on your own this evening. Of course, one of the joys of walking in Venice is discovering your own “favorite” restaurant as you wind your way through the narrow, cobbled streets.

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    After breakfast, embark on a walking tour of this romantic city, visiting the famous Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square), the center of Venice. This square was the heartbeat of the Serenissima ("Serene Republic") in the heyday of Venice’s glory as a seafaring republic, and the city’s major attractions are centered here. It is one of the most beautiful and most photographed squares in all of Europe. Dominated by the lovely St. Mark’s Basilica, the spacious square is surrounded with outdoor cafés, and is the perfect place to do a little people-watching Italian-style while sipping a cappuccino.

    Ornate St. Mark’s Basilica is so richly embellished that it looks like it could have been moved intact from Istanbul. Though the domed church is a conglomerate of many architectural styles, its main influence is Byzantine. Its façade is adorned with marble and mosaics that depict the life of Christ and St. Mark (whose body was smuggled into Venice in a pork barrel, to confound Muslim officials who would refuse to search anything that touched pork). Outside the basilica is the campanile (bell tower), which was rebuilt after it collapsed in 1902. It is now open should you want to ascend for a good view of the six cupolas of the church.

    During your included city tour, you’ll also view the Bridge of Sighs, which links the Doges’ Palace with the cellblocks that housed prisoners condemned by Venice’s Council of Ten. The “sighs” in the bridge's name stemmed from the sad laments of the numerous victims led across it to certain torture and possible death.

    Enjoy the afternoon to make your own discoveries. You can choose to remain longer to enjoy St. Mark’s Square, perhaps exploring some of the little alleys that radiate from it. Perhaps you’ll get a taste for everyday Venetian life when you pause for some light snacks and a glass of wine at a local bacari, a typical Venetian coffee shop.

    This evening, join us for an optional Twilight Dinner with Gondola Serenade. Here is the quintessential Venetian experience—an unforgettable ride in a gondola, serenaded as you drift along the lovely canals, followed by dinner at a local restaurant.

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    With a full day to pursue your own interests in Venice, you can revisit a favorite site in more depth or continue to find new treasures. You have time to stroll through the halls of the Academia Gallery, housing a remarkable collection of paintings—masterpieces from the 14th to 18th centuries. You may want to visit the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, housed in an old, unfinished 18th-century Palazzo Venier de Leoni. Here is the eclectic private collection of works owned by Peggy Guggenheim, who lived in a Venetian palazzo for 30 years until her death in 1979. Or you might want to take a vaporetto ride to the Island of Lido, containing Venice's premier beach resort, for a swim in the Adriatic.

    Or if you like, you may join your Hospitality Desk representative after breakfast this morning on an elective walking tour of “Hidden Venice,” seeing parts of the city most visitors pass by.

    Lunch is on you own, and the rest of the day is yours for making more discoveries. The evening is yours, and dinner is on your own.

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    After breakfast, join a full-day visit to the Venetian islands of Murano and Burano by public water bus, or vaporetto, which will take us to explroe the islands of the Venice Lagoon. Murano has been world-famous for its glassmaking since the 13th century—you’ll visit a glassmaking factory here and see a demonstration of this fine art. Next you'll travel via ferry to the isle of Burano, where you'll enjoy a walking tour of this colorful fishing village.

    Lunch and dinner are on your own today, and the evening is yours.

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    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, you will be transferred to Chianciano, stopping for lunch along the way, and arriving in the early afternoon. Early this evening, meet the members of your group for your Tuscany & the Amalfi Coast Land Tour who have arrived today.