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Day by Day Itinerary

When you travel to Italy, you’ll explore a destination that combines history, romance, and architectural splendor with unparalleled serenity and grace. And no other travel company offers you as many in-depth discoveries—from cliffside towns to ancient monuments—at such a leisurely pace and tremendous value. Experience Tuscany and Amalfi from your base at these two legendary locales—spending seven nights in the Tuscan spa town of Chianciano and seven nights in Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast—and enjoy a host of Grand Circle’s included tours and exclusive Discovery Series events, such as an included Countryside Dinner in Tuscany, an excursion to Pompeii, and a guided tour of Rome. As always, you'll have the freedom to explore your own interests during relaxing downtime.

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    You depart the U.S. this evening for your journey to Rome, Italy.

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    You’ll be greeted at the airport by a Grand Circle representative who will assist you to your hotel. Gather with your fellow travelers to meet your Program Director and enjoy a Welcome Drink. Dinner is on your own.

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    After breakfast, you set off for Chianciano, arriving in the early afternoon. Here you will meet your fellow travelers who arrived from their pre-trip extension in Venice. Gather with your Program Director for a briefing, followed by an Exclusive Discovery Series Italian With & Without Words lesson. You'll be able to use what you'll learn in the days ahead. This evening, enjoy a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant.

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    Join us this morning for an orientation walk in Chianciano. Famous since the times of the ancient Etruscans for its thermal mineral waters, Chianciano still draws visitors who benefit from its natural spa treatments.

    When you travel to Radicofani, you'll take a discovery walk to explore the Old Town, and visit the San Pietro Church, renowned for its splendid Della Robbia terra cotta sculptures. Radicofani lies in the shadow of a hilltop fortress first built in the tenth century. The town and its surroundings saw centuries of fierce political intrigue and conflict.

    Then, you’ll visit a local cheese maker for an exclusive Discovery Series event. As we sample local fare for a light lunch here, we’ll learn about the importance of locally-produced food to the heritage of the region.

    Tonight, join us for a Discovery Series discussion on The Art of the Renaissance.

    Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant this evening.

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    Explore legendary Florence on an included full day walking tour. Set on the banks of the Arno River, Florence came into its own as a commercial and cultural center during the 13th century, when merchants and tradesmen organized guilds that commissioned works of art to adorn their churches and palaces. It was this revival of interest in art and architecture that gave birth to the Italian Renaissance, an amazing outburst between the 14th and 16th centuries that completely changed the face of this Tuscan town. The names of the great artists of Florence define the Renaissance—Dante, Boccaccio, Fra Angelico, Donatello, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo.

    You'll begin your exploration of Florence with a walking tour of the city, stopping at the Duomo to view its remarkable octagonal Brunelleschi dome, one of the most magnificent structures in Florence. While there, you’ll also view the Gates of Paradise, impressive bronze doors that intricately depict scenes from the Bible.

    Continue on to the Piazza Signoria, the political center of Renaissance Florence. After lunch on your own, make your own discoveries this afternoon. You may wish to visit one of the many fine Florentine leather showrooms. The art of Florentine leather tanning has been passed down through many generations to the tanners of today. Although machinery has changed with improvements in modern technology, many of the old dyeing techniques have remained virtually unchanged. Or you might decide to visit the Accademia Gallery, home to Michelangelo’s famous statue, David.

    Tonight, dinner will be at your hotel.

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    Explore the Renaissance village of Pienza

    The village of Pienza, a Renaissance jewel, is the first example of town planning executed after the fall of the ancient Roman Empire twelve centuries earlier. It is also the only example of a city actually made from a prototype—designed by Bernardo Rossellino, the early 15th-century sculptor, for Pope Pius II. The plan for Pienza was commissioned by the Pope to celebrate the ideas of the Renaissance. Here you’ll enjoy free time to explore on your own—and to discover the many food shops selling the excellent local export, pecorino cheese.

    Pienza is a virtual standing museum. The focus of the town’s design is its piazza, which is closed on one side by the cathedral. On the other side of the piazza is Palazzo Piccolomini, which you can visit during your free time. Designed by Rossellino, the palazzo was the home to Pius’s descendants until 1968. The piazza here is one of the places in the Orcia Valley where many scenes in the motion picture The English Patient were filmed. During the visit, you’ll admire the vistas from the town overlooking the valley and a mountain peak that was once a volcano. You’ll have lunch at a local restaurant in Pienza before we return to Chianciano.

    This evening gather for an informative and interactive Taste of Tuscany discussion during which we learn about two of Italy’s defining passions—wine and olive oil.

    Dinner is on your own this evening.

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    Enjoy the day exploring on your own. You may want to visit Montepulciano and discover the local wine cellars. Or discover your own “favorite” Tuscan town—ask your Program Director for suggestions and assistance.

    Or, take advantage of our full-day optional tour to Siena. Discover this medieval walled city, built on three ridges and dominating the land between the valleys of Arbia and Elsa.

    Siena was a rich and powerful city during the Middle Ages. From the twelfth century into the 16th century, its banking activities and trade in wool and textiles placed it in direct rivalry with Florence. Its influence decreased after that time, as it spent much of its energies in defense against foreign conquerors.

    Today's Siena still retains the air of the Tuscan Middle Ages. The 334-foot slender Italianate tower of the Town Hall soars from the rim of the Piazza del Campo, an inclined, central square that is one of the most beautiful in all of Italy. Surrounding this square are numerous lovely palaces dating from the twelfth to 16th centuries. Here and throughout the city are some of the most splendid examples of Gothic architecture in Italy.

    Automobiles are banned from the city center, and you'll enjoy a guided walk in town. You can view the beauty of the palaces, built in red brick with windows decorated by elegant Gothic frames in white marble. Our tour also takes you inside the cathedral, where you will also visit the Piccolomini Library, adorned with colorful frescoes by Pinturiccio, the master of Raphael. You also have the opportunity to view the palace belonging to Monte di Paschi di Siena, a bank founded in 1472.

    During our excursion, you'll have some free time to explore on your own before lunch at a local restaurant. You'll return to Chianciano in time for dinner. Please note: This tour involves walking over difficult terrain for extended periods of time.

    Dinner is at a local restaurant this evening.

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    Today, explore Assisi, a gem of Umbria, perched on the side of Mount Subasio, with pink granite stone buildings that seem to glow as you approach. The town remains forever linked with St. Francis of Assisi. He was born here in 1182 and renounced his family's wealth to found an order of preaching monks who lived simply and relied on begging to survive. You'll visit the 13th-century Basilica of St. Francis, where the saint is buried and which houses his shoes and tunic. Decorated with magnificent frescoes by Early Renaissance masters Cimabue and Giotto, the unique basilica is one of the most important examples of medieval architecture in all of Italy. Afterward, enjoy some free time to further explore the quaint streets of Assisi before enjoying an included lunch in a local restaurant.

    Tonight, dinner is on your own.

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    After breakfast this morning, you’ll visit Chianciano’s Etruscan Museum, which has been supported by Grand Circle Foundation since 2006. Here you'll learn about the Etruscan origins of Chianciano, and discover more about this mysterious civilization that preceded the Romans in this area.

    Then you’ll tour Cortona, one of Tuscany’s loveliest hillside villages. Serenely situated at an elevation of 1,800 feet on the crest of Mont Sant’Egidio, Cortona offers unforgettable views of the Valdichiana Plain, the mountains of Siena, and expansive Lake Trasimeno—one of the widest and most harmonious vistas in all of Italy. One of the twelve Etruscan cities, Cortona’s central neighborhoods look just as they did when it was a medieval city-state. The fortress overlooking the town was built by the Medicis in 1549, and it was home to noted artists Signorelli and Severini. Ancient tradition holds that the legendary Ulysses was buried here. Closer to our own forms of storytelling, it was here in Cortona that author Frances Mayes bought the home she restored in Under the Tuscan Sun, and the motion picture was filmed here, too. You’ll have time to explore this town on your own before you return to your hotel in the early afternoon.

    This evening, enjoy dinner at your hotel.

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    After breakfast, you'll begin the ride to the cliffside town of Sorrento, stopping for a short visit to the hilltop town of Orvieto. Set upon the flat crown of a steep volcanic butte, Orvieto has been an impregnable town since the time of the ancient Etruscans. It was a major center of commerce and learning in the Middle Ages—Thomas Aquinas taught here—and its independent-minded leaders often squabbled with the Papacy. The construction of the 14th-century Orvieto Cathedral is distinctive in its use of basalt and travertine, a variety of limestone. Its three-gabled facade is exceptional, with vivid bas-reliefs, statuary, and mosaics. Also exceptional is the region's distinctive white wine.

    You arrive in Sorrento early this evening. With its romantic location on the cliffs over the Bay of Naples, Sorrento has long been the subject of songs and legends. It was here that the mythical sirens, with the beauty of their sweet singing, lured sailors to shipwreck on the rocks. This evening you'll enjoy dinner at your hotel.

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    After breakfast, set off on a walking tour of Sorrento. Sorrento was made for strolling, and you’ll enjoy your walking tour as you see the cathedral, Piazza Sant’Antonino, the Public Gardens, the town’s typical little alleys, and its main square, Piazza Tasso. We’ll take our time on Corso Italia, the town’s main street, and along Via San Cesario, lined with picturesque shops offering food and handcrafts.

    In the course of your walk, you’ll visit children at Santa Maria della Pieta School supported by Grand Circle Foundation. (Your visit depends on school scheduling, summer break, and national and local holidays.)

    Enjoy the rest of the day making your own discoveries, with dinner on your own this evening.

    Or join us this afternoon for an optional Sorrentine Farm Experience. We’ll journey into the Sorrentine countryside to learn firsthand the secrets of local agriculture. Learn from a resident what goes into the production of olive oil, fresh mozzarella cheese, and limoncello liqueur. You’ll also learn how to prepare your own pizza in true Sorrentine fashion, topped with farm-fresh ingredients. If you choose this optional tour, you will enjoy dinner on the farm. Otherwise, dinner tonight is on your own.

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    Explore Sorrento on your own today. Or, join us on an optional excursion to Herculaneum and the Archaeological Museum of Naples.

    Pompeii was not the only town to be destroyed by Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79. On this full-day optional tour, we'll first explore the ancient town of Herculaneum, which was buried in about 50 feet of ash and mud. It wasn't found again until 1709 when it was accidentally discovered by some workers. We'll explore Herculaneum's well-preserved ruins, which some claim are even more impressive than those of Pompeii. After lunch at a local restaurant, we'll depart for Naples, one of the world's most beautiful seaports. Italy's third-largest city, Naples is dramatically situated between the Mediterranean Sea and the looming bulk of Mount Vesuvius. Originally named Neapolis (“new city”) by its Greek founders, Naples has been an important seaport since it was conquered by Rome in the fourth century BC. Colorful and vibrant, for centuries this beautiful city epitomized Italy's national character: chaotic but cheerful. Naples is a city of great contrasts, aware of a heritage that springs from diverse cultural influences: ancient Greek and Roman, Norman, French, Spanish, and, of course, Italian.

    Our tour features an in-depth exploration of the National Archaeological Museum, one of Europe's most valuable repositories, featuring the priceless Farnese collection of ancient Roman statuary and the many colorful treasures removed from long-buried Pompeii, Stabia, and Herculaneum. We’ll have a panoramic tour of Naples from the bus as we begin our ride back to Sorrento. The cost of this optional tour includes lunch. Please note: This tour involves walking over difficult terrain for extended periods of time.

    Tonight, enjoy an included dinner at your choice of a number of local restaurants. Your Program Director can offer suggestions for a meal at a restaurant that accepts Grand Circle meal vouchers, providing you with choice at no extra cost.

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    Join us after breakfast for a full-day tour of the beautiful Costiera Amalfitana (Amalfi Coast), sure to be a highlight of your stay in Sorrento.

    On this leisurely tour, you'll discover what is perhaps Italy's most beautiful coastline, a UNESCO World Heritage Site richly imbued with centuries-old charm. Ride along its ruggedly stunning shoreline, decorated by colorful fishing boats and wondrous rock formations. Make a photo stop above Positano, and then continue to the town of Amalfi, romantically situated at the mouth of a deep gorge.

    Enjoy some free time and an included lunch in nearby Scala, one of the oldest towns in the Amalfi Coast with a history that stretches back 1,000 years. Perched roughly 1,200 feet above sea level, Scala overlooks the ocean and benefits from a year-round temperate climate.

    This evening, you'll enjoy a special dinner in the hotel. Gemelli, fusilli, orecchiette.... What does it all mean? Find out at our Festa della Pasta dinner. Your Program Director will demonstrate how to prepare different types of delicious pastas and their accompanying sauces—and you'll indulge in the delicious results.

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    This morning, we'll depart Sorrento for a half-day excursion to Pompeii. Totally buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 and not re-discovered until the 17th century, Pompeii's antiquities offer you an unparalleled view of Roman life. With your expert guide, you'll explore Pompeii's most significant sites and learn how its people lived, built homes, and conducted business. The World Monuments Fund, to which Grand Circle Foundation has contributed $150,000 for preservation efforts across Europe, cites Pompeii as one of the world's 100 most-endangered sites.

    In the afternoon, we’ll introduce you to some of Sorrento’s culinary charms during a Home-Hosted Lunch in the St. Agnello area. Throughout this exclusive Discovery Series event, you’ll become acquainted with Italian social life. You’ll break bread with a family in their home and enjoy the meal in their authentic Italian kitchen. Traditional cuisine here often incorporates the freshest ingredients from the markets. Typical fare includes locally grown poultry accompanied by such homegrown vegetables as eggplant, tomato, and sweet peppers, and, of course, homemade pasta. You’ll even sip wine from the family’s own vineyard.

    In the early evening, join us for an exclusive discussion led by an American residing in Italy, My Home Away from Home.

    Choose your own restaurant for dinner this evening, using a Grand Circle meal voucher.

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    Explore Sorrento on your own today. Or, join an optional full-day tour of the beautiful Isle of Capri. Located only seven miles from Sorrento, Capri rises abruptly from the azure waters of the Mediterranean.

    Set like a gem in the Bay of Naples, just opposite Mount Vesuvius, this fabled four-by-two-mile island has been a popular international destination since the times of the ancient Roman Emperors Augustus and Tiberius. Capri's natural and man-made attractions are unforgettable. The island abounds in hills, cliffs, olive groves, vineyards, and garden terraces overlooking the Amalfi Coast.

    On today's optional tour, you'll be introduced to the charms of this miniature paradise and experience its unique way of life. After a short crossing by jetfoil, you'll ascend by minibus to the narrowest part of the island, where you'll visit the small town of Capri. Stroll through the chic shops and the picturesque whitewashed houses and reach the Gardens of Augustus, which overlook the bathing port of Marina Piccola, adorned by the famous Faraglioni rocks. After pausing to enjoy the expansive views of the Amalfi Coast, you’ll continue to the highest village on the island, Anacapri, which has spectacular views of the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius. Next you’ll enjoy a light lunch, and then be at leisure to explore further on your own or to indulge in some shopping or in a refreshing gelato. Return to the port of Marina Grande via the local funicular train (when in season) in time for our return boat to Sorrento.

    Tonight, you may choose to join our optional Tarantella Folk Show—you may choose to add a Neapolitan-style dinner at the theater as part of this optional tour.

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    Enjoy the day exploring on your own. Sorrento is known throughout Italy for its lemon production, and perhaps you'll shop for some of the fine goods created from local limoni: limoncello, a tasty lemon liqueur; lemon chocolate, colorful ceramics with lemon motifs, or lemon soap.

    Gather tonight with your Program Director and fellow travelers for a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant.

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    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    Today, you’ll drive northward to Rome, stopping en route to visit the Benedictine Abbey of Montecassino for some free time. Set atop a rocky hill, this monastery was established by St. Benedict of Nursia in AD 529. It's one of the last remaining abbeys within the Catholic Church.

    Arriving in Rome, you’ll enjoy a panoramic orientation tour of Rome that gives you an overview of the "Eternal City's" main points of interest.

    Join your fellow travelers this evening for dinner at a local restaurant.

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    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight home. Or, continue on our optional post-trip extension to Rome, Italy.

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Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below.

Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.

What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect

  • This trip features a fair amount of walking, often uphill, over uneven, unpaved, or cobbled surfaces as you travel in Italy. You should be able to walk two to three miles unassisted over the course of each day.
  • For your comfort and safety, we recommend this program only to individuals in good physical condition. If you have difficulty walking or are wheelchair-bound, please consult our Travel Counselors for guidance.
  • We reserve the right for our Program Directors to modify participation, or in some circumstances send travelers home if their limitations are impacting the group’s experience.

Travel Documents

Passport

Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.

Visas

U.S. citizens do not need a visa for this trip.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then your entry requirements may be different. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your vacation, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Program Directors and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Insider Tips

Accommodations

Main Trip

  • Hotel Albani

    Rome, Italy | Rating: Superior First Class

    Conveniently located near the Villa Borghese and shopping district of Piazza Fiume, the Superior First-Class Hotel Albani gives you easy access to many of Rome’s attractions. The Borghese Gallery, National Gallery of Modern Art, Bioparco, and Keats-Shelley Memorial House and Museum are also nearby. Hotel facilities include a restaurant, bar, and currency exchange. Your air-conditioned room features a telephone, cable TV, minibar, refrigerator, safe, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Grand Hotel Ambasciatori

    Chianciano, Italy

    The Grand Hotel Ambasciatori is conveniently situated in the modern town, near the thermal spas. A bus stop is located right across the street from the hotel, where you can pick up buses to Montepulciano and the Chianciano Old City Center. Amenities include a restaurant, lounge, health club, solarium, and game room. Your room features a satellite TV, telephone, radio/alarm, safe, and private bath with hair dryer.

    Please note: Select departures feature similar accommodations.

  • Grand Hotel Cesare Augusto

    Sorrento, Italy

    Your hotel is centrally located near the main square of Sorrento’s Piazza Tasso and shopping area, and five minutes away from public transportation. There are many restaurants within walking distance, in addition to the on-site restaurant. The hotel also includes a lounge, roof garden with outdoor swimming pool (open from June to September), and solarium. Your room features a private balcony and includes air-conditioning, telephone, TV, and safe, plus private bath with shower and hair dryer.

    Please note: Select departures feature similar accommodations.

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  • Royal San Marco Hotel

    Venice, Italy | Rating: First Class

    The Royal San Marco Hotel is located just 40 yards from St. Mark’s Square, with Venice points of interest including the Via Garibaldi, Cannaregio, Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Miracoli, the Jewish Museum, and Dorsoduro district nearby. The hotel's amenities include a bar, reading room, snack bar, and TV room. Your air-conditioned room features a telephone, cable TV, minibar, and private bath.

    Please note: Select departures feature similar accommodations.

  • Hotel Albani

    Rome, Italy | Rating: Superior First Class

    Conveniently located near the Villa Borghese and shopping district of Piazza Fiume, the Superior First-Class Hotel Albani gives you easy access to many of Rome’s attractions. The Borghese Gallery, National Gallery of Modern Art, Bioparco, and Keats-Shelley Memorial House and Museum are also nearby. Hotel facilities include a restaurant, bar, and currency exchange. Your air-conditioned room features a telephone, cable TV, minibar, refrigerator, safe, and private bath with hair dryer.

Flight Information

Flight Options to Personalize Your Trip

You can choose to stay longer before or after your trip on your own, or combine two vacations to maximize your value.

  • Extend your vacation and lower your per day cost with our optional pre- and post-trip excursions
  • Choose our standard air routing, or work with us to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline, applying frequent flyer miles if available
  • International airport transfers to and from your ship or hotel, including meet and greet service, are available for purchase
  • Stay overnight in a connecting city before or after your trip
  • Request to arrive a few days early to get a fresh start on your vacation
  • Choose to "break away" before or after your trip, spending additional days or weeks on your own
  • Combine your choice of Grand Circle vacations to maximize your value
  • Upgrade to business or premium class

The air options listed above will involve an additional fee of $100 per person for confirmed requests (as well as incremental airfare costs based on your specific choice).

What Makes This Trip Unique

Exclusive Discovery Series Events

  • Italian With & Without Words language lesson. Parla Italiano with words and gestures, just like a local.
  • Cheese maker visit. Learn how fine cheese is nurtured, and savor a sample.
  • The Art of the Renaissance discussion. Learn the stories behind Tuscany’s beloved masterpieces.
  • Taste of Tuscany discussion. Appreciate the subtle interplay of flavorful Tuscan wine and food.
  • Home-Hosted Lunch. Share Italian hospitality and cuisine as you are welcomed into the home of a local family.
  • My Home Away from Home discussion. Meet an American expatriate and hear about life in Italy.

Enjoy the opportunity to visit 12 UNESCO World Heritage Sites

  • Historic Center of Florence
  • Historic Center of Pienza
  • The Orcia Valley
  • Assisi
  • Historic Center of Siena
  • Cortona
  • Amalfi Coast
  • Pompeii
  • Herculaneum
  • Montecassino Abbey
  • Historic Center of Rome
  • Historic Center of Naples

10 reasons to experience Tuscany & the Amalfi Coast—in the words of our travelers

We often find that the best endorsements of our discovery-rich vacations come directly from our travelers. Here are some of the memorable experiences that they have shared with us from Tuscany & the Amalfi Coast.

Reservations & Information: Call us toll-free at 1-800-221-2610

1. Radicofani, Italy

"We visited Radicofani, a small fortress town on top of a mountain that only Grand Circle visits. Two thousand years old, the town was a treasure. People called out to us as we walked by, the town was immaculate and scenery spectacular."A 2-time traveler from Lansdale, PA

2. Local cuisine

"We loved Tuscany and the opportunities to sample wines, olive oils, cheeses and luncheon meats—not to mention gelato, limoncello, and various baked goods. The meals for the entire trip were plentiful—more than we normally eat—and they were delicious with wine at every meal."A 2-time traveler from Greenbelt, MD

3. Program Directors

"Our program director was Pilar. I have traveled with tour groups before, but I had not seen someone like Pilar who paid so much attention to detail. This made the trip memorable and a very pleasant experience."A 2-time traveler from Mesilla, NM

4. Venice, Italy pre-trip extension

"One of my most memorable moments was sitting on a gondola in the Grand Canal with my husband and friends while a musician and singer played and sang with the sun setting on the old buildings of the canals in Venice."A 1-time traveler from Las Vegas, NV

5. Art

"My favorite highlights involved all the art. Tintoretto and Titians in Venice, the exquisite Della Robbia ceramic panels in the church in Radicofani, the sculptures everywhere, the Uffizi Museum in Florence, the Cathedral in Siena with its mosaic floors and wonderful library frescoes, the Cathedral at Assisi with all the Giotto paintings."A 7-time traveler from Media, PA

6. Home-Hosted Lunch

"Our host family offered another unique experience with Italian home life. Concetta made her fresh tomato sauce with penne, serre fish and salad, homemade bread, wine and olives, and Easter wheat cake with limoncello. Their long oak table filled with family and friends brought back memories of our Sunday dinners at my grandma's."A 3-time traveler from Bellerose, NY

7. Sorrentine Farm Experience optional tour

"We toured a local farm where the land for crops was created by digging out the hillsides to form terraces. The weather was picture perfect, and we enjoyed seeing the lemon and olive groves, learning what goes into the production of olive oil and fresh mozzarella cheese, and how to prepare our own pizzas in the true Sorrentine fashion."A 16-time traveler from Moline, IL

8. Rome, Italy

"Rome was the most magnificent city to visit. I can still dream of walking into a church or piazza and finding another Bernini or Caravaggio. The surprises were just too many to count. Using the Metro is quite easy and city center is easy to walk from one site to another."A 4-time traveler from Castroville, TX

9. School visit

"Loved every moment of it. The kids did a presentation of sights in Sorrento and asked us questions and played us some music. It was great."A 4-time traveler from Forest, VA

10. Herculaneum & National Archaeological Museum optional tour

"While in Sorrento, the opportunity to go to Herculaneum brought full circle my understanding of the destruction brought about by Mt. Vesuvius."A 6-time traveler from Manchester, NH

Photos From Our Travelers

On location in Italy

Here’s how Grand Circle travelers have captured moments of discovery, beauty, friendship, and fun on previous departures of our Tuscany & the Amalfi Coast vacation. We hope these will evoke special travel memories and inspire you to submit your own favorite Grand Circle Travel trip photos.

  The Amalfi Coast, Italy  

Traveling with us in Italy was our 90 year-old friend, Amelia Greiner (in the green sweater), whose parents were born on the island of Ischia. We asked our guide to help us go there and he arranged for a driver to meet us when we arrived. In this picture, a local resident points out Amelia’s mother’s home to her and our guide, Mario. It was a moment we will never forget.” Photo by first-time traveler, Daniel Ruscitto, Syracuse, New York.

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How to submit your photos:

Please submit individual photos in jpeg format to: GCTtravelerphotos@gct.com.

Please be sure to include the name of your OAT adventure, along with the travel dates. Tell us where you took the photo and, if you’d like, tell us why. And don’t forget to include your name and contact information.

Please note: By submitting a photo, you (i) represent and warrant that the photo is your original work created solely by yourself and does not infringe the intellectual property rights of any party; (ii) grant to Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates a worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, transferable, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sublicensable right and license to use, in any and all related media whether now known or hereafter devised, in perpetuity, anywhere in the world, with the right to make any and all commercial or other uses thereof, including without limitation, reproducing, editing, modifying, adapting, publishing, displaying publicly, creating derivative works from, incorporating into other works or modifying the photo and (iii) hereby release and discharge Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates, officers and employees from and against any and all claims, liabilities, costs, damages and expenses of any kind arising out of or relating to the use by Grand Circle LLC of any photo submitted.

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Total donated: $167,728

Supporting a World Classroom: Sorrento

Just by traveling with us, you’re supporting Grand Circle Foundation’s World Classroom initiative and helping Italian schoolchildren prepare for their future. Because the best way to sustain a community is through education, we’ve donated funds to Sorrento’s Santa Maria della Pieta School. You’ll visit this school (when in session) and see the energy of the students who will write the next chapters in Italy’s long history—perhaps on the very computers that Foundation funds have purchased.

"The Santa Maria della Pieta School was a revelation to me where I saw learning going on without the aid of a modern building, but with dedicated teachers and delightful students. Seeing several teachers working patiently with special needs children was inspiring, as was listening to the students learn English words. The computer room made me proud of Grand Circle Foundation."

Carol Hull, 10-time traveler
Bonita Springs, Florida

Santa Maria della Pieta School

Partner since: 2004 • Total donated: $32,630

With school children

At Grand Circle Foundation, we believe the best way to sustain a community is through education. To build community in Sorrento and to help Italian schoolchildren prepare for their future, we've donated funds to the city's Santa Maria della Pieta School. You'll visit this school (when in session) and see the energy of the students who will write the next chapters in Italy's long history—perhaps on the very computers that Foundation funds have purchased. Along with computers and English software, we have provided televisions and video equipment for the school; supplied desks, chairs, and stationery equipment for students; and repaired desks and chairs in the school cafeteria.

School in session:

October through late May (closed for the Christmas and Easter holidays)

Gifts to bring if you're visiting:

  • Glue sticks
  • Pencils and erasable pens
  • English-language books appropriate for readers between ages five and ten
  • Books about the United States and individual state facts
Alan and Harriet Lewis founded Grand Circle Foundation in 1992 as a means of giving back to the world we travel. Because they donate an annually determined amount of revenue from our trips, we consider each one of our travelers as a partner in the Foundation’s work around the world. To date, the Foundation has pledged or donated more than $97 million in support of 300 different organizations—including 60 villages and nearly 100 schools that lie in the paths of our journeys.

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Pompeii

A City Frozen in Time

by Amanda Read, for Grand Circle

In the early afternoon, small pieces of cooled, hardened lava, called “lapilli,” started raining down on Pompeii.

The morning of August 24, AD 79 started out like any other. Well-heeled Romans hurried about their business, frequenting markets, preparing meals, chatting with neighbors. Noblemen and ordinary citizens discussed the recent election.

Just hours later, everything changed. Nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted with such force that its ash plume climbed more than 15 miles skyward. We know in alarming detail what happened that day because a young eyewitness to history recorded the destruction: Pliny the Younger lived to tell the story of the most famous and destructive eruption of all time, and shared it in his letters to the historian Tacitus.

In the early afternoon, small pieces of cooled, hardened lava, called “lapilli,” started raining down on Pompeii. It continued for hours, increasing in intensity. Panicked residents began to flee the city under an ever-increasing rain of ash and pumice. Houses shook violently, “swaying to and fro as if they were torn from their foundations.” Pliny describes how the terrified citizens fled, tying pillows on their heads for protection from the rocks that flew around them. The ash cloud blotted out the sun, causing a blackness that was “darker and thicker than any night.”

Soon the streets were buried under the accumulated rocks and ash. Roofs began collapsing under the weight. More toxic debris rained down on Pompeii, breaking through windows, slowly burying the city and those who remained inside. People on the streets trying to escape suffocated from the poisonous air. Finally, early on August 25th, surge after surge of superheated lava burst through the city walls, instantly killing any last survivors—and forever silencing Pompeii.

After making their escape, Pliny and the survivors of the nearby town of Misenum returned to a deathly still landscape. “The sight that met our still-terrified eyes was a changed world, buried in ash like snow.”

A city lost—and found

Following the devastation, Pompeii was abandoned and even its name and location were eventually forgotten. It wasn’t until 1748 that the first scientifically-backed excavations began in earnest at the behest of the King of Naples, Charles of Bourbon. What archaeologists found and continue to unearth to this day is an entire and almost wholly-preserved provincial Roman city in which remarkable details of Roman life were found, taking visitors back to a moment literally frozen in time.

Walking around Pompeii today, the imaginative visitor can almost hear water pouring through the ancient baths, horse hooves clicking on the pavement, and Roman voices shouting through the streets. Often, it’s the mundane details that resonate most powerfully: 2,000-year-old graffiti that wouldn’t be out of place on any present-day city wall (‘Satura was here on September 3’) … perfectly formed loaves of bread fresh from the oven, left in haste while the baker ran for his life … alabaster jugs that held the cremated remains of loved ones.

One of the most moving sites in Pompeii is the Garden of the Fugitives, which holds many of the casts of the victims. The casts tell a grim story, as adults, children, and even tiny infants were found. One can almost see the outlines of terror writ large on their faces. Many hold their hands up to their faces as a last effort to ward off the ash and flames. Two casts lie intertwined, urging the viewer to ask, who were these people? Slaves, forced to stay by their owners? Lovers in a final embrace?

Preserving a living monument

Preserving Pompeii for the future is a daunting task. At 109 acres, the sheer size of this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a mixed blessing. The biggest challenge is trying to stop the city’s decline and decay, while at the same time accommodating more than two million visitors a year. Rainfall and flooding have caused several collapses in recent years. Conservation efforts are ongoing, but costs have been mounting. Grand Circle Foundation is proud to have contributed $150,000 to the World Monument Fund toward restoration efforts.

Pompeii is among the world’s most unforgettable archaeological sites, offering visitors unique insight into the culture and society of an ancient Roman civilization while recalling the last tragic moments of its inhabitants. Hopefully, with ongoing conservation efforts, this city frozen in time will continue to live for another two millennia.