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Day by Day Itinerary

There’s something magical about the light in this part of the world, and there’s an azure beauty in the water unlike anywhere else. On this special vacation to Italy and France, you’ll join us aboard our award-winning M/V Arethusa—ranked #2 in Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 20 Small Cruise Ships in the World” 2014 Readers’ Poll. The gems of this region will be yours to explore, starting with Florence—Tuscany's capital—rich with Renaissance architecture, and Volterra, where you’ll witness ancient Etruscan artifacts. You’ll then cruise to Elba Island, Corsica, Porto Venere, the Cinque Terre, and Nice, where you’ll enjoy guided tours and ample time to make your own discoveries. Then you’ll arrive in Cannes, world-renowned host of the annual Cannes Film Festival, where you’ll be greeted by palm-fringed avenues and picturesque beaches. Join us in 2014 to experience the jewels of the Mediterranean.

    Depart today on your flight to Florence, Italy. Please refer to your individual air itinerary for exact departure and arrival times. Or begin your discoveries early with our pre-trip extension to Bologna, Italy.

  • Arrive in Florence, Italy where a Grand Circle representative will meet you at the airport and assist with your transfer to your hotel.

    This evening, you’ll meet your fellow travelers during a Welcome Briefing. You’ll also get acquainted with your surroundings when you venture out for an orientation tour and dinner on your own.

  • After breakfast at your hotel, your vacation to Italy begins as you set off for a guided walking tour of Florence—capital of Tuscany, and birthplace of the Renaissance. For centuries, it has been a hub of art, fashion, business, and politics, and its history is as inspiring as the grand Tuscan landscape surrounding it. In fact, its well-preserved, historic city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s where you can find the iconic Il Duomo, more formally known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.  Although constructed more than 600 years ago, it still has the world’s largest brick-and-mortar dome, and this impressive building also includes a Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile, or bell tower.

    You’ll stop in for a visit at the Accademia di Belle Arti Firenze, where Michelangelo’s famous statue David is on display. This 16th-century masterpiece was first placed outside of Florence’s town hall, Palazzo Vecchio, with its eyes facing toward Rome, and it quickly came to symbolize Florence’s identity as an independent city-state. Four of Michelangelo’s unfinished sculptures—the Prisoners—will also be exhibited, along with Renaissance paintings by Paolo Uccello and Sandro Botticelli.

    Tonight, you’ll dine at a local restaurant.

  • After breakfast at your hotel, explore more of Florence at your own pace. Perhaps you will stroll across the Ponte Vecchio, or “Old Bridge” which spans the Arno River—it’s the only bridge in Florence that wasn’t destroyed by the retreat of Hitler’s forces in 1944.

    Or, you may choose to join an optional tour of Chianti, world-renowned for its floral red wine. Several villages span its seven subdivisions, including Greve in Chianti—“in Chianti” being a 20th-century affixation to many village names as the region’s boundaries were defined.  As you discover Greve in Chianti this morning you’ll visit a ghiacciaia, Italian for “ice box,” an underground cellar where you’ll witness how cheese and salamis are kept cool.

    You’ll then continue on to a local winery, where you'll enjoy a wine tasting. Per the DOC (an Italian wine regulation group), Chianti must contain at least 80% Sangiovese grapes—a red, thinly skinned grape named for "the blood of Jove.” The wine appears today in several incarnations like Chianti Classico, Riserva, and the innovative Super Tuscan, made by producers who have contested the DOC’s regulations—to much acclaim. As you taste the wine, you’ll also sample some charcuterie (sliced meats).

    Lunch in a countryside villa will follow, and then you’ll depart for Florence where the rest of the afternoon will be yours to enjoy.

    Tonight, dinner will be on your own.

  • After breakfast at your hotel, you'll set off for an included, half-day Intimate Florence tour. First, you'll visit a local market in Sant'Ambrogio, located in Piazza Ghiberti, where vendors sell cheeses, pastries, and fresh produce; it's also an exciting place to people watch as customers and vendors haggle over prices. Then you'll walk to the Le Murate—a former nunnery, turned prison, now contemporary art center—before arriving at Santa Croce Square in the center of Florence. The square is dominated by the Basilica of Santa Croce, which is the world's largest Franciscan church, and many notable Italians—like Niccolò Machiavelli, author of The Prince—are buried here.

    A light lunch at a local restaurant will follow, and then the afternoon will be yours to make your own discoveries. Tonight, dinner will be on your own.

  • After breakfast, you’ll check out of your hotel and transfer to Volterra, a once-vital Etruscan lucumonia, or metropolis, where ancient artifacts are prominently on display. Here, you’ll visit an alabaster workshop, and then you'll have free time to explore the area's surrounding ruins on your own. Perhaps you'll visit the archaeological park, where a gated entrance—Porta all’Arco, or “The Arch Gate”—will greet you with its weather-worn stones and three lion heads, said to represent the Etruscan gods Tinia (Jupiter), Uni (Juno), and Menrva (Minerva). Impressively intact since the 4th century, its foundation was threatened during WWII as German bombs were raining down, and had it not been for shrewd Volterrans who packed the gate with stones, you may not be able to witness this relic today.

    After enjoying lunch on your own, you’ll transfer to the port of Livorno, where your cruise ship awaits. When you embark the ship this afternoon, the crew will greet you with a Captain’s Welcome Drink and Dinner.

    Tonight, your ship will sail to Elba Island.

  • OAT

    After breakfast onboard, you'll disembark the ship to explore Elba Island.

    At 14 miles long and six miles wide, Elba was once part of a larger stretch of land that connected Italy to Corsica. It is now the largest island of the Tuscan Archipelago, and it has long been rich in iron deposits, which explains why the port we'll dock in, Portoferraio, translates to “Iron Port." You'll enjoy an included tour here this morning.

    Next, you’ll get the chance to experience the warmth of an Italian welcome during an exclusive Discovery Series Home-Hosted Visit with a local island family.

    After an included lunch, you'll then rejoin the M/V Arethusa, cruising by the tranquil Marciana Marina. Then you'll continue to Corsica, France, where the ship will remain docked for the evening.

  • You'll discover the picturesque island of Corsica today. Formed through volcanic explosions, two-thirds of it is made up of mountains, and during World War II it was nicknamed “USS Corsica” as the U.S. military established several airfields on the island. (Pilot Joseph Heller later weaved his war experiences here into his novel, Catch-22.) And the majority of its acreage is protected through the Parc Naturel Regional de Corse nature reserve, which has allowed its natural beauty to thrive, undisturbed.

    First, you'll set off for a guided tour of Bastia, the island's bustling cardinal port. While crossing through St. Nicholas Square, keep an eye out for its marble statue of Napoleon. Then you'll move on to the Vieux Port (Old Port), which is tucked into a narrow cove. It is host to the impressive St. John Cathedral and the city’s 15th-century citadel, “Terra-Nova,” which overlooks the bay from a rocky incline. You'll have free time to make your own discoveries here.

    After lunch onboard the ship, you'll depart for the thriving port of Saint-Florent, which stands protected by a turquoise bay. You'll then continue on to the village of Patrimonio, nestled in Corsica's wine-growing region.

    Tonight you’ll enjoy a Port Talk and dinner aboard the ship. Overnight, your ship will sail to Marina di Carrara, Italy.

  • Nestled in a verdant valley, Lucca is a gem of Tuscany, and you’ll set off on a guided tour of it this morning. Formerly referred to as Luca, an “illuminated glade,” its ancient architecture and customs have withstood the tests of time. This can be seen most readily in the well-preserved city walls which have surrounded the city since the 17th century—they encompass a wide expanse of red terra-cotta roofed homes, and the eye-catching Case-Torri or “Tower Houses” of wealthy families.

    As you stroll along winding, narrow streets, you may see locals leisurely sipping cappuccinos outside of cafes, smell cornetto (croissants) or Buccellato (a sweet local bread) wafting in the air, and feel a sense of things moving spectacularly slower. And you'll pass through the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, where a ring of medieval buildings outline the site of the city’s former amphitheater, which was used to hold thousands of spectators for gladiator games. You'll also have time to explore more of Lucca on your own.

    Midday, you'll have lunch aboard the ship. Then you’ll disembark to enjoy an exclusive Discovery Series event as you explore the Carrara marble quarries.

    Carrara has been home to cavatori, or quarry workers, for centuries as it has long been rich in marble deposits. The naming of the city is still up for debate, but one of the more poetic hypotheses can be pulled from the records of Saint Girolamo. He referred to Carrara as the “City of the Moon on the Wagons”—its landscape a white and gray moonscape of marble, slabs were regularly excavated and wheeled out by Romans who shipped the stone to Rome. (Today, Carrara marble can be seen in the Roman Pantheon and Trajan’s Column.)

    You’ll set off for the Fantiscritti marble quarry, where Michelangelo spent long periods of time carefully analyzing the stone, later using his selections to carve out his sculptures like the world-renowned masterpiece, David. You’ll stop to seize breathtaking views from above the walls of marble, and then you’ll venture underground to see the quarries from within.

    Tonight, you'll enjoy a Port Talk and dinner onboard. Your ship remains docked in Marina di Carrara this evening.

  • OAT

    This morning your ship docks in Porto Venere. After breakfast, you’ll disembark to set off on an exploration of the enchanting nooks of the Cinque Terre, where clusters of terraces are fastened to cliffs that drop dramatically into the sea. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is comprised of five captivating villages, most of which are solely connected by pathways and train stations, making them delightfully free of car traffic. We'll explore by train and on foot today.

    Lunch at a local restaurant will follow, along with a stroll through Porto Venere, where your ship will remain docked tonight. This evening, you'll enjoy a Port Talk and dinner onboard.

  • OAT

    This morning, you'll dock in Santa Margherita Ligure, where you will take a stroll. Then you'll take a boat ride to Portofino. Its waters used to host large groups of dolphins—so many that, according to the records of Pliny the Elder, it was once referred to as Portus Delphini, or “Port of the Dolphin.” And upon stepping ashore, one of the first things you may notice is color: Houses in the harbor are splashed with it, along with small fishing boats with hulls from across a rainbow’s spectrum.

    After lunch onboard, you may continue exploring Santa Margherita Ligure on your own.

    Tonight, enjoy a Port Talk and dinner onboard as your ship cruises to Nice, France.

    Please note: While we strive to dock in Santa Margherita Ligure on all departures, an alternative docking in Genova may be necessary due to adverse winds or swells. In which case, all included features will be experienced via bus transfer from Genova.

  • In the early morning hours, your ship cruises along the French Riviera and docks in Nice, France.

    After breakfast onboard, you'll disembark in Nice, which was once referred to by the Greeks as Nike for their goddess of Victory. During an included panoramic tour, you'll witness highlights of the city, like the Promenade des Anglais, or “The Walkway of the English."

    Afterward, you'll take a walking tour through the city's Old Town. After you rejoin the ship for lunch, the afternoon will be yours to enjoy. Perhaps you’ll visit the National Musée Marc Chagall, created during his lifetime and featuring a series of works based on religious motifs.

    Tonight, you’ll be treated to a Captain’s Farewell Dinner, and the ship will remain docked in Nice for the evening.

  • This morning you’ll disembark your ship and set off for a walking tour of St. Paul de Vence, one of the oldest towns on the French Riviera. Medieval walls still encase its narrow streets, and museums, artisanal shops, and art galleries abound.

    OAT

    The town was once the residence of Russian-born Marc Chagall, one of 20th-century Europe’s most prolific artists. He worked in a range of mediums ranging from stained glass, ceramics, and stage sets to fine art paintings, and he is laid to rest in the town’s cemetery. According to Francoise Gilot, Picasso’s mistress, Picasso once expressed, “When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what color is,” and he went on to compliment Chagall’s expert interpretations of light.

    After lunch on your own, you’ll arrive in Cannes this afternoon. After checking into your hotel, you’ll set off for a panoramic tour. Cannes is the world-renowned host of the annual Cannes Film Festival since 1946. Each May, new films are previewed on an invite-only basis, and starlets and filmmakers descend upon this city en masse.

    Your tour will take you to the Promenade de la Croisette. A little over a mile long, this palm-fringed avenue lines the waterfront with a surplus of cafes, boutiques, and picturesque, sandy beaches. It’s also where you can find the Palais des Festivals et des Congres, where the Cannes Film Festival is held.

    You’ll also discover Le Suquet, the Old Town of Cannes. Roman tombs from the eleventh century have been excavated here, and a well-preserved tower from that era rises over the bay.

    Tonight, dinner will be on your own.

  • Enjoy the day exploring Cannes at your own pace.

    Or, you may choose to join an optional tour of Monaco and Monte Carlo. You’ll take a panoramic drive to Monaco, a self-governing, independent state full of glamour, style, and wealth, where, according to legend, Hercules opened its roads.

    You'll stop by Old Monaco’s Grimaldi Palace, where ruler Prince Albert II now lives, and where, every day, the changing of the guard takes place. You’ll also pass through the Saint Nicholas Cathedral where Albert's famous parents are buried: Prince Rainer III and Grace Kelly, America’s darling movie star. Then after lunch on your own in Monaco, you'll visit lively Monte Carlo—home of the famed Monte Carlo Casino.

    Tonight, you'll join your fellow travelers as you venture out for a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant.

  • This morning you'll take a discovery walk of the resort town of Antibes, and you'll enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.

    Then you’ll return to Cannes, where the remainder of the afternoon will be yours to explore at your own pace. After a Farewell Drink tonight, be sure to ask your Program Director for recommendations as you venture out for dinner on your own.

    • Meals included:

    Following breakfast, you will transfer to the airport for your flight home. Or, extend your stay in the region with a post-trip extension to Aix-en-Provence, France or Torino & Lake Maggiore, Italy.

    Depart today on your flight to Cannes, France. Please refer to your individual air itinerary for exact departure and arrival times. Or begin your discoveries early with our pre-trip extension to Aix-en-Provence, France or Torino & Lake Maggiore, Italy.

  • Arrive in Nice, France where a Grand Circle representative will meet you at the airport and assist with your transfer to your hotel in Cannes.

    This evening, you'll meet your fellow travelers over a Welcome Drink. You'll also get acquainted with the area around the hotel when you venture out for dinner at a local restaurant.

  • This morning you’ll set off for a walking tour of Cannes, world-renowned host of the annual Cannes Film Festival since 1946. Each May, new films are previewed on an invite-only basis, and starlets and filmmakers descend upon this city en masse.

    Your stroll will include a visit to the Promenade de la Croisette. A little over a mile long, this palm-fringed avenue lines the waterfront with a surplus of cafes, boutiques, and picturesque, sandy beaches. It's also where you can find the Palais des Festivals et des Congres, where the Cannes Film Festival is held.

    You'll also explore Le Suquet, the Old Town of Cannes, where you'll walk along narrow cobbled streets. Roman tombs from the eleventh century have been excavated here, and a well-preserved tower from that era rises over the bay. Rue St. Antoine houses a cluster of restaurants, which you may choose to explore when you enjoy lunch on your own.

    You'll have the afternoon and evening to make your own discoveries. Dinner will be on your own tonight.

  • OAT

    Enjoy the day exploring Cannes at your own pace.

    Or, you may choose to join an optional tour of Monaco and Monte Carlo. You’ll take a panoramic drive to Monaco, a self-governing, independent state full of glamour, style, and wealth, where, according to legend, Hercules opened its roads.

    You'll stop by Old Monaco’s Grimaldi Palace, where ruler Prince Albert II now lives, and where, every day, the changing of the guard takes place. You’ll also pass through the Saint Nicholas Cathedral where Albert's famous parents are buried: Prince Rainer III and Grace Kelly, America’s darling movie star. Then after lunch on your own in Monaco, you'll visit lively Monte Carlo—home of the famed Monte Carlo Casino.

    Tonight, dinner will be on your own.

  • This morning, you'll take a discovery walk of the resort town of Antibes, touring its Old Town and market, and you'll enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.

    Then, you’ll venture to St. Paul de Vence, one of the oldest towns on the French Riviera. Medieval walls still encase its narrow streets, and museums, artisanal shops, and art galleries abound.

    The town was once the residence of Russian-born Marc Chagall, one of 20th-century Europe’s most prolific artists. He worked in a range of mediums ranging from stained glass, ceramics, and stage sets to fine art paintings, and he is laid to rest in the town’s cemetery. According to Francoise Gilot, Picasso’s mistress, Picasso once expressed, “When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what color is,” and he went on to compliment Chagall’s expert interpretations of light.

    Later, you’ll board your ship, where the crew will greet you with a Captain's Welcome Drink and Dinner as you travel onward to Nice.

  • This morning you’ll set off for a guided tour of Nice. Once referred to by the Greeks as Nike for their goddess of Victory, Nice's soft light has captured the hearts of artists for centuries. You'll witness highlights of the city, like the Promenade des Anglais, or “The Walkway of the English.”

    The afternoon is yours to explore the city on your own. Perhaps you’ll visit the National Musée Marc Chagall, created during his lifetime and featuring a series of works based on religious motifs.

    Tonight, you’ll enjoy a Port Talk and dinner onboard, and your ship will sail to Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy.

  • Your ship will dock in Santa Margherita Ligure early this morning, where you'll have time to explore on your own.

    After lunch onboard the ship, you'll take a boat ride to Portofino. Its waters used to host large groups of dolphins—so many that, according to the records of Pliny the Elder, it was once referred to as Portus Delphini, or “Port of the Dolphin.” And upon stepping ashore, one of the first things you may notice is color: Houses in the harbor are splashed with it, along with small fishing boats with hulls from across a rainbow’s spectrum.

    Early this evening, you'll rejoin your ship, which will cruise to Porto Venere. You'll remain docked here tonight.

    Please note: While we strive to dock in Santa Margherita Ligure on all departures, an alternative docking in Genova may be necessary due to adverse winds or swells. In which case, all included features will be experienced via bus transfer from Genova.

  • OAT

    This morning you’ll set off to explore the enchanting nooks of the Cinque Terre, where clusters of terraces are fastened to cliffs that drop dramatically into the sea. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is comprised of five captivating villages, most of which are solely connected by pathways and train stations, making them delightfully free of car traffic. We'll explore by train and on foot today.

    After lunch at a local restaurant, you'll take a stroll through Porto Venere. Tonight, you'll enjoy a Port Talk and dinner onboard, and the ship will remain docked in Porto Venere overnight.

  • Early this morning, your ship sails to Marina di Carrara and docks there. Then, after breakfast, you'll disembark and set off for Lucca.

    Nestled in a verdant valley, Lucca is a gem of Tuscany, and you’ll enjoy a guided tour of it this morning. Formerly referred to as Luca, an “illuminated glade,” its ancient architecture and customs have withstood the tests of time. This can be seen most readily in the well-preserved city walls which have surrounded the city since the 17th century—they encompass a wide expanse of red terra-cotta roofed homes, and the eye-catching Case-Torri or “Tower Houses” of wealthy families.

    As you stroll along winding, narrow streets, you may see locals leisurely sipping cappuccinos outside of cafes, smell cornetto (croissants) or Buccellato (a sweet local bread) wafting in the air, and feel a sense of things moving spectacularly slower. And you'll pass through the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, where a ring of medieval buildings outline the site of the city’s former amphitheater, which was used to hold thousands of spectators for gladiator games. You'll also have time to explore more of Lucca on your own.

    Midday, you'll have lunch aboard the ship. Then you’ll disembark to enjoy an exclusive Discovery Series event as you explore the Carrara marble quarries.

    Carrara has been home to cavatori, or quarry workers, for centuries as it has long been rich in marble deposits. The naming of the city is still up for debate, but one of the more poetic hypotheses can be pulled from the records of Saint Girolamo. He referred to Carrara as the “City of the Moon on the Wagons”—its landscape a white and gray moonscape of marble, slabs were regularly excavated and wheeled out by Romans who shipped the stone to Rome. (Today, Carrara marble can be seen in the Roman Pantheon and Trajan’s Column.)

    You’ll set off for the Fantiscritti marble quarry, where Michelangelo spent long periods of time carefully analyzing the stone, later using his selections to carve out his sculptures like the world-renowned masterpiece, David. You’ll stop to seize breathtaking views from above the walls of marble, and then you’ll venture underground to see the quarries from within.

    Tonight, you’ll enjoy a Port Talk and dinner onboard, and your ship will set sail for Corsica, France.

  • OAT

    You'll discover the picturesque island of Corsica today. Formed through volcanic explosions, two-thirds of it is made up of mountains, and during World War II it was nicknamed “USS Corsica” as the U.S. military established several airfields on the island. (Pilot Joseph Heller later weaved his war experiences here into his novel, Catch-22.) And the majority of its acreage is protected through the Parc Naturel Regional de Corse nature reserve, which has allowed its natural beauty to thrive, undisturbed.

    First, you'll set off for a guided tour of Bastia, the island's bustling cardinal port. While crossing through St. Nicholas Square, keep an eye out for its marble statue of Napoleon. Then you'll move on to the Vieux Port (Old Port), which is tucked into a narrow cove. It is host to the impressive St. John Cathedral and the city’s 15th-century citadel, “Terra-Nova,” which overlooks the bay from a rocky incline. You'll have free time to make your own discoveries here.

    After lunch onboard the ship, you'll depart for the thriving port of Saint-Florent, which stands protected by a turquoise bay. You'll then continue on to Corsica's wine-growing region, where you'll visit the village of Patrimonio.

    Tonight, enjoy a Port Talk and dinner aboard the ship. You'll depart for Elba Island late this evening.

  • OAT

    After breakfast onboard, you'll disembark the ship to explore Elba Island.

    At 14 miles long and six miles wide, Elba was once part of a larger stretch of land that connected Italy to Corsica. It is now the largest island of the Tuscan Archipelago, and it has long been rich in iron deposits, which explains why the port we'll dock in, Portoferraio, translates to “Iron Port." You'll enjoy an included tour here this morning.

    Afterward, you’ll experience the warmth of an Italian welcome during an exclusive Discovery Series Home-Hosted Visit with a local island family. After an included lunch, you'll then have time to make your own discoveries.

    Tonight, you'll gather for a special Farewell Dinner with your Captain and crew, and your ship will cruise to Livorno.

  • OAT

    After breakfast, you’ll disembark the ship and transfer to Florence.

    En route, you’ll stop in Volterra—a once-vital Etruscan lucumonia, or metropolis, where ancient artifacts are prominently on display. Here, you’ll visit an alabaster workshop, and then you'll have free time to explore the area's surrounding ruins on your own. Perhaps you'll visit the archaeological park, where a gated entrance—Porta all’Arco, or “The Arch Gate”—will greet you with its weather-worn stones and three lion heads, said to represent the Etruscan gods Tinia (Jupiter), Uni (Juno), and Menrva (Minerva). Impressively intact since the 4th century, its foundation was threatened during WWII as German bombs were raining down, and had it not been for shrewd Volterrans who packed the gate with stones, you may not be able to witness this relic today.

    You'll then continue on to Florence, arriving in the late afternoon. You’ll get acquainted with the area outside of your hotel when you venture out for an orientation walk and dinner on your own.

  • After breakfast and an orientation briefing at your hotel, you’ll set off for a guided walking tour of Florence—capital of Tuscany, and birthplace of the Renaissance. For centuries, it has been a hub of art, fashion, business, and politics, and its history is as inspiring as the grand Tuscan landscape surrounding it. In fact, its well-preserved, historic city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s where you can find the iconic Il Duomo, more formally known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Although constructed more than 600 years ago, it still has the world’s largest brick-and-mortar dome, and this impressive building also includes a Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile, or bell tower. Then, enjoy an included lunch together.

    Tonight, dinner will be on your own.

  • After breakfast at your hotel, explore more of Florence at your own pace. Perhaps you will stroll across the Ponte Vecchio, or “Old Bridge” which spans the Arno River—it’s the only bridge in Florence that wasn’t destroyed by the retreat of Hitler’s forces in 1944.

    Or, you may choose to join an optional tour of Chianti, world-renowned for its floral red wine. Several villages span its seven subdivisions, including Greve in Chianti—“in Chianti” being a 20th-century affixation to many village names as the region’s boundaries were defined.  As you discover Greve in Chianti this morning you’ll visit a ghiacciaia, Italian for “ice box,” an underground cellar where you’ll witness how cheese and salamis are kept cool.

    You’ll then continue on to a local winery, where you'll enjoy a wine tasting. Per the DOC (an Italian wine regulation group), Chianti must contain at least 80% Sangiovese grapes—a red, thinly skinned grape named for "the blood of Jove.” The wine appears today in several incarnations like Chianti Classico, Riserva, and the innovative Super Tuscan, made by producers who have contested the DOC’s regulations—to much acclaim. As you taste the wine, you’ll also sample some charcuterie (sliced meats). Lunch in a countryside villa will follow, and then you’ll depart for Florence.

    The rest of the afternoon will be yours to enjoy, and tonight, dinner will be on your own.

  • After breakfast at your hotel, you'll set off for an included, half-day Intimate Florence tour. First, you'll visit a local market in Sant'Ambrogio, located in Piazza Ghiberti, where vendors sell cheeses, pastries, and fresh produce; it's also an exciting place to people watch as customers and vendors haggle over prices. Then you'll walk to the Le Murate—a former nunnery, turned prison, now contemporary art center—before arriving in Santa Croce Square in the center of Florence. The square is dominated by the Basilica of Santa Croce, which is the world's largest Franciscan church, and many notable Italians—like Niccolò Machiavelli, author of The Prince—are buried here.

    Next, you’ll stop in for a visit at the Accademia di Belle Arti Firenze, where Michelangelo’s famous statue David is on display. This 16th-century masterpiece was first placed outside of Florence’s town hall, Palazzo Vecchio, with its eyes facing toward Rome, and it quickly came to symbolize Florence’s identity as an independent city-state. Four of Michelangelo’s unfinished sculptures—the Prisoners—will also be exhibited, along with Renaissance paintings by Paolo Uccello and Sandro Botticelli.

    We enjoy dinner in a local restaurant together this evening.

    • Meals included:

    Following breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight home. Or, extend your stay in the region with a post-trip extension to Bologna, Italy.

Extensions

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Overall Trip Excellence
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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 vacation to Italy and France features a fair amount of walking over uneven surfaces. The M/V Arethusa does not have an elevator onboard. For your comfort and safety, we recommend this trip only to individuals in good physical condition. Agility is required to board a tender boat for one or more shore excursions. If you have difficulty walking or are wheelchair-bound, please ask your Travel Counselor about choosing another Grand Circle Cruise Line vacation.
  • 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.
  • Due to the varied geography of the regions we visit on this program you will experience a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions. We recommend that you bring a rain jacket and sun-block regardless of the time of year you travel. If you travel in spring or fall, you can expect cooler temperatures or inclement weather.

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

  • M/V Arethusa

    The M/V Arethusa ranked #2 in Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 20 Small Cruise Ships in the World” 2014 Readers’ Poll.

    Owned, operated, and staffed by Grand Circle Cruise Line, this ship was designed exclusively for two small groups of just 25 Grand Circle travelers, each with its own Program Director. For relaxation, the lounge/bar features inviting leather couches and soft chairs. Topside, a Sun Deck has classic wooden deck chairs for admiring the scenery.

SEE THE ENTIRE GRAND CIRCLE FLEET

Main Trip

  • Hotel Albani Firenze

    Florence, Italy | Rating: Superior First Class

    Conveniently located just steps from Florence's historical city center, this Superior First-Class hotel presents modern and Florentine furnishings. Each of the 102 air-conditioned rooms contains satellite TV, a telephone, refrigerator, and private bath. You'll be provided with on-site access to a fitness center and sauna, while refreshments will be on offer at the American Bar, wine cellar, and their Italian restaurant, Bernini.

  • Montaigne Hotel & Spa

    Cannes, France | Rating: Superior First Class

    Located just steps from the Palais des Festivals (where the annual Cannes Film Festival is held), this Superior First-Class hotel provides guests with convenient access to shops and restaurants. Enjoy a drink at the Bar Montaigne, or unwind in the pool, hot tub, or on-site spa. Each air-conditioned room features a private bath, coffee- and tea-making facilities, hair dryer, and flat-screen TV.

Extensions

  • Hotel Aquabella

    Aix-en-Provence, France | Rating: First Class

    Conveniently located in the historic center of Aix-en-Provence's Old Town, this First-Class hotel is just a stroll away from ancient and modern wonders. Enjoy a drink in the Lounge Bar, dine in the L'Orangerie restaurant, or visit the well-equipped fitness center. Each of the 110 rooms are air-conditioned and feature a private bath, telephone, cable TV, and minibar.

  • Grand Hotel Sitea

    Torino, Italy | Rating: Superior First Class

    Built in the early 20th century, this 120-room hotel is a short distance from Torino highlights like the Royal Palace and Egyptian Museum. All air-conditioned rooms are equipped with satellite TV, private bath, and mini-bar. The hotel also features a restaurant (Carignano) and American bar.

  • Hotel Astoria

    Stresa, Italy | Rating: First Class

    Situated on a lake promenade with a view of the Alps in the distance, this 100-room hotel is a short walk from Stresa's town center and Congress Hall. Each room contains a refrigerator, satellite TV, telephone, and minibar. Choose to relax in the outdoor pool, or perhaps stretch your legs on the nearby jogging trails.

  • Art Hotel Corona d'Oro

    Bologna, Italy | Rating: First Class

    This two-story First Class hotel sits in the city center just a short walk from Piazza Maggiore. A 14th- century home, the historic building blends Gothic and Renaissance touches with modern updates. Each of the 40 rooms features air conditioning, coffee- or tea-making facilities, cable/satellite TV, telephone and internet access.

  • Dei Commercianti Hotel

    Bologna, Italy | Rating: Limited Service First Class

    Conveniently located in Bologna's City Center, this intimate 34-room hotel features a bar and business center in the lobby. Your air-conditioned room includes minibar, satellite TV, safe, and private bath.

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 Cruise Line 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).

Standard Air Routing

w/out standard air $3795
w/ standard air $5395

France Meets Italy in the Ligurian Sea

Corsica: curious mix of language, cuisine, and culture

by John Bregoli, Grand Circle Boston associate

Not quite French, not quite Italian, Corsica is difficult to categorize—as are its people.

Corsica is a rugged island 100 miles long, formed by a chain of mountains rising out of a northern arm of the Mediterranean in the Ligurian Sea. It boasts an ancient history, and is blessed with a wealth of natural beauty, dramatic coastlines, white-sand beaches, a lush mountainous interior, and charming hilltop hamlets—enough treasures fit for an emperor, you could say.

That emperor, of course, would be Napoleon Bonaparte. The future emperor of France was born in 1769 in the Corsican capital of Ajaccio (pronounced Ajaxxio) in 1769, and by 1810 much of Europe was under his rule. After his forced abdication in 1814, Napoleon was sent into exile—his first of two. He could have gone to Corsica, but he chose the neighboring island of Elba instead. It didn’t matter all that much to Napoleon, for he knew that on clear days he could easily see the beautiful mountains of his homeland, jutting up from the deep blue waters just a few short miles away.

The course of history would send Napoleon’s birthplace on a very unique path—resulting in a curious mix of language, cuisine, and culture.

Italian influences and the French connection

While Corsica is much closer to Italy than the French mainland, it is not an Italian island at all—it is French, and has been for 200 years. But the cultural influence of some five centuries of Genoese rule has left an indelible imprint throughout the island, from its Italianate fortresses and Tuscan-style hilltop villages to hot pizza sliding out of wood-fired ovens. Many people still choose to speak the Italian-influenced Corsican language (Corsu) rather than the official language of French. And in an apparent shun to the haute cuisine typical of mainland France, Corsicans favor heartier fare than their French counterparts. Known as cucina corsa, the food of Corsica evolved from a peasant diet begun when Corsicans fled to the island’s mountainous interior from 18th-century colonizers. In addition to the deliciously ubiquitous white cheese known as brocciu and world-renowned charcuterie, Italian classics like polenta (made from chestnut flour, rather than the usual cornmeal), lasagna, and cannelloni aren’t strangers in a Corsican kitchen.

On a darker note, Italian-style vendettas—honor killings that often lasted for generations—once took place deep in the chestnut forests of the island’s mountainous interior. And it was secretive Corsican gangs who controlled heroin trafficking between France and the U.S. from the 1950s to the early ’70s—a trade American authorities dubbed the French Connection. Even today, the imagination can catch a lingering scent of banditry mixing with the fragrant wild herbs and flowers that cover the island and waft out to sea.

But the French and Genoese are just two of the influences in Corsica’s long and tumultuous history. Corsica has been inhabited since Neolithic times—as evidenced by mystical granite menhirs (large, upright standing stones) that remain scattered in various parts of the island. With the growth of European and Mediterranean powers, Corsica’s strategic location became too tempting to resist. Armies from Carthage, Greece, Rome, Moors from North Africa, Genoa, Pisa (Genoa’s historic rival), France, Spain, and Britain would all fight on Corsican soil. This history greatly shaped the culture and identity—and fiery independent spirit—of contemporary Corsicans, as they have been battling to be free from invaders for more than 2,000 years. Corsica did enjoy one brief period of true independence, however. 

By the 1750s, the island had already been controlled by the Italian Republic of Genoa for centuries. But in 1755, the Corsican patriot Pasquale Paoli succeeded in routing most of the Genoese from the island. For the first time in history, he proclaimed Corsica a sovereign nation, independent at last from the Republic of Genoa. But the Genoese, realizing they were about to lose control of the island, “sold” it to the French in a secret treaty in 1764. After Genoa began to surreptitiously replace their own soldiers for French troops, Paoli was forced to wage a guerilla war from mountain hideouts (establishing one of his bases in Corte), and in 1769 he was defeated in the Battle of Ponte Novu by vastly superior French forces—and Corsica officially became a French province in 1770. To this day, Corsicans consider Paoli the “father of the nation,” and he is held in far greater esteem than Napoleon (“He did everything for France, nothing for Corsica,” is a popular sentiment regarding Napoleon from contemporary Corsicans).

Speaking of Napoleon, if the year of Corsica’s Gallic defeat sounds familiar, it is because Bonaparte was born the 15th of August, 1769, just three months after the island succumbed to the French—and he grew up hating the nation he would one day rule. At the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, Napoleon would write to Paoli, who was exiled in England following his loss at Ponte Novu, to tell him of his vivid memories of Corsica’s defeat. “As the nation was perishing I was born. Thirty thousand Frenchmen were vomited on to our shores, drowning the throne of liberty in waves of blood. Such was the odious sight which was the first to strike me.” With childhood memories like that, you almost knew Bonaparte was destined for something special.

Not quite French, not quite Italian, Corsica is difficult to categorize—as are its people. Beautiful, wild, rugged, and unspoiled are all accurate, but somehow inadequate, descriptions of a place that Balzac called “a French island basking in the Italian sun.”