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The Rivieras: France, Italy & the Isles 2014

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Pre-trip: Bologna, Italy

Either before or after your vacation to Italy and France's rivieras, perhaps you'll extend your stay in Bologna, Italy. For nearly a thousand years, the brightest minds of Italy have gathered in Bologna, the original university town. And the smartest travelers continue the tradition, soaking up the beauty of this city of porticos and towers. With ample time to explore the greatest sites of architectural splendor and religious devotion, you'll revel in a chance to experience Bologna at the pace you desire.

It's Included:
Accommodations for 4 nights in Bologna at the limited Service First-Class Dei Commercianti Hotel, the First-Class Art Hotel Corona d'Oro, or similar
5 meals: 4 breakfasts and 1 dinner
Included tour: Bologna
Exclusive services of a resident Grand Circle Program Director
All transfers

    Depart the U.S. today on your flight to Bologna, Italy. Please refer to your personal air itinerary for exact departure and arrival times.

  • Arriving in Bologna, you’ll be met at the airport and assisted to your hotel. Later, get acquainted with your Program Director—your guide throughout your entire vacation—and fellow travelers over a Welcome Drink.

    This evening, enjoy an included dinner in a local restaurant.

  • For 3000 years, red-roofed Bologna has been the heart of Northern Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region. With miles of covered porticos snaking through the historic city center, and stone towers representing centuries of empire, Bologna’s architecture is distinct and well-preserved. You’ll experience the timeless qualities of the city on a guided walking tour this morning.

    Your tour includes the city’s most famous institution: the world’s oldest degree-granting university, founded in 1088. Students who attend University of Bologna today find themselves strolling down lanes walked by their predecessors almost a millennium ago, as will you.

    After lunch on your own, enjoy free time to explore Bologna. Perhaps you’ll visit the two “leaning” towers, Asinelli and Garisenda, icons of a 12th-century building boom. If you feel hardy, you might climb the 500 steps of the Asinelli for views of the countryside from a 318-foot perch.

    Tonight, dinner is on your own. Consider one of the many restaurants serving handmade pasta and fresh sauces, including the meaty Bolognese which originated here.

  • Join us for an optional visit to Maranello, home of the Ferrari Museum, where you’ll see some of the automaker’s most prized offerings. Then you’ll continue on to Spilamberto to visit to the Balsamic Vinegar Museum, where you’ll learn about the unique multiple-barrel vinegar-making process. Then enjoy an included lunch in a local hotel restaurant.

    Or explore Bologna at your leisure. You might choose to immerse yourself in history and tradition by strolling the covered Portico of San Luca. A series of 666 vaults winding from ancient city gates to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Lucca, the two-mile arcade serves as the route of the annual procession honoring the Virgin Mother.

    Dinner is on your own this evening.

  • This morning, join an optional tour to Ravenna. Our walking tour includes the Basilica San Vitale, built in the sixth century, and now the only remaining intact church from the era of Emperor Justinian I. Then, you’ll enter the neighboring Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, filled with well-preserved fifth century mosaics. Our visit ends with an included lunch in a local restaurant.

    Or continue your discoveries of Bologna at your own pace, perhaps taking in some of its memorable sites of religious devotion. Santo Stefano, also known as the Seven Churches, is a complex of serene interconnected chapels built atop the site of a pagan temple over the span of 800 years. Or visit St. Peter’s Cathedral, a Baroque gem known for its dramatic interior and its mighty bell: La Nonna, the three-ton “grandmother” of all bells in Italy, which requires 13 bell ringers to play.

    • Meals included:

    Depart overland this morning for Florence, arriving in Florence this afternoon to join the main tour of The Rivieras: France, Italy & the Isles.