Journey from the Amalfi Coast, twisting along the sapphire Mediterranean, to the pastoral landscapes of Tuscany—and discover the varied delights of Italy on this NEW Grand Circle Tour. Seek out the art and architectural wonders of the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and ancient world ... explore unforgettable history on display from Pompeii to Florence ... and enjoy a taste of authentic Italian life during a Home-Hosted meal in Sorrento. With stays on the Amalfi Coast and in two unique Tuscan towns, you'll have the most comprehensive Italian experience with a host of included tours and in-depth discoveries—including meeting a local cheesemaker in the beautiful Orcia Valley and visiting the medieval city of Siena. Bella Italia is eager to welcome you.
4 nights from only $745
89% excellence in 2015
From the Sistine Chapel’s immortal frescoes to the countless masterpieces displayed in museums, there may be no other city that has as many legendary expressions of beauty as Rome. We think you’ll agree with us that, when you travel Italy, additional time to explore the "Eternal City" in more depth is an opportunity not to be missed.View Extension Itinerary
Depart the U.S. this evening for Rome, Italy.
You’ll be greeted at the airport by a Grand Circle representative who will assist you to your hotel where you'll be joined by fellow travelers who took our optional pre-trip extension to Rome, Italy. Gather with your fellow travelers to meet your Program Director and enjoy a Welcome Party followed by a buffet dinner at the hotel.
After breakfast, begin the ride to the cliff-side town of Sorrento. On the way, you’ll stop to visit a local buffalo mozzarella cheese factory for an exclusive Discovery Series event. Made from rarer and more flavorful buffalo milk as opposed to cow milk, true buffalo mozzarella cheese is crafted using a centuries-old technique perfected by local cheesemakers that gives the iconic soft cheese its distinctive shape and texture. You’ll also savor a light lunch here—with the freshly-made mozzarella as the main attraction.
Arrive in Sorrento early this evening, with dinner at your hotel tonight. 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 morning after breakfast get to know Sorrento during a walking tour, which takes you to see the cathedral, Piazza Sant'Antonino, the Public Gardens, the town's quaint little alleys, and its main square, Piazza Tasso. Amble along Corso Italia, the town's main pedestrian thoroughway, and along Via San Cesario, lined with picturesque shops offering food and handcrafts.
Afterwards, enjoy some free time to explore this charming city further. Lunch and dinner will be on your own—your Program Director can suggest some of the many authentic restaurants in the area.
Or join us this afternoon for an optional Sorrentine Farm Experience. Head to Sorrento's unique countryside, where the terraced farmlands cling to the steep cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean. Here, you will learn the ancient secrets of how agriculture was developed around this vertiginous landscape. You'll also see what goes into the production of local specialties, like olive oil and limoncello liqueur. Then, prepare and savor your own pizza, made in true Sorrentine fashion—topped with farm-fresh ingredients.
Later this afternoon, partake in an exclusive Discovery Series discussion with a local expert on Italy & the Camorra to learn about this crime syndicate and their impact on the Campania region.
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 rediscovered until the 17th century, Pompeii's antiquities offer you an unparalleled view of Roman life. Explore Pompeii's most significant sites with your expert guide 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.
Return to Sorrento in time for lunch on your own. The rest of the afternoon is yours to use as you wish. Perhaps you will choose to walk down to the port of Marina Grande—a picturesque, hidden harbor community which has retained much of its charms due to its secluded location.
Then this evening, you’ll enjoy a special Home-Hosted Dinner with a local family. Throughout this exclusive Discovery Series event, you'll become acquainted with Italian social life as you break bread with a family in their home and enjoy the meal from their authentic Italian kitchen. Traditional cuisine here often incorporates the freshest ingredients from the markets. Typical fare includes locally raised poultry accompanied by such homegrown vegetables as eggplant, tomato, and sweet peppers, and, of course, homemade pasta.
After breakfast, depart 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, discover what is perhaps Italy's most beautiful coastline—a UNESCO World Heritage Site richly imbued with centuries-old charm. Make a photo stop above remarkable Positano, whose buildings happily cling to the cliffs and seem to tumble toward the sea; and then continue to the town of Amalfi, romantically situated at the mouth of a deep gorge. You'll also enjoy a boat ride (weather permitting) along its ruggedly stunning shoreline, decorated by colorful fishing boats and wondrous rock formations.
Enjoy some free time and an included lunch in nearby Scala, the oldest town 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, dinner will be on your own.
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 funicular 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 breathtaking views, you'll continue to the highest point of the island and tour the village of Anacapri, which has spectacular views of the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius. Next you'll enjoy 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 in time for our return boat to Sorrento.
This evening, dinner will be on your own.
Say goodbye to Sorrento this morning, then travel to Tuscany.
On the way, you’ll stop at Montecassino Abbey. The original hilltop sanctuary was almost completely destroyed during the Battle of Montecassino in 1944; the abbey that stands there today was faithfully restored after the war. During your visit, a local guide will show you the oldest section of the abbey's monastery, virtually untouched by the tragic bombings that took place here during WWII. Afterwards, enjoy time for independent discovery as you explore the abbey's grounds. Lunch is on your own.
Afterwards, continue your journey to the Tuscan town of Chianciano—famous since the age of the ancient Etruscans for its thermal mineral waters—where you’ll check into your hotel and enjoy an included dinner there tonight.
After breakfast, visit Chianciano's Etruscan Museum. 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 explore the village of Pienza. A Renaissance jewel, Pienza 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. Take part in a walking tour, and admire the vistas from the town overlooking the valley and a mountain peak that was once a volcano. You'll also have some 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 and Palazzo Piccolomini on the other. Designed by Rossellino, the palazzo was the home to Pius's descendants until 1968 and is one of the places in the beautiful Orcia Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site, 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.
Next, visit a local cheesemaker for another exclusive Discovery Series event, sampling local fare during a light lunch as you taste the locally produced sheep-milk cheeses.
Return to Chianciano for dinner on your own.
This morning, explore 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 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, as was Academy Award-winner Life is Beautiful.
Your Program Director will take you on a walking tour of the village this morning, including visits to Piazza della Repubblica, a beautiful main square at the heart of Cortona, and the Piazza Signorelli, a bustling plaza full of restaurants, cafes, and the grand Teatro dell Signorelli (theater). Afterwards, enjoy lunch on your own and some free time to discover Cortona at your own pace.
This evening, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
After breakfast, check out of your hotel head to the medieval walled city of Siena, 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, and 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. Your tour also takes you inside the cathedral, where you will also visit the Piccolomini Library, adorned with colorful frescoes by Perugino, 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.
Afterwards, you’ll depart for Montecatini and arrive in time for an orientation walk. Dinner will be on your own.
This morning you’ll explore the elegant and beautifully preserved Art Nouveau spa district, including a visit to Tettuccio Spa. Unlike spas that offer clients a soak in their curative waters, Tettuccio Spa is known for its drinkable mineral waters—claiming to cure a range of ailments. Please note: The interior of Tettuccio Spa is not available during the months of November and December.
Next, depart for Montecatini Alto, the original settlement of today’s Montecatini. The wonderfully preserved medieval village is situated high above the “new” town, and offers spectacular views. After your guided walk, enjoy lunch on your own then descend back down into the main part of town via funicular. Please note: The funicular only operates between the months of April and October. For the remainder of the year, a motorcoach transfer is available instead.
Your next stop will be at one of the many plant nurseries Montecatini is famous for during an exclusive Discovery Series event. Montecatini’s unique micro-climate and fertile soil create the ideal conditions for growing a variety of plants, from decorative evergreens to roses. During your visit, learn more about this important part of the local economy. Then enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
Explore legendary Florence today, 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.
Begin your exploration of Florence with a walking tour of the city, stopping first to visit the Accademia Gallery, home to Michelangelo's famous statue, David. Afterwards, continue your tour and marvel at the Duomo and 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.
Enjoy lunch and the afternoon on your own to make your own discoveries. 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.
Tonight, return to Montecatini for dinner on your own.
Enjoy a day of leisure today, making independent discoveries in Montecatini or simply unwinding at your hotel.
Or, join us on an optional tour to the city of Pisa, famous for so much more than its iconic Leaning Tower. You’ll explore the Piazza dei Miracoli (the Square of Miracles)—decorated by the stunning marble architecture of its Cathedral, the Baptistery (with its marvelous echo), and, yes, the Leaning Tower. This famous tower brings to mind one of civilization's most illustrious names—Galileo Galilei, the genius who helped to found modern science. At the square's Cathedral, you can still view the lamp that inspired Galileo's theory of the pendulum. He used the vantage point of the top of Pisa's celebrated Leaning Tower to demonstrate principles of speed and velocity. This tour also features an included lunch.
Early this evening, take part in a fascinating and controversial exclusive Discovery Series event. Discuss how Italy’s lucciole (fireflies, an Italian term for prostitutes) and legalized prostitution has affected today's society.
Dinner tonight will be on your own.
You may be familiar with Renaissance icon Leonardo da Vinci, but did you know his name comes from the town where he was born? Today, you’ll discover Vinci, a quintessentially Tuscan village, and follow in the footsteps of one of the world’s greatest artists. As well as a walking tour, enjoy a visit to Museo Leonardiano, the museum of Leonardo da Vinci, and admire its collection of da Vinci’s works, including drawings and models of his many inventions.
Return to Montecatini for lunch on your own and an afternoon of leisure. This evening, reconvene with your fellow travelers for a Farewell Dinner, where you can relive the experience you have had together.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight home. Or, begin your post-trip extension in Venice, Italy.
4 nights from only $845
Moving Beauty of Venice
Produced by David Conover and Compass Light Productions
This independent film features destinations you can visit on this post-trip extension.
More than a third of our travelers reserved this extension in 2016
Continue 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.View Extension Itinerary