One of the miracles of Italy is that a relatively small country contains such a wealth of stunning scenery and beautiful cities. On this tour to Italy, you’ll explore Tuscany, the Italian Riviera, and the Alps—ageless, evocative regions that brim with history, striking vistas, and rich traditions. Discover Florence’s Renaissance treasures and Orvieto's ancient charms. In the Italian Riviera, you’ll stay in the Santa Margherita area and visit picturesque Portofino. As you journey through the Alps, you'll also cruise scenic Lake Garda. Then travel high into Southern Tyrol to Bolzano, surrounded by the dramatic peaks of the Dolomites. Framed by brief stays in Rome and Venice, it's a superb opportunity to experience Italy's treasures—all at Grand Circle's exceptional pacing and value.
3 nights from only $695
More than 50% of our travelers have reserved this extension in 2016
Rome, the "Eternal City," is one of the great centers of Western Civilization and the civic and historic heart of Italy. Here, the ancient monuments of the vast Roman Empire stand side-by-side with the more recent wonders of the Renaissance. We think you’ll agree with us that this additional time to explore the Eternal City in depth is an opportunity not to be missed—and an exceptional value.View Extension Itinerary
Begin your travel to Italy as your flight departs this evening.
A Grand Circle representative will meet you at the airport and assist you to your hotel, where you'll set off on an orientation walk of the area. Tonight, meet your fellow travelers, including those from the optional pre-trip extension to Rome, Italy, and your Program Director over a Welcome Drink followed by hors d'oeuvres during a Welcome Party at your hotel.
After breakfast, begin your journey to Florence, stopping along the way to visit 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 there—and its independently minded leaders often squabbled with the Papacy. The construction of the 14th-century Orvieto Cathedral is distinctive in its use of basalt and travertine, which are of volcanic origin. Its three-gabled facade is exceptional, with vivid bas-reliefs, statuary, and mosaics. Become acquainted with the area during a discovery walk with your Program Director, then enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before continuing on to Florence. During the drive, learn some of the Italian words that will be most useful to you during a special Italian With & Without Words lesson led by your Program Director during an Exclusive Discovery Series event.
Upon arrival this afternoon, delight in another exclusive Discovery Series event: Delve into a presentation on Art of the Renaissance,designed to pave the way for more meaningful discoveries in Florence and Tuscany.
This evening, dinner is on your own.
This morning, embark on a walking tour of Florence with an expert local guide. To begin, you'll marvel at the exterior of the beautiful Duomo. This elegant church with its remarkable octagonal Brunelleschi dome is one of the most magnificent structures in Florence. Our tour continues with a stroll through Piazza Signoria, the busy square that was the ancient center of city life during the days of the Medici. Perhaps in your free time you'll visit Santa Croce Gothic church, and its tombs and memorials to many famous Italians like Dante, Galileo, and Michelangelo. And finally, you'll visit the Accademia Museum where you'll have an opportunity to see Michelangelo's famous statue of David.
This evening, enjoy a Home-Hosted Dinner with a local family. You're sure to savor this family-style meal, as well as the opportunity to learn about everyday life in modern-day Italy.
Today is free for you to visit some of Florence's famous sites on your own. The historical center of Florence is full of striking buildings and piazzas and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And you may want to visit the Casa Guidi, Elisabeth Barrett-Browning's home in Florence, just next to the Ponte Vecchio; or, across the street, the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens. Or perhaps you'll explore the Uffizi Gallery: This world-renowned museum is home to masterpieces by such legendary artists as da Vinci, Botticelli, Giotto, Titian, Michelangelo, and many more.
Or, choose an optional Treasures of Tuscany tour to discover the rare beauty of this iconic region. Whatever your personal vision of Tuscany may be—rolling hills covered with vineyards, remote medieval towns and sun-drenched castles, a grass-wrapped bottle of robust Chianti—you may find it today, along with many other treasures of this beloved wine country. You'll head out toward the medieval hill town of San Gimignano, known as the “Town of Towers,” where you'll have free time to explore the narrow, stone-paved streets that twist inside the walls of this quaint town. Then travel through the scenic Chianti wine country to Castello Oliveto, a 15th-century manor where you will take a tour of the residence and its ancient wine cellar before your included lunch.
Enjoy the remainder of your day back in Florence relaxing at your hotel or exploring independently before your evening at leisure.
Your day is free to spend as you please.
Or, take advantage of a full-day optional tour to Siena. A local guide will take you on a walking tour to 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 to the 16th centuries, 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, where an annual horse race called Il Palio takes place, are numerous lovely churches and 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. During this optional excursion, you'll have some free time to explore on your own before enjoying an included lunch at a local trattoria.
Tonight, dinner is on your own.
Today marks the end of your time in Tuscany, and the beginning of your stay in the Italian Riviera.
After breakfast, travel to Santa Margherita—stopping along the way in Pisa, where you have free time to explore the Piazza dei Miracoli (the Square of Miracles) at your own pace. The square is decorated by the stunning marble architecture of its Cathedral, the Baptistery (with its marvelous echo), and, of course, 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. He used the vantage point of the top of Pisa's celebrated Leaning Tower to demonstrate principles of speed and velocity, inspiring his theory of the pendulum. Later, enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.
Continue on to the Italian Riviera, a strikingly beautiful coastal stretch marked by mountains and promontories falling into sparkling seas, and by gentle hills covered with green forests and vineyards. After checking in to the hotel, enjoy a walk around the vicinity with your Program Director.
Tonight, dinner is on your own.
After breakfast, enjoy a morning at leisure including lunch on your own.
This afternoon, join an included excursion to Portofino featuring a scenic boat ride (depending on the season and weather permitting). Portofino is the gem of the Italian Riviera, with an idyllic location on a miniature cove. The town is tiny, and you can walk wherever you wish to go, admiring the pastel-colored houses, lovely gardens, and elegant villas. Stroll past private old villas to the lighthouse, or climb steps from the port to the little parish Church of St. George with its panoramic view of the port and bay.
Next, you’ll visit with the children of ACD Sammargheritese soccer school (when in session)—a unique after-school organization funded in part by Grand Circle Foundation—during an exclusive Discovery Series event. This volunteer-run program has been giving Italian children the chance to learn and participate in this popular team sport since 1903. This is a very important opportunity for the children, as sports are not integrated into the public school system.
Return to your hotel this evening, and enjoy dinner on your own.
Take advantage of a full day to savor the delights of the Italian Riviera according to your own interests. Perhaps you’d like to take a walk along the seafront and explore a traditional fishing village, or hike one of the many local trails for spectacular views. Nearby towns wait to be explored, such as Cinque Terre, where five little villages, each with its own unique character, are built into the cliffs between the beach and the vineyard-terraced hills of this rocky coastline. There's also Chiavari, with its morning fruit and vegetable market—one of the prettiest in the region. Or you might want to discover Sestri Levante, a favorite among Italians, which offers something for everyone—hiking, shops, and two lovely beaches.
This evening, gather together for an exclusive Discovery Series discussion on Immigration in Italy Today with your Program Director and a local immigrant to Italy. Dinner is included at your hotel tonight.
After breakfast, begin your journey to Bolzano. Along the way, stop at Lake Garda—the largest lake in Italy. Surrounded on all sides by stunning natural vistas, this is a popular vacation spot for both Italians and other Europeans alike. Enjoy a scenic boat ride, and disembark in the picturesque town of Sirmione, known best for its medieval Scaliger Castle, standing proudly at the lake’s shores. Here you will enjoy lunch at a local restaurant, followed by a discovery walk with your Program Director and some free time to explore this charming spa town on your own.
Arrive in Bolzano in late afternoon. Located high in the Alps near the border of Austria, Bolzano is a true blend of Italian and Tyrolean cultures. Note the architecture of the houses and churches, and the cuisine—all of which are part of Southern Tyrol's distinctive character. This is a mountainous region whose history is long and convoluted, with Italy gaining Southern Tyrol from Austria by the treaty of St. Germain in 1919. Dinner is at a local restaurant this evening.
After breakfast, learn about the History of South Tyrol during exclusive Discovery Series discussion that spans from the Middle Ages to modern life in this part of Northern Italy.
Then set off on a walking tour in the company of an expert local guide introducing you to Bolzano's Austrian and Italian influences. Since medieval times, Bolzano has been a staging point on the route south through the Brenner Pass to Rome. In the Old Town Center, see vivid examples of Bolzano's Germanic Gothic history. Visit the Duomo, a 14th-century wonder featuring remarkable frescoes, and stroll the pedestrian-only Piazza Walther. You'll also enjoy a tasting at a local pub which cold brews their beers in the traditional German style.
This afternoon, enjoy an afternoon to make your own discoveries in Bolzano. Perhaps you'll visit one of the city's museums, such as the Museum of Modern Art, or the Museum of Natural History. You may also choose to visit the open-air market.
Or, join us for an optional excursion to Renon Mountain, which rises over Bolzano. You'll reach the mountain by cable car, taking in panoramic views of the city and surrounding areas. Continue by train to a nearby village where you'll have time to explore the town and learn more about local life. Then you'll continue to Unterrin for dinner in a local gasthof (tavern).
This morning, drive through the Dolomite Mountains, and witness some of the most amazing alpine scenery in Europe.
You'll stop to visit picturesque Lake Carezza and take in the spectacular vista of Latemar Mountain before continuing on to Pordoi Pass, where you'll witness some of the highest peaks in the Alps. You'll savor the hearty alpine food during lunch at a typical South Tyrolean restaurant. Then, travel through the breathtaking Sella Pass and Eggental Valley, followed by a stop at a local resort village. This evening, dinner is on your own.
Spend your day at leisure. You may choose to explore the historical streets, shop at the traditional fruit market, or relax at a local cafe.
Or, you can journey farther into Tyrol as you cross the border with Austria to visit the Tyrolean capital of Innsbruck during an optional tour. Your scenic journey will take you over the Brenner Pass and via the Europabrucke, the tallest road bridge in Europe. The setting is enhanced by the backdrop of the Karwendel foothills' deep green fir and pine forest, and by the snowy peaks beyond. Nestled in a bend of the river Inn, the historic capital of Innsbruck is surrounded by the Alps.
You'll discover Innsbruck's Old Town, a small area of sturdy medieval houses painted in pastel colors and supported by sloping buttresses. Enjoy a walking tour along the city's main thoroughfares—such as the Maria-Theresien Strasse—to the magnificent City Tower, built in 1442 and later crowned by a Baroque bulbous cupola. Here, you'll encounter the city's Market Square, full of 15th- and 16th-century houses. Beyond, a labyrinth of alleyways invites aimless strolling.
Perhaps the most charming landmark in Innsbruck is the Golden Roof Palace, erected by Archduke Friedrich IV in the early 15th century as the residence of the Tyrolean sovereigns. You'll have an opportunity to capture its beauty during a photo stop. The tour will come to a close with lunch in a local restaurant followed by free time to explore on your own.
Back in Bolzano tonight, dinner is at your hotel.
Travel to Venice this morning, where you'll experience a local form of transportation known as a vaporetto (a small ferry), which will take you to your hotel.
This afternoon, enjoy a panoramic boat tour of the "City of Canals." As you glide through the city, your Program Director will point out such sights as the Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square), the center of Venice. This square was the heartbeat of the Serenissima (Serene Republic) in the heyday of Venice's glory as a seafaring republic, and the city's major attractions are centered here. It is one of the most beautiful and most photographed squares in all of Europe. Dominated by the lovely St. Mark's Basilica, the spacious square is surrounded with outdoor cafés, and is the perfect place to do a little people watching Italian-style while sipping a cappuccino.
Ornate St. Mark's Basilica is so richly embellished that it looks as though it could have been moved intact from Istanbul. Though the domed church is a conglomerate of many architectural styles, its main influence is Byzantine. Its facade is adorned with marble and mosaics that depict the life of Christ and St. Mark (whose body was smuggled into Venice in a pork barrel to confound Muslim officials who would refuse to search anything that touched pork).
Outside the basilica is the campanile (bell tower), which was rebuilt after it collapsed in 1902. You'll also see the Palazzo Ducale, or Doges' Palace. As we view this grand palace from the outside, note that this Venetian-Gothic palazzo is considered by many to be the grandest civic structure in Italy. After you disembark, enjoy some free time to explore this enchanting city on foot.
Tonight, enjoy a Farewell Dinner with your travel companions at a local restaurant.
You'll be escorted to the airport after breakfast for your flight home. Or, extend your stay with our Venice, Italy post-trip extension.
3 nights from only $845
87% of our travelers rated this extension “Excellent” in 2015
Cap off your Italian sojourn in Venice, an architectural masterpiece famous for its 150 canals and more than 400 bridges. Venezia is a city steeped in centuries of history and culture, and there are discoveries to be made—quite literally—around every corner and down its many side streets. You'll spend three nights in this romantic city, and enjoy ample time to explore on your own or discover the city with us on optional tours.View Extension Itinerary