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 a Home-Hosted Lunch, 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.

Rome Sorrento Expand All
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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 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. 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 enjoy time to 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, 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, as was Academy Award-winner Life is Beautiful. 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. You'll 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 made for strolling, 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.)

    Then enjoy an included lunch at your choice of local restaurant. 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.

    Spent 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 Culinary Experience. Journey to Villa Il Pizzo, a 19th-century mansion beautifully set amid 35-acres of lemon and citrus grove. After walking through the groves and vegetable garden, where you'll pick seasonal produce, learn how to prepare regional specialties from a local chef during a hands-on lesson—and then savor the results.

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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 in Naples, one of the world's most beautiful seaports, we enjoy an in-depth exploration of the Naples 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.

    This evening, join us for an exclusive Discovery Series discussion with a local expert on Italy and the Camorra to learn about this crime syndicate and their impact on the Campania region. 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, 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, 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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    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.

    This afternoon, choose to join an optional tour of Positano, known as "The Gem of the Divine Coast," a picturesque village of steeply stacked houses that line the cliff sides. During your time here, enjoy a discovery walk a local guide, free time to explore on your own, and dinner at a local restaurant before returning to Sorrento tonight.

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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 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 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.

    This evening, join a local family for a special Home-Hosted Dinner. 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 in 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. You'll even sip wine from the family's vineyard.

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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 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.

    After lunch on your own, return to your hotel for an afternoon at leisure.

    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.


Traveler Reviews

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Questions and Answers

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Questions and Answers

Want to know more about one of our vacations? Now, when you post a question, travelers who have been on that trip can provide you with an honest, unbiased answer based on their experience—providing you with a true insider’s perspective.

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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.

Currency Cheat Sheet: Submit

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


  • 4 locations in 18 days, including  2 single-night stays

Physical requirements

  • Not accessible for travelers using wheelchairs or scooters
  • Travelers using walkers, crutches, or other mobility aids must travel with a companion who can assist them throughout the trip
  • You must be able to walk 3 miles unassisted and participate in 3-5 hours of physical activities each day, including stairs


  • Daytime temperatures range from 56-79°F during touring season
  • June-August are the warmest months
  • January-March and November weather can be unpredictable and change quickly within a short period of time, including snow in Chianciano and Southern Tuscany


  • Travel over uneven walking surfaces, including unpaved paths, hills, stairs, and cobblestone


  • Travel by 45-seat motorcoach and public transportation that requires ability to stand up and hold onto handles while vehicle is in motion


  • Meals will be based on the local cuisine

Travel Documents


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.


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


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. Hotel facilities include a restaurant, bar, and currency exchange, and each 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 this modern town near the thermal spas. A bus stop is located right across the street, where you can catch buses to Montepulciano and the Chianciano Old City Center. Amenities include a restaurant, lounge, health club, solarium, and game room, and each room features 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

    The First Class Grand Hotel Cesare Augusto is centrally located near the main square of Sorrento’s Piazza Tasso and shopping area, and five minutes away from public transportation, with many restaurants within walking distance. The hotel includes a restaurant, lounge, roof garden with outdoor swimming pool (open from June to September), and solarium, and each room features a private balcony, air-conditioning, telephone, TV, safe, and private bath with hair dryer.

    Please note: Select departures feature similar accommodations.

  • UNA Hotel Venezia

    Venice, Italy | Rating: Superior First Class

    Conveniently located near St. Mark’s Square, UNA Hotel Venezia gives you easy access to many of Venice’s most alluring attractions, including the Academia Gallery, Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Miracoli, Cannaregio and Dorsoduro district. The Superior First-Class hotel's amenities include a café and laundry service. Your room features a private bath with hair dryer, telephone, wireless Internet, refrigerator, coffee-making facilities, cable TV, safe, and minibar.


  • UNA Hotel Venezia

    Venice, Italy | Rating: Superior First Class

    Conveniently located near St. Mark’s Square, UNA Hotel Venezia gives you easy access to many of Venice’s most alluring attractions, including the Academia Gallery, Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Miracoli, Cannaregio and Dorsoduro district. The Superior First-Class hotel's amenities include a café and laundry service. Your room features a private bath with hair dryer, telephone, wireless Internet, refrigerator, coffee-making facilities, cable TV, safe, and minibar.

  • 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. Hotel facilities include a restaurant, bar, and currency exchange, and each air-conditioned room features a telephone, cable TV, minibar, refrigerator, safe, and private bath with hair dryer.

Flight Information

Your Flight Options

Whether you choose to take just a base trip or add an optional pre- and post-trip extension, you have many options when it comes to personalizing your air—and creating the Grand Circle vacation that’s right for you:

Purchase Flights with Grand Circle

  • Work with our expert Air Travel Consultants to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Upgrade to business or premium economy class
  • Customize your trip by staying overnight in a connecting city, arriving at your destination a few days early, or spending additional time in a nearby city on your own
  • Combine your choice of Grand Circle vacations to maximize your value

Make Your Own Arrangements

  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline
  • Purchase optional airport transfers to and from your hotel
  • Extend your Land Tour-only Travel Protection Plan coverage and protect the air arrangements you make on your own—including your frequent flyer miles

OR, leave your air routing up to us and your airfare (as well as airport transfers) will be included in your final trip cost.

Estimated Flight Times

Traveling to and from Rome will involve long flights and some cities will require multiple connections. These rigors should be a consideration in planning your trip.

The chart below provides estimated travel times from popular departure cities. Connection times are included in these estimates.

Partner since: 2004
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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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.
  • Visit to a local cheesemaker. Learn how cheese is produced in the artisanal Tuscan tradition.
  • 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.
  • Italy and the Camorra discussion. Learn about this notorious crime syndicate and their impact on the Campania region.
  • Home-Hosted Dinner. Share Italian hospitality and cuisine as you are welcomed into the home of a local family.

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. From pastel-hued villages cascading down hillsides to hearty pastas swimming in fragrant sauces, here are some of the memorable experiences travelers have shared from our Amalfi Coast and Tuscany tour.

Scenic landscapes
"This was our first visit to Italy, and we were not prepared for the lush and beautiful countryside we witnessed in the Tuscany region, or for the breathtaking scenes offered by the Amalfi Coast ... The landscapes we encountered on the main portion of the trip along with the cities, towns, and historic sites we visited were phenomenal."
A 4-time traveler from Lititz, PA

Program Directors
"Grand Circle has a gem in Fernando. Of all the Program Directors I’ve had on my various Grand Circle and OAT tours, Fernando is tied for #1 ... Fernando’s obvious love of his country, especially the Amalfi Coast area, was daily communicated to me via his smiles, his “Buon Giorno!” greeting on the bus, his spontaneous hug when I was really excited about the beauty of an area we were in and told him so ..."
A 6-time traveler from Aspen, CO

Local cuisine
"The tour was designed to give us a good feel for the local culture, including what the average person in Southern Italy eats. We enjoyed the various types of pasta dishes, but also appreciated the variety of meats, cheeses, fish, and desserts that we got to try."
A 2-time traveler from Asheville, NC

Herculaneum & National Archaeological Museum optional tour
"Our favorite experience was the Herculaneum & Naples Archeological Museum tour, which really gave us a sense of the life lived by the Romans before Vesuvius erupted. The mosaics, statues, jewelry, silverware, and other art in the museum were beyond our imaginations."
An 8-time traveler from Fernandina Beach, FL

Tuscan villages
"For us, the village of Pienza was a highlight, a town remodeled and renamed in the 15th century by its famous son, Pope Pius II. Visits to Siena and Assisi were also very interesting, with a balance of free time and guided tours."
A 7-time traveler from Sioux City, IA

"Sorrento was a joy. Our hotel had large, attractive rooms, the included meals at the hotel were delicious, the waitstaff cordial, and the views from our balconies either looked across at lemon groves or down at the peaceful, beautiful hotel back gardens. We could easily walk to the squares for cafe dining, excellent shopping, and visiting the port."
A 3-time traveler from Portland, ME

Venice, Italy pre-trip extension
"Venice, called the Queen of the Adriatic, is such an unusual city. It is neither land nor water, but a strangely beautiful mix of both. No cars are to be found here, and we quickly learned to use the public transportation boats called vaporetti. ... One of our highlights here was taking a gondola ride while being serenaded by musicians."
A 16-time traveler from Moline, IL

Home-Hosted Dinner
"We had a really good meal with homemade wine and good conversation with the host. The zucchini blossoms were ‘out of this world.’ The giant meatballs were very tasty (they had raisins in the center). The pasta was delicious! Compliments to the hostess and her cousin, who did the cooking!"
A first-time traveler from Whitehall, MI

"Having seen parts of Florence before, my friend and I were thrilled to have six hours on our own. We were again wowed by the architecture, saw Michelangelo's David at the Accademia, walked across the Ponte Vecchio, and I had time to purchase a leather jacket."
A 5-time traveler from Osseo, MN

The Amalfi Coast
"The Amalfi Coast left an indelible mark in my brain, starting with the beautiful ragged coastline, to the turquoise blue water that the sun rays glistened off of, to its little villages on the side of the road that were enchanting. Positano is a site to see, with an array of colors that line the coastline. It still amazes me how these villages are mostly built on hillsides."
A first-time traveler from Chandler, AZ

For reservations and information about our Amalfi Coast and Tuscany tour, call us toll-free at 1-800-221-2610


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.

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:

Please be sure to include the name of your Grand Circle vacation, 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.