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 charming 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, including a Home-Hosted Lunch, an excursion to Pompeii, and a guided tour of Florence. As always, you'll have the freedom to explore your own interests during relaxing downtime.

Rome Sorrento Expand All
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    Depart the U.S. this evening for 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 this evening to meet your Program Director and enjoy a Welcome Drink. Dinner is on your own.

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    Set off for Chianciano after breakfast, arriving in the early afternoon. This evening, gather with your Program Director and fellow travelers from the Venice, Italy pre-trip extension for an orientation briefing followed by an exclusive Discovery Series Italian With & Without Words lesson. You'll find many opportunities to use what you learn in the days ahead. Then enjoy a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant.

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    This morning, take an orientation walk in Chianciano, famous since the times of the ancient Etruscans for its thermal mineral waters, before traveling to Radicofani. Set 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.

    Explore the Old Town and visit the San Pietro Church, renowned for its splendid Della Robbia terra cotta sculptures, on a discovery walk. Then, visit a local cheese maker for an exclusive Discovery Series event, sampling local fare during a light lunch here as you 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, followed by dinner at a local restaurant.

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    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 to view 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. 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

    A Renaissance jewel, the village of 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. 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 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 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 Discovery Series discussion on the Taste of Tuscany, learning about two of Italy's defining passions—wine and olive oil.

    Dinner is on your own this evening.

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    Spend 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, choose to 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, 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. 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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    Explore Assisi today, 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. Enjoy a guided tour of 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, savor an included lunch with your fellow travelers, followed by free time to explore Assisi.

    Dinner is on your own tonight.

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    After breakfast, visit Chianciano's Etruscan Museum, supported by Grand Circle Foundation. 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 explore Cortona, one of Tuscany's loveliest hillside villages, with both time to make your own discoveries and lunch on your own. 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.

    This evening, dinner is at your hotel.

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    After breakfast, begin the ride to the cliffside town of Sorrento, stopping for a short visit to the hilltop town of Orvieto en route. 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.

    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.

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    Get to know Sorrentto this morning during a walking tour, which takes you to see the cathedral, Piazza Sant'Antonino, the Public Gardens, the town's typical little alleys, and its main square, Piazza Tasso. Amble along Corso Italia, the town's main street made for strolling, and along Via San Cesario, lined with picturesque shops offering food and handcrafts. You'll also have the chance visit children at Santa Maria della Pieta School (when in session), supported by Grand Circle Foundation.

    Then enjoy an included lunch at a local restaurant of your choice with your Grand Circle meal voucher, which provides you with choice at no extra cost. Your Program Director will give all the details and suggestions for your meal.

    Spent the rest of the day making your own discoveries. Or join us this afternoon for an optional Sorrentine Farm Experience. Head to the countryside to learn the secrets of local agriculture and what goes into the production of olive oil, fresh mozzarella cheese, and limoncello liqueur. Then, prepare and savor your own pizza, made in true Sorrentine fashion—topped with farm-fresh ingredients.

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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.

    Tonight, take advantage of your Grand Circle meal voucher for an included dinner at your choice of a number of local restaurants.

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    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. 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, 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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    After breakfast, enjoy a day on your own to make independent discoveries.

    Or, join us for an optional tour of Paestum, an ancient Greco-Roman city in the Campania region of southern Italy. The site features three beautifully-preserved Doric Greek temples, the ruins of ancient homes, and a museum of artifacts—all of which you will explore with an expert guide by your side.

    Nowadays, this region is known for its delectable buffalo mozzarella cheese. On your way back to Sorrento this afternoon, stop at a mozzarella factory to learn the secrets of how the iconic soft cheese is made, then enjoy an included lunch. 

    Dinner is on your own tonight. 

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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.

    You'll then enjoy a special Home-Hosted Lunch 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. You'll even sip wine from the family's vineyard.

    This evening, partake in 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.

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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, gather with your fellow travelers at a local restaurant for your Farewell Dinner.

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    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    Drive northward to Rome today, 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.

    Enjoy a panoramic orientation tour of Rome upon your arrival, giving 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

  • Walk 3 miles unassisted and participate in 3-5 hours of physical activities daily, including stairs
  • 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
  • Program Directors reserve the right to modify participation or send travelers home if their limitations impact the group’s experience

Terrain & Transportation

  • Uneven walking surfaces, including unpaved paths, hills, stairs, and cobblestones
  • Travel by 45-seat motorcoach, and public transportation that requires ability to stand up and hold handles while vehicle is in motion


  • Daytime temperatures range from 56-90°F during touring season
  • June-August are the warmest months
  • November-March weather can be unpredictable and change quickly within a short period of time, including snow in Chianciano and southern Tuscany


  • 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 | Rating: First Class

    Centrally located near the main square of Sorrento’s Piazza Tasso and public transit, the Grand Hotel Cesare Augusto features a restaurant, lounge, roof garden with outdoor swimming pool (open from June to September), and solarium. Each air-conditioned room includes a balcony, 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.

    Please note: Select departures feature similar accommodations.

  • 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

Customize Your Trip

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 customizing your trip—and creating your own unique travel experience:

Purchase Flights with Grand Circle

  • Choose the departure city and airline that works best for you
  • Depart from one city and return to another
  • Upgrade your air itinerary based on your travel preferences
  • “Break away” before or after your trip to explore independently or re-energize
  • Combine two or more trips to make the most of your value—and avoid another long flight
  • Extend your discoveries with pre- or post-trip extensions

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 $164 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.
  • Home-Hosted Lunch. Share Italian hospitality and cuisine as you are welcomed into the home of a local family.
  • Italy and the Camorra discussion. Learn about this notorious crime syndicate and their impact on the Campania region.

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 storybook countrysides to authentic interactions with locals, here are some of the memorable experiences travelers have shared from our Amalfi Coast and Tuscany tour.

Scenic landscapes
"The scenes in Tuscany were breathtaking, the Amalfi Coast, Positano, Amalfi, and Capri were like being part of a dream. The heights of the cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean, feeling so small compared to the vastness of the beauty."
A first-time traveler from Summerville, SC

Grand Circle Foundation school visit
"Not to miss was the visit to an elementary school that Grand Circle Travel sponsors ... The fourth and fifth grade students impressed us with their skills in English and we enjoyed asking and answering questions."
A 14-time traveler from Ankeny, IA

Benedictine Abbey of Montecassino
"On the way to Rome at the end of the trip we stopped at the monastery at Montecassino. This was a highlight for me as my step-father had been in the Anzio landing in WWII and was affected by the German stronghold at the monastery. Being there was an emotional experience for me."
An 8-time traveler from Leesville, SC

Two seven-night stays
"The immediate appeal of Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast was staying in the same hotel for seven nights in Tuscany followed by seven nights in one hotel in Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast. My husband and I have traveled extensively and prefer to see an area thoroughly by staying several days in one location and touring from the home base. This tour met our criteria perfectly."
A 7-time traveler from Chambersburg, PA

Amalfi Coast
"The day that we spent driving along the Amalfi Coast was full of hairpin curves and amazing vistas. Our stops at Amalfi, Scala, and Ravello gave different views of coastal towns. We loved the boat ride that our Program Director arranged along the coast."
A 4-time traveler from Montgomery, TX

Venice, Italy pre-trip extension
"Venice is a wonderful city with great old architecture and the famous canals. The city is very busy, but amazingly clean. We often went out on our own early in the AM and late at night for photographs and felt completely safe walking anywhere. Our guide, Stefania, was enthusiastic and knowledgeable."
A 4-time traveler from Corning, NY

Home-Hosted meal
"I enjoyed the Home-Hosted [visit], getting to meet the people and being in their home and finding out how they live and what they think about us Americans and getting to taste a home-cooked meal."
A 4-time traveler from Lake Havasu City, AZ

"My most memorable moment was Assisi—seeing the gorgeously cleaned paintings by Giotto and his school. Unforgettable! That was one of the reasons I chose this trip."
A 9-time traveler from Westminster, CO

Program Director
"Beautiful countryside, excellent learning opportunities, and the best Program Director ever imagined; the wonderful Fernando; perfect English, vast knowledge, a love of his country and fondness for his 'flock'. He made it easy and fun."
A 3-time traveler from Wilmington, NC

Tuscan villages
"Standing in the village of Radicofani under a blue sky and seeing the beautiful rolling hills countryside ... oh what a feeling of being back in time a few centuries ago!"
An 11-time traveler from Leesville, SC

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

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Our NEW Best Price Guarantee means that, if you and your friends can find a lower price on a comparable trip from another tour company, we’ll match it. It’s that simple.

We encourage you and your friends to compare our prices and value to the following companies:

  • Collette
  • Go Ahead Tours
  • Grand European Travel
  • Gate 1 Travel
  • SmarTours
  • Vantage Deluxe World Travel
  • Tauck

How do you know if you’ve found a comparable trip?

  • Does their trip visit the same or similar locations?
  • Does their trip include the same or similar number of days?
  • Does their trip include the same or similar number of meals and included tours?
  • Prices vary by season—does their trip depart in the same month as ours?
  • If their trip has internal flights, are they included in the price?
  • Is their trip led by a guide who accompanies the group for the entire trip?
  • Is any included airfare arranged by the company itself or a third party (Kayak, Travelocity, etc)?

3: Call us at 1-800-221-2610 to see if you found a match

If you think you have a comparable trip, don’t delay. Call us today and get the best price on your vacation—guaranteed. Our Travel Counselors will be able to either give you a response on the spot or will get back to you within 24 business hours.

Tell your friends: They can also enjoy our best price, guaranteed, and you can all benefit with our Vacation Ambassador Referral Program.

See full Best Price Guarantee Terms & Conditions.

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.

History, Culture & More

Learn more about the history, art, culture, and more you’ll discover on this trip by reading the features below. These articles were collected from past newsletters, Harriet’s Corner, and special features created for Grand Circle by our team of writers.

Italy’s Amalfi Coast

Discover the rich maritime history of this famed, 25-mile stretch of vibrant shoreline.

Read More »

Pompeii’s Darkest Day

Learn more about the fateful eruption in AD 79 that froze this Italian city in time.

Read More »

Ribollita (Bread and Vegetable Soup)

Check out the recipe for this famous Tuscan soup with peasant origins.

Read More »

History, Culture & More

Italy’s Amalfi Coast

A stunning seascape with a rich history

by Tom Lepisto from Insider

Steep, rocky slopes rise abruptly from the water’s edge, sometimes concealing crescents of beach below cliffs in secluded coves.

At the spot on the “boot” of Italy where the shin meets the ankle, a 25-mile stretch of mountainous Mediterranean shoreline offers striking vistas that have awed visitors since ancient Roman times.

Called the Amalfi Coast, for the town at its center, it’s also known as the Divina Costiera (divine coast) because of its scenic beauty. Its charms also include a pleasant Mediterranean climate and a long history that has endowed this area with a romantic blend of treasures from many centuries. Extending along the southern shore of the Sorrentine Peninsula from Positano to Vietri sul Mare, this gem of the Italian landscape has inspired artists, authors, and composers from many countries— and even offers one vista so infinitely enticing that legend says it is the one Satan showed Jesus to tempt Him to rule on Earth rather than in Heaven.

Fortunately, there’s no reason for mortal visitors to resist the temptation to enjoy the Amalfi Coast’s delights. A drive along the coastal highway Strada Statale 163 provides a gallery of views as you round its many twists and turns, each seemingly more impressive than the last. Steep, rocky slopes rise abruptly from the water’s edge, sometimes concealing crescents of beach below cliffs in secluded coves. Colorful towns climb the vertical contours of the landscape, yielding to terraced slopes green with lemon groves and vineyards. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 (under its Italian name Costiera Amalfitana), this area was recognized for its extraordinary blend of land, sea, culture, and nature.

Precipitous Positano

Anchoring the western end of the Divina Costiera, the fishing village of Positano has a distinctive topography that impressed American author John Steinbeck, who wrote in a 1953 Harper’s Bazaar article that “Its houses climb a hill so steep it would be a cliff except that stairs are cut in it.” In addition to having foundations cut horizontally into the mountainside, rather than underneath them in the usual manner, some houses in this town of about 4,000 permanent residents are painted in bright colors. This custom is said to have originated as a way for local fishermen to quickly identify their homes from a distance.

Steinbeck was also struck by the attitude of the Positanese, whom he noted “have been living here since before recorded history and they don’t intend to change now.” The town’s residents in past millennia included millers who ground the flour used to bake bread for the Roman Emperor Tiberius, who feared being poisoned if he used sources closer to Rome. In a later era, Positano was home to seafaring traders who brought home the wealth to build the 16th- and 17th-century mansions that still dot the town. The dome of the church of Santa Maria Assunta, rebuilt in 1700 during that era of prosperity, is a landmark visible from many points in and around the town. Because of the way the whole town is built into the steep slopes above the beach of Spiaggia Grande, with higher mountainsides rising above, Positano’s historic architecture blends in with the landscape to present a spectacle that has been many centuries in the making.

A route for keen eyes

To the east along the coast, the next town is Praiano, another cliff-perched village that was one of Positano’s historic rivals for the bounty of the sea. In times past, observers from all of the Amalfi Coast’s communities kept an eye out to sea from up in the hills. When they spotted a school of fish, or a salvageable shipwreck, they alerted local sailors, who would then race to the scene because a strictly enforced code gave the first ones to arrive the right to claim marine resources. On a broader scale, one of the first international maritime codes—the Tavole Amalfitane—originated in this seafaring region in the twelfth century as a way to regulate trade throughout the Mediterranean.

The Amalfi Coast is also dotted with visible evidence of a less orderly side of its sailing history: some 30 seaside watchtowers built in medieval times to detect the approach of Turkish or Saracen pirates. Sentinels would light fires atop the towers when they spotted an approaching pirate ship, alerting defenders and giving villagers time to seek safety by literally “heading for the hills.”

East of Praiano, the coastal road crosses the Vallone di Furore, one of the deepest of several gorges that cut their way through the cliffs along this stretch of coastline. Here, as at many places along the road, the construction of the highway itself is an impressive feat, involving many bridges, tunnels, viaducts, and hairpin turns. Completed during the time of the Bourbon dynasty in the early 19th century, and often simply called the “Amalfi Drive,” the road is a masterpiece of the highway engineer’s art that ranks among Italy’s most eye-catching autostradi.

Amalfi, a town with a storied past

The coast’s namesake town, Amalfi, is located where the road crosses another gorge, the Valle dei Mulini. It’s a town of about 7,000 year-round inhabitants with a picturesque harbor where fishing and pleasure craft moor today. The scene was markedly different in the eleventh century, when this was a major commercial trade port whose power rivalled that of Venice, Genoa, and Pisa. As the seat of the Amalfi Maritime Republic, the town ruled the entire region and conducted extensive trade with the North African ports of Tunis, Algiers, and Tripoli, which has left traces of Arab influence in some of the local architecture to this day. During its medieval heyday, Amalfi’s “Arsenal of the Republic” was one of the preeminent shipbuilding centers in the Mediterranean, launching 80-foot-long vessels that boasted 120 oars. Amalfi’s most prominent historic landmark, the Cathedral of St. Andrew (Duomo di Sant’Andrea), has borne witness to local history since the ninth century. Inside are relics of Andrew, the town’s patron saint and one of the Twelve Apostles. The bronze doors at the main entrance date from 1060 and demonstrate the town’s maritime reach, having been brought across the Mediterranean from Constantinople.

Into the hills for time-honored vistas

On the slopes of the Lattari Mountains above Amalfi, towns perched more than one thousand feet above the seacoast offer famous vistas and their own distinctive histories. Ravello is home to the Villa Rufulo, built by a 13th-century noble family whose taste in selecting a viewpoint has stood the test of time. The villa’s landscaped grounds, with their sweeping vista of the coast below, were the inspiration for the garden of the magician Klingsor in Richard Wagner’s opera Parsifal. At the nearby Villa Cimbrone, the view from the “Terrace of Infinity” has impressed artists including J.M.W. Turner, and is said to be the panorama of Earthly grandeur that the Devil used to tempt Christ.

Higher in the hills, the village of Scala is one of the oldest communities on the Amalfi Coast. Founded in the fourth century AD, it boasted 130 churches at its height during the medieval reign of the Amalfi Maritime Republic. Some historic sanctuaries, including the twelfth-century Cathedral of San Lorenzo, still stand, while others lie in ruins that in their own way evoke the region’s remarkable heritage. Scala is also home to extensive stands of chestnut trees, whose nuts contribute to this area’s selection of tasty treats.

From its beaches to its lofty viewpoints, the Amalfi Coast offers a combination of scenic beauty and maritime history that many visitors find soul-stirring. To trace its shoreline, and to climb the innumerable stairways that make up many streets in its towns, is to make a pilgrimage through one of the world’s most enchanting seascapes.

History, Culture & More

Pompeii’s Darkest Day

by Philip McCluskey for Insider

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.

History, Culture & More

A Taste of Tuscany: Ribollita (Bread and Vegetable Soup)

Imagine the aroma of fresh herbs hanging from the stalls of a local Tuscan market. The scent of pizza eaten on the piazza wafting through the air. Creamy gelato dripping from the side of your cone onto the sidewalk. When you hear the city of Tuscany mentioned, visions of mouthwatering cuisine comes to mind.


  • 2 cups wet cannelloni beans
  • 2 cups wet borlotti or pinto beans
  • ½ Savoy cabbage
  • 1 lb. Swiss chard
  • 3 ripe or canned tomatoes
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 1 leek
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • Whole-wheat bread
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


  • 1. Cook the beans (after soaking them overnight), retaining all of the cooking water. Take about three-quarters of the beans and strain through a sieve right back into their water. Set the rest of the beans aside.
  • 2. In a large pot, sauté the finely chopped onion with a clove of garlic in eight tablespoons of oil. When they’re brown, add the sliced celery, carrot, and leek.
  • 3. Sauté for a while, and then add the chopped tomatoes, rinsed and sliced Swiss chard, Savoy cabbage, thyme, salt, and pepper.
  • 4. Pour in all of the liquid from the beans and cook the soup very slowly for an hour, adding a little warm water if necessary. Towards the end of cooking time, add the beans.
  • 5. Place slices of bread in the bottom of the soup bowl, pour half of the soup over them, cover with another layer of bread, and then pour in the rest of the soup.
  • 6. Before serving, let the soup stand for a few minutes. Serve with a splash of good extra virgin oil.

Servings: 6