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Day by Day Itinerary

Brightly hued harbors, winding medieval paths, and inviting fishing villages beckon you to The Rivieras: France, Italy & the Isles. On this Small Ship Cruise Tour, you'll enjoy walking tours of Porto Venere and Portofino, as well as additional free time for independent discoveries in several ports including Nice and Bastia. Begin your enriching land discoveries during three days in picturesque Cannes before joining us aboard our award-winning M/V Arethusa—ranked #2 in Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 20 Small Cruise Ships in the World” 2014 Readers’ Poll—to cruise the region’s azure waters. During your Italian cruise, you’ll also enjoy exclusive Discovery Series events, including a pesto-making lesson, and feel the warmth of an Italian welcome during a Home-Hosted Visit in Elba. Enjoy guided tours and ample time to make your own discoveries in Santa Margherita Ligure, Florence, and more.

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    Depart today on your flight to Nice, France. Please refer to your individual air itinerary for exact departure and arrival times. Or begin your discoveries early with our pre-trip extensions to Aix-en-Provence, France or Torino & Lake Maggiore, Italy.

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    Arrive in Nice, France where a Grand Circle representative will meet you at the airport and assist with your transfer to your hotel in Cannes.

    This evening, you'll meet your fellow travelers over a Welcome Drink and enjoy an orientation walk.

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    After breakfast this morning, enjoy an insightful discussion on France Today with a local expert, an exclusive Discovery Series event. After, set off on a guided walking tour of Cannes. This city is the world-renowned host of the annual Cannes Film Festival since 1946, and each May when new films are previewed on an invitation-only basis, starlets and filmmakers descend upon this city en masse.

    Your tour includes a visit to the Promenade de la Croisette. A little over a mile long, this palm-fringed avenue lines the waterfront with a surplus of cafes, boutiques, and picturesque, sandy beaches. It's also where you can find the Palais des Festivals et des Congres, where the Cannes Film Festival is held.

    The remainder of the morning is at leisure to make further discoveries on your own. Perhaps you'll also explore Le Suquet, the Old Town of Cannes, where you'll discover narrow cobbled streets. Roman tombs from the eleventh century have been excavated here, and a well-preserved tower from that era rises over the bay. Rue St. Antoine houses a cluster of restaurants, which you may choose to explore when you enjoy lunch on your own.

    This afternoon, join your Program Director for an included excursion to Ile Saint-Honorat. This island is named after Saint Honoratus who established a monastery on the island sometime during the 5th century. Today, the island features pristine beaches and a fortified monastery where a group of monks still live.

    Tonight, enjoy an included Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant.

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    OAT

    Enjoy the day exploring Cannes at your own pace.

    Or, you may choose to join an optional tour of Monaco and Monte Carlo. You'll take a panoramic drive to Monaco, a self-governing, independent state full of glamour, style, and wealth, where, according to legend, Hercules opened its roads.

    You'll stop by Old Monaco's Grimaldi Palace, where ruler Prince Albert II now lives, and where, every day, the changing of the guard takes place. You'll also pass through the Saint Nicholas Cathedral where Albert's famous parents are buried: Prince Rainer III and Grace Kelly, America's darling movie star. Then after lunch at a local restaurant in Monaco, you'll visit lively Monte Carlo—home of the famed Monte Carlo Casino.

    Tonight, dinner will be on your own.

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    This morning you'll venture to St. Paul de Vence, one of the oldest towns on the French Riviera. Medieval walls still encase its narrow streets, and museums, artisanal shops, and art galleries abound.

    The town was once the residence of Russian-born Marc Chagall, one of 20th-century Europe's most prolific artists. He worked in a range of mediums ranging from stained glass, ceramics, and stage sets to fine art paintings, and he is laid to rest in the town's cemetery. According to Francoise Gilot, Picasso's mistress, Picasso once expressed, “When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what color is,” and he went on to compliment Chagall's expert interpretations of light. After, enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.

    Later, you'll board your ship in Nice, where the crew will greet you with a Captain's Welcome Drink and Dinner.

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    This morning you'll set off for a guided tour of Nice. Once referred to by the Greeks as Nike for their goddess of Victory, Nice's soft light has captured the hearts of artists for centuries. During a panoramic drive via motorcoach, you'll witness highlights of the city, like the Promenade des Anglais along the coast of the sea and Roman ruins in Cimiez (a neighborhood of Nice). After, enjoy a walking tour of Nice's colorful Old Town.

    The afternoon is yours to explore the city on your own. Perhaps you'll visit the public gardens situated at the peak of Castle Hill from which you can enjoy breathtaking views of the Cote d'Azur.

    Tonight, you'll enjoy a Port Talk and dinner onboard, and your ship will sail to Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy.

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    Enjoy a guided tour of Santa Margherita Ligure early this morning.  Brightly colored houses line its small harbor—some featuring frescoes and trompe-l'oeil paintings. You'll then take a boat ride to Portofino, the charming town once known as “Port of the Dolphin.” Here, you'll enjoy a guided tour followed by free time to make further discoveries on your own.

    After lunch onboard this afternoon, enjoy time at leisure to explore Santa Margherita Ligure. Tonight, dinner is onboard.

    Please note: In case of adverse sea conditions we may dock in Genova instead of Santa Margherita and transfer to Santa Margherita by bus. It may also be necessary to replace the local boat to Portofino with a local public bus ride.

  • hidden

    During an all-day tour today, discover Monterosso and Vernazza, two of the five towns that make up the Cinque Terre. Both feature centuries-old architecture, including charming churches, and are famous for wine and olive-oil production.

    Vernazza has no car traffic and remains one of the Rivieras' true fishing villages. The beach at Monterosso runs along most of the coastline, and paths formerly used by mules are now protected by the government and used by hikers who enjoy the sweeping views.

    This evening, enjoy an exclusive Discovery Series event led by the Arethusa chef featuring one of the most famous of all Ligurian dishes: pesto. The basil- and pine-nut sauce originated here and is the classic accompaniment with pasta—not red sauce—in this region of Italy. Then enjoy dinner and a Port Talk.

    Please note: In March and November, and in case of adverse sea conditions, boat transportation will be replaced with bus and train transportation to Cinque Terre. Depending on the season, you may visit different villages of the Cinque Terre than other months.

  • hidden

    This morning after breakfast, enjoy a walking tour of Porto Venere, newly added for 2015. You'll stroll the city's tunnel-like narrow streets and enjoy the medieval character of its centuries-old walls, learning about its Roman history and Doria Castle, which sits high atop the village. You'll have free time here before lunch onboard.

    This afternoon, you'll enjoy an exclusive Discovery Series event as you explore the Carrara marble quarries.

    Carrara has been home to cavatori, or quarry workers, for centuries as it has long been rich in marble deposits. The naming of the city is still up for debate, but one of the more poetic hypotheses can be pulled from the records of Saint Girolamo. He referred to Carrara as the “City of the Moon on the Wagons”—its landscape a white and gray moonscape of marble, slabs were regularly excavated and wheeled out by Romans who shipped the stone to Rome. (Today, Carrara marble can be seen in Trajan’s Column and Michelangelo's world-renowned masterpiece, David.)

    You’ll set off for the Fantiscritti marble quarry, where Michelangelo spent long periods of time carefully analyzing the stone, later using his selections to carve out his sculptures. You’ll stop to seize breathtaking views from above the walls of marble, and then you’ll venture underground to see the quarries from within.

    Tonight, you’ll enjoy a Port Talk and dinner onboard, and your ship will set sail for Corsica, France.

  • hidden

    OAT

    After breakfast this morning, learn more about Corsica's fight for independence during an insightful discussion on the Corsican Nation with a local expert, an exclusive Discovery Series event. Then, discover Bastia, one of the highlights of Corsica. Formed through volcanic explosions, two-thirds of the island is comprised of mountains, and during World War II it was nicknamed “USS Corsica,” as the U.S. military established several airfields there. (Pilot Joseph Heller later weaved his war experiences here into his novel, Catch-22.) And the majority of its acreage is protected through the Parc Naturel Regional de Corse nature reserve, which has allowed its natural beauty to thrive, undisturbed.

    You'll enjoy a guided tour of Bastia, the island's bustling cardinal port. While crossing through St. Nicholas Square, keep an eye out for its marble statue of Napoleon. Then you'll move on to the Vieux Port (Old Port), which is tucked into a narrow cove. It is host to the impressive St. John Cathedral and the city's 15th-century citadel, “Terra-Nova,” which overlooks the bay from a rocky incline.

    After an included lunch, enjoy free time this afternoon. Perhaps you'll visit the Musée de Bastia in the Governor's Palace, which showcases Bastia's fascinating history.

    Dinner onboard the Arethusa this evening.

  • hidden

    OAT

    After breakfast onboard, you'll disembark the ship to explore Elba Island.

    At 14 miles long and six miles wide, Elba was once part of a larger stretch of land that connected Italy to Corsica. It is now the largest island of the Tuscan Archipelago, and it has long been rich in iron deposits, which explains why the port we'll dock in, Portoferraio, translates to “Iron Port." You'll enjoy an included tour here this morning featuring the Teatro dei Vigilanti, the theater commissioned to be built in a former church by the famous Napoleon Bonaparte.

    Afterward, you'll experience the warmth of an Italian welcome during a Home-Hosted Visit with a local island family, an exclusive Discovery Series event. After an included lunch, you'll then have time to make your own discoveries.

    Tonight, you'll gather for a special Farewell Dinner with your Captain and crew, and your ship will cruise to Livorno.

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    • Meals included:
    OAT

    This morning after breakfast, you'll disembark your ship and set off for Florence, stopping in Lucca for a guided tour. Nestled in a verdant valley, this gem of Tuscany features ancient architecture and customs that have withstood the tests of time. This can be seen most readily in the well-preserved city walls which have surrounded the city since the 17th century—they encompass a wide expanse of red terra-cotta roofed homes, and the eye-catching Case-Torri or “Tower Houses” of wealthy families.

    As you stroll along winding, narrow streets, you may see locals leisurely sipping cappuccinos outside of cafes, smell cornetto (croissants) or Buccellato (a sweet local bread) wafting in the air, and feel a sense of things moving spectacularly slower. And you'll pass through the Piazza dell'Anfiteatro, where a ring of medieval buildings outlines the site of the city's former amphitheater, which was used to hold thousands of spectators for gladiator games. You'll also have time to explore more of Lucca on your own, and see for yourself why its name means “illuminated glade.”

    After lunch at a local restaurant, continue to Florence, arriving in the afternoon. Get acquainted with the neighborhood surrounding your hotel during an orientation walk with your Program Director. Dinner is on your own tonight.

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    • Meals included:

    After breakfast and an orientation briefing at your hotel, you'll set off for a guided walking tour of Florence—capital of Tuscany, and birthplace of the Renaissance. For centuries, it has been a hub of art, fashion, business, and politics, and its history is as inspiring as the grand Tuscan landscape surrounding it. You'll begin with a visit to the Galleria dell'Accademia where you'll have an opportunity to view Michelangelo's famous sculpture, David. After, you'll weave your way through the streets of the city center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here, you'll find the iconic Il Duomo, more formally known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Although constructed more than 600 years ago, it still has the world's largest brick-and-mortar dome, and this impressive building also includes a Baptistery and Giotto's Campanile, or bell tower.

    Tonight, dinner will be on your own.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:

    After breakfast at your hotel, explore more of Florence at your own pace. Perhaps you will stroll across the Ponte Vecchio, or “Old Bridge” which spans the Arno River—it's the only bridge in Florence that wasn't destroyed by the retreat of Hitler's forces in 1944.

    Or, you may choose to join an optional tour of Chianti, world-renowned for its floral red wine, a region filled with seemingly endless expanses of rolling vineyards and fragrant olive groves. Several villages span its seven subdivisions, including Greve in Chianti—“in Chianti” being a 20th-century affixation to many village names as the region's boundaries were defined.  As you discover Greve in Chianti this morning you'll visit a ghiacciaia, Italian for “ice box,” an underground cellar where you'll witness how cheese and salamis are kept cool.

    You'll then continue on to a local winery, where you'll enjoy a wine tasting. Per the DOC (an Italian wine regulation group), Chianti must contain at least 80% Sangiovese grapes—a red, thinly skinned grape named for "the blood of Jove.” The wine appears today in several incarnations like Chianti Classico, Riserva, and the innovative Super Tuscan, made by producers who have contested the DOC's regulations—to much acclaim. As you taste the wine, you'll also sample some charcuterie (sliced meats). Lunch in a countryside villa will follow, and then you'll depart for Florence.

    The rest of the afternoon will be yours to enjoy. Tonight, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:

    After breakfast at your hotel, enjoy a day at leisure, perhaps visiting Santa Croce Square in the center of Florence.

    Or, join us for an optional Vinci tour, where you'll have the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Leonardo da Vinci, one of history's greatest artists and inventors. Enjoy a visit to the Leonardo da Vinci Museum and an included lunch at a local restaurant.

    Tonight, dinner is on your own.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:

    Following breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight home. Or, extend your stay in the region with a post-trip extension to Bologna, Italy.

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    Depart today on your flight to Florence, Italy. Please refer to your individual air itinerary for exact departure and arrival times. Or begin your discoveries early with our pre-trip extension to Bologna, Italy.

  • hidden

    Arrive in Florence, Italy where a Grand Circle representative will meet you at the airport and assist with your transfer to your hotel.

    This evening, you’ll meet your fellow travelers during a Welcome Briefing. You’ll also get acquainted with your surroundings when you venture out for an orientation walk.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:

    After breakfast at your hotel, your vacation to Italy begins as you set off for a guided walking tour of Florence—capital of Tuscany, and birthplace of the Renaissance. For centuries, it has been a hub of art, fashion, business, and politics, and its history is as inspiring as the grand Tuscan landscape surrounding it. You'll begin with a visit to the Galleria dell'Accademia where you'll have an opportunity to view Michelangelo's famous sculpture, David. After, you'll weave your way through the streets of the city center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here, you'll find the iconic Il Duomo, more formally known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Although constructed more than 600 years ago, it still has the world's largest brick-and-mortar dome, and this impressive building also includes a Baptistery and Giotto's Campanile, or bell tower.

    Tonight, enjoy an included Welcome Dinner with your fellow travelers at a local restaurant.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:

    After breakfast at your hotel, explore more of Florence at your own pace. Perhaps you will stroll across the Ponte Vecchio, or “Old Bridge” which spans the Arno River—it's the only bridge in Florence that wasn't destroyed by the retreat of Hitler's forces in 1944.

    Or, you may choose to join an optional tour of Chianti, world-renowned for its floral red wine, a region filled with seemingly endless expanses of rolling vineyards and fragrant olive groves. Several villages span its seven subdivisions, including Greve in Chianti—“in Chianti” being a 20th-century affixation to many village names as the region's boundaries were defined.  As you discover Greve in Chianti this morning you'll visit a ghiacciaia, Italian for “ice box,” an underground cellar where you'll witness how cheese and salamis are kept cool.

    You'll then continue on to a local winery, where you'll enjoy a wine tasting. Per the DOC (an Italian wine regulation group), Chianti must contain at least 80% Sangiovese grapes—a red, thinly skinned grape named for "the blood of Jove.” The wine appears today in several incarnations like Chianti Classico, Riserva, and the innovative Super Tuscan, made by producers who have contested the DOC's regulations—to much acclaim. As you taste the wine, you'll also sample some charcuterie (sliced meats).

    Lunch in a countryside villa will follow, and then you'll depart for Florence where the rest of the afternoon will be yours to enjoy.

    Tonight, dinner will be on your own.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:

    After breakfast at your hotel, enjoy a day at leisure, perhaps visiting Santa Croce Square in the center of Florence.

    Or, join us for an optional Vinci tour, where you'll have the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Leonardo da Vinci, one of history's greatest artists and inventors. Enjoy a visit to the Leonardo da Vinci Museum and an included lunch at a local restaurant.

    Tonight, dinner will be on your own.

  • hidden

    This morning after breakfast, you'll set off for a guided tour of Lucca. Nestled in a verdant valley, this gem of Tuscany features ancient architecture and customs that have withstood the tests of time. This can be seen most readily in the well-preserved city walls which have surrounded the city since the 17th century—they encompass a wide expanse of red terra-cotta roofed homes, and the eye-catching Case-Torri or “Tower Houses” of wealthy families.

    As you stroll along winding, narrow streets, you may see locals leisurely sipping cappuccinos outside of cafes, smell cornetto (croissants) or Buccellato (a sweet local bread) wafting in the air, and feel a sense of things moving spectacularly slower. And you'll pass through the Piazza dell'Anfiteatro, where a ring of medieval buildings outline the site of the city's former amphitheater, which was used to hold thousands of spectators for gladiator games. You'll also have time to explore more of Lucca on your own, and see for yourself why its name means “illuminated glade.”

    After lunch at a local restaurant, continue to Livorno, where you'll embark the Arethusa. The crew will greet you with a Captain's Welcome Drink and Dinner, and tonight, your ship sails to Elba Island.

  • hidden

    OAT

    After breakfast onboard, you'll disembark the ship to explore Elba Island.

    At 14 miles long and six miles wide, Elba was once part of a larger stretch of land that connected Italy to Corsica. It is now the largest island of the Tuscan Archipelago, and it has long been rich in iron deposits, which explains why the port we'll dock in, Portoferraio, translates to “Iron Port." You'll enjoy an included tour here this morning featuring the Teatro dei Vigilanti, the theater commissioned to be built in a former church by the famous Napoleon Bonaparte.

    Next, you'll get the chance to experience the warmth of an Italian welcome during a Home-Hosted Visit with a local island family, an exclusive Discovery Series event.

    This afternoon, enjoy time at leisure. Tonight, your ship sails to Bastia, Corsica. 

  • hidden

    After breakfast this morning, learn more about Corsica's fight for independence during an insightful discussion on the Corsican Nation with a local expert, an exclusive Discovery Series event. Then, discover Bastia, one of the highlights of Corsica. Formed through volcanic explosions, two-thirds of the island is comprised of mountains, and during World War II it was nicknamed “USS Corsica,” as the U.S. military established several airfields there. (Pilot Joseph Heller later weaved his war experiences here into his novel, Catch-22.) And the majority of its acreage is protected through the Parc Naturel Regional de Corse nature reserve, which has allowed its natural beauty to thrive, undisturbed.

    You'll enjoy a guided tour of Bastia, the island's bustling cardinal port. While crossing through St. Nicholas Square, keep an eye out for its marble statue of Napoleon. Then you'll move on to the Vieux Port (Old Port), which is tucked into a narrow cove. It is host to the impressive St. John Cathedral and the city's 15th-century citadel, “Terra-Nova,” which overlooks the bay from a rocky incline.

    After an included lunch, enjoy free time this afternoon. Perhaps you'll visit the Musée de Bastia in the Governor's Palace, which showcases Bastia's fascinating history.

    Dinner onboard the Arethusa this evening.

  • hidden

    This morning after breakfast, enjoy an exclusive Discovery Series event as you explore the Carrara marble quarries.

    Carrara has been home to cavatori, or quarry workers, for centuries as it has long been rich in marble deposits. The naming of the city is still up for debate, but one of the more poetic hypotheses can be pulled from the records of Saint Girolamo. He referred to Carrara as the “City of the Moon on the Wagons”—its landscape a white and gray moonscape of marble, slabs were regularly excavated and wheeled out by Romans who shipped the stone to Rome. (Today, Carrara marble can be seen in Trajan’s Column and Michelangelo's world-renowned masterpiece, David.)

    You’ll set off for the Fantiscritti marble quarry, where Michelangelo spent long periods of time carefully analyzing the stone, later using his selections to carve out his sculptures. You’ll stop to seize breathtaking views from above the walls of marble, and then you’ll venture underground to see the quarries from within.

    This afternoon, you’ll discover Porto Venere on a walking tour, newly added for 2015. You'll stroll the city's tunnel-like narrow streets and enjoy the medieval character of its centuries-old walls, learning about its Roman history and Doria Castle, which sits high atop the village.

  • hidden

    During all-day tours today, discover Monterosso and Vernazza, two of the five towns that make up the Cinque Terre. Both feature centuries-old architecture, including charming churches, and are famous for wine and olive-oil production.

    Vernazza has no car traffic and remains one of the Rivieras' true fishing villages. The beach at Monterosso runs along most of the coastline, and paths formerly used by mules are now protected by the government and used by hikers who enjoy the sweeping views.

    This evening, enjoy an exclusive Discovery Series event led by the Arethusa chef featuring one of the most famous of all Ligurian dishes: pesto. The basil- and pine-nut sauce originated here and is the classic accompaniment with pasta—not red sauce—in this region of Italy. Then enjoy dinner and a Port Talk.

    Please note: In March and November, and in case of adverse sea conditions, boat transportation will be replaced with bus and train transportation to Cinque Terre. Depending on season, you may visit different villages of the Cinque Terre than Monterosso or Vernazza.

  • hidden

    OAT

    Enjoy a guided tour of Santa Margherita Ligure early this morning.  Brightly colored houses line its small harbor—some featuring frescoes and trompe-l'oeil paintings. You'll then take a boat ride to Portofino, the charming town once known as “Port of the Dolphin.” Here, you'll enjoy a guided tour followed by free time to make further discoveries on your own.

    After lunch onboard this afternoon, enjoy time at leisure to explore Santa Margherita Ligure. Tonight, enjoy a Captain's Farewell Drink and Farewell Dinner.

    Please note: In case of adverse sea conditions we may dock in Genova instead of Santa Margherita and transfer to Santa Margherita by bus. It may also be necessary to replace the local boat to Portofino with a local public bus ride.

  • hidden

    This morning you'll set off for a guided tour of Nice. Once referred to by the Greeks as Nike for their goddess of Victory, Nice's soft light has captured the hearts of artists for centuries. During a panoramic drive via motorcoach, you'll witness highlights of the city, like the Promenade des Anglais along the coast of the sea and Roman ruins in Cimiez (a neighborhood of Nice). After, enjoy a walking tour of Nice's colorful Old Town.

    The afternoon is yours to explore the city on your own. Perhaps you'll visit the public gardens situated at the peak of Castle Hill from which you can enjoy breathtaking views of the Cote d'Azur.

    Tonight, you'll enjoy a Port Talk and dinner onboard.

  • hidden

    This morning you'll disembark your ship and set off for a walking tour of St. Paul de Vence, one of the oldest towns on the French Riviera. Medieval walls still encase its narrow streets, and museums, artisanal shops, and art galleries abound.

    The town was once the residence of Russian-born Marc Chagall, one of 20th-century Europe's most prolific artists. He worked in a range of mediums ranging from stained glass, ceramics, and stage sets to fine art paintings, and he is laid to rest in the town's cemetery. According to Francoise Gilot, Picasso's mistress, Picasso once expressed, “When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what color is,” and he went on to compliment Chagall's expert interpretations of light. After, enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.

    You'll arrive in Cannes this afternoon, enjoying an orientation walk this evening before an independent dinner.

  • hidden

    After breakfast this morning, enjoy an insightful discussion on France Today with a local expert, an exclusive Discovery Series event. After, set off on a guided walking tour of Cannes. This city is the world-renowned host of the annual Cannes Film Festival since 1946, and each May when new films are previewed on an invitation-only basis, starlets and filmmakers descend upon this city en masse.

    Your tour includes a visit to the Promenade de la Croisette. A little over a mile long, this palm-fringed avenue lines the waterfront with a surplus of cafes, boutiques, and picturesque, sandy beaches. It's also where you can find the Palais des Festivals et des Congres, where the Cannes Film Festival is held.

    The remainder of the morning is at leisure to make further discoveries on your own. Perhaps you'll also explore Le Suquet, the Old Town of Cannes, where you'll discover narrow cobbled streets. Roman tombs from the eleventh century have been excavated here, and a well-preserved tower from that era rises over the bay. Rue St. Antoine houses a cluster of restaurants, which you may choose to explore when you enjoy lunch on your own.

    This afternoon, join your Program Director for an included excursion to Ile Saint-Honorat. This island is named after Saint Honoratus who established a monastery on the island sometime during the 5th century. Today, the island features pristine beaches and a fortified monastery where a group of monks still live.

    Tonight, dinner is on your own.

  • hidden

    Enjoy the day exploring Cannes at your own pace.

    Or, you may choose to join an optional tour of Monaco and Monte Carlo. You'll take a panoramic drive to Monaco, a self-governing, independent state full of glamour, style, and wealth, where, according to legend, Hercules opened its roads.

    You'll stop by Old Monaco's Grimaldi Palace, where ruler Prince Albert II now lives, and where, every day, the changing of the guard takes place. You'll also pass through the Saint Nicholas Cathedral where Albert's famous parents are buried: Prince Rainer III and Grace Kelly, America's darling movie star. Then after lunch at a local restaurant in Monaco, you'll visit lively Monte Carlo—home of the famed Monte Carlo Casino.

    Tonight, enjoy a Farewell Dinner in a local restaurant.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:

    Following breakfast, you will transfer to the airport for your flight home. Or, extend your stay in the region with a post-trip extension to Aix-en-Provence, France or Torino & Lake Maggiore, Italy.

Extensions

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Ratings based on percentage of travelers who rated these features "Excellent".

Ship Excellence
90%
Program Director Excellence
82%
Overall Trip Excellence
76%
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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.

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

Pacing

  • 15 days, with 7 nights aboard the M/V Arethusa, and 2 hotel stays

Physical Requirements

  • You must be able to walk 3-5 miles unassisted and participate in 3-5 hours of physical activities each day, including several sets of stairs and steep inclines
  • 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

Climate

  • Daytime temperatures range from 55-90°F during cruising season
  • June-August are the warmest months, with high temperatures and direct sunshine

Terrain

  • Travel over uneven walking surfaces, including ruins and archaeological sites, unpaved paths, hills, stairs, and cobblestones

Transportation

  • Travel by 45-seat coach, train, bus, 50- to 200-passenger public boat, 12- to 18-passenger ship tender, elevator, and 50-passenger small ship/li>

Small Ship Cruising

  • If docked at a pier, gangway incline can be steep/li>
  • Weather conditions and tides may require adjustments to your itinerary
  • Good agility, balance, and strength needed for possible rough seas and boarding tender

Accommodation

  • The M/V Arethusa does not have elevators onboard

Cuisine

  • Meals will be a mix of regional specialties and familiar American standards
  • Meals onboard feature a variety of entrée options, including vegetarian

Travel Documents

Passport

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.

Visas

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

Accommodations

Main Trip

  • M/V Arethusa

    The M/V Arethusa ranked #2 in Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 20 Small Cruise Ships in the World” 2014 Readers’ Poll.

    Owned, operated, and staffed by Grand Circle Cruise Line, this ship was designed exclusively for two small groups of just 25 Grand Circle travelers, each with its own Program Director. For relaxation, the lounge/bar features inviting leather couches and soft chairs. Topside, a Sun Deck has classic wooden deck chairs for admiring the scenery.

SEE THE ENTIRE GRAND CIRCLE FLEET

Main Trip

  • Montaigne Hotel & Spa

    Cannes, France | Rating: Superior First Class

    Located just steps from the Palais des Festivals (where the annual Cannes Film Festival is held), this Superior First-Class hotel provides guests with convenient access to shops and restaurants. Enjoy a drink at the Bar Montaigne, or unwind in the pool, hot tub, or on-site spa. Each air-conditioned room features a private bath, coffee- and tea-making facilities, hair dryer, and flat-screen TV.

Extensions

  • Hotel Aquabella

    Aix-en-Provence, France | Rating: First Class

    Conveniently located in the historic center of Aix-en-Provence's Old Town, this First-Class hotel is just a stroll away from ancient and modern wonders. Enjoy a drink in the Lounge Bar, dine in the L'Orangerie restaurant, or visit the well-equipped fitness center. Each of the 110 rooms are air-conditioned and feature a private bath, telephone, cable TV, and minibar.

  • Grand Hotel Sitea

    Torino, Italy | Rating: Superior First Class

    Built in the early 20th century, this 120-room hotel is a short distance from Torino highlights like the Royal Palace and Egyptian Museum. All air-conditioned rooms are equipped with satellite TV, private bath, and mini-bar. The hotel also features a restaurant (Carignano) and American bar.

  • Hotel Milan Speranza au Lac

    Stresa, Italy | Rating: Superior Tourist Class

    Centrally located in Stresa, this Superior Tourist-Class hotel faces the waterfront and provides a comfortable place to relax during your time here. Enjoy amenities such as air-conditioning, a telephone, safe, and satellite TV in your room, and on-site laundry and room service should you require it.

  • Dei Commercianti Hotel

    Bologna, Italy | Rating: Limited Service First Class

    Conveniently located in Bologna's City Center, this intimate 34-room hotel features a bar and business center in the lobby. Your air-conditioned room includes minibar, satellite TV, safe, and private bath.

Flight Information

Flight Options to Personalize Your Trip

You can choose to stay longer before or after your trip on your own, or combine two vacations to maximize your value.

  • Extend your vacation and lower your per day cost with our optional pre- and post-trip excursions
  • Choose our standard air routing, or work with us to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline, applying frequent flyer miles if available
  • International airport transfers to and from your ship or hotel, including meet and greet service, are available for purchase
  • Stay overnight in a connecting city before or after your trip
  • Request to arrive a few days early to get a fresh start on your vacation
  • Choose to "break away" before or after your trip, spending additional days or weeks on your own
  • Combine your choice of Grand Circle Cruise Line vacations to maximize your value
  • Upgrade to business or premium class

The air options listed above may involve additional airfare costs based on your specific choices.

Or, when you make your reservation, you can choose our standard air routing, for which approximate travel times are shown below.

Standard Air Routing

w/out standard air $3595
w/ standard air $4595

History, Food & More

Learn more about the history, art, culture, and cuisine 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.

France Meets Italy in the Ligurian Sea

Not quite French, not quite Italian, Corsica is difficult to categorize—as are its people. Learn why for yourself.

Read More »

Cacciucco Alla Livornese

Try making this hearty fish stew with origins that stretch back centuries to Livorno, a Tuscan port town.

Read More »

Standing the Test of Time

Learn about the resurgence of the Cinque Terre’s Vernazza—a region that was once nearly lost to the world.

Read More »

History, Food & More

France Meets Italy in the Ligurian Sea

Corsica: curious mix of language, cuisine, and culture

by John Bregoli

Corsica is a rugged island 100 miles long, formed by a chain of mountains rising out of a northern arm of the Mediterranean in the Ligurian Sea. It boasts an ancient history, and is blessed with a wealth of natural beauty, dramatic coastlines, white-sand beaches, a lush mountainous interior, and charming hilltop hamlets—enough treasures fit for an emperor, you could say.

That emperor, of course, would be Napoleon Bonaparte. The future emperor of France was born in 1769 in the Corsican capital of Ajaccio (pronounced Ajaxxio) in 1769, and by 1810 much of Europe was under his rule. After his forced abdication in 1814, Napoleon was sent into exile—his first of two. He could have gone to Corsica, but he chose the neighboring island of Elba instead. It didn’t matter all that much to Napoleon, for he knew that on clear days he could easily see the beautiful mountains of his homeland, jutting up from the deep blue waters just a few short miles away.

The course of history would send Napoleon’s birthplace on a very unique path—resulting in a curious mix of language, cuisine, and culture.

Italian influences and the French connection

While Corsica is much closer to Italy than the French mainland, it is not an Italian island at all—it is French, and has been for 200 years. But the cultural influence of some five centuries of Genoese rule has left an indelible imprint throughout the island, from its Italianate fortresses and Tuscan-style hilltop villages to hot pizza sliding out of wood-fired ovens. Many people still choose to speak the Italian-influenced Corsican language (Corsu) rather than the official language of French. And in an apparent shun to the haute cuisine typical of mainland France, Corsicans favor heartier fare than their French counterparts. Known as cucina corsa, the food of Corsica evolved from a peasant diet begun when Corsicans fled to the island’s mountainous interior from 18th-century colonizers. In addition to the deliciously ubiquitous white cheese known as brocciu and world-renowned charcuterie, Italian classics like polenta (made from chestnut flour, rather than the usual cornmeal), lasagna, and cannelloni aren’t strangers in a Corsican kitchen.

On a darker note, Italian-style vendettas—honor killings that often lasted for generations—once took place deep in the chestnut forests of the island’s mountainous interior. And it was secretive Corsican gangs who controlled heroin trafficking between France and the U.S. from the 1950s to the early ’70s—a trade American authorities dubbed the French Connection. Even today, the imagination can catch a lingering scent of banditry mixing with the fragrant wild herbs and flowers that cover the island and waft out to sea.

But the French and Genoese are just two of the influences in Corsica’s long and tumultuous history. Corsica has been inhabited since Neolithic times—as evidenced by mystical granite menhirs (large, upright standing stones) that remain scattered in various parts of the island. With the growth of European and Mediterranean powers, Corsica’s strategic location became too tempting to resist. Armies from Carthage, Greece, Rome, Moors from North Africa, Genoa, Pisa (Genoa’s historic rival), France, Spain, and Britain would all fight on Corsican soil. This history greatly shaped the culture and identity—and fiery independent spirit—of contemporary Corsicans, as they have been battling to be free from invaders for more than 2,000 years. Corsica did enjoy one brief period of true independence, however. 

By the 1750s, the island had already been controlled by the Italian Republic of Genoa for centuries. But in 1755, the Corsican patriot Pasquale Paoli succeeded in routing most of the Genoese from the island. For the first time in history, he proclaimed Corsica a sovereign nation, independent at last from the Republic of Genoa. But the Genoese, realizing they were about to lose control of the island, “sold” it to the French in a secret treaty in 1764. After Genoa began to surreptitiously replace their own soldiers for French troops, Paoli was forced to wage a guerilla war from mountain hideouts (establishing one of his bases in Corte), and in 1769 he was defeated in the Battle of Ponte Novu by vastly superior French forces—and Corsica officially became a French province in 1770. To this day, Corsicans consider Paoli the “father of the nation,” and he is held in far greater esteem than Napoleon (“He did everything for France, nothing for Corsica,” is a popular sentiment regarding Napoleon from contemporary Corsicans).

Speaking of Napoleon, if the year of Corsica’s Gallic defeat sounds familiar, it is because Bonaparte was born the 15th of August, 1769, just three months after the island succumbed to the French—and he grew up hating the nation he would one day rule. At the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, Napoleon would write to Paoli, who was exiled in England following his loss at Ponte Novu, to tell him of his vivid memories of Corsica’s defeat. “As the nation was perishing I was born. Thirty thousand Frenchmen were vomited on to our shores, drowning the throne of liberty in waves of blood. Such was the odious sight which was the first to strike me.” With childhood memories like that, you almost knew Bonaparte was destined for something special.

Not quite French, not quite Italian, Corsica is difficult to categorize—as are its people. Beautiful, wild, rugged, and unspoiled are all accurate, but somehow inadequate, descriptions of a place that Balzac called “a French island basking in the Italian sun.”

History, Food & More

Cacciucco Alla Livornese (Fish Stew)

by Philip McCluskey from Currents

Though there are scores of famous Italian culinary creations, Cacciucco Alla Livornese is one that is quite popular. It’s a hearty fish stew with origins that stretch back centuries to Livorno, a Tuscan port town you’ll visit on The Rivieras: France, Italy & the Isles. Cacciucco was once a simple fisherman’s dinner, made with the leftover catch that was unsold at market.

Since then, however, it has become a sought-after delicacy in fine restaurants, and remains one of the region’s most-beloved dishes. It is said that there should be at least five types of fish in any cacciucco—one for each “C” in the name—to go along with a variety of vegetables and spices. Our version has four, but you can add scallops, clams, or anything you’d like. Buon appetito!

Ingredients

1¼ lbs. calamari, cleaned, and cut in 1-inch strips
One 2 ½ lb. veal roast from the leg or loin, boned and tied
1 lbs. mussels, debearded and scrubbed
7 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced, and 1 whole garlic clove
¼ bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped to yield cup
1 celery stalk, diced into ¼-inch pieces
1 Spanish onion, diced into inch pieces
½ lb. cod or other flakey white fish
1 red chili pepper, thinly sliced
1 cup of dry white wine
1¼ lbs. fresh or canned tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
8 large shrimp or prawns, peeled and deveined
16 slices of Italian peasant bread, toasted or grilled

Preparation

  1. Clean all the seafood. Pour a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan (with a lid). Heat on medium-high until hot, but not smoking. Add the mussels and cover, steaming until the mussels open (about 5 minutes). Remove the mussels, leaving the juices in the pan.
  2. In a sauté pan, add the remaining oil and heat until hot, but not smoking. Add the chili pepper, celery, parsley, sliced garlic, and onion. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the garlic turns golden brown. Add the wine, allowing it to boil and then evaporate. Add the chopped tomatoes and salt to taste, and continue cooking for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Pour in 2 cups of water, the reserved mussel juices and the remaining fish (whole) and bring to a boil. Let the mixture cook at a bare boil for about 20 minutes uncovered, until the fish is flaky and opaque.
  4. Place the fish in a wide soup tureen and set aside in a warm place. Bring the liquid to a boil. Add the shrimp, then lower the heat and let simmer for about 3 minutes, until the shrimp are opaque. Add the calamari and the shucked mussels. Allow it to simmer for about 2 minutes until all the calamari is cooked.
  5. Add some flavor to the toasted bread by cutting the remaining garlic clove in half, and using the cut end to rub the bread.
  6. Serve the soup in warmed bowls with the garlic toast on the side.

Serves: 8

History, Food & More

Standing the Test of Time

The resurgence of the Cinque Terre’s Vernazza

by Julia Hudson from Currents

When traveling through Europe, what often strikes the eye is the sheer age of the villages, and the traditions that have prevailed through the generations and still contribute to local life in the modern day. It can feel as though Europe has found permanence, a comfortable relationship with its own heritage that allows each of its nations an individual identity founded on centuries—and sometimes millennia—of building communities around a common cause.

In Liguria, Italy’s northwestern coastal region, history is immediately visible. A fishing tradition still holding strong, seen in the small boats bobbing peacefully in the harbor … a language stubbornly holding on to its distinctive dialect, even in the face of spreading Italian and English vocabulary … Medieval architecture lending the landscape a look of cozy chaos, as houses seem to tumble on top of one another as they vie for a view of the glittering sea. It’s hard to imagine that, as durable as the region appears, it was very nearly lost to the world.

A jewel in Italy’s crown

It’s difficult to reconcile images of near-complete destruction with the more familiar reputation of Liguria, particularly the beloved Cinque Terre, the five villages—Monterosso, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore, and Vernazza—that line the Italian Riviera and make up one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations.

A favorite pastime of travelers is to walk the steep trails connecting the five villages, which allow for views of the ocean as you traverse the hills, pausing along the way to enjoy a gelato or espresso in a scenic local cafe. Nothing is as peaceful as quietly taking in the wild, cliff-side views and meeting local people in town where they grew up.

Vernazza was founded in 1080 as a base for a local noble family, the Obertenghis, to protect their lands against piracy. A small village, it calls to mind a topsy-turvy, fairy-tale town. Vernazza alone attracts many of the approximately 2.5 million travelers who visit the Cinque Terre each year—flocking to this nook of the world to take in the gorgeous scenery and charming, tiny lanes winding between close-set, pastel-colored houses. The town itself was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, and many people consider it to be the loveliest of the five villages, boasting a collection of captivating sites, including a seaside church and an ancient castle, Castello Doria, as well as a delectable local wine industry. It’s difficult to conceive of such an idyllic landscape suffering the level of damage that Vernazza has seen.

Unforeseen destruction

On October 25, 2011, an unprecedented storm hit Liguria, dropping 22 inches of rain in just four hours after an unusually dry summer. Receiving one-third of the region’s annual rainfall so quickly proved devastating to many of the villages in the area, which, being steeply mountainous, suffered severe mudslides and flash floods. Vernazza was the worst hit of all the Cinque Terre’s villages.

Walking trails, local businesses, and homes were all but decimated by the rushing water and waves of mud. Potable water, telephone lines (including cellular towers), gas, and electricity were all taken offline by the storm. Residents fought to make it through the deluge.

As the rain continued to pour, tourists were taken into local homes for shelter, and the higher-ground Chiesa dei Frati (Church of the Friars) was turned into an emergency shelter. A frightening night was had by many parents in nearby Corniglia, as many of their children attended school in Vernazza. Without power, there was no way for them to know if their children were safe (most of the children ended up spending the night sheltered in one of the local schools). Not all were so fortunate, though—ten Ligurian residents died as a result of the storm.

Apparently, the death toll risked being much higher. Residents reported a pause in the flooding at around 2:45pm, when the water seemed to recede for about 15 minutes. It’s unclear whether this was because of a particularly large landslide blocking the water from running down the hill, or from a pile-up of cars damming the path. It does appear, however, that this brief respite allowed many people still trapped at or near sea level to scramble for higher ground, saving an untold number of lives. The relative peace was shattered when the town’s gas tank crashed down from the hills, spouting gas over 30 feet into the air and causing residents to fear an explosion (which fortunately never came).

Local authorities, fearing that more vehicles would be washed off the road, told people to stay home during the storm unless they absolutely had to evacuate, leaving residents frozen and fearful as they watched their village suffer. As the main street, Via Roma, filled with water, Vernazza was split into two halves, causing even more chaos and confusion as people tried to figure out where their loved ones had ended up.

Accounting for the damage

Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore survived in the end, because the local topography allowed them to drain enough water. Monterosso and Vernazza, however, were hit much harder. Monterosso was said to “no longer exist,” in the words of its mayor, Angelo Betta. Vernazza was evacuated by sea, with stranded locals and tourists alike gratefully accepting the assistance of the Italian Coast Guard. The mudslides tore through town, decimating bridges, obstructing railways, taking out the sole access road … even knocking a petroleum tanker on its side. After all, the flood waters were sloshing against second-story windows.

The hiking trails that attracted so much tourism—and revenue—were washed away, and Vernazza was essentially cut off from the rest of the region by land. To those trapped there during the storm, it must have seemed as though the rivers of mud would never stop flowing from the hills behind the village.

Called a “meteorological explosion” by regional president Alberto Monaci, it seemed as though recovery after such a disaster would be little less than a miracle. Fishing boats from the harbor were swept all the way to the Moroccan coast. All in all, more than 100 mudslides covered Vernazza in 15 feet of mud—totaling 883,000 cubic feet of mud in all—irreparably damaging many shops and homes, killing three local people, and causing 108 million euro (approximately $132.7 million) in damage.

The challenges mount

A local charity, Save Vernazza, was founded to raise money for needed repairs and keep the community connected through discussions focused on rebuilding efforts. Michele Lilley, one of the founders of the organization, called the storm “a powerful force of nature that ripped out the guts of town, the insides of our lives, and left them lying scattered in the street.”

It’s easy to see why the storm was so heartbreaking for residents—Lilley goes on to describe the local spirit in this way: “If someone gives you fruit from their garden or a bottle of wine they produced, that person is giving you something to chew on: a piece of a proud, hardworking culture which has been passed down by generations to carve out a territory to call home.” With the legacy of those generations buried under several feet of sludge and twisted metal, many felt a deep despair. What’s so astonishing, however, is that Vernazza’s people wasted no time in self-pity.

Rebuilding a legacy

The village shut its doors to tourism for 150 days—a nearly unthinkable risk for an area so heavily dependent on revenue from travelers—taking that time to focus entirely on meeting the needs of its residents, and avoiding compromising the safety of visitors as buildings were rebuilt.

It was difficult for residents to gain a toehold in the reconstruction efforts—it took a month just to dig out Via Roma, and it was mid-January of 2012 before military camp cooks could leave the town, and another week after than before work could even begin on hillside stabilization, aqueduct repair, and sewer work. The upper part of town still didn’t have water, electricity, phones, or gas.

The lean Italian economy was not able to offer overmuch in the way of financial support. As a UNESCO site, there are strict limitations on the types of infrastructure projects that can be undertaken in the Cinque Terre (this is intended to preserve the unique historical character of the village and the region). Work to restore the terraced farmland, situated on the region’s steep cliffs, was eligible for international assistance on the basis of local farming techniques being integral to the town’s cultural value.

According to UNESCO reports in the spring of 2012, the village faced grim challenges. “Still recognizable” was the best the committee in charge of evaluation reconstruction efforts was able to say. There was “limited damage” to the town’s historical paving, and some of the buildings escaped with only minor damage. Local authorities had to undertake intensive evaluation of every property in Vernazza, as well as the rest of the Cinque Terre and its neighboring islands Palmaria, Tino, and Tinetto.

In order to safeguard their heritage, those same authorities instated a ban on new construction and any additional work on existing buildings that went “beyond mere conservation work.” Essentially, it was a mission to find the past buried under the rubble. To honor the traditions of the people who built the region, there were to be no ambitious expansion or modernization projects that would risk damaging the beloved character of the area. There have been plenty of efforts to protect against future damage, though (the Ligurian government has redrawn maps of hydrogeological damage risk, to ensure they would understand any future potential dangers).

The jewel, restored

Reconstruction was exhausting, and the obstacles seemingly endless. However, the residents’ determination to rebuild their home was successful. Tourists were able to return to the area by April 2012, just in time for the onrush of springtime tourists.

Martina Manfredi, one of Save Vernazza’s co-founders, paid tribute to the hard work of local residents. “Thinking about the way people were working together to unload the emergency supplies or to dig out the piazza with their bare hands … I knew Vernazza would survive and rebuild thanks to the strength of its people and its community.”