Day 1 :
Depart gateway city

AHI FlexAir passengers depart for Milan, Italy.

Meals — Appropriate in-flight meal service

Day 2 :
Milan, Italy/Stresa

Arrive at Milan Malpensa Airport. Proceed through immigration to the baggage claim area and retrieve your luggage. After completing customs, AHI FlexAir passengers traveling on flights that qualify for the group arrival transfer and Land Program passengers who have purchased seats on the group transfer should exit the baggage claim area and proceed to the designated meeting spot, where an AHI Travel representative will meet them. The meeting location will be provided with your final documents.

Transfer to the Hotel La Palma. Please note, if you arrive before check-in time, your room may not be immediately available.

Tonight, get to know your fellow travelers at a Welcome Reception and Dinner.

Accommodations — Hotel La Palma
Meals — Appropriate in-flight meal service

Day 3 :
Borromean Islands

Enrichment: Italy’s Lake District.
Discover how this beautiful region became one of Europe’s favorite retreats.

Discovery: The Borromean Islands.
Cruise Lake Maggiore to visit all three Borromean Islands: Isola Madre, which has a beautiful botanical garden; Isola dei Pescatori, which has a charming fishing village; and Isola Bella, home to a 17th-century baroque palace and gardens.

Enjoy lunch at a restaurant on Isola Pescatori.

Free Time: Enjoy your evening at leisure, which may be a good time to acquaint yourself with the “aperitivo” tradition, something similar to happy hour. As the day comes to a close, Italians relax with friends and family at a local bar with a cocktail and some delicious snacks that come with the drink. Some of the simpler bars will bring you bruschetta, crostini or a plate of salumi and cheese or other small canapés. Other bars have servers who pass by with trays of appetizers, but it is becoming popular for aperitivo to feature a buffet.

Accommodations — Hotel La Palma
Meals — Breakfast and lunch

Day 4 :

Discovery: Milan.
Discover the capital of the Lombardy region beginning with a special visit to Santa Maria delle Grazie and its rectory to gaze in wonder at Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.”  Then visit La Scala, Italy’s opulent, premier opera house, which first opened in 1778, and browse displays of musical instruments and busts of iconic musicians at the on-site museum. Continue your Milan discovery by stepping into the Duomo, a beautiful cathedral built by artisans from across Europe. Construction began in the late 14th century in the Gothic style, but architectural elements became more grandiose as construction continued in the next century.

Free Time: Enjoy lunch and some time on your own in Milan. The northern neighbor of the Duomo is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the 19th-century shopping arcade named after the first king of Italy. This elegant shopping center features chic boutiques, some of Milan’s most exclusive shops and several cafés and restaurants. The galleria is nicknamed “il salotto di Milano,” the living room of Milan, because it is one of the most popular gathering spots in the city.

Accommodations — Hotel La Palma
Meals — Breakfast

Day 5 :

Free Time: Enjoy a morning at leisure in Stresa. This afternoon, depart for Venice by high-speed train. Upon arrival, take a water taxi through Venice’s famous canals to the Hotel Saturnia & International.

Accommodations — Hotel Saturnia & International
Meals — Breakfast

Day 6 :

Discovery: Venice.
Visit St. Mark’s Square and take in the Italo-Byzantine exterior of St. Mark’s Basilica before stepping inside to see the gilded interior before taking a tour of the church. The church originally served as the chapel for the neighboring Doge’s Palace. In 1807, it became the cathedral of Venice. Continue to the Doge’s Palace, which for more than 1,000 years was the political heart of the Venetian Republic. The core of this iconic building you see today is a 14th-century structure, built to replace an earlier ninth-century building. Due to expansion, fires and other factors, the palace was rebuilt, enlarged and reconstructed several times over the centuries. It is noted for its harmonious blend of different architectural styles. For more than 1,000 years, the palace was the political heart of the city, as well as the official residence of the doge, who was elected by the republic’s elite citizens.

Free Time: Spend the afternoon exploring the mazelike neighborhoods of Venice. Follow bridges and footpaths, and see where the afternoon takes you! Glide through the canals on a gondola and marvel at this one-of-a-kind city. Or take a water taxi to the island of Murano, known around the world for the exquisite blown-glass jewelry, sculptures and other items created by artisans here.

Accommodations — Hotel Saturnia & International
Meals — Breakfast

Day 7 :
Florence/Colle di Val d’Elsa

Take the high-speed train to Florence, the Cradle of the Renaissance.

Discovery: Florence.
Discover the Renaissance legacy of Florence. Enjoy a walking tour of the city, capital of Tuscany, and discover the city center’s fine art and architecture. Florence is a veritable open-air museum, an urban masterpiece spread over the banks of the River Arno. Discover how the city’s wealth of creative genius left it filled with fine art and stunning architecture around every turn. See the Palazzo Vecchio, the Ponte Vecchio, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Piazza della Signoria and other highlights.

Free Time: Spend some time at leisure in Florence. Enjoy lunch and explore on your own. You may wish to visit the Uffizi Gallery or one of the city’s other world-class museums.

Later this afternoon, continue to Colle di Val de’Elsa and check in to the Palazzo San Lorenzo.

Accommodations — Palazzo San Lorenzo
Meals — Breakfast and dinner

Day 8 :
Colle di Val d’Elsa

Enrichment: Renaissance Art.
Examine the genius of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, who have influenced scores of painters and sculptors following in their footsteps.

Discovery: Siena.
Siena’s narrow streets wind through a spectacle of resplendent cathedrals, rich museums and other finely preserved Gothic buildings. Explore the city on a walking tour. See the Fonte Gaia, a magnificent marble fountain, and the Torre del Mangia, Siena’s skyscraper that towers almost 335 feet over the square. These two landmarks are on Piazza del Campo, “Il Campo,” the piazza that was built over a Roman forum and is best known today as the racetrack for the Palio horse race. The piazza and the race was the dramatic setting for scenes from the 2008 James Bond movie, “Quantum of Solace.” Just west of the piazza, see the Duomo, built from black-and-white striped marble. Notice the gilded paintings at the top of the façade. The cathedral stands on a site formerly the location of a temple dedicated to the goddess Minerva, the Roman counterpart of the Greek goddess Athena.

Free Time: Spend some time exploring Siena on your own. Enjoy a lunch of Tuscan cuisine at one of the restaurants lining Il Campo. Then wander the narrow lanes through the old town and admire the intricate details and sculptures on the centuries-old buildings. You also may wish to return to the Duomo to see its opulent interior. You may be lucky enough to see its beautiful mosaic floor, most of which usually is covered to protect it from wear. Sometimes, however, the intricately designed tile floor depicting biblical scenes, allegories and more is on full display to the delight of visitors.

This afternoon, learn the secrets of Tuscan cooking during a cooking demonstration by the hotel’s chef, followed by a delicious dinner.

Accommodations — Palazzo San Lorenzo
Meals — Breakfast and dinner

Day 9 :
Colle di Val d’Elsa

Discovery: Chianti.
Spend the day exploring two beautiful towns in the Tuscan province of Siena. Visit the hill town of San Gimignano and Castellina in Chianti, one of the most important villages in the Chianti wine region. Visit the hill town of San Gimignano. Like many Tuscan towns, San Gimignano easily enchants visitors who delight in the historic center and charming piazze. What sets it apart are the 14 medieval tower houses that give the town its famously distinctive skyline. San Gimignano has managed to preserve a large number of these homes, which have tumbled in many other towns and cities. As you walk through the town, imagine what medieval San Gimignano must have looked like with more than 70 towers! Continue to the walled town of Castellina in Chianti, one of the trinity of towns that formed the powerful winemaking Lega del Chianti, League of Chianti, in the 13th century. Castellina, often caught in the tug of war between Florence and Siena, has been rebuilt many times over the centuries, but still retains it medieval character. Enjoy lunch in Castellina, followed by a visit to Castello di Monsanto, an elegant winery in the beautiful Chianti countryside, for a wine tasting.

Enrichment: Italy Today.
Discuss the current affairs and events shaping contemporary Italy.

Accommodations — Palazzo San Lorenzo
Meals — Breakfast and lunch

Day 10 :

Depart Colle di Val d’Elsa this morning for a scenic drive to Rome, the Eternal City.

Upon arrival, check in to the Rose Garden Palace.

Free Time: Enjoy lunch on your own. The Rose Garden Palace is ideally located just a block from the Via Veneto, one of Rome’s most elegant boulevards. There are many restaurants and cafés in the area.

Discovery: The Vatican.
Explore Vatican City, the world’s smallest sovereign state. Enjoy early access to the Vatican Museums, which have some of the most interesting collections in the world. Visit the Candelabra, Tapestry and Map galleries. In the Sistine Chapel, look up to admire the glorious frescoes, which Michelangelo spent four years creating. In the center, see the iconic image, “The Creation of Adam.” Don’t forget, though, to look at the frescoes on the walls around you. Renaissance artists Botticelli, Perugino and Ghirlandaio also contributed to the room. Afterward, stroll through St. Peter’s Square and step into St. Peter’s Basilica, perhaps the most famous church in the world. See the extensive art collection in the basilica, including Michelangelo’s Pietà.

Accommodations — Rose Garden Palace
Meals — Breakfast

Day 11 :

Discovery: Ancient Rome in a Modern City.
Stroll by the remnants of ancient Rome’s greatest monuments, the Colosseum and the Forum, proud reminders of the power and the glory of the storied ancient city, on a walking tour. At the Colosseum, imagine the scene centuries ago when thousands cheered the bloody spectacle in front of them. At the Forum, marvel at the arches of Titus and Constantine, which continue to stand nearly 2,000 years after they were built. Continue to Piazza Navona, the elegant square built atop an ancient stadium. Today, the piazza is one of the most elegant in Rome and it is known for its three beautiful fountains: Fontana del Moro, Fontana del Nettuno, and Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi. The latter, Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, was created by Bernini in 1651, one of the great baroque sculptors, and an ancient Roman obelisk sits atop the fountain.

Free Time: Piazza Navona is a popular gathering spot and has many restaurants. You may wish to linger after the tour, enjoy the ambience and maybe stay here for lunch. Spend the rest of your afternoon seeing more of Rome. Perhaps you’ll visit the Pantheon, explore the Villa Borghese gardens, enjoy a gelato or toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain to ensure your return to the city.

Tonight, celebrate the end of a special journey through Italy at a Farewell Reception and Dinner.

Accommodations — Rose Garden Palace
Meals — Breakfast and dinner

Day 12 :
Depart for your gateway city

After breakfast, depart for the Rome Fiumicino Airport for your return flight home. (Provided for AHI FlexAir passengers.)

Meals — Breakfast and appropriate in-flight meal service

NOTE: Itinerary schedule may change due to local conditions. Many excursions in this program involve an element of walking.

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