Embark on an inspirational journey through Italy and visit its most important Holy Shrines. Begin with The Vatican and an audience with His Holiness Pope Francis. Travel to Assisi – the home of St. Francis. Visit the city of Loreto, home to the Basilica of the Virgin Mary’s Holy House. Discover the life of Padre Pio (now Saint Pio) and how his exceptional life draws millions of pilgrims to his town of San Giovanni Rotondo. Explore the life of solitude led by St. Benedict and where the monastic orders in Catholicism got its start.
Departure from the United States on your overnight flight to begin your Shrines of Catholic Italy tour.
Benvenuti a Roma! Upon arrival in Rome, you will be met by your English speaking tour escort. Your private motorcoach will transfer you to your 4* hotel. Relax and make yourself comfortable for the remainder of the day. Later this evening, meet with your fellow travelers and enjoy a welcome dinner at your hotel (including ½ liter water and ¼ liter wine per person).
Breakfast included at your hotel. Depart from your hotel with your private motorcoach and English speaking guide for a tour of Ancient Rome. Drive to the Colosseum, the iconic Roman amphitheater remembered for its ancient gladiator battles. The term ‘colosseum’ refers to the colossal statue of Nero that once stood at its entrance. Learn about the Arch of Constantine located in between the Colosseum and Palatine Hill. Your guide will also give explanations about The Forum – the excavated center of Ancient Rome with ruins of temples, squares and government buildings. Palatine Hill is the most central of Rome’s 7 hills, which today is a vast archaeological site showcasing many ruins and ancient palaces of imperial Rome’s nobility (entrances to the Colosseum and the Forum are included with headsets if available). Next, you’ll leave central Rome and drive south to reach the Catacombs of St. Callixtus located on the ancient Roman road, the Appian Way. These catacombs were built at the end of the 2nd century and became the official cemetery of the Church. Your group will celebrate Holy Mass here in the Catacombs. The rest of the day is at your leisure to further explore this magnificent city. Enjoy lunch and dinner on your own.
Breakfast included at the hotel. Depart from your hotel with your private motorcoach and English speaking guide and go directly to the Vatican to celebrate Holy Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica. Mass will be celebrated in the Crypt very close to the tomb of St. Peter. As you walk through and pray, thoughts are flooded with the events that have taken place here and the people who have worshiped in this great center of the Church. Enter the Vatican Museums for a tour with your English speaking guide. Tour the treasures of the Vatican Museum, including the awesome frescoes by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. Learn more about the Basilica of St. Peter with an in depth visit and guided tour. Take some time to have lunch before exploring other Catholic landmarks in Rome. Next, you’ll visit the Sanctuary of the Holy Stairs. These are the stairs believed to have belonged in Pontius Pilate’s palace in Jerusalem and were climbed by Jesus the day he was sentenced to death. They were brought to Rome in the 4th century by Saint Helena. At the top of the stairs is the Sancta Sanctorum, formerly the private chapel of The Pope. Right next door to the Holy Stairs is the Basilica of St. John Lateran which is the Cathedral Church of Rome and the ecclesiastical seat of the Pope. Admire the Basilica’s richly adorned interior including the Baroque era statues of the Twelve Apostles and the tombs of six former Popes. Continue your tour by entering one of the most illustrious churches dedicated to Our Lady, the Basilica of St. Mary Major. Under the high altar is the Nativity Crypt containing ancient wood once belonging to Jesus’ manger in Bethlehem. Marvel at the ornate gilded ceiling as well as the beautiful 5th century mosaics that adorn the nave and the apse. You might get a chance to go to the upper floor of the Basilica to see the beautiful angels and then view the staircase designed by famous sculptor and architect Bernini. After the Basilica, transfer to the Church of St. Peter in Chains which houses the original chains used to imprison St. Peter both in Jerusalem and in Rome. You’ll also see Moses, the majestic sculpture done by Michelangelo for the tomb of Pope Julius II. After your tour, enjoy this evening and dinner tonight at your leisure.
Breakfast included at hotel. Depart from your hotel with your private motorcoach and English speaking guide to continue your journey to the cities of Orvieto and Assisi. Relax on your scenic drive north through the rolling hills of Umbria. Orvieto is a unique town perched high above the valley on large volcanic stone. You’ll meet your local guide and take the funicular train up to reach the city’s historic center. It’s here in Orvieto that in 1263, Pope Urban IV proclaimed the authenticity of a Eucharistic miracle. The Sacred Host had bled during a Mass celebrated in nearby Bolsena. From this event, the Church instituted the Feast of Corpus Christi. You can still see the Corporal (altar linen cloth) associated with the miracle enshrined within the Orvieto Cathedral. Built in the 13th century, this cathedral boasts a world famous façade and houses some of the most magnificent frescoes from the Renaissance. The frescoes depicting heaven and hell rival those found in The Vatican’s Sistine Chapel. You will Celebrate the Eucharist today at the Cathedral. Take time to notice the frescoes that depict the history of the Eucharist inside the Chapel of the Corporal. Lunch is on your own in Orvieto. Continue through the heart of Umbria to reach the city of St. Francis – Assisi. In the plains below the city center, you’ll visit the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels. Inside the Basilica, see the Porziuncola, the small chapel in which St. Francis accepted his vocation and the Franciscan order was created. Check in to your 4* hotel and enjoy the remainder of the day at your leisure to further explore Assisi. Dinner tonight will be at your hotel (including ½ liter water and ¼ liter wine per person).
Breakfast included at hotel. Begin your day with a celebration of Holy Mass at the Basilica of St. Francis. After mass, your English speaking local guide will begin a tour of the Basilica which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. Learn about the magnificent frescoes painted by Giotto that depict the life of St. Francis (headsets will be provided if available). Embark on a walking pilgrimage tour through Assisi where you can see the Piazza del Comune and the Temple of Minerva. This Roman temple was built in the 1st century BC and dedicated to Minerva, the goddess of wisdom. Since 1539, it’s been The Basilica of Saint Mary Above Minerva and is decorated in the Baroque style. Pass near the Chiesa Nuova (New Church) which was built on the birthplace of St. Francis. Finally, a short walk will bring you to the Basilica of St. Clare where you’ll enter to see the original San Damiano Cross. It was while praying before this cross that St. Francis received the Lord’s command to “Rebuild my Church”. The Basilica also houses the crypt of St. Clare where you can view her “incorrupted” remains. Lunch is on your own. In the afternoon, depart with your private motorcoach for a visit to the Hermitage of the Carceri nestled in the mountains a few miles outside Assisi. It was in 1205 that St. Francis chose these caves as his retreat for prayer and spiritual contemplation. The name carceri comes from ‘isolated places’ or ‘prisons’ which perfectly describes this place of solitude. Today, the Hermitage complex’s peaceful setting is home to two small religious orders. Enjoy this beautiful setting and quietly walk through the forested paths. Return to your hotel and enjoy the remainder of the day and dinner tonight at your leisure.
Breakfast included at hotel. Depart from your hotel with your private motorcoach and English speaking guide for a drive to the towns of Loreto and Pescara. Drive through the Italian region of Marche toward the Adriatic Sea to reach the town of Loreto. Your local guide will meet with you and accompany you to the Basilica of the Holy House for a tour (headphones provided if available). Designed in Late Gothic and Renaissance styles, this basilica was first ordered to be built by Pope Paul II in 1469 and has been an important site for Catholic pilgrims ever since. The Basilica was built around the Holy House, a sacred building today protected by an elaborately carved Renaissance-style marble screen. The Holy House is the Nazareth home that the Virgin Mary was born and raised in and where she received the Annunciation. The belief is that angels transported this sacred house from Nazareth in the 1200’s when it was under threat during The Crusades. The statue of Our Lady in the Holy House is a sacred one – but a copy of the original that had been made from the Cedars of Lebanon and destroyed in a fire in 1921. In 1920, Pope Benedict XV declared the Madonna of Loreto the patron saint of air travelers and pilots. You will celebrate Holy Mass here at one of the greatest shrines dedicated to Our Blessed Mother. Enjoy some free time for lunch in Loreto. Depart for a relaxing drive down the Adriatic coastline to the city of Pescara, the Abruzzo region’s largest city. A very popular beach resort in the summer, Pescara will be your next stop for the night. Enjoy some free time after you check in to your 4* hotel. Take a walk on the beach or do some shopping in the city center adjacent to the beachfront. Dinner tonight will be at your hotel (including ½ liter water and ¼ liter wine per person).
Breakfast included at hotel. Depart from your hotel with your private motorcoach and English speaking guide for a drive to San Giovanni Rotondo, with a stop in the town of Lanciano. Continue your drive along the Abruzzan coast until you reach Lanciano. Here, with your guide, you’ll visit the Church of St. Francis – the site of the oldest Eucharistic Miracle certified by the Church. Back in the 8th century, one of the monks of St. Basil was doubting the reality of transubstantiation and, while performing the rite of Holy Communion, was awestruck when the bread and wine in front of him turned into flesh and blood. The many witnesses of this Eucharistic Miracle spread the word and also preserved the flesh and blood that had appeared before them. The Church has had these relics tested for authenticity over the centuries – most recently in the 1980’s. These relics are still preserved to this day at the Church of St. Francis. Lunch will be at your leisure today. Continue your drive south along the water through the region of Molise and into the northern part of Puglia to the town of San Giovanni Rotondo – home of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina. Your local guide will tell the story of Padre Pio from his time as a young Capuchin monk to his canonization in 2002 by Pope John Paul II (headphones provided if available). Learn about the supernatural abilities and miracles he experienced – especially the stigmata he first received in 1918 that would last until his death 50 years later. Throughout his lifetime, people heard about Padre Pio and would travel to this small town to meet with him and attend his Masses. You’ll celebrate Holy Mass at the tomb of Saint Padre Pio located inside the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Enjoy some free time today to further explore this pilgrimage site. Behind the church is a newly built (2004) Padre Pio Pilgrimage Church that can accommodate 6000+ people. San Giovanni Rotondo also has the Home for the Relief of the Suffering – a large hospital and research center founded by Padre Pio in 1956. Check in to your 4* hotel where tonight you’ll enjoy a group dinner together (including ½ liter water and ¼ liter wine per person).
Breakfast included at hotel. Depart from your hotel with your private motorcoach and English speaking guide for a drive back to the city of Rome, with a stop in Subiaco, a small town in eastern Lazio made famous by St. Benedict and his sister St. Scholastica. You will have free time for lunch either en route to Subiaco or upon arrival in the town. St. Benedict lived in the 6th century and founded 12 communities for monks in the Subiaco area. His instructions later became the foundation for Christian monastic life and the order of Benedictine monks. He fled Rome to find solace and lived in a cave as a hermit in Subiaco for three years. You’ll visit the Monastery of St. Benedict which enshrines the Sacred Cave and is covered in frescoes that represent various painting techniques that had evolved through the centuries. You’ll celebrate Holy Mass near the staircase that has one of the only portraits in existence of St. Francis without his stigmata or a halo. This indicates that the fresco was painted during his lifetime before 1224 when he himself visited St. Benedict’s Sacred Cave. Continue with your drive to Rome and check in to your 4* hotel. Tonight, you’ll celebrate with a Farewell Dinner with your group (including ½ liter water and ¼ liter wine per person).
Breakfast included at your hotel. Transfer with assistance by your private motorcoach from your hotel in Rome to Rome Fiumicino Airport. Say “Ciao Italia!” as you return home with meaningful memories of your Shrines of Catholic Italy tour.