Embark on a spiritual journey to Italy and have the Ultimate Vatican Experience. It’s time to see Italy’s Catholic traditions and its rich history from Rome to Venice, including a Papal audience with His Holiness Pope Francis. An in-depth look at The Vatican, with exclusive access, allows you to explore parts of The Vatican most never see – the Vatican Gardens and areas of the Apostolic Palace.
Departure from the United States on your overnight flight to begin your Ultimate Vatican Experience 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, enjoy a Welcome Dinner at a local Roman restaurant (beverage included).
Breakfast included at your hotel. Depart from your hotel with your private motorcoach and English speaking guide for a tour of both Ancient Rome and Catholic Rome. Headphone services where available. Begin by leaving 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. 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. Enjoy some free time to have lunch on your own. 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. Next, drive to the Basilica of St. John Lateran which is the Cathedral Church of Rome and the ecclesiastical seat of the Pope. It was also the first Christian basilica built in Rome and the most important church in Christendom for centuries. Admire the Basilica’s richly adorned interior including the Baroque era statues of the Twelve Apostles and the tombs of six former Popes. You’ll finish your tour today by visiting the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. Before entering, you’ll pass through a large and impressive courtyard and view the marvelous mosaic on the Basilica’s frieze above the entrance. The nave, framed by 80 granite columns, leads to the tomb of St. Paul. Later this evening, you’ll enjoy a special dinner at a Roman style trattoria (beverage included).
Breakfast included at hotel. Depart from your hotel with your private motorcoach and English speaking guide for a short drive to Vatican City. Today, you’ll have an Ultimate Vatican Experience tour (tour duration is approximately 6 hours). There will be a coffee break in the Vatican Museums included in your tour. The day at the Vatican will include an in-depth tour with your English speaking guide of the Vatican Museums. See the treasures of the Vatican Museum, including the awesome frescoes by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. You’ll also be given exclusive access to the Vatican Gardens. These beautifully manicured gardens date back to the 13th century. You’ll see the varied trees and vegetation mixed amongst the Renaissance style landscape design. The Gardens cover more than half of the Vatican City’s territory and are sure to enchant you with its fountains, grottoes, sculptures and unique views of St. Peter’s dome. You’ll also attend a private lecture regarding the Vatican’s restoration project of their remarkable statues. You’ll have a tour of the breathtaking Raphael Rooms located in the public area of the Papal apartments. These 4 rooms were designed and painted by Raphael and his assistants under the commission of Pope Julius II in 1509. Along with Michelangelo’s work in the Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s works in the Vatican are the pinnacle of Renaissance art in Rome. Each of the rooms has a unique theme centered around religion and history. You’ll also visit the specially designed Borgia Apartments located in the Papal Palace. These rooms were commissioned by Pope Alexander VI, a member of the Borgia family, in the late 15th century. Since the Borgia’s originated in Spain, you can spot the unique Spanish touches to these rooms – the Spanish tiles used, the use of the Borgia family symbol of the bull and the Borgia family coat of arms incorporated into the design. Finish your tour with a visit inside the magnificent St. Peter’s Basilica – the largest church in the world and the burial site of St. Peter. The remainder of the day and dinner tonight are at your leisure.
Breakfast included at hotel. Depart from your hotel with your private motorcoach and English speaking guide to attend a Papal Audience with preferred reserved seating at the Basilica of St. Peter with His Holiness Pope Francis. After your celebration of Holy Mass, you’ll leave Rome and drive through the scenic landscapes of Umbria to reach the city of St. Francis – Assisi. Lunch will be on your own, depending on the time – either in Rome after the Papal Audience or en route to Assisi. Upon arrival in Assisi, you’ll begin your visit with a celebration of Holy Mass at the Tomb of St. Francis in the Basilica of St. Francis. After mass, your English speaking local guide is a Franciscan monk who 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. Embark on a walking pilgrimage tour through Assisi to visit the major sites associated with St. Francis and St. Clare. You’ll walk through the Piazza del Comune and see 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. Continue to the Chiesa Nuova (New Church) which was built on the birthplace of St. Francis. Next, you’ll see the Cathedral of San Rufino which is built in a unique Umbrian Romanesque style and houses the font where both Francis and Clare were baptized. Finally, a short walk will bring you to the Basilica of St. Clare where you will 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. After your walking tour, please enjoy the remainder of your day at leisure to explore the rest of Assisi. This evening, you’ll enjoy a special dinner in Assisi (beverage included).
Breakfast included at hotel. Depart from your hotel with your private motorcoach and English speaking guide for a drive to the city of Florence, with stops in Siena and Greve in Chianti along the way. Drive through the Tuscan hills into the medieval city of Siena. Visit the 13th century Basilica of St. Dominic to see the relics of St. Catherine. Born in Siena in 1347, St. Catherine is venerated as a Doctor of the Church and is known for her influence on the Papacy. Also inside the Chapel of St. Catherine, view the frescoes depicting events in her life. Your English speaking guide will take you on a tour to the city’s main square, Piazza del Campo. This seashell-shaped square is known for its annual horse races called Il Palio. Enjoy some free time for lunch on your own before departing for Greve in Chianti. This picturesque town is renowned for being at the center of Tuscan wine country. This afternoon, have a special wine tasting at the Castello Vicchiomaggio winery. Enjoy the landscape as you arrive in the Florence area – the flourishing center of the Renaissance and medieval center of Europe’s trade and finance. This evening, enjoy a dinner with a wine tasting at a local Tuscan villa in the Florence area. Overnight at your 4* hotel in Florence.
Breakfast included at hotel. Depart from your hotel for a walking tour of Florence with your English speaking guide. Experience the grandeur of this Renaissance city with visits to some of its most important sites. Head over to the Piazza del Duomo and take in the beauty of the marble facades. The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is the main attraction and its red dome, built by Brunelleschi, defines the Florentine skyline. The Duomo’s bronze Baptistery doors were called the “Gates of Paradise” by Michelangelo. You’ll also pay a visit to the Basilica of Santa Croce (Holy Cross). Building of the basilica began in the late 13th century and today is the largest Franciscan church in the world – legend says it was founded by St. Francis of Assisi. Don’t miss the stunning frescoes by artists such as Giotto and Gaddi and the famous tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli and Rossini. Lunch will be on your own this afternoon. You’ll also get to view the ultimate Renaissance sculpture – Michelangelo’s David – at the Galleria dell’Accademia. See for yourself how this masterpiece came to symbolize both strength and beauty. Please enjoy the remainder of your day at leisure to explore the rest of Florence with lunch and dinner on your own.
Breakfast included at hotel. Depart from your hotel with your private motorcoach and English speaking guide for a visit to Padova before reaching beautiful Venice. Relax on your journey through the Emilia Romagna and Veneto regions of Italy. Arrive in the city of Padova – a medieval city-state and university center since the 13th century. Your English speaking guide will take you on a tour of the city. A visit and entrance to Padova’s most famous site is not to be missed. The Scrovegni Chapel is a small unassuming building from the outside, but the interior walls and ceilings are entirely covered in frescoes completed by painter Giotto in 1305. The Biblical depictions and numerous scenes depicting Christ’s life are considered to be one large masterpiece of the Early Renaissance. You’ll be given some free time during the day for lunch on your own. The next stop is to see the Basilica of St. Anthony. The Basilica, dating back to the 1200’s, is designed in multiple architectural styles. It houses both the tomb and the relics of St. Anthony. See the famous statue in front of the Basilica by sculptor Donatello of former military leader Gattamelata “The Honey-Cat”. After a short drive, you’ll arrive in the early evening into magical Venice. Check-in to your 4* hotel in Venice (Mestre) and the remainder of your day and dinner tonight is at your leisure.
Breakfast included at hotel. Your day will include seeing historic central Venice as well as some of Venice’s lagoon islands. Transfer into the historical center of Venice – long known as the Queen of the Cities. Go on a walking tour of Venice with your English speaking local guide. Its unique location, design and rich history makes Venice one of the most interesting cities in the world. Take in the city’s canals, bridges, piazzas and palazzos as you start your tour in St. Mark’s Square – the iconic center of the city. St. Mark’s Basilica is Venice’s largest cathedral which originally began as the private chapel for the Doge and other Venetian aristocracy. The basilica is known for its golden mosaics, Byzantine influenced architecture and historic furnishings. You’ll also view the famous Campanile – the bell tower in St. Mark’s Square, a memorable symbol of the city located just opposite the Basilica and the Doge’s Palace. Attached to the Basilica is the landmark Doge’s Palace, the administrative seat of the Venetian Republic and opulent residence of the Venetian doges. Today, you’ll enter this magnificent museum – a masterpiece of Gothic architecture where one’s allowed to explore its large halls, rooms, courtyard, armory and prison. Your walking tour will also include an external view of the famous Bridge of Sighs. This enclosed stone passageway was designed to link the palace’s interrogation rooms to the city’s prison and is thusly named for the sound prisoners would make while getting their final view of Venice prior to their imprisonment. You’ll have some free time to get lunch on your own. Next, enjoy a relaxing boat tour of the Venetian Lagoon islands of Murano and Burano. Depart by boat for your first stop in Murano, famous since the 13th century for its glassmaking. There are specialized local glassmaking factories where one can watch the glass masters at work. Next stop on your boat tour is the island of Burano. This small picturesque island is famous for its lace making workmanship and for its quaint and richly painted houses. This evening, a very special farewell dinner is planned for your group at a local Venetian restaurant featuring northern Italian cuisine (beverage included).
Breakfast included at your hotel. Transfer with assistance by your private motorcoach from your hotel in Venice (Mestre) to Venice Marco Polo Airport. Say “Arrivederci!” as you return home with meaningful memories of your Ultimate Vatican Experience tour.