This course involves a fifteen day educational tour of Greece and Italy. During this fifteen day course students will learn about Renaissance Italy as well as ancient Rome and Greece through guided tours that will discuss the political, religious, architectural and artistic history of all three civilizations. The course begins with an overnight flight to Milan, Italy from which we will take a bus to Venice. We will take a guided tour of Venice that will include a visit to Doges’ Palace which was the seat of the government in Venice for over 1000 years. After our tour of the Doges Palace, students will attend a glass blowing demonstration. We will also go to St. Mark's Square and then visit the Grand Canal and Basilica di San Marco which is the most famous of the many churches of Venice and one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture in the world.
Next comes guided visits of Florence that will include a visit to the city’s famous Duomo Cathedral. The Duomo dominates the skyline of the incredible Tuscan city. It was constructed over six centuries and expresses the bridging of Greek and Gothic architecture. Student will also visit Ponte Vecchio, the oldest surviving arched bridge in Florence as well as the Uffizi Museum which houses one of the world’s greatest collections of art. Then we move on to Assisi where we will Visit the Basilica of St. Francis and Minerva’s temple. From there we move on to Rome. In Rome students will take a guided visit of the city that will include stops at the Coliseum, Hadrian’s Pantheon, the Vatican, (St Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel), Trevi fountain and more.
From there we move on to Sorrento from which we will take a guided tour of Pompeii and its incredible ruins. Following that we will travel to Brindisi where we will board an overnight ferry to Igoumenitsa, Greece. Leaving the ferry we will board our bus and take the winding roads into the mountains at daybreak. Next we will take a guided tour of one of the six Greek Orthodox Meteora monasteries perched high upon cliffs atop steep sandstone buttes in central Greece near the plain of Thessaly. From there we will proceed to a guided tour of Delphi, site of the ancient Oracle and the Athenian Treasury, and many other ancient architectural wonders. While there we will also visit the Delphi museum which houses many incredible ancient Greek artifacts. From there we will go on the Mycene and the Lions Gate. This city is one of mainland Greece’s oldest architectural wonders and dates back to the Homeric period. Indeed legend has it that the forty-foot tall egg shaped tomb we will walk into is Agamemnon’s. While the legend is almost certainly untrue the historic significance is very real. This was one of the first walled cities on mainland Greece.
Our bus will then take us across the Peloponnese, land of the Spartans and across the Isthmus of Corinth. From there we go on to Epidaurus Theater one of the very few theaters that retains its original circular structure.(Most were converted to semi circle after the Romans invaded Greece.) The view, aesthetics, and acoustics of the theater are breathtaking.
Finally, we move on to Athens were we will take a tour of the city which will culminate in an assent to the Acropolis where we will visit the Parthenon and walk in the footsteps of Socrates, Plato and Pericles. Exhausted, but more worldly and enlightened, we head for home.
Participants stay in hotels throughout the program with the exception of one overnight ferry.
Guided sightseeing of Florence • Fall under the spell of the powerful Medici family on your guided tour. See Giotti's Bell Tower and the imposing marble cathedral in the Piazza del Duomo. Stand before Ghiberti's legendary Gates of Paradise (so dubbed by Michelangelo), and pass the classical statues of the Piazza della Signoria. Here you can see where Michelangelo's David originally stood.
January 7th - January 9th: Rome
Transfer to Rome via a Guided Sightseeing of Assisi • As you head south into Umbria you will pass the city of Perugia. Shortly afterwards stop in Assisi, birthpalce of St. Francis and St. Clare. On your visit to the basilica of St. Francis, follow the life of one of Italy's most beloved saints through Giotti's frescoes. Continue south to Rome, the Eternal city.
Arrive in Rome • Welcome to Rome, the Eternal city. The city is an incredible mix of archaeological gems, Roman genius, Renaissance art and religious treasure. As Italy's capital, it is also the bustling heart of this exciting country. With its fashionable shopping and cafe-culture, Rome really is a unique European experience.
Guided Sightseeing of Rome by Night • A beautiful city by day, Rome can be even more impressive at night! Enjoy the comfort of your coach as a guide takes you through the city and past its famed sights as the lights shine.
Guided Sightseeing of the Vatican • The world's largest dome is located in the world's smallest country. See both as you tour St. Peter's Basilica, erected in VaticanCIty on the site where the saint was martyred. Enter the basilica under the watchful eyes of the brightly dressed Swiss Guard. Inside, admire Michelangelo's Pieta and try to find the artist's signature (it is the only sculpture he ever signed). then continue on to the Vatican Museum, where elaborate galleries packed with one artistic masterpiece after another lead you directly to the Sistine Chapel. Between 1508 and 1512, Michelangelo painted some of the world's finest pictorial images on the Chapel's ceiling. This was his first attempt at working in fresco, which he did by standing up and craning backwards from a scaffold.
Guided Sightseeing of Ancient Rome • Your guided sightseeing of ancient Rome takes you into the Forum Romanium, once the heart of the Roman Empire. You will also visit the Colosseum, where gladiators once battled for their lives in front of 50,000 spectators.
Free Time at the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona • Enjoy time in Piazza di Spagna. Climb the staircase to view the city below, or take the time to wander through one of Rome's mosr popular shopping areas. ALternatively, snag a moment to relax amongst the hustle and bustle of the city while enjoying a traditional Italian treat - gelato. You should also make sure to wander over to the famed Trevi Fountain and toss a coin to ensure your return to Rome.
Enjoy an Opera Dinner • Enjoy your meal with live opera singers performing popular arias and the like.
January 9th - January 10th: Sorrento
Transfer to the Sorrento Region • Experience the unparalleled beauty of Italy's favorite resort, which overlooks the Bay of Naples. Sorrento was first settled by Spaniards and Greeks, whose influences still remain.
Free Time in Sorrento • Italy's Amalfi Coast offers some of the most beautiful coastlines in Europe and Sorrento is where it begins. (The famed "Almafi Drive" begins in Sorrento and winds 43 miles to Salerno through cliffs and mountains for fabulous views.) It's Italy's favorite resort town and easily draws in tourists with its picturesque landscape and mild temperatures. Walk along the gorge in the center of town, where you'll find the Piazza Tasso leading to smaller streets that are great for exploring; in the evenings, some are closed to cars to allow pedestrians room for their passeggiatas (walks). Stroll through the historic quarter and chat in the 15th century Sedile Dominova Square; locals can be frequently spotted conversing with neighbors under the umbrella-covered tables, as has been the practice for years.
January 10th - January 11th: Pompeii • Night Ferry
Guided Sightseeing of Pompeii • Learn how wealthy Romans lived 2,000 years ago on an excursion to Pompeii, one of the richest archaeological sites in the world. When neighboring Mt. Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79, volcanic ash completely buried the Roman resort. Now it is fully excavated, and you can see the ruins of vilas, ancient temples, and the Stabian Baths.
Board a Night Ferry to Greece • In Brindisi you will board a ferry that will take you through the night across the Adriatic and on to the Ionian Sea. Arrive the next day in Igoumenitsa.
January 11th - January 12th: Kalambaka
Arrive in Igoumenitsa and Transfer to Kalambaka • Head toward the majestic vistas of the Meteora region. More than 20 monasteries are nestled among these black mountains.
January 12th - January 13th: Delphi
Transfer to Delphi via a Guided Sightseeing of Meteora Monasteries • A local guide introduces you to the Meteora region, home to many examples of Byzantine art and architecture. Renowned for its many cavelike monasteries built directly into the hillsides, Meteora draws visitors and missionaries yearning for a glimpse of the ancient life of the pious recluse.
Arrive in Delphi • On the slopes of Mount Parnassus lies Delphi, home of the mystical Oracle. For centuries, ancient Greeks would communicate with the gods here, seeking advice and answers at this magical site where the heavens and the earth were said to meet. Delphi was considered not only the center of worship for the god Apollo, but also the center of the world.
Guided sightseeing of Delphi • As you tour Delphi, ponder the mysteries of what lies in your future, as did Greece's ancient military leaders, who left gifts for the Oracle in hopes of good fortune in battle. Then visit the Temple of Apollo where, according to legend, the gods communicated with mortals. Your visit concludes with a stop at the Delphi Museum, whose collection boasts many artifacts dating back to 550 B.C., reminiscent of the mythical past of ancient Greece.
January 13th - January 16th: Athens
Transfer to Athens • Nestled among the mountains on the Attic plain, Athens is the cradle of democracy and the birthplace of Western civilization. A modern city with a strong connection to its ancient history. Athens has been a center of culture, politics, and history for thousands of years. The great philosopher Socrates lived here, offering to fellow Athenians his views on virtue and knowledge.
Guided Sightseeing of Mycanae • Excavations of Mycanae began in 1874 under the leadership of German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann. The site is perched on a hilltop, overlooking valleys, mountains and the sea, and in ancient times "golden Mycanae" was one of Greece's greatest cities. According to Homer's epic, it was Mycanae that Agamemnon began his legendary campaign against Troy.
Guided Sightseeing of Corinth • Take a guided tour of Ancient Corinth. Here you can see the remains of the Roman Agora, the marketplace where Greek trade flourished.
Optional: Greek Evening • Tonight, opt to experience Greece's unique and colorful culture during an evening of traditional entertainment and cuisine. Enjoy and authentic meal composed of typical dishes at a specially selected taverna in or near the famous old Plaka district of Athens. Watch an enthralling belly-dance performance, and witness the fancy footwork and twirling bravado of traditional Greek dancing while musicians perform on bouzoukis, stringed instruments unique to Greece. Musical instruments, which date from the Bronze Age in Greece, have played a central role in Greek tradition, as have regional dances. Experience firsthand this thrilling element of Greek culture.
Guided Sightseeing of Athens • An expert local guide introduces you to the antiquities of Athens. Climb the Acropolis to view the majestic Parthenon, perhaps the world's greatest architectural feat. See the Temple of Athena Nike, which once housed gold statue of the goddess (her wings were clipped to keep her from ever deserting the city). Athens is named after Athena, the goddess of war and wisdom. After seeing the Presidential Guard in their traditional costumes, pass the stadium, where the first modern Olympics games were held in 1896, as well as lively Omonia and Syntagma Squares.
Visit the Acropolis Museum • Visit this archaeological museum that houses nearly 4,000 artifacts from the acropolis and surrounding site. This new museum opened in 2009 and is built on southeastern slope that was once the route of the ancient road that led up to the "sacred rock".
Walking Tour of Athens • Our walking tour takes you through the endearing Plaka district, home to some of the city's finest tavernas as well as a plethora of shops all vying for your attention. Stroll past Hadrian's Arch and the Temple of the Olympian Zeus, built to honor the most powerful of all Greek gods.
January 16th: Return Home
Transfer to the Airport for your Return Flight • Your tour director to the airport assists you with your transfer to the airport, where you'll check in for your return flight home.