We’re back from Italy! If you haven’t seen our Honeymoon Travel Map yet, you can follow along with our journey! We have quite the treasure trove of stories to share with you (while we recover from jet-lag and procrastinate packing for the big move)! Overall the tour of Italy was quite memorable with only a few hiccups and surprises along the way. (We’ll get to those in more detail in subsequent blog posts.) When we revisit in the future, we will plan our own trip now that we are more familiar with the country! Thanks to our wonderful family and friends we were able to add all of the optional tours to our itinerary as well! For the Italy travel blog series/reviews this will serve as a landing page, similar to the engagement/wedding series announcement.
We used the tour travel company, Gate 1 and I finally created the in-depth review! They offered the most destinations we were interested in with a variety of departure dates.** I spoke casually with a fellow Yelper who had a very positive experience a few years ago for his Italy trip too, so we were excited for our honeymoon trip! We had a local Tour Manager the entire trip giving us live “tips”, sharing local culture, coordinating our accommodations, and answering our probing questions. Giovanni (Anglicized to Johnny) had a wealth of knowledge as he was born in Rome, traveled around so he also had an English accent, quite a bit of sass in his biting humor, and a strange obsession for Rick Steves. (Never heard of the guy until this trip.)
I know most other travelers my age tend to be more adventurous and plan their own trip as they go. I did not however, expect that the demographic of our tour group to be mostly affluent retired couples! The company’s website and social media photos did not reflect this at all. Not a big deal, and it makes sense that it’s difficult for most people to take 2 weeks off and spending a hefty sum for a vacation. All the other travelers were quite pleasant and a few of them even took candid photos and shared with us. I will add the in-depth stories about our adventures and reviews for the hotels we stayed at for each location as a separate blog post in the series! I’ve got a lot to say about several of them exceeding the review site character limit.
DAYS 1 – 3: LaGare Hotel Venezia in Murano
DAY 1, Saturday – Depart for Venice via Munich on Lufthansa
First time we used Lufthansa Airline, and we were quite impressed even with the unfortunate red-eye flight! Our excitement kept us from getting any substantial sleep despite the bountiful wine and Bailey’s offerings.
DAY 2, Sunday – Arrive in Murano, Venice
Arrive in magical Venice with its astonishing treasures; transfer to your hotel on Murano. Balance of the day is at leisure, in this city built over a hundred small islands and connected by 400 bridges, Venice is truly an artistic masterpiece. This evening, enjoy an orientation meeting with your Tour Manager, followed by a Welcome Dinner.
DAY 3, Monday – Tour of Murano Glass Factory, Boat Ride to Venice
The discovery of Venice begins with the Island of Murano, known for its artistic and colorful Murano glassware. Continue by boat to Venice and explore St. Mark’s Square where the guided walking tour of this romantic city begins. View the Golden Basilica of San Marco, built over several centuries in a fusion of Byzantine, Roman and Venetian architecture. Walk via the Bridge of Sighs, created at the beginning of the 17th century to serve as a link between prisons. Then, to the pink marble Doge’s Palace, the official residence of the Venetian ruler; its facade is highlighted by a massive late-Gothic gate, known as the Porta della Carta. Participate in this afternoon’s optional Gondola Ride with music – it’s definitely one of the highlights of any Italian holiday!
DAYS 4 – 7: Hotel Francia e Quirinale in Montecantini
DAY 4, Tuesday – Tour Lucca en route to Montecatini
Magnificent panoramas are waiting for you today as you travel through the rolling Tuscan countryside dotted with olive and fig trees to Lucca, a jewel of medieval architecture, with its massive 17th century walls that completely surround the city. Walk along the winding streets of the original Roman grid revealing layers of history at every turn. Arrive at the Church of San Michele adorned by its beautiful piazza, occupying the site of the ancient Roman Forum. Then, on to Montecatini, the spa center of Italy, known for its world-famous thermal baths. No we didn’t get to take part in the spa aspect sadly.
DAY 5, Wednesday – Florence Day Trip
Full day optional tour to Florence, birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. Upon arrival, walk to the magnificent Duomo celebrated for its magnificent dome designed by Brunelleschi, and view the Baptistery’s renowned “Gates of Paradise” by Ghiberti. Continue to the Accademia of Fine Arts, where Michelangelo’s David is housed; stand in awe of this glorious work of art. From here, walk through the open-air museum at Signoria Square, ending at the splendid Ponte Vecchio, also known as the “Old Bridge”. Return to Montecatini for an evening of fine Tuscan cuisine
DAY 6, Thursday – Spectacular Cinque Terre on the Ligurian Coast
The drive today takes you to spectacular Cinque Terre (Five Lands), with the most dramatic scenery on the Ligurian coast, named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These enchanting five villages are nestled into the cliffs overlooking the sea, surrounded by vineyards that produce some of Liguria’s most celebrated wines. Look for the 19th-century railway that transports villagers from place to place as cars were banned over a decade ago. Upon your return, a very special experience as you drive through the lush countryside to a Tuscan farm. Here, you’ll tour the vineyards with olive oil demonstration, and then settle in for a rustic Tuscan Paesana dinner that includes local wines.
DAY 7, Friday – Siena Day Trip
Optional tour to the lovely medieval city of Siena nestled within three hills, giving the city its infamous sloped streets. The heart of the city is Il Campo, the huge central plaza where the Roman forum used to be, site of the famous Horserace of Palio. After a tour of Campo Square and St. Dominic’s Church, return to Montecatini for a farewell dinner at your hotel for travelers leaving early.
DAYS 8 – 10: Hotel Royal Continental in Naples
DAY 8, Saturday – Travel to Naples
Depart Montecatini, driving south to the charming coastal city of Naples. Along the way, stop for lunch in the hills of Lazio, a region of central Italy bordered by the Tyrrhenian Sea. Then, on to Naples, where you are welcomed by the spectacular panoramic views and by the sapphire blue waters of the Gulf of Naples. Tonight, a lovely dinner together highlights your arrival in Naples, strikingly beautiful with its seaside setting. As you stroll along the coastal road and through the charming town, you’ll understand why this town has long been loved by poets and artists.
DAY 9, Sunday – The Gorgeous Amalfi Drive
A fantastic day as you cruise along the rugged Amalfi coast, undoubtedly one of the most spectacular drives in the world, with its dramatic landscapes and amazing panoramas. Nestled into mountains which rise thousands of feet above the sea, you’ll see enchanting villages, cliffs terraced with lemon groves, whitewashed villas and sparkling turquoise seas. Drive via Positano, the coast’s most expensive town, and enjoy time at leisure in Amalfi, named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Return to Naples in time for dinner
DAY 10, Monday – Capri Day Trip
Optional tour to the enchanting and picturesque Isle of Capri by boat. Here, you’ll walk through the narrow lanes of Anacapri, with its chic boutiques and shops offering tastings of the island’s famous Limoncello. Then, to La Piazzetta (Piazza Umberto I) where everyone gathers to socialize and to the Gardens of Augustus, towards the top of the island, a natural paradise, from where you can see splendid views of the sea and the famous Faraglioni rock formations, one of the island’s natural wonders. After a lovely day in Capri, return to Naples and enjoy the rest of your day at leisure
DAYS 11 – 14: Hotel Romanico Palace in Rome
DAY 11, Tuesday – Visit Pompeii en route to Rome
Depart Naples and head towards Rome. On the way, stop in Pompeii the city that was frozen in time under a thick carpet of volcanic ash almost 2,000 years ago. The tragic fossils of people attempting to escape, along with their children and dogs are still visible, along with the preserved ruins of the Temples of Apollo and Jupiter, and the Forum. Continue north, passing the magnificent Abbey of Monte Cassino, perched high on the mountaintop, scene of a huge battle near the end of World War II in which the abbey was completely destroyed, but has now been lovingly restored. Then, onto Rome, the astonishing city that combines modern city life with ancient wonders
DAY 12, Wednesday – Tour Ancient Rome
Enjoy the morning at leisure or join the optional walking tour of the Eternal City’s grand piazzas that begins at the Spanish Steps and continues to the legendary Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and the baroque Piazza Navona. The historic tour of ancient Rome begins at the legendary Roman Forum, the central area of the city from which ancient Rome developed. Next, view the triumphal Arch of Constantine, erected by the Roman Senate to commemorate Constantine’s tenth year of leadership over the Eternal City. On to the mighty Colosseum, the largest amphitheater built in the Roman Empire that seated over 50,000, where gladiator contests and public events were attended by the rich, the poor and by the Emperor himself. Tonight, an optional dinner in a typical Roman restaurant with wine and opera music, then enjoy an illuminated tour of the city by bus.
DAY 13, Thursday – Vatican Museum & Sistine Chapel
Visit the Vatican Museums and Michelangelo’s masterpiece, the Sistine Chapel. Stroll through one of the most important art collections of the world. Admire the Gallery of Tapestries and the Geographical Maps before arriving to the Sistine Chapel, with its great frescoes by Michelangelo. Continue to St. Peter’s Square, passing Bernini’s famous colonnade to view St. Peter’s Basilica, built on the burial site of Saint Peter, with the most famous Michelangelo’s Pieta. Enjoy the afternoon at leisure or, join the optional walking tour of the Eternal City’s grand piazzas that includes the Spanish Steps, the legendary Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and the baroque Piazza Navona. Enjoy the afternoon at leisure. Tonight, join your Tour Manager and fellow travelers for a Farewell Cocktail at the hotel.
DAY 14, Friday – Depart Italy on United operated via Air Canada
Direct flights to Logan Airport from Italy are few and far between so we had a lovely 3 hour layover in Montreal before finally arriving back in Boston.
If anyone’s wondering, the travel descriptions of our itinerary are lightly paraphrased from the Gate 1 travel documents packet. All of the transportation to and fro were organized impeccably, thanks to our friend/travel agent Dillon at Global Citizen Adventures for booking.
Currently I’m still in the process of sorting through my excessive 1,700+ photos and videos just from my iPhone! Dana will probably take forever with his since he hasn’t even gone through his Alaska photos from our September 2016 cruise.
*Featured blog photo taken in Murano, the Venetian Glass capital.
**Gate 1 notable competitors Rick Steves Tours, Vantage Deluxe World Travel, Trafalgar