Day 1: Rome (D)
Arrival in Rome, reception and private transfer to your hotel just outside of Rome, La Posta Vecchia, residence overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea. Once the home of Paul Getty, La Posta Vecchia is an elegant mansion with the perfect location for relaxing and recovering from your flight. Accommodation in a deluxe room, lavishly decorated with Carrara marble bathtubs and magnificent tapestries. Dinner at the restaurant.
Day 2: Rome (B)
Free day to relax and unwind. Enjoy the marvellous indoor swimming pool and visit the museum focusing on the ancient ruins on which La Posta Vecchia was built.
Day 3: Rome (B)
After breakfast, transfer to the city centre of Rome and to your centrally located hotel for 2 nights, the 5 star deluxe Hassler Hotel. Late morning fully guided walking tour through Rome starting at the Spanish Steps and visiting the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona and the Piazza Venezia. After lunch (not included) you will continue the tour by private car to the incredible Colosseum dating back to 70 AD.
Originally capable of seating around 50,000 spectators, the Colosseum was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles. As well as the gladiatorial games, other public spectacles were held there, such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology. Visit the inside of the Colosseum before returning past the Arch of Constantine and through the Capitoline Hill, one of the Seven Hills of Rome and site of many palaces. Return to your hotel. Free evening.
Day 4: Rome - Vatican City (B)
After breakfast, a full day visit to the Vatican City by private car and guide. The Vatican holds numerous wonders, including the most magnificent museums and chapels in the world.
The Vatican Museums represent the largest art collection in Europe including the Candelabra Gallery, the Tapestry Gallery, the Historical Maps and the Sistine Chapel . Michelangelo painted 12,000 square feet (1,100 m2) of the Sistine chapel ceiling between 1508 and 1512. He resented the commission, and believed his work only served the Pope's need for grandeur. However, today the ceiling is widely believed to be Michelangelo's crowning achievement. The Sistine Chapel takes its name from a Pope, Pope Sixtus IV, who restored the old Cappella Magna between 1477 and 1480. During this period a team of painters that included Pietro Perugino, Sandro Botticelli and Domenico Ghirlandaio created a series of frescoed panels depicting the life of Moses and the life of Christ, offset by papal portraits above and trompe l'oeil drapery below. Since the time of Sixtus IV, the chapel has served as a place of both religious and functionary papal activity. Today it is the site of the Papal conclave; the ceremony by which a new Pope is selected.
Day 5: Rome - Tuscany (B &D)
Free morning for shopping and final independent sightseeing before we leave in the late afternoon for Tuscany. We head north to Cortona, less than 100 miles away for the one night stay at the elegant residence of Relais II Falconerie. This beautiful Tuscan house built in 1600 retains all the splendour of the past and is resplendent with beautiful antique furniture. Dinner at the hotel.
Day 6: Tuscany - Siena - Florence (B & L)
After breakfast, a visit to the historical centre of Siena, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which was first settled in the time of the Etruscans from 900 BC to 400 BC.
A visit to Siena's cathedral, the Duomo, which began in the twelfth century, is one of the great examples of Italian Romanesque architecture. Its main façade was completed in 1380. It is unusual for a Christian cathedral in that its axis runs north-south. This is because it was originally intended to be the largest cathedral in existence, with a north-south transept and an east-west aisle, as is usual. After the completion of the transept and the building of the east wall (which still exists and may be climbed by the public via an internal staircase) the money ran out and the rest of the cathedral was abandoned.
Inside is the famous Gothic octagonal pulpit by Nicola Pisano (1266-1268) supported on lions, and the labyrinth inlaid in the flooring, traversed by penitents on their knees. Within the Sacristy are some perfectly preserved renaissance frescos by Ghirlandaio, and beneath the Duomo in the baptistery is the marvelous baptismal font with bas-reliefs by Donatello, Ghiberti, Jacopo della Quercia and other 15th century sculptors. A visit to the shell-shaped Piazza del Campo, the town square, which houses the Palazzo Publico and the Torre del Mangia, another architectural treasure, famous for hosting the Palio horse race. After lunch at Osteria le Logge we continue northwards towards Florence and your hotel for three nights, the wonderful Villa San Michele. A former monastery, nestled on a hilltop surrounded by trees and terraced gardens, overlooks the city of Florence.
Dating from the 15th century its facade is attributed to Michelangelo. Here, each visitor is invited to stroll in the Italian gardens, filled with lemon trees and roses, and savour the superb Tuscan cuisine on the alfresco loggia as if in a private home.
Day 7: Florence (B & D)
After breakfast, a full day's city tour of Florence. Known as the"cradle of Renaissance" (la culla del Rinascimento) for its monuments, churches and buildings, the best-known site and crowning architectural jewel of Florence is the domed cathedral of the city, Santa Maria del Fiore, known as The Duomo. The magnificent dome was built by Filippo Brunelleschi. The nearby Campanile tower (partly designed by Giotto) and the Baptistery buildings are also highlights. The dome, 600 years after its completion, is still the largest dome built in brick and mortar in the world. In 1982, the historic center of Florence was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO and the centre of the city is contained in medieval walls that were built in the 14th century to defend the city after it became famous and important for its economic growth.
At the heart of the city in Piazza della Signoria is Bartolomeo Ammanati's Fountain of Neptune (1563-1565), which is a masterpiece of marble sculpture at the terminus of a still functioning Roman aqueduct.
The Arno River, which cuts through the old part of the city, is as much a character in Florentine history as many of the people who lived there. Historically, the locals have had a love-hate relationship with the Arno — which alternated from nourishing the city with commerce, and destroying it by flood. One of the bridges in particular stands out as being unique, The Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge), whose most striking feature is the multitude of shops built upon its edges, held up by stilts. The bridge also carries Vasari's elevated corridor linking the Uffizi to the Medici residence (Palazzo Pitti). First constructed by the Etruscans in ancient times, this bridge is the only one in the city to have survived World War II intact.
The church of San Lorenzo contains the Medici Chapel, the mausoleum of the Medici family - the most powerful family in Florence from the 15th to the 18th century. Nearby is the Uffizi Gallery, one of the finest art museums in the world - founded on a large bequest from the last member of the Medici family.
The Uffizi itself is located at the corner of Piazza della Signoria, a site important for being the centre of Florence civil life and government for centuries (Signoria Palace is still home of the community government): the Loggia dei Lanzi was the set of all the public ceremonies of the republican government. In 1301, Dante was sent into Exile from here (a plaque on one of the walls of the Uffizi commemorates the event).
In addition to the Uffizi, Florence has other world-class museums. The Bargello concentrates on sculpture, containing many priceless works of art created by such sculptors as Donatello, Giambologna, and Michelangelo. The Accademia dell'Arte del Disegno (often simply called the Accademia) has in its collection highlights Michelangelo's David and his unfinished slaves.
Across the Arno is the huge Pitti Palace containing part of the Medici family's former private collection. In addition to the Medici collection the palace's galleries contain a large number of Renaissance works, including several by Raphael and Titian as well as a large collection of modern art, costumes, and porcelain. Adjoining the Palace are the Boboli Gardens, elaborately landscaped and with many interesting sculptures. Return to your residence in the hills overlooking Florence.
Day 8: Florence (B)
Free day to enjoy the city at your own pace or shopping in the exclusive Via de' Tornabuoni and Via de' Calzaiuoli. Perhaps wander through the artisan's workshops and antique dealers of the Oltrarno, the more authentic Florence located between Piazza del Carmine and Piazza Santo Spirito.
Day 9: Florence- Venice (B & L)
After breakfast, we leave behind Florence and continue north towards Venice through Ferrara country before arriving to Padova and in time for lunch at the excellent Le Calandre Restaurant.
After lunch, continue onto Venice, considered by many to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world; and your accommodation for three nights at the Hotel Cipriani. Set in gardens at the end of the Giudecca Island, only a short boat ride from St Mark's Square via motor launch, Hotel Cipriani is one of the finest hotels in Italy. Relax and enjoy the splendid location with accommodation in a double room with lagoon view. The Lagoon view rooms are beautifully appointed with king or twin beds which provide a beautiful view over the open Lagoon and its islands.
Day 10: Venice (B, & L)
After breakfast, a tour of Venice with a visit to St. Mark's square, the Basilica and its Byzantine heritage, the Doge's Palace and its adjoining prisons, that retain the true secrets to comprehend how a city built on swamps became one of the most enlightened cities in the western world. Then, leave the square and crowds behind to enter a labyrinth of narrow passageways and alleys where an enchanting city of meandering canals punctuated by delicate bridges awaits you. Explore the lively Campo Santa Maria Formosa with its outstanding Gothic Palaces and at the Scuola di San Marco learn about the famous trade schools of Venice that provided the foundations of the great mercantile empire. Admire the Church of San Giovanni e Paolo "the Pantheon of Venice", enter an old merchants warehouse and see the most beautiful well-head in Venice before finishing the tour near the Rialto bridge. Lunch at the Locanda Cipriani. Free afternoon before returning to your hotel.
Day 11: Venice (B)
Free day at leisure.
Day 12: Venice (B)
After breakfast, private transfer to Venice international airport for your return flight home.