Italian Highlights Tour  In Depth

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There's no need to do homework ahead of time to enjoy this tour, but if you are interested in more background
than is provided in the day-by-day itinerary these links will guide you to more detailed information.

 

St. Peter's
Rome  (Roma in Italian)

Rome

Rome's history as a city spans over two and a half thousand years, as one of the founding cities of Western Civilization.  Today Rome is the capital of Italy and a metropolitan area of over 4 million, but the city's ancient centre still retains architectural works spanning virtually its entire history, and the city features an abundance of magnificent works from the Renaissance and Baroque periods.

 

Vatican City

Vatican city, the world centre of Catholicism, is the world's smallest state by both population and area (106 acres / 43 hectares, estimated 2008 population 824).  It is the site where St. Peter was martyred and buried (about 64 AD), and became the residence of the Popes who succeeded him.  It includes St. Peter's Square and Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museums, and the Papal Palaces.

 

St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter's is Catholicism's most sacred shrine, the burial site of its namesake Saint Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, and the first Bishop of Rome.  It architecture, considered to be the greatest building of its age, features a high dome designed by Michelangelo during his period as chief architect, and many of the Baroque finishing touches were contributed by Bernini.

 

Colosseum

The Colosseum is the largest ever built in the Roman Empire, and one of greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering.  Construction started about 72 AD and was completed in 80 AD.  Estimates of its crowd capacity range from 55,000 to 80,000 spectators.

 
Villa d'Este
Lazio Region

Lazio

Lazio, the region of Italy in which Rome is located, is a varied area of volcanic lakes, mountains, ravines, vineyards, and olive groves.  Before the rise of Rome, it was populated by the Etruscans and various Italic tribes.

 

Tivoli

Hill town Tivoli (~66,000) was once a favoured resort of the ancient Romans, attracted by its fresh water and sulfur springs, and beautiful countryside.

 

Villa d'Este

Villa d'Este is a sumptuous country residence created in the 16th century by Pirro Ligorio for Cardinal Ippolito d'Este from the shell of a Benedictine monastery.  It is known primarily for its gardens, steeply raked on terraces, and studded with fountains.

 

Frascati

Frascati is a hilltop town (~20,000) particularly renowned for its white wine, the Frascati (wine).

 

Castel Gandolfo

Castel Gandolfo (~7,000) overlooks Lake Albano, 4 miles / 6 km south.  It is best known as the site of the Pope's summer residence.

 
View from Assisi
Umbria Region

Umbria

Long dismissed as Tuscany's "gentler sister," Umbria has recently emerged from the shadow of its more famous western neighbour.  Forming an expanse of gentle pastoral countryside and high mountain wilderness, the picturesque region has been dubbed the "Green Heart of Italy."  Umbria is also well known for the beauty and profusion of its medieval hill towns.

 

Perugia

Perugia (population ~165,000) is the capital city of the region of Umbria, and a notable artistic centre famous for painters and architects.  The most famous painter, Pietro Vannucci, nicknamed Perugino, was also a teacher of Raphael.

 

Assisi

Assisi (population ~27,000) is the birthplace of St. Francis, who founded the Franciscan religious order in the town in 1208.  The Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi (St. Francis) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 
Florence
Tuscany Region

Tuscany

Renowned for its art, history, and evocative landscape, Tuscany is a region where the past and present merge in pleasant harmony.  Hill towns gaze across the countryside from on high, many encircled by Etruscan walls and slender cypress trees.  Handsome palaces testify to the region's wealth while medieval town halls indicate a long-standing tradition of democracy and self-government.

 

Florence

Florence (Firenze in Italian, urban area population ~700,000) is the capital city of the region of Tuscany, known for its history and its importance in the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance, especially for art and architecture.  Long under the effective rule of the Medici family, Florence is often considered the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance.

 

Pisa

Pisa (90,000) gained vast mercantile wealth from naval trading links with Spain and North Africa in the 12th century that is reflected in its splendid buildings  -- especially the Duomo, Baptistry, and Campanile (Leaning Tower).

 

San Gimignano

The 13 towers that dominate the majestic skyline of San Gimignano (~7,100)  were built by noble families in the 12th and 13th centuries, when the town's position – on the main pilgrim route from northern Europe to Rome – brought it great prosperity.

 

Siena

Siena (~54,000), like other Tuscan hill towns, was first settled in the time of the Etruscans (900 BC to 400 BC).  Its principal sights cluster in the maze of narrow streets and alleys around the fan-shaped Piazza del Campo, one of Europe's greatest medieval squares.

 
 
Emilia-Romagna Region

Bologna

Bologna (375,000) is one of the most developed cities in Italy, and often ranks as one of the top cities in Italy in terms of quality of life due to its strong industrial tradition, its wide range of highly-developed social services, and its physical location at the crossing-point of the most important highways and railways in the country.

 
Villa d'Este
Veneto Region

Veneto

Veneto is one of the 20 regions of Italy.  Its population is about 4.8 million, and its capital is Venice.  Once the cradle of the renowned Venetian Republic, then a land of mass emigration, Veneto is today among the wealthiest and most industrialized regions of Italy. It is also the most visited region of Italy, with about 60 million tourists every year.  Besides Italian, most inhabitants speak Venetian.

 

Venice

Venice (Venezia in Italian, population 275,000) expanded its power and influence throughout the Mediterranean to Constantinople (modern Istanbul) during the Middle Ages under the leadership of successive doges.  The immense wealth of the city was celebrated in art and architecture throughout the city.  Today Venice survives against all the odds, built on pilings in a series of low mud banks amid the tidal waters of the Adriatic, and regularly subject to floods.

 

St. Mark's Square

St. Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco) has witnessed pageants, processions, political activities, and countless Carnival festivities throughout its long history.  Visitors are drawn to the city's two most important historic sights -- the Basilica and the Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace).  But the square is home to other major attractions, including the Campanile (Bell Tower) and the Museo Correr galleries.

 

Doge's Palace

The Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale) was the official residence of each Venetian ruler (doge) and was founded in the 9th century.  The present palace owes its external appearance to the building work of the 14th and early 15th centuries.

 

Murano

Murano, like its much larger neighbour Venice, comprises a cluster of small islands, connected by bridges.  It has been the centre of the famous Venetian glassmaking industry since 1291, when the furnaces were moved from the city because of the risk of fire and the disagreeable effects of smoke.

 

Verona

Verona (265,000) is a vibrant trading centre, the second biggest city in the Veneto region after Venice, and one of the most prosperous in northern Italy.  Its ancient centre boasts many magnificent roman ruins, second only to those of Rome itself, and fine palazzi built of a local pink-tinged limestone by the city's medieval rulers.

 

 

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