Optional Early Arrival to Explore Southern Italy— June 14-18
We arrive in Rome where we spend the afternoon exploring the city on our own. The next day we travel south to the Roman ruins of Pompeii, Italy’s most famous archaeological site. Late in the afternoon, we drive to the Amalfi Coast, where our hotel overlooks the Mediterranean for three nights. We will explore the charming and historic village of Ravello, revered by artists, writers, musicians, and travelers over the centuries. From here we will walk to Villa Cimbrone, view the hamlet of Castiglione, stroll through vineyards and lemon groves, and descend to the beautiful little village of Atrani, one of the best-preserved villages on the coast. This afternoon we will have time to wander around in Amalfi or go for a swim. Dinner is on your own at one of the charming local restaurants. The next morning we visit the charming little village of Pontone and then explore the ridge of the Torre dello Ziro, offering stunning views of the landscape. Those who prefer to spend the rest of the day on a leisurely stroll through Amalfi will take the bus back down. Those who desire a little more exercise will be able to take a stroll down through the Valle dei Mulini (valley of the watermills) on your way back to Amalfi, which will introduce you to ancient paper factory ruins, as well as the lush vegetation and waterfalls of the nature reserve. Those seeking a more challenging adventure will take a short drive to the small village of Bomerano, on the Agerola high plain, where you will find the start of the famous ‘Sentiero degli Dei’ (‘Footpath of the Gods’), one of Italy’s most famous footpaths, a walk with unrivaled views. Along the path, you will see the Monastery of San Domenico, dominating the coast from its hilltop, before continuing to the hamlet of Nocelle. Passing another spectacular valley, you will arrive in the little village of Montepertuso, followed by a short walk down to Positano, one of the pearls of the Amalfi Coast. After a stroll through its alleys, you will return to our hotel by coach. Offering breathtaking views, this walk is approximately 9 km and will take at least 4.5 hrs. The next morning we travel along the coast to the little hamlet of Corpodi Cava situated on the mountain slopes high above the valley of Cava dei Tirreni. Here we stroll through the small hamlet before reaching our destination: the millennium-old Benedictine Abbey of Corpo di Cava, one of the most important abbeys of southern Italy. We continue to Herculaneum for a guided tour of the amazingly ‘rich’ archeological site. We return to Rome to meet the group for the main tour.
Experience the History of Rome
Upon arrival in Rome, we meet our tour escort and driver and transfer by motor coach to our hotel. The afternoon is at leisure to explore Rome on your own, enjoy some local cuisine and walk along the streets from your hotel, with its many shops. We will then meet the rest of our group who arrived early for our first dinner together as a full group, before we all enjoy our first night in Rome. After breakfast at our hotel, we enjoy a panoramic tour of Rome, including a visit to the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, to see the Holy Steps where Luther received his insights into the meaning of faith. Then we visit the highlights of Christian Rome, including the Colosseum the largest amphitheater in the world. We will also walk through the Forum that will take you to the Mamertine Prison, where St. Paul was incarcerated. The next day we begin our sightseeing with a tour of the Vatican City and the Basilica of St Peter. We then view the magnificent frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, well known around the world for its magnificent ceiling beautifully decorated by Michelangelo. Then we visit a catacomb complex on the Old Appian Way. We continue to the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls to see the tomb of the Apostle Paul and the Church of Three Fountains, the site of his execution.
Walking Tours of Florence & Venice
In the morning, we depart Rome for Assisi, a beautiful medieval town and home of St. Francis and Clare, who wished to return to the simplicity of the early Church. Later, we journey by motor coach down to the lower town to visit the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, the Church of St. Mary of the Angels, where the Porziuncola and the Transit chapels are preserved. We will continue to Florence for dinner and overnight. After breakfast, we tour Florence and the Cathedral and Giotto’s bell tower. At the adjacent Baptistry, we admire Ghiberti’s bronze Gates of Paradise before walking to the church of Santa Croce via the Piazza della Signoria and the Palazzo Vecchio. Our next stop is the Accademia Museum to view Michelangelo’s statue of David. Then we enjoy a guided tour of the Uffizi Gallery. The next morning we depart Florence for Pisa where we will visit the famous Leaning Tower, the freestanding bell tower of the Pisa Cathedral, which has drawn the attention of tourists since it was first built. We will explore the rest of Pisa’s Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square) before taking a lovely drive to Venice, where we will have dinner and spend the first of two nights in the lovely island city. In the morning we enjoy a walking tour of Venice, including visits to the Byzantine St Mark’s Basilica and the Doges Palace. The rest of our day is at leisure, dinner is on your own before our final night in the city.
Oberammergau Passion Play
After an early breakfast we will depart Venice for a picturesque day’s drive through the Alps towards the Oberammergau area, where we will settle into our accommodations for tonight. The next morning we have a short drive to Oberammergau. Oberammergau is not only known for its World-Famous Passion Play, but also for its woodcarving craft and for its colorful and attractive frescos known as Lüftlmalereien. In the morning we have time at leisure to explore the lovely village, the museum, the parish church and a woodcarving workshop. Then we take our seats at the Passion Play Theater for the early afternoon performance. All the actors, musicians, and singers as well as the backstage staff are either born in Oberammergau or been residents for more than 20 years. Between the different scenes of the life of Jesus Christ we can admire “living pictures” – scenes from the Bible presented as still life. After 2.5 hours it is time for a dinner break, which is waiting for us in a local restaurant. After dinner, we have the opportunity to stroll around in the village and to do some shopping. Later this evening, the second part of the play starts and will end at approximately 11:00 pm. We return to our accommodations for a final night in Oberammergau, our hearts and minds full of this wonderful cultural and spiritual journey. In the morning we depart to the Munich airport for our return flight back to the U.S.A.