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Highlights
  • Explore the famous mountainside ghost town of Matera with a private guide
  • Visit the legendary trull, white-stone capped houses found only in Puglia
  • Indulge your taste for the finer things in Lecce, the “Florence of the South”
  • Tour the legendary city of Pompeii, frozen in time by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius
  • Enjoy an exclusive tour of the fascinating Wine and Olive Museum in Torgiano
  • Take in the grandeur of Rome on a horse-drawn carriage ride
  • Savor delectable Italian cuisine and Italy’s finest regional wines at world class restaurants and vineyards
  • Stay in a restored “masseria,” a fortified farmhouse
  • Drive the Amalfi Coast and witness breathtaking views of villages clinging to the cliffs

Explore the history and culture and the food and wine of Italy’s coast and vineyards on this delicious journey. Admire the pink-tinged baroque beauty of Lecce, the “Florence of the South.” Stroll broad piazzas past historic duomos and dine in centuries-old farmhouses. Discover churches and homes carved out of solid rock and stark white trulli houses with their conical tops dazzling in the Mediterranean sun. Gaze upon frescoes painted by the great artists of the Renaissance, feel the looming presence of Mount Vesuvius in Pompeii, and follow the Amalfi Coast to Positano, which some say is the most beautiful village in the world. From the picturesque hills of Umbria to the heart of Rome, fall in love with the sun, sea and wines of Italy.

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Sole, Mare e Vino: Italy

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Awesome!! March 2015

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Fantastic November 2014

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Empowering exploration!

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Itinerary

Day 1: Brindisi & Lecce, Italy

Accommodation: Patria Palace Hotel

Benvenuto, and welcome to Italy. You are greeted at the Brindisi airport, and transferred to your luxury hotel in Lecce, the “Florence of the South.”

The city of Lecce’s Baroque style has an unrivalled originality and exuberance - due to the skills of its local architects and stonemasons. You can see their ornate work in the soft, malleable pink-tinged local stone everywhere you look.

The rest of your day is at leisure to explore the town from your centrally located hotel. Walk along the pretty piazzas and back streets, stroll amidst ancient Roman ruins and artful palazzos.

Tonight, at a welcome cocktail party and dinner, you meet your Travcoa Travel Director and fellow travelers to learn more about the exciting days ahead.

Day 2: Lecce

Accommodation:   Patria Palace Hotel

This morning, embark on a guided tour of the wonders of Lecce, a village with more than 2,000 years of history. Dating back to the times of the Messapi, Lecce was then conquered by the Romans in the 3rd century B.C., most notably leaving behind an imposing amphitheater. During the 16th –18th centuries, the “Lecce Baroque” style developed, embellishing the town with great artistic monuments.

We visit the castle of Emperor Charles V, and the eclectic Sant'Oronzo Square, dominated by an imposing statue of the Saint, built in 1666 with marble from the ancient Roman columns along the Appian Way.

 Next, we explore the grand Roman amphitheater, followed by "Il Sedile" a stately Baroque-Renaissance construction, dating back to 1592. See San Marco Church, a Venetian masterpiece, and the Adorno Palace - both built in the Middle Ages and display amazing architectural work. We also visit the Basilica of Santa Croce, a triumph of Lecce Baroque design, and the charming Piazza Duomo. Next, we travel along the Via Libertini – aligned with churches decorated in the Lecce Baroque style – including San Teresa with its unfinished façade, and San Anna, which is attached to the Music Conservatory. Our tour ends at the Rudiae Gate, the ancient entrance to Lecce.

For lunch, we drive into the countryside, to Manduria in the heart of the Primitivo wine district. Surrounded by more than 50 acres of vineyards and centuries old olive groves, enjoy a delicious lunch paired with Primitivo wine, at the wonderful 17th century Masseria Le Fabriche fortified farmhouse. Learn about this burgeoning Italian wine region while sipping their fresh reds and whites. We also see their production plants, explore their cellars, and enjoy an educational tasting of their artisan wines.

We return to Lecce, with the remainder of the afternoon at leisure.

Day 3: Lecce to Matera & Monopoli

Accommodation:    Il Melograno, Monopoli

This morning, depart Lecce and drive north, up the heel of Italy’s boot, to the ghost town of Matera, with its spectacular natural setting and echoes of the past. The town of Matera rises on the crest of a deep ravine, with overhanging rocks under which the Gravina stream flows.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this city of stone, has been inhabited since the Paleolithic era. The numerous grottoes in the deep canyon were the perfect homes for prehistoric man. Ancient inhabitants of Matera built cave-homes and cave-churches in the easily worked tufa stone.

We tour the ancient section called “Sassi,” dominated by the Cathedral of Medieval Age. As you explore these deserted houses and temples, it is difficult to remember you are actually inside the mountain. With its striking scenery and well-preserved buildings, Matera has been the location of several movies, most recently Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ.’

After a savory lunch at a local restaurant, it is just a short drive to the Adriatic coast, and to the port town of Monopoli, a city first settled by the Greeks more than 2,000 years ago.

The rest of the afternoon is at leisure to simply relax and enjoy the hypnotic atmosphere of southern Italy, and your two-night stay at a luxurious masseria, “a fortified farmhouse.”

Tonight we have dinner at a delightful seaside restaurant.

Day 4: Alberobello & Martina Franca

Accommodation: Il Melograno, Monopoli

Today’s full day of exploration begins with a drive to Alberobello, best known for its legendary trulli, the “White Cones of Puglia.” A trullo is an oddly shaped, squat white stone houses with a conical stone roof. Some of the roofs are decorated with crosses, while others are adorned with stylized suns, geometric patterns, or shapes painted all in white to stand out against the gray stone of the roof.

 Spend time exploring Alberobello, visiting several of its 1,500 trulli - some are restaurants, shops, lodging and private homes. We enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before continuing our touring of the region.

In the afternoon, visit the beautiful old city of Martina Franca, scenically positioned 1,420 feet above sea level. Gaze over the valley below and see a striking vista of white trulli, red earth, and traditional gray walls, set against the backdrop of sparkling Adriatic Sea. The town is surrounded by stone walls, with prominent Baroque gates that lead along winding, tiny streets to the main piazzas in the old town center. Admire the wonderful examples of Baroque architecture and art as you view the stately churches and elegant mansions with wrought iron balconies and bas relief archways.

We explore the Piazza di Roma - built in 1688, it is the largest open space in the city, and has a peculiar triangular shape. The beautiful Dolphins Fountain sits in the center of the piazza, and all around are architectural monuments - the 18th century Palazzo Martinucci, the elegant baroque Santo Stefano Arch, and the stately Ducal Palace, now the seat of the municipal government, and the Naturalist Museum of Parco delle Pianelle. The palace was built in the 17th century by Petracone V Caracciolo, in an attempt to revitalize the ancient Orsini castle that was destroyed 300 years earlier. This resulted in a combination of artistic styles throughout the palace. The most popular museum display is the Domenico Carella paintings that represent biblical scenes, mythology and court life.

We return to Monopoli by late afternoon.

Day 5: Monopoli to Trani & Sorrento

Accommodation:    Hotel Bellevue Syrene

Today, we drive across Italy to Sorrento, on Italy’s west coast. Our first morning stop is a short drive up the coast at the charming seaside enclave of Trani. The town has an incredible cathedral dedicated to St. Nicholas the Pilgrim, martyred in 1094. The arch on the cathedral is a perfect example of high Romanesque architecture, with some of the carvings showing an Arabic influence. We explore Trani’s castle - built in the early 13th century by Emperor Frederick II, who led Trani to its peak of prosperity. The city has lost its old city walls and bastions, but the castle has been restored to its former glory, and is now a museum and performance venue.

Since the 12th century, Trani housed the largest Jewish community in Southern Italy; you can observe the ornate synagogue set in the area of town that retains its medieval architecture and ornamentation.

After a lunch of local specialties, we head west, arriving in Sorrento, a colorful and popular resort town. Our luxury hotel, near the old town center, is perched above the Gulf of Naples with captivating views of the Gulf and Mount Vesuvius.

Day 6: The Amalfi Coast

Accommodation:    Hotel Bellevue Syrene

Experience a full day of visual and cultural beauty as we explore the stunning Amalfi Coast, one of the most beautiful routes in Europe, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This 30-mile winding roadway hugs the shoreline, offering breathtaking views of coastal mountains and sheer cliffs plunging into the sea. View the picturesque terraced cliffs and clinging whitewashed villas, punctuated with colorful towns and villages.

We stop to visit the charming hillside village Positano, considered the pearl of the Amalfi Coast. For most of its history, dating back to the 16th century, Positano was a simple fishing village, only blossoming into a popular vacation haven in the latter half of the 20th century. You may recognize the town’s pastel-colored houses from the movie ‘Under the Tuscan Sun.’ Enjoy time to explore the village on your own before we have a relaxing lunch at a local restaurant.

Mid-afternoon, we head back to Sorrento, a region known for its pleasing climate, and abundance of citrus. We visit a citrus farm, for a tour of the lemon groves and to learn about their production of Limoncello, Sorrento’s signature lemon liqueur. Made from the zest of Femminello St. Teresa lemons, also known as Sorrento lemons, Limoncello is a local favorite, and traditionally served chilled as an after-dinner digestive. Enjoy some tasting of this sweet and sour liqueur before we continue our drive back to our luxury resort.

Enjoy an evening at leisure in this welcoming resort village.

Day 7: Sorrento to Pompeii & Perugia

Accommodation: Hotel Brufani Palace

Today we drive north to Perugia, the capital of Umbria.

En route, we stop at Pompeii to tour the famous ruins. Pompeii joined the Roman Empire in 310 B.C. and became an important industrial and trading center and home to many influential and wealthy Romans. Then, Mt. Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79. Shortly after midday flames shot into the sky and an immense black cloud covered the sun. For three days, volcanic matter, lapilli and red-hot scoriae rained down on Pompeii making a blanket 15 to 20 feet deep over the entire area. Artifacts and people were encased in the ash as it cooled. Today, you can see the excavated city, preserved as it was for a moment in time, before it was buried beneath the ashes of Mt. Vesuvius.

After a delicious lunch at the Caveja restaurant, we continue our drive. Late afternoon, we arrive in Perugia, a city famous for its chocolates, and ancient architecture - including buildings from the Etruscans, the Roman Empire, and the Middle Ages.

Settle into your deluxe hotel, your home for the next four nights.

Day 8: Perugia

Accommodation: Hotel Brufani Palace

Today, we explore Perugia, a once powerful community that patronized artists and architects into creating to a trove of frescoes, paintings, and sculptures. Perugia today is a cosmopolitan city, yet with historical traditions and beautiful old buildings found around every picturesque corner. The monumental center of Perugia is the Piazza IV Novembre, the nucleus of the old city, with steep alleys leading to the ancient Etruscan walls and gates.

Tour the Palazzo dei Priori - built in the 15th century it was the home to the political leaders and the powerful Bankers Guild. Inside the Palazzo, explore the National Gallery of Umbria, and its important collection of Medieval and Modern period art. Visit the Collegio del Cambio, to view the work of the city’s most honored son, Pietro Perugino, one of the earliest Italian practitioners of Renaissance painting in Italy. See his series of frescoes representing the heroes and deities of antiquity and some personified virtues.

Enjoy some time at leisure this afternoon to explore this warm and friendly city on your own.

Day 9: Deruta, Assisi & Torgiano excursion

Accommodation:    Hotel Brufani Palace

This morning drive to Deruta, a small town nestled in the picturesque hills of Umbria, and world renowned for its mastery of the ceramic arts. Pottery and ceramics have been produced in Deruta since the 13th century, with the height of production in the 16th century, when its artists took part in the cultural revolution of the Renaissance. It was then that the famous "Raffaellesco" ornament became a popular symbol of Deruta pottery production. (The term "raffaellesco" comes from Renaissance master Raffaello.)

Today the town continues its ceramic traditions, as is home to more than 200 majolica workshops and a public school dedicated to ceramic techniques. We visit the Ceramic Museum and factory, as well as the majolica shop Grazia Ubaldo to learn about this ancient art and see work of the masters.

Next, we drive to Assisi – the "crown jewel of the medieval hill towns," and home to the patron saint of Italy, St. Francis. In the 13th century, the greatest masters of the time (Cimabue, Giotto, Simone Martini, and Pietro Lorenzetti), were summoned to Assisi to fresco the new St. Francis Basilica, a church built to house the body of St. Francis, Italy’s most beloved saint. With the indoctrination of the new Pope Francis in 2013, Assisi and St. Francis have garnered even more popularity. Today, the Basilica di San Francesco is one of Italy's most outstanding art museums. We tour all three levels of the cathedral, and the treasure house of art inside its walls. Walk through the crypt in the lower wing, where the Saint is buried; then continue through the Lower Basilic, surrounded by dimly lit 12th and 13th century frescoes. Tour the Upper Basilica of Romanesque/Gothic architecture, where the vibrant lighting and colorful frescoes are in staunch contrast to the dark lower levels.

In 1997, a major earthquake damaged the St. Francis Basilica, causing part of the roof to collapse, but left the Giotto frescoes untouched. Since then, painstaking restoration has revitalized the site and returned it to its former splendor as the finest creation of medieval Italy.

We also explore the Piazza del Comune, Assisi's main piazza, graced by a medieval bell tower, elegant civic buildings of the 13th and 14th century, and the stately Temple of Minerva. We visit the Gothic Basilica di Santa Chiara, where St. Clare of Assisi is buried.

After lunch, we depart for Torgiano, the vineyard capital of Umbria. The Lungarotti Family, whose estate produces wines such as Rubesco, San Giorgio and Torgiano Bianco, is the small town’s majority proprietor, with a stake in nearly every facet of its existence. Originally an Etruscan enclave, later a Roman fort, the town sits on a magnificent hilltop above the confluence of the Tiber and Chiàscio Rivers, looking out onto a panorama of fertile valleys and acres of vineyards. Torgiano is a quaint village surrounded by vineyards where time seems to stand still, and a veritable treasure trove for lovers of food and wine.

Visit the intimate Wine and Olive Oil Museum, and learn about the history of wine and the role of wine in different cultures over the centuries. A companion museum houses an array of fascinating exhibits on the history of olive oil, its use in Umbrian cuisine, and the cultivation of olives.

We arrive back in Perugia by late afternoon.

Day 10: Spoleto & Spello excursion

Accommodation:    Hotel Brufani Palace

This morning, we drive to Spoleto - a picturesque city positioned on a small hill, and crowned with the majestic fortress Rocca Albornoziana. The town, with its grey-towered profile, slopes down towards the plains with a beautiful backdrop of verdant mountains. Spoleto is well known for its important archeological, Medieval and Renaissance monuments, as well as its world-famous Spoleto Festival of the Arts.

Our guided tour begins with a visit to its cathedral (Duomo), built at the end of 13th century. Adjacent to the great bell tower, the upper section of the Romanesque façade is decorated with a magnificent mosaic created in 1207. Also adorning the cathedral are the wonderful frescoes of Filippo Lippi, Pinturicchio, and an exquisite bronze bust of Urbano VIII by Bernini.

The city is overflowing with Roman ruins and buildings, so well preserved they were incorporated into later construction projects. The Basilica of San Salvatore is one such example, fusing the chamber of a Roman temple into its Early Christian architecture. Our guide tells us tales about the centuries of history and the Festival dei Due Mondi, today, one of the most important performing events in Europe. We also see the landmark Ponte della Torre (Tower’s Bridge), spanning 750 feet and up 262 feet above the deep gorge that separates Spoleto's castle with a fortification tower on the other side. We visit the Rocca Albornoziana, built for Cardinal Albornoz in 1359–1370, and noted for its six sturdy towers as well as its 15th century frescoes. Originally built to defend the Papal State, it later became a Pope's residence then in the mid-19th century, a prison. Now restored, the today the fortress is a museum.

We continue across the scenic Umbrian plain to the town of Spello for a delightful lunch of Umbrian delicacies and a tasting of Umbrian wines.

In the afternoon, we tour the city of Spello, an ancient village whose history goes back to the Roman Age. Most buildings are of the local pink limestone quarried on Mt. Subasio; giving Spello a unique rosy hue, particularly at sunset. We see the two well-preserved Augustan gates, which surround the town, and visit Porta Venere, with its towers Porta Consolare and Porta Urbicale. Visit the most precious treasure of Spello, the wonderful frescoes of Pinturicchio, in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore.

We drive back to Perugia, arriving in the late afternoon.

Day 11: Perugia to Orvieto & Rome

Accommodation: Hotel St. Regis Grand

Bid arrivederci to Perugia, as we drive through Umbria to Rome.

En route, we stop in the medieval town of Orvieto. Starting at the heart of the town’s old quarter, our local guide takes us on a stroll through the tranquil central square to the breathtaking Gothic Duomo of Orvieto, one of the most important examples of Gothic architecture in Italy. View frescoes painted by Fra Giovanni from Fiesole and the Last Judgment frescoes by Luca Signorelli.

Enjoy one last lunch in the Umbrian countryside before arriving in Rome, and your luxury hotel, The St. Regis Rome. Built in 1894 as the first deluxe hotel in Rome, The St. Regis Rome is within walking distance of the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain and Via Veneto. Every guest room has a unique hand-painted fresco depicting a Roman scene above the bed's headboard, and a Murano glass chandelier. Enjoy the rest of the afternoon at leisure.

Early evening, view the Eternal City in a horse-drawn carriage, as we promenade through Rome in a parade of carriages. The ride ends back at the hotel for a farewell cocktail and dinner with your Travel Director and fellow travelers to toast your journey to bella Italia.

Day 12: Rome & Depart for Home

This morning you are taken to the Rome airport for your flight home or on to your next destination.

Dates & Pricing

Price From

$ 10,590

Price Per Day:

$ 883 per person
 
Prices may vary due to local taxes and trip seasonality. Click "Request Info" to inquire directly with the tour operator for the final trip price.
Details
Trip Includes
  • Deluxe rooms in the best available hotels
  • Three meals per day, including our unique Dine-Around Program that lets you enjoy any restaurant you choose with à la carte dining, or relax with room service when available
  • A professional Travel Director as your personal concierge
  • Local sightseeing with professional English-speaking guides with unparalleled knowledge, including entrance fees for places visited
  • Active participation and up-close encounters to experience the cultures of your journey
  • Bottled water, soft drinks, coffee and tea included with meals; bottled water during sightseeing excursions
  • All gratuities to hotel and restaurant staff and local guides and driver
  • Group or individual airport transfers on arrival and departure flights
  • Travel Guard Medical Emergency and Assistance Plan
Trip Excludes
  • Air transportation
  • Airport taxes
  • Passport and visa expenses
  • Laundry, alcohol, and all items of a personal nature; expenses of guides, buses or cars for sightseeing not included in the itinerary
  • Excessive baggage charges
  • Health, accident, baggage, and trip cancellation insurance
  • Gratuity for any personal services Gratuity to the Travel Director
  • And other items not mentioned as being included.
Flights & Transport
Only ground transport
Accomodations

Patria Palace Hotel, Lecce

At Lecce, a city of art and culture, right at the heart of the historical centre and opposite the monumental Santa Croce's Basilica, the Patria Palace brings back to life a XVIII century aristocratic mansion, the D'Anna-Petrarolo Palace. Sumptuously refurbished by artists and craftsmen, the palace has been embellished with frescoes and Art Deco frills. 63 rooms and suites, different from one another, are all personalized with frescoes painted by John Duggan. They are finely furnished and equipped with all services, comforts and modern technology. The bathrooms, particularly well made, are built with precious marbles like the Calacatta White, the Verona Red and the Guatemala Green.

Il Melograno, Monopoli

In a little known corner of Italy, once part of Magna Graecia, rich in history and architecture and blessed with a tradition of fine cuisine, you will find Il Melograno: a 17th century "Masseria" or fortified farmhouse built originally as a defence against Saracen and Byzantine invaders. Today, after an impeccable restoration, it is a luxurious five star Relais & Chateaux hotel, nestled in a sea of olive trees bent by breezes from the Adriatic and gnarled by the passing centuries. Each of the 37 rooms, classics, classics with patio, deluxes, jr suites and suites, nestled around the central piazza has been individually furnished with antiques under the care of the owner Camillo Guerra, an art and antique dealer. All of the rooms are air-conditioned and equipped with satellite TV, security safe, mini bar and internet access.

Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria, Sorrento

The Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria is a historic, family-friendly luxury destination resort located in the center of Sorrento, 35 miles south of Naples. It rests on five acres of private grounds full of beautiful Mediterranean plants and flowers, containing a number of very old specimens and magnificent blooms such as olive trees, orange and lemon trees, pine trees, palms, and colorful bougainvillea.

Hotel Brufani Palace, Perugia

Situated in a unique location, on a hilltop, within the historical center of Perugia, at very close walking distance from the main historical sites, the 5 star deluxe Hotel Brufani Palace offers an enchanting view of the Umbrian valley. This 5 star hotel with restaurant in Perugia is famous for its refined dishes of regional cuisine, with the addiction of a touch of creativity, realized by the skilled hands of an experienced chef. Each of the 94 bedrooms is fit for a king - walls of ornate frescoes and tapestries, spacious bathrooms in pale marble on which the light reflects as on newly-fallen snow and, as a backdrop, the boundless Umbrian valleys or the heart of the Medieval city.

St. Regis Grand, Rome

Built in 1894 as the first deluxe hotel in Rome, the 5-star St. Regis Grand is within walking distance of the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain and Via Veneto. The St. Regis Grand is one of the finest hotels in Rome, being named to Conde Nast Travelers Gold List from 2002 through 2011. Hotel facilities and services include a full-service spa, business center, and concierge service. You can enjoy a unique dining experience at the restaurant Vivendo, nominated by Zagat as the number one restaurant in Rome. The private wine cellar offers private dining with regional and international menus enhanced by a wide selection of wines to complement each course. The St. Regis Grand features luxuriously appointed guest rooms and suites in an eclectic combination of Empire, Regency and Louis XV styles. Every guest room has a unique hand-painted fresco depicting a Roman scene installed above the beds' headboards, and features Murano glass chandeliers and Hermes bathroom amenities.

Start City
Lecce
End City
Rome

Trip ID#: solmartra

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