Wednesday, April 20
Depart the USA for Rome or Naples
Thursday, April 21
Arrival in Rome or Naples and on to Sorrento
Since tour members will be arriving possibly on different dates in Rome or Naples, Gay Gillen Travel will assist with private transfers from either airport at a separate cost.
The drive from Naples to Sorrento is about one hour.
The drive from Rome to Sorrento is three hours.
In the late afternoon, Tom and Carol Hatfield host a welcome reception on the Vittorio Terrace of the Grand Hotel Vittoria Excelsior.
Afterwards, we all have dinner together at the hotel
Friday, April 22
The Isle of Capri
We spend the day on the island of Capri. You will have tickets on the 845 am ferry and proceed via the hotel’s subterranean elevator to the dock at Marina Grande. The ferry takes about 20 minutes.
Enjoy lunch together near the piazzetta.
We have the option to return on the ferry to Sorrento or to enjoy an
optional boat cruise around the island as a separate cost.
Free for dinner.
Saturday, April 23
Paestum & Positano
Meet in the lobby of the hotel at 9:00 am for departure to Paestum with a brief stop in Positano on the Amalfi Coast.
Drive along the Amalfi Coast – a drive that is both beautiful and thrilling.
Our focus today is the town of Paestum, 60 miles down the coast from Sorrento. From the 7th century BC for almost a thousand years, Paestum was an important Greek Settlement. In 1943, it was the scene of the Allies’ first major landing on the European continent in WWII. A major city in its time, the ruins of Paestum – three temples in the Doric Style, a forum, and an amphitheater – are more extensive and better preserved than those of the acropolis in Athens. We will have a local guide around the ruins.
A monument near the beach recognizes the Texas National Guard (36th Infantry Division) as the first American unit ashore on September 9, 1943. The division's administrative headquarters were set up amid the columns of the Greek temple, perfectly illustrating the dual themes of our tour — ancient and modern history, plus the Italian Renaissance.
The landing along this coast by British and American forces began a desperate three-week struggle merely to establish the beachhead, which foretold almost two years of unanticipated and difficult fighting that did not cease until the European war ended in May 1945. So desperate were the Americans to avoid being pushed back into the sea that, four days after the invasion, the 82nd Airborne Division was dropped on short notice a few miles inland to block German counterattacks on the small foothold on the beach.
We will enjoy lunch together at a restaurant in the view of the ruins.
6:00 PM Estimated arrival time back in Sorrento
Free for dinner tonight
Sunday, April 24
Pompeii with lunch outside the entrance gates
Our lunch will include a specialty first prepared nearby - pizza!
We will spend the morning walking among the ruins of Pompeii — buried under ash, sand and pumice from the massive eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Forgotten for almost 1,700 years, Pompeii was rediscovered in 1748, and since then its continuing excavation has provided a vivid and intimate insight into the daily life of a Roman city at the height of the Empire
You will view the basilica that was once a palace of justice, the forum, and the well-maintained large and small theaters.
Also we visit the House of Vetti — the "bachelor pad" of two nouveau riche brothers, whose sculptures and mosaics symbolize their idea that true happiness, comes from a balance of making both money and love.
After lunch we return to Sorrento for a free afternoon.
Aperitivo on the terrace of our hotel followed by a group dinner.
Monday, April 25
Check out of the Grand Hotel Vittoria Excelsior.
Depart for Rome at 730am
Our first stop is two hours north at the village of Sant’Angelo in Theodice on a bluff overlooking the Rapido River, where in January 1944, the 36th “Texas” Division made a disastrous attempt to cross the river in the face of strong German Resistance. The heavy losses of this controversial event led to a post war Congressional investigation that exonerated the American commander, Lt. Gen. Mark Clark.
Following lunch in the nearby town of Cassino, which figured heavily in the fighting, we ascend a great mountain to visit the beautifully restored Monte Cassino Abbey, which was destroyed by American bombing on February 15, 1944. The original abbey, established by St. Benedict in 529, has experienced numerous other traumatic events.
On to Rome where we expect to arrive at the Hotel de Russie about 5:30 pm.
Dinner on your own.
Tuesday, April 26
The Vatican Museum & Basilica
Early morning departure at 700am for the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and the Basilica with historical guide, Richard Bowen.
Afterwards our minivans take us to the square near the Pantheon.
Everyone is free for lunch.
In the afternoon, Richard Bowen and Tom Hatfield will offer an optional walking tour of the Forum and Colosseum.
This evening, join together in the hotel for aperitifs and short lectures by Tom Hatfield and Richard Bowen.
Afterwards we will have dinner on the Diaghilev Terrace at the Hotel de Russie.
Wednesday, April 27
Full day tour
Depart at 8:15 am for the 40-mile drive to the coastal towns of Anzio and Nettuno which have grown together since the war.
Frustrated with mountain fighting around Cassino, on January 22, 1944, the British and American forces made a
surprise landing in this location further up the coast, seeking to outflank the German defenses and gain a quick entry into Rome. Once ashore, the commander, U. S. Army Maj. Gen. John Lucas paused and the Germans quickly reinforced their position. The result was a bloody stalemate that soon resembled the trench warfare of World War One. Rome was not liberated until June 4.
We will lay a wreath at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial which contains more than 7,800 of our war dead and another 3,100 names on the Wall of the Missing. Twenty-three sets of brothers are buried side by side in the cemetery.
Large colorful maps depict American military operations in Italy and Sicily. A ceiling dome sculpture in the chapel depicts the planets in the same positions they occupied at the precise moment of landings in 1944.
After lunch in a seaside café, we return to Rome.
Dinner on your own in Rome.
Thursday, April 28
Check out of the De Russie Hotel.
Convene in the lobby and depart for Florence at 8:30 AM. On the way we will stop for a brief lunch.
Approaching Florence, we will lay a wreath at the Florence American Cemetery and Memorial, where the headstones of 4,393 of our military dead are arrayed in symmetrical curved rows along the hillside.
Another 1,409 names are inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing; rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified. Most of the women and men buried here died after the capture of Rome. Included among them are casualties of the heavy fighting in the Apennines Mountains shortly before hostilities in this area ceased on May 2, 1945.
Here we will be met by Elaine Ruffolo, esteemed art historian and our guide for the next three days.
Check in the Brunelleschi Hotel located literally next door to the Duomo.
Reception at Hotel Brunelleschi. Followed by a short walk to our private opening of the Uffizi Gallery for our small group.
The Uffizi occupies the top floor of a U-shaped building on the front side of the Arno River, designed by Giorgio Vasari in 1559 to hold the administrative offices of Medici Grand Duke Cosimo I. Here the Medici installed their art collections.
Enjoy this private after hours viewing of some of the most magnificent works of art in the world and follow in the footsteps of princes as you pass through the Uffizi privately. Expect to admire masterpieces by Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Bronzino, Titian and more – culminating in three works by Caravaggio – all opened exclusively for our group.
Dinner on your own
Friday, April 29
The Cathedral Complex
A half day walking tour
Join Elaine Ruffolo for a slide-illustrated overview of the history of Florence. After the presentation, Elaine conducts an introductory “Walk through History” exploring the historic center on a walking tour and stroll down the medieval streets and piazzas that make up the city center. After this pleasant stroll through the past, we’ll walk over to the recently renovated Museum of the Cathedral, a complete marriage of history & modernity. We will encounter sculptural masterpieces such as Lorenzo Ghiberti’s bronze doors for the Florentine Baptistery the Gates of Paradise, learn about the unique design of Brunelleschi’s Dome and see highly emotional works by Donatello that inspired the deep pathos of Michelangelo’s Florence Pieta, intended for his own tomb but now in the museum.
By special permission, we will climb up to the terraces of Florence Cathedral for a privileged view and close-up understanding of the structure. (note: about 200 steps to the top and not recommended for people who are afraid of heights or claustrophobic).
Finish the morning with a visit inside the 11th century Baptistery and view the unforgettable mosaics decorating the interior.
Free for lunch on your own and a free afternoon.
Saturday, April 30
Half Day Morning Tour with Elaine
Michelangelo and the Medici
As one of the most powerful families in Florence, the Medici were responsible for commissioning some of the greatest works of the Renaissance. Under astute Medici leadership, Florence enjoyed a period of peace and prosperity. The result was an outpouring of art and architecture.
We will begin our day with a visit to the church of San Lorenzo, one of Florence’s most precious treasures, generations of Medici put some of the greatest artists to work here; men like Brunelleschi, Donatello and Michelangelo. Delve into Michelangelo’s turbulent relationship with the Medici through an investigation of the Medici Chapels.
Continue on to the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, home of the family for 100 years. This home became the model for noble Florentine houses in the 15th century and was copied throughout Italy. It was here that Lorenzo the Magnificent began his Neoplatonic Society, here that Michelangelo spent the early days of his youth and here that Benozzo Gozzoli’s painted his famous procession of the Magi, celebrating both the birth of Christ and the greatness of the Medici.
Finish the morning with a visit to the Accademia Galleries to see the iconic David and unfinished Prisoners by Michelangelo.
Free for lunch and the remainder of the afternoon
Private Reception and Dinner at the Palazzo Gondi
You have been invited for a private visit and dinner at Palazzo Gondi. Count and Countess Gondi are justly proud and extremely well informed about their lovingly maintained private Renaissance home. Enjoy a festive dinner in the Marchesi’s dining room and be prepared to enjoy the Gondi’s noted Tuscan wine, their own olive oil, and up-to-date Tuscan fare.
Sunday, May 1
Monday, May 2
Depart for the USA or other travel