While in Italy it’s good to throw around some fancy Italian words. The common ones like Vidi Vini Vici are so passe! But rocambolesco, on the other hand, is a unique word that roughly translates to an Epic Adventure. Rocambolesco experiences are the epic adventures that you narrate to your kith and kin much to their amazement. And that is what is awaiting you in Italy.
It’s one of the few places where nature and art are in such abundance! It’s the place where Da Vinci and Michelangelo created masterpieces. It’s the same place that gave Michelin Starred Massimo Bottura, it’s also the place where the fashion capital of the world – Milan is. Versace, Pucci, Dolce, Gabbana, Prada, Armani, Cavalli and so many more illustrious names in fashion are from here. In Italy, everything is art, including their wines!
Let’s go and get Italian!
From wherever you are, fly in to Milan for the start of an Epic Italian Adventure.
The Fashion capital of the world is also a happening business capital in Italy, the country’s engine room fuelled by lofty ambitions and generous shots of caffeine. How can we talk about Milan and miss out the Expresso Shots? Milan itself can be explained in an Expresso Shot! The frothy topping on the espresso shot is undoubtedly fashion, and rich, caffeine is the rest of Milanese commerce.
Being a Milanese is to revel in worldly pleasures. Cinema, Art, Theatre, Fashion. From the designer fashion studded annual opening of the opera season at La Scala to the incredible gastronomic experiences sprinkled with shopping that is almost a quasi-religious events in itself, Milan is the place yo go to live.
With a fine day out in Milan, start the day with a homage to the Duomo - the most vertiginously exhilarating cathedral - staggering in its size and intricacy. Just the Duomo is worth a visit to Milan! The construction for this started in 1386 but took centuries more to complete! It's now the third largest church in the world after St Peter's in Rome and the Cathedral of Seville. This mountain of marble has over 3500 statues, pinnacles, buttresses, arches and pillars. Really, just start with this incredible place!
The next stop is at La Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the 'salon' of Milan that is entered through a huge triumphal arch. This glass and metal arcade is lined with elegant shops, cafes and tiled with mosaics. It has a high domed glass roof from which its designer, Giuseppe Mengoni, fell to his death in 1865 a few days before the opening ceremony. No, we don't know why. The main branch of La Galleria leads into Piazza della Scala, where rose-tinged paving slabs are crossed by tram lines and La Scala, with its ochre tones, window boxes and brown-inked posters exerts a quiet magnetism and is the place for Opera.
After the lovely day in Milan, it's time to set off on a 3.5 hour train journey to Venice. On arrival at Santa Lucia Station in Venice, meet and greet with our representative and then get transferred to your hotel.
Then start your exploration of the beautiful Venice. The Venice that you have seen in countless wallpapers, postcards and movies. The same Venice that's known for its many romantic myths. But Venice is much more than what you would have expected. The untold treasures of the Accademia, the rising morning mist of its spring, the shadowy browns of a decadent delicious delightful autumn, the splash of gondolas and the sinewy gondoliers, the colours from Murano glassware - some of the sights that assault your senses in Venice are ones to treasure for the rest of your life! Yes, it's a tad crowded, it's often said that a few million people travel to Venice in the same year. But that will hardly matter as you are in your own world of wonder.
Start the day with The Rialto Bridge stretching across the Grand Canal, built at about the same time as Shakespeare was writing The Merchant of Venice. It replaced a wooden bridge, last in a line of replacements for a bridge of boats which was created here towards the end of the twelfth century. This bridge had an illustrious list of architects who submitted designs for the bridge aka the likes of Michelangelo and Palladio, but the lesser known Antonio da Ponte was the chosen one. Rialto is the commercial heart of Venice and usually remains in full swing even after shutters down at dusk.
Next stop is at the Grandest Drawing Room of Europe as described by Napoleon himself - to Piazza San Marco. Stop at Florian's and Quadri, the café that has orchestras playing on till midnight. Whether there are 100 or 10, this is the tradition and has a loyal following. Waltz to a tune or two while you are there. The best way to close the day in Venice.
Venice is not a place you "finish" in a day. Today is the day you are introduced to the art of creating the Murano Masterpieces. Your master class awaits you at Murano. Start with a visit to one of the oldest factories and discover the magic of Glassblowing. These colorful handmade glass pieces range from elaborate chandeliers to simple scones to beautiful glasses.
The second stop will be at the picturesque island of Burano, famous for its handmade Lace Factories and the brightly colored homes of the fishermen. Set off on a short sail to reach Torcello, the earliest centre of civilization in the lagoon. There are only two glorious monuments that remain - the cathedral with its magnificent mosaics and the church of Santa Fosca.
Once again, head to Santa Lucia Station to take the train to Florence, on arrival, meet and greet with our representative and get checked-in to your hotel.
Florence has thrived since the times of the rich and powerful Medici dynasty, major patrons of the arts. Thanks to their patronage, Florence boasts of 30% of Italy's art treasures - many of which are masterly celebrations of the human body. Florence is all about Flaunting If You Have Got It. It's little wonder that Florentines are very body conscious, being surrounded by statues and art works of human anatomy, lovingly arranged by some of the world's greatest artists, everywhere will do that to you. Florence is not a place you hurry through. Take your time, relax and savor it all with generous stops for coffee.
Obviously, the Medici Legacy is where we start our artistic pilgrimage. Start the day with the Medici Chapels at the church of San Lorenzo. As you walk up the elegant staircase, you are suddenly confronted with the opulence of the Chapel of the Princes. Celebrating the glory of the Medicis rather than the glory of God, its octagonal walls are completely covered with semi precious stones and are topped with an ornate dome. The New Sacristry holds the tombs of Dukes Giuliano and Lorenzo, lavishly topped by Michelangelo's allegorical figures of Night and Day - Dusk and Dawn.
Next stop is the grand Pitti Palace, Ornate ceilings, rich carpets, and curtains compete for your attention alongside frescoes and furniture. The walls are covered with paintings including bright, fleshy works by Rubens and Raphael and a famous Madonna with Child by Filippo Lippi, a monk who fell in love with his model, who was a nun. Last stop to check out the important art collection in Florence is the Uffizzi.
It's your second day in Firenze, and start your day at the Bargello, an old prison with a grisly history, which now houses a priceless collection of Tuscan Renaissance sculpture. From Michelangelo's Drunken Bacchus to Ammannati's Leda and the Swan to Donatello's bronze David, the Borgello hosts a sensual collection of statues, with the bronze David being the first Renaissance nude made around 1430.
From here take a short walk to the Piazza della Signoria, the city's civic centre. It is dominated by the Palazzo Vecchio, once home to the Medicis, now used by the municipal authorities. From the outside, it looks like a fortress but inside you find a maze of apartments decorated with frescos, tapestries, paintings, and sculptures. In Salone dei Cinquecento, the imposing reception hall, you are greeted by realistic naked figures of Hercules and Diomedes wrestling, a set of statues by Vincenzo de'Rossi, depicting the Labours of Hercules.
After the sensual affair with the Gods of Art in Firenze, it's time again to board a train, this time, to Naples. On arrival, meet and greet with our representative to be transferred to the hotel.
Naples is like having the prime seats for a great game. It's got the glorious Bay of Naples with the Isle of Capri in the foreground, and Pompeii and Sorrento just around the corner. With this prime location, Naples quickly becomes one of the most interesting stops in your Italian adventure. Naples is not an interesting stop just for the location, but also for its own recent history. Like the proverbial Don movie, Naples was until mid-nineties plagued by the mafia, which eventually led to it's being typecasted as a combination poverty and vitality, the effusive charm and the overt criminality. But then like the protagonists in most movies, a charismatic new mayor, Bassolino, revived it to its present glory. It's a classic tale of re-emergence: dynamic, unselfconscious, and distinctive.
And today is the day you witness the impact of Mt. Vesuvius at Pompeii. The once popular holiday resort for rich Romans was frozen in time by a single volcanic eruption with little warning in 79 A.D. Until then, they did not even have a name for Volcano, the people of Pompeii lived near the mountain without even knowing that it was a volcano. In the present day, it has over 2.6 million annual visitors coming to see the Roman life that was perfectly preserved by the volcanic ash.
As mentioned before, Naples the perfect place to stay over while visiting Capri. So, true to our words, today is a day long trip to the picture perfect Capri. From hills, cliffs, olive groves, vineyards, garden terraces overlooking the blue water of the Mediterranean. to white ferries and hydrofoils zigzagging across the bay to churches, historic villas, and ruins, Capri has it all. From the Marina Grande, hop on to one of the boats bound for the Blue Grotto, which is spectacularly beautiful.
Later spend time in Capri Town. First stop being, the most famous square called La Piazzetta. This square is surrounded almost completely by whitewashed buildings that make it as cozy as an outdoor living room. Then explore some of the narrow winding streets radiating away from it, filled with flowering terraces and elegant little shops. It's quaint, it's beautiful, its something that will remain with you for a long time.
Enjoy lunch in a typical trattoria with the panoramic view of the Bay of Naples, to sample the local specialties such as insalata caprese (slices of tomato served with mozzarella and basil leaves), then close it with the local bianco caprese white wine.
Today is yet another day trip to the sweet scented and majestic beauty of Sorrento. Since ancient times, this beautiful place has been the preferred summer residence of Neapolitan locals. There are numerous remains of seaside villas of Roman patrician families, like Villa Pollio. Sorrento is also renowned for its production of citrus, especially deep-scented lemons used in the production of the sweet liquor, limoncello. A must have experience, is of sitting leisurely at a café in front of the main square surrounded by the 16th-century villas built along cobblestone streets while sipping a glass of limoncello.
Next drive on to the town of Amalfi – founded by the Romans in the 4th century AD, a maritime power in the 10th and 11th centuries. The center of the city lies partly on a slope distinguished by white houses that are terraced. The most important monument is the cathedral, dating back to the ninth century with Arabic-Norman reconstructions in 1203.
After the relaxing couple of days at Capri and Amalfi, today enter the hustle and bustle of Rome on the train. On arrival, you will be met and transferred to your hotel.
The eternal city, the city of seven hills - Rome and it's overwhelming monuments await you today! It's like who ever passed by this city decided to leave behind their legacy, one bigger than the other. The ancient emperors left their great columns and arches. The popes turned the place into a gigantic religious stage-set, while 19th-century planners and Mussolini added grand avenues and monstrous constructions, like the marble monument to King Victor Emmanuel. They seem to be serving no other purpose than to overwhelm everyone with their sheer scale and splendor.
But the best part of Rome is not in this grandeur, it's the little things, the curiously un-grand tangled back streets that seem to be a testament to the untamed growth of civilization from ancient times. Rome is home to one of the great religions, a place that was for eons the center of Western civilization. Whether you visit every church or palace, just walking by streets after streets with a countless number of religious monuments gives you a different feel.
The second day in Roma starts with the world famous monument of Ancient Rome - The Colosseum. Ring in the tunes of Gladiator as you walk into this architectural and engineering wonder that has witnessed the many cruel and barbaric fights and games. Its named Colosseum because it was built near where Emperor Nero had erected a huge statue, or, wait for it - a colossus of himself. It showed him as the god of the sun. It was 100 feet high, and it was the largest gilded bronze statue in ancient Rome. It was later moved away using 24 elephants! But the design concept of this wonder that has overcome time, is the true feat. It has stood the test of time even today! The others being St Peter’s and the Vittorio Emanuele monument.
Next stop being northern slope of the Capitoline hill, with its classical ruins and Renaissance villas, followed by Piazza del Pantheon, the once proud white beast. Your last stop is the over crowded Trevi Fountain, where Neptune on his chariot comes careering out of a wall, his plunging white horses filling half of the square below. Why is it so crowded? Because the Trevi fountain is said to bring luck! And other than that myth, it's just one more spectacle that is all a part of this game of 2000-year-old civilization that is Rome.
If Roma felt like an extension of Christianity's hydra like hold, Vatican is its crown. It’s a city, a country, a world unto itself, where everything is ancient, ornate and huge. They have their own traditions, rules, guards, laws. Filled day in and day out with devout Christians thronging the square to get a glimpse of the holy Pope. But Vatican is not just about the Pope. Vatican has a splendid collection in 9 Vatican museums, located in the old papal apartments and laid out along two corridors, most of the time longer than even streets. The Sistine Chapel is the place than every marker points to. Journey through endless rooms of Greek vases and Etruscan funeral-ware, only to arrive back at the Sistine Chapel! There are roomfuls of Greek and Roman sculpture: the statues that inspired Michelangelo, the images that were considered the last word in beauty!
After all the maneuvering through the priceless art, a tiny passage leads into the Sistine Chapel, and as the great ceiling opens out above you, with its familiar images of Adam and the Creation, and the vast fresco of the Day of Judgment beyond, the awe you feel is like never before. This is why Michelangelo's feat was considered superhuman. It's everything, the beginning and the end of the world, Greco-Roman reason and the modern idea of free will - it’s as though he was trying to get the whole of human experience up there in his heroic muscular images.
Today is all about being a "Roman in Rome"!
Relax and observe the Romans, and probably try and thing or two? Romans live for the moment and, without doing it deliberately, risk their lives. They smoke, they drive their motorini as though they were kamikaze pilots and they cross roads in the most gregarious of fashions, but the life they lead is one big celebration. They procrastinate going to bed at night as though sleep is a ‘minor death’, and they wake ‘au crack-sparrow’. They hardly give death a thought. Even The Pope must stay ‘in office’ until his end - Jean Paul II is the ultimate death-defying symbol.
Today, stop by any Italian cafe for your morning coffee and pastry, your gelato in the afternoon, and your aperitif before dinner. Antico Caffè Greco on Via Condotti has been around since 1760 and this has been Rome's poshest coffee bar. Stendhal, Goethe, Keats, and D'Annunzio have sipped coffee here. In front is a wooden bar, and beyond is a series of small salons. You sit at marble-topped tables of Napoleonic design, against a backdrop of gold or red damask, romantic paintings, and antique mirrors. It was Giorgio De Chirico who suggested that this is the cafe where you sit and await the end. And well, as your Italian adventure comes to an end, it seems about fitting!
Catch the train back to Milan, and relax for the day, explore the city again, go shopping! Close the night with the Duomo Area and spend your final evening here.
It's time to say Addio to the Italians and head back home!
- Accommodation in hotels mentioned below (or similar) on a twin sharing basis
- All transfers to and from hotels, stations and airports.
- 2nd class train tickets
- Sight seeings as mentioned in itinerary.
- Entrance fees for Pompeii.
- Rome 3 nights Hotel Siena or similar
- Sorrento 2 nights Hotel Minerva or similar
- Florence 2 nights Hotel Ambasciatori or similar
- Venice 2 nights Hotel Principe or similar
- Como 2 nights Hotel Villa Flori or Similar
- Milan 01 night hotel Napoleon or similar
- Service tax
- Domestic or international flights
- Other excursions and experiences not mentioned in itinerary
- Any meals other than breakfast
- Anything that is not specifically stated in the inclusions