We all landed in Milan and visited the huge Gothic Duomo is overwhelming and the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele. Then we went to visit the National Park of the Cinque Terre, five small villages perched on the edge of some rocky cliffs right on top of the blue Mediterranean sea and a UNESCO world heritage site. After then we drive to Pisa to visit the Field of Miracles with the famous leaning tower- and oh boy, does it lean! We took a trolley tour through Pisa before heading on to Florence, the capital of Tuscany.
We had one whole day to take in the beauty of Florence. And there is so much to see here! Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Boticelli… they all left masterpieces in this stunning city. We visited the Duomo with its stunning multicoloured marble façade, Giotto’s belltower and the baptistery with the “Gates of Paradise”. We also saw the Uffizi gallery, the Ponte Vecchio bridge and the church of Santa Croce, which houses Michelangelo’s tomb.
Our next morning we took a scenic drive to San Gimignano, a small town filled with ancient Medieval towers which from the distance we found to look like an ancient version of the Manhatten skyline! The views from San Gimignano are just as beautiful as the town itself – rolling hills with olive trees, cyprus trees and vineyards. After lunch we went on to Volterra, another hilltop city full of little winding streets with a great atmosphere. We learned more about the Etruscans and visited the 2000 year old ruins of the Roman theatre.
The next day we drove to Siena, a hilltop town known for its beautiful architecture and the famous Palio horserace. We saw the huge church of San Domingo which houses relics of St. Catherine. We then walked through the maze of narrow streets up to Siena’s Duomo with its black and white marble decoration and then on to the fan shaped Piazza del Campo and saw Italy’s second highest Medieval Tower.
We then had to say goodbye to Florence and drove to Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis. Assisi is a lovely small hilltop town in Umbria with plenty of narrow alleys and stairways, a lovely atmosphere and lots of character. It is surrounded by olive groves and offers lovely views of the Umbrian countryside. We had lunch and time for a bit of souvenir shopping before we went to visit Assisi’s most famous sight, the Basilica dedicated to St. Francis. We were shown around the lower and upper basilica by a Franciscan friar, Father Brian. He showed us St. Francis’s tomb and the beautiful frescos by Giotto.
After the visit we drove on to Rome and got to see the beautiful view from Monte Pincio down onto Piazza del Popolo with St. Peter’s in the distance. We then walked on to the Spanish Steps. The highlight of Rome was next, when we went to see the Colosseum at night, a sight we will never forget. And there is so much more to see here tomorrow!!
We had one full day in Rome – it’s nowhere near enough to see all the endless sights this city has to offer. In the morning we took a walking tour up to the Capitol Hill overlooking the ancient Forum Romanum, on past Trajan’s Column and the monument to Victor Emmanuel II and on to the Pantheon. Then we walked on to Piazza Navona with its beautiful fountains before crossing the river Tiber at Hadrian’s mausoleum to head for the Vatican. We saw Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square, some of us even stayed on there and got blessed! After lunch we went inside St. Peter’s Basilica with our guide Marco. It was very busy but breathtakingly beautiful! We then had some free time for some shopping and a little rest before dinner. In the evening we took a panoramic bus tour of Rome by night and all tossed coins into the Trevi fountain to make sure we cone back to this beautfiul place one day.