This leisurely exploration of Italy’s varied northern regions, from the romantic Lake District and dramatic Cinque Terre to beloved Tuscany, the majestic Dolomites, and canal-laced Venice, offers a refreshing perspective on a well-known land. In the company of our congenial small group, we celebrate the Italian penchant for hospitality, good food, and good living. In a word, splendido!
DEPART U.S. FOR MILAN, ITALY
After arriving in Milan, we drive to the international resort of Stresa on lovely Lake Maggiore, straddling the border between Italy and Switzerland. This afternoon is at leisure before tonight’s welcome dinner.
STRESA/ORTA SAN GIULIO
This morning we visit the lovely lakeside town of Orta San Giulio – dubbed “God’s watercolor” by Italian writer Piero Chiara – with its cobblestoned streets, 16th-century town hall, and medieval houses flanking the inviting town square. After lunch on our own here, we return to our hotel for an afternoon at leisure.
We embark this morning on a cruise to Isola Bella, the beautiful Borromean island in the middle of Lake Maggiore. Fully occupied by 17th-century Palazzo Borromeo and its extravagantly landscaped gardens, the island offers lovely views of the lake and surrounding mountains. We take a guided tour of the palazzo, with its priceless works of fine art, and stroll through the flower-decked gardens then enjoy lunch together on the nearby Isola dei Pescatori.
We leave the Piedmont region today, bound for Santa Margherita and the Cinque Terre. En route, we stop in the village of Barolo for lunch and to sample Barolo, the “king of wines,” at Marchesi di Barolo, Italy’s premier vintner of its greatest wine. We continue on to the Italian Riviera resort town of Santa Margherita, with its palm-lined esplanade overlooking the harbor. Tonight we enjoy dinner together at our hotel.
This morning we travel by boat to the renowned – and beautiful – resort town of Portofino, a former fishing village where palatial yachts now crowd the port and the good life is celebrated. We have free time to wander the colorful streets and visit the chic boutiques and galleries here before we return to our hotel mid-day.
SANTA MARGHERITA/CINQUE TERRE/PORTOVENERE
We depart this morning by train for the hour-long trip to the Cinque Terre (literally, “Five Lands”), the five cliff-clinging villages seemingly carved from the mountains. Originally medieval fishing villages, the Cinque Terre were inaccessible by land for centuries; even today, no road connects all five. We stop in scenic Vernazza then board a boat for a comfortable cruise along the rugged coastline to visit another village of the Cinque Terre. From here we cruise to the port town of Portovenere, with its cluster of colorful column-shaped houses. After a brief walking tour of the Old Town, we have time to explore and enjoy lunch on our own. We dine together tonight at our hotel.
Today we travel south to beloved Tuscany, stopping first in the atmospheric medieval town of Lucca. We take a walking tour of this incredibly well-preserved gem, whose city walls and ramparts remain intact. After lunch on our own, we continue on to our lodgings in the heart of Florence.
We spend today touring and exploring wondrous Florence, a living monument to the Renaissance and crown jewel of Tuscany. Our day includes a guided morning walking tour followed by free time. Together we visit the Galleria dell’Accademia to view Michelangelo’s sublime “David” and his pieces for the papal tombs; and the Duomo, with its stupendous dome by Brunelleschi. Then we’re free to stroll the 14th-century Ponte Vecchio; visit renowned museums and churches; shop for leather goods; and enjoy lunch and dinner on our own at a Florentine restaurant.
Today we visit the walled city of Siena, whose historic center is a UNESCO site and whose ochre-colored buildings vividly evoke its medieval past. Fan-shaped Piazza del Campo is one of Europe’s greatest public squares; its Duomo is one of Italy’s finest, with masterpieces by Donatello and Michelangelo. Following a guided walking tour that includes an inside visit to the Duomo, we have free time to explore on our own. We return to Florence mid-afternoon, with the remainder of the day at leisure.
As we travel north today, we stop in storied Verona, renowned as the setting of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” A UNESCO site, Verona boasts well-preserved monuments from antiquity, including a 1st-century Roman amphitheater still in use today, as we see on our guided walking tour. After time for lunch and to explore on our own here, we continue our journey to the South Tyrol, Italy’s German-accented northern reaches. We’re bound for the regional capital of Bolzano, gateway to the Dolomites in the Italian Alps. Late afternoon we reach our hotel, where we dine together tonight.
Set in a basin surrounded by rounded forest-green hills, Bolzano boasts truly spectacular scenery. We take a cable car to a spot for views of the 18-peak Dolomites, their vertical walls and sheer cliffs presenting a magnificent backdrop to the surrounding woodlands, valleys, and pastures. Then we walk through Bolzano’s colorful historic center and visit the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, well known for housing the mummified corpse of Ötzi the Iceman, dating to 3300 bce. This afternoon is at leisure to enjoy this cosmopolitan city as we wish; tonight we dine at a local restaurant.
En route to Venice today, we travel through the Dolomites themselves, enjoying jaw-dropping scenery at every turn. When we reach Venice late this afternoon, we are free to begin savoring this wondrous city as we wish and enjoy dinner on our own.
This morning we take a guided walk through vast St. Mark’s Square. The afternoon is free for independent exploration; tonight we bid “arrivederci” to Italy and to our fellow travelers at a farewell dinner.
DEPART FOR U.S.
We depart early this morning for our connecting flights to the U.S.
Meet Your Trip Host
Martin Walsh has degrees from Fordham University, the University of Virginia, and a PhD. from Cambridge. He has been teaching at Michigan’s Residential College since 1977 as Head of its Drama Program. Among many other courses, he has regularly taught medieval and Renaissance drama and workshops in the commedia dell’arte. Having taught three semesters in the U-M’s programs in Florence and Rome, he has travelled extensively in Italy and has a broadbackground in Italian medieval and Renaissance art, the Cult of the Saints, and public festivals such as Siena’s famous Palio.
Meet Your Trip Host
Born in Pennsylvania, most of Cressman’s adult life has been spent in Michigan. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Design in 1968 and a Master of Fine Arts degree in 1975, both from the University of Michigan. Recently retired after 37 years of teaching, Cressman has now taken on the role of Professor Emeritus here at the University. During his years of teaching studio art he held a joint appointment in the Residential College and Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design. For eight summers, he taught drawing in the University of Michigan program based near Florence, Italy. He has also been a faculty representative on several UM Alumni Association trips to Europe.
As a practicing artist, Cressman’s work has been included in numerous exhibitions, most recently at the Crooked Tree Art Center in Traverse City, Michigan and Manifest Gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio. He has recently mounted solo exhibitions the Ross Museum of Ohio Wesleyan University, The Midland Center of the Arts in Midland, Michigan and the Dennos Museum in Traverse City, Michigan. In 2009 Cressman’s work was included in Spora ’09, an international exhibition of ephemeral art in Granada, Spain where he created an installation in a 14th century building. Cressman maintains a studio in Ann Arbor where his creative work continues.
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