DAY 1 – ARRIVAL DAY
Arrive at Milano Malpensa. Private individual transfers to the hotel in Milan. Time to relax and rest after the flight. Welcome aperitivo and presentation of the journey, dinner and overnight.
DAY 2 – MILANO
The morning is at leisure to relax after the flight or for independent visits (optional visit to Leonardo’s Last Supper). After lunch, meet your expert guide and enjoy a special tour of the hidden archaeological treasures of Milan such as the Imperial Palace, symbol of the ancient Mediolanum, the excavations under the Duomo, San Lorenzo Basilica with its stunning Sant’Aquilino chapel featuring amazing mosaics. Dinner and overnight.
DAY 3 – MILANO/PIACENZA/CREMONA/DESENZANO
Trip to southwest of Piacenza in the shallow hills on SS45 around Rivergaro before Trebbia River flows into the Po. Discuss Hannibal’s battle there in winter. Visit Musei Civici di Palazzo farnese in Piacenza. Head to nearby Cremona for lunch and visit Stradivari house and museum. Trade to Desenzano. Transfer to the hotel. Check-in. Dinner and overnight.
DAY 4 – SIRMIONE/LONATO
Hike through the archaeological park of Sirmione, within a vast olive-grove hosting the remains of a large Roman villa, known for centuries as Grotte di Catullo. The building, built between the end of the 1st Century B.C. and the beginning of the 1st Century A.D. in an excellent panoramic position, at the extreme tip of Sirmione peninsula, is the most important example of a high-class residence in the whole of Northern Italy. After a visit of the museum and lunch, short transfer by ferry boat to Desenzano del Garda (20 min.). Here is one of the most outstanding and better conserved examples of Roman Villas, dating back to the 4th Century A.D.- large rooms, courtyards, arcades and colonnades, and a walk that leads directly to the sea. Of particular beauty are the well preserved mosaics and marble statues.
Later in the afternoon transfer to the close-by archaeological complex of Lonato. The Roman furnaces of Lonato testify to the presence of a vast bricks production site dating back to the 1st Century A.D.
Transfer back to the hotel, dinner is on our own. Overnight.
DAY 5 – BRESCIA-TOSCOLANO
This morning we take a private bus to the city of Brescia. With its 40,000 square feet extension, Brixia is the largest Archaeological Park north of Rome, and has re-opened in May 2015 after a radical work of restoration. The visit allows for a unique and extraordinary journey through the pre-Roman Age till the Renaissance.
In Roman times, Brescia – Brixia – was one of the most important cities in northern Italy and the main city constructions can still be seen- the Sanctuary (1st Century B.C.), the Capitolium (73 A.D.), the Theatre (1st – 3rd Century A.D.), the stretch of the paved decumannus and the Forum.
Unique in the Italian archaeological parks panorama is the opportunity of experiencing the visit in “augmented reality” which allows to viewing, after 2,000 years, the city and the buildings as they were at the time. The visitors, moving freely in the area, will have the chance to see the most ancient monuments and buildings reconstructed and the transformations that occurred after the city abandon.
In the afternoon the bus will take the group back on the lake shores in Toscolano Maderno. The Roman Villa represents a splendid example of a Roman luxurious residence. The archaeological site contains exquisite mosaic floors and stunning terraces overlooking the lake and the beach.
Return to the hotel by ferry-boat.
DAY 6 – VAL CAMONICA
Today we head towards the heart of the Alps. The Alpine Valle Camonica rock drawing Alpine site, was the first Italian site to be included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The so-called Valley of Landmarks testifies a bounty of engravings scattered along the entire valley, with more than 180 sites spread over 24 municipalities, covering more than twelve thousand years of history. Its main importance refers not only to the amount of engraved subjects and their chronological evolution, but also to the close relation between the engraved figures and Human history- discovering and getting to know Camunian rock art is the first step towards a unique and unforgettable journey into European prehistory and protohistory, to arrive, through engravings of different historical ages (Roman, medieval, modern) at the threshold of the 20th Century.
Depending on physical training, we will split into two groups in order to explore the area at our own pace.
Not to be missed is the Minerva Sanctuary, a park where the stunning natural beauty and the sanctity of the place join the monumentality of the well-preserved Roman structures.
In the evening, transfer back to Desenzano. Dinner is on our own. Overnight.
DAY 7 – PESCHIERA/VALEGGIO/CASTEL VENZAGO
After breakfast, the ferry boat takes us to Peschiera del Garda in 40 minutes. Walking tour of this charming lake town and visit to the archaeological area of the ancient town of Arilica, dating back to the 1st Century B.C. over the remains of a more ancient centre built during the 3rd Century B.C. Later in the morning we head to Valeggio sul Mincio where we enjoy a walk across the Sigurtà Botanical Park, one of the most interesting in Italy for the flora varieties. For lunch we will enjoy a local specialty- the tortellini di Valeggio.
Before heading back to Desenzano for some free time in the afternoon, we stop by Castel Venzago to explore the Belvedere and Frassino sites, one of the 19 Italian prehistoric pile dwellings of the Alps, UNESCO World Heritage Site. The largest concentration of pile dwellings, concerning more than 30 different dwelling complexes have been found in the Lake Garda area, along its banks and in the nearby Moraine (glacially-formed) basins. Dinner and overnight.
DAY 8 – VERONA/TRIESTE
Today we pack and depart by private bus for Trieste, basis for the second part of our journey. On the way, we stop in Verona for a special visit of the Roman Arena, probably the best preserved ancient amphitheatre and for a walking tour across the hidden gems of Verona. Lunch will be special today- we will enjoy a typical Veronese meal at “Ristorante Maffei” that conserves, within its wine caves, some remains of the Capitolium, a temple dedicated to the cult of Giove, Giunone and Minerva dating back to the 1st Century B.C.
We proceed to Trieste. Accommodation at the hotel, time to relax or to discover the city, bridge between West and East with an interesting mix of Mediterranean and Central European features. Dinner on our own and overnight.
DAY 9 – AQUILEIA/GRADO/MIRAMARE
After breakfast, depart to Aquileia, founded by the Romans as a military colony in 181 B.C. and one of the most important cities of the whole Roman Empire. The Archaeological area and the Patriarchal Basilica are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Most of ancient Aquileia survives intact and unexcavated- it is a very recent news the discovery of the ancient Roman Arena in Aquileia by the Cultural Heritage Department of the University of Padova. The basilica as well may reserve great surprises to the visitor- it preserves the largest and the best conserved mosaic of the whole Christianity with over 7,000 square feet of fantastic animals, geometrical decorations, bizarre flora and many allegoric figures of difficult interpretation.
After the visit we head to Grado, by the sea, for a relaxing lunch and a discovery of this very typical lagoon village. In the afternoon, before heading to Trieste, we stop at Miramare Castle, former residence of the Habsburg court, one of the landmarks of the Region. Dinner and overnight.
DAY 10 – CIVIDALE/PALMANOVA
Today we learn how Lombards have influenced Italian history. We will do this by visiting the most outstanding Lombard Capital of the Region- Cividale del Friuli. A people of Germanic origin, having settled and converted to Christianity, the Lombards assimilated the material and cultural values inherited from the end of the Roman world. Also in contact with Byzantine, Hellenistic and Middle Eastern influences, the Lombards achieved a cultural, architectural and artistic synthesis, unique in terms of its monumental and stylistic diversity and the various secular and religious uses. It is one of the main roots of the beginnings of the medieval European world and the establishment of Western Christianity. Cividale was founded as a Lombard Duchy in 569 A.D. in a strategic area forming the access route from Italy to the East. On our city tour, we will not miss the Lombard Tempietto, the Ratchis altar, and the Lombard Necropolis.
On our way back to Trieste, we will stop by the fortress city of Palmanova. With a nine-pointed star shape, three access doors towards Aquileia, Cividale and Udine, eighteen streets converging to the central hexagonal piazza, it is a masterpiece of geometry applied to city planning and it is based on the number “3”. Tonight dinner is on our own. Overnight.
DAY 11 – DEPARTURE DAY
After breakfast, private individual transfers to Venice Airport for return flights to the U.S.