|St. Peter's, Rome|
A number of people have asked me about the itinerary for the two groups that are joining me in Italy this spring. I'll share in case anyone else wants to know. I'm taking both groups to the same places, although they'll go in different orders since one group starts in Rome and ends in Bologna, and the other does the reverse.
Everyone who visits Italy for the first time needs to go to Rome. We'll spend four days there seeing everything from the Colosseum (The apartments are a 5-10 minute walk from there) to the Pantheon.
The first day is always the day to settle in and walk the neighborhood and acclimate ourselves to the area.
Since both groups arrive in Rome on a Saturday, we'll head to the Vatican on Sunday for those who want to see Pope Francis give his Sunday blessing. We'll have three-day tickets for the hop-on/hop-off bus, so we'll take a quick trip around the city ending at the Colosseum where everyone will tour the ancient ruins.
I arranged for early access to the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums. While most people get in around 9, we're getting in at 7:45 with a special tour. After that, we'll head to the Jewish Ghetto and Trastavere areas and enjoy the markets, cafes, bakeries, and sites.
One of the groups is doing the Angels & Demons tour. I'll take the second one through Piazza Navonna, Spanish Steps, Triunfale, etc.
We travel by train to Sulmona, a city in the Abruzzo region (and about 10 km from my grandmother's village). We'll settle in to the apartments, and then I'll walk them through the centro storico, and we'll enjoy the evening passegiatta.
We'll start at the Sulmona mercato (held in the piazza shown above) and then head to Pettorano, birthplace of my grandparents. During WWII, the Nazis took up residence in Pettorano and forced the citizens to flee. Many hid in the Valley of Santa Margherita (patron saint of the town) during the harsh winter.
After we walk through the mountain town, we'll go to Scanno, a beautiful town high in the mountains and home to a wonderful, blue lake. There are a number of women in the town who still wear the town's "costume." Because of the style of the dress, many believe that Turks founded Scanno.
Henry Mancini's father, Quinto, was born in Scanno in 1893.
Cooking school! After a tour of the Abbey of Santo Spirito al Morrone, we're going to head to Pacentro where everyone will participate in a cooking class at Caldora, George Clooney's favorite restaurant in the area. After class, we'll tour Pacentro (birthplace, by the way, of Madonna's father) while the chef at Caldora cooks what they helped make. We'll eat lunch and head back down the mountain to Sulmona where we'll tour the Pelini Confetti Factory. (Confetti are sugar-covered almonds).
We'll leave early for Rocca Calascio, a town at the highest point in the Apennine Mountains. After a short walk to the fortress ruins (above), we'll head to Santo Steffano di Sessanio, where Clooney and most of the cast and crew of "The American" stayed during filming. Mama Aida, a 91-year old resident of the town, will demonstrate how to make the town's signature dish with lenticchie (lentils). We'll enjoy a five-course meal before touring Santo Stefano and a cheese maker.
We train to Bologna and settle in at our apartment. After I do a short walking tour of the historic Santo Stefano area, we'll enjoy aperitifs at Bar Santo Stefano.
After we have breakfast, we'll have a private tour with a guide from CulturaItaliana, the school where I studied last year. Later, we'll take the hop-on/hop-off bus tour and go to San Luca, a beautiful church at the highest point in the city. Included will be a tour of The Archiginnasio, part of the university's first building. The old anatomy room is still a popular site.
One of the days, we'll head to Modena where we'll take the Happy Circle bus around town with stops at the Ferrari Museum and a balsamic vinegar factory. After dinner in Bologna, we'll do a gelato crawl.
We'll take an early train to Venice, catch the vaporetto, and see this wonderful city. We'll start at Rialto Bridge and at the fish market there. Afterwards, we'll head to St. Mark's Square and tour St. Mark's and the Doges' Palace. Some want to take a gondola ride. I'll wave from the bridge! :-) If time allows, we'll head to Murano or Burano before heading home.
Florence is another early day trip. We have tickets for the duomo and the Accademia (Think Michelangelo's David), and I'll take them the Ponte Vecchio, Mercato San Lorenzo, Mecato Centrale, Mercato Nuovo, and Porcellino. At the Duomo, we'll have the opportunity to climb to the dome (400+ stairs) and Giotto's Tower (another 400+ stairs). I'm taking bets on whether I can do both both times. :-)
The second group is going to have the opportunity to go to Ravenna, too.
And, we'll all have cappuccino a lot.... and wine.... and pasta.....