January 8 – 19, 2024
Depart from the USA to Rome. Dinner and breakfast are served on board.
Meet the tour escort and transfer to your first-class hotel. Free afternoon. This afternoon you may relax or explore the city independently. Your tour escort will suggest some sights or walks for you to enjoy. Return to hotel for dinner and overnight. Dinner and overnight.
Today is truly a day that will be in your mind for many years to come. This morning we go to Vatican City to attend the weekly Papal Audience and Blessing given by His Holiness Pope Francis I. Following the audience visit to the Vatican Museums, a group of the most impressive edifices with hundreds of galleries filled with art treasures. See awe-inspiring relics and works of art donated throughout centuries as tributes of faith. Throughout the tour, you will cover The Tapestry Gallery, The Raphael Rooms, and the most overwhelming Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo’s Masterpiece, the restored mural of the Last Judgment. Later, enter the largest church in Christendom St Peter’s Basilica, built on the site where St Peter was martyred. Unsurpassed in beauty, a monument to the long history of the Catholic Church, to which pilgrims come from around the world, St Peter’s is the grandest of the world’s churches. Marvel Pieta and Bernini’s amazing bronze canopy. Before dinner, we’ll have some time at leisure, to explore your own paths, shop, or just sit in one of the outside cafes and watch the world go by.
This morning depart for a sightseeing tour of a lifetime! Although our focus is on “Christian Rome”, we will also see so many important cultural and monumental sights around Rome. The tour includes three major Basilicas: St Mary Major, one of the oldest shrines dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, a shrine that contains a relic from the manger of the infant Jesus; The Basilica of St John in Lateran, which is the former residence of the popes prior to their return to Rome in 1377; and St Paul Outside the Walls, which houses the remains of St Paul under its main altar. You will also see the ancient Baths of Caracalla, Arch of Drusus, Chapel “O’Domine Quo Vadis?” the remains of imperial tombs, Tomb of Cecilia Metella, and the catacombs of St Callixtus where the early Christians hid themselves to escape persecution. Dinner and overnight for your last evening in Rome.
Leave the Eternal City and head southeast to San Giovanni. Time permitting you will stop in Monte Cassino to see the Monastery founded by St Benedict in 529. This lovely Abbey sits atop a hill overlooking the village of Cassino. We arrive in San Giovanni, the home of Padre Pio, just in time for dinner.
Today you will visit the tomb of Padre Pio, tour the sanctuary and see the crucifix from which he received the stigmata in 1918. You will see the confessional where Padre Pio spent innumerable hours with a multitude of pilgrims, directing them on their journey toward God. Enjoy a breathtaking view of the Gargano Peninsula and a visit to the Grotto of Michael the Archangel. Six different popes, St Francis, and at least four other saints have knelt in prayer at this grotto, seeking the protection of St Michael. A panoramic view of the ocean and the surrounding countryside awaits you at this most celebrated shrine of early Christianity, a shrine consecrated by St Michael himself in 490. Return to San Giovanni for devotion, and reflection.
The travels today first take you to Lanciano to see the eighth-century Eucharistic Miracle in the little Church of Lagontial. After expressing doubts about Christ’s true presence in the consecrated host, a monk found himself holding a host that had changed into flesh and wine that had changed into blood. Next, follow the lush Adriatic coast to the great Marian shrine of Loreto to visit the Holy House of Nazareth and the beautiful Madonna of Loreto. More than 50 popes have made a pilgrimage to the house transported by angels to this hill in central Italy in 1294. Tradition has it that this is the house in which Mary prayed the Magnificat, in which Jesus grew to manhood, and in which the Holy Family lived. Mass at the Shrine in Loreto, then transfer for dinner and overnight in Assisi.
After breakfast and mass, we will visit the tomb of St Francis. Explore the quaint hilltop birthplace of St Francis that still retains something of the atmosphere of the early 1200s, the period when St Francis began his ministry. Contained within the huge 13th-century Basilica are many of his possessions and a series of frescoes depicting his life. You may kneel before the crucifix from which Jesus spoke to St Francis, asking him to rebuild His church. It was in St Mary of the Angels Basilica where St Francis spent most of his life. Here we visit the Chapel, Portiuncola, the rose bush, and the cave where the saint retired for prayer. Stroll the medieval streets of the compact little town. After stopping at an outdoor cafe with a view of an ancient Roman temple, we go to the Church of St Clare to see the saint’s incorrupt body. The foundress of the Order of Poor Clares followed the teachings of St Francis by living a life of poverty and humility. Return to Assisi for dinner and overnight.
This morning you are off to the beautiful town of Siena, the birthplace of Saints Catherine and Bernardine and one of Italy’s loveliest medieval cities. Here we will stroll the Piazza Del Campo, one of Italy’s finest squares, and visit the Cathedral and the Basilica of St. Francis, containing the miraculous consecrated hosts that remained intact since 1730. View the incorrupt head of St. Catherine at the Basilica of St. Dominic. Return to Assisi for dinner and overnight.
After a brief drive through the beautiful Tuscan countryside, we arrive at a local vineyard for a unique winery experience featuring sensory wine analysis and tasting of local Umbrian labels. Continue on to Florence, a paradise for art lovers, and home to the greatest artists of the Renaissance: Dante, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli, Donatello, and many others. Dinner and overnight.
After Mass, enjoy a guided tour of Florence which includes the magnificent Franciscan church of The Holy Cross or Santa Croce with its beautiful facade, church is a burial place of nobles, among which is Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli. Walking tour through Piazza Signoria, pass by Palazzo Vecchio, Uffizi, and Ponte Vecchio. Continue through Republic Square to the Santa Maria del Fiore 13th-century cathedral.
Bid farewell to our new friends and to a pilgrimage that will be in your memories and heart for a long time to come. Early departure from Florence (or Rome) Airport for our return flights to the USA.