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Detailed Itinerary
(2004 May 28 – June 11)
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Fifteen Day Tour of Italy, Athens and Crete

   Itinerary Summary    Itinerary Italy Map    Itinerary Greece Map
   Hotel List    Tour Costs    Reservations

Note: We have improved the itinerary shown here, added a day to tour (leaving May 27), & reduced costs by over $500. You must call us by March 8, 2004 to receive these benefits.

(Note: Many links in itinerary open in a new window)
DAY #1
May 28
Leave NY
DAY #2
May 29
DAY #3
May 30
DAY #4
May 31
DAY #5
June 1
DAY #6
June 2
DAY #7
June 3
DAY #8
June 4
DAY #9
June 5
DAY #10
June 6
DAY #11
June 7
DAY #12
June 8
DAY #13
June 9
DAY #14
June 10
DAY #15
June 11
Arrive NY

(Meals provided shown by B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner, S = Snack)
Depart USA JFK Airport, New York (8:20 p.m. EDT) for Florence (Italy) on Lufthansa with a change in Munich, Germany. (D & B on flight to Munich))
Florence  (click for largest image available)
Florence, Cradle of the Renaissance

Arrive Munich 10:10 a.m. local time with 11:05 a.m. departure on Lufthansa for Florence, Italy. Firenze, "heart of Italy," is set in the beautiful mountains of northern Italy. Florence was the birthplace of renaissance art with the surrounding Tuscan landscape providing a backdrop for the revival of classical art.

Afternoon arrival (12:20 p.m.) at Florence Airport (Aeroporto di Firenze).Meet our professional escort who will guide us through our Italy tour. Transfer to central Florence (map). Half-day guided tour within Florence. Lunch on own. Visit Academy of Fine Arts and the Florence Cathedral (Duomo) capped by Bunelleschi's colored dome. Nearby is Giotto's graceful and intricate bell tower (campanile).

Rest of afternoon at leisure (see interactive map) before transferring by motor coach from Florence to our hotel in scenic Montecatini Terme (45 km or 27 mi), nestled at the foot of the Pistoian mountains in northwest Tuscany (see map). Montecatini Terme is a European spa capital, world famous for its spas, springs and thermal baths. This peaceful town, set in green hills, is a regular stop for celebrities and was immortalized in Fellini's film 8-½.

Accommodation: Grand Hotel Panoramic   (D)
Leaning Tower of Pisa (click for largest image available)
Pisa: The Leaning Tower (Photo by Gary Feuerstein)

Half-day excursion to historic Pisa (55 km or 34 MI) after breakfast at hotel (see map). Once a powerful maritime republic, this city contains one of the most recognizable buildings in the Western world, the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Tour this beautiful university city with our English speaking guide, marvel at the "leaning cathedral" (185 feet high with a top that lies 16 feet south of the base). This tower stands on what was a sandy river estuary 10,000 years ago and is now the green carpet of Campo del Miracoli ("Field of Miracles"), one of Italy's memorable squares.

Have lunch on own in one of Pisa's large range of restaurants. Return to Florence (100 km or 62 MI) in afternoon with rest of day at leisure. Dinner on own.

After dinner transfer back to hotel in beautiful Montecatini Terme.

Accommodation: Grand Hotel Panoramic   (B)

DAY 4: MAY 31, 2004 (MON.)  SIENA, ITALY
Cathedral and City Hall (click for largest image available)
Siena: Cathedral (Piazza del Duomo) and City Hall

We take a full day excursion to the three sienna-colored hills of Siena (111 km or 69 MI). This city is the show place of Italian Gothic and resides in the middle of "Chianti country" (see map). This is probably Italy's best preserved medieval cities and is sure to please.

A local guide will spend two hours showing us some of this city's enchanting sights. Plenty of time to have lunch on own, shop and stroll though its ancient, narrow streets. Explore the medieval center of Siena with its shell-shaped Piazza del Campo including City Hall (Palazzo Publico) and the Cathedral (Piazza del Duomo), one of Italy's greatest Gothic churches.

Transfer back to hotel in Montecatini Terme.

Accommodation: Grand Hotel Panoramic   (B)

Venice (Click for largest image available)
Venice: Rialto Bridge Over the Gran Canal

After breakfast at hotel we travel by comfortable motor coach to historical Venice (253 km or 157 MI). Our coach will pass through fertile Lombardian plains while our tour guide educates us about this northern region of Italy.

Unique among all cities of the world (see map), Venice was originally built on a flotilla of uninhabited islands for protection against barbarians, this city remains a maze of water channels including the Grand Canal.

This ancient city is set on more than 100 islands in a lagoon instead of streets. Nearly 200 canals connect the city, plied by gondolas and water taxies, including waterbuses (vaporetti) that will take us from the bus terminal through Venetian canals to our hotel. Lunch on own. Rest of day at leisure to rest or preview the art and architecture of this gorgeous city (see interactive map), which also became the the European capital of opera.

Accommodation: Hotel Sant'Elena   (B,D)
Venice (Click for largest image available)
Venice: The Bell Tower of St. Mark's Square

After breakfast at hotel we take a private boat round-trip tour to San Marco. Here we start a half-day guided walking tour of this enchanting city. Highlights include St. Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco), dominated by the Byzantine Basilica (Basilica DI San Marco or "Chiesa d'Oro", the Church of Gold), one of the world's greatest and most embellished churches.

Towering over the Plaza and the Basilica is the 99-meter (325-ft) Bell Tower of St. Mark's (Campanile DI San Marco), originally built as a lighthouse. This tower collapsed in 1902 but was rebuilt as an exact replica. From here Galileo Galilei exhibited his telescope to Venice merchants in 1609. (An elevator takes visitors to the top for an bird's eye view.)

Bordering the square is the largest civic buildings in Venice, the lavish Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale) with its amazing facade. And nearby is the Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri) over which prisoners passed on their way to prison cells. Also watch Venetian glass blowers fashion delicate objects in an age-old traditional manner.

Lunch on own with balance of day at leisure. Walk over the Rialto Bridge (Ponte DI Rialto), the true commercial heart of Venice. Take a gondola ride, (but be careful) visit St. Mark's Treasury, view the awesome Pala D'oro (a gold, enamel and jewel-encrusted altarpiece in St. Mark's Basilica), or the wonderful church of San Giorgio Maggiore on the island of San Giorgio and take a lift to the top of the 60 meter (197 ft) high bell tower for a panoramic view of the city.

Accommodation: Hotel Sant'Elena   (B)

DAY 7: JUNE 3, 2004 (THU.)  ROME, ITALY
Rome: Vatican City
Rome: Vatican City

After breakfast at our hotel, we board a motor coach at the Bus Terminal Piazzale for Rome (529 km or 329 MI), capital of Italy and once center of the vast ancient Roman Empire. Constantly changing landscapes pass as we cross Italy's largest river, the Po, which precipitously descends out of the northern mountains forming the large, rich Padan plain as river waters rush toward the Adriatic Sea. Our coach will next head across the wooded and rugged Etruscan Apennine mountain chain that forms the backbone of peninsular Italy. Here too are the Tuscan hills, home of olive groves, and also grapes that produce Italy's famous Chianti wines. After a lunch break we head south for the Eternal City of Rome. Check in at hotel. Rest of day at leisure. Have dinner at one of Rome's gourmet restaurants.

Accommodation: Grand Hotel Palatino   (B)

DAY 8: JUNE 4, 2004 (FRI.)  ROME, ITALY
Rome: Coliseum

After breakfast at hotel we begin a full day city tour of Rome. Our local guide will take us to the Vatican Museum, which resides in Vatican City and contains some of the world's greatest treasures, and the Basilica, a masterpiece of 16th century Italian architecture.. Here we will see the renown Sistine Chapel containing Michelangelo's world famous ceiling painting depicting nine scenes from the Biblical Book of Genesis. In f St. Peter's Square you can marvel at this vast plaza surrounded by two colonnades of 284 columns!

Lunch on own near the Vatican. Included are visits to the Great Roman Coliseum, Palatine Hill and the ancient Roman Forum (Foro Romano) where triumphant Roman legions marched. Then time for independent activities (see interactive map) such as the Roman Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, etc. In the evening we will have a farewell to Italy dinner at a local restaurant.

Accommodation: Grand Hotel Palatino   (B,D)
Minoa Palace Resort Hotel
Crete: Minoa Palace Resort Hotel (Click to enlarge)
Transfer to the Leonardo De Vinci Airport (Fiumicinao Airport) for 11:00 a.m. departure on Olympic Airlines for Athens International Airport (arrive 2:00 p.m. local time). Depart 5:45 p.m. on Olympic Airlines for 50 minute flight to Chania International Airport (arrive 6:35 p.m.) where you will be met and assisted by our local tour escort.

Transfer by bus to Minoa Palace luxury resort hotel in scenic Platanias, 10 km (6 MI) west of Chania (Hania). Hotel check in. Time to rest, relax and explore this all encompassing, exquisite resort before our evening welcome, dinner at our resort. More about Crete.

Accommodation: Minoa Palace Resort Hotel   (B,L,D)
Full-day sightseeing after continental breakfast at hotel. Our group will enjoy a wonderful bus tour of Crete, beginning with a brief tour of Chania (or Hania), by far the island's most attractive city with its harbor setting, downtown square, and Venetian and Turkish remains which survived bombing in the Second World War.

Map of Crete (Click to enlarge)
Map of Crete (Click to enlarge)

From here, you will travel along the coastal road to Heraklion, most notable for its imposing city walls and the great fort defending the harbour entrance. A short panoramic tour of Heraklion will be followed by a two-course lunch at a local restaurant.

After lunch, your group will enjoy some fascinating visits such as the tomb of the famous Cretan author Nikos Kazantzakis (author of The last Temptation of Christ and Zorba the Greek) on the Venetian Walls and the Archaeological Museum, which houses the most important collection of Minoan and prehistoric finds. The day will end with a visit to the stunning Palace of Knossos (a few kilometers south of Heraklion), which has been linked to the legends of Atlantis and Theseus and the Minotaur.

Return to Chania after an independent dinner in Heraklion.

Accommodation: Minoa Palace Resort Hotel   (B,L)

After continental breakfast at hotel, you may relax at resort or enjoy some independent sightseeing including the following options:


Samari Gorge (Click to read the "Complete Guide to the Gorge"
Crete: Samaria Gorge (Click for Guide)
1. Samaria Gorge An early morning start will be needed to visit Europe's longest gorge — the awesome Samaria Gourge. Your coach will take you to the top (1200 m or 3,900 ft), and you will be able to take a full-day guided walk along its length (16 km or 10 MI) descending to sea level. Walking time is about 3 hours if walking briskly. Allow 6–7 hours if you rest, look and take pictures. See map of gorge. Independent lunch. Return to hotel by bus.

The walk is long and can be arduous but is not difficult. Before deciding to do this hike, read the "Complete Guide to the Gorge of Samaria."

Light House in Chania Harbor (Click to enlarge)
Chania: Harbor Light House
2. Chania (Hania) Full-day city tour of Crete's most charming and scenic city, Chania, including visits to the central market, the Maritime Museum, and the Archaeological Museum of Chania. Independent lunch.

This evening, your group will enjoy dinner together before a multimedia presentation about tomorrow's transit by your astronomy escort.

Accommodation: Minoa Palace Resort Hotel   (B,D)
The Transit of Venus (click for more info)
Transit of Venus (click for info)

Today, for the first time in over 120 years, Venus will transit the Sun, an event no one now alive has ever seen!

Have continental breakfast at hotel. Set up your own telescopes, cameras, etc. in the spacious hotel grounds in advance of the transit of Venus.

Lunch on own and afternoon at leisure.

Transit Begins 8:20 a.m. Greatest Transit 11:23 a.m. Transit Ends 2:24 p.m.

Warning: It can be dangerous to look at the Sun
without using safe filters specifically made for observing the Sun

Continental Capers will provide safe, solar filters to use when viewing the Sun without optical aid or cameras. (Those wishing to observe the Sun through their own telescopes or to photograph the transit, will need to supply their own safe solar filters and know what they are doing to avoid injury to their eyes or equipment.) Although people are encouraged to bring their own telescopes to view the transit, Continental Capers will also provide one or more telescopes to safely view the transit. See our eye safety page.

This evening, enjoy discussing the day's events over 3-course dinner at your hotel.

Accommodation: Minoa Palace Resort Hotel   (B,D)
Mask of Agamemnon
Athens: Agamemnon Mask

After continental breakfast at hotel, transfer to Chania airport for 10:00 a.m. departure to Athens, Greece on a 45 minute Olympic Airways flight.

You will be met and assisted by local guide at Athens International Airport and enjoy a short panoramic tour to acquaint you with the Greece's capital city which has been inhabited for over 7,000 years.

After a 2-course lunch, your group will have a guided tour of the National Archaeological Museum, which houses the famous "Mask of Agamemnon" from Tomb V at Mycenae (Sixteenth century B.C.E.).

Transfer to your hotel and, after check in, enjoy a delicious 3-course meal at the Dionysos Restaurant with its incomparable, rooftop restaurant overlooking Athens!

Accommodation: Lycabettus Hotel   (B,L,D)
DAY 14: JUNE 10, 2004 (THU.)  ATHENS, GREECE
Parthenon (Click to enlarge)
Athens: The Parthenon (Click to enlarge)

After continental breakfast at hotel, your group will enjoy half day of sightseeing in Athens, including the Olympic Stadium and visits to the Acropolis and its Parthenon, and the Roman Forum. More about the Acropolis and Parthenon.

After an independent lunch, the remainder of the afternoon is at leisure for independent sightseeing.

Why not visit the Temple of Olympian Zeus and Hadrian's Arch, or relax in the beautiful National Gardens at the heart of the city, or wander through the colorful flower market? The fascinating Benaki Museum houses a wide-ranging collection from Chinese ceramics and Mycenean jewelry through to a reconstructed Muslim palace reception hall! A must-see is definitely Syndagma Square and the Changing of the Guard. The Museum of Cycladic and Ancient Greek Art is a specialized collection of artifacts from the second and third millenniums B.C.E, and from the period from the fall of Mycenae to the beginning of 700 BCE Then have dinner on own at one of Athens's charming old restaurants.

Accommodation: Lycabettus Hotel   (B)
Click for Poster
Return With Memories to Last a Lifetime

Breakfast at hotel. Morning at leisure for independent sightseeing and last minute shopping. Lunch on own. Transfer to Athens International Airport for 2:15 p.m. flight on Lufthansa to Frankfort. Germany (arrive 4:15 p.m.). Depart Frankfort (5:20 p.m. local time) on Lufthansa for USA.

Arrive New York's JFK at 7:25 EDT with unforgettable memories of Italy, Greece and an event not seen before by anyone now alive!

(B with D, S on flight)

Please contact us for add-ons to your tour.

Itinerary Changes While every effort is made to adhere to the specifics mentioned herein, changes may be required at times. Therefore, all prices, itineraries, and other pertinent information are those in effect at the time this material was prepared, and are subject to change without notice.


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