Italy with Gigi 2024

10 days in ITALY!! Trip details/cost is here.

We will begin in Venice and visit the best vendors, historical sites, and opera/fine dining of the Serenissima for 3 days at the end of Carnevale in February 2024 (because those crowds are meh). 

Next we will take the train to Ferrara and have a 3-day tour of that city with a day trip to Mantua. In Ferrara and Mantua we will visit the homes of the Isabella d’Este, learn about the history of the Duchys there, see all the major frescoes the cities have to offer. 

Then, we take the train to Florence and spend 3 days enjoying the quintessential birthplace of of the Italian Renaissance and learning about the Black Duke of Florence, Alessandro de Medici. We may even take a dip in the thermal waters of Firenze before departing for home.

Contact me using this form to get more information for my next trip.

Day 1: Arrival in Venice

This trip begins with Carnevale in Venezia (Venice). This celebration dates back to at least the 11th-century and we will spend 3 days roaming the city and savoring the festivities. We will arrive and check in. After checking into our Palazzetto (yes, we have an entire Little Palace to ourselves right on the water in San Marco)…we can pop over to do a little shopping on Rialto Bridge (I have a favorite notebook shop that I’ll show you there). Then perhaps go for a gelato at Gelatoteca Suso. This evening we should absolutely go to Gran Caffe Quadri for a bite to eat and the necessary Spritz, a drink you have to try while in Venice.

For dinner I have one of my favorite trattoria in Cannaregio scheduled for us. Trattoria is the termed used for an eating establishment that serves traditional/ local food, and that is less formal than a ristorante but more formal than an osteria.

Day 2: Photoshoot, Gondola & Piazza San Marco

Today is photoshoot day! We will use 2 Italian photographers during this trip and one will meet us early this morning in Piazza San Marco to capture the best early sunlight. 

We will likely also take our gondola ride today since we will be dressed up for photos. I suggest taking one as a group that goes under the Rialto Bridge. We will probably have late lunch at a cichetti place. Cichetti are the Venetian equivalent of tapas or small plates. In fact, cichetti means “small bite”. There is also one by a good cichetti shop over in Dorsoduro. 

After the photoshoot we will see highlights of Piazza San Marco. We will head on a walking tour of Piazza San Marco to see the Cathedral there called Basilica San Marco. This basilica was the private church of the Venetian Duke (Doge) during the Venetian Empire and it is decorated in amazing frescoes, mosaics, and gold. We will walk to the neighboring Doge’s Palace and also see the famous Bridge of Sighs.

A couple of options for today, if we have the energy, are Correr Museum and the Hebrew Museum. Correr is the most famous museum in Venice and houses works that reflect Venetian culture, history, and art. If you want to only see with highlights don’t miss the Neoclassical Rooms and the art collection on the second floor. Venice also has a long history of with it’s the Jewish community that you can learn about at the Museo Ebraico.

Dinner will be at one of my favorites places in Castello.

Day 3: Bevilacqua & La Traviata.

Today is also the day to visit the Accademia Gallery, which traces the development of Venetian art from the 14th to 19th centuries, with works by all of the city’s artistic superstars. 

We will then have a chance to tour the historic silk looms of Tessitura Luigi Bevilacqua. Those who choose this optional tour will have the chance to visit the ancient weaving mill, discover the 18th century jacquard hand looms in action and the original tools of the manufacturing process, including the famous warping machine. The highlight of the tour will be the weaving of the unique and precious soprarizzo Venetian velvet. Some secrets of the art of weaving will be explained – including the main differences between jacquard fabrics. 

In the evening will attend La Traviata, an opera born there in Venice, and eat a lat dinner at the favorite restaurant of some local friends I made. 

Day 4: Travel to Ferrara

Our next two days will be spent in Ferrara. Ferrara is the cradle of Humanism and the birthplace of medical humanism. The entire city is a UNESCO Heritage Site. The Este Family created an intellectual and artistic center that attracted the greatest minds of the 15th and 16th-centuries. The city itself was built from 1492 onwards according to principles of perspective and became the first modernly planned town.

Here we will learn about the family of Isabella d’Este by visiting their Castello and their pleasure palazzi around town. We will view the amazing frescoes that give us so much detail about 15th-century life here. Piazza Savonarola (yes, that one is from here), Palazzo Ariosto, and the oldest continually operating Enoteca (bar with food) in Europe are all on our list of things to see and do.

Day 5: Palazzo Schifanoia

One of my favorite palaces in the world is Palazzo Schifanoia, meaning “avoid tedium” as it was a place for recreation for the Este family, the Ducal rulers of Ferrara. After visiting the frescoes and exhibit there we will heard to the Cathedral Museum. This museum houses various artefacts from Ferrara’s duomo, including a serene Madonna by Jacopo della Quercia, a couple of Cosimo Tura canvases, and some lovely bas-reliefs illustrating the months of the year. Today we may also swing by the tomb of Lucrezia Borgia if we have time.

Day 6: Day trip to Mantua

We will rent a car and head to Mantua/Mantova today. For more than 300 years the enormous Palazzo Ducale was the seat of the Gonzaga – a family of wealthy horse breeders who rose to power in the 14th century to become one of Italy’s leading Renaissance families. Their 500-room, 35,000-sq-meter palace is vast; and it includes the Studiolo of Renaissance Duchess Isabella d’Este. The Studiolo of Isabella d’Este was a special private study, first in castello di San Giorgio, later the Studiolo was moved to the Corte Vecchi apartments in the Ducal Palace in Mantua, designed by, and held a collection of art specially commissioned by Isabella.

Day 7: Travel to Florence

Florence is a must-see destination for any first time Italy visitor. From the iconic Duomo to the Uffizi Gallery, there’s no shortage of stunning landmarks to explore. And let’s not forget about delicious Tuscan cuisine! We will spend our last days in Italy experiencing the beauty and charm of this incredible Renaissance city.

Today we arrive, drop our bags off at the hotel and go for a walking tour of the city’s historic center. See the beautiful churches of Santa Croce Ognissanti, and Santa Maria Novella to admire the 13th century frescoes by Giotto and pay your respects at the tombs of some of Renaissance’s greatest minds, including Michelangelo, Machiavelli and Galileo. Then return to the hotel and go out for a delicious Tuscan dinner together.

Day 8: Duomo & Uffizi

Stroll past Brunelleschi’s magnificent cathedral dome (The Duomo), and be sure to pose in front of Ghiberti’s Baptistery doors. Next, you could take an optional 2 and a half hour tour of the Uffizi gallery to see pieces like Botticelli’s Primavera, or visit 15th C Palazzo Davanzati.

Day 9: Duke Alessandro de Medici

Today we will take a fascinating peek into life and times of Duke Alessandro de’Medici seeing the Palace where he grew up and the Palace that houses his likeness. We will take a private half-day tour with my friend and professional tour guide, Serena, to learn about the life of the first Duke of Florence, Alessandro de’ Medici. Alessandro happens to have African heritage and the sites related to his life are not marked and noted in most historical sites. Serena will give us a behind the scenes explanation of the places Alessandro lived and ruled from before his early death.

Day 10: On-your-own Travel Day

Today is Departure Day, where you’d check out of the lodging and head to the airport to return to the US. 


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