The Nature of Italy - Notable National Parks and Glorious Grottos

Italy has long been lauded as a place of cultural significance, Rome having spread its influence over much of the western world. Equally impressive is the legacy it is creating through its national parks. This trip provides ample servings of both. Orchids fill the air with perfumed breath in the wildness of Majella National Park. Mountains run to the sea, where crystal clear waters flow in and out of grottos carved from the soft chalk like rock in Gargano National Park. The cultural angle veers abruptly from the commonplace in Alberobello where conical roofed houses create a fairytale cityscape, and in Matera where living in a cave was commonplace until the middle of the 20th century. This trip satisfies with what one expects from Italy and astounds with the unexpected.

Degree of Difficulty - Three Paws

Moderately Active. May involve some moderate hikes in forests and nature reserves, getting in and out of vehicles and rocking boats, and walking in uneven pavement in archaeological sites, in some cases in extreme weather conditions, heat, high elevation and humidity.

Weather Reports - When To Go

This program takes in some of Italy’s most beautiful national parks that are only accessible because of altitude and weather conditions during the summer months. Best time for this tour is mid-July through September, which is also quite sunny, hot and gorgeous for water activities. Our program does include opportunities to experience the great outdoors and beautiful grottoes of central Italy from Rome to Naples.

Days 1/2 NEW YORK/ROME

After an overnight flight arrive in Rome. Your guide will meet you at the airport and assist in transferring you to your hotel. This rest of the day is yours to enjoy at leisure. Tonight, meet with fellow travelers over a welcome dinner. DONNA LAURA PALACE. (Meals Aloft, Welcome D)

Days 3/4 ROME

Board your motor coach for a half day tour that will include such “must see” sights as Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. Explore on your own in the afternoon then enjoy dinner with fellow travelers this evening. The following day brings with it the excitement of a full day’s tour of the city built by Romulus and Remus. The genius of Michelangelo is on display at the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, where you will spend the first part of your day. Enjoy local fare for lunch before you proceed to the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. DONNA LAURA PALACE. (B,D; B,L)

Day 5 SULMONA/MAJELLA NATIONAL PARK

Travel east to the province of L’Aquila and the town of Sulmona, the birthplace of Ovid and the portal to Majella National Park. Named for the imposing mountain group that dominates the landscape, Montagna della Majella, the park is a majestic collection of massifs, karst plains, and lush flower-filled valleys. Visit the medieval cliff-side hermitage of Saint Onofrio, Lama dei Pligni botanical park, and the red deer wildlife park while here. HOTEL OVIDIUS. (B,L)

Day 6 GARGANO NATIONAL PARK/SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO

Continue east to the province of Foggia and Gargano National Park, a protected area of mountains, forest, scenic shorelines, and islands. Much of the 456 square mile park is encompassed by the Gargano peninsula that juts into the Adriatic Sea like a spur in Italy’s boot. The Umbrian forest is home to some of the country’s oldest trees and the region’s soil provides purchase for some 300 species of orchid. End your day in the picturesque town of San Giovanni Rotondo. HOTEL GRAN PARADISO. (B,L,D)

Day 7 GARGANO PENINSULA

Drive to the venerable city of Rodi Garganico for a boat tour of Gargano’s dramatic coastline. From Rodi to Vieste, rock formations jut out into the Adriatic, and through eons of erosion, a stunning array of arches, coves, grottos and caves have formed. Motor through darkened archways into light-filled chambers that are the remnants of collapsed caves; swim in the warm water of the Baia di Campi. HOTEL GRAN PARADISO. (B,L)

Days 8/9 ALBEROBELLO/OSTUNI

In the province of Puglia lies perhaps one of the most idiosyncratic towns in Italy, Alberobello, known for its whitewashed conical roofed houses called trulli. Built of limestone and erected without mortar, archeological records suggest that the practice started in the Bronze Age, however, legend has it that they were so built to avoid being taxed as a “permenant” dwelling by the Kingdom of Naples. Whatever their origin, these gnome-like structures are truly charming and form an important element of this UNESCO World Heritage site. Continue your discovery of the area the next morning when you enter the cathedral like expanses of the Castellana Grotto. From there you drive to Ostuni. The whitewashed edifices of the old city and citadel dominate the landscape from their hilltop prominence. Walk streets lined by ancient battlements and baroque churches. TIPICO RESORT. (B,L; B,D)

Day 10 MATERA/SALERNO

Today you begin your drive westward toward Naples and to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Matera where you will discover what are thought to be the oldest dwellings in Italy. The ancient Sassi di Matera (stones of Matera) is the location of prehistoric cave dwellings hewn from the calcareous rock that lines a riverine gorge. This rudimentary way of living continued on with little improvement until the 1950s when the Italian government moved much of the population to the more modern section of the city. What remains is a fascinating subterranean city that will leave you speechless. Drive to Salerno late this afternoon. NOVOTEL SOLERNO. (B)

Days 11/12 MATERA/SALERNO/NAPLES

Venture to the summit of the infamous Mount Vesuvius best known for its eruption in 79 CE, which destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum. The barren smoldering moonscape of the summit provides an “extraterrestrial” view of Naples and the bay beyond. The irony of Vesuvius is on full display at the National Museum of Archeology in Naples. Although the pyroclastic clouds of ash and heat destroyed structures, they helped to preserve irreplaceable works of art ranging from statuary to intricate mosaics. Day two in Napoli finds you traversing the Spaccanapoli (Naples splitter) as the locals call it, one of three ancient east-west oriented roman roads that formed the grid of ancient Naples. Visit the Cathedral of Saint Jennaurius, the seat of Archbishop of Naples, named for the city’s patron saint. A cooking experience at a local culinary school is your treat this evening for your farewell dinner. HOTEL SAN PIETRO. (B; B, Farewell D)

Day 13 NAPLES/NEW YORK

Awake early, collect your baggage and meet fellow travelers for breakfast before boarding the motor coach that will convey you to the airport, and your flight home. (B, Meals Aloft)

OPTIONAL PRE EXTENSION TO ELBA

Visit one of the most ecologically diverse areas in Italy in this pre-extension to the Tuscan Archipelago. Cross the Tyrrhenian Sea to Italy’s third largest island, Elba, and navigate through one of the largest protected areas in Europe. A collection of seven geologically distinct islands, the archipelago harbors a great diversity of marine life and terrestrial flora and fauna. Float past fishing villages that cling to steep cliff sides while you breathe in the briny air and watch porpoises glide effortlessly by.

OPTIONAL POST EXTENSION TO POMPEII, CAPRI AND AMALFI COAST

In Pompeii walk streets frozen in time by volcanic ash where intricate mosaics and whimsical frescoes remain inexplicably vibrant and in Herculaneum one half expects to see toga clad locals strolling down its deserted streets. From the vestiges of calamity, move on to Capri, written about since antiquity, its beauty the inspirational fodder of poets. Drive the serpentine roads of the Amalfi Coast, each revelatory turn demonstrating the endless wonder of Nature’s work.

YOUR JOURNEY INCLUDES:

  • Superior accommodations throughout as indicated or similar.
  • Continental breakfast daily, a welcome dinner and a farewell dinner, and other meals as per itinerary. (B=Breakfast; L=Lunch; D=Dinner)
  • Culinary experience in Naples.
  • All ground transfers and excursions in private deluxe motor coach.
  • Services of a specialist guide with 10 travelers.
  • Entrance fees to all venues indicated.
  • Complimentary bottled water on coaches during sightseeing.
  • Complimentary passport wallet and baggage tags.
Prices starting at $5,495. For further booking, date, and pricing info please contact info@classicescapes.

Does not include international or domestic flights. Prices are based on 10 or more travelers, and are subject to change.