11 days, from Sunday, June 7, to Wednesday, June 17, 2020
A thorough exploration of Italy’s most enigmatic city, a picturesque seaport overlooking the blue Adriatic from a narrow Italian ‘panhandle’ almost entirely surrounded by Slovenian territory. The city is inhabited by a cosmopolitan mix of Italians, Croatians and other Slavs, Greeks, etc., and features imposing architecture that conjures up Vienna and the Habsburg Empire of which it used to serve as ‘window on the Mediterranean’. Our local tours and visits will be complemented by excursions into Slovenia, with the superb Alpine scenery of Lake Bled and a charming capital, Ljubljana; Croatia’s wonderful Istrian Peninsula, featuring an impressive Roman amphitheatre, palaeo-Christian churches and superb coastal resorts such as Rovinj; and, within Italy’s borders, the ruins of the Roman city of Aquileia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city of Udine, capital of Friuli Province, and some of the WW I memorials near Gorizia and Kobarid (Caporetto). Accommodation in a centrally-located first-class hotel, fine Italian food with an Austrian touch (!), and talks on the history of the region by your tour escort, historian Jacques Pauwels, PhD, author of books such as ‘Beneath the Dust of Time: A History of the Names of Peoples and Places’ (London, 2009).
Evening departure on Air Canada’s non-stop flight from Toronto to Venice. Dinner and a light breakfast will be served on board.
Arrival at Venice Airport around 9 AM, and transfer to the city of Trieste (150 km), located along the Adriatic coast on a coastal strip of Italian land surrounded by a hilly Slovenian territory, a limestone plateau known in Italian as the Carso, and also very close to the border with Croatia. Trieste used to be a major “centre of literature, music, art, and culture” when, until the end of WW I, it was part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire; today, the city is a delightful and fascinating fusion of Italian and Eastern European architecture and atmosphere, and a magnificent window on the Adriatic Sea.
Check into the very centrally-located first-class/4-star Hotel Continentale (http://www.continentalehotel.com/en/hotel-continentale), and free time to get some rest after your overnight flight. In late afternoon, introductory walk to Trieste’s wonderful waterfront and majestic main square, Piazza Unita d’Italia, Europe's largest sea-front square. Welcome drink, perhaps one of the local favourites, such as Campari Soda and Aperol Spritz, followed by dinner in the hotel or in a nearby restaurant.
Hotel Continentale is a traditional first-class/four-star hotel ideally situated in the heart of Trieste, on S. Nicolò Street, an elegant pedestrian street with fashionable shops, famous cafés, and typical restaurants, and only minutes from the waterfront, Piazza Unità d’Italia, the Grand Canal, the Verdi Theatre, and many other attractions. Tripadvisor rates the Continental as one of the top hotels in the city, and its reviews are almost exclusively “excellent” or “very good.”
Morning sightseeing tour of Trieste, with focus on the two oldest parts of the city. We start with the scenic Civitavecchia or “old town,” dating back to the Roman era, when this city was called Tergeste, a pedestrian maze of narrow and crooked streets with medieval houses, interesting shops, and attractive bars and restaurants in addition to Roman ruins such as the Roman Theatre and a monumental gate known as the Arco di Riccardo. On to San Giusto Hill, the site where the city originated and where the Roman forum used to be, to visit the Cathedral and enjoy sights such as the castle, the World War I Memorial, the ruins of the Roman propylaea and a basilica, and splendid panoramas of the city, the harbor, and the Adriatic Sea. At the end of our tour, you may want to have lunch in the historical Viennese-style Caffè San Marco, once a favourite of the many literary personalities who spent time in this multicultural city with a great literary tradition, for example James Joyce, who arrived here in 1904 to teach English. As the afternoon is free, an attractive option would be to visit the local Joyce Museum (www.museojoycetrieste.it; for more on Joyce in Trieste, see www.museojoycetrieste.it/english/the-trieste-of-james-joyce). Dinner in a typical restaurant.
Morning excursion to the archaeological site of Aquileia, terminus of Antiquity’s Amber Road, linking the Adriatic, and the Mediterranean Sea in general, to the Baltic Sea, one of the largest and wealthiest cities of the Roman Empire and a major centre of early Christianity, associated with saints such Jerome and Ambrose; the city was destroyed by Attila in the 5th century. This UNESCO World Heritage Site (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/825) includes one of Italy’s most remarkable early Christian monuments, an ancient Basilica featuring the world’s largest antique mosaic pavement, as well as the fascinating remains of the Roman Forum and the ancient harbor. We also visit the fine local Archaeological Museum. On the way back to Trieste, we visit Miramare Castle, a seaside chateau and park that used to be the residence of Habsburg crown prince Maximilian, and view more of the city’s outlying places of interest, such as the Faro della Vittoria (“Victory Lighthouse”), a Memorial to WW I, during which the acquisition of this city, still part of the Habsburg Empire, was one of Italy’s major war aims.
Morning visit to the Winckelmann Museum of Antiquities, full of ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman as well as medieval jewelry and other artefacts, and also featuring a lovely garden (http://museoantichitawinckelmann.it). On to Trieste’s colourful market hall, the Mercato Coperto, where vendors sell flowers, fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, and cheese, but also clothing, antiques, books, etc. You may want to stay here for lunch! The afternoon is free to shop, explore on your won, and/or visit yet another museum, perhaps the Railway Museum, displaying models and full-sized train engines and cars as well as old-fashioned horse-drawn trams, or the excellent Naval Museum (https://museodelmaretrieste.it). We also recommend a mid-afternoon break in one of the many fine pastry shops, such as Caffè Pasticceria Pirona, founded in 1900 (https://pirona1900.com), and Caffè degli Specchi on Piazza Unità d'Italia (http://www.caffespecchi.it), which offer delicious local varieties of famous Austrian cakes such as Sacher torte and strudel. Do your prefer ice cream? If so, try the fabulous gelato at Gelateria Zampolli (https://www.gelateriazampolli.com)! If there is sufficient interest, an optional half-day visit may be organized to the town of Lipica, just cross the border in Slovenia, for a visit to the original stud farm of the horses of the world-famous Viennese Spanish Riding School, known as the “Lipizaner” (https://www.slovenia.info/en/places-to-go/attractions/lipica)!
Full-day excursion into the nearby Italian province of Friuli. We first visit the region’s attractive capital, Udine, whose architecture reflects the many centuries when the city was ruled by Venice; the major sights are Piazza Liberta, reminiscent of St. Mark’s Square in Venice, with its Loggia del Lionello, Clock Tower, statues, and fountains, and the Cathedral, whose interior boasts paintings by Tiepolo. On to the ‘killing fields’ where Italian and Austrian troops fought major battles during WW I, for sightseeing on both sides of the Italian-Slovenian border, in the area of the towns of Kobarid (Caporetto) and Gorizia. Return to Trieste in late afternoon. Today, group lunch in Gorizia OR dinner in Trieste.
Full-day tour of the nearby scenic Pula Peninsula, jutting out into the Adriatic Sea, part of Italy between the two World Wars but now belonging mostly to Croatia, featuring magnificent scenery along the coast as well as in the interior. The highlights will be the ancient Greco-Roman town of Pula with its impressive, well-preserved Roman amphitheatre, the picturesque seaport of Rovinj, where we will enjoy a lunch of Croatian specialties, and Porec, home to another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 6th-century Euphrasian Basilica complex with its Byzantine mosaics (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/809).
After breakfast, short transfer to Venice Airport and non-stop return flight to Toronto with Air Canada, departing at 12:30 and arriving at 4:00 PM.
April 14 - 27, 2020
$4,895 from Toronto, including air, based on double occupancy
May 07 - 21, 2020
$4,295.00 from Toronto based on double occupancy
June 18 - 20, 2020
$1,295 per person double occupancy