15 days, Thursday, May 7, to Thursday, May 21, 2020
A leisurely exploration of two wonderful Mediterranean islands, one French with a lot of Italian flavor, the other Italian, but with plenty of Spanish influence! Magnificent coastal as well as mountain scenery and fascinating historical sites conjure up the mythical adventures of Ulysses, the amazing Phoenicians and their eager Greek competitors, Romans battling Carthaginians, holy wars between Christians and Saracens, and of course Napoleon, the most famous of all Corsicans. This tour features first-class hotels, excellent food, and talks about history and culture by your escort, 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 from Toronto to Rome with Air Canada. Dinner and a light breakfast will be served on board.
Morning arrival in Rome,where our private coach will be waiting to take us to Livorno (a.k.a. Leghorn in English), a seaport situated on the shores of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Check in to the first-class/4-star Hotel Gran Duca, centrally located on the waterfront (http://www.granduca.it). Free time to settle in, and leisurely walk to explore the city and the harbor before dinner in the restaurant of the hotel.
Morning at leisure in Livorno. In the afternoon we take a ferry bound for Bastia, Corsica; the crossing will take approximately four hours. Arrival in Bastia, named after a bastiglia (fortress) founded in the 14th century by the Genoese, who were then the masters of the island, and transfer to the pretty fishing village (and resort) of Macinaggio, located on the peninsula known as Cap Corse, for dinner and overnight in the first-class/4-star Hotel Uricordu (http://best-western-hotel-u-ricordu.macinaggio.hotels-corsica.net/en).
The Ancient Greeks called Corsica Kallistè, “the most beautiful island,” and this compliment has found an echo in the contemporary French term “Ile de Beauté”. Italian and Gallic culture blend spectacularly on this rugged mountain rising from the sea and covered by dark forests. Napoleon was born in the Corsican capital of Ajaccio in 1769, only one year after the island’s annexation by France. For more information on Corsica, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corsica
This morning we tour Cap Corse, which arguably features the most spectacular scenery on the island, with rugged mountains, olive orchards and vineyards, sandy beaches, quaint villages, and a rocky coastline dotted with so-called ‘Genoese’ watchtowers. Also short visit to a winery, with a tasting of some typical Corsican wines. In the afternoon we visit Bastia, with its citadel, the picturesque old port, historic churches, and vast St. Nicholas Square with the statue of Napoleon Bonaparte. Return to Macinaggio and some free time before dinner again in our hotel’s restaurant.
Departure after breakfast. We motor via Bastia to the lagoon known as the Étang de Biguglia, an important bird sanctuary, and stop en route to view the fine medieval church of La Canonica, built by the Pisans when they ruled this island in the 12th century. On into Corsica’s mountainous and rugged interior, to Ponte Nuovo, where in 1769 the Corsican freedom fighter Pascal Paoli lost a battle whose outcome resulted in the island’s annexation by France. On to Ajaccio, Napoleon’s birthplace and Corsica’s capital, tucked between the mountains and the sea on the shores of a magnificent bay. Accommodation in the 3-star/superior tourist-class Hotel San Carlu, centrally-located in the old town and near the harbor (http://www.hotel-sancarlu.com). No group dinner this evening.
Morning sightseeing of Ajaccio, including the impressive Napoleon Monument, the Bonaparte family home, the Cathedral, and the Citadel, followed by a sidetrip along the scenic coastal drive to Cape Parata, featuring superb views of the offshore Sanguinaires Islands. Afternoon at leisure in Ajaccio. No group dinner.
Departure from Ajaccio after breakfast. We will enjoy wonderful scenery as we motor, partly along the coast and partly via the interior, to the southern tip of Corsica, to experience one of the most spectacular sights in Europe: the fortified former pirates’ den of Bonifacio, perched precariously on top of a steep cliff, overlooking the blue waters of the Strait of Bonifacio, about 10 km wide, which separates Corsica from Sardinia! After our sightseeing program as well as some free time to explore on your own, a one-hour ferry ride will take us to the little Sardinian town of Santa Teresa de Gallura for dinner and overnight in a superior 3-star hotel.
Via another scenic coastal drive, we continue to the picturesque seaport of Alghero, situated on Sardinia’s Coral Coast, arriving in late afternoon. For many centuries, Sardinia belonged to the Spanish kingdom of Aragon-Catalonia, which explains why Catalan is still spoken here! Dinner and overnight in the excellent 4-star/first-class Hotel Florida, overlooking the beach at a stone’s throw from the entrance to the old town (http://www.hotelfloridaalghero.com/en).
A relaxing day in Alghero. In the morning we visit the walled old town, known as Sardinia’s “Little Barcelona” on account of the Catalan influence. Afterwards, free time for shopping, exploring Old Alghero on your own, or relaxing around the pool of the hotel or on the beach. Weather permitting, an optional boat tour may be offered to the famous Grotta di Nettuno, the Sardinian version of Capri’s Blue Grotto. Dinner again in the restaurant of our hotel.
Sardinia, the second largest island in the Mediterranean, closes the Tyrrhenian Sea to the West. It was the home of remarkable stone age civilizations and of the mysterious Shardana or Sards, a non-Indo-European people, until it was colonized by the Phoenicians, followed in due course by Carthaginians and Romans, Genoese, Spaniards from Catalonia, and Austrians. In the 19th century, Sardinia joined newly independent Italy. In spite of some fairly recent industrial and touristic development, exemplified by the resorts of the Costa Smeralda, the island has continued to be a largely rural habitat of shepherds and fishermen, and features wonderful scenery as well as very hearty food much appreciated by Italian (and other) city slickers! For more information on Sardinia, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sardinia
Departure from Alghero after breakfast. We motor inland and bypass Sassari, the island’s biggest city after Sardinia’s capital, Cagliari, to visit Santa Trinita di Saccargia, an impressive solitary 12th-century church in the Pisan Romanesque style. Penetrating the rugged central highlands, a region known as Barbagia, from the Latin for “Land of Barbarians,” we reach Nuoro, situated at the foot of towering Mount Ortobene; once a “nest of bandits and murderers,” the town is now praised as the heart of the island’s cultural life. After lunch, we use a breathtaking serpentine road to descend rapidly from the Sardinian highlands to Su Gologone, an isolated but very picturesque seaside resort. Dinner and overnight in the four-star resort Hotel Parco Blu (http://www.parcoblu.com).
Free time to enjoy a late breakfast or a walk on the beach. Departing in late morning, we visit the small but very interesting archaeological museum in the town of Dorgali. After lunch, we inspect one of Sardinia’s famous “Tombs of the Giants,” funerary megalithic monuments of the enigmatic Nuraghic Civilization that flourished from prehistoric times to the arrival of the Romans (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuragic_civilization). Late afternoon arrival at the first-class/four-star resort Hotel Airone (http://www.aironehotel.eu) on Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda, overlooking the clear blue waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Dinner in the hotel.
Today is a free day. However, an optional excursion will be offered to the island of Caprera in the nearby Maddalena Archipelago, where Italy’s famous freedom fighter, Garibaldi, retired, died in 1882 and is buried. Dinner again in the hotel.
Departure after breakfast. We tour the beautiful Costa Smeralda, developed in the sixties as a playground for the “rich and famous” by the Agha Khan, and its epicenter, the jet-set yacht harbor of Porto Cervo. On to the quaint town of Olbia, featuring Nuraghic and Roman monuments, Romanesque churches, and excellent gelato! Late afternoon transfer to the harbor and 7 PM departure on the ferry bound Livorno. Accommodation in simple but comfortable, fully-equipped cabins. No group dinner this evening.
Early morning arrival in Civitavecchia. We head for the hilltop town of Tarquinia, which was one of the major centres of the fascinating Etruscan civilization that flourished in Central Italy long before Rome managed to establish its hegemony. The Greeks called the Etruscans “Tyrrhenians”, so the Tyrrhenian Sea is really the Etruscan Sea! Sightseeing in Tarquinia, with focus on the city’s two greatest attractions, the excellent Etruscan Museum and the Etruscan necropolis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1158) featuring tombs with wonderful, world-famous frescoes. Afterwards there will be time to shop and/or explore the town of Tarquinia on your own. Dinner and overnight in the 4-star hotel Civicozero Resort (http://www.civicozeroresort.com).
After breakfast, short transfer to Rome's Fiumicino Airport for our return flight to Toronto with Air Canada. Departure at 1:40 p.m. and arrival around 5:00 p.m.
- Return flights from Toronto to Rome on Air Canada, including all taxes and fees. - Accommodation, based on double occupancy, mostly in first-class/4-star hotels and occasionally in superior tourist-class 3-star hotels, and one night in a cabin with private facilities on the May 19 overnight ferry from Sardinia to Livorno. - Breakfast daily and a total of no less than ten dinners (or full lunch). - Overland transportation via deluxe private coach, equipped with AC, WC, video/audio, bar. - Ferry services from Livorno to Bastia and from Sardinia to Livorno. - All visits and sightseeing as outlined in the itinerary, including admission to museums and monuments mentioned. - Hotel taxes and gratuities.
- Beverages with dinners, and meals other than those outlined above. - All expenses of a personal nature. - A gratuity for the coach driver: 25 Euros or equivalent in dollars. - Travel Insurance is available. Please call for rates.
January 01 - 01, 2020
Click on EXPLORE to see the list of tours
February 02 - 20, 2020
$6,875 from Toronto based on double occupancy.
February 09 - 19, 2020
$3,695 from Toronto based on double occupancy