May 5-12, 2016
Gay Group Tour of Italy — HIGHLIGHTS
- The understated handsomeness of Bologna and its 25 miles of elegant porticos
- Ravenna’s astounding Byzantine-period mosaics
- Urbane, sophisticated Parma and its wealth of sights
- Tasting traditional Balsamic vinegar of Modena at its source
- The Roman-era Arena in Verona and the city’s numerous other attractions
- Winery tour and tasting at a historic villa in the Valpolicella zone
- Several UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Delicious meals and lovely accommodations, of course!
- Download Detailed Itinerary
Inspired by the travel guide book of the same title, our tour Italy: The Places In Between focuses on cities in the Emilia-Romagna and Veneto regions — cities that are almost always passed over as tourists head from Florence to Venice. There’s a plethora of worthy sights around here, and we’re very glad to bring you this unique program — our eighth unique itinerary and 22nd tour overall in this enticing country!
One of the best-kept secrets in northern Italy, our first of two bases is Bologna — a very handsome city (and a pity that its name conjures up the less-than-appealing American food product). Indeed, some would argue that, after Venice, Bologna is among the most attractive cities in Italy. Home to the world’s oldest university, Bologna lives on its red-brick towers and stately colonnades and is almost universally considered to be Italy’s gourmet capital. The sidewalks in the city center are covered in intricately decorated porticos — some 25 miles of them all together. The feeling of a university city permeates the air, and Bologna feels full of Italians in a way that many other places, thronged with tourists, do not.
Modena vies as Italy’s wealthiest city and can boast the UNESCO World Heritage sites of its 12th-century cathedral, tower, and adjacent main piazza evoking a glorious past. It’s famous for local products: Maserati, Ferrari, opera star Luciano Pavarotti — and not least of all it’s also home to the true traditional Balsamic vinegar, which is little understood and often badly misused! We’ll learn what makes this product so special — some of it aged up to 40 years — and taste various types at one of the area’s artisinal producers.
One of the greatest cities of the Mediterranean from the fifth to the eighth centuries, Ravenna has brick palaces, cobbled streets, magnificent monuments, and spectacular Byzantine-period mosaics. Churches and tombs with the most unassuming exteriors contain within them walls covered with these sumptuous mosaics. These beautifully preserved works of art place great emphasis on nature, which you can see in the delicate rendering of sky, earth, and animals. The mosaics have been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, and they quite handily rival what you’ll find in Istanbul.
The stately historic center of Parma shows its prosperity, along with its well-dressed residents and immaculate piazzas. The residents of Parma are generally considered to be the most elegant people of Italy. Bursting with gustatory delights, Parma draws visitors for its sublime cured ham, prosciutto crudo di Parma. The pale-yellow Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese produced here is the original — and best — of a class known around the world as “Parmesan.” The city has also been a mecca for opera lovers. Giuseppe Verdi was from here, and his operas echoed through the Teatro Regio, the opera house that we’ll visit and which is today jam-packed during the season. We’ll also see some of the greatest Romanesque buildings in northern Italy: the 11th-century cathedral and 12th-century Baptistery with its superb sculpture work.
Founded by the Romans in the 1st century A.D., the enchanting city of Verona is dotted with very attractive palazzi, elegant squares, and medieval gems. Architectural remnants of the Roman era are also a real draw, most notably the famous Arena, which is home to a world-renowned summertime opera festival. It is perhaps the best-preserved Roman amphitheater in the world — and the most famous after the Colosseum in Rome. Dubbed the “City of Love,” romance is most definitely in the air in fair Verona. The city’s most famous residents, Romeo and Juliet, seemed to think so anyway. The Basilica San Zeno Maggiore is another wonderful highlight — a very impressive Romanesque-era building with extraordinary artistic creations. Verona sits on the Adige River which comes tumbling down from the Italian Alps, and indeed just outside the city is hilly terrain and the location of some excellent vineyards, one of which we’ll have the pleasure of visiting to taste their wines.
The following are the hotels that we plan to use for the tour at the time of publishing this itinerary. We reserve the right to make changes to the accommodations.
Bologna – 4 nights
This is a truly excellent design hotel decorated with understated flair, right in the heart of Bologna. Just a few minutes’ stroll from the city’s main piazza the design of our selected 4-star hotel evokes the Continent back in the 1930s, in the so-called Viennese Secession style, taking inspiration from flower motifs and the works of the painter Gustav Klimt. Clean lines and elegant restraint are the hallmarks of the rooms and the common spaces. Although it turns to the past for its inspiration, it is completely up-to-date in its amenities. There are just a couple dozen rooms, and each is decorated individually. The hotel’s breakfast is abundant; wifi is included; and the staff are cordial and professional.
Verona – 3 nights
This is another very central hotel, in a perfect location for our Verona sightseeing as well as for any shopping you might like to do! A jumble of three ancient palaces have been stitched together and thoroughly modernized inside to create a 4-star hotel while respecting and highlighting the Roman ruins that were discovered beneath in the process. Original frescos and paintings join historically inspired design to create an almost magical atmosphere in the hotel’s interiors. A chic lobby bar lets guests soak up the atmosphere from white leather seats. While the lobby, lounges, and restaurant have a very contemporary, enchanting, and rather hip feel to them, the 75 guest rooms are more classically decorated with stylish furniture, high-class fabrics, patterned wood floors, and red Veronese marble bathrooms. On top of all that there is an equally elegant restaurant with the casual style of a brasserie. Here guests can enjoy refined, novel variations of classic Italian dishes by a Michelin-starred chef.