The Classic Grand Tour

Fourteen Days in Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and France

Experience the 'Grand Tour' of the past as we discover the monuments, heroes, and artists that define our civilization. Together we’ll encounter the past, not as pages or images on a screen, but as persons whose aspirations and ideas become our own.

14
Days
8
Cities
28-35
Travelers
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Tour Summary

Our two-week Grand Tour will take us from the ancient underground of the Roman Empire to the soaring mountains of the Swiss Alps, from Venice to Munich, from Florence to Paris. On this magical journey through Europe, we’ll climb to the top of Brunelleschi’s dome in Florence, we’ll eat and celebrate with locals, and we'll experience the thrill of seeing some of the greatest artworks of Western civilization. This classical tour is designed to share the experiences of the eighteenth and nineteenth century travelers whose 'romance' and intellectual curiosity was directed by the love of the beautiful, the good, and the true. The CLT student, parent, and teacher will come prepared not only to be educated by the sites and great works they have long studied, but to be transformed by travel, and to live the education to which they aspire.

Itinerary

Day 1

Welcome to Italy: a tapestry woven in time

Our Classical European grand tour will begin in Rome with an orientation to Alithea's style of travel. We’ll meet at our centrally located hotel, an elegant 1600 palazzo and former convent, still operated by the sisters of Santa Lucia. In the mid-afternoon we’ll set out to uncover the many layers of this magical city. Our discovery of the Rome will begin with the experience of stepping back in time as our local guide leads us through the excavated underground of the ancient city where we’ll walk though an early Christian Basilica, a temple to the cult of Mithras, a Republican era villa, and an underground stream that still flows through the city. 

In the early evening, as we leave the underground, we’ll spend a few meaningful moments with the Dominican friars as they sing vespers, the final service of the day sung here since the Middle Ages.. 

Our dinner this evening will be family style, alla Romana. We’ll try the Roman pizza, the classic pastas and anti-pastas, and enjoy the Italian dolce vita, the sweet life, as we become acquainted with our traveling companions. 

Our day will conclude with an evening stroll, a passeggiata back to our hotel where we’ll observe the Colosseum, Forum, and Capitoline by night. 

Walking moderate: 3-5 miles

Day 2

Roma Eterna, the eternal city

After breakfast in our hotel, we’ll set out this morning with our local guide to explore Rome’s earliest origins. With the stories, myths, and poetry of Virgil, Ovid, and Cicero to open our imaginations, we’ll experience Rome of classical antiquity. As we visit the Palatine hill we’ll see the site where the early shepherd peoples became the rulers of the world. In the forum, we’ll stroll along the ancient Roman streets where the stones and giant columns of temples and marketplaces still sing of the great marvels of Rome. As we climb the Capitoline, once home to the great temple of Jupiter, we’ll join the ranks of emperors, artists, and pilgrims whose notions of justice, peace, and beauty have withstood the rise and fall of centuries. 

Our morning pilgrimage will conclude with a visit to the Pantheon, the first century Roman temple dedicated to all the gods. There are few finer ways of breathing the luminous air of the ancients and marveling at the stoic aspirations towards the sublime than by crossing the threshold into the Pantheon. 

This afternoon we’ll be free to continue our exploration through Rome’s vast museums and antiquity. After dinner and gelato this evening we'll regroup for an evening stroll through the city where we’ll see Piazza Navona, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and Spanish steps come to life in the twilight. 

*options: there is so much to see in Rome that we could easily spend a week just here. The Borghese Gallery, the Capitoline Museum, the National Museum at Palazzo Massimo, the Baths of Diocletian, the Appian way, the catacombs, Saint Peter’s and the Vatican Museum, and countless churches can simply not be seen in two days. These can be added according to school curricula and relevance.

Recommended readings for Rome: Aeneid book 6, Ovid, Metamorphoses and the founding of Rome, Plutarch’s Lives, Julius Caesar, Keats, Shelly, or memorize your favorite Cicero poem to recite in the Forum. 

Walking strenuous: 4-8 miles

Day 3

The great Florentines and the work of becoming human

After breakfast in our hotel we’ll meet our bus to continue our journey towards Florence, the Italian city state that reshaped the trajectory of Western civilization. 

 Around noon we’ll check into our hotel, a Renaissance Palazzo, where we’ll drop our bags before taking a stroll through the city’s central market for a fabulous Florentine lunch and a multi-sensory experience of Italian meats, cheeses, and artisan leather goods. After lunch we’ll meet our local guide for an introduction to the history of Florence. With the Medici, Petrarch, Michelangelo, and Bruneleschi for company, our guide will bring us through the most important sites of Medieval and Renaissance Florence. Our walk will conclude at the Accademia gallery with a visit to Michelangelo’s David, the archetype statue of Renaissance freedom of thought and expression. 

*Much like Rome, there is too much to see in Florence in just two days. We may not necessarily want to struggle with the crowds and vie for a place in front of the Birth of Venus or Michelangelo’s David. 

 

Walking moderate: 3-5 miles. 

Driving time: ~ 4 hrs. 

Day 4

Medieval and Renaissance Florence

After breakfast in our Renaissance Palazzo, we’ll set out to encounter the great thinkers, artists, heroes, and writers whose work redefined the dignity of being human. Our day will begin with a visit to the thought-provoking cloisters of Saint Mark’s Monastery. Here we’ll see the timeless frescos of Fran Angelaco and see how the Medieval vision of beauty laid the foundation for the artistry of the high Renaissance. With Ghiberti, Giotto, and Dante’s vision to inspire us, we’ll visit the Duomo museum and Baptistry, see the ‘Gates of Paradise’, and climb to the height of Bruneleschi’s Dome, the crowning achievement of the early Renaissance. Yet it will not only be the achievements of the Florentine heroes that inspire us, but rather their vision of life where almost everything is possible. 

 Recommended readings: Dante’s Divine Comedy, Petrarch, Machiavelli. 

Walking: moderate 3-5 miles.

Day 5

Venice, the Serenissima.

This morning we’ll load our bus and continue our grand tour towards Venice, the Serenissima, the most beautiful city on the Adriatic. After arriving at Tronchetto, we’ll ride a vaporetto, a waterbus across the lagoon to the historic center of Venice. After dropping our bags at our hotel, we’ll spend the afternoon exploring the backstreets and elegant palaces of Venice. Our local guide will walk us through the winding alleyways, over countless bridges, canals, and interlocking islands as we unravel the history of Venice, its merchants, the ruling Doge’s, and the inspiring beauty of Rialto Bridge and Saint Mark’s Square. 

After a traditional Venetian dinner with our traveling companions we’ll experience the timelessness of Venice on a gondola trip through the canals. 

Walking: moderate 3-5 miles.

Bus time ~ 4 hrs.

Day 6

The Legends of the Venetian Lagoon

After breakfast in our Venetian hotel we’ll meet our CLT guide for a morning trip on the Venetian Lagoon. Together we’ll leave the bustle of cruise-ships behind as we visit the storybook island of Torcello, where Venice was first founded in 452. We’ll seemingly step back in time as we enter the Church of the Assumption of Mary with its evocative mosaics and ancient columns and beams. For lunch today, we’ll wander through the beautiful canals of colorful Burano, brightly painted so that local fishermen would never lose sight of home. 

Our private boat will bring us back to Venice in the mid-afternoon where we’ll experience the entirety of Venice like a floating, living museum, in the countless churches, squares, museums, cichetteria (Venetian style tapas), evoking both past and present. 

Recommended readings: Romeo and Juliet, the Merchant of Venice, and perhaps some Henry James or Lawrence and Gerald Durrels. 

Walking moderate: 3-5 miles.

Day 7

A journey through the Dolomites, Austria, and Germany

This morning we’ll say arrivederci to sparkling canals of Venice and drive north through Verona and the gorgeous Dolomite valley. These breathtaking mountain and vineyard views will be our farewell to the first leg of our journey through Italy. 

For lunch today we’ll stop in the gorgeous Austrian town of Innsbruck. This will be our only chance to visit Austria and we’ll make the most of it as we experience the magic of the quaint Tirolean capital nestled between the river and the mountains. 

 After crossing the Alps and more spectacular mountain views we’ll cross into Germany and the hardworking capital of Bavaria, Munich. After checking into our centrally located hotel we’ll set out for an evening stroll through the historic center of the city. Our dinner this evening will be a Bavarian feast.

Walking light: 2-4 miles. 

Bus time: ~ 6 hrs.

Day 8

Munich, a city of monks, merchants, and kings

After breakfast in our hotel we’ll meet our local guide to step back in time as we walk through the history of the city. Together we’ll visit Viktualienmarkt, Saint Peter’s, Marienplatz, and the Royal Residence. Taking what we’ve already learned about the crusades, the Romans, and the Holy Roman Emperors, we’ll see how the history of Munich unfolds beside the monks at the river Isar and the royal families of Bavaria. As we stroll through the Hofbrauhaus, the royal brewery, we’ll learn the legends of Octoberfest, beer, and the traditional lederhosen and dirndls that characterize the nature-loving and industrious Bavarian peoples. 

This afternoon we’ll be free to explore Munich, stroll through the Royal Residence, visit the Nymphenburg Palace, or enjoy the wonderful art and technology museums the city has to offer. 

Recommended readings: the Robbers by Schiller, Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm, Book of Hours by Rilke, Faust by Goethe.

Walking moderate: 3-5 miles. 

Day 9

National Socialist Germany and Swiss Mountain Views

After breakfast in our hotel we’ll load our bus and drive to nearby Dachau. This former Nazi concentration camp will serve as a somber reminder of one of history’s most powerful lessons. As we walk through the memorial site we’ll glimpse the destructive power of human brutality and the unthinkable consequences of a fascist society. There will be no room for sentimental voyeurism in our visit as we reflect on the ways we are all capable of being both victims and oppressors. 

We’ll stop for lunch en route today as we make our way though the wide mountain valleys of Germany, pass by Liechtenstein, Lake Lucerne, and arrive in the beautiful Lauterbrunnen Valley. After checking into our hotel this evening we will feast over a Swiss meal with cheese fondue and traditional hearty fare.

 

Walking easy: 2-4 miles.

Bus time: ~ 6 hrs. 

Day 10

The Lauterbrunnen Valley and the Swiss Alps

Topped by the Jungfrau, Monch, Eiger, and Shilthorn, the Lauterbrunnen valley gets its name from the many waterfalls that curtain the cliff sides with an aura of enchantment and wonder. Our day today will bask in the natural beauty of the mountains, rivers, and high valleys that dominate the horizon as far as the eye can see. Our CLT guide will lead us on a morning hike through the valley or up the gondolas to the spectacular views of surrounding mountains as the weather dictates. By early afternoon we’ll be free to explore and hike or to enjoy a hot-chocolate while journaling and observing the sublime beauty that abounds. 

Recommended readings: Night, by Ellie Wiese, the Lord of the Rings, by Tolkein.

 

Walking strenuous: 2-8 miles. 

Day 11

Beaune and the French village life

After breakfast in our hotel we’ll say auf wiedersehen to our Swiss-German speaking hosts and continue our journey towards la belle France. Stopping along the way to admire the cheeses, breads, and locally produced terroir goods, we’ll arrive in Beaune in time for a late lunch after checking into our hotel. After lunch at the boulangerie or a freshly made crepe with nutella, we’ll regroup for a visit to the museum of the Hotel Dieu. Here we’ll walk through the medieval hospital, chapel, pharmacy, and kitchen for a unique insight into life of a French villager during the Middle Ages. 

Beaune is the center of Burgundy wine and the cote d’or, the golden coast, famous for its food and wine. After an age appropriate wine-tasting we’ll take the evening to enjoy the culinary delights of coq au vin, boeuf bourguignon, or creme brulee. 

 

Walking easy: 2-4 miles.

Bus time: ~ 5 hrs. 

Day 12

The Latin Quarter and Medieval Paris

We’ll depart Beaune early in the morning as we embark on the last leg of our Classical Grand Tour. Around noon we’ll arrive in Paris, the city of lights. After dropping our bags at our hotel and a quick lunch, we’ll set out for a walk through the city’s Latin Quarter. Famous in recent years for the intellectuals and literary greats inspired by the beauty and cultural life of the city, the Latin Quarter is one of those remarkable French neighborhoods that can trace its roots back to Julius Caesar. Our walk today will bring us through almost every moment of history our journey has touched. From the Roman baths and monastery at Cluny, to Charlemaigne and the Medieval castle of the French King’s. We’ll see the sites of the French Revolution and the Enlightenment expression of the ideals of freedom, equality, and brotherhood. Our walk will conclude with a visit to one of the greatest surviving examples of Gothic architecture, Sainte Chappelle.

This evening we’ll be free to enjoy the city on our own, whether that be a celebratory dinner in one of the great brasseries of Monteparnasse, a stroll through the quiet neighborhood of Montmartre, or a picnic under the Eiffel tower. 

Walking moderate: 3-6 miles. 

Bus time: ~ 3 hrs.

Day 13

Paris, Impressionism and the French Enlightenment

Accompanied by the insights of Dumas, Proust, Sartre, and Hugo, we’ll meet our local guide in the neighborhood of Saint Germain du Pres. In the same quarter where the Three musketeers and Ernest Hemmingway set out on their adventures, we’ll walk through the same streets of the stories we’ve long known. Our local guide will bring us through the old haunts of the Medici queens of France, the French senate, and the former palace of the French King’s, the Louvre. On our walking tour, we’ll let the centuries unfold as we cross the Pont des Arts, stroll through the Tuileries gardens, and visit the Musee D’Orsay, the great museum of French Impressionism. Here we’ll see Monet, Manet, Degas, Rodin, Pissaro, and the great masters of the nineteenth century who reimagined what painting and sculpture might become. 

This evening we’ll gather one final time for a French feast aux Parisien. Tonight over dinner we’ll take time to celebrate our fellow travelers and to make toasts to the places on our Grand Tour that have filled our hearts and minds with a renewed love of the beautiful, the good, and the true.

 

Recommended readings: The Four Quartets, by T.S. Eliot, A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway, The Three Musketeers, by Alexander Dumas, Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert. 

Walking moderate: 3-6 miles

Day 14

As one journey ends, another great adventure begins

Our classic Grand Tour of Europe concludes today after breakfast. There are no scheduled activities, but your Alithea guide will be available to help with flight connections and continued travel adventures throughout breakfast.

Day 14
Day 15

Paris, Impressionism and the French Enlightenment

Day 15

What's Included

All breakfasts and 11 lunches or dinners
Bus and high-speed train transportation between activities, sites, and cities
13 nights in family-run boutique style hotels
Entrances and local guides to more than 15 different sites
Your friendly Alithea tour manager for the duration of the tour
COVID travel safety measures
A pre-tour consultation with an Alithea expert
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Tour Tips

Pack Light

Alithea hotels are boutique, family-run and centrally located in the historic centers where the ancient roads are too small for buses. That often means needing to walk between our bus and hotels and on occasion between our hotel and train station. Between destinations we will be required to carry our own luggage which may include significant stairs and no elevator. We encourage our travelers to take a simple carry-on size bag with a small backpack for outings.

Come Prepared

Alithea tours are outrageously fun. Come prepared to live in the moment. We will walk, talk, celebrate, dine, and make beautiful discoveries together. This is a physically strenuous high energy trip designed for the immense energy and interest of students. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns before booking.

Bus and Travel Time

On our grande tour through Italy, Austria, Germany, and France we will take the bus and high-speed train in order to arrive at the spectacular destinations we’ll be visiting. We’ll not only use this time to relax and enjoy the view but also to prepare with our Alithea guide for the sites we’ll visit next.

Reserve Your Place

Fourteen Days in Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and France

The Classic Grand Tour

To reserve a spot on this tour we ask that you pay a $500 deposit. All deposits are refundable within 30 days of payment.

 $500.00
Deposit
*Read our refund policy here