Central and Southern Italy

14 Days Mastering La Dolce Vita

Discover the art of being Italian from the perspectives of locals, and experience the breath-taking history, cuisine, and vibrant culture, not as an outsider, but an active participant.

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Tour Summary

Italy is famous throughout the world for its wonderful food and wine, vibrant culture, and breath-taking art and history. On this glorious two-week journey, each stop will be in a different region.

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Tour Price:
$900 single supplement
Tour Dates:

May 26-June 8, 2024

September 2-15, 2024



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Day 1

Rome, the Underground City

Benvenuti a Roma Eterna, the eternal city.

At 2:00 pm we’ll meet at our hotel for an orientation meeting and an introduction to the Alithea style of travel. Then we will set out with our local guide for a walk to explore the secrets of the many layers of the city. Every stone in this city is a monument, an invitation to imagine earlier moments of civilization. And we’ll do exactly that as we visit the eleventh century Basilica of San Clemente with its marvelous mosaics and images of medieval life.

Next we’ll descend through the excavated layers of the basilica to the underground ancient city where a spring still flows through a Republican-age Roman villa. Next, we’ll make a quick stop to see Michelangelo’s breathtaking sculpture of Moses and the venerated chains that once held Saint Peter in prison.

We’ll continue our walk through the city almost like reading an illustrated book or admiring an ancient tapestry whose threads weave a beautiful story. We’ll stroll between the two ancient forums of Rome and climb the Capitoline steps where the Temple of Jupiter once stood, near the hill of Rome’s legendary founding.

Tonight we’ll eat together, enjoying the company of our new traveling companions and a traditional Roman meal, alla romana.

Walking: moderate, ~ 4 miles

Day 2

Palaces and Passageways

This morning we’ll meet our local guide for a tour through one of Rome’s most spectacular private palaces. The Palazzo Colona is one of the few residences in Rome where the original family has lived for the past thousand years. It’s a unique opportunity to avoid the rush of Rome’s crowds. In this one home we can witness the stratification of time through the layers of the Medieval, Renaissance, Enlightenment, and Modern. We’ll also see how collections of art, daily life, and the passage of centuries can shape the places we call home.

This afternoon we’ll be free to explore this remarkable city. The Capitoline, Palatine, Borghese, and National museums offer just a few of the tantalizing treasures hidden in plain sight. Or take a stroll across the Tiber into Trastevere while seeking out the city’s best gelato.

Walking: moderate, 2-4 miles

Day 3

Herculaneum: the Time Capsule of Vesuvius

After an early breakfast at our hotel we’ll meet our bus and set out for the next leg of our journey.

Today we will drive south into the heart of ancient magna Grecia. On the way, we’ll stop for lunch and a guided visit to Herculaneum. This ancient Roman town was destroyed and subsequently preserved by the eruption of the volcano Vesuvius in the first century A.D. Our local guide will walk us through this astonishingly preserved town, where we’ll feel like time-travelers as we explore the stone streets, wander through beautifully frescoed homes, sit in domed bathhouses, and learn about the daily life of the citizens who named their town after Hercules, the demi-god of great feats of human strength and ingenuity.

In the late afternoon we’ll arrive at our beautiful Agriturismo, a seventeenth-century villa, farm, and vineyard where we’ll have just enough time for a quick swim in the pool before a family-style meal with food produced by our wonderful Italian hosts. We’ll sleep here for two nights.

Walking: moderate, 3-4 miles
Bus time: 3.5 hrs.

Day 4

Ancient Greek Temples, Italian Farms, and Mozzarella Making

After breakfast in our Agriturismo we’ll continue our classical pilgrimage with a guided visit of the ancient Greek city at Paestum.

As we enter the high stone walls, we’ll see some of the best preserved Greek temples anywhere in the world. The temples to Poseidon, Hera, and Athena offer an insight into modes of worship that bestowed the highest honor on the divine in nature and humanity.

Walking these ancient stone streets and meandering through the foundations of homes, theaters, and marketplaces, we can almost hear the voices of those who once filled this city named for the god Poseidon and the rustle of the waves in the nearby sea.

The second part of our morning will be dedicated to observing the Italian tradition of making buffalo mozzarella by hand. For today’s lunch we’ll taste some of that same mozzarella as we enjoy another slow-food, farm-to-table experience.

This afternoon we’ll head for a relaxing swim in our nearby agriturismo before regrouping for a wine tasting and visit to our farm’s cantina.

Walking: moderate, 2-4 miles
Bus time: 1.5 hrs.

Day 5

Matera: the City of Caves and Cliffs

After an early breakfast this morning we’ll depart our hotel and drive to Matera, one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited settlements. Built into the rock and natural caves, historians believe that humans have lived in these cave-dwellings, or sassi, for the past 12,000 years. 

Matera not only boasts one of the most ancient settings for any traveler to Italy, but also one of the most inspiring. Perched on the cliff side, overlooking a natural gorge, this city of stone invites the visitor to participate in the living history of this magical place. We’ll do just that today as we admire the thousand year old frescoes of churches built in caves and sleep in a beautifully renovated albergo diffuso, a hotel that has converted the ancient sassi into elegant rooms overlooking the gorge.

Walking: moderate, 2-3 miles
Bus time: 2.5 hrs.

Day 6

Puglia, Cooking Lessons, and the Adriatic Coast

After the once-in-a-lifetime experience of sleeping in an ancient sassi, we’ll leave the region of Basilicata behind as we drive northeast towards the crystal blue waters of Adriatic Sea and the breathtaking views of Gargano National Park.

We will stop en route at the hilltop village of Ascoli Satriano where we will meet our local guide for a visit to the museum and an introduction to the civilization that thrived here almost three thousand years ago. After learning about the traditions and beliefs of this pre-roman people and seeing the astonishing 1,200 B.C. griffon marbles we will turn our attention to lunch.

In keeping with the traditions we’ve just observed, we’ll take lunch as an opportunity for a cooking lesson where we learn some of the oldest recipes that belong to this place.

After lunch and experiencing the local wines first hand, we’ll continue our journey towards Gargano National park. This region is best known to Italians for its fabulous coastline formations and relaxing beaches. After checking into our seaside hotel in the late afternoon we’ll be free to enjoy an Italian style vacation at the sea. Take a quick swim or go for stroll by the sea. Tonight we’ll celebrate our journey with fresh seafood, wine, and the glowing radiance of the nearby sea.

Walking: moderate, 1 mile
Bus time: ~ 4 hrs.

Day 7

Gargano National Park

Today we’ll be free to swim, hike, and relax in our little corner of paradise. There are no scheduled activities today except to enjoy the natural beauty of this place.

Day 8

Abbruzzo, Fortified Medieval Towns, and Mountain Air

This morning our journey will continue towards one of Italy’s most beautiful hidden gems, the region of Abruzzo. Preserved in large part by the economic poverty of the twentieth century, Abruzzo an experience of daily life from centuries gone by. 

Our first stop of the day will be along the Adriatic coast at a ‘traboccho’, a traditional fishing hut built over the water. For centuries, local fishermen have employed these trabocchi to fish the sea with a complex series of nets.

Around mid-morning we’ll say arrivederci to the glistening Adriatic and drive west into the mountains of Abruzzo. We’ll stop in one of this regions beautiful towns for lunch and visit the gorgeously frescoed Oratorio of the Pilgrim before arriving in Santo Stefano di Sessiano and checking into our hotel. Here we’ll stay at an albergo diffuso, a fortified medieval town whose rooms have been elegantly converted into a hotel that combines the artisan culture and history of the village with the comfort of simple luxuries.

Walking: moderate, 2 miles
Bus time: ~5 hrs.

Day 9

Castle Views and the Traditions of Daily Life

After breakfast this morning, we will take the day to bask in the traditions and culture that still thrive in this place. Our activities, like those of our hosts, will depend on the time of year. Our typical day will include a hike up to the medieval fortress of Rocca Calascio,  and depending on the season and weather we may include lessons on making bread and pasta, weaving, artisan goods, the local production of saffron, wine-tasting, and even truffle-hunting. Today’s activities will be dedicated to an immersion in traditional Italian culture.

By mid-afternoon we’ll return to Santo Stefano di Sessiano where we’ll be free to soak in the beauty of the town before re-grouping in the evening for a spectacular Abruzzo styled meal and wine. 

Walking: moderate, 2 miles

Day 10

Umbria, the Heart of Artisan Italy, Ceramics, and Wine

This morning we’ll leave the mountains behind as we head into Umbria, the center of Italy and the region at the very heart of Italian cuisine, culture, spirituality, history, and art. Artisans, monasticism, farmers, and a rich love of nature all still thrive here. 

Our first stop of the day will be Deruta, the ceramics capital of Italy. Here we’ll visit a family run ceramics studio and witness the centuries-old process from start to finish. After our introduction to ceramics we’ll be free to explore this charming town before continuing our journey towards a local farm and winery where we will have lunch and enjoy some of Italy’s finest wines. 

We’ll arrive in Assisi in late afternoon where we’ll be free to enjoy the tranquility of this ancient Roman and medieval pilgrimage town after the visitors have gone. We’ll stay here two nights.

Walking: moderate, 3 miles
Bus time: ~ 3.5 hrs.

Day 11

Assisi, the Beauty of Nature, and St. Francis

This morning we will walk in the footsteps of St Francis of Assisi, the ordinary man who became a saint by dedicating his life to simplicity, humility, love of nature, and helping others. There are few role models better equipped to guide the modern traveler.  A pilgrim himself, Saint Francis invites us to make an inward journey while becoming more attune to the beauty of the world around us. 

Our activities this morning will seek to follow this example as visit the peaceful Eremo delle Carceri. This hermitage is built over the caves where St. Francis and his friends came to pray. It is a place dedicated to peace, silence, and observing the beauty of nature. 

Our next stop today will be the church and monastery at San Damiano. Situated outside the medival walls of Assisi and within the beauty of the surrounding countryside. It was here that Saint Francis received a vision from God and Saint Claire founded her order, famous for joyfulness and poverty. 

Our last stop for the day will be the Basilica of Saint Francis. This stunning church, painted by Giotto, is a forerunner of the Renaissance in Florence. The gorgeously frescoed images here not only illustrate the story of Francis’ life but remind the traveler that it is through simple acts of charity that true beauty is achieved. 

The patron saint of animals and nature, St. Francis relinquished a life of hedonism and luxury in pursuit of a life of spiritual perfection.

Walking: moderate, 3 miles
Bus time: ~ 1 hr.

Day 12

Florence, Renaissance Artists, and the Duomo Museum

Famous for its wine, rolling hills, villas, delicious cuisine, and Renaissance artistry, Tuscany is the region synonymous with Italy itself. This morning we’ll take in the scenery of this place as we travel towards Florence, a city that changed the course of history.

After arriving at our hotel, a former Renaissance Palazzo, we’ll head out to explore the city from a perspective that doesn’t simply avoid a superficial encounter with famous sites but seeks to understand the history, its people, and how the decisions they made shaped our world today. 

This afternoon we will read the story of Florence through its many monuments and artworks. And we’ll conclude our guided walk with a visit to the Duomo Museum and the opportunity to visit the Baptistry, the bell tower, and to climb Brunelleschi’s dome.

Walking: Moderate, 4 miles

Day 13

The Bargello, Backstreets, and Artisans of Florence

After breakfast this morning we’ll pick up with our local guide where we left off the previous afternoon. This morning we’ll explore the backstreets of Florence that will bring us to encounters with the young Michelangelo, the poet Dante exiled from his city, the ingratiating Machiavelli, the uncompromising Galileo, and the noble aspirations and achievements of Da Vinci, Brunelleschi, Ghiberti, Giotto, and many more. Today we’ll focus on the stories of Florence’s citizens that are sometimes forgotten or seldom told. We’ll discover the role of women in the history of the city. And we’ll visit the Bargello, the city’s great sculpture museum. Here we’ll see the evolution of the Renaissance including Donatello’s David, the first freestanding bronze nude cast in Europe after antiquity. 

After a mid-morning cafe, our walk will continue to the Oltrarno, to the other side of the river Arno, where the workshops and craftsmen of the city still thrive. Here we will encounter the artisans who work with leather, textiles, book-binding, printing, jewelry, and much more. Our morning’s activities will conclude with a visit to Santo Spirito where we’ll see Michelangelo’s first known woodcarving. 

 This evening we’ll gather one last time for an Italian style family meal, alla fiorentina. We’ll feast and make toasts to our favorite moments on our journey.

Walking: Moderate, 4 miles

Day 14

Farewell Firenze

Breakfast is included, but no activities are planned for today. Hop on the train back to Rome, fly to your next destination, visit Milan, Venice, or the Cinque Terre. Your Alithea guide will be available to help with arrangements during breakfast.

Day 14
Day 15

Day 15

What's Included

All breakfasts and 10 lunches or dinners
All transportation to tour related activities, including our private bus
13 nights in family-run boutique style hotels
The cost of all entrances, local guides, and trips to 14 tour activities
Your friendly Alithea tour manager for the duration of the tour.
A pre-tour consultation with an Alithea expert.

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. 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. When we’re not exploring with our local guide we’ll be encouraged to venture out on our own, to celebrate our discoveries with a glass of wine, to go for a swim or a walk on the beach, or simply to relax and take in the beautiful view. Of course, we can’t visit ancient and beautiful sites without getting there first, and sometimes that means significant walking. Our first two days on this tour are the most physically strenuous. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns before booking.

Bus and Travel Time

Like every great story, there is no possibility of discovery and of arriving at beautiful places without a journey to get there. On our Italian journey, we will take the bus 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. Of course, we can’t appreciate the gorgeous vistas of the mountains without significant driving on winding roads.
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For further questions don't hesitate to reach out to us directly.

Are flights included in the tour price?

Roundtrip flights (USA -Istanbul) are not included in the tour price. Flights during the tour (Istanbul-Cappadocia, Cappadocia-Izmir, Izmir-Istanbul) are included, however, and will be booked by Alithea Travel.

When should I buy my tickets and for what dates?

This tour is confirmed and travelers should purchase flight tickets upon making their deposit..

We recommend leaving the USA on Thursday, June 15th in order to arrive in Turkey on June 16th, but you may wish to arrive earlier in order to adjust to the time change. Since the tour will end on Friday, June 23rd, you should book your departure flight for this day unless you wish to extend your stay in Istanbul.

Is a visa required to enter Turkey?

The Republic of Turkey requires foreigners to apply for an e-visa before entering the country. The application is very simple and takes about 5 minutes to complete. The cost for US citizens is $50, and after submitting your details the visa will be sent electronically within 24 hours. It is recommended to apply for the visa 2-4 weeks before your departure. We like to stay on top of these details, so we'll send you a reminder with a link to the Turkish e-visa website a month before the tour start date.

Will my deposit be refunded if the tour doesn't fill up?

All deposits are fully refundable within 30 days or in the event that the tour is postponed. Travelers will also be given first-choice priority to transfer unused credit to future adventures with @withsunshinesol.

Will Sunshine be guiding the tour or just traveling with the group?

Sunshine will be an active participant throughout the tour, but will allow the local experts to handle the guiding. She will, of course, document and film most activities, hikes, and hotels.

I'm traveling alone, can I choose to share a room with another traveler to avoid the single supplement?

Sharing a room with a travel partner can help lower the accommodation costs. If you wish to share a room with a fellow (same-sex) traveler, we can place you on a list with like-minded solo travelers. We cannot guarantee matching each person with a roommate, but we will do our best. Single occupancy rooms will always incur the single supplement fee.

I'm traveling with one friend, but we will pay our deposits separately. Can we still travel together and avoid the single supplement fee?

Sure thing. Sign up and send us a note. We'll make sure you room together.

Will there be a lot of free time for independent exploration?

This is an action-packed itinerary that visits many of the highlights of Turkey in just one week. Whenever possible your guide will provide time to relax and enjoy a glass or wine or go for a walk with your traveling friends.

What additional expenses should I budget for this trip?

All activities are included in the cost of the trip except for the Turkish bath and the hot-air balloon. You can expect the Turkish bath to run about $50 and the hot air balloon approximately $325. All breakfasts and six lunches or dinners are also included. We recommend bringing spending money for souvenirs. The e-visa (see above) also has a cost of $50.

Will Sancho be there?

It pains us to say that Sancho the doggo has to stay in the USA for this trip. Sunshine decided that it would be logistically impossible to take him on this particular journey––not to mention all of the stress he would face while traveling on a plane.

Reserve Your Place

Central and Southern Italy

14 Days Mastering La Dolce Vita

A $500 deposit is required to reserve your spot. All deposits and discounts (if applicable) will be applied to the total tour price. Deposits are refundable within 30 days of payment.

*Read our refund policy here