The Trip of a Lifetime

15 unforgettable days in Italy and Paris

Created through the conversations and dreams of young travelers themselves, A Trip of a Lifetime will take you through many of the greatest sites of Italy and Paris as you meet locals and experience some of the most important moments of history.

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Tour Summary

This two-week journey will take you to many of the greatest sites of Italy and Paris. You will begin in Rome, uncovering the foundations of Western civilization, and visit Abruzzo, Florence, Cinque Terre, Venice, and Paris.

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Tour Dates:

July 1-15



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Day 1

All roads lead to Rome: where the journey begins

Hope Blooms travelers will arrive in Rome just as twilight begins to set over the Eternal City. Our journey will begin with an orientation meeting in our hotel, a 17th century palazzo and former convent. Afterwards, we’ll head out for a first night dinner, alla romana, at a local family run restaurant. This evening we’ll take a night stroll through the city visiting the Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Hadrian’s temple, and the Spanish steps as twilight falls over the city.

Day 2

Ancient Rome, the Eternal City

This morning we’ll meet our local guide for an enchanting walk through the layers of the city as we seemingly travel back in time. We’ll begin at the Capitoline hill whose architecture and history reveals almost three millennia of continuous history in the city. Together we’ll stroll through the forum, the former center of commerce and temples, then we’ll climb the palatine hill to see the place Romulus founded the city and where emperors lived. From our bird’s eye view of the circus maximus, surrounding baths, and aqueducts, we’ll let the romantic ruins of this place come to life in our imaginations. Time permitting, we’ll visit the church and underground of San Clemente before stopping for lunch and a visit to the colosseum, the iconic amphitheater that endures as a faded image of the once unconquerable city.

This afternoon and evening, Hope Blooms travelers will explore the city on their own with visits to some of Rome’s greatest museums, churches, gardens, and of course gelateria shops.

Walking: Strenuous 4-8 miles

Day 3

Heroes, legends, gods, and the communities that make us human

After breakfast in our hotel and a free morning to explore the city, we’ll meet our local guide for a visit to some of the best held secrets of Rome. Our afternoon will begin near the origins of ancient stories, near the banks of the Tiber river, where according to legend, the river god once overflowed his banks to preserve the young twin boys, Romulus and Remus. Likewise, near here is the temple to Hercules, one of the oldest standing marble monuments in the city. And one of the greatest achievements of civic engineering, the great sewer, still functioning from the sixth century B.C. Our local guide will meet us at the ‘bocca della verita’ or ‘the mouth of truth’ and the early Christian church of Santa Sabina. From here we’ll stroll through the Jewish ghetto where we’ll learn the history of the word ghetto and the perseverance of oppressed communities. And as history continues to unfold under our feet we will walk past the theater where Julius Caesar was assassinated before concluding our tour at the threshold of the Pantheon. Perhaps the greatest enduring image of the ancient Roman spirit of stoicism and beauty, the Pantheon reminds us that a work of man’s endeavor can survive the wreckage of centuries and that it’s worth aspiring towards the divine.

Walking: strenuous, 4-8 miles

Day 4

Monasteries, Mountains, and Castles

After breakfast in our hotel, we’ll set out on the next leg of our Italian journey. Our first stop this morning will be the monasteries built high into the cliffside at Subiaco. It was here Saint Benedict first established his monastic communities and these beautiful frescoed caves are like stepping into a world of spiritual enchantment and contemplation. \

In the late morning, we’ll exchange the beautiful hillside scenery of Lazio for the mountainous region of Abruzzo. After checking into our hotel, an albergo diffuso, we’ll climb to the top of Rocca Calascio to enjoy the marvelous view from the castle ruin. Tonight we’ll feast together on food that we have prepared with abruzzese traditional recipes and local wine.

Walking: moderate, 2-4 miles

Travel time: 3.5 hrs

Day 5

Hiking in Abruzzo and living Italian traditions

This morning we’ll wake up in the tiny medieval village of Rocca Calascio with a spectacular view of the surrounding view of mountains and countryside. Today our activities will belong to the traditions and abruzzese culture of the places we visit. We’ll learn the traditions of making cheese and artisan textiles. We’ll hike in the high mountain plateau of Campo Imperatore, and time permitting we’ll explore the nearby town of Santo Stefano di Sessanio.

Walking: strenuous, 2-8 miles

Day 6

Umbria, Tuscany, and human aspiration

After breakfast in our hotel our journey will continue north towards Italy’s central region of Umbria where we’ll visit the Marmore Falls. These are the tallest manmade waterfalls in the world; and at 165 meters they rank as one of the enduring Roman achievements of engineering. This morning we’ll arrive in time to watch the gates open and experience the great beauty of the ancient waterworks.

In the early afternoon we’ll drop out bags at our hotel and head-out to explore one of Europe’s greatest cities. Our local guide will lead us through the lives of citizens whose vision for the beautiful and admiration for God in nature led the Renaissance and the rebirth of sciences, arts, literature, and philosophy. This evening our stroll will conclude at the Accademia Gallery where we’ll see Michelangelo’s David, a sculpture whose belief in human potential recollects the power of transformation and the vision that inspired Hope Blooms. After our visit to the museum we’ll celebrate alla fiorentina in a family run restaurant near our hotel.

Walking: moderate, 2-6 miles

Travel time: 4.5 hrs

Day 7

Renaissance and Medieval Florence: a discovery of what it means to become oneself

After breakfast in our Renaissance palazzo hotel, our day will begin with a stroll through Florence’s backstreets. This morning we’ll uncover the individuals who persevered against great odds and helped change the trajectory of history. Our walk will introduce us to the lives of Giotto, Brunelleschi, Ghiberti, Dante, Petrarch, Lorenzo de Medici, Matilda of Tuscany, Donatello, and many more. This morning we’ll see how the conversations, ideas, and competition between a few individuals gave rise to some of the greatest of art we still cherish today. As we walk through the city we’ll witness the architecture, art, and statues of these achievements as milestones of human aspiration and the dignity that calls us each by name.

Our morning activities will conclude with a climb to the top of Brunelleschi’s dome. This afternoon we’ll pair off into small groups for visits to the Uffizi Gallery, the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens, pursuing the leather markets of Florence, and continuing the search for Florence’s best gelato.

Walking: moderate, 2-6 miles

Day 8

Postcards of Italy: Pisa, Carrara, Hot Springs, and the Italian Riviera

After an early breakfast in our hotel, our journey will continue north with several ‘postcard’ stops and experiences throughout the day. Our first stop, as requested by the Hope Blooms travelers themselves, will be Pisa. Here we’ll climb the leaning tower while learning the history of this ancient town that gets its name from the Etruscan word for mouth. Our ‘postcards’ from history will next bring us to the marble quarries of Carrara. Here we’ll ride in jeeps through the quarries and learn the different techniques that have been used for quarrying stone over thousands of years from Rome to the high Italian Renaissance. After lunch, and time permitting, we'll stop for a swim in one of the hot springs whose volcanic heated waters were thought to be healing in ancient times. And finally, in the late afternoon, we’ll arrive in Monterosso, the beautiful seaside town of the Italian Riviera in the Cinque Terre. Tonight we’ll feast with pesto, seafood, and local wine, while, as Eliot writes, ‘the mermaids sing, each to each,’ along the shore.

Walking: moderate, 2-3 miles

Travel time: 3.5 hrs

Day 9

The Italian Riviera

Today we’ll soak in the beauty of the sea, the coastline, beaches, and beautiful towns of the Cinque Terre. We’ll hike along the gorgeous coastline, enjoy the great swimming of Monterosso, shop for locally made products, or simply relax at the beach. This is the dolce vita, the sweet life.

Walking: easy to strenuous, 1-8 miles

Day 10

The Queen of the Adriatic

This morning we’ll say goodbye to the Tyrrhenhian coast and cross the Italian Apennines as we head towards Venice, the queen of the Adriatic. After dropping our bags at our hotel, our local guide will bring us through the backstreets of the Serenissima, the loveliest of cities, and we’ll experience the grandeur of this fading treasure. Towards the end of our walk, we’ll enter Saint Mark’s Basilica where we will experience the moving intersections of religion, art, and politics that this trading city balanced in its rise to glory.

After an aperitivo on Saint Mark’s square as twilight settles over the city and the orchestra plays, we’ll sink deeper into the magic of this real life fantasy as we take a gondola ride through the canals.

Walking: moderate, 2-4 miles

Travel time: 4.5 hrs

Day 11

Venice from the water

After breakfast in our hotel we’ll meet our local guide to explore the Venetian lagoon by kayak. Together we will take a backstreets tour as we explore the canals of the city and make our way towards the island of Murano. Famous for its glass blowing, we’ll witness the glass masters practice their craft before taking a cicchetti tour around the island. Cicchetti, or Venetian style tapas, provide a tasty road map to hop from one cicchetteria to the next.

After lunch we’ll paddle back to the main islands of Venice for a free afternoon to explore the high bell towers, churches, elegant palaces, or simply to relax with an aperitivo in one of the city’s many beautiful squares. This evening we’ll regroup for a final local experience as we meet our local guide for an at home cooking lesson.

Walking: moderate, 2-4 miles

Day 12

The City of Light

After breakfast in our hotel, we’ll say 'arrivederci Italia’, or ‘goodbye Italy’ as we set out on the final leg of our journey as we fly to Paris.

By mid-afternoon we’ll arrive in the city of lights and drop our bags at our hotel in the bohemian quarter of Montparnasse. This afternoon we’ll take a stroll through the city’s oldest center, the Latin Quarter. Together we’ll experience more than two thousand years of continuous history as we visit the old Roman baths and medieval monastery at Cluny. We’ll experience the height of gothic architecture with a visit to Saint Chapelle, we’ll pass through the haunts of the literary greats of Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemmingway, and Gertrude Stein, and we’ll practice the art of living like Parisiens with a picnic dinner in the Luxembourg gardens. After dinner in the park we’ll make our way to one of the city’s greatest cabaret’s le Crazy Horse, where we’ll participate once more in the magic this city has to offer.  

Walking: moderate, 2-5 miles

Travel time: 6 hrs.

Day 13

We see beauty, because we are beautiful

We’ll meet our local guide this morning for a stroll through the city’s Rive Gauche, the former haunts of artists, philosophers, writers, and painters. We’ll walk through the city like characters in a novel as the history of poets and free-thinkers unfolds before our eyes. Together we’ll stroll along the river Seine, we’ll see the ‘Pont Neuf’ the ‘new bridge’ now the city’s oldest, and the Pont des Arts, ‘the bridge of the arts’ as we walk through the Louvre and Tuileries gardens. Together we’ll visit the D’Orsay museum, where the greatest collection of impressionist paintings is held. And after lunch, we’ll break into small groups to see Monet’s water lilies at the Orangiere, and Rodin’s ‘the kiss’.

Tonight we’ll regroup for a ‘Midnight in Paris’ styled walk through the medieval quarter of Montemartre and dinner at a classic Parisian Bistro

Walking: strenuous, 3-8 miles

Day 14

Paris Je t’aime

After a visit to one of the city’s greatest boulangeries and a taste of the famous crepes of Brittany we’ll spend today visiting the iconic sites of the city while we make use of our museum passes. With these we will gain entrance into the Louvre where we’ll have one more chance to see Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, and many of the greatest works of art that survive history. We’ll also have a chance to visit Napoleon’s tomb, the Army Museum, the Rodin Museum, and the Arc de Triomphe. Those interested in a final day of shopping may stroll along the Champs d’Elysee, visit the Lafayette Galleries, or the marché aux puces to peruse the art and disused objects from the antiquities of Paris. Tonight we’ll enjoy some of some of the city’s finest cuisine as we celebrate the final evening of our journey together in epic style. We’ll dine in the neighborhood of our hotel at one of the great brasseries with snails, foie gras, champagne, and the joie de vivre in the company of friends.

Walking: moderate, 2-6 miles

Day 14
Day 15

A Moveable Feast

As Hemmingway writes, ‘if you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young person, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.’ As our journey comes to an end, we will carry it with us as a feast to return to, again and again, throughout the rest of our lives. After breakfast in our hotel, Hope Blooms youth will begin a new journey as they return to Halifax.

Day 15

What's Included

All breakfasts and seven lunches and dinners
All transportation to tour related activities, including our private bus
14 nights in family-run boutique style hotels
The cost of all entrances, local guide, and trips to 14 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

The Trip of a Lifetime

15 unforgettable days in Italy and Paris

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