Arrive Rome, Italy Tour begins: 4:30 PM, Hotel Majestic Roma. A transfer from Rome's Leonardo da Vinci Airport in Fiumicino to Hotel Majestic Roma is included; your hotel is ideally located on the fashionable Via Veneto. Join us this evening for a welcome reception and dinner at your hotel. Stay Two Nights: Hotel Majestic Roma (D)
Rome, Italy Get a good overview of some of Rome's landmark sights on a sightseeing tour with a local guide, including St. Peter's Basilica, and pre-reserved tickets to the Colosseum for admission to this Roman wonder without the wait; keep your cameras handy! This evening, your trip begins with a true highlight: Tauck's exclusive after-hours visit to the Vatican Museums. With a local guide, tour the Vatican Museums this evening without the day-time crowds; explore the Candelabra Gallery, the Map Gallery, the Tapestries and the Sistine Chapel... and see them as you have them pictured in your mind's eye - a once-in-a-lifetime experience! (B)
Travel to the Mediterranean coast for a visit to the ruins of Herculaneum. The eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD is infamous - and while the ruins of famous Pompeii are well known, those of the upscale city of Herculaneum, buried under ash that same day, are better preserved. After lunch, explore the ruins with a local guide, then continue to Naples for a sightseeing tour before embarking the yacht Le Ponant for your 7-night cruise. Stay Seven Nights:
Aboard Le Ponant
Ravello, Italy Le Ponant anchors and you travel by Zodiac to the picturesque town of Amalfi - with two different sightseeing excursions to choose from. You can explore today on a guided walk in Amalfi, including a drive on the mountainous route along the Amalfi Coast, one of the most spectacular drives in the world. Arrive in stunning Ravello, perched on cliffs overlooking the sea. Visit Villa Rufolo, with roots dating back to a wealthy 13th-century merchant family, where you'll savor outstanding coastal views, then enjoy a wonderful lunch of seasonal specialties in town.
Or, if you wish, go on a guided walk in picturesque Amalfi followed by a drive along the Amalfi Coast to Positano, a stunning cliffside town that has been a magnet for the world's jetsetters - writers, painters, film stars, royalty, fashion designers - for centuries. You'll return to Amalfi by motorboat for a different perspective. Rejoin Le Ponant and cruise to the Aeolian Islands. (B/L/D)
Lipari, Italy The largest of the Aeolian Islands, Lipari sits on red volcanic rock and looks like "a wall of bronze" according to the Greek poet Homer. Archaeological remains found have yielded clues to civilizations which date to 1700 BC, including the Neolithic stones that sit alongside ancient tombstones, and ruins of Greek walls and Roman villas. The Spaniards found their way here in the 16th century, building the castello (castle) and the 17th-century cathedral that is perched above the harbor. Lipari is the largest of the Aeolian Islands, noted for its colorful houses, 17th-century cathedral and 16th-century castle.
You have a choice of two sightseeing excursions today - a walking tour of Lipari plus a visit to the Archaeological Museum or a drive across the island and a visit to the village of Quattropani and its unique vineyard. Back aboard ship, experience a different view of these volcanic islands when you sail by the island of Stromboli tonight, home to one of the world's few constantly active volcanoes - it has continuously erupted for 2,000 years. The view is unforgettable. (B/L/D)
Erice, Italy Anchor in Trapani for a choice of sightseeing excursions. First choice is a visit to ancient Segesta where antiquities include the unfinished temple encircled by 36 massive Doric columns, which was started in 426 BC and is remarkably preserved. Continue on to the age-old walled town of Erice, the mythological seat of the Roman goddess Venus, where a guided tour includes the town's historic center. Your second choice is a journey to Spagnola where you'll learn about the spectacular "Salt Route." You'll also visit a local well-known winery for a tasting. spend time exploring on your own, and travel to nearby Trapani. (B/L/D)
Palermo, Italy Enjoy a pleasant morning's cruise aboard Le Ponant en route to Palermo, the capital of Sicily and once considered among Europe's grandest cities; your yacht will be docked in the heart of the city's pedestrian area. You'll have two sightseeing choices today: a tour of Monreale including a visit to the 12th-century Cathedral of Monreale, whose majestic dome is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a wine tasting at a local winery.
Or, join us for a two-hour Palermo walking tour that explores the history of the Mafia and the antimafia; you'll also visit a private residence, Palazzo Gangi di Valguarnera. Late afternoon everyone meets for a tour of Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele, the largest Opera House in Italy. Return to Le Ponant at the end of the day for dinner. (B/L/D)
Taormina, Italy Anchor in Giardini-Naxos, a lovely beach resort, and transfer ashore by Zodiac for a choice of sightseeing excursion. First possibility is a visit to Taormina, a terraced town clinging to high cliffs on the east coast of Sicily with Mt. Etna towering in the distance sightseeing. A guided tour takes you to Teatro Greco, featuring both Greek and Roman elements, and for a stroll along the Corso Umberto, Old Town, Taormina's main pedestrian street lined with cafés and pasticcerie.
Or, join us for a visit to Mount Etna, the largest volcano in Europe - and still very active. Travel by cable car up its slopes and board a special off-road vehicle, accompanied by local guides, for the ascent to one of the world's most stunning panoramas 9,514 ft. (2900 meters) above sea level. View Mount Etna's varied landscapes up close and gain insights into volcanic activity. Everyone enjoys some afternoon free time in Taormina before Le Ponant departs for Siracusa. (B/L/D)
Siracusa, Italy Le Ponant docks at Ortigia Island this morning, lined with 18th- and 19th-century townhouses, for a visit to Siracusa on the Sicilian mainland. You have a choice of shore excursions. Drive to Neapolis Parco Archeologico to see the Teatro Greco, an ancient 15,000 seat theatre hewn out of rock, and Latomia del Paradiso featuring the Ear of Dionysius. Crossing back to the Island of Ortigia, a walking tour will include the 6th-century Temple of Apollo - transformed over the centuries as a Byzantine church, a Muslim mosque and then a Norman church - and the Baroque Duomo. Alternatively, visit the Baroque town of Noto, the best example of Baroque architecture on the island and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Late afternoon, your ship sails for Valletta, Malta. (B/L/D)
Malta Early this morning Le Ponant docks in the Grand Harbour (Port of Valletta) where you'll disembark. Rich in historic treasures, Valletta was founded by the Knights of St. John in the 16th century. A guided tour of Malta includes the medieval walled city of Mdina, perched atop a cliff, and a drive around St. Julian's Bay, a favorite setting for the colorful Maltese boats that are often photographed here for worldwide enjoyment. Return to Valletta for a walking tour and The Malta Experience, an audio-visual show that tells the dramatic story of Malta's 7,000-year history; Valletta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a virtual open-air museum of Baroque architecture. Visit the splendid St. John's Co-Cathedral to see its silver and gold-leafed interior and rare art treasures, including the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist by Italian painter Caravaggio.
Arrive at your hotel late afternoon, then join us tonight for a Tauck Exclusive - a farewell reception and dinner at Palazzo Parisio; originally the hunting lodge of Grand Master Don Antonio Manoel de Vihena who ruled the Order of the Knights of Malta between 1722 and 1736. The property was lived in by noble families for centuries and is still owned by the great-granddaughter of the Marquis Scicluna, who owned the palazzo at the end of the 19th century. Stay: Hotel Phoenicia (B/D)
Journey Home Tour ends: Valletta, Malta. Fly home anytime. A transfer is included to the Malta International Airport from the Phoenicia Hotel Malta. Allow 3 hours for flight check-in. (B)