Treasures of Italy: A Family Adventure
Grab your family for a fun-filled journey to Venice, Florence, San Gimignano, and Rome! You and your kids or grandkids will stay in a Tuscan villa, learn about Ferraris, attend gelato classes, and go to gladiator school.
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A city of mysterious canals and bridges, gladiators fighting exotic animals, fortified medieval hill towns, even the roar of a Ferrari—these are the images that come to life on Smithsonian’s new family adventure to Italy. Treat your children or grandchildren to a fun-filled journey where you’ll discover astonishing sites, engage in hands-on activities, and go off the beaten path for truly exciting experiences! Observe artisans mold masterpieces in glass, create your own Venetian-style masks, and watch master chefs make gelato and guide you in pizza and other culinary experiences. Learn about the most popular Italian car at the Ferrari Galleria, walk through a hill town with 13 watchtowers piercing the sky, travel secret passageways beneath a medieval city, and attend a session of gladiator school. Enjoy these engaging activities, plus discover significant sites that reflect history and culture from the Roman era to the present when you join us on this unique exciting adventure and create memories of a lifetime. (This tour is designed for children ages 8 and older.)
Day 1-2 — U.S., Venice, Italy
Depart the U.S. for Venice, Italy. Upon arrival a representative will meet you at the airport and whisk you to your hotel in central Venice. Spend some time to relax then gather for a brief language lesson to prepare for your journey, followed by a festive welcome dinner at a local restaurant. (D)
Day 3 — Venice
Introduce your children to the magical world of Venice, a World Heritage site, where water canals and bridges take the place of streets. During a morning walking tour discover why Venice was one of the most important cities in the Mediterranean for centuries. At the main piazza, visit the Basilica of St. Mark and the Doge's Palace, with its splendid rooms decorated by 16th-century artists such as Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese, and also view the Bridge of Sighs and Piombi Prison.
Then set off for the famous island of Murano, where Venice’s glassmakers were forced to move in the 13th century (for fear of a devastating fire). They have since become world renowned for the high quality of their glass manufacturing. Here, you’ll tour an important glass factory and watch a master glassmaker fire and shape molten glass into a masterpiece. Afterward, enjoy a special mask-making activity and learn the important features of creating a mask for the famous Carnival!
Return to the main city by private water taxi and finish the day by learning how to make gelato! Your chef will explain why gelato remains Italy's favorite dessert and gives insight into the “gelato culture” as well as principles for making this delicious dessert. Following your gelato-making demonstration, enjoy tasting some of the traditional flavors! This evening, consider taking the family on an optional gondola ride through the canals of Venice for a different perspective of the city. (B)
Day 4 — Modena and Tuscany
Depart Venice for Modena to explore the world of Italy’s famous car, the Ferrari. Visit the brand-new museum dedicated to Enzo Ferrari, built around the house where he was born, which features unique exhibitions on the father of the Italian sportscar. Then travel to nearby Maranello for more Ferrari excitement as you spend time at the Galleria Ferrari museum, which is also home to the Ferrari factory and test track. Here you can explore the history of the car in a variety of museum exhibitions and enjoy optional activities such as a tour of the factory and driving a Formula 1 car on the Monza race circuit via a simulator.
Journey farther south into Tuscany and stop off to visit a traditional farm. End the day at your Tuscan villa, where you can take a dip in the pool or relax in the garden until dinner. (B,D)
Day 5 — Florence
Florence is a historic jewel and World Heritage site—where the Renaissance spirit and genius flourished and famous figures such as Dante, Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo walked the cobblestone streets. During a morning walking tour, learn about its history as you view many of its main piazzas, streets, churches, and palaces. Your local guide provides additional insight as you visit the Duomo and its Campanile and Baptistry, the Church of Santa Croce with the tomb of Michelangelo, and the Accademia, home to Michelangelo’s famous David.
In the afternoon, enjoy some independent family time to explore Florence. You may wish to visit the small, but exceptional Bargello Museum, the science museum with Galileo’s instruments, or the larger, world-renowned Uffizi Gallery. Or you may just want to discover the small treasures of the city, including the gelato shops! Return to your villa in the early evening. (B)
Day 6 — Florence
Returning to Florence, stop at the Brancacci Chapel to view one of the most important fresco cycles of the early 1400s. Here, it’s easy to see how 21-year old Masaccio broke with the traditions of the medieval period and introduced new ideas of space, perspective, color, light, and realism that would fuel the artistic sensibility of the Renaissance. (Young art students will be interested to know that Michelangelo copied many of Masaccio’s frescoes in this very same chapel as part of his art training.) Continue to the nearby Boboli Gardens, located behind the Pitti Palace (the main seat of the Medici grand dukes), for a tour of the extensive 16th-century landscape gardens, featuring long avenues, elaborate fountains, sculptures, grottos, temples, and more
A highlight of the afternoon is a family cooking class where your personal chef provides directions for a hands-on experience. Following the class, savor the delicious food you prepared for dinner. Return to your villa outside Florence after dinner. (B,D)
Day 7 — San Gimignano, Volterra
Today, head out to the Tuscan countryside to explore the magical small town of San Gimignano, another World Heritage site. Adults and children alike will easily imagine life in the Middle Ages, when such fortified hill towns also served as fortresses. During a walking tour, examine the thick protective city walls and view the remaining 13 watchtowers (from the original 76 towers!), which reflect the power and prosperity of the city’s families.
After a light lunch at a local farm, continue to another fortified hilltown. Volterra, situated on a rocky plateau and protected by medieval ramparts, is an Etruscan city that served as inspiration for author Stephanie Myers’ Twilight series book “New Moon.” Here, tour the Piazza dei Priori, one of Italy's most impressive squares, and visit the Etruscan Museum to learn about some of the earliest inhabitants in Italy. Return to your Tuscan villa for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)
Day 8 — Orvieto, Rome
Depart Tuscany for Rome, stopping in Orvieto en route. Most people know Orvieto for its dramatic hilltop setting with sheer cliffs, which protected its citizens throughout many eras. The cathedral is also renowned for its iconic façade and impressive frescos within, which you will see during your visit. You’ll also go off the beaten path to explore another ancient system of protection—a well-developed labyrinth of passageways, rooms, and cisterns dug deep into the hill’s volcanic rock. As you explore this amazing site, your guide will tell you about the many archaeological finds and the system of escape for the noble families. Continue to Rome, and relax over dinner at a restaurant near the hotel. (B,D)
Day 9 — Rome
Devote the day to exposing your children or grandchildren to the sites and stories of ancient Rome. Begin at the iconic Colosseum, where your guide describes the dramatic history of the amphitheater, home to gladiators, mock sea-battles, and executions. Then walk along the “Sacred Way” through the Roman Forum, the epicenter of public life, where renowned orators gave speeches, festivals welcomed armies returning from war, and citizens visited marketplaces and public baths. Finally, on the Palatine Hill (the most famous of the Seven Hills of Rome), admire the panoramic view of the Roman Forum and Nero’s Circus Maximus, where chariot races were once held.
As a fitting finale to the day, attend a session of gladiator school where you’ll learn more about ancient Roman history, discover the secrets of Imperial Rome's gladiator games, and learn some of the hands-on techniques of these ancient warriors. (B)
Day 10 — Rome, Vatican City
Begin your exploration of historic Rome, a World Heritage site, with a guided tour of the Vatican Museums—a treasure trove of ancient Greek sculptures, medieval tapestries, and Renaissance paintings—and the Sistine Chapel, world-renowned for Michelangelo’s ceiling frescos and “The Last Judgment.” Your tour of Vatican City concludes at St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in Christendom, where your guide provides insight into its many treasures, including Michelangelo’s Pieta (sculpted when the artist was just 24 years old), and Bernini’s seven-story bronze canopy located above the main altar.
In the afternoon, enjoy a guided walking tour of Rome’s piazzas, the Pantheon, and Trevi Fountain. Conclude the day with a pizza-making class, where you’ll make your very own pizza under the guidance of a professional pizza chef, called a pizzaiolo.
This evening, gather for a festive farewell dinner in a traditional Roman trattoria.(B,D)
Day 11 — Rome, U.S.
Transfer to the Rome airport for return flights to the U.S. (B)