1 May 2019 • 28 Day Athens to Rome Cruise Package • Fly Free All-Inclusive

  • Pricing

    Twin J Standard Ocean View

    per person twin share from

    TWIN J STANDARD OCEAN VIEW  –  $12,350


    Twin D Balcony

    TWIN D BALCONY  –  $17,195


    TWIN B JUNIOR SUITE  –  $19,750


    SINGLE JJ STANDARD OCEAN VIEW  –  $14,750  **Limited single cabins available**

     

     

     

    Inclusions

    • FREE* return economy class airfare from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide or Perth to Athens and ex Rome on return including tax
    • One way transfer* from airport to hotel, Athens
    • 2 nights accommodation in an Athens hotel
    • One way transfer* from Athens hotel to Piraeus (Athens) port
    • 19 night Aegean Odyssey cruise from Athens to Rome
    • All shipboard meals and wine/beer/soft drinks with dinner on board
    • A comprehensive range of included Shore Excursions, sometimes with several options at selected ports
    • Lecture programme featuring expert guest speakers
    • Gratuities on board cruise ship
    • Transfer* from port to hotel, Rome
    • 2 nights accommodation in a Rome hotel
    • Transfer* from hotel to airport, Rome

     

    *Conditions Apply: All prices shown here are per person share twin in AUD, based on early booking special saver fares at time of publication (02Mar18) with all discounts already factored in. All prices based on cash payment – credit card fees may apply. Cruise deposit, amendment and cancellation conditions apply. All passports, vaccinations and visas are the responsibility of the travelling guest to secure prior to departure from Australia. We reserve the right to correct errors without penalty. Offer subject to availability at time of booking. Prices based on cat J ocean view, cat D deluxe balcony and cat B Junior suites for twin share and cat JJ  standard ocean view for singles. Transfers listed in package price are for arrival and departure on dates that fit with the cruise-tour listed above. Any deviations will result in lost transfers. Free airfares, schedules and carriers are at the discretion of the cruise line. We reserve the right to correct errors without penalty. Offer valid or until sold out/withdrawn. Odyssey club discounts are in addition to the earlybird saver/grand voyage fares listed here and are valid for guests who have sailed with Voyages to Antiquity in the past.
  • Itinerary 

    1 to 28 May 2019

    Day 1: Wednesday 1 May – Australia to Greece
    Fly from Australia to Athens today

    Day 2: Thursday 2 May – Athens, Greece
    Arrive Athens, transfer to your hotel.

    Day 3: Friday 3 May – Athens, Greece
    Choice of tours – Visit Acropolis and the new Acropolis Museum or Byzantine Athens.

    Byzantine Athens Tour – Never in the history of Christianity has a school of artists infused such a high degree of spirituality into its work. Byzantine theologians insisted that painters and mosaicists reflect the image of God. This morning’s sightseeing reveals the splendour of Byzantine art in a tour that combines visits to both the Byzantine Museum, home to the world’s largest collection of icons, and also the Monastery of Kaisariani with its fine frescoes and elegant gardens. Drive from the pier to Illissia Mansion, winter residence of the Duchess of Piacenza, and home to the Byzantine and Christian Museum. Founded in 1914, this renowned museum focuses exclusively on Byzantine art from the 4th to 19th centuries. In addition to its impressive icons, frescoes and tapestries, there are paintings, sculptures and illuminated manuscripts. Displays recreate Byzantine churches from the 5th to 11th centuries. 

    Continue next to the slopes of Mt. Hymettos, for a visit to the Monastery of Kaisariani, a beautiful example of Byzantine architecture. Inside its high walls discover the 11th-century catholicon, or main church, built in a Greek cross shape. The dome is supported by four columns from an earlier Roman temple and colourful frescoes from the 14th to 18th centuries enliven the interior walls. There is also an 11th-century bathhouse. Later additions include a refectory, the monks’ cells and a 19th-century bell tower. Savour the views of Athens and the serenity of this delightful spot before returning to your hotel.

    Acropolis and the new Acropolis Museum Tour – Visit the sublime expression of Classical Greece, the Acropolis with its sweeping views of Athens. Commissioned by Pericles in the 5th century BC, the site is dominated by the majestic Parthenon: a building that embodies the stunning achievements of the Athenian “Golden Age”.Surrounding the great temple are the other architectural masterpieces of the citadel: the Propylaia (monumental gateway), the Erechtheion with its beautiful Karayatid Porch and the Temple of Athena Nike (Winged Victory). Below the temple complex is the theatre of Dionysos where the dramas of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides were first performed. Then explore another marvel: the longanticipated $200-million, 226,000-square-foot Acropolis Museum. In the dramatic Gallery of the Slopes of the Acropolis, ascending floors of glass literally “float” you above the excavations for an extraordinary perspective of the layers of Greek history that lie below.

    ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM OF ATHENS

    Archaeological Museum of Athens – you will visit here on day 4

    Day 4: Saturday 4 May – Piraeus, Greece – disembark 6:00pm
    Embark Aegean Odyssey in Piraeus. Optional tour to the National Archaeological Museum.

    National Archaeological Museum Optional Tour $35 – Founded at the end of the 19th century to house and protect antiquities from all over Greece, the National Archaeological Museum is one of the most important in the world devoted to ancient Greek art. During your visit you will be able to see Cycladic, Minoan, Mycenaean and Classical Greek art, and you’ll also view sculptures from the Archaic and Hellenistic periods, along with pottery from the Geometric period. A few of the museum’s most important exhibits include the bronze statue of Poseidon, the head of Hygeia (Goddess of Health), the bronze statue of the “Jockey-Boy” of Artemision, the golden mask of Agamemnon and the brilliant Minoan frescoes from the site on Thira (Santorini). Within the museum’s walls more than 11,000 exhibits provide a panorama of Greek art from prehistory to late antiquity. Wander amid the royal tombs of Mycenae, dating from 1500BC. Marvel at sculpture from the 7th to 5th centuries BC, including the kouroi, nude male athletes, carved in Naxian marble. Admire a delicate bronze by Praxiteles and frescoes from Akrotiri, buried over 3,500 years ago in a volcanic eruption. Trace the evolution of Greek pottery from earliest times in collections including rare white clayware. This astonishing museum even includes Egyptian and Cypriot antiquities, as well as treasures from the sea. A shipwreck at Antikythera produced a scientific instrument used for astronomical calculations in the 1st century BC.

    Monastery of St John the Theologian, a UNESCO World Heritage Site – visit here on day 5

    Day 5: Sunday 5 May – Patmos, Greece – 8:00am to 2:00pm
    Visit the Medieval village of Chora and the Monastery of St John the Theologian – together a UNESCO World Heritage Site

    Visit the small cave where St John received his revelation, the medieval village of Chora and the Monastery of St John the Theologian – together a UNESCO World Heritage Site that constitutes an exceptional example of a Greek Orthodox pilgrimage centre. Patmos may be one of the smallest islands in the Dodecanese, but it compensates for size with beauty and history. Called the “Jerusalem of the Aegean,” the island has long been a site of pilgrimage. When St John came to Patmos in 95AD the Emperor Domition’s persecution of Christians were at their height and the “beloved disciple” lived for two years in a small cave on the island. Here he wrote his Gospel and dictated the Book of the Apocalypse.

    This afternoon, a short drive takes you from port to the grotto where St John once lived. The cave is now converted into a beautiful chapel with a stone orifice the saint is said to have used as a pillow. From the cave, continue to the 12th-century village of Chora and the Monastery of St John the Theologian which dominates the town. The walking tour starts with a climb to the castle-like monastery, founded in the 10th century. Enter the courtyard with its intricately pebbled floor, decorated arches and old well fed by a reservoir beneath. Visit the ornate chapel of Christodoulos with its frescoed entrance and religious relics that include the skull of St Thomas. Tour the old treasury, where the breathtaking collection includes jewelled chalices, crowns, crucifixes and an El Greco icon. Later, there will be free time to explore Chora with its whitewashed houses and Byzantine churches before the return to the tavernas of Skala and the ship.

    Volos, Greece, Byzantine monasteries built atop the rock towers of Meteora – visit here day 7 for a full day tour

    Day 6: Monday 6 May – Skiathos, Greece – 8:00am to 8:00pm
    Time at leisure to explore the beautiful island of Skiathos

    Day 7: Tuesday 7 May – Volos, Greece, 7:00 to 10:00pm
    See the famous Byzantine monasteries at Meteora

    Perhaps the highlight of any trip to Greece is the sight of the Byzantine monasteries built atop the rock towers of Meteora. The very word means “suspended in air” and their effect is unforgettable. These sandstone “columns in the sky” soar up over a thousand feet above sea level and are crowned with monasteries built by anchorite monks from the 11th century onward. In all, there are twenty-four monasteries in Meteora, and while many have fallen into ruin, some of those that remain are adorned with beautiful frescoes which mark a key stage in postByzantine art. Originally visitors were winched up to the monasteries by a windlass, but stairs were cut in the 1930s to ease access a bit. From the ship, it’s a 2-hour drive across the fertile plain of Thessaly, the country of the mythical centaurs and the site of a battle between Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great. The monks who built the monasteries were looking for an escape from later battles, and nature provided the perfect place in Meteora. The rock formations unfold along a winding road, and whether they were formed, as some hold, by an ancient lake 30 million years ago or by the flow of the Peneus River, they are stupendous. Six of the monasteries are still inhabited and two are nunneries. Visit the oldest and most accessible monastery, Agios Stephanos, now a convent. The Byzantine Emperor Paleologos stayed here in 1333 while en route to a battle on the plains below. The nuns here are involved in artistic pursuits that include icon painting, and the monasteries 15th-century church has an icon museum. Next, visit the Varlaam Monastery, which requires climbing about 150 steps, but it is well worth the effort both for the commanding views of the Pindus Range and also the fabled frescoes that include an apocalyptic vision of hell. Following the visit, we’ll continue driving through this unearthly landscape, viewing new sights as we descend slowly to the plain. Few sights are more iconic than this.

    Lemnos, Greece – walking tour day 8

    Day 8: Wednesday 8 May – Lemnos, Greece – 9:00am to 3:00pm
    Take a walking tour of Lemnos.

    Experience one of the most pleasant island capitals in the North Aegean Islands on this walking tour that includes an optional climb to Myrina castle, or kastro, the largest fortification in the Aegean Sea. In Greek mythology, Zeus cast his son out of Olympus, hurling him to the volcanic island of Lemnos, where he reigned as the god of metalworking. The island’s strategic position at the approach to the Dardanelles made it a key outpost for Byzantines, Venetians and Turks. The British army assembled here during World War I. What draws visitors now are the serene beaches, excellent cheeses and authentic character. Today’s sightseeing is entirely on foot and focuses on the capital, Myrina, set at the foot of a rocky promontory. Walk the cobblestone streets past the traditional market. Admire the restored neo-classical homes in the Romeikos Gailos area. Visit the recently renovated archaeological museum, housed in an exquisite 19th-century mansion, where artifacts date to the Paleolithic Age. Then enjoy a short guided walk along the picturesque quay. From here you can return to the ship on your own or perhaps linger to try some of the local melipasto or feta cheeses or sip the fine white wine in a taverna.

    Day 9: Thursday 9 May – At sea

    Odessa, Ukraine – Opera House, visit here on day 10

    Day 10: Friday 10 May – Odessa, Ukraine – 10am – overnight
    Visit the impressive Odessa Opera house and a highlighted city tour. Optional tour to Tolstoy palace available.

    Discover historic and cultural landmarks of Odessa, starting with a walking tour along Prymorsky Boulevard, lined with 19th-century gas lamps, majestic trees and aristocratic palaces. Begin your tour with a drive to Catherine Square, named after the great Russian tsarina. Your path takes you past the Potemkin Steps and the monument to Odessa’s first governor, the Duke de Richelieu, who sought to make the city as beautiful as Paris. Continue to the Opera and Ballet Theater where Anna Pavlova once danced, an opulent blend of styles by 19th-century Viennese architects. Your visit to its gilt-trimmed interior is a highlight of this tour. Next, a short drive takes you to the City Garden, a small park centrally located beside the famous Deribasovskaya Street, bustling with cafes. Stroll past the park’s flowers and fountain and call at the Passage to see the shops and sculptures in its beautiful interior. Next proceed to the recently restored Transfiguration Cathedral, Odessa’s largest church, founded in 1794, demolished by the Soviets and rebuilt in 1999. In Cathedral Square, you’ll have free time to browse. Admire the monument to Count Mikhail Vorontsov (1781-1856), a former governor who built the first steamship to navigate the Dnieper and established steamship service for Black Sea ports. Following this highlight filled trip, you return to the port.

    Tolstoy Palace Optional Tour $58 – Admire the tsarist opulence of Count Tolstoy’s Palace and Prince Gagarin’s Palace.

    Start your afternoon adventure with a short drive from the port to the palace of Count Mikhail Tolstoy, cousin to the Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy. The mansion, by architect F. Boffo, was built in 1832 and is noted for its White Hall, Silk Lounge and Marble Lounge exhibiting original furniture, family photographs and memorabilia. The palace is home to the Science Club of Odessa, a city with a several Nobel prize-winning scientists. Continue to the refined palace of Prince Gagarin. This mid-19th century building, by architect L. Otton, brings alive the pre- Revolutionary world of the noble families with their balls, entertainments and unstinting display of wealth. During your guided tour, learn the tale of the prince’s death at the hands of a game warden. The palace is now a Literature Museum, and your visit offers illuminating insights about the noted writers who flocked to this part of the Ukraine

    Day 11: Saturday 11 May – Odessa, Ukraine – depart 4:00pm

    Day 12: Sunday 12 May – Constanza, Romania – 10:00am to 6:00pm
    Enjoy a wine tasting experience and a local folklore performance.

    After finding the illustrious Golden Fleece, legend holds that Jason and the Argonauts visited this great city of antiquity, then known as Tomis. Today, your explorations of this historical wonder begin in Ovid Square, named so after the famous Roman poet who was exiled to the city in 8AD by the Emperor Augustus. Ovid is revered alongside Virgil and Horace as one of the three canonic poets of Latin literature, and his narrative The Metamorphoses remains a key source of classical mythology. The centerpiece of the square is its namesake’s statue, built in 1888 by the famous sculptor Ettore Ferrari. Behind the statue lies the National History and Archaeology Museum, boasting a marvelous collection of prehistoric, Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Medieval artifacts. Your tour of the museum includes the famous statue of Fortuna Goddess and Pontos God. Fortuna, worshipped as the goddess of fortune and the personification of luck in Roman religion, and Pontos, an ancient, pre-Olympian sea god, together are venerated as the protectors of the town. Continuing through picturesque Old Town, the striking 155-foot high minaret of the Turkish Mosque will certainly catch your eye. Next, to the beautiful murals and Greco-Roman candelabras of the orthodox Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul. Although severely damaged in World War II, the cathedral was completely restored in 1951. After stopping at the beautiful clifftop casino to admire the view overlooking the harbor of Constanta, your explorations continue with a scenic drive along the rolling vineyards of the Romanian countryside. Situated in the southeastern region of Romania between the Danube River and the Black Sea, the Murfatlar vineyard stretches across over 6,000 acres in the heart of the Dobrudja plateau. A delightful afternoon of music and wine awaits, sampling five of the region’s most popular wines to the tune of authentic Romanian folk music.

    Day 13: Monday 13 May – Varna, Bulgaria – 8:00am to 6:00pm
    Visit the Archaeology Museum and Rock Monastery.
     
    Day 14: Tuesday 14 May – At sea
     
    Day 15: Wednesday 15 May – Piraeus, Greece – 6:00am to 6:00pm
    Full day sightseeing in Mycenae and Epidaurus before embarking Aegean Odyssey in Piraeus
     
    Day 16: Thursday 16 May – Gythion, Greece – 7:00am to 8:00pm

    Diros Cave – visit here on day 16

    A sightseeing tours to Sparta and Mystras or a tour of the Diros cave.

    Sparta & Mystras Tour – Not much remains of Sparta, the ancient Greek city-state devoted to warrior culture, which we pass en route to the glorious array of Byzantine monuments in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Mystras. The Spartans cultivated disciplined soldiers and were so confident in their valor that they erected no city walls until the 4th century BC. The long war between Sparta and Athens has been the focus of many historical works, most notably Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War. This conflict culminated in a Spartan victory in 404BC, but the triumph was short lived. Another power, Thebes, defeated Sparta in 371BC and the city never regained its power. Continue to nearby Mystras, once called the “wonder of Morea”. This museum town was originally built around a fortress erected in 1249 by the Prince of Achaia. It was reconquered by the Byzantines who established it as a center of art and learning in the 14th and 15th centuries and was then occupied by the Turks and Venetians, until it was abandoned in 1832 leaving breathtaking remnants of a medieval past in a beautiful setting on the slopes of Mount Taygetos. This haunting place includes a 13th-century Crusader fortress, a despot’s palace and splendid churches. Drive to the peak of the city for a splendid view of Sparta and then descend to explore the lower town on foot. The more energetic may choose to climb to the summit for yet more outstanding views. Those who prefer a less strenuous experience can seek out the frescoes in the Byzantine churches, notably Agios Dimitrios and the Pantanassa.

     Diros Cave – Board small fishing boats to sail into Diros Cave and explore the narrow passageways of this prehistoric dwelling place on the Gulf of Laconia. Finds here suggest the existence of a sizeable prehistoric settlement with a plentiful supply of water. In the late Neolithic period (4000 to 3000BC), these caves were used as a dwelling, workshop, cemetery and place of worship. Complete unburied human skeletons were found, suggesting that at the beginning of the Bronze Age, a severe earthquake blocked the entrance with large boulders so the cave’s inhabitants were walled up and died of starvation. The entrance remained sealed for some 4,500 years until discovered in 1958 by speleologists Ionnis and Anna Petrocheilos, then systematically excavated by George Papathanasopoulos, Ephor of Antiquities for the Greek Ministry of Culture. You’ll find yourself surrounded by stalactites and stalagmites as your small fishing boat navigates the mouth of the cave. Several chambers opening off the central cave are accessible by boat or foot through a maze of corridors, and each has a name referring to its shape, such as Alepotrypa (foxhole). Along with skeletons, other finds included weapons, stone and bone tools, Neolithic pottery and rock paintings. Following your visit you’ll have time for pictures before returning to the port of Gythion, once used by the Spartans who enlarged the harbour so they could use this port as a naval base. 

    Day 17: Friday 17 May – Katakolon, Greece – 8:00am to 7:00pm
    Morning tour of ancient Olympia.

    Katakolon, UNESCO World Heritage Site – visit here on day 17

    The small fishing village of Katakolon is approximately an hour from the mystical site of Ancient Olympia, sacred ground to the people of the Peloponnese Peninsula as early as the 10th century BC. Olympia is most familiar as the site where the first Olympic Games were held in 776BC in honour of Olympian Zeus. The origin of the word Olympic comes from the ancient Greek Olympiad – meaning every four years. The setting could not be more idyllic: prominently located in the middle of a fertile valley with the rivers of Alfeios and Kladhios flowing past. The site was a religious sanctuary even before the Stadium was built and the games took place in the sacred area called Altis. The most imposing monument in the area was the outstanding Temple of Zeus housing the gold-and-ivory statue of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Temple of Hera, the Prytaneion, and the Philippeion were also monuments standing in the sacred grove. The famous Stadium, the largest of its day with a capacity of 45,000 spectators, was entered through a long, tunnel-like passage, constructed in Roman times. The stadium was restored in 2004 for the historic return of the modern Olympics to Athens. After your exploration of the famous grounds, visit the archaeological museum which is a short 5-minute walk from the site. Among the great finds of the area that are displayed are the Head of Hera and ornaments from the Temple of Zeus, the famous statue of Hermes created by Praxiteles and the helmet of Miltiades, the Athenian general during Athens’ ‘Golden Age’. 

    Day 18: Saturday 18 May – Itea, Greece – 7:00am to 6:00pm
    Visit to ancient Delphi or Osios Louka monastery.

    Ancient Delphi Tour – For a thousand years Delphi flourished as the most important sacred site in ancient Greece, even founding one of the earliest rivals of the Olympics, the Pythian Games, which were held in an open-air stadium at the summit of the mountain.According to legend, Apollo is said to have slain the snake Python on the slopes of Mount Parnassus, in revenge for the persecution of his mother Leto, but an alternative version of events maintains that the reason for Python’s death was because she refused to allow an oracle on what was then the centre of the world. Following the death of Python, Apollo installed the High Priestess Pythia in his Sanctuary at Delphi, where she began foretelling the future through cryptic messages that were interpreted by her priests. Today the stadium is the best preserved ancient arena in the world, but some other buildings have had to be restored, including the Treasury of Athens and the Altar of the Chians. At the base of the mountain, the site has an excellent museum which is home to many exquisite treasures, including the marble “Omphalos” stone (that once marked the centre of the world) and the magnificent bronze “Charioteer”, which is considered to be the finest 5th-century BC statue in existence. Alongside other statuary, there is also a marvellous scale model of how Delphi would likely have appeared during its heyday. Following the tour, a short stop will be made in the inhabited village nearby, before your return to Aegean Odyssey.

    Osios Loukas Monastery Tour – The region of Phocis has some spectacular mountains and forests to admire during the short journey from Itea to the monastery of Osios Loukas, on the slopes of Mount Helicon. So named after its founder, the ascetic and saint, Luke of Steiris, the original “Cross-in-square” church of Hosios Loukas dates from the 10th-century and is the oldest of its kind in the world. Saint Luke’s relics were entombed here following his death in 953AD, but in the 11th-century they were moved to a crypt beneath the newer Katholikon (Great Church) where they were believed to exude an aromatic smell with miraculous healing properties. Consequently, Pilgrims came from far and wide to sleep in the tomb, hoping the scented myron would cure them of their ailments. Osios Loukas quickly became extremely wealthy, allowing it to commission a series of exquisite Byzantine frescoes and mosaics. Many of the monastery’s removable mediaeval artefacts are lost to time and plunder, but virtually all of the Katholikon’s decorations remain intact, including scenes depicting the life of Christ, the Pentecost and other heavenly events. On the outside wall is a recently discovered image of Joshua, believed to represent the recapturing of Crete from the Ottomans in 961AD, an event prophesised by Saint Luke. Following your tour of this magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site, the return drive will pass through the quaint village of Arachova, on the slopes of Mount Parnassus, before stopping at the village of Delphi for some time at leisure on your way back to Aegean Odyssey

    Day 19: Sunday 19 May – Corfu, Greece – 8:00am to 2:00pm
    Visit the Achilleion Palace or the highlights of Corfu Town

    Corfu, UNESCO World Heritage Site – visit here on day 19

    Corfu Town Highlights - Journey to Corfu Town, where a 15th century church holds a surprise for all who venture inside: one of Greece’s most extensive collections of Byzantine art. Northernmost of the Ionian Islands, Corfu is renowned for its natural beauty and as a crossroads of civilisation. The island figured in The Odyssey of Homer and The Tempest of Shakespeare. Today’s adventure starts with a scenic drive to Corfu Town’s historic Campielo quarter, where the Byzantine Museum is located in the Panaghia Antivouniotissa (Our Lady Opposite the Mountain), a church that was restored by the Greek government and re-opened in 1984 as a museum. The collection exhibits a wide selection of Byzantine icons, a form of sacred art still used in the Eastern Orthodox religion and held to be an influence on Italian Renaissance artists. Highlights include an altar-cloth from Russia, the Noli Me Tangere icon (Touch Me Not) by Emmanuel Tzanes and the icon of Saints Sergius, Bacchus and Justina by Michael Damaskenos. After your visit a short walk takes you to the heart of Corfu Town. Visit the 16thcentury rococo church dedicated to St Spiridon, Corfu’s patron saint, whose bones are preserved in a gleaming casket. Explore the maze of narrow, stepped streets where little has changed for centuries. Discover an array of past rulers reflected in the French boulevards, Georgian mansions, Venetian citadel and Greek temple.

    Achilleion Palace Tour – On this tour you will journey out of the city, through the island’s fertile orange and lemon groves, to Achilleon Palace, one of the most renowned royal villas in Europe. Built in 1890, this summer residence was the dream home of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, who yearned for a place of beauty to escape after the tragic death of her only son a year previously. On her ambitions for the site prior to its construction she wrote: “I want a palace with pillared colonnades and hanging gardens, protected from prying glances – a palace worthy of Achilles, who despised all mortals and did not fear even the gods.” It was up to the Italian architect Raffaele Caritto, and the German sculptor Ernst Herter, to fulfil the Empress’s wishes, delivering to her a palace and gardens full of work inspired by Greek mythology, including Herter’s garden centrepiece, Achilles Dying. After Elisabeth’s death, the palace was inherited by her daughter and later bought by Kaiser Wilhelm II who used it as a hub of European diplomacy. Wilhelm expanded on the main theme, commissioning his own Achilles statue by Johannes Gotz, who created an imposing bronze sculpture in the Garden facing north toward the city. After completing a tour of the palace, there will be a visit to the Monastery of Paleokastritsa, which was founded in 1225, although the present building, a fine example of an arcaded cloister, dates from the 18th to 19th centuries. The monastery has a small ecclesiastical museum, with rare Byzantine icons, holy books and other relics, along with a still-working traditional olive oil press. 

    Day 20: Monday 20 May – Dubrovnik, Croatia – 7:00am to 7:00pm
    Take a walking tour of Dubrovnik.

    Dubrovnik, UNESCO World Heritage Site – visit here on day 20

    Lord Byron called this majestic walled city “the Pearl of the Adriatic,” and it is easy to see why. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is held to be the best-preserved walled city in the Mediterranean with a seafront setting and dramatic mountain backdrop. The city skyline is a medley of bell towers, copper domes and massive 10th-century walls. Dubrovnik was founded in the 7th century AD and was a powerful independent republic from 1358 to 1808, when Napoleon conquered the city. Today the city is an inspiration in self-resurrection. Despite a destructive earthquake in 1667, Dubrovnik has managed to preserve its beautiful Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance churches, monasteries, palaces and fountains. This morning’s walking tour of the Old Town takes you along the city’s main street, the Stradun or Placa, once a sea channel connecting two ancient settlements. Visit the Dominican Monastery, home to a beautiful 15th-century Gothic cloister and the city’s finest collection of Renaissance paintings. Next, the Franciscan Monastery is home to Europe’s oldest pharmacy, founded in 1318 and still in existence. Your walk continues past such landmarks as the Sponza Palace with its elaborate stone exterior, the Baroque Church of St Blaise and Onofriou’s Fountain. Visit the Cathedral of Our Lady, originally built in the 12th century, destroyed in the 1667 earthquake and triumphantly rebuilt. View Titian’s Assumption over the main altar and, in the Treasury, one of Europe’s finest collections of gold and silver, including the bejeweled skull of St Blaise. Following the tour there will be free time to explore the nooks and crannies of the Old Town. 

    Day 21: Tuesday 21 May – Lecce (Brindisi), Italy – 7:00am to 2:00pm
    Visit Lecce – a city of architectural treasures, including the Roman amphitheater, Baroque buildings and the stunning Santa Croce Basilica or visit Alberobello a small town in Puglia known for its trulli houses.

    Lecce Half Day Tour – Lecce is a city of outstanding historical and architectural treasures. With its abundance of ancient ruins, Baroque churches and noble palaces carved out of honey-coloured local stone, it is a place that will stay long in the memory. Set in the heart of the Salento region on the south-eastern tip of Italy’s “boot”, Lecce was founded in the 5th century BC and was later an important Roman city. The 25,000-seat amphitheatre dating from the 1st century BC in the Piazza St Oronzo is a magnificent legacy of the city’s Roman past and it is here that your tour begins. You will also pass by the Roman column that marks the end of the Appian Way and then continue on to the city centre to discover the remarkable buildings from a later time. From the 16th to the 18th century, Lecce flourished under a period of great splendour and was duly embellished with Rococo and Baroque monuments. The local limestone was particularly easy to work, making the creation of decorative relief and delicate detail relatively easy and created a style known as Lecce Baroque. You will visit the Santa Croce Basilica, which is sumptuously decorated and represents the triumph of Baroque art in Lecce. Nearby, admire the impressive façade of the Governor’s Palace (the former monastery of the Celestine monks). Visit one of the finest and most impressive squares in southern Italy – Piazza Duomo. Explore the elegant streets of Lecce adjacent to the square and you will discover that the typical local crafts of the town, such as papier-mâché or Leccese stone items, are traditional art forms here. The objects created in the artisans’ workshops are crafted according to ancient traditions handed down from generation to generation. 

    Day 22: Wednesday 22 May – Catania, Sicily – 1:00pm to 7:00pm
    Morning walking tour of Taormina or the ancient ruins of Syracuse.

    Taormina, Sicily – visit here on day 22

    Syracuse Half Day Tour – This tour begins in the ancient heart of Syracuse at the archeological park of Neapolis, a 16,000 capacity Roman amphitheatre cut into the hillside. This extraordinary archeological site was originally used for gladiator fights, circuses and the staging of entertaining naval battles known as naumachia. Today it remains one of the largest of its kind in Italy. Next we will visit the Altar of Hieron, thought to have been built by Hiero II in the third century BC as a table for the sacrificing of bulls to Zeus Eleutherios (Zeus the Liberator). Then it is just a short walk to the Greek Theatre, once the centre of the city’s political and cultural life; its excellent acoustics made it ideal for the oratorical and theatrical performances of the day. Near to the theatre are the subterranian latomìe – stone quarries that in ancient times were used as prisons. The most famous of these are the Rope-makers’ Cave, so called because it was once used by manufacters of string or “cordari” – and the Orecchio di Dionisio (Ear of Dionysius). These man-made vaults are supported by pillars of stones that have been carved out by the quarrymen. From here we will transfer to Ortygia for a walking tour of this quaint island-town’s best attractions, including the Piazza Archimede, the Cathedral and the Arethusa Spring, before a return to the coaches for our drive back to Catania.

    Taormina Half Day Tour – Perched on a terrace overlooking the sea, Taormina has a delightful medieval character with plenty of interesting historical sites to explore on this tour. During a stroll around the city we will see the Palazzo Corvaia, which incorporates a 10th-century Saracen fortress constructed on Roman foundations into a 15th-century Moorish Gothic design, creating an architectural style that is notable for its lancet windows. We will visit the Ancient Greek Theatre, the second largest of its kind in Sicily; this amphitheatre dates from the 3rd century BC and is still frequently used for operas, concerts and theatrical performances. Finally, we will have time to stroll along the Corso Umberto, the main street of Taormina, into some of the smaller lanes and alleyways, or vuizze, of the city, where you will be able to shop for some local handcrafts, before a short sightseeing drive through Via Etnea, Villa Bellini, Piazza Stesicoro and Piazza Duomo, on our way back to Catania.  

    Day 23: Thursday 23 May – Sorrento, Italy – 2:00pm overnight
    Sightseeing tour of Pompeii or Herculaneum. Afternoon at leisure

    Herculaneum tour on day 23

    Pompeii Half Day Tour – The patricians who built their mansions in Pompeii came to escape the turmoil in Rome, but a different sort of violence awaited them in their southern retreats. In 79AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted at 10am and, within three hours, extinguished these affluent communities even as it preserved their remains for our discovery. Begin with a scenic hour drive along the Bay of Naples to Pompeii. On the walking tour, you will be guided expertly through this spectacular site. Places not to be missed include the aristocratic mansions, temples, theatres, markets and large forum. At every turn, inscriptions bring the hustle and bustle of this ancient city to life: there are notices of wine sales and apartment vacancies, upcoming gladiatorial events in the theatre and political announcements.

    Herculaneum Half Day Tour – A scenic hour drive takes us to Herculaneum which was engulfed by volcanic mud in the same eruption that claimed Pompeii. Fortunately for us, this mud sealed and protected entire buildings: today inlaid marble floors, paintings, mosaics and carbonised woods can all be seen. These range from the sculpture of the Drunken Hercules in the House of the Stags to mosaics of tritons in the city baths. Herculaneum was a wealthier town than Pompeii with an extraordinary density of fine houses, with far more lavish use of coloured marble cladding. The discovery in recent years of some 300 skeletons along the sea shore came as a surprise since it was known that the town itself had been largely evacuated. Following our visit, we will return to central Sorrento where you have the option of exploring independently or returning to the ship in the company of the guide.

     Day 24: Friday 24 May – Sorrento, Italy – depart 6:00pm
    A morning at leisure in Sorrento.
     
    Day 25: Saturday 25 May – Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy – disembark 8:00am
    Disembark in Civitavecchia and enjoy a choice of tours and transfer to Rome hotel.

    Ostian Antica Half Day Tour – Buried for centuries, this well-preserved archaeological site is far less visited than Pompeii, yet in many ways provides a more complete picture of daily life in the Roman Empire. Ostia Antica was ancient Rome’s main port on the Tyrrhenian Sea.

    Anco Marzio (640BC to 616BC), the fourth king of Rome, is traditionally named the founder of this city at the mouth “ostia” of the Tiber. At the city’s peak, about 100,000 people from all classes and all parts of the Mediterranean lived here until decline began due to silting river, barbarian invasions and malaria. Excavations reveal a hard-working city with apartments, warehouses, bakeries, bars, plus public and religious buildings.

    Your tour of the archaeological zone begins at Via delle Tombe, leading to the city gates. Stroll along the Decumanus Maximus, the main road. Visit the Baths of Neptune with beautiful black-and-white mosaics of the god’s wife, Amphitrite. Walk to the theater, the Forum and such public buildings as the Capitolium and the Temple of Rome and Augustus. A variety of religious buildings include several temples dedicated to the cult of Mithras, Egyptian and Roman gods, plus a 1st century BC Jewish synagogue and a Christian basilica.

    Colosseum tour day 26

    See the large thermal baths, the 20-hole public latrine and the living complex called the House of Diana. The Termopolium with its marble counter where ancient Romans could have a quick lunch features a fresco representing the food on sale. Round out your visit with a stop at the Museum Ostiense, displaying some of the wonderful sculptures and mosaics found at this remarkable site. 

    Colosseum Half Day Tour – This tour begins at the Flavius Amphitheatre, better known as the Colosseum of Rome, the biggest and most imposing stadium of the ancient Roman world. Built with a series of arches, it remains an extraordinary feat of engineering. At its peak, the Colosseum could hold an average of 65,000 spectators and once featured a canvas roof to protect the crowds from the sun. First commissioned by Emperor Vespasian of the Flavia family, this huge elliptical amphitheatre was opened by his son Titus in 80AD, during a week-long celebration featuring combats between gladiators and beasts, mock sea battles and executions. After a guided walk around the site, it’s only a short stroll to the Arch of Constantine. Built in 315AD to honour the first Christian Emperor, the arch is the largest of its kind in existence and spans the site of the ancient Via Triumphalis, the route used by emperors for entering the city in triumph. From here you, will re-board your coach for the short journey to the Colle Oppio, where you will see some of the remains of Nero’s Residence, known as the Golden House, and the Baths of Titus, before your visit to the Basilica of St. Peter in Chains, famous for the statue of Moses by Michelangelo. Legend has it that one day the great Master said to his statue, “You are so beautiful. Why don’t you speak to me?” Finally, we will drive to Via della Conciliazione for a glimpse of St Peter’s Basilica and Square.  

    Day 26: Sunday 26 May – Rome, Italy 
    Sightseeing in Rome, overnight hotel. 
     
    Day 27: Monday 27 May – Rome, Italy
    Transfer to airport today for your flight home to Australia
     
    Day 28: Tuesday 28 May – Arrive home today 
  • Only one date available 1 to 28 May 2019

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