Venice, a city weaved within the waters of the Adriatic, served as a safe haven for those fleeing nomadic barbarians centuries ago. Now, Venice is one of the most popular destinations globally and a must-see, according to most popular travel and trade publications. Who could argue with its many gondoliers, lace makers, hoteliers, restaurateurs, and glassblowers?
In the times of apprenticeships, skillful Venetian boat construction helped create their fishing and naval institutions. Venice today focuses on showcasing its lovely canals and exquisite, twisty streets for visitors from around the world. The landscape is garnished with magnificent 15th-century Venetian Gothic palazzos, dishing out the food and wines Italy is known for.
Ponte di Rialto / Rialto Bridge
The Rialto Bridge, takes its name from 'rivo alto' (high bank) and was one of the first areas of Venice to be inhabited.
A banking and then market district, it remains one of the city's busiest areas. Locals and visitors alike jostle among the colorful stalls of the Erberia (fruit and vegetable market) and Pescheria (Fish market). Stone bridges were built in Venice as early as the 12th century, but it was not until 1588 CE, after the collapse, decay, and sabotage of earlier wooden structures, that a solid stone bridge was designed for the Rialto. Few visitors leave Venice without crossing this well-known bridge. It is a wonderful place to watch and photograph the constant activity of boats on the Grand Canal below.
Spanning five centuries, the matchless collection of paintings in the Accademia provides a complete spectrum of the Venetian school, from the medieval Byzantine period, Renaissance, and Baroque to beyond. The basis of the collection was the Accademia di Belle Arti founded in 1750 by the painter Giovanni Battista Piazzetta. In 1807, Napoleon moved the collection to these premises and enriched it with works of art removed from churches and monasteries.
Piazza San Marco, St. Mark's Square
Throughout its long history, Piazza San Marco has witnessed pageants, processions, political activities, and countless Carnival festivities. Visitors flock here in the thousands for two of the city's most important historic sites, the Basilica and the Palazzo Ducale. These magnificent buildings complement the lesser-known but equally valuable Campanile, Museo Correr, and Torre dell'Orologio, gardens of the Giardinetti Reali, open-air orchestras, shops, and elegant cafe, notably Quadri and Florian.
Basilica di San Marco
Venice's most famous Basilica blends the architectural and decorative styles of East and West to create one of the greatest buildings in Europe. The exterior owes its almost oriental splendor to countless treasures from the republic's overseas empire. Among these are copies of the famous bronze horses, brought from Constantinople in 1204, and a wealth of columns, bas reliefs, and colored marbles studding the main facade. Mosaics from different epochs adorn the five doorways, while the main portal is framed by some of Italy's loveliest Romanesque carvings.
The Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace), was the official residence of each Venetian ruler (Doge) and was founded in the 9th century. The present palace owes its external appearance to work of builders back in the 14th and early 15th centuries. To create their airy Gothic masterpiece, the Venetians broke with tradition by perching the bulk of the palace (built in pink Veronese marble) on top of an apartment fretwork of loggias and arcades (built from white Istrian stone).
Santa Maria della Salute
The great Baroque church of Santa Maria della Salute, standing at the entrance of the Grand Canal, is one of the most imposing architectural landmarks of Venice. Henry James reputedly likened it to 'some great lady on the threshold of her salon'. The church was built in thanksgiving for the city's deliverance from the plague epidemic of 1630, hence the name 'Salute' that means “health and salvation”. Each November, in celebration, worshippers light candles and approach across a bridge of boats spanning the mouth of the Grand Canal for the occasion.
Scuola Grande di San Rocco
Founded in honor of San Rocco, a saint who dedicated his life to helping the sick, the Scuola started out as a charitable confraternity. Construction began in 1515 under Bartolomeo Bon and was continued by Scarpagnino until his death in 1549. The work was financed by donations from Venetians keen to invoke San Rocco's protection and the Scuola quickly became one of the wealthiest in Venice. In 1564, its members decided to commission Tintoretto to decorate its walls and ceilings. His earliest paintings, the first of over 50 works, he eventually left in the Scuola, filling the small Sala dell'Albergo off the Upper Hall. His later paintings occupy the Ground Floor Hall, immediately within the entrance.
Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari
More commonly known as the Frari (a corruption of 'frati,' meaning friars), this vast Gothic church dwarfs the eastern area of San Polo. The first church on the site was built by Franciscan friars in 1250 to 1338 CE, but was replaced by a larger building completed in the middle of the 15th century. The airy interior is striking for both its sheer size and the quality of its artwork, including masterpieces by Titian and Giovanni Bellini, a statue by Donatello, and several grandiose tombs.
Like the city of Venice, Murano comprises a cluster of small islands, connected by bridges. It has been the center of the glassmaking industry since 1291, when the furnaces and craftsmen were moved here from the city because of the risk of fire and the disagreeable effects of smoke. Some houses on the water date from this period.
Burano is the most colorful of the lagoon islands and can be distinguished from a distance by the tilting tower of its church. In contrast with the haunting Torricello, the island is densely populated, its waterways fringed with brightly painted houses, such as the Casa Pepi. The main thoroughfare is Via Baldassare Galuppi, named after the Burano-born composer. It features traditional lace and linen stalls and open-air trattorias serving fresh fish.
Florence, the home of the Renaissance and the capital of Tuscany serves, even to this day, as Italy's center of art and culture. Florence produced the great Donatello, Leonardo, and Michelangelo and continues to inspire in art, fashion, architecture, and cuisine. Florence is a shopper's paradise in fine leathers, jewelry, clothing, and art, attracting business and leisure travelers from across the globe.
Accademia delle Arte del Disegno
The Academy of the Art of Design, founded in 1563, was the first school established in Europe specifically to teach techniques of drawing, painting, and sculpture. The art collection displayed here was formed in 1784 to provide material for students to study and copy. The most famous work is Michelangelo's David (1504), a colossal (5.2-meter/17-foot) nude of the biblical hero who killed the giant Goliath.
Duomo and Surroundings
While much of Florence was rebuilt during the Renaissance, the eastern part of the city retains a distinctly medieval feel. With its maze of tiny alleys, it is an area that would still be familiar to Dante (1261 to 1321), whose birthplace allegedly lay somewhere among these lanes.
The richly-decorated cathedral, known alternately as the 'Duomo of Florence' and the 'The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore,' along with its orange tiled dome, has become Florence's most famous symbol. Typical of the Florentine determination to lead in all things, the Duomo is Europe's fourth-largest church and the tallest building in Florence.
The Uffizi, Italy's greatest art gallery, was built between 1560 to 1580 CE to house offices for Duke Cosimo I. The architect Vasari used iron as reinforcement, enabling his successor, Buontalenti, to create an almost continuous wall of glass on the upper floor. This was used as a gallery for Francesco I to display the Medici art treasures. The collection was divided up in the 19th century. Ancient objects went to the archeological museum of Bargello, leaving the Uffizi with a matchless collection of paintings.
Piazza della Signoria
Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio have been at the center of Florence's political and social life for centuries. The great bell once used to summon citizens to 'parlamento' (public meetings) remains here, and the square has long been a popular promenade for both visitors and Florentines. The piazza's statues (some are copies) commemorate the city's major historical events. Its most famous episode is celebrated by a simple pavement plaque near the loggia: the execution of the religious leader Girolamo Savonarola who was burnt at the stake.
Santa Maria Novella
The church of Santa Maria Novella was built by the Dominicans between 1279 and 1357. The lower Romanesque part of its facade was incorporated into one based on Classical proportions by the pioneering Renaissance architect Leon Batista Alberti in 1456 to 1470 CE. The Gothic interior contains superb frescoes, including Masaccio's powerful Trinity. The famous Green Cloister, frescoed with perspective scenes by Paolo Uccello, and the dramatically-decorated Spanish Chapel, now form a museum.
The Palazzo Pitti was originally built for the banker Luca Pitti. The huge scale of the building, begun in 1457 and attributed to Brunelleschi, illustrated Pitti's determination to outrival the Medici family through its display of wealth and power. Ironically, the Medici later purchased the Palazzo when building costs bankrupted Pitti's heirs. In 1550, it became the main residence of the Medici and all the subsequent rulers of the city. Today, the richly decorated rooms exhibit countless treasures from the Medici collections.
San Lorenzo was the parish church of the Medici family. In 1419, Brunelleschi was commissioned to rebuild it in the Renaissance style. Almost a century later, Michelangelo submitted some plans for the facade and began work on the Medici tombs in the Sagrestia nuova. He also designed a library, the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, to house the family's collection of manuscripts. The lavish family mausoleum, the Cappella dei Principi, was started in 1604.
In the middle of the San Lorenzo street market is the bustling Mercato Centrale, Florence's busiest food market. It is housed in a vast two-story building of cast-iron and glass, built in 1874 by Giuseppe Mengoni. The ground floor stalls sell meat, poultry, fish, salami, ham, cheeses, and a myriad of olive oils. There are also Tuscan foods such as porchetta (roast suckling pig), lampredotto (pig's intestines), and trippa (tripe). Fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers are sold on the top floor. Look for wild mushrooms and truffles in the autumn and broad beans, peas, and baby artichokes in early spring.
Palazzo Antinori was built in 1461 to 1466 and is one of the finest small Renaissance palazzi in Florence. It was acquired by the Antinori in 1506 and has remained with the family every since. The dynasty owns many estates all over Tuscany and Umbria, producing a range of wines, oils, and liqueurs. The Cantinetta Antinori, a wine bar off the main courtyard, offers samples of these gastronomical delights.
Of all the great Florentine views, such as the Duomo and Campanile, none offers such a magnificent panorama of the city as Piazzale Michelangelo. Designed in the 1860s by Giuseppe Poggi and dotted with copies of Michelangelo's statues, its balconies attract many visitors and the inevitable masses of souvenir peddlers. However, this square remains an evoticative spot, especially when the sun sets over the Arno river and distant Tuscan hills.
Tuscany is the most popular region of Italy, home to the vineyards of Chianti, the arts of Florence, and the medieval architecture of Siena.
Siena is home to Piazza del Campo (aka Il Campo), arguably one of the most beautiful piazzas in all of Italy. The piazza was originally built in the 1100s and served as the site of the Roman forum. Streets are paved with the traditional Siena red brick and lined with tightly knit homes and storefronts.
Upon your visit to any of our Siena hotels, enjoy a glass of Chianti and walk the ancient streets. Take note of the city's historic water system and underground canal network still visible to this day due to its remarkable engineering. Twice a year, Siena plays host to the colorful and spectacular Siena's Palio. This Italian celebration is highlighted by a full week of horse acrobat shows, races, feasts, and parades. Join the tradition that goes back to the year 1310.
Siena's principle sites cluster in the maze of narrow streets and alleys around the fan-shaped Piazza del Campo. One of Europe's greatest medieval squares, the piazza sits at the heart of the city's 17 contrade, a series of parishes whose ancient rivalries are still acted out in the twice-yearly Palio. Once a capital to rival Florence, Siena is Italy's prettiest medieval town, still endowed with the grandeur of the age in which it was at its peak (1260 to 1348).
For much of the middle ages, Pisa's powerful navy ensured its dominance of the western Mediterranean. Trading links with Spain and North Africa in the 12th century brought vast mercantile wealth and formed the basis of a scientific and cultural revolution that is still reflected in Pisa's spending buildings, especially the Duomo, Baptistry, and Campanile (Leaning Tower).
Cortona was founded by the Etruscans. Apart from being one of the oldest hill-towns in Tuscany, it is also one of the most scenic.
Lucca's regular grid of streets still follows the pattern of the former Roman colony founded in 180 BCE. Giant, solid ramparts, built in the 16th to 17th centuries, help to shut out traffic, making the city a pleasant place to explore on foot. Lucca's peaceful narrow lanes wind among the medieval buildings, opening suddenly to reveal churches, tiny piazzas, and many other reminders of the city's long history, including a Roman amphitheater.
Set in the Colline Metallifere (metal-bearing hills) where lead, copper, and silver ores were mined as early as Etruscan times, Massa Marittima is far from being a grimy industrial town. Excellent examples of Romanesque architecture survive from the period when the town became an independent republic (1225 to 1235).
This is one of Tuscany's highest hill towns, its walls and fortifications offering broad views over Umbria and Southern Tuscany. Its vineyards make the famous Vino Nobile wine.
Hilltop Montalcino sits at the hearth of vineyards that produce Brunello, one of Italy's finest red wines.
Monteriggioni is a gem of a medieval hilltop town. Built in 1203, 10 years later it became a garrison town. It is completely encircled by high walls with 14 heavily fortified towers built to guard the northern borders of Siena's territory against invasion by the Florentine army.
The thirteen towers that dominate San Gimignano's majestic skyline were built by noble families in the 12th and 13th centuries when the town's geographical position (on the main pilgrim route from northern Europe to Rome) brought prosperity. The plague of 1348, and the diversion of the pilgrims route, led to the area's decline as well as its current preservation. Today, although only one of the towers, the Torre Grossa, is open to the public, the town remains rich in works of art, good shops, and restaurants.
Pitigliano is spectacularly situated high above the cave-riddled cliffs of the Lente Valley. Its maze of tiny medieval streets includes a small Jewish ghetto, formed in the 17th century by Jews fleeing from Catholic persecution.
Rome, the eternal city, is filled with the air of past, present, and future. Fashionable Italians on their Vespa motor scooters crowd the streets of Via Veneto and Via Condotti amid a backdrop of broken marble columns and temple ruins. Yes, you are standing in Rome, the center of the Roman Empire some 2000 years ago. Rome managed to gracefully weave its past with today's engineering, fashion, and character, making it a vibrant city attracting visitors worldwide.
Aside from time-tested, breathtaking sites like the Colosseum, Pantheon, St. Peter's Basilica, and the Trevi Fountain, Rome is the nation's capital and serves as a major nexus of European business. As a result, global corporations have headquarters in this city alongside government offices and embassies.
Piazza di Spagna and Spanish Steps
Piazza di Spagna is the most famous square in Rome. Shaped like a crooked bow tie and surrounded by muted, shuttered facades, Piazza di Spagna draws crowds nonstop during the day year-round and well into the night in summer. The steps were built in the 1720s to link the square with the French church of Trinita dei Monti.
Nicola Salvi's theatrical design for Rome's largest and most famous fountain was completed in 1762. The central figures are Neptune, flanked by two Tritons, one trying to master an unruly seahorse, the other leading a quieter beast, symbolizing the two contrasting moods of the sea.
Vatican City, the world capital of Catholicism, is the world's smallest state. It occupies 106 acres within high walls tended by the Vatican Guards. It was the site where St Peter was martyred and buried, and it became the residence of the popes who succeeded him. The Papal palaces, next to the great basilica of St. Peter's, are home to the Sistine Chapel, the eclectic collections of Vatican museums, and, of course, the Pope.
Trastevere is a picturesque old quarter whose inhabitants consider themselves to be the only true Romans. The proletarian identity of this site slowly transforms each year due to the growth of nearby trendy restaurants, clubs, and shops.
Rome's greatest amphitheater was commissioned by Emperor Vespasian in 72 CE. Deadly gladiator combats and wild animal fights were staged by emperors and wealthy citizens, most likely to gain popularity. Slaughter proliferated; at the inaugural games in 80 CE, over 9,000 wild animals were killed. The Colosseum could hold up to 55,000 people, seated according to rank.
In the early Republic, the Forum was a chaotic place with food stalls, brothels, temples, and the Senate House. By the 2nd century CE, it was decided that Rome required a more salubrious center, and the food stores were replaced by business centers and law courts. The Forum remained the ceremonial center of the city under the Empire, with succeeding emperors renovating old buildings and erecting new temples and monuments.
Piazza Navona and Surroundings
No other Piazza in Roma can rival the theatricality of Piazza Navona. The luxurious cafes are the social center of the city. Day and night, there is always something going on in the pedestrian area around the flamboyant Baroque fountains. The Baroque is also represented in many of the area's churches. To discover an older Rome, walk along Via del Governo Vecchio to admire the facades of Renaissance buildings, browse in the fascinating antiques shops, and lunch in one of many trattorias. Rome's most beautiful Baroque piazza follows the shape of a 1st century CE stadium built by Domitian, which was used for athletic contests. Until the 19th century, the piazza was flooded in August by stopping the fountain outlets. The rich would splash around in carriages, while street urchins paddled.
The maze of narrow streets around the Pantheon is a mixture of lively restaurants, cafes, and some of Rome's finest sights. This is also the city's financial and political district, home to Parliament and other governmental offices. The Pantheon itself, with its awe-inspiring domed interior, has long been a symbol of the city. The Pantheon, the Roman “Temple of all Gods”, is the most extraordinary and best-preserved ancient building in Rome.
The massive fortress of Castel Sant'Angelo takes its name from the vision of the Archangel Michael by Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th century as he led a procession across the bridge, praying for the end of the plague.
The castle began life in 139 CE as the Emperor Hadrian's mausoleum. Since then it has been a bridgehead in the Emperor's Aurelian city wall, a medieval citadel and prison, and a place of safety for Popes during times of political unrest. A corridor links it with the Vatican Palace, providing an escape route for the Pope.
The Palatine, once the residence of emperors and aristocrats, is the most pleasant of Rome's ancient sites. The ruins range from the simple house in which Augustus is thought to have lived, to the Domus Flavia and Domus Augustana, the public and private wings of a luxurious palace built by Domitian.
Here you will enjoy a slower pace of life where the center of attention is the incredible weather and views it produces.
Enjoy most any wine with your dinner, because there's no such thing as a bad house wine in Italy. You can't help but feel more at peace after watching the relaxed manner of doing everything in this getaway town.
If you like to imagine you're living in mythological times, come to the town known as the City of Sirens. Lovers of Greek mythology will recall that the sirens lured fishermen to dangerous rocks with their entrancing songs, and you will feel equally mesmerized by this lovely coastal town. If you need a jolt back to reality, try the zesty local limoncello made from the boon of local lemon groves.
Take the boat from Sorrento to Capri Island to visit the Grotta Azzurra, or 'blue grotto.' This mysteriously pretty place was once considered a nymphaeum, a consecrated natural spring dedicated to nymphs, mythological creatures who lived in small bodies of water.
Positano seems to have one of those magnetic personalities. People visit there, don't want to leave, and feel happily stuck in this town of twisty streets, plazas, and cafes.
Formerly an important port, this town's current hotspot is its extensive and sparkling beachfront resort.
Visit the Chiesa di San Luca Evangelista, a church dedicated to St. Luke in this quiet town with lots of breathing room.
July 13th holds regal marine processions each year for the festival of the town's patron saint, Santa Trofimena. Your visit to Italy will have no lack in variety and taste, but Minori's unusual melanzane alla cioccolata, a dessert of eggplant, chocolate, sugar and almonds will make you think twice about the stereotypical dessert ingredients.
We have all seen the parking lots full of huge motor coaches with people pouring out of them. This swarm of people being lead around like drones is not the way to travel. Buckingham Tours was borne out of a true need to bring a curtain class of excellence to the small group tour market. (Small group tours comprise a maximum of 18 people per tour). We provide small group tours that you will enjoy!
2170 Oakes Blvd
Naples, Florida 34119
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Email : Mike@BuckinghamTours.com