See three of Italy's most famous cities, then hop over to Paris to conclude the tour in Europe's romantic cultural capital on the River Seine.
This trip will be customized according to your wishes.
This centuries-old city has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Countless churches and palaces bear witness to the power and unsurpassed wealth of this small republic.
The lagoon city was founded in northern Italy during the troubled times of the decline of the Roman Empire. The remains of the evangelist Mark were transferred to Venice in 829. The streams of pilgrims that followed gave the city much added importance. Since then the sacred symbol of the lion has been the city's coat of arms. Venetian troops later occupied eastern Italy and, in 1204, even Constantinople. At the height of its power Venice ruled the Mediterranean. The demise of the “serrenissima repubblica” began with the fall of Constantinople and the opening of the Western Hemisphere by Spain, Portugal and Holland. Venice's political importance declined after the Congress of Vienna and it was given to Austria. Returned to Italy in 1866, Venice has inspired generations of artists, writers and musicians. More than a city, it is a symbol of wealth and beauty as well as death and decay.
The 15th century palazzo, former residence of a wealthy Venetian family, is located in the maze of narrow streets in the heart of Venice near the Rialto Bridge.
Today it houses a B&B. Each room is tastefully decorated in an individual design and partly furnished with antiques. The idyllic, green inner courtyard with the ancient well was once open and led to the canal. Here you can enjoy Breakfast in the morning or the peace and quiet, reviewing the impressions gained after a strenuous day of sightseeing. All major sites are within easy walking distance.
The art historian Dr. Susanne Kunz-Saponaro has lived in Venice for many years. The individual tour through her adopted home-town is more intense and interesting than a group tour could ever be. With your existing knowledge, questions and special interests, you determine the pace and locations to be visited.
The two-hour walking tour includes:
- St. Mark's Square
- St. Mark's Basilica
- Doge's Palace
- The Bridge of Sighs
- A a walk through the maze of narrow alleyways into the heart of authentic Venice
- Rialto Market: learn about the merchants who made Venice one of the richest cities in Europe
Bacaro – the name is derived from the wine god Bacchus – is the name given to the simple taverns in Venice. There are few chairs, but a long bar and a large selection of wines with a few snacks. Do Mori not far from the fish market is the oldest Bacaro of Venice and already over 500 years old. Countless pots and copper kettles hang from the ceiling, more than 100 excellent wines await you in the bar. There are also many different tramezzini.
More than 400 bridges cross about 150 canals and connect 100 islands. Some are nameless or inconspicuous. Some are of particular importance from a traffic or cultural-historical point of view. The Rialto Bridge, which has connected the districts of San Marco and San Polo since the 16th century, is world-famous and most frequently photographed. Business flourished here for many centuries: merchants and seafarers unloaded their goods at the quay behind which the banks and trading houses were located. Bridge architect was a certain Antonio da Ponte, who was able to assert himself against star architect Michelangelo with his practical design because he left enough space for shipping traffic.
The Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari is the great Gothic Franciscan church of the city. On the outside it is modest and simple, as is the mendicant order itself. Inside, however, it documents the power and wealth to which the disciples of Saint Francis have come. The Frari turns out to be an art shrine of the very first order. The tomb pyramid of the sculptor Antonio Canova immediately catches the eye in the enormous nave. Opposite is the tomb of Titian with his Pesaro Madonna. Precious altar leaves by Bartolomeo Vivarini and Giovanni Bellini hang in the choir chapels. A sculpture of St. John by Donatello stands where the composer Claudio Monteverdi is buried. Everything, however, is surpassed by Assunta, the sky-driving Mary, who floats freely above the high altar. Titian created it and, at the end of the Renaissance, already anticipated the Baroque era with it.
The capital of Tuscany lies on the banks of the Arno between the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian seas, near the center of the Italian peninsula.
It is a city that bustles with industry and crafts, commerce and culture, art and science. The Chianti region between Florence and Siena is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Italy and a famous wine production area. Founded by the Romans in the first century B.C., Florence reached its pinnacle between the 11th and 15th centuries, when it was a free city balancing the authority of the Emperor with that of the Pope. In the 15th century it came under the rule of the Medici family, who later became the Grand Dukes of Tuscany. The city is considered the cradle of the Renaissance and humanism and was a leading center of art, culture, politics and economic power during this period. The universal geniuses Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo thrived here. Their works, along with those of many generations of artists up to the masters of the present century, are gathered in the city's many museums.
The hotel is located just a few steps from the Duomo, in a beautifully restored building dating back to the 17th century.
In the suites you can admire the original frescoes that have painstakingly been exposed by the owners who are also happy to help with advice of what to do and see. Nearby are some restaurants that offer value for money and are not overrun with tourists. There you can get traditional, rustic Tuscan dishes. At the end of the day relax on the stylish balcony overlooking the courtyard while enjoying a glass of wine. Breakfast is good for Italian standards and is served in the former kitchen with massive beams dating from the 16th century.
Tour guide Juliane has lived in Florence since she began studying art history there in 1987. In 1990 the native of Germany began offering guided tours of Florence utilizing her profound knowledge of art history. Her two-hour walking tour includes many sites missed by the majority of tourists. Included in the standard tour are:
- the Cathedral (inside and out) and baptistery
- a stroll through the narrow medieval streets of Old Florence to the house where Dante was born
- Palazzo del Bargello
- Piazza della Signoria (town hall square)
- Palazzo Vecchio, Loggia dei Lanzi, Palazzo degli Uffizi
- Ponte Vecchio
- Straw Market and Piazza della Repubblica
Individual routes and sites can be arranged upon request.
The Cathedral of Florence is the fourth largest church in Europe. The huge building emerges visibly from the cityscape. Especially prominent is the dome with a total height of 114 meters. Begun in 1296 the structure was always meant to be monumental, also in order to outdo Pisa or Venice, the competitors at the time. The works however quickly stalled and weren't fully completed until 1887. Besides the dome the freestanding bell tower with twelve bells and a height of 85 meters is especially striking. Also the interior is monumental. A masterly achievement is the ornamental painting of the dome: an area of 4000 square meters. Apart from the cathedral, visitors can see the dome, the bell tower and the Baptistery of San Giovanni.
The headquarters of the secular power in Florence was completed in 1314 and served the representatives of the Republic as a residential and conference building. For security reasons it was designed like a fortified tower with battlements and small windows. Next to the building the tower rises up 94 meters. After the government seized power the Medici palace was completely rebuilt, lined with gold and decorated with wall paintings from the great da Vinci and Michelangelo. Today the palace serves as the Town Hall.
In the 14th and 15th centuries the strings of power converged here. The largest piazza of Florence was lined with important buildings, most notably the Palazzo Vecchio. Still a major attraction and meeting point is Neptune's Fountain by Bartolomeo Ammannati. All attractions of the city can be reached on foot from the Piazza della Signoria. On the square itself there are several significant copies of statues, most notably the replica of David by Michelangelo.
This is our suggested route if you want to get to know Florence on your own. From the train station, it will take you to the cathedral, the historic center of town and then across the Arno over the Ponte Vecchio. The Boboli Gardens on the other side of the river offer the most beautiful view of the city. (3 hrs, 6 km, elevation change: 90 m)
The journey will take you through Tuscany and Lazio.
Your train tickets will not be booked by Umfulana. You have several options to book them online.
The two official websites of the local providers are www.italotreno.it and www.trenitalia.com. Alternatively you can book on www.italiarail.com or www.raileurope.com, where prices will be displayed in most currencies, but tend to be more expensive. Another option is to purchase your ticket on arrival at the station.
The western world was ruled from the city built on the legendary seven hills for 1,500 years. Rome was the stage for many historic events of worldwide significance during that era.
After the collapse of the Roman Empire the city became the seat of the Catholic Church. During the zenith of its power (the second century A.D.) Rome's population numbered more than a million, making it the world's first metropolis. However, only 25,000 people lived among the city's ruins at the close of the Roman Empire. Regrowth didn't begin until the return of the Pope from Avignon in the fifteenth century. Today the Italian capital ranks amongst the premiere cities of Europe with regard to art, culture and a fast-paced lifestyle. Millions of tourists visit Rome annually to take in the sights, shop and enjoy the cuisine.
This centuries-old building is located in the city centre, between the Spanish steps and the Via Veneto. Marco and Giulia, the enterprising proprietors who have roots in the hotel business, have completely restored the property and now offer modern, comfortable accommodation in a historical building.
Marco can suggest the best sites to see – he is an accredited Rome tour guide. The building offers many practical conveniences. An elevator takes guests to the air-conditioned rooms on the three upper stories. The upstairs suites have a view extending over the roofs of the old city to the dome of St Peters. You're guaranteed a good night's rest here (a valuable commodity in Rome), as the guesthouse is next door to a convent! The subway station Barberini is only a few steps away.
Only a few guides are allowed to show guests to the Vatican. One of them is Agnieszka Berlin, who is privileged to have a license for herself and her team. Each and every single tour must be requested individually. The time is agreed with the Vatican.
You will visit: part of the Vatican Museums – Sixtine Chapel – St. Peter's Basilica.
Important information: Guests who have claustrophobia or walking problems are not recommended to visit the Vatican Museums. Due to a significant increase in the number of visitors from 30,000 to 40,000 people per day, unhindered progress within the buildings is not possible. Seating is not available. In spite of the advance reservation, long queues can also be expected at the entrance; the total duration of the tour will be extended to approx. 4 hours.
The most important ancient sites in Rome are the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. The Forum is a collection of lavish government buildings mainly built by Caesar from which the Roman Empire was ruled.
They thus represented the center of world power. The tour is conducted by a licensed tour guide and art historian. It is much more intensive than a group tour because you can ask questions and set the pace yourself.
Note: There are about 3,000 people in the Colosseum at all times, which is why access to the inside of the amphitheater is repeatedly stopped due to overcrowding. Despite advance reservation, the duration of the tour increases to approx. 4 hours.
You are guided by an English speaking art historian to the most important historical sites of Rome. This is an individual tour, so it is much more intense and interesting than a group tour can be.
You decide on both, the places you want to see and the time you want to spend in each location.
The following sites are usually part of the program: Piazza Navona – Pantheon – Trevi Fountain - Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola – Piazza Colonna and the Column of Marcus Aurelius
Villa Borghese is not a building, but a green area in the middle of Rome. It was built at the end of the 16th century on the vineyard of the Borghese noble family. In 1901 the state bought the estate and opened it to the public. Today there are numerous museums on the site, including the Galleria Borghese and the Museum of Etruscan Art. On the north side lies Bioparco, the Roman zoo with over 200 animal species. Villa Borghese is also a popular place for joggers and walkers; on a small lake you can rent rowing boats and watch the ducks. A beautiful place to rest after strenuous sightseeing.
The impressive rotunda with its columned façade was erected 25 B.C. as a temple for all gods and converted into a church over 600 years later. The dome is particularly impressive: it symbolizes the sky, the opening in the middle stands for the sun and the contact with the stars. With a diameter of 43 metres, the dome of the Pantheon was the largest in the world for 1700 years until St Peter's Basilica was built. Visitors to the Pantheon enjoy the meditative atmosphere inside and the delightful play of sunlight that falls through the openings in the roof and “wanders” along the floor. The Pantheon became the architectural model for domed buildings worldwide, such as the Capitol in Washington DC, the Berlin Cathedral or the Invalid Cathedral in Paris.
A closer look at the huge square in the heart of the city reveals much about its origin: the long, almost oval surface resembles a track in the stadium. In fact, Piazza Navona was originally an arena. Emperor Domitian had it built. More than 30,000 people found a place here. In the Middle Ages the spectator stands were gradually converted into houses. In the 15th century, the stadium first became a park and then a square by paving. The most important monuments are the church of Sant Agnese, built in honour of the martyr Agnes, and the 17th-century four-stream fountain: On it four male sculptures symbolize the four continents known at that time in the form of the rivers Danube, Nile, Ganges and Río de la Plata.
If you would like to explore Rome on your own, our recommended route starts at the Roma Termini train station and takes you to the key sights in the Eternal City. On your way past the opera house, you will come to the Palazzo Berberini, the Fontana di Trevi, the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon and finally the Colosseum and the Forum Romanum. (4 hrs, 8 km, elevation change: 70m)
Paris is more than just a city – the name itself is legend. From the late Middle Ages to the nineteenth century the focus of the entire country was on Paris, the center of western culture and a major influence on western history.
The city's layout and buildings reflect its cultural and political significance: the Champ-Elysées and the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, Place de la Concorde and Notre Dame. Paris is also considered by many to be the most beautiful city in the world. The museums of the French capital are unparalleled. From the Louvre to the Orsay, from the Centre Pompidou to the Rodin to the Cité des Sciences, each museum offers a unique aesthetic experience. Moreover, names like Faubourg, Saint Honoré and the Avenue Montaigne are reminders that Paris is famous for fashion. A shopping excursion with a stop for pastries at a picturesque street café is a must in Paris. Whether you prefer the opera, a ballet, classical music, jazz, a night club or a dance revue, the word Paris is synonymous with night-life. In the surrounding localities you can experiences aristocratic Paris: Versailles, Fontainebleau, Saint-Germain and Vaux-le-Vicomte. Here travelers are invited to escape to the glitter of the Louis XIV era.
This enchanting little hotel is situated in the heart of Paris, in the shadow of the Louvre. It is so close to St. Germain l'Auxerrois that you can hear the hymns from the former “King's Church” and see the Gothic windows from your bedroom.
In the cellar there is an old printing press that was used to print illegal leaflets during the French Revolution. It is said that the reception area was once the Café Momus (a debating club of the revolutionaries) and it was here that Puccini allowed parts of his opera “La Boheme” to be played. Breakfast, true to Parisian custom, is served in your suite. The hotel is air conditioned. Sophie Aulnette has managed the hotel for the past 10 years and personally attends to her guests' comfort. Tickets to local museums and other attractions can be purchased at a shop near the hotel.
For centuries, the Louvre served as the palace of the French kings and was the largest construction site in France. Almost every king made changes to it. In the 12th century it was still a proud castle but was expanded over the course of the next two centuries to become a symbolic residence. The four wings around the square courtyard are what remain of the original palace. When Louis XIV moved his residence to Versailles, the building was left to deteriorate. The Louvre did not become a museum until after the French Revolution when the National Assembly decided to use it to collect and exhibit the artistic treasures seized from the nobility. Today, the Louvre receives around ten million visitors every year and is the largest museum in the world. Its collections include over 380,000 pieces, and only about a tenth of them are on display. Its most famous painting is probably the Mona Lisa, which Leonardo da Vinci painted around the year 1503.
The traditional student district in Paris is located near Sorbonne University and is known as the Quartier Latin, because Latin had been the language of scholarship for many centuries. Numerous writers lived in the area, including Honoré de Balzac, Gabriel García Márquez and Klaus Mann. During the student riots in 1968, the quarter became the scene of heavy fighting in the streets. Thousands of students were arrested and hundreds were seriously injured by the police during the “Night of the Barricades.” When the trade unions called for a national strike in support of the students, President de Gaulle stepped down. Not many students live here today since the rent is unaffordable and they have given way to popular restaurants and boutiques.
This church for the archbishop of Paris took nearly 200 years to build. Yet when it was completed in 1345, it had become a marvel the likes of which the world had never seen. Although it is one of the earliest Gothic cathedrals, it remained the crowning achievement of Gothic architecture. Notre Dame rises over the Seine like a jewel. Its two towers are 69 meters high and its ridge turrets reach 96 meters in height. The nave, which provides room for up to 10,000 people, is 130 meters long, 48 meters wide, and 35 meters high. The cathedral was unprecedented in its day, and this was intentional. It was supposed to outshine the Louvre, which was the royal palace. Notre Dame is a testimony to the fact that Paris has not only been the center of France, but also the most important city in the Christian West from the Late Middle Ages until the 19th century and has had a decisive impact on its history.