Venice, Tuscany & the Amalfi Coast, Italy   9 comments

Venice, Tuscany & the Amalfi Coast, Italy

Jan. 22 – Feb. 11, 2011


Our three week trip to Italy began in the wonderfully fascinating city of Venice. After five days in Venice, we explored the legendary locales of Tuscany for a week, and then our final week was spent enjoying the cliff side beauty of the Amalfi Coast. This was our 26th trip with Grand Circle Travel, and was led by our excellent program director, Fernando. It was a delightful experience in the beautiful country of Italy.






Save Money: If you decide you’d like to go on this or any Grand Circle Travel or Overseas Adventure Travel trip, and you are a first time traveler with them, they will give you $100 off any trip if you mention the name of my travel blog and my customer #561413. New travelers instantly receive $100 off the cost of the trip, and I will receive $100 when you depart on your trip.

  The city of Venice stretches across 117 small islands in the Venetian Lagoon along the Adriatic Sea in Northeast Italy.  It is an architectural masterpiece famous for its 150 canals and more than 400 bridges.  Its small traffic free streets winding along the canals takes you to magnificent churches and palaces, living squares and interesting buildings.  The highlights of Venice include St. Marks square, the Doge’s Palace, and the Rialto Bridge; however the essence of Venice is wandering along the canals, across the little bridges and up and down little alley streets off the tourist track.


Venice:  St. Marks (San Marcos) Square


Canals of Venice


Canals of Venice


View from in front of the Doges Palace & Doges Palace on the right

Murano is a series of islands located about one mile from Venice.  Murano has been a center of glass making since 1291.


The little island of Burano is located about 40 minutes by vaporetti from Venice.  It is known for its lace making and for its  brightly painted fisherman’s houses.




After leaving the Venice area we drove south to the central part of Italy to the Tuscany Area. Tuscany is known for its beautiful landscapes and its rich artistic legacy.  From the Etruscans to the Romans to the Renaissance,  Tuscany is probably the greatest repository of art in the world from extraordinary paintings and sculpture to frescoes and architectural masterpieces.

We stayed one week in the hillside town of Chianciano and from there we toured the beautiful Tuscany area.


Florence: Set on the banks of the Arno River, Florence came into its own as a commercial and cultural center during the 13th century, when merchants and tradesmen organized guilds that commissioned works of art to adorn their churches and palaces.  It was this revival of interest in art and architecture that gave birth to the Italian Renaissance, an amazing outburst between the 14th and 16th centuries that completely changed the face of this Tuscan town.


Just outside of Florence is the Florence American Cemetery and Memorial which has the tombstones of 4,402 of our American soldiers.  Engraved on a wall at the cemetery is the tablet of the missing-in-action which includes names of 4,409 of our Americans.  Most of them died in the capture of Rome in June 1944.



Since it was coming evening the Veterans in our group were asked to lower the American flag.  Jim and three other veterans shared in this honor.


Pienza:  In 1459-1462, the town conceived by Pope Pius II was built on top of a medieval castle and in those three years it witnessed the birth of several landmark works of architecture.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

View album

Siena is a beautiful medieval walled city, built on three ridges.  It was a rich and powerful city during the Middle Ages and today’s Siena still retains the air of the Tuscan Middle Ages.  The tall slender Italianate tower of the Town Hall soars from the rim of the Piazza del Campo, an inclined central square that is just beautiful and very unique.  Each year a famous horse race is held in this square with horses and riders representing ten of the city’s wards.


The Cathedral of Siena which was built in the 1200’s is splendid!  The black & white marble stripes on the walls and columns, the famous works of art, the beautiful mosaic floors….what a place.  And located within the Cathedral is the Piccolomini Library, adorned with colorful, fantastically beautiful frescoes by Perugino, the master of Raphael.


Jim & I took a local bus to the town of Montepulciano, it sits high on a limestone ridge and is a medieval and Renaissance hill town.  The main street of Montepulciano stretches and snakes it way about one mile from the Porto al Prato to Piazza Grande at the top of the town.  As we strolled through the town we also took time to enjoy the views of the beautiful valley below.


It is in Cortona that author Frances Mayes bought the home she restored in Under the Tuscan Sun. The motion pictures, Under the Tuscan Sun and Life is Beautiful were both filmed in this town.  It was certainly easy to see why this town is famous.


Neat shops of Cortona:  The shoe cobbler had a shoe machine just like my Daddy had and used when I was a little girl.  Even though we didn’t speak the same language I think he understood what I was trying to tell him.


View album

After spending a week in the legendary Tuscany area enjoying the extraordinary countryside we headed to the Amalfi Coast which is renowned for its rugged terrain, scenic beauty and picturesque towns.  From Sorrento we toured the fascinating area of the Amalfi Coast.

Our final week in Italy was spent in Sorrento, a small town located over white steep cliffs with views over the Bay of Naples.


We visited a farm to learn the secrets of local agriculture.  Later, we all had fun making pizza.
View album


The ancient city of Pompeii is a partially buried Roman city near Naples.  History tells us that Pompeii was buried in four to six meters of ash and pumice from an eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. and was lost for over 1,500 years before it was accidentally discovered in  1599.  Since then its excavation has provided insight into the life of a city at the height of the Roman Empire.


After leaving Pompeii we drove to the National Archeological Museum in Naples.  The artifacts from Naples are housed in this museum.  Loved the mosaic picture of the lady of the times, the statues were huge and I felt like the young man in the bronze statue was looking directly at me.


Perhaps one of our most beautiful rides ever was along the Amalfi Coast!  On this leisurely tour, we discovered Italy’s most beautiful coastline, richly inspired with centuries-old charm.  We rode along its ruggedly gorgeous shoreline on top of narrow roads that snaked along the cliffs edge,  and looking down beside the road was forever….The scene was decorated with wondrous rock formations, little fishing boats, and quaint little fishing towns hanging from the cliffs overlooking the water.


We stopped at Amalfi which is the main town along the coast. We walked around the lovely town and then got on a boat and did a boat tour of that coastal area.



We visited one of the Stabian Villas, the Villa San Marco, which has been a Grand Circle Foundation Site since 2005.  They are currently under excavation with archeologists and workers.  This area was a summer resort and spa for the elite of the ancient Roman Empire, where they had built large and luxurious villas.  We walked back into time….to 79 A.D., when Mt. Vesuvius erupted and covered these villas.  They know that these spectacular villas overlooked the bay, but they do not know who occupied them.  It was amazing to see murals and mosaics that are 2,000 years old!


Jim & I caught a local train and made our way to Herculaneum.  After the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. the town of Herculaneum was buried under 50-60 feet of mud and ash.  It lay hidden and nearly intact for 1,600 years until it was accidentally discovered in 1709.  It is a small area that has been excavated in comparison to Pompeii so it was easy to walk up and down every little street and pop in and out of most every building.  You can see there are some three story buildings that are still intact.  Fascinating to go back 2,000 years in time and actually walk in the ghost town of yesteryear!


We loved the Amalfi Coast so much that we decided to take a local bus and ride to Positano, which is a cliff side town overlooking the sea.  We got off the bus and walked down, down and down through the town to the seaside.  We decided it was time for a cappuccino and most certainly had the most expensive of the trip….4.50 Euro ($6.13) and that for each cup!  Oh well, it was a cappuccino with a view.


Our week in the area of the Amalfi Coast ended and we drove to Rome in order to return to Kansas the next day.  On the way to Rome we stopped at the famous Monte Cassino Abbey.  The battle of Monte Cassino was a costly series of four battles during WWII, fought by the allies against Germans with the intentions of breaking through the Winter Line and seizing Rome.  The abbey was destroyed by American bombs because it was being used by the Germans.  Although the Allied Forces won the Battle of Monte Cassino, they suffered almost 100,000 casualties; the Germans 20,000.  Monte Cassino Abbey has been completely rebuilt and it is indeed a beautiful place.


We arrived in Rome in the late afternoon and since our hotel was near the Vatican,  Jim & I  decided to go into St. Peter’s Basilica one more time.  It was a perfect time because there weren’t many tourists there.


Thus ends another wonderful trip….this time expanding our discoveries throughout Venice, Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast!  What a joy and a privilege to be able to do this.


Posted February 27, 2011 by marilynfarmer in Travel

9 responses to “Venice, Tuscany & the Amalfi Coast, Italy

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  1. The pictures/histories are great! Thanks for all the memories you are sharing with us re: our tour of Venice; the Amalfi Coast; etc.
    We’ll remember this wonderful time spent with our fellow travelers forever. Marvin & Bunny

  2. We really enjoyed your photos and explanations. We will be taking the trip this year and it was great to be able to see your experiences ahead of time. We are truly excited now!

  3. Thank you so much for putting so much effort into capturing this beautiful trip. We re leaving in less than a week for the same tour. Now I am even more excited!

  4. We love your treasure collection of photos of Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast. Your photos capture the beautiful, charm and history of Italy that awaits us, and we are so excited to be taking this tour August 2. Looking back on your trip are there any “do’s and don’t’s ” you could pass on to us. Friends took the optional tour of Capri but did not recommend it. Do you agree? Of the optional tours provided, which ones do you recommend? We were told Siena is a “must see”. Thanks so much for sharing your photos, and we appreciate any feedback you can give us.

    Dave and Deanna

    Dave and Deanna Supple
  5. Thanks for the careful and thorough account of the trip. we are taking the trip in early December- I was curious about the weather during your January trip. As you say, it is chilly, but there are fewer crowds. We also look forward to the early Christmas season there.

    Joe and Cheryl McLaughlin
  6. Hooray for you! We loved your pictures and commentary of this trip, which we are taking in a couple weeks (Sept. 10 departure). We have visited many of the northern parts of Italy, but just couldn’t pass on seeing the Amalfi Coast. Now if I can just do as good a job as you when I return and put up pics and explanations. That’s my next challenge! Perhaps I’ll leave another message when we return and add to your comments. John and Sue Tedell, Surprise, AZ

  7. Marilyn,

    You should be a travel writer! I want to go on trips with you! Your pictures and your words are wonderful. I sure hope we have so many good pictures and memories when we go in Nov, 2011. And what a wonderful experience at the American Cemetary!
    Thanks for the input on the optional tours and places you visited on your own

  8. We are planning the Tuscany and Amalfi Coast 18 day trip in late Apri 2012 and the Romance of the Rhine & Mosel and Lucerne, Switzerland trip in November 2012. I’ve read your “Farmers Meanderings” for both and they are so wonderful!!! The photos, the historical aspect and your personal experiences bring the whole trip to “life.” You are obviously very seasoned Grand Circle Travelers and great Ambassadors for them.

    If you have any advice for either trip that would make it more interesting, exciting, safe, etc. we would love to hear from you.

  9. Thank you for the preview of our tour next month!

    Karla and Dick Mahar

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