Venice & Verona: From Opera to Hidden Gardens

Travel with the Columbia Alumni Association (CAA) from July 9 - 16, 2018, on a historic adventure to Venice and Verona.

Lion Venice has served as a hallmark of culture and art, known as the spiritual home of the opera itself. From its famed courtesans to the dreamy gondolas floating along the canals, Venice is an icon of Italian sensibilities. Verona is that fair place where William Shakespeare set the scene for Romeo and Juliet to meet their destiny and their doom. Explore the famous stories and uncover the hidden mysteries of Italy as you tour these two cities, and if you’re so inclined, continue on to Florence for the optional extension.

Space is limited, so please contact  the Alumni Travel Study Program at (866) 325-8664 or email to for more information and to reserve your place today.

Dates & Prices

Trip Dates: July 9 - 16, 2018

Price:  $3,995 per person based upon double occupancy

Single space is  limited. If available, the single supplement is an additional $695. Please contact us to check single availability prior to sending your reservation, or to inquire about possible roommate options.

Optional group airfare:  $1,690 international air from New York, economy and estimated departure taxes (subject to change until time of booking.)


Monday, July 9, 2018
Depart the US on overnight flights to Venice.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018 - Venice, Italy
Upon arrival into Venice this morning you will be transferred to your hotel by private water taxi.  Enjoy a guided tour of classic Venice this afternoon. Begin your exploration of St. Mark’s Square, known as Piazza San Marco in Italian, one of the world’s most famous squares.  The square is the largest in the city and is the only one called ‘piazza’, the rest are referred to as ‘campi.’ The center of the square is host to St. Mark’s Basilica, seat to the Patriarch of Venice, archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, since 1807. Another dominating building in the square is Doge’s Palace, a palace turned into a museum in 1923.  The palace is comprised of the doge’s (duke’s) chambers, old prison cells and a corridor leading to the Bridge of Sighs, so aptly named due to the sighs let out by prisoners on their way to their cells where they would serve out their sentences. After touring the piazza, enjoy a gondola ride.  This evening, gather in the city center for a wine and food tasting in an osteria with the inn keeper.

Overnight at HOTEL GIORGIONE. (Meals Aloft; D)

Wednesday, July 11, 2018 - Venice/Giudecca/Fenice Theatre Performance
Spend the first half of the day visiting some of the major landmarks in Venice, including the Scala Contarini del Bovolo, a spiral staircase combining traditional Renaissance, Byzantine and Gothic architecture. Continue to the Fenice Theatre, three times risen from the ashes like its namesake the Pheonix. This landmark theater was the preferred opera debut venue for such legendary composers as Verdi, Bellini, Donizetti and Rossini. After lunch, head out to Giudecca Island, an enclave of horticulture where local monks cultivate a variety of produce, including olive trees, kiwi, and grapes.

Back in Venice, visit the Palazzo Zenobio, a one-of-a-kind palace situated near the Canale Grande. Acquired by the Zenobio family in 1664, the palace is built in a Gothic style with luxurious furnishings, frescoes, awe inspiring stucco work, mirrors and portraits of some of the most influential people of 18th century Venetian grandeur. In addition, the palace is home to a rare interior garden heavily influenced by French architecture. In the evening, enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience, an after hours tour of St. Mark’s Basilica. After closing time, get an intimate tour of the areas usually forbidden to the public, including the crypt where the bones of St. Mark himself are said to be kept.  Tonight, enjoy a performance at the Fenice Theatre.
Overnight at HOTEL GIORGIONE. (B,L)

Thursday, July 12, 2018 - Venice
This morning will be devoted to the legendary composer Richard Wagner, who considered Venice a second home. His love of Venice made him rent the entire mezzanine of the Palazzo Vendramin Calergi. He would often visit and stay in the palazzo with his family up until his death in 1883.  In 1995, the Wagner Museum opened its doors and is host to a collection of priceless artifacts, including letters, paintings, musical scores, and family heirlooms.

Tour the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, or the Frari Church, considered one of the greatest churches in the city with a status of a minor basilica. It is constructed of brick and is one of the three notable churches built in the Italian Gothic style in Venice. Later, enjoy a private tour by the owner of Palazzo Zeno, built in the late fourteenth century by Carlo Zeno, a hero in the Chioggia’s war between Venice and Genova. After your visit, enjoy an authentic Bacaro Tour: taste Venetian cicchetti, a Spanish style tapas, with a glass of wine in hand!

Continue onto your tour of the medieval Scuola Grande di San Marco, a place of artistic and historical significance. It was founded in 1260 for humanitarian purposes. The structure today is different from the original one; it suffered from a fire in the late 15th century and was redesigned and erected in 1488. It functioned as the headquarters for the confraternity up until 1808 and then was used as a military hospital. In 1819, it was converted into a civic hospital and still is used in that capacity today.

Return to your hotel to rest and refresh before drinks at the Sky Bar of Hotel Hilton Molino Stucky, which provides an incredible aerial view of Venice, and then dinner in a restaurant at Giudecca Island with beautiful views of the Venice Lagoon.
Overnight at HOTEL GIORGIONE. (B,L,D)

Friday, July 13, 2018 - Venice
Today is devoted to Vivaldi, born in Venice in 1678, and known as one of the greatest Baroque composers in Europe; he lived and worked in the city. Many of his compositions were written for the female music ensemble of Ospedale della Pieta, a convent, orphanage and music school, where he was ordained as a Catholic priest and taught violin from 1703 to 1715 and again from 1723 to 1740. Visit the and learn its rich history from being created as a hotel for Crusaders to becoming a charitable institution that housed orphans and abandoned girls.

After lunch, head on to the Church of Derelitti, built between 1662 and 1672, and known as one of the four Ospedale Maggiori (Great Hospitals). It was also called the Ospedaleto (little hospital); being the smallest of the four, it would take in the destitute and orphaned children.  They taught young boys about trade and the girls were taught music.  It was the first of the four institutions to create a girl’s choir and was highly regarded for musical excellence, especially during the 18th century. Return to your hotel where the remainder of your day is at leisure to enjoy your last night in Venice.

Overnight at HOTEL GIORGIONE. (B,L)

Saturday,July 14, 2018 - Venice/Padua/Verona/Arena Di Verona Performance
After breakfast, travel to Padua for a half day guided walking tour of the city. Begin with a tour of the Scrovegni Chapel, also known as the Arena Chapel. It was dedicated to Santa Maria della Carita at the Feast of Annunciation in 1303 and consecrated in 1305.  Enjoy the magnificent frescoes hiding within at the Scrovegni Chapel, painted by Giotto and his followers, a founding figure in the Renaissance movement. These tableaux, painted on the interior of the church, are the first instance in Western painting of blue skies. Also visit the second oldest university in Italy, Bo Palace, where greats such as Galileo, Dante, and Petrarch studied. It’s been the historical seat of the University of Padua since 1539 and is home to the Anatomical Theatre of Padua. Your walking tour will continue through several famed cafes and plazas as you make your way toward the Botanical Gardens of Padua, the world’s first botanical garden, dating back to 1545 and a place of great beauty and scientific value still today.

After lunch, proceed to Verona, the city where Romeo and Juliet fell in love. Tour the 14th century Castelvecchio Museum, located in a medieval castle, with contributions from the many rulers of the city of Verona over the centuries. It displays a collection of sculptures, paintings, ancient weapons, gold work, ceramics and other antiquities. Tonight, enjoy a performance at the Arena di Verona.  

Your home for the next two nights is at the contemporary Hotel Leon d’Oro. Upon entering the lobby, you will be greeted by Murano glass chandeliers, marble columns and “Buon Giorno” from the staff. All rooms are tastefully decorated and offer the latest technology to ensure a comfortable stay. Enjoy dinner in the Salgari Restaurant where Veronese regional specialties are prepared fresh daily.
Overnight at the HOTEL ROSEO LEON D’ORO. (B,L,D)

Sunday, July 15, 2018 - Verona/Valpolicella
Start your morning with a walk through the streets of Verona, a city that has stood for over a thousand years. See the legacy of the Romans, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and beyond in the bricks and columns of the city.

In the afternoon, take a private coach to Valpolicella, a region of winelands that have produced high quality vino since the days of Ancient Rome. Visit Villa Mosconi Bertain, a neoclassical manor in the Veneto region of Italy, for a wine tasting. It is the only Veronese estate constructed for wine production in the beginning of the 18th century. It’s comprised of a residence, large cellar and a 54-acre orchard. The complex is listed and protected as a historical landmark by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities. En route back to Verona, stop by the Oil Museum to enjoy a presentation on the culture and cultivation of olive oil.  Tonight, enjoy a farewell dinner in a typical restaurant and reminisce about your adventure.
Overnight at HOTEL ROSEO LEON D’ORO.  (B,L,D)

Monday, July 16, 2018 - Verona/Venice/USA
Bid farewell to Verona as you head back to Venice to catch your flight home. While you may leave behind the delights you encountered here in Italy, the experience will remain with you forever.  (B, Meals Aloft)

B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner

What's included:

  • All ground transfers and excursions in private deluxe air-conditioned motor coach.
  • Continental breakfast daily, a welcome dinner and a farewell dinner and other meals as per itinerary. (B=Breakfast; L=Lunch; D=Dinner)
  • Superior accommodations throughout as indicated or similar.
  • All museum and attraction entry fees indicated on itinerary.
  • Porterage for baggage handling.
  • Complimentary baggage tags and passport wallet.

What’s not included:
International airfare; taxes; passport, visas and associated fees if required; personal expenses such as laundry (except as noted), internet access, and telephone calls; accident/sickness, trip cancellation, and baggage insurance; excess baggage charges on aircraft; transfers and baggage handling to/from hotel on day of arrival and/or departure if you  if you are arriving earlier or later than and/or departing earlier or later than the scheduled group transfer(s); any overnight on land due to flight schedule(s); meals, alcoholic or other beverages and all other services not specifically mentioned in the “Included Features” section of the program brochure.

Activity Level: Easy
•    Must be able to climb in and out of buses. People need to be willing to rotate seats. 
•    Must be able to tolerate walking tours at an easy pace on uneven terrain, sometimes uphill, for three or four hours at a time.
•    Should generally be in good health. Your trip includes considerable walking. These conditions may pose problems to participants with particular physical issues and you should always consult your personal physician before embarking on such an adventure.

Air Schedules:
Our travel partner works with many airlines that offer the best level of service, routings and value for our program, and is happy to assist with flight options for the trip. If you would like to use your miles or points, or prefer to purchase your own international air, please feel free to do so. The start and the end city for this program is Venice, Italy. The extension returns from Florence, Italy.

Optional Extension to Florence:

Monday, July 16, 2018 - Venice/Florence
Travel first class via train from Verona to Florence where you will be met by your guide, and escorted to your hotel.  Spend this afternoon exploring medieval streets, and relaxing at the hotel before meeting back up with the group for dinner.

The Hotel Adler Cavalieri is just a two-minute walk from the train station. Beautifully furnished in 19th century Tuscan décor highlighted by tapestries, the rooms are open and airy, with frescoed ceilings and marbled bathrooms. All rooms are equipped with WiFi, television, a mini-bar, and kettle for warm beverages. The hotel offers a full gym and spa, including a Finnish sauna.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018 - Florence
Set out on a guided tour of Florence, historically home to the infamous Medici family and the warring factions of the Guelphs and Ghibellines, as well as the birthplace of Dante Alighieri and home to Giorgio Vasari. The city is the site of innumerable masterpieces by Renaissance artists such as Michelangelo, Botticelli, Giotto, and Ghiberti. Visit the splendid Duomo of Santa Maria del Fiore, stop to view the Baptistery with its doors by Pisano and Ghiberti. Then stroll the winding city center to Piazza della Signoria to view the Loggia and the many imposing facades of some of the city’s oldest buildings. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant and then continue the day with an audio tour of the Uffizi Galleries. Wonder at the elegance of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and the splendor of the Niobe room’s Greek sculptures. The rooms of the museum are arranged chronologically, leading you from the end of the Middle Ages, through to the High Renaissance, roughly three centuries of world-renowned art. Return to the hotel for dinner.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018 - Florence
This morning you will cross the Arno River to visit the Palazzo Pitti, former residence of the grand dukes of Tuscany and later the King of Italy, which currently houses important collections of paintings, sculptures, works of art, and porcelains.

Continue to the sprawling Boboli Gardens, a true marvel of “green architecture,” the inspiration for many royal European gardens, most notably Versailles. Originally laid out behind Santa Felicita in the early 1400’s, the grounds continued to expand, eventually becoming home to the Medici family in the mid-1500’s. The fountains, terraces, and tunnels provide an ideal space for escaping the summer heat.

After lunch near the gardens enjoy the remainder of your last full day in Italy on your own. Tonight, share a farewell dinner with your fellow travelers.

Thursday, September 19, 2018 -  Florence/USA
Today bid farewell to your Italian adventure as you head out to the airport, bringing with you the memories of this special place. (Meals Aloft)

Please call us toll-free at (866) 325-8664 or email us at for more details.