Travel | Venice

Itinerary, Inclusions and Costs

An Opulent Christmas in Venice

DECEMBER 18 - 27, 2006  (10 Days)


Venice....The name immediately conjures up images of people and buildings, shimmering through a light, golden mist, half hidden, half submerged, real and yet fantasy! There is only one Venice and its uniqueness has provided inspiration for countless painters, writers, musicians, romantics, architects, photographers, and playwrights. To walk in Venice and observe the way the sun and the moonlight reflects on its canals and the way its buildings and sculptures catch the light and shadow is to risk acquiring a lifelong obsession. For centuries Venice has formed our concepts of romance, enchantment, beauty, art, pleasure, and decadence. Our deluxe program is designed for people who hate tours and the summer tourist "scene", but who love art, beauty, architecture, history, photography, and the unusual. Our experts present information as a conversation or talk between intelligent, inquisitive adults. We have chosen a very special time of the year when Venice is devoid of tourists and when the famous early winter light works its magic on the city/water/landscape. Our itinerary is arranged so that you may choose to either participate or pursue your own interests. Our hotel is within easy access of museums, palaces, restaurants and the water boats. Upon your arrival in Venice you'll feel right at home surrounded by warm, friendly people who share your passion for Venice and adventure. You'll greatly expand your knowledge of art, architecture, culture, and history while enjoying your luxurious accommodations. Our guides have devoted many years to discovering the hidden treasures of Venice so you can relax and enjoy the cultural experience of a lifetime. 

Monday December 18
Departure from the United States to Venice, Italy.

Tuesday December 19
Upon our arrival in Venice we'll board a vaporetto (boat) to view the many lavish, moonlight palaces along the Grand Canal on our way your luxury hotel. After some relaxation you’ll be ready for a special Welcome Banquet. After dinner stroll through romantic San Marco Square, dazzling and beautiful in the lamplight, then perhaps choose one of the cafes for an expresso or glass of wine.
Accommodation: Hotel Gabrelli Sandwirth  

Wednesday December 20
Our morning begins with a visit to the greatest of all Venetian palaces, the Palazzo Ducale, seat of the Doge (ruler) and political power since the 9th century. The exterior of the palace is essentially Gothic, however the interior is largely late Renaissance due to disastrous fires in 1574 and 1577. After ascending the fine marble, Renaissance staircase surrounded by sculptures of Mars and Neptune, you'll admire the refined rooms and the paintings of great masters who decorated them. Astounding paintings by Veronese, Bellini, Titian, Carpaccio and Tintoretto line the walls and ceilings. This wealth of painting reaches its climax with the enormous "Paradise", one of Tintoretto's greatest works, said to contain over 1000 figures! You'll marvel at the view from the second floor loggia with its sweepings vistas of the St. Marks Square, the lagoon, the Isle of San Giorgo and on a clear day, the snow covered Italian Alps. Next you’ll cross from the main palace over the “Bridge of Sighs” to the still very spooky dungeons. Late afternoon is reserved for Christmas shopping, but first you’ll visit an authentic mask studio where several of the mask artists will explain the history and meaning of this delightful art form. Discover how it feels to disguise yourself as Leonardo or Zeus! Tonight enjoy some of Venice's famous nightlife with a visit to the casino to try your hand at roulette or blackjack or join the revelry at one of the many distinguished jazz or wine bars.

Thursday December 21
This morning you'll visit the Venetian equivalent of Michealangelo's Sistine Chapel, the rarely visited, Scuola San Rocco Grande where Tintoretto spent 24 years painting the walls and ceilings with splendid works depicting the life of Christ. “a flash, a clap, indeed even a thunderbolt which has struck all the loftiest heights of painting”  was how the art historian, Marco Boschini described these works upon first seeing them in 1660! Here Tintoretto’s paintings display daring invention and an extraordinary use of light/dark interplay. Adjacent to the scuola is the Church of San Rocco containing eight more Tintoretto masterpieces. Both the scuola and the church are resplendent from their recent cleaning. A two minute walk brings us to the Frari (Santa Maria Gloriosa) Cathedral and monastery complex.  This enormous Gothic-Renaissance church contains so many masterful paintings and sculptures that it is almost a museum! You will find paintings by Bellini, (Madonna Enthroned and Child with Saints) maybe Bellini’s finest painting, Donatello, Vivarini, Titian (Our Lady of the Assumption ) and Tintoretto.

Friday December 22
First we’ll visit the overwhelming Baroque, illusionist ceiling of the Cathedral of San Pantalon, then stroll among the Venetians at one of the city’s most lively outdoor markets, the Campo San Margaretta. Colorful fish mongers hawk their silvery wares, while amongst this den of noise and activity, the greengrocers try to out scream each other about the superiority of their lush vegetables. Next you’ll see the obscure Cathedral and Scuola of San Carmine where Tiepolo created some of his loveliest and greatest works. You’ll ascend the flamboyant cherub packed stairwell to the upper story where the ceiling dance and sing with playfully colored paintings. Next door, we’ll visit the Cathedral of San Carmine, famous for its harmony of sculpture and painting. Next check the Christmas offerings at some of Venice's most trendy designer stores on our way to the Early Renaissance facade of San Zaccaria.  This church contains an abundance of important works by Bellini, Tintoretto and VaIvarini.  A brief visit down into the eerie, ancient crypt will quickly explain why it is rarely used today.

Saturday December 23
This morning tour will will guide you through the greatest collection of Venetian paintings in the world at the Accademia Museum. You'll see Giorgione's mysterious "The Tempest" which still casts its hypnotic spell on viewers and several other rare works by this fascinating painter. Masterpieces by Titian, Veneziano, Mantegna, Tintoretto, Bellini and Veronese's controversial painting, "Feast in the House of Levi". You’ll marvel at the exacting details in Carpaccio’s complete cycle of paintings illustrating the Story of St. Ursula. Next you’ll visit the enchanting palace-museum of the American, Peggy Guggenheim, who spent her entire life collecting the best art of the first half of the 20th century. Afterwards we’ll browse the museum bookstore then linger over coffees in the museum cafe. The narrow streets surrounding these two museums hosts a large number of private art galleries, handmade paper shops and antique curio sellers which should not be missed. Our gala evening culminates with a Vivaldi concert performed in original costumes and on original instruments in the very cathedral where Vivaldi was choirmaster! As you listen to the glorious notes of Vivaldi’s music, you eyes can explore one of Tiepolo’s most ostentatious paintings, The Glory of Paradise, located in the cathedral ceiling. 

Sunday December 24
This morning we are joined by an expert Jewish guide who will take us to the historic center of the Jewish 'Ghetto' (the term 'ghetto' was derived from the Venetian word, 'geto', meaning foundry). Beginning in the 15th century the Jewish community established their beautiful synagogues. When the Jews were expelled from Spain (1492) and Portugal (1497) many came to Venice and established their own synagogues, each with distinctive rites and rituals. You’ll enjoy the intelligence and humor of our special Jewish guide who will escort you through the synagogues and the museum. Then free time to prepare for your special evening. Tonight we’ll feast upon a six course traditional Venetian Christmas dinner served in the sumptuous setting of the Danieli Renaissance Palace. Our chefs will prepare mouth watering Venetian dishes complimented by special, non-exported, regional Venetian wines. Our Penthouse Dining Room overlooks the Grand Canal aglow with Christmas lights. After dinner join the Venetian at the 1000 year old San Marco Basilica, resplendent in its Christmas decor, for the glorious pageantry of High Midnight Mass.

Monday December 25
This morning we will sleep in. Then later in the afternoon we'll cruise through the lagoon to the picturesque island of Burano. This village of brightly colored houses bathed in the sunlight has always attracted painters and photographers. What a great opportunity to take some prize winning photographs!  Burano is known for its lacemaking that as an art form began in the 15th century. Lacemaking is extremely exacting work requiring very high skill, is boringly repetitive, and takes an enormous toll on the eyesight. Each woman specializes in a particular stitch and so each piece is passed from woman to woman during its construction. 

Tuesday December 26
In the morning you’ll stroll through narrow streets to the amazing Church of S Maria d. Miracola, newly restored to its former magnificence; then we move on to the Cathedral of San Giovanni & Paolo. Here you’ll view the Chapel of the Rosario with its odd and beautiful Egypto-Deco ceiling painted by Veronese. Next you’ll visit the rarely seen Church of the Down and Out; its facade is fascinating with grotesque masks, comical figures and anguished figures. Next we move down the Grand Canal to the Ca’ d’Oro (Palace of Gold) so named because the fantastic Gothic Flamboyant style facade of the palace was gilded in 24 carat gold. The just completed restoration reveals many of the original frescoes, art objects and furnishings that were used by the Bon family in the 15th century. This evening you'll conclude your Venetian adventure with a climatic, wildly extravagant and masked (optional) farewell dinner.

Wednesday December 27
Morning transfer to the airport to board your flight back home.    (in-flight meals)

Recommended Reading
The Venetian Empire: A Sea Voyage,  by John Morris (simply GREAT)
Death in Venice, by Thomas Mann  (a classic)
Vaporetto 13, by Robert Girardi, (quick read-terrific fiction)
Venetian Palaces, by Alvise Zorzi & Paolo Marton (Venetian Art& Architecture)

Interesting Links
Sites, descriptions, pictures and history of Venice

Program Package Includes

  • Round-trip airfare from the U.S. 
  • All transfers from airport to hotel. (Applies only to participants flying with the group) 
  • Portage of one piece of luggage. 
  • Luxury 5 Star hotel  
  • Special Welcome Banquet and Farewell Dinner. 
  • Traditional Christmas dinner at the Danieli Palace. 
  • All 5-Star lavish breakfasts 
  • Baroque Vivaldi Concert 
  • Jewish Ghetto excursion + guest expert 
  • All taxes and Service Fees
  • The services of expert guides 

Admission Fees Included
* Accademia Museum
* Frari Cathedral
* San Marco Basilica
* San Carmini Cathedral
* Guggenheim Museum
* Palace Rezzonico
* Ca’D’Oro (Palace of Gold)
* Ducal Palace
* Scuola San Rocco Grande
* Baroque Vivaldi Concert
* San Pantalon Cathedral
* Church of the Down & Out
* Scuola of San Carmine
* Church of S. Maria d. Miracoli
* San Zaccaria Cathedral & Crypt
* Museum Correr
* San Giovanni & Paolo Cathedral
* Mask Studio 

Price Per Person in Double Room
$3,595 from Los Angeles and $3,365 from New York.
The single supplement is $750.
The land only price is $2,845.

Traveling alone? Many of our participants do not have a travel companion when they sign up, but frequently we are able to match individuals. We will make every effort to connect you with a suitable roommate, but, otherwise, please add the single supplement. Note that single rooms in all Venetian hotels are small by American standards. 

Last updated Sunday November 26, 2006