Day 1: Departure from US (March 8)
Overnight flight to Venice.
Day 2: Arrive Venice (March 9)
We arrive at the Venice airport where we meet our tour manager. We continue on to Venice Mestre for dinner and our lodging for the next two nights.
Day 3: Charming Venice (March 10)
Start the morning sightseeing in style as your guide takes you by private boat along the Giudecca canal to meet your resident expert. Highlights of your walking tour are St. Mark’s Square and the Byzantine splendor of St. Mark’s Basilica, lavish Doges’ Palace and the Bridge of Sighs. Afterwards enjoy Venice at your own pace, or join an optional gondola ride through the picturesque canal system, visit the many charming shops and take photos galore.
Day 4: Verona & Pisa (March 11)
We begin our day in romantic Verona, medieval setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, with a walk through the historic center/shopping district to see the famed balcony of Juliet. Traveling southward through colorful Tuscan countryside, past Bologna and on to free time for lunch in Pisa. The sightseeing this afternoon includes a tour of Pisa where you will visit the Baptistery, Duomo and the famous leaning tower in the Piazza dei Miracoli. We travel on to the spa village of Montecatini Terme, our place of lodging for the next two nights in the heart of Tuscany.
Day 5: Beautiful Florence, Michelangelo's David (March 12)
You will spend the morning enjoying a guided tour of Florence, one of the world’s greatest artistic capitals, which will include the Piazza della Signoria, Duomo, Baptistery and a visit to the Accademia Galley, home of Michelangelo’s David. A stop will also be made on the hillside overlook across the river from Florence where we will enjoy a panoramic view of the beautiful red-tiled roof cityscape. This afternoon is at your leisure to enjoy shopping, visiting more galleries or strolling on the famous Pont Vecchio, the old bridge which spans the Arno River. Remember that Florence leather shops are the best in the world and bargains on excellent quality goods are abundant. It may be the time to purchase those special souvenir.
Day 6: Siena, Catacombs, Roma (March 13)
The historic center of Siena has been declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site. It is one of the Italy's most visited cities, famous for a medieval cityscape. We will stop in the Piazza del Campo for coffee and a visit to the beautiful cathedral before we continue southward toward Rome. Before entering the city, you will enjoy a stop at the Catacombs where thousands of Christians were buried in a remarkable tiered series of galleries. Our lodging will be in Rome for the next three nights.
Day 7: Forum, Mamertine, Coliseum, Ostia Antica (March 14)
We begin our walking tour at the ancient Roman Forum, where our guide will divulge its secrets. We will visit the Arch of Titus which commemorated the sack of Jerusalem by Titus in AD 70. We will view the Mamertine Prison exterior, where tradition says the Apostle Paul was imprisoned. The Roman church would say that Peter was imprisoned here as well, but there is no imperial evidence that Peter was ever in Rome. Next, we visit the Coliseum, where thousands of people and animals perished during gladiatorial games. The Coliseum first opened in AD 80 and within 100 days of its opening, 5000 wild beasts perished here. The slaughter of both humans and animals continued for three more centuries. Historians believe the Coliseum could hold between 40,000 and 80,000 people depending on how close the seating was. The floor has recently had a plank placed over the middle making it accessible for people to walk over the labyrinth of brick cells, ramps, and elevators used to transport animals and gladiators into the arena. Hear the stories of the games that have fascinated people for hundreds of years. We conclude our day at the ruins of Ostia Antica, which provides an excellent example of city life in classical times and the Ostian Gate, today called the Gate of St. Paul.
Day 8: Vatican, St. Peter's, Scala Santa, Abbey of Three Fountains, St. Paul Outside the Wall (March 15)
After breakfast you will begin a full day of site seeing. First visit Vatican City where you will see the Basilica at St. Peter, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums with stunning works of art at every turn. After some free time for lunch, you will stop at The Abbey of the Three Fountains, the traditional site of Paul's martyrdom and the ancient street that he walked on. Next, visit the 4th century Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the site of Paul’s tomb, and the Scala Santa, where Martin Luther made his stand against the practice of indulgences. This fascinating museum houses the Steps from Pilot's Judgment Hall in Jerusalem brought to Rome by Helena, the mother of Constantine. Additional sights include the Arches of Constantine and Titus, Circus Maximus and the beautiful marble monument called the Wedding Cake.
Day 9: Depart Italy - Arrive Athens (March 16)
We fly from Rome to Athens and check into our hotel. You will have the remainder of the day free to relax or take a stroll along the streets of Athens to enjoy the flavor of the city. This evening our group will enjoy the first of many delectable European style dinners.
Day 10: Cruising Mykonos (March 17)
We sail this morning from Athens to the quaint isle of Mykonos, called the island of windmills. Experience the waterfront lined with shops and cafes and then stroll the charming walkways through a maze of whitewashed buildings before returning to the ship for dinner and evening entertainment.
Day 11: Ephesus and Patmos
Docking in Turkey, we enjoy a tour of Ephesus, the city of the Bible and one of the largest restorations still in progress with miles of ancient treasures. Ephesus was once a thriving port town of 250,000 people. Today you can still see the spectacular excavations of the major streets in this ancient city including the Agora, the Odeon, the Library, the marble-paved main Street, the Baths, Trajan’s Fountain, the Residences of the Patricians, the Prytaneum, and Temple of Hadrian. The Great Theatre, built in the 4th century B.C., could accommodate 24,000 spectators and it is famous even nowadays for its acoustics. This afternoon we visit the Isle of Patmos, under statutory protection as a historic monument. Here we have a tour to see the fortified monastery of St. John and the cave claimed to be where John received the Revelation. Back on the ship, enjoy the Captain's dinner before settling in to your cabin for the night.
Day 12: Crete and Santorini (March 19)
Crete is the largest and the most rugged of the Greek islands. We have a tour to Heraklion and the fantastic ruins of the Palace of Knossos. Discovered in 1899 and partially reconstructed, the elaborate Palace is believed to be the mythical Labyrinth of King Minos and the seat of ancient Minoan culture. This afternoon visit the island of Santorini which is perhaps the most breathtaking of all the Greek Islands. The town of Thira where white-washed houses, narrow streets, open-air cafes and glittering boutiques cling to steep cliffs, is accessible by foot path, cable-car or mule. You may choose to take an optional tour of sailing around an active volcano crater and swimming in the water heated by hot springs or enjoy this lovely island on foot. Again we return to the ship for dinner and evening entertainment.
Day 13: Disembark Cruise, Corinth and Mycenae (March 20)
We disembark the cruise this morning and immediately travel west with a rest stop and photos at the Corinth Canal. We then travel to the ancient city of Corinth, another treat for the New Testament scholar. Corinth is the city that inspired many of Paul's most familiar letters. See the Archaeological Museum, the Market Place, the Bema, and the Temples. To enjoy a devotional in the midst of the ruins of the church of Corinth and see the pillars, steps, and public worship place where Paul preached will enhance your understanding and love of I & II Corinthians. The ruins of this important cultural center are fascinating as we walk along the stone path that the Apostle Paul walked. The engineering skill and intellect of these people are evident in the water systems that still flow from ancient to modern day. Our guide will be sure to show you the room dedicated to the medical care of that period. After the visit to ancient Corinth we travel to Mycenae where the remains of the ancient city date back to the Bronze Age to see the famous Lionesse Gate, the Tomb of Agamennon in the shape of a Beehive, and many other sites before traveling to Athens. Our lodging is in Athens for the next three evenings.
Day 14: Athens (March 21)
Following breakfast this morning we Athens, the foundation of democracy. We visit the Acropolis, the Parthenon, and Erectheum before viewing Athens atop Mars Hill where Paul stood and preached the truth to the Gentile nation. Additional sites include the Agora (ancient market place and center of Athenian public life), the House of Parliament, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Olympic Stadium, and Presidential Palace. A short walk from your hotel is the famous Plaka with a multitude of shops and cafes.
Day 15: Meteora Monastery
From Athens, our tour travels northward past Thermopylae where we learn of the famous Spartan battle of 300. We continue through the mountains to Meteroa. Here we see the world famous Byzantine monasteries that are perched precariously on summits of gray rock pinnacles of varied and beautiful shapes. Their history goes back to the 14th century when the monks sought refuge in the cliffside caves then fled higher to build the original wooden shelters, later transformed into monasteries. Our lodging this evening will be in Meteora.
Day 16: Vergina, Berea, Thessalonica (March 23)
Traveling northward into Macedonia we visit King Phillip's (Alexander's father) tomb in Vergina, one of the most outstanding finds in all of Greece. A stop will be made in Berea to view the ancient synagogue where Paul spoke and the Bema surrounded by mosaics of Paul and the plaque of scripture regarding the "more noble" church. Driving through town we see remnants of the original Roman road that spanned the nation during Paul’s time. The New Testament books of I & II Thessalonians will come alive to us today as we arrive in the delightful harbor city of Thessalonica. En route to the hotel we will view the old city ramparts; the newly excavated Forum, St. George Church, an ancient Roman monument which was transformed into a church and the Galerius Arch which rises over the famous Via Egnatia. We spend two nights here.
Day 17: Thessalonica/Philippi/Kavala (March 24)
We begin the day by following the massive battlement Byzantine wall to the citadel for a panoramic view of the city. Next, we will visit Philippi and Kavala. Kavala is Greece's prettiest mainland port with a most elegant harbor. Paul landed here with his disciples, Timothy and Silas. Luke, the Evangelist, also came here from Troas. This ancient city of Neapolis was later renamed Christoupolis because it was the first European city to accept Christianity. Imagine walking on the same sod as these men of the Bible! We will see the Roman Aqueduct and the ruins of the Acropolis in this beautifully located city, known since the 5th century as Kavala. Continue on to Philippi where Paul preached his first evangelical sermon and baptized the first Christians on European soil. We will view the baptismal site where Lydia surrendered her life to Christ and visit a crypt dating from the Roman period that is thought to have served as a prison for Paul. See the famous Acropolis, the Market Place, Basilica, and the Theatre. We return to Thessalonica and visit St. Demetrius Basilica, dedicated to a distinguished member of the Roman army and a martyred Christian convert, before returning to the hotel for our final night.
Day 18: Depart for Home (March 25)
This morning we transfer to the airport for our flight home arriving back in Portland in the early morning of March 26th.
Itinerary subject to change while touring for the best interest of the group.