At the present time EcoQuest Travel does not have a trip to Italy scheduled. The following itinerary is an example of trips we have conducted in the past and is similar to trips we intend to offer in the future. Please keep in mind that EcoQuest Travel offers many different itineraries to Italy – the trip listed below is just one example. If you are interested in Italy as a destination please contact us for further information.
Ancient Land of Natural Splendor
14 Day Natural History and Cultural Trip from June 17 through June 30
Italy is known as bel paese – the beautiful country. Italy is blessed with a tapestry of old ruins, quaint countryside, modern cities, picturesque seaports, superb cuisine and extraordinary people. Although Italy is certainly better known for its cultural wonders, with a little effort its rich natural history is revealed. Tucked away in protected areas is surprising plant and animal diversity including many large mammals. This special ecotourism trip is designed to explore Italy’s natural history. We will accomplish this by concentrating our visit in two national parks where we will search for Italy’s wildlife. Our first stop will be Abruzzo National Park in the Apennine Mountains. This spectacular park is home to a great variety of wildlife including wild boar, Marsican brown bears and wolves. From the Apennines we will head north to Tuscany before continuing north to the Italian Alps and the incredible Gran Paradiso National Park and Biosphere Reserve. This beautiful alpine park is home to chamois, ibex, marmot and golden eagle. Although this trip’s focus is natural history, we will be immersed in the local culture and language. We will also be flying in and out of Rome and will take advantage of Rome’s fantastic cultural riches while we are there. We invite you to journey with us to Italy and experience the magic of bel paese!
Day 1 – Friday, June 17: Home Cities to Our US Gateway City and on to Rome, Italy
An early morning flight from each of our home cities will take us to our gateway city, likely either New York or Chicago, for our connecting flight to Rome, Italy. Please arrive at your respective airports no later than two hours prior to your scheduled departure time. Our flight to Rome is an overnight flight so we should have plenty of time to reach our gateway city prior to departure.
Day 2 – Saturday, June 18: Arrival in Rome and Tour of the Cultural Sites of Rome
Once we arrive in Rome this morning we will clear immigration and customs before gathering our luggage and transferring to our lodging. At our accommodations we will settle into our rooms and have a chance to freshen up before we have lunch. After lunch we will begin our exploration of Rome with a tour of its most important cultural sites. None of these sites is more famous or awe-inspiring than the Coliseum and it is fitting that we will begin our journey through the ancient Roman Empire here. The Coliseum, where gladiators met in mortal combat, was a symbol of the eternity of Rome. It is comprised of three areas, the arena, the cavea and the podium – all of which we will see during our visit. From the Coliseum we will visit the ruins of the Roman Forum. The Forum was once the gleaming heart of the Roman Empire. We will next visit the Pantheon which is undoubtedly the best preserved building of ancient Rome. From the ruins we will travel to the baroque magnificence of the Trevi Fountain. The fountain was designed in 1732 and is fed by one of the city’s earliest aqueducts. After tossing a coin in the fountain we will visit Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps. After a full day we will have dinner on our own before returning to our lodging for a night of much needed rest. (B on the plane,L)
Day 3 – Sunday, June 19: Travel from Rome to Pescasseroli and Abruzzo National Park
After breakfast at our hotel we will transfer by private bus from Rome to the mountain village of Pescasseroli – the gateway to Abruzzo National Park. Abruzzo National Park is situated in the heart of the Apennine Mountains which stretch the entire length of Italy. These mountains have provided a refuge for most of Italy’s natural history and nowhere is this more apparent than in the ancient forests and flower-filled meadows of Abruzzo. We should arrive in Pescasseroli in time for lunch at our accommodations. After lunch we will begin our exploration of Abruzzo. (B,L,D)
Days 4, 5 & 6, Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday, June 20, 21 & 22: Abruzzo NP
We will have three full days to explore the wonders of Abruzzo National Park. Abruzzo encompasses 1100 square kilometers of rolling hills, majestic beech forests and alpine meadows, and is home to a rich diversity of animal species. Among the mammals we hope to see are wild boar, red and roe deer, badger and the endemic Apennine chamois. Abruzzo is also home to two rare carnivores the wolf and the Marsican brown bear. Although the chances of seeing these two predators in the wild is rare, our chances will be improved by working with the researchers studying each species. Abruzzo is a haven for birds including six species of woodpecker (black, green, white-backed as well as lesser, middle and great spotted), golden eagles, lanner falcon, Eurasian hoopoe, white-throated dipper and lots of song birds. Reptiles and amphibians are also present, but in smaller numbers. We will be up early each day when wildlife is most active to maximize our chances of seeing the greatest number of species. We will have a chance to interact with researchers who will help us understand the history of wildlife management in Abruzzo and the conservation issues that the park faces. The abundant wildlife, close association with Italian researchers, fantastic scenery, old traditional villages and locally inspired cuisine should all blend together to make our time at Abruzzo very memorable indeed. (B,L,D each day)
Day 7 – Thursday, June 23: Travel from Abruzzo NP to Tuscany
We will be up early this morning and after breakfast we will travel west to the coast and then north along the warm Mediterranean. The sea and the rolling countryside studded with villages and olive groves will provide a picturesque backdrop as we travel to Tuscany. Our destination is Pisa in Northern Tuscany and once we arrive we will have enough time to visit the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa before having dinner and settling into our accommodations. (B,L,D)
Day 8 – Friday, June 24: Tuscany to Aosta/Cogne and Gran Paradiso National Park
This morning we will depart early as we continue our journey north to the Italian Alps and Gran Paradiso National Park. Our route will take us through the historic port of Genoa before we turn north toward Valle d’ Aosta, Italy’s smallest region. This region, bordering both France and Switzerland, is dominated by snow-capped peaks including three of Europe’s four highest mountains. As we arrive at the region’s only city of Aosta, if we have a clear day, we could see Europe’s highest peak, Mont Blanc, which Italy shares with France and the Matterhorn, which Italy shares with Switzerland. From Aosta we will travel to the small town of Cogne – the gateway to Gran Paradiso NP. We will settle into our accommodations and, if enough time permits before dinner, we will hike to a nearby waterfall for a very cold swim. (B,L,D)
Days 9, 10 & 11 – Saturday, Sunday and Monday, June 25, 26 & 27: Gran Paradiso National Park
These three days will be spent exploring the lush valleys, alpine grasslands, larch/fir forests and glaciers that make up Gran Paradiso National Park and Biosphere Reserve. In 1922, Gran Paradiso became Italy’s first national park and is certainly one of the most scenic parks in the world. One of the primary reasons for the creation of the park was to protect the last remaining herd of alpine ibex. Alpine ibex were historically found throughout the Alps, but decades of hunting pressure reduced the population to one herd in Gran Paradiso. In recent times this herd has been used to introduce ibex to parts of its former range. Gran Paradiso still holds the largest herd of ibex and is the best place in the world to see this spectacular goat. We will spend a good deal of time above the tree line in hopes of glimpsing not only ibex, but chamois and alpine marmots as well. The alpine meadows where these mammals are found should be blanketed in wildflowers and alive with clouds of attendant butterflies. Also, we will be on the lookout for alpine birds such as golden eagle, rock ptarmigan, choughs, alpine choughs, snow finch, alpine accentor, wheatears and the spectacular wallcreeper. The forests of larch, fir, spruce and beech could contain firecrests, coal tits, citril finches, crossbills, ring ouzels, dippers, rock buntings, water pipits and the huge black woodpecker. On Saturday, to gain access to the higher elevations in the Park, we will have a five to seven hour hike to Refugio Sella where we will spend the night in the refuge’s chalet. On Sunday we will hike back down to Cogne by way of a little used route that we hope will yield great views of wildlife. On Monday we will overnight in Cogne and have a chance to taste the local Valdostane cuisine which includes plenty of chamois, venison and excellent cheeses. (B,L,D)
Day 12 – Tuesday, June 28: Travel from Aosta to Rome
Today we will have a long full day of travel as we journey southward to Rome. Once in Rome we will have dinner on our own and settle into our accommodations for the night. (B,L)
Day 13 – Wednesday, June 29: Vatican/St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel
This morning we will be up early to visit Vatican City. Although the Vatican is the smallest sovereign state in the world, it is made up of some of the most opulent sights on earth. Our first stop will be the Vatican Museums home to such vast collections of artifacts it would literally take days to see everything. All tours through the Museums end with the Sistine Chapel so, because our time is relatively limited, we will likely visit the Galleria delle Carte (Map Gallery); the Galleria degli Arazzi (Tapestry Gallery); and the Stanze di Raffaello (the private apartments of Pope Julius II) before we enter the Sistine Chapel. If we have enough time we could also take in the fabulous paintings in the Pinacoteca prior to visiting the Sistine Chapel. Our tour will end in the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo’s magnificent frescoes on the chapel’s ceiling. After we leave the crowded confines of the Sistine Chapel we will visit the vastness of St. Peter’s Basilica. The cavernous interior can hold up to 60,000 people and is home to many spectacular works of art. If enough times permits, we will visit the Appian Way and tour the subterranean catacombs of San Callisto. After a full day of touring, we will have our farewell dinner at a great local restaurant before returning to our lodging for a restful night’s sleep. (B,L,D)
Day 14 – Thursday, June 30: Departure for the US
This morning we will transfer to the airport for our flight back to our gateway city in the US. Once we arrive in the US we will go through immigration and customs before transferring to our flights back to our home cities. (B)
* Please note that EcoQuest Travel will make every effort to adhere to this itinerary, but dates, times, activities and prices are subject to change depending on scheduling and availability.