Day 1: Tuesday: Departure from the USA
Enclose in your soul Greece… and you shall feel every kind of grandeur (Dionysios Solomos; Note to “Free Besieged”).
We depart from the USA for our overnight flight to Athens, Greece, universally considered the cradle of western civilization and the birthplace of democracy.
Day 2: Wednesday: Arrive in Athens
O bright and violet-crowned and famed in song, bulwark of Greece, famous Athens, divine city! (Pindar (518-438 B.C.) Fragment 76).
Faith Journeys welcomes you to Athens! As we make our way to our hotel to enjoy a welcome dinner and our first night in Greece, we will see the Agora, an open place of assembly in ancient Greek city states. Interestingly, the word “Agoraphobia” (fear of public situations) derives from the word “Agora.” En route to our hotel, we will also behold the amazing Acropolis whose center is the Parthenon or Temple of Athena.
Day 3: Thursday: Athens – Corinth
“Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city” (Acts 18:9-10).
This morning we explore some of the sites we saw only in passing yesterday. Our tour of Athens begins with the Acropolis, a flat-topped rocky area that rises 490 feet above sea level, where we explore the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the Greek goddess, Athena. The Parthenon, truly one of the world’s greatest monuments, is considered to be the most enduring symbol and important surviving building of Ancient Greece. We will also visit the Areopagus or Areios Pagos (in Greek pagos means big piece of rock) north-west of the Acropolis, which in classical times functioned as the high court of Appeal for criminal and civil cases in Athens. Pope John Paul II visited this hill from which the Apostle Paul gave his famous sermon about “The Unknown God.” The afternoon finds us traveling to Corinth, one of the oldest towns in Greece, which in classical times rivaled Athens and Thebes in wealth. Paul lived in Corinth for 18 months working as a tentmaker and establishing a church (“… and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized” – The Acts 18:8). We will visit the 6th-century B. C. Temple of Apollo, which is one of the oldest stone temples in Greece and built on a hill overlooking the remains of the Roman marketplace. We will also explore the Archaeological Museum of Ancient Corinth which contains a number of artifacts of great religious interest. On our way back to Athens for dinner and another overnight stay; we might contemplate Paul’s words found in Corinthians 2:5: “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”
Day 4: Friday: Greek Isle Cruise – Mykonos
Beauty is the gift of God. (Aristotle).
Today we transfer to the city of Piraeus which sports the largest passenger port in Europe
and the third largest in the world, to embark on a lovely 4 DAY/3 NIGHT Greek Island cruise. We first sail to the island of Mykonos, believed to have been named after a local hero who was considered an offspring of the god Apollo. There is much to see in beautiful Mykonos—from its legendary windmills (landmarks from as early as the 16th century), to its “Little Venice” where buildings have been constructed on the sea’s edge with their balconies overhanging the water—from its famous mascot Petros the Pelican to its inviting sandy beaches. We will have leisure time enough to shop for woolens or jewelry, to stroll the narrow streets or to sample some of the delicious culinary fare in this charming place.
Day 5: Saturday: Kusadasi – Ephesus
But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ (Ephesians 4:7)
We dock in a resort town on Turkey’s Aegean coast, Kusadasi, whose name comes from words meaning “bird” and “island” because the peninsula upon which it sits has the shape of a bird’s head as seen from the sea. From here we will take a short bus ride to see the ruins of Ephesus, for many years the second largest city of the Roman Empire ranking only behind Rome. It is to the Ephesians Paul wrote: “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil…. Having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness… taking the shield of faith… the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6: 11 – 17) after having spent three years here (from 52-54 A.D.) walking its marble streets, preaching and ministering. We’ll look with wonder on the giant theater, capable of holding 25,000 spectators (used initially for drama, but during later Roman times for gladiatorial combats) where the riot of the silversmiths occurred. We’ll also see the Temple of Artemis (Diana) before returning to our ship to sail to Patmos, where the Apostle John received his vision of the Apocalypse.Visitors can see the cave where John is said to have received his Revelation (the Cave of the Apocalypse) and if time permits, we will visit the mile high Monastery which houses a treasury of Byzantine art and religious artifacts.
Day 6: Sunday: Crete – Santorini
Continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister (Colossians 1:23).
We will spend the last day of our Greek Isle Cruise enjoying free time visiting the largest city and capital of Crete, Heraklion (home to many significant artists including the poet and Nobel Prize winner Odysseas Elytis and the world-famous Greek painter Domenicos Theotokopoulos (El Greco). We’ll also visit the town of Fira on the island of Santorini. Fira is a traditional settlement of white-washed houses built on the edge of a caldera. The panoramic view of the blue Aegean water is magnificent from Fira and there are two main museums of interest including the Santorini Archeological Museum and the Museum of Prehistoric Thera. There are also some optional excursions available today: Knossos Palace (one of the great archaeological sites of the world built between 2000 and 1250 B.C., on Crete) or a cable car ride in Santorini. We’ll return to the ship for dinner and an overnight stay.
Day 7: Monday: Rome
[A]nd after one day the south wind blew, and we came the next day to Puteoli. [A]nd so we went toward Rome. And from thence, when the brethren heard of us, they came to meet us as far as Appii forum, and The three taverns: whom when Paul saw, he thanked God, and took courage (The Acts 28: 13-15).
Our cruise ends where it began: the port of Piraeus where we will transfer by bus to the Athens airport for our flight to Rome, Italy. Upon arrival in Rome, known as the Eternal City, we’ll enjoy a half day guided walking tour through the core of the ancient city to behold what is left of ancient Rome’s glorious past. We will see Trajan’s Column with its artistic description of the epic wars between the Romans and Dacians, travel the Via dei Fori Imperiali (this street crosses over parts of the Forums of Trajan, Augustus and Nerva) and visit Capitoline Hill, yet the seat of the Municipality and now surrounded by Museums and the magnificent Piazza del Campidoglio designed by Michaelangelo. The Roman Forum is the centralized area around which ancient Roman civilization developed. We’ll view the oldest and most important structures of the ancient city including the complex of the Vestal Virgins, and Rome’s earliest shrines and temples. We will visit the Palatine Hill, centermost of the Seven Hills of Rome and site of its earliest history including its famous legend about Romulus and Remus, twin brothers raised by a she-wolf. In a violent argument about building their own cities, Romulus was said to have killed Remus; hence Rome’s name is derivative of “Romulus.” We see the ruins of the Imperial Palaces and the Arch of Constantine, and finally the magnificent Roman Colosseum. This structure, completed in 80 AD under Titus, had the capacity to seat 50,000 spectators and was used for gladiatorial contests, public spectacles, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on classical mythology. The Colosseum has long been considered sacred because of its legendary association with early Christian martyrs. Although in the 21st century it stays partially ruined because of damage caused by devastating earthquakes and stone-robbers, we can’t argue that it is still the ultimate iconic symbol of Imperial Rome. As evening approaches, we will check into our hotel and enjoy dinner together in our first night in the “Eternal City”.
Day 8: Tuesday: Rome
Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee (Peter in Acts 3:6)
We greet the new day in a city nicknamed Caput Mundi (Capital of the World) and The Eternal City, not only because Rome has always been the hub of art, education, high culture and politics in the western world, but because it is also a spiritual capital and a powerful center of pilgrimage. We will first visit the Vatican Museums which house the most important collections of art in the world. Highlights include the Court of the Pigna, the Belvedere Palace, the Greek Cross Room (where the splendid Sarcophagi of St. Helene and St. Constance are housed), The Tapestry Gallery, The Raphael Rooms, and The Sistine Chapel where we will gaze on Michelangelo’s incredible masterpiece and descend the Royal Stairway, designed by Bernini. Our guide will lead us to St. Peter’s Basilica which has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world and which has been described as the reason Rome is still the center of the civilized world. Tradition holds that Peter’s tomb is directly below the altar of this basilica, which American Ralph Waldo Emerson described as” an ornament of the earth… the sublime of the beautiful”. Next we will have the chance to marvel at Bernini’s beautiful bronze canopy and Michelangelo’s Mary holding her crucified son, known as “La Pieta”. Our visit ends at St. Peter’s Square, whose surrounding colonnade is an architectural masterpiece by Bernini. We’ll walk under the symbolic protection of Michelangelo’s dome, the Cuppolone. This afternoon, we’ll continue our walking tour to the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona where we’ll enjoy dinner at a local “Trattoria” in the heart of “the Eternal City”.
Day 9: Wednesday: Rome
[W]ho changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever (Romans 1: 25).
Today, if the Pope is in residence, we will attend the weekly Papal Audience. We will also visit the Basilica of St. John Lateran which is the oldest of the major basilicas and ranks first as the actual “parish church” of the Pope (Bishop of Rome). There we will learn about the Scala Sancta (Holy Stairs). Tradition has it that these steps, said to be the staircase leading once to the praetorium of Pilate at Jerusalem, are sanctified by the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Martin Luther made a point of ascending them when call by the Pope to Rome. Next, we’ll see the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls which was founded by the Roman Emperor Constantine I, over the burial place of the Apostle Paul. Other sites on today’s itinerary may include the oldest road from Roman times (the Appian Way), the Baths of Caracalla, the Arch of Drusus, and the ancient catacombs of Rome located on the outskirts of the city where early Christians hid themselves to avoid persecution. Tonight we enjoy a delicious dinner on our final evening in the Eternal City.
Day 10: Thursday: Rome – Florence
“Roma, Roma, non basta una vita!” (Rome, Rome, one lifetime is not enough!)
After an early-morning breakfast, we leave Rome and head northward through the beautiful Italian countryside toward Florence, which will be our home for the next two nights. En route, we will visit the charming medieval and Renaissance hill town of Montepulciano, in the province of Siena in Southern Tuscany. Montepulciano is known for its pork, cheese, pasta, lentils, and honey. Are you hungry yet?! Montepulciano is also world famous for its wines; wine connoisseurs consider its Vino Nobile among Italy’s best. There will be ample time to peruse the main street of Montepulciano, which stretches for 1.5 kilometers from the Porta al Prato to the Piazza Grande at the top of the hill. We’ll enjoy a leisurely lunch on our own this afternoon before continuing on to Florence where we will check into our hotel and have an opportunity to begin exploring what is regarded as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. We’ll enjoy dinner and our first overnight stay in Florence.
Day 11: Friday: Florence
A great flame follows a little spark (Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy. Paradiso. I, l. 34).
Florence is one of the most beautiful and inspiring cities of the world with its rich artistic, historic and spiritual heritage. It is also birthplace or chosen home of Dante, Boccaccio, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Donatello, Galileo, Catherine de’Medici, Cavalli, Forence Nightingale and Emilio Pucci. Today we will be treated to a wonderful tour of this Cradle of Renaissance, allowing us to see many unforgettable sights such as the domed cathedral of the city, Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as The Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge), Piazza della Signoria, Giotto’s Bell Tower, the bronze “gate of Paradise, and the Basilica of Santa Croce, called the Pantheon of the Glories for it houses the tombs of Michelangelo, Michiavelli, Galileo and other famous Italians. Our guided tour ends at the Academy of Fine Arts which contains many masterpieces of some of the artists mentioned above including Michelangelo’s David. The rest of the day is at leisure to shop and explore additional treasures of Florence. The outdoor Market of San Lorenzo boasts leather products, and the Ponte Vecchio, populated since medieval times with goldsmiths’ shops, is another must see for all lovers of Florence’s other specialty, gold jewelry. Tonight will enjoy dinner and our last evening in Florence.
Day 12: Saturday: Florence – Venice
Sits as one new-risen from a dream (Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew, IV, I, 189 and V, ii, 20)
Tuscany is known for its considerable beauty! How blessed we are to be treated to a verdant, rich, picturesque landscape as we make our way to Venice today. We’ll stop along the way in lively Bologna, home to the world’s oldest university, crossing point of the country’s most important highways and ranking as a top Italian city in terms of quality of life. Bologna has many nicknames: “the learned one” referring to its famous university, “the red one” referring to the color of the roofs in the historic district, and “the fat one” referring to its irresistible cuisine. Speaking of the latter, perhaps we will sample in Bologna, Italy’s finest fruit and vegetable markets, or taste its famous parmesan cheese and Parma ham. We’ll continue to Venice-Mestre to get settled into our hotel dinner and overnight accommodations at our hotel.
Day 13: Sunday: Venice
A fair city of the heart (Lord Byron describing Venice).
With its unique heritage of art, architecture, spirit, and culture, the city of Venice has earned the nickname La Serenissima, “The Most Serene.” Today we’ll be treated to a guided tour of La Serenissima, including a visit to the Basilica of St. Mark, a Byzantine wonder that’s covered in golden mosaics and art treasures. Legend has it that Venetian merchants stole the relics of Saint Mark the Evangelist (originally in Alexandria, Egypt) and hid them in a pork barrel to get them past the guards. The escapade is depicted in the 13th-century mosaic above the door, farthest left of the front entrance of the basilica. The 12th and 13th century interior mosaics, all with messages of Christian salvation, depict scenes and events from both the Old and New Testaments. We will also visit other sites in and around the Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) including the Doge’s Palace, home to the political leader of the Republic of Venice. We’ll enjoy some time at leisure for shopping or an optional gondola ride, and later tonight, will have our farewell dinner a local restaurant on Venice Island.
Day 14: Monday: Depart for Home
We will let the power of the holy places and priceless relics settle over us, along with the profound example and words of the Apostle Paul; then like other pilgrims of other times, go back to our lives with renewed faith and readiness.
We leave airport from Milan or Venice to return to the United States with memories of a lifetime.
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