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Platinum Club enjoys 10-day tour of Italy

By DONNA MCLEAN,

After months of planning and anticipation, 30 Peoples Bank Platinum Club travelers flew from Jackson to Atlanta on Nov. 1 on the first leg of a fall trip to Italy.

   Arriving in Rome, they had two days in which to tour the Eternal City.  Featured highlights were the Colosseum, the Circus Maximus made famous in the film Ben Hur, and many of the iconic monuments of the area.  Most of the travelers opted for an extra tour of Vatican City, where they saw Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes and the Pieta, housed in St. Peter’s Basilica.  They also enjoyed a special welcome dinner on the first night and an optional evening of Italian feasting, opera and comedy with a tour of the lights of Rome at night on their second day.

   Leaving Italy’s capital city, the group traveled to Assisi, birthplace of St. Francis, where they visited the beautiful Basilica of St. Francis and had time to meander over the cobblestone streets of this quaint hilltop town.

   In their next destination of Perugia, a medieval city that still serves as the capital of the region of Umbria, most of the group rode the four escalators up the steep hill to the Old City, where they discovered an evening market going on that provided unique shopping and dining experiences until late that night.

    On the way through Tuscany to Florence the next day, the Platinum Club visited the ancient city of Siena.  Unfortunately, the weather refused to cooperate with the tour, and travelers finally retreated, drenched, to the warm cafes situated around the  famous Piazza del Campo, the site of Siena’s famous summer horse race known as the Palio which is held for neighborhood bragging rights each year.

    The next day was spent in Florence, “Cradle of the Italian Renaissance.”  After a tour of the city and a look at many of its art treasures, the group was treated to a tour of two shops where important Florentine products, gold and leather, are manufactured and sold.  The rest of the day was free for shopping in town or at the iconic Straw Market and sight-seeing.

   Evening brought a visit to the unique La Certosa Monastery, home of the last three Carthusian monks in Italy, and then to La Certosa Ristorante, where the group enjoyed a sing-along.

   Before leaving Florence, the travelers had a tour of the Accademia Gallery, home of Michelangelo’s David, probably the sculptor’s most famous statue, and other great Renaissance artworks.  Then it was off to lunch at a Tuscan castle turned winery and olive oil producer set amid olive groves and Chianti grape vineyards.

   After an afternoon drive through the Apennines, the group found itself negotiating the 118 islands of the City of  Venice on the Adriatic Sea.  A 45-minute boat ride brought them to the Island of Murano, where the famous Venetian glass is made.  After being treated to a glass-blowing demonstration, Platinum Club members had some time to shop for Murano jewelry and art.

   Later they had a choice of a walking tour through a Venetian neighborhood or a tour of the Doge’s Palace and the legendary Bridge of Sighs.  An extra attraction was a 30-minute gondola ride onto the Grand Canal that is the main thoroughfare of this unique water-bound city.

    The final day found the group in Milan, Italy’s industrial, financial and fashion capital.  They toured the Duomo and the fashion center, the Vittorio Emanuele Gallery.  

   On Friday, Nov. 10, they flew out of the Milan airport for the nine-plus hour trip back to New York, then Atlanta and home.

   The tour was coordinated by Collette tours and accompanied by Platinum Club directors James and Dianne Smith.