Relyance Bank Crown Club members tour Italy

Relyance Bank Crown Club members and guests recently departed for one of the world’s most popular travel destinations, classic Italy. The highlighted cities included the historic city of Rome, the cultured city of Florence, the romantic and charming city of Venice and the fashionable city of Milan.

After an overnight flight, the vacationer’s arrived in Rome. After checking into their hotel, the group took off to tour Rome. They took in the highlights of the city and visited the famous Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain. After enjoying a tour on the hop on/hop off bus, the group took the metro back to the hotel. This evening each one in the group had a fun time preparing their own pizza for dinner.

The first thing on tour the next morning was the ancient Colosseum. The group continued their tour as they viewed the Piazza Venezia, the Roman Forum, the Arch of Constantine and more. Then it was on to the Vatican City, the world’s smallest independent state, where they joined crowds from the earlier visit with the Pope. The Pope Francis is very popular and over a million people make up the audience on Wednesdays. The group enjoyed the walking tour of the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica.

The highlight of the tour was the famous Sistine Chapel and Raphael’s Rooms. The Crown Clubbers, along with many others, stood in silence as they observed the magnificent works of Michelangelo. Across the ceiling he painted nine episodes from Genesis, which took him four years to complete. The last great work Michelangelo executed in the chapel is “The Last Judgment”, on the altar wall. The side walls are covered with Frescoes by others and depict scenes from the lives of Moses and Jesus, symbolizing the reign of law and of grace, respectively.

After a full day, the travelers enjoyed a traditional four-course Italian dinner with wine. As they enjoyed their dinner at a very popular Roman restaurant, they were serenaded with beautiful arias from many best-loved operas. After dinner, they embarked on an enchanting “Rome by Night” tour seeing all the famous landmarks illuminated against the night sky.

The following morning the clubbers began their scenic journey through Italy’s graceful, low-lying hills to the spectacular capital of Tuscany, Florence. Upon arrival in Florence, they learned more about the traditional Italian techniques of leather-making during a visit to a family-owned leather shop. After lunch, a local expert guided the group on a walking exploration tour of the great city of Florence, featuring the Piazza del Duomo, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and the Baptistry. They also visited the Piazza della Signoria with its impressive Palazzo Vecchio and ended the day with a tour and explanation of Florentine gold at a local gold shop. Many also toured the masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture, Michelangelo’s David, created between 1501 and 1504.

Many in the group decided to enjoy a unique Italian dinner and show at Teatro Del Sale. This members-only club is the brainchild of famous Florentine chef Fabio Picchi. The dinner is a huge multi-course extravaganza served directly from the kitchen. Picchi yells out what is just about to be served and everyone helps themselves to the strictly Italian dishes. After dinner, dessert and coffee, the group watched a live Italian performance of drama, comedy and music by artistic director and famous comic actress (and Picchi’s wife) Maria Cassi.

The final day in Florence, the group took a day trip to Pisa’s Piazza del Duomo, also known as Piazza dei Miracoli “Field of Miracles”. They enjoyed the tour of the Duomo, the historic Baptistery and the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. The group enjoyed some free time before heading to a winery in the scenic Tuscan hill and the Chianti region. There they learned about Italian wines and olive oil. The group also enjoyed a delicious lunch and sampled local wines and specialties.

The travelers also journeyed through central Italy, crossing the wooded Apennine Mountains toward the Po River valley. They arrived in Mogliano Veneto, a quaint Venetian town for their next few days stay. This afternoon, the group split into two groups, one chose to enjoy the optional excursion to the Venetian Lagoon with stops at the islands of Murano and Burano. Burano is full of beautiful lace shops and colorful homes along its canals. The group enjoyed a visit to one of Murano’s oldest glass factories for an up-close glass making demonstation, then free time for shopping. The other group chose to take the train to Venice to explore. They enjoyed lunch, shops and the fantastic views down every canal.

The last day in Mogliano, the group boarded the train and headed to charming St. Mark’s Square where they had a marathon going on. A local expert took the group on a guided walking tour of the area featuring St. Mark’s Basilica and the Clock Tower with its famous Moors. The group then enjoyed a serenaded Gondola cruise, one of Venice’s most famous pastimes, as they relaxed in the elegant watercraft. After the ride, most of the group headed for the famed “Pasta to Go” for lunch and enjoyed the remainder of a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Venice before returning to Mogliano.

Crown Club members and guest joining others on this tour were Jerry and George Reap, Rita and George Sevall, Jo Stanfield, Mary Earl Smith, Pat and Carrol Worthen, Barbara Bryles, Patsy Shell-Johnson, Marian West, Marion Baggett, Faye Jackson, Nancy McGraw and John Whitwell. The group was escorted by Crown Club director, Cindy Whitwell.