As Ezio Auditore da Firenze you scaled walls, snuck through cathedrals and ultimately revealed all the secrets of Italy. Perhaps while you did it, you realised just how incredible the scenery was, and the effort that Ubisoft went to, to make the world as realistic as possible? The three cities of Florence, Rome and Venice are as much a character of the games as Ezio himself, and in the modern era are no less impressive. Many of the incredible buildings you can climb, dive from, and dispatch enemies inside of, are still standing hundreds of years later and make as marvelous a backdrop for a holiday as they did in the game. Tour these three ancient cities, revel in the history and take in the uniquely beautiful charms of Italy in this easy going tour that will take you from the ancient beating heart of the Roman empire, Rome herself, to Florence, the artistic capital of the Renaissance and finally on to the romantic, enchanting, and slowly sinking Venice, where masks, balls, and gondolas are as much a part of city as the famed canals.
Check into your hotel, and take an opportunity to find your feet. The hotel Montecarlo is in the heart of Rome, and within easy walking distance of all the attractions including the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain and the Castel Sant’Angelo, which despite being the highest reachable point of any Assassin’s Creed game, was not a view point.
Spend the day seeing Rome as you want to see it. Apart from those already mentioned highlights don’t forget to see the Roman Forum, Piazza Navona and The Pantheon, a temple to the Roman gods that dates back to 126AD and is still in immaculate condition.
The Vatican and it’s astoundingly beautiful St Peter’s Basilica, Raphael’s rooms and the Sistine Chapel is just a short bus ride away away from your hotel and needs a full day to discover. Go early as queues build up fast. It is worth it however, as some of the most famous works of art, and most unbelievable feats of human engineering can all be found in just one place. From Michelangelo’s Pieta to his gorgeous roof at the Sistine chapel the Vatican astounds with its incredible history and opulence.
Travel by train to Florence. The second stop in the game “Assassins Creed 2″, a view across modern Florence still bears a startling resemblance to the in game recreation. A great place to see this across city view is at the Piazella Michaelangelo particularly at sunset.
Florence holds a number of highlights both for the casual visitor and the Assassins Creed fan. The El Duomo, or Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, is not to be missed. There are two queues: one around the front to enter the building itself, and the second one to the side which you take to climb up to the top of the dome, just as you do in Assassins Creed 2 to find one of the assassin’s seals – though this time, there is less rickety scaffolding and leaping between small brick hand grips. Other highlights include the Riccardi Medici Palace, The Uffizi gallery and the Basilica of Santa Croce, where Nicolo Machiavelli is interred.
Really eager fans of the game may like to take this day to rent a car and drive the 50 odd kms to the nearby town of Monteriggioni. This is one of the most important, intact and preserved walled cities in the region and the home of the Villa Auditore both in game and real life. As you turn off the main road to arrive in Monteriggioni, you’ll find a parking lot at the bottom of the hill. Leave your car here, as they aren’t allowed in the village itself, and follow the short climb to enter the tiny town through the Franca or Romea Gate. At once you will be in the heart of medieval Italy. Built in the 1200s the town maintains much of the charm of its original buildings. The Piazza di Roma onto which the Church of Santa Maria Assunta faces, as well as the towered walls themselves are near identical to those you climbed in game. If you don’t fancy getting a car, perhaps consider one of the numerous bicycle tours of the surrounding Tuscan countryside, or relax in a cafe by the river observing the ancient Ponte Vecchio bridge.
Travel by train to Venice and check into your hotel. A wonderful way to get there is to take in the Grand Canal on board a vaporetto (a rounded 230-passenger boat). It takes you from the train station down the main canal and will give you a great overview of the city and show you just why the canal was the city’s renaissance commercial hub. Once again you are in the heart of the city surrounded by the classic high buildings, and winding canals. A slow walk along the river at sunset provides plenty of opportunities for dinner as well as a romantic view of the Doge’s palace and the Basilica Di San Marco, both faithfully recreated in game.
Venice is relatively small and can be easily walked. Highlights for game fans include the Campanile di San Marco, the tallest building in Venice, and a bell tower which provided both a glyph and viewpoint in game, the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, wherein Ezio found a Templar lair, and the Squero di San Trovaso wherein the in-game Carnevale celebrations were held. More traditional visitors might want to browse for elaborate carnival masks, gaze at the bridge of sighs, cross the Ponte di Rialto or visit the impressive Torre dell’Orologio, a clock tower that was both a sign of Venice’s wealth and power, and a site of yet another glyph in game. For dinner try the traditional dishes from the Veneto – like oca in onto (goose in its own fat) or freshwater lagoon fish done in saor. And if you are a meatball fan definitely don’t miss the polpette.
As your holiday heads towards its conclusion now is the time to shop for your souveniers. Venice provides plenty of opportunities to buy cheap tat, but if you want the real deal head to Vittorio Costantini for exquisite glass and original lamps, Martinuzzi for real local lace, Gaggio for fine fabrics and Attombri for sumptuous jewellery. In the evening perhaps you can head to a performance of some of local hero Vivaldi’s music. Regular concerts are on offer by the Venice Baroque Orchestra and the orchestra of La Fenice, both of which are world-class.
Head to the airport for your flight back to South Africa.
The tour is from just R14 000 per person sharing.
Tour price is valid for travel up to the end of 2016. Subject to availability and rate of exchange fluctuations.
The Tour Includes
3 Nights Accommodation in the Montecarlo hotel, or similar, in Rome
3 Nights Accommodation in the Hotel Galileo, or similar, in Florence
3 Nights Accommodation in the Hotel Castello, or similar, in Venice.
2nd class train tickets between Rome, Florence and Venice.
The Tour Excludes
International and Domestic Flights
Meals unless specified
Visas and Travel Insurance
Entrance to attractions