8 Day Rome, Assisi & 7 Churches

Day 1: USA - Europe. Tour members depart for Rome. Dinner and breakfast are served in-flight.

Day 2: Rome - Assisi. Upon arrival in Rome, we are met and board our motor coach which takes us to the beautiful, medieval town of Assisi for dinner and overnight.

Day 3: Assisi. Today's sightseeing includes visits to the Church of St. Clare which houses her incorrupt body. One of the chapels contains the crucifix that bowed its head and ordered St. Francis to “repair God’s Church.” Afterwards, we visit the Basilica of St. Francis built in 1228 to house the Relics of the saint. The “upper “ basilica houses beautiful frescoes of Giotto. Before leaving Assisi, we visit the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli which contains the famous Porziuncola. This very ancient chapel, venerated for an apparition of angels within it, was originally property of the Benedictines of Subasio. It was located on a piece of land known as the Portiuncula - this name became attached to the chapel. After a long period of abandonment, it was restored by St. Francis. Here, he was given a dear understanding of his vocation. He founded here the Order of Friars Minor (1209), "establishing here his home". We depart Assisi and travel south through the Umbrian Valley and reach Rome, where we check-in to our hotel for dinner and overnight.

Day 4: Seven Churches. In the morning, we will visit the major Basilicas of Rome in unusual way: The Visit to The Seven Churches was just born and suddenly became one of the most important events celebrated by the Christian Community. Throughout the Middle Ages, pilgrimages traced the seven churches. Through the years, however, pilgrims lost interest in all seven churches and only chose to visit the Four Basilicas of Rome. It is not until the Jubilee 2000, that Pope John Paul II encouraged Christian pilgrims to resume the visit of all seven churches as part of their spiritual journey. Christians now from all corners of the earth come to Rome to follow in the steps of Saint Philip. The Philippine Itinerary takes pilgrims to the Seven Churches on their quest to discover the true sense of Christian Spirituality. The Seven churches were all built under Emperor Constantine marking the presence of the first Christians in Rome. They comprise: Saint Peter’s, Saint John in Lateran, Saint Mary Major, Saint Paul Outside the Walls, Saint Laurence Outside the Walls, The Holy Cross Church, Church of the Catacombs of Saint Sebastian. Finally, it is fitting to visit the Millennium Church which was commissioned by Pope John Paul II to celebrate Jubilee 2000. (Seven Churches Pilgrimage is subject to change.) In the afternoon, we have some leisure time with an opportunity to join the local Community of Sant’Egidio in the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere. Return to hotel for dinner and overnight.

Day 5: Ancient Rome. This morning, we have a walking Pilgrimage through the real core of Ancient Rome. Beginning at the magnificent Trajan's Column, the jewel of architecture and sculpture made by Apollodorus of Damascus, our guide takes us along the Via dei Fori Imperiali (street of the Imperial Fora), the ruins of the fora that the great emperors had built as lasting memory of their power. We see the Forum of Trajan, the biggest and splendid of all, whose markets, true forerunners of the modern commercial centers, offered to the Roman citizen any goods to be found at that time. We continue to the Capitoline Hill, once the political and religious center of the town and is today's seat of the Municipality. A stairway leads us to the Piazza del Campidoglio, the magnificent result of a single project by Michelangelo with a copy of the most famous equestrian statue in the world and the statue of Marcus Aurelius in the middle. Behind Piazza del Campidoglio, we find a natural terrace providing the best panoramic point over the valley of the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill. Walking through the valley of the Roman Forum the great Rome with its important buildings will reveal before our eyes: The Curia, seat of the Roman Senate, the State Archive, the basilicas, palaces of justice, the temple of Vesta and the House of the Vestals - the virgins in charge of keeping the sacred fire always alive - and all around temples and columns and arches of triumph erected to commemorate gods and men of the Roman history. From the Forum, our guide shows us the place linked to the fabulous origins of Rome - the Palatine. Here, Romulus founded the town in the year 753 B.C. and the great emperors settled here, starting with Augustus. From valley of the roman Forum, we admire the Domus Tiberiana, only partially explored, and the ruins of the Imperial Palaces. Leaving the Roman Forum, we find the arch of Constantine, erected to commemorate the victory of the emperor upon Maxentius in the 4th century A.D., and Coliseum everlasting symbol of the greatness of Rome and stage of the historical clash of gladiators. Break for lunch. Afterwards, we have a walking Pilgrimage to discover other “faces” of Rome. From Piazza Venezia, true beating heart of the town, we go towards the nearby Piazza del Ges?, historical head-quarter of the Jesuits, where our guide shows us the church "Il Ges?", prototype of the main Jesuit churches in the world. We reach the Church of St. Ignazio di Loyola, founded by pope Gregory XV. As an old pupil of the school of St. Ignatius, he suggested to his nephew Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi that a Temple should be erected to the founder of the Company of Jesus. The young Cardinal accepted the idea and a church was erected on the spot where the Temple of Isis had stood in Imperial Rome. The foundation stone was laid in 1626 but he church was opened for public worship only in 1650. Continue our walk and reach Piazza Navona, the most Baroque of the Roman squares - a masterpiece by Gian Lorenzo Bernini - with the fountain of the four Rivers and Piazza della Rotonda where is the best preserved monument of antiquity, the Pantheon, dating back to the 2nd century AD. Some time at leisure before returning to our hotel for dinner and overnight.

Day 6: Papal Blessing - Appian Way - Catacombs. After breakfast, we leave the hotel to reach San Peter’s square and attend the Sunday Mass and Papal Blessing. After a break for lunch and shopping in Religious shops, we reboard our bus and drive the Ancient Appian Way. We pass by the Chapel of "Domine Quo Vadis" before arriving at the Catacombs, the ancient underground cemeteries and first hiding places for the Christians. We see the Catacombs of San Sebastiano which has always been one of the most accessible catacombs and is thus one of the least preserved. This is particularly true for one room, used for funereal banquets. Its plastered walls have hundreds of graffitoes by the devotees at these banquets, carved in the second half of the 3rd to the beginnings of the 4th century with appeals to the apostles Peter and Paul. On the way back to the hotel, it may be possible to visit the Church of San Nereo and Achilleo. The legend says that the apostle Peter, about to exit the city after having escaped the prison of Mamertino, barely outside the Capena Arch, loses one of his strips of cloth that he was particularly proud of. A matron finds the strip of cloth and the primitive church is called "titulus fasciolae". Return to hotel for dinner and overnight

Day 7: Vatican Museums and San Peter. This morning, we visit the Vatican Museum. Passing through the Court of the Pigna, designed by Bramante in the 16th century, we enter the Belvedere Palace to reach the heart of the museum - the Belvedere Courtyard. Proceeding with the visit, we quickly pass the secondary galleries to reach the Greek Cross Room where the splendid Sarcophagi of St. Helene and St. Constance are housed. Walking through the Galleries of the Candelabra with its maps and of tapestries, we reach the Apostolic Palace, the oldest section of the complex of the Vatican Palaces. Our guide shows us the apartments of Julius II, splendidly decorated by Raphael and his assistants. Afterwards, we see the Sistine Chapel, where we admire one of the highest masterpieces of art: the Genesis and the Last Judgment by Michelangelo, that have gained their original splendor after the latest restorations. Leaving the Sistine Chapel and going down the Royal Stairway, our guide conducts us to the Basilica of St. Peter, the most important temple of Christianity, with its 2,000 years of history and famous works of art such as the Piet? by Michelangelo. Our visit ends at St. Peter’s Square which is embraced by the colonnade, an architectural masterpiece by Bernini, under the symbolic protection of the "Cuppolone", as the Romans call Michelangelo's dome. Balance of the day is at our leisure to discover more of the city on our own. We can walk throughout beautiful fountains and squares of Rome, to see the Trevi Foutnains and the Spanish Steps, among others. Independent return to our hotel for dinner and overnight.

Day 8: Rome - USA. Early morning transfer to the airport for our flight to home - the end of a most enjoyable pilgrimage.