We depart en route to Europe
Welcome to Lisboa, called Alis Ubbo ("pleasant bay") by its early settlers, the Phoenicians. Upon arrival in Lisbon we will be met by our smiling Catholic Travel Centre representative, on the other side of customs. Smile back, jump onto the coach and widen your eyes. We will get settled in our hotel and then have time at leisure to enjoy the markets, the narrow streets and square of Lisboa under the guidance of our tour escort. Dinner and overnight are in Lisbon. (D)
Saint Anthony of Padua died on June 13, 1231 in Italy, and is buried in Padua. He had dedicated his short life to Scripture studies, missionary work, preaching and the teaching of theology in some of the best universities of his time, such as Bologna and Montpellier.
St. Anthony was actually born in Lisbon in 1195, in a house which stood on the site of the 18th century Igreja de Santo Antonio de Lisboa, or Church of St. Anthony of Lisbon! Here we will celebrate Mass. Inside the church is the room, now a chapel, in which the saint was born.
Nearby is the Sé, Lisbon's cathedral and oldest church, which dates back to 1147, when Lisbon was taken from the Moors. By the portal is the baptismal font where St. Anthony was baptized Fernando in 1195.
From Lisbon we make our way to Santarem. We visit the Church of St. Stephen in Santarem to view the venerated relic of the Bleeding Host. We then continue our journey to Fatima which is one of the major Christian pilgrimage centers in all Europe. Yet this shrine is located in a town ironically named after the daughter of Mohammed, Islam's great prophet. In 1917, the image of the Virgin Mary appeared here to three shepherd children, Francisco and Jacinta Marto and Lucia dos Santos. Dinner and overnight will be in Fatima. (B, D)
An afternoon excursion takes you to Aljustrel, the children's hamlet still preserved in its original state, and Valinhos where Our Lady appeared after the children's return from prison. This evening, you may want to take part in the candlelight procession. Dinner and overnight are at our hotel in Fatima. (B, D)
After breakfast we board our coach and motor across the Portuguese-Spanish border to the city of Salamanca, where we visit the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Penafrancia and the great University of Salamanca, the oldest university in Spain and one of the oldest in Europe. We celebrate mass today at the Basilica. The city lies on a plateau by the Tormes river, which is crossed by a bridge 500 ft long built on 26 arches, fifteen of which are of Roman origin, while the remainder date from the 16th century. Salamanca has been declared a "World Heritage Site" by UNESCO. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure. Our dinner and evening are in Salamanca. (B, D)
Today we enjoy a guided tour of the Cathedral, which is the third largest in Spain. It was an important pilgrims' station on the Way of St. James, the path followed in the Middle Ages by pilgrims converging from all over Europe to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela. Back on the road, we journey through the Basque country and across the Pyrenees Mountains into France. More than four million pilgrims, many of whom are sick or disabled, come to Lourdes each year to bathe in the waters of the miraculous spring. In 1858, 14 year-old Bernadette Soubirous declared that the Virgin had appeared to her several times in the Cave of Massabielle and had said to her in the local patois, "I am the Immaculate Conception." This evening, you may want to participate in the candlelight procession. Dinner and overnight are in Lourdes. (B, D)
Our tour of Lourdes begins with a visit of the Basilica of St. Pius X, the world's largest underground sanctuary, which was built to accommodate more than 30,000 people. You'll also see the Church of the Rosary, above which is the Gothic-style Basilica whose walls are covered with tablets of gratitude, marble tablets commemorating cures and other favors attained through the intercession of Our Lady at her Grotto in Lourdes.
Following we take a walking tour including the sites associated with Bernadette's life in Lourdes, in particular the Cachot, the former prison where her impoverished family was lodged in one room at the time of the apparitions. After lunch on our own, this afternoon you may want to bathe in the healing waters of the miraculous Fountain or follow the Way of the Cross up the hill to the Cross of the Calvary. Dinner and overnight will be at our hotel in Lourdes. (B, D)
Early this morning we concelebrate Mass at the Grotto of Lourdes. After Mass, we depart Lourdes by motor coach and head for Cannes. We take some time for leisure in Cannes. Cannes is the "star" of the French Riviera, famous for the International Film Festival and the glitzy hotels, cars, beaches and visitors attracted here. The closest thing to an "old town" is "Le Suquet" overlooking the west end of the port. The 12th-century Tour de Mt. Chevalier ramparts and the 12th-16th-century church Notre-Dame-de-l'Espérence give a touch of medieval flavor to the city. The Le Suquet area has narrow streets climbing up and around the hill, with a panoramic view from the top. Dinner and overnight will be at our hotel in Cannes. (B, D)
This morning we celebrate Mass at a local church in Cannes. After Mass, we journey out by coach to the Principality of Monaco, a fabulous display of white buildings and winding roads set into steep hillsides. We will see the harbor, the Casino favored by the world's well-to-do, the neo-Romanesque cathedral and, on the Rocher, the Prince's Palace where the Changing of the Guards takes place every midday. We hear about Prince Rainier and his bride from Philadelphia, Grace Kelly.
We then re-board the coach for a quick hop to the Italian border, and wind our way along the Italian Riviera, bypassing the hideaway playground of Rapallo. Our next stop is Pisa with its Leaning Tower, said to be the most instantly identifiable landmark in the Western World. It is also on the list of endangered monuments and you will hear about the various solutions proposed to counteract the sinking of its foundation (the tower is now leaning 11 feet off the vertical). See Pisa's sumptuous Duomo, known for its horizontal marble stripes, and the ornate Baptistery. Our last stop is FLORENCE, where we enjoy dinner and the overnight. (B, D)
We start the day with a local guide introducing you to the marvels of Renaissance art, including the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Flowers, Ghiberti's Doors of Paradise, Giotto's Bell Tower and the Piazza Della Signoria. We will also see a frescoed chapel in the Franciscan church of Santa Croce. There will be some time to shop along Ponte Vecchio.
This afternoon we have some time at leisure and then we continue to the Assisi of St. Francis and St. Clare, where flowers overflow the window boxes which adorn the pink stone buildings typical of the town. Dinner and overnight are in Assisi. (B, D)
The Basilica de San Francesco remains one of Italy's foremost monuments despite the damage caused by the recent earthquake. It consists of two superimposed churches resting on a series of immense arches and contains the Saint's tomb, and magnificent frescoes by Giotto and Cimabue.
We celebrate Mass before our guided tour of the Basilica. We see also the 13th-century Church of Santa Chiara (which houses the remains of St. Clara, St. Francis' contemporary and the founder of the Order of Poor Clares) and the Church of St. Mary of the Angels, built on the outskirts of the old town over the Portziuncola where, in a humble cell, St. Francis died.
We proceed to the "Eternal City" via Spoleto, a picturesque town once described as "a little bit of Heaven fallen to Earth." Spoleto was the headquarters of the Lombard dukes who ruled most of Umbria in the early Middle Ages. It now owes its fame to its quaint medieval character and its summer arts festival. We arrive in Rome in time for dinner and the overnight. (B, D)
This morning we visit the Vatican Museums, whose treasures include the ancient Rome exhibits with the famous Laocoon statue, and the High Renaissance murals of Raphael, which he was painting at the same time Michelangelo completed the Sistine, another marvel. The restoration of its frescoes reveals startling bright colors – a new light on Michelangelo! The Sistine was commissioned by Pope Sixtus IV to mark the Holy Year 1475. Of course, you'll also visit expansive St. Peter's Square and its enormous basilica. Inside, see the art treasures such as Michelangelo's moving Pieta and Bernini's Dove of the Holy Spirit. The remainder of the day is free for independent activities in the vicinity of St. Peter's Basilica. Later this afternoon, we gather for Mass at a local church near St. Peter's. Dinner and overnight will be at our hotel. (B, D)
Today we enjoy a tour which includes three more of the city's major basilicas. We start with the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Pope's Cathedral in his role as Bishop of the City of Rome. Its baptistery dates back to the time of Emperor Constantine the Great.
Then, we visit the Basilica of St. Mary Major. Despite its 18th-century exterior, the basilica dates back from the early Christian period. It contains rare 5th-century mosaics and relics of the manger where the infant Jesus slept in Bethlehem.
This afternoon we visit the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, housing the tomb of the Apostle to the Gentiles. Our final stop of the day is the catacombs, underground cemeteries which tunnel for miles through the soft tufa rock and where early Christians buried their brethren. Masses are still celebrated here. Dinner and overnight are at our hotel in Rome. (B, D)
Romulus and Remus, where are you? Our visit of Rome begins this morning with a look at Roma Antica. We'll see the Colosseum, completed in AD 80, the Circus Maximus, where more than 300,000 spectators could watch chariot races, the Arch of Constantine and the Roman Forum. Once the heart of a vast empire, the Forum was filled with extravagant buildings and crowded with people from all over the known world. You'll also go to the church of San Pietro in Vincoli, to view St. Peter's chains (under the altar), and admire Michelangelo's powerfully disturbing Moses.
The balance of the day is free to spend as you wish. For a change of pace, you may want to explore the boisterous popular area of the city called Trastevere. This is and area of crowded streets and tiny shops. There is no better way to spend an afternoon. This evening we will gather together to enjoy a festive farewell dinner at a local restaurant. (B, D)