By Jean Strauber, Travel Editor

I have friends that are wonderful artists. Me, I even have a problem drawing stick figures. But I admire fine art, the work of van Gogh, Rembrandt, Monet and da Vinci. So, when I recently received a flyer from Central Holidays promoting a Da Vinci tour, I knew that I to share the information with you. On this tour you’ll spend five nights in Italy, fly to Paris and head to the Loire Valley to visit Leonardo’s home for the last years of his life. The tour ends in Paris with a guided tour of the Louvre Museum, where you can gaze the wondrous Mona Lisa.

This is the itinerary:

Day 1- Depart from JFK to Florence, Italy.

Day 2- Arrive in Florence, where you’ll be met and taken to your hotel in Pistola. That first afternoon is at leisure to explore this quaint town. In the evening, meet your fellow travelers as you enjoy a welcome dinner at your hotel.

Day 3- In Pistola, take a guided excursion to Vinci, near Anchiano, Leonardo da Vinci’s home town. In Vinci you’ll see one of the most complete and original collection of machines and models invented by this genius, and learn about each exhibit through the exact information contained in his rough drafts and manuscripts. Later, return to Pistola for a wine tasting and light lunch at a famous winery in the countryside. In the afternoon, a guide will escort you and your new friends on a walking tour of Pistola.

Day 4- After breakfast , board your comfortable motorcoach for a full day’s excursion to Florence. During the morning you’ll enjoy a guided walking tour of Florence. A highlight is a visit to the Uffizi Art Gallery, which highlights Leonardo’s Annunciation as well as other masterpieces. In the afternoon you’ll have time to wander Florence and visit her most famous square, the Piazza della Signoria the heart of the historic center and a free-open-air sculpture exhibit including a copy of Michelangelo’s David Florence. Or, you can shop in Florence’s boutiques before returning to the hotel in the evening for your overnight stay.

Day 5- This morning, depart for Milan with a stop in Modena to visit a Balsamic vinegar cellar for a tasting and a light lunch of fresh local specialties.

Day 6- Your day in Milan will begin with a guided tour that includes the Gothic Cathedral “Il Duomo,” the Sforza Castle, and Leonardo’s masterpiece The Last Supper. The remainder of the day is at leisure to explore Milan on your own. Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant.

Day 7- This morning you are taken to Milan’s Airport for your flight to Paris. In Paris, board your motorcoach and enjoy the drive to the Loire Valley with your afternoon at leisure in Amboise. Dinner is at a restaurant that features local specialties and the wines of the Loire Valley.

Day 8- This morning begins with a guided tour of the Castle of Chenonceau, also known as the Lady’s Castle. You’ll continue on to the Castle of Amboise for a guided tour, which includes a visit to the site where Leonardo is buried. You’ll then continue on to the Chateau du Clos Luce where, at the invitation of Francis I, da Vinci spent the last three years of his life. At the Chateau you’ll walk through his bedrooms and the Renaissance rooms which will allow you to share his private world. The afternoon is at leisure to examine Amboise. In the evening you’ll return to the Chateau where you’ll be treated to the wines and delicacies served by a special host. You can then enjoy a walk through Leonardo’s Garden, an open air museum, featuring a park that has been planned in the spirit of the paintings and drawings of Leonardo da Vinci and where you can admire more than 16 giant machines on the park grounds. You’ll continue through the park until you get to the restaurant where you’ll savor a Renaissance dinner, complete with Renaissance-style entertainment and hosts dressed in period costume.

Day 9- This morning you’ll leave Amboise and head north to Paris, the City of Light. The rest of the day is at leisure. How about a train trip to Versailles? When my late husband and I were on our honeymoon in Paris, we did just that. We took the train to the former palace of French Kings, and upon our return we shopped at the local food markets near our hotel and purchased some French bread, cheese, fruit and wine for a supper in our hotel room. Or, you could visit the Musee de Man, which has the world’s largest exhibit devoted to the Neanderthal Man. Or, perhaps a stroll along the Champs Elysees.

Day 10- Your morning begins with a guided tour of the Louvre Museum with an emphasis on Leonardo’s most famous masterpieces, such as “La Giocanda” which we know as the Mona Lisa. As you cross from one side of the painting to the other, please note how her eyes seem to follow you. Your afternoon tour will take you to the places made famous by Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code.” Your evening is at leisure.

Day 11- The day is on your own to make those final purchases. This evening you’re treated to a Seine River cruise followed by dinner at a picturesque Parisian restaurant featuring French cuisine at its finest.

Day 12- After breakfast, bid farewell to your newfound friends and ride to Paris’ airport for your return trip home. Fare for this 12-day holiday is from $2499 per person/ double occupancy. What is included: Roundtrip airfare from NYC to Florence; Milan to Paris, Paris to NYC; 10 nights’ hotel accommodations at first class hotels; daily buffet breakfast, six dinners with wine, mineral water and coffee, a light lunch at a Tuscan winery and a light lunch at a Balsamic vinegar factory; guided tours of Vinci, Florence, Milan and Paris; entrance fees; guided tours of the Castles of Chenonceau and Amboise, and Chateau du Clos Luce; an Evening Seine River cruise; porterage of one luggage item per person; hotel taxes and service charge. For further information please contact me at

By Jean Strauber

Entertainment Writer

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