THE ITALIAN CAMPAIGN
IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE NEW ZEALAND DIVISION
14 - 29 May 2019
TARANTO, LANCIANO, CASTELFRENTANO, ORSOGNA, CASSINO, SORA, ROME, SAN MICHELE, SAN CASSIANO, FLORENCE, FAENZA, VENICE AND TRIESTE
At the conclusion of a long diplomatic career, Rene Wilson decided to keep on with the travelling life. Since retiring he has lead Innovative Travel groups to a wide variety of destinations. His diplomatic career encompassed Thailand, Indonesia, the Pacific Islands Forum (based in Fiji) as well as to Japan and then South Africa where as high commissioner he covered ten African countries. His last posting was to Egypt where he was New Zealand's first resident ambassador. Soon after retiring Rene was back in Egypt leading an Innovative Travel group to the 70th & 75th anniversary of the Battle of El Alamein.
In 2014 Rene took a close-knit group to the Monte Cassino Commemorations for the 70th anniversary, and in 2015 a similar team made a memorable pilgrimage to the centenary of the taking of Chunuk Bair in Turkey. All of these trips have left participants with vivid travel memories and the quiet satisfaction of having visited the distant graves of fallen family members. Further visits to World War II sites are planned.
Join Rene on this special tour for those who want something more than a visit to the more mainstream destinations.
Day 1: Bari (B)
Welcome to Bari Airport or Train Station.
You will be met and transferred to your hotel in the Bari area.
Meet your fellow tour members this evening.
Day 2: Bari – Taranto – Chieti (B)
This morning we depart for Taranto and drive through the port area where the New Zealanders landed. Here we have a guide for the morning.
We then follow the route of the New Zealand soldiers towards the Sangro River. We take a road trip via Grayira and Termoli.
Overnight in the Chieti area.
Day 3: Chieti - Orsogna & Sangro River - Cassino (B)
Today we visit the former battle sites at Castelfrentano and Orsogna. We visit Orsogna Cemetery and the Commonwealth Cemetery at Sangro River where 355 New Zealanders are buried. Four nights accommodation in Cassino at the La Pace Hotel in the centre of Cassino and at the base of the hill where the Abbey of Monte Cassino is located.
5:30pm New Zealand national commemorative service, Cassino War Cemetery, followed by
7:00pm Reception (by invitation only) at Al Boschetto.
Monte Cassino would prove the most tragically elusive prize of the entire campaign for the New Zealanders. The Germans' success in blunting the Allied offensive prompted an effort to push through the strategically pivotal Liri Valley and on to Rome. The problem was that the entrance to the valley was just over ten kilometers wide and was overlooked by the 500-metre high monastery of Monte Cassino. Augmented by the Germans' meticulous deployment of minefields fortifications and flooding though demolition of stop-banks Cassino was a defender's dream and an attacking army's nightmare.
The crucial political decision was made in Wellington in 1943 to send New Zealand troops to Italy which ensured that the bulk of New Zealand's active soldiers would see action there until the end of war in Europe. They would fight as part of General Sir Bernard Montgomery's multinational 8th Army with which they had also been associated in the desert campaigns. Lead by Lieutenant-General Bernard Freyberg New Zealand soldiers transformed themselves into the 'Div'—a formidable fighting force with a reputation for quiet but dogged efficiency.
Day 4: Cassino (B)
Today attend the official commemorative services.
All commemorative services are subject to final authority of NZ and Italian Governments. The order of schedules, timings and inclusions are subject to change at any time and will be confirmed when final information is available.
6:30am: Dawn service at the Cassino Railway Station memorial, followed by light refreshment at Al Boschetto.
10:30am: New Zealand inter-denominational religious service at the Basilica, Abbey of Montecassino.
Evening: Community-led Reconciliation concert, with contributions by all willing countries.
Day 5: Cassino (B)
Depart for Cassino and drive up to the Monastery this afternoon.
With our local historian we visit the Railway Station, Rapido with free time to visit the Museum.
A drink is included tonight as we discuss the significance of the area.
Day 6: Cassino (B)
Journey into the countryside to visit villages liberated by New Zealanders. Travel to the hilltop towns of Alvito and Vicalvie where the Kiwi soldiers are well remembered. We then drive to Cavendish Rd where a NZ breakthrough might have been within reach. Return to Cassino
Day 7: Cassino – Rome (B)
Transfer to Rome for two nights. Enroute stop at Sora. Our hotel is situated in a prominent location in Rome’s most enviable spot right in the centre of the eternal city Trevi fountain Spanish steps and other tourist attractions are within 5 to 10 minutes walking distance. Remainder of day at leisure.
Day 8: Rome (B)
Day at leisure.
We have the option today to visit Hadrian’s Villa. (Entrance fee to be paid direct)
Day 9: Rome – Florence (B)
Depart for Florence travelling through Castellana Narni stopping at Assisi and Perugia for guided visits.
Day 10: Florence (B)
Today we meet at the San Michel Estate near Florence. Meet with Kiwi Jill Gabriel married to local historian Stefano and former mayor of Tavarnelle. Visit areas liberated by the New Zealanders including San Michele.
Stefano has co-written a book “To the Gateways of Florence” highlighting the New Zealand Forces involvement in the Tuscany area in 1944. Research by Stefano and Jill confirmed that the soldiers of the 28th Maori Battalion and the 23rd Infantry Battalion had led the offensive through much of Chianti. It is beyond doubt that the New Zealanders played a pivotal role in freeing Florence and the surrounding areas.
Talk with a historian who will explain the most important phase of the history of the liberation and the battle which took place at San Michele and Pian dei Cerri.
Meet with local mayors of the region for an informative session.
Lunch will be held in the local council rooms before visiting the lovely monastery at Badia a Passignano near Tavarenelle.
Visit the New Zealand grave site at the Allied Cemetery in Girone.
After a memorable day return to our hotel in Florence.
Day 11: Florence - Faenza/Forli (B)
Depart this morning for the Faenza/Forli area. Overnight Faenza.
Day 12: Forli (B)
This morning is a half day tour of the battle site areas of the Faenza area.
Afternoon at leisure.
Day 13: Forli – Venice (B)
Depart for Venice for our centrally located accommodation. Transfer will be by boat to Piazza Roma and from here walk to the Santa Marina Hotel for overnight.
Early this afternoon is a short gondola ride and a walking tour with a local guide. Remainder of the day at leisure.
Day 13: Venice – Trieste (B)
Transfer by boat from Piazza Roma to Tronchetto to re-join the coach. Depart for Trieste for two nights’ accommodation in our well-appointed hotel.
Remainder of the day at leisure.
Day 14: Trieste (B D)
Today we explore with our local guide the historical areas of Trieste including the northern border with Slovenia where NZ Soldiers were active. Visits are included to the hotel where the NZ 24th Battalion stayed and Miramare Castle overlooking the lake where General Freyberg and New Zealand troops settled at the end of 1945.
Tonight farewell Italy with a special dinner.
Day 15: Trieste – departure (B)
Tour ends after breakfast this morning.
Options available to extend your stay in Italy or one of the many destinations in Europe
- Tour hosted by Rene Wilson who will be joining the group in Italy
- Arrival transfer
- Boat transfers Tronchetto-Piazza Roma-Tronchetto
- Transport in air-conditioned coaches/vehicles
- English speaking local guides in Taranto Assisi Perugia Faenza Venice & Trieste
- Local specialist guide in Cassino
- Accommodation with private facilities – 3*/4* hotels
- Breakfasts daily
- Special farewell dinner in Trieste
- 3 dinners in local restaurants
- Lunch in Cassino
- Gondola ride and walking tour in Venice
- Sightseeing and entrance fees as specified
- Visit war cemeteries at Monte Cassino Sangro River Faenza and Florence
- Special day with Jill Gabriel in the Tavarnelle area including lunch
- Special farewell dinner
- Travel notes for Italy
- Personal Expenses
- Insurance (compulsory)
- Departure and airport taxes
- Late check out
- Departure transfer
- Tipping – EUR90 per person will be precollected
- Tourist tax – to be paid direct –approx EUR1-3 per person per day
Trip prices and dates are correct at the time of the website going live, however all offers are subject to reconfirmation at the time of booking. Note prices usually display available discounted rates if any, (eg. Early Bird Deals if applicable). All featured tour itineraries and offers maybe subject to change due to seasonal variations without notice, or due to local conditions or other conditions. Please confirm all details at time of booking. Travel insurance is mandatory for all Innovative Travel bookings. All passports must be valid for 6 months prior to your return to your home country. Visas are the responsibility of the traveller. Special VIP meet and assist offers are valid for New Zealand passport holders, for other nationalities please check at the time of booking. For full terms and conditions, please refer to our Booking Conditions page.