Visit the Pantheon, Rome, during our Italy tour

Experience all the comforts Rome, Florence, and Padua have to offer while exploring Italy's pivotal role in the history of astronomy in our new tour.

Sky & Telescope offers you a chance to participate in an unparalleled tour of Italy, birthplace of the great theoretician and astronomer Galileo Galilei. We’re partnering with Royal Adventures, a company that specializes in custom travel experiences, to provide a one-of-a-kind opportunity to experience Italy for astronomy enthusiasts.

Explore the culture and history of this beautiful country — from the heart of Rome to the hills of Tuscany and the Veneto — in luxury and comfort during a 10-day tour created with you in mind. This Italian adventure includes 4-star accommodations and fully escorted tours with a knowledgeable local guide. An S&T editor will be on hand the entire tour to answer questions related to astronomy today and historically. And you’ll have the option to tour Rome before the main tour begins and/or extend your visit to include Venice.

Click below to get the full details:


Visit La Specola Vaticana Castel Gandolfo in our astronomy tour

Welcome to Italy’s capital! In addition to visiting some of Rome’s greatest historical attractions, such as the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain, you’ll see special sites — typically closed to the public — associated with the history of astronomy. Enjoy a private visit to the Tower of the Winds, an observatory built to support the reform of the Gregorian calendar, then take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Vatican Library and an exclusive guided tour of the Vatican Observatory. We’ll visit the Castel Gandolfo, the modern headquarters of the Vatican Observatory, and enjoy a lunch at a fabulous location overlooking Albano Lake. Anyone interested in the history and technology of science will love our visit to the Copernican Museum. The Copernican Museum also offers beautiful views of Rome, making this stop on our itinerary even more special.

Basilica di Santa Croce, Florence

Florence and Pisa
Immerse yourself in Florentine culture while you explore this capital city of Tuscany. Florence’s medieval core, the one-time home of the powerful Medici family, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982. You’re certain to fall in love with this distinctive city as you travel its narrow streets and passageways during your stay. We’ll visit il Duomo — the engineering marvel that is the dome of the Florence Cathedral — and the Basilica di Santa Croce, final resting place of Galileo. Near Ponte Vecchio, we’ll stop at the Galileo Museum to view one of the scientist’s telescopes. We’ll also get a glimpse into Galileo’s private life during our visit to the Villa Il Gioiello, where the master spent the last years of his life. But our time with Galileo wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the Pisa Campanile — the famous Leaning Tower — to see where he performed his famed experiments on falling bodies. While in Florence, we’ll also be treated to a taste of Italy’s contemporary astronomy research, with a stop at Arcetri Astrophysical Observatory, part of the National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF).

Anatomy Theater, Padua

The city of Padua is our entry point into the Veneto, a large region in northeastern Italy with its own distinctive dialect and cuisine. Here, we’ll visit Palazzo Bo, home to the renowned Anatomy Theater. And we’ll wrap up our consideration of Galileo with a visit to La Specola, where the great scientist worked out his theories on stellar properties. At Scrovegni Chapel, you’ll be amazed by the vibrant colors of the frescoes painted some 700 years ago by the early Renaissance artist Giotto. The largest operating optical telescope in Italy awaits your visit in Cima Ekar on the Asiago Plateau.


Hotel dei Mellini (3 nights; 5 nights with optional pre-trip Rome extension)

Located in the elegant Prati district in the center of Rome, very near the Spanish Steps, St. Peter’s, and Piazza del Popolo, Hotel dei Mellini offers cosmopolitan surroundings and an elegant atmosphere. From the hotel, you can reach Rome’s major landmarks on foot, then return to enjoy a terrace, sunning deck, and a gym guests can use free of charge.

Gallery Hotel Art (3 nights) Florence

The contemporary Gallery Hotel Art is a 4-star boutique hotel dreamed up by Michele Bönan, a refined Florentine architect. Set in a quiet courtyard near the Arno and Ponte Vecchio and close to Palazzo Strozzi, it’s a favorite local meeting place in the heart of Florence. Enjoy the private art and photography exhibitions in the hotel, or take a few quiet moments in the lounge-library. You may also want to indulge in the culinary delights of the on-property Fusion Bar & Restaurant.

Majestic Toscanelli (2 nights)

Hotel Majestic Toscanelli Padua

This boutique hotel is the only hotel in the historical center of Padua, in a traffic-limited area ideal for exploring on foot. Each of the hotel’s 34 rooms is unique, with décor ranging from 19th-century English to the Venetian baroque. From here, you can easily stroll to the town’s three famous squares: Piazza delle Erbe, Piazza della Frutta, and Piazza dei Signori.

Santa Marina Hotel (2 nights with optional post-trip extension)

Hotel Santa Marina, Venice

Located in the heart of Venice, just a short walk from the Rialto Bridge and St. Mark’s Square, the 4-star Hotel Santa Marina Venice is the ideal choice for discovering the most authentic parts of the city. Built on the ruins of an ancient convent, the hotel, which is situated in the city’s district by the same name, features a beautiful terrace where guests can enjoy breakfast or relax with drinks after a day spent visiting Venice’s many architectural wonders. Guests enjoy maximum comfort, as the hotel offers rooms of irresistible charm, furnished in a mix of styles that combine classic and contemporary details. They’re quiet, romantic, and equipped with modern amenities, from satellite TV to free WiFi.

Itinerary for S&T’s 2021 Italy Tour: Astronomy, Science, and La Dolce Vita

DateItinerary At A GlanceAccommodationMeals
Saturday, May 1Depart for Rome(overnight flight)Meals aloft
Sunday, May 2RomeHotel dei MelliniD
Monday, May 3RomeHotel dei MelliniB, L
Tuesday, May 4RomeHotel dei MelliniB, L, D
Wednesday, May 5Rome, FlorenceGallery Hotel ArtB, D
Thursday, May 6FlorenceGallery Hotel ArtB, L, D
Friday, May 7Pisa, FlorenceGallery Hotel ArtB, L
Saturday, May 8Florence, PaduaMajestic Toscanelli HotelB, L
Sunday, May 9Padua, AsiagoMajestic Toscanelli HotelB, D
Monday, May 10Depart for U.S.B

Saturday, May 1 — Depart from Your Home
Today we depart from our homes for Rome, typically on an overnight flight that offers dinner and breakfast while aloft. Arrival is the next morning.

Sunday, May 2  — Arrival / Rome
Upon arrival at Rome Fiumicino Airport (FCO), you’ll be met and transferred to your hotel. After some free time to relax, gather for a walking tour including the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and the Piazza Navona, ending at a local trattoria for a welcome dinner with Roman specialties.

Monday, May 3 — Rome
Begin the day with a guided walking tour in a flourishing green oasis in the heart of Rome: the Vatican Gardens. The gardens represent a green space within the walls of Vatican City. Everything, from plants to archaeological and architectural finds, evokes distant times and offers moments of authentic peace. After lunch at a local restaurant, enjoy a private visit of The Tower of Winds, built between 1578 and 1580 by the Bolognese architect Ottaviano Mascherino. It’s one of the most famous buildings in the Vatican and was originally erected to create an astronomical observatory to study the Gregorian Calendar Reform. Continue with a behind-the-scenes visit of the Vatican Library, established in 1475 and one of the oldest collections of books and manuscripts in the world. Among its holdings are the extensive records of Galileo’s prosecution of heresy. Finish the visit with the view of the most famous sundial in Europe: the sundial of Santa Maria degli Angeli. Take the evening and dinner at leisure.

Tuesday, May 4— Rome
Start the morning with a guided tour of La Specola Vaticana — the Vatican Observatory, one of the oldest astronomical institutions in the world. Due to smog and light pollution, Pope Pius XI relocated the Observatory from the city to Castel Gandolfo, which is 16 miles southeast of Rome. By 1961, the same problems with light pollution made observing difficult at Castel Gandolfo. The Observatory then established the Vatican Observatory Research Group, with offices at the Steward Observatory of the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona. The Vatican Observatory’s headquarters, however, remain at Castel Gandolfo. The Observatory has a double-edged mission: scientific research into the knowledge of the universe, including our place in it, and the education of the public based upon the knowledge derived from that research. Enjoy lunch at a fabulous location overlooking the nearby Albano Lake. The afternoon proceeds with a visit to the extraordinary Copernican Museum, with fantastic views of Rome. The museum is dedicated to the history and technology of astronomy with a beautiful collection of ancient instruments illustrating the evolution of research in astronomy. Cap off your day with dinner at a local restaurant.

Wednesday, May 5 — Rome, Florence
Depart for Florence by Frecciarossa high-speed train and explore Casa Buonarroti with its amazing art collections and drawings of the maestro, Michelangelo. Enjoy lunch at leisure and then settle into your hotel room. Later on, enjoy a welcome home-hosted dinner with a Florentine family.

Thursday, May 6 — Florence
Set out on a walking tour of the city’s historic center. In Piazza della Repubblica, discover the city’s beginnings as a Roman settlement. Wander through narrow streets, past the fortified houses and towers that marked the medieval town, and emerge onto the open Piazza della Signoria, the political center of the city since the Middle Ages. See the Duomo and the Basilica di Santa Croce, where Galileo is buried. Continue to Ponte Vecchio, and visit the Galileo Museum, where one of the most important collections of scientific instruments and experimental equipment is housed. One of Galileo's telescopes and his fingers — still pointing heavenward — are preserved here. Lunch is at a typical restaurant in the city center. In the afternoon, enjoy a private visit at Villa Il Gioiello, where Galileo spent the last years of his life.

A stone’s throw away from Galileo’s villa is the Arcetri Astrophysical Observatory, a public center for scientific research that is part of Italy’s National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF). At present, about 100 people work at the Observatory, including astronomers, technical-administrative staff, and students coming from all around the world. The Observatory has a study room equipped with projection systems, a machine to visualize cosmic rays, calculators, a spectroscope, a planetary system in scale, and celestial maps. We’ll first tour the Astrophysical Observatory Library, which holds modern publications consisting of more than 12,000 books and a wide collection of periodicals. The central hall “houses” the piano that Albert Einstein gave to his sister Maja during his stay in Florence. While the telescopes located at the observatory are now used mainly for public education, observatory staff still carry out theoretical and observational astronomy, utilizing astronomical structures situated abroad and managed by the Florentine observatory. The day finishes with a stargazing session with a large historical telescope at the observatory (weather permitting).

Friday, May 7 Florence and Pisa
Start your day with breakfast at the hotel and a private transfer to Pisa for a walking tour of the city where Galileo was born on February 15, 1564. Discover landmarks such as Galileo’s childhood home, Campo dei Miracoli, the Duomo and Baptistry, Camposanto Monumentale, and the Campanile, also known as the Leaning Tower. A Latin inscription over the entrance of the tower reminds us that here Galileo conducted his experiments on falling bodies. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. In the afternoon, pay a visit to Pisa University, one of the most ancient in Italy and Europe and where Galileo pursued his education. Cap off your day with a wine tasting at a historic winery. Return to the hotel and take the evening and dinner at leisure.

Saturday, May 8 Padua
After breakfast, board the Frecciarossa high-speed train to reach Padua. Take in the city’s grandeur on a walking tour of the city center, strolling its porticoed roads, splendid piazzas, and ancient bridges, as well as visiting the imposing Piazza dei Signori’s Tower, adorned with its famous Astrological Clock. Designed in the 1300s, the Clock marks the hours and minutes, in addition to months, days, and Moon phases. Walking down the street, take a look at Galileo’s House and learn stories and secrets of his life. Have lunch at a typical trattoria in the city center.

After lunch, we’ll continue to Palazzo Bo, the main office of the prestigious University of Padua, the second oldest university in Italy, and also the home of the renowned Anatomy Theater. As a place of excellence in sciences and culture, it boasts Galileo Galilei among its esteemed past professors. Finally, pay a visit to La Specola, the place from which, according to legend, Galileo performed his extraordinary astronomical discoveries and revealed stars’ peculiarities hidden in the secrets of the firmament. Take the evening and dinner at leisure.

Sunday, May 9 — Padua
Start the morning by visiting the amazing Scrovegni Chapel, a masterpiece in the history of painting in Italy and Europe, considered the most complete series of frescoes executed by Giotto in his mature age. Next, we’ll travel to the town of Asiago to visit the largest operating optical telescope in Italy, located at the Astrophysical Observatory of Asiago run by the University of Padua.  Accompanied by an INAF representative, we’ll enjoy a tour of the 1.82-meter Copernicus Telescope located in Cima Ekar on the Asiago plateau. After a farewell dinner at a local trattoria in Asiago, we’ll return to the Asiago Observatory for a sky observation session, then return to Padua.

Monday, May 10 Padua
Breakfast is at the hotel. Private individual transfers to Venice Airport (VCE) or transfers to Venice by water taxi will be available for those wishing to extend their stay in Italy.


Royal Adventures

Itinerary for Pre-Tour Extension to Rome

DateItinerary At a GlanceAccommodationMeals
Thursday, April 29U.S. to Rome(overnight flight)Meals aloft
Friday, April 30Arrival RomeHotel dei Mellini
Saturday, May 1RomeHotel dei MelliniB, L
Sunday, May 2RomeHotel dei MelliniB

Thursday, April 29 — Depart from your home
Depart on your international flight from the U.S. to Rome.

Friday, April 30 Rome
Upon arrival at Rome Fiumicino Airport (FCO), take a private transfer to the hotel. The rest of your day is at leisure.

Saturday, May 1 Rome
Take in the sacred grandeur of Vatican City with an early morning visit to its famed museums. See the stunning Sistine Chapel, then visit St. Peter’s Square and its soaring basilica before enjoying a traditional lunch in a local trattoria. In the afternoon, take a private transfer to the hotel and enjoy the rest of the day exploring on your own.

Sunday, May 2 — Rome
In the morning meet an archaeologist guide at the hotel lobby and stroll the ruins of the Roman Forum starting from Piazza Venezia, cross the Foro di Cesare, Foro Romano and venture into the Colosseum, where gladiators prepared for battle. End your morning with a spectacular visit to the Colosseum Belvedere and enjoy the wonderful views from above of the entire cavea and of the Colosseum valley. In the afternoon, meet passengers on the main tour and enjoy a walking tour of Rome.

Itinerary for Post-Trip Extension to Venice

DateItinerary At a GlanceAccommodationMeals
Monday, May 10Arrival VeniceSanta Marina HotelL
Tuesday, May 11VeniceSanta Marina HotelB, L
Wednesday, May 12Depart Venice--B

Monday, May 10 Venice
Private transfer from Padua to Venice. Upon arrival, take a private walking tour of the surrounding promenades and canals, and step into the iconic Basilica di San Marco. Then, explore the Sansovinian Library, which houses the Biblioteca Marciana, one of Italy’s most important libraries. Enjoy a light lunch at a bacaro, a local bar serving cicchetti, small snacks unique to Venice. In the afternoon, visit the Doge’s Palace, a magnificent combination of Byzantine, Gothic, and Renaissance architecture and the center of the Venetian Empire and government. Cap off your day with an exclusive after-hours visit of the Venice Clock Tower and enjoy the sunset overlooking the most fascinating city of the world. Take the evening and dinner at leisure.

Tuesday, May 11 Venice
Take a guided tour of Ca' Vendramin Calergi, a perfect example of a Renaissance-style stately home, which was Richard Wagner’s last dwelling place and is one of the most elegant buildings overlooking the Grand Canal. Then, meet one of the members of the Zeno Family, a noble Venetian family, who owns the beautiful Palazzo Zeno. Visit the interiors of the palace, which have been decorated by the greatest artists of the period such as Antonio Pellegrini, Jacopo Guarana, Abbondio Stazio, and Amigoni. After lunch at a local restaurant, meet a local craftsman and learn about the art and science of traditional gondola construction. Take the evening and dinner at leisure.

Wednesday, May 12 Homeward Bound
Private transfer to the international Venice airport for the return flight.

Gondola and Flowers VENICE


  • Accommodation in 4-star hotels
  • English-speaking Tour Director exclusive to Sky & Telescope group
  • Sky & Telescope astronomy director
  • Professional English-speaking guides at all locations
  • Private transfers from airport to hotel and to airport on return
  • Land transport by private motor coach
  • Frecciarossa high speed train Rome to Florence, standard class
  • Frecciarossa high speed train Florence to Padua, standard class
  • All meals as indicated on the itinerary, including special welcome and farewell meals
  • Wine with all dinners and lunches
  • Bottled water during outings
  • Baggage handling
  • Tips to local guides, drivers, service charges and taxes
  • Entrance fees on itinerary excursions and visits
  • Customized luggage tags and name tags with Sky & Telescope logo
  • Pre-trip planning information and resources


  • International airfare to Rome with a return from Venice
  • Passport fees
  • Excess-baggage fees
  • Room service, meals, and snacks not specified in the itinerary
  • Alcoholic beverages, aside from wine included with dinners and some lunches
  • Personal items such as laundry, email, and telephone calls
  • Travel and medical insurance
  • Medical expenses incurred during tour
  • Tip for the Tour Director is at participant’s discretion


Astronomy, Science, and La Dolce Vita$6,850$1,640
Pre-Trip Extension in Rome$1,645$750
Post-Trip Extension to Venice$2,000$850

Note: All tour prices are based on costs and U.S. dollar exchange rates in effect at the time of posting. As such, prices listed here are subject to change. Sky & Telescope and/or Royal Adventures will inform clients of any changes prior to departure.


  • To make a reservation: A reservation request can be submitted by completing this form. Reservations are recorded and acknowledged in order of receipt. Royal Adventures (CST #2009579-40) handles all invoicing.
  • Deposits: An advance payment of US$1,000 per person, along with US$250 per person for the pre-trip or post-trip extension, is required to secure your reservation. Please make your check payable to "Royal Adventures" and mail to: Royal Adventures, 9 Crow Canyon Court, Suite 205, San Ramon, CA 94583. Initial deposits may be charged to a credit card, however, a 3% fee will be added. All subsequent payments must be made by check. Final payment (by check only) is due by January 10, 2021.
  • To cancel a reservation: Notification must be received in writing (via mail or email; see contact info above) by Royal Adventures from the participant. Cancellations received within the first 14 days of booking will receive a full refund of the trip deposit. Cancellations received after the first 14 days of booking but before January 10, 2021, will be assessed a cancellation fee equal to the total amount of all deposits paid to date. Cancellations received on or after January 10, 2021, are subject to a 100% penalty of all deposits and payments, regardless of the booking date. There are no refunds for unused meals, accommodations, or other trip features.
  • Itinerary: The itinerary is subject to change at the discretion of Sky & Telescope and Royal Adventures. All tour prices are based on costs and U.S. dollar exchange rates in effect at the time of posting. As such, prices listed here are subject to change. In particular, any increases in the fares for in-tour transportation, security, and/or fuel surcharges will be paid by the participants. Sky & Telescope and/or Royal Adventures will inform clients of any changes prior to departure.
  • Travel insurance: We highly recommend the purchase of trip cancellation insurance. An application for insurance will be provided by Royal Adventures upon confirmation. AAS Sky Publishing, LLC, Sky & Telescope, and Royal Adventures accept no liability for any airline cancellation penalty incurred by the purchase of a non-refundable airline ticket or other expenses incurred by tour participants in preparing for the tour.
  • Disclaimer: Every reasonable effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of information presented here. Royal Adventures, AAS Sky Publishing, LLC, and Sky & Telescope are not responsible for errors in or damages resulting from use of the information contained herein. Information contained here is subject to change.
  • Responsibility: Royal Adventures, its owners and employees act only as an agent for the various independent suppliers and contractors providing transportation, hotel accommodations, restaurant and other services connected with this tour. Such travel and services are subject to the terms and conditions under which such accommodations, services, and transportation are offered or provided. AAS Sky Publishing, LLC, Sky & Telescope, and Royal Adventures (and their respective employees, agents, representatives, and assigns) accept no liability therefor. AAS Sky Publishing, LLC, Sky & Telescope, and Royal Adventures assume no liability for any injury, damage, loss, accident, delay, or other irregularity that may be caused by the defect of any aircraft or vehicle or the negligence or default of any company or person engaged in carrying out or performing any of the services involved. Additionally, responsibility is not accepted for losses, injury of any nature, damages or expenses of any kind due to sickness, weather, earthquake, strikes, local laws, hostilities, wars, terrorist acts, acts of nature, quarantine, force majeure, including without limitation: eye injury, animal or insect bites, altitude-related sickness, or other such causes. All services and accommodations are subject to the laws of the country in which they are provided. AAS Sky Publishing, LLC, Sky & Telescope and Royal Adventures reserve the right to make changes in the published itinerary whenever, in their sole judgment, conditions warrant, or if they deem it necessary for the comfort, convenience or safety of the tour participants. They reserve the right to withdraw this tour without penalty, in which case participants will be issued a full refund, except if the tour is cancelled due to force majeure or other forces beyond our control, in which case the recoverable portion of unused services or accommodations will be refunded. The right is also reserved to decline to accept or retain any person as a member of the tour, or to substitute another qualified leader or special guest. Baggage and personal effects are the sole responsibility of the owners at all times. The price of the program is given in good faith based on current tariffs and rates and is subject to change. Any tariff, exchange rate, or fuel increases will be passed onto participants. The air ticket when issued shall constitute the sole contract between the passenger and the airline concerned. There are no refunds for unused meals, accommodations, or other features. As part of the consideration and right to participate in this tour, each participant will be asked to sign a liability release.
  • Questions: Please contact Royal Adventures at or call (800) 453-4754 or (925) 820-6260 (Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time).

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