CIT's escorted Italy itineraries focus on regional life

NEW YORK -- Applying the adage "When in Rome...," CIT Tours here developed several commissionable Italian vacation packages that aim to immerse travelers in regional life.

The tours to Tuscany, Umbria and Rome feature hands-on activities and insider experiences the average traveler may never encounter, said Suzanne Hall, vice president of marketing and sales.

"What's unique is that our guests are personally escorted by a local who can take them to places no one else would know about," Hall said. "I don't know of any other program where hotel owners escort guests around and invite them into their homes."

Michaele Innocenti, son of the owners of the Grand Hotel Victoria in spa mecca Montecatini Terme, leads CIT's six-night Totally Tuscany adventure.

Innocenti and his charges will taste wines at the Villa Banfi estate; board a train for the remote fishing villages of Cinque Terre; shop local produce markets and craft meals in the kitchen of the Casa Colonica in Vernazzano, and learn to discern subtle differences in oil at an olive mill.

Priced at $1,599 per person, double, the air-inclusive Tuscan trip departs Saturdays from Nov. 10 to Dec. 15 and from Jan. 5 to March 9, 2002.

CIT's even more luxurious Undiscovered Umbria itinerary includes a visit to the Perugina chocolate factory, wine tasting at the Lungarotti Wine Museum, a cooking lesson at a private villa and dinner in Castiglione del Lago.

At press time, the package's cost was $2,499 per person, double, including air from Boston, Chicago and New York.

"It's a little more expensive because it's top of the line," Hall said. "I think the Trumps would go on a trip like this."

Departures for the Umbrian and Tuscan tours are guaranteed, "even if there are just two people," she said. Agent commissions start at 10%.

On a less worldly note, CIT is offering the five-night, limited-space Pacis Retreat, a religious tour to Vatican City, Rome and Assisi, scheduled for Nov. 10 to 16.

Highlights of the religious tour include a mass in St. Peter's underground tomb, a pilgrimage to St. Francis' tomb at Assisi, a tour of the Sistine Chapel and attendance at a public audience with Pope John Paul II.

The Pacis Retreat is priced at $1,685 per person, double, and includes roundtrip air on Alitalia from New York, hotel transfers, five nights at the Residenza Paolo VI and all meals and activities.

For details, contact CIT Tours at (800) 248-8687 (for the Pacis Retreat, ask for the Specialty Group Department) or visit the company's Web site at www.cit-tours.com.

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