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Christmas in Venice: Inside Private Palaces

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The office of continuing education at Zenobio Institute, Venice, Italy, will offer a 10-day program during the Christmas season titled “Private Palaces and Hidden Venice Revealed.” This program, which begins Dec. 21, is designed for lovers of art, architecture, history, photography and adventure. It is coordinated by the director of restoration of Zenobio Palace, Michael Carapetian, former professor of architecture at USC. The itinerary includes a member of a noble Venetian family telling the story of their palace; visits to other opulent and ornate private palaces normally closed to the public; a traditional Christmas feast in a beautiful setting; a visit to the island monasteries of San Lazzaro and San Giorgio; Christmas Mass in the 1,000-year-old St. Mark Basilica; a Venetian wine luncheon; a private boat excursion through hidden waterways; a baroque concert staged in a baroque cathedral; a tour of one of the last remaining gondola workshops, and a special performance by a marionette theater group.

Cost: $2,399 per person, double occupancy, including round-trip air fare, hotel accommodations, breakfast and some dinners, ground transportation, all admission fees and services of guides. Contact: Zenobio Institute; telephone (800) 525-0525.

French Wines

Wine tours for collectors and enthusiasts are offered on various dates from April through November. Bordeaux and Burgundy are the focus of the itineraries, where guests visit some of France’s best-known vineyards and restaurants. Participants are welcomed by chateaux owners and winemakers from popular vineyards. Accommodations are in private chateaux and small country hotels. Optional side trips include ballooning, hunting, historical sightseeing and a tour of Paris.

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Cost: $2,770 per person, double occupancy, including all meals, ground transportation, wine with meals, wine-tastings and accommodations. Not included: air fare to France. Contact: Avalon Tours, P.O. Box 8911, Newport Beach, CA 92658; tel. (714) 673-7376.

Historic Rome

A 13-day tour of Rome will leave March 1 and includes day trips to Siena and Pompeii. Mornings will begin with a continental breakfast, followed by a daily lecture tour. Afternoons will be free for personal explorations.

The lecture tours will include landmarks such as St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, the Forum and the Colosseum. They will also include less well-known works, such as St. Ivo and the Ara Pacis. Special walking tours of fountains, palaces and churches are planned. The tour is designed to cover the development of Roman art and architecture from its beginnings through the Baroque period, putting these works into historical perspective.

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The tour is limited to 24 people. A historic small hotel in the center of Rome, in walking distance of the major sights and shopping areas, will be the base.

Cost: $2,950 per person, double occupancy, including round-trip air fare, hotel, ground transportation and continental breakfast. Contact: Doug or Mercedes Williams at Historic Tours, 16109 E. Russell St., Whittier, CA 90603; tel. (310) 947-1375.

First Stop, Tunisia

A festival in the desert town of Douz is on the itinerary of a trip to Tunisia, where participants will attend camel races, a mock wedding and a Bedouin horsemen’s competition. The tour is from Dec. 15 to Jan. 3. Included are stops at little-visited sites of antiquity--the Roman towns of Bulla Regia, Dougga and Sbeitla. Villages and early Berber fortified granaries will also be explored. Several resort towns on the Mediterranean coast have medinas (old walled towns), where the marketplaces have an imaginative collection of arts, craftspeople and antique treasures.

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Cost: $1,459 per person, double occupancy, including accommodations, some meals and all activities. Not included: air fare to Tunisia. Contact: Terra Travel, 2170 Avenida de la Playa, La Jolla, CA 92037; tel. (800) 444-9554.

Tasmania

A 14-day soft adventure eco-tour begins Jan. 20 in Hobart, seaside capital of Tasmania, Australia. Participants will visit Salamanca, a traditional open-air market, walk along cobblestone streets and stay in a historic Hobart hotel. The group will explore ancient caves while paddling on the Franklin River in southwest Tasmania’s World Heritage Park and visit a former penal colony. Guests can board a 60-foot traditional rock lobster boat and catch fresh lobster in the Tasman Sea. They will also walk the trails in Freycinet National Park to Wineglass Bay.

Cost: $2,700 per person, double occupancy, including most meals, lodging, equipment, transportation in Tasmania and guides. Contact: Wilderness Journeys, P.O. Box 220204, Anchorage, AK; tel. (800) 349-0064.

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Think Flowers

A 12-day trip to England for garden enthusiasts is scheduled July 8. Participants will attend the Hampton Court Flower Show, have tea at Gardens of the Rose with the president of the Royal National Rose Society, visit Elsing Hall, Wisley Gardens, Sissinghurst, Peter Beales’ Nursery and Mottisfont Abbey. Then, via the Chunnel, participants head to Paris to see the gardens at Giverny, which were the subject of paintings by Claude Monet; the rose gardens of Bagatelle and La Roserie de L’Hay.

Cost: $2,295 per person, double occupancy, including round-trip air fare, accommodations, excursions, admissions and daily breakfast. Deposits must be in by Dec. 15. Contact: Don Eslinger, Historic Tours of America, 16142 Woodstock Lane, Huntington Beach, CA 92647; tel. (714) 846-9595.

Archeology of Mexico

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The Archaeological Conservancy, a national non-profit preservation organization is offering an archeological tour of the Maya ruins of Mexico and Central America. The tour is nine days and leaves March 16. It will be led by Dr. John Henderson, professor of Anthropology at Cornell University. The Aztecs, Toltecs and Teotihuacanos Tour will visit the great ancient cities and pyramids, which were built in the Valley of Mexico from 200 BC until the Spanish Conquest in AD 1519. The ruins of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, now the center of Mexico City, will be explored along with the Toltec capital of Tula. Also included in this tour are visits to: Teotihuacan, which flourished between 200 BC and AD 750; the colonial cities of Puebla and Cuernavaca; the ancient ruins of Xochicalco, Chalcatzingo and Cholula; and Cacaxtla, where some of the most spectacular ancient Maya-style murals can still be seen.

Cost: $1,895 per person including hotels and some meals. Transportation costs to and from Mexico City are not included.

Contact: Archeological Conservancy; tel. (505) 266-1540.

UFOs in Puerto Rico

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People interested in UFO phenomena can join a trip to Puerto Rico, where UFO sightings are said to be frequent. The weeklong tour leaves Jan. 7 and is accompanied by researchers Leah Haley and Marc Davenport, who also lecture on the UFO Conference lecture circuit. On this expedition participants meet local researchers, who discuss recent UFO activity. Participants will also see what are purported to be the latest photos and videos of UFOs, and hear local residents relate their experiences. Nightly sky watches are organized with locals to look for UFOs. Expedition participants will visit Laguna Cartegena in Cabo Rojo and travel to El Yunque rain forest, where sightings of spacecraft and alien beings have been reported.

Cost: $1,299 per person, double occupancy, including round-trip air fare, transfers, van, guides, hotels and daily breakfast. Contact: Beyond Boundaries Expeditions, 2109 Highway 377E, Granbury, TX 76049; tel. (800) 259-8747.

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The Times is not responsible for changes in prices, dates or itineraries. These should be confirmed with cruise lines, travel agents or tour operators.

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