Highlights of Italy    *alt*

13 days, from £1929
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Visit historical Italian cities, rural agricultural land and striking coastal villages of the Amalfi Coast

Venice, Florence and Rome need no introduction as historically fascinating and architecturally impressive cities. Each reveal very different characteristics of Italian culture and boast some delicious traditional dishes, such as the Florentine 'ribollita' or the 'cicchetti' in Venice. Travelling by train through Italy's beautiful landscapes makes for an unforgettable experience as we can absorb the incredible views of Lake Como, the Alps and stunning Amalfi coastline. The included visits to Verona, the cities of Florence and Assisi, and a stay in the Amalfi coast make this a truly memorable trip while optional visits to Capri and Sorrento should not be missed too.

- 12 nights guesthouse, 2 or 3-star hotels with en suite rooms.
- Travel by train, ferry, public and private bus.
- Group normally 6 to 16, plus leader. Min age 16 yrs.

- Culture
- Cultural Wonders

- Diverse architecture and history in Venice, Florence and Rome
- Scenic boat trip on Lake Como
- Stay in the Amalfi Coast

Activity grade: Leisurely

- All breakfasts
- All accommodation (see accommodation section)
- All transport and listed activities
- Tour leader throughout
- Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)


 Day 1 Fly to Venice.

Fly to Venice; transfer to hotel. *Standard Hotel*

 Day 2 Morning orientation tour, then free time to wander the narrow streets of this enchanting city.

Morning orientation tour and free time to discover the spectacular Floating City , its monuments and outstanding architecture rising from the lagoon. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Venice is built over 117 small islands separated by canals and connected by over 400 bridges. We have time to wander around the labyrinth streets of the historical centre and the magnificent Piazza San Marco. A great way to get an overview of Venice and its architecture is by taking a vaporetto (waterbus) trip along the Grand Canal, lined with ancient palaces and crossed by beautifully decorated bridges.

 Day 3 Train to Verona and enjoy lunch in the home of Italian opera before continuing by train to Varenna.

We take a train to Verona and spend a few hours in this vibrant city home to numerous Roman ruins, such as the enormous Arena, the third largest Roman amphitheatre in the world and nowadays a legendary open-air opera house. There is the chance to visit the balcony where Juliet is said to have been courted by Romeo,. However, please be aware that this is usually a very busy area of Verona, so be prepared for queues if you wish to see the spot made famous by Shakespeare s classic. After lunch continue by train to Varenna, a quaint village on Lake Como.

 Day 4 Scenic boat ride across Lake Como to the picturesque town of Bellagio; return to Varenna.

This morning we enjoy a scenic boat ride across Lake Como to the picturesque town of Bellagio. Shaped like an upside-down Y, Lake Como is nestled between high mountains rising from its rugged shores, scattered with small villages and superb villas. Bellagio is set in this idyllic landscape on the cusp of the lake s two arms and is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the view from its promenade or one of its elegant caf s. Your boat ticket is valid all day so the rest of the afternoon is free to explore the local villages and gorgeous lakeside villas. There also several lakeside gardens worth a visit. Alternatively you can hop on a boat back to Varenna and walk to the panoramic viewpoint accessible directly behind our hotel. **

 Day 5 Train to Florence. Walking tour of this historical city and optional food tasting at a local market

This morning we board our second train for our journey to the capital of Tuscany, Florence, travelling through the fertile farming regions of Emilia-Romagna. On our approach to the city we'll start to see the rolling hills and cypress trees that make Tuscany so famous. On arrival in Florence we have a walking tour from our local guide, taking in all the famous sights, and giving us time to get our bearings. We then stop in Mercato Centrale, the famous food market; where we have the option to sample some of Tuscany's tastiest produce, include salami, cheese and fresh fruit. Our evening is free to enjoy the city by night.

 Day 6 Free day in Florence.

We enjoy a full day in the magnificent city of Florence, the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance with an enormous wealth of historical sites, museums, galleries, churches and architectural delights. Most of the great artists, thinkers and builders from Renaissance history passed through or lived in Florence when it was under the rule of the Medici family, the most famous patrons of the 16th century. However Florence is not just a Renaissance showpiece: once you have had your fill of the historical trail there are many other things to see and do. The city has not ceased to be a centre of learning, and there is a university, many art and language schools and a large student population to liven up the caf -bars, restaurants and nightclubs. There are some good flea markets and chic boutiques. For those wishing to visit the Uffizi or the Accademia we would advise booking ahead online or first thing in the morning to guarantee entry. **

 Day 7 Transfer into Umbria for overnight near Assisi, the perfect location to explore the region.

In the morning we take a train to the fortified hilltop town of Assisi, in the heart of rural Umbria and then drive to our base for the next two nights. Our Agriturismo is set in a beautiful landscape typical of the Umbria region, a land of mediaeval hilltop towns, vineyards, olive groves and full of history and tradition. This type of accommodation is the best way to experience the local atmosphere and enjoy the surroundings. As Agriturismos are normally located outside the city centre, in the countryside, transfers will be arranged to/from Assisi town as walking will not be possible.

 Day 8 Free day in Umbria.

Today we have some free time to relax or enjoy a self-guided walk in the peaceful countryside. Alternatively, we could visit one of the villages nearby: Perugia and Spello are two fine examples of fortified hilltop towns. As the Agriturismo is not located in the centre of Assisi transfer arrangements will be required for each excursion. In Spello there is an option of wine tasting to learn about the region s specialities.

 Day 9 Morning transfer to Rome; orientation walk to some of the city's best sights.

Hoping aboard a train again we head towards Rome, arguably the most fascinating of Italy's cities. The Italian capital is best explored on foot and, after an orientation walk to some of its famous sights, we have a day and a half to discover its vast historic centre at our own pace. According to the legend, the city is named after Romulus, who killed his brother Remus to take control of the city and in 753BC named it Roma. Such is the legend, but it is more likely that the people of Latium built the city as a fortress. The city gradually spread over the adjoining hills and thanks to its strategic position by the River Tiber and proximity to the coast, Rome dominated trade routes from Etruria to Campania. Etruscan kings ruled until 510BC, when Rome became a republic. By the 2nd century BC the city was poised to take over the whole Mediterranean, but several civil wars ended the republic, the emperors took over and a frenzy of monumental building began; each Emperor wanting to leave his mark on the city. Nero built the Domus Aurea, Vespasian the Colosseum and Hadrian built Castel Sant'Angelo - all still standing today. With the rise of Christianity in the 4th century, Rome became the centre of a new empire, Christendom, and many of the city's large basilicas such as San Pietro were built. **

 Day 10 Free day to explore Rome.

Free day to discover Rome s incredible landmarks and monuments. The oldest and most evocative ruins are those of the Roman Forum, once the heart of the Mediterranean world. Through the gates the noise of the busy street seems to fade away and it's easy to imagine the city as it was over 2000 years ago. The most imposing monument of ancient Rome is the Colosseum. Gladiatorial contests and mock sea battles took place here with up to 50,000 people seated in the amphitheatre. No trip to the Eternal City would be complete without visiting St Peter's and the Vatican Museum - Piazza San Pietro is one of the most beautiful squares in the world with its marvellous colonnade and triumphal arches designed by Bernini, an obelisk from Egypt at the centre and the awe-inspiring basilica of St Peter, with its beautiful cupola designed by Michelangelo. Ascending to the gallery around the interior of the dome we can see the artwork close up and go out onto the roof for a panoramic view. Rome is a city of fountains and piazzas, which makes it an ideal spot to soak up the local atmosphere while enjoying an ice cream or a coffee at one of the many street caf s.

 Day 11 Continue by train and bus to the Amalfi Coast; orientation walk.

Today we continue by train to Salerno and further by bus to the legendary Amalfi coast, the most impressive stretch of coastline in the Mediterranean, characterized by its precariously located hilltop villages and beautiful coastal towns. Our tour leader will take us on an orientation walk of the town of Minori, our base for the next two nights.

 Day 12 Free day to visit Capri, Sorrento, Amalfi or walk from Bomerano to Positano

Our location is the perfect base to explore this stunning part of Italy: the Amalfi coast. Capri with its grottos, coves, Roman ruins and cristal clear waters is the perfect example of the Mediterranean appeal and is easily accessible by ferry. Alternatively just a short boat ride away you can reach the colourful towns of Amalfi and Sorrento. Ravello can be reached by bus. If you feel like walking we can recommend the Sentiero degli dei (Path of Gods) connecting Bomerano to Positano. The name gives an indication of the spectacular scenery enroute, which offers magnificent views of the Amalfi Coast and the Capri Island.

 Day 13 Fly to London.

Transfer to Naples airport; fly to London. **

Tour Map