Explore intoxicating Italy from Venice to Rome, Amalfi and Bari

Wander enchanting streets and alleys in Venice, hike through rolling green fields in Gubbio and discover the haunting side of Pompeii on this captivating adventure through la bella Italia. Sample Spello’s famous wine in an enoteca, spot a celebrity in Capri, traverse the incredible Amalfi coastline and explore ancient grottoes in Matera. Sip an espresso in Rome after visiting the Colosseum, relax in the retro Trani marina, and marvel at the fascinating Basilica Di Santa Croce in Lecce. From rustic cobbled streets to spectacular seaside scenery, fall in love with the spirit of Italy on this diverse – and delicious – adventure.

Start
Venice, Italy
Finish
Bari, Italy
Countries
Italy
Themes
Explorer
Code
ZMSRC
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
0kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Cross Venice’s Grand Canal on a traghetto
  • Sample a drop of Spello wine at a local enoteca
  • Learn about the tragic history of Pompeii
  • Hike along the famous Amalfi coast
  • Relax in the beautiful Trani marina
  • Step inside a 9,000 year-old dwelling in Matera

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2016 to 27 September 2016. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Buongiorno! Welcome to Italy. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting which usually takes place at around 6pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where and when exactly it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.

Notes: Your leader will be available to help on your arrival day until after the welcome meeting, however they may be finishing a trip tonight with another group and will be spending the evening having a farewell dinner with them. Your leader will suggest a location for dinner for you and your group tonight and will be able to participate in other evening meals for the duration of your trip.
After an orientation walk to familiarise you with the city you are free to explore Venice on your own. A grand city of canals, Venice is built over a hundred small islands connected by 400 bridges. Still rich with artistic masterpieces, modern Venice combines history with contemporary life through food, performance, art and architecture. There are only two ways to explore Venice - by boat or on foot. Some of the more popular sights include the Grand Canal, the shops of the Rialto Bridge, the Palace of the Doge (ruler of Venice), the Piazza and Basilica di San Marco and the Bridge of Sighs. Take the time to wander the narrow, cobblestone streets and spacious piazzas and cross the hundreds of tiny bridges, where shops, markets, galleries, churches and stunning buildings lie around every corner. You can't leave Venice without going on a classic Venetian gondola. It's a common way for visitors to see the major canal routes from a fascinating perspective.
This is a long travel day as we take several trains followed by a short bus ride inland into Umbria and the medieval hill town of Gubbio (approx 8 hrs). The streets of Gubbio are filled with stone houses and orange-tiled roofs, set against a mountain backdrop.
This morning take a short orientation walk up to Gubbio's unique cable car - a 15 minute and 1,000 metre high ride to the Basilica of Sant'Ubaldo, which contains the mummified body of the town's patron saint. From up here you can marvel at the amazing vistas of the Umbrian valleys and mountains plus get a great rooftop view of the town itself. Note that the cable car may not be suitable to individuals suffering from vertigo or with mobility issues. The alternative is a 30-40 minute walk uphill on a gravel road to reach the basilica. Take a short hike from the top of Mt Ingino to admire the Umbrian countryside and stunning view down to Gubbio (approx. 2-3hrs).

You'll have some free time to explore the delights of Gubbio at leisure. You can take in the Civic Museum, the Duomo or the Palazzo Ducale, or just relax into the Umbrian pace of life. Enjoy a variety of local cuisine and try one of the dishes that Umbria is famous for - pecorino cheese, game meat and mushrooms all feature on restaurant menus.
Take a bus south to Assisi (approx 2.5 hrs). Assisi was the home of one of the world's most famous saints and founder of the Franciscan order - St Francis. Whatever your feelings about religion, it's a place which inspires reverence. Join your group leader on an orientation walk past all the wonderful sights of Assisi, including Piazza Matteotti, the Basilica of St Clare and the Roman temple remains. Take a short guided tour of the magnificent Basilica di San Francesco (St Francis Cathedral). We'll be led by a member of the Franciscan community, who will explain the life and times of St Francis and the beautiful art inside the church.
Take the train to charming Spello (approx 20 mins) to sample exclusive local wine and regional food specialties at an enoteca in this medieval town. Return to Assisi in the late afternoon with some free time to further explore this unique town.
Travel by train to Rome (approx 4 hrs). Crowded with ancient ruins and religious monuments, Rome still pulses to the beat of modern life and is packed with designer shops, restaurants, cafes and exciting nightlife. See some of the world-famous sights such as the Colosseum, Arch of Constantine and the Forum (the centre of ancient Rome). No visit would be complete without a trip to Vatican City and St Peter's Basilica. Entry to the Basilica is free, and there's a small charge to climb the dome for the ultimate breathtaking panorama over bella Roma. Also make the time to visit the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. The Vatican Museum is closed on some days, including most Sundays. On the last Sunday of the month, it's open and free (but expect large crowds). Check the Vatican website for these dates: www.vatican.va

Notes: Tickets for the Vatican Museum can be booked online at http://biglietteriamusei.vatican.va/musei/tickets/do. Alternatively, the Galleria Borghese can be booked online at http://www.galleriaborghese.it/borghese/en/einfo.htm.
Continue to explore Rome and all it has to offer on a free day. Check out the Victor Emmanuel Monument, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps, Via Condotti and Piazza Venezia among a multitude of other sights to discover. You may want to consider taking one of our Urban Adventures day tours, for example the 'Ancient Rome: Archaeological Discovery Tour' or 'Roman Dolce Vita'.

As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
Travel by train to Naples (approx 3 hrs). Naples was carved out by many empires of the past and by merchants and pirates from across the world: Romans, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Venetians, Spaniards, Normans and Africans. Its historical old centre is a World Heritage-listed area and the famous Spanish Quarter is still one of the most densely populated residential areas in Europe. Naples is the birthplace of the pizza, so it's only appropriate to head to one of the many pizzerias and taste what's truly some of the best that Italy has to offer. Head off to the Archaeological Museum, one of the best in Europe, which houses all the original artefacts rescued from the Pompeii site. Later in the afternoon board a train for Pompeii (approx 1 hr).
The small picturesque town of 'modern' Pompeii has a wonderful old town square - the perfect place to while away some time with the locals, drinking true Italian coffee and watching the world go by. Explore the ruins of ancient Pompeii, which was destroyed by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius 2,000 years ago. Pompeii is a time capsule quite unlike any other ruined city in the world.
This morning take a bus up the mighty Mt Vesuvius, where we will meet our local guide. The final ascent of the volcano can only be done on foot, up a steep but well-made trail of volcanic ash and gravel. The ascent takes around 45 minutes.

In the afternoon travel by train to Sorrento. People have been coming to the peninsula and islands of the Sorrento region for at least 2,000 years, and it's easy to see why. There are many options in this small seaside town with its fine piazzas, maze of old streets, sidewalk cafes and glamorous shops. The area is also famous for its lemon and orange groves - try some limoncello, a popular lemon liqueur, while watching the sun go down over the Adriatic Sea.
You have a free day to explore this delightful area. A trip to Capri is always popular - you can take a hydrofoil across for the day. Your leader will be of assistance and will have plenty of suggestions of what to do and see.
Arrive on the Amalfi Coast after a short bus journey (approx 2 hrs). The Amalfi peninsula is a land of rocky coasts, cliff-top vistas, azure seas and bright blue skies. You'll have time to explore the picturesque towns of Amalfi and Positano, or just relax on the beach.
Your leader will take you for a half-day walk along the narrow trail of the famous Sentiero Degli Dei (the Walk of the Gods), which, until quite recently, was followed by mules and donkeys as they traversed the dramatic landscape. The trail is steep and has many stairs, but the views are breathtaking and amply repay you for the effort! You'll see forests, ancient buildings, olive groves, vineyards, villages and the dramatic coastline. Please note that this walk can be challenging for sufferers of vertigo. A certain level of fitness is required to complete this walk, especially in summer when there may not be much shade along the path. Your leader will be able to suggest alternative activities should you wish to opt out.
Today is a free day for you to enjoy the area around Amalfi and along the coast. Perhaps visit neighbouring Atrani, the best-preserved town on the Amalfi Coast, with narrow little streets and a serene town square. Follow the Valley of the Dragon up to Ravello – another highlight of the coast. The French novelist André Gide once described Ravello as being ‘closer to the sky than the seashore’. For centuries, its lofty position and sunny, dry climate has made it an appealing place for writers, artists, musicians and travellers. Ravello also boasts two magnificent villas – the superb 11th Century Villa Rufolo which was once a papal residence and later the home of Wagner, and Villa Cimbrone, a sumptuous 19th Century mansion with fabulous gardens and unequalled views over the Gulf of Salerno.

As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.
Another day on the Amalfi Coast allows you explore further. It is highly recommended to walk down into the shaded Valle dei Mulini (Valley of the Watermills). Here you will find remnants of Europe’s earliest paper mills, strewn among thick foliage fed by the valley's streams. You may pass locals collecting wild mushrooms and stout men carrying half their body weight in lemons on their heads. The path takes you deep into the valley and the entrance to the nature reserve of ‘Valle delle Ferriere’ (Valley of Iron). This is one of the most interesting nature reserves of the area and an ideal place for lunch.
Known as the 'Pearl of Puglia', beautiful Trani has a sophisticated feel. The marina is a great place to relax and watch the world go by. With a stunning seaside cathedral, medieval streets bathed in a rarefied light, and its own, sweet wine, Trani is truly like stepping back into a 1950s movie set. Kick back on the waterfront and watch the sophisticates of Puglia clink glasses of Moscato di Trani in cosy bars, visit the medieval churches of the historic centre, or take in the almost modernist towers of the Swabian castle.
Today is a free day to explore all that Trani has to offer. You might like to visit the dramatic Catedrale di San Nicola Pellegrino, which perches out on the sea. Begun in 1097, and taking over two centuries to finish, the Norman cathedral is dedicated to the famously foolish St Nicholas the Pilgrim, whose bones lie in the crypt below the church. Inside, the simply furnished church is set off by the remains of a 12-century mosaic near the main altar.
Set dramatically atop the impossibly blue Adriatic, the small town of Polignano a Mare rises white above the rocky cliffs and caves of the indented Puglia coastline. Balconies jutting out over the crashing waves become crowded on the weekends, but there's also a wealth of sights here thanks to its ancient settlement and history of invasion. Until the 18th century, the town centre was accessible only by the medieval Porta Grande. Today, its drawbridge holes and openings for pouring out boiling oil are reminders of a gruesome past. For a more pleasant experience, stroll around Piazza San Benedetto and watch locals relaxing.

Lecce's baroque ornamentation is elevated to dizzying heights, presenting the casual viewer with a feast for the senses. Sumptuous palazzi (mansions), a defensive main square, Roman ruins and magnificent allegories dancing across ornate facades make Lecce a swoon-worthy sight for any traveller.
Today, you'll step beneath the city and see the restored Roman amphitheatre excavated in the 1930s. Built in the 2nd century AD, the horseshoe-shaped theatre seated 15,000 people. Overlooking the amphitheatre is the Colonna di Sant'Oronzo, a statue of Lecce's patron saint mounted upon a Roman column. Presented to Lecce from Brindisi, this column once stood at the terminus of the Via Appia that ran from Rome to Brindisi.

The fascinating Basilica Di Santa Croce inspires varied reactions - its heavily decorated façade of sheep, dodos, cherubs and monsters is a cacophony to some, while others are drawn to the lavish brilliance. Building began in the 14th century, but it wasn't until the 17th century that the façade was created by artists under Giuseppe Zimbalo. The Renaissance interior is a nice contrast.

For another baroque experience head to the Piazza del Duomo. Used in the past as a defence against invaders, when residents would barricade the narrow entrances, the square's pleasant openness is bordered by a 12th-century cathedral, a 68 metre-high bell tower, a 15th-century Episcopal Palace and an 18th-century Seminario.
Travel by train to Alberobello. People flock to Alberobello to marvel at the beehive-shaped trulli: small, dry-stone houses built from local limestone in the 14th century. The origins of the buildings are unclear, although its possible the mortar-less dwellings were created to be easily dismantled in a feudal tax-evasion scheme. Either way, the sight of the thick, gleaming walls capped with grey cones and topped with distinct, white, stubby spires is a unique and endearing Puglian experience.

Wander the old town quarter of Rione Monti, where thousands of trulli (and souvenir shops) rise up over the hill, or head over to Rione Aia Piccola and see trulli that are still family dwellings.
Transfer by private mini bus to Matera. The extraordinary sight of Matera's old town gives a haunting, bittersweet insight into ancient life. One of the oldest cities in existence, Matera's otherworldly drawcard is the sassi - stone houses formed from natural grottoes and tufo cliffs overlooking a dramatic gorge. Its resemblance to Jerusalem has attracted film directors of biblical epics, but its dark interiors were the scene of shameful poverty in the mid-20th century.

Duck down into the sassi through the knot of staircases and alleyways that snake their way through the limestone ravines, and appreciate both its ancient and modern history. With over 3000 habitable caves, some dating as far back as the 8th century BC, the sassi are filled with stunning frescoed rock church complexes, exhibits recreating inhabited caves, and even a contemporary sculpture museum. The sassi are undergoing extensive restoration - it is one place in the world where you can eat at a restaurant inside a 9,000 year-old dwelling!

There is also an exhibit at the Casa-Grotta di Vico Solitario detailing the sassi's recent history as a place of gruelling poverty. After the city's population expanded uncontrollably, previously unoccupied (and unsuitable) grottoes became home to over half of Matera's citizens, where caves sheltering an average of six children and an infant mortality rate of 50% were the norm. In the late 1950s the Italian government intervened and 15,000 inhabitants were forcibly relocated.
Today, you'll travel to Bari by local train. Sitting on a small peninsula in the Adriatic Sea, Bari is the prosperous capital of Puglia. The tangled streets of its old town, Bari Vecchia, conceal Romanesque churches, a riotous market, elegant medieval piazzas and a Swabian castle. Even Father Christmas can be found here - the Basilica di San Nicola was built to hold the relics of St Nicholas, which were stolen from Turkey by local Bari fishermen and have made the city a place of pilgrimage since 1087. The relics are also the mainstay of Bari's biggest annual celebration, the Festa di San Nicola.
Your journey will come to an end after breakfast today and you are free to depart at any time. If you would like to extend your stay here we can be of assistance with additional accommodation, subject to availability. Please enquire at the time of booking.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
16 breakfasts, 1 lunch
Transport
Train, Public bus, Private vehicle, Boat, Cable car, Taxi, Metro
Accommodation
Hotel (23 nights)
Included activities
  • Gubbio Hike and Cable Car
  • Guided Tour of Basilica di San Francesco Assisi
  • Orientation Walk Assisi
  • Enoteca Wine Tasting & Lunch - Spello
  • Naples Archaeological Museum
  • Pompeii Archaeological Site
  • Guided Walk Pompeii
  • Mt Vesuvius Summit Climb
  • Limoncello Tasting Sorrento
  • Gelato Making Demonstration Sorrento
  • Walk of the Gods Hike (Sentiero degli Dei)
  • Roman Amphitheatre - Lecce
  • Underground Village Guided Tour - Matera

Dates

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Important notes

A single room supplement is available to book on this trip, please see Trip Notes for more details.

Trip notes

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