Travel to Italy and savour the many flavours of this gastronomic haven on a journey from the canals of Venice to the cobblestone streets of Rome. Explore historic sites and picturesque villages on this special food-lovers' adventure through some of the most incredible places in Italy. There is plenty of time to indulge in everything from fresh seafood and hearty wines to the finest balsamic vinegars and pesto in the world. This two-week trip is sure to tantalise all the senses.

Start
Venice, Italy
Finish
Rome, Italy
Countries
Italy
Themes
Explorer
Code
ZMKF
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
175kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • See the real Venice on an optional gondola ride down the Grand Canal and through the city's complex network of waterways. Feel the romance as you pass beneath the Bridge of Sighs and the Rialto Bridge
  • A series of walking paths connect the pastel villages of Monterosso, Corniglia and Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre. Explore this amazing region on foot, or you can jump on a train if you need a break
  • The Leaning Tower of Pisa may be Pisa's most iconic image, but the city offers so much more. The Piazza dei Miracoli and Pisa Baptistry are masterpieces in Medieval-Italian architecture
  • There's a lot more to Florence than Renaissance art (although the art is pretty great). The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore is brimming with nearly 600 years of history and stories
  • If Italian cuisine is known for its simplicity and big flavours, no place does this better than rural Spello. Let Umbrian delicacies such as lamb meat balls with rosemary and porcini risotto whet your appetite
  • No Italian adventure would be complete without a visit to Rome. Enjoy plenty of free time to discover the ancient Colosseum, stroll through Vatican City and gaze up towards the gods inside St Peter's Basilica

Itinerary

Welcome to Venice, Italy. This watery wonderland of bridges, towers, piazzas, canals, churches and gondolas – practically unchanged for 600 years – is literally sinking under the weight of its iconic sights. Your Italian adventure will begin with a welcome meeting at 6pm tonight – check with reception to confirm the time and place. We'll be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have these on hand. If you're going to be late, please inform hotel reception. 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). There are no activities planned before the meeting, so if you arrive early there are plenty of things to keep you busy. Take a walk around the maze of streets behind San Marco square and begin to understand the complex canal system of Venice. The Grand Canal is a great place to start, as you can stroll over the Rialto Bridge and browse the endless amounts of boutique shops that sell Venetian masks and handmade Murano glassware. After the meeting, enjoy dinner with your fellow travel companions at a local restaurant.
After breakfast, venture out and explore Venice. There are only two ways to get around this city – on foot or by boat. Some of the more popular sights include Doge's Palace, the Piazza and Basilica di San Marco and the Bridge of Sighs. Take the vaporetto (water bus) over to the island of San Giorgio to climb the bell tower for the best view of Venice. No trip here would be complete without a journey down the Grand Canal in a Venetian gondola. It's a common way for visitors to see the major canal routes from an immersive perspective. While away your day in the busy San Marco square and be sure to try the local tiramisu and Italian coffee that's on offer. There’s creativity everywhere, overflowing into the canals; see it in the venetian glass in Dorsoduro or down the streets spreading out from Campo Santo Stefano, lined with unique galleries and small boutiques. Visit the Palazzo Ducale, overflowing with paintings by Italian masters, and contrast it with the modern Guggenheim. Simply enjoy getting lost crossing the hundreds of bridges and uncovering your own slice of Venice. In the evening, perhaps join your fellow travellers for a group dinner at a local restaurant. Venice is famous for its specialities of fresh lobster and squid ink spaghetti dishes, so make sure you give one a try.
This morning after breakfast, spend the day travelling by train to the once important naval base of La Spezia, now the gateway to the gorgeous Cinque Terre, or ‘Five lands’ in English. The name comes from the five tiny villages – Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore – whose position, wedged into a series of coves between sheer cliffs, makes it one of the highlights of the whole of Italy. The journey usually takes between five and seven hours either via Milan or via Florence (depending on the best available connection), and is a very scenic trip through the north of Italy. On arrival in La Spezia there won't be too much time to explore yet, but after checking into your hotel perhaps get your bearings of the area with a short walk around the pedestrian zone on Via del Prione to the gardens along the harbour, or head out for dinner with the group.
This morning venture out on the footpaths of Cinque Terre (Five Lands), a region of Italy famed for its coastline and pastel villages. The footpaths that run between the villages were once the only way to travel in the region, and take you through olive groves, vineyards and on to idyllic vistas. Walking the entire network of paths can take around five hours (12 kilometres in total) and you will need a good level of fitness. You can also choose to walk just a few sections, which will still unveil a great amount of majestic scenery. Some sections of path can be difficult, as there are challenging uphill stretches, narrow paths, steep cliffs and foot bridges. Please remember to bring comfortable footwear such as trainers or light hiking shoes. It's also possible to take the train between any of the villages or back to the group's base whenever you want. After working up an appetite, take advantage of the foods of the Liguria region with a pesto class. Focaccia is also a speciality in this area and makes a great start to lunch. The rest of the day is free. In the evening, there's no better way to recover from your day of walking with more indulgence in delicious Mediterranean food.

Notes: Due to recent landslides in the area it is currently not possible to walk the Via dell'Amore and the coastal section between Manarola and Corniglia. There are alternative inland routes, however these are of a higher physical rating and involve steep ups and downs. It is possible to take the train or a bus for these sections. Due to safety reasons some sections of any path can be closed at short notice.

Cinque Terre path sections:
- Riomaggiore to Manarola (the original Via dell'Amore) is currently closed until further notice. The alternative is a 1 hour inland path, involving a rocky path with lots of steps.
- Manarola to Corniglia is also closed to landslides. The alternative is via the hill side village of Volastra. It takes 1 hour to reach Volastra via a series of steep staircases, and then another hour to reach Corniglia. There is an hourly bus from Manarola to Volastra in order to bypass the steps.
- Corniglia to Vernazza is medium level difficulty and takes about 1.5 hours on a rocky path.
- Vernazza to Monterosso is more challenging but arguably the most scenic and takes about 2 hours on a rocky path.
Depart Cinque Terre today and catch a train to Pisa (approximately 1-2 hours). Divided in two by the River Arno, the heart of Pisa is the Santa Maria quarter on the north bank. Here there'll be ample time for you to visit the world-famous Leaning Tower, as well as the Duomo (Piazza dei Miracoli, once the largest in Europe) and Pisa Baptistry. Please note that it's not always possible to climb the tower, although you'll have plenty of time to take pictures and explore the city. The tower was built in the 12th century, but its foundation was on shifting sand and clay, meaning that it now leans at an angle of 4 degrees (after restoration and stabilising work). Wander the shopping streets, from high-end boutiques to speciality book and antiques stores, and perhaps enjoy lunch and an aperitif in a backstreet restaurant. If there’s time, head to the riverside Museo Nazionale di San Matteo at Piazza San Matteo before returning to the station in the afternoon and taking the train to Florence (approximately 2 hours). After checking in to your hotel in Florence, the rest of your evening is free to explore the city of the Renaissance.
After breakfast head out into Florence, one of the most culturally rich and beautiful cities in Italy, known to many as the beating heart of Tuscany. The Medicis, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Brunelleschi, Machiavelli, Donatello and Michelangelo all lived in Florence at the height of their creative reign. It's impossible to see everything in this Renaissance wonderland, however, so take your time and enjoy it. Perhaps visit the Uffizi, one of the world's oldest art galleries, or walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo, which is set on a hill on the south bank of the Arno River, to take in beautiful views of the city – a lovely way to while away the day. There are plenty of sights to see during your time in Florence. Food is also a major part of the city's identity, so perhaps explore some of the culinary delicacies on offer from across Tuscany. Regional specialities are noted for their simplicity and fine flavour, and the use of high-quality olive oil, cannellini beans and fresh herbs. Meat lovers should try the bistecca alla fiorentina, a huge T-bone steak that's usually shared between two people, or ribollita, a thick delicious vegetable soup with bread, beans and greens. Panforte is the signature sweet treat.

Note: Florentine State Museums can all be booked in advance. You can online at www.weekendafirenze.com. We suggest that you book in advance (your leader can be of assistance), especially for the Uffizi as this museum experiences enormous queues (up to 5 hours) all year round. The individual museums have slightly different opening times and closing days between them but the website (www.firenzemusei.it) has everything you need to know about all of them. Make your reservations for these museums for any time on Day 6 of this itinerary.
After a free morning in Florence (perhaps visiting the Galleria dell'Accademia where you can see Michelangelo's famous statue of David), travel by train to Perugia (approximately 2-3 hours). The once Roman settlement of Perugia sits atop a rocky hill with views over the rolling green hills of the Umbria region, and is now a university town with one of Italy's largest schools. On arrival, head out on an orientation tour of the city’s rambling maze of medieval streets. In your spare time, and for an insight into local history, perhaps visit the National Gallery of Umbria (Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria), an impressive collection of Umbrian art housed in the Palazzo dei Priori, a grand stone building dating from the 13th century. Your evening is then free, with the city's population of students filling the nights with life. Pause for a glass of prosecco along Corso Vannucci, the city’s main street, as you take a very Italian passeggiata.
Today visit the nearby medieval town of Spello by train (approximately 20 minutes), a Roman town that straddles a thin ridge at the base of Mount Subasio – the mountain where St Francis was said to have talked to the animals. It’s a place known for its ancient Roman monuments of town walls and city gates, wine and rural charm. Two of the local churches feature frescoes by famed Renaissance painter Pinturicchio, who later lent his hand to works in the Vatican and Siena’s cathedral. Sample the local wine and regional delicacies here when you lunch at a local enoteca. Mushrooms like tartufo and porcini make up the base of many pasta and risotto dishes, while whole stuffed pig with rosemary is a signature dish of the region. On the way back to Perugia in the late afternoon, there's also the opportunity to visit the picturesque town of Assisi (no bookings necessary). This is Italy's second-holiest city, blessed with Saint Francis's tomb and religious highlights galore. The rest of your evening in Perugia is free. It’ll be very hard not to spend the whole time indulging on the region’s fabulous food.
In the morning, take the train to Rome (approximately 2 hours), and remember that while here, the best attitude is ‘when in Rome’! Join your leader on an orientation walk around the city, where you see some of the iconic sights such as the Colosseum and Arch of Constantine, the Forum (centre of ancient Rome), the Victor Emmanuel Monument, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps, Via Dei Condotti and Piazza Venezia. 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 a panorama over the city. Use your free time to also visit the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. Rome is packed full of restaurants and trattorias that cater to every taste and budget. Local specialities tend to be quite heavy, and include pastas such as carbonara (egg, cheese and bacon) and amatriciana (tomato, bacon and chilli). Eating in trattorias will give you a chance to sample some Italian wines, with house choices usually very good and affordable. Head out in the evening with the group for a final farewell gastronomic fling.

Notes: Check the Vatican website (vatican.va) for updated information on when you can visit. Tickets for the Vatican Museum can be booked online at: biglietteriamusei.vatican.va/musei/tickets/do. Alternatively, the Galleria Borghese can be booked online at: galleriaborghese.it/borghese/en/einfo.htm. 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).
Your Italy Experience comes to an end this morning. There are no activities planned for today and you're free to depart the accommodation at any time. As there is so much to see in Rome we recommend you to stay a little longer. We are happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). Please speak to your agent at the time of booking.
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Inclusions

Meals
9 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 3 dinners
Transport
Train, Public bus, Ferry, Metro, Taxi
Accommodation
Guesthouse (2 nights), Hotel (7 nights)
Included activities
  • Welcome Dinner in Venice
  • San Giorgio Bell Tower in Venice
  • Venice Traghetto Ride
  • Cinque Terre Day Trip
  • Pesto Class in Levanto
  • Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence
  • Enoteca Lunch & Wine Tasting - Spello
  • Rome Orientation Walk

Dates

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Trip notes

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Italy Experience , May 2016

Italy Experience , May 2016

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