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Home » Destinations » Europe » Italy » Intrepid Best of Italy
Starting from the ancient city of Rome, visit iconic sites with a guided tour of this beautiful city steeped in history before discovering centuries of Renaissance art including Michelangelo’s David in Florence.
Pay a visit to the world-famous leaning tower of Pisa and sampling delicious, traditional Italian classics and world-class wines in Portofino – known as the stunning Italian Riviera and hike to Cinque Terre, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Finish with a tranquil stay at the magnificent Lake Como before finishing the tour among Venice’s canals and bridges where you can enjoy an authentic Traghetto boat ride.
Full of 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. If you arrive early there are plenty of things to keep you busy
Enjoy some free time in Rome or, if you wish, your group leader will be available for an orientation walk, taking in some of the best-known sights of Rome like the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps and the Roman Forum. No visit would be complete without a trip to Vatican City and St Peter’s Basilica.
Today is a free day for you to explore all that Florence has to offer. It’s impossible to see everything in this Renaissance wonderland, however, so take your time and enjoy it.
No doubt there’ll be more to see in Florence this morning, then this afternoon you’ll take a train to Lucca (approximately 2 hours). Lucca is one of Tuscany’s real hidden gems, with centuries-old buildings, beautiful churches, charming piazzas and narrow streets within the ancient city ramparts.
Set off on a cycling tour following the scenic Serchio River through the Tuscan countryside (4 kilometres round the walls that are now a tree-lined avenue, and 14 kilometres by the river, approximately 3-4 hours). There are cafes and plenty of spots for a Tuscan picnic along the route.
Travel by train to La Spezia (approximately 3 hours), an important naval base that’s now the gateway to the gorgeous Cinque Terre, or ‘Five lands’ in English. A medieval port town whose name is derived from its historic importance in the spice trade, La Spezia is your base for exploring the nearby stunning stretch of coast known as the Cinque Terre. 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. After lunch, explore the city or perhaps head out by ferry or bus to the pretty seaside town of Portovenere, known for its colourful houses straddling the waterfront.
This morning venture out on the footpaths of Cinque Terre (Five Lands), a region of Italy famed for its coastline and pastel villages on mountains that plunge into the sea. 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, breath-taking vistas.
Travel by train to Santa Margherita on the Peninsula of Portofino (approximately 1 hour). Store your luggage and set off on an energetic 5-7 kilometre walk, finishing at the glamorous resort of Portofino. Start by wandering down to the waterfront at Santa Margherita, past the small fishing and pleasure boats in the busy marina, and enjoy great views back over to the town. Continue along the road, passing the beach clubs, private villas and hotels that command stunning vistas over where the hills of the Italian Riviera meet the bays and inlets of the Bay of Tigullio.
Today you’ll take a bus to the green hills of the nearby rural village of Castagnole Monferrato, where you’ll visit the home of a local winemaking family to sample their vintages and learn about the grapes. The Ruche grape variety is unique to this region of Italy – it’s grown in just seven small villages in the province of Asti and produces a ruby-red, intense and aromatic wine.
Travel by train to Milan (approximately 3 hours), Italy’s second largest city and the capital of Lombardy, Italy’s wealthiest province. You’ll stop here for a few hours to explore. In this most fashionable of cities, this is the place for stylish shopping and cafes – Milanese specialities! Explore the city’s historic centre, visit the city’s most famous building, the Gothic Duomo, and walk between its rooftop sculptures, admiring the views and the stunning Gothic terrace.
This morning, board a ferry to travel across the blue waters of Lake Como to the pretty village of Bellagio. Here you can enjoy a walk through the countryside and discover the estate of the Villa Melzi. This grand white villa sits just back from the water and its surrounding estate is filled with a plethora of rare and exotic plant life. The rest of the day is free to take the ferry between the various parts of this area of Lake Como, like Varenna, Cadenabbia, or the beautiful Villa Balbianello, which film fans may recognise from films such as Casino Royale or Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones.
Leave the lakes behind and head for another watery wonderland, taking the train to Venice (approximately 6 hours). This grand city of bridges, towers, piazzas, canals, churches and gondolas – practically unchanged for 600 years – is literally sinking under the weight of its iconic sights. 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.
Venture out and explore Venice today. There are only two ways to get around this city – on foot or by boat. Take in the famous sights – the Grand Canal, the Rialto Bridge, Doge’s Palace (the ruler of Venice), the Piazza San Marco with its golden Basilica, and of course, the evocative Bridge of Sighs.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. As there is so much to see in Venice you may want to consider extending your stay.
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