Travel the romantic, winding waterways of Venice in a traghetto and lose yourself in the town’s myriad alleyways – best done with a lot of time and no map.. Nestled in the postcard-perfect vineyards of Tuscany’s Chianti region, your feature-stay on this trip is a five-star hotel housed in a former medieval monastery.. Join a local shopkeeper for a pesto making class in Levanto, nestled in the stunning Cinque Terre, and enjoy the fruits of your own labour afterwards with a glass of wine.. Ride the cable car up Mt Vogel for exceptional views over the astonishingly beautiful Lake Bohinj and the foothills of the mighty Alps.
Journey from the historic grandeur of Rome all the way to the harbourside majesty of Split on a 17-day European adventure through Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. These three countries have so much to offer – from trekking the cliffside trails of the colourful Cinque Terre and feasting on Tuscan delights in San Gimignano, to admiring the mountain-top views of Slovenia’s Lake Bohinj and exploring the vibrant fish markets of the port city of Zadar, there’s so much to experience in this part of the world. This journey will have you relaxing and living ‘la dolce vita’ in no time.
Welcome to Rome! Enjoy a complimentary transfer to your hotel and settle in. The day is at your leisure, so if you arrive with time to spare perhaps wander in search of an espresso. Your tour begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Once the formalities are out of the way, get your first taste of Italy over dinner with your group at a local restaurant.
From incredible ancient monuments to glamourous restaurants and boutiques, Rome is a city of great beauty and diversity. Today you will be taken on a walking tour of the city. You'll see such marvels as the Roman Forum, the Victor Emmanuel Monument, the Pantheon, the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona and Venezia, the Spanish Steps and Via Dei Condotti. As you wander the city, you will have time to stop in at a bar for a quick coffee or indulge in some gelato. The rest of the day is free for you to explore this great city as you please. Make sure you take the opportunity to visit the majestic Vatican City and St Peter’s Basilica. The view from the dome of St Peter’s is breathtaking. Roman food is world-renowned, and the trattorias that line the streets are the perfect place to sample the local pasta delights. A taste or two of the (very well priced) local wine is also a must.
Siena / Monteriggioni / Chianti Region
Begin the day with a drive to the medieval city of Siena (approximately 4 hours). It is best known for the Piazza del Campo, the site of the twice-annual Palio (a horse race that goes around the edge of the oval square). Be sure to visit the small but stunning Siena Cathedral, and see the statue of the capitoline wolf, which was brought here by the sons of Remus, the founder of Rome. It has been the city's symbol ever since. Continue to Monteriggioni (approximately 30 minutes), another Tuscan hill town that was built by the Sienese to defend their territory against the Florentines in the 13th century. Learn a little more about the circular walls and 14 towers which played a significant role in the attacks staged by the Bishop of Volterra. In the afternoon arrive at your hotel in the Chianti Region right in the heart of Tuscany (approximately 1 hour). The hotel is the feature stay of this trip, situated in a converted castle. Relax by the pool or perhaps take a stroll through the vineyards that are part of the property. Later on, rejoin the group for dinner.
San Gimignano / La Spezia
This morning you will make your way towards the dramatic coast of the Cinque Terre. On the way, you will visit San Gimignano (approximately 1.5 hours), the 'Town of Fine Towers'. This medieval walled town is famous for its well-preserved tower houses which are now on the UNESCO World Heritage list. There will be time for you to explore the Old Town centre and its fine Gothic and Romanesque architecture. This region is renowned for its ancient Vernaccia grapes, which are the basis for one of Tuscany's finest white wines. Relax in a local family’s garden surrounded by olive trees and vineyards and enjoy the local organic wine varieties produced by this family for centuries. Continue to your accommodation in La Spezia (approximately 3 hours), the gateway to the gorgeous Cinque Terre.
Cinque Terre / La Spezia
Cinque Terre (translating as 'Five Lands' or 'Five Villages') is a region of Italy famed for its rugged coastline and the colourful villages that cling to it. The footpaths that run between the villages were once the only way to travel in the region. You can choose to walk just a few sections, which will still unveil a great amount of majestic scenery. There is a train that connects the villages as well, so if you prefer to enjoy a more relaxing day, you are welcome to take this option. After working up an appetite, take advantage of the foods of the Liguria region with a pesto making demonstration, and the chance for you to create your own pesto. Enjoy a glass of wine with your culinary creation. In the evening return to La Spezia. There's no better way to refuel after the taxing walks than indulging in a delicious Mediterranean feast. Be sure to try the local focaccia, a specialty of the area.
Lucca / Pisa / Florence
Start the day with a drive to Lucca (approximately 1.5 hours), where you can explore the bustling streets or perhaps take a walk along the famous city walls. Your next stop is Pisa (approximately 30 minutes). Due to the precarious state of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Torre Pendente, it is not always possible to climb it, but you will have the opportunity to photograph it from the ground. Your trip leader will take you to the ticket office to purchase tickets to the Cathedral, Baptistry, Museums and Campo Santo, should you wish to visit them. In the afternoon make your way to Florence (approximately 2 hours).
While you are in Florence there will be plenty of time to explore the city and its museums and galleries. Visiting the Uffizi while you are here is highly recommended – it is one of the oldest galleries in the world, and a building of great beauty. Similarly, a visit to Galleria dell'Accademia, where you can see Michelangelo's famous statue of David, is a must. Sample some of the culinary delicacies on offer from across Tuscany. Regional dishes are renowned for their simplicity and ingredient-driven quality. Olive oil, beans and fresh herbs are a feature here. Two standout dishes of the region are bistecca alla fiorentina (essentially a big T-bone steak that is shared between multiple diners) and ribollita (a simple, hearty soup of bread, vegetables and beans). Panforte is the signature sweet treat.
Florence / Venice
The morning is free for you to further explore 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. Perhaps walk to Piazzale Michelangelo to take in beautiful views of the city. In the afternoon head to the railway station and take a high-speed train to Venice (approximately 2 hours).
Today you will take an orientation walk in the morning. Board a vaporetto (water bus) to the island of San Giorgio, where you will climb the bell tower and witness expansive views of Venice. Enjoy free time in the afternoon. You might like to visit some museums or take a trip to some of the outlying islands. The Grand Canal, the quaint shopfronts that line the Rialto Bridge and the Piazza and Basilica di San Marco are all worthy sights to visit. It's equally satisfying to simply meander around the tiny cobbled streets and discover the beautiful markets, cafes, galleries and churches. A Venetian gondola ride down the canals is a must, as is a taste of the region’s speciality dessert, tiramisu. In the evening come together for a group dinner at a local restaurant.
Venice is a watery wonderland of bridges, towers, piazzas, canals, churches and gondolas – practically unchanged for 600 years – is literally sinking under the weight of iconic sights. You may choose to take a boat tour or a gondola ride on the Grand Canal, passing under the Rialto Bridge and admiring some of the city's many monuments from the water. Perhaps take a walking tour of the highlights, including St. Mark's Square and the Basilica, Doges’ Palace, Accademia Bridge, and the Bridge of Sighs. There are also numerous museums to visit. After another group meeting tonight, do not be afraid to lose yourself on a short walk of discovery, through mysterious, quiet alleys and sleepy canals.
Postojna Caves / Ljubljana / Bled
This morning, farewell Venice and Italy, and travel to the Postojna Caves (approximately 2 hours), where you will have some free time to have lunch before exploring the cave. A network of 20 kilometres of passages, galleries and chambers, Postojna is the largest classic karst cave in Europe. In 1872, railway lines were laid in the cave and electricity arrived in 1884. Begin with a 2-kilometre open-top train ride through narrow tunnels to this jungle of stalactites and stalagmites. In the vast chambers the electric lighting allows you to admire the size and splendour of the underground world, where the geological past is recorded in a unique manner. The wealth of speleothems, calcite and formations is dazzling, and they abound in a variety of shapes, colours and age. Continue on to Ljubljana (approximately 1 hour), a city full of style and sophistication, and a treasure-trove of history, monuments, churches, museums, and great restaurants. On arrival you’ll take a guided tour around the old city centre, renowned for its unique architectural appearance. The Old Town consists of three main squares and baroque houses. Visit Ljubljana Castle, the Town Hall, Cathedral of St. Nicholas and the Dragon Bridge. You'll also pay a visit to the open market under arcades before continuing to the lake side town of Bled (approximately 1 hour).
Lake Bohinj / Bled
This morning you’ll drive through the misty Sava Bohinjka Valley to beautiful Lake Bohinj (approximately 30 minutes). The lake is the largest permanent natural lake in Slovenia, formed by a glacier and fed by several underwater springs – the most well known is the karst spring Govic. Take a cable car to the top of Mt Vogel, where you will be greeted by simply astonishing views of this incredibly stunning region – evergreen woods sloping down the mountains to touch the brilliant blue waters. You’ll then have free time to enjoy this amazing area. Back down in the valley it's then back to Bled. With immense natural beauty, Bled, together with its surroundings, ranks among the most beautiful of alpine resorts. It's renowned for its mild, healing climate and thermal lake water. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant and then embark on some sightseeing. Take a Pletna boat ride (a wooden, awning-covered boat rowed by a special oarsman) to the island on Lake Bled – climb up the 99 steps to St Mary's Church. Enjoy a free evening – perhaps head to the cliff-top Old Bled Castle, dating from the 15th century and overlooking sparkling Lake Bled. Be sure to seek out the famous Bled cream cake, which isn’t hard; nearly every cafe and cake shop in town claims that theirs is the best.