Nestled in the rolling vineyards of Tuscany’s Chianti region, spend a memorable night in a converted castle hotel and dine on a multi-course gourmet meal at the onsite restaurant.. Explore Rome’s iconic Colosseum under moonlight during an evening tour. Walk in the footsteps of gladiators without the jostling daytime crowds.. Delight in regional specialties during a wine-tasting at a family garden vineyard in Tuscany and a truffle and Istrian wine tasting in Motovun.. Take advantage of local knowledge when you travel with expert local leaders who will share the best of their countries, bring history to life and know all the best places to eat.
Embrace the cultural, culinary and natural delights of Italy, Slovenia and Croatia on a 16-day Premium adventure. Travel through the rustic heart of Tuscany, explore the wonders of Venice’s Piazza San Marco, Pisa’s Leaning Tower and Rome’s Colosseum with an expert local leader. Discover the beaming waters of Lake Bled and the underground world of the Postojna Caves. Ride the cable car up Mt Vogel for views over Lake Bohinj, and appreciate the caves and waterfalls abound in Plitvice Lakes National Park. Coloured by sunshine and flavoured with local wine, this pocket of Europe is a joy to explore.
Welcome to Rome! Enjoy a complimentary transfer to your hotel and settle in. If you arrive with time to spare, the city’s magnificent buildings are best appreciated by foot, so perhaps wander in search of an espresso. Your Italian adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm, where you will meet your local leader and fellow travellers joining you. Once the formalities are out of the way, get your first taste of Italy over an included dinner with your group at an excellent local restaurant. Sitting down to dinner in Rome means experiencing generations of culinary know-how and timeless traditional recipes. Once your leader introduces you to some of Italy’s best dishes, you’ll understand why this country is so renowned for great food.
From incredible ancient monuments to glamourous restaurants and boutiques, Rome is a city of great beauty and diversity. Today your leader will take you back in time as you learn about historical monuments during an orientation walk of the city. Marvel at the Roman Forum, the Victor Emmanuel Monument, the Pantheon, the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona and Venezia, the Spanish Steps and Via Dei Condotti. Stop in at a local bar for a quick coffee or gelato. The afternoon free for you to explore as you please – perhaps take the chance to visit the majestic Vatican City and St Peter’s Basilica. Rome’s grandiose Colosseum is its most iconic site, and this evening you’ll have the opportunity to avoid the daytime crowds and explore the Colosseum by night. Follow the footsteps of gladiators and Roman emperors as your leader shares the unbelievable history of this great arena.
Siena / Monteriggioni / Chianti Region
This morning take a high-speed train to Florence, your gateway to Tuscany. From here you will drive to the gorgeous city of Siena, where your leader will show you the most interesting sights on an orientation walk. At the city’s heart is the Piazza del Campo – home to the biannual Palio horse race, and nearby is the stunning Siena Cathedral. Continue on for another 30 minutes to Monteriggioni – a Tuscan walled town full of history. Over a dozen towers are spread throughout the town, once used to defend Sienese territory from the Florentines. You will have time to explore this small village before arriving at your Tuscan Feature Stay in a sophisticated converted castle in the heart of the Chianti region. Here, you may like to swim in the onsite pool, stroll through neighbouring vineyards or simply gaze at the rolling countryside from one of the many lounge areas. Tonight, indulge in an included multi-course gourmet dinner at your castle stay with your group – perfectly paired with some of the region’s local wine.
San Gimignano / Lucca / Pisa / Florence
Start the day with a visit to San Gimignano – the 'Town of Fine Towers'. Explore the medieval Old Town centre and its fine Gothic and Romanesque architecture, with your leader on hand to answer any questions inspired by your explorations. This region is also renowned for its ancient Vernaccia grapes, which are the basis for one of Tuscany's finest white wines. Your group will have the special opportunity to relax in a local family’s garden surrounded by olive trees and vineyards, tasting a variety of wines. Then continue to Lucca, a delightful city on the Serchio river, and take a walk along the city’s beautifully preserved Renaissance walls. Your next stop is Pisa. 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 as your leader shares the history of this legendary building. You may wish to visit the Cathedral, Baptistry, Museums and Camposanto, in which case your leader will help you arrange tickets. Continue to your accommodation in Florence, the jewel in the Tuscan crown.
Today you will discover one of the world’s most beautiful city’s during an orientation walk with your leader. Marvel at the at the Duomo cathedral, visit the St. John's Baptistery and hear the stories of the Medici family who ruled over the city during the Renaissance. Cross the iconic Ponte Vecchio bridge and peruse the ancient shops that huddle on its edges. Stop by the Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy. Established in 1221, this is believed to be the oldest operating pharmacy in the world. Still in its original building and using 800-year-old recipes and preparation methods, this is truly like taking a step back in time. Enjoy a free afternoon – perhaps pay a visit to Galleria dell'Accademia, the home of Michelangelo's world-famous statue of David, or kick up your heels and watch the world go by with an excellent local coffee in hand. Florence boasts a delectable array of restaurants so be sure to ask your leader for recommendations.
Enjoy a free day in Florence to explore the city and its museums and galleries – ask your leader for some local tips on the best way to spend the day. 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. Sample some of the culinary delicacies on offer from across Tuscany, with dishes known for their freshness, simplicity and quality. Olive oil, beans and herbs are a feature here. Two standout dishes of the region are bistecca alla fiorentina – a large steak sliced on the bone and shared between multiple diners, and ribollita – a simple, hearty soup of bread, vegetables and beans. Panforte is the signature sweet treat.
In the morning, head to the railway station and take a high-speed train to Venice. Upon arrival your leader will take you on an orientation walk so you can get acquainted with the city’s maze of canals and learn about its unique history. Lunch today is a tasting of cicchetti – Venice’s version of tapas. Enjoy a delicious array of small dishes such as black ink calamari, polenta with seafood and seasonal vegetables. The rest of the afternoon is yours to explore. 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, or 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 dessert speciality, tiramisu.
The day is yours to explore more of marvellous Venice. You may like to catch a ferry to the island of Murano to tour its glass blowing factories, or to the nearby Burano to learn about its famous lace production. A meeting will take place at your hotel at 6pm this evening to welcome any new travellers joining you for the next part of your adventure. After the meeting tonight, join your leader and small group for dinner at a fabulous local restaurant. Venice is famous for fantastic seafood and fresh Veneto vegetables – perhaps try some fritto misto, a delicious mix of fried seafood, or risotto with asparagus.
Postojna Caves / Ljubljana / Bled
Farewell Venice in the morning and travel to the Postojna Caves, where you will take some time out for lunch before exploring. A network of 20 kilometres of passages, galleries and chambers, Postojna is the largest classic karst cave in Europe. Begin with a two-kilometre open-top train ride through narrow tunnels into the jungle of stalactites and stalagmites. In the vast chambers the electric lighting allows you to admire the size and splendour of the underground world, and the leader will explain the geology of these natural wonders. Continue to Ljubljana, a city full of style and sophistication. On arrival take a guided tour around the Old Town with your leader. Learn about the city’s history as you 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.
Lake Bohinj / Bled
This morning you’ll drive through the misty Sava Bohinjka Valley to beautiful Lake Bohinj, the largest permanent natural lake in Slovenia. Take a cable car to the top of Mt Vogel, where you will be greeted by simply astonishing views of evergreen woods sloping down the mountains to touch the brilliant blue waters. Take some time to enjoy this amazing area before returning to Bled, 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 and climb up the 99 steps to St Mary's Church. Enjoy a free evening. 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.
Motovun / Rovinj
Farewell Slovenia this morning and drive to Motovun, one of Croatia’s most interesting towns. Motovun sits on the top of a cone-shaped hill surrounded by the natural diversity of the bountiful Mirna River Valley, whose forests are famous for truffle hunting. The medieval charm of the town is still found in its well-preserved architecture. Today you will have the chance to sample the delectable local product during a truffle tasting combined with fritaja (Croatian omelette), a local speciality. Your sommelier will pair your tasting with suitable Istrian wines to try, such as the famous Malvazija. Continue on to the romantic Croatian town of Rovinj, one of the best-kept towns on the Adriatic Coast. Among Rovinj's qualities is the beautiful, architecturally intact old town centre, and its venetian-style St. Euphemia Church. Tonight’s feature stay accommodation is the spectacular Hotel Istra, set on a private island just a short boat ride from Rovinj. Away from the pressures of the mainland, here you’ll experience total tranquillity on your own slice of paradise. The hotel makes the most of its scenic setting, with stunning views at every turn. Combine that with fantastic facilities, gorgeous rooms and polished service and you’ve got an experience to remember.
Opatija / Plitvice
This morning you will make your way inland with a stop at the town of Opatija, a former resort town for wealthy Austro-Hungarian families. Here you’ll have the opportunity to walk along the famed centuries-old Franz Joseph I Promenade, better known as the Lungomare – a coastal footpath that stretches from Volosko to Lovran. There will be time for you to explore the stretch of the promenade closest to town, and to have lunch. In the afternoon your will arrive at your accommodation, tucked away in the Plitvice Lakes National Park. Enjoy an evening at leisure.