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Italy 2020

Escorted Tours

A selection of some of our most popular tours.
We can also tailor make a private tour for you.



CLASSICAL ITALY
Return flights from Newcastle
Seven nights' accommodation in four-star hotels including breakfast and four dinners
Guided tour of Siena, one of Europe's finest medieval cities
Guided tour of Florence - pearl of the Renaissance and visit to the Uffizi, one of the world’s finest art galleries
Guided tour of Arezzo – one of Tuscany’s most unspoilt medieval cities
Visit to Assisi, birthplace of St. Francis
Guided tour of Rome
Discover Tuscany’s stunning countryside
Escorted by our experienced tour manager

Itinerary
Day 1

You should arrive at the airport for your flight to Rome. On arrival, a coach will take you to delightful Arezzo in the heart of Tuscany and an ideal base for our series of visits during the next few days. We stay four nights with half-board at the four-star Hotel Minerva, located about half a mile from the medieval city walls. The hotel was started as a restaurant fifty years ago by the present family owners and they are extremely proud of their restaurant which specialises in traditional Tuscan cuisine.
Day 2 - Siena
After breakfast, we drive to lovely medieval Siena which was, during the 12th and 13th centuries, one of the world’s largest and richest cities and a similar size to Paris! An unrivalled period of building took place and the range of palaces, grandiose townhouses and piazzas were built. Without doubt the main square, the Campo is one of the most beautiful you will ever see. Unusually half-moon shaped and surrounded by tall, centuries-old buildings, they are all different embracing an overall harmonious and beautiful style. Just to sit here, enjoy a drink and reflect on lives gone by is a real pleasure.
Siena’s cathedral is absolutely outstanding, one of Italy’s greatest, built from black and white marble with the most intricate carvings imaginable some of which are by the great master himself, Michelangelo. The floor is a revelation with countless thousands of pieces of stone creating a unique inlaid pavement. It is impressive enough now but had a planned nave been completed during the 14th century, it would have created Christendom’s largest church. You can study the façade for hours, so fine are the carvings. The city fell into rapid decline after the Black Death, accounting for the city’s astonishing preservation. During the journey to and from Siena we shall see some of the famous Tuscan countryside: rolling hills punctuated by tall cypress trees, shading isolated farmhouses and surrounded by vineyards, together with hillsides crowned with tiny villages perched like eagles’ nests, make this truly a wonderful scenic area.
Day 3 - Florence
Today we visit Florence, pearl of the Renaissance, a superb and beautiful city and deservedly on the map of the traveller since the days of the Grand Tour. During our guided tour you will see the principle monuments such as the Cathedral – which can house a congregation of 10,000 and the Baptistry – the oldest building in the city. This afternoon we enjoy a reserved visit to the Uffizi gallery, quite simply one of the world’s most monumental art collections. It contains work by Botticelli, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Caravaggio, Michelangelo – the list is endless. Florence is not just about art though, it is a delightful place in its own right. Full of shops and colourful markets which delightfully complement the city’s artistic treasures.
Day 4 - Arezzo
Arezzo is a wonderful medieval town nestling behind its imposing stone walls as it has for centuries. This morning, we have a walking tour during which we learn about the town’s illustrious past and there is a host of things to see. The Romans built an amphitheatre here, Arezzo’s glassware was famed throughout the empire and the workshops still exist. The city flourished in medieval times, coming under the rule of the Medicis in the 15th century and today the town is a complete kaleidoscope of architectural styles which somehow blend together harmoniously, with such charm. There are Romanesque churches juxtaposed with timber-beamed medieval shops, separated by intimate cobbled squares. Arezzo’s main square is nothing short of a masterpiece and without doubt must be one of Europe’s most stunning. With its raised pavements full of cafés, here you can appreciate the tall multi-styled buildings opposite. Some crenulated, a simple church, some steeped roofed, some traditional terracotta, some brick and some stone, many sport the heraldic flags from yesteryear, but all of this combined really is an unexpected revelation. Arezzo’s second claim to fame is its superb frescoes housed in the huge cathedral, some of the world’s most detailed and most well preserved.
This afternoon you are free to explore this lovely town as you wish, absorbing its astonishing charm. Arezzo is also noted for its extremely skilled jewellery industry. In countless traditional workshops, skilled artisans create the highly original pieces on display fashioned from gold, silver and every dazzlingly precious stone known to man. You could do worse though, than enjoy a sumptuous lunch overlooking the main square and reflect on times long ago, when it would have been full of robed bishops and merchants hurrying along to their next appointment. There is an unmistakable ambience throughout Italy and it is hard to put your finger on what makes it so special, but here in Arezzo it is very much in evidence.
Day 5 - Assisi
Today we leave Tuscany after breakfast driving firstly to Assisi. This delightful medieval town, with its flower-hung streets, lovely views over the Umbrian countryside and fountain splashed piazzas is famous for a single event – the birth of Francis, the most revered saint in Italy. The man himself was one of the most extraordinary figures the Italian church has ever produced. He had a privileged upbringing, leading a very un-Christian lifestyle, but whilst imprisoned, God appeared to him. After release, he renounced his inheritance, living the life of a beggar, and mixed with lepers, but ultimately found his vocation founding the order of monks which bears his name, the Franciscans. Two years after his death, the basilica was built, financed by donations from all over Europe creating one of the most beautiful shrines in the Christian world adorned by arguably its greatest art collection outside an actual gallery. The building today is actually two churches, one on top of the other with St. Francis himself lying under the floor in the crypt. The mood inside is most respectful, being in tune with Franciscan principles - silence being the rule, quite plain around the tomb itself and accompanied by brown robed monks. We have ample time to visit the basilica together with the town, arriving in Rome early evening.
Our hotel is either the four-star Grand Hotel Beverly Hills which, located in the prestigious Parioli residential district, a short walk away from the Villa Borghese gardens and gallery. The hotel is around 15 minutes walk from the nearest metro stop, a direct tram is available just a few steps from the hotel to the Coliseum and there are various buses to connect with major attractions across the city. Bus stops are located a few steps from the hotel. The hotel has a spacious lobby with lots of space to relax on the comfortable leather sofas after a hard days sightseeing, American Bar with plenty of seating and large restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The hotel is decorated in a classic style and features extensive wood panelling in the public areas and is air conditioned throughout. All rooms are comfortably furnished with private facilities with bath or shower, mini bar, safe, hairdryer, air conditioning and flat screen satellite TV.
Some departures will stay in the four-star Hotel President, situated right in the heart of the Eternal City within walking distance of the main Termini station, providing superb transport links via metro and bus to all areas of the city and the main sights - including direct connections to the Colosseum, the Vatican and the Spanish Steps just a few stops away.
Day 6 - Rome
Rome is, without doubt, one of the most captivating cities in the world, where ancient and modern blend perfectly. This morning, we have a sightseeing tour during which you will see many of the principle sights and monuments such as St. Peter’s, the Colosseum, Circo Massimo, Victor Emmanuel memorial, the Vatican, Palatine Hill, River Tiber, the list is endless. Probably nowhere else on earth is there so much history in such a small area. It owes its grandeur obviously to the Roman Empire which held sway over much of the globe for nearly 500 years and then to the Papacy which for a large part of its existence, commanded as much political influence as religious. Wealth flooded in throughout the Renaissance and beyond. The result is the abundance of places of interest you see today. But it’s more than buildings and galleries, there are quiet areas, tiny little piazzas, lovely bars, cosy restaurants where the waiters will talk all day if you let them. All this combined gives the uniqueness which is Rome.
This afternoon you are free to explore as you desire although you may wish to visit the Vatican Museums (entrance fee not included), the only part of the Palace you can visit independently. This is the largest, richest and most compelling such complex on earth which contains so many artefacts from the city’s history. Many of the finest artists of the Renaissance worked for a variety of Popes but there are other displays too: Egyptian antiquities, furniture, sculpture, silverware and of course, Michelangelo’s wondrous masterpiece of the Sistine Chapel which really has to be seen to be believed.
Day 7 - Free Day, Rome
Today you have a free day to explore this amazingly interesting city as you wish, so what is it to be? Perhaps some of the ancient ruins: the atmosphere of history is inescapable as you view the magnificence of the heart of the Roman Empire. Looking at the Forum, Colosseum, the Pantheon to name but a few, it is easy to let your mind wander and imagine who has preceded you: Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, St. Paul, Nero, St. Peter and when you see how compact everything is the atmosphere is quite eerie.
Take a stroll around the Piazza Navona, Rome’s most picturesque square, lined with luxurious cafés, where the present day Romans come to see and be seen with the superb baroque fountains lending a cooling sensation to the whole scene. Walk down the Spanish steps like countless visitors before you since the 18th century. Take a coffee in the famous Caffe Greco, once the haunt of Keats, Byron and Wagner. You could window shop along the Via Condotti for some of the finest clothes you will find anywhere. Perhaps the most satisfying activity though is simply to wander where your feet take you stopping off where you wish – its serenity will captivate you.
20 Sep 2020 Manchester Airport Minerva Hotel Arezzo 4* £1,129.00
25 Sep 2020 Newcastle Airport Minerva Hotel Arezzo 4* £1,139.00
01 Oct 2020 Leeds Bradford Airport Minerva Hotel Arezzo 4* £1,109.00
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Umbria, Perugia & Assisi
Enjoy a guided tour of Perugia, capital of Italy's beautiful Umbria region and formerly one of the 12 Etruscan cities
Wander medieval Assisi, the birthplace of St Francis and home to the incredible basilica dedicated to his name
Cross into Tuscany to explore the timeworn, narrow streets of hilltop Cortona
Take the ferry across Lake Trasimeno to the time-capsule island of Maggiore
See Spoleto's ancient Roman and Romanesque architecture, as well as its formidable hilltop fortress
Sample the spoils of the verdant Umbrian countryside at a local producer of Sagrantino di Montefalco wine
Descend deep under Umbria's undulating landscape to explore the enchanting Frasassi Caves
Journey through the history of one of Umbria's oldest towns, Gubbio.
Take the funicular up a volcanic rock-face to the hidden town of Orvieto, a former Etruscan stronghold boasting one of Italy's finest cathedrals
Taste traditional fare at a rural restaurant
Return flights from a selection of regional airports, with hotel transfers
Seven nights in four-star accommodation, inclusive of all local taxes, with breakfast (a three-night hotel dining option is available)
The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager
DAY ONE ARRIVAL IN ITALY
Fly to Rome or Perugia, and transfer to the four-star Brufani Hotel. This grand hotel has hosted royalty and celebrities since its opening in 1884, including our very own Queen Mother. Guests can enjoy the panoramic views from the terrace of the Collins Bar, and the atmospheric swimming pool, which lies under exposed medieval vaults and has a glass floor overlooking the 3,000-year-old Etruscan ruins below. The hotel sits on an elevated position on the edge of Perugia's hilltop historic centre, on one end overlooking the lower town towards the surrounding green countryside, and on the other leading onto the smart Piazza Italia. A three-night dining option is available during your seven-night stay if preferred.
DAY TWO PERUGIA
After breakfast we embark on a tour of this bustling university city, which uses an escalator system to connect the lower town to the historical core above. A wander along the Corso Pietro Vannucci is a treat for the senses, as its traffic-free status allows the subtler sounds and smells of local life to come through – the clink of china as cups are set out for morning coffee and the friendly chatter of Italians passing the time. This wide avenue leads up past a mix of shiny designer boutiques and tiny timeworn shops to the Piazza IV Novembre – the centrepiece of the city. This flagstone square boasts the gothic San Lorenzo cathedral, the imposing 13th-century Palazzo dei Priori and the intricately carved Maggiore fountain. Fanning out from the square is a jumble of narrow alleyways lined with crumbling buildings in shades of peach, ochre, russet and cream, providing plenty of places to people-watch over a local craft beer, a chilled glass of Orvieto Classico or a creamy gelato.
From the Piazza Italia you can take an escalator down to the atmospheric streets of medieval Perugia, an underground world hidden within the 16th-century Rocca Paolina fortress. You can also enter the foundations of the fortress through the Porta Marzia gate, one of the stone portals chiselled into the crumbling Etruscan wall that encloses Perugia. Interestingly, this under-city maze is more than just a tourist attraction – you'll see locals hurrying through it to the bus station!
This afternoon will be free for you to explore more of what Perugia has to offer.
DAY THREE ASSISI
This morning we head for Assisi, an elegant hill town dominated by the vast Basilica of St Francis complex, which includes a Franciscan monastery and two churches. Sitting on the green hillside with the town climbing ever higher behind it, this is a UNESCO World Heritage site that attracts pilgrims from around the world.
As we wander the flower-hung streets with our local guide, we learn how St Francis came to be so highly revered in Italy, from his early life as the spoilt son of a silk merchant, to his renouncement of riches and founding of the Franciscan Order of monks. Built as a shrine to St Francis in 1228 two years after his death, the exterior of the basilica and friary complex is befittingly austere. Inside, however, is a different matter, with both the upper and lower basilicas adorned with colourful frescos, including a series attributed to the famous Florentine painter, Giotto. The simple-living St rests in the crypt below the basilica, together with his friend, benefactor and follower, Jacoba of Settesoli, who is said to have fed him his favourite almond treats on his deathbed.
We have some free time to explore the old-world town centre with its shuttered stone houses, 'hole-in-the-wall' shops and tiny family-run cafes – the silky ‘strangozzi’ pasta with rich, earthy black truffles is a must-try! A varied collection of churches and cathedrals dots the piazzas, while two medieval castles, Rocca Maggiore and Rocca Minore, jostle for dominance on the skyline.
DAY FOUR CORTONA & LAKE TRASIMENO
Today we travel north towards Tuscany, following the shoreline of Lake Trasimeno, a huge splash of azure surrounded by gently sloping green hills covered with olive groves, thick woodlands and the occasional lakeside town. Cortona clutters the hillside with a tight muddle of terracotta rooftops, which hide a maze of narrow alleyways and wide piazzas – you may recognise it from the romantic memoir and subsequent film, 'Under the Tuscan Sun'. The central Piazza della Repubblica is the perfect place to stop for a mid-morning ‘caffè’ served thick and brooding in a tiny white cup. This square is so impossibly untouched by time that you half expect an old horse and cart to come clip-clopping past the bell-topped Palazzo del Capitano! The spectacular view from the Piazza del Duomo is another must, leading the eye over the city walls and across the Tuscan countryside.
In the afternoon we return to tranquil Lake Trasimeno, known as the Sea of Umbria by locals of this landlocked region. From the lakeside town of Castiglione del Lago, we take the ferry across the languid waters to Isola Maggiore, enjoying the view of the Castello del Leone or ‘fortress of the lion’. As we approach, the 19th-century Guglielmi Castle can be seen nestled into the wooded hillside. Those who wish to can climb the shrubby hill path to the simple Church of St Michael the Archangel – a favourite meditation spot of St Francis. Wherever you wander, you'll be surrounded by hardy olive trees, distinctive for their gnarled trunks and breathtaking views of the lake.
DAY FIVE SPOLETO & WINE TASTING
This morning we enjoy a guided tour of Spoleto, which sits on a foothill of the Apennines mountain range. The sight of the medieval arched bridge leading to the formidable Rocca Albornoziana fortress will remind you of an epic historical movie, while the city that sits behind it bears the hallmarks of Roman and Lombard rule. The desolate ruins of the ancient Roman amphitheatre are a contrast to the resplendent Romanesque cathedral that dazzles in the palest stone on the Piazza del Duomo.
For lunch you may be tempted by the smell of the slow-roasted porchetta that's stuffed into sandwiches and sold from streetside stalls. Then we set out into the rich tapestry of Umbrian countryside once again to visit a leading producer of Sagrantino di Montefalco wine, made from the black sagrantino grapes indigenous to the region. A tasting allows you to form your own opinion as to whether this dark, full-bodied ‘vino rosso’ deserves a place on your wine rack. We'll also sample the olive oil that this region is revered for worldwide, to complete an afternoon full of the true tastes of Umbria.
DAY SIX FRASASSI CAVES & GUBBIO
We drive east this morning to the Marche region that lies between Umbria and the Adriatic. Here we delve deep underground to explore the Frasassi Caves, considered to be among the most impressive in Europe. Our tour of these stunning karst caves, which can easily trick the eye with their glistening snow-white walls and icicle-like stalactites and stalagmites, takes us into the Great Cave of the Wind – large enough to house the Milan cathedral. As we learn more about their 1971 discovery by local speleologists and their formation over a million years ago, it's impossible to remain unmoved by our magical and mesmerisingly beautiful surroundings.
This afternoon we return to Umbria to visit ancient Gubbio, which has roots going back to the Bronze Age. For lunch why not try a traditional ‘crescia’, a flaky flatbread stuffed with cheese and meat, before exploring this pretty, pristinely kept town, which climbs the lowest slope of Mount Ingino. The ruins of a Roman amphitheatre sit in the lower town, with the impenetrable-looking Church of St Francis. Gubbio's medieval core then begins its ascent, the air fragranced by the flower boxes that dot the cobbled streets with splashes of colour, towards the Piazza Grande, a fantastic viewing platform overlooking the town and across to a hilly horizon). Climbing even higher, we can see the cathedral and Palazzo Ducale, a duo of landmarks at the very top of the town.
DAY SEVEN ORVIETO & AGRITURISMO LUNCH
This morning we end our journey of Etruscan discovery at another of this mysterious civilisation's 12 key cities, Orvieto, whose ancient ruins lie in eerie underground caves. A glimpse of this sparse subterranean city can be had from the family-owned Well of the Cave, a secret passageway leading to nine caves underneath a traditional pottery shop! With the city built from the precipitous chunk of volcanic rock on which it sits, Orvieto looks almost at one with the red-hued rock – although the cathedral is a stand-out feature. After a ride up the tree-lined funicular tracks to the old town, we marvel at the intricate façade of this incredible Gothic building, featuring gilded frescoes that give it the appearance of being illuminated from within. After our discovery of Orvieto we stop at a rural restaurant, known locally as an agriturismo, to sample a menu of traditional fare grown in this fertile land at the heart of Italy.
DAY EIGHT RETURN FLIGHT
Transfer to the airport for your return flight.

01 Sep 2020 Manchester Airport Hotel Brufani 4* £1,079.00
21 Sep 2020 Manchester Airport Hotel Brufani 4* £1,079.00
12 Oct 2020 Manchester Airport Hotel Brufani 4* £989.00
16 Apr 2021 Manchester Airport Hotel Brufani 4* £1,039.00
11 May 2021 Manchester Airport Hotel Brufani 4* £1,059.00
13 May 2021 Leeds Bradford Airport Hotel Brufani 4* £1,059.00
03 Jun 2021 Manchester Airport Hotel Brufani 4* £1,069.00
02 Sep 2021 Leeds Bradford Airport Hotel Brufani 4* £1,079.00
20 Sep 2021 Manchester Airport Hotel Brufani 4* £1,079.00

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Pisa, the Cinque Terre & Portofino Escorted Tour

Tuscany with everything that single word evokes within us, the ‘Cinque Terre’ probably Europe’s most astonishing coastline and its ultimate gem, embarrassingly beautiful Portofino captured on countless travel posters.
Highlights
This fascinating tour explores two of Italy’s most desirable regions, Tuscany and the Italian Riviera, delightfully different from each other yet fascinating and evocatively scenic in their own way.
Initially staying in Pisa, you'll take a boat ride to the Cinque Terre Villages described by Lord Byron as ‘Paradise on Earth’ and then visit Portofino, Italy’s most exclusive town with its extraordinarily picturesque waterfront.
Return flights to Pisa
Four nights four-star and three nights four-star superior accommodation with dinner and breakfast throughout
Stay in medieval Pisa and the stunningly beautiful Santa Margherita on Italy’s famed ‘Riviera’
Guided tour of Pisa including entrance to the Cathedral, Italy’s finest Romanesque building and beautiful marble Baptistery
Guided tour of Lucca, birthplace of Puccini
Tour of the rolling Tuscan countryside and its undiscovered medieval villages
Visit to a working vineyard in one of Tuscany’s finest wine producing regions and the enchanting Tuscan villages of Campiglia Marittima and Castagneto Carducci
Private boat visit to the Cinque Terre villages nestling on one of Europe’s most outstandingly beautiful coastlines, described by Lord Byron as ‘Paradise on Earth’
Visit by boat to stunning Portofino, Italy’s most exclusive town with its extraordinarily picturesque waterfront
Escorted by experienced tour manager

Day One Arrival
ARRIVAL
On arrival in Italy you will be met and transferred to Lucca and your four-star hotel. We will stay here for four nights with breakfast and dinner.

Day two LUCCA
After breakfast enjoy our guided tour of Lucca, famed for its wonderfully preserved renaissance city walls. Founded by the Etruscans, as we explore the historic centre on our tour you will instantly notice the rectangular grid pattern and amphitheatre preserved from Roman times. It is not difficult to imagine the place buzzing with rumour and intrigue when Julius Caesar, Pompey and Crassus established the infamous First Triumvirate here, a secret political alliance carving up the Roman Empire henceforth, until it fell 400 years later, ruled by dictatorial Emperors - some benevolent but some notorious! Growing prosperous on the silk trade from medieval times onwards, Lucca once rivalled Byzantium and was Italy’s second largest city-state after Venice before eventually being conquered by Napoleon. The superb city walls, with each of their four sides lined with trees of a different species, remain beautifully intact, cementing their place as one of the Tuscan region’s major sights, although in true Italian style they have even been used for racing cars!
This really is a lovely place to explore so we won’t be rushing off. Wander its charming cobbled streets, shady promenades or dally in elegant piazzas.

Day three TUSCAN COUNTRYSIDE
Today we discover some of Tuscany’s best secrets where amidst its typical rolling landscape studded with classic finger-like Cypress trees, olive groves and traditional farmsteads displaying their unmistakable terracotta roofs, hilltop villages appear to sprout almost magically. We visit two of them, really quite unknown, wonderfully unspoilt and utterly charming for no other reason than that. You probably won’t find the historic medieval village of Campiglia Marittima in a guide book, but it is marvellous to stroll in solitude around its maze of ancient alleys - squares nestling below, the castle tower dominating above and gazing over timeless countryside.

There are numerous vineyards here that produce the excellent wines for which Tuscany is renowned – the small village of Bolgheri produces an outstanding type. It would be a veritable travesty to pass by without stopping for a tasting – so of course we do. Next we call at Castagneto Carducci, before returning to Pisa.

Day four PISA
After a leisurely breakfast it is just a short drive to Pisa for our guided tour, the historic heart centred on its aptly named Piazza dei Miracoli - the Square of Miracles. During the 11th century extensive trading links were forged with Spain and North Africa, bringing Moorish scientific expertise and vast wealth. Pisa became one of Europe’s richest cities leading to an explosion of magnificent building projects, the results of which are delightfully visible today. The great “Leaning Tower” is one of the world’s most instantly recognisable icons and the centre of a stunning array of perfectly harmonious buildings unmatched anywhere. The richness of decoration in the cathedral is just astonishing; breathtakingly detailed sculpture, fine art, a medley of graceful arches and inspired use of colourful marble. The huge bronze doors and the amazing carved wooden roof are truly remarkable. Indeed it was in this cathedral’s massive nave that Galileo is said to have formulated his pendulum theory when observing the incense burner swinging from the highly decorated ceiling. Next you are sure to be impressed by the enormity of the 12th century Baptistery, a superb example of the transition from Romanesque in the lower levels to Gothic styles in the upper registers. Constructed entirely of marble, and being on the same unstable ground as the tower, it also leans - but only slightly! Inside, the acoustics are nothing short of dramatic with noises seeming to echo endlessly – often demonstrated by the staff! Last but not least of the wonders here is the Camposanto, the monumental cemetery said to contain soil from Golgotha – site of the crucifixion - so Pisa’s great and good could be laid to rest in Holy soil! It consists of an incredible Gothic cloister lined by sarcophagi and huge frescoes gradually being restored to their former glory.
This afternoon we return to Lucca for a leisurely afternoon or perhaps another visit in to the historic centre of Lucca, before our evening and dinner.

Day five SANTA MARGHERITA
This morning we drive north past Carrara’s enormous gleaming quarries, source of the finest marble, much prized by sculptors from Michelangelo to Henry Moore and used since Roman times to build the great monuments now stretched across the Italian nation and beyond.

We commence our exploration of the extraordinarily naturally beautiful coast of Liguria, studded with some of the world’s most attractive small villages with rugged mountains dropping sheer into the Mediterranean. Firstly we see the “Gulf of Poets” a favourite haunt of Byron, Shelley and DH Lawrence amongst others, then the stunningly picturesque village of Portovenere, its massive fortress high on the hillside towering over a jumble of pastel houses lining the harbour. Wander gently along the promenade, explore the fascinating network of narrow medieval lanes leading to the church and castle behind - it’s just a hint of what follows.

We stay three nights in elegant Santa Margherita - the ideal location for our stay; charmingly chic and quintessentially Italian, the lovely palm-fringed coast and green-carpeted mountains form a wonderful backdrop. Full of smart shops and pavement cafés a sophisticated atmosphere pervades the narrow streets beyond, and is just three miles from Portofino.

Day six CINQUE TERRE
A leisurely breakfast, perhaps on the hotel terrace overlooking the deep azure blue of the Mediterranean glinting and sparkling in the morning sun, precedes two days exploring the splendours of the surrounding coastline in the manner to which local peoples have been accustomed for millennia; by boat.

Today we cruise by private charter to the extraordinary Cinque Terre (“The Five Lands”), five villages cut off from the landward side by a rugged terrain and steep coastline, almost unreachable by car. We will visit a selection of the villages, the individual names, Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, mean little and are almost unknown but as the Cinque Terre they are celebrated as a region completely unspoilt by modern development. Their dramatic position makes this one of Europe’s principal scenic highlights and when you see the sheer variety of colours, topography and timeless beauty of the villages themselves you will fully appreciate their reputation. Seafood dominates menus here - anchovies being a local speciality - while the steeply terraced hillsides produce fine olives and pesto. Being Italy, there is also much locally produced wine and it is fascinating to see how the local growers have adapted to the steep terrain with precarious-looking monorail mechanisms used to ferry themselves and their produce, some of which has to be harvested by boat! There is a refreshing lack of souvenir shops so you can truly immerse yourself in surroundings and a lifestyle that has changed very little over time.

Day seven PORTOFINO
Today we admire yet more stunning scenery with fine watercraft quietly going about their business on the shimmering waters as we sail to Portofino. Arriving here by boat gives you the true sense of the way in which this historic fishing village nestles around its own superb natural harbour, set amongst cypress trees and olive groves with the realisation that all you have heard about the stunning beauty here is not hype! Superlatives just roll off the tongue. Traditionally this incredibly pretty village with its jumble of colour-washed houses stretching up the hillside from the water’s edge earned its living from the fruits of the sea, and its many superb restaurants still do. Mentioned by the great Roman writer Pliny the Elder, as early as the 1950s it was a favourite of Bacall, Bogart, Burton and Taylor. Indeed celebrity spotting whilst whiling away an hour over a drink is a common pastime of residents and visitors alike. However you may prefer to explore the quieter backstreets, seek out a “locals” bar for more authentic Portofino life or take a walk to the headland where the scent of wild thyme, pine and wild flowers hangs heavy in the air plus a stupendous view.

Returning this afternoon, you can explore lovely Santa Margherita itself; perhaps seek out a bargain or two in the smart shops, wander amongst the many parks and gardens with their abundant semi-tropical plants, then sip a cool aperitif as the sun sinks slowly over the sea. It’s time for our final dinner in the hotel’s classic dining room overlooking the warm waters of the Med, and as the waterfront lights twinkle on the gentle waves, take a moment to reflect on the splendours of this wonderful region.

Day eight RETURN FLIGHT
After breakfast, bid farewell to the Ligurian coast and transfer back to Pisa Airport for your return flight.

12 Sep 2020 Manchester Airport Grand Hotel Guinigi 4* £1,489.00
10 Oct 2020 Manchester Airport Grand Hotel Guinigi 4* £1,379.00
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FLORENCE AND TUSCANY
For centuries Italy has attracted visitors in search of culture and romance and there are few countries that can rival its renowned Classical origins, its art, music, architecture, scenery, food and wine. As home to the Roman Empire, the Renaissance, the Roman Catholic Church and the Vatican, its contribution to the arts surpasses that of any other nation.

Tuscany embodies much that Italy is famous for, possessing more historical monuments than any other country, let alone province, on earth. Its cities, Florence - arguably the finest city of the Renaissance, Siena and Pisa, together with smaller towns and medieval villages like Lucca and San Gimignano, house some of the world’s finest artistic treasures. Combine this with the haunting beauty of the local countryside, an enviable climate, one of the world’s great cuisines, and of course, with the Italians themselves, and you have all the ingredients for a superb holiday.
Visit Florence, Italy’s finest renaissance city and enjoy the rural charm of Tuscany on our superb escorted tour
Return flights
Seven nights bed and breakfast staying in three-star superior and four-star hotels, with four dinners
Stay in central Florence and enchanting Tuscany
Guided tour of Florence – pearl of the Renaissance
Reserved, timed visit to the Uffizi, quite simply one of the world’s finest art collections
Visit to San Gimignano, one of Italy’s most beautiful hill-top villages
Guided tour of Siena, one of the finest medieval cities
Visit to Pisa – home of the leaning tower and it’s amazing cathedral, some of Italy’s finest renaissance buildings
Experience the hauntingly beautiful Tuscan countryside
Escorted by our experienced tour manager
Itinerary

Day 1
You should arrive at the airport to take your flight. On arrival, a coach will take you to Florence and our hotel where we stay for three nights on a bed and breakfast basis, either at the three-star superior rated Hotel Corona D’Italia, ideally located in the San Lorenzo district of the city, ten minutes walk from the Cathedral. All the rooms have private facilities, air-conditioning, mini-bar, hairdryer, television and telephone. The hotel has a bar and breakfast room. Or at the four-star rated Grand Hotel Mediterraneo. This hotel enjoys an enviable position on the banks of the River Arno, close to the Piazza Santa Croce and well located for access into the historical centre. All the rooms have air-conditioning, mini-bar, satellite television, safe and hairdryer. The hotel has a choice of restaurants, offering international and Italian cuisine, plus a lounge, American bar and terrace (summer only).

Day 2 - Florence
After breakfast you have a guided walking tour of Florence, “pearl of the Renaissance”, a superb and beautiful city and deservedly on the traveller’s map since the days of the Grand Tour. The sights are legendary and you see some of the best of them: the Cathedral – which can house a congregation of thousands and the Baptistry – the oldest building in the city. You will also see the Ponte Vecchio – the superb bridge over the river Arno, lined with goldsmiths and a symbol of the city itself.

During the afternoon you have a reserved visit to the Uffizi art gallery where superlatives are the minimum expressions you can use to describe its phenomenal collection. Built up over three hundred years, this originally private collection belonging to the all-powerful Medici family, and subsequently bequeathed to the people of Florence, contains masterpieces by some of the greatest artists who have ever lived: Botticelli; Leonardo da Vinci; Michelangelo; Titian; Rembrandt and Van Dyck. There are many more too, literally room upon room of them which will amaze you!

Day 3 - Lucca & Pisa
After breakfast you leave for Lucca, birthplace of the great composer Puccini, a delightful city where you can wander amongst the medieval streets, tiny piazzas and along the ramparts circling the city. Its cathedral is outstanding and famous as one of the most intricate in Tuscany. Then you take the short drive to Pisa where nothing can prepare the visitor for the almost shock-like impact of its bizarre leaning tower! Famous since the dawn of tourism, it has tilted since it was built over six hundred years ago and today still remains one of the great must-see buildings on earth. We then return to our hotel.

Day 4 - Free Day, Florence
Florence will amaze you and there is so much to see, yet being medieval it is also so compact. Today you are free to explore this wonderful city of the Renaissance. There is the Accademia, the oldest art school in the world which houses Michelangelo’s David, one of the world’s finest sculptures; the Archaeological museum containing an outstanding collection of exhibits from ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt; the Science museum which contains many of Galileo’s telescopes together with the world’s first adding machine. Situated in the medieval heart of the city is the magnificent cathedral, dominating the skyline, some of which dates from the 4th century. Built from white, green and pink marble it glows in the sunshine and the richness of the interior is remarkable with beautiful frescoes and an amazingly intricate marble pavement. However, Florence is much more than a city caught in the past, it has an ambience you will love, packed with cosy restaurants and street cafés where you can simply watch the world go by, the very essence of Italy and the Mediterranean lifestyle.

At the end of the day you drive to one of our carefully selected four star rated hotels in Tuscany for the next four nights on half-board. The Park Hotel Le Fonti, partly converted from an old farm, is set on the edge of the old town of Volterra with spectacular views over the surrounding countryside, and has a bar, good quality restaurant and a panoramic terrace. The Palazzo San Lorenzo is set right in the heart of the town of Colle Di Val d’Elsa, known as the ‘City of Crystal’. Converted from an old hospital the hotel offers thoroughly modern comforts, a beautiful winter garden housing the bar and breakfast room, outside terrace and a restaurant serving delicious local specialities. Hotel ll Piccolo Castello is situated in its own grounds close to the walled hilltop town of Monteriggioni. Built on one level around a central garden the hotel is decorated with traditional frescoes and is a lovely relaxing base, with spacious lounge and manicured gardens, bar and restaurant serving delicious Tuscan food. Rooms in all hotels are air conditioned with private facilities, mini bar, safe, television and telephone. In short your comfort is assured whichever hotel you stay in.

Day 5 - San Gimignano & Volterra
After breakfast you start to explore the rural Tuscany of undulating hillsides, isolated farmhouses surrounded by tall cypress trees, biscuit and ochre coloured valleys, made famous by Renaissance paintings and countless travel posters. You soon arrive in one of Italy’s most beautiful villages, San Gimignano, with its stunning skyline of thirteen towers, built by rival nobles during the 13th century, it evokes images of medieval Tuscany perhaps better than any anywhere else in the province. This wondrous village is delightfully rural and it is lovely to just wander through its cobbled streets, take in the view and simply absorb its atmosphere. Vollterra, is a typical Tuscan town, dramatically situated high on a hill, commanding dramatic views of the countryside and surrounded by immense stone ramparts. The small historic centre is a maze of narrow cobbled streets surrounded by the high buildings so typical of Italy. Street life revolves around the main Piazza, one of the finest and best preserved in Tuscany, and beautifully atmospheric, especially during the evening when the locals, often entire families, meet and seemingly argue about the day’s events. What could be finer than to sip a glass of wine as the sun goes down and absorb this wonderful ambience. Founded by the Etruscans, easily defended, Vollterra grew prosperous during medieval times mining alabaster, used to carve intricate artefacts, which decorate the innumerable churches and cathedrals of Tuscany and beyond. The craft is still carried on today and you will have the opportunity to visit the many artisan outlets. It also has one of the best archaeological museums in Italy, which is well worth a visit.

Day 6 - Siena
After breakfast we take the short drive to Siena, one of the finest medieval cities in the world which was, during the 12th and 13th centuries one of its richest and a similar size to Paris! An unrivalled period of building took place and the palaces, grandiose townhouses and spacious piazzas you see today, were created. The main square, the Campo, is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s finest! Unusually formed in a half-moon shape, the square is surrounded by tall and centuries old buildings, all very different and yet also harmonious. With its abundance of pavement cafés, just enjoy a coffee and reflect on all the visitors who preceded you.

Perhaps the finest place to visit in Siena is its outstanding cathedral, one of Italy’s greatest. Built from black and white marble it has some of the most intricate carvings imaginable, some of which are by the great master himself, Michelangelo. The floor is a revelation, laid with countless thousands of interlocking stones, creating a unique inlaid surface at which, one can only marvel at the sheer skill of its creators. Impressive as it is today, had a planned additional nave been completed during the 14th century, it would have created the largest church in Christendom. The Black Death halted construction as two thirds of the population perished and the city fell into rapid decline. Little else was built but fortunately even less demolished, thus accounting for Siena’s remarkable preservation. We will have a guided tour of the city and during the afternoon you are free to explore as you wish.

Day 7 - Free Day
Today we have a free day to explore as you wish. So what is it to be? A stroll around the village, a coffee in the main square watching the world go by, a dip in the hotel pool or just catch up on some reading - the choice is yours.

Day 8
The coach will return us to the airport at the appropriate time to take our return flight.



2020
21 Apr 2020 07:30 Manchester Airport Corona d'Italia Hotel 3* Superior £1,049.00
08 May 2020 15:05 Leeds Bradford Airport Corona d'Italia Hotel 3* Superior £1,059.00
16 May 2020 08:00 Newcastle Airport Grand Hotel Mediterraneo 4* £1,189.00
16 May 2020 08:45 Manchester Airport Grand Hotel Mediterraneo 4* £1,189.00
02 Jun 2020 08:00 Leeds Bradford Airport Grand Hotel Mediterraneo 4* £1,199.00
02 Jun 2020 15:15 Edinburgh Airport Grand Hotel Mediterraneo 4* £1,209.00
14 Jun 2020 08:45 Manchester Airport Grand Hotel Mediterraneo 4* £1,209.00
15 Jul 2020 08:45 Manchester Airport Corona d'Italia Hotel 3* Superior £1,109.00
01 Sep 2020 15:15 Edinburgh Airport Grand Hotel Mediterraneo 4* £1,169.00
05 Sep 2020 08:00 Newcastle Airport Grand Hotel Mediterraneo 4* £1,249.00
15 Sep 2020 08:00 Leeds Bradford Airport Corona d'Italia Hotel 3* Superior £1,169.00
20 Sep 2020 08:45 Manchester Airport Grand Hotel Mediterraneo 4* £1,219.00
12 Oct 2020 08:45 Manchester Airport Corona d'Italia Hotel 3* Superior £1,049.00
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Hidden Italy
Stay in medieval Castelfranco with fantastic views of the walled old town
Experience extraordinary Vicenza, both ancient and modern, and the best place to view Palladio’s architectural masterpieces – complimentary museum pass included
Visit atmospheric Mantova, the inspiration for artists, poets and composers
Stroll through the beautiful gardens of Sigurtà Park and see an Italian interpretation of an English garden
See the enchanting riverside town of Bassano del Grappa in the foothills of the Prealps, and sample its famous liqueur
Tour Villa Sandi, the palatial headquarters of a renowned Prosecco producer, and its impressive underground cellars
Enjoy a relaxing cruise on the Brenta Canal and see the elegant Venetian villas of the elite
Visit ancient Padova with its astonishing array of architectural styles and the famed university where Galileo once taught
Return travel from a selection of regional airports, plus all hotel transfers
Five nights in centrally located four-star accommodation inclusive of all local taxes, plus breakfast
The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

DAY ONE ARRIVAL IN VENICE & CASTELFRANCO VENETO
You fly to Venice or Treviso airport. On arrival, we transfer by coach to Castelfranco Veneto and your hotel, the four-star Albergo Roma, for the next five nights.
Castelfranco Veneto’s historic centre is a maze of narrow streets and tiny squares, protected within remarkably preserved, red-bricked ramparts. The town was established when the rulers of Treviso had a castle built in 1199 to defend against the neighbouring Padovans. Over time, it grew into a key trading post between Venice and northern Europe. Every corner of Castelfranco Veneto proudly evokes the presence of its most famous resident, the artist Giorgione whose pièce de résistance, the Madonna and Child, can be found in the town’s magnificent cathedral. Also worth a visit is the beautiful 18th-century Academic Theatre with some of the best acoustics in Italy. Just beyond the walls and a stone’s throw away from your hotel is Piazza Giorgione, one of the largest squares in the region.
DAY TWO BRENTA CANAL CRUISE & PADOVA
Over the centuries, the rivers flowing into the Venetian lagoon were ingeniously diverted to prevent siltation. As the canalised Brenta became a popular transport route, elegant Venetian villas, holiday homes of the elite, began to appear along its length. One of the most relaxing ways to view these legacies of a leisured existence is to take a canal cruise, and that is exactly what we will do this morning. Just as the wealthy would have travelled between Venice and their villas on the Burchiello, we board a contemporary version of this vessel, equipped with comfortable seats and a deck offering panoramic views. Our mini-cruise takes us past the 18th-century Villa Widmann where composer Stravinsky once stayed, as well as various villages, swing bridges and several locks. We disembark in Dolo, where our coach awaits. During our journey, we see the grandiose Villa Pisani, the Doge’s palace fronted by mighty sculptures.
Soon we arrive in Padova, a dynamic city which deserves to be recognised for more than its remarkable university, founded in 1222 and Italy’s second oldest. Explore the fine piazzas of the historic centre and be amazed by the diverse architectural styles: the Baptistry of the Duomo contains one of the country’s most complete medieval fresco cycles; the Renaissance Loggia della Gran Guardia once housed the Council of Nobles; and bustling Caffè Pedrocchi, ever-popular with students and intellectuals, was built to resemble a Classical temple. Particularly outstanding is the exotic Basilica di Sant’Antonio, one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in Italy. Beneath its distinctive Byzantine domes rests the tomb of Padova’s patron saint. Another unmissable jewel is the extraordinary Cappella degli Scrovegni. The chapel’s interiors are entirely covered with Giotto’s lyrical frescoes, which greatly influenced the development of European art. On the same site is a major museum complex which occupies a group of 14th-century monastic buildings attached to the church of the Eremitani, a reclusive Augustinian order.
DAY THREE VICENZA
Today we head southwest to Vicenza, situated at the northern base of the cypress-clad Monte Berico astride the Bacchiglione river. This spectacularly sophisticated city is wonderfully cosmopolitan yet doubles as an open-air museum dedicated to the legacy of Palladio, a miller’s son who became the most prominent architect of the Italian High Renaissance and gave rise to the Classical style of Palladianism. The local gentry, eager to decorate their city with grand new buildings, gave him plenty of opportunities to realise his vision; as a result, many of central Vicenza’s streets are graced by a Palladian mansion.
We’ll see many of these on our guided tour this morning through the historic centre. At the heart of Vicenza is the Piazza dei Signori, dominated by the Basilica with its marvellous clock tower and distinctive, green roof surrounded by statues of Greek and Roman gods. Not a church but a remodelling of a Gothic courthouse, the basilica’s most notable feature is the loggia, one of the earliest examples of the Palladian window. Nearby is the renowned Teatro Olimpico, Europe’s oldest surviving indoor theatre, seemingly constructed from marble but upon closer inspection, you’ll discover masterfully painted wood and plaster. Its atmospheric auditorium is simply stunning, intended to resemble the outdoor theatres of ancient Greece and Rome. This astounding landmark, together with the Palladian Villas of the Veneto in the surrounding area, is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is time to explore these wonderful sights this afternoon should you wish. You will receive a complimentary museum card, granting free entry to the city’s various world-class attractions.
DAY FOUR MANTOVA & PARCO SIGURTÀ
Our journey today takes us west and back in time to the sleepy yet achingly beautiful Mantova, a medieval city often overlooked despite its proximity to Lake Garda. Perhaps the answer lies in the three surrounding lakes, forming a natural fortification and keeping Mantova a secret from the world, one which has remained virtually untouched for centuries. As the dramatic skyline of ancient towers, domes and cupolas comes into view, it’s easy to see why the city features in two well-loved tragedies: it is the setting for Verdi’s Rigoletto and Shakespeare had an impassioned Romeo exiled here.
During our guided tour of the old town, the reasons for its UNESCO World Heritage status become strikingly evident. Although compact in size, Mantova has more than its share of artistic, cultural and architectural treasures. The city reached its zenith in the 14th century when it came under Gonzaga rule, one of the greatest Renaissance families of Italy. Their home was the sumptuous Palazzo Ducale, a highlight of the city and once Europe’s largest palace with around 500 rooms, extravagantly decorated with glorious works of art. Wander the cobbled streets and relax in the lovely squares, where locals and visitors alike meet for a coffee. Perhaps take a cruise on the river Mincio and admire the city from a different perspective. This afternoon, we visit the 148-acre Sigurtà Garden Park and see some of the world’s most extraordinary gardens. Originally used for agriculture, the park is now home to beautiful tulips, roses, lilies, irises and more. See the Italian interpretation of a romantic English garden with its neo-Gothic temple and rustic grotto. Throughout the park are 18 ornamental ponds and lakes, as well as a medicinal herb garden and even an award-winning maze.
DAY FIVE SANDI
After breakfast, we visit the enchanting town of Bassano del Grappa, nestled serenely in the foothills of Monte Grappa from which the river Brenta flows free. Connecting the halves of the town is the wooden Ponte degli Alpini bridge, cleverly designed to withstand the meltwaters in spring. Have your camera at the ready to capture the picture-postcard panoramas: the crystal-clear waters reflect the Alpine mountains and pastel hues of the historic buildings. Wander the lively town at an unhurried pace and observe the locals doing their shopping or even attempting to catch some fish along the river!
Bassano is known for its superb glazed earthenware, but perhaps more so for the Italian after-dinner drink, grappa, which you’ll have the opportunity to taste on our guided visit to a local artisan distillery museum. Here, you’ll experience this fragrant, grape-based brandy with all five of your senses: listen to the story of how it’s made, observe the fascinating distillation process, feel the fresh pomace with your own hands, and even smell the different varieties. Of course, you’ll also taste a few varieties of this warming digestif.
You may wish to have lunch at one of the town’s many excellent restaurants or sample the local specialities before we continue to Valdobbiadene, one of the most prestigious Prosecco-producing areas in the heart of the Treviso region. Here, we visit the prestigious wine producer, Villa Sandi, set in a vast valley protected from nearby mountains by rolling, sun-kissed hills. This fortunate position and the naturally endowed soil provide the optimum conditions for cultivating some of the finest grapes. Snaking below the palatial 17th-century villa is a centuries-old network of tunnels, used covertly by the Italian army during World War I and today provides the perfect environment for aging wine. We tour these underground cellars, home to a million bottles of wine including some of the best Prosecco, which we sample afterwards. Our guide then takes us through the villa, its spacious rooms a luxurious combination of pastel colours, stuccoes and bas-reliefs, dominated by resplendent Murano glass chandeliers. It’s easy to imagine a time when important figures such as Napoleon Bonaparte once wined and dined here.
DAY SIX RETURN FLIGHT
Today at the appropriate time, you will be taken to the airport for your return flight, after a most fascinating tour.

26 Mar 2020 11:10 Manchester Airport Albergo Roma £669.00
07 May 2020 13:10 Manchester Airport Albergo Roma £829.00
14 May 2020 13:10 Manchester Airport Albergo Roma £799.00
20 Jun 2020 08:00 Manchester Airport Albergo Roma £829.00
10 Sep 2020 13:10 Manchester Airport Albergo Roma £829.00
01 Oct 2020 13:10 Manchester Airport Albergo Roma £769.00
07 Nov 2020 07:00 Manchester Airport Albergo Roma £619.00

SOLO TOUR DATES
30 Apr 2020 13:10 Manchester Airport Albergo Roma £999.00
24 Sep 2020 12:55 Manchester Airport Albergo Roma £1,059.00
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All passengers must have a valid passport for this tour. Depending on the country issuing your passport, a visa may also be required. More information can be found at the Identity & Passport Service

Identity and Passport service

Customers should ensure that they are fit enough to travel, please check with your General Practictioner and www.fco.gov.uk/travel and www.nathnac.org

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Tour operated by Riviera Travel ATOL NO 3430. Westoe Travel act as agent for Riviera Travel

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We advise customers take travel insurance for all bookings

We strongly advise that you check the latest advice from the Foreign and commonwealth office about travelling abroad both before booking and before travelling


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