DAY 1 Wednesday September 11, 2019 Stresa, the Italian Lakes
Upon arrival into Milan Airport we will meet Heather Burden and transfer to beautiful Stresa on Lake Maggiore where we stay for three nights. Heather will recommend restaurants for dinner.
DAY 2 Thursday September 12, 2019 Stresa
We will take a boat to Isola Bella, the most spectacular of the Borromean Islands. We will see the Palace, built in the Lombard baroque style, including its staterooms, Napoleon’s Room, the Hall of Mirrors, Music Room and more. The gardens are undoubtedly one of the most dramatic examples of 17th-century gardens in Italy, filled with statues and ornamented fountains. We have an included group dinner this evening to welcome everyone on the tour.
DAY 3 Friday September 13, 2019 Stresa
Today we travel to beautiful Lake Como. We will visit Villa Carlotta, known for its beautiful setting and spectacular gardens. It was built in 1745 and later given as a wedding present to Carlotta, Duchess of Saxe-Meiningen. We will take the ferry across the lake to the lovely town of Bellagio. Occupying a magnificent site on the promontory dividing Lake Lecco from Lake Como, Bellagio is known for its pretty streets, villas and gardens. There will be free time to visit the semi-classical Villa Melzi, known for its splendid gardens, on the shore of the lake. We return to Stresa in the afternoon.
DAY 4 Saturday September 14, 2019 Alba, Piedmont
We depart the Italian Lakes today for gorgeous Alba in the Piedmont region. Along the way we will stop in Milan for lunch and a chance to see its spectacular Duomo. We will continue on to Alba late afternoon. Alba is a gourmet centre famous for its delicious tartufi bianchi (white truffles) and white wine. We stay in Alba for four nights. This evening we will enjoy an included dinner.
DAY 5 Sunday September 15, 2019 Alba
Today we taste some flavours of the local area, the Langhe, where Alba is situated. The landscape is dominated by castles and vineyards with some spectacular views. We venture into the countryside for a wine tasting followed by a visit to a truffle farm. We will find out how they “farm” these prized ingredients.
DAY 6 Monday September 16, 2019 Alba
Today we travel to nearby Turin, the capital of Piedmont, which was once the capital of Italy. We will have a walking tour of the city visiting Turin Cathedral, the site of the Chapel of the Holy Shroud, Palazzo Reale and Piazza San Carlo, Turin’s most beautiful square. There will also be opportunity to ascend the Mole Antonelliana, Turin’s tallest and most recognisable landmark, giving you a 360-degree view of Turin and the Alps beyond. The afternoon is free for independent exploration – perhaps enjoy a pastry or chocolate in the Piazza Vittoria Veneto, famous for the chocolate makers who roast and blend their own cacao beans.
DAY 7 Tuesday September 17, 2019 Alba
This morning we travel into the Piedmont countryside to Sacra di San Michele, Saint Michael’s Abbey, which they say inspired Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. It was built between the 10th and 11th centuries and is spectacularly situated at the beginning of the Susa Valley. We will continue on to the Fort of Exiles, the prison that housed the Man in the Iron Mask before returning to Alba mid-afternoon.
DAY 8 Wednesday September 18, 2019 Lucca, Tuscany
This morning, we depart Alba and travel to the small town of Portovenere. Portovenere, is one of the most beautiful towns on the Italian Riviera, with its orange, yellow and pink tower houses, narrow lanes and steep, vaulted stairs. Venus, the protectress of fishermen, had a temple here at the head of the promontory. We will have time for lunch before travelling on to our next hotel in Lucca, where we stay for the next three nights. Heather will recommend an interesting restaurant for dinner.
DAY 9 Thursday September 19, 2019 Lucca
This morning, we will have a tour of the medieval city of Lucca, the extraordinary St Martin’s Cathedral and Piazza del Mercato (which is built on the site of the ancient Roman amphitheatre). We see the battlements of Torre Guinigi, and the churches of San Frediano and San Michele. The afternoon will be free to explore the town, browse in the elegant shops and explore the museums, including the house of Puccini, now a museum dedicated to the great opera composer. Stroll with the locals along the city walls in the shade of the trees.
DAY 10 Friday September 20, 2019 Lucca
Today we visit some of the magnificent historic villas that dot the hills surrounding Lucca. We first visit the fine house and garden of the Villa Torrigiani. The gardens were designed by Le Notre and are decorated with fountains, caves and grottoes. We continue to the famous Villa Garzoni, a spectacular villa with exuberant Italian baroque gardens full of waterfalls, fountains, grottoes and flowerbeds. Carlo Lorenzini conceived The Adventures of Pinocchio by the villa’s kitchen fire in the 19th century, during one of his many visits to his uncle, the custodian of the villa. We travel through the countryside, returning to the hotel via Bagni di Lucca, a small town known for its elegance and sulphurous waters.
DAY 11 Saturday September 21, 2019 Spoleto, Umbria
We travel inland to Spoleto, where we will spend the next four nights. The famous Umbrian town of Spoleto was once described by the poet Shelley as the “most romantic city”. On the way we will stop in stunning Cortona, one of the oldest towns in Tuscany. The museum displays some of the most important Etruscan finds and was also the setting for the bestselling book, Under the Tuscan Sun. We arrive into Spoleto late afternoon and a restaurant will be recommended for dinner.
DAY 12 Sunday September 22, 2019 Spoleto
This morning we have a guided tour, which will take us to Spoleto’s wonderful Roman amphitheatre, the arch dating from 23AD, the recently restored cathedral and the fortress that soars above the ancient aqueduct. The afternoon is free to relax and enjoy the town of Spoleto.
DAY 13 Monday September 23, 2019 Spoleto
This morning, we visit beautiful Assisi, birthplace of St Francis. We will visit the cathedral of St Francis, its basilica and the chapel of St Clare. There will be free time in Assisi to explore this fascinating town. We return to Spoleto late afternoon.
DAY 14 Tuesday September 24, 2019 Spoleto
This morning we visit the small, unspoilt hill town of Bevagna. Here we will visit a papermaker, housed in the remains of the Roman amphitheatre, who still uses traditional methods to make paper. We then travel to the picturesque medieval hill town of Todi. We will be the guest of an Italian count at his villa, which was home to Jacopone da Todi, the medieval poet. The Count will guide us through his home and give us an insight into the life of an Italian aristocrat in the modern world. We have an included group dinnerthis evening to celebrate the wonderful two weeks we have had discovering Italy.
DAY 15 Wednesday September 25, 2019 Depart
We will be transferred to Rome Airport for return flights to Australia.