Embrace excess as you travel the length and breadth of 'la bella Italia'. From the former capital of the world to the sun-kissed south, the shimmering Italian Lakes to quiet contemplation in Assisi, the birthplace of the Renaissance to fiery Naples - this grand 13-day exploration of Italy will reveal why Verdi proclaimed that he would gladly exchange the entire universe for Italy. One day you may feel the same.
Arrive Rome (2 Nights)
If Rome were a person, she would be confident, alluring and complex. You'll get to know her, and her quirks, over the next few days as she launches your unforgettable journey across Italy. You'll see reminders of an ancient world, a holy empire and the Renaissance around every turn should you wish to spend the day exploring on your own, after checking in to your hotel. Meet your Travel Director and fellow travellers for a glimpse of what's in store. You could continue your independent exploration of Rome later this evening or join your travel group for an Optional Experience to see some of the city's most iconic sights followed by a dinner of light Italian specialties.
Rome sightseeing and free time
Take a moment. Standing in St. Peter's Square, you'll be in the midst of the world's holiest of Catholic shrines - where people have worshipped since the fourth century. This expansive place of pilgrimage and prayer gives way to the lofty vaults of one of the greatest churches in the world, St. Peter's Basilica. Your Local Specialist will reveal the treasures and talents of Bramante, Michelangelo and Bernini who all had a hand in the construction. Continue your guided sightseeing tour across the Tiber River to Ancient Rome and imagine a time when soldiers and senators built a city that became the centre of the world. Its foundations still stand today as a tribute to its former might and you'll have the opportunity to view its iconic ancient ruins before spending time on your own exploring the ruins or joining your fellow travellers on an Optional Experience through Rome's beautiful piazzas.
Rome – Bay of Naples (2 Nights)
Opt for a leisurely start to your day or consider joining an Optional Experience to the Vatican Museums, home to an impressive collection of art and antiquities. The Bay of Naples beckons and you'll head south past the Abbey of Monte Cassino, the site of fierce battles during World War II, to Napoli. Perhaps spend the afternoon taking an optional drive along the picture-perfect Amalfi Coast, with a visit to the artistic hub of Positano and its pastel-hued houses that seem to tumble into the Tyrrhenian Sea. Or spend the rest of your day rubbing shoulders with the Neapolitans in search of the city's best Margherita pizza. Its ingredients reflect the red, white and green of Italy's flag - could there be anything more patriotic?
Today you'll take a scenic journey along the craggy Mediterranean coast, tracing the footsteps of artists, writers and high society who have long revered the sweet shores of Sorrento. Centuries on, there are no signs of the hypnotic sirens that once tempted soldiers to run their ships into the deadly rocks. Instead, fresh scents of citrus are likely to accompany your every step as you explore this beautiful resort town with plenty of time to explore on your own. Don't leave the town's historic harbour without sampling some fresh seafood straight off the fisherman's boat. Then say salute to a swift and zesty limoncello - it's the perfect after-dinner digestivo.
Bay of Naples – Assisi (1 Night)
Enjoy a relaxing morning, unless you choose to join an Optional Experience to see the excavations of Pompeii in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. Buried under ash when Vesuvius blew her top, Pompeii remains frozen in time and your Local Specialist will reveal what life was like as a local resident of the time. Later, we journey to the heart of Italy, through the rolling hills of Umbria, to Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis. Your guided orientation tour around this medieval hill-top town will include views of the Basilica of St. Francis, the final resting place of a saint who preached obedience, chastity and poverty.
Assisi – Venice (Oriago) (2 Nights)
We cross the dramatic Apennine Mountains, bound for the charismatic calle of Venice, once a maritime powerhouse whose influences can be seen across the Eastern Mediterranean. The winged lion of Venice remains an enduring symbol of the city and one you'll see often as you explore the city over the next few days. You'll arrive just in time for an optional Gondola and Grand Canal cruise - grand palazzi, churches and ornate bridges lining your journey. Enjoy dinner at your hotel, then spend the rest of the evening exploring this beautiful city your way.
Venice orientation and free time
The talents of master craftsmen are the star of the show this morning as we visit their glassblowing workshop to see them craft the most exquisite works of art. We take to the choppy waters of the canal next and cruise by private launch to St. Mark's Square, the gateway to the city. Admire the ornate Doge's Palace, the Basilica of St. Mark and the Bridge of Sighs, whose bitter-sweet views once elicited sighs from prisoners who were unlikely to see their beloved city ever again. There's time on your own for a final exploration of the city or join an Optional Experience to the vibrant rainbow-coloured façades of Burano Island, which beckon to resident fishermen seeking a safe beacon for their return journey home through the lagoon's thick fog.
Venice (Oriago) – Verona – Lugano – Italian Lakes (Saronno) (2 Nights)
From Roman ruins to Romeo and Juliet, Verona certainly is the stuff of legends. Our first stop today is the city that served as the backdrop for Shakespeare's famous love story and you'll have an opportunity to view the very balcony where the fictional Juliet once called for her Romeo. Admire the Roman Arena where thrilling performances are held to this day, then continue across the Swiss border and visit the pretty lakeside resort of Lugano. Your brief brush with Switzerland provides a beautiful introduction to the shimmering allure of the Italian Lakes, which you'll explore over the coming days. Return to Italy this evening where tonight you'll dine in your hotel.
Free day or Milan and Lake Como excursion
You'll have the whole day free to relax at the hotel pool, but we know you'll want to soak up the sophisticated lakeside atmosphere instead on your Europe value tour. Lace up your walking shoes for a stroll along a lively promenade or people-watching with an Aperol Spritz in hand. Alternatively, consider an Optional Experience to Lake Como and Italy's fashion capital. You'll board a boat and enjoy a leisurely cruise on its glacial waters before heading to Milan to see the glass-roofed Galleria, La Scala and the spectacular Duomo.
Italian Lakes region – Pisa – Florence (Prato)(2 Nights)
You've always wanted to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa and now you're here! We'll take you to snap a few strategic photos featuring you and the famous leaning tower. Admire Pisa's Romanesque Square of Miracles in all its striped marble glory. Its structures are said to symbolise the three main stages of human life - the Baptistery (birth), the Cathedral (life) and the Camposanto (death). Then continue towards Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance. For a taste of Tuscany, consider joining an Optional Experience in the Tuscan hills with regional favourites, live music and a glass or two of crisp Chianti.
Florence sightseeing and free time
No expense was spared to glorify the city of Florence through art and architecture and you'll see first-hand how this city paved its way to a modern age. Join a Local Specialist this morning for an enthralling account of the city's history during a walking tour of its historic centre, including views of Ponte Vecchio, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Giotto's Bell Tower and the Baptistery. Visit Piazza della Signoria, the city's main square where many of the political and artistic treasures of the city can be seen, then witness a leatherwork demonstration and browse the centuries-old trades of gold and leathercraft. This afternoon, perhaps head up to Piazzale Michelangelo and admire the views over Florence's signature skyline.
Florence – Siena – Rome (1 Night)
Tuscany may claim to be the heart of Italy, but it is the stunning medieval city of Siena which will capture yours. The city's fortified walls, towers and palaces emerge from the rolling countryside on your journey through the beautiful Chianti region. This former economic and military power today hosts the Palio horse race, injecting a shot of colour amidst the burnt sienna façades of the city's Il Campo. Your orientation tour will reveal the city's rich heritage, architecture and cuisine, most notably why Siena is renowned for its signature panforte fruit cake, which you have to sample during a visit to a pasticceria. Leaving Tuscany behind, we return to Rome for one final encounter with the Eternal City, or join your fellow travellers for an optional Farewell Dinner to end your holiday on a high note.
The Italian dream of eating well, laughing often and loving much will linger long after your Splendours of Italy tour comes to an end this morning. Say a fond arrivederci to your travel companions and Travel Director, reminiscing over epic shared memories along this unforgettable journey through Italy. Find out more about your free airport transfer at costsavertour.com/freetransfers.