12-day AUTHENTIC ITALY GRAND TOUR NORTH
The Northern Lakes, Emilia, Tuscany and Umbria

A tour for connoisseurs, from Milan to Rome via Florence, admiring the extraordinary beauty of Italy and its “borghi”. You will enjoy the diversity of habits and traditions across the country, as well as the diverse yet most savoury regional cuisines of Lombardy, Emilia, Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio!!

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Lake Maggiore and Lake Como, a scenery for movie lovers
  • Parma, where food is an art
  • Maranello, the legend of Ferrari was born here
  • Florence, an open-air museum
  • Chianti, winemakers for 800 years
  • Siena and San Gimignano, power in the Middle Ages
  • Val d'Orcia, where Man and Nature blend with harmony
  • Assisi, the extraordinary land of Francis
  • Orvieto, the "city on the rocks"
  • Tivoli, an invitation from the Emperor

WHAT'S INCLUDED:

Accommodations with Continental Breakfast:

  • Day 1: 5* Hotel in Lake Como area
  • Days 2 & 3: 5* Country house in Parma area
  • Day 4: 5* Hotel in Bologna city centre
  • Days 5 & 6: 5* Country Resort in Chianti area
  • Days 7 & 8: 5* Country Resort in Val d'Orcia area
  • Days 9 & 10: 4* Hotel in Spoleto city centre
  • Days 11 & 12: 5* Hotel in Rome city centre

Activities and Transfers:

  • Day 1: Pick up in Milan and transfer to Stresa on Lake Maggiore - Tour of Borromean Islands Isola Bella and Isola Madre - Transfer to Lake Como area
  • Day 2: Full-day private tour of Lake Como area - Admission to Villa Balbianello in Lenno – Transfer to Bellagio by public ferry, free time - Transfer to Parma area
  • Day 3: Full-day private tour of Parma area with an Authorised Tourist Guide, including visits of a Parmesan Cheese factory and a Parma Ham factory, and a Cooking Class in a Villa near Parma
  • Day 4: Visit of a Balsamic Vinegar of Modena Producer - Admission to Museo Ferrari in Maranello - Transfer to Bologna city centre, free time 
  • Day 5: Transfer to Chianti area - Full-day private tour of Chianti area: Castellina and Greve - Visit of a wine cellar in Chianti with tastings
  • Day 6: Private full-day tour of Siena area: San Gimignano, Monteriggioni and Volterra  
  • Day 7: Transfer to Siena - 2-hour private walking tour of Siena city centre with an Authorised Tourist Guide - Transfer to Val d'Orcia area - Stopover at Abbazia di San Galgano, free time
  • Day 8: Full-day private tour of Val d’Orcia: Bagno Vignoni, Pienza, Montepulciano - 3-hour private "Gourmet" walking tour of Montepulciano city centre with food tastings
  • Day 9: Transfer to Assisi, stopover in Tuoro sul Trasimeno - 2-hour walking tour of Assisi city centre with an Authorised Tourist Guide - Transfer to Spoleto, stopover at Fonti del Clitunno
  • Day 10: Private visit of an organic farm near Trevi with tasting of local olive oil and lunch - Private round trip to Deruta, free time
  • Day 11: Transfer to Orvieto, free time - Transfer to Rome city centre
  • Day 12: Full day private tour to Tivoli with an Authorized Tourist Guide, including admissions to Villa d’Este and Hadrian’s Villa

Admission Tickets to:

  • Borromean Islands on Lake Maggiore
  • Villa Balbianello on Lake Como
  • Museo Ferrari in Maranello
  • Villa d’Este and Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli

All transfers by private luxury Sedan / Minivan

Pick up and drop off at Airports / Railway Stations

Full assistance 24 hours/day by our Back Office

DAYS 1 & 2 – LAKE COMO

Benvenuti in Italia, welcome to Italy!

The magnificent scenery of Lake Como (also known as Lake Lario) has enchanted artists and travellers for centuries: from French novelist Flaubert to musicians of the calibre of Gioacchino Rossini, Giuseppe Verdi, and Vincenzo Bellini; here he composed his opera Norma. Today Lake Como continues to attract members of the international jet-set and celebrities that appreciate the evocative beauty of the Lake and its surroundings.

Lake Como

The Lake (one of Lombardy's several incomparable lakes) is of a characteristic upside-down Y-form. The town of Como is situated on its southwestern arm, Lecco on the southeastern arm, and Colico on that northern. From the Lake’s shores, one can enjoy multiple, fascinating views: suggestive borgoes, splendid villas and lush gardens await visitors in search of a bit of charm and relaxation or a little culture and contact with nature.

Driving along the lake road we will enjoy multiple, fascinating views: suggestive borgoes, splendid villas and lush gardens await visitors in search of a little charm and relaxation, or a little culture and contact with nature. 

Breathtaking villas, one after the other, encircle the lake, a resort destination of the nobles of Lombardy since the 16th Century. Cernobbio is the site of the Villa d’Este (1600s), one of the locations in Alfred Hitchcock’s celebrated movie “The Pleasure Garden”. In nearby Lenno we will admire Villa Balbianello, used as a location in movies such as “Star Wars: Episode II” and James Bond's “Casino Royale”.

Along the coast is Tremezzo, famous for its Villa Carlotta, with terrace gardens and a museum boasting works by Canova, Thorvaldsen and Hayez. It was built in the 17th century for a powerful Milanese family and in the 2nd half of the 19th century Princess Marianne of Nassau bought the villa and gave it to her daughter Carlotta as a wedding present, hence the name. Her husband was a keen botanist and over the years turned it into the lush garden that we see here today.

Where the Lake’s three arms meet, you may visit Bellagio with Villa Melzi. The Villa, built in 1808, is much sought-after for its botanical park, with sculptures and a garden renowned for its beautiful azaleas and rhododendrons.

DAYs 3 to 5 - PARMA

Parma is known for its delicious food products. First, you will visit a Parmigiano Reggiano factory, where you will see cheese masters at work: a very special way to get into the production culture of the area and to discover how a true gastronomic gem is made (see the article in our BLOG).

Later on, time for a visit of a Parma ham factory, where we will learn the secrets of the most delicious ham, Prosciutto di Parma (see the article in our BLOG).

And finally, you will savour authentic Italian cuisine on a fun-filled cooking class led by a local "rezdora". We will immerse ourself into the tradition of fresh Italian pasta and study the secrets of preparing pasta dough from the scratch, using just flour and eggs. You will make our own “tortelli d'erbetta” (Parma most traditional pasta with a filling of ricotta cheese and chards) and delicious tagliatelle with tomato sauce – all local ingredients! Once your amazing meal is ready, we will enjoy what we prepared matched with a glass of local Lambrusco wine. A very tasty experience at the end of an unforgettable day!

Parma

DAYS 3 TO 5 - MODENA

Modena derives its fame from some of its distinguished citizens, notably Enzo Ferrari and Luciano Pavarotti, who were born and lived here, as well as for some of its gastronomical products. The city lies in the so-called “Motor Valley”: actually the factories of the famous Italian sports car makers Ferrari, De Tomaso, Lamborghini and Maserati are located here.

In Maranello, you will visit Museo Ferrari, not just a collection of the past, but an extraordinary experience of the world of Ferrari and sports car racing! How exciting to see live the most beautiful cars of the world, exceptional artworks made by modern mechanic artisan masters. 

Afterwards, you will move to the estate of a Balsamic Vinegar of Modena Producer, to delight in the unique, enticing taste of traditional balsamic vinegar. Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is obtained from partially fermented, cooked and concentrated grape must. The grapes come exclusively from the vines of the area, and the most important processing phase is refinement, inside containers of fine wood, such as oak, chestnut, oak, mulberry and juniper (to know more about Balsamic Vinegar read the article in our BLOG).

Maranello

DAY 6 – CHIANTI

Only a few regions can offer such a beautiful and rich panorama as Chianti: green hills sketched by miles and miles of vineyards and olive groves, ancient walled villages, panoramic curvy roads. Chianti Classico area spreads from Florence to Siena and includes the municipalities of Greve, Panzano, Radda, Gaiole and Castellina. Most of the route consists of the grid of roads connecting the larger towns to villages and castles, like the one leading to Radda, former headquarters of the Chianti Military League, and then to Castello di Brolio where Bettino Ricasoli devised the “recipe” for Chianti wine.

For lunch, you will stop at the famous “Macelleria Cecchini”, maybe the most famous meat shop in Italy. Behind the shop, Mr Cecchini cooks original Tuscan meat, above all “Fiorentina” steaks, he has personally selected at farms in the area (don't worry, there’s also a vegetarian menu).

Chianti

DAY 7 – SAN GIMIGNANO & VOLTERRA

In the morning, you will stroll with our head upwards along the streets of one of the most beautiful cities in Tuscany, San Gimignano, also known as the "Medieval Manhattan", thanks to its very old and impressive 14 towers that dominate the town skyline. Originally the towers were 72, built by patrician families probably to demonstrate their wealth and power. Seven of San Gimignano's towers are around Piazza del Duomo, the tallest one is Torre Grossa, 54 meters high, dating back to 1298.

San Gimignano

After leaving San Gimignano, you will stop in Monteriggioni, the famous Senese fortress which guarded the boundary between the Senese Republic and the Florentine “Signoria”. A step back in the medieval times that will impress you. All around are Chianti vineyards and pasturelands, it’s amazing! The village can only evoke the Middle Ages with its 13th-century walls and 14 quadrilateral towers. Towers that Dante compared to the Giants of hell, in the time when this fortified site was an outpost of the Senese against the Florentines, passing several times from one to the other.

Not far from San Gimignano is Volterra, Tuscany’s oldest continuously-inhabited town, with settlements documented since 1,500 B.C. Volterra has an unmistakable Medieval character, where the atmosphere of an ancient village can still be felt and whose authenticity is protected by the relative isolation that has limited the development of the city centre in the industrial era, safeguarding the city from urban speculation. Here we will walk on Piazza dei Priori, the main square, the centre of civic power since the 8th century, then Porta all'Arco, the 4th century B.C. Etruscan gate to the city walls, its 12th-century Cathedral and the ruins of the Roman Theater (40 B.C.) and the Roman Baths (3rd century AD).

Alabaster is a soft stone, much easier to work than marble, which is far harder. This malleability makes it perfect for carving small sculptures and richly detailed ornamental motifs. Although it no longer represents a significant part of the local economy, it is nonetheless a fundamental part of Volterra's culture. In the city, we will visit a laboratory and find beautiful shops selling artefacts and handmade unique pieces carved into this semi-transparent stone.

On the way to Val d’Orcia, you will take a diversion to one of the most fascinating spots of Tuscany. Here we are in Chiusdino, to see the famous Abbey of San Galgano. What a stunning place! The Abbey of San Galgano dates back to 1218 and was considerably wealthy until the 14th century, so much as to be disputed between the Papacy and the Republic of Siena. Unfortunately, a great decline followed so much splendour: local people used it as a warehouse of building materials, even selling the roof of lead to make ammunition and transforming it into what we see today. It is really impressive for those who see it for the first time, for the isolation in which it is located as well as for the absence of the roof. In fact, finding yourself inside a church and having the sky as a cover is not common and when the evening comes, the stars offer a wonderful show. But why did the Cistercis Monks decided to build such an imposing complex in that secluded valley crossed by the river Merse? The answer is simple. Very close to it a church, the hermitage of Montesiepi, whose first nucleus is due to the same saint (and his direct followers), already existed. In its Chapel, also called "Rotonda" because of the circular shape of the central structure, an old iron sword is encased in stone, a clear reference to the legend of Excalibur, the mythic sword of King Arthur!

Siena

DAY 8 – VAL D'ORCIA

Val d’Orcia is one of the most fascinating places in Italy, included by UNESCO in the list of World Heritage Sites. The landscape of Val d’Orcia is part of the agricultural hinterland of Siena, redrawn and developed when it was integrated into the territory of the city-state in the 14th and 15th centuries to reflect an idealized model of good governance and to create an aesthetically pleasing picture. The landscape’s distinctive aesthetics, flat chalk plains out of which rise almost conical hills with fortified settlements on top, inspired many artists. Their images have come to exemplify the beauty of well-managed Renaissance agricultural landscapes. 

Your first stop will be Pienza, “Pio’s town”: here Pope Pius II decided to build the perfect palazzo for his papal court according to the project of an “Ideal City" drawn up by artists such as Piero della Francesca. From the loggia of the Palace you will enjoy a breath-taking panorama of the landscape all around! And at lunch you may try the typical Pecorino cheese of Pienza, a real delight to the palate!

Then, you will get to Montepulciano, for a history and gourmet food tour of the city with our Guide Francesca, at the discovery of this land’s delicacies: Nobile di Montepulciano wine and local olive oil.

You will finally stop in Bagno Vignoni, a tiny and charming village where the main square is a pool 49 meters long and 29 wide, from the bottom of which bubble up a number of hot springs whose therapeutic quality has been renowned since antiquity! All this creates such a pleasant sensation, it will be hard to leave!

Val d'Orcia

DAY 9 – ASSISI

Today you will explore Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis, the nobleman who renounced all his possessions to devote his life to helping the needy and became one probbaly the most acclaimed Saint of the Catholic Church.

The splendid Basilica, one of the emblems of Christianity, located on Mount Subasio and overlooking the entire valley, is dedicated to him. Apart from being a strong appeal for millions of religious believers, the Basilica is a monument of great artistic value. Its construction began two years after his death, in 1228, and between the end of the 13th and the beginning of the 14th century its walls were frescoed by the best artists of that time: Giotto, Cimabue, Simone Martini and Pietro Lorenzetti. St. Francis's Basilica consists of two churches laid upon each other and a crypt containing the tomb of the Saint.  The Lower Basilica, with a double front portal, presents a simple façade embellished with a rose window and a mosaic. The interior is decorated with frescoes by some of the most important painters from 1200 to 1300, from Cimabue to Giotto and from the Lorenzettis to Simone Martini.

In the Upper Basilica, you can see St. Francis' life in frescoes painted by maestro Giotto, and the stories of the Old and New Testament covering the entire nave, and other wonderful frescoes by Cimabue and Torriti.

Another figure who deeply influenced these places is Saint Clare, to whom the homonymous Basilica - presenting a facade made of white and pink stone and divided into three sections by horizontal cornices - is dedicated. The engaging interior frescoes and the remains of the Saint are visible through a window in the crypt. 

Assisi

Try to enjoy the mystical atmosphere of Assisi:

"Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,

Who feeds us and rules us,

And produces various fruits with coloured flowers and herbs."

(St. Francis, Prayer of the Canticle of the Creatures)

DAY 10 – TREVI & DERUTA

Spoleto is a medieval hill town in the Umbria region, famous for its summer music festival, “Festival dei Due Mondi”. Thick walls and a magnificent gorge surround the city and fine medieval and Roman monuments sit along the streets. The Duomo is one of Spoleto's finest sights: begun in the 12th century, the cathedral is set against a backdrop of hills and valleys. High above the town stands the Rocca, a Papal fortress which was used as a prison until the 1980s. A massive bridge, Ponte delle Torri, built in the 14th century, functioned as both a bridge and aqueduct; we will walk on it for breath-taking views of the valley and gorge below.

In the afternoon we will visit Deruta, famous for its splendid brightly coloured maiolica.

Umbria

At dinner we’ll enjoy “salumi di cinghiale o cervo” (boar or deer sausage) and pecorino cheese, and taste the region's prized white truffle oil while sipping the red Rubesco Riserva or Sagrantino di Montefalco.

DAY 11 –ORVIETO

From Spoleto today we will reach Orvieto, one of the most beautiful hill towns in Italy, perched up on volcanic rock, its history dating back to the Etruscans.

Although just an hour from Rome, the architecture is different, with many of the buildings constructed out of tufo, a type of volcanic rock. Orvieto’s main attraction is its 14th-century Cathedral – a masterpiece of Gothic architecture with a glistening façade of stained glass, mosaics and sculptures. Another attraction is St. Patrick’s Well, a 62-meter-deep (203 feet) feat of engineering characterized by two spiral staircases that wind around the well (yet never meet), with 248 steps down to the water. On a pleasant guided tour along a very easy route, we will get to know Orvieto’s underground world, created by its ancient inhabitants over about 2,500 years of uninterrupted digging. A tour on a discovery of a millenary, surprising and unexpected “Underground City”, which you will surely enjoy!

At lunch, we will taste “salumi di cinghiale o cervo” (boar or deer sausage) and pecorino cheese and taste the region's prized white truffle oil, together with the delicious white wine of the area, Orvieto Classico!

Orvieto

DAY 12 – TIVOLI

On our last day, we will discover one of Italy’s hidden gems! Here is Tivoli, a small town in Lazio, about 30 Km east of Rome. The first major sight is Hadrian’s Villa: Emperor Hadrian built it to escape the crowd and turmoil of the capital. Much of the enormous, luxurious ancient villa remains intact today, and you will be surprised by the clever application of Renaissance plumbing in the fountains and waterworks, perfectly integrated with the landscape. There are about 500 fountains here!

The other treasure of the area is Villa d’Este, the great Villa commissioned by Cardinal Ippolito of the Este family around 1560. Among the masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance that most inspired landscape architects and painters, it is an ideal reinterpretation - in a sumptuous way - of the hanging Eden of Babylon. The prestigious residence is surrounded by terraces, stairways and avenues set on each other, decorated with water games so audacious as to reveal considerable engineering skills. The monument was elected the most beautiful park in Europe, as well as UNESCO Heritage with the motivation: "one of the first gardens of wonders, which from the beginning had a decisive influence on the development of European landscape painting ».

Tivoli

The tour is over, but the memories of a fantastic journey will accompany you for a lifetime!

Arrivederci for another tour with VITOR, Visit Italy on the Road.


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