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Rome to Venice - Highlights of Northern Italy

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 Trip Length
12 Days
 Trip Starts
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12 Day Rome to Venice - Highlights of Northern Italy Itinerary (Explore)
Countries Explored: Italy
Trip Style
Max. Group Size
Full On
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Fully Guided
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Book online and enjoy exclusive savings on Explore's 12 Day Rome to Venice - Highlights of Northern Italy. In a country packed full of amazing sights, breath-taking landscapes and with a rich culture to experience, we've picked out the very best for you on this captivating journey from the charismatic piazzas of Rome to the fairytale island of Venice. Iconic ancient sites, fabulous architecture and many an unforgettable meal await.


The trip starts today in the Italian Capital Rome. With a history spanning over two and half a thousand years, the city is packed with iconic ancient sites, exhilarating architecture and artistic treasures. It's the perfect place to experience la dolce vita lifestyle; picturesque piazzas, neighbourhood cafes and bars make for excellent people watching. With so much to see and do you could easily spend many days here, so if this is your first visit, we strongly recommend arriving early and booking additional hotel nights before the trip starts.

Your trip Leader plans to meet everyone at the hotel for a welcome meeting today at 6pm and for those that wish, there is the chance to enjoy a welcome aperativo and go out for dinner (not included) afterwards for your first taste of Roman cuisine. There are no activities planned before the group meeting at 6pm tonight, so you can arrive any time before then. Should you miss the meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.

If you would like an airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Rome Fiumicino Airport (FCO) which is around 45 minutes to an hour from the city centre depending on traffic conditions.

If your flight arrives earlier in the day, put on a pair of comfortable shoes and head out to explore. Walking is the best way to see Rome. Flicking a coin in the Trevi Fountain and marvelling at the vast domed roof inside the ancient Pantheon are just two things every visitor to the city should experience. Stay: Hotel Milani (Comfortable)

We're up early today to beat the crowds, heading out to immerse ourselves in the life and soul of the city. We'll take the local metro to the iconic Colosseum, the largest amphitheatre in the world and symbol of the Roman Empire which we will visit on a guided tour. Built by Flavian Emperor Vespasian, the mighty arena could hold between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators, all attracted by gladiatorial contests, mock sea battles and executions. Afterwards we head along the Via Sacra (Sacred Way) to arrive at the Roman Forum, the scene of public meetings and law courts, it was lined with shops and open-air markets and was the site of many of the city's most imposing temples and monuments. Forty metres above the Forum, Palatine Hill is the most central of the seven hills of Rome and considered the birthplace of the city, having been inhabited since 1000 B.C.

The afternoon is left free for you to continue exploring and you'll be provided with a day pass for the metro. However, Rome is really best discovered on foot. Make sure to find the time to stop along the way to join the locals for an essential espresso at a street side cafe or perhaps indulge in a delicious gelato. If you wish to visit the Vatican, Rome's most popular attraction, you should book tickets to the Museum tickets online in advance.

Check the Vatican website (vatican.va) for updated information on opening times. Tickets for the Vatican Museum can be booked online at: https://tickets.museivaticani.va/home. Please note that pre-booked tickets are not required if you just want to visit St Peter's Basilica. To allow yourselves sufficient time to finish the morning sightseeing and travel on to the Vatican, we recommend you do not book entry tickets until after 2pm. Stay: Hotel Milani (Comfortable) (B)

Today we say goodbye to Rome and catch a train north to the Umbrian town of Orvieto, dramatically sited on a bluff of volcanic rock above near vertical cliffs. We'll catch the funicular railway connecting the station with Orvieto's medieval centre, 157 metres above. As well as time to wander Orvieto's charming narrow streets we plan to head underground on a guided tour to explore an ancient labyrinth of caves and tunnels that lie beneath the surface. Dug deep into the volcanic tuff, these once secret tunnels and chambers have a rich history dating back to the Etruscans 2,500 years ago and have been used defensively, providing an escape route during times of siege as well as providing water, building materials, storage, space for industry and animals.

Continuing our journey by private charter bus into southern Tuscany, we pass through a beautiful and instantly recognisable landscape of rolling hills, vineyards, hill-top towns, strade bianche white-gravel roads, and avenues of cypress trees. Scenes that have been captured on many a postcard as well as in the movie Gladiator that was partially filmed here. We plan to stop at the hill-top town of Montepulciano. Perched on a 605 metre high limestone ridge and encircled by Renaissance-era walls and fortifications, Montepulciano is a major producer of food and drink; renowned for its pork, cheese, 'pici' pasta, lentils, and honey and not least its wine. Connoisseurs consider its Vino Nobile among Italy's best and we plan to indulge in the region's specialities with a wine tasting experience at the Caneto winery, just outside of the town. Our tasting will be accompanied by a late lunch of typical local produce including cold cuts and cheeses.

We'll arrive in Siena in the early evening, with time maybe for a stroll before dinner. With its magnificent Gothic architecture, Siena was once a rival to Florence in power and trade, the city controlled the trade routes between France and Rome, as well as the southern Tuscan wool industry. Stay: Hotel Italia (Comfortable) (B)

Siena is a classic Italian city, with its magnificent central square, Il Campo, and the awe inspiring grandeur of the Duomo overlooking the Via di Citta. The city centre is traffic-free, making it ideal to wander around on foot and you are free this morning to explore and soak up the many intriguing sights. The focal point is the Piazza del Campo, a semi-circular area surrounded by ancient buildings, and overlooked by a 100 metre bell tower, the Torre del Mangia. The Piazza is also used for a horse race twice a year - the famous Palio, when horses and their riders hurtle dangerously around the square to the delight of the crowds.

Later today we head by train once again to the fabulous city of Florence. The spiritual home of the Renaissance, Florence is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful cities in Italy. On arrival our leader will take us out on an orientation walk. Starting out at San Lorenzo market (leather) we'll head on to the bustling Central Market (foodstuffs) then take in San Lorenzo church and the Cappelle Medicee. One of the most important buildings in Florence, you will be able to see the Duomo and Baptistry (outside only) before heading towards the Signoria Square, past the Palazzo Vecchio and Uffizi Museum before crossing the famous Ponte Vecchio, the oldest and most famous bridge in Florence and the only one that was not demolished during the German retreat of 1944.

Afterwards free to explore Florence at your own pace; maybe this will involve an espresso and people watching at one of the many alfresco cafes. Early evening is the perfect time to walk up to the Piazzale Michelangelo for a great view over the city. Stay: Hotel Ester (Comfortable) (B)

Today you are free to explore Florence at your own pace and as with Rome, some forward planning is best to make the most of your time. If you wish to visit the world famous Uffizi Gallery; home to Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian and Leonardo Da Vinci masterpieces it's best to book in advance. https://www.uffizi.it/biglietti. The city's major sights are all easily reached on foot. You may like to visit the Duomo with its magnificent pink, white and green marble facade and climb up its red-tiled dome that dominates the skyline of the city for your own bird's-eye view. Or take a stroll along the banks of the River Arno. Palazzo Vecchio and Museo di San Marco and Galleria dell'Accademia (home to Michelango's David) and just three of the many treasure troves of art that abound in this most enchanting of cities. Stay: Hotel Ester (Comfortable) (B)

Today we head for the coast by rail but will make an important stop en route at Pisa where your tour leader will take you on an orientation tour. The Campo dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles), of which the iconic Leaning Tower is but one part, also contains the Baptistry, Duomo and Camposanto, which between them make up a stunning collection of architectural delights. These, along with the churches and palazzi that make up the historic centre, all belong to a period from the 11th to 13th centuries when the city was one of the Mediterranean's major maritime powers.

We can store our luggage at the station whilst we're exploring then head on by train to our base for the next two nights, La Spezia. This busy port city on the coastal rail line offers easy access into the Cinque Terre National Park. The Cinque Terre, is named after the string of five picturesque fishing villages which nestle at the foot of the plunging cliffs along this section of coast. A UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its beauty, the region has a wild and rugged coastline with breath-taking harbours and carefully built terraces, cultivating grapes and olives. An ancient system of footpaths and mule tracks connects the five villages, known for their rows of brightly coloured terraced houses; Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Stay: Hotel Corallo (Comfortable) (B)

Armed with our Cinque Terre Passes, which includes entry into the Park and all rail travel within it, your leader will organise a hike today; it's the best way to fully appreciate these stunning coastal landscapes. Our exact route will depend upon weather and trail conditions - due to the nature of the terrain landslides can sometimes affect which sections of the trails are open. Expect a hike of up to three to four hours, the route to be undulating and uneven and you will need decent footwear such as trail shoes and a daypack to carry plenty of water. The trails pass through terraced farms and cool woods of ilex and other Mediterranean species. From the open sections there are great views south along the Cinque Terre coast. Anyone not wishing to hike can opt to do their own thing and explore the villages on foot and by rail. There is also a ferry service along the coast. Stay: Hotel Corallo (Comfortable) (B)

Heading back inland by train today we stop to spend a few hours in Milan, a fast-paced wealthy city globally renowned as a hub for fashion and design. We'll pay a visit to Il Duomo, Milan's extravagant marble Gothic cathedral which took 600 years to complete. A visit to the top affords a great view over Milan's skyline. Art lovers should head for the Santa Maria delle Grazie for Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece mural the Last Supper. Advance online booking is recommended at https://cenacolovinciano.org/en/museum/. Due to train timings we recommend booking a time slot between 1pm - 3pm. If you have booked advance timed tickets be sure to advise your tour leader so they ensure the timings can be accommodated.

After time in the city we'll head to the much more peaceful shores of Lake Como. Long-associated with poets, artists, world leaders and, lately, film stars, Lake Como is undoubtedly the most beautiful of all the well-known Italian lakes. The Southern Alps - which are still snow-covered until May - surround the lake which is dotted with small harbours, stately villas and traditional towns. Stay: B&B Hotel Como (Comfortable) (B)

You can spend a relaxing day with short journeys by ferry to explore some of the towns around the lake and the fabulous lake-side villas that have been host to royalty and world leaders. One such destination might be Bellagio. On the eastern shore, it's often described as the 'Pearl of Lake Como' and is charming with cobbled lanes, boutiques, cafés and two gardens you can visit. You can either chose to spend the day exploring the town or head up on a bus to Civenna from where we walk on a ridge over-looking the lake back to Bellagio. The route takes us through pretty forests, passing isolated farms and villas with wonderful views of the lake. Stay: B&B Hotel Como (Comfortable) (B)

Today we catch our final train of the holiday - to Venice. Originally built on a malaria swamp in the 8th century, Venice needs no introduction; the city has been photographed, filmed and showcased in nearly every country in the world and will not disappoint if this is your first time here. Once home to an empire, the city is now famous for its art, music and food culture; all of which we hope to experience during our stay. We'll waste no time in getting to the know the city, heading out on a leader led orientation walk along its canals and narrow passageways into Saint Mark's Square, discovering the story of how the Venetians smuggled the body of Saint Mark to Venice which inspired the square and the Saint Mark's Basilica, the city's most famous landmarks. Heading across the water by vaporetto water bus we head to the San Giorgio Maggiore Bell Tower for a bird's-eye view of this simply fabulous city. We will provide you with a 2-day vaporetto pass for you to use in your explorations today and tomorrow. Stay: Hotel Villa Rosa (Comfortable) (B)

As with Rome, it would take many days to fully explore all that Venice has to offer and first time visitors may wish to consider extending their holiday with extra nights in the city. Today is free for you to venture out and explore at your own pace. There are two ways to explore - on foot, losing yourself among the myriad passageways and piazza, or by boat, catching the vaporetto that criss-cross along the canals or maybe even indulging in a gondola ride. Take in famous sights such the Grand Canal, Rialto Bridge, Doge's Palace, enjoy art and antiquities in world-class galleries and museums such as the Gallerie dell'Accademia, Peggy Guggenheim Collection and Palazzo Ducale.

Browse the city's artisanal shops - glassware produced on the nearby island of murano, leatherware, paperware and of course papier mache carnivale masks. Along the way be sure to stop off at a local bar for an aperativo and cicchetti, delectable Venetian small plates consisting of bite sized snacks. Popular plates include salt cod on polenta, fried meatballs, octopus salad, mini panini alongside simpler items like olives or boiled eggs. Stay: Hotel Villa Rosa (Comfortable) (B)

There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel.

If you would like an airport transfer today, you need to depart from Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE). Your leader will provide you with a ticket for the shared waterbus to the airport. The nearest waterbus stop to our hotel is around 5 minutes walk away and the journey to the airport takes around 45 minutes. (B)

Trip Inclusions

  • Soak in the sights and street life of Rome and Venice
  • Hike the coastal footpaths of the Cinque Terre and around Lake Como
  • Enjoy regional Italian cuisine and locally produced wines

  • Full on paced trips are for travellers who like their holidays packed with activities and experiences, moving on quickly from place to place with lots of early starts and long, busy days. Some may find them tiring, but others get a buzz from packing their precious holiday-time as chock-a - block full of new experiences as possible.

  • Accommodation, itinerary and inclusions subject to change.
  • Price is for land, cruise and internal flights as specified.
  • Flights not specified are not included
About Explore!
About Explore!

Launching in 1981, Explore offer trips from over 130 countries - from classic small group tours. Read more

Explore Leaders
Explore Leaders

Explore's leaders are more than just your typical guide. They're your local expert are are passionate about sharing their expertise with you. Read more

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Where do we Stay?

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Prices & Dates

There are currently no departures available on this trip. Either it's the end of the season and new departures will be released shortly, or this itinerary has been changed and will no longer continue. Feel free to contact us for information about when next seasons dates will be released or click here to view the general release dates for all destinations.

Tour & cruises prices are per person. Prices shown have savings applied, are subject to availability and may be withdrawn at any time without notice. Prices and trip information are correct at the time at this point in time, however are subject to confirmation at the time of booking and are subject to change by Explore. For cruise itineraries, cabin images are sourced from Explore. These should be treated as indicative only. Cabin inclusions, upholsteries and room layout may differ to the image(s) shown depending on the ship selected and your sailing dates.

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