1 Welcome to The Eternal City of Rome.
Rome is not only the modern capital of Italy, but also a spectacular encyclopedia of living history. You will be met on arrival at Rome's Fiumicino Leonardo da Vinci Airport. At 09:30, 12:30 and 15:30 transfers depart for your hotel. Join your Travel Director at 17:30 and get to know your fellow travellers over a pleasant evening during your Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant. (DW) Stay: Romanico Palace, Rome.
2 Vip Vatican and Rome With A Local.
In the morning, you will be joined by a Local Expert to guide you through the art collection of the Vatican Museums, culminating beneath Michelangelo's famous ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. Your VIP visit includes fast-tracked entry and a behind-the-scenes look at the Bramante Staircase, a part of the Vatican usually closed to visitors. More of Michelangelo's genius is on display next door in St. Peter's Basilica. With time at leisure, perhaps venture inside the Colosseum to learn about the mighty Gladiators? Rome is about art, antiquity, piazzas and pizzazz, and our included walking exploration has it in abundance. Toss a coin into the spectacular Trevi Fountain, see the Pantheon, the best preserved monument from the Roman period, and enjoy free time in Piazza Navona. (B)
3 Pisa and Santa Margherita Ligure.
Enjoy a delightful drive through rolling countryside dotted with cypress trees, passing vineyards and olive groves to Pisa. With a Local Expert, view the incredible Leaning Tower in the Square of Miracles from which Galileo is said to have conducted experiments on velocity and gravity. See the splendid cathedral and baptistery, decorated with mosaics and designs in solid marble. Your journey continues to the pretty seaside resort of Santa Margherita Ligure. (B/DW) Stay: Best Western Regina Elena, Santa Margherita Ligure.
4 The Charms of The Cinque Terre.
Head for the famous Cinque Terre, which translates to Five Lands, located on a gorgeously wild yet hospitable part of the coastline and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit two of the picturesque fishing villages before taking the train to Santa Margherita Ligure, and then journeying on to Portofino. There is plenty of time for you to admire the coloured houses, browse the boutiques and stay a while in the cafe bars on the piazzetta, watching the yachts moored in the harbour. Should weather permit, return with a cruise along the rugged Ligurian coast to your hotel in the resort of Santa Margherita. (B)
5 Lake Maggiore.
Head north to the beautiful Lake Maggiore in the Italian Lakes District and the town of Baveno, noted for its narrow cobbled streets and charming 16th century square. On arrival, settle into your hotel and take in the magical scenery. In the afternoon, why not join an optional cruise to Isola Bella to explore the palace and admire the stunning and immaculate Italian style gardens. (B) Stay: Hotel Simplon/Hotel Dino, Baveno, Italian Lakes.
6 Onto Venice.
Your travels continue through the Soave vineyards, passing Padua and on to the canals of Venice. (B/DW) Stay: Bellini Venezia, Venice.
7 The Magic of La Serenissima.
Even for the experienced traveller, there can be no better joy than waking up in Venice. Admire the art of glassblowing by master craftsmen when you visit a traditional arts centre on Giudecca Island. Then cruise by private launch along canals lined with ornate palaces to arrive at St. Mark's Square where St. Mark's Basilica, the Doge's Palace and its adjoining Bridge of Sighs await. Board your gondola to be serenaded through the beautiful canals, passing water-lapped doorways and Rococo palaces. Relax amongst the romantic atmosphere as you drift along before having an afternoon to enjoy at leisure. (B)
8 A Scenic Journey to Florence.
Bid farewell to Venice and begin your journey to Renaissance Florence. Explore Florence with Insight Choice. Choose between wandering through the market stalls on a guided shopping tour and enjoy all the treats and trinkets on show. Alternatively, visit the Accademia Museum with an art historian to see Michaelangelo's monumental statue, David.
Walk to the cathedral and see Giotto's bell tower and the Gates of Paradise on the baptistery. Wander through the open-air gallery of Piazza della Signoria, gazing at statues such as Neptune, Hercules and Cacus, along the front of the Palazzo Vecchio. Your exploration will finish in front of the basilica where Michelangelo lies buried in Piazza Santa Croce, famous for its quality goods. Enjoy a traditional Bistecca alla Fiorentina steak dinner paired with delicious local wine, a specialty not to be missed. (B/DW) Stay: Hilton Garden Inn Florence Novoli.
9 Florence, Birthplace of The Renaissance.
Start the day with a traditional Florentine leather-work demonstration, then there is plenty of time to shop with the rest of the day at your leisure. Perhaps join an Optional Experience to explore the hilltop town of San Gimignano? (B)
10 Ill-fated Pompeii and On to Sorrento.
Journey south through the volcanic hills of Frascati to Pompeii, which was buried in A.D. 79 by Mount Vesuvius' catastrophic eruption. Walk with a Local Expert through the preserved cobbled streets for a glimpse into the daily life of civilisation during the Roman Empire. Follow the clifftop road to the resort of Sorrento, overlooking the Bay of Naples. (B) Stay: Grand Hotel Vesuvio, Sorrento.
11 Capri, The Isle of Dreams.
Meet your Local Expert and cruise to the beautiful Isle of Capri. The funicular railway takes you up to Capri town where you will explore the narrow alleyways and have time to browse exclusive boutiques and enjoy the views over the Tyrrhenian Sea. Descend to the port by open-top taxi, just as the jet-set do and return to Sorrento where the rest of the day is at your leisure. (B)
12 Sassi Di Matera and Alberobello.
After breakfast, discover two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. First, visit Matera for an in-depth guided exploration of the extraordinary Sassi, ancient troglodyte dwellings and churches dug out of the rock. These are the most extensive example of their kind in the Mediterranean and were inhabited by about 20,000 people up until 1950. Matera was also used as the setting for the film 'The Passion of the Christ'. Continue to Alberobello, the second UNESCO World Heritage Site and your home for the next two nights. (B/DW) Stay: Grand Hotel La Chiusa di Chietri, Alberobello.
Join your Local Expert to admire the Trulli of Alberobello - small, circular structures with conical roofs and clustered together like mushrooms. They are built from local limestone and stacked without using mortar. Venture into the surrounding region, a paradise for wine-lovers. Join an expert vintner for a tasting of Puglia's most robust and structured red wines. For your Dine-at-Home experience, you are invited to join a local and their family. See Nonna making pasta and enjoy a freshly prepared meal together, traditional of southern Italy. (B/DW)
14 Sicily and The Taormina Riviera.
The local roads will take you south, following the shores of the Gulf of Taranto to the mountainous Calabria region. Travel along the Purple Coast to the very 'toe' of Italy and board your ferry bound for Sicily. According to ancient legend, it was here at the Straits of Messina where the twin whirlpools of Scylla and Charybdis carried unwary seafarers away to their doom! After you disembark, continue to the Taormina Riviera. (B/DW) Stay: RG Naxos Hotel, Taormina Riviera.
15 Taormina and The Dawn Coast of Europe.
Join a Local Expert for a visit to the Greek theatre. Set on a cliff and open to the sky, take a moment to sit in this ancient theatre and absorb the view through the crumbling arches to Mount Etna. Stroll on to the tiny courtyard of the Palazzo Corvaja, Taormina's grandest building. Further along the elegant Corso Umberto, the Piazza IX Aprile offers panoramic views. The remainder of the day is yours to enjoy at your own pace. Perhaps join an optional experience to Mt. Etna? (B)
16 Palermo, Capital of Sicily.
Head to the Sicilian capital of Palermo. On arrival, your Local Expert will show you the highlights of the capital. Palermo Cathedral has been altered over the years and a venture inside will help you to appreciate the composite architectural styles. Next, head to the amazing Palatine Chapel in the Palace of the Normans. With the outside completely covered in glittering 12th century mosaics, it provides an insight to what's within. Join your travelling companions and Travel Director at a local restaurant for an unforgettable Celebration Dinner of delicious local cuisine and wine. (B/DW) Stay: Best Western Ai Cavaileri Hotel, Palermo.
17 Depart Palermo.
Your journey draws to an end with departure transfers arriving at Palermo's Falcone–Borsellino Airport at 06:00 and 08:00. (B)