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This regional tour reveals the secrets of a Christmas and New Year's feast, the Italian way. Along the way you'll see the familiar favourites: Rome, Venice, Florence and Pisa. Experience the pristine shores of the Sorrento region on the Amalfi coast. Spend time in the shimmering Italian lakes region before celebrating New Years in Florence! Glide through the postcard-perfect Tuscan countryside. Sip an espresso & see how the Italians go about their business. Of course, any Italian trip is food-fuelled with amazing gelato, pasta and pizza! You can’t help but fall in love.
We use a variety of hotels in each destination, so you may stay in a hotel different to that listed here. Hotels are selected closer to departure date; you will receive a confirmed list one week prior to your departure date.
Welcome to Rome! If you arrive early enough, head into the city to see what Rome has to offer. An ancient city that has seen the rise and fall of entire empires, there is no shortage of historical real estate to feast your eyes on. Not to mention designer shopping and brilliant food… Meet up with your tour leader at our hotel in the afternoon and prepare for the tour of a lifetime! Tonight you’ll meet the rest of the tour group at our included welcome dinner.
Today we’ll take a guided walking tour of Rome, stopping off at the landmarks that have made it a perennial favourite with travellers all over the world. Highlights today include the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona and the Roman Forum. And let’s not forget Trevi Fountain – legend has it that if you drop a coin into the fountain, you’ll return again one day. This afternoon is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of an optional excursion to visit the Vatican City - the smallest country in the world! Inside the walls, you can visit the Sistine Chapel and see for yourself the famous ceiling painted by Michelangelo, as well as numerous other famous art pieces dotted around the buildings.
Leaving Rome, we’ll head to Sorrento peninsula via Pompeii. As it’s our first day on the coach, take the time to get to know your fellow travel companions, and listen out for tips on Italy from your tour leader. On our way to the coastal region of Sorrento, you will see Mount Vesuvius and we will stop at Pompeii to explore the ruins of this ancient Roman town, destroyed in 79AD in a catastrophic volcanic eruption. Preserved since ancient times under meters of ash and pumice, it offers superb insights into life (and death) in the ancient Roman Empire.
As we leave Pompeii behind, you will have the option to visit the beautiful Amalfi coast, with some free time to explore the town of Amalfi. Upon arrival on the Sorrento peninsula we have a two night stay. Amongst other things, this area is famous for limoncello (a sweet lemon liqueur), and this is the perfect way to finish off your meal.
A gorgeous old town hugging the coastline, Sorrento is the perfect place to celebrate Christmas – explore the town in your own time, and seek out little shops producing lacework, ceramics and specialising in marquetry. In the evening, enjoy a festive dinner!
Today we depart the coast and head north to Assisi, stopping en route in Cassino. Famed for the site of the Abbey of Montecassino, along with its rolling green hills, vineyards and rivers, the city was also the scene of fierce fighting in World War II, which left the town almost completely destroyed. After a comfort stop here we continue on to Assisi, whose most famous son, St. Francis, was born here in 1181. Enjoy the ancient churches and basilicas – many of them are just as St Francis would have seen them.
Leaving the churches and basilicas behind, we head to Venice, stopping off for a comfort stop in Europe’s third-smallest state – San Marino. Claiming to be the oldest surviving sovereign state in the world, San Marino was founded by Saint Marinus on the 3rd of September 301, and is now one of the most popular day-trip destinations for visitors to the area. Situated on a hilltop, you will witness stunning views of the surrounding countryside and the Adriatic sea. Later, we arrive in Venice in the early evening. You have the evening free to relax at the hotel, or explore Venice with the option to join your tour leader on a twilight water taxi cruise of the Venetian canals.
This morning we’ll take an orientation walking tour with your Expat Explore tour leader, who will introduce you to sights including the Rialto Bridge and St Marks Square. The rest of the day is then free for you to explore as you wish. Every visit to Venice should include a gondola ride, which your tour leader can organise for you, as well as a trip further out into the lagoon to visit Murano and Burano. These islands are famous for their glass-blowing and lace-making crafts respectively, and rows of beautiful multi-coloured houses. Alternatively you can simply relax and soak up the sun on the sandy beaches at Jesolo or Lido. There’s also The Bridge of Sighs and the Doge’s Palace to see, and any number of culinary delights to sample too!
First up today we’ll stop off in ‘fair Verona’ to catch a glimpse of Juliet’s balcony, where Romeo supposedly wooed Juliet in Shakespeare’s classic ‘Romeo & Juliet.’ Beset by family feuds, drama and romance since its founding in Roman times, Verona has its share of stories to tell and is an unmissable stop on all Italy tours. Look out for the 2,000 year-old arena and the ancient city gates. Later we head to Italian Lakes – and you’ll find out just what famous writers like DH Lawrence and Hemingway were on about when they heaped praise on the area. Peek at palatial lakeside villas, and revel in the pleasant mix of luxury and rural charm.
Leaving the beautiful Italian Lakes, we head to La Spezia, our base for exploring the famous Cinque Terre region. Made up of five picturesque Italian towns, Cinque Terre features hiking routes and trains running regularly along the coastline between the towns of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. With cars and motorcycles banned from the towns, you’ll have a wonderful time exploring the region. Taste local wines along with local produce such as pesto, freshly-caught fish and sweet lemons. Unforgettable!
On our way to Florence, stop off at the famous town of Pisa to get a few shots of its distinctive Leaning Tower. This is a classic sight in Italy and well worth a visit. Bragging rights are all yours! Upon arrival in Florence, take an orientation tour of the city, exploring many of the most famous sights. Expect to see the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Ponte Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria and the replica of the statue of David. Then it’s time for another quintessential Tuscan experience: a visit to a local Italian leather shop to learn more about local leather crafting and why Italian leather brands have been dominating the fashion world for centuries. After immersing yourself in art and history, it's time to ring in the New Year! The celebrations in Florence make for a mesmerising sight - prepare your camera so you can capture the fireworks exploding vibrant color over the iconic landmarks of Florence.
This morning we make our way through one of the world’s most picturesque countryside landscapes, admiring Tuscan farmhouses, vineyards and olive groves as we drive by. Our first stop of the day will be in San Gimignano, a small walled hill town. Known as the 'Town of Fine Towers', it offers beautiful Romanesque and Gothic architecture and 12 well-preserved tower houses. We'll then make the short drive to Siena, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for the 'Palio' horse race held twice a year in the main piazza, or public square. We'll enjoy a wine tasting accompanied with antipasto, before we head back to Rome and round the off the day with a farewell dinner together on our last night of the tour.
After breakfast we say goodbye to our travel companions and depart for home. We hope you have enjoyed your 12 day Italian Tour. Arrivederci Italia!
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