Italian Grand Tour
Travel by Eurostar from St Pancras International to Paris Gare du Nord station, either in standard or Standard Premier class. On arrival in Paris, transfer to Paris Gare de Lyon and board the onward train to Milan Garibaldi station, travelling in either 1st or standard class. On arrival in Milan, transfer to your hotel for the 1st night of your stay, with the rest of your day at leisure.
Milan is Italy’s second city, steeped in its cultural history but with its heart looking firmly to the future, architecturally, technologically and creatively. It’s home to big business and the Italian Stock exchange, and with its annual Fashion Week, is considered one of the four major fashion capitals of the world.
Milan’s skyline combines a great mixture of the old and new, from the imposing Gothic Duomo and Arch of Peace to the futuristic buildings at Porta Nuova, and this extends to its great variety of art and museums, from the masterpieces held at the Pinacoteca de Brera to the world’s largest collection of Futurist art at Museo del Novocento. The jewel in Milan’s crown however is the central convent of Santa Maria Della Grazie, where Leonardo de Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ has hung since its painting in 1495.
Away from its art and architecture, Milan has a vibrant heart filled with music, culture and style. Opera fans will love a visit to La Scala, which has its own museum, while shoppers with a sense of style can window shop international renowned fashion brands in the glass-vaulted arcades of the impressive Gallerie Vittorio Emanuele II.
Check out of your hotel and board an early morning train to Venice Santa Lucia station. On arrival in Venice, transfer to your hotel for the 1st night of your stay, with the rest of your day at leisure.
DAY 4 & 5
The city of Venice, known as the “City of Bridges” or “The Floating City” is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, and was built on more than 100 small islands situated in an Adriatic Sea lagoon in northern Italy’s Veneto region, with a system of canals linking breath-taking architecture famous around the world.
As there are no roads, river taxis and gondoliers will transport you through the myriad canals, including the main Grand Canal with its Gothic and Renaissance places lining its banks, to the architectural highlights Venice has to offer throughout the city. Tourists flock in their thousands to the Palazzo Ducale and to Venice’s central square, the Piazza San Marco, which contains the Campanile bell tower and St. Mark’s Basilica, encased in mosaics from the Byzantine period.
Away from this hustle and bustle, there are so many other treasures to discover, with its narrow backstreets full of neighbourhood churches inspired by the art of Paolo Veronese & Giovanni Bellini resting side by side with vibrant showrooms of modern Venetian artisans. Venice, with its history as a maritime seaport with trade links to Asia, has a rich gastronomic heritage, and what better way to experience “la be vita” (the beautiful life) at any time of day than sit in one of the numerous canalside bistros with a selection of Venetian tapas or a plate of freshly caught Venetian lagoon seafood and a glass of regional prosecco, with the sounds of gondoliers filling the air in the background.
Check out of your hotel and board an early morning train to Florence station. On arrival in Florence, transfer to your hotel for the 1st night of your stay, with the rest of your day at leisure.
One of Europe’s greatest and most beautiful cities, Florence has been a World Heritage site since 1982 and is home to an almost overwhelming combination of Renaissance art and architecture. The heart of the city is surrounded by medieval walls and with its compact layout, many of its sights lie within easy walking distance of each other.
Start your trip around Florence by visiting the Galleria Dell ‘Academia, home to the classic sculpture of David by Michelangelo, which sits virtually next door to the Leonardo Interactive Museum, a unique space devoted to the designs of Da Vinci where you can get hands on with practical versions built from his original designs. A very short walk brings you to perhaps its most famous site, the Cattedral de Sante Maria de Flore, or Duomo, with its bell tower designed by Giotto and tiled dome of terracotta built by Brunelleschi.
Pass the upmarket cafes around the Piazza della Republic and you will come to the Palazzo Vecchio, a fortified palace dating from the 13th century with its own museum, and in front of it, with the stunning marble Fountain of Neptune, the Piazza Della Signoria. From here, another short walk away toward the Arno river is the 16th century Uffizi Gallery, home to ‘The Birth Of Venus’ by Botticelli and ’Annunciation’ by Da Vinci. Cross the multi-levelled Ponte Vecchio bridge with its many shops on the lower level and follow it to the Palazzo Patti, the residence of the Medici family, and its piazza, a perfect place to sit and unwind as you bask in the sun, or go a little further to the beautiful green Santo Spirito square, to sample a glass of locally grown wine with pizza or more traditional Tuscan dishes.
Check out of your hotel and board an early morning train to Rome Termini station. On arrival in Rome, transfer to your hotel for the 1st night of your stay, with the rest of your day at leisure.
DAY 9 & 10
Rome, Italy’s capital is known as “The Eternal City”, and has a deeply rooted history as the heart of the ancient Roman Empire and the seat of the Catholic Church, as ancient landmarks such as the Pantheon, Roman Forum and the Coliseum rest beside the monumental basilicas of the papal home of the Vatican.
Walking through the city, Rome shows its incredible artistic heritage and creative achievement at every turn, from the Piazza Novena with its Fontana Dei Quattro Fiume (Fountain Of Four Rivers) statue by Bernini, the Piazza Di Sagan leading to the majestic Spanish Steps, to the baroque Trevi Fountain, made famous in films such as Roman Holiday, La Dolce Vita and Three Coins In The Fountain. Caravaggio paintings, Renaissance frescoes, Byzantine mosaics and Michelangelo sculptures are everywhere, and the city is awash with priceless treasures at every corner.
Rome has its own “dolce vita” lifestyle as important to experience as soaking up the art and culture, where you can happily spend hours indulging in people-watching over gelatos and world-beating coffee from its street side piazza cafes. The Romans love to eat out after dark, so where best to join in than at any of the bars offering an “apperitivo” or a bustling trattoria serving crispy, thin pizzas with locally sourced wine?
Check out of your hotel and board an early morning train to Naples Central station. On arrival in Naples, transfer to your hotel for the 1st night of your stay.
Naples is often seen as the poor relation of Italian cities when compared to Rome or Venice, as being dirty, dangerous and having a heavy Mafia presence, but it is one of the safest, liveliest and most culturally rich cities Italy has to offer, with an energy and elegance all its own. With its three castles, ancient ruins and three castles, Naples holds a wealth of cultural assets.
The nearby volcano of Vesuvius that erupted in 79AD, burying the town of Pompeii, has left behind a collection of mosaics and frescoes salvaged from its ruins and the Muse Archaeological National is home to one of the world’s most stunning collections. Elsewhere you’ll find the Palace of Capodimonte, with its museum home to many masterpieces by Caravaggio, and the Cappella Sansevero showing some of Italy’s most extraordinary marble sculpture.
Away from its cultural assets, a stroll down Naples’ main thoroughfare, Spaccanapoli and its surrounding neighbourhood, the Centro Storico, brings you closer to the city’s beating heart. The bustling narrow streets and old courtyards are full of family-run businesses and artisan boutiques and workshops, offering everything from world-renowned leather gloves and tailor-made suits to organic ceramics, figurines of the Nativity scene and gourmet food and wine.
Drawing on centuries of traditional Campanian cuisine and with its location by the sea and its rich volcanic soil, Naples is now one of Italy’s main culinary centres. Where best to see all of the local produce available than at the sometimes chaotic La Pignasecca food market, full of stalls of fresh fruit, fish and vegetables, and street food such as small pasta fritta (pasta omelette) and cups of deep fried anchovies and calamari. If you prefer something more substantial and away from the hustle and bustle of the markets, go to any of the numerous trattorias to sample spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams), homemade ragu or of course, traditional pizza napolitana, the jewel in Naples’ food crown. Whatever delicious food you choose one thing is for sure, Naples is no place for diets!
Check out of your hotel and board an early morning train to Florence station. On arrival in Florence, change trains and board the onward train to Pisa Central station. On arrival in Pisa, transfer to your hotel for the 1st night of your stay, with the rest of your day at leisure.
Start your discovery of Pisa by crossing the river Arno at the 12th century Ponte Della Fortezza for a leisurely walk along its north bank. The Museo Nazionale contains the city’s most prized artifacts, including 12th century paintings and original sculptures from the Cathedral and Baptistry.
Its next door neighbour, the Palazzo Medici is a Gothic-revial style palace and now home to the city’s administration. Keeping to the north bank stop a while with a fresh scoop or two from the Gelateria De’ Coltelli and admire the almost picture perfect view of Pisa from the Ponte di Mezzo. From the river take a stroll up the Borgo Stretto, a fantastic combination of architecture, high end shopping and a vibrant cafe and bar scene before heading toward one of Pisa’s premier palaces, the Palazzo dei Cavallieri or Knight’s Square, constructed in the 16th century. A short walk away and a pleasant contrast to Pisa’s centre is the beautiful green space of the Orto e Museo Botanica founded in 1544. Operated as a botanical garden by the University of Pisa, quiet grounds include a botanical school, ornamental ponds and sections devoted to herb collections and arboreta.
A short walk away from this beautiful green space will then bring you to Pisa’s highlight, the walled area of the Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles), a World Heritage site since 1987. Within its grounds are the walled cemetery and cloisters of the Camposanto Monumentale, the domed Pisa Baptistry of St John and the Romanesque architecture of the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. Stood next to it, and slightly askew, is its Campanile or bell tower. Soon after its construction in 1372, the tower’s foundations were found to be unsound giving the tower its characteristic tilt and nickname of The Leaning Tower, which still has to be monitored to this day to prevent its collapse.
Check out of your hotel and board an early morning train to Turin Lingotto station. On arrival in Turin, transfer to your hotel for an overnight stay.
Check out of your hotel and transfer to Turin Porta Susa station for your return journey to Paris Gare de Lyon. On arrival in Paris, transfer to Paris Gare du Nord station for your return Eurostar train to St Pancras International.