Experience the very essence of Italy as we discover the Eternal City of Rome, Vatican City, Renaissance Florence, labyrinthine Venice, and iconic Pisa with its unmistakable Leaning Tower
Meet at our St Pancras Departure Office for the Eurostar to Paris, continuing to Lyon where we overnight. On Day 2, we journey to Milan, changing trains for Rome (Standard Class). Known as the 'Eternal City', Rome is an endless treasure trove of historic, cultural and artistic delights. We check into our hotel for 3 nights, the 4-Star Hotel Massimo d'Azeglio, in the heart of the city.
Enjoy a guided tour of Rome today, which introduces us to its most revered sights. See the Colosseum, the largest amphitheatre ever built in the Roman Empire, the Roman Forum, the centre of Roman public life for centuries, and Trevi Fountain, a world-famous Baroque masterpiece. Pause en-route for ice cream at charming Giolitti, the oldest gelateria in the city, which dates back to the late 1800s. Purportedly a favourite of Pope John Paul II, Giolittai is also famous as the ice cream parlour which Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck visit in the 1953 film 'Roman Holiday'. The rest of your day is at leisure in Rome.
We venture off the beaten track today to see some of Rome's lesser known gems. First, discover the whimsical architecture of the Quartiere Coppedè district, an unexpected delight tucked away from Rome's more famous streets. A combination of historic architectural styles compete for attention here, and the dizzying blend of Baroque, ancient Greek, Art Nouveau and medieval structures give the neighbourhood a magical, otherworldly quality. Continue to the Basilica of Santo Stefano Rotondo, Hungary's 'national church' in Rome, dedicated to both Christian martyr St Stephen, and Stephen I, the first king of Hungary. This is one of Rome's most unique churches; dramatic frescoes line the circular walls of the interior, each depicting the death of a different martyr, which lends an eerie effect to the undoubtedly beautiful structure. Our final visit is to bohemian Trastevere, an authentic Roman neighbourhood known for its incredible food, which we sample during lunch at a local restaurant.
This afternoon is free. Perhaps visit the Vatican City? The tiny principality includes captivating museums and the famous Sistine Chapel, with superb frescoes painted by Renaissance artists including Michelangelo and Botticelli.
Today we travel by rail to the beautiful city of Florence, the Renaissance capital of the world, where we spend 3 nights. This afternoon, enjoy a guided tour of the city's treasures, including the Duomo with its iconic red-tiled dome and the Ponte Vecchio a 14th-century bridge that is home to 43 jewellers' shops. Tonight, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
Today you are free to explore Florence under your own steam. Much of the beauty of the city is found indoors, with a fifth of the world's Renaissance art on display in Florence, including 1,700 masterpieces in the famous Uffizi Gallery. Known as 'the heart of the Renaissance', this world famous gallery features art by Botticelli, Giotto, Cimabue, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Raffaello, to name some of the most famous. Otherwise, the Giardino Bardini, or 'Bardini Gardens' have a typical Tuscan feel, and are a pleasure to visit.
Today we travel by rail (Standard Class) across the wonderful, rustic countryside of Tuscany, where rolling vine-covered hillsides stretch as far as the eye can see and acres of olive groves and row upon row of cypress, walnut and bay trees surround the railway lines. We pass remote farmhouses and isolated villages as we head to Pisa, the city famous for its leaning tower. In Pisa we enjoy a guided tour that includes the city's incredible Field of Miracles. Here we see the iconic Leaning Tower, and the marvellous white marble Duomo, one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture, with sublime Moorish mosaics.
Later we continue to the beautiful city of Lucca - a place of true beauty that has managed to escape the tourist crowds; one of Italy's best kept secrets. The heart of the city is filled with charming piazzas, small community churches and fabulous art galleries, linked together by narrow cobbled streets and intricate passageways, and we have time to explore the city at leisure. Splendid Renaissance architecture mingles with historic buildings from the Middle Ages, making the city a pleasure to explore on foot.
This morning we leave Florence by high-speed rail, travelling in Standard Class to the floating city of Venice. On arrival, we transfer to our hotel for three nights, the Hyatt Centric Murano Venice Hotel on the island of Murano. There is time for you to start your exploration before dinner tonight.
On Day 9 we enjoy a guided tour in the heart of Venice, beginning in St Mark's Square, which is dominated by the magnificent Basilica di San Marco and the venerable Palazzo Ducale, or Doge's Palace. This afternoon you are free to soak up the atmosphere of this romantic city. For a bird's eye view of the city, take the opportunity to climb the Campanile de San Marco, which offers incredible vistas over the buildings clustered around the centre and the shimmering lagoons further out.
On Day 10 you are at leisure to further soak up the atmosphere of this romantic city. For a bird's eye view of the city, take the opportunity to climb the Campanile de San Marco, which offers incredible vistas over the buildings clustered around the centre and the shimmering lagoons further out. Or, you could choose to take an enchanting gondola ride through Venice's iconic labyrinth of waterways. On the evening of Day 10 we head into the heart of Venice for a farewell meal in a splendid Venetian palace - a truly remarkable end to our adventures in Italy.
We leave Venice, travelling by rail to Turin. On Day 12, continue to Paris by rail, where we join the Eurostar for London.
At Great Rail Journeys, they’ve been providing market-leading holidays for 45 years, making them true rail holiday specialists. Their itineraries combine comfortable hotels, exciting excursions, many delicious meals, leisure time, and fantastic rail experiences – from journeys on modern trains to heritage rail adventures.
Alongside their classic escorted rail holidays, they now have more choices than ever. Their European chartered cruises sail on fantastic vessels with sublime dining options and some of the largest cabin sizes in the industry, and their small groups tours give you access to unique destinations and experiences that wouldn’t be possible in a larger group.
The key elements of their holidays are quality and value. Everything you see is included in the price, and their itineraries are carefully crafted to make the most out of each destination. They use professional Tour Managers, informative local guides and convenient transport. On many tours, they include special touches such as opera visits, special meals, or farewell dinners.
As well as being the leading UK provider of escorted rail holidays, they have also won a number of awards, most recently being awarded the gold award for Best Rail Holiday Company at the 2018 British Travel Awards – a testament to their commitment to outstanding holidays.
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