When Italy comes to mind I envisage idyllic fishing villages, ancient Italian castles, medieval walled cities, rolling Tuscan hills, Neapolitan sunsets and above all having time to relax, sit in a shady café to enjoy a leisurely lunch with a glass of wine whilst watching the world saunter by.
So it strikes me as really strange that so many Australians travel to the far side of the world and yet scrape only the surface of this beautiful historical country whilst on their mad-dash tours, crammed with one or maybe two night stops. Having seen and experienced so many busy coach groups piling into cities, rushing around, and then quickly moving on, I knew there must be a much better way of doing it. That is why I created our 18 day ‘Italian Grande’ tour.
Italy has an extraordinary history dating back over 3000 years, so when you visit you truly need time… time to relax and savour the delights of the food, ancient architecture, the culture, and time to be a part of the stunning Italian lifestyle. That’s why when I created our highly successful Italian Grande tour I made sure we had three, four and even five night stays built-in to a more leisurely paced itinerary.
The ‘Italian Grande’ tour starts in Milan and ends in Rome, but it’s not about these two magical cities, it’s about what lies in between.
Our leisurely first stop is over four nights in a beautiful hotel set right on the shores of wonderful Lake Maggiore. Facing us, out in the middle of the lake are the Borromean Islands, and on one day we enjoy a cruise out on the lake to enjoy a guided tour to the palatial Borromeo Villa and terraced Italianate gardens which step down to the lakeside.
On another day we visit Lake Como and enjoy a cruise across to beautiful Bellagio. We also visit stunning Lake Orta and since the high Alps are nearby, we enjoy a day trip up to Macugnaga. Used as a location in many films, this village is famous for its beautifully preserved wooden huts and chalets, and the stunning backdrop of the Monte Rosa (Pink) Massif and the 4,638 metres high Dufourspitze – Europe’s second highest mountain.
Now the important thing is that throughout our four night stay in the Lakes District, we haven’t been packing and unpacking our bags all the time. Instead we have enjoyed leisurely day tours, taking in all the key magnificent sites whilst also getting that essential free time to relax, explore independently or maybe take a cable car up to the top of the Alps.
Our four night stay in the Italian Lakes region really stands out as an example of the pattern and style of touring we enjoy throughout the rest of the trip.
Moving on, we cross to northern Italy and enjoy lunch time beside beautiful Lake Garda before continuing to the valleys of the lower Dolomites, and the magnificent CastelBrando where we stay the next two nights. Dating back almost 2000 years, CastelBrando was converted into a palace 900 years ago and our stay in a genuine Italian castle is one you will never forget!
From here we visit and explore nearby Venice, and in the evening we get away from the tourist crowds by returning to our scenic castle to relax with an aperitif on the ancient terrace as the sun sets over the valley below.
Now it’s time for our leisurely five night stay in Tuscany. Montecatini itself is a delightful town and from here we enjoy daily excursions throughout the region. We include three regional day trips. One to visit the dramatic Cinque Terre, another to spend a full day in the Renaissance city of Florence, and another to visit Pisa and the most quintessential walled Tuscan town of Lucca. Naturally we also go into the hills to local farmhouse Osteria to taste wines and olive oils, and enjoy a wonderful, typical Tuscan dinner.
Our next stop for two nights is in Spoleto, in the beautiful hilly region of Umbria. Now we could quite easily drive there in perhaps three hours, but really, what’s the rush? Remembering that essential Albatross difference, we take all day enjoying stops to explore the wonderful 13th century city of towers, San Gimignano, and the cobblestoned streets and alleys of medieval Siena.
As a finale, for our last four nights, we stay in the heart of the rejuvenated historical city of Naples. According to the Lonely Planet, “its swag of royal palaces and castles make Rome look positively provincial”. In fact Naples has the highest number of historical monuments and churches of any single city in the entire world!
But there is so much more to Naples. Apart from the beautiful seafront and pedestrian streets lined with elegant shops, there’s the food. In the cafes and restaurants dining is a genuinely Italian experience, and remember, this is where they invented pizza (and they do still make it so well)!
While in Naples we also enjoy trips to Capri, spend a full day driving along the Amalfi Coast, and visit the glorious island of Ischia, with our final night enjoying a farewell dinner in a delightful local restaurant.
Albatross Tours ‘Italian Grande’ tour is all about discovering the many great sites of Italy with a sensible touring style, genuine inclusions and actually enjoying what you have come so far to see. And because Italy can be such a busy place, we limit our tour group size to just 28 travellers, providing you with a much more comfortable travelling experience and the opportunity to enjoy a more authentic travelling experience.
Albatross Tours offers regular departures of the ‘Italian Grande’ tour from Milan departing from 28 April to 2 October 2016. Book and deposit only before 15th January 2016 to save $300 per person!
Watch the video below to learn more:
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