Beating Heart of Italy Itinerary

(Venice, Vicenza, Verona, Lake Garda, Castelvetro di Modena, Parma, Bologna, Ravenna, Gradara, San Marino)

DAY 1: VENICE (D) Tour starts on a Sunday

“Your visit to Venice becomes a perpetual love affair” Henry James
Welcome to Venice!
The Queen of the Adriatic, an elegant and magical floating city! A magnificent, unforgettable, hauntingly beautiful city and one of the world’s most enchanting. For 1000 years it was one of Europe’s great sea powers. No matter how many times you visit this floating city, there is always something new to discover.

After checking into your centrally located hotel, we begin your wonderful vacation together by meeting in the afternoon for an orientation walk and a visit to the impressive, unique St Mark’s Basilica on Piazza San Marco. For Sheer “wow” factor little can compare with the Basilica di San Marco and its 24 carat gold mosaics.

Your Travels with Audrey tour starts at 3:00 PM in the hotel lobby for a walk around the hotel area: Our hotel lobby is where the tour begins and where we all meet for an included Orientation walk around the hotel area and an opportunity to meet your fellow travelers.

INCLUDED WELCOME DINNER TONIGHT: In the evening enjoy a Welcome Dinner in a typical Venetian Restaurant
Your Unique Small Group Tour Vacation of Italy is underway!
Overnight at Hotel Kette (or similar)

DAY 2: EXPLORING VENICE (B)

After breakfast, you will meet your local expert guide for a private walking tour of this fascinating city. But what will be unique is that she will lead you along its intricate alleyways, to areas that few tourists see, finishing at the famous Piazza San Marco and a tour of the Doge Palace and the Bridge of Sighs.

After lunch, your own private boat will take you over to the Murano islands for a visit to a traditional glass factory where glass masters have been creating the most intricate designs for chandeliers, vases, jewelry for over five centuries.

The afternoon is a time for you to explore this city on water to discover its magic, its mystic, feel a sense of freedom and peace from lack of traffic noise and indulge in all things Venetian. You will have a chance to “get lost” in the city’s labyrinth of canals, bridges and small campos.

OPTIONAL DINNER: In the evening let’s enjoy a special activity together, cicchetti crawl (Venice’s version of tapas), and a unique Venetian tradition. This is optional, but what great way to discover another side of Venice, with good wine and new friends. Now that is Italian! Overnight at Hotel Kette (or similar)

DAY 3: OFF THE BEATEN PATH VENICE (B)

Today after breakfast, enjoy a private boat ride over to the lesser traveled islands of the lagoon. Get to enjoy Venice from the sea, as it was intended to. Check out the precious and historical island of Burano, a colorful quaint fishing village with brightly colored homes of the “buranesi” fishermen that appears worlds away from Venice. Burano is best known for its exquisitely hand embroidered linens. It is still a small community where time stands still.

After a lunch break, we visit the island of Torcello, perhaps the most charming of the islands. It was the first of the lagoon islands to be called home by the mainland population fleeing Attila and his Huns, but today consists of little more than one long canal leading to vineyards and the oldest Venetian monument the Cattedrale di Torcello (Santa Maria Assunta) whose foundations date from the 7th century.

In the afternoon, back in Venice, you can do some more exploring on your own, or simply sit at a café and savor the dolce vita! One unique experience would be to learn the traditional Venetian rowing style during a lesson, and do not fall over! (check with us for pricing)

OPTIONAL DINNER TONIGHT-Enjoy dinner at your leisure tonight You may opt to join your Tour Manager tonight for dinner or opt to explore on your own.
Enjoy an optional Gondola ride in Venice! Check with us for pricing
Overnight at Hotel Kette (or similar)

DAY 4: PALLADIO DAY! VICENZA (B-D)

After breakfast, travel for a short ride by train to Vicenza to visit the famous Palladio villas. From the 15th to the 18th centuries, hundreds of luxurious villas and gardens were built as summer homes throughout the Veneto by wealthy Venetians.

First you will visit Villa Rotonda and then Villa Valmanara ai nani with the sublime frescoes of Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo, before having lunch and a walking orientation of Vicenza (Teatro Olimpico, oldest working indoor theatre in the world 1580 and a marvel of Renaissance.) Vicenza and its surroundings are a mecca for the architecture lover, a living museum of Palladian and Palladian inspired monuments and consequently Vicenza was designated a Unesco World Heritage site in 1994. But even if you have never heard of Palladio, you will find a stroll through the town very enjoyable. It is today one of Italy’s wealthiest cities.

On your way to your hotel in the premier wine producing area in Italy, the Amarone and Valpolicella wine region, enjoy a must visit at a storybook-setting village, Soave, known for its white wines.

INCLUDED DINNER TONIGHT-Enjoy dinner together this evening
Overnight at Tenuta Le Cave in Tregnago (or similar), nestled in the Amarone wine area facing the Valley of Valpolicella.

DAY 5: BEAUTIFUL CITY OF VERONA (B-L-D)

Today is about visiting one of Italy’s most magnificent and picturesque cities, Verona, a Unesco World Heritage site, situated on the Adige River boasting wide pedestrian lanes and squares, elegant shops and cafes. Shakespeare placed star-crossed Romeo and Juliet in Verona for good reason: romance, drama and fatal family feuds have been the city’s hallmark for centuries. From the 3rd century BC, Verona was a Roman trade center, with ancient gates, a forum third largest after the Colosseum in Rome (Piazza delle Erbe) and a grand Roman Arena which still hosts live summer opera performances. After Venice this is Veneto’s most visited city and for good reason: It Contains the best of Italy packed into a small size.

After a half day walking tour of the city with your local guide, enjoy lunch at a local historical restaurant with your tour manager and fellow travelers. In the afternoon, Verona is a lovely place to spend a few hours exploring this most fascinating and beautiful city before returning to your evenings accommodations.

Lunch at Restaurant 12 Apostoli: Verona’s oldest and one of its finest restaurants Around the mid-18th century, 12 merchants who traded I the nearby Piazza delle Erbe, used to meet in this place, at the time already considered an Inn. The town folk called this group of friends 12 Apostoli (12 Apostles) and the name was given to the restaurant. In the wine cellar we will be thrown back into Roman times. During some renovation projects, wonderful roman remains were found and still visible today.

INCLUDED DINNER: Tonight we dine together - Before dinner enjoy a tasting of some of the wonderful local wines, such as Valpolicella, Recioto, Amarone at a local winery not far from your hotel.
Overnight at Tenuta Le Cave (or similar)

DAY 6: MAJESTIC LAKE GARDA (B-D)

Today, get ready for some amazing views of one of the Northern Italian Lakes and the largest in Italy, Lake Garda, straddling the border between Lombardy and the Veneto. The Alps form part of the awe inspiring scenery on the northern part of the lake and cosy medieval little villages lining the shores with vine-clad hills to the south, citrus orchards and olive trees. Visit the impossibly beautiful village of Sirmione, where you can enjoy walking around this pretty and lively fortified town, which was an important location in Roman times and is now a favourite holiday area for wealthy local Veronesi. A large part is occupied by Grotte di Catullo, a ruin of an extensive Roman villa, with wraparound legendary lake views from its terraced hillside.

After lunch, dedicate the afternoon to Malcesine, a lovely village surrounded by olive groves that sits at the bottom of Monte Baldo (2250m) with an optional gondola ride that rotates 360 degrees as you ascend to Montebaldo (6000 feet high) for the view (weather permitting) or simply enjoy walking around. As you approach Malcesine, one of the picture perfect medieval towns, you can admire Castello Scaligero, a 14th century fortification.

INCLUDED DINNER TONIGHT
Overnight at Tenuta Le Cave (or similar)

DAY 7: EMILIA ROMAGNA- Foodie’s Paradise/Modena (B)

Today say goodbye to Lake Garda and the beautiful Valpolicella wine region as you make your way to the foodie’s dream destination of Emilia Romagna, the culinary heartland. Parmigiano Reggiano, Lambrusco wine, Prosciutto di Parma and Aceto Balsamico are the 4 most famous products of this region. Emilia Romagna is well known by Italians as a region where one simply eats well or “Dove si Mangia Bene”.

Along the way to your hotel in the region of Modena, enjoy a stop for your first of several tastings of the local specialties. Aceto Balsamico. It takes more than 25 years to get a few drops of the nectar that can cost 1 Euro per drop. Learn about the production and take the opportunity to buy this delicatessen from the producers.

Onto Castelvetro di Modena, where Andrea and Roberto your hosts for the next few nights, await your arrival: Two brothers who always loved cooking and who were trained by their grandmother. Originally from Savignano, a few kilometres away, they fell in love with the village of Castelvetro where they opened their Locanda.

OPTIONAL DINNER: Tonight dinner is at your leisure
Overnight at Locanda del Feudo (or similar)

DAY 8: PARMA (B-L) Gastronomy day!

Today rise early but well worth it! Travel across rural landscapes, on the road leading you to the hills outside of Parma, passing by rich agricultural fields and dairy cattle; green valley’s occasionally interrupted by rows of willows and poplars, to reach your first tour of the day: a tour of a traditional Parmigiano Reggiano cheese operation. Experience first-hand this fascinating journey of the production and storage of this world class cheese, and arguably Italy’s most famous exported international food product. A process, handmade by craftsmen, using traditional methods handed down for more than eight centuries. You will have a chance to taste this delicious cheese in the little shop.

Then off to taste the Prosciutto and Culatello at Langhirano followed by a light lunch including all the culinary delights of the region.

This afternoon you meet your local guide in Parma for a city tour to visit the Duomo and Battistero, a city of Great Art and Refinement. Beautiful little town with outstanding monuments and one of Italy’s culinary “hot spots” The old capital city of the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza was on the 4th place for “Best quality living” in “The Telegraph” in 2014. Parma is known as the home of Arturo Toscanini and Giuseppe Verdi, and exudes a sense of well-being that dates back to is days from the mid-16th to early 18th century and later as the duchy of Marie-Louise, widow of Napoleon.

On the way back to your hotel, a visit for a tasting of the famous wine of the area, Lambrusco.

OPTIONAL DINNER: Tonight you are free to choose another wonderful local restaurant to discover more local specialties.
Overnight at Locanda del Feudo (or similar)

DAY 9: MARANELLO (Ferrari and cooking) (B-D)

Today is an exciting day! A day of special options: first included activity in your day is a visit to the home of Italy’s most famous super car, the beloved Ferrari! You have the opportunity to spend the morning at the museum, and choose to either test drive around the racetrack or take a nice drive on country roads (at an additional cost).

Finish the early afternoon with a walk around the pretty town of Castelvetro di Modena and enjoy the non-touristy atmosphere of this little town.

INCLUDED DINNER: Strap on your apron! Time for your tagliatelle cooking class with Andrea who will introduce you to the flavors of the local cuisine, and everyone will get to enjoy your fruits of your labor together at dinner. For those who do not wish to partake, no worries, just sip on a glass of wine while watching your friends in the kitchen!
Overnight at Locanda del Feudo (or similar)

DAY 10: BOLOGNA AND RAVENNA (B-L)

Today, say ciao to Modena as you transfer to your last few nights’ accommodation in Ravenna on the Adriatic coast. First stop is Bologna (“where food is a magnificent obsession”), the gastronomic capital of Italy, and the location of the world’s oldest university once the stomping grounds for Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarch. Its historic center is one of the best preserved and largest medieval cities in the world. It is one of Italy’s most liveable cities and is a center of cultural excellence. Walk under its miles of arcades and visit Basilica di San Petronio, Santo Stefano and Teatro Anatomico on a walking tour with your local expert guide followed by a light lunch of local specialties in the Quadrilatero, the city’s well-known food district.

No tour of Emilia Romagna would be complete without seeing Ravenna and its remarkable Unesco protected mosaics. Ravenna’s mosaics, among the most important in Western art, evoke the city’s storied past as the last capital of the Western Roman Empire after the fall of Rome in the 5th century. Today Ravenna is sleepy, unpretentious, and a blessing for art lovers, rarely crowded.

OPTIONAL DINNER TONIGHT-Enjoy dinner at your leisure tonight You may opt to join your Tour Manager tonight for dinner or opt to explore on your own.
Overnight at Palazzo Bezzi (or similar)

DAY 11: GRADARA-SAN MARINO (B)

After breakfast you will be driven south to San Marino. This is an independent tiny republic at the top of a hill overlooking the Adriatic Sea. From the city you’ll have an outstanding view over the slopes of the Mount Titano. San Marino is said to be the world’s oldest surviving republic (since AD301). A sole survivor of Italy’s once powerful city state network, this landlocked micro nation clung on long after the more powerful kingdoms of Genoa and Venice folded.

In the afternoon continue on to Gradara, considered to be one of Italy’s best small towns, on the border between Marche and Romagna. Visit the fortress where love and death entangled for centuries! Gradara and its fortress represent one of the best preserved medieval structures in Italy. It is here that the tragic love of Paolo and Francesca, narrated by Dante in the Diving Comedy (fifth canto) it is claimed took place. Take a walk around the ancient walls before driving back to Ravenna.

OPTIONAL DINNER: at your leisure this evening
Overnight at Palazzo Bezzi (or similar)

DAY 12: RAVENNA and the Unesco World Heritage sites (B-D)

After breakfast, meet our local expert guide and explore this beautiful city. From Basilica San Vitale to the Mausoleum di Galla Placidia, it is a day of stunning mosaics spread over five sights dating back to 450AD.

Tonight we get together for our last dinner together! It is not a sad occasion but one of joy, for having seen so many beautiful places, met new friends, good food, and good wine. FAREWELL DINNER EXPERIENCE: at CA DE VEN, since 1975 popular meeting place of the “Ravennati”. The restaurant is in a palace build back in the 15th century in a fascinating atmosphere. (The enoteque are where, on the 19th century wooden shelves, you see bottles of the most prestigious wines of the region as well as books and magazine in local dialect). Perfect moment to enjoy the wine and food tradition remembering the old times with typical food and the real “Piadina” home made in front of you.
Overnight at Palazzo Bezzi (or similar)

DAY 13: DEPARTURE DAY (B)

Yes, it is that time to leave this beautiful land with many wonderful memories and in the hopes of traveling with you again.
Transfer to Venice.
Or if you wish to extend your holiday, this is a perfect location to continue on down to Florence and Tuscany. Contact us for details.

If you are not traveling to Italy during the dates of our tours but would like to travel to Italy with your own private group of friends or family, please contact us.

Note: Travels with Audrey has hand-picked an extensive list of quality properties across France and Italy and to ensure the very best experience on each of Audrey’s tours hotels may vary to those listed in this itinerary. The earlier a tour is reserved the better the chances of having the ones listed.

Audrey specializes in small group tours for mature travelers, providing guests with delights that excite the senses and that are genuine, intimate and unique experiences of France and Italy. With a balance of culture, food, wine and stunning natural and man-made landscapes, tours capture everything that a guest would be looking for in an Italian or French experience. Audrey warmly invites you to come along and experience la Belle France, Bell’Italia, together with like-minded travelers. “I look forward to meeting you and traveling with you”

Mobility: All Travels with Audrey’s tours involve lots of walking, standing for longer periods of time and require guests to board and disembark vans/mini coaches several times a day making this tour not suitable for those with reduced mobility.

This tour can be offered as a private tour. Please contact Travels with Audrey for more information.

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