Italy's Northwest Gems Itinerary
(Piemonte, Aosta, Langhe, Cinque Terre)
DAY 1: TORINO (D) Tour starts on a Monday
Welcome to Torino, the first capital of Italy!
There is a whiff of Paris in Turin’s elegant tree lined boulevards and echoes of Vienna in its stately art nouveau cafes, but make no mistake, this elegant, Alp fringed city is utterly self- possessed. The innovative Torinese gave the world its first salable hard chocolate, perpetuated one of its greatest mysteries (the Holy Shroud), popularized a best-selling car (the Fiat). Turin also gave the world Italy as we now know it: Piedmont with its Torinese president, the Count of Cavour, was the engine room to the Risorgimento (Resurgence, referring to the Italian Unification).
Turin also briefly served as Italy’s first capital and donated its monarchy, the venerable House of Savoy to the newly unified Italian nation in 1861. The 2006 Winter Olympics shook the city from a deep post-industrial malaise, and sparked an urban revival. Monte Viso, the formidable snow covered Alp mountain (3820 meters/12532 feet), you might recognize it, is the one that Paramount Pictures uses as the opening scene in all its movies.
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 at Ristorante del Cambio: Founded in 1757 in the same place it always was, the most elegant and known restaurant for royalty, politicians and foreign visitors. In front of Palazzo Carignano, the birth place of the first King of Unified Italy, its location in the piazza is worth a visit. Back in the years around the final unification of the country the most important client was the Prime Minister Count Camillo Cavour whose table is still recognizable for an Italian flag placed on the mirror next to it.
Your Unique Small Group Tour Vacation to Italy is underway!
Overnight Hotel Sitea (or similar)
DAY 2: DISCOVER TORINO (B-D)
This morning, after breakfast, meet your local expert guide for a walking tour taking you along the streets of this historical city and tour the Royal Palace and "Real Chiesa di San Lorenzo", home of the Holy Shroud. The first capital of Italy, known as an industrial city has become a cultural destination for the discerning visitor. The baroque palaces and churches, the piazzas and pedestrian shopping are walking distance from your hotel.
Optional lunch: Turin is known as the city of chocolates… and it is also home to Slow Food’s supermarket, EATALY. This high-end Italian food market houses a variety of restaurants, food stations, bakery and retail items. Enjoy your visit here and be sure to taste test all their goodies… especially the chocolate! (Eataly Incontra, Eataly Café Vergnano, Eataly Torino Lingotto)
Afternoon at leisure to discover at your own pace: Enjoy views of Italy's largest and most famous river, the Po, from the Mole Antonelliana building, symbol of Turin (take the panoramic lift to the roof terrace for 360 degree views).
Visit Piazza San Carlo with its 17th century facades “drawing room of Turin” Visit Europe's largest open air food market and sample local produce.
During your free time why not visit the fascinating Cinema Museum or the newly refurbished Egyptian Museum, one of the most important outside of Cairo. Alternatively stroll along the elegant shopping streets of Via Roma and Via Garibaldi.
If you are interested in automobiles, do not miss the Automobiles Museum. From the first old cars to the most modern, the museum is a highlight in the birth of FIAT. It was founded here in 1899.
OPTIONAL DINNER: Tonight, you will be able to experience this city on your own; its tradition of chocolate, gianduiotti and gelato is something any food lover needs to experience. But first dinner, mind you, who says one cannot have dessert before dinner…there are so many restaurants to choose from. Be sure to try a specialty from this area. The Torinese gave the world its first salable hard chocolate, and played a key role in the creation of the Italian state. You can follow the epic story in the Museo Nazionale del Risogimento Italiano. Visit Al Bicerin named from “bicerin”, a caffeine charged hot drink of chocolate, coffee and cream. Check out Peyrano known specialist chocolatiers since 1912 and creators of “dolci momenti a Torino” (sweet moments in Turin).
Overnight at Hotel Sitea (or similar)
DAY 3: DISCOVER MORE OF TORINO (B)
Today start your discoveries by boarding our van for a visit of the Basilica of Superga located on the top of the hill with breath-taking views of the city. The Basilica is visible for miles around and is the final resting place for 50 members of the Savoy family, followed with a visit of the Royal Residence of Venaria Reale, just few kilometers outside the city center. It was the model for Versailles, listed as a Unesco World Heritage site, a palace built for King Carlo Emanuele II between 1667 and 1690. It is one of the biggest royal residences in the world. Highlights are the huge Diana Gallery, the park outside, the Baroque church (Cappella di Sant’Uberto), the Juvarra stables and the Orangerie. The beauty of the architecture, the setting in the middle of a huge park, the importance in history and the genius of the main baroque architect, Juvarra from Sicily, have made of this place a must see.
On your way back to the city, see some highlights of Torino.
OPTIONAL DINNER: Tonight is an optional dinner night, but your tour manager will invite you to come along to try a new place or a favorite place
Overnight at Hotel Sitea (or similar)
DAY 4: AOSTA AND the Italian Alps (B-L-D)
Today, travel to the Aosta Valley, one of the most beautiful regions in the Alps, a dramatic mountainous region that borders France and Switzerland. Italy’s smallest and least populous region of Italy it is also one of its most spectacular. The valley is ringed by the icy peaks of Europe’s highest mountains, including the Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco) Monte Cervino (the Matterhorn) Monte Rosa and Gran Paradiso. Explore an ancient, hybrid culture, sample Franco-Provencal food. Valdostan farmers cultivate Alpine wines, and ferment famous Fontina cheese in the pastures.
It is a region where breathtaking nature preserved Roman and medieval monuments, castles, churches, artistic heritage, local traditions and delicious gastronomy. It is a region where everyone can enjoy the life in the open air with infinite opportunities for trekking, hiking, skiing and other outdoor activities or go on a cultural exploration of its ancient cities such as Aosta.
Your first stop is the little village of Fenis with its medieval castle, Castello di Fenis, without a doubt one of the most famous in the valley for its architecture and beautiful frescoes.
Continue onto Aosta, where we enjoy a culinary treat at one of the charming places in town. Followed by a nice walk around the town of Aosta with your tour manager, a once important Roman settlement. Its 2000 year old center still harbors Roman ruins like the Arco di Augusto, the Roman bridge spanning the Buthier River since the 1st century, and the Porta Praetoria, the main gate to the Roman city. Today Aosta is the capital of the valley and a lively centre for trades and handcraft, as well as a shopping delight.
INCLUDED DINNER: Dinner at a local restaurant to taste Fontina Cheese (fondue) together, and other traditional dishes of the mountain area.
Overnight at Mille Lucci (or similar)
DAY 5: THE ALPS (B-D)
Time to get to the highest mountain peaks of Western Europe! Mont Blanc is the highest peak in Europe at 4810 meters/15780 feet. The new gondola, called the 8th Wonder of the World, takes you up to Punta Helbronner where the beauty of the peaks and glaciers are really stunning and will take your breath away (weather permitting). Walk around stylish, yet old-fashioned Courmayeur, one of the most popular ski resorts in Europe, nestled at the base of the Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco). Stunning mountain scenery and cool temperatures make it also a favourite summer retreat and hiking destination as well.
After lunch, maybe some shopping in Aosta, or simply sit and relax at the spa facilities of your hotel!
INCLUDED DINNER: Tonight we enjoy another wonderful dinner together in town. Overnight at Mille Lucci (or similar)
DAY 6: VERCELLI-LANGHE (B-L)
You are in for some fun today! Driving down to the largest rice growing area of Europe, Vercelli with a stop at a traditional rice farm near Vercelli for lunch and a visit of its ancient “risaia” where some of the highest quality of rice varietals is grown to be made into the tastiest risotto from northern Italy (Arborio, Carnaroli, Vialone, Nano)
Following your visit of Tenuta Colombara in the middle of the rice fields you reach Ristorante Da Balin for your Risotto Cooking Class! Chef Balin will supervise and teach you how to transform the best rice in a superb Risotto! Lunch featuring your Risotto!
Transfer to the surprising small town of Vercelli to see the monumental complex of Churches before continuing to the Langhe area; a magical valley where time seems to have stopped and traditions still are carried out in the most authentic way.
OPTIONAL DINNER: tonight you may choose to eat light
Overnight at Villa d’Amelia (or similar)
DAY 7: PALIO RACE IN ASTI (Truffle day on all other tours in the fall) (B-D)
(18th September 2016-Bra cheese festival Sept 18 to 21)
This morning you will follow our truffle hunter in the fields and hills for truffle hunting. Interesting to see how the dogs work and how the men will dig in the ground to pick up the precious mushroom. Alba area is not the only one in Italy or Europe where you can find truffles, but in some places you find just the black one that can also be cooked, in other places you find white truffles which are eaten raw only. White truffles are excellent served with simple local dishes such as tajarin ( local pasta), fried eggs or grated on a risotto. This afternoon you will visit the towns of Alba and Bra, walk around and check out all the wonderful stores, especially those that sell local products, like anything made with truffles and local cheeses.
Bra is the birth city of the Slow Food Movement and full of interesting palaces and churches as well as home every 2 years of the most important Cheese Fair in the world. In Bra Osteria del Boccondivino lined with wine bottles was the first restaurant to be opened by slow food in the 1980’s. In the same courtyard you find the slow food headquarters.
Alba: There are few more enticing destinations for gourmet travelers than Alba, a picturesque town in the heart of Piedmont that's renowned world-wide for its succulent white truffles, velvety red Barolo and Barbaresco wines and wonderful fruit. The town may have only 30,000 residents, but here you can find some of northern Italy's best restaurants. Alba absolutely deserves its reputation as the jewel of the Langhe and as one of the world's finest food-and-wine hotspots. Settled in pre-Roman times by Celtic and Ligurian tribes, Alba's history is dizzyingly long. Since the settlement sat along a Roman road heading to nearby Turin, Alba soon became a proper town, although these days the only evidence of Rome's intervention is in a few city gates and in the slabs of marble used on later buildings. In later years, it was at the center of a never-ending tug of war that saw it (like much of the surrounding area) pass from the Burgundians to the Lombards, Franks, and among various noble families of the region. Eventually Alba, like Torino, was handed over to the family of Savoy, where it remained until the unification of Italy. Alba itself is a lovely town with castles, medieval palaces and towers, and many churches. Stroll alongside the Tanaro River, which slices through town, or along the Via Vittorio Emanuele, known for its delicatessen shops.
PALIO DAY: Spend the morning relaxing before you leave for Asti for the Palio Horse Race. This is the most important day of the year for the old city, pageantry, flag wavers, parades of people dressed in the medieval costumes, farmers with their oxen. Traditional food everywhere… You will see the race from your reserved seats in the Piazza del Palio.
Palio d’Asti: Asti and Alba were fierce medieval rivals ruled over by feuding royal families, who built Asti’s legendary 150 towers of these only 12 remain and only the Torrey Troyana o dell’ Orologio can be climbed. Asti’s rivalry with Alba is still recalled in the annual Palio d’Asti, a bareback horserace, on the third Sunday of September that commemorates a victorious battle.
INCLUDED DINNER: “Ristorante La Ciau del Tornavento” in the small village of Treiso. Overnight Villa d’Amelia (or similar)
DAY 8: GOURMET PIEDMONT-ASTI AND CANELLI (B)
“Tuscany of the North” Immersed in tradition as old as the towns that fostered them, Piedmont’s cuisine is the toast of Italy. It is also home to the Slow Food Movement, Alba truffles and famous Barolo Wines. The rolling hills, valleys and towns of Piedmont are home to sweet hazelnuts, rare white truffles, Arborio rice and Nebbiolo grapes that produce Barolo and Barbaresco wines.
Today visit Asti, a town synonymous with sparkling wine and enjoy an orientation where you will see the magnificent Romanesque Gothic Cathedral, walk around the old center, visit the Cioccolato Barbero and see how chocolate candies and nougat are made in the traditional way. Enjoy a wonderful wine tasting in Canelli, home of the Spumante wine, visiting the Contratto Winery and see the huge cellars called the Underground Cathedrals.
Asti also celebrates the 10 day Douja d’Or (a douja being a terracotta wine jug unique to Asti) in the first or second week in September, complemented by the Delle Sagre food festival on the second Sunday in September.
Lunch is optional, but it would be fun to go together to a local place in town.
Wine lovers rejoice! In the afternoon let’s drive to Barolo and visit the Wine Museum housed in the Castle of Barolo, once home of the Noble Family of the Falletti di Barolo, a powerful banking family.
OPTIONAL DINNER: Enjoy dinner at your leisure this evening
Overnight at Villa d’Amelia (or similar)
DAY 9: LANGHE (B-D)
The vine-covered hills, proud old towns and culinary pleasures of Le Langhe, are in many ways reminiscent of Tuscany but for now at least, this quiet little corner of Italy is a well-kept secret.
After breakfast, take a leisurely drive through fairy-tale like medieval villages like Dana d’Alba, Monforte d’Alba followed by a wine tasting at one of the most renowned wineries in the area, Ceretto. Visit the cellars, taste the local wines before continuing onto the highest peak of the area. From La Morra, you can view all the vineyards, the villages and the castle around the Langhe.
Let’s take a downhill walk and reach the small church called the Barolo Chapel. Nestled in the vineyard, it was built by the local farmers and rediscovered in the last part of 20th century and completely remodeled, thanks to the Ceretto family, by famous artists called in from the United States.
The artist did not want to be paid, he simply asked for? One bottle of wine for each day of his life!!! The bright color of the walls and the peaceful interior invites you to stop and take in the beauty of the surrounding views.
INCLUDED DINNER: visit the estate of legendary Fontanafredda before dinner at their on site restaurant
Overnight Villa d’Amelia (or similar)
DAY 10: LIGURIA AND CINQUE TERRE (B-D)
After breakfast travel down to the Italian Riviera, which includes the five captivating villages that make up Cinque Terre, a Unesco world heritage site.
First stop of the day will be in Santa Margherita Ligure, a beautiful old resort town favored by well to do Italians, has everything a Riviera playground should have, with plenty of palm trees and attractive hotels, cafes, a marina packed with yachts. Some of the older buildings here are still decorated on the outside with the trompe l’oeil frescoes typical of this part of the Riviera.
Followed by an afternoon visit of Portofino, a picturesque seaside village with brightly colored houses lining the shore of the harbor, known as the resort of the rich and famous since the 1950’s. Portofino ranks among the world’s most famous fishing villages. You will have a chance to visit the Church of San Giorgio, Brown Castle built in the 15th century, and weather permitting even take the ferry.
On the way down to your overnight accommodation in Sestri Levante we will stop in Rapallo (time permitting and weather permitting).
INCLUDED DINNER: Tonight we enjoy a dinner together with local specialties Overnight in Sestri Levante at Grand Hotel dei Castelli (or similar)
DAY 11: CINQUE TERRE (B-D)
Be swept up in the romance and beauty of the Cinque Terre!
The ruggedly beautiful stretch of coastline inset with five small picturesque fishing villages perched along the Italian Riviera are often on the top places to visit lists of most travel magazines. Along this beautifully isolated six mile stretch of the most seductive corner of the northern Italian coast lays the Cinque Terre, five small towns gently and steadily carving a life out of a difficult terrain. Each village fills a ravine, has traffic free charm, a result of their natural isolation. Just sun, sea, wine and pure unadulterated Italy!
Today spend the day with your tour manager exploring these wonderful villages, discovering the secrets of this stunning Unesco world heritage site.
FAREWELL DINNER: tonight have your final dinner together with your new friends. Do not forget to exchange emails and make plans for the future. How about we meet again on another one of our tours?
Overnight at Grand Hotel dei Castelli (or similar)
DAY 12: DEPARTURE DAY
Transfer to Genoa for your flight back home taking away only fond memories of your unique experiences to reflect back on with a smile and new friendships. This tour combines really well with an extension to Tuscany. (Please check with us for details on the transfer costs and the extension).
“I so enjoyed spending time with you, and taking you on this wonderful journey in Italy. Looking forward to traveling with you again!”
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 he 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, our tours capture everything that a guest would be looking for in an Italian or French experience. Audrey looks forward to meeting you and traveling with you and like-minded travelers.
Mobility: All Travels with Audrey’s tours involve lots of walking, standing for long 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.
- Italy's Northwest Gems Itinerary and Tour Details
Click here to download a PDF containing the full, day-by-day itinerary and complete details for what is and is not included in Italy's Northwest Gems Tour.