Beautiful San Marino

“BEATING HEART OF ITALY” private tour itinerary

Beating Heart of Italy
(Venice, Vicenza, Verona, Lake Garda, Parma, Bologna, Ravenna, Gradara, San Marino)

 As all the tours I design are customized, this is a TOUR Itinerary IDEA presented as one of the many ways you can experience Italy on your PRIVATE TOUR with Audrey.

Tour starts in Venice and ends in Ravenna
Your arrival and departure airport is:
Airport in Venice is Marco Polo (VCE)

 OVERVIEW

If you have been “Dreaming of Italy” then this might be the perfect tour for you. Join me on this amazing itinerary discovering some of the best Italy has to offer.

If you love Italy and have enjoyed seeing famous sites like Rome and Tuscany, but are ready to try something new, then join me as you discover new and wonderful sites in Italy!

Indulge your mind, body and soul on a journey into the Cuisine and Culture of Northern Italy, as you explore and discover what makes this part of Italy so hypnotic and sumptuous. Admire the medieval, Renaissance and Palladian architecture of hidden towns such as Vicenza as well as the cities of Verona and Venice. Appreciate the depth and subtleties of the great works of art that abound. Explore art in cathedrals, historic piazzas, and astonishing museums. Savor the Italian “slow foods” philosophy and enjoy meals of delicacies and fine wines.

Italy continues to inspire visitors year after year and this tour has been carefully crafted to include major must-see attractions, while taking you to some of the lesser-known hidden gems of this fascinating country. The Po Valley with its waving fields of corn and rice paddies hosts some of Italy’s most handsome and prosperous towns. This is a land of legends spun by Virgil, Dante and Shakespeare, where grand dynasties fought for power and patronized some of the finest works of art in the world. Blessed with an unparalleled cultural heritage, food that is imitated the world over, Italy still today casts a powerful spell. With its superb produce, culinary traditions and world famous wines, Italy is a food lover’s dream destination. Whether it is eating a wood fired pizza, dining alfresco, tasting Amarone in a vineyard, great foodie experiences await at every turn. Enjoy private guided tours in Venice, Bologna, Parma, Vicenza, Verona, and Ravenna, try local Italian produce, taste local wines in Valpolicella and Emilia Romagna. From the Alps north of Lake Garda to the fertile plains of Emilia Romagna, this tour is truly a feast for the senses.

Book this Italy tour for an inspiring introduction to the best of Italy, not only for its museums, cities and monuments but also its fantastic food, wine, culture and people.

 HIGHLIGHTS of YOUR PRIVATE TOUR TO ITALY 

  • Personalized itinerary…custom designed tour for your family, friends or colleagues
  • One-on-one expert planning
  • Private 13 days/12 nights tour + 24/7 support
  • Expert local guides with skip the line private touring
  • Dedicated local tour leader, driver-guide
  • Insider access to the Italian way of life
  • Accommodations that blend a mix of Italian hospitality, comfort and local character (Breakfast included)
  • Hand-picked Insider Experiences from wine tastings to culinary delights
  • Private transportation during tour and High Speed train tickets where applicable
  • Move beyond Italy’s signature cities and travel to the picturesque countryside regions
  • Savor tasty regional cuisine in specially chosen local authentic “trattorias” and restaurants
  • Visit one of the most magical and romantic cities in the world, Venice
  • Enjoy a private boat ride to the Island of Murano with a visit to a traditional glass factory
  • Board your private boat for a ½ day visit of the beautiful islands of Burano and Torcello
  • A guided promenade through the Bacari, Venice’s wine bars
  • Explore the beautiful historical cities of Verona, Parma, Vicenza and the beauty of Palladian architecture at villas La Rotonda and Villa Valmanara ai Nani
  • Savor tasty regional cuisine in specially chosen family owned trattorias and authentic restaurants
  • Orientations on Lake Garda, San Marino, Gradara, Castelvetro di Modena
  • Visit picturesque villages on Lake Garda
  • Walk through the picturesque streets of Bologna and its classic culinary meccas
  • Discover Ravenna, home of the impressive Christian monuments built in the 4th and 6th centuries AD and last great capital of the Roman empire
  • Visit one of the world’s oldest republics, San Marino
  • Visit the medieval fortress of Gradara in Marche

About our included dinners: As Europeans, for us dinner is a celebration of good food and wine, a celebration of culture, a celebration of family and friendship. Hosting this celebration is one of the joys of being a tour manager.  We guide you to your favorite dish … or help you choose something you’ve never tried before. We choose the perfect wines and throw in some local delicacies to broaden your palate and surprise you a bit. When we are at a cooking lesson or a wine tasting, be sure to know you’ll go home with new knowledge that will draw you under its spell and increase your hunger for more.

NOTE: On every tour, we have included dinners as a group as well as nights on your own. Of course you are always invited to join me at my favorite places or as I explore new and interesting restaurant finds. I also have a lot of recommendations and would be happy to make reservations for you.

ITINERARY

DAY 1: VENICE – 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 private tour starts at 3:00PM 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 .

INCLUDED WELCOME DINNER TONIGHT: In the evening at 7:30PM enjoy of a Welcome Dinner in a typical Venetian Restaurant

DAY 2: EXPLORING VENICE

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, jewellery 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!

DAY 3: OFF THE BEATEN PATH VENICE

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 savour 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)

Enjoy an optional Gondola ride in Venice!

DAY 4: PALLADIO DAY! VICENZA 

After breakfast, travel 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 (his best known creation-private tour of the interior and the gardens) 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 theater 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, world renowned for its wine production, the Amarone and Valpolicella wine region, enjoy a must visit at a storybook-setting village, Soave, known for its white wines.

INCLUDED DINNER TONIGHT-The menu is inspired by local traditions and flavors, by organic and bio-dynamic produce as well as by the natural seasonal cycle. Traditional dishes are re interpreted with style and dedication and complimented by the best wines of this region.

DAY 5: BEAUTIFUL CITY OF VERONA 

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.

In the afternoon, Verona is a lovely place to spend a few hours exploring this most fascinating and beautiful city before returning to your accommodations set amid the rolling hills of the Valpolicella area to indulge in a swim in the pool (weather permitting), or the spa.

DAY 6: MAJESTIC LAKE GARDA

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 cozy medieval little villages lining the shores with vine-clad hills to the south, citrus orchards and olive trees.

The morning is dedicated to visiting the picture perfect medieval town of Malcesine.  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 Monte Baldo (6000 feet high) for the view (weather permitting) or simply enjoy walking around discovering this small and scenic town full of cafes and craft stores. As you approach Malcesine, one of the picture perfect medieval towns, you can admire Castello Scaligero, a 14th century fortification.

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

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 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 kilometers away, they fell in love with the village of Castelvetro where they opened their Locanda.

We’re then off to one of the region’s most historic ‘acetaia’, a family-owned farmhouse where the famous traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena is made. We’ll savor the distinct and delightful aroma of this certified “black gold” and learn about the methods used to produce this artisan treasure.
From the ‘acetaia’ we go off the beaten path to one of the best prosciutto factories in the region. Here you will meet a family that, for over three generations, has been committed to making one of the world’s most delicious pork products.

DAY 8: PARMA – 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 a ‘Prosciuttificio’ 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 to try the famous wine of the area, Lambrusco.

DAY 9: MARANELLO (Ferrari and cooking)

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!

DAY 10: BOLOGNA 

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 centre is one of the best preserved and largest medieval cities in the world. It is one of Italy’s most livable 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 cities 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. (a whopping eight UNESCO World Heritage sites)

DAY 11:   RAVENNA and the UNESCO World Heritage sites

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. some of the most awe-inspiring early Christian monuments built between the 5th and 6th centuries AD, such as San Vitale and Sant’Apolinnare Nuovo, containing incredible Byzantine mosaics.

DAY 12: SAN MARINO and GRADARA

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 301AD). 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.

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.

DAY 13: DEPARTURE DAY

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. 

PRICING…

Kindly note this is a Sample Tour Itinerary to Italy.  The next step is to contact me.

  • Pricing depends on the number of people in your party (minimum 2 guests), specific experiences, services and activities chosen, your dates, style of transport, choice of accommodations, meals.
  • Please contact us with your travel dates, budget, group size and wishes. If it is a good fit, I will send you a Tour Questionnaire to better understand your wishes. For more information on ‘How I work’ visit my Custom Tours page or watch our video. I plan and manage the details that will make your private tour to Italy memorable.

Ready for a Once-in-a-Lifetime vacation to Italy?

Audrey specializes in private custom tours to Europe, providing guests with delights that excite the senses that are genuine, intimate and unique experiences of Italy and beyond.  With a balance of culture, food, wine and stunning natural and man-made landscapes, this tour captures everything that a guest would be looking for in an Italian experience. Audrey warmly invites you to come along and experience “La Bell’ Italia”.

Contact me for your free consultation.