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This is your ticket to explore the best of Italy in just 15 days. From wandering the crumbling ruins of Rome's iconic Colosseum by moonlight to staying amid the rolling vineyards of Tuscany to visiting the fascinating site of Pompeii with a local guide, this trip has wound up some of Italy's best experiences. From ancient monuments and lively cities to sprawling vineyards and traditional cuisine with some glistening Italian beaches thrown in for good measure – this adventure will provide unforgettable moments for both the Italian novice and maestro.

15 days, from

$9,785

per person

GROUP SIZE

12 people max

ACTIVITY LEVEL

 
2
Trip code: ZMPEC
Style: Premium
Theme: Explorer

Details

Countries Visited:  Italy
Accommodation: Comfortable Hotel (10 nights), Feature Stay (4 night)
Transportation: Private vehicle
Included Meals:

  • 13 breakfasts
  • 3 lunches
  • 5 dinners

Group size: Minimum 1, Max 12
Minimum Age: 15

  • Stay in spectacular places including a Feature Stay in an historic property in Nardo – that was once a Baronial Palace – as well as a countryside hotel nestled amid the rolling vineyards of Tuscany.

  • Explore Rome’s iconic Colosseum by moonlight during an Exclusive Experience evening tour. Walk in the footsteps of gladiators without the jostling daytime crowds.

  • Get a taste for Italy’s celebrated cuisine and viticulture during an olive oil tasting on a farm that’s been active since Roman times and a trip to the celebrated wine-growing region of San Gimignano to visit a family-run winery and sample their world-class drops.

  • Take a step back in time and explore the ancient ruins of Pompeii, destroyed and preserved by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 AD.

  • Join a group of like-minded travellers on a tour takes a deep dive into the history, culture and natural beauty of southern Italy with one of our most experienced locally based leaders (legends) guiding the way.

Itinerary

Show Full Itinerary

Day 1: Polignano a Mare

Benvenuto! Welcome to Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot. Your adventure kicks off in the coastal town of Polignano a Mare, where you’ll be collected from the Bari airport on arrival and transferred to your hotel. A welcome meeting will take place here at 6pm for you to meet your local leader and the fellow travellers joining you on your adventure. If you arrive with time to spare, Polignano a Mare is blessed with beautiful beaches, coves and caves to explore. Feeling peckish? Why not pop into a local cornetteria for a decadent Italian croissant. After your welcome meeting, get to know your group over an included dinner, where your local leader will introduce you to Puglia’s cuisine.

Day 2: Polignano a Mare

Leave the coastline behind as you travel inland by private vehicle to the little town of Alberobello. Set among a tranquil landscape of olive groves, the town is famed for its unique beehive-shaped trulli; dwellings built from limestone in the 14th century. While the origins of the buildings are unclear, one theory suggests the houses were created to be easily dismantled in a feudal tax-evasion scheme. Whatever their purpose, the buildings truly are a sight to behold and make the Apulia region unlike anywhere else in the world. Join a local guide for an insider’s look at the town, wandering through the old town quarter of Rione Monti, dotted with thousands of trulli, and Rione Aia Piccola, where trulli still serve as family homes. Your guide will point out the different shapes of spires and the religious and mystic symbols adorning the roofs. Finally, stand in awe of the Church de Sant’Antonio, a huge cathedral built in the trulli style. Return to Polignano a Mare for an evening at leisure – your leader will have tips on the best places to grab dinner tonight.

Day 3: Nardo

This morning, travel to the small city of Ostuni and explore its whitewashed streets flanked with Gothic, Romanesque and Byzantine buildings. Then, continue to a local olive oil producer on a farm that has been active since Roman times, with some trees thought to be close to 3000 years old. Here you’ll learn how production techniques have changed over the centuries, taste some of the olive oil for yourself, and enjoy an included lunch of regional favourites. From here, continue your journey south, arriving in the beautiful city of Lecce. With its ornate baroque buildings, lively university and ancient Roman ruins, Lecce’s narrow streets are a delight to explore. Let a local guide show you hidden corners and share the city’s history with you this afternoon, then later in the day, travel out to the quiet town of Nardo. Here you’ll settle into your Feature Stay accommodation, a 13th century Baronial Palace converted into a spectacular hotel by a local architect. Spend the evening exploring the hotel and grounds, featuring artwork and sculptures by local artists, as well as a citrus grove and excellent onsite restaurant.

Day 4: Nardo

Before breakfast, you may like to take a walk through your Feature Stay’s historic ‘secret garden’ where it seems as if figures from days gone by could walk around the corner at any minute. Join an expert local guide for a walking tour through Nardo’s charming old town where there are more than a dozen grand palazzos, many of which were once home to the region’s nobility. Your guide will also point out the town’s many fine museums which you may like to visit this afternoon. And of course, you will stop at Piazza Salandra. Widely regarded as one of the most beautiful baroque squares in the whole of southern Italy, you may like to return here this evening to join the locals for passeggiata, an early evening stroll that’s a tradition throughout Italy. This afternoon, perhaps head to the beach, which is only 15 minutes away, or join a pasta making or wine tasting class at your hotel.

Day 5: Matera

Enjoy a final morning at your Feature Stay hotel, sitting back with a coffee and soaking up the scenery. Then it’s time to say goodbye and travel on to Matera, an ancient city perched on a rocky outcrop. And when we say ancient, we really mean it – Matera is believed to be the third-longest continuously inhabited human settlement in the world. You’ll be exploring the city’s famous sassi houses in depth tomorrow, so this evening why not take a walk around Matera to discover its churches, traditional restaurants and thousands of years of human history.

Day 6: Matera

Today you will dive into Matera’s incredible old town, made famous by sassi; more than 3000 stone houses formed from natural grottoes and tufo cliffs, some dating back as far as the 8th century. Join a local guide who will lead you through a labyrinth of staircases and alleyways that cut their way through limestone ravines, dipping in and out of ancient sassi houses as you go. Up until the late 1950s, the sassi were considered the ‘Shame of Italy’ due to the gruelling living conditions and poverty suffered by those who lived here – a result of the city’s rapid population growth. The Italian government intervened, and 15,000 inhabitants were forcibly relocated. Today, the sassi are undergoing extensive restoration, with some dwellings featuring exhibits that recreate inhabited caves. You’ll also pay a visit to an ancient underground neighbourhood, made up of houses, streets. cisterns, and churches.

Day 7: Naples

Begin the day by driving to the storied town of Pompeii, home to one of Europe’s most well-known archaeological sites – the ruins of Pompeii, caused by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 AD. Today you will join a local guide to discover the remains of this once thriving Roman trading centre. After the eruption, the city was covered in a layer of ash and remained undisturbed until the 18th century, when the ruins were rediscovered. Walk among well-preserved villas, temples, theatres, markets and chariot-marked streets, and visit the magnificent amphitheatre and the ‘Villa of Mysteries’ as your expert guide helps you to imagine what life here once looked like. You can also visit the Roman Forum and basilica, temples, public baths, and the tiny Odeon created for music recitals. Later in the day, travel to the buzzing city of Naples where you will join your group for a final dinner and a chance to look back on all you’ve seen on your journey.

Day 8: Rome

Transfer to the train station, and take an unescorted train to Rome before checking in to your hotel and settling in. If you arrive with time to spare, the city’s magnificent buildings are best appreciated on foot, so perhaps wander in search of an espresso. Then, your Italian adventure continues with a welcome meeting at 6 pm, where you will meet your local leader and fellow travellers. Once the formalities are out of the way, get your first taste of Italy over an included dinner with your group at an excellent local restaurant. Sitting down to dinner in Rome means experiencing generations of culinary know-how and timeless traditional recipes. Once your leader introduces you to some of Italy’s best dishes, you’ll understand why this country is so renowned for great food.

Day 9: Rome

From incredible ancient monuments to glamourous restaurants and boutiques, Rome is a city of great beauty and diversity. Today your leader will take you back in time as you learn about historical monuments during an orientation walk of the city. Marvel at the Roman Forum, the Victor Emmanuel Monument, the Pantheon, the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona and Venezia, the Spanish Steps and Via Dei Condotti. Stop in at a local bar for a quick coffee or gelato. The afternoon is free for you to explore as you please – perhaps take the chance to visit the majestic Vatican City and St Peter’s Basilica. Rome’s grandiose Colosseum is its most iconic site, and this evening you’ll have the opportunity to avoid the daytime crowds and explore the Colosseum by night. Follow the footsteps of gladiators and Roman emperors as your leader shares the unbelievable history of this great arena.

Day 10: Siena / Monteriggioni / Chianti Region

Today you’ll take a private vehicle to the gorgeous city of Siena, where your leader will show you the most interesting sights on an orientation walk. At the city’s heart is Piazza del Campo – home to the biannual Palio horse race, and nearby is the stunning Siena Cathedral. Next you’ll visit Monteriggioni – a charming medieval walled town. Over a dozen towers are spread throughout the town, once used to defend Sienese territory from the Florentines. You will have time to explore this tiny hilltop spot before arriving at your Feature Stay accommodation near San Gimignano. This country hotel with cinematic views of a tree-studded landscape and a refreshing outdoor pool is a fine spot to unwind. Tonight, indulge in an included gourmet dinner at your hotel with your group – the food is made with local ingredients and pays homage to traditional Tuscan dishes, with a modern twist.

Day 11: San Gimignano Region

Start the day with a visit to San Gimignano – the 'Town of Fine Towers'. Explore the medieval Old Town centre and its fine Gothic and Romanesque architecture, with your leader on hand to answer any questions inspired by your explorations. This region is also renowned for its ancient Vernaccia grapes, which are the basis for one of Tuscany's finest white wines. Your group will visit a local agriturismo, where you’ll explore the vineyards and sample some of their celebrated wine, before enjoying an included lunch featuring regional cheese, fine olive oil and bruschetta. Return to your Feature Stay accommodation for another delicious dinner.

Day 12: Pisa / Lucca / Florence

Today you’ll visit Pisa. It’s not always possible to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa due to its precarious state, but as your leader shares the history of this legendary building, you will have the opportunity to photograph it from the ground. Your next stop is Lucca, where you’ll take a short walk along the city’s beautifully preserved Renaissance walls.

Next up, depart to Florence where you’ll discover the city on an orientation walk with your leader. Marvel at the Duomo cathedral, visit St. John's Baptistery and hear stories of the Medici family who ruled over the city during the Renaissance. Cross the iconic Ponte Vecchio bridge and stop by the Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy. Established in 1221, this is believed to be the oldest operating pharmacy in the world. You’ll visit the Giardino delle Rose for a sweet-scented walk among 400 rose species before heading to Piazzale Michelangelo for sweeping views of Florence’s timeless skyline.

Day 13: Florence

Enjoy a free day in Florence to explore the city and its museums and galleries – ask your leader for some local tips on the best way to spend the day. Visiting the Uffizi while you are here is highly recommended – it is one of the oldest galleries in the world, and a building of great beauty. Sample some of the culinary delicacies on offer from across Tuscany, with dishes known for their freshness, simplicity and quality. Olive oil, beans and herbs are a feature here. Two standout dishes of the region are bistecca alla fiorentina, a large steak sliced on the bone and shared between multiple diners, and ribollita, a simple, hearty soup of bread, vegetables and beans. Panforte is the signature sweet treat.

Perhaps pay a visit to Galleria dell'Accademia, the home of Michelangelo's world-famous statue of David, or kick up your heels and watch the world go by with an excellent local coffee in hand. Florence boasts a delectable array of restaurants so be sure to ask your leader for recommendations.

Day 14: Venice

In the morning, head to the railway station and take a high-speed train to Venice. Upon arrival your leader will take you on an orientation walk so you can get acquainted with the city’s maze of canals and learn about its unique history. Lunch today is a tasting of cicchetti – Venice’s version of tapas. Enjoy a delicious array of small dishes such as black ink calamari, polenta with seafood and seasonal vegetables. The rest of the afternoon is yours to explore. The Grand Canal, the quaint shopfronts that line the Rialto Bridge and the Piazza and Basilica di San Marco are all worthy sights to visit, or simply meander around the tiny cobbled streets and discover the beautiful markets, cafes, galleries and churches. A Venetian gondola ride down the canals is a must, as is a taste of the region’s dessert speciality, tiramisu.

Day 15: Venice

With no activities planned for today, your trip comes to an end after breakfast. Those looking to extend their stay can arrange additional nights' accommodation at the time of booking the trip (subject to availability).