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 region of Italy so hypnotic and sumptuous. Admire the Medieval, Renaissance and Palladian architecture of hidden towns such as Piacenza, Vicenza and Mantua, as well as the cities of Verona and Venice. Appreciate the depth and subtleties of the great works of art that abound. Investigate art in cathedrals, historic piazzas, and astonishing museums. Lose yourself at a soul-stirring opera performance and private violin recital. Savor the Italian “Slow Foods” philosophy, and enjoy repasts of delicacies and fine wines. Experience this plethora of cultural, visual and sensory treats, all while traveling amid the natural beauty of the majestic Dolomites, the alpine Sud Tyrol and of course the romantic Venetian waterways.
DAYS 1 - 2
Depart for Torino, Italy
Depart the USA on Sunday and arrive in Torino (Turin) on Monday. You are greeted at the airport and transferred to your luxury hotel, the Hotel Principi di Piemonte. Torino is an alpine city rich in culture and history; today it is a major cultural and business hub for northern Italy, as well as the capitol of the Piedmont region. The remainder of today is open for independent exploration or relaxation after your long flight. Located in the heart of town, your hotel invites you to walk under the 18th century arcades and enjoy the trendy shops along the Via Roma, perhaps stopping at one of the landmark cafes in the Piazza Castello. Be sure to try some of Torino’s delicious pastries - especially the chocolate ones, along with its famous chocolate-hazelnut sauce, gianduja, a Torino specialty. Tonight, gather with your travel director and fellow travelers for a special dinner.
Hotel Principi di Piemonte
Today your Italian journey begins with a full day immersion into the world of “Slow Food.” This anti fast-food revolution all started, among the vineyards and rolling hills just south of Torino, and today is a global movement dedicated to “defend gastronomic pleasure and seek a slower more aware pace of life.” The Slow Food movement was founded in 1986 by Piedmontese local Carlo Petrini, who railed against fast-food culture, and preached going back to the earth and relishing natural foods.
We drive just outside Torino to the small market town of Pollenzo, Carlo Petrini’s hometown, to visit Agenzia di Pollenzo. This neo-Gothic estate dating to 1833 is home to Petrini’s University of Gastronomic Sciences, and the Wine Bank. This small private university teaches everything there is to know about wine and gastronomy, with course work ranging from the scientific (botany, microbiology) to the mouth-watering (studying pasta, cheese and wine). You will learn about their mission - to “save the world palate from its predilection for the quick appetite fix.”
The adjacent Wine Bank was built over the ruins of an ancient Roman tomb and spring; the cool, slightly humid chambers of its cellar are filled with hundreds of crates of some of the best wines in the world.
We continue on to the Langhe Hills in the Barolo region, home of famed Barolo wine. We visit the Marchesi di Barolo winery, once the villa of French noblewoman, Giulietta Colbert Tancred. Tour the historic cellars, then taste the wines, discovering the difference between the classic and traditional styles of Barolo. Enjoy more wine with lunch at the farmhouse of the Earl of Barolo.
Our last stop this afternoon is at the local truffle academy in Alba. Here you have a one-hour course in “Truffle Sensorial Analysis” You’ll learn why they are so rare and expensive, and how to recognize truffles through their specific smells, sizes and colors. Tonight we dine at the Del Cambio restaurant in town.
Hotel Principi di Piemonte
Today, we explore the rich art and history of Torino, starting with a visit to the Egyptian Museum, which holds the finest collection of Egyptian artifacts outside of Cairo. See exhibits from the 31 dynasties of ancient Egypt, with relics including mummies, statues and stonework with hieroglyphics. One of the most impressive displays is the two halls lined with statues of gods, kings and sphinxes - The halls are dark, with the statues individually lit as a seeming testament to the power of their ancient spirits. Also of note are the findings from the tomb of the architect Kha, and a reconstructed tomb from 2100 BC.
Torino was once the Hollywood of Italy, home to a number of major Italian film studios; so next, we visit the Italian Cinema Museum. The museum is comprehensive, with five sections, each focusing on a different aspect of cinema from technical projections to personal home theaters.
For lunch, we drive to the ancient La Venaria Reale Park, an architectural complex of unique beauty, with old royal residences, a large garden, and woods. Enjoy a stroll through the gardens after lunching in a local restaurant.
Lastly, we tour the new Museo dell’ Automobile, one of the largest car museums in the world. Boasting a collection of almost 200 cars, the museum charts the progress of Torino’s motor industry, once home to many manufacturers, and today dominated by Fiat.
Hotel Principi di Piemonte
Torino to Asti, Piacenza Cremona
Late this morning, enjoy a leisurely drive from Torino to Cremona, making a stop in Asti, home of “Spumante”, Italy’s sparkling wine. We visit the House of Spumante, also known as the “House of Asti”. Built in 1898 as a theatre, the building is decorated with elegant frescos. Savor a traditional country lunch in Asti before continuing your drive.
Next, we stop in the tiny art city of Piacenza, where the Middle Ages and Renaissance merge. A walking tour of its historic center leads you to the church of Santa Maria Campagna, where we enjoy a brief but moving recital of Serassi on the church’s handcrafted organ.
Arrive in Cremona in the late afternoon. And this evening, dine at the noted restaurant, Il Violino.
Delle Arti Design Hotel
The city of Cremona is famous for its rich musical history and traditions, including some of the earliest and most renowned makers of stringed instruments, such as Guarneri and Antonio Stradivari. Born in 1644, Stradivari is considered to have been the most significant and talented luthier in the world, producing over 1100 instruments in his lifetime. His instruments are regarded as amongst the finest bowed stringed instruments ever created, and are still highly prized today.
We tour the city - our first stop is the 12th century Romanesque Cathedral and Baptistery. The Cathedral’s exterior facade is full of ornate sculptures, and inside are 14th to 16th century frescoes and important works of art. The octagonal Baptistery, a mix of Romanesque and Lombard-Gothic architecture, has a 16th century baptismal font and a 14th century wooden crucifix. Next, we visit the Museo Stradivariano (Museum of Stradivari) entirely dedicated to the famous violin-maker. It holds documents, memorabilia, working tools, and patterns used by Cremona’s most famous son, along with the highest number of Stradivari and Amati violins in the world.
As a special and moving treat, we attend a Stradivari violin recital performed by a local Maestro.
This afternoon, explore some violin and cello workshops to meet the artisians and learn more about them and their specialized craft.
Delle Arti Design Hotel
Cremona to Mantua Verona
This morning it is a short drive to Mantua, the third most prominent Renaissance city in Italy. Take a guided tour of the Palazzo Ducale, whose buildings are connected by corridors and galleries enriched by inner courts and wide gardens. The highlight of our visit is seeing Andrea Mantegna’s awe-inspiring the “Wedding Room.” An Italian Renaissance painter and engraver, Andrea Mantegna was best known for his large paintings of realistic figures, often viewed from a low perspective in order to increase the monumentality of the characters. Your guide also explains about the sophistication and culture of Italy’s 16th century provincial districts.
Enjoy some free time to explore the back streets and fine restaurants of Mantua. Try the local specialty, the Tortelli di Zucca, squash filled ravioli.
In the afternoon, we walk a few blocks to Palazzo Te, the summer residence of the Dukes of Mantua. Enjoy a guided tour through the frescoed rooms and beautiful Italian style gardens.
We continue our drive on to Verona, arriving by late afternoon. Verona is best known as the site of the fabled Romeo Juliet romance, but it is also home to wonderful music, theatre and wine.
Despite its thousands of years of rich history, Italy is still quite young as a country, unified in only 1861. Until then, the Italian peninsula was a collection of many small countries, each ruled by powerful family empires. In the 14th century, Verona was ruled by the Scala family - powerful and merciless leaders who expanded and glorified the town. Today the castles and monuments they built dominate the old town section.
Tonight, relax and enjoy a delightful dinner in a local restaurant, Bottega del Vino.
Hotel Due Torri
This morning explore Verona as our local guide takes us on a walking journey to examine the Medieval and Renaissance architecture and history of this enchanting town. Our first stop is Verona’s crown jewel, the Arena Amphitheater. Built in the year 100, it is one of the world’s best-preserved buildings, and second only to the Colosseum in Rome. This enormous structure, built from striped pink marble and seating an astonishing 30,000 people, was originally the site of spectacular gladiatorial matches. Today it hosts a variety of open-air summer performances and concerts.
Next, we investigate the adjacent Piazza Erbe, a palazzo-flanked square that once housed the Roman Forum and chariot races. Today it serves as a bustling bazaar and marketplace for spices, savories and silks. Not far from the piazza is the sight of legend and fantasy - Juliet’s balcony. Take a photo from beneath her balcony to capture the fictional image of Shakespeare’s creation; and visit a bronze statue of the doomed heroine in the home’s courtyard.
After our sightseeing, we drive just a few miles outside town to a Valpolicella wine farm. This romantic country setting, in the hillsides north of Verona, is the valley where and the famous Valpolicella and Amarone wines are produced. The name Valpolicella is likely from the Roman words “Valle poli cellae,” meaning “valley of the many cellars” - evidence of the ancient wine making tradition of this area. Take a walk in the vineyards and discover the differences between the various wine grapes that constitute the typical Valpolicella blend. See how the grapes for the Amarone and the Recioto are selected, and learn about the character of Valpolicella. Then, taste a sampling of these local wines, including the popular Recioto, a sweet red wine that dates back to ancient Roman times.
After lunch, we visit the expansive state gardens at the Villa Rizzardi. One hundred years after purchasing the estate in the mid 1600s, the Rizzardi family commissioned the famous Architect Luigi Trezza to design these amazing gardens, and today they are one of the last remaining examples of a true - Italian style garden.” Over 13 acres, the garden features include a temple, a green amphitheatre, stone walls, sculptures, tree tunnels and spectacular views. Many of these features were constructed by the technique of bending the trees and the hedges. The resulting landscape, together with the fountains and ponds, create a unique and impressive natural setting.
We then drive back to Verona where the remainder of your afternoon is at leisure. Relax or explore Verona on your own - stroll through the characteristic cobblestone streets, and perhaps investigate some of the local shops.
Tonight, we return to the Verona Arena for a moving Opera performance. In the early 1900s, the famous Verona tenor Giovanni Zenatello sang an opera aria in the Arena for few friends, revealing the amazing acoustics of this 2000 year-old Roman Amphitheater.
In 1913, after architect Ettore Fagioli added some huge three-dimensional elements, the opera Aida was staged, creating a new scenographical style and dramatic effect. The Verona Arena quickly became an international institution, and today up to 20,000 spectators can attend a popular evening opera performance.
Hotel Due Torri
Excursion to Vicenza
Today we take an hour’s drive to Vicenza, home to Andrea Palladio, the 16th century architect who set the trend for North American Palladianism. We spend the day exploring and appreciating this architectural style.
At the Palladian Society, we attend a special lecture by one of the top Italian specialists, Prof. Beltramini, President of the Palladian Society. Next, enjoy a guided walking tour of the Palladian sites in Vicenza’s town center. See Le Logge, Palazzo della Ragione and the gorgeous Teatro Olympico (Olympic Theater). Built in 1580-85, it is the oldest enclosed theater in the world, and was Andrea Palladio’s final design.
After lunch, we take a drive through the countryside to visit some of Palladio’s most famous villas. See Loggia Valmarana, dramatically reflected in dark waters that surround it, Villa Poiana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Villa Capra “La Rotonda,” whose building is a perfect expression of Palladio’s love of symmetry and classical forms. This villa is a cube shape, with a temple-style façade on each side, topped by a central dome.
Return to Verona by late afternoon.
Hotel Due Torri
Verona to Bolzano Merano
Today, travel north from Verona into the Alps. We circumnavigate Lake Garda, the second largest lake in Italy, driving along its Western shore, passing charming and picturesque villages such as Sirmione and Salò. See endless lemon groves and climb through steep mountain passes to the tip of the lake and into Sud Tyrol, the German speaking district of Italy.
Our lunch stop is at a wine farm to taste the Alpine region’s wines. The top quality Alpine region wines are developing into some of the best rated in the world.
In the late afternoon, stop in Bolzano, the tiny and gracious capital of Sud Tyrol. Enjoy a guided tour of downtown, with time to stroll through the local market and shops. We arrive in Merano in time for dinner.
Park Hotel Mignon
Merano is a small art-nouveau town, located along the Passer River. It is an outdoor lover’s paradise, with beautiful scenery and alpine charm. It is also home to a natural thermal water SPA complex.
Enjoy a full day of leisure at the Merano SPA park. You have access to the thermal pools, sauna and fitness center. Treatments are a-la-carte. Gaze upon views of the Alpine snowy peaks as you pamper yourself at this marvelous facility.
Enjoy a light lunch at the SPA Bistro or dine-around in town, perhaps taking time to explore the markets and shops.
Dinner is available at any of the gourmet restaurants on the Passer riverside - each offering spectacular foods focused on the perfect fusion Germanic and Mediterranean flavors.
Park Hotel Mignon
Merano to Cortina d’Ampezzo Venice
Today take a memorable scenic drive across the Dolomites - with its pink mountains and steep peaks this is perhaps the most beautiful Alpine region. Pass Brixen, a town from the Middle Ages, yet with a distinctive bourgeois character. Climb up through the Pustertal Valley, and stop at Lago Braies, a quintessential Alpine lake.
We stop at the resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo located in the heart of the Dolomite region. The resort may look familiar, as it was host to the 1956 Winter Olympics, as well as various Pink Panther and James Bond movies. We take a gondola ride up Mount Faloria for some stunning views from its 7,000-foot perch, and lunch at Chalet Tondi
We end the afternoon taking our private launch to our hotel in romantic Venice.
Today explore some of the more unusual and unexpected sides of this iconic floating city. We start with a private visit of the Palazzo of Count Loredan. Enjoy some morning refreshments as you hear the Count relate the history of his family, his home and Venice. Learn about some quirky local habits and some surprising behind-the-scenes events.
Mid-morning, we enjoy a guided promenade through an area rooted in Venetian tradition, visiting the “Bacari” wine bars. White wines from the surrounding countryside have poured into Venice for centuries, and in the old days, it was served to the locals at wine bars named after the Ancient Roman god of wine, Baccus. A few of these historic wine bars still exist and still serve good white wine. We stop at a few to imbibe and taste a sip of real local life.
Afterward, enjoy some free time for lunch - stroll through the colorful small streets and alleyways of this city teeming with life. There are a plethora of trattorias and cafes invigorated with the hypnotic aroma of rich Italian espresso.
In the afternoon, we head off to Squero, a gondola shipyard. After learning the art of building gondolas, craftsman Domenico Tramontin started his own boat-building yard in 1884. He made important changes to the shape of the boat, widening the bottom at the stern and raising the freeboard with a larger curve to give the boat a more elegant form. These changes were such a success they were permanently adopted by other gondola makers.
Early this evening, take a romantic gondola ride through the canals as your gondolier serenades you as you revel in Venice’s Renaissance beauty.
This evening, attend a farewell cocktail party and dinner at our hotel.
Depart Venice for Home
Today you are transferred to the Venice International Airport for your flight to your home city or your next destination.
June 16, 2012
From $14,990.00 per person double occupancy.
From $2,590.00 single room supplement.
- Deluxe rooms in the best available hotels*
- Three meals per day, including our unique Dine-Around program that lets you enjoy any restaurant you choose with à la carte dining, or relax with room service when available*
- A professional Travel Director as your personal concierge
- Local sightseeing with professional English-speaking guides with unparalleled knowledge, including entrance fees for places visited
- Active participation and up-close encounters to experience the cultures of your journey
- Bottled water, soft drinks, coffee and tea included with meals; bottled water during sightseeing excursions
- All gratuities to hotel and restaurant staff and local guides and drivers
- Group or individual airport transfers on arrival and departure flights
- TheTravcoAssist Travel Protection Plan, including emergency medical evacuation insurance coverage for injury or illness, and 24-hour Worldwide Live Travel Assistance through Travel Guard Assistance
*Due to remote or undeveloped locations on some journeys, accommodations may not always meet Western standards. Dine-Around opportunities will be limited in remote or unsecured locations.
All prices are in US dollars and do not include international airfare, unless otherwise noted.
Prices displayed are based on the lowest season base price and assume double occupancy. Prices are shown in U.S. dollars and may or may not include administrative fees, taxes, meals, airfare (where applicable) and Single Supplements. Cancellation penalties, blackout dates and other restrictions may apply.