The Italian 'Grande' Tour

18 days from $6,889 pp twin share

  • Leisurely 2, 3, 4 and 5 night stays
  • Small group size with a maximum of 28 travellers
  • Genuinely inclusive, no additional on tour costs
  • Character hotels in superb locations
  • Designed for Australians & New Zealanders
  • Guaranteed group departures

Tour Overview

Imagine… a more leisurely paced tour with two, three, four and even five night stays doing justice to Italy’s evocative regions. We stay four nights in the magnificent Italian Lakes District visiting Orte San Giulio, Macugnaga, Lake Maggiore and we cruise on Como to Bellagio. Following two nights in a dreamy Italian castle we enjoy five nights touring Tuscany visiting Florence, the Cinque Terre, Lucca, Pisa, Siena, and San Gimignano, two nights in the Umbrian Hills, and as a finale, three nights on the stunning Amalfi Coast visiting Capri, Amalfi and Ravello, and a last night in Rome.  Then there is the food, the wine, the ambience and the time to get “sotto la pelle”… under the skin.

Please note: In this tour we visit a number of medieval hilltop towns which may have some steep, uneven cobbled stone streets, and attractions with steep staircases and no lifts.  Additionally some larger cities only provide coach passenger drop off points 15 minutes or so walk from the old town centres. This need to walk from coach drop off points in some Italian towns and cities is common to ALL Tour Operators.  People with walking difficulties or limitations should consider this before booking. Additionally, local traffic by-laws and regulations on coach travel in Italian cities require a higher than usual number of earlier starts.

Highlights

  • Spend 4 nights by Lake Maggiore in the magnificent Italian Lakes District, visit Villa Carlotta and the town of Bellagio on the shores of Lake Como plus cruise on Lake Maggiore to the Borromean Islands
  • Visit the traditional mountain village of Macugnaga set high in the stunning Alps and spend an evening lakeside in beautiful Orta San Giulio
  • Stay 2 nights in a centuries old Italian castle, visit Lake Garda and the romantic canals of Venice
  • Spend 5 nights in Tuscany in the spa town of Montecatini Terme, visit Florence and the Accademia Gallery, Pisa, the medieval cities of Lucca and Siena, the fairytale ‘town of towers’ San Gimignano, sample the regional wines, olive oil and delightful local produce in a Tuscan farmhouse
  • Savour traditional Tuscan cuisine at Fattoria il Poggio
  • Explore the scenic villages of the famous Cinque Terre 
  • Enjoy 2 nights in the Umbrian Hills staying in medieval Spoleto and visit Assisi
  • Relax over 3 nights on the stunning Amalfi Coast, visit Capri, Amalfi and picturesque Ravello
  • Marvel at the ancient ruins of Pompeii and eternal Rome
Message from the Mo

Italy is very big. Very big!

Did you know, with motorway service station stops for morning tea and lunch, taking into consideration tolls, traffic and entering and exiting major cities it takes over eight and a half hours to travel on a coach from Florence to Sorrento or Venice to Rome! Yet so many tours have these drives as a standard day in their itinerary. Even worse they often have just one or two night stops at either end. 

That is why Albatross Tours breaks these journeys with five nights in Tuscany and two nights in Spoleto, en route to the Amalfi Coast. That is also why when we travel between destinations our days are not endurance tests. We allow leisurely stops en route! For instance, between Tuscany and Umbria we enjoy visits to both Siena and delightful San Gimignano and between Stresa and CastelBrando we have lunchtime beside Lake Garda.  Aren’t these sorts of visits exactly why you want to travel to glorious Italy? By providing four nights in the glorious Lakes District, two in an ancient castle, five in Tuscany, two in Spoleto and three on the Amalfi Coast we perfectly complete your Italian experience! 

It’s all about a sensible touring style, a civilized pace, genuine inclusions and actually enjoying what you have come so far to see.


Tour Itinerary

Day 1: Stresa on Lake Maggiore

Commencing in central Milan at midday we will transfer you to Stresa on wonderful Lake Maggiore, where you will stay the next four nights. Join us tonight for a welcome drink before dinner. This is an ideal chance to meet, and get to know, your Tour Manager and fellow travellers.

Meals:
D
Hotel:
La Palma Hotel or Regina Palace Hotel
Bellagio, Lake Como

World famous Bellagio epit-omizes the gorgeous towns lining the shores of the majestic Italian Lakes. That is why we charter a private cruise boat to admire the sumptuous villas and mansions adorning Lake Como before enjoying a relaxing lunchtime in beautiful Bellagio. Our leisurely 4 night stay in lakeside Stresa allows you the necessary time to do this, plus another cruise on Lake Maggiore and take in the Lakes of Garda and scenic Orta, and visit the mighty Alps. Absolutely Albatross!

Day 2: Stresa on Lake Maggiore

This morning we drive to the town of Como and follow the shore of the lake to Tremezzo, where we visit the world famous Villa Carlotta. This wonderful Villa is set in 70,000 square metres of romantic Italianate Gardens and faces across Lake Como to the Bellagio peninsula. The classic gardens boast fountains and pergolas and in spring time is famous for its Rhododendrons and Azaleas. Later we board our private boat and enjoy a cruise on Lake Como, past a number of striking lakeside villas, to delightful Bellagio. This beautiful town is situated at the tip of the peninsula separating the lake's two southern arms, with the Alps visible across the lake to the north. It’s time to relax in this delightful town which boasts peaceful villas and gardens nestled by the lakeside, elegant shops and walkways plus stylish al fresco dining at its very best. Later we return to Stresa. Dinner tonight is included in a local restaurant.
Meals:
B
D

Day 3: Stresa on Lake Maggiore

There is nothing like a day in the mountains - especially amongst some of the highest and most dramatic in the Alps! Following a deep valley we soon reach the mountain village of Macugnaga, close to the Swiss border. Used as a location in many films, the village is famous for its beautifully preserved wooden huts and chalets, and the stunning backdrop of the Monte Rosa (Pink) Massif and the 4,638 metres high Dufourspitze – Europe’s second highest mountain.

Your time is at leisure to explore the village and surroundings, and perhaps take a mountain cable car ride (subject to operating) to enjoy lunch and the extraordinary views. Later today we also visit the delightful town of Orta San Giulio beside the beautiful, and some say most romantic of all the lakes - Lake Orta. Your evening is at leisure to discover a local trattoria for dinner.

Meals:
B

Day 4: Stresa on Lake Maggiore

Boarding our private boat we visit the famous islands of Lake Maggiore. First stop will be Isola Bella where we have included entrance and a guided tour of the palatial Borromeo villa and gardens, which dominate the island. The villa boasts Murano glass chandeliers, gobelin-covered chairs, intricate tapestries and paintings. The spectacular formal gardens rise behind the ornate villa, with patterned flower beds falling in terraces, with statues and ornamental stonework completing the Italianate style. Next we visit Isola Pescatori (the Fisherman’s island). Lunchtime is at leisure on this small, picturesque island with its quaint cafes and restaurants set amongst the old houses with wooden balconies, tiny boats and fishing nets. The afternoon and evening are at leisure in delightful, lakeside Stresa.
Meals:
B

Day 5: Castelbrando

Bidding farewell to Lake Maggiore we drive east and arrive at Lake Garda late morning. This is the largest of the Italian lakes and the meeting point of three Italian regions. With a circumference of about 100 kilometres, the lake is surrounded by lemon and citrus groves. There will be time at leisure for lunch in one of the colourful and diverse lakeside towns. Later we reach the foothills of the Dolomites and the superb CastelBrando, where we stay for the next two evocative nights.* Located above the village of Cison di Valmarino, this 2,000 year old Roman fortress was turned into a sumptuous noble’s palace in the 13th century. Access to the castle is by funicular. On arrival we have included a guided tour of the castle.
Meals:
B
D
Hotel:
CastelBrando

Day 6: Castelbrando

After a leisurely start we descend to the Po Valley and visit nearby ‘Venezia’ (Venice) – arguably one of the most romantic cities in the world. At Tronchetto we board a private boat to take us along the magnificent Grand Canal to St Marc’s Square, where we join our expert local guide for a walking tour. The rest of the day is free to meander through the myriad of narrow, water lined streets and alleys spanned by humped back bridges. Dinner this evening is back in ‘our’ magnificent castle.
Meals:
B
D

Day 7: Montecatini Terme in Tuscany

A leisurely start to the day as we bid farewell to our castle and travel south to Tuscany. We arrive in the charming spa town of Montecatini Terme mid afternoon. This was once a favourite ‘cure resort’ of the crowned heads of state from all over Europe. We stay here for the next five nights, in a traditional family run, four star hotel, close to the major sights. As a highlight, this evening we drive into the picturesque Tuscan countryside, where we have arranged dinner at Fattoria il Poggio with its winery and olive groves.
Meals:
B
D
Hotel:
Ercolini & Savi Hotel

Day 8: Montecatini Terme in Tuscany

Today is dedicated to nearby ‘Firenze’ (Florence). We catch a train to swiftly reach the city centre, where you are joined by a local guide who will bring to life this truly beautiful city, which is otherwise known as the ‘Cradle of the Renaissance’. Your tour starts with a visit to the famous Accademia Gallery, home to Michelangelo’s ‘David’ and numerous other extraordinary Italian, Florentine and Renaissance works of art. We see the Duomo and take in the magnificent statues in the Piazza della Signoria. Your afternoon is entirely free to enjoy Florence at your own pace. Espresso Coffee on Piazza Santa Croce where Michelangelo is buried? A gelato whilst strolling across the Ponte Vecchio? Don’t forget the excellent shopping.
Meals:
B
D

Day 9: Montecatini Terme in Tuscany

The whole of today has been purposely left entirely at leisure. This is a perfect opportunity for you to do as little, or as much as you want! Maybe take the local train back to the museums and shops of Florence. Alternatively explore Montecatini’s old centre and parklands, or pamper yourself in one of the Spas. Perhaps just relax in your hotel or sip wine in a café and watch the world go by!

Meals:
B
Dining in Montecatini

We used to spend 4 nights here in Montecatini Terme, but then many past clients commented on how lovely and typically Tuscan this elegant spa town is and suggested that adding an extra day here - completely free - would make the stay perfect. So we did. Yes, we fully explore this amazing region, but now, by staying 5 nights in this delightful town, we add a fabulous, authentic activity – a completely free day to ‘go native’  simply for the pleasure of it!

Day 10: Montecatini Terme in Tuscany

A delightful day is planned as we explore the famous Cinque Terre. The name means ‘five lands’ and comes from the five unspoilt fishing villages that cling to the cliffs, overlooking the sea. We have arranged a coastal boat ride for you to admire the spectacular scenery and almost inaccessible fishing villages, and to visit Portovenere and Monterosso. Our return journey is by train through the tunnels and cliffs above.
Meals:
B
D

Day 11: Montecatini Terme in Tuscany

Our first stop today is in one of the most typically ‘Tuscan’ towns in the area, Lucca - a medieval walled city, filled with palaces, churches, ancient houses and the former home of Puccini, where he wrote Turandot. Walk on top of the city walls for the very best city views, or visit Piazza San Michele and stroll along the shops of Borgo Giannotti. Later we visit Pisa with its famous Leaning Tower, Cathedral and Baptistery in the magnificent Piazza dei Miracoli. This afternoon we visit a local farmhouse to enjoy an olive oil tasting accompanied by Tuscan wines and a selection of antipasto including local meats, cheese and bread - all specialities of this region.
Meals:
B

Day 12: Spoleto in Umbria

We make the short drive across Tuscany to the fairytale ‘town of towers’ San Gimignano, famous for its 13th and 14th century Tuscan towers. Exploring the pedestrian walkways of this hilltop town is an absolute delight. Lunchtime will be at leisure in the beautifully preserved streets of medieval Siena amongst the great sights such as the gothic town hall and the Piazza del Campo, scene of the famous Palio horse race. Next we wind up to the hills of Umbria and the wonderful walled town of Spoleto where we stay the next two nights. Medieval Spoleto is easily explored on foot. There are numerous romanesque churches and cobbled stone alleyways lined with shops, bars and trattorias.
Meals:
B
D
Hotel:
Hotel Dei Duchi

Day 13: Spoleto in Umbria

We spend this morning in the nearby beautiful Umbrian city of Assisi. Badly damaged by earthquakes in 1997 the city, dominated by two medieval castles, undertook a remarkable programme of restoration which soon brought it back to all its glory. On arrival in Assisi we are joined by a lay Franciscan Monk for a guided tour of the Basilica of St Francis with its magnificent frescoes. Afterwards there is time for you to explore Assisi at your own pace. Returning to Spoleto, the rest of the afternoon is at leisure. Perhaps take a leisurely walk along the path around the castle and across the medieval viaduct in to the Umbrian countryside. This is the real Italy!
Meals:
B
D

Day 14: Maiori on the Amalfi Coast

Driving south past Vesuvius we visit the ancient ruins of Pompeii, where a local guide takes us through the city that was buried under volcanic ash in AD 79. Paintings, furniture, mosaics, sculptures, graffiti and even loaves in ovens are wonderfully preserved. From here it’s only a short drive to the Amalfi coast and the port town of Maiori, where we stay for the next three nights. A perfect base for visiting all the local sights and soaking up the unique atmosphere of the Amalfi Coast!
Meals:
B
D
Hotel:
Reginna Palace Hotel

Day 15: Maiori on the Amalfi Coast

Enjoy your day as we take you on the ferry along the Amalfi coast, past Positano, and across to Marina Grande on the island of Capri, which the Roman emperor Tiberius made his capital. On arrival we meet our local guide and board a bus which takes us up to the top of the island to explore the charming village of Anacapri. We also spend time at leisure amongst the boutiques and galleries in the main town, Capri.
Meals:
B
D

Day 16: Maiori on the Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast is famous for its twisting, winding scenic drive with picturesque villages and towns hugging the cliffs and craggy coves. This morning we drive from Maiori along the dramatic coastline and spend time exploring Amalfi. Later we continue to visit perhaps one of the most scenic towns along the Amalfi Coast, Ravello. Perched on the mountain, command-ing panoramic views across the coast, Ravello is evocatively described as being “nearer to the sky than it is to the sea”, and has been a favourite haunt of artists and composers for centuries. Mid afternoon we return to Maiori, where the remainder of the afternoon and evening are at leisure.
Meals:
B

Day 17: Rome

On arrival in Rome we enjoy a guided panoramic tour around the famous landmarks of this grand city, from the magnificent fountains by Bernini, the palaces and open squares to Piazza Venezia and the massive Colosseum (entrance not included). After checking into our central Rome hotel, our finale will be a farewell dinner in a local restaurant.
Meals:
B
D
Hotel:
Hotel Massimo D’Azeglio

Day 18: Rome

Sadly your tour ends after breakfast in your hotel.
Meals:
B

Incredible Value Inclusions

  • All the sightseeing, scenic drives and excursions (as per the itinerary)
  • Fully escorted by our experienced Tour Manager
  • Travel in a first class air-conditioned touring coach
  • End of tour tips to Tour Manager and Driver, tips for local guides
  • 17 nights authentic, specially selected hotel accommodation
  • Hotel porterage (1 bag per person)
  • Breakfast daily
  • 12 dinners including welcome and farewell dinners, local restaurant dinner in Stresa, Tuscan dinner at Fattoria il Poggio and welcome drink in Stresa
  • Local guides – Isola Bella, CastelBrando, Venice, Florence, Assisi, Pompeii, Capri and Rome
  • Entrances: Borromea Villa and Gardens, Villa Carlotta, Accademia Gallery and Pompeii
  • Cinque Terre excursion, private boat for tour of Borromean Islands on Lake Maggiore, private boat for Lake Como cruise to Bellagio, private water transfers in Venice, return ferry to Capri, Amalfi Coast excursion to visit Amalfi and Ravello, food, wine and olive oil tasting in a Tuscan farmhouse
  • Personal audio system whilst on tour
  • Free WIFI available on most coaches and at hotels

Your Hotels

La Palma Hotel, Stresa

La Palma Hotel, Stresa – 4 Nights

Set in its own private gardens and within an easy walking distance of Stresa’s old town, this first class hotel is superbly located on the lakeside promenade with magnificent views across Lake Maggiore. The elegant dining room leads out into the hotels manicured gardens, and the swimming pool is located opposite the hotel, on the lakeshore.
Regina Palace Hotel, Stresa

Regina Palace Hotel, Stresa – 4 Nights

The 4 star Regina Palace hotel is situated on the banks of Lake Maggiore, in the centre of Stresa and offers stunning view of the Borromean Islands. The century old hotel offers classic style interiors and is surrounded by large gardens and an open air pool.
Castelbrando in the foothills of the Italian Dolomites , Castelbrando Hall

Castelbrando, Cison Di Valmarino – 2 Nights

A beautifully restored castle with sensitive modernisation has brought the original magnificence back to life. Guelph style decorative battlements, stone cellars, tapestries, swords and suits of armour set the scene for the elegant halls, dining rooms, manicured gardens and terraces overlooking the valley. Glorious for après dinner drinks on a summer evening!
Carlton On The Grand Canal Hotel, Venice

Carlton On The Grand Canal Hotel, Venice – 2 Nights

This elegant hotel is conveniently located with easy access to all the main tourist attractions. Decorated with Venetian plaster-work and Murano glass, this stunning hotel is equipped with modern comforts. The terrace top sky lounge and restaurant offers a splendid view of the Grand Canal and the Venice skyline.
Ercolini & Savi Hotel, Montecatini Terme

Hotel Ercolini & Savi, Montecatini Terme – 5 Nights

Located in a Liberty style building dating back to the 19th century, the Hotel Ercolini & Savi offers a fantastic location as well as being a relaxing and welcoming place to stay. The hotel is in an extremely central location in the elegant Via San Martino, close by Piazza del Popolo.
Hotel Dei Duchi, Spoleto

Hotel Dei Duchi, Spoleto – 2 Nights

This unpretentious, family run hotel is located just outside the old city walls and is known locally for its cuisine. The dining area offers wide panoramic views of the stunning Umbrian countryside. The hotel has the dual benefit of being a ‘town’ hotel but at the same time giving the feeling as if you are in the middle of the countryside.
Reginna Palace Hotel, Maiori

Reginna Palace Hotel, Maiori – 3 Nights

Located in the centre of Maiori overlooking the bay, the Reginna Palace Hotel is surrounded by tropical gardens and features a private beach. With attentive and friendly staff, you will have an unforgettable stay at the Reginna Palace Hotel.

Tour Reviews

This tour met all my expectations largely due to our exceptional Tour Manager. Her local knowlege, including historical knowledge of specific sites made each visit memorable. She would have a map ready for us each day we had a visit to a new town, a notice board in a prominent place in each hotel hightlighting times and activities for the days we were staying and helped with booking everything from trains to tours not included with Albatross.

I particularly liked the free time we had in most places to see and experience what interested us - shopping for some, museums or historical sites for others.

Each hotel was different, as were rooms, but I found all to be a good or excellent standard - exactly what was stated in the pre tour information.

Meals were also very good and there were also plenty of opportunities to sample local fare on your own or within the group if you wanted to.

 

Maree

Grand Canal, Venice

Tour Rating 5-Star

This tour surpassed my expectations. I was able to relax with no worries about time and venues. Other travellers were friendly. I enjoyed spending several nights in the same hotel and gaining a more in depth appreciation of the beauty and wonder of scenery. 

Our Tour Manager was enthusiastic, resourceful, showed tremendous attention to detail and went well beyong the call of duty. 

Marion

Cinque Terre, courtesy of Deb Greenhalgh

Tour Rating 5-Star

Dates and Prices

Start Date End Date Twin Share PP Price (AUD) Single Supplement (AUD) Availability
19 Aug 2015 5 Sep 2015 $6,889 $929 Sold Out
30 Aug 2015 16 Sep 2015 $6,889 $929 Space Limited
2 Sep 2015 19 Sep 2015 $6,889 $929 Sold Out
6 Sep 2015 23 Sep 2015 $7,129 $1,249 Sold Out
9 Sep 2015 26 Sep 2015 $6,889 $929 Space Limited
16 Sep 2015 3 Oct 2015 $6,889 $929 Space Limited
27 Sep 2015 14 Oct 2015 $6,889 $929 Sold Out
1 Oct 2015 18 Oct 2015 $6,889 $929 Space Available