The Italian 'Grande' Tour

18 days from $7,489 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

Explore idyllic fishing villages, Italian castles, Venetian canals,Tuscan hills and Neapolitan sunsets, as you travel through the heart of Italy from Milan to Rome discovering regional delights and stunning scenery along the way.
 

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, four nights in Naples visiting Ischia Island, Capri, Amalfi and Ravello. 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.
 

Book and deposit by 15 January, 2016 on this tour and SAVE up to $1000 per couple!*
*Conditions apply - please click here for details.

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 a local olive oil farmhouse estate
  • Explore the scenic villages of the famous Cinque Terre
  • Enjoy 2 nights in the Umbrian Hills staying in medieval Spoleto and visit Assisi
  • Marvel at the ancient ruins of Pompeii
  • Relax over 4 nights in wonderful Naples, visit the beautiful islands of Ischia and Capri and the picturesque towns of Amalfi and Ravello on the stunning Amalfi Coast.   
     
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, enroute to the Neapolitan Riviera.  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 four in Naples to explore the Amalfi Coast and nearby islands of Ischia and Capri, 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
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, 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.

*7 June & 22 September departures will stay at Villa Margherita in Mira, near Venice.  Dinner is included both nights at your hotel.

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 a local olive oil farmhouse estate.

Meals:
B
D
Hotel:
Ercolini & Savi Hotel

Day 8: Montecatini Terme in Tuscany

Today is dedicated to nearby ‘Firenze’ (Florence).  We 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

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 local guide for a 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: Naples

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 Naples, where we stay for the next four nights.  Naples – some call it Italy’s hidden masterpiece. Once run down and often derided Naples has now cleaned up its act and redefined itself.  It is bursting with castles, palaces and squares, plus there is also a revitalized sea front, excellent shopping and of course it is home to the country’s best pizza and pasta!  Staying four nights in the fashionable Chiaia district, we are surrounded by pedestrian promenades, upmarket shopping, cafes and restaurants. Naples also makes a perfect base for visiting the nearby Island of Ischia, Capri and the Amalfi Coast!

Meals:
B
D
Hotel:
Palazzo Alabardieri

Day 15: Naples

Today will be a major highlight as we catch the ferry across Tyrrhenian Sea to the delightful island of Ischia. A local guide will meet us on arrival in Ischia and accompany us on a tour around this beautiful island. First stop will be to explore the world famous gardens – the Giardini la Mortella. Lunchtime will be spent relaxing in the jewel of the island - Sant'Angelo. This ancient fishing village is noted for its charming square surrounded by quaint streets and alleys. In the afternoon we complete our circuit around the whole island and visit medieval Castello Aragonese, which sits dramatically on a rocky spur jutting out to sea.

Meals:
B
Ischia

Ischia…divine. Some say when the Gods created Capri they were just practising, and then along came the bustling crowds. Then they created Ischia, and they smiled… and said “shhhh”. The Italians love it, the senses delight in it, and that is why we make a point of visiting it! Easily accessible from glorious Naples, this is the real thing. The Giardini la Mortella – the ‘Garden of Myrtles’ – is already internationally respected, yet it only opened in 1992. On the other hand the ‘picture perfect’ fishing village of Saint’ Angelo is both charming, and ancient, and Castello Aragonese adds medieval drama. What a day. Unique!

Day 16: Naples

Today you have a wonderful choice. Visit Capri independently or, explore magnificent Naples with us.  For those who wish to visit the island of Capri, we have included a return ferry ticket. You will be at leisure to explore Capri at your own pace. Otherwise, join us as we enjoy a morning guided walking tour of the UNESCO World Heritage listed ‘Centro Storico’ (historic centre) with its glorious architecture and piazzas. The rest of the day will be free to visit the palaces, castles and museums or simply shop in the fashionable Chiaia district nearby your hotel. Dinner tonight is at leisure. This is Naples and the food is terrific. Don’t forget Pizza was invented here, and they will prove to you they really know how to make it!

Meals:
B

Day 17: Naples

Today we experience the world famous ‘Amalfi Drive’. Following the dramatic coastline, it is famous for its twisting, winding scenic drive with picturesque villages and towns hugging the cliffs and craggy coves. After spending time exploring Amalfi town, we climb into the hills to visit perhaps one of the most scenic towns along the Amalfi Coast, Ravello.  Perched on the mountain, commanding 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. Our finale will be a farewell dinner in a local restaurant.
 

Meals:
B
D

Day 18: To Rome

Sadly your tour ends after breakfast as you are transferred to Rome, to arrive mid afternoon.  The tour drop off point will be Rome Termini Station in the city centre.  We recommend you do not book trains or flights that depart before 5pm today.

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
  • 11 dinners including welcome and farewell dinners, local restaurant dinner in Stresa, Tuscan dinner at a local olive oil farmhouse estate and welcome drink in Stresa
  • Local guides – Isola Bella, CastelBrando, Venice, Florence, Assisi, Pompeii, Naples and Ischia
  • Entrances: Borromea Villa and Gardens, Villa Carlotta, Accademia Gallery, Pompeii, Giardini di Mortalla  and Castello Aragonese on Ischia
  • 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 ferries to both Capri and Ischia, 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!
Villa Margherita, Mira

Villa Margherita, Mira – 2 Nights

Once a noble residence, Villa Margherita is surrounded by large private gardens and overlooks the Brenta River. Situated just 25 minutes from the centre of Venice, this villa is perfectly located with only a 10 minute walk from the town centre.

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.
View of Naples Bay

Palazzo Alabardieri, Naples – 4 Nights

Located just 600 metres from Piazza del Plebiscito and surrounded by some of the best Italian shopping, the Palazzo Alabardieri hotel features large comfortable rooms with modern amenities and is the perfect location to explore Naples (as pictured).

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

The first organised tour we have experienced, and what a wonderful one it was. Small group of like minded Aussies who all took care of each other and most importantly  the most fantastic and dedicated Tour Manager. Our welfare and comfort was her main concern. Every detail was taken care of and all the dinners both included and extras and hotels were excellent, as was our driver.

When I became ill, our Tour Manager took care of me by organising a Doctor to come to our hotel. This enabled me to continue on our further travels. All her recommendations about places to see and eat we're spot on.

We feel privileged to have done an Albatross tour and would be more than pleased to have our Tour Manager as our guide again.

Wouldn't hesitate doing another Albatross tour again in the future.
 

Robert and Maree

Assisi

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 Sold Out
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
28 Apr 2016 15 May 2016 $7,489 $1,129 Space Available
2 May 2016 19 May 2016 $7,489 $1,129 Space Available
6 May 2016 23 May 2016 $7,489 $1,129 Space Available
14 May 2016 31 May 2016 $7,489 $1,129 Space Available
21 May 2016 7 Jun 2016 $7,489 $1,129 Space Available
26 May 2016 12 Jun 2016 $7,489 $1,129 Space Available
30 May 2016 16 Jun 2016 $7,489 $1,129 Space Available
7 Jun 2016 24 Jun 2016 $7,689 $1,269 Space Available
15 Jun 2016 2 Jul 2016 $7,489 $1,129 Space Available
23 Jun 2016 10 Jul 2016 $7,489 $1,129 Space Available
1 Jul 2016 18 Jul 2016 $7,489 $1,129 Space Available
18 Jul 2016 4 Aug 2016 $7,489 $1,129 Space Available
18 Aug 2016 4 Sep 2016 $7,489 $1,129 Space Available
29 Aug 2016 15 Sep 2016 $7,489 $1,129 Space Available
2 Sep 2016 19 Sep 2016 $7,489 $1,129 Space Available
6 Sep 2016 23 Sep 2016 $7,489 $1,129 Space Available
14 Sep 2016 1 Oct 2016 $7,489 $1,129 Space Available
18 Sep 2016 5 Oct 2016 $7,489 $1,129 Space Available
22 Sep 2016 9 Oct 2016 $7,689 $1,269 Space Available
2 Oct 2016 19 Oct 2016 $7,489 $1,129 Space Available