La Grande France, Lake Garda & Tuscany Tour

27 days only $12,889 pp twin share

  • Leisurely 2, 3 and 4 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

Discover five of France’s seductive regions and four of Italy’s glorious regions on one delicious 27 day tour! This leisurely paced ‘Grand Journey’ seamlessly connects our 16 day ‘La Grande France’ and 16 day ‘Italian Lakes & Tuscany’ tours linking between the cities of Nice and Genoa.

Highlights

  • Stay 3 nights amongst the glorious chateaux of the Loire Valley, see mighty Chambord and visit elegant Chenonceau, the incredible Gardens of Villandry, Fontevraud Abbey and Da Vinci’s Clos de Luce  
  • Explore Amboise and Chinon, and visit the Palaeolithic rock paintings on the cave site of Lascaux II and tragic Oradour-sur-Glane   
  • In the Dordogne, stay 3 nights in perfectly preserved Sarlat-la-Caneda, cruise on the river Dordogne to Domme, explore ancient Rocamadour  and visit the incredible caves of Gouffre de Padirac  
  • Sleep for 3 nights in le Château des Ducs in the Cathar countryside of Languedoc Roussillon, play pétanque, enjoy a wine tasting in the Chateau’s ancient chapel, visit Carcassonne, beautifully preserved Mirepoix  and intriguing Rennes-le-Chateau, and Castelnaudary before cruising down the Canal Du Midi
  • Stay 3 nights in Provence, relax in ancient Nimes, visit Aigues-Mortes set in the salt pans of the Camargue, Avignon and the Roman Pont du Gard, experience the Carriere des Lumiere sound and light show in Les Baux and enjoy dinner in St Remy
  • Visit the pretty harbour town of Cassis and enjoy a dramatic Calanques coastal cruise
  • Relax over 3 nights in the Cote d’Azur, explore Nice, Cannes and Monte Carlo, plus visit a perfumery in Grasse
  • Visit exclusive Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat, enjoy afternoon tea in Villa Ephrussi – home of the Rothschild family, plus experience a farewell dinner in the artisan village of Saint Paul de Vence  
  • Spend 2 nights in Liguria, in historic Genoa with its magnificent UNESCO listed palaces and stately homes
  • Visit beautiful Santa Margherita Ligure, cruise to world famous Portofino and the hidden Abbey of San Fruttuoso, and spend a delightful day exploring the famous Cinque Terre  
  • Relax over 4 nights in the typically ‘Tuscan’ town of Lucca, visit renaissance Florence, Pisa and enjoy an expert Italian cooking demonstration followed by lunch
  • Dine out in the olive groves at a Tuscan Osteria, and enjoy a wine tasting followed by dinner in a beautiful vineyard estate in Calvagese, near Lake Garda 
  • Visit the fantastic Ferrari museum and a private collection of Maseratis, and enjoy light lunch at the Panini Hombre Parmesan cheese farm
  • Stay 3 nights beside glorious Lake Garda and explore D’Annunzio’s remarkable Villa and Gardens  
  • As a finale, stay 2 nights in an elegant Venetian Villa hotel near Treviso, visit Romeo and Juliet’s Verona, romantic Vicenza, and taste Grappa in the hometown of Bassano del Grappa  

 

 
 
The La Grande France, Lake Garda & Tuscany Tour is just one of many you can enjoy in France or Italy. Visit each destination page for more information for our other amazing tours!


 

Message from the Mo

9 incredible regions - one Grande Journey

This unique, leisurely paced tour focuses on 9 incredible regions across France and Italy. We unfold thousands of years of culture, history and explore man’s miraculous achievements as well as some incredible scenery. All this wrapped around so many wonderful hotel experiences and, of course, some fantastic dining.

I often say that too many people go to Europe madly ‘ticking off’ the major sights and by doing just that they sadly miss so much. This is such a ‘Grande’ journey – and it must not be rushed. You need time. Our average length of stay of around 3 nights at every stopover not only allows us to get beneath that tourist veneer and see and enjoy so much more, but also gives you that absolutely essential free time to recharge those batteries and have such enjoyable time at leisure. And what a way to end a tour with 2 nights in a glorious villa near Venice!  Understanding that Venice is perhaps the cruise capital of Europe, it made sense for us to end the programme there. Perfect for those wanting to stay on a while and enjoy that miracle island city, or so easily jump on a relaxing Mediterranean cruise.

When I look at the summary of all the highlights and the incredible inclusions listed, the sheer variety and scope of the tour is almost unbelievable. We make absolutely sure that we cover each region sensibly and in depth, and by capturing that regional essence and vibrancy I know you won’t find anything remotely like it elsewhere!
 

Tour Itinerary

Day 1: Paris to Tours in the Loire Valley

Your tour commences mid-morning in Paris. After meeting your Tour Manager we board our coach and make our way south-west to the wonderful Loire Valley. In the afternoon we will stop at Chambord to view the magnificent château set in over 5000 wooded hectares. Later we continue to our hotel in the centre of Tours where we spend the next three wonderful nights. This evening we enjoy a welcome drink before dinner. 

Meals:
D
Hotel:
Clarion Hotel, Chateau Belmont

Day 2: Tours in the Loire Valley

This morning we enjoy a visit to the magnificent Château Chenonceau, spanning the River Cher on a series of graceful arches. Here we explore the stunning gardens and interior of the château. Later we stop in Amboise, on the banks of the River Loire, where Leonardo da Vinci once lived as a guest of King Francois I. We have included a visit to da Vinci’s residence – Château du Clos Lucé. This evening will be free in the old town of Tours to discover your own provincial bistro for dinner. 

Meals:
B

Day 3: Tours in the Loire Valley

Our first stop of the day will be to visit the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud. Built nearly 1000 years ago, this is the largest abbey in Western Europe. Lunchtime will be spent exploring Chinon, with its massive castle, and in the afternoon we will visit the classic 16th and 18th century gardens of Château Villandry. Dinner tonight is in a local restaurant. 

Meals:
B
D

Day 4: Sarlat La Caneda in the Dordogne

This morning we make a poignant visit to the ‘ghost village’ of Oradour-sur-Glane. In June 1944, a Nazi SS Panzer Division massacred all the inhabitants and destroyed this village. The village was never rebuilt and has been preserved as a memorial to this awful atrocity. We have included entrance and audio guides through the museum ‘Centre de la memoire d’Oradour’. Later we will continue on to visit Lascaux, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous for its magnificent Palaeolithic cave paintings before continuing to the beautiful Dordogne Valley where we stay the next three nights. 
 
 
Meals:
B
D
Hotel:
Hotel de Selves

Day 5: Sarlat La Caneda in the Dordogne

A guide joins us for the whole day. First explore the medieval, architectural time capsule village of Sarlat, with its beautifully preserved old town centre. Later we will drive to the nearby village of La Roc Gageac, set beside the pretty Dordogne River before boarding a barge and drifting slowly down the stunning River Dordogne to the incredibly picturesque village of Domme. We have included a ride on the petit train up through the ramparts to the town square. 

Meals:
B

Day 6: Sarlat La Caneda in the Dordogne

This morning we will visit the incredibly picturesque ‘pilgrimage town’ of Rocamadour with its churches, monastic buildings and centuries old town centre. Later we enjoy a guided visit through the astounding caves of the ‘Gouffre de Padirac’. A visual feast and beautifully lit, we also experience a 500 metre boat ride to the spectacular ‘Grand Dome’. Dinner is in a local Sarlat restaurant. 
 
Meals:
B
D
Gouffre de Padirac

The astounding caves of the ‘Gouffre de Padirac’ are a natural wonder. Located in France’s Lot region the site is the most visited in the area. You descend 75 metres into a chasm. From there you board a boat to follow a subterranean river for 500 metres through spectacular vaulted caves such as the Lac de la Pluie (lake of rain) where a 60 metre stalactite hands form the ceiling, and the spectacular ‘Grand Dome’.  Visually stunning, the extraordinary rock formations and vast rock galleries are beautifully lit. What an experience!

Day 7: Chateau des ducs de Joyeuse in Couiza

After free time in Castelnaudary we then board a canal boat to enjoy an afternoon cruise down the famous Canal du Midi. This afternoon we arrive in Couiza, in the land of the Cathars, where we stay three nights in the wonderful 16th century, castle style, Château des Ducs de Joyeuse. Dinner is included in your château. 
 
Meals:
B
D
Hotel:
Château des Ducs de Joyeuse

Day 8: Chateau des ducs de Joyeuse in Couiza

This morning, with a local guide, we visit the nearby city of Carcassonne and explore the ramparts and old town. This medieval castle, with its gigantic double walled fortifications and 53 watchtowers, is the 2nd most visited site in France outside of Paris. Mid-afternoon we return to our château hotel. Here we can try our hand at Pétanque (Boules), the traditional French village sport. Dinner tonight will be in the village at the traditional bistro, Le Carnotzet. 

Meals:
B
D

Day 9: Château des Ducs de Joyeuse in Couiza

A leisurely start before we enjoy lunchtime in the perfectly preserved time capsule of Mirepoix, boasting one of the most beautiful medieval town squares in Europe, with its colourfully painted, half-timbered houses. Later we will visit the Museum in the nearby hilltop village of Rennes-le-Château, famous for so many conspiracy theories surrounding the treasures of the Knights Templars & the Holy Grail. Early evening we will assemble in the Château’s old vaulted chapel to enjoy a tasting of the excellent local wines, before dinner. 
 
Meals:
B
D

Day 10: Nimes in Provence

Our scenic drive this morning takes us past the Cathar castles of Puilaurens and Quéribus. Later we stop to marvel at the Ecluses de Fonserannes, a unique staircase of locks on the Canal du Midi. An extraordinary engineering feat! In the afternoon we will drive into the famous Camargue region and enjoy a visit to 13th century walled city of Aigues-Mortes. We stay three nights in nearby Nimes. 
 
 
Meals:
B
D
Hotel:
Hotel Imperator

Day 11: Nimes in Provence

This morning on our way to Avignon, we have included a visit to the spectacular Pont du Gard – an imposing 2,000 year old Roman aqueduct. We then visit the Papal City of Avignon for lunchtime. Returning to Nimes mid afternoon, a local guide joins us for a walking tour of this remarkable city, including entrance to the giant Arena of Nimes – the best preserved amphitheatre in the Roman Empire. Your evening is free in Nimes 

Meals:
B

Day 12: Nimes in Provence

A leisurely morning in Nimes. Do as much or as little as you wish. Mid afternoon we journey to the crumbling castle and once deserted village of Les Baux. Set on the craggy hillside, this rejuvenated town is an extraordinary sight. We have also included entrance to enjoy a stunning audio visual art show – the Carriere des Lumre. Later, in the romantic town of St Remy, we enjoy a special Provencal dinner in a local restaurant.

Meals:
B
D

Day 13: Nice on the Cote d'Azur

First stop today will be in the old fishing village of Cassis, on the Côte d’Azur. From here we enjoy a morning cruise to explore some of the incredibly picturesque Calanques. These rugged inlets with steep cliffs tumbling into the crystal clear, azure waters are best viewed by boat. Lunchtime will be at leisure in the picturesque harbour of Cassis. We stay the next three nights in Nice – the ‘Queen of the Riviera’. Dinner tonight is in a local restaurant. 

Meals:
B
D
Hotel:
Hotel Beau Rivage
Calanques, France

If the UNESCO World Heritage Organisation think the ‘Calanques’ are notable and worth eternal preservation then we reckon you should see them. These deep rugged inlets cover a length of 20 kms and a depth of up to 4 kms along the coast between Cassis and Marseille. Roots of plants and bushes are anchored into colourful rock faces, which tumble down into the crystal clear azure blue waters. Perfect for our spectacular afternoon cruise on the Côte d’Azur! Uniquely Albatross. 

Day 14: Nice on the Cote d'Azur

This morning we will visit a French perfumery in the hill town of Grasse, before enjoying free time in the extravagant city of Cannes, with its old port town and ‘La Croisette’ – the seafront promenade. Late afternoon we have also included an excursion to Monaco, and the old city of Monte Carlo to explore and enjoy dinner at leisure. 

Meals:
B

Day 15: Nice on the Côte d’Azur

Your morning is entirely free in the elegant resort town of Nice. In the afternoon we will visit Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat where we have included a tour through the grand apartments and gardens of fabulous Villa Ephrussi – home of the Rothschild family, and afternoon tea. As a finalé, we will drive to the artisan old town of St Paul de Vence where we enjoy dinner in a local restaurant. 
 
 

 

Meals:
B
D

Day 16: Genoa

At this point, after breakfast, one part of your tour ends and another is about to begin.  As mentioned in the introductory paragraphs, this 27 day ‘Grand Journey’ is essentially a clever combination of 2 tours - the 16 day ‘La Grande France’ tour and the 16 day ‘Italian Lakes and Tuscany’ tour. They were planned specifically so they could merge at this point to become one glorious tour. You will now be saying farewell to your specialist French Tour Manager and travelling independently by train to Genoa in Italy. Here you will be joining your new travelling companions, led by a specialist Italian Tour Manager. The transfer is easy and we have included the cost of the one way train ticket from Nice to Genoa.
 
Bidding farewell to your Tour Manager and travelling companions in Nice, you will enjoy a three hour scenic train ride to Genoa on the Ligurian coast. On arrival in Genoa you will be met and escorted to your hotel where you will stay the next two nights. Depending on your arrival time in Genoa you will have time to explore the city’s old heart, with its pedestrian shopping malls, beautiful churches and nearly 50 UNESCO listed palaces and stately homes. 
 

 

Meals:
B
D
Hotel:
Grand Hotel Savoia

Day 17: Genoa

We will spend the morning at leisure in the beautiful town of Santa Margherita Ligure with its elegant shops, boutiques and cafés. Later we take a boat to visit the world famous harbour of Portofino, and then on to visit the Abbey of San Fruttuoso, which is only accessible by boat. Your evening is at leisure in Genoa. 

Meals:
B

Day 18: Lucca in Tuscany

Today we explore the famous Cinque Terre. Our first stop of the day will be in the pretty port of Monterosso. From here we catch a boat and cruise along the spectacular coastline of the Cinque Terre to visit the delightful villages of Vernazza and Portovenere. Boarding our coach in La Spezia, we drive to Tuscany where we stay the next four nights in the typically ‘Tuscan’ town of Lucca – a medieval walled city, filled with palaces, churches and ancient houses. Dinner tonight is in a local restaurant. 
Meals:
B
D
Hotel:
San Luca Palace

Day 19: Lucca in Tuscany

Today we visit ‘Firenze’ (Florence). A local guide joins us to show us the magnificent city and we will also visit the famous Accademia Gallery, home to Michelangelo’s ‘David’. Your afternoon is entirely free amongst the shops, markets, museums and sights of Florence. 

Meals:
B

Day 20: Lucca in Tuscany

After a relaxing start we will enjoy a Pasta and Pizza cooking demonstration followed by a leisurely lunch. Your afternoon and evening is at leisure in lovely Lucca. 
 
Meals:
B
L

Day 21: Lucca in Tuscany

This morning we visit Pisa with its famous Leaning Tower, Cathedral and Baptistery in the magnificent Piazza dei Miracoli. Your afternoon is free to explore delightful, medieval Lucca. This evening we visit a Tuscan olive oil farmhouse estate to enjoy a tasting of oils and a selection of antipasto including local meats, cheese and bread followed by dinner.

Meals:
B
D

Day 22: Lake Garda

Driving north we reach Maranello, near Modena, where a local guide will take us around the fantastic Ferrari Museum. Later, at the Panini Hombre cheese farm we learn how ‘Parmigiano–Reggiano’ (Parmesan) cheese is made, before enjoying a light lunch. Here you will also have a visit to the Panini family’s private collection of historic Maseratis. Continuing to Lake Garda, we reach lakeside Gardone Riviera, where we stay the next three nights. On arrival we enjoy a welcome drink on the terrace of Winnie’s Piano Bar. Dinner tonight will be overlooking the lake.
 
* 23 August departure stays at Hotel Villa Luisa, San Felice del Benaco 
 
Meals:
B
L
D
Hotel:
Grand Hotel Gardone Riviera
Ferrari Museum and Maserati, courtesy of Keira Lane

Nothing quite demonstrates Italian fire and passion as does a bright red Ferrari. In Maranello we enjoy a guided visit through the amazing Ferrari Museum with its fascinating display of past and present Ferrari road and racing cars. But it is more than that, with its engaging historical displays, Formula One racing simulators and pit stops. After a light lunch and Parmesan cheese tasting we will visit the Panini family’s extraordinary collection of historic Maseratis. Ferrari and Maserati – all in one day? This is Italy after all!

Day 23: Lake Garda

We have left today entirely free to enjoy glorious Lake Garda. Perhaps wander around Gardone Riviera town, or maybe catch a ferry to Salo, or across the lake to the ‘picture postcard’ ports of Bardolino, Garda, Lazise or Sirmione. 

Meals:
B
D

Day 24: Lake Garda

This morning we visit the Villa and Gardens of Il Vittoriale degli Italiani – created by D’Annunzio – the remarkable Italian patriot, aviator, hero, writer and poet and (of course) great lover. After a free afternoon we will visit a local wine estate for a wine tasting followed by a special dinner. 

Meals:
B
D

Day 25: Treviso

Skirting the lake we will visit Romeo and Juliet’s Verona. A local guide will bring to life this beautiful city, where these tragic lovers avowed a love that spanned the centuries. This afternoon we continue to beautiful Vicenza, where a local guide will join us for a walking tour to explore the medieval centre. Later we arrive at our Venetian Villa hotel, where we stay the last two nights.  
 
Meals:
B
D
Hotel:
Hotel Villa Contarini Nenzi

Day 26: Treviso

A leisurely start this morning before we visit delightful Bassano del Grappa located on the foothills of the Alps. After free time in the wonderful old town we have included a visit and tasting at the Poli Grappa Museum. This afternoon we enjoy a stop in the historic centre of Treviso. Tonight we will enjoy a Farewell Dinner back at our historic Villa.

Meals:
B
D

Day 27: To Venice

Your ‘Grand Journey’ is complete. After breakfast we have included a group transfer to drop off at Venice Marco Polo airport. We recommend you book flights that depart after 12 midday today. 

Meals:
B

Incredible Value Inclusions

  • Fully escorted by our experienced Tour Manager
  • Travel in a first class air-conditioned touring coach
  • Train ticket Nice to Genoa
  • 26 nights specially selected hotel accommodation
  • Hotel porterage (1 bag per person)
  • Breakfast daily (B)
  • Lunch in Lucca and light lunch at Panini Hombre (L)
  • 19 dinners including welcome dinner and 9 local restaurant dinners in Loire Valley, Dordogne, Couiza, St Remy, Nice, St Paul de Vence, Lucca, Tuscan Hills, Lake Garda plus Villa hotel farewell dinner (D)
  • Welcome drink Loire Valley and Winnie’s Bar beside Lake Garda, wine & olive oil tasting in a Tuscan Osteria and Grappa tasting in Bassano del Grappa
  • All excursions, scenic drives, sightseeing and entrances as described
  • Special Highlights - barge cruise Dordogne, cruises Canal du Midi, the Calanques, Portofino and Cinque Terre, Villa Ephrussi afternoon tea
  • Local guides as described in the itinerary
  • Personal audio system whilst on tour
  • Free WiFi available on most coaches and at hotels
  • End of tour tips to Tour Manager and Driver, tips for local guides

Your Hotels

Clarion Hotel, Chateau Belmont

Clarion Hotel, Chateau Belmont, Loire Valley - 3 nights

Located close to Tours old town, guests are welcomed by a grand building (we would rather not describe it as a château) set in 6 acres of manicured parklands. The hotel features a heated swimming pool, bar, restaurant and all rooms feature modern amenities amongst an elegant design. 

Hotel De Selves, Dordogne

Hotel de Selves , Dordogne - 3 nights

This contemporary 4-star hotel is situated just a ten minute walk from the medieval district. The hotel is set around beautiful gardens, large terraces and a swimming pool, Guest rooms are decorated in a contemporary style and feature high quality services and offer modern comforts. 
 
Chateau des ducs Joyeuse, Couiza

Château des Ducs de Joyeuse, Couiza - 3 nights

Dating back nearly 500 years this ‘castle château’ was built following the wedding and merging of two prominent families, the Voisin family and the Dukes of Joyeuse. Today it is an elegant castle hotel, with renaissance style furniture and a wonderful central courtyard where you can take breakfast. There is a medieval style restaurant and the old chapel has been turned into a wine cellar. 

Hotel Imperator, Nimes

Hotel Imperator, Nimes - 3 nights

Set in the centre of Nimes, the Hotel Imperator is located in an art-deco building facing the Jardins de la Fontaine gardens. Perfectly located, the hotel offers modern amenities which you would expect from a 4-star hotel. 

Hotel Beau Rivage, Nice

Hotel Beau Rivage, Nice - 3 nights

This 4-star boutique hotel with a contemporary design is centrally located in the Old Town of Nice, just a stone’s throw from the sea and Promenade des Anglais and offers style, quality and warm, friendly service. The air conditioned guest rooms have modern ensuite bathrooms with amenities. 

Grand Hotel Savoia

Grand Hotel Savoia, Genoa - 2 nights

The beautiful Grand Hotel Savoia, built in 1897, will take you back in time. Located close to the historic centre of Genoa the hotel contains all the features you would expect from a first class hotel plus more. See www.grandhotelsavoiagenova.it
 
San Luca Palace, Lucca

San Luca Palace, Lucca - 4 nights

Set in a historic building dating back to 1540, the San Luca Palace is perfectly located within the ancient city walls in the historic centre of Lucca, with just a short walk to all the major sights. Opened as a hotel in 2007, this first class hotel offers all the modernised features you would expect. See www.sanlucapalace.com/lucca-tuscany
 
Grand Hotel, Gardone Riviera

Grand Hotel Gardone Riviera - 3 nights

Set directly on the lakeshore with its own private promenade and jetty and facing across beautiful Garda, the aptly named ‘Grande’ is absolutely reminiscent of the ‘grand days of old’. Winnie’s piano bar is a delight 
and breakfasts beside the water will never be the same. 
Hotel Villa Contarini Nenzi, Treviso

Hotel Villa Contarini Nenzi , Treviso - 2 nights

This is an elegant 18th century grand residence now sensitively restored into an excellent 4-star spa hotel. Located just outside of Treviso, the Contarini Nenzi contains traditional period piece furniture, and is surrounded by wonderful Italian-style parkland, with some old stables and even a delightful nineteenth century little church with frescoes.

Tour Reviews

We enjoyed our first tour through France and Northern Italy. The pace was busy however that said we definitely would not have visited so many amazing places if done independently. Our Tour Manager for France was an excellent, highly informative girl from the UK and we were very impressed with her knowledge of each destination and her organisation skills, she also went above and beyond for one injured passenger. The hotels in France were quite good except.

The northern Italy part of the trip was fabulous also, our hotels were good again. Lake Garda was a highlight and having a few nights there, bliss. Our Tour Manager was funny and experienced; she kept us entertained whilst driving to our excursions. The meals on tour were great for both tours and again seeing hidden gems that you wouldn't normally visit memorable and definitely worth it. The main thing that we both learnt from our tour was to go and explore each town or place visited and get the whole experience. We would go with Albatross again based on the fabulous villages and sights we saw not just the normal "visited" highlights that every visitor sees and the longer stays offered in various towns.
 

Lynne

Chateau Villandry, France

Tour Rating 4-Star

Dates and Prices

Start Date End Date Price Per Person Guaranteed to Depart Availability
23 Aug 2017 18 Sep 2017 AUD $12,889 Sold Out
13 Sep 2017 9 Oct 2017 AUD $12,889 Sold Out

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