Have a ‘Grande’ Time Exploring Italy

When Italy comes to mind I envisage idyllic fishing villages, ancient Italian castles, rolling Tuscan hills and Neapolitan sunsets. It is above all about having time to relax and sit in a shady café to enjoy a leisurely lunch with a glass of wine whilst watching the world saunter by.

So it strikes me as really strange that so many Australians travel to the far side of the world and yet scrape only the surface of this beautiful historical country. Often they are on their mad-dash tours, crammed with one or maybe two night stays. Having seen and experienced so many busy coach groups piling into cities, rushing around, and then quickly moving on I knew there must be a much better way of doing it. That is why I created our 18 day ‘Italian Grande’ tour.

A country rich in history

Albatross travellers at Leaning Tower of Pisa

Italy has an extraordinary history dating back over 3000 years, so when you visit you truly need time… time to relax and savour the delights of the food, ancient architecture, and the culture. When creating the tour itinerary I ensured we offered our travellers three, four and even five night stays for a more leisurely pace.

The stunning Italian Lakes District

Bellagio, Lake Como - Courtesy of John Vernon

The ‘Italian Grande’ tour starts in Milan and ends in Rome, however these magical cities aren’t the focus of the tour, it is about what lies in between.

Your first leisurely stay is over four nights in a beautiful hotel set right on the shores of wonderful Lake Maggiore. As you look out from the hotel in the middle of the lake lay the Borromean Islands. Albatross Tours have included for you a cruise to the island where a guided tour of the palatial Borromeo Villa and terraced Italianate gardens is enjoyed.

On another day you visit Lake Como and enjoy a cruise across to beautiful Bellagio. You will also visit stunning Lake Orta. Since the high Alps are nearby, enjoy a day trip up to Macugnaga. Used as a location in many films, this village is famous for its beautifully preserved wooden chalets and the stunning backdrop of the Monte Rosa (Pink) Massif.

Our four night stay in the Italian Lakes region really stands out as an example of the pattern and style of touring we enjoy throughout the rest of the trip. It gives you more time to take in the key sites and explore the area independently.

To the Italian Dolomites

CastelBrando, Italy

Moving on, you cross to northern Italy and enjoy lunch time beside beautiful Lake Garda. Then continue to the valleys of the lower Dolomites, and the magnificent CastelBrando where you stay the next two nights. Dating back almost 2000 years, CastelBrando was converted into a palace 900 years ago. Staying in a genuine Italian castle is one you will never forget!

From here you visit and explore nearby Venice, and in the evening you have the chance to escape the tourist crowds by returning to CastelBrando to relax with an aperitif on the ancient terrace as the sun sets over the valley below.

The Tuscan Hills

Tuscany, Italy  -  Courtesy of Linda Appleby

Your next stop is Tuscany where you will spend a leisurely five nights. Montecatini itself is a delightful town and from here you will enjoy daily excursions throughout the region. Albatross Tours have included three regional day trips for you to truly experience the beauty and history of Tuscany. There are included visits to the dramatic Cinque Terre, Renaissance city of Florence, Pisa and the most quintessential walled Tuscan town of Lucca. It wouldn’t be a visit to Tuscany without indulging in local Italian cuisine. Travellers are taken to a local farmhouse, Osteria to taste local wines and olive oils, and enjoy a wonderful, typical Tuscan dinner.

Umbria, full of Italian old-world traditions

Spoleto, Umbria Italy - Courtesy of Linda Appleby

You will be staying in the town of Spoleto for the next two nights. Albatross Tours could quite easily drive there in perhaps three hours, but really, what’s the rush? Remembering the essential Albatross difference, we take all day enjoying stops along the way to explore the wonderful 13th century city of towers, San Gimignano, and the cobblestoned streets of medieval Siena.

Naples and the Amalfi Coast

Amalfi Coast, Italy - Courtesy of Linda Appleby

The next 3 nights you'll stay in the heart of the rejuvenated historical city of Naples. According to the Lonely Planet, “Its swag of royal palaces and castles make Rome look positively provincial.” In fact Naples has the highest number of historical monuments and churches of any single city in the entire world!But there is so much more to Naples. Apart from the beautiful seafront and pedestrian streets lined with elegant shops, there’s also the food. In the cafes and restaurants dining is a genuine Italian experience.While in Naples you will also enjoy trips to the Isle of Capri and spend a full day driving along the Amalfi Coast.

Your last full day on tour is spent exploring the ancient ruins of Pompeii before heading to the eternal city - Rome, for dinner in a local restaurant.

Albatross Tours ‘The Italian Grande’ tour is all about discovering the many great sites of Italy with a sensible touring style, genuine inclusions and enjoying what you have come so far to see. Italy can be such a busy place, so we limit our tour group size to just 28 travellers, providing you with a much more comfortable holiday and the opportunity to enjoy a more authentic travelling experience.

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Euan Landsborough

Euan Landsborough is the Managing Director and Tour Designer at Albatross Tours