I am Australian, but I have always felt a pull towards Europe. As a child, we travelled to Holland twice to visit family. Once when I was five and the next when I was ten. On the second trip, my parents took me on tour to Austria.
It was January, freezing and to me, it looked like a magical white wonderland. I loved it.
In my young mind, I thought there was no other time to travel other than winter. That trip was the first time I saw snow. I loved the cold pinching my face, the feeling of being rugged up in a cosy jacket and scarf.
It was far removed from anything I had ever experienced in Australia, and I was hooked.
When my own family and I travelled to Europe, I worked as many countries as possible (without rushing) into our 2-month itinerary. There were many favourites, but Italy stood out as a front runner.
Perhaps it was because we stayed in three different locations – Rome, Orvieto and Venice. I purposely chose places that were different and that would give us a good overview of what Italy had to offer.
I liked Rome.
But I loved Orvieto and Venice.
Venice has an ethereal quality unlike anywhere else I have been, and Orvieto suits my penchant for small, quieter country destinations.
I have returned to Italy twice since then, exploring different areas and as well as revisiting Venice. But the last trip I undertook, last’s years first solo trip, has very much made it a winner in my eyes.
So far, that is.
And because of that trip, I decided to include those places plus one other, Cortona in my itinerary for A Taste of Italy – A Travel Charm Small Group Tour, with dates in 2019 and 2020 to choose from.
Our first stop on this Italian tour is Florence.
Birthplace of Renaissance, Florence is filled with art and history and food.
Whatever you enjoy, Florence can accommodate. It is a beautiful, small city that is easy to walk around making it the perfect Italian city to explore. I don’t think it matters how often you visit Florence there will always be more to see, more to experience.
We will eat, taste wine, enjoy the stunning vistas and wander. I will share my favourite restaurants with you and spend time browsing markets like San Lorenzo and Sant’ Ambrogio and Mercato Nuovo.
On our first evening in Florence, we will be joining an evening walking tour, getting acquainted with the city.
We will be joining an excellent food, wine and shopping tour, venturing off the beaten path and experiencing more of Florence than the tourist areas, although we will take time to enjoy the Galleria Accademia to see the stunning Statue of David and the Ufizzi Gallery where you can take your time and wander at your leisure.
Venture up to Piazzale Michelangelo with me to watch the sunset over Florence on our last night.
There will be lots of time to explore on your own, to do some shopping, find the perfect souvenirs or take another day trip.
On day three we will catch the train to spend the day in Lucca. You will have time to explore on your own, or you can join me as we walk around this lovely city, particularly along the ancient walls that surround it.
The day is flexible, but it would be nice to end the day with an aperitive and return to Florence for dinner. Or stay and enjoy dinner in Lucca before heading back to Florence.
A city with a different vibe, Bologna is a university city. It is welcoming and casual. Its architecture is beautiful and interesting, a city of porticos.
It is another city that is easy to explore on foot, although we will be jumping on board the City Red Bus to tour the city upon our arrival.
In this way, you will become familiar with Bologna and choose the places you want to explore more. We will also be jumping on the San Lucca Express which will take us up and out of Bologna to the Sanctuary of San Luca.
We will be joining a Walking food tour, that will take us to the places the locals frequent, the oldest osteria in Bologna where we will share lunch, indulge in some wine and eat ourselves crazy on what Bologna is known for – Mortadella, Ragu (Bolognese) and tortellini. Even if you aren’t a foodie, you will love it. This is Italian food at it’s most traditional and best.
We will be joining a full day tour, jumping on a small comfortable bus heading to Modena, home to traditional balsamic vinegar. On the way, we will stop at a Parmigiano Reggiano factory, a prosciutto factory and a family owned and operated farm where they make traditional aged balsamic vinegar.
You will never look at balsamic vinegar the same way again! 30 year aged balsamic vinegar will blow your taste buds away.
Included in the day are wine tasting and a delicious lunch where we will sample a whole range of traditional cuisine, drink wine and chat about the day before heading back to Bologna.
One morning we will board a train and head to Ravenna for a day trip. In Ravenna, we will explore this beautiful city famous for its stunning mosaics.
You can explore at your leisure or join me as I try and see as many churches and mosaics as possible.
Apart from being famous for Shakespeare’s Rome and Juliet, Verona is a pretty city with so much more to see. It is another city that is easy to explore on foot, and we will have enough time here to see most of what it has to offer.
We will join a Walking Food Tour that takes us to not so well known eateries, pasta shops and includes wine tasting and traditional Veronese food. Lead by a local the tour is peppered with stories of family and food and is personable as well as being informative and a good way to get to know Verona.
I will share my favourite restaurant with you and will be taking you there for our Welcome to Verona meal on our first night.
You will have ample time to explore on your own if you like or let me take you to my favourite places.
There will be a full day that is at your leisure so you can explore on your own, or you might like to embark on another day trip. If heading out on your own does not appeal, you can join me as we decide what to see for the day.
One of our days we will be joining a full day tour that will take us to the stunning region of the Dolomites. Here we will experience the wild and raw scenery that the area is famous for while enjoying a lunch of local cuisine.
It will be a relaxing day where we can sit back and enjoy the views on our way to and from the Dolomites.
Cortona has a special place in my heart, having spent six days here on a previous trip. It is a delightful town perched on the side of a hill and has stunning views out to Lake Trasimeno. It is famous for the book by Frances May, Under the Tuscan Sun and the movie of the same name.
I am looking forward to showing you my favourite restaurants and exploring with you. We will investigate on foot, easy in this small town, and have plenty of time to relax at the café bar or take a casual stroll in the Parterre Gardens.
You will have a free day in Cortona to explore on your own, rest or catch up on some souvenir shopping. Or perhaps you would like to go on another day trip, Perugia perhaps?
Montepulciano & Pienza
We will join a wine tour that takes us to Montepulciano and Pienza, beautiful towns in Tuscany that are delightful to explore. And the wine is outstanding too!
A traditional lunch is included.
You will need your camera at the ready on this day. We will be touring through the most iconic Tuscan countryside, and you will definitely want to capture it.
Arezzo is a small Tuscan city perfect for exploring on a day trip. A quick train ride from Cortona you will be free to explore at your leisure or join me as I venture through this city. The last time I was here was for the magical Christmas Markets.
You can join me at a favourite café for lunch before heading back to Cortona.
Upon our return, in the afternoon we can stop at Le Celle, the monastery, before heading back to town. A peaceful place that will make a restful stop after a busy day.
A packed Piazza Grande, Arezzo
This is an exciting trip. It is all my favourites in Italy so far, and I am looking forward to sharing my love of Italy with you. To see more small group tours, click here. The groups are no more than seven people, so book early to avoid disappointment.
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