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Lose yourself in three of Europe's most enchanting countries. From the vibrant streets of Barcelona, travel into the heart of the picturesque Spanish Pyrenees. Discover Provencal food and world-class wines then frolic with Europe's high rollers in the French Riviera. Feast on breathtaking sights in the cliff-top towns of the Cinque Terre, see master works of art in Florence and marvel at the leaning Torre de Pisa. Call into beautiful Siena then conclude this European adventure tour in the ancient city of Rome.
Day 1: Barcelona
Welcome to Spain. Barcelona's quirky character and fabulous Catalan cuisine mixes seamlessly with a ground-breaking art scene, Gothic architecture, superb dining and a non-stop nightlife, making it a city you won't soon forget. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 7 pm today – you can arrive at any time before this. Please check with hotel reception to confirm the meeting time and place. If you're going to be late, please inform reception. Have your insurance and next of kin details on hand as we'll be collecting them at this meeting. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend the welcome meeting. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you arrive early, use free time to get your bearings of Barcelona. There are plenty of galleries, cafes and historic corners to keep you busy. Gaudi's bizarre La Sagrada Familia Basilica is not be missed. As there's not much time in Barcelona, we suggest you arrive a few days early so you can get under the skin of this great city. The heart of Catalonia prides itself as a gastronomic centre and so this evening perhaps head out to taste the reputation for yourself. You could take a tapas crawl through rustic Catalan dishes in the funky neighbourhood of El Born.
Day 2: Ribes de Freser // Pyrenees
Travel north today by train and climb into the Spanish Pyrenees, which form a mighty barrier between the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe, arriving in the small town of Ribes de Freser (approximately 2 hours). This is your base for next two days. Beautifully placed Ribes de Freser is a low-key town situated at the confluence of three different rivers; Freser, Rigard and Segadell. The town is not only an important tourist centre in this part of Pyrenees, but it’s also well known for its mineral water and milk products. Make sure you sample these, perhaps in your free time during the rest of today. The town is a great place to relax with the views of beautiful Pyrenees Mountains in the background. In the evening, perhaps head out for dinner with the group.
Day 3: Ribes de Freser // Pyrenees
Today, enjoy stunning views from a cogwheel train into Nuria Valley. La Cremallera train line connects Ribes de Freser with Queralbs, making a spectacular and magical snaking journey up to the small ski town and pilgrimage site of Nuria. It crosses viaducts, travels past dramatic cliffs, through tunnels, forest and waterfalls, finally arriving at 2000 metres above sea level after one of the most magnificent rides in the Pyrenees. Along with the cogwheel train journey, you will find time to stretch your legs on a hike in the scenic surrounds. Take to the hills for a day of hiking in the Pyrenees and be prepared for some steep ascents. Climb up through the forest to a fantastic viewpoint of the mountain peaks (weather permitting). Don't forget your camera, as the alpine scenery is spectacular. The terrain can be quite rough around this region so please make sure you bring the sturdy trainers or light hiking boots for this. Return to Ribes de Freser in late afternoon for yet another evening in this picturesque scenery. Enjoy included paella dinner tonight.
Day 4: Carcassonne
Continue your adventure across the French border today with a combination of a train journey and private transfer to Carcassonne (approximately 4.5 hours). The stunning medieval French city of Carcassonne looks like it's straight out of a classic fairytale. The town is famous for its 53 watchtowers and double-walled fortifications. The first walls were built in Gallo-Roman style with later additions made in 13th and 14th centuries, making it the biggest and most beautiful medieval construction in Europe. For good reason, this World Heritage-listed fortress is the second most visited tourist site in France after the Eiffel Tower. There’ll be plenty of time to explore and uncover the memorable castle and ramparts, crossing the medieval stone-arched bridge and navigating the cobbled streets that form a spider’s web through the town. You'll have plenty of time to explore and uncover Carcassonne’s secrets. Chateau Comtal, a 12th-century fortress within Le Cite, which offers archaeological exhibits and a tour of the inner ramparts, is certainly an interesting option for a free afternoon. Watch a golden sunset over this medieval landscape.
Day 5: Provence // Arles
Leave Carcassonne behind today and take the train into the French region of Provence, through heartland scenery that has long attracted the brushes of Impressionist painters, settling in the town of Arles (approximately 3 hours). Once a provincial capital of ancient Rome, Arles is now famed for inspiring the paintings of Van Gogh, which can be seen at the local gallery that takes his name. On arrival, take a walk around this town stepped in Provençal culture and immerse yourself in the picturesque landscapes that surround you. There’s also an included trip to see the beautiful double rows of arches of the Arles Amphitheatre in the afternoon, an ancient Roman arena still in use after 1000 years. Later, what better way to round off the day than a leisurely stroll, relax, and a coffee or ‘pastis’ at the shaded terraces of an atmospheric outdoor cafes that once paid host to the famous painter.
Day 6: Provence // Arles
Enjoy a free day in the town of Arles. Perhaps follow the Van Gogh trail to see sites that the artist drew on as subjects for his paintings, finishing at the Vincent Van Gogh Foundation to browse the changing exhibitions of the Post-Impressionist painter, as well as temporary exhibitions of other famous artists. Discover Gothic architecture in a walled city where the Pope once took refuge, uncover an ancient Roman necropolis and theatre, or stroll past an ancient multi-storey aqueduct. You could also head outside of the town to the Camargue Nature Park, a beautifully bio-diverse region, and cycle among pink flamingos that frolick in sandy reed beds. The Antiques Museum, Arlaten Ethnographic Museum and Reattu Museum back in town also provide lots of culture to discover. Otherwise, you might simply relax by the Rhone River and watch the world go by. A wander around the town at night becomes an art history lesson, with scenes recongisable from famous artworks like “Cafe Terrace at Night”.
Day 7: Nice
Take the train to Nice today, which should take you around five hours. The star of the Riviera and a great base from which to explore the rest of the Cote d'Azur, Nice boasts both public and private beaches, with countless opportunities to relax. Your afternoon and evening are free, but try not to miss the flower and evening markets on Place Saleya. Take some time to explore Nice’s old centre, walking its maze of staircases and lanes, fine Baroque churches, and the famous Promenade des Anglais – a hot spot for street theatre, locals artists, 'beautiful' people and visitors alike. The Old Quarter is a warren of alleyways, boutique shops, cafes and restaurants just waiting to be discovered.
Day 8: Nice
Today is free for you to further explore Nice as you like. There's even the option of taking a day trip to the glitzy city of Cannes, which only costs around EUR14 by train. The famed film festival host is a place of sun, sand, style and shopping, while the old town still maintains a Provencal feel. Possibly visit the cliff-top village of Eze, known as 'The Eagles Nest'. Just few kilometers outside of Nice, this medieval town is a true gem. Vaulted, narrow streets are filled with art galleries, workshops and gastronomic restaurants. At the top is a ruined medieval castle commanding one of the most beautiful panoramas on the Cote d'Azur. Back in Nice there are museums to explore, tiny shops in the retro neighbourhood of Vieux to browse, beaches to lounge on, scenic gardens to discover, and delicious French fare to feast on.
Day 9: Cinque Terre
This morning after breakfast, spend the day travelling by train across the Italian border to the once important naval base of La Spezia, now the gateway to the gorgeous Cinque Terre, or ‘Five lands’ in English (approximately 6 hours). The name comes from the five tiny villages – Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore – whose position, wedged into a series of coves between sheer cliffs, makes it one of the highlights of the whole of Italy. On arrival in La Spezia there won't be too much time to explore yet, but after checking into your hotel perhaps get your bearings of the area with a short walk around the pedestrian zone on Via del Prione to the gardens along the harbour, or head out for dinner with the group. After that, it is best to just relax and rest up before the walk on the famous Cinque Terre route tomorrow.
Day 10: Cinque Terre
This morning venture out on the footpaths of Cinque Terre (Five Lands), a region of Italy famed for its coastline and pastel villages. The footpaths that run between the villages were once the only way to travel in the region, and take you through olive groves, vineyards and on to idyllic vistas. Walking the entire network of paths can take around five hours (12 kilometres in total) and you will need a good level of fitness. You can also choose to walk just a few sections, which will still unveil a great amount of majestic scenery. Some sections of path can be difficult, as there are challenging uphill stretches, narrow paths, steep cliffs and foot bridges. Please remember to bring comfortable footwear such as trainers or light hiking shoes. It's also possible to take the train between any of the villages or back to the group's base whenever you want. After working up an appetite, take advantage of the foods of the Liguria region with a pesto class. Focaccia is also a speciality in this area and makes a great start to lunch. The rest of the day is free. In the evening, there's no better way to recover from your day of walking with more indulgence in delicious Mediterranean food.
Day 11: Pisa // Florence
Depart Cinque Terre today and catch a train to Pisa (approximately 1 hours). Divided in two by the River Arno, the heart of Pisa is the Santa Maria quarter on the north bank. Here there'll be ample time for you to visit the world-famous Leaning Tower, as well as the Duomo (Piazza dei Miracoli, once the largest in Europe) and Pisa Baptistry. Please note that it's not always possible to climb the tower, although you'll have plenty of time to take pictures and explore the city. The tower was built in the 12th century, but its foundation was on shifting sand and clay, meaning that it now leans at an angle of 4 degrees (after restoration and stabilising work). Wander the shopping streets, from high-end boutiques to speciality book and antiques stores, and perhaps enjoy lunch and an aperitif in a backstreet restaurant before returning to the station in the afternoon and taking the train to Florence (approximately 2 hours). After checking in to your hotel, join your leader for quick orientation walk. The rest of your evening is free to explore the city of the Renaissance.
Day 12: Florence
After breakfast head out into Florence, one of the most culturally rich and beautiful cities in Italy, known to many as the beating heart of Tuscany. The Medicis, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Brunelleschi, Machiavelli, Donatello and Michelangelo all lived in Florence at the height of their creative reign. It's impossible to see everything in this Renaissance wonderland, however, so take your time and enjoy it. Perhaps visit the Uffizi, one of the world's oldest art galleries, or walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo, which is set on a hill on the south bank of the Arno River, to take in beautiful views of the city – a lovely way to while away the day. There are plenty of sights to see during your time in Florence – don't forget to visit Michelangelo's David, housed in the Galleria dell'Accademia. As the evening comes around, join the locals in taking a passeggiata, a leisurely socialising stroll, perhaps between piazza Beccaria and piazza della Repubblica.
Day 13: Florence // Siena
Leave Florence early in the morning by bus for a day tour to Siena (approximately 1.5 hours). Surrounded by olive groves and the vineyards of Chianti, Siena is one of the most idyllic cities of Tuscany. Wander the tiny alleyways and lively piazzas, and search out the unique Piazza del Campo, a grand fan-shaped piazza built on the site of the old Roman forum, and where the famous Palio horse race takes place (twice annually in mid-July and the end of August). Siena has an energetic and friendly student atmosphere thanks to one of the oldest universities in the world being located here. Be sure to visit the small but stunning Siena Cathedral, and see the statue of the capitoline wolf which was brought here by the sons of Remus, the founder of Rome. You will be back in Florence for the evening, which is free to enjoy as you please. Food is also a major part of the city's identity, so perhaps explore some of the culinary delicacies on offer from across Tuscany. Regional specialities are noted for their simplicity and fine flavour, and the use of high-quality olive oil, cannellini beans and fresh herbs.
Day 14: Rome
In the morning, take the train to Rome (approximately 2 hours), and remember that while here, the best attitude is ‘when in Rome’! Join your leader on an orientation walk around the city, where you see some of the iconic sights such as the Colosseum and Arch of Constantine, the Forum (centre of ancient Rome), the Victor Emmanuel Monument, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps, Via Dei Condotti and Piazza Venezia. No visit would be complete without a trip to Vatican City and St Peter's Basilica, so check with your leader for options and tips on how to fit that in a day. Entry to the Basilica is free and there's a small charge to climb the dome for a panorama over the city. Use your free time to also visit the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. Rome is packed full of restaurants and trattorias that cater to every taste and budget. Eating in trattorias will give you a chance to sample some Italian wines, with house choices usually very good and affordable. Head out in the evening with the group for a final farewell gastronomic fling.
Day 15: Rome
Your Barcelona to Rome adventure comes to an end this morning. There are no activities planned for today and you're free to depart the accommodation at any time. As there is so much to see in Rome we recommend you to stay a little longer. We are happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). Please speak to your agent at the time of booking.
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