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Ah, Italia. It seems a little unfair that one country does food, architecture, art, history and the central social square so perfectly. It's just a shame the rest of the world feels the same way! But while most associate Italy with summer, relatively mild winters make Italy the perfect place to visit during the off season. On this trip, you'll see all the fabulous spots with far fewer tourists crowding the squares and clogging up the lines. Take in the crumbling ruins of Rome, whimsical Florence and the floating 15th century city of Venice in this diverse tour.
Day 1: Rome
Welcome to Italy! There’s nowhere quite like Rome, a city where designer shops, restaurants and cafes are slotted among ancient ruins and religious monuments. After tonight's welcome meeting why not head out for your first taste of Italy during an optional dinner.
Day 2: Rome
Remember, the best attitude to embrace the chaos of this city is ‘when in Rome’! Join your leader on an orientation walk around the city and witness iconic sights such as the Colosseum and Arch of Constantine, the Forum (centre of ancient Rome), the Victor Emmanuel Monument, the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Via Dei Condotti and Piazza Venezia. Your afternoon is free to explore further. Perhaps recharge with a slice of pizza and a strong espresso at the Piazza Navona or throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain and make a wish to return to the 'Eternal City'. No visit would be complete without a trip to Vatican City and St Peter's Basilica. Entry to the Basilica is free and there's a small charge to climb the dome for a panorama over the city. History buffs will enjoy a jaunt through the ancient halls of the Pantheon. Choose whether to have dinner with the group or find a spot on your own – there are plenty to choose from.
Day 3: Florence
This morning depart the eternal city and catch a train to Florence. On arrival, check into the hotel and go for a brief walk around the immediate area to get your bearings. Florence is 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. Food is 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. Meat lovers should try the bistecca alla fiorentina, a huge T-bone steak that's usually shared between two people, or ribollita, a thick delicious vegetable soup with bread, beans and greens. Panforte is the signature sweet treat.
Day 4: Pisa / Florence
Set out to the nearby city of Pisa (approximately 30 minutes by local train). A short orientation walk will help you to get your bearings in this easily navigable and small city. Then there'll be ample time for you to visit the quirky 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). 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 narrow streets, which feature everything from high-end boutiques to speciality book and antiques stores, and perhaps enjoy an aperitif. Back in Florence take your time and be captivated by the culture-rich atmosphere, from family-run vineyards on the outskirts of the city to the Duomo’s magnificent marble facade. Maybe start with a visit the Galleria dell'Accademia where you can see Michelangelo's famous statue of David. Stop by 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 afternoon.
Day 5: Florence / Bologna
Enjoy a final free morning in Florence before jumping on an afternoon train to Bologna. Often neglected by travellers, Bologna is a charming city filled with medieval and Renaissance buildings and art. Get acquainted with this orange-hued city during an orientation walk. Later, learn the fine art of Italian cooking with an evening class, crafting that king of comfort food – pasta. Of course, this being Italy, the class ends with the chance to stuff yourself silly with your carb creations.
Day 6: Bologna / Venice
Enjoy a free morning in Bologna, perhaps ambling through one of the many porticoes – a network of sheltered walkways that lead all over the city, perfect for winter when rain is a possibility. In the afternoon, get the train to the watery wonderland that is Venice. Full of bridges, towers, piazzas, canals, churches and gondolas that remain practically unchanged since the 15th century, Venice is just as beautiful as you've always imagined. An orientation walk will help you to get the hang of the maze of the complex canal system, then you can set out on your own. The Grand Canal is a great place to start, as you can stroll over the Rialto Bridge and browse the endless amounts of boutique shops that sell Venetian masks and handmade Murano glassware.
Day 7: Venice
Explore Venice with your tastebuds today on a cicchetti tasting tour. Cichetti are small snacks that are served in most drinking establishments and cafes, and are a delightful surprise to many thirsty travellers. On this two-and-a-half-hour tour, you’ll snack and sip your way through the bars and taverns. Then, board a traghetto (public gondola) and see the city from the water, as was intended. In the evening, why not visit busy San Marco square and listen to the sounds of orchestras and the rush of canals.
Day 8: Venice
Your adventure comes to an end on the final morning. There are no activities planned for today and you're free to depart the accommodation at any time before check-out. As there is so much to see in Venice we recommend you to stay a little longer. We are happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). Please speak to your booking agent at the time of booking.
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