Unbeaten Path of Italy Tour: Discovering Cinque Terre, Lake Garda & Venice
8 Nights / 9 Days
Destination Covered : Rome
Tour Themes : Hill Stations & Valleys
The five towns of Cinque Terre always offer new experiences to visitors, whether it’s your first experience with the Italian Riviera or one of many trips to this region. The sunlight washes across the Mediterranean Sea to highlight the transitioning shades of blue, from the indigo found near the shore to the shades of cobalt over the deepest sections of the seafloor. Huge boulders support the rugged, sharp cliffs that lead upwards to the garden terraces that overflow with towering basil plants, grapevines, and olive orchards. Your private transfer will meet you at Galileo Galilei International Airport in Pisa and escort you to the edges of the town of Monterosso, the most northern of the towns that connect to Cinque Terre. Your accommodation will stand on a cliff wedged between the terraces and the sea.
The water will splash against the boulders below as beachgoers linger on the pebbled shoreline that arches against the bordering promontories. A statue of Neptune etched into the far precipice was erected in the early 20th century that reaches a height of 46 feet and looks as though it supports the base of what was once a villa. Fishing boats wade in the water at the harbor with a view of the houses each painted with bright colors visible from a distance. The Italian Riviera holds an indelible charm that emanates from the narrow cobblestone streets and meanders around the medieval homes of the historical neighborhood near the water. A tunnel leads to New Town, which ascends the lush hills of the ravine as the scent of the Mediterranean Sea blends with the luscious aroma of olive groves and then citrus of wild lemon trees.
What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, dinner
In the morning, the terrace gardens shine emerald in the spreading sunlight. Fishes make their way to market with nets brimming with branzino and large prawns. Farmers and gardeners bring their tomatoes, basil, and eggplants that grow beneath the oak forest that drapes over the hilltops. At breakfast, you will bask in the refreshing aroma of freshly brewed espresso before you venture to Levanto, the town directly north of Cinque Terre. Step onto the old railway built in the mid 19th century that leads from Genoa to Rome, and then connect the secluded towns of Cinque Terre to the outside world for the first time. Cafés set out tables along the narrow streets for patrons eager to bask in the Mediterranean breeze and watch passersby.
The medieval historical center of Levanto has been well preserved and has an intimate atmosphere as it is tucked between the sea and the coastal mountains. A promenade wraps around the shoreline and is framed by cafes, restaurants, and boutique shops. The city walls are crafted from a rich, lasting stone that borders the edges of the city center along with the outline of the 13th-century castle that stands out from the forest. The loggia in Piazza del Popolo showcases how the sea has receded over the centuries and trade takes place directly on the pier to connect eager patrons with the gregarious fishermen as they sell the daily catch.
Step onto the trail that leads out of Levanto that begins near the riverbanks. The path will take you into the hills alongside the edges of the castle ramparts as the oak and holm trees shade you from the sunlight. The aroma of chestnuts and palm trees blend in the breeze as the trail stretches up to five miles along the meandering outcrops and inlets of the mountains. Taking the trail from Levanto to Monterosso offers more dramatic views as the trees open to an image of the Ligurian coast that stretches southwards to the Gulf of Poets. You will understand the splendor of the landscape after you see the view with yourself at the center of the beauty.
The bakeries of Old Town Monterosso open their doors and fill the streets with the delightful aromas of freshly baked focaccia bread and sweet brioche as it blends into the light aroma of the lemon orchards. After breakfast, you will meet your skipper at the harbor and board a private yacht to tour the Mediterranean waters. The refreshing breeze will blow against your cheeks and carry the sea spray that splashes from the hull of the boat. The gorgeous coastline will pass you buy with views of pastel-painted tower houses and small marinas that contain boats equally as colorful as the homes. You will soon reach the island of Palmaria with a view of the beautiful fishing village of Portovenere as the west end of the island looks out to unfettered sea and sky.
The stretch of beach referred to as Il Gabbiano offers a spectacular view of the luxurious yachts and towering sailboats masts in the harbor of Portovenere across the strait. Trails crisscross the island and allow you to bask on the soft sand with excellent views or traverse the island to reach the tallest peak at the height of 700 feet above sea level. Dwarf palms grow near the beaches, and tall grass sprouts atop the cliffs. Ferries dock at Terrizzo near the sea fortress, a castle erected during the final days of the Savoy family. When you return to Monterosso, you will indulge in a relaxing wine tasting experience that will lead you through the terraces and into a secluded winery that offers tastings of the flavors produced and bottled around Cinque Terre.
At the top of the hill above Monterosso stands the Sanctuary of Our Savior in Monterosso. The street Via Roma climbs the steep hill to reach the church with 7th-century foundations. The various architectural styles of Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque periods exhibit how the structure has survived and thrived over the centuries, informing the culture around Cinque Terre and contemporary visitors alike as they explore the province. The first half of the day is at your leisure to explore or relax around the five towns at your preferred pace. Linger beneath the shade of the beach umbrellas or take the train to Manarola to view the second smallest, and also the oldest, of the Cinque Terre towns.
The water splashes against the sea break beneath the cliff as fishing boats glow against the indigo sea, and vineyards stretch across the hillside with more than 300 grape growers that traverse the terraces to cultivate the landscape. Back in Monterosso, you will meet a private chef and enjoy a gregarious welcome into a traditional Ligurian kitchen. The windows open to a partial view of the sea, and pastel homes border the promenade creating a picturesque view. Follow your guide with a mortar and pestle to craft the perfect pesto sauce, a tradition beginning on the Italian coast and remaining a fresh, herbaceous staple of the cuisine. Follow the steps to make perfect, light pasta from scratch to accompany the flavor of the seafood caught that morning and bought directly from the fishers at the market.
In the morning, you will sip a frothy cappuccino and relax as the morning light sweeps across the sea. Farmers will return to their terraces to cultivate the orange and olive trees as bakeries set their display cases with fresh brioche and cakes. Old town will slowly return to life with café tables placed on the cobblestone streets and umbrellas opened above the beachside lounge chairs. After breakfast, your private transfer will escort you from the Ligurian coast to the town of Salo, part of the Riviera at Lake Garda.
The lake crosses geographical borders with a surface area of 143 square miles. The verdant planes lead to the southern shores and grow to hillsides and huge mountains along the northern shores. The town of Salo rests at the foot of San Bartolomeo Mountain. Fishing and sailboats moor against the lakeside promenade and the backdrop of the gold and silver streaks of the rugged mountain summit accentuates the yellow and rosy painted medieval homes.
The 16th-century Palazzo Magnifica Patria features a museum that exhibits the town’s Renaissance history, along with galleries that tell of the history of the colonial wars and the Fascist regime of World War II. For a spectacular view of the lake and the town of Salo, you can board a boat and take a lesson in sailing. Your captain will guide you through the raising of the sails, the tying down of the hatch, and you will relish the bounce of the boat as it glides across the lake in view of the mountains, hills, and historical towns of the lakeside Riviera.
Over breakfast, you will sit on your patio and enjoy the stunning view found between Monte San Bartolomeo and Lake Garda, with the pastel painted homes wedged between on the hillsides as the sails of the nearby boats puff in the breeze and cruise into the distance. Today you will continue your discovery of the villages and towns around the lake, whether in the foothills of the Dolomites or nudged the calm, fresh cobalt water. The peak Monte Baldo stands at the backdrop to the town of Malcesine at the height of over 7,200 feet. The town itself looks as though it rises directly out of the lake crowned by the impressive towers of Castello Scaligero. The castle ramparts resemble a fairytale surrounded by the dreamlike landscape of emerald hills and shimmering Lake Garda.
The cobbled lanes and avenues fill with the aroma of freshly brewed espresso. The castle stands on 5th -century foundations, with the current iteration of the walls and towers having been built in the 13th century. The bell was cast in the 15th century and remains in service, peeling over the town throughout the day. For an unforgettable view of the lake, you will take the cable car to the top of Monte Baldo. The mountain plain drapes over the undulating peaks and then rushes down the slopes towards the lakeshore. The fresh, mountain air sweeps across the impressive range as wildflowers blossom in pink, yellow, and purple against white rocks and verdant grass. From this height, the towns resemble clusters of color alongside the shimmering pool of Lake Garda.
Your morning in Salo makes you feel that you could spend years waking up alongside these wooden walkways and never tire of the enchanting culture and captivating landscape. After breakfast, you will give one last lingering glance at the water, the mountains, and the castle on the opposite banks visible beneath the clear sky, and meet your private transfer. You will then make your way to the city of Padua, located in the region of Veneto.
The narrow streets of the old city wind around the banks of the river and beneath the soaring tower of La Specola, an 18th-century astronomical observatory set inside an earlier castle turret, now connected to the University of Padua. The youthful ambiance of the old city emanates from the students as they study on the grass and linger in the cafes with frothy morning cappuccinos or rich, rejuvenating espressos. The morning market fills the arcades and piazza around Palazzo della Ragione. Artichokes and eggplants create pyramids of tasty-looking produce set beside local butchers showcasing regional salamis. The palace was erected in the 13th century as a court of law, obtaining the title as Europe’s largest medieval hall in the process. Hundreds of frescoes decorate the interior with images focused on mythological and zodiac themes.
The city’s size and charisma make it feel more like an elegant small town, and you will make your way to the edge of the Brenta Canal to board a comfortable river cruiser. The boat will take you down the waterway that connects the historical city of Padua to the famous Venetian lagoon. Villas once belonging to wealthy noble Venetian families continue to decorate the banks and reveal the prestige of the former Venetian Republic and the aristocracy.
Venice is known as the City on the Canal. The wealth and power of the former maritime powerhouse emanate from the elegant architecture and rich artistry that rises alongside the canals. A network of bridges connects the nearly 120 small islands that make up the city, and the iconic gilded figure of St. Mark’s Basilica crowns the eponymous square. The Doge’s Palace strikes a regal pose that edges both the piazza and the Grand Canal. Your guide will meet you in your hotel lobby and introduce you to the quintessential highlights of Venice before you move beyond the iconic bulbous domes of the magnificent campanile of Venice’s historical city center.
You will make your way through the district of Castelletto, which feels like a time capsule of the 15th century. A network of narrow lanes leads to and from the square of Campo San Polo, the largest open space in the city. Local children kick soccer balls against the walls of historical homes as their neighbors relax around them chatting and reading newspapers. The Scuola Grande di San Rocco was established in the 15th century and features a stunning marble façade that overlooks the square. Majestic frescoes, including 16th-century works of Tintoretto, decorate the interior. A mixture of light and shadows in the artist’s Annunciation, in the Tintoretto cycle, demonstrates the master’s understanding of the stories a painting tells, along with how the shading can draw the viewer’s eye.
Venice springs to life in the morning with the Rialto Market. Farmers unload their boats to bring fresh produce from the island of Sant’Erasmo. Fishers carry their nets and display the sea bass, clams, and mussels caught that morning as the locals arrive ready to shop. The market is set beside the iconic Rialto Bridge, a 16th-century marble structure that spans the Grand Canal. Gondolas return to the water and drift down the narrow neighborhood canals that lead away from the major waterway. Cafes set out tables and chairs at the edge of the water and add to the peaceful image of the city as you enjoy your last quiet morning. Your will boat meet you at the private dock of your luxury hotel and take you across the Grand Canal to meet your private transfer to Marco Polo Airport for your flight home.
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