Madrid, Toledo, Cordoba, Seville, Andalusia, Barcelona, Catalonia, Naples, Sorrento, Tuscany, Florence, San Gimignano
Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
Such wide contrasts, such beautiful charms, and such incredible experiences are found across the countries of Italy and Spain. Andalusian tapas and flamenco, Roman history and icons, Florence’s Renaissance, Barcelona’s Modernistas, the cliffs on the coast and so much regional flair are all a part of your vacation. With six overnight stops and a dozen unique destinations, this “best-of” tour will explore the rich tapestry of culture and experience found across Italy and Spain.
Madrid – Regal Welcomes in the Spanish Capital
Madrid is very different from what most visitors expect. Madrid is the capital city of a major country, but it feels more like a colorful town. Plazas are lined with cafes, and there is a soulful vibe to contradict the corporate monotony found in other large cities. You will immediately feel as though you have stepped back in time, the 16th century to be precise, when Madrid was the heart of the Western world. Check into your hotel and walk around the neighborhood to find tapas joints down pedestrianized streets, chocolate fumes spilling over a plaza, a statue of Don Quixote looking down and corners that take on quixotic properties. Madrid is a city that loves life and encourages you to get involved. Of course, there are attractions, but Madrid is a wonderful city to discover without a guide, great for taking it easy and overcoming any travel fatigue.
Madrid – Exploring El Greco’s Toledo
Inhale Spanish scents this morning and see how slowly the city wakes up. They do things late in Spain, and it is best to get into their rhythm, as some of the best experiences are found late in the evening. Take the high-speed train to Toledo where church spires and a local guide will greet you after your 30-minute journey. Artist El Greco is also your guide, a focal point for exploring the winding cobblestone lanes. Admire his most famous painting, The Burial of Count Orgazin Santo Tome, and then find many more of his works, the artist another excuse to step into a colorful church or gallery. Toledo was built before motorized vehicles, and by winding uphill, you reach a grand plaza for lunch, which may bring a short siesta on the train back to Madrid, the rest of the day is at your leisure.
Seville – The Extravagant Old Moorish Capital
Whizzing south on Spain’s excellent high-speed Ave train network, you can take in La Mancha through the window to see a land of windmills, castles, and dusty fields. Disembark in Cordoba, and your guide will place your luggage in a secure place leaving you free to spend two hours in the early Moorish capital. Artisanal streets are painted by early Moorish influence, but then turn a corner, and the Mezquita stands majestically. Geometric patterns look down, calligraphy speaks of a millennia’s religious history, and there are few buildings as beautiful anywhere on the planet. That is a bold statement, but only until you have walked through the Mezquita and you will surely agree. Have lunch in Cordoba before the short hop to Seville by train, where your guide will give you an orientation in the Sevillanosway of life.
Seville – Tapas and Flamenco and So Much More
There is only a day in Seville, so set off early into the city full of rich color and culture. Marvel at the confluence of styles with Moorish ideas meeting Western design with tiled fountains, pavilions, and ornamental towers all part of the landscape here. The cathedral is sublime and the city streets give you an unadulterated dose of Andalusian flair. It is, however, in the evening that you fully experience what the region is all about. First, take a walk through an old quarter, tasting various tapas specialties in the city where tapas was invented. Move next to feel the rhythm and discover the passion of flamenco, an atmospheric performance in – you guessed it – the place where flamenco was born.
Barcelona – Catalan Flair and Charming Histories
Fly to Barcelona and find that the style changes, as Catalonia has its own way of doing things and it is nothing like that of Andalusia. Touch down and take a walk down the famous Ramblas, through the Gothic Quarter where Roman walls stand around cafes and ice-cream stalls. Tomorrow, you will explore Gaudi and the Modernistas, but today is free. Perhaps wander through the Picasso Museum, or maybe spend an afternoon on the beach. Take a journey up Montjuic for panoramic views, a great place to be as the sun sets on another day in Spain. Avoid tapas for dinner, as it’s Andalusian not Catalan, and instead try the local specialties that this region is best known for.
Barcelona – Discovering Gaudi’s Barcelona
Fairytales seem to whisper from the mosaics and colors of Barcelona, most of them emanating from the work of Gaudi and his fellow Modernistas. Start your day above the city at Park Guell, where a serpent of tile shards rises above a bridge of twisted trees. Travel through a stylish neighborhood of Modernist excess, Casa Batllo the most famous of Gaudi’s vernacular works. Then stare for hours in awe at La Sagrada Familia, a masterpiece that has been over a century in construction, such flamboyance etched into every nook and cranny. You have also got the option of visiting Montserrat, a mystical mountain and monastery that reveals another side to Catalonia.
Sorrento – Perched On the Cliffs Above the Coast
Fly to Naples and begin your day with the aromas of Italy. Coffee, ice cream, and other such indulgences float down the grand, yet ramshackle and gritty lanes of Naples. Store your bags and take a tour of this Italian gem, Naples a city that is so much more than the birthplace of pizza. Take in the art, enjoy an espresso, as cappuccinos are only for in the morning here, and see how life flourishes to enliven old city facades. Travel next down the Amalfi Coast to Sorrento, a beautiful old town on the cliffs. You will not need a guide here, as you can just take a walk and soak up the old-world small-town Italian ambiance.
Sorrento – Exploring the Isle of Capri
From the cliffs of Sorrento, descend to the harbor alongside elegant cafes that provide a space to settle into your day. Take your boat from here, across the Bay of Naples to a resort island from Roman times as Sorrento was where emperors would escape to back in the day. Ride to the island’s mountain summit as vistas extend in all directions as the wind sweeps past you. Walk the old town and savor a land without vehicles as you watch the yachts rock and perhaps find yourself on a small beach. Coming back from the Isle of Capri, you can stop to explore caves and watery tunnels, all parts of the geology that rises strangely all along Italy’s coast. Back in Sorrento, settle in for the evening as there is an enchantment to doing nothing at all.
Rome – The Roman Empire to Modern-Day Rome
Pompeii suggests the scale of old Rome with great blocks of stone stretching out across the hill of a regional capital. Walking around, you can start to understand the scale and style of the great civilization. And this is just what has been excavated from beneath the ash of Mount Vesuvius, the volcano that looks down impressively.
Move next with travel through Italy by road, ascending the hills to Cassino to the Abbey of Montecassino, just one of the grand landmarks in your view. Descend, and you will soon be in Rome at your hotel around the corner from the Pantheon, the details of ancient Rome all around you. Soak it all up, people watch from a piazza and embrace the antiquity.
Rome – All the Classics in the Italian Capital
This will be a day of legends that includes the Colosseum and its gladiatorial history, with so many steps and so much scorched stone. Enjoy the Trevi Fountain, iconic in its own way, and then traipse up the Spanish Steps with the piazzas nearby and many a café to provide you with Italian espresso. Move next to Trastevere, a neighborhood of local flavors and a gold-gilded 12th-century church. Rome is packed with world-famous sights and a day cannot do justice to them all. But in a single day, it will likely feel as if you have taken enough photos for half a lifetime as Rome takes you through 2,000 years of art and design.
Florence – Vatican City Art and Into the Hills of Tuscany
Fabulous art is surrounding you as you cross St Peter’s Square. Begin with a stop on the square to take in the 360-degree panorama, and then take in St Peter’s Basilica before venturing off into the Vatican Museums. Your local guide will know which way to turn, and adeptly avoid the crowded galleries to reveal unheralded masterpieces. The Sistine Chapel awaits, but do not rush through, as the other rooms overflow with treasure. As you finish, head back into Rome to collect your luggage and freshen up before boarding a mid-afternoon high-speed train. Within 90 minutes, you will be in Florence, a city of Renaissance awe and church spires, and where every building has an ornate flourish. First impressions are memorable, and few are better than in this Tuscan city.
Florence – Art and Atmosphere in Renaissance Florence
Florence is a city of secrets, but not your at first glance, of course. You will quickly be seduced by the Renaissance architecture, the flowing lanes, and elegant piazzas, but behind the scenes, there is more to Florence than Michelangelo’s David. Today you will go deep into the city and its history with your local guide and visit private art galleries, unheard of restaurants, traditional neighborhoods, and the places that are not on the usual Renaissance trail. And by doing so, you will find a city that has taken its love for art into the 21stcentury, but still takes you back in time to old-world Tuscany.
Florence – Day Trip to Tuscan Vineyards and San Gimignano
Spires recede as you travel south, and you will cross just a couple of hills to be in Chianti, where vineyards carpet the landscape and farmhouses stand along the horizon. Start with a tutored tasting, and then drive through the hills to San Gimignano, an enchanting town with a piazza perfect for spending an hour. Soak it all in, and then go wine tasting once more, only this time the wines are accompanied by a multi-course Italian lunch. Relax, indulge, and savor it all as you recollect your experiences from the last two weeks. You will return to Florence late in the afternoon for one last leisurely evening to walk and further explore your favorite bits of the city.
Florence – Departure
Your morning is yours to enjoy, and late check out will be arranged at your hotel so that you can wander for a few more hours before being transferred to the airport in plenty of time for your outbound flight.
- Immerse yourself in the Renaissance with several nights in Florence, a city with beauty that has never faded
- Discover the world of Antoni Gaudi and the Catalan Modernistas, their extravagant architectural style a highlight of your time in Barcelona
- Feel the rhythm and energy of Andalusia in Seville, a city that carries you off with its pride and passion
- Escape to the cliffs and the coast with a couple of nights in Sorrento for the start of your Italian journey
- Spend a day in Toledo to see a grand medieval city that is made even more special by the works of El Greco
- Lose yourself in the history of Rome, from the Colosseum and old Empire memoirs to artworks in the Vatican Museums
- Explore the ancient Roman ruins of Pompeii, go wine tasting in Tuscany, and spend a day on the Isle of Capri
- Relax in the Spanish capital Madrid, discover flamenco in Andalusia, and cast your eyes on Cordoba’s incredible Mezquita
- Eat and eat some more as you savor pizza in the home of pizza, Naples, and tapas in the home of tapas, Andalusia
Spain and Italy are not just two countries, and in many ways, they are dozens of countries rolled into two. Most of the regions of both have held sway and prominence over the last 2.000 years, and most have known independence before unified nations were realized. This dynamic is the real highlight when you explore the best of Spain and Italy. Andalusia, Catalonia, and Castile celebrate the contrasts of yesteryear Spain and demonstrate how regional inimitability has been brought into the 21stcentury. Move into Italy to see how Florence, Naples, and Rome are so different from each other, just as Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast bring travel experiences that are entirely distinct from each other.
This vacation will bring the best of Spain and Italy, as your handcrafted tour will take you through the regions, continuing until it may feel as if you have had a half a dozen vacations in one. Spend two nights in each of six destinations, connected by flights and high-speed trains. Local tour guides will evoke the distinctive of each region, and you will go deep into the secrets and subtleties of their homelands, from the streets of sublime tapas to the offbeat places usually hidden from the world. With your guide alongside, you can be fully immersed in everything each destination has to offer.
Your week in Spain is spread across Madrid, Seville, and Barcelona. You will begin in the Spanish capital, settling into a quiet and gregarious city, where Don Quixote looks down over a plaza. Spend the next day exploring nearby Toledo, where you can go El Greco treasure hunting in the great medieval city. Next, take the train to Andalusia, a half-day stop in Cordoba revealing an old Moorish capital – the Mezquita here must rank as one of the world’s most beautiful buildings. A full day in Seville brings tapas and flamenco, and then you fly to Barcelona, land of Gaudi and the Modernistas, but also another 2,000 years of history, art, and architecture.
Fly direct to Naples next, and you can take explore this masterpiece of a city as one that is quite different to most Italian preconceptions. It is then a short drive for a couple of nights spent in Sorrento, perched on the cliffs above the Isle of Capri, your day-trip destination the following day. Explore old Roman ruins at Pompeii, and then lose yourself in the wonder of Rome itself with enough time to see the Colosseum and other iconic monuments, along with all the art of the Vatican City. Florence is your final stop, and you have several nights, leaving one day for the city and one day for the surrounding Tuscan countryside. Looking back on the adventure, you might find that Florence seems more similar to Seville than it does Naples, which is all part of the experience when you experience such regional distinctiveness.
$3,593 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
- In-country transportation
- Some or all activities and tours
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- 24x7 support during your trip
Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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