Cultural Immersion Tour of Northern Italy & Cinque Terre

A 9 day trip to Italy 
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Northern Italy takes you out of the ordinary and into the exceptional, from the grandiosity of once noble families to the delicate flavors of balsamic drizzled over fresh strawberries. Rugged mountains run along the coast to turn fishing villages into secluded getaways. The Tuscan hills roll along the horizon and glow emerald in the sunlight. Castles rise out of old vineyards and monasteries hide between seaside cliffs. Your custom tailored tour will show you the unique and enveloping splendors of Northern Italy and Cinque Terre as it’s embodied in the landscape and emanating from the culture.                                                                                                            

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Most tours are customized for private travel.

General Information

Photos
Parma prosciutto curing.
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Turin, Gabbiano, Vercelli, Milan, Busseto, Parma, Modena, Maranello, Lucca, La Spezia, Santa Margherita, Portofino, Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore, Florence  

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Milan – Arrive in the Chic and Bustling Northern Italian City of Milan

Milan has a reputation for its workmanship and fashion. Beneath the façade of Italy’s business center lies a city rich in history, cultural heritage, and legendary influence over the movement of the north. Your flight lands at Malpensa Airport, and your private transfer will await your arrival. The city has inspired the likes of artists like da Vinci, composers like Verdi, and the great designer Giorgio Armani. People from around the world ascend to the heights of the fashion world to land in Milan as the city’s fashion seasons occur each year. Your luxurious hotel stands in the heart of the pulsing city, surrounded by the continuous movement of the locals and the aroma of fresh espresso.

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II borders one of the edges of the Piazza del Duomo. The gallery was built in the 19th-century as one of the largest shopping arcades in Europe. The central dome rises nearly 160 feet above the gorgeous mosaic floor as iron and glass intertwine along the ceiling and the framework to create a lavish edifice as natural light pours into the halls. Luxury boutiques create elaborate displays to entice the visitors that move through the gallery. Charming cafes provide large windows from which passersby view the alluring scenery and lingering patrons watch the city stroll past.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, dinner

Day 2: Parma – Half-Day Tour of Milan; Enjoy a Cheese Tasting en route to Parma

In the morning, the Milanese walk fast along the cobblestones streets to board the electric trams that wind through the city center of travel along the metro hidden beneath the streets. Cafes set out umbrellas along the open piazza to provide shade from the sun as you sip your cappuccino. Your local guide will meet you at the hotel to lead you on a remarkable tour of Milan that begins with the Sforzesco Castle. The oldest of the grounds were erected in the 13th-century and housed the Visconti and Sforza families.

The Filarete Tower was built in 1905 and stands at nearly 230 feet, a reproduction of the original structure. The stone ramparts carry an alluringly earthy aroma, filled with layers of medieval history. The manicured grass frames the wide walkways that are paved with pebbles. Inside the museum, your guide will point to the Pieta Rondanini, Michelangelo’s final masterpiece. The vaulted ceilings add to the statue’s luster as the master artist created the work in the mid 16th-century, sculpting the figures of Virgin Mary and the body of Jesus from a massive marble rock.   The statue stands at 77 inches tall. The figures maintain Gothic characteristics as opposed to the lifelike Renaissance attributes for which Michelangelo was known.

Outside of Milan, venture to Verdi’s villa near the town of Busseto, en route to a marvelous cheese sampling at a Parmesan cheese dairy near Parma. The composer helped usher in the “Golden Age of Opera,” and surpassed even Wagner in musical genius. The pastel yellow façade stands out against the pebbled drive, and lush trees frame the edges of the villa. Verdi’s music still emanates from the galleries by way of piano scores and memorabilia from the composer’s life.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 3: Parma – Discover Parma and the Treasures of Modena and Maranello

Your guide will meet you at your hotel after breakfast to escort you through the quiet beauty of Parma’s streets. The city stood along the old Roman road, but the grand palaces and graceful squares in the heart of Parma represent the French legacy of Napoleon’s wife and the Farnese dukes. The 12th-century Romanesque cathedral overtakes an entire side of the main square as its broad façade strikes a dramatic impression, accompanied by the more than 200-foot tall bell tower. Correggio painted the large fresco draping across the dome’s interior.

The spiced scent of frankincense drifts along the stone pillars and archways as the crypt beneath the nave contains stunning mosaics that represent the early Christian artistic styles. After your tour of Parma, make your way to the nearby town of Modena, the birthplace of Enzo Ferrari and home to the finest source of balsamic vinegar. The Roman colony was established in the 2nd-century BC, but much of the city’s remaining charm emanates from the 13th-century nobility of the Este family.

Embark on a fabulous balsamic tour before a visit to the Galleria Ferrari in Maranello. Walk through the Villa San Donnino to find a sweet fragrance of cooking grapes. Your guide will show you the vats in which the workers cook down the harvest into a syrup, and then age the product in wooden barrels to improve the flavor. The scent of wood from the barrels fills the holding cell as you enjoy a taste of the elegant, refined balsamic to find that the mild tartness blends perfectly with fresh fruits or sharp cheeses.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 4: Lucca – Transfer to Lucca to Explore the Fabulous Tuscan Medieval City

As you get to know northern Italy, you will want to indulge in the large cities and the small villages that scatter across the countryside. The rugged Apennine Mountains in the south, and River Po to the north frame the region of Emilia Romagna. Travel south to find the quintessential rolling green hills of Tuscany draped in the morning light. The town of Lucca endears itself immediately with Renaissance and medieval walls that wrap around the outer cobbled streets. Shady promenades lead to beautiful piazzas which are bordered by antique palazzos. Napoleon’s sister turned the fortified walls into public parks for the locals to enjoy and people continue to jog, stroll, and cycle along the green and verdant walls.

The impressive façade of San Michele in Foro resembles a wedding cake that overlooks the large piazza at the heart of the city. The church was built between the 12th and 14th-centuries over the former location of the Roman Forum. The inlaid marble of the edifice shapes a unique design of intricate pillars topped with a marvelous Archangel Michael. In Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, enter into the oval square once home to a Roman amphitheater. The bordering houses were constructed in a precise elliptical shape to remind visitors and locals of Lucca’s beginnings as a Roman colony. Two trees adorn Torre Guinigi, a complex of two mansions from families that brought prosperity and peace to the city in the 15th-century. The tower reaches a height of 145 feet above Luca’s cobbled streets.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 5: Lucca – Half-Day Tour of Renaissance Florence and Wine Taste at Gabbiano

In the morning, cyclists venture out onto the paths that circumvent the city walls, and the sensational cypress lined streets wind along the Tuscan hills. The aroma of fresh brioche fills the cafes along the historical streets of Lucca, and your guide will meet you at the hotel and into Florence for a half-day tour to discover the treasures of one of the world’s great artistic cities. The Renaissance comes to life in the historical city center and emanates from the architecture along Via de’Tornabuoni, home to the Palazzo Spini Feroni and the lavish museum dedicated to Ferragamo. Goldsmith shops open their doors along the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in the city, which was built in the 14th-century.

Your guide will lead you through the stunning market at San Lorenzo and along the halls of the Uffizi Gallery before you reach the Santa Croce Basilica. The blue and white marbled façade overlooks the broad public piazza, and the grounds act as the burial grounds for some of Italy’s most illustrious citizens including Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli. The basilica was erected in the 13th-century but consecrated in the mid 15th-century. A Franciscan symbol adorns the main door as the Jewish architect who designed the 19th-century façade adorned the basilica with a Star of David. After your exploration of the city streets, make your way to the Castello Gabbiano, a 12th-century fortress that rises out of the lush vines that carpet the famous Tuscan hills.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast, lunch

Day 6: Santa Margherita – See the Ligurian Coast on a Cruise around Cinque Terre

In the morning, continue westward to the city of La Spezia, and make your way to the Ligurian coastline and the secluded villages known as Cinque Terre. The mountains protect the five towns from roads and heavy traffic to make boats, trains, and hiking trails the only means of connection to the world over the mountain ridges. Board your private boat and venture to the first town of Riomaggiore. The sea is calm and glows with turquoise hues as fishing boats venture out in the morning light in search of the perfect catch, filled with red tuna, swordfish, and octopus. Your seaside view of Riomaggiore provides a panorama of the multi-colored homes that rise up the narrowing cliffs.

The sea laps at the boulders and tiered rocks at the bottom of the cliff to support the soaring homes that are nestled between the steep headlands. After visiting Riomaggiore, you could jump back onto the boat and continue to Manarola, the next town over, or step onto the walking trail for views of the villages, mountain churches, and Mediterranean. Locals and visitors alike put on their bathing suits and step into the refreshing water on the pebbled beach beneath the village. A trail leads to the Santuario di Montenero. The sanctuary is first mentioned in the 14th-century and contains a three-aisled nave with an 18th-century fresco. The off-white colors of the church help the edifice stand out from the rolling hilltops and rugged rocky outcrops of coastline.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 7: Santa Margherita – Return to Cinque Terre and the Town of Portofino

In the morning, the water laps at the seaside promenade of Santa Margherita. Palm fronds wave in the breeze over the walkways that lead to the harbor. The masts drift in the wake of the marina with fishing vessels and small yachts as a Madonna statue stands in a rocky niche to overlook the town near the 17th-century Villa Durazzo. After breakfast, you have the day to travel along the Ligurian coastline and return to Cinque Terre to stroll along the walkways to end at the luxurious seaside city of Portofino. If you choose to walk along the trails, the sea breeze casts a refreshing aroma over the verdant trees that line the dirt path.

The trail descends onto a narrow beach that leads to the stunning Romanesque structure of San Fruttuoso. The turquoise water edges at the sandy shore, and the water line has receded where it once led beneath the arches to the cellars of the church. The main monastery was erected in the 16th-century beneath the pine and holm oak forest that rises with the mountainside. Old terraces that once held olive groves continue to texture the hills behind the monastery as your boat ferries you to the town of Portofino on the edge of the Portofino Peninsula on the Italian Riviera. Castello Brown sits on a hill that overlooks the luxury yachts that are anchored in the harbor. The aroma of tropical flowers emanates from the botanic gardens as the old grounds contain elegant furniture from the 19th-century and spectacular views of the city and the sea.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 8: Turin – Relish the Unique History and Culture of Turin on a Private Tour

In the morning, you will leave behind the seaside views of Santa Margherita for the elegant tree-lined streets and boulevards of Turin. Art nouveau cafes open up to the views of the Alps on the fringe of the city. Turin briefly served as Italy’s first capital city after the country’s unification in the 1860s. The industrial history of the early to mid 20th-century gave way to an urban revival of the 21st-century. Your guide will lead you alongside the Baroque palaces that act as centerpieces to the city’s remarkable past, accentuated by the power and legend of the Savoy dynasty.

The Palazzo Reale overtakes an entire side of the Piazza Castello. The 17th-century edifice has a simple exterior, but a dramatic interior and the state apartments contain lavish decorations, including the Appartamento di Madama Felicita. The latter stands on the ground floor of the palace and features gilded mirrors, along with plush dining chairs that match the walls. Chinese porcelain and polychrome marble glisten in the soft light of the halls. The Royal Gardens overtake the north and east wings of the grounds, designed in the late 17th-century by Andre le Notre, the same designer who created the gardens of Versailles.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 9: Turin – Depart for Home 

The River Po runs through the city and alongside Piazza Vittorio Veneto. The Mole Antonelliana, a large 19th-century structure with spires that reach more than 550 feet tall and adds to city’s majestic skyline. The tower provides a sensational 360-degree view of Turin and leads to the Savoy Alps on the horizon. A glass elevator looks into the National Museum of Cinema, to create a motion picture in and of itself. After breakfast, your private transfer will meet you at the hotel and escort you to the Turin airport for your flight home. Instead of leaving Turin, you could extend your stay to enjoy the palaces and museums before venturing north to the French Riviera.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer

Price

Starting Price 

$2,470
This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.