Highlights of Northern Italy Itinerary: Venice to Turin

A 12 day trip to Italy 
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Peaceful lakeside villages, forests with celebrated white truffles, and bright towns overlooking the Ligurian Sea combine to bring your picture-perfect personalized Italy tour through the splendor of the north. The Italian Alps feature sparkling lakes and expansive vineyards that produce sophisticated wines. Dramatic cliffs plunge into Lake Garda while small bars in Venice offer enticing traditional cuisine. Whether enjoying everything from the rugged mountains to the quiet plains or indulging in the diverse flavors that are unique to each town, village, and city, your Northern Italy tour unveils unrivaled charm and sophistication.

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General Information

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Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Venice, Lake Maggiore, Lake Como, Turin, Rapallo, Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, Monteross al Mare, Stresa, Sirmione, Isola Bella, Como, Baveno, Asti, Alba, Pavia, Portovenere, Lerici, Levanto 

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Venice – Arrive in the Fascinating City with an Introductory Tour

The legendary charm of Venice takes you back in time to the spirited height of the Republic with canals lined by marvelous marble palaces and piazzas hidden in the winding, labyrinthine lanes. The dramatic brick campanile soars above the skyline at 324 feet crowned with a golden figure of Archangel Gabriel. The scent of the pastries drifts through the doors of the countless pasticcerie while gondolas float along the tranquil waters. Your private transfer will greet you at Marco Polo Airport upon arrival and escort you to the edge of the Grand Canal, and then you will continue to the dock of your luxurious hotel by private vaporetto.

From the winding curve of the canal’s two-mile stretch, the city radiates exuberance and audacity. You can see the famous arching walkway of the Rialto Bridge and the distinctive façade of Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, which contains the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Your guide greets you in the hotel lobby, after you have had a chance to settle into the comforts of the hotel, and leads you through an extensive introductory tour of Venice beginning at the Santa Maria dei Miracoli.

Gondolas linger by the water often dropping off or picking up newlyweds after their ceremony, and the comings and goings for locals and tourists alike provide much to watch.  In 2019, the celebrated Venice Film Festival will take place between late August and early September with a slew of international filmmakers vying for the coveted Golden Lion award, bringing even more interest to the already fascinating streets.

What’s Included: airport transfer, accommodation

Day 2: Venice – Enjoy the Island of Murano and the Rich Cuisine of Venice

In the early morning, you can set out on a boat to the island of Murano, the famous shores of which have supported the iconic glassblowing of Venice since the 13th century when the Doge ordered all craftsmen with kilns off the main island for fear of fire. The prestigious work allowed the artists and merchants to gain incredible wealth ascending to nearly to the height of nobility in their wealth.

The Basilica of Santa Maria and San Donato was erected in the 7th century as the main church of the island. The architecture points to the Byzantine styles of Ravenna and the gilded mosaics for which the city in the Emilia-Romagna region is famous. The alternating hues of red brick and white marble create captivating aesthetics and numerous mosaics crafted in the 12th century retain their original luster. While strolling along the main paths of the island neighboring the lining canal, you find a collection of shimmering window displays exhibiting elaborate glass designs. Enter a private artist studio for a demonstration on the ways professional glassblowers use heat to make the glass pliable, bending, curving, and shaping the glass to their whim.

Return to the main island of Venice for a combined sightseeing and food-tasting tour for deeper insight into the true treasures of Venice’s collective 118 islands. Small bars known as bacari serve traditional tiny plates known in Venice as cicchetti, which are similar in theory to Spanish tapas. When ordering a glass of wine, beer, or a cocktail, the small plates balance the flavors of both the cuisine and the drink with customary menu items consisting of dishes like pork meatballs, calamari, boiled beef sausage with mustard, or a variety of cheeses and fish. The most memorable bacari fill with locals in the evening providing a lively ambiance inside the antique design of a classic bar.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 3: Sirmione – Charming Verona before Arriving in Luxurious Lake Garda

The returning morning light washes over the bulbous domes of St. Mark’s Basilica in the morning, returning the sheen of the Byzantine design back to the eponymous square and city skyline. You will leave behind the grandeur of Venice for the captivating beauty of Lake Garda, stopping first in the charming city of Verona. The city stands on the banks of the River Adige halfway between Venice and Milan. The reputation of the scenic streets emerging from the base of the Alps proceeds your visit as the home of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

The Romans founded the city in the 1st century BC before Romanesque churches from the 11th and 12th centuries grew around the 3rd-century Roman amphitheater. The stadium seating can still hold up to 22,000 spectators during the Verona Opera Festival, held annually between July and August. In 2019, the program celebrates 95 years since the death of conductor Giacomo Puccini with sensational performances of La Traviata and Tosca.

The Castelvecchio was erected on the foundations of a former Roman fortress outside the antique city walls resembling a military fortress more than a palace. The 14th-century bridge spans the riverbanks leading into the dramatic heart of the castle complex that is home to the local museum overflowing with statuary, frescoes, paintings, and jewelry including Madonna of the Quail by Pisanello. The 15th-century painting depicts the Madonna with crowned child surrounded by flying angles in a rose garden, which were typical images of the Gothic style. A quail in the foreground gives a soft touch of natural harmony. Continue to Sirmione at Lake Garda for a tranquil evening on the thin peninsula jutting away from the shoreline.

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

Day 4: Sirmione – Traverse the Charismatic Towns around Lake Garda

Lake Garda is one of the largest lakes in Italy encompassing more than 142 square miles. The town of Sirmione feels like a storybook surrounded on three sides by azure and turquoise water and glowing with emerald greenery. The castle’s crenulated walls and towers jut out past the shoreline into the lake creating a small harbor where fishing boats wade in the gentle wake. Homes shine with a combination of rich red and deep yellow hues. After breakfast, the day is yours to explore the enchanting towns surrounding Lake Garda at your preferred pace along the shifting landscape of pebbled shores to rocky cliffs.

Riva del Garda is an eclectic mixture of history, charm, and heritage with a city center brimming with Baroque architecture. The church of Inviolata was designed by a Portuguese architect and continues to attract locals and visitors with its elaborate shrine. The elegant aesthetic derives from the square base and octagonal altars set beneath vaulted ceilings with walls adorned with frescos and stucco. The breeze carries the scent of freshwater from along the lake blending with the aroma of fresh espresso emanating from cafes situated along the shoreline.

The Venetian fortress protrudes from the rugged slopes of Mount Roccehtta at 525 feet above sea level with dramatic medieval walls and a fortified bastion. You can continue to Torbole, a village nestled into the calcareous rock at the base of Mount Baldo and pressing into the clear turquoise waters of the lake. The tranquil ambiance is thanks to the absence of motorboats while windsurfers and kitesurfers utilize the breeze sweeping down the hillside for an extra boost on the water in view of the 15th-century town design.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 5: Stresa – Lake Maggiore for a Relaxing Ambiance around Stresa

In the morning, you will travel away from the shores of Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy, and up into the base of the pristine Italian Alps to reach the town of Stresa. The shores of Lake Maggiore overtake 82 square miles with picturesque views of woodlands, waters, and mountaintops from the cobbled promenade with the decadence of Stresa’s belle époque ambiance. The meandering lanes create a hive of Old-World charm combining the aroma of espresso with the herbaceous scent of the prevailing forest. The setting embodies grace and grandeur as you board a ferry bound for the Borromean Islands, a collection of small landmasses on the lake, the most famous of which boasts a stunning villa.

Isola Bella is one of the most fascinating destinations on the lake boasting the remarkable mansion that was built for the Borromeo family in the 17th century. The ambitious work symbolizes the triumph of man over nature by bending the island to an architectural whim of a dramatic garden. The step terraces grew out of soil and flowers shipped to the island during construction resembling a theater complex linked by stairways and decorated with grottoes, water-wheel towers, obelisks, and statues. White peacocks strut through the grasses amid fragrant citrus trees and the glowing collection of rhododendrons and camellias. The peacocks emphasize the splendor of the garden symbolizing Paradise on earth and eternal beauty. 

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

Day 6: Stresa – The Elegant Atmosphere spanning Celebrated Lake Como

Your scenic drive through the alpine landscape to reach the town of Como begins your day with an incredible view of Italy’s natural splendor. The town of Como sits on the shores of the lake with waters spanning 99 square miles. The town itself grew out of the Roman settlement from the 1st century BC with flourish remaining in the historical city center in the form of a preserved city gate, Porta Pretoria. The picturesque pastel-colored homes reflect in the calm waters contrasting with the Romanesque facades of three impressive basilicas. The cream-colored exterior of Villa Olmo captures the imaginations of visitors when visiting Como’s largest landmark.

The neoclassical structure was erected in the 18th century with an Italian art nouveau interior, and the impressive gardens overlook the stoic waters of the lake. Continue to the town of Varenna, a traditional fishing village that has retained a sense of typical tradition along the shoreline. The Church of San Giorgio rises above the town center with a 14th-century style blending Romanesque and Gothic designs. The pavement lining the interior was made from marble quarried locally accentuating the 15th- and 16th-century paintings adorning the walls. Cobblestones lead away from the church along the Riva Grande, the narrow promenade nestled between pastel homes and reflective waters connecting to the quiet boat landing.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 7: Rapallo – Venture to the Ligurian Sea by way of Renaissance Pavia

The morning light washes over the exuberant decoration of Isola Bella’s gardens returning the color to the prestigious design and awakening the sleeping white peacocks. After breakfast, your private transfer will greet you in your hotel and escorts you down the alpine slopes to reach Pavia, a gorgeous and historical strategic city at the heart of an agricultural plain. Towers from the Middle Ages remain soaring over the skyline erected to showcase the wealth of the aristocratic families while also acting as defenses overlooking the banks of the River Ticino.

Castello Visconteo was erected in the 14th century as a residence and stronghold at the edge of the medieval center. The impressive design consists of foreboding ramparts wrapping around a charming walled garden. The interior museum galleries display remarkably preserved frescoes by artists like Bonifacio Bembo and Vincenzo Foppa while the courtyard opens from a bordering arcade adorned with Venetian-style pillars. Pavia maintains a sense of sophistication emanating from the artwork, architecture, and important university with the Duomo possessing the fourth-largest dome in the country.

Celebrated Renaissance men contributed to the design, including Leonardo da Vinci and Donato Bramante, who helped ensure the dome reached a secure 318 feet tall. In the afternoon, you will arrive in Rapallo, an enchanting coastal town on the Ligurian Sea. The aroma of the seawater carries on the back of the breeze accompanied by the scent of citrus groves growing on terraces texturing the maritime mountains. The cobbled leans weave between homes decorated with pastel hues and the azure sea framing the striking castle.

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

Day 8: Rapallo – Relish a Day Discovering the Five Towns of Cinque Terre

The enticing aroma of the freshly baked focaccia bread drifts out of the pasticceria in the morning and fades beneath scent of the Ligurian Sea. Fishers return to the shore with their freshest catch bound for market. You can take the short train ride to the northern most town of celebrated Cinque Terra to begin your exploration of Monterosso al Mare. The five towns of Cinque Terre were infamously isolated from greater Italy due to the protruding mountains separating the towns from one another, as well as greater cities beyond the summits.

The railroad was constructed in the 19th century after the Reunification of Italy brought new commerce and connection to the communities beyond the original donkey trails and fishing boats. Monterosso al Mare embodies the charm of the five towns with the longest stretch of beach decorated with scattered shading umbrellas, lounge chairs, and a pebbled shoreline stretching to remaining Genovese castle erected to defend the coast from pirates. The restaurants lining the cobbled lanes leading back into the ravine grill fresh squid with a squeeze of lemon or produce delectable pesto pizza emanating fragrant basil.

On the bordering northern promontory, the remains of a giant statue carved into the rock face standing more than 45 feet tall. The image captured Neptune holding the mighty waves of the sea at bay. Take to the trails connecting the five towns for remarkable panoramic views of the city or enjoy the quick train ride to Corniglia to meet with a local wine producer utilizing the terraced landscape for growing vines. The tradition of winemaking in the region dating back 1,000 years and producing sciacchetrà, a sweet wine often paired with desserts or cheeses, which grows well in the harsh conditions of the rugged soil and harsh winds. Among the refurbished stone walls supporting the terraces, you sample the wine noticing the complex layers of honey, apricot, and fig lingering on your palate.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 9: Rapallo – Delight in a Boat Trip Uncovering the Alluring Bay of Poets

Further south from Cinque Terre lies the Bay of Poets, named for the illustrious visitors captivated by the natural beauty of the land- and seascape, which included the likes of Lord Byron and Percy Shelley. The town of Portovenere is one of three small villages decorating the inlet squeezed between the roiling waves of the Ligurian Sea and the mountains climbing against the mainland. The Romans settled the area in the 1st century BC giving way to the Byzantines and Lombards.

The notable Church of Saint Peter has a remarkable Genovese Gothic style originating in the late-12th century. The structure was erected over an ancient temple and earlier church foundations situated in the 5th century AD. The dreamlike ambiance derives from the splash of the water against the rocks, endless breeze, and the striped façade of the historical religious site. The town of Lerici seemingly emerges from the crystalline turquoise sea with a backdrop of the dramatic castle clinging to the rocky promontory. The stronghold was erected in the 12th century with three major layers reflecting the changing powers over the town throughout the millennium beginning with the Pisans who erected the pentagonal tower.

The interior contains the small Chapel of St. Anastasia erected in the Ligurian Gothic style with pointed archways, vaulted ceilings, and black and white marble stripes. The Genoese and implemented the second and third building phases between the 13th and 16th centuries accentuating the beauty of the exterior amid the growing charm of the neighboring town. Spend time relaxing in Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi beneath the 13th century Oratorio di San Rocco enjoying the simple pleasures of the relaxing breeze and a frothy cappuccino.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 10: Turin – Navigate the Delicacies and Fine Wines of Asti and Alba

The promise of premier delicacies calls to you in the morning taking you by private transfer out of Rapallo to the sister towns of Asti and Alba in the celebrated gourmet Langhe wine region. You will begin in the elegant town of Alba with its superb dedication to epicurean delights like white truffles, chocolates, and delicious wines like Barolo and Barbaresco. Charming restaurants line the cobbled lanes filling the air with fragrant recipes like traditional agnolotti, polenta, and simmering rabbit. The winding streets lead to the heart of town at the Piazza del Duomo, following the ancient road of Via Maestra erected by the Romans but now known as Via Vittorio Emanuele.

The Cathedral of San Lorenzo was built on foundations in the 11th century featuring a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic traditions with three portals adorning the grand façade. 14th-century towers shape the skyline referencing the former nobility eager to show signs of their wealth. While the towers remain a symbol of the town, the families have faded into obscurity over the centuries including the Bonino and Artesiano towers. The old Roman gate once acted as the grand entrance to Alba offering visitors a definitive border.

In October, Alba hosts the annual truffle fair with local vendors working with international crowds eager to sample dishes perfectly paired with the robust, earthy ingredient including ravioli, raw meat, or simple fried eggs. The food is as much of an attraction as the old architecture with bakeries offering freshly baked goods like gianduia, a crushed amaretto and hazelnut cake. You can sample the sweet confection with a Barbera d’Alba wine finding notes of sour cherry and strawberry. In smaller Asti, similarities between the towns become striking including the towers hovering above the orange-tiled roofs leading to central triangular shaped Piazza Alfieri.

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

Day 11: Turin – Discover the Grandeur and Splendors of Turin at your Leisure

The remarkable city of Turin contrasts its reputation as Italy’s 20th-century industrial center with the sophisticated beauty of wide tree-lined boulevards, art nouveau cafes, and elegant Baroque palaces. The city follows the geometrical design established by the Romans with the impressive ancient gate of Porta Palatina dating back to the 1st century. The three-story wall contains bricks forming a pair of polygonal towers acting as the mythological campground for Charlemagne in the 8th century. The aroma of espresso emanates from the kitchen of the classic eatery of Caffè Fiorio with an ambiance accentuated by the Siena marble counters, vintage mirrors, and velvet upholstery first decorating the gallery in the 18th century.

The day is yours to explore and discover Turin at your preferred pace staring at the Museo Egizio, which houses the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts outside of Cairo. The original gallery opened in 1824 and growing to more than 40,000 artifacts. The legend of the collection dates to King Carlo Felice who believed the collection would legitimize his throne and eventually reunite Italy. A statue of Sekhmet contains the intricate details revealing the beauty, power, and awe of the goddess of healing depicted as a fierce lioness.

For an evening dedicated to delicacies, you can enjoy dinner at Cannavacciuolo Bistrot, a restaurant awarded a Michelin Star for 2019. The stylish interior combines the fragrances of Southern Italy with the flavors of Northern Italy for an exaltation of the chef’s personal experiences. Dishes like branzino with basil, clams, lime, and black olives or lamb with mint, pecorino cheese, and friggitello chili pepper highlight distinctive flavors and complex profiles with select fresh ingredients from around the Piedmont region and greater Italy culminating in the celebrated passion fruit, tomato, and buffalo mozzarella ice cream.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 12: Turin – Depart for Home

In the morning, the sunlight spreads across the slopes of the neighboring laps accentuating the beauty of the Savoy dynasty and traces of the Roman Empire. The stunning Baroque façade of Palazzo Madama borders the elegant Piazza Castello nearby the ancient Roman east gate. While the foundations of the palace were erected in the 13th century, the 15th- and 17th-century embellishments contain remarkable examples of Piedmontese architecture including the grand double staircase. After breakfast, your private transfer greets you at the hotel. When ready, you make your way to Turin-Caselle Airport for your flight home bringing an end to your exploration of Northern Italy.

What’s Included: airport transfer, breakfast

Price

Price 

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