Two-Week Northern Italy Tour: Food, History & Culture

A 14 day trip to Italy 
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The treasures of Italy usually conjure a mixture of delicious cuisine and fabulous art that illustrates the beauty of the peninsula. Step beyond the façade of generalizations for an intimate discovery of regional specialties and captivating histories during your custom-tailored trip to Italy. Whether visiting the northern regions of Italy for the first time or the fifth, the abundance of famous artwork and enchanting artifacts, dishes made with seasonal ingredients and neighborhood specialties reflect true beauty. Byzantine mosaics, Renaissance palaces, historical wines, and Baroque villas embody the majesty and grandeur of your personalized Italy.  

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General Information

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Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Milan, Turin, Rapallo, Genoa, Vernazza, Monterosso al Mare, Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Bologna, Parma, Modena, Ravenna, Verona, Venice, Padua, Brenta Canal, Asti, Alba

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Milan – Arrive in Fashionable Milan and Enjoy the Day at Leisure

Milan embodies sophistication as Italy’s capital of commerce and fashion. The busy streets and contemporary metro illuminate the Milanese commitment to elegance with locals at the top of contemporary style, which informs the chic ambiance that courses through the cityscape. History becomes a legacy shaped by Romans, Napoleon, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Mussolini, while the cuisine reflects the affluence of the urban outlet marrying the quintessential Mediterranean ingredients with a convergence of French and Central European cooking techniques and culinary styles represented. Milan hosts the highest number of Michelin-starred restaurants in any city in the country, and you will quickly see why. 

Upon your arrival, your private transfer will greet you at Malpensa International Airport and escort you into the heart of the bustling city. The Duomo crowns the historical center with 135 stone spires and an intricate network of 2,245 marble statues. Construction on the grand Gothic edifice began in the 14th century but remained incomplete until the arrival of Napoleon in the 19th century. The dramatic filigree reminds you of a fairytale castle punctuated by the spectacular colors of the stained-glass windows. The interior possesses a sensational bronze candelabrum crafted in the 1200s adorned with seven branches while the north transept hosts the elaborate 16th-century tomb of Gian Giacomo Medici. 

If interested in fashion, 2019 brings the 100th anniversary of Prada and its relationship with the Italian Royal Family. The icon of Italian style was founded in 1913 but became the official supplier of artistic garments to the House of Savoy, who in 1919 gave Prada to right to use the official coat of arms within the designer’s logo framed by the image of the royal knotted rope. The Italian Royal Family ruled Italy from the Risorgimento in the late 18th century until the end of World War II. 

Prada’s Galleria 1913 is located inside the awe-inspiring 19th-century arcade Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which was named after the first king of a united Italy. The mosaic-tiled floors and gilded walls frame the stores and bring a luxurious ambiance to the environment that surrounds. As the original Prada store inside the arcade, the authentic ambiance retains a sense of its past with contemporary handmade bags, and leather accessories displayed on the original mahogany shelves built by a British architect specifically for the store upon its opening in 1913.

What’s Included: airport transfer, accommodation 

Day 2: Milan – Explore Remarkable History in Milan and View the Last Supper

In the morning, the cafes inside the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II open beneath five glass domes bringing incredible natural light. The scent of fresh espresso fills the halls and drifts over the elegant mosaic floors. Your guide will greet you in the hotel lobby eager to introduce you to the history of Milan, beginning with Castello Sforzesco. The noble Sforza families ruled Milan between the 13th and 16th centuries and built the castle as a protective stronghold over the course of nearly 100 years between 1368 and 1450. 

Torr de Filarete was erected in the early 20th century as a reproduction of the original 230-foot tall tower. The art museum in one of the many galleries filling the vast castle complex contains a number of electrifying works by famous Italian artists like Tintoretto and Canaletto. One of the most famous works on display is Michelangelo’s la Rondanini Pietà, which the artist worked on days before his death in 1564. The fascinating work strays from Michelangelo’s realistic earlier sculptures depicting an elongated Mary mourning Jesus bearing a resemblance to traditional Gothic figures. 

Continue to the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie where the exterior brick-work shines with pink hues amid the Gothic design. A six-sided dome, indicative of Early Renaissance architecture, crowns the structure. Your guide will lead you to the adjoining refectory that was nearly torn down during the allied bombings of World War II. After complex and demanding repair work, artists brought the painting of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper back to life. The work depicts Jesus and the Disciples during their last meal before the crucifixion. The novel representation of the figure strayed away from the ethereal style to portray the figures in a humanistic manner. 

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 3: Turin – Travel to Turin for an Immersive Tour of Italy’s First Capital

In the morning, the cafes and local bars along the Navigli canal in Milan open to locals eager for an espresso before heading to work. The remaining waterways that are scattered around the city once acted as transport hubs where merchants and tradespeople carried goods from the nearby lakes to Duomo during its construction. After breakfast, you will travel by high-speed train to Turin, the first capital of Italy, where your private transfer will collect you at the Porta Nuova Station and escort you to the comforts of your centrally located hotel. The city quickly charms you with a blend of elegant piazzas and sophisticated palaces, charismatic tree-lined boulevards, and decadent art nouveau cafes. The Alps, on the outskirts of the city, pierce the skyline as the mouthwatering aroma of delicious chocolates emanate from the confectionaries.

The streets take you back beyond the city’s 20th-century history as Italy’s industrial center into a world filled with Baroque grandeur and traces of Roman Emperor Augustus. Being your immersive tour of the city at Palazzo Madama as it crowns the surrounding Piazza Castello. The edifice embraces the past as a 13th-century stronghold built over the Roman east gate and enlarged in the 15th century before obtaining embellishments of the Piedmontese Baroque style in the 18th century. Strolling through the galleries of the Civic Museum of Ancient Art leads you through 35 rooms spanning four floors starting at the castle’s Roman foundations. Visiting the Tower of Treasures brings you close to Antonello da Messina’s Trivulzio Portrait. 

In the evening, you can savor the sensational flavors and style of Spazio 7, which received a Michelin Star for 2019. The restaurant has proudly connected to the city’s reputation as one of the world’s most important centers for contemporary art and turns each dish into a tasteful art experience. The harmonious combination of ingredients come together with elegant style in the kitchen with the picturesque plating reflective of the vibrant flavors promised by the look and aroma of each dish. 

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

Day 4: Turin – Visit the Sensational Museo Egizio and Magnificent Royal Palace

When visiting Italy, tourists do not expect to find one of the largest collections of Egyptian antiquity in the world, but the Museo Egizio in Turin not only depicts the prestige and mystification of the ancient world, but also expresses the importance of heritage in connection to the Italian Royal Family. The Museo Egizio houses the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts outside of Cairo with the accumulation beginning in 1824 under King Carlo Felice who acquired 5,268 artifacts. The collection has since grown to more than 30,000 artifacts with statues of gods and pharaohs dating back to the New Kingdom and the likes of Rameses II and King Thutmose III. 

Artifacts from the tomb of royal architect Kha and his wife Merit date back to 1400 BC. The renovation in 2015 has given new life to original 19th-century galleries, along with a new narrative that winds through halls to tell a captivating story. The museum contains the Temple of Ellesyia, a rock-cut religious site erected during the 18th dynasty during the reign of Pharaoh Thutmose III and dedicated to Horus, Satis, and Amun. Three large steles adorn the sloping façade including a reference to Thutmose III’s gifting of the temple in 1450 BC. 

The Royal Palace overtakes an entire edge of Piazza Castello at the heart of the city. The magnificent structure was erected in the 18th century with a simple façade hiding a grandiose interior with 26 stately apartments alongside the breathtaking grandeur of the halls and galleries. Filippo Juvarra designed the sensational staircase leading to the second floor, and the imposing marble steps look as though they hover above one another alongside the graceful volute with natural light spilling through the large windows. In the evening, you can experience a celebration of taste at another of Turin’s restaurants awarded a Michelin Star for 2019, Cannavacciuolo Bistrot. The menu illuminates the chef’s passion for pampering guests with harmonious flavors in a soothing environment for a physical sensation with a mental refreshment.  

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 5: Rapallo – Indulge in a Wine and Food Tasting in Asti and Alba  

The original 18th-century layout of Caffè Fiorio enchants visitors as one of Turin’s oldest and best-preserved cafes. The aromas of fresh espresso and rich chocolate fill the dining room beneath the impressive chandeliers and glistening vintage mirrors. After breakfast, your private transfer will greet you in the hotel lobby ready to escort you westward towards Rapallo. The town of Asti shares in the vinicultural wonder of the province with its former medieval rival of Alba, located less than 20 miles away. 

The gorgeous landscape of Piedmont fills with lush hills and verdant trees falling into pristine valleys carpeted with vineyards. During the changing seasons, the scenery turns into a kaleidoscope of colors. The medieval origins of surrounding villages and hamlets retain their charm in the cobblestone streets and dramatic parish churches lining Via Francigena, the ancient road connecting France to the Vatican. Asti’s Gothic Cathedral has foundations dating back to the 6th century with the main structure rebuilt in the 11th century during the First Crusade. 

Many wealthy families erected towers as protection and representations of their power with the Troyana Tower in Piazza Medici acting as one of Asti’s continue symbols reaching 144 feet tall providing a fabulous view of the city and surrounding landscape. A small cellar inside town welcomes you with a selection of gourmet cheeses paired with celebrated local wines. The delicacies around Asti include Spumante, a sparkling white wine thriving in the southeastern region Piedmont. Your guide pours a sample of the sparkling wine made from Moscato grapes giving way to aromas of Asian pear and honeysuckle perfect with white chocolate or sweeter desserts. 

When tasting the famous Barolo wine of the region, you will see that the longer the wine has aged, the better it will taste, and also recognize how the different flavors are taken from the limestone soil versus the sandstone terroir. Continuing to Alba blends charm and affluence on the historical streets that boast more than 100 towers. The rural character focuses on flavor with delicacies like dark chocolate and wine filling the windows of local shops and the aroma of white truffles drifting out of the restaurants. Vines line the hills and hazelnut groves cast shade along the fertile valley. 

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

Day 6: Rapallo – Discover Sensational History and Prestige in Genoa

Wake up to a gorgeous day along the Ligurian Sea in lovely Rapallo. The seaside town glows with azure water as a backdrop to pebbled beaches with palm trees lining the promenade. The 16th-century castle looms over the promontory that protects the contemporary streets, and the Thursday market attracts visitors from along the coastal community turning the Piazza Cile into a lively crowd. Your guide will greet you at your hotel after breakfast and take you out of Rapallo and through the fascinating history and culture of nearby Genoa. 

The port city and former maritime powerhouse of Northern Italy flourished after defeating Pisa’s navy around the 10th century. Merchants and maritime trade thrived between the 16th and 17th centuries with noble families building grand palaces. Walking along the narrow cobblestone streets of the Porto Vecchio gives you a sense of the sailors who once paraded between taverns and ships with the aroma of the sea passing over the streets. The heart of the medieval city stands between Porta dei Vacca and Porta Soprana. 

The tall buildings turn the narrow lanes into caverns from which you can see the residential use of the antique homes as drying clothes dangle from the elevated lines. Your guide leads you to Porta Soprana and the remaining portion of the 12th-century wall to visit the childhood home of Christopher Columbus who lived next-door to the cloister of Sant’Andrea. Palaces line the lavish boulevard of Via Garibaldi including the lavish facades of Palazzo Ross, Bianco, and Doria-Tursi. The three palaces now boast a combined collection of old masters set within the Musei di Strada Nuova. The street runs for 820 feet and was documented in the travelogue of Charles Dickens as a place of “…beautiful colors and voluptuous designs…”

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 7: Rapallo – Traverse the Gorgeous Seaside Villages of Cinque Terre

At breakfast, the scent of freshly baked focaccia bread fills the dining room of your hotel alongside the warm scent of a frothy cappuccino topped with a dusting of chocolate. You will begin the day as you travel the short distance to Monterosso al Mare by train, the most northerly town connected to enchanting Cinque Terre. The scent of lemon drifts down from the terraced orchards and blends with relaxing fragrant sea. A partially ruined castle adorns a small promontory bordering the stretch of pebbled beach alongside the historical center. 

Beach-goers bask on the lounge chairs beneath the colorful umbrellas and the pastel-colored facades of town press back into the narrowing mountain slopes. Mule tracks once connected the five towns of Cinque Terre before the train was built in the late 19th century. The remnants of the defensive tower mark the original construction during the maritime rule of Genoa, which protected the coastal region from pirate attacks. The giant of Monterosso was erected as a colossal image of Neptune in the 20th century along the rocky outcropping edging the northern border of the town standing more than 45 feet tall. 

Allied bombings during the Second World War destroyed the arms, but the powerful figure endured to become a symbol of the town. The hiking trail between Monterosso and Vernazza spans two miles to climb to an altitude of 575 feet above sea level. The elevated walkway fills with the sea breeze and the scent of the vibrant vineyards along the hills before you find the majestic panorama of Vernazza at 492 feet above sea level. 

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 8: Bologna – Venture to Bologna for a Marvelous City Highlights Tour

After transferring to Bologna, you will discover a gorgeous, accessible city graced with the distinctive medieval architecture steeped in stone arcades and hidden cafes. University students linger around the trickling fountains of the adjoining Piazza Maggiore and Piazza del Nettuno. Restaurants take pride in the city’s nickname, La Grassa, meaning, “The Fat One,” indicative of Bologna’s reputation as food lovers and gastronomic connoisseurs. The scent of simmering rage adds a delectable yet subtle aroma deriving from kitchens across the city. Your guide will lead you on a fabulous introductory tour of the city combining the glitz of the world’s oldest university and the working-class ambiance supporting the newer high-tech industry. 

The streets surrounding Via Clavature embody the culinary allure of the city with market stalls and lively cafes, as well as delis displaying gourmet ingredients like delicious cheeses, stunning truffles, and luscious prosciutto. Twenty towers connoting the former prestige of the aristocratic families of the city continue to shape the 12th-century skyline with the most famous Torre Garisenda standing 158 feet tall but leaning more than 42 between base and roof for an incredible, noticeable list. The twin tower of Torre degli Asinelli contains nearly 500 steps leading to the top of the structure, which offers a remarkable panorama of the medieval city below.  

If visiting Bologna in May of 2019, you can view the 110th anniversary of the Giro d’Italia, one of international cycling’s Grand Tour races taking participants from Bologna to Verona along a winding route through the majority of the Italian Peninsula. Riders will head south from the starting point along the Corsa Rosa with and travel the first stage of the journey with a five-mile time trial for positioning. The race consists of riders from all over the world and has continued each year since its inception stopping only during World War I and World War II. 

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

Day 9: Bologna – Delight in a Culinary Exploration at Parma and Modena

Art nouveau cafes and the dramatic façade of the famous opera house embody the beauty of Parma. The prosperous city has fallen beneath the shadow of the more boisterous Bologna but stands out with its own splendid cuisine in the form of cheese and cured meat. The Duomo was erected in the 12th century and boasts a mixture of Lombard-Romanesque design with elements of Baroque fixtures. Correggio’s Assunzione della Verginehas decorated the interior dome since the 16th century with a composition representing St. John the Baptist with the lamb, St. Hilary with the yellow mantle. St. Thomas with an angel carrying a palm leaf, and St. Bernard looking upwards uniting the four “protector” saints. 

The delightful flavors of Parma become apparent with your visit to a cheese factory producing Parmigiano Reggiano. The cheese contains a Protected Designation of Origin controlling the quality and authenticity of the product by holding its production to high standards. To make the cheese, staff dairy workers heat cow’s milk and separate the curds and whey. The whey rises to the top where its strained before the curds are heated to prevent matting. The cheesecloth sifts through the mixture before it is brined and aged in a cool warehouse for at least eight months. Your guide taps on an aging wheel so you can hear how a good aging cheese should sound to ensure there are no air bubbles. You sample a piece directly from the wheel enjoying the slightly nutty flavor.

Once in Modena, the culinary delights of Emilia-Romagna continue at a vineyard. The city of Modena dates back to a Celtic settlement before the Roman occupation in the 2nd century BC. The quiet arcaded streets lead to large squares and lavish palaces fringed by gardens. The vineyard utilizes grape that must be cooked over direct heat in an open vessel reducing the mixture into a type of syrup and aging the vinegar in oak, mulberry, chestnut, or cherry barrels for at least 12 years. When sampling the initial balsamic vinegar, you notice the thick texture and caramel aroma reminiscent of chocolate. 

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 10: Bologna – Enjoy a Truffle Hunt and Uncover Beauty in Ravenna 

The splendor of the Emilia-Romagna countryside emerges from the woods outside of Bologna during your private truffle-hunting excursion. Your guide leads you into the trees following a trained dog able to find the scent of truffles up to three feet underground. The truffle typically grows along the roots of specific trees in damp they undergrowth near the towns situated along the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines. The scent of pine fills the air as the dog searches for the deep, earthy aroma of the tuber. 

The dog will bark and dig near a tree, and your guide will grab a shovel and keeps the dog from snapping at the truffle hidden beneath the soil. He will wipe away dirt to reveal the “black gold,” telling you to inhale the aroma similar to a strong mushroom. At lunch, you will enter a local restaurant where the chef can prepare a special dish meant to accentuate the particular flavors of the ingredients including a simple, yet satisfying fried egg topped with truffle shavings. 

You will soon reach the distinctive city of Ravenna, the former capital of the Western Roman Empire possessing an incredible array of early Christian mosaic work. Skilled artisans adorned the antique architecture with terracotta brick churches and gorgeous gilded for three centuries while the surrounding Italian Peninsula flailed from the crumbling infrastructure of the fallen Roman Empire. Your guide will take you into the humble exterior of San Vitale. Upon stepping inside the octagonal design, you will soon understand the magnificence of the 6th-century church through the display of preserved early Christian Byzantine art. The height of the dome makes the intricate tile-work blend together looking more like a fresco than a mosaic with the exception of the gilded background accentuating the figures in the foreground. 

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 11: Verona – Relish a Scenic Ride to Verona for a Fabulous View of the City

After breakfast, you will travel by first-class train to the often-overlooked city of Verona. The classic architecture retains a sense of medieval grandeur and Baroque charm accentuated by the lingering feat of Roman engineering captured in the soaring walls of the 3rd-century amphitheater in Piazza Brà. In summer, music fans fill the stadium during Verona Opera Festival, which in 2019 commemorates the 95th anniversary of Giacomo Puccini’s death with performances of La Traviata and Tosca. The theater can still hold up to 22,000 spectators for a single performance. 

The crenulated walls of Castelvecchio rise above the banks of the Adige River, and the impressive 14th-century fortress was built to impress and unsettle rivals of the wealthy Scala family. The powerful structure overlooks the 14th-century bridge connecting the riverbanks. Red brick glows against the water supporting the former escape route with soaring arches with an asymmetrical design. Wandering through the historical city center leads you to the home of Juliet Capulet brought to the forefront of blending history and mythology by William Shakespeare. The heroine of romantic love inspires visitors of all ages from around the world who place notes along the corridor leading to the inner courtyard. 

A bronze statue of Juliet stands adjacent to the balcony, the latter of which was added to the façade in the 1930s as the final piece of the tragic love story. The lovelorn write letters to empowering saint of love to whom the actual Secretaries of Juliet respond. For dinner, you can delight in the cuisine of 12 Apostoli, a restaurant awarded a Michelin Star for 2019. Four different tasting menus bring to light the various traditional flavors of the region and the fresh ingredients with which the chef chooses to highlight such as salt cod with truffle and cauliflower or cooked apples with pumpkin gelato atop a traditional sbrisolona tart. 

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

Day 12: Venice – Bask in the Beauty of Padua and the Brenta Canal

Padua began as a Roman settlement and has grown into a vivacious city brimming with art and a chic university ambiance. After centuries of fighting Verona for supremacy over the Vento plains, Padua fell under the rule of Venice in the 15th century with Renaissance piazzas and the gorgeous Byzantine domes of St. Anthony. The grandeur of the city’s history begins at the 13th-century architecture of Basilica di Sant’Antonio featuring Romanesque, Gothic, and Byzantine features with a towering conical dome. The façade of 14th-century Capella degli Scrovegni hides the priceless works of Giotto who decorated the chapel with frescoes depicting the life of Jesus with a humanistic approach. The ceiling flickers with gilded stars against a reflection of the night sky adding to the atmospheric drama surrounding the Kiss of Judas and Lamentation.

After exploring the fascinating architecture and art of Padua, you can board a boat traveling along the Brenta Canal en route to Venice. The canal once acted as an easy mode of transport between the Venetian colonized city and the Republic. Aristocrats erected villas along the countryside waterway preserved over the centuries with towns sprouting up between the unique architectural designs. Stop at Villa Foscari for a view of the distinctive symmetrical design spanning three levels surrounding a central plan. Frescoes decorating the ceilings and walls depict the allegories of the Arts and Virtues in the salon and a marvelous rendition of mythological themes from Ovidin the main sala crossing the arching vaults. 

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

Day 13: Venice – Reveal the Secrets of Venice on an After-Hours Tour

The city embraces the fabulous flavors shaped by the Republic’s history of trade as the greater world brought merchants to the Venetian Lagoon with exotic spices and ingredients from distant kingdoms. The marketplace in Rialto Piazza hums with activity and vendors selling bright fruits and vegetables, as well as seafood caught fresh that morning from around the lagoon. The Rialto Bridge arches over the canal with the grandeur of 16th-century allure after replacing the previous wooden bridge after it burned down. In the afternoon, your guide will greet you in the lobby of your luxurious hotel for a tour of Venice’s delicious cuisine. The delicious secrets of Venice emanate from the welcoming bacari, bars and restaurants across the diverse neighborhoods serving traditional small plates known as cicchetti. One of the most popular dishes is a selection of raw fish and oysters alongside crostini topped with Parmigiano, pistachio, and figs. 

After satiating your hunger, you will venture next to St. Mark’s Square for an after-hours tour of the eponymous basilica. The captivating religious structure was founded in the 9th century AD after merchants returned from Alexandria with relics of the saint. Expansions and renovations occurred between the 12th and 18th centuries resulting in accentuating the 45,639 square feet of gilded mosaics decorating the interior. Visiting the basilica after it closes to the public provides more space and a more intimate experience beneath the vaulted ceiling and enormous pillars reaching 42 feet in diameter supporting the five bulbous domes. The colorful mosaics glint in the soft light pouring through stained-glass windows. The golden retable in the Pala d’Oro combines intricate gold-work, and shimmering medallions for a mixture of Venetian and Constantinople aesthetic shaped over five centuries.  

If visiting Venice between August and September in 2019, fans of international cinema can enjoy the 76th Venice Film Festival. Notable acclaimed movies make their way through the circuit as the city fills with movie stars from around the world eager to view or promote their films in the classic ambiance of Venice. Previous winners of the Golden Lion Award include Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma and Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 14: Venice – Depart for Home 

In the morning, the aroma of espresso and bacilli cookies fill the air. Gondolas return to wide, winding waters of the Grand Canal traveling alongside speeding vaporetti. The sunlight glints against the golden image of Archangel Gabriel crowning the 325-foot tall bell tower. The carved stone decorating Ca d’Oro resembles elegant latticework, and the humble Gothic façade of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari Church masks an impressive wooden sculpture by Donatello and triptych featuring Madonna and Child Enthroned with Four Saints by Giovanni Bellini. After breakfast, your private transfer will escort you across the water and to the entrance of Marco Polo Airport, where you have plenty of time to check in for your flight home. 

What’s Included: airport transfer, breakfast 

Price

Price 

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Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates!