Our cultural adventure in Central and Northern Italy begins in Rome and explores the smaller towns of Todi, Gubbio and Perugia as well as the major art cities of Florence, Bologna and Verona - finishing in Venice
Our cultural adventure in Central and Northern Italy begins in Rome and explores the smaller towns of Todi, Gubbio and Perugia as well as the major art cities of Florence, Bologna and Verona - finishing in Venice. You have the option of adding additional days at the beginning of the tour in Rome or at the end of the tour in Venice.
Limited to 16 travellers + Norman & Julie Bruce ( June 6 2021- 7 places available)
NORTHERN ITALY: May 27th - June 11th 2022 (16 Days)
LAND TOUR: $6,125 Canadian/person (includes breakfasts + dinners or lunches)
Begins May 27 in Rome and finishes June 11 in Venice. If you wish to explore these cities more thoroughly, you can choose to add our Rome & Vatican 3-day pre-tour (details at the end of our main itinerary below) or arrive in Rome a day or more before the tour starts and/or stay on in Venice for a day or more after the tour finishes.
AIRFARE: Our flights specialist estimates the cost of the airfare to be approximately $1,500 Canadian departing Vancouver to Rome (FCO) via Amsterdam with KLM & returning from Venice (VCE) via Amsterdam with KLM. PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS AN ESTIMATE FROM VANCOUVER AND IS ONLY VALID AT THE TIME OF POSTING.You do NOT have to come to Vancouver to join this tour.
Our small group allows us to immerse ourselves in the lifestyle and culture of the small towns and art centres we visit. Our focus is on the picture-perfect hill towns of the regions of Umbria and Tuscany where we learn about the wines of the region, as well as visiting the great art centres of Florence and Sienna. We learn about the rich history of the area – from the ancient Etruscans through Roman emperors and Popes to the Renaissance. We also enjoy the dramatic scenery of the Lake District’s Lake Garda near Verona and end in the unique island-city of Venice. We stay mainly in historic hotels that reflect the charm of the small towns we stay in. On June 2nd and 3rd in Tuscany we stay at an agriturismo - a working farm that accommodates guests. Here we sample some of Italy’s famous wines. When in Rome we take the opportunity to stay in a monastery close to the Vatican City.
The Food in Italy!
Each full day of the tour we include breakfast and either dinner or lunch. One of the great highlights of Italy is its food. The different regions on our tour are famous for their own dishes. Many of these regional cuisines are served at cozy little restaurants that have a wonderful local atmosphere. However, many of these unique restaurants are too small to accommodate groups. On most days we include dinner together as a group but on 2 days we include lunch together and give you the freedom to choose your own special restaurant for dinner. On these 2 evenings, Julie and Norman will make suggestions for restaurants close to our hotels.
This tour is not suitable if you need walking assistance in the form of walking sticks or canes. You must be in reasonably good shape to enjoy this tour – there is a lot of walking and exploring through the back streets of old historic towns where our bus cannot enter. We spend a lot of our time exploring by walking over cobbled streets and around archaeological sites. Please ensure you wear comfortable walking shoes as some of our walking tours can take up to 3 hours.
(updated June 6 2021)
Limited to 16 people + Norman & Julie Bruce
Day 1 Fri May 27th
Arrival in Rome.
We arrive today in Rome. The rest of the day is free for you to relax and/or explore Saint Peter’s Square on your own. Overnight in Rome. Santa Maria Alle Fornaci Monastery or similar. No meals.
Day 2 Sat May 28th
Rome – Etruscan Tombs – Umbria
This morning we drive to the medieval town of Tarquinia, which was the site of one of the most important commercial centres in the Mediterranean from the 7th to the 4th Centuries BC. Knowledge of this mysterious civilization was lost until the 19th Century. Today we explore the extensive necropolis of painted tombs and visit the excellent museum in Tarquinia to learn more about the Etruscans. From Tarquinia we head northeast entering Umbria, where we make our way through the hills to romantic Todi - our base for the next 2 days as we explore the countryside around about.
First of 2 nights in Todi. Fonte Cesia Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.
Day 3 Sun May 29th
Umbrian Villages: Civita di Bagnoregio + Orvieto
This morning we drive out into the surrounding countryside to visit 2 very interesting small Umbrian villages. Today's excursion takes us first to the unique medieval village of Civita di Bagnoregio, which is only accessible by a 300-metre-long footbridge.
This afternoon we visit Orvieto, which perches on a 300 metre-high cliff of soft volcanic stone. Underneath the city, the rock has been dug with 440 caves since Etruscan times. We take a tour of the maze of tunnels and chambers that make up Orvieto Underground. Down below street level, we learn the origins of the tufa plateau on which Orvieto sits and the fascinating purposes to which these hidden caverns have been put. First commissioned in 1293, the town’s Cathedral took over 300 years to build. The bronze doors were not added until the 1960s! Inside, Luca Signorelli’s fresco cycle “The Last Judgment”, begun in 1499, is said to have inspired Michelangelo’s work in the Sistine Chapel.
Second of 2 nights in Todi. Fonte Cesia Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.
Day 4 Mon May 30th
Deruta Pottery + Saint Francis of Assisi
This morning we visit the village of Deruta, famous for its ceramics. At the Museo Regionale della Ceramica, part of the building extends into the adjacent 14th-Century former convent of San Francesco. Half the museum tells the history of ceramics. The most notable are the Renaissance vessels using the lustro technique, which originated in Arab and Middle Eastern cultures some 500 years before coming into use in Italy in the late 1400s. Lustro, as the name sounds, gives the ceramics a rich finish, which is accomplished with the use of crushed precious materials, such as gold and silver. The museum also holds the country's largest collection of modern Italian ceramics—nearly 8,000 pieces are on display.
This afternoon we visit Assisi, the town of Saint Francis, still surrounded by ancient walls. We visit the Basilica of Saint Francis with its early Renaissance masterpiece frescoes on the Life of Saint Francis by Giotto and Cimabue.
First of 2 nights in Gubbio. Hotel Relais Ducale or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.
Day 5 Tues May 31st
This morning is free for you to explore the Piazza Grande [city square] and alleys of this charming hill town. Tuesday morning is market day and we give you time to wander! This afternoon we enjoy a walking tour of this historic town. Those who wish to, may join us on a funicular ride which links the town with Monte Ingino (908 metres above sea-level) and the Basilica of Sant’ Ubaldo - the patron Saint of Gubbio. The mountain is rich in beautiful pinewoods and offers unforgettable views of Umbria and the Marches.
Second of 2 nights in Gubbio. Hotel Relais Ducale or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.
Day 6 Wed June 1st
Cortona + Perugia
This morning we visit pretty Cortona, with olive trees and vineyards sweeping up to its walls, popularized by Frances Mayes's glowing descriptions in Under the Tuscan Sun. Cortona is considered the oldest continuously-inhabited hill town in Italy. It has cyclopean walls - huge boulders roughly fitted together without mortar - that date back 3,000 years. We give you time to explore the winding alleys, pleasant squares, small cafés and restaurants at your own pace. The heart of town is formed by Piazza della Repubblica and the adjacent Piazza Signorelli. This afternoon we drive north to visit Perugia, a charming university town with an impressive Cathedral and the best art gallery in Umbria - the stunning Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria in the Palazzo dei Priori.
Overnight in Perugia. Hotel Fortuna or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.
Day 7 Thurs June 2nd
Umbria – Tuscany Farm + Cooking Lesson
Driving west, we leave the region of Umbria & The Marches and enter Tuscany with its rolling hills and gorgeous views at practically every turn.
This morning we're off to the 13th-century walled fortress-town of Monteriggioni, the northernmost citadel of Siena in its wars against Florence. The ancient hamlet within still retains its original appearance and has just 42 inhabitants! From Monteriggioni, we drive to our base for the next 2 days in Tuscany - a beautiful farm near the town of Castellina in the Chianti wine region between Siena and Florence.
In the afternoon we enjoy a hands-on cooking lesson at our guest farm with our host family to learn traditional dishes of the region. This evening we dine on our home cooked dishes!
First of 2 nights near Castellina in Chianti. Hotel Casafrassi or similar. Breakfast & Home-cooked Dinner.
Day 8 Fri June 3rd
Siena + Wine Tasting
Set in the most beautiful Tuscan countryside of rolling hills, lush vines and grey-green olive trees, and originally founded as a Roman military colony, Siena flourished during medieval times as an important banking center and was the great rival of Florence. Victory over Florence in 1260 marked the beginning of Siena's golden age. During the following decades, Siena erected its greatest buildings (including the Duomo cathedral) and became a great art, textile and trade centre. Siena succumbed to Florentine rule in the mid-16th century. Ironically, it was precisely this decline that, along with the steadfast pride of the Sienese, prevented further development to which we owe the city's marvellous medieval condition today. With our guide, we walk the narrow cobbled streets lined with fine palaces to the superb Duomo and one of Italy's most beautiful squares, the celebrated Piazza del Campo, where the famed Palio horse race is run. After our guided tour, you have time on your own for exploring, shopping and lunch.
Returning to our “agriturismo” farm we enjoy a wine tasting of the types of wine famous in this region.
Second of 2 nights near Castellina in Chianti. Hotel Casafrassi or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.
Day 9 Sat June 4th
Heart of the Renaissance - Florence
In the romantic region of Tuscany lies the jewel city of the Renaissance, Florence. Surrounded by the Apennine mountain chain it lies in a fertile valley surrounded by charming Tuscan vineyards and olive groves. The art galleries and museums of Florence are renowned throughout the world and visitors flock to admire Michelangelo's superb statue of David, Botticelli’s Venus and the stunning Duomo cathedral with its marble facade. The city is not only culture, however. Today we enjoy a guided sightseeing tour of the cradle of the Renaissance. We visit the beautiful Piazza del Duomo, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore whose gigantic 'cupola' is the symbol of Florence's artistic achievements, Giotto's Bell Tower and the Baptistery of St. John with its fine bronze doors adorned with the famous Gates of Paradise, the Academy of Fine Arts Gallery (the Accademia) housing the 'David' by Michelangelo.
This afternoon we have an appointment at the Uffizi Gallery, the most famous art museum in Italy, where we'll find masterpieces by Botticelli, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci and Caravaggio.
Overnight in Florence. Boscolo Hotel Astoria or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.
Day 10 Sun June 5th
Free Time in Florence + drive to Bologna
This morning is free for you to explore Florence at your own pace. You can return to visit the stunning Duomo or join us as we walk to the world famous Bobili Gardens - an example of an Italian “formal” garden. The gardens were enlarged in the 17th Century to their present extent of 45,000 metres² (11 acres). The Boboli Gardens have come to form an outdoor museum of garden sculpture that includes Roman antiquities as well as 16th and 17th-Century works. (entrance fee not included)
Early this afternoon we drive northeast from Tuscany into the underrated region of Emilia-Romagna, an area rich in art and culture, mouth-watering food and robust wine. The regional capital, Bologna, is one of Italy’s unsung joys. It is home to Europe’s oldest university and a stunning medieval centre. Bolognese food is considered by many as the best in Italy.
First of 2 nights in Bologna. Tre Vecchi Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.
Day 11 Mon June 6th
Ravenna + Bologna
This morning we drive east to Ravenna, a small, quiet, well-heeled city of brick palaces, cobbled streets, magnificent monuments and world-famous Byzantine mosaics. The high point in the city's history occurred in the 5th century, when Pope Honorious moved his court here from Rome. Gothic kings Odoacer and Theodoric ruled the city until it was conquered by the Byzantines in AD 540. Churches and tombs with the most unassuming exteriors contain within them walls covered with stunning Byzantine mosaics.
We return to Bologna, a city rich with cultural jewels, which has long been one of the best-kept secrets in northern Italy. With its population of about 375,000, it feels full of Italians in a way that many other towns, thronged with tourists, do not. The charm of the Centro Storico, with its red-arcaded sidewalks and passageways, can be attributed to wise city councillors who, at the beginning of the 13th Century, decreed that roads could not be built without portici (porticoes). This afternoon we take a guided walking tour of this fascinating medieval town and discover the artistic treasures around its charming main squares, Piazza Maggiore and Piazza del Nettuno.
Today we include lunch together. This evening you are free to choose your own restaurant for dinner (at your own expense) in this foodie's city. Julie and Norman will suggest restaurants for this evening.
Second of 2 nights in Bologna. Tre Vecchi Hotel or similar. Breakfast & Lunch.
Day 12 Tues June 7th
Parmesan cheese + Balsamic Vinegar
Mantua + Verona
This morning we head to the Parma area, home of the legendary Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan cheese.) We visit a traditional Parmesan cheese factory. After watching the workers go through all the fascinating steps in making the cheese and visiting the incredible storage rooms, we nibble on Parmesan cheese made right in the factory. Driving further west to the home of balsamic vinegar we see how this signature product is made and we sample varieties of heavenly-scented balsamic vinegar. Turning north, we drive to serene and beautiful Mantua (Mantova in Italian) lying on the shores of the lakes Lago Superiore, Lago di Mezzo and Lago Inferiore. The Latin poet Virgil was born just outside the modern town in 70 BC. Shakespeare’s Romeo found his fateful poison in a Mantuan pharmacy. Superb architecture, bearing witness to its rich history, still survives today; particularly around its four interconnected cobbled squares in the city’s heart.
Further north we arrive at Verona, one of Italy's most magnificent and picturesque cities. Situated on the looping Adige River, Verona boasts wide pedestrian lanes and squares, elegant shops and cafés. Roman origins are amply demonstrated by the ancient forum, theatre and famous amphitheatre - one of the best preserved of antiquity.
First of 2 nights in Verona. Hotel Firenze or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.
Day 13 Wed June 8th
Italian Lake District + Romeo & Juliet
Lake Garda encompasses an immense 370 square kilometres and is the largest lake in Italy. In the centre of the southern shore, on a narrow peninsula, we enjoy a guided walking tour of the charming village of Sirmione with a castle at its entrance and a maze of Roman ruins on its headland.
Returning to Verona, immortalized by Shakespeare as the home of the star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, we explore its rich medieval heritage on foot. Among many sites, we see Juliet’s House and the Roman Arena.
Today we include lunch together. This evening you are free to choose your own restaurant for dinner (at your own expense.) Julie and Norman will suggest restaurants for this evening.
Second of 2 nights in Verona. Hotel Firenze or similar. Breakfast & Lunch.
Day 14 Thurs June 9th
Padua + incomparable Venice
We drive east to Padua (Padova in Italian), home to Italy’s second-oldest university (1221), counting among its illustrious alumni Petrarch, Dante and Galileo. The city is also the setting for Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. The Prato Della Valle is reputed to be the largest square in Europe and is stunning with its many statues gracefully adorning it and its surrounding arcaded streets. Padua is also famous for Saint Anthony - the patron saint of children & miracles - whose shrine attracts millions of visitors every year. We take a guided tour of this impressive Basilica. Later we travel from Padua to the Lagoon of Venice and enter this unique island-city. After settling into our hotel, we take a guided orientation tour including the Piazza and Basilica of St. Mark and the Bridge of Sighs.
First of 2 nights in Venice. Hotel Bellepoque or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.
Day 15 Fri June 10th
Murano (Glass) and Burano (Lace) Islands
This morning we board our comfortable motor boat to explore some of the other islands in the Venetian Lagoon. Our first stop is Murano, famous for its glassware. We watch the skilled glass-blowers as they create works of art of the world-famous Murano glass. Re-boarding our motor boat, we journey to the island of Burano to admire picturesque fishermen's houses painted in bright pastel colors and the famous lace. You also have free time to visit a museum dedicated to the craft of lace making [optional expense.] This afternoon is free in Venice.
Second of 2 nights in Venice. Hotel Bellepoque or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.
Day 16 Sat June 11th
This morning we fly home to North America, arriving the same afternoon. Breakfast at hotel, if not leaving too early.
Those who wish to may add extra days in Rome before our tour and/or in Venice after the tour.
We have NOT included in the main tour any time in Rome itself because many members of the group will have visited the Italian capital before.
Optional Rome and The Vatican 3-day pre-tour extension:
May 25th – 27th 2022
$112 Single supplement
Wed May 25th
Arrival in Rome
We arrive today in Rome. The rest of the day is free for you to relax and/or explore Saint Peter’s Square on your own.
First of 3 nights in Rome. Santa Maria Alle Fornaci Monastery or similar. No meals.
Thurs May 26th
On our walking tour of the “Eternal City” today we visit the Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps and The Trevi Fountain which was built by the architect Salvi in 1735 and decorated by several artists of Bernini's school. The fountain is not only celebrated for its excellent water but for the legend that whoever throws a coin into the fountain will return to Rome.
Second of 3 nights in Rome. Santa Maria Alle Fornaci monastery or similar. Breakfast & Dinner
Fri May 27th
The Vatican + the Coliseum
This morning we experience the Vatican City, a state and a city all in one! This is the world's smallest country, with its largest church and an impressive collection of fine art. We visit the Vatican Museum and see Michelangelo's masterpieces inside the Sistine Chapel and St Peter's Basilica, begun in 1508. We'll see the master's best-known fresco, the Last Judgement, covering one entire wall of the chapel. In and around the square are Swiss Guards, young Roman Catholic citizens of Switzerland wearing Renaissance-style uniforms in the bright colors of the Medici Popes.
This afternoon we visit the Coliseum (interior visit), the largest amphitheatre of the Roman Empire, which is considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering. It is the largest amphitheatre in the world. Construction for the Coliseum began under the emperor Vespasian in 70 AD, and was completed in 80AD. The Coliseum could hold, it is estimated, between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators and was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology.
Just west of the Coliseum we see the Roman Forum, the central area of the city around which ancient Rome developed. Here was where commerce, business, prostitution, cult worship and the administration of justice took place. The Roman Forum was the real historical centre of Republican and Imperial Rome with its ancient temples, triumphal arches, honorary columns, ancient pagan cemeteries and the covered market on four levels. Behind the Forum and Palatine Hill lies the Circus Maximus, an ancient Roman chariot racing stadium.
Third of 3 nights in Rome. Santa Maria Alle Fornaci monastery or similar. Breakfast & Dinner.
- Accommodation mainly in 4-Star and good 3-Star hotels. All our hotels have en-suite bathrooms and heating/cooling. Many are in wonderful old buildings which are a feature of the towns where we stay.
- Land transport by our own coach and by ferry/motorboat.
- Sightseeing and entrance fees as mentioned in the itinerary.
- Tipping for Driver & Guides
- Breakfast + Dinner daily (except on Mon June 6th and Wed June 8th, when we include lunches instead of dinners.)
- Guiding by Royal Heights tour leaders Julie and Norman Bruce with assistance of our expert Italian local guides in each area.
- Visa fees. Canadian passport holders do NOT currently require a visa for Italy. Your passport must be valid for 3 months beyond the date you leave the Schengen Area (i.e. until at least Sept 11th 2022, if you are returning to Canada directly after finishing our Italy tour.)
- Lunches (except on Mon June 6th and Wed June 8th, when we include LUNCH instead of dinner.)
- We do NOT include porterage. Porters MAY be available to help you with your suitcase and you should be prepared to tip them if you use their services. Please only bring one piece of luggage per person and make sure your luggage has wheels so you can move your own luggage when necessary.
- Trip Cancellation / Interruption and Medical Insurance. This insurance is strongly recommended. We can put you in touch with our insurance expert for a quote.
- Single Supplement charge, if requested ($1,440 Canadian)
- Personal Expenses such as souvenirs, laundry and drinks not included at meals.
- Arrival & departure transfers. We can arrange individual or group transfers when you have confirmed the arrival & departure times of your flights. Please contact us for a quote.
From Vancouver, our flight specialist suggests flights to Rome via Amsterdam with KLM & returning from Venice via Amsterdam with KLM. You do NOT have to come to Vancouver to join this tour. You are welcome to book your own flights or we can put you in touch with our flights specialist who can book flights for you from any city. Please let us know.
Our published price is based on 2 people sharing a room. If you would like to share, we will do our best to find you a roommate. The EARLIER you pay your deposit, the more likely we are to be able to find you a roommate. If you wish to be guaranteed a single room, there is a Single Supplement charge of $1,440 Canadian. Those people traveling alone but wishing to share will be informed 3 months prior to departure if a roommate is not currently available. At that point, you will be invoiced for the Single Supplement. If a roommate subsequently joins the tour, your single supplement will be refunded with the final documentation.
Land portion of the tour must be booked directly with Royal Heights Tours. You can secure your place on the tour with a $400 per person non-refundable deposit. We take payment by cheque, Visa or Mastercard for the $400 /person deposit. Your invoice for your Land tour will be e-mailed to you at the end of February 2022. Payment will be due by March 27th 2022. Price quoted is for FINAL PAYMENT by cheque. Should you wish to pay the outstanding amount for the LAND tour by credit card there will be an administration fee of 2.5% on the outstanding amount.
- Our office staff are not medically qualified to advise you on which immunizations you require. Please consult your local travel health clinic.
- You MUST be in good physical condition to join this tour, We enjoy a lot of walking tours of smaller towns where our bus cannot travel, a number of the towns are on hilltops. Our guided tours of art galleries and museums can be 2-3 hours in length.
- Please make sure your luggage has wheels so you can move it easily.
BC Travel Registration # 3379
Terms, conditions and restrictions apply; pricing, availability, and other details subject to change and/ or apply to US or Canadian residents. Please confirm details and booking information with your travel advisor.