Northern Italy Itinerary: Veneto, Emilia Romagna & San Marino
DAY 1: Venice-tour starts on a Sunday
DAY 2: Exploring Venice
DAY 3: Off the beaten path Venice
DAY 4: Palladio Day! Vicenza
DAY 5: Beautiful city of Verona
DAY 6: Majestic Lake Garda
DAY 7: Emilia Romagna-Foodie’s paradise
DAY 8: Parma-Gastronomy day
DAY 9: Maranello (Ferrari and fun cooking)
DAY 10: Gastronomic capital Bologna
DAY 11: Ravenna and its UNESCO world heritage sites
DAY 12: San Marino and Gradara castle
DAY 13: Departure Day. If you wish to extend your holiday, this is a perfect location to continue on down to Florence and Tuscany.
- Visit one of the most magical and romantic cities in the world: Venice
- Enjoy a private boat ride to the Island of Murano with a visit to a traditional glass factory
- Board your private boat for a half-day visit to the beautiful islands of Burano and Torcello
- Promenade through the Bacari, Venice’s wine bars with your local guide
- Explore the beautiful historical cities of Verona, Parma and Vicenza, and the beauty of Palladian architecture at villas La Rotonda and Villa Valmanara ai Nani
- Taste the flavors offered by local Aceto Balsamico, Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto producers
- Meander through the picturesque streets of Bologna and its classic culinary meccas
- Discover Ravenna, home of the impressive Christian monuments built in the 4th and 6th centuries AD and the last great capital of the Roman empire
- Visit one of the world’s oldest republics, San Marino
- Enjoy a visit to the medieval fortress of Gradara in Marche
PRICING: from $4,597USD per person (double occupancy)
The price for a private tour is per-person sharing a double room, and it varies according to the number of guests on the tour, because of minimum fixed costs that need to be covered. With this tiered pricing structure we are generally able to offer slightly lower pricing if there are a higher number of guests on the trip.
Venice, Vicenza, Verona, Lake Garda, Parma, Bologna, Ravenna, Gradara, San Marino
Remember, this tour can be customized according to your own interests and preferences.
Arrival & Departure airport: Venice Marco Polo (VCE)
**FOR PRIVATE GROUPS ONLY**
If you love Italy and have enjoyed seeing famous sites like Rome and Tuscany, but are ready to try something new, then join me and discover Northwest Italy! This upscale tour showcases the fantastic food and wine, as well as the cultural and historical wealth in some of Italy’s most beautiful regions.
Indulge your mind, body and soul on a journey into the cuisine and culture of Northern Italy, as you discover what makes this part of Italy so charming. Admire the medieval, Renaissance and Palladian architecture of hidden towns such as Vicenza as well as the cities of Verona and Venice. Appreciate the depth and subtleties of the great works of art that abound. Explore art in cathedrals, historic piazzas, and astonishing museums. Savor the Italian “slow foods” philosophy and enjoy meals of delicacies and fine wines. Experience the visual and sensory treats, all while traveling amid the natural beauty of the majestic Dolomites, the alpine Sud Tyrol and of course the romantic Venetian waterways.
Discover the Po Valley with its waving fields of corn and rice paddies and some of Italy’s most handsome and prosperous towns. This is a land of legends spun by Virgil, Dante and Shakespeare, where grand dynasties fought for power and patronized some of the finest works of art in the world.
Whether it is eating a wood-fired pizza, dining alfresco, or tasting Amarone in a vineyard, great foodie experiences await at every turn. Enjoy private guided tours in Venice, Bologna, Parma, Vicenza, Verona, and Ravenna. From the Alps north of Lake Garda to the fertile plains of Emilia Romagna, this tour is truly a feast for the senses.
Day to Day Itinerary
DAY 1: VENICE - Tour starts on a Sunday
“Your visit to Venice becomes a perpetual love affair” Henry James
Welcome to Venice! The Queen of the Adriatic, and elegant, unforgettable, hauntingly beautiful city and one of the world’s most enchanting, Venice was one of Europe’s great sea powers for 1000 years. No matter how many times you visit this floating city, there is always something new to discover.
After checking into your centrally located hotel, we begin our wonderful vacation together by meeting in the afternoon for an orientation walk and a visit to the impressive, unique St Mark’s Basilica on Piazza San Marco. For Sheer “wow” factor, little can compare with the Basilica di San Marco and its 24-carat gold mosaics.
DAY 2: EXPLORING VENICE
After breakfast, you will meet your local expert guide for a private walking tour of this fascinating city that for centuries was Europe’s top superpower. But what will be unique is that she will lead you along its intricate alleyways, to lesser-known gems that few tourists see, where locals carry on their daily life. Your walk finished at the famous Piazza San Marco with a tour of the sumptuous Doge Palace (once the official residence of the elected officials of the Venetian Republic) and a visit to the Bridge of Sighs.
After lunch, your own private boat will take you over to the Murano islands for a visit to a traditional glass factory where glass masters have been creating the most intricate designs for chandeliers, vases, jewelry for over five centuries.
The afternoon is a time for you to discover the magic of Venice and indulge in all things Venetian at your own whim. You will have a chance to “get lost” in the city’s labyrinth of canals, bridges and small campos.
In the evening, you have the option to enjoy a unique Venetian tradition together: cicchetti crawl (Venice’s version of tapas).. What great way to discover another side of Venice, with good wine and new friends. Now that is Italian!
DAY 3: OFF THE BEATEN PATH VENICE
After breakfast, enjoy a private boat ride over to the lesser traveled islands of the lagoon. Get to enjoy Venice from the sea. Check out the precious and historical island of Burano, a colorful quaint fishing village with the brightly colored homes of the “buranesi” fishermen that appears worlds away from Venice.
Burano is best known for its exquisitely hand embroidered linens
After a lunch break, visit the island of Torcello, perhaps the most charming of the islands. It was the first of the lagoon islands to be called home by the mainland population fleeing Attila and his Huns, but today consists of little more than one long canal leading to vineyards and the oldest Venetian monument, the Cattedrale di Torcello (Santa Maria Assunta) whose foundations date from the 7th century.
Back in Venice, spend the afternoon exploring on your own, or simply sit at a café and savor the dolce vita! One unique experience would be to learn the traditional Venetian rowing style during a lesson. (Check with Audrey for pricing)
If you like, enjoy an optional gondola ride!
DAY 4: PALLADIO DAY! VICENZA
After breakfast, travel to Vicenza to visit the famous Palladio villas. From the 15th to the 18th centuries, hundreds of luxurious villas and gardens were built as summer homes throughout the Veneto by wealthy Venetians.
First, you will visit Villa Rotonda (for a private tour of the interior and the gardens), and then Villa Valmanara ai nani, with its sublime frescoes of Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo. After lunch, it's time for a walking orientation of Vicenza that includes Teatro Olimpico, the oldest working indoor theater in the world 1580 and a marvel of the Renaissance.
Vicenza and its surroundings are a mecca for the architecture lover, a living museum of Palladian and Palladian-inspired monuments and consequently Vicenza was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994. But even if you have never heard of Palladio, you will find a stroll through the town very enjoyable.
On your way to your hotel in the premier wine producing area in Italy, the Amarone and Valpolicella wine region, enjoy a visit at a storybook-setting village, Soave, known for its white wines.
The menu for tonight's included dinner is inspired by local traditions and flavors, by organic and bio-dynamic produce as well as by the natural seasonal cycle. Traditional dishes are re interpreted with style and dedication and complemented by the best wines of this region.
DAY 5: BEAUTIFUL CITY OF VERONA
Today is about visiting one of Italy’s most magnificent and picturesque cities, Verona, a UNESCO World Heritage site, situated on the Adige River and boasting wide pedestrian lanes and squares, elegant shops and cafés. Shakespeare placed star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet in Verona for good reason: romance, drama and fatal family feuds have been the city’s hallmark for centuries. From the 3rd century BCE, Verona was a Roman trade center, with ancient gates, the third-largest forum after the Colosseum in Rome (Piazza delle Erbe), and a grand Roman Arena which still hosts live summer opera performances.
After Venice, this is Veneto’s most visited city and for good reason: it contains the best of Italy packed into a small space.
In the afternoon, Verona is a lovely place to spend a few hours exploring before returning to your accommodations set amid the rolling hills of the Valpolicella area to indulge in a swim in the pool (weather permitting), or a visit to the spa.
DAY 6: MAJESTIC LAKE GARDA
Today, get ready for some amazing views of one of the Northern Italian Lakes and the largest in Italy, Lake Garda, straddling the border between Lombardy and the Veneto. The Alps form part of the awe inspiring scenery on the northern part of the lake and cozy medieval little villages line the vine-clad hills to the south, with citrus orchards and olive trees dotting the landscape.
The morning is dedicated to visiting the picture perfect medieval town of Malcesine. Malcesine is a lovely village surrounded by olive groves that sits at the bottom of Monte Baldo (2250m). If you like, take an optional gondola ride that rotates 360 degrees as you ascend to Monte Baldo (6000 feet high) for the view (weather permitting) or simply enjoy walking around discovering this small and scenic town full of cafés and craft stores. As you approach Malcesine, be sure to admire Castello Scaligero, a 14th century fortification.
DAY 7: EMILIA ROMAGNA- Foodie’s Paradise/Modena
Today, say goodbye to Lake Garda and the beautiful Valpolicella wine region as you make your way to the foodie’s dream destination of Emilia Romagna, the culinary heartland. Parmigiano Reggiano, Lambrusco wine, Prosciutto di Parma and Aceto Balsamico are the 4 most famous products of this region. Emilia Romagna is well known by Italians as a region where one simply eats well or, as they say “Dove si Mangia Bene”.
Along the way to your hotel in the region of Modena, enjoy a stop for your first of several tastings of the local specialties. It takes more than 25 years to get a few drops of the nectar, Aceto Balsamico, which can cost 1 Euro per drop. Learn about the production and take the opportunity to buy this sumptuous delicacy from the producers.
Onto Castelvetro di Modena, where your hosts for the next few nights, await your arrival: Two brothers who have always loved cooking and who were trained by their grandmother. Originally from Savignano, a few kilometers away, they fell in love with the village of Castelvetro where they opened their Locanda.
While we're in the neighborhood, we'll visit the region’s most historic 'acetaia', a family-owned farmhouse where the famous traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena is made. We’ll savor the distinct and delightful aroma of this certified “black gold” and learn about the methods used to produce this artisanal treasure. From the 'acetaia' we go off the beaten path to one of the best prosciutto factories in the region. Here, you will meet a family that, for over three generations, has been committed to making some of the world’s most delicious pork products.
DAY 8: PARMA - Gastronomy day!
Today we rise early, but it will be well worth it!
Travel across rural landscapes, on the road to the hills outside of Parma, passing by agricultural fields and dairy cattle. You'll spot green valleys occasionally interrupted by rows of willows and poplars. Our first tour of the day is a traditional Parmigiano Reggiano cheese operation. Experience first-hand the production and storage of this world class cheese, and arguably Italy’s most famous exported international food product. Learn about a process, handmade by craftsmen, and using traditional methods handed down for more than eight centuries. You will have a chance to taste this delicious cheese in the little shop.
Then. we're off to taste the Prosciutto and Culatello at a 'Prosciuttificio', followed by a light lunch including all the culinary delights of the region. This afternoon, you meet your local guide in Parma for a city tour to visit the Duomo and Battistero, a city of Great Art and Refinement. This beautiful little town with rich history and outstanding monuments is one of Italy’s culinary “hot spots”. The old capital city of the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza wo 4th place for “Best quality living” in “The Telegraph” in 2014. Parma is known as the home of Arturo Toscanini and Giuseppe Verdi, and its inhabitants exude a sense of well-being.
On the way back to your hotel, we'll stop to try the famous wine of the area, Lambrusco.
DAY 9: MARANELLO (Ferrari and cooking)
Today is an exciting day! The first included activity in your day is a visit to the home of Italy’s most famous super-car, the beloved Ferrari! You have the opportunity to spend the morning at the museum, and can choose to either test drive around the racetrack or take a nice drive on country roads (at an additional cost)
Finish the early afternoon with a walk around the pretty town of Castelvetro di Modena and enjoy the non-touristy atmosphere of this little town.
Strap on your apron! Time for your tagliatelle cooking class with your chef who will introduce you to the flavors of the local cuisine, and everyone will get to enjoy the fruits of your labor together at dinner. For those who do not wish to partake, no worries, just sip on a glass of wine while watching your friends in the kitchen!
DAY 10: BOLOGNA
Today, say ciao to Modena as you transfer to your last few nights’ accommodation in Ravenna on the Adriatic coast.
Our first stop is Bologna, (“where food is a magnificent obsession”). The gastronomic capital of Italy, and the location of the world’s oldest university once the stomping grounds of Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarch, Bologna's historic center is one of the best preserved and largest medieval cities in the world. It is one of Italy’s most livable cities and is a center of cultural excellence. Walk under its miles of arcades and visit Basilica di San Petronio, Santo Stefano and Teatro Anatomico on a walking tour with your local expert guide followed by a light lunch of local specialties in the Quadrilatero, the city’s well-known food district.
No tour of Emilia Romagna would be complete without seeing Ravenna and its remarkable UNESCO protected mosaics. Ravenna’s mosaics, among the most important in Western art, evoke the city's storied past as the last capital of the Western Roman Empire after the fall of Rome in the 5th century. Today, Ravenna is sleepy, unpretentious, and a blessing for art lovers because it is rarely crowded despite having a whopping eight UNESCO World Heritage sites.
DAY 11: RAVENNA and the UNESCO World Heritage sites
After breakfast, meet our local expert guide and explore this beautiful city. From Basilica San Vitale to the Mausoleum di Galla Placidia, it is a day of stunning mosaics spread over five sights dating back to 450CE. You'll take in some of the most awe-inspiring early Christian monuments built between the 5th and 6th centuries CE, such as San Vitale and Sant'Apolinnare Nuovo, containing incredible Byzantine mosaics.
DAY 12: SAN MARINO and GRADARA
After breakfast, you will be driven south to San Marino. This is an independent tiny republic at the top of a hill overlooking the Adriatic Sea. From the city, you’ll have an outstanding view over the slopes of the Mount Titano. San Marino is said to be the world’s oldest surviving republic (since 301CE). A sole survivor of Italy’s once powerful city-state network, this landlocked micro nation clung on long after the more powerful kingdoms of Genoa and Venice folded.
In the afternoon continue on to Gradara, considered to be one of Italy’s best small towns, on the border between Marche and Romagna. Visit the fortress where love and death entangled for centuries! Gradara and its fortress represent one of the best preserved medieval structures in Italy. It is here that the tragic love of Paolo and Francesca, narrated by Dante in the Diving Comedy (fifth canto) it is claimed to have taken place. Take a walk around the ancient walls before driving back to Ravenna.
Tonight, we get together for our last dinner together! It is not a sad occasion but one of joy as we reminisce together about so many beautiful places we have seen, new friends we have made, and, all of the good food and wine we have savored.
DAY 13: DEPARTURE DAY
Transfer to the airport for your departure flight. Yes, it is time to leave this beautiful land with many wonderful memories, but we hope to see you back again soon.
- Unwind for 12 nights at charming, locally owned accommodations that offer Italian hospitality, comfort and local character (Breakfast included):
- 3 nights in Venice
- 3 nights in a lovely hilltop Relais in the heart of the Valpolicella area
- 3 nights in a historic hilltop village
- 3 nights in Ravenna
- Gain insider access to the Italian way of life
- Relax in the care of your dedicated local tour leader and driver-guide. Audrey, who speaks Italian and English fluently
- Private transfers (pick up and drop off) at Venice Marco Polo airport
- Private transportation throughout the itinerary
- Enjoy the freedom of leisure time to choose your own optional experiences
- Skip the lines with prepaid entrance fees and local expert guides to:
- Palladian Villa la Rotonda
- Villa Valmanara Ai Nani
- Parma Cathedral
- Bologna (Santo Stefano, San Petronio, Teatro Atomico)
- Mausoleum Galla Placidia in Ravenna
- Gradara Castle
- Immerse yourself in hand-picked exclusive experiences:
- a private cooking class in a historic hilltop village
- visit the Ferrari museum
- private tours and wine tastings in the Valpolicella wine region (Soave, Recioto, Amarone, Ripasso della Valpolicella)
- taste the flavors offered by local Aceto Balsamico, Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto producers
- Taxes & Fees: Local VAT taxes and government fees, City Tax, gas, highway tolls, city access licenses and permits, parking fees
- Sample and savor regional cuisine at carefully selected authentic trattorias and restaurants with local wines
NOTE: In the grand European traditions, I believe that dinner is a celebration of good food and wine, a celebration of culture and a celebration of family and friendship. Hosting this celebration is one of the joys of being a tour manager. I guide you to your favorite dish … or help you choose something you’ve never tried before. I choose the perfect wines and throw in some local delicacies to broaden your palate and surprise you a bit. When we are at a cooking lesson or a wine tasting, rest assured that you'll go home with new knowledge that will increase your appetite for more. On every tour, I have included dinners as a group as well as nights on your own. Of course, you are always invited to join me at my favorite places or as I explore new and interesting restaurant finds. I also have a lot of recommendations and would be happy to make reservations for you.
What's Not Included
- Passport fees, visa fees, immunization costs, entry clearing fees (when applicable)
- Optional enhancements like room upgrades
- Additional sightseeing, activities and experiences outside of your itinerary
- Early check-in or late check-out from hotels
- Personal charges such as laundry, phone calls, SIM cards or room service
- Lunches, dinners and drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), unless specified in the itinerary
- Travel insurance
- Your international airfare
- Porterage: Please note that you'll need to carry your own luggage up and down stairs at hotels and across cobblestone.
HOW DO WE PRICE YOUR CUSTOM PRIVATE TOUR PACKAGE?
Custom itineraries are developed as a tour package and we charge a planning fee. We handle all the logistics for your land arrangements to make your vacation run flawlessly from arrival to departure. Pricing is determined by the number of people in your private group, choice of accommodations, meals, planned activities, expert local guides, local ground transportation, length of stay and additional options chosen.
Tour dates are booked on a first come, first served basis. Space is not held until a signed Liability Waiver and Release, Guest Registration Form and initial deposit are received. Audrey works with multiple clients at any given time, so you might be in the running for dates already selected by another private group.
- It takes time to create quality. Ideally, we’d begin planning your trip six months in advance, or three months if you’re not travelling during high season.
- In a world of constant changes, please note that our quoted costs are merely informative, as all services have to be confirmed at the time of the booking. Quotes are valid up to 15 days from the date they are sent and they may require modifications.
- Hotel availability and prices cannot be guaranteed until they are booked and may not be fully protected at the time of the quote. Some hotel rates fluctuate almost every day.
- While pricing across custom itineraries can vary, our bespoke trips typically start at $350 per person per day, inclusive of accommodations, private excursions, transfers and our dedicated planning services.
- Our custom vacation plans will not be itemized, and we only accept full-service planning when hotel reservations are part of the itinerary. If you are unable to stand/walk for 3 consecutive hours, cannot carry your own luggage, cannot walk for extended periods of time, have trouble walking up and down hills, or require a special diet, this trip may not be for you. Please contact Audrey if you have any questions.
Prepare for Your Trip
European travel in general involves a lot of walking, much more than we are used to in the US. Most of our tours include city walking tours, visits to hilltop towns and villages, and meandering through cobbled streets. Keeping active and incorporating long walks into your busy schedule in the weeks before your departure will make your vacation much more rewarding.
- Don’t Overpack: A challenge even for some experienced travelers! Wash or dry clean some clothes during your travel. Some hotels and villas we choose offer laundry and dry cleaning services and towns and cities have laundry mats. Most also provide hair dryers. Toiletries and cosmetics can also be purchased at your destinations. Please contact us if you need some assistance.
- It is your responsibility to obtain the required documents to travel to Europe, please verify with your own country's travel laws and government agencies. Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months after your return date.
The first day on tour is your arrival day into the city in which we meet. So you would be flying the day before from the United States or Canada if you are not taking the option of spending a few days on location prior to start of your tour. When making flight arrangements, please allow sufficient time to claim luggage and clear customs in order to join the tour on time.
- Air Conditioning: Hotels and mini-buses/vans used are air-conditioned for your comfort. European air conditioning should be considered as a climate-control system; most have three settings for the fan, plus a "cool" setting. Very few of the European systems actually have a temperature setting. In general, the amount of cool air that is produced from a European air conditioning system may be less than what you may have in your own home. Some hotels in Europe do not operate their air conditioning systems on a year round basis, but only during certain months of the year.
- Mobility: All of our tours involve walking and require our guests to board and disembark our vehicles several times a day making this tour unsuitable for those with reduced mobility. You must be able to walk up and down hills, on uneven surfaces and stand for extended periods of time.
- Itinerary Changes and Price Flexibility: We pledge to make every effort to operate all pre-designed tours as advertised. We reserve the right to alter or curtail the itinerary, or substitute sightseeing, hotels, and/or transportation as deemed necessary.
- A note on accommodations: There is frequent confusion over the terminology used for hotel rooms. A “double” room is recognized as meaning a room with a double bed, which may be two single beds pushed together. A “twin” room is a room with two single beds. A “single” room tends to be smaller than double or twin rooms. Triples are usually two-bedded rooms plus a roll-away cot and not recommended for comfort. Some properties offer 1 double and 1 single bed, or 1 double and 1 pull out sofa
- Holiday and Museum Closures: Museum visits and personal shopping time may be disrupted due to unforeseen circumstances or the many state, religious and civic holidays locally observed.
- NO SMOKING: Sorry but there will be no-smoking allowed in the vehicle or during guided tours. Italy, France and Spain have banned smoking in all public buildings, including hotels and restaurants (enclosed spaces only, with the exception of sitting outdoors while eating). Some hotels may be able to provide smoking rooms if necessary. You will need to let us know ahead of time.
- Currency and Exchange Rates: The Euro (EUR) is the official currency in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Germany. Currency can be exchanged at banks, exchange bureaus and at most of the hotels listed on your itinerary, though you will get a better exchange rate at the banks. Major credit cards are widely accepted. Travelers’ checks are less accepted, especially by local merchants; expect to pay a fee for using travelers’ checks. Foreign currency is not accepted.
- Your Credit and Other Bank Cards Abroad: Before your departure, we recommend you contact your bank before departing on your vacation to inform them of your travel plans to ensure that your ATM, credit and debit cards will work and continue to work while you are abroad. The banks have automated security measures in place that flag transactions outside your normal spending patterns. Failure to do so may result in a temporary freeze being placed on your account.
- VAT: Many countries levy Value Added Taxes (VAT) on consumer goods and services. (The tax rate may be higher for luxury items and lower for basic goods.) As a rule, if you are not a resident of the country (or of the country’s intergovernmental economic community, e.g., the European Union) in which the purchase is made, you may be entitled to a VAT refund and should inquire about the refund policy where you shop.
- Electrical Current: The electrical current in France, Italy and Spain is 220 V, 50 Hz, AC. If your electrical devices do not conform to this standard, you may need to bring the appropriate converters and adapters.
- Even though tips to staff and restaurants are included, it is suggested that you put aside approximately $100 (US) in combined gratuities for your driver & Tour Director for your trip (and any voluntary additional restaurant gratuities are at your discretion).
The purchase of TRAVEL INSURANCE is strongly recommended to help protect you and your travel investment against the unexpected. A Protection Plan can include coverage for Trip Cancellation, Trip Interruption, Emergency Medical and Emergency Evacuation/Repatriation, Trip Delay, Baggage Delay and more.
To discuss the details and customization options, click below to schedule a call with Audrey!
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