An Off-Season Adventure

Madonna della Salute Stained Glass in the Sanctuary of San Camillo, Milan, Italy

Rome - The Vatican & the Sistine Chapel; Skyscraper skyline of San Gimignano; Water taxi ride on Venice canals; Murano glass factory tour; Guided walking / bus tours of all major towns / cities; low-season rates and no crowds!


Dates & Prices

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Prices are in US Dollars (USD), before taxes (if applicable) - All pricing reflects per-person Land Only expenses, however, we can book flights from virtually every city. Please call us for an air quote.

Start DateEnd DatePriceMore Info
Thu 03 Nov 2016Mon 14 Nov 2016 $2990 USD
Thu 09 Feb 2017Mon 20 Feb 2017 $2990 USD
Thu 16 Mar 2017Mon 27 Mar 2017 $2990 USD
Thu 02 Nov 2017Mon 13 Nov 2017 $2990 USD

Optional Single Supplement: $518 USD (number of singles limited).

Tour Overview

Experience a wide range of incredible highlights on this off-season, super-saver exploration of Northern Italy. We avoid the heat and crowds of high season (May-Sept) and enjoy substantial price reductions on hotel accommodation and other tourist services. Nothing is compromised - you enjoy our usual expert leadership, inclusions, 3-4 star hotels, but at low season rates. Air fares are also significantly lower - pack a sweater and and join us!

Regions visited: Western Europe
Countries visited: Italy

Full Itinerary

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Day 1 Arrive in Rome
Today we arrive in Rome and transfer to our hotel.

Few cities in the world are as beautiful as Rome, and few are as glamorous. The Eternal City's ancient monuments and spectacular galleries are looking more magnificent than ever after an extensive restoration program.

Overnight in Rome.

Meal plan: Dinner

Day 2 Rome: City Tour
We begin our guided tour* of Rome at the 2,000 year old colosseum. Built to seat 55,000 spectators, this arena staged Rome's most brutal gladitorial combats. Next we walk through the Roman Forum where we will see the Curia, the Rostra, the Temple of Vesta, the Basilica of Constantine, and the Arch of Titus. Continuing onwards and upwards we reach the Campidoglio (Capitoline Hill), seat of the Roman Senate since the 12th century and the original citadel of the city. This beautiful square was redesigned by Michelangelo in the 16th century.

We arrive at Piazza Navona where we can break for lunch at one of the many restaurants and cafes on or near the square. In the square itself we can admire the impressive Fountain of the Four Rivers, with detailed figures representing the Nile, Ganges, Danube and Palata rivers.

We continue to the famous Trevi Fountain, designed by Nicholas Salvi in 1732. It's water was supplied by one of Rome's earliest aquaducts. Throwing a coin into the fountain is said to ensure your safe return to Rome. We also visit the temple-turned church called the Pantheon, and have the opportunity to admire its perfect proportions on our way to the Spanish steps, where we finish our day's tour. Balance of the day at leisure.

* NOTE: Due to traffic problems and the fact that today's sites are reasonably close to each other, much of today's tour will occur on foot and with Rome's efficient public transit system (cost of tickets included).

Overnight in Rome.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 3 Rome: the Vatican Museums & St. Peter's
Today we begin our visit to Vatican City with a guided tour through the immense Vatican Museums.* This amazing collection houses some of the most important Greek and Roman sculptures, Renaissance paintings, Flemish tapestries and mosaics in the world. Understandably this collection is visited by more than 3 million people a year. We also visit Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel to take in its breathtaking frescoes. Heading into the cavernous interior of St. Peter's Basilica, we can appreciate it's many treasures, including Michelangelo's Pieta. At the end of the tour we visit the elegantly symmetrical Piazza St. Pietro.

* NOTE: The timing of today's sightseeing can vary depending on seasonality. Early spring and late fall tours can often begin in the morning due to lighter crowds at these times of year. Busier times often dictate an afternoon visit in order to avoid morning crowds. Weather may also be a consideration. Your Tour Leader will advise further upon your arrival in Rome.

Overnight in Rome.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 4 Rome - Assisi - Siena
This morning we drive from Rome to Siena, a region famous for its wines.

Our first stop will be Assisi. Despite the millions of tourists and pilgrims it attracts every year, the hometown of St Francis remains a beautiful and tranquil refuge. St Francis was born here in 1182 and his spirit hovers over every aspect of the city's life. He renounced his father's wealth in his late teens to pursue a life of chastity and poverty, founding the order of mendicant friars known as the Order of Minors (the Franciscans after his death) which attracted a huge following in Europe.

St Francis' Basilica is the city's, and possibly Umbria's, primary attraction. Unfortunately, this peaceful town was hit by a strong earthquake on the morning of the September 26, 1997. During the initial shock, the Basilica of the upper church was damaged. An aftershock later that day brought the cupola down. The community of Assisi with assistance from individuals and organisations worldwide have restored as many Assisi's priceless masterpieces as possible.

After a guided tour of the Assisi Basilica we depart for Siena, arriving later in the afternoon.

Overnight in Siena.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 5 Siena & San Gimignano
Siena is best seen on foot. In fact, the city council was Europe's first to ban motor traffic from the city centre. Siena today seems frozen in time. The town has traditionally been Florence's rival as the centre of art and architecture in Tuscany. While Florence is known for its Renaissance art and buildings, Siena takes us straight back to the Middle Ages. Perhaps by preserving its original character more than any other city in Italy, Siena is a showcase of the Italian Gothic style. The walled city of Siena occupies three hill tops and contains a rich artistic heritage.

Included on our guided walking tour of Siena's charming medieval streets and squares is a visit to the Palazzo Pubblico (Town Hall), a famous example of Italian medieval architecture with Gothic influences. Also famous for its frescoes, the best-known are a secular series on government in the Hall of the Nine (also known as Sala della Pace), by Ambrogio Lorenzetti. These frescoes are collectively known as "Allegory and Effects of Good and Bad Government."

Our next stop is the Duomo. This huge cathedral, built in bands of black and white marble, dates from the 12th century. Built in the Romanesque and Italian Gothic styles, it has a dramatically painted façade -- partly designed by Giovanni Pisano -- and a soaring black and white bell tower. The inlaid marble floor depicts different Biblical scenes and the cathedral contains a glass-enclosed box with an arm. Tradition maintains that the arm is that of John the Baptist and was used to baptise Christ.

This afternoon we drive to San Gimignano, called the Manhattan of Tuscany. The medieval town preserves 13 of its noble brick towers, which give it a skyscraper skyline. Today its fortress-like severity is softened by the subtlety of its quiet, harmonious squares, and many of its places and churches are enhanced by Renaissance frescoes.

Our drive this afternoon back to Siena takes us through the wine growing region of Chianti.

Overnight in Siena.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 6 Siena - Volterra - Pisa - Florence
This morning we drive through beautiful and quintessential Tuscan rolling countryside to Volterra.

Situated like many Etruscan cities on a high plateau, Volterra offers uninterrupted views over the surrounding hills. In many places the town's ancient Etruscan walls still stand. The exact origins of the Etruscans and when they arrived in Italy, are unknown. Their civilisation was centred in the area between present-day Rome and Florence, and had its Golden Age from the eighth until the sixth century BC. After this period the Etruscan empire was gradually superseded by the rising power of Rome, although in the process, the Romans incorporated many aspects of Etruscan culture into their own society and beliefs. Although the Etruscans had their own language and alphabet, nothing of their literature has survived. What we know of their civilisation comes mainly from their highly decorated tombs which were stocked with everything the deceased would need in the afterlife -- food, drink, clothes, weapons and furniture.

We visit Volterra's famous Museo Guarnacci, which contains one of Italy's best collections of Etruscan artifacts. Pride of place in the museum goes to the collection of 600 Etruscan funerary urns, depicting many aspects of Etruscan customs and beliefs.

We also visit the city walls and the Etruscan Gate with its basalt heads of Etruscan gods dating back to the sixth century BC. Before leaving Volterra we view the Roman amphitheatre, dating to the first century BC. This is one of the best preserved Roman theatres in Italy and enough of the original structure has survived to allow an almost complete reconstruction.

Our next stop is Pisa, where we will spend most of our time concentrating on the town's principal monuments -- the Duomo, the Baptistery, and the most famous structure in Pisa, the gravity-defying "Leaning Tower." We will take ample time to view and photograph the tower from the outside (to climb the tower requires advance reservations and a considerable amount of time to queue for entry; time constraints make this impractical for our tour).

We continue to Florence.

Overnight in Florence.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 7 Florence: Walking Tour
Florence is a city steeped in history and art. Our walking tour today begins with a guided tour of the Accademia, which was Europe's first Academy of drawing and today houses a superb art collection, including Michelangelo's David, probably the most famous statue in the world. We then proceed to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo), complete with its magnificent red dome. Upon its completion in 1436, the dome was hailed as the greatest architectural achievement of its day, equaling, perhaps even surpassing, the monuments of antiquity. The cupola's diameter is greater than that of St Peter's in Rome and the nave is the third largest in Christendom. Even today its brilliant engineering is not fully understood.

We continue along the pedestrian mall to the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in Florence and the only one in the city to survive World War II. The Ponte Vecchio was built in 1345 and used to be lined with butchers' shops which have now been replaced by rows of gold and silver shops on both sides. At the Piazza Santa Croce, we stop to admire the facade of the Franciscan church of the same name. Inside we see the tombs of Michelangelo and Galileo Galilei and chapels covered in frescoes by Giotto.

Balance of the day at leisure; dinner on your own this evening. A fun activity for the afternoon / evening is to participate in an optional Tuscan cooking class. Details can be provided by your Tour Leader upon arrival in Rome, but generally courses are about 4-5 hours in duration and culminate in dining upon the fruits of your labour. Your Tour Leader can book in advance and payment can be made locally.

Overnight in Florence.

Meal plan: Breakfast

Day 8 Florence: Uffizi Gallery
This morning we visit the Uffizi Gallery, Giorgio Vasari's extraordinary administrative buildings which he designed for Cosimo I Medici in the mid-sixteenth century. The galleries here contain the greatest collection of Italian artworks, including hundreds of paintings by such great artists as Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian and Caravaggio. The galleries also contain one of the most famous paintings in the world -- Botticelli's 'Birth of Venus.'

The afternoon is free to take in the atmosphere of this sophisticated city.

Overnight in Florence.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 9 Florence - Venice
This morning we travel by train to Venice (2 hours).

From the 13th-15th centuries, Venice was one of the most luxurious cities in Europe, and a great trading empire with the Middle East -- Marco Polo was 17 years old when he left Venice to sail to Asia. Today Venice is still a city like no other.

Depending on train times, we will likely be able to accomplish an orientation stroll after settling in to our hotel.

Overnight in Venice.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 10 Venice: City Tour
On our guided walking tour this morning we concentrate on St Mark's Square, surrounded with elegant, historic buildings. Napoleon called Piazza San Marco, "the drawing room of Europe". We start with a tour of the Doge's Palace. This former seat of Venetian power has the second largest wooden room in Europe. Of interest as we walk through the council rooms, is Tintoretto's Paradise over the Grand Council Chamber -- alleged to be the largest oil painting in the world. The palace is connected to the old prison by the 'Bridge of Sighs.' In the late 16th century the decision was made to build new airier prison cells to replace the original dark dungeons. It was from this new prison that Casanova made his daring escape across the rooftops in 1755.

The highlight of the square is St Mark's Basilica, a Byzantine masterpiece. This cathedral was begun in 830 to house the tomb of St Mark whose relics were stolen from Alexandria in Egypt. The inside walls are encrusted with precious art, rare marbles and magnificent mosaics. Behind the altar is the famous gold altarpiece, 'Palla d'Oro,' which is one of the finest examples of gold craftsmanship.

(We do not include a tour of the interior of the basilica as lengthy queues usually make this impractical for our program. We encourage you to visit the site during your free time this afternoon. Your ticket is valid for the Doge’s Palace and the combined itinerary of Museo Correr, Museo Archeologico Nazionale and Monumental Rooms of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana.)

Later we take the vaporetto, or public water bus, on the Grand Canal and then walk along the maze of canals, sidewalks and bridges that are uniquely Venice. At the Rialto Bridge we visit the market area. The name Rialto derives from 'high bank' because this area was one of the highest points on the islands that make up the core of Venice and was thus considered a safe gathering point. The market here is vibrant with locals buying fruit and vegetables brought in from the mainland, and a vast array of fish caught fresh in the Adriatic.

Overnight in Venice.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 11 Venice: Murano
This morning we take a boat to see Venetian glass-blowers at work on the island of Murano. We tour glass blowing workshops and watch these master glassblowers take a glowing lump and turn it into glassware. We stop into the Museo Vetrario (Glass-making Museum) to see wild and colourful glass creations over the centuries (don't miss the marriage cup with portraits of the bride and groom in glass).

This afternoon is yours to enjoy Venice.

Overnight in Venice.

Meal plan: Breakfast and Dinner

Day 12 Departure
Departure from Venice.


Meal plan: Breakfast

Tour Map

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*The red tour trail on the map does not represent the actual travel path.

Hotel List

The following is a list of sample hotels at some locations included on this tour. The hotels shown here are meant to provide a general sense of the standard of hotel we usually aim for; they are not necessarily confirmed for your chosen departure.

Hotel Augusta Lucilla Palace

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Rome
Country: Italy

Augusta Lucilla Palace Hotel is a newly refurbished 4 star Hotel situated in the historic centre of Rome, only 5
... walk from the central train station, Termini.
The hotel is newly refurbished, characterized by Roman architecture of the 19th Century. The interiors have been entirely renovated, embracing the benefits of modern technology with a touch of elegance and style.

Read More.

Hotel Caravaggio

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Florence
Country: Italy

Hotel Caravaggio, is within a walking distance from the railway station and, most important, it is very close to the
... famous monuments and museums, which make Florence unique. Hotel Caravaggio has 37 rooms with private facilities, equipped with satellite TV, telephone, minibar, air-conditioning, hairdryer, safe, laundry service, and WI-FI.

Read More.

Hotel Belle Epoque

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Venice
Country: Italy

The Hotel Belle Epoque is located in the heart of Venice, a short walk from St Mark's Square (Piazza San
... Complementing the grand palaces and illustrious canals that make Venice famous, the Hotel Belle Epoque bathes guests in the radiance of classical Venetian design. Decor is in the style of the golden age of Venice.

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Hotel Minerva

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Siena
Country: Italy

The Hotel Minerva is situated in the historic center of Siena and commands a view over the whole town. There
... 59 bedrooms with private bath, phone, colour TV, safe deposit box, air conditioning, fridge-bar, laundry service, WI-FI.

Read More.

Trip Information

To book this tour, please refer to the sidebar ►


Breakfast and most dinners (mostly local restaurants) daily. All sightseeing and entrance fees for sites noted as 'visited' in the detailed itinerary. Gratuities for local guides, drivers, restaurant staff, porters. Airport transfers for land & air customers and for early arriving / late departing land & air customers who book their extra hotel nights through us.


Tour Leader gratuities, lunches, one dinner, drinks, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), air taxes (if applicable), and excursions referenced as 'optional'. Airport transfers for Land Only customers. Optional trip cancellation insurance. Our post-reservation trip notes offer further guidance on optional meal costs and shopping.

Seasonality and Weather

This tour is operated in late fall & winter when rates for accommodation and other tourist services are significantly reduced. It will be chilly, though most of Italy enjoys a relatively mild winter in which extreme cold or snow are rare. Most days will be well above freezing, though showers occur regularly at this time of year.

If one is prepared for the weather one can experience all the magic of Italy at a significant savings and without the bother of huge high-season crowds and heat. Airfares are also lower at these times.

Transport and Travel Conditions

Transport throughout by private motor coach, 24-36 seats depending on ultimate group size (see 'group size'). Though we will have some full bus days, road travel is not particularly arduous as there are plenty of stops of interest and beautiful scenery along the way. Roads are in good condition, though a little winding on some stretches. Walking tours on cobbled surfaces.

Our journey to Venice is via fast train, second class (non-smoking).


Well-located, heated, mid-range hotels and inns (3-star) used throughout. Some hotels are smaller properties (3-4 story) that may not have elevators. All hotels have en suite bath, though some may have shower only. Porter service is sometimes available (see 'inclusions') though you should be independent with your luggage. Single rooms are limited and likely smaller than twins.

Staff and Support

Tour Leader throughout, driver (s), local step-on guides in various locales.

Group Size

10-18 plus Tour Leader