The flavours of Tuscany, the sights of Cinque Terre, and the masterpieces of the Renaissance: this is the best of Northern Italy.
Bologna – A beautiful city boasting the western world’s oldest university whose alumni have changed the world
Venice – Discover the winding canals, striking architecture and beautiful bridges in the ‘City of Water’
Lake Garda – Surrounded by mountains, this crystal blue lake sits in the scenic heart of Northern Italy
Verona – There’s a lot to love about Verona, the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
Cinque Terre - Imagine five pastel-hued villages perched on the rugged coast surrounded by terraced cliffs and clear deep blue water. It’s Bella Italia at its finest
Florence – Marvel at the finest collection of Italian Renaissance art and architecture in this fine city
Pisa - A legendary city with the iconic architectural duo: the spectacular Romanesque Cathedral and the famous leaning tower
Val d’Orcia – Bucolic Tuscan hills dotted with cypress trees, olive groves and vineyards
Milan - From Da Vinci’s Last Supper to luxurious brands. Milan revolves around art, fashion, and delicious cuisine
On this trip, you enjoy the best of Northern Italy.
In Pisa, Florence, and Bologna, you gaze into the ornate facades, domes, columns, and details that define delightful Renaissance architecture.
You see how rustic village life and grand religious sites can blend with ocean views in Cinque Terra and Venice.
And throughout your journey, you can taste the wines of Tuscany, authentic ragu Bolognese and more of the inimitable local cuisine that Italy is famous for.
Join this tour for your ultimate experience of Northern Italy.
If you love this itinerary but want to start in Milan, have a look at this tour.
You leave the hustle and bustle of the Eternal City and travel to Orvieto. Virtually traffic-free, perfectly preserved, and awash with delicious wine: it’s the idyllic Italian village. You can choose to visit the colourful cathedral here and explore at your own pace.
Your journey leads you through the Parco Naturale Le Balze, a landscape studded with balze rock peaks, sulphite streams, and gorgeous vistas that inspired Leonardo da Vinci.
Your lunch stop is in the tiny hamlet of Piantravigne, the perfect spot to sample some truly authentic Italian cuisine.
With your belly full and your senses satisfied, you travel to beautiful Bologna, your overnight destination.
NH Bologna de la Garde or similar, Bologna
Today, you can join a half day trip to Ravenna in the morning. Ravenna is a maze of mosaic masterpieces, a unique blend of early Christian and Byzantine architecture with eight sites on the UNESCO list. This unforgettable North Italian destination is also the town where Dante Alighieri is buried.
After lunch, you return from your half-day trip and have the rest of the day to explore Bologna your way. During the Renaissance, this fascinating city was blooming with art and was a centre for intellectual innovation. Its famous university is the oldest in the western world and saw great minds like Petrarch, Dante Alighieri, and Copernicus.
There’s plenty to do here. You can stroll through the beautiful, kilometres-long UNESCO porticos, unravel the mysteries of the university, or tantalise your taste buds with Ragu alla Bolognese.
NH Bologna de la Garde or similar, Bologna
It’s time to slap on some sunscreen, charge up your camera, and head deep into nature. Your first stop is Gorino, where you can join an optional boat trip along the River Po. This is the longest river in Italy, and its wetlands give you a chance to spot rare migratory birds. There’s also a lunch box for you to enjoy.
Once you’re back on dry land, you travel to Este, a picture-perfect town with a history that spans over 3000 years. Here you have free time to amble along the city walls or visit the town’s moated Medieval castle.
You then venture to Padua, allegedly the oldest city in Italy and your home for the next three nights. This fascinating place sits at the crossroads of science and religion. This is where venerated St Anthony is buried, and where the ground-breaking scientific discoveries were made at the height of the Renaissance.
Hotel Al Prato or similar - Padua
177 canals, 350 gondoliers, and the most idiosyncratic cityscapes in the world: Venice, ‘the Floating City', is your destination today.
With its wealth, trade, and power; Venice has always been bold.
It’s been built on over 118 islands, hosts one of the most famous festivals in the world. And its unique painting style and architecture classifies Venice as one of the great centres of the Renaissance, equal to Rome and Florence.
Once you arrive, you enjoy an included two-hour guided walking tour of the city. From people-watching in Piazza San Marco to frequenting the famous galleries, it’s up to you how you spend the rest of your day in Venice.
In the early evening, you head back to Padua in time for dinner.
Hotel Al Prato or similar – Padua
The traditional flavours of Italy are yours to explore today.
First, you go to Villa Pisani. This included attraction boasts awesome art exhibitions and is the epitome of late baroque architecture. Napoleon once owned this huge holiday home and presented it to his stepson as a gift.
You say bye to the excesses of the aristocracy and venture to Valdobbiadene for a chance to indulge in something a little sweeter. This rolling landscape is home to the best prosecco, and you have the option to enjoy an exclusive tasting. We promise it’ll be the freshest prosecco you’ve ever tasted.
The indulgence continues as you travel to Bassano del Grappa, where you have the chance to sample sweet and intoxicating Grappa. If you’ve had enough tipple for the day, you can spend your time admiring the castle and the town’s famous old bridge instead.
You then travel to Padua for your final evening in the historic town.
Hotel Al Prato or similar – Padua
Say ‘ciao!’ to the romance of Italy, because your first stop today is the setting of Romeo and Juliet, Verona. You have time here to reminisce about past lovers at the famous balcony, admire a grand Roman Colosseum, and amble through the ancient piazzas at your own pace.
You then travel to Lake Garda. This lake’s crystal-clear waters and views of the Dolomites have made the place a favourite destination for artists, poets, and travellers since the Roman ages.
Your journey west takes you to the vineyards around Erbusco; also known as that place in your imagination you’ve always dreamed of. Here you have the option to indulge in one more authentic wine tasting.
You arrive in Milan in the evening.
Business Palace Milan or similar, Milan
In Milan, life revolves around art, fashion, and delicious cuisine, so make sure to indulge in them on your free day.
When it comes to art, seeing da Vinci’s Last Supper is a must. This enigmatic piece of work attracts many visitors, so book your tickets in advance.
Next, there’s the Duomo, the Cathedral of Milan. This tremendous tribute to Gothic architecture is one of the biggest churches in Italy and will mesmerize you with its intricate design.
In a city obsessed with fashion, even window shopping feels like a unique experience. Visit the flamboyant Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II or Quadrilatero della Moda, the home of the most luxurious brands.
Then, follow in the footsteps of Milanese and partake in aperitivo, the pre-dinner ritual. Savour that moment of relaxation after the day and get ready for the next stage of your journey.
Business Palace Milan or similar, Milan
We leave Milan and head for Parma in the Po Valley. You have time here to delve into the town’s prosperous past and plentiful palazzo’s dating back to the Middle Ages. It’s also a perfect opportunity to try Parma ham and Parmesan cheese in their place of origin.
We leave around midday and head for La Spezia, port town and gateway to the beautiful Cinque Terre. After checking in to your hotel for the night, your guide accompanies you on the short train journey to the first of the seaside towns. From there, you can roam free for the remainder of the afternoon and evening.
Each town has a unique character, so you decide what you’re in a mood for. If you want to see beaches and a seafront promenade, head to Monterosso. Wine lovers should explore Manarola and savour its local wine. And if you want to visit a hamlet with great views, choose one of this fantastic trio: Riomaggiore, Vernazza or Corniglia.
After exploring the Cinque Terre villages, you get on the train back to La Spezia, your base for the night.
Hotel CDH La Spezia or similar, La Spezia
Buongiorno! Today is all about discovering the architectural wonders of Northern Italy.
You leave La Spezia in the morning and stop in Pietrasanta where Michelangelo picked out the best marble for his sculptures.
We then travel to Pisa where you can explore the city for a couple of hours. Once a maritime power competing with Genoa and Venice, this city is now famous worldwide for an architectural project which went horribly wrong. Tilting or not, the Leaning Tower of Pisa has beautiful, elaborate Romanesque architecture and fascinating history. Grab your lunch and take in the views of other architectural highlights at Campo dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles).
Next on the list of our Italian delights is Lucca, famous for its completely preserved city walls. Originally founded by the Etruscans, then a Roman colony, the city has gained its wealth through the silk trade. You can see this prosperity in the abundance of graceful buildings and pretty piazzas. With a couple of hours of free time, you can wander along the city walls before you continue your journey further.
All these impressive architectural gems of the day were just a warm-up. Prepare yourself for a real feast for the eyes as you travel to Florence, your base for the next two nights.
Hotel Monna Lisa or similar, Florence
You have a free day in the ‘Birthplace of the Renaissance’ and can decide how you want to spend it.
You can start by following the paths of Leonardo, Michelangelo, Dante and Galileo - stare in awe at the Duomo, the city’s majestic Cathedral that dominates the skyline; see The Birth of Venus and some of the most celebrated treasures at the Uffizi Gallery; and visit Galleria dell’Accademia, to admire Michelangelo’s masterpiece, David.
Man does not live by art alone, so don’t forget to try some of the local specialities. The culinary delights like handmade pasta, pizza, pastries, wine and gelato will help you to regain your strength.
In the afternoon, you could ponder over the Medici’s power and secrets and explore Palazzo Pitti. The grand palace of this influential family is home to some of the greatest treasures of the Renaissance.
For a perfect end to the day, you can visit Boboli Gardens peppered with statues, fountains, ponds and hidden mazes. It’s your second night in Florence so spend the evening soaking up the atmosphere as you explore the bustling squares or excellent restaurants and bars.
* As this is a free day, we would recommend that you book any attractions you are interested in visiting before you depart, to save time and avoid queues
Hotel Monna Lisa or similar, Florence
It’s time to wave Florence goodbye to go discover the spectacular medieval hill-towns of Tuscany.
As you travel over the green hills of the famous Chianti wine region, you notice the 14 towers of San Gimignano soaring like a medieval Manhattan. Listen to the story of the noble families who got caught up in a race to build the highest tower house. Then enjoy a walk around the well-preserved fortified old centre and sample some of the local delicacies for lunch.
You continue south to Siena, the highlight of the day. This gorgeous red-brick city celebrates Gothic architecture like no one else. The place’s essence centres around the unique shell-shaped Piazza del Campo. It’s here where the bi-annual horse race ‘Palio di Siena’ is hosted. And it’s also where James Bond madly chases his enemy in ‘Quantum of Solace’.
Next, you travel along the country roads, past cypress trees and olive groves to arrive in Montepulciano in the early evening. This hilltop town in rural Tuscany is your home for two nights.
Albergo San Biagio or similar, Montepulciano
Today you explore the dreamy Tuscan region of Val d’Orcia where time seems to slow down. This area boasts unspoiled beauty and is steeped in history and culture. No wonder it has been declared a UNESCO heritage site.
Start the day exploring Montepulciano on your own before travelling to Pienza. This jewel of urban planning is known as the ‘Ideal City’ and is the fruit of Pope Pius II‘s Renaissance vision. Call it vain or forward-thinking, but in the 15th century the Pope set about transforming his birthplace. And the results are so stunning that UNESCO designated Pienza as a world heritage site.
Then it’s time to try some of the best wines in the world on an included visit to Solaria Winery in Montalcino. This is the home of Brunello, the famous red wine made of a special grape variety with protected status.
We finish today’s exploration of the Val d’Orcia with a visit to Bagno Vignoni, a village renowned for its curative waters. The Etruscans, Romans, pilgrims of the Via Francigena, and the Medici appreciated the hot sulphurous waters here in the past. Today, you can admire this ancient spa and follow the flow of the spring waters across the archaeological park.
After experiencing and savouring the best of rural Tuscany, you arrive in Montepulciano in the early evening for your second night.
Albergo San Biagio or similar, Montepulciano
You leave Tuscany in the morning and travel south to the Maremma region. The adventure takes you to Sorano, where you can grab an espresso and take in the dramatic views across the valley.
Later on, you can choose to get up close with the Etruscan civilisation at the Sovana Necropolis and the Vie Cave. These form an impressive road network carved out of tuff during the Bronze Age. Then, you visit Sovana, where you can grab something to eat and absorb the atmosphere of this medieval town before you continue your adventure.
In the afternoon, you continue your journey towards Rome with a photo stop to admire another dramatic hilltop city, Pitigliano, and then on to Capodimonte. This small town is situated on the bank of Bolsena Lake, the largest volcanic lake in Italy. It’s your final comfort stop, so enjoy the charms of this little hamlet before your final journey to Rome.
You stay two nights in Bologna, three nights in Padua, two nights in Milan, one night in La Spezia, two nights in Florence, and two nights in Montepulciano.
For examples of the accommodation, please see the tour itinerary.
A good night’s sleep is often needed for a good day of travel.
So we’ve hand-picked three-star to four-star hotels in remote coastal villages, bustling towns, and mountain valleys.
Your accommodation is included in the tour price; and when you book your trip, you can choose whether you want a double room, a twin room, or a single room.
The price you see is for all your tour accommodation and for the tour itself. It also includes a tourist tax. This figure is based on shared accommodation. When you're booking your tour and select a single room, an additional single room supplement will be added to the price.
You may need a Schengen Visa to travel throughout Europe. Check the official tourism website of the country you’re visiting for up-to-date and reliable information. Travel between countries is easy because there are no passport checks at the borders.
Most people can comfortably enjoy our tours, but it's worth bearing in mind that we often include optional short walks in scenic locations. Please also be aware that many of the old European towns are built on steep hills with cobbled lanes, and you may have to carry your own luggage at times.
So that we can ensure you're comfortable travelling with us, please let us know about any special requirements or needs at the time of booking. If you have any more questions, simply email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Europe's historic city centres are full of narrow streets and winding roads. So, to speed up your departure and avoid contributing to congestion issues, we start our trip from hotels located conveniently on the edge of cities. We choose hotels with good public transport connections to the city centre, so you can enjoy your evening explorations.
To make your tour more convenient, you can add an optional pre and post-departure accommodation in the hotel we use as a pick up or a drop off point.
Arrive at the hotel lobby 15 minutes before your departure time. Unfortunately, we’re unable to wait for you if you’re late due to vehicle restrictions. But depending on your situation, we may be able to help you catch up with your tour.
We have a cancellation period of 42 days for our Europe tours. If you cancel your trip before this period, we give you a full refund minus a 10% admin charge. If you cancel inside this time frame, you’re liable for the cost of the tour package.
We understand how disappointing it is when you have to cancel a trip with us, so please contact our friendly team who will try their best to resell your ticket and refund you.
Click here to view full terms and conditions.
It's simple: you book, you go. This means we'll never cancel your tour because of a minimum numbers policy.
Your friendly driver and guide are passionate about the places they visit and know all the local gossip. This means your tour itinerary can change a little due to festivities, attraction opening hour changes, and spontaneous photo opportunities.
Due to logistical reasons, we're unable to let you pre-book a seat on the bus. But our comfortable mini-coaches offer a good view.
We like to keep our coaches small, nimble, and odour free. This means we have no on-board toilet facilities, but you frequently stop in local towns and villages for comfort breaks.
We're unable to permit children under 15 years old on our Europe tours due to the nature of the activities that are included.
We want you to enjoy your trip to Europe. And we believe the best way to do this is to get you off the mini-coach and out exploring. So, we give you plenty of stops to take photos, go walking, and explore ancient ruins.
We've arranged experiences for you on your tour. The 'included activities' are already booked and paid for as part of your trip, whereas you can purchase 'optional activities' while on your tour. You also have free time in many destinations to pick and choose which attractions you visit.
You don't need to pack or bring along food on the mini-coach. We stop in small European towns, villages, and rural eateries where you can choose whatever meal pleases both your taste buds and your budget.
It’s more enjoyable to travel with light luggage. You can take less by cleaning clothes along the way. Most hotels provide affordable laundry service.
But if you're travelling with more than 20kg, don't worry! There are left luggage facilities close to the majority of our departure points, and courier companies who could ship your excess luggage on to your chosen destination. Our team are happy to help if you need any suggestions or recommendations.
Let's be honest, our drivers and guides would never refuse a cheeky bonus. But it's up to you, and the amount is entirely at your discretion.
We highly recommend you take out travel insurance, so you can enjoy a stress-free journey.
You're protected by ABTOT when you book a tour with us. This means you can claim back anything you've paid us if we run into any issues. Read our terms and conditions for more information.
Our packages are covered by the Package Travel Regulations. For full details of your key rights please click here.
Travel the local way on small group tours of 16 people or fewer
You'll have a guaranteed experience, or your money back
Guaranteed departures: We’ll never cancel your tour because of minimum numbers
Our eco-friendly tours support local communities