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La Dolce Vita

Gastronomy and Wine of Italy
On this exciting tour, we will discover the rich culinary traditions and famous wines of Italy. 
Italian food varies significantly from region to region and derives most of its magic from the abundance, quality and freshness of its locally sourced ingredients. The seas surrounding Italy host a wide variety of fish and seafood; the coastal plains and river valleys are filled with orchards, groves and fields of vegetables; the mountains and hillsides are covered in vines and forests; and large flocks and herds are pastured throughout the country. There is a healthy rivalry between the regions to out-do each other and make claim to the best dishes (and most often “my mother’s”)!

Italy also produces a fantastic array of wines for every occasion, from delicate whites through robust reds to wonderful dry or sweet sparkling wines, and from simple table wines to some of the best in the world.  We will learn about the incredible history and culture of winemaking and of course sample many as we travel through the country.
We begin with 3 nights in the Umbria region, visiting the clifftop town of Orvieto and the Wine Museum in Torgiano, truffle hunting in Pietralunga, strolling in Etruscan Perugia and enjoying spectacular views in idyllic Assisi. 

From here we head to the spa town of Montecatini Terme for 5 nights, our home base for visiting Cortona (set of “Under the Tuscan Sun”!), an agricultural farm with cooking lessons, the beautiful hamlet of Bolgheri with its “Avenue of Cypresses”, Lucca where we enjoy a “walking brunch” sampling local cheeses and breads, an olive oil mill, an estate on the famous Tuscan Wine Route, Castagneto Carducci for homemade pasta with wild boar, and the lively San Lorenzo market in Florence.  In Montecatini Terme we will have ample opportunity to visit the town’s thermal spa. 
We then head north to the Lake Garda region for 4 nights, stopping en route in Bologna for the delicious ‘tortellini’ pasta and a visit of the Ferrari Museum to get the heart pounding! We also visit romantic Verona, a renowned Valpolicella winery, Vicenza to marvel at the architecture of Palladio, and Bassano del Grappa where they have been making the popular Italian spirit since 1779.   

* Those joining any of our tours to Europe must be able to walk fairly long distances and climb stairs easily.

Itinerary / Excursions

We depart for Rome.
We land in Rome and transfer to Perugia for a 3-night stay. Perugia is an ideal base to discover the local culinary traditions, famous art and medieval hamlets of the region. Tonight our Welcome Dinner will feature seasonal dishes, local products and traditional Umbrian recipes.
We visit Orvieto, a typical Umbrian hilltop town with breathtaking views of the countryside. After a tour and some free time we continue to the Wine Museum in Torgiano - a veritable trip through time, with artwork and historic items all pertaining to grapes and wine. After our visit we enjoy a tasting of Umbrian wines and delicacies.
We head into the forest surrounding Pietralunga, one of the truffle hunting capitals of Umbria. We will go searching for these precious and expensive tubers (escorted by locals who will show us the way), followed by a special lunch (made with our findings) at a local farm. We then return to Perugia for a guided tour of this important medieval city and capital of Umbria.
We visit Assisi, the idyllic hilltop town of the venerated patron Saint Francis. We then head for Tuscany and the charming commune of Cortona, the set of the best selling novel “Under the Tuscan Sun”. We enjoy lunch in a typical restaurant and a tour of this wonderful hamlet, then proceed to the spa town of Montecatini Terme for a 5-night stay at a centrally located hotel.
A morning at leisure to explore the town, or visit the nearby thermal spa. Later we visit a local farm to walk the orchards and pick fresh ingredients to prepare some local dishes. We will learn to make pasta, typical Tuscan soup and the famous Tiramisù dessert. Dinner at the farm will include the dishes we have prepared, with a prize awarded for the best result!
We visit Lucca, a city of culinary traditions and cultural heritage. We’ll visit the Palazzo Mansi - home to one of Europe’s biggest tapestry collections. On our walking tour we’ll stop at some of the town’s delicatessens and specialty shops to sample the best local products (cheese, "schiacciata" bread and wine) followed by lunch in a local restaurant. In the afternoon we visit an olive oil mill before returning to Montecatini Terme.
We begin with a visit of the beautiful town of Bolgheri, known for its “Viale dei Cipressi” (Avenue of Cypresses). The village has kept its original historic buildings, roads and little shops, complimented by the astonishing views of the hills, sea and islands. We continue along the wine route where famous wines such as Sassicaia and Ornellaia are produced, and we visit a local estate. We will have lunch in Castagneto Carducci with a selection of typical dishes including homemade pasta and the famous wildboar sauce. There will be time to enjoy Castagneto with its historic centre dominated by a castle still inhabited today by the Della Gherardesca.
Today we discover the Renaissance capital of Florence, also rich in gastronomic traditions. On our walking tour we see the multi-coloured marble cathedral, Signoria Square, the Baptistery and Piazzale Michelangelo for the best view over the city. We’ll also visit San Lorenzo market for some great shopping, and our local guide will point out the many “trattorias” and “enoteche” (wine shops) where you can browse during your free afternoon, or perhaps visit one of the world famous museums.
We travel to Bologna for a walking tour of the narrow streets lined with arched porticos and arcaded walkways, surrounded by the remains of medieval walls. Home to Europe’s oldest university, Bologna is famous for its red-tiled roofs and for its love of fine food. Lunch is at a restaurant that specializes in the famous homemade “tortellini” pasta and a selection of products from the Emilia Romagna region. Later we visit the Ferrari Museum where we learn about Enzo Ferrari’s incredible life story and the history of the famous sports car. We continue to our hotel in the charming town of Desenzano on Lake Garda, for a 4-night stay.
We visit Verona - a city of Roman ruins, medieval buildings and the legend of Romeo and Juliet. Our walking tour will take us through Verona's historic heart, to Juliet's balcony and the great Roman Arena. After some free time we visit a local winery in Valpolicella for a wine tasting.
We visit the fascinating city of Vicenza, famous for the buildings of Andrea Palladio - considered to be history’s most influential architect. We will see Piazza dei Signori, the Duomo and the famous Teatro Olimpico - the world’s first indoor masonry theater. We then continue to Bassano del Grappa, where the popular Italian spirit Grappa was invented. Here we visit Nardini Distillery which has been producing the spirit since 1779. We also see the historic city centre and stop on the “Ponte Vecchio” - a covered wooden bridge designed by Palladio with views of the city and mountains.
A day at leisure. Our Farewell Dinner will be at a local farmhouse where we learn to prepare regional specialties. We will dine on our creations accompanied by a wine paring for each course, as we say “arrivederci” to Italy.
We fly home from Milan, via Munich.
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