Travel to the Italian Lake District, the Riviera, and other gems of Northern Italy as you soak up Italian culture
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This tour is specially designed for a small group of 16 to 24 Smithsonian travelers and offers outstanding travel value. Prices include airfare, airline taxes, fuel surcharges, and departure fees.
Italy’s evocative northern regions offer an exciting perspective on a well-known and beloved land. Join us to experience the highlights of the Italian Lake District, the Riviera, Tuscany, and magical Venice.
- The Italian Lake District: Enjoy a three-night stay along Lake Maggiore, which showcases the beauty of this region. Explore Stresa and nearby Orta San Giulio and cruise to Isola Bella to tour the stunning Palazzo Borromeo and its extravagantly landscaped gardens, followed by dinner on the island.
- Milan: Take a leisurely walking tour of this cosmopolitan city, famous for its awe-inspiring marble Duomo and celebrated La Scala opera house.
- The Italian Riviera: Stroll through the resort town of Santa Margherita, enjoy a full-day excursion to the seaside towns of the Cinque Terre, a World Heritage site, and arrive at Portofino by boat.
- Tuscany: Spend two days exploring the arts of Florence and medieval Siena, both World Heritage sites. Enjoy a winery tour and tasting in Chianti and visit the classic hill town of San Gimignano.
- Venice: Conclude your journey in magical Venice.
Day 1 — Depart U.S. for Milan, Italy
Day 2 — Arrive Milan, Stresa
After arriving in Milan, drive to the international resort of Stresa on lovely Lake Maggiore, straddling the border between Italy and Switzerland. This afternoon is at leisure before tonight’s welcome dinner. (D)
Day 3 — Stresa
Embark this morning on a cruise to Isola Bella, the beautiful Borromean island in the middle of Lake Maggiore. Fully occupied by 17th-century Palazzo Borromeo and its extravagantly landscaped gardens, the island offers lovely views of the lake and surrounding mountains. Take a guided tour of the palazzo, with its priceless works of fine art, and stroll through the flower-decked gardens, then enjoy lunch together on the island. (B,L)
Day 4 — Stresa, Orta San Giulio
This morning visit the lovely lakeside town of Orta San Giulio – dubbed “God’s watercolor” by Italian writer Piero Chiara – with its cobblestoned streets, 16th-century town hall, and medieval houses flanking the inviting town square. After lunch on your own here, return to your hotel for an afternoon at leisure. (B)
Day 5 — Stresa, Milan, Santa Margherita
Today visit Milan, Italy’s commercial and financial center, and world capital of design and fashion. See the immense Duomo, one of the world’s largest churches with 135 spires and some 3,400 statues; and Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle, the four-story double-arcade that is one of the world’s oldest shopping malls. Then visit the Brera Picture Gallery, Milan’s first fine arts museum and still its foremost gallery, with works by Caravaggio, Tiepolo, Tintoretto, Raphael, and other great masters. After lunch on your own, travel on to Italy’s Liguria region, the narrow coastal plain whose capital is seafaring Genoa. Your destination is the Italian Riviera resort town of Santa Margherita, with its palm-lined esplanade overlooking the harbor. (B)
Day 6 — Santa Margherita, Portovenere, Cinque Terre
The rugged coastline from Santa Margherita to the five towns of the Cinque Terre region (literally, “five lands”) virtually bursts with scenic and cultural significance. Dramatically situated at the edge of vertical vineyard-clad cliffs, the towns here once could be reached only by sea, and even today, no road connects them all (though walkers can use an ancient footpath). From Portovenere, tour comfortably by boat today along this striking coastline – called the Riviera Levante – stopping along the way in the villages of Monterosso and Vernazza. Return to your hotel late this afternoon and dine there tonight. (B,D)
Day 7 — Santa Margherita, Portofino
This morning travel by boat to the renowned – and beautiful – resort town of Portofino, a former fishing village where palatial yachts now crowd the port and the good life is celebrated. Enjoy free time to meander the colorful streets and visit the chic boutiques and galleries here before returning to your hotel midday. (B)
Day 8 — Santa Margherita, Lucca, Tuscany
Moving on today, travel south to beloved Tuscany, stopping first in the atmospheric medieval town of Lucca. Take a walking tour of this incredibly well-preserved gem, whose city walls and ramparts remain intact and a popular attraction. After time for lunch on your own, continue on to your lodgings, a restored 18th-century villa where you dine tonight. (B,D)
Day 9 — Tuscany, Florence
Spend today touring and exploring wondrous Florence, a living monument to the Renaissance and crown jewel of Tuscany. Your day includes a guided morning walking tour followed by free time. Together visit the Galleria dell’Accademia to view Michelangelo’s sublime “David” and his pieces for the papal tombs; and the Duomo, with its stupendous dome by Brunelleschi. There’s time on your own to stroll the 14th-century Ponte Vecchio, with its many jewelry shops; visit renowned museums and churches; shop for leather goods and artful Florentine paper; and to enjoy lunch on your own at a typical Florentine restaurant. (B,D)
Day 10 — Tuscany, Siena, Castellina in Chianti
Today visit the walled city of Siena, whose historic center is a World Heritage site and ochre-colored buildings and ancient ramparts vividly evoke its medieval past. Fan-shaped Piazza del Campo is one of Europe’s greatest public squares; its Duomo, with pillars of black and white marble, is one of Italy’s finest, with masterpieces by Donatello and Michelangelo. Following a guided walking tour that includes an inside visit to the Duomo, enjoy free time to explore on your own. Then return to your villa via Castellina in Chianti, where you visit a local winery for a tour and tasting; only in this region is authentic Chianti Classico produced. (B,D)
Day 11 — Tuscany, Volterra, San Gimignano
Encounter classic Tuscany today as you visit first nearby Volterra, set high on a bluff some 1,800 feet above the valley below. A fortress-like town, Volterra was a center of Etruscan art and commerce from the 9th century bce through the 4th century. On your walking tour here explore the maze of medieval alleys and see some of the white alabaster carvings for which the city is renowned. After free time for lunch on your own, continue on to the classic hill town of San Gimignano, whose 13 remaining watchtowers have left its skyline looking much as it did in medieval times. Enjoy a brief walking tour of this town known for its churches and museums that house important works of art; and for its smart shops and art galleries. (B,D)
Day 12 — Tuscany, Venice
Leaving Tuscany today travel through the Veneto region to Venice, arriving early this afternoon. The remainder of the day and evening is free to begin savoring this wondrous city on your own. (B)
Day 13 — Venice
This morning take a guided walk through vast St. Mark’s Square, deemed “Europe’s most magnificent drawing room” by Napoleon Bonaparte. The afternoon is at leisure for independent exploration. Tonight bid “arrivederci” to Italy and to your fellow travelers at a farewell dinner. (B,D)
Day 14 — Depart for U.S.
Depart early this morning for your connecting flights to the U.S. (B)