Spellbinding beauty by rail
Colourful villages cling to the dramatic coastline of the Italian Riviera, with the glittering Mediterranean forming picture-postcard vistas in every direction, and glamorous yachts clamouring for attention alongside quaint fishing boats in idyllic harbours.
After meeting at our St Pancras Departure Office, we take the Eurostar to Paris, continuing to Turin, by high speed TGV where we overnight.
This morning you are free to explore Turin. Take a stroll under the intricate arcades to Piazza Castello, surrounded by majestic buildings, or maybe discover the magnificent cathedral and Egyptian Museum, before we begin our journey to Sestri Levante, a picturesque town set on the coast overlooking the Mediterranean. The town boasts a large beach, with houses built right up to the edge of the sand. We travel by rail to Chiavari, where we transfer by coach to Sestri Levante and the beautiful Grand Hotel Villa Balbi, our base for the next seven nights. Set in a stunning 19th century mansion, the hotel is surrounded by 2.5 acres of lush private gardens and has a truly elegant feel.
Today, you are free to explore Sestri Levante. Occupying a beautiful position on a peninsula, surrounded by two gorgeous bays, Sestri Levante is a picture-perfect resort and a delight to explore. On one side is the Bay of Fairytales, which was named in honour of Hans Christian Andersen, the most famous former resident of Sestri Levante. With its port, promenade, and shops, it is the liveliest part of town. On the other side of the town is the Bay of Silence, which is also known as Portobello. Considered one of the best beaches in Italy, the Bay of Silence is a wonderful destination for a gentle stroll - or to appreciate the incredible colours of an Italian sunset.
This morning we set out to explore the Cinque Terre - five picturesque villages set on the coast: Monterosso, Vernazza, Manarola, Corniglia and Riomaggiore. The villages are set within part of a National Park and share UNESCO World Heritage status thanks to the breathtaking scenery along this stretch of the Italian coastline. The regional train (Standard Class) winds its way along the rugged coast, travelling through tunnels carved deep into the rock and emerging into steep wine terraces, with villages clinging precariously to sheer cliffs or wedged between the hills and the beach. We visit Riomaggiore, before continuing by train to Vernazza and Manarola, with time to explore the villages with our local guide.
Today we cruise to the famous resort of Portofino, a gloriously Italian fishing village surrounded by olive groves and pine trees. Considered to be one of the most beautiful Mediterranean ports, the town has a stunning, picture-postcard harbour surrounded by pastel-painted houses. The resort of Portofino is really no more than a small fishing village, but thanks to its unique beauty, it has become a popular tourist destination. Portofino's tiny main square overlooks the harbour and is a delightful spot to sit and watch the world go by. Lunch is served in a local restaurant before we continue along the stunning coastline to the Abbey of San Fruttuoso.
Over the course of its history the abbey has had many uses; as well as its monastic use, it has been a home for fishermen, a pirate den, and for many years was the property of the Princes of Doria. The oldest parts of the Abbey date back to the 10th century, though it was added to and renovated over the centuries to serve its many varied purposes. Standing underwater in the sea in front of the Abbey is a bronze statue of 'Christ in the Abyss.' The statue is said to protect local divers from watery peril.
Please note: landing at San Fruttuoso is dependent on weather conditions. If it is not possible, the boat will land at Santa Margherita.
Today you are at leisure to continue exploring Sestri Levante. Perhaps spend the day enjoying the hotel's gardens, or else enjoy the winding medieval streets, charming buildings and harbour views with a walk through the town centre.
This morning we travel by coach to Pisa, where we enjoy a guided tour that includes the city's beautiful Campo dei Miracoli, or 'Field of Miracles.' Here we see the world-famous Leaning Tower, which began to lean as soon as it was built, due to poorly designed foundations, and was used by Galileo to study gravity. Restoration work at the end of the 20th century prevented the tower from falling, whilst preserving its famously jaunty angle and enduring appeal to tourists. We also see the marvellous white marble Duomo, often overlooked by tourists who flock to see the bell-tower, but a true gem in its own right and one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture, with its beautiful marble façade and sublime Moorish mosaics. This afternoon we visit the city of Lucca - Tuscany's best-kept secret; a place of true beauty that has managed to escape the tourist crowds. Majestic city walls encircle a Roman and Medieval heart packed with piazzas, art galleries and tiny churches, all connected by an intricate network of narrow cobbled streets.
Splendid Renaissance architecture mingles with historic buildings from the Middle Ages, making the city a pleasure to explore on foot. We enjoy free time to explore or perhaps take this opportunity to enjoy lunch. A stroll along the top of the ancient ramparts is an excellent way to discover the true charm of the city.
This morning we travel by regional train (Standard Class) to the picturesque fishing village of Camogli. The name Camogli is a contraction of Casa Mogli (Wives' House) from the days when the women ran the town while the men spent months at sea with the town's huge fishing fleet. Set on a steep hill, Camogli climbs from the harbour and dark pebble beaches to groves of pine and olive trees. After a guided tour of the centre and the harbour, which is full of colourful fishing boats, we return to Sestri Levante and enjoy dinner in the hotel this evening.
Today we travel northwards through Italy by rail, before changing trains in Milan. Our journey continues into Switzerland, continuing to Mulhouse, where we overnight.
On Day 10 we take the high-speed TGV to Paris. Here we connect with the Eurostar to London, where our tour concludes.
The following departures are guaranteed to operate:
For this tour, we recommend arriving to, and departing from, London Gatwick or London Heathrow airport (LGW or LHR). London Gatwick is approximately 30 miles from your start and end point, and London Heathrow is approximately 19 miles from your start and end point.
It is your responsibility to check and fulfil the passport, visa, health and immigration requirements applicable to your itinerary. We do not accept any responsibility if you cannot travel, or incur any other loss because you have not complied with any passport, visa, immigration requirements or health formalities. You agree to reimburse us in relation to any fines or other losses which we incur as a result of your failure to comply with any passport, visa, immigration requirements or health formalities.
Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.
An escorted experience and travel during your tour
Comfortable accommodation in your destination
Delicious meals included
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
of travellers would recommend this tour
based on 9 verified reviews
The tour overall was fine, as we had done this trip before, two years ago. The Villa Balbi is a very good hotel with excellent facilities and staff. The journey home was not something I would recommend to anyone. It was something that you, Great Rail, could not control; the total cancellation of our train from Sestri Levanti to Milan. We ended up in a coach, driven by someone who in my opinion, was dangerous, and had no knowledge of Milan and the location of our train station at all. We did, eventually, arrive at Mulhouse, after a couple of quick train changes, although rather later than was planned. The following day, when arriving in Paris we thought nothing else could go wrong. On getting ready to get on our Euro Star train we had a last minute alteration to all our tickets as the train had been changed, which meant that we were seated randomly in three different carriages, which spoilt the final journey home. Once again this was out of the control of Great Rail. Let me add that our tour manager, Rosie Sharp, was excellent in calmly dealing with all of the problems we encountered, and also, we were very lucky to have a gentleman on our trip who spoke fluent Italian. This was our thirteenth journey with Great Rail. I have never been superstitious before.?
Everything was excellent from start to finish.
Excellent accommodation, great excursions, brilliant tour manager
It was very well organised with an excellent leader who dealt with any problems efficiently and calmly.
Very disappointing room size at the hotel for a gold customer
Wonderful tour - marvellous company. Accommodation and food good. Trips were well organised and interesting, but we also had enough free time.
So well organised from start to finish
The resort, hotel, weather and Tour Manager were all excellent. What more could you want!!
The first day travelling was really too long. We got there very late, so we did not eat until 10pm. Sestri Levante was a nice place to stay. I liked the fact that there were very few coach trips. Most of it was on trains or boats. Travel going back was much better timed in terms of the length of each day
A very well organised tour to pleasant Sestri Levante on the Ligurian Riveira. The Hotel Villa Balbi was excellent, comfortable, convenient, with good food and friendly staff.
Spellbinding beauty by rail