A First Class rail holiday and Italy's finest cuisine
This delectable tour is a true indulgence as we experience mouth-watering cuisine, fantastic wines, charming cities and glorious scenery. We visit Florence, Bologna and Parma, taste the region's famous local produce and learn the secrets of Tuscan cooking in this unspoilt part of Italy.
Our holiday begins at our dedicated Departure Office in St Pancras International. After meeting your group and Tour Manager, we travel to Paris on the Eurostar in Standard Premier Class. Arriving in the French capital, we cross the city by coach to connect with the highspeed TGV for our onward journey to Turin. We spend the night in Turin, enjoying our first group dinner this evening.
On Day 2 we have a leisurely start to the day, which gives you the chance to explore Turin. Visit the Duomo di Torino, the city's Renaissance cathedral, and the Piazza Castello, the heart of Turin, surrounded by beautiful buildings and always a hive of activity. We leave Turin on board the direct high-speed rail service to the beautiful city of Florence - the Renaissance capital of the world. We spend the next three nights at the Starhotel Michelangelo. We dine out in Florence this evening in a local restaurant enjoying Tuscan specialities for which the region is justly famous.
This morning we enjoy a guided tour of the city's many treasures, including the fabulous Duomo with its iconic red-tiled dome, and the beautiful Ponte Vecchio - a 14th century bridge that is home to 43 jewellers' shops. Your afternoon is free to explore Florence at leisure. Tonight we dine out at the atmospheric Piazza del Vino, a restaurant which combines a delicious regional menu with a passion for wine - reflected in the extensive wine list and row upon row of wine bottles that line the restaurant's walls. An expert from one of the local vineyards talks us through the different wines we're tasting, with a different wine to accompany each of our five courses.
Your day is free to explore Florence at leisure. Picturesque narrow streets and handsome squares, including the Piazza della Signoria are only part of the city's charm; much of the beauty of the city is found indoors. One fifth of the world's Renaissance art is kept and displayed in Florence's museums, galleries, churches, monasteries and palaces; many in the Basilica Santa Croce, burial place of some of Italy's most celebrated icons including Galileo, Machiavelli and Michelangelo, and up to 1,700 masterpieces in the world-famous Uffizi Gallery.
We leave Florence this morning, travelling by coach through the picturesque Tuscan countryside towards Bologna. We stop en route at a local 'agriturismo' for a traditional rustic lunch, during which we have chance to try the farm's varied local produce in an appetising tasting menu showcasing the best of the region. We continue by coach to Bologna, where we check in at the 4-Star Royal Hotel Carlton, situated in the centre of the city.
The bustling city of Bologna has an unspoilt historic centre, where charming narrow streets are filled with activity and lined with arched porticos and arcaded walkways, all clustered around two main squares, Piazza Maggiore and Piazza del Nettuno. The latter is also home to the striking Neptune's Fountain, a symbol of the city, decorated with magnificent bronze figures. The compact and intricate centre of Bologna, surrounded by the remains of its medieval walls, is perfect for exploring on foot.
Many defensive towers, from the 12th and 13th centuries, are dotted around the city; some lean more than the famous Leaning Tower in Pisa. Bologna's two most famous towers, the Asinelli and the Garisenda, keep watch at the end of Via Rizzoli. The city is known in Italy as 'La Dotta, La Rossa, La Grassa' - 'Educated, Red, Fat.' It is home to Europe's oldest university, is famous for its redtiled roofs and historically left-leaning politics, and is known for its love of fine food and cooking.
This morning we enjoy a guided walking tour of Bologna, taking in the city's many fascinating sights including the two leaning towers (Asinelli and Garisenda) the old Merchent, the Basilica di San Petronio which dominates Bologna's main central square, the Piazza Maggiore and the Archiginnasio Palace. Your afternoon is free to continue sightseeing at leisure.
Today we put on our aprons for a morning's cookery course under the expert tuition of local chefs. We learn to create traditional regional cuisine, including preparation of three of the most typical types of pasta, plus some classic sauces for which the area is renowned. For lunch we relax and enjoy our own creations, washed down with some delicious local wine.
Today we travel to the quintessentially Italian city of Parma, a city bursting with art and culture and the home of Parma ham and Parmesan. In the morning we take a tour of the Parmesan cheese factory - a highlight of any visit to Parma - learning about the production process and the finished cheeses, which weigh as much as 80 pounds each. We also visit a local Parma ham producer for a tour and tasting.
Later we enjoy a guided tour of the city, including the octagonal towered baptistry, which was built from the pink marble of Verona. The baptistry sits in the corner of the cobbled Piazza del Duomo, on which stands Parma's cathedral. Following the tour you have chance to explore Parma further at your own pace.
Wander through the narrow streets and twisting lanes to discover your own vignettes of city life. This evening we travel to a wine estate for a tasting, visiting the vineyards and the wine cellar, followed by a wonderful rustic three-course farewell dinner.
We travel through Switzerland to Strasbourg today, where we overnight and enjoy a final meal together at a local restaurant. If you have chosen to fly back, you will transfer to Bologna airport today for your flight back to the UK. On Day 10 we continue by First Class rail to Paris where we transfer to the Eurostar for our final journey back to London St Pancras.
This tour also has a fly home option. If you return by air your tour will end on Day 9, when you transfer to Bologna airport for your flight to London.
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 all travel arrangements
Comfortable accommodation in your destination
Delicious meals included
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
Enhancing your tour
A First Class rail holiday and Italy's finest cuisine