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A Grand Tour of Italy

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202420252026
12 days From £3,595 per person
4.2 stars(52 reviews)
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An epic discovery tour of six of Italy’s great cultural and artistic cities

Mobility Rating 3

2024 Tour code: IEG24

About the tour

Join us on a magnificent discovery tour of six of Italy's great historic cities, encountering a wealth of artistic and cultural treasures on guided tours of the monumental sites of Ancient Rome, the breathtaking Vatican City and Sistine Chapel, and the dazzling gems of Renaissance Florence. We visit the lovely Tuscan city of Lucca, Pisa's iconic tower, and complete our grand tour in enchanting Venice, where we are captivated by unique light, ornate palaces and serene beauty.

Unforgettable Experiences

Rome and the Vatican City
Rome and the Vatican City
Soak up the spectacular classical sites of Rome and the Vatican City with guided tours of the city’s ancient Roman heritage, and entrance into the impressive Vatican complex.
Florence
Florence
Encounter the dazzling Renaissance treasures of Florence then relax on a refreshing walk along the Arno river, in one of the city’s peaceful parks, or cool off in a shady piazza.
Pisa
Pisa
Visit the iconic sites of Pisa on a tour of the Field of Miracles, where we see the Leaning Tower and the white marble Duomo, and enjoy free time in the beautiful walled medieval city of Lucca.
Venice
Venice
Experience the unique ambience of the ethereal floating city of Venice, its extraordinary history and stunning architecture on a guided tour of its highlights and hidden gems.

What’s included

Itinerary

Day 1 - From London to Turin: Straight to Italy

Our holiday starts when we meet our Tour Manager and fellow travellers at London St Pancras and board the Eurostar to Paris. Travelling in style in spacious Standard Premier Class we are served a light meal at our seats. From the French capital, we continue by First Class rail to Chambéry. After a short break, we board a comfortable coach for a beautiful journey through the Alps. Enroute, we enjoy stops to absorb the incredible views of towering, alpine peaks, before arriving in Turin where we spend the night. We have our first dinner together in this dignified Italian city.

Some departures dates will have a different itinerary on this day due to Italian engineering works - click here to see affected dates

Includes
  • Dinner
  • Eurostar Light Meal
Day 2 - A morning in Turin and arrival in glorious Rome

With a morning free in Turin there's time to explore our attractive surroundings. This dignified city is an important centre of business, finance and technology, but is also a showcase of Baroque, Renaissance and modern architecture. Fringed by the Italian alps, the city's wide boulevards and grand public squares are lined with enticing cafés and bars.

This afternoon we travel by rail, past the French and Italian Alps, continuing to glorious Rome, still regarded by many as the centre of the world. From the remains of the ancient Roman Empire to its delightful Baroque fountains and enticing cafés, there are endless places to experience in the 'Eternal City' and we have three nights here to explore. Our luxuriously furnished hotel is perfectly placed for seeing Rome's major sites. Tonight we have dinner with our group.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 3 - Touring Rome’s iconic landmarks and experiencing La Dolce Vita

This morning we're introduced to Rome's most iconic landmarks on a guided tour. We transfer by coach to the awe-inspiring Colosseum, Italy's world-acclaimed classical site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, where our tour begins. Please note that entry is not included but you may like to return to the site during your free time in Rome. We see the impressive Roman Forum, once the powerful governing centre of ancient Rome, the elegant Piazza Venezia and the Roman Pantheon, a stunning architectural masterpiece.

We also visit the fabulous Trevi Fountain and take a short break at Giolitti, the oldest gelateria in the city. There we enjoy gelato at the same charming parlour visited by Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in the classic film 'Roman Holiday'. Our tour ends in Piazza Navona, an atmospheric square where you're free to soak up Rome's beauty and effortless style and continue at your own pace for the rest of the afternoon and evening. Before you leave the square, take time to admire the famous Fiumi Fountain, the 'Fountain of the Four Rivers' with a statue sculpted by Bernini.

Within 15 minutes' walk of Piazza Navona are the wonderful Spanish Steps. Walk up here, and you'll reach Pincian Hill and Villa Borghese park - a vast green expanse of landscaped gardens where you can relax, or see stunning art and sculpture in the Borghese Gallery (advance booking necessary).

Tonight you dine independently, and there are countless eating places to discover in the central part of the city where we are based. Maybe choose a traditional trattoria to enjoy a delicious bowl of pasta, or opt for a more formal dinner in a ristorante.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 4 - The Vatican

This morning is a highlight of our holiday as we are taken by coach for a tour of the Vatican City. As the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican is not only home to the Pope, but also to an incredible vault of art and architecture. In the Vatican Museums we see some of ancient Rome's most significant sculptures and some of the world's greatest Renaissance treasures. Not least, we experience the breathtaking frescoes which cover the walls and ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo, Perugino, and Botticelli.

After this absorbing tour, you are at leisure for the rest of the afternoon and evening. You're free to remain in the Vatican City complex for as long as you wish, or transfer back to the hotel before continuing your sightseeing of this amazing city. Many great architects and artists of the Renaissance period were involved in creating this masterpiece and you have the option of climbing the cathedral dome, using a lift or the stairs.

Nearby the Vatican, overlooking the Tiber, is the Castel Sant'Angelo, once used by the Popes as a defensive castle. From the top of the building you have the most outstanding views over the city of Rome, and at sunset the light casts a beautiful glow over the city.

Rome offers countless places to eat, often alfresco, where you can enjoy a simple bowl of delicious pasta or a slice of crispy pizza with a glass of wine, or enjoy people watching from a café or gelateria.

This evening is free to dine independently, and you may like to explore beyond the city centre. Hidden away from the main tourist hubs, across a bridge of the Tiber River, is a lively medieval district called Trastevere. Here you can experience authentic Rome, soak up the character and charm of this foodie suburb, favoured by local residents as well as an increasing number of tourists.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 5 - By rail to Florence and a guided tour of the world’s Renaissance capital

We travel by rail to Florence, the Renaissance capital of the world, where we spend three nights. After checking in to our central, stylishly decorated 4-star hotel on the fashion street of Via Tornabuoni there's time to relax over lunchtime before we set out on a guided tour of the city and some of its wonderful treasures.

Our tour of this wonderful city takes in the striking terracotta-tiled Duomo, which dominates the centre of Florence, and the ornate free-standing campanile tower designed by Giotto. We also pass the beautiful Santa Maria Novella Church and its delightful piazza, the legendary Ponte Vecchio, the city's renowned medieval bridge which is now lined with jewellery shops. Other striking squares which we encounter include Piazza della Signoria and Piazza della Repubblica.

At the end of our tour, you're free to return to our hotel at leisure. There's time to do a little local shopping, or maybe enjoy a refreshing drink in one of Florence's enchanting squares, before dinner this evening.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 6 - A free day to savour the unique sights, scents and flavours of Florence

Today you're free to discover Florence at your own pace. Besides spectacular architecture and fantastic piazzas, the city's galleries and Medici palaces are overflowing with Renaissance Art. If you'd like to see Michelangelo's statue of David, there are impressive copies in the Piazza della Signoria - one of the city's main squares - and the Piazzale Michelangelo. The original statue is inside the Accademia, along with other early-medieval works of Florentine artists. Florence's most famous art venue, the Uffizi Gallery is within a short walk from our hotel and has an astonishing collection - however, please note that queues can be long so it helps to book ahead.

You could make your way to one of the city's roof terraces for lunch or stroll across the river for a peaceful walk through the vast Boboli Gardens, designed for the Medici family and opened in 1766, this relaxing green space has fragrant flowerbeds, Renaissance statues and great views of the city and beyond. To experience life as a local, visit one of Florence's great markets. Mercato di San Lorenzo is the city's largest where you'll find stalls of delicious fresh produce, leather goods and unique crafts, an indoor and outdoor dining area, and a Chianti wine booth.

This evening you're free to make your own dining choice and the central districts of Florence have dozens of inviting options. The city has a reputation for excellent cuisine - from rare beef steak on the bone, humble osterias or traditional family-run trattorias serving Tuscan bean stew and aubergine parmigiana, to formal ristorantes offering dishes featuring wild boar, truffles, and fabulous cheese platters - the same pride in preparing food is evident in each establishment.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 7 - A tour of Pisa’s iconic sights, and time at leisure in Lucca

This morning we rail across rural Tuscany, travelling among rolling hillsides and olive groves, to visit two of Italy's smaller, but impressive historic cities. We arrive in Pisa where a guided tour introduces us to the famous Field of Miracles. Here, we see Pisa's iconic Leaning Tower, and the striking Romanesque Duomo, which glows in white marble.

We continue by rail to Lucca, a beautiful walled medieval city where you are free to explore. Lucca is a pleasure to wander around on foot, but to avoid getting lost you might like to pick up a map at the Tourist Office. The maze-like centre of Lucca has a Duomo and many unusual churches, each overlooking vast piazzas with their own unique character. The Piazza Anfiteatro, once a Roman amphitheatre, still has some of the spirit of its past - and around this part of the city are many small restaurants and cafés in which to find lunch. Lucca also has a peaceful botanical garden, art galleries, and a tranquil ornamental garden which you can visit at Palazzo Pfanner, all inside the city walls. Another wonderful way to see this Renaissance city is from above, on a walk along its perfectly preserved walls.

We return to Florence by rail at the end of the afternoon and this evening you are free to dine independently.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 8 - Arrival in the floating city of Venice, known as La Serenissima

After a leisurely morning we board the train for the next magical part of our grand tour, a stay in Venice. On arrival, we are taken by private boat directly to the waterfront of our stylish 4-Star hotel on the island of Murano where we spend the next three nights. Away from the crowds of Venice, and with a more laid-back atmosphere, this picturesque island is actually a group of small islands joined by bridges, and it has a frequent ferry boat connection with the main island.

Renowned worldwide for its glass production heritage, Murano is more residential than the mainland and features traditional Venetian architecture with pretty canals of ochre-toned buildings. The remainder of the day is free, for you to relax or explore independently before we gather again for dinner this evening.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 9 - Walking tour of Venice and time to experience this atmospheric city

This morning we are taken by boat to discover the beautiful sites of Venice on a guided walking tour. An intricate network of lagoons and canals makes this one of the most unique cities in the world, and, along with its romantic heritage, the city has enchanted visitors for centuries. With our local guide we tour the hidden backstreets, viewing the church where composer Antonio Vivaldi was baptised, and the nostalgic Bridge of Sighs before arriving in St Mark's Square. This magnificent piazza has been the heart and soul of Venice for hundreds of years and its breathtaking beauty has inspired many artists, most notably Canaletto. It is here that we view the stunning St Mark's Basilica and the towering campanile of the Doge's Palace, which was once a political powerhouse and the residence of the Doge of Venice - today it's preserved as a fascinating museum. On two sides of the square are historic cafés including the famous Caffè Florian, a coffee house that first opened in 1720.

After our tour, we are free to explore independently and may opt to enter St Mark's Basilica or the Doge's Palace. Venice lends itself to idle wandering, and one of the best way to enjoy its charms is to let yourself get lost in the myriad of winding alleys and twisting lanes that make up the historic centre, discovering how it got its nickname of 'La Serenissima'. There's a host of incredible art and architecture to discover, possibly before settling down in a charming restaurant to enjoy some of the country's finest seafood. Experience it like a local by ordering some cicchetti, Venetian tapas, and a glass of one of the city's signature drinks - prosecco, Aperol spritz or Bellini.

You may choose to have dinner on the main island of Venice before making your own way back to Murano by ferry or water taxi. The ferry service is every 30 minutes between Venice and Murano, and runs into the evening. Please check at the ferry points for the last departure time.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 10 - A day at leisure to explore Venice and its islands

Today is free to soak up the atmosphere of enchanting Venice. For a bird's eye view of this sensational city of islands, maybe climb the Campanile di San Marco, which offers incredible vistas over the centre and shimmering lagoons further out. The Basilica di San Marco is well worth entering, with its rich interiors and dazzling Byzantine features, but it is a popular site for tourists. There are an incredible number of other churches to visit in Venice, 170 to be precise, ranging from Romanesque to Gothic and Baroque. If you choose only one, the San Giorgio Maggiore church is considered a beauty - with a stunning façade, artworks by Tintoretto, and a classic view of Venice. The church is one vaporetto stop from St Mark's square, at the San Zaccaria stop.

You may also like to visit the Peggy Guggenheim gallery which is just across the bridge in a residential neighbourhood of the city called Dorsoduro. There is a small garden and views of the canal. This side of the island has a lot of character and offers several waterside eating places, as do the districts of San Polo and Cannaregio where you can eat like a local on Venetian classics such as clam risotto or squid ink pasta.

Of course the ultimate Venice experience is to take a captivating gondola ride through the city's luminous canals - gliding beneath ancient bridges, passing ornate Venetian palazzos and historic buildings - the perfect way to fall under the spell of this ethereal city.

This evening we are transferred by private boat for dinner in a popular restaurant.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 11 - Crossing the Alps by rail to Switzerland

After saying arrivederci to Venice, we take the train across northern Italy to Milan. In this stylish city, we change trains for a beautiful journey into Switzerland. The scenery becomes even more dramatic as we emerge in Switzerland, with huge, snow-tinted mountains guiding us towards glimmering lakes, backed by incredible peaks and dotted with charming alpine villages.

Arriving at our destination, we check in to our hotel near Basel station and enjoy a final dinner at our hotel this evening.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 12 - Homeward Bound

Leaving Basel after breakfast this morning, we travel by First Class rail to Paris. On this comfortable and relaxing journey, we have time to reflect on the special moments of our grand tour, and maybe share memories with fellow travellers and new friends. On arrival in the French capital, we change trains, joining the Eurostar service to London St Pancras travelling in spacious Standard Premier Class with a light meal served at our seats.

Includes
  • Breakfast
  • Eurostar Light Meal

Additional information

Departure Information

Some departures dates will have run a different itinerary due to Italian engineering works - click here to see affected dates

Departure times

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.

Mobility information

Due to the nature of our tours they are generally unsuitable for those with restricted mobility. If you’d like to discuss any particular holiday with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.

Hotels

Hotel de la Ville

Hotel de la Ville, Florence

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Bettoja Hotel Massimo D’Azeglio, Rome

Bettoja Hotel Massimo D’Azeglio, Rome

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Bettoja Hotel Mediterraneo, Rome

Bettoja Hotel Mediterraneo, Rome

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Republic Hotel, Rome

Republic Hotel, Rome

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NH Collection

NH Collection Murano Villa

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Hyatt Centric Murano Venice, Murano

Hyatt Centric Murano Venice, Murano

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Monti Palace Hotel, Rome

Monti Palace Hotel, Rome

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Trains

Eurostar
Frecciargento
Frecciarossa
TGV
Trenitalia

Enhance your holiday

Upgrades

London Hotels
UK rail connections
Door to door luggage service

Reviews

4.2 stars4.2 / 5 · 52 reviews

  1. 5 stars
    (29)
  2. 4 stars
    (13)
  3. 3 stars
    (5)
  4. 2 stars
    (1)
  5. 1 star
    (4)

Pete.

5 stars

Submitted 5/Jul

Great holiday, fantastic itinerary, with a well informed guide who solved any issues promptly

Collected by Trustpilot

Paul Mueller

4 stars

Submitted 23/May

For the most part, we loved it

from Great Rail Journeys
Dear Paul, Thank you for your review and for sharing those wonderful photos! Kind regards, Sophie.
1 comment

Collected by Trustpilot

Bill Warrick

3 stars

Submitted 01 Nov 2023

Comprehensive tour covering most of the main sites. Upset we did not visit the Colosseum or the Forum ( Forum was included in the itinerary ). Tour manager ill prepared and appeared unable to cope, continually complaining about Great Rail. The Vatican tour was arranged for a day when the Pope always has an audience in the mornings, hence our tour was rushed and no time to spend in Vatican City after the arranged tour. Why did this happen? Staying in Venice would have been a better option, rather than travelling back and forth to Murano.

from Great Rail Journeys
Dear Mr Warrick, Thank you for taking the time to leave your review. I am glad to hear that the tour was comprehensive, but I am sorry to hear that it fell short of expectations. I will make sure to pass your feedback across to our Product and Tour Management teams who can review this tour itinerary for the future and make sure additional training is provided for the Tour Manager. Kind regards, Sophie.
1 comment

Collected by Trustpilot

Paul Darlington

3 stars

Submitted 31 Oct 2023

There were things outside anyone's control e.g. the heatwave and enormous crowds which lessened the enjoyment of the holiday ,this was particularly the case in Rome.However Florence was outstandingly beautiful .We very much enjoyed staying on Murano which offered the best of both worlds i.e. easy access to Venice but away from the crowds.The private boat trips to and from Venice were very enjoyable.The standard of the hotels was good however some of the evening meals ,included in the holiday cost, were quite poor.The tour manager ,Stella ,coped very well with all emergencies.

Collected by Trustpilot

Robert

3 stars

Submitted 26 Oct 2023

Florence and Venice hotels great, Rome was poor, well past its best. Guided tour of Vatican was terrible, just one mad rush, no time to view anything and too many people, great rail need to change the Vatican tour day away from a Wednesday when the pope gives his address. Also guided tours were generally poor, we never even walked round the Colosseum let alone go in! Group meals were also of a generally low standard, particularly in Florence and Venice, definitely worth avoiding if you are expecting quality meals in nice surroundings. Great rail need to up their game, standards are definitely dropping. Tour manager was also a last minute stand in and it showed.

Collected by Trustpilot

Dear Mr Johnston

1 stars

Submitted 26 Oct 2023

Very disappointed, not what we expected, poor in every aspect.

Collected by Trustpilot

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