The Italian Riviera
NO SINGLE SUPPLEMENT*
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. If you have chosen to return by air, you will transfer to Genoa airport today for your flight back to the UK.
On Day 10 we take the high-speed TGV to Paris. Here we connect with the Eurostar to London, where our tour concludes.
We offer a Standard Class and First Class rail options for departures on this tour. You can find out which class each departure is by clicking on the information button in the pricing grid.
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
of travellers would recommend this tour
based on 12 verified reviews
Another great holiday with Great Rail. Excellent hotels and trips well planned. Our tour manager Amanda was perfect in every way. Plus we had our luggage delivered to our hotel by The Baggageman which was ideal.
Hotel stylish, but rather 'tired', and the shower was hopeless.
Well planned programme, but unfortunately there had been no prior information regarding the Rolling Stones event at Lucca, so it was very busy rather than peaceful. Lovely alpine scenery on our journeys there and back.
I filled in the questionnaire at the end of the holiday
This is our fourth GRJ holiday with another already booked at the Adriatic in 2018. This was a great holiday and hotels - we enjoyed the adventure but its a long way on a train .... Some feedback on the three villages excursion - only two village would be much better. The first and last villages are all you need and additional time in both would have been much more enjoyable. The middle village was too crowded and overwhelming for most on the trip and only a single street to the sea - a wast of good time. Tour manager was very good bearing in mind the 38 people in the group
Itinerary was good with good balance of free and escorted time. When one days trip was severely disrupted due to ferry cancellation, the local guide was able to change itinerary and provide a good trip despite the rain At the start of one days trip a fellow traveller was taken ill, the local guide was quick to offer assistance and with agreement of group the escorted element was abandoned and she escorted the lady to hospital to translate - this required adjusting a pm appointment.
Everything was fine with our holiday
The holiday overall was very good, but we weren't too impressed with the way customers were "lied" to by letter before the holiday. This was regarding some customers being demoted to 2nd class (including us) and who were told by Customer Services that the method for choosing who was moved was decided by when the holiday was actually booked. We had booked in September 2016 and found out by talking to other people on the same tour that we were NOT a late booking, but an early booking as stated on our confirmation letter. Others who'd booked early and who were bumped off 1st class also were told the same lie . Not good enough for customer service.
Fabulous location and very friendly group.
Great holiday - Sestri Levante was a superb base. Hotel Villa Balbi grand and room large (elegance category). Only problem was food organized by Grat Rail Journies - either at Villa Balbi or out on day trip. Very poor standard - best if GRJ did not organize any meals other breakfast and stopover overnight meals on train journey to and from destination.
Spellbinding beauty by rail