Spellbinding beauty by rail
Colourful villages cling to the dramatic coastline of the Italian Riviera, with the glittering Mediterranean delivering picture-postcard vistas in every direction and glamorous yachts clamouring for attention alongside quaint fishing boats.
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, or discover the magnificent cathedral and Egyptian Museum, before we begin our journey to Sestri Levante, a picturesque town 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 seven nights. Set in a stunning 19th century mansion, the hotel is surrounded by 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 delight. On one side is the Bay of Fairytales, 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 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 explore the Cinque Terre - five picturesque villages set on the coast: Monterosso, Vernazza, Manarola, Corniglia and Riomaggiore. The villages are set within 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. We visit Riomaggiore, before continuing by train to Vernazza and Manarola, with time to explore with our local guide.
Today we cruise to the famous resort of Portofino, a glorious Italian fishing village surrounded by olive groves and pine trees. Considered one of the most beautiful Mediterranean ports, the town has a stunning harbour surrounded by pastelpainted houses. The resort is really no more than a small fishing village, but thanks to its unique beauty, has become a popular tourist destination.
Lunch is served in a local restaurant before we continue along the stunning coastline to the Abbey of San Fruttuoso, which was originally built in the 10th century. 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 the property of the Princes of Doria. Underwater, in the sea in front of the abbey, is a statue of 'Christ in the Abyss', said to protect local divers and sailors from watery peril.
Please note: landing at San Fruttuoso is dependent on weather. 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 admire the winding medieval streets, charming buildings and harbour views on a walk through the town centre.
This morning we travel by coach to Pisa, where we enjoy a guided tour that includes the Campo dei Miracoli, or 'Field of Miracles.' Here we see the worldfamous Leaning Tower, which began to tilt as soon as it was built 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. We also see the white marble Duomo, often overlooked by tourists but a true gem in its own right with its beautiful façade and sublime Moorish mosaics.
This afternoon we visit the city of Lucca - one of Tuscany's best-kept secrets and a place of true beauty. 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. We enjoy free time to explore or perhaps 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 were at sea. Set on a steep hill, Camogli climbs from the harbour and dark pebble beaches, up 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 a farewell dinner in the hotel this evening.
Today we travel west through Italy by rail, travelling along the stunning Ligurian coastline to Nice, where we spend the night. This evening, you are free to explore Nice at leisure. On Day 10 we take the high-speed TGV to Paris. Here we connect with the Eurostar to London, where our tour concludes.
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
NEW FOR 2020: Inclusive Luggage Transfer
Enhancing your tour
Please note: This tour may be suitable for reduced mobility passengers, please call for further information.
of travellers would recommend this tour
based on 28 verified reviews
The holiday 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 holiday - 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 holiday 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