Italian Culinary Adventure: From the Lakes District to the Amalfi Coast - 2019

Lakes District • Venice • Florence • Rome • Naples • Sorrento • Amalfi Coast
  • $499
  • 14
  • 29
15 DAYS FROM $8,198
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Sorrento, Italy

3 DAYS FROM $799

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Recapture the romance of a journey by rail as you travel from Lake Maggiore in the foothills of the Italian Alps to the lemon groves of the spectacular Amalfi Coast on this one-of-a-kind Italy train tour with Vantage Travel. Combining quiet, relaxing travel on Italy’s superb high-speed trains with stopovers in smaller hotels in lakeside Stresa and the centers of Venice, Florence, Rome, and Sorrento, this special trip provides a curated, small group experience of the very best of Italy. Along the way, you’ll visit at least 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, enjoy local food and wine tastings, enlightening lectures, firsthand encounters with local artisans, and active experiences that put you in touch with the land and the people. Traveling solo? Take advantage of Vantage’s limited free Single Supplements on every departure while enjoying the security and conviviality of your small group.

Your journey begins on idyllic Lake Maggiore, where mirror-like waters reflect towering mountain peaks. Ride a gondola on the still waters of Venice’s most picturesque canals, discover the riches of the Renaissance in Florence’s most renowned galleries, experience Rome’s haunting blend of elegance and decay and visit the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica. Your final destination is beautiful Sorrento, the gateway to the spectacular Amalfi Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, featuring plummeting sea cliffs dotted with lemon groves and hillside villages. This one-of-a-kind small group journey is a true value to Europe’s most sought-after destination. Don’t miss out on this Italian adventure in 2019.

Stresa to Sorrento

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DAY 1:

Fly overnight to Milan, Italy

Your journey begins with an overnight flight to Milan, Italy.

DAY 2:

Arrive Milan, then transfer overland to Stresa for this evening’s Welcome Dinner

Upon arrival in Milan, transfer by motorcoach to Stresa, an idyllic resort town situated on picturesque Lake Maggiore. Settle into your hotel room, which features a guaranteed (direct or partial) lake view. This evening, gather for a Welcome Cocktail in Stresa's only rooftop bar, with an informative trip briefing by your Adventure Leader, followed by a Welcome Dinner at the hotel.

Included Meals:


DAY 3:

Cruise Lake Maggiore to the Borromean Islands; optional Lake Orta cruise

Active Feature and Unforgettable Moment: This morning, set out on a private Lake Maggiore cruise to the enchanting Borromean Islands, a trio of tiny islands settled by an aristocratic Italian family in the 16th and 17th centuries. Beginning on Isola Madre, enjoy a guided walking tour of its English-style botanical gardens, followed by free time. Continue on to Isola Bella for a tour of its stunning Baroque palace, and time to stroll its lovely grounds and Italian gardens. Conclude your island tour on picturesque Isola Dei Pescatori, where you’ll have lunch on your own in the quaint fishing village. Upon return to the lakeside hotel, you may explore Stresa at your own pace.  Or, travel off the beaten path for an optional Lake Orta cruise. Cultural Discovery: Later, an enlightening lecture will give you an inside look at daily life in Italy’s lakes region. You’re free to do — and dine — as you choose, this evening.

Included Meals:

Optional Tour: Tour to Lake Orta

Tour to Lake Orta

  • Approximate Cost: $89 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 4 hours
  • Location: Stresa, Italy
  • When: Half-day tour

Board a private boat cruise across Lake Orta, one of the jewels of Italy’s gorgeous lakes region. Little-known, but big on beauty, Lake Orta was credited by both Friedrich Nietzsche and Honoré de Balzac as a creative muse of unsurpassed magnificence, with Balzac calling it a “grey pearl in a green jewel-box.” Your visit takes you on a scenic route along the lakeshore to the romantic village of Orta San Giulio, where you’ll find a maze of cobblestoned lanes, boutiques, antique shops, cafes and restaurants, before visiting the enchanting Isola San Giulio. Featuring a 12th-century basilica and 10th-century monastery, this fairytale island is mostly pedestrian-only, offering plenty of opportunities to explore the ancient homes and architecture. Enjoy a panoramic drive back to the hotel.

DAY 4:

Exploring Venice

Today, it’s off to Venice — the celebrated “City of Canals” founded in the fifth century — via Italy’s high-speed rail. Cultural Discovery: As you transfer to Milan to catch the train, learn to communicate like a local during a special “Italian With Words and Without” language lesson. With speeds of up to 190 mph and premium first-class seating, the luxurious high-speed rail line will transport you to Venice just in time for an afternoon at leisure. Yet it’s easy to be immediately captivated by Venice and its sweeping architecture and ambience, and your hotel in the heart of Venice makes it easy to get right into the city’s action; you may treat yourself to an Aperol spritz and find a seat at one of Venice’s many al fresco cafés to people watch, or rest up for the busy day ahead.

Culinary Feature: Dinner at a local trattoria introduces you to authentic Venetian cuisine, and the area is known for its seafood as well as tapas-style bites known as cicchetti (chi-ket-ee). These crostini-style finger foods are eponymous in Venice, and feature toppings ranging from sardines to prosciutto to grilled vegetables and cheese.

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 5:

Market visit and tasting, highlights of Venice plus mask-making demonstration

Culinary Feature: After breakfast today, head to a local food market for a presentation about Italian cuisine. You’ll learn some inside tidbits about everything from prosciutto to cheese, as well as the sweets of southern Italy, while tasting some delicious local products, too.

Then you’ll discover more of this magical floating city — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — during a sightseeing tour by private boat, which takes you along the Grand Canal from the hotel to St. Mark's Basilica.

Curving gracefully through Venice for two miles, the main water traffic route is lined by dramatic centuries-old palaces, churches, hotels, and other buildings in an eclectic array of architectural styles. Cultural Discovery: Learn about the traditional Venetian art of mask-making during a live demonstration by a local craftsman. Following the tour, a public boat trip (optional) back to the hotel will give you a glimpse of daily life in Venice. Enjoy the rest of the day to explore and dine on your own.

Included Meals:


DAY 6:

Venetian lagoon excursion to Murano and Burano islands, evening gondola ride

Active feature: After breakfast, join your Adventure Leader for a walk through scenic backstreets to the Venice Lagoon and a boat excursion to two of its many islands. Your first stop, Murano, is a cluster of seven bridge-linked islands with an ancient glass-making tradition. Cultural Discovery: Visit one of Murano’s famous glass factories for a live glassblowing demonstration by one of its skilled artisans. Conclude your boat tour on the neighboring island of Burano — known for its colorfully painted houses and handcrafted lace — where you’ll have lunch on your own. Upon returning to “mainland” Venice, spend the afternoon and evening as you please, then prepare yourself for a classic Italian experience.

Unforgettable Moment: See the city in true Venetian style on a romantic gondola ride — accompanied by serenades from your gondolier. Enjoy an evening at leisure tonight, with dinner on your own — the perfect way to explore Venice's flavors.

Included Meals:


DAY 7:

High-speed rail journey to Florence plus viewing of Michelangelo’s David

Say “arrivederci” to Venice this morning when you depart for Florence — considered the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. Enjoy views from aboard your high-speed train as it passes through Italy’s scenic Veneto, Emilia Romagna, and Tuscany regions en route to the Tuscan capital. Upon arrival at your centrally located hotel, head to a local restaurant for lunch with another Culinary Feature: A delicious gelato tasting! Gelato boasts a higher proportion of milk versus cream and eggs (and often features no eggs at all), making for a lighter (calorie-wise), yet denser, dessert experience.

This afternoon, take a guided sightseeing tour of Florence, whose historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cultural Discovery: A tour of the Accademia Gallery — whose world-renowned art collection includes Michelangelo’s David, among other notable works — will introduce you to the city’s rich artistic history.

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 8:

Florence’s renowned Uffizi Gallery and Chianti countryside winery excursion

Today, delve even more deeply into Florence’s artistic heritage at another of its renowned art museums. Cultural Discovery: Visit the celebrated Uffizi Gallery to explore work by some of Italy’s revered Renaissance masters — such as Michelangelo, da Vinci, Botticelli, and Raphael. Following your morning tour, the afternoon is yours to dine and discover the city at your own pace.

Unforgettable Moment and Culinary Feature: Tonight, take a short (and scenic!) drive out to the Chianti countryside to savor this region's world-revered gastronomy and viniculture during an exclusive wine tasting and dinner in the cinematic Tuscan hills. You'll visit a local wine producer at a 16th-century villa that features 49 hectares of vineyards growing the sangiovese grapes used to produce the Chianti wine for which the region is renowned. The villa also produces its own extra virgin olive oil, which you’ll be able to try, along with some local wine, before savoring a meal of local specialties that have been paired with complimentary wines to enrich every bite. You’ll dine surrounded by centuries-old cypress trees, a geometric Italian garden, and an expansive field — don’t forget your camera for this truly magical evening.

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 9:

Free day in Florence or optional Vinci, Lucca, & Pisa excursion

Following a leisurely breakfast at your hotel, enjoy a full day of independent sightseeing. From Florence’s museums and palaces to cathedrals and bridges, a wealth of cultural, historical, and architectural treasures await you! Or, return to the Tuscan countryside with an optional three-city tour featuring Vinci, birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci; Lucca, a charming walled town; and the ancient city of Pisa — home to the infamous Leaning Tower. Tonight enjoy dinner back at the hotel.

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner
Optional Tour: Tuscan Countryside: Vinci, Lucca & Pisa

Tuscan Countryside: Vinci, Lucca & Pisa

  • Approximate Cost: $189 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 6 hours
  • Location: Florence, Italy
  • When: Full-day tour
This optional excursion to the Tuscan countryside features visits to three of the iconic region’s highlights. Your first stop is in Vinci, a town set among the hilly Tuscan landscape of olive groves and vineyards — and birthplace of the Renaissance polymath, Leonardo da Vinci. Your tour Tuscan tour will continue in ancient Lucca, a Renaissance walled city of cobbled streets, grand squares, and palaces. And conclude your Tuscan jaunt in Pisa, a historic gem best-known for its infamous 14th-century Leaning Tower and renowned university, and as the birthplace of the great philosopher and scientist, Galileo.

DAY 10:

High-speed rail journey to Rome and panoramic city tour

This morning, depart for Rome by high-speed rail. Take in picturesque views as you pass through the Umbria and Lazio regions en route to Italy’s sprawling capital. Culinary Feature: After checking into the hotel, join your fellow travelers for a welcoming lunch at a local restaurant, featuring homemade tiramisu.

Active Feature: Then, enjoy a guided panoramic tour (by motorcoach and on foot) of Rome’s historic center — a UNESCO World Heritage Site whose highlights include the iconic Coliseum, ancient Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Circus Maximus, and other historic sites. This evening, have dinner on your own at one of Rome’s many revered restaurants.

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 11:

Vatican Museums tour with fast-track entrance, visiting St. Peter’s Basilica, and a gala dinner in the Eternal City

Awake today in Rome and prepare for a true Italian highlight — a tour of the Vatican Museums in the UNESCO-listed Vatican City. Cultural Discovery: Enjoy fast-track entrance to these world-renowned museums, featuring an exceptional collection of classical sculptures, Renaissance art, and the Michelangelo-painted Sistine Chapel. Unforgettable Moment: After the museums, enter St. Peter’s Basilica — an Italian Renaissance-style church among Christianity’s holiest sites and, until recently, the world’s largest church (it's now the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro on the Ivory Coast!). Enjoy an afternoon at leisure, with lunch on your own.

Culinary Feature: Tonight, you’ll experience timeless Italian elegance during a gala dinner at Rome’s Michelin-lauded Mirabelle Restaurant, which offers exceptional cuisine, an enviable wine list, and panoramic views of Villa Borghese, Trinità dei Monti, and St. Peter’s Basilica from its location on the seventh floor of the Hotel Splendide Royal. The hotel features one of the most spectacular terraces in Rome — bring your camera!

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 12:

Free time, optional Christian Rome tour, and Rome by Night excursion

Enjoy Rome as you please today. You can also opt to travel back to ancient Rome on an optional “Christian Rome” tour featuring visits to the underground Christian catacombs and the Roman Gladiator School — where a live theatrical presentation will introduce you to the history and artistry of Rome’s ancient professional fighters. Cultural Discoveries: Set out for a panoramic “Rome by Night” tour, including a walk through the historic and eclectic Trastevere district, and dinner and live entertainment at a neighborhood restaurant. Now that your probably feeling at least a little bit Italian yourself, you'll also enjoy your Adventure Leader's discussion on what makes an Italian an Italian. To cap off your final evening in Rome, enjoy some delicious gelato — an Italian favorite similar to ice cream — alongside the stunning Trevi Fountain.

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner
Optional Tour: Christian Rome: Catacombs & Gladiator School

Christian Rome: Catacombs & Gladiator School

  • Approximate Cost: $199 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 4 hours
  • Location: Rome, Italy
  • When: Half-day tour
Join us for a fascinating tour that takes you along the Appian Way, the ancient Roman road, to the site where Rome’s early Christians dug burial chambers deep into the soft tufa soil underlying the region. Ultimately, the dense network of interlocking passageways and chambers descended five levels below ground level. Accompanied by your guide, you’ll descend into the catacombs, where you’ll see hundreds of individual burial chambers hollowed out of the walls, as well as small chapels and shrines standing at several junctures, often with their statuary, mosaics, and religious frescoes still intact. It’s an eerie, yet deeply illuminating, window into the past. 

From there, focus on another facet of early Roman life, as you visit a Gladiator School to learn how the warrior-slaves trained, what they wore, the various ranks of gladiators, and common fighting techniques. At the conclusion, you’ll be able to don gladiator garb and choose weaponry  to engage in mock combat. It’s sure to be an entertaining and informative session!

DAY 13:

High-speed rail journey to Naples, explore Pompeii, and relax in Sorrento

After breakfast, transfer to the Rome train station to begin the final high-speed leg of your Italian adventure. Arriving by train late this morning, you’ll enjoy a panoramic sightseeing tour of Naples’ historic city center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest city center in Europe. Culinary Feature: Lunch brings you to a local restaurant where you can order some excellent Neapolitan pizza in the city where it originated, or to try Neapolitan cuisine and contrast it from the cuisine you enjoyed in northern Italy.

Active Feature and Cultural Discovery: Your tour continues with a guided visit to the well-preserved ruins of Pompeii, an ancient Roman city buried when Mount Vesuvius erupted in back in 79 AD. With a fascinating day of discovery under your belt, transfer to the lovely coastal city of Sorrento for dinner on your own and an evening at leisure.

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 14:

Amalfi Coast excursion and agriturismo Farewell Dinner and pizza-making

Waking up in Sorrento today, you have a day of sightseeing along the Amalfi Coast to look forward to. Beginning in the picturesque hillside village of Positano, embark a scenic coastal cruise toward stunning Amalfi — admiring the dramatic beauty, craggy Mediterranean landscape, and charming cliffside towns scattered along the way. And upon returning your home base of Sorrento, join your Adventure Leader for a guided walking tour of this historic hill town. After lunch on your own, spend the afternoon exploring Sorrento’s winding streets and centuries-old sites at your own pace.

Culinary Feature and Cultural Discovery: This evening’s menu features a fun, flavorful visit to a local agriturismo — a farm offering fresh, locally grown and produced food, as well as welcoming tourist accommodations. Get a taste of local culture and cuisine as you help prepare an authentic Italian pizza — traditionally served as an appetizer in Italy — from fresh local ingredients. Afterward, we'll sit down to our fabulous Farewell Dinner, prepared at the agriturismo from the bounty of the region. The perfect way to conclude a delicioso visit to beautiful Italy!

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 15:

Depart Sorrento and fly home from Naples, or stay on to enjoy your optional Sorrento extension

Today, transfer to the Naples airport for your flight home — or begin the first evening of your post-trip extension here.

Included Meals:


Post-Trip Extension

Sorrento, Italy


Important Notice: The above day-by-day itineraries are preliminary and therefore subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Vantage Adventure Leader or regional expert.

Please Note: The hotels listed are preliminary and subject to change. Although we contract our hotels a year in advance, unforeseen situations do occasionally occur. Should it be necessary to change a hotel, one of equal quality and value will be substituted. You will receive verified hotel information with your final itinerary. That hotel ratings are based on the Hotel and a leading travel industry authority on hotels throughout the world.

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Italian Culinary Adventure: From the Lakes District to the Amalfi Coast - 2019

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