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Travel across Italy by train on a fast-paced adventure taking in the sights and delights of some of Italy's most iconic cities. Stroll and sip a spritz alongside the canals of Venice, wander the food markets of Bologna, gaze out over the breath-taking beauty of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo and people watch in the piazzas of Rome.
Explore Tour Leader
6 nights comfortable hotel
Trip maximum 16 Explore average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
The trip starts today in Venice, a city built on 118 islands linked by bridges and canals in the shallow Venetian lagoon. Once home to an empire, the city is now famous for its art, music and food culture; all of which we hope to experience during our stay.
Your trip Leader plans to meet everyone at the hotel for a welcome meeting today at 6pm and for those that wish, there is the chance to go out for dinner afterwards for your first taste of Venetian cuisine. There are no activities planned before the group meeting at 6pm tonight, so you can arrive any time before then. Should you miss the meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up.
If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE). The transfer will be by shared taxi and takes around 45 minutes with our hotel a further 5 minutes walk.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day and you wish to explore simply head out on foot and lose yourself among the canals and narrow passageways of the city as you soak in its unique atmosphere. With so much to see and do in Venice itself and the surrounding islands you could easily spend several days here. If this is your first visit we recommend arriving early and booking additional hotel nights before the trip starts.
Whether arriving by included taxi transfer, or making your own way to the hotel, please note that as vehicles are unable enter the narrow steets of the island you will need to make your own way on foot (around 700 metres, 10 minutes walk) from the drop off point at Piazzale Roma. Walk across the big bridge (Ponte della Costituzione) over the Grand Canal and continue straight past Santa Lucia train station to your left. After the train station turn left into the second street (Calle de la Misericordia). After a few minutes you will find Calle Pesaro and the Hotel Villa Rosa on your right-hand side.
Hotel Villa Rosa (or similar)
We'll waste no time this morning in getting to the know the city, heading out on a walking orientation tour through the backstreets of Cannaregio, across the Rialto Bridge into Saint Mark's Square, home to Saint Mark's Basilica, one of the city's most famous landmarks. We'll see the Famous Bridge of Sighs and beautiful Doge's Palace before heading across the water by vaporetto water bus to the San Giorgio Maggiore Bell Tower for a bird's-eye view of this simply fabulous city. Afterwards you are free to continue discovering the essence of this enchanting city at your own pace. There are two ways to explore - on foot, losing yourself among the myriad passageways and piazza, or by boat, catching the vaporetto (water buses) that criss-cross along the canals or maybe even indulging in a gondola ride. We will provide you with a vaporetto day pass for you to use in your explorations, it's an easy and relaxing way to cruise around the city. Take in famous sights such the Grand Canal, Rialto Bridge, Doge's Palace, enjoy art and antiquities in world-class galleries and museums such as the Gallerie dell'Accademia, Peggy Guggenheim Collection and Palazzo Ducale. Browse the city's artisanal shops - glassware produced on the nearby island of Murano, leatherware, paperware and of course papier mache carnivale masks. Along the way be sure to stop off at a local bar for an aperativo and cicchetti, delectable Venetian small plates consisting of bite sized snacks. Popular plates include salt cod on polenta, fried meatballs, octopus salad, mini panini alongside simpler items like olives or boiled eggs.
We travel by high speed train this morning to the historic city of Bologna, the capital of Emilia Romagna. The city is famous for its arched porticoes which make it possible to walk for long distances sheltered from the elements; there are over 45 kilometres of arcade in the greater city. Bologna is also renowned for its culinary traditions; the popular meat based sauce Bolognese comes from here and the production of cured pork meats such as prosciutto, mortadella and salami is an important part of the local food industry. Tortellini (filled pasta) served in broth, and mortadella, the original Bologna sausage, are among other local specialties.
We should arrive in Bologna by mid to late morning and after leaving our baggage at the hotel, your leader will take you out on a short orientation walk. Afterwards your time is left free to explore the city. A great vista over its red roofs of the city can be enjoyed from the Asinelli Tower one of the 'Due Torri', two leaning medieval defensive towers, whose distinctive outline provides a popular symbol of Bologna. It's best to book tickets for this online in advance.
We will regroup in the late afternoon for an included pasta-making demonstration, followed by dinner and a glass of wine. We'll discover how traditional sfoglia all'uovo (egg pasta) is kneaded and rolled by hand and you'll have the opportunity to make and then eat your own pasta. While the pasta rests, you will be shown how the filling for traditional tortelloni is made and how to make other pasta shapes such as garganelli, strichetti and tagliatelle.
Zanhotel Regina (or similar)
Bologna's food markets are a must for any food lover and we'll head out first thing today to the medieval area called Quadrilatero where the street names; Drapperie, Pescherie, Orefici preserve their name from the old corporations that were here in the past. It's here where you can taste some of the best street food in Italy and find everything from fresh fish and produce to local meats, cheeses, regional wines, homemade tortellini pasta, fresh Italian breads and all manner of other goods.
We then head by train to the fabulous city of Florence. It's a short journey that takes around 30 minutes and we should arrive late morning. The spiritual home of the Renaissance, Florence is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful cities in Italy. On arrival our leader will take us out on an orientation walk. Starting out at San Lorenzo market (leather) we'll head on to the bustling Central Market (foodstuffs) then take in San Lorenzo church and the Cappelle Medicee. One of the most important buildings in Florence, you will be able to see the Duomo and Baptistry (outside only) before heading towards the Signoria Square, past the Palazzo Vecchio and Uffizi Museum before taking in the famous Ponte Vecchio, the oldest and most famous bridge in Florence and the only one that was not demolished during the German retreat of 1944.
From mid to late afternoon you are free to explore Florence at your own pace; maybe this will involve an espresso and people watching at one of the many alfresco cafes. As with Rome, some forward planning is best to make the most of your time. The city's major sights are all easily reached on foot. You may like to visit the Duomo with its magnificent pink, white and green marble facade and climb up its red-tiled dome that dominates the skyline of the city for your own bird's-eye view. Or take a stroll along the banks of the River Arno. Palazzo Vecchio and Museo di San Marco and Galleria dell'Accademia (home to Michelangelo's David) are just three of the many treasure troves of art that abound in this most enchanting of cities. Early evening is the perfect time to walk up to the Piazzale Michelangelo for a great view over the city. If you wish to book tickets to the world famous Uffizi Gallery; home to Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian and Leonardo Da Vinci masterpieces it's best to book in advance and we recommend visiting later on the afternoon of day 5 as you will have more time. Book online at https://www.uffizi.it/biglietti.
Hotel Ester (or similar)
It's around an hour by local train this morning to Pisa where your tour leader will take you on an orientation tour. The Campo dei Miracoli (Field of Dreams), of which the iconic Leaning Tower is but one part, also contains the Baptistery, Duomo and Camposanta, which between them make up a stunning collection of architectural delights.These, along with the churches and palazzi that make up the historic centre, all belong to a period from the 11th to 13th centuries when the city was one of the Mediterranean's major maritime powers.
You can return to Florence at your leisure for further free time in the city.
We catch another high speed train to Rome this morning. With a history spanning over two and half a thousand years, Rome is packed with iconic ancient sites, exhilarating architecture and artistic treasures. It's the perfect place to experience la dolce vita lifestyle; picturesque piazzas, neighbourhood cafes and bars make for excellent people watching. With so much to see and do you could easily spend many days here, so if this is your first visit, we highly recommend booking additional hotel nights after the trip ends.
We'll take our luggage to our hotel before heading out for a specialist guided tour of two of Rome's most famous ancient sites, the iconic Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Our first stop is the Colosseum, the largest amphitheatre in the world and symbol of the Roman Empire. Built by Flavian Emperor Vespasian, the mighty arena could hold between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators, all attracted by gladiatorial contests, mock sea battles and executions. Heading along the Via Sacra (Sacred Way) we arrive at the Roman Forum, the scene of public meetings and law courts, it was lined with shops and open-air markets and was the site of many of the city's most imposing temples and monuments. Forty metres above the Forum, Palatine Hill is the most central of the Seven Hills of Rome and considered the birthplace of the city, having been inhabited since 1000 B.C.
We expect our sightseeing to finish late afternoon, the remainder of the afternoon/evening is left free for you to continue exploring. Make sure to find the time to stop along the way to join the locals for an essential espresso at a street side cafe or perhaps indulging in a delicious gelato. If you wish to visit the Vatican, Rome's most popular attraction, you should book tickets to the Museum online in advance. Check the Vatican website (vatican.va) for updated information on opening times. We recommend that you do not book a timed ticket for entry any earlier that 5 pm. Prior to the 31st March and after 31st October, final entry to the Vatican is at 4 pm. If you have booked a ticket for 4 pm, please advise your tour leader who will adapt the earlier sightseeing accordingly. Tickets for the Vatican Museum can be booked online at: https://tickets.museivaticani.va/home. Please note that pre-booked tickets are not required if you just want to visit St Peter's Basilica.
Hotel Madison (or similar)
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Rome.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Rome Fiumicino Airport (FCO) which is around 45 minutes to an hour from the city centre depending on traffic conditions.
April/May and October/November are pleasantly warm. June/September are the hottest months. Showers are common in Autumn.
2 Pin Round
Bologna - Asinelli Tower - 498 steps to the top! Book online at https://www.duetorribologna.com/ - 5 Euros pp Florence - Uffizi Gallery; home to Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian and Leonardo Da Vinci masterpieces it's best to book in advance and we recommend visiting later on the afternoon of day 5 as you will have more time. Book online at https://www.uffizi.it/biglietti Pisa - Leaning Tower of Pisa - €20 per person (book online https://www.opapisa.it/en) Check the latest timings for our visit to Pisa with your tour leader before booking a timed entry ticket. Rome - Visiting the Vatican, Rome's most popular attraction; You should book tickets to the Museum online in advance. Check the Vatican website (vatican.va) for updated information on opening times. Note the Vatican is closed to visitors on Sunday with the exception of the last Sunday of every month when entry is free although it can get very busy. If visiting on Friday day 6, we recommend that you do not book a timed ticket for entry any earlier that 5 pm. Prior to the 31st March and after 31st October, final entry to the Vatican is at 4 pm. If you have booked a ticket for 4 pm, please advise your tour leader who will adapt the earlier sightseeing accordingly. Tickets for the Vatican Museum can be booked online at: https://tickets.museivaticani.va/home. Please note that pre-booked tickets are not required if you just want to visit St Peter's Basilica
Bring light and comfortable clothing that can be layered according to the temperature. July and August can be extremely hot, but early and late in the season Italy can be chilly so go prepared with clothing to suit drops in temperature and rain showers. Light rainwear may be needed at any time of year, and a warm fleece/jacket is recommended for cooler evenings and nights.
Comfortable trainers or lightweight walking shoes for travelling and walking around the cities, plus sandals for relaxing.
You'll need one main piece of baggage and a small daypack for when you're out and about exploring. As you'll be taking care of your own luggage, hopping on and off trains, lifting your luggage up onto storage racks on the train and navigating city streets to your hotel, it's really important for your enjoyment not to overload yourself. We advise you to pack light, no more than 12kg is recommended. A small suitcase or soft holdall with wheels or a rucksack is the most suitable type of baggage. Ideally one which also has carry straps for when you're navigating cobbled streets and stairs.
Sunscreen, sunglasses and a sun hat are advised. A power bank may be useful if you'd like to use or charge your phone whilst travelling. We advise you bring a water bottle for day to day use. We have a partnership with Water-to-Go, who have developed a filtration system that eliminates over 99.9% of all microbiological contaminants. This allows you to drink from any tap, including on trains, or even streams and lakes. You can purchase your own Explore branded bottle with the discount code EXPLORE15.
Can you drink the water?
It is generally possible to drink the local tap water, therefore to reduce the need for single-use plastic bottles we recommend you bring a refillable water bottle with you. Your leader will advise you on refill points each day.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Italy: Visas are not required by UK, E.U. Nationals, Australian, New Zealand, US or Canadian citizens. Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office. All visa information is subject to change. You should confirm all visa related questions with the relevant embassy prior to departure.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
Nothing required. Tetanus recommended. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.