Our trip starts this evening in Rome with a welcome meeting - please check the hotel reception or noticeboard for details of this important meeting place. If you arrive earlier there is much to occupy you in Rome. Possibly the most recognized symbol of the city is the Colosseum, the scene of the bloody gladiator bouts for the entertainment of ancient Rome's aristocracy. Take a tour around the old venue and then head over to the Palatine hill and the Roman Forum to see where it all began. Even with the bustle of modern day Rome whizzing past on Vespas you can still lose yourself in the fragmented columns and ancient ruins, conjuring images of the rich Romans sauntering by in togas. From the Colosseum it's not too much of a hike to Piazza Navona. Known for the Baroque buildings surrounding the square, and its beautiful central fountain, it's truly a great place to walk, mingle with the Romans, and sip a cappuccino at one of the sidewalk cafés. Next stop can be the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain. Sit among the young Italians cuddling on the steps or watch the rich and powerful shopping in the elegant boutiques nearby. Take a short walk over to the Fontana di Trevi to throw a coin over your shoulder backwards to ensure your return to this magical city. When you’ve had enough of secular Rome, head to the smallest country in the world, the Vatican City. Located within the city of Rome, the Vatican City is a separate country ruled by the pope and the perfect place to see art and religion intertwined. Within the Vatican, you will find the famous St. Peter’s Basilica, the world’s largest church and the headquarters of Roman Catholicism. It is difficult to decide whether to look up, down, or to the side as there are treasures everywhere in the church: Bernini’s canopy, the dome, the treasury, the statue of St. Peter, the Pieta, and the grotto should all be seen, and it can be possible to attend services in the church. The Vatican Museums are near the basilica and contain priceless works of art from ancient to modern times. There are many different galleries but seeing all of them is definitely not possible in one day, so do a little research before visiting and decide what you really want to see. There are countless pieces of art, including statues, busts, Renaissance paintings, tapestries, early icons and Egyptian artifacts, just to name a few. Two of the most well-known exhibits in the Vatican Museums are the Sistine Chapel and the Raphael rooms. Although the Sistine Chapel is always very crowded, it is a must-see for any visitor to the Vatican. The magnificent frescoed ceiling of the chapel painted by Michelangelo depicts over 300 figures from the Book of Genesis, the most well-known being “The Creation of Adam,” showing God touching the finger of Adam. “The Last Judgment” on the west wall depicts a scene from the Book of Revelations. It’s a good idea to book a ticket to the Vatican online from home or with some advice from your Tour Leader as waiting until the day you arrive may well be too late! Ask your Tour Leader for help booking tickets in advance. As you move further south you will recognize the different cultures that make up Italy, starting with the food. Eating in Italy is deeply embedded in the country’s culture, and is very localized, changing from city to city, region to region. Dining in Rome consists of many courses and can sometimes seem to last forever! The city also offers a vibrant nightlife, with bars and cafes to relax in as well as the many excellent restaurants.
We travel by train to Tuscany, and stay in a central location of this hospitable Italian region. From our base, we explore Pisa, Cinque Terre, and Florence, including an evening stroll to Piazzale Michelangelo for view over Florence. Cinque Terre consists of five coastal villages: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is quintessential Italy- small colourful villages perched onto little outcroppings of land with sheer cliffs, blue waters and olive groves, lemon trees and colourful flowers blanketing the hills. Pick up a day pass that gets you into the National Park and unlimited train access between the towns for a full day of hiking, beaching, swimming, eating…you name it! Hiking between the villages is the best way to see all the area has to offer on the well-marked and well-maintained paths leading through olive groves and vineyards, orchards and chestnut woods, stopping in each village to grab a cappuccino, a slice of pizza, a mouthwatering plate of "spaghetti alle vongole" (spaghetti with fresh clams), or just sit and enjoy! This area really offers something for everyone- avid hikers, someone looking for an easy stroll or a sun-worshipper looking for a little downtime in the sun. At the end of a long day outdoors, head into one of the local restaurants offering up Ligurian specialties like the local recipe of pesto, unlimited seafood dishes, a litre of vino della casa (house wine) and an after dinner taste of local grappa you won’t be able to resist! On Day 3 travel to Florence (Firenze), the capital of the region. No city can boast of such artistic richness as the romantic Renaissance city of Florence. Food, art, culture, and beautiful views put this outstanding Italian city in a field of its own. The list of things to see and do in Florence and the surrounding Tuscan countryside is unlimited, be it art, nature, architecture, history or food and drink! Number one on the must-see list is a visit to Michelangelo’s “David” in the Accademia. The size and quality of this imposing sculpture will leave you speechless. For more art, head next to the Uffizi Galleries to witness the Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci paintings in person. The Pitti Palace provides an array of art-viewing opportunities with the Palatine Gallery, the Silver Museum, the Gallery of Modern Art, and the Galleria del Costume all being housed in this magnificently grand palatial complex. This is also where you’ll find the Boboli Gardens, one of the lovliest examples of an Italian garden with its shady walkways and sculptures. For the engineers among us or people who just like to see how things work, visit one of the Leonardo da Vinci museums around the city, featuring models of his inventions and other details about his life. Another often overlooked but stunning museum of sculpture is the Bargello where you can see Donatello’s “David”, quite a different interpretation from Michelangelo’s. Please note that it is very advisable to book tickets in advance for both the Uffizi and Accademia Galleries. The line-ups at these museums are always long and the time to visit them is limited due to the fact that Day 3 is a day trip to Florence. You can book online from home before you leave at www.weekendafirenze.com or by phone (+39) 055 294883 from Monday to Friday 8.30am-6.30pm, Saturday 8.30am-12.30pm. If you are interested in purchasing tickets we recommend that you do so once your G Adventure trip is confirmed (up to 2 months before if possible), especially for the ever-popular Uffizi, and for any time after 11am on Day 3 of your trip. For additional museum resources you might want to refer to this website, www.firenzemusei.it, for more information to plan your day in Florence. If you’re ready to move on from the museums, head straight to the jewel of the city - the Piazza del Duomo. This Cathedral is a breathtaking example of Italian religious architecture with the stunning green and white marble. Climb to the top for a dazzling view of the red rooftops that Tuscan cities are famous for. After the Duomo, you can start your shopping! Start in the south at the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in Florence. This bridge, covered in gold shops, is the perfect place to get a look at the Arno river before heading north to the leather markets of San Lorenzo and Mercato Centrale. Pick up a purse (or several!), leatherbound journals, Florentine paper, and any off-colour David statue souvenirs you may require. Don’t forget to make time for some gelato - the perfect way to bridge the gap between lunch and dinner. Try a new flavour everyday while wandering the streets and squares, soaking up the history and beauty of a typical “citta Toscana”.
A scenic train ride along the Soca Valley takes us to the dream-like city of Venice, one of the few places in the world that can truly be described as unique. This "floating" city is best explored on foot, wandering through labyrinthine alleys and streets, over bridges and into squares, discovering opulence and beauty at every turn. Venice is teeming with world-class museums, like the Accademia or the Scuola di San Rocco, playing host to the greats of the renaissance like Jacopo Tintoretto, Vittore Carpacio and Tiziano. For a more contemporary take, visit the Peggy Guggenheim gallery, located inside her former home, right on the Grand Canal itself. The fantastic smattering of works of every major contemporary artist competes with the lapping waters and floating gondalas just outside. To capture all Venice has to offer go out the door of the hotel and keep walking. Wind around, check in with the map occasionally, and see if you can find your way to the major sites! Wander over the Ponte Rialto (Bridge of Lovers) and stroll on down to Piazza San Marco. From here you get spectacular views of the Grand Canal, you can visit the famous Basilica San Marco, climb the Campanile or take a tour of the Palazzo Ducale and Bridge of Sighs. Once you’ve tired yourself out jump on one of the vaporetto (water bus) and make your way home, or stop off to take a gondola ride through the backalleys of Venice. Venezia, as they say in Italian, is an indescribable place you have to see to believe. It has a magical, mystical quality that can’t be captured or replicated. After just a few moments, this city will capture your heart and leave you thinking dreamily of your time in Venice for the rest of your life. In the evening of Day 6 we board our overnight train that takes us on to Austria.
Wake up in the Austrian capital Vienna, former home of the Hapsburg court, still furnished with the trappings of the imperial capital it once was. Take a wander with your Tour Leader to check out the highlights, including the grand St Stephen's church towering at the heart of the historical centre, encircled by the Ringstrasse and filled with magnificent buildings, gardens and museums. The afternoon is yours to explore at leisure, marvelling at the Hofburg (the winter palace), the Lipizzaner “dancing” horses of the famous Vienna Riding School, or perhaps experience a mass with the Vienna Boys Choir. Later, why not head out to Schoenbrunn, for a guided audio tour of the summer palace designed by Empress Maria Theresa herself. The palace gardens are free to all visitors. St. Stephen’s Cathedral, is one of Vienna’s main landmarks complete with a 343-step climb up a spiral staircase to look out over the city. For a little child-like fun, visit the Wurstelprater, an amusement park and home to one of the best-known attractions of Vienna, the ‘Riesenrad’, a Giant Ferris wheel which provides great views across the city from 200ft in the air. After tiring yourself out with sightseeing, pop into a café, a Viennese institution. For a slice of local life, the cafés are good places to relax and get your bearings while deciding what to do next. A delicious café experience involves Gugelhupf, one of Vienna’s specialty cakes, and a cup of Melange (half coffee, half milk). For a small trip outside the bustling city, head into the heart of one of Austria’s wine-producing regions, the Wachau, just under an hour from Vienna. Feel free to indulge in the local wine in taverns called Heuriger. Hotel rooms in Vienna may have shared bathroom and on occasion we use triple share.
We head to Prague to experience all the capital of Czech Republic has to offer. The first must-see destination is Old Town Square, where the main attraction is the famous Astronomical Clock, whose tiny mechanical saints deliver an hourly performance when the clock chimes. In the summer, the square is lined with outdoor cafés perfect to do a little leisurely people-watching. Just a stone's throw away is Charles Bridge, by day cluttered with vendors and street musicians. At night, the bridge is less crowded, and it's much easier to appreciate the scenery as well as the ever-so-slightly sinister quality of the statues looming overhead. Cross the bridge and you'll find yourself in Mala Strana, a far less crowded district that offers the perfect atmosphere for some introspective wandering. If you can handle the stairs, climbing the hundreds of steps to the famous Prague Castle (known as Hradcany), you'll be rewarded with a glorious view of the city. Like Charles Bridge, the castle is best enjoyed at night, when there is dramatic lighting and few visitors. If you're in the area and want to experience traditional Czech pubs, which are guaranteed to be loud, lively, and packed with locals on any night of the week, this is the place to find restaurants serving traditional Czech cuisine such as fried pork cutlets, goulash, and dumplings. The Prague Ghetto, which includes the Jewish Cemetery and Synagogues is one of the famous areas of Europe where the Jews of the city lived and thrived before WWII and definitely worth a visit. Prague certainly has no shortage of breathtaking views and the next hill over from the castle, Petrin Hill, offers a less obstructed panorama-style view. If you're not in the mood for hiking uphill, you can always take a cable car all the way to the top. One evening we head to one of the famous Pilzner Beer Halls where you can sample Czech beer, world-famous for its superb quality and low cost, on a warm summer evening.
Berlin is an amazing city with tangible historical importance and a melting pot of different cultures and flavours. The very name Berlin conjures images of the famous Berlin Wall. Two sections of the wall still remain on display- the East Side Gallery, where artists have decorated the remaining section of the wall, and the Berlin Wall Memorial (Gedenkstatte Berliner Mauer). Down the street from the Berlin Wall is the Haus am Checkpoint Charlie, a museum that documents the history of the wall, and interestingly, many of the different ways people tried to escape. Learn about all of the creative ways used to cross over to the other side. After, you can head over to the Brandenburg Gate, another spot of great historical significance. Here, hundreds of thousands of people were finally able to cross from the East side to the West after the fall of the wall. It has traditionally, and continues to be, a political rallying point for different groups and concerns. If you are still craving museums, Berlin has plenty! Visit the Pergamon Museum, home to one of the world's greatest collections of ancient architecture and art. Also give the Egyptian Museum (Agyptisches Museum) a try as it houses many old Egyptian artifacts and the Judishes Museum tells the story of the relationship between the Germans and the Jews throughout the last few centuries. Art lovers will enjoy the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin Museum with plenty of modern art that is sure to spark interest and curiosity. The Berggruen Collection at the Die Sammlung Berggruen is also a must-see. Here, see an extensive art collection of Picasso, as well as paintings by Klee, Cezanne and Van Gogh. For those interested in Berlin's government, past and present, visit the Reichstag, home to the German parliament. Here, you can go up to the glass dome for a view of Berlin, or learn about the fascinating history of the building. For more history from this grim period, visit the Topographie des Terrors, a row of old cellars where prisoners were tortured. See the hundreds of pictures from the era and read the newspaper clippings to get a better understanding of what went on in the cellars and throughout Nazi Germany. Finally, for an amazing view of Berlin, visit the famous Berlin Television Tower with a viewing room and cafe located 203 meters above ground, providing sweeping views of the city. We'll board an evening bus on the night of Day 13 to head west across to the Netherlands. In Berlin our simple but well-located accommodation may use triple share.
Amsterdam is one of the coolest cities in Europe. Beautiful, hip, and laid back, with lots to do, lots to see, many pubs, food from all over the world and friendly people. A visit to this stunning city can feel like stepping back in time, surrounded by the charming architecture dating back to the 17th century. But this city is far from old-fashioned and will be best seen on foot or like the locals, by bicycle. If you only do one thing in Amsterdam, make it a canal cruise. Amsterdam's canals are its signature and cruising these criss-crossing waterways puts the city in perspective while offering unique views of dozens of spectacular Amsterdam sights in a short period of time. Afterwards, head into a cozy bruin café o “eetcafé” (to the Dutch what pubs are to the British and Irish), local spots where friends gather to catch up over a beer or glass of house wine. We use simple hostel accommodation in Amsterdam, with multi-share dormitories. In summer one of the best places to go for a relaxing afternoon is the Vondelpark. With a bit of luck you can catch a (free) outdoor concert near the water or hang out at one of the trendy places in the park where you can sit and have a beer, such as the Blauwe Theehuis. Head over to the squares of Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein, a perfect place for people-watching, both bustling with activity and terraces in summertime. Amsterdam is also a haven for museum-lovers: two of its best are the Rijksmuseum, whose most famous resident is Rembrandt's The Night Watch and the Van Gogh Museum overflowing with teems of works by Vincent van Gogh, including his famous “Sunflowers”. After seeing the painted variety, treat your eyes again with a wander through the real thing at the Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market). One of the most dramatic and powerful sights in Amsterdam is the Anne Frank house. As you climb the stairs to the little attic the Frank family was hidden in during WWII, each step becomes heavier and heavier with the realization of what transpired in the middle of this tranquil city. And then, of course, there is the world famous (or infamous!) Red Light District, which consists of several canals and the side streets between them, south of Central Station and east of Damrak. It is still a residential district, with many bars and restaurants as well as historic buildings and museums. This is, after all, the oldest part of the city and home to the gothic Oude Kerk church on the Oudezijds Voorburgwal, the oldest in Amsterdam. We have the day in Amsterdam to continue our explorations of this magical city, before boarding our overnight bus to Berlin. We travel overnight on Day 6 and arrive into Berlin early in the morning of Day 7. Estimated Travel Time Berlin to Amsterdam: 10 hours
We jump on a bus from Amsterdam and head into Belgium, for a visit to the small medieval trading town of Bruges. Bruges is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe and has remained practically unchanged since its heyday. Once inside the city walls, the town closes in around you with street after street of historic houses and a canal always nearby. Spend your time marvelling at the works of the Flemish masters at the Groeninge Museum, visiting one or all of the Lace, Frites and Chocolate Museums, cruising leisurely on the romantically-named Lake of Love or maybe work off all the beer, waffles and chocolate you've consumed with a bicycle-ride along the city's canals. We continue on our travel day with a late afternoon Eurostar ride to London, where the city's nightlife calls.
Depart at any time.