On Day 1 we meet in London at 18:00 and make our way by bus to Paris. Please note the trip departs London in the evening of Day 1 so it is imperative you arrive on time for departure soon after the 18:00 Welcome Meeting. Please ensure you allow plenty of time for your journey to London to allow for any possible delays.
After an orientation walk with your CEO on Day 2, we will enjoy a picnic opposite the Eiffel Tower. Then you are free to explore on your own to discover the “je ne sais quoi” of the City of Lights. Paris has something for everyone and you can use your days here to picnic under the Eiffel Tower, explore the outstanding museums and churches, float down the Seine on a river cruise or people watch at one of the charming cafés. Estimated Travel Time: 10 hours (via overnight bus with airline-style seating)
Spend the morning in Paris before travelling south into Switzerland. Cruise through town on an orientation walk to get your bearings. Interlaken is known as the adrenaline capital of Switzerland due to its many adventure sports such as paragliding, skydiving, hang gliding, bungee jumping, rafting and more. For those who want to take it easy, get out and enjoy the Swiss Alps with a hike or a sailing trip on one of the nearby lakes. As the hub for so many adventure activities, Interlaken attracts young and young-at-heart tourists, thus creating a bustling nightlife scene. Play hard during the day and harder at night if you wish. Or breathe in the fresh Alpen air and enjoy blissful sleep.
Strut your stuff on an included orientation walk of Milan, Italy's financial and fashion hub. Much of the city was destroyed during WWII, but it still has a few claims to fame, such as the Duomo, one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in the world and La Scala, one of the world's best opera houses. Get used to the Italian pace of life here. Have an espresso, watch a football match, hit the Italian shops and consider going to the opera. Please note: if you are interested in seeing Leonardo Da Vinci's most famous artwork, the Last Supper, it is essential that you make a booking in advance for this afternoon (Day 6). You can book either over the telephone or online. The contact details are: Telephone: +39 02 89421146, web: www.cenacolovinciano.org Overnight train on Day 6 to Rome, 9 hours.
Rome is full of fabulous sites. 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 CEO as waiting until the day you arrive may well be too late! Ask your CEO for help booking tickets in advance.
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 views 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! Florence (Firenze) is 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 advisable to book tickets in advance for both the Uffizi and Accademia Galleries, otherwise you will need to spend most of the day waiting in line to get in (if you're lucky!). You can book online from home before you leave (http://www.ticketsflorence.com/en/museums-tickets-florence/uffizi-gallery). 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 13 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, arriving in the early afternoon so you have some time to experience what 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 thronged 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. This 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.
Depart at any time.