Mediterranean Highlights (Winter - Start Rome)
Check-in to your hotel, drop off your stuff and head out into the streets of Italy to get a sneak peek at vibrant Rome. Stylish Rome oozes energy and overflows with relics from another age. Get into the thriving atmosphere of this living timeline as your Tour Manager shows you the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Piazza Venezia and Piazza Navona. Honour tradition at the Trevi Fountain and throw a coin in the fountain’s waters (it’s meant to improve your chances of returning to Rome!). Get to know your travel buddies and Tour Manager over dinner. Make your first night in Rome one to remember! At a popular pizzeria, you’ll enjoy pizza as it was meant to be (with a thin crispy crust, fresh tomato and loaded with delicious mozzarella). Learn a thing or two about making them as you watch a professional piazzolo demonstrate how it’s done. Maybe hang out with your new friends at the Spanish Steps, sit back and people watch.
This morning, make the most of our Local Guide’s inside knowledge and uncover the remains of an ancient empire with a fantastic optional tour of the Roman Forum and Colosseum. Then check-out the smallest country in the world and home to the Pope, the Vatican City. There’s included entry and our Local Guide to show you St. Peter’s Basilica and Michelangelo’s masterpiece, the Sistine Chapel. Take off into the city and absorb the atmosphere, as Vespas flash past timeworn monuments that are surrounded by fountains, pizzerias, cafes and bars. In your free time, live the local lifestyle by indulging in a long lunch on a paved piazza or knock back a shot of espresso at the bar, like the Romans do. Before you hit the shops, let your Tour Manager point you in the right direction with some tips on the best buys. Make your last night in Rome special by hooking up with your friends for an optional dinner. In a typical Roman restaurant, you’ll enjoy an authentic Italian experience, complete with an opera singer, live music and pasta.
Rome to Florence
Spend the morning in San Gimignano, the stunning hill-top town that is often dubbed “Medieval Manhattan”. Dotted with ancient towers, San Gimignano serves up sweeping views over the region’s rolling hills. Explore the village and pick up some local specialties like wild-boar salami or pecorino cheese. Roll on to Renaissance Florence. The scene-stealing Duomo Cathedral rises above Florence, which serves up frescoes, markets and priceless art. After dinner, walk along the River Arno with your Tour Manager, take in the atmosphere and head into the heart of Florence, where you can sit back and relax Tuscan style with a glass of Chianti wine.
Jump start the day uncovering this open-air museum. Our local guide gives you the inside track as the group learns about Florence’s cultural beginnings and explores streets crammed with artworks from masters like Michelangelo. Take a look into a skillful demonstration of Florentine leather making and understand this region’s traditional art. With bargains and bustle, the city’s markets are a great place to hang out. Grab a gelato and enjoy this gorgeous city. Tonight, there’s a choice of a group dinner - an authentic Tuscan feast. Try regional dishes in the pretty Tuscan country setting. Then keep it moving with a night out and get your groove on at Florence’s biggest club.
Florence to Italian Riveria
Today, journey to Pisa and get up close to its most famous monument, the Leaning Tower. Later, it’s onto the to the national park and UNESCO World Heritage site of Cinque Terre, where colourful coastal villages dot 18km of ragged cliffs and old walled vineyards reach the water’s edge. As we cruise (if the weather holds) and train along the coast, take in the atmospheric scenes and watch the locals fishing along the shore. Rub shoulders with the rich and famous in Portovenere and check out picture-perfect Monterosso. Some ideas for your free time in the area include walking the legendary Via dell’Amore (Lover’s Lane) for amazing sea views. If you want to just chill out and get into the good life, grab a table at a beachfront cafe and try some mouthwatering pesto or foccacia bread.
Italian Riveria to French Riviera
Follow the beautiful sapphire waters to sunny Nice.
In your free time live a bit of the lifestyle with a visit to the local markets. Try out the region’s produce like lavender honey, aioli (garlic mayonnaise) and mouth-watering rosé wine. Window shop the chic boutiques or spend the afternoon relaxing in one of the city's many cafés. Tonight get a taste of the high life in Monaco, the glamorous principality packed into just 1.92km2 and home of the Formula 1. Indulge in a bit of glitz with the group by opting for a typically French 4-course meal just a few doors down from the Royal Palace. Get the inside story on the Royal Family and their place of residence from your Tour Manager, then try your luck at a casino later on.
French Riviera to Avignon
Drop by stunning Aix-en-Provence for lunch and check out the historic Cours Mirabeau, the town’s lively central area,busy with cafes, fountains and people. A night in Avignon means you’ll get a real taste of the Provencal lifestyle and look into the town’s Roman heritage. Wander through the cobbled streets or relax with a glass of pastis (aniseed liqueur) within the city’s walls. Learn about the city’s past as a spiritual superpower when you see the impressive Papal Palace.
Avignon to Barcelona
Unwind on the coach and take in the rustic beauty of Provence, known for its pretty landscapes. Next up: dynamic Barcelona. A sizzling, festive capital any night of the week, Barcelona is all about action. First stop: Montjuic. The hilltop has full-blown vistas of the city and it’s where we stop to check out the 1992 Olympic Games complex. Afterwards, get a look into Spanish architect Gaudi’s wild imagination with his Art Nouveau masterpiece, the Sagrada Família church. Your Tour Manager walks you through the cobbled lanes of Barcelona’s oldest district, the Gothic Quarter. In Spain fiesta time starts late, so settle in at one of Barcelona’s many outdoor squares to enjoy a glass of sangria before a fun night out exploring the city’s nightlife with your new friends.
Today there’s free time to discover more of Barcelona’s creative core. Pick up some quirky buys in the side streets or hit the big label shops on Plaça de Catalunya. Take in all of Barcelona’s buzzing street life on the tree-lined La Rambla – a boulevard packed with street performers, artists, shops and stalls. Other ideas for your afternoon off include hanging out in the colourful gardens of Parc Güell or kicking back with the locals on the beach and taking a swim in the Mediterranean sea. For lunch, there’s plenty of delicious local seafood to try as well as Spain’s signature dish, paella. Wrap up your time in this hot city with an optional flamenco dance show for a closer look into Spanish culture. Get some tips on regional food from your Tour Manager and head to one of the excellent local restaurants to try out the flavours of Catalan cuisine, like crema catalana (caramalised custard), cargos a la llauna (cooked snails) and the fantastic Rioja wine! Afterward, hit the pumping clubs of Port Olympico, by the water.
Barcelona to Madrid
Chill out on the coach, grab your MP3 and watch the world go by. Leaving the coast behind, we roll on to the Baroque city of Zaragoza, set on the banks of the Rio Ebro. Check out the town’s fantastic cathedral, with its colourfully tiled cupolas and towers. For lunch, you could grab a table in the casco (old town), order a traditional Spanish tortilla and take in the unique, historic architecture and atmosphere. Next, it's on to Madrid!
This morning, get inspired as your Tour Manager opens up Madrid’s monumental heart with a look at its bustling centre, complete with the Gran Via, the Plaza de Espana and Puerta del Sol. Then, step into the largest palace in Europe with our Local Guide and experience a slice of the royal lifestyle as our expert shows you through the Royal Palace’s lavish rooms. If there’s a state function happening, we’ll head to the world-famous Prado Museum instead. In your free time, snack on the local favourite, churros (Spain’s version of the doughnut) or grab a chilled cerveza (beer) and put your feet up. Otherwise there’s time to explore more of Madrid’s arty side and to visit its world class galleries, like the Reina Sofia National Art Museum. There’s also a chance to explore the Valley of the Fallen where our Local Guide will tell you the story about the bloody Spanish Civil War and give you the background on heroic battles. Relax with an evening siesta and head out with the group later for an optional traditional Spanish tapas dinner (a feast of plate-sized nibbles) in the heart of the city, right on the famous Plaza Mayor. This city never sleeps, so get some pointers on the city’s hot spots, head to a little wine bar or check out some traditional salsa.
Your tour ends after breakfast and it’s time to say farewell to your new friends.