For centuries Italy has drawn visitors in search of culture and romance with few countries comparing with its enormous Classical origins: its art, architecture, music, design, scenery, food or wine. Its contribution to art far surpasses that of any other nation being home to the most extensive ancient civilisation, the Renaissance, the Roman Catholic Church and the Vatican. Blend this with the striking natural beauty of the Tuscan countryside, the vitality of Rome, the effervescence inside every Italian and you have unbeatable ingredients for a tour.
Firstly we visit Tuscany and its great cities of Florence, Siena and Arezzo, then Umbria and Assisi and finally, the Eternal City of Rome. Birthplace of Dante and the Renaissance, Florence has been described, since its ‘rediscovery’ early in the last century, as the most beautiful city in Italy. It owes its wealth to the explosion of commerce during the Middle Ages. Principally wool and other textile industries, backed by powerful banks turned Florence into one of the world’s richest cities. Political control moved to the nobility, especially the Medici who then married into the leading royal families of Europe. The city became the cultural and intellectual heart of Europe for 300 years. Artists and sculptors flocked to the city diverting some of this new wealth in their own direction by filling the palaces and churches to bursting point with some of the world’s most outstanding works. Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian amongst others, created many of the masterpieces now on display in the Uffizi gallery, an absolute must. Another struggling but brilliant thinker found finance here too: Galileo, inventor of the telescope who, on discovering the first four moons of Jupiter named one of them Medici in honour of his patron.
We also visit Siena, the other great city of Tuscany. Beautifully medieval and enclosed behind vast defensive walls, it has rural parts even within the city creating a unique atmosphere. Indeed it is more a collection of cities being split into a series of parishes whose rivalries are still in evidence during the twice yearly Palio, the famous horse race where anything goes. However the city is quite outstanding and has arguably the most gracious square in the world, the Campo, and to be fair, when you see it, backed by the soaring Campanile, it is hard to disagree.
Assisi is principally famous as the city of Francis, Patron Saint of animals and one of the most famous figures in Christian history. Every house seems to be adorned with window boxes crammed with geraniums adding a splash of colour to the centuries old walls. The basilica of St. Francis is, as you would expect, outstanding in all its breathtaking detail.
Of all Italy’s historic cities, it is perhaps Rome which exerts the most compelling fascination. There is probably more to see here than in any other city on earth. Upwards of 2000 years of civilisation has given it a unique atmosphere. The grandeur of the Colosseum, scene of some of the cruellest acts ever committed, the Appian Way where Spartacus was crucified, the magnificence of St. Peter’s, the grandeur of the Vatican, the sheer brilliance of the Sistine Chapel, the Trevi Fountain and Baroque churches – the list is endless. Boasting one of the world’s great cuisines, far from being pizza and pasta, one of the first things which strikes you about visiting a restaurant, is how deeply embedded in the culture, food and drink really is. Fresh vegetables and salads, combined with succulent meats, seafood, a hint of garlic and the finest olive oil create simple, tasty, and healthy menus.
One of the greatest joys of visiting Italy is of course, being amongst the Italians themselves. Stylish, always ready to help and, if there is a single national characteristic – it is living life to the full, which creates the fantastic atmosphere so much in evidence.
You should arrive at the airport to take your flight to Rome from your selected airport. On arrival, a coach will take you to delightful Arezzo in the heart of Tuscany and an ideal base for our series of visits during the next few days. We stay four nights on half-board at the four-star Hotel Minerva, located about half a mile from the medieval city walls. The rest of the day will be spent at leisure, allowing you time to settle into the hotel and start exploring if you wish.
After breakfast, we drive to lovely medieval Siena which was, during the 12th and 13th centuries, one of the world’s largest and richest cities and a similar size to Paris! An unrivalled period of building took place and the range of palaces, grandiose townhouses and piazzas were built. Without doubt the main square, the Campo is one of the most beautiful you will ever see. Unusually half-moon shaped and surrounded by tall, centuries-old buildings, they are all different embracing an overall harmonious and beautiful style. Just to sit here, enjoy a drink and reflect on lives gone by is a real pleasure. Siena’s cathedral is absolutely outstanding, one of Italy’s greatest, built from black and white marble with the most intricate carvings imaginable some of which are by the great master himself, Michelangelo. The floor is a revelation with countless thousands of pieces of stone creating a unique inlaid pavement. It is impressive enough now but had a planned nave been completed during the 14th century, it would have created Christendom’s largest church. The city fell into rapid decline after the Black Death, accounting for the city’s astonishing preservation. During the journey to and from Siena we shall see some of the famous Tuscan countryside: this truly is a wonderfully scenic area.
Today we visit Florence, pearl of the Renaissance, a superb and beautiful city and deservedly on the map of the traveller since the days of the Grand Tour. During our guided tour you will see the principle monuments such as the famous Cathedral – which can house a congregation of 10,000 and boasts the largest brick dome roof to-date.
This afternoon we enjoy a reserved visit to the Uffizi gallery, with entrance fees included, quite simply one of the world’s most monumental art collections. It contains work by Botticelli, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, Caravaggio, Michelangelo – the list is endless. Florence is not just about art though, it is a delightful place in its own right. Full of shops and colourful markets which delightfully complement the city’s artistic treasures.
Arezzo is a wonderful old town that has nestled behind its imposing stone walls for centuries, hidden away from the tourists. On this morning’s walking tour we learn of the fascinating stories behind the many ravishing views you’ll encounter in Arezzo’s historic centre. In common with other places on this tour, the area flourished in medieval times, coming under the rule of the Medicis around the 15th century. The town contains a range of architectural styles which blend to produce a charming whole – Romanesque churches are juxtaposed with timber-beamed shops, linked by intimate cobbled squares. Arezzo’s Piazza Grande, lined by narrow-fronted multistorey buildings and with a steeply sloping pavement, is one of Europe’s most evocative and atmospheric main squares, while inside the Basilica di San Francesco are the Legends of the True Cross frescoes by Piero della Francesca.
We visit the Villa La Ripa this afternoon to enjoy a wine tasting. This is an impressive Renaissance villa with a cantina dating back to Roman times. Located in the undulating countryside just outside Arezzo, it’s surrounded by olive groves and vineyards and produces a selection of wines including Sangiovese, a Tuscan red. The owners, only the fourth family to own the property in over 500 years, are passionate about the villa and we will find out more about.
Today we leave Tuscany after breakfast driving firstly to Assisi. This delightful medieval town, with its flower-hung streets, lovely views over the Umbrian countryside and fountain-splashed piazzas is famous for a single event – the birth of Francis, the most revered saint in Italy. The man himself was one of the most extraordinary figures the Italian church has ever produced. He had a privileged upbringing, leading a very un-Christian lifestyle, but whilst imprisoned, God appeared to him. After release, he renounced his inheritance, living the life of a beggar, and mixed with lepers, but ultimately found his vocation founding the order of monks which bears his name, the Franciscans. Two years after his death, the basilica was built, financed by donations from all over Europe creating one of the most beautiful shrines in the Christian world adorned by arguably its greatest art collection outside an actual gallery. The building today is actually two churches, one on top of the other with St. Francis himself lying under the floor in the crypt. The mood inside is most respectful, being in tune with Franciscan principles - silence being the rule, quite plain around the tomb itself and accompanied by brown robed monks.
We have ample time to visit the basilica together with the town, arriving in Rome early evening. Our hotel in Rome is either the four-star Eurostars St John or the four-star Welcome Piram Hotel.
Rome is, without doubt, one of the most captivating cities in the world, where ancient and modern blend perfectly. This morning, we have a sightseeing tour during which you will see many of the principle sights and monuments such as St. Peter’s, the Colosseum, Circo Massimo, the Vatican, Palatine Hill, River Tiber, the list is endless. Probably nowhere else on earth is there so much history in such a small area. It owes its grandeur obviously to the Roman Empire which held sway over much of the globe for nearly 500 years and then to the Papacy which for a large part of its existence, commanded as much political influence as religious. Wealth flooded in throughout the Renaissance and beyond. The result is the abundance of places of interest you see today. But it’s more than buildings and galleries, there are quiet areas, tiny little piazzas, lovely bars, cosy restaurants where the waiters will talk all day if you let them. All this combined gives the uniqueness which is Rome.
This afternoon we visit the historic town of Tivoli, just outside of Rome, here can choose to visit either the Renaissance palace of Villa d’Este or the ruins of Hadrian’s Villa (Villa Adriana). The Villa d’Este is a 16th-century villa, famous for its terraced hillside Italian Renaissance garden and especially for its profusion of fountains. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hadrian’s Villa, is a large Roman archaeological complex with temples, theatres, and statues. Built by the request of the Emperor Hadrian, the Villa is a monumental living complex that even today continues to display the lavishness and enormous power of Ancient Rome.
This morning you’re free to explore as you desire. You may wish to take a unique breakfast tour of the Vatican Museums (please refer to the Personalise Your Holiday section for details), the only part of the Papal Palace you can visit independently. This is one of the largest complexes of museums in the world, with collections to do justice to its dimensions. Many works by the finest artists of the Renaissance are on display, as are Egyptian antiquities and exquisite examples of furniture, sculpture and silverware. And, of course, there are Michelangelo’s wondrous ceiling frescoes on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Alternatively you could take a walk along the Appian Way, where thousands of Spartacus’s slave army were crucified as brutal punishment for their rebellion, or admire the craftsmanship and scale of the Trevi Fountain. Just east of Rome is the Italian town of Tivoli, home to luxe residences, splendid villas, and two famous UNESCO World Heritage sites.
This afternoon you have time to explore the Eternal City further, the weight of the past is inescapable as you view the magnificent heart of the Roman Empire. Gazing at the Forum, the Colosseum, and the Pantheon, it's easy to let your mind wander and imagine those who have preceded you: Julius Caesar, Emperor Augustus, Cleopatra and Mark Antony. Take a stroll around the Piazza Navona, Rome's most picturesque square, lined with luxurious cafés where present-day Romans come to see and be seen. Walk down the Spanish Steps as Countless visitors have done since the 18th-century.
Today the coach will take you to Rome airport, at the appropriate time, for your flight home after a really memorable tour.
The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin room. Single rooms are subject to availability at the relevant supplement. The price includes:
Savour the flavours of Rome - from £84 per person
Enjoy more than 10 tastings on our four-hour walking tour of the vibrant Trastevere area. You’ll sample the finest cheeses, freshest pasta, wines in a cellar older than the Colosseum, and much more.
Early entrance to the Vatican & guided tour - from £73 per person
Enjoy exclusive early morning access to the Vatican before the crowds arrive, while the museum is still quiet.
Breakfast at the Vatican & guided tour - from £94 per person
Indulge in a more exclusive visit to the Vatican. Enjoy a rich American buffet breakfast in the museum's restaurant area or courtyard, and discover the countless works of art thanks to the special early morning entrance.
Everyone’s idea of the perfect holiday is different, which is why on this tour we offer a thoughtfully crafted itinerary choice, carefully selected to give you a more well-rounded and personalised holiday. And of course, it's included in the price.
Visit the Villa d'Este or Hadrian's Villa
On day 7, visit Villa d’Este and its exemplary Renaissance garden or explore Hadrian’s Villa, the vast country estate of one of Rome’s greatest emperors.
Please contact us to add any of the above experiences to your booking.
UK Citizens do not require a visa to enter Italy however must have a valid passport. For the most up-to-date passport and visa information visit https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/italy/entry-requirements
We are unable to accept responsibility if you are unable to travel because you have not complied with any passport/entry/immigration requirements.
The use of air-conditioning in hotels in Italy is at the hotel’s discretion and is normally restricted to the summer months (mid-May to mid-September), depending on the temperature.
We want to ensure you make the correct choice before you book your holiday with us. If you have any concerns regarding the suitability of the holiday due to reduced mobility we would encourage you to call us to discuss these concerns. General information on mobility in connection with our tours can be found here.
Becky, a member of our Operations Team, gives her top four sightseeing locations in Rome.
Rome, a city of ancient and magnificent structures that span thousands of years, numerous empires, dynasties and papacies; an enthralling city of long lost riches and shadows of majesty. Today that grandeur is echoed in the exquisite Baroque and Renaissance architecture that stands firm amongst the remnants of this ancient city’s landscape.
All transfer times listed here are approximate, and dependent on traffic. If you have a question regarding transfer times please don't hesitate to contact us.
|Arrival airport||First hotel location||Transfer time||Final hotel location||Departure airport||Transfer time|
|Rome Fiumicino Airport||Arezzo||3 hrs||Rome||Rome Fiumicino Airport||45 mins|
|Rome Ciampino Airport||Rome Ciampino Airport|
Recently returned from this tour and cant praise Riviera travel enough. The itinery was perfect with just enough time to rest between each visit. Sarah our tour manager was both knowledgeable and helpful. The hotels in both Arrezo...
Christopher & Roberta Whittle
My wife and I have just returned home after a wonderful holiday in Italy. My wife has used Riviera Travel before and so suggested we booked this holiday. I was impressed with everything from beginning to end and our guide Norman w...