13D/12N - 2020 Italian Lakes, Alpine Peaks & Rural France

13D/12N - 2020 Italian Lakes, Alpine Peaks & Rural France

    Italian Lakes, Alpine Peaks and Rural France        small group tour

    Rome-Bologna-Lake Como- Chablis-Paris-Lauterbrunnen-Staubbach Falls-Lake Geneva-Gruyères-Gstaad-Dole- Chablis-Paris

    13days/12nights, Rome/Nice

    2020 depart Monday: May 25. Jun 08, 22.  Jul 06, 20. Aug 03, 17, 31.

    Cost from:  $4425 pp twin share (s/sup $1050

day 01

-Visit Bagno di Romagna known for its hot springs
-Spend an evening in Bologna and stroll through its famous porticoes

You leave the dazzling capital of Italy and head north towards the region of Umbria. You stop on the way as you travel through a land of forests and valleys dotted with pretty hill-towns. In the early afternoon, you arrive in charming Città di Castello where you have lunch. This small town with a medieval centre dates back to Roman times. And is rich in history, art plus is the place to try delicious truffles. Next, you travel to Bagno di Romagna, a little town in the Apennines. Located on the doorstep of the Casentinesi Forest National Park and boasting hot springs, this small mountain community is an oasis of slow-life. Stroll through this charming hamlet; pop into its little palace, churches, and monasteries; or, depending on the group’s interests, head to the nearby national park to see Alferello Waterfall. You then travel through the green countryside of the Emilia-Romagna region as you head to Bologna, where you spend the night. You arrive here in the late afternoon, so make sure to explore this city which boasts Europe’s oldest university; a beautiful network of porticoed, medieval streets; and some fine restaurants.

day 02

-Get captivated by the views of Lake Como framed by the Alps
-Marvel at the stunning architecture of the unique Villa del Balbianello

Today, you travel through Lombardy, Italy’s wealthiest region with a host of magnificent lakes. Your adventure first takes you to Lake Como, the most stunning lake in the region. Framed by the Rhaetian Alps, this Italian slice of heaven’s crystal clear waters seduced the most famous writers of the 18C and 19C. You arrive in Lenno, a town on the west bank of the lake, where you have the whole afternoon to yourself. Stroll along the shores of the town, drink in the magnificent views, and absorb its relaxed atmosphere. Don’t forget to find a restaurant or café to savour the unique flavours of the region before you continue to explore the area. Your day by Lake Como wouldn’t be complete without visiting a splendid villa, so make sure to see Villa del Balbianello. This 18C mansion is as magnificent as it is famous. The interior is filled with artwork, and the terraced gardens and vistas will take your breath away. And when you visit this place, you’ll feel like a movie star because this was used as a set from Star Wars Episode II and James Bond’s Casino Royale. Full of natural and architectural delights, you continue to Lugano in the late afternoon, where you spend two nights. day 03
-Admire the harmonious blend of lakes and the mountains in Locarno
-Explore stunning Stresa and the beautiful Borromean Islands

Breathe in the fresh mountain air as you leave Lugano and continue to explore the stunning lakes on the border of Italy and Switzerland. You have a comfort break in Locarno, an Italian speaking resort city in Switzerland on Lake Maggiore. With 2,300 hours of sunshine a year, numerous palm trees, and an air of elegance, this city is hard to leave. Next, you jump over to Italy again and travel along Lake Maggiore to Stresa. You’ll be entertained for the whole afternoon by this town’s belle époque villas, lovely promenade, and cobbled streets. You can also take a boat to the magnificent Borromean Islands to uncover their artistic, historical and natural delights. Or, if you crave for striking vistas, get the cable car ride to the summit of Mount Mottarone that rises nearby. After an exciting afternoon, you swap the lake for mountains and head to Varese to enjoy this pretty old town and grand art nouveau villas. In the evening, you return to Lugano for your second night.

day 04
-Fall in love with Lauterbrunnen, one of the most quintessential Alpine villages
-Stare in wonder at the Staubbach Falls, Europe’s highest free-falling waterfall

Today, you delve into the mountainous heart of Switzerland where the soaring Alps are intertwined with green meadows, glittering lakes and cute villages. Your first short stop is in Altdorf, a little town with a famous monument to William Tell. Hear the story of the legendary folk hero who symbolized the struggle for political and individual freedom. Then, you travel through some of the most scenic roads of the country, where every turn looks like a postcard photo. But just when you thought that the landscape can’t get any more magnificent, you arrive in Lauterbrunnen. This little village is the epitome of the alpine paradise. It’s located in an immense U-shaped valley framed by sheer mountain crags. It offers great views of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, some of the most well-known mountains in the area, and it’s decorated with a staggering 72 waterfalls. You have almost the whole afternoon to explore this quintessential Swiss village. Start from admiring the chalet-style houses and eating some Swiss specialities. Then, stare in awe at Staubbach Falls, Europe’s highest free-falling waterfall located right at the end of the main street. If you still crave more, you can go slightly off the beaten track and visit Trümmelbach waterfalls, a series of 10 glacier waterfalls. After you’ve soaked up the peace and beauty of the rural landscapes, you head to Lausanne, your home for two nights and an ideal place for an evening stroll along Lake Geneva.

day 05
-Savour the quintessential flavours of Gruyères
-Try celebrity-spotting in glamorous Gstaad
-Visit the iconic Chillon Castle on Lake Geneva

Man does not live on landscapes alone, so today you’ve got a chance to savour the famous culinary heritage of Switzerland. You head to the medieval town of Gruyères full of cobbled streets and quaint houses decorated with flowers. But you didn’t come here to admire the charms of the village. You came to try that nutty, semi-hard cheese the world raves about. And the best place to do this is at the local cheese factory, La Maison du Gruyère, where you can learn the history and production secrets of this delicious cheese. Alternatively, if you have a sweet tooth, visit Maison Cailler; a chocolate factory with a series of interactive, multi-sensorial experiences and chocolate tasting. Just remember to leave some space for other specialities like fondue and marvellous meringues with double cream. After trying some of the gastronomic highlights, you get back on the road and venture through the unspoiled landscapes of a regional nature park to Gstaad for lunch. It might be a timber-lined village surrounded by mountains and pastures, but it’s popular with celebrities and exudes the glitz and glamour. From here, you travel back to the shores of Lake Geneva to visit another Swiss icon, the 13C Chillon Castle which boasts a spectacular location. You arrive back in Lausanne early in the evening.
day 06
-Stroll leisurely through charming Dole, the City of Art and History
-Discover the quintessential flavours of famous Chablis wines in their birthplace

You leave lovely Lausanne, travel through the brooding scenery of the Jura Mountains, and head into France. You’re now in the rural landscapes of the Franche-Comté region known for its beautiful nature. Your first stop of the day is Dole, a charming town set in the stunning countryside of the Doubs valley. It boasts the status of ‘a City of Art and History’ thanks to its wonderful historical area, medieval streets, and interesting museums. To get the real flavour of this place, stroll along the town’s narrow streets, canals and bridges and taste some of the local cheeses. Back on the road, you head to Chablis, the home to the region’s famous dry white wines. This picturesque walled town will enchant you with its medieval timber-framed houses. Savour your lunch and go wine tasting in a nearby winery to discover some of the best Chablis. Or if you like wine trivia, peruse the impressive collection of 8,000 items in the Corkscrew and Vineyard Museum. In the late afternoon, say au revoir to the medieval town and journey to Paris through the lush landscapes of Burgundy.
day 07
-Admire Notre Dame and the city skyline as you stroll along the Seine River
-Come face to face with some of the most marvellous masterpieces in Louvre Museum

You have a free day in the capital of France, one of the most glamorous cities in Europe. From the world’s biggest attractions, museums, and churches to charming streets, cafes and boutiques; Paris can keep you captivated for days. With so much to see and do, you should focus on the crème de la crème of the city’s attractions. In the morning, get your obligatory croissant or baguette and head to the most iconic arrondissements (districts). Start with the Île de la Cité, an island in the middle of the Seine. Admire Notre Dame and pay your respects to the building which means so much to France and the world. Then, contrast the 12C edifice of the cathedral with the shimmering glass pyramid of the Louvre museum. The exhibitions here boast tens of thousands of works of art spanning many centuries. After you’ve pondered over Mona Lisa’s smile and seen some of the biggest masterpieces, find a café or a bistro for a well-deserved rest. No visit to Paris is complete without at least a glance at the Eiffel Tower, so stroll along the banks of the Seine to this iconic structure. And in the evening, you can go on a romantic cruise, sit in a French wine bar, or see a traditional Parisian cabaret at Moulin Rouge. But don’t let Paris bewitch you too much, because tomorrow is your next leg of the tour.

day 08
-Wander through the old town of Auxerre full of timber-framed medieval houses
-Admire the flamboyant Gothic architecture of the Hospices de Beaune in the heart of Burgundy

You depart the cosmopolitan city of Paris and watch the lowlands turn into the landscapes of northern Burgundy. Your first stop of the day is historic Auxerre. This rural town boasts one of the best restored medieval quarters in northern Europe. You’ve got time here to stretch the legs and discover the narrow lanes, lovely open squares, and half-timbered houses. You then travel to the remote village of Vézelay. Perched on a hill in the sea of greenery, this commune clustered around a UNESCO basilica is a perfect stop for lunch. Once you’ve tried the local specialities, you travel through the unspoiled forests of the Morvan Regional Nature Park. The scenes of lakes and rivers make you feel far away from the Parisian metropolis. In the early evening, you arrive for your overnight stay in Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy. It’s time to indulge yourself in two great French passions, food and wine.

day 09
-Explore the ruins of Cluny Abbey, a powerful religious centre in the Middle Ages
-Savour some of the best Burgundy wines in a beautiful location Bonjour!

Today you travel through Burgundy to the dignified Cluny Abbey. In its heyday, this religious centre was one of the most powerful Christian capitals in medieval Europe. You’ve got time to explore the quiet cloisters of this stunning monastery and ponder over its former glory. Then you head to Vienne, a town steeped in GalloRoman heritage. Its old quarters hide spectacular ruins of a Roman temple and theatre. Enjoy your lunch here and discover more of the town’s fascinating past before you continue your journey. In the afternoon, it’s time to delve into the wine region of Côte-Rôtie to appreciate some of the RABTO 19 Europe - 13-day tour itineraries from RomE best local vintages in a charming winery. After you’ve satisfied your taste buds, you venture south to the famous Ardèche area. In the evening, you arrive in Tournon-sur-Rhône, a welcoming little town sitting upon the river Rhône. You spend two nights here.

day 10
-Take in the spectacular stone arch created by the torrents of the Ardèche river
-Discover the world and art of Palaeolithic people in the replica of the Chauvet Cave

It’s time for something more majestic. It’s time to discover the rugged heart of Ardèche. In the morning, your driver takes you along the scenic roads of a regional natural park to Aubenas, a city full of architectural treasures. But that’s just the beginning of today’s highlights. Next, you follow the serpentine of the Ardèche River to Pont D’Arc where the water’s torrents etched an iconic natural stone arch in the limestone. Once you’ve feasted your eyes on this natural wonder, you can choose what to do next. A little down the road, you can visit Grotte Chauvet 2; a replica of a cave decorated with prehistoric art that gives you a glimpse into the life of Palaeolithic people. Alternatively, you can enjoy more of the natural landscapes carved out by the adamant river. You head back to Tournon-sur-Rhône in the late afternoon.
day 11
-Stare in wonder at the colossal Palace of the Popes in the historic centre of Avignon
-Delve into the narrow winding streets of the honey-coloured village of Gordes Provence has many dreamy and seductive faces.

And today you’re going to discover more of this inspiring region. First on your agenda is Avignon. You have time to explore the historic centre and the soaring Palace of the Popes. This fortress was the hub of the Roman Catholic world when the popes fled the political pressures of Rome. Grab a bite to eat, stroll through the streets, and discover the youthful vibe of the city before we move on. In the afternoon, we head east to Sénanque Abbey nestled among the Luberon hills. If you’re searching for an iconic shot of a medieval monastery surrounded by fragrant lavender fields, you’ve come to the right place. Explore the quiet cloisters, meet the monks who still live here and continue your journey deeper into the hills. Next, get a taste of traditional Provençal life in Gordes, one of the most beautiful villages in France. This honey-coloured hamlet clinging to the edge of a hill is a perfect place to admire the grand vistas of the Luberon valley. After a day of savouring the charms of the region, you head to Sisteron for two nights.

day 12
-Peruse famously fine pottery in the atmospheric ateliers of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
-Breathe in the inebriating scent of lavender in the fields of Valensole Plateau

Today you follow the trail of quaint villages and lavender fields as you delve into the Verdon Regional Nature Park. The first stop is at a village that literally clings to a cliff face, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. Here, there are a few of options to choose from. You can take in the spectacular views, visit ateliers selling the local pottery, or climb 262 steps leading to a beautiful chapel perched above the village. Then you travel to the shores of the immense lake of Sainte Croix and the village of Sainte-Croix-duVerdon. The water looks tempting here, so pack your swimwear and try some water sports or bask in the sunshine. Next, head to Valensole and the Valensole Plateau where lavender, ‘the soul of Provence’, grows. These fields of ‘blue gold’ and sunflowers are some of the most famous in the world. And they stretch as far as the eye can see. If you’ve got a soft spot for this aromatic flavour, try some of the local dishes. Intoxicated with today’s experiences and sights, you arrive in Sisteron in the evening.
day 13 Sisteron-Castellane-Verdon Gorges-Tourrettes Sur Loup-Nice
-Dare to look down into the great depth of Verdon Gorge
-Set your sights on beautiful Saut Du Loup Waterfalls, impressive canyons, mountains, idyllic villages and the French Riviera.

This is today’s exciting journey through Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and Alpes Maritimes. Your first stop is the commune of Castellane, the gateway to the Verdon Gorges. Stretch your legs and wander through the maze of picturesque narrow lanes. And if you’re keen on history, you can visit a place where Napoleon stopped for lunch on his return from Elba. Next, you travel to the Point Sublime of Gorges du Verdon. Brace yourself, because this spectacular view will make your heart race. It’s the best viewing point for admiring the sheer cliffs, the vastness of the canyon, and the turquoise colour of the river Verdon. Then, you travel onwards through the mountains, forests, and hillside vineyards until you reach Saut Du Loup Waterfalls where you have a short walk. And just before you leave the mountains and plunge down to the glamorous French Riviera, you visit your last idyllic village, Tourrettes Sur Loup. Take some photos of this hamlet that’s affectionately called the ‘city of violets’ and say au revoir to the lush countryside! In the early evening you arrive in Nice.

Inclusions: twin share at 3-4* hotels, breakfast daily, deluxe mini-coach transportation (maximum capacity 16 seats), driver, professional guide, local taxes and service charges, English only spoken

Note: pending local traffic and climatic conditions, the itinerary may be subject to change

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