“Life is a combination of magic and pasta!” 
- Federico Fellini  

'La Dolce Vita' 2019 - Italy

The Republic of SAN MARINO, PERUGIA in Umbria, PIENZA in Val D'Orcia, Southern Tuscany, RADDA in CHIANTI, SESTRI LEVANTE on the Ligurian Coast, REGGIO EMILIA in Emilia Romagna, MONTAGNANA in Veneto and finally...La Serinissima, VENICE !
Many different regions, many magic smaller places....7th May to 3rd June, 2019 from/to Australia. ( 9th May to 1st June in Italy )

See Opera & Concerts in various locations as we travel along slowly savouring the joys of the Italian way of life! 



This glorious springtime sojourn, living 'La Dolce Vita' ( the sweet life ) in Bella Italia, could not be further from the many 'bucket-list' tours of Italy......There is no Colosseum, no Vatican, no Leaning Tower of Pisa......Of course, these are all wonderful to see but the special tour we've created this time is one which focusses on smaller things and smaller places. It's designed for you to immerse yourself gently into the Italian way of life in places many tourists miss.

If you already have a love of all things Italian and crave the opportunity to discover a deeper understanding of what makes Italy one of the world's most-visited countries, its people so warm, colourful and endearing as they live life to the full, one eye on their rich and deep heritage and the other on wringing the best from the here and now, then come along with us and l
ive 'la dolce vita!' (The sweet life...)

 You will stay in many stunning locations that most tourists never get to....the sorts of places where Italians themselves holiday or live their day-to-day lives focussed on food, family, pleasurable pastimes...the important things in the Italian way of life. This tour is for those who love Italy and seek a deeper, broader experience of our favourite country! It's also of course a great one for 'first timers' who would prefer a more relaxed and insightful introduction to one filled with long museum queues, crowded piazzas and large tour groups guides with garish umbrellas aloft!

So....where are we going...???

Effectively, we will prescribe a wide circle beginning in Bologna where we land and finishing in Venice from where we fly home. Our flights enable us to bi-pass the huge cities of Rome or Mila
n and their equally huge airports. Our first stop will be the tiny republic of San Marino, totally land-locked by Italy, it claims to be the oldest in the world. It teeters high on rocky Mount Titano, surrounded by its three towers and boasting the sorts of incredible vistas usually reserved for birds! You can see the Adriatic Coast in fact. San Marino is proudly independent, has its own coins and stamps and you can even have your passport stamped for a 5 Euro charge! Yes it's touristy..but look beyind that. The Piazza della Republica (what else would it be called!!) is the place to sip a drink and enjoy lunch with a view. You will also see the colourful changing of the guard here, on this central piazza. 

From San Marino, we travel through Abruzzo to our next base, elegant Perugia, deep in Umbria. (Yes, this is where those chocolates come from!) We'll enjoy the large open squares, classic architecture and the marvellous pathway atop the Roman aqueduct which makes a lovely walk with great views! We'll explore around Perugia also, before we move to Pienza, deep in the South of Tuscany, in the Val d'Orcia region. (The whole of Val d'Orcia has been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site and it's here we find the classic views of Tuscany, the magnificent sweeping countryside with characteristic long stands of tall pencil pines, winding their way evocatively along roadways and fence lines, to charming stone houses. In Pienza we stay in a 14th C Franciscan Cloister, now a beautiful hotel. It's right in town on the main square, as is the 'duomo with a view!' You can wander the little pedestrian streets among the old stone buildings and browse in the little shops. This is very much a small, historic town where people live their everyday lives doing what they do so well, shopping, eating, chatting and socialising. (work is fitted around these important things!) Whilst based here, we will make trips to some other special little towns nearby ....each different and with their own charms. The hilltop town of Montepulciano is a favourite as is the Roman spa town of Bagno Vignoni. In this area, the early Etruscans lived and their legacy of knowledge and skills enabled the Romans, in turn, to rise to greatness. Whilst here you must try Pici, a special thicker style of spaghetti, hand rolled on big cushions by very diligent 'mammas! 

Next we head to Chianti, just south of Florence, to spend three nights in the delightful town of Radda in Chianti. We're in fact staying just on the edge in a winery hotel with views to die for. From Radda we will visit some smaller towns but we'll also take time to just enjoy relaxing around our hotel and soaking in the views...as well as exploring the little town itself. ( see your breakfast restaurant above ) We plan to enjoy a lovely dinner at a nearby winery which was once a hamlet of just three families.  We'll also pop into Florence one evening and take in a performance presented by the Maggio Musicale, Florence's annual May festival of Opera and Classical music.

 After Chianti we will have a change of scenery...literally, as we are heading to the spectacular playground of the Ligurian coast...the Italian Riviera!  

Enroute, we'll visit Puccini's enchanting summer house on the lake at Torre del Lago. Touring Puccini's lakeside home you can feel the great man's presence as you observe how he lived and imagine him sitting at the piano where he wrote so much wonderful music... It's a memorable experience and it's clear that the atmospheric lake was a source of peace and inspiration to Puccini. (who also enjoyed shooting birds of course!)

Our spectacular little town of choice, Sestri Levante, is right at the start the Riviera. ( our main tour photo at the top ). We stay in a beautiful hotel, high above the sea, where we have views right along the coastline as well as over the Bay of Silence, the calm waters on the sheltered side of the peninsular. It will be easy to pop down into town as our hotel has a very convenient lift to take you up and down! As well as exploring this lovely town, favoured by Italians in the know for their own holidays, it will be easy to take a boat to nearby Portofino and Santa Margarita as well as to walk the breathtaking clifftop pathway of the Cinque Terre (five lands), and visit some of these five truly unique villages. This really IS living la dolce vita!  
 When we must tear ourselves away from the Coast, we head inland to the centre of Italy, to little Reggio Emilia in the Emilia Romagna region, (justly known, with good reason, as 'the stomach of Italy'.) Here we'll indulge in the local cuisine based around its famous tortellini, various cured meats and wonderful cheeses...especially Parmeggiano. (from nearby Parma). We'll enjoy a long lunch at a country estate which produces fine Balsamic vinegar, another of the regions treasures. We'll also visit the home of the late Luciano Pavarotti..a wonderful experience. His home is as colourful as was the great tenor! The rest of the time you will love exploring little Reggio with its very old churches, two lovely open squares and market place. Even our hotel which proudly stands on the main square, dates back to medieval times. Here you will see everyday people just going about their lives, many cycling here and there. The land is so flat, you see bicycles all over this area..and people of all ages riding them.

  Our next to last stop will be in yet another completely different region, the Veneto. Here we will really have a taste of Medieval times as we sleep within the walled city of Montagnana whose 600 year old walls and 24 towers are still marvellously intact. The moat is even clearly visible outside. There are little shops and houses built into the wall's interior and it will be delightful to explore this fairytale little place and to imagine living safely within its walls years ago. 

The final stop on our fabulous indulgence is the absolutely indescribably evocative and hypnotic water-city of Venice.. 'La Serenissima'...the serene one...which makes sense when you walk around with not a car in sight. Bliss! Yes, we know tourists go to Venice....and in their thousands....but so often for just a day and then only to rush about and see the major icons. You will see much more of this incredible city built on water and even if you've been here before, we know we will be able to show you many different and unexpected secrets. Of course, if you've never visited Venice and you'd like to tour the Doge's Palace etc, we'll help you to do this. Our hotel has a long and famous history and sits right on the Grand Canal, a few steps from St Mark's square. Just look ( above) at our breakfast terrace/bar, overlooking the canals!! 

There is much to see and enjoy in Venice outside of St Marks, the Rialto, the Lido...wonderful though they be. Walking around o
ur favourite patch, the residential area of Dorsoduro, with its 'arty' emphasis and many small shops, bars and eateries is a favourite for us as is taking in the view over all of Venice from the tower on the little island of San Giorgio Maggiore, (clearly visible from St Mark's square). These are 'must dos' whilst in Venice.
There is always much music in Venice too, whether the opera company or the many excellent ensembles and we'll attend an opera at the ornately decorated La Fenice as well as enjoy a memorable concert of Vivaldi (Venice's favourite son),  presented by a world renowned ensemble who have dedicated their lives to preserving the works of Vivaldi. 
When it is time for our Dolce Vita indulgence to end, we will fly out to Dubai from Venice's own Marco Polo airport. Our main luggage will be checked right through to home from here, so we just need to step off the plane in Dubai, sleep in the terminal hotel, then walk to our departure gate in the morning... 'all very easy and relaxed. We won't want to rush and drag suitcases after the three weeks we've just enjoyed!

After immersing ourselves in so much that is wonderful about Italy, we will be enriched, enlivened and eager to tell stories of our travels together. We will all have treasured memories of walking the city built on water, of a sleeping in a 14th C cloister, of convivial meals enjoying fabulous regional specialties and wine, of looking down on the spectacular Italian Riviera or over the Tuscan countryside, of wandering about tiny stone towns brimming with history, character and charm, sipping a drink in many a beautiful piazza, of watching the sunset over the beautiful coast of the Riviera from our eagles nest and of visiting even another tiny country....San Marino, a little jewel of its own, nestled firmly within Italy!

On this tour we will hear opera and music when opportunities arise, indulge in local specialties and wines, visit many fascinating regions and towns and stay in marvellous, hand-picked hotels, right in the 'old town' area. There are no 'one-night' stays and there will be no early morning starts (we must enjoy a leisurely breakfast in our beautiful hotels...) and no long coach days or rushing about. We want you to enjoy a deeper experience of the magnificent country that is Italy and to savour it slowly. We want you to literally live 'La Dolce Vita' as we travel along our chosen 'roads less travelled' in Italy. Bellissississimo!!!


9th May 
San Marino
2 nights
11th May
Perugia 3 nights
 14th May
Pienza 3 nights
17th May
Radda 3 nights
20th May
 Sestri L
4 nights
24th May
Reggio E
2 nights
26th May
Montagnana 2 nights
28th May
Venezia  4 nights

  • 7th May to Dubai : EK435 ex Brisbane at 9.00pm, EK413 ex Sydney at 9.10am, EK407 ex Melbourne at 9.25pm, EK441 ex Adelaide at 9.50pm, EK421 ex Perth at 10.20pm, EK449 ex Auckland @ 8.30pm. ( estimated extra for NZ = c. $400 although flights not yet on sale ) All arrive Dubai between 5.10am and 5.40am, so we meet in the arrivals hall/baggage collection before Customs/Immigration.
  • 9th May to Bologna: EK93 from Dubai at 9.00am ( arrive at 1.20pm )
  • 1st June to Dubai : EK136 from Venice at 15.50 - 3.50pm ( arrive at 11.35pm ) - luggage checked all the way home - sleep at Dubai International Airport Hotel ( inside terminal, so no customs to clear. Just go to the gate in the morning )
  • 2nd June from Dubai : EK434 to Brisbane at 10.35am ( arr 6.25am ), EK412 to Sydney at 10.15am ( arr 6.05am), EK406 to Melbourne at 10.15am ( arr 5.35am ), EK440 to Adelaide at 2.05am ( arr 8.05pm ) - or can be routed via Melbourne on EK406, EK424 to Perth at 9.55am ( arr 12.50am ), EK448 to Auckland at 10.05am ( arr 9.50am )


Recommended Reading

Some light-reading books you may like to read prior to travelling would include:-
BERENDT, John - ‘ The City of Falling Angels ‘ A look at Venice and the mysterious fire at La Fenice
de BLASI, Marlene - ‘ A Thousand days in Venice ‘ An American woman retires and moves to Venice
DUSI, Isobella - ‘ Vanilla Beans and Brodo.  Two Australians move to Italy
HAWES, Annie - ‘ Ripe for the picking ‘ and ‘Extra Virgin’ Hilarious accounts of two English sisters moving to Northern Italy, without real jobs or any Italian.
MATE, Ference ‘ The Hills of Tuscany ‘ A Hungarian buys a ruin in Tuscany and turns it into a winery. Also 'A Vineyard in Tuscany'.
MAYES, Frances - ‘ Under the Tuscan Sun - A ground-breaking light read about buying a house in Italy
ORIGO, Iris - ‘ War in Val ‘D’Orcia ‘ - Iris Origo’s famous memoires of her role in the resistance in Tuscany
......of course there are many more serious historical or art-related books you may care to read .