Guided Tour Itinerary
We visit Pisa, taking in the leaning tower and monastery. Already tilting when it was completed in 1372, the 56m white-marble cylinder is the bell tower of the Romanesque, striped marble cathedral that rises next to it in the Piazza dei Miracoli. Also in the piazza is the Caposanto Monumentale cemetery and the Baptistry, the acoustics of which are renowned and demonstrated daily by amateur singers.
We’ll take our private bus to the accommodation and, after dropping off luggage and freshening up, we’ll wander through the local town on foot, using Italian with the locals straight away! Dinner that evening will be at a local, family-run restaurant where you can begin to introduce yourselves to Ligurian dishes.
After a typical Italian breakfast and a stroll through the centre of the town, we’ll take a boat to see the beautiful Porto Venere in the Gulf of Poets, famous for its castle, houses, churches and the picturesque islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto which have numerous caves.
Among its many famous visitors, Lord George Gordon Byron spent a long time at Porto Venere in 1822. It is said that he once swam across the Gulf to Lerici, to visit his friend and poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who died shortly afterwards in a storm off the coast of Viareggio.
While here you can visit the local shops while wandering through the narrow alley ways, taking in the brightly coloured houses, and sampling some of the local dishes using the Italian that you’ve learned. We’ll return to our accommodation in the later afternoon before heading out to another family-run, local restaurant for dinner.
After breakfast, we’ll go to Parma, a famous and pretty town in the nearby region of Emilia Romagna. Parma is well known for its food. Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano cheese are some of its specialities. Parma also boasts one of the oldest Universities in the world and a famous opera house. The composer Giuseppe Verdi was born in the countryside near Parma and it remained one of his favourite cities.
We will have lunch in one of the excellent restaurants in Parma and we will wonder around this lovely town.
Today we will practise our Italian in the picturesque streets of this lovely town using the vocabulary of the food and drink native to this area.
Afterwards we’ll take our bus back to our accommodation.
Between April and October, and if the weather is amenable, in the afternoon after lunch we will go back to our accommodation and from here we’ll take our private boat and go to see the Cinque Terre by sea. At sunset, we will enjoy the Bay of the Poets and Porto Venere while having an aperitivo aboard.
Today we’ll visit the picturesque village of Santa Margherita Ligure and the small fishing village of Portofino.in Tigullio bay in the morning. In the afternoon, we’ll take a ferry to the hidden gem of San Fruttuoso.
Santa Margherita has been described as an Impressionist painting overlooking the stunning sea of Tigullio Bay. You can stroll along its promenade, have a drink in the main city square, walk to the old fortification overlooking the sea, enjoy the beach and, if the weather is nice, have a swim. Portofino has pastel-coloured houses and high-end boutiques. Seafood restaurants fringe its Piazzetta, a small cobbled square overlooking the harbour, which is lined with super-yachts. A path leads from the Piazzetta to Castello Brown, a 16th-century fortress and museum with art exhibitions and panoramic views of the town and the Ligurian Sea.
In the afternoon, we’ll take the ferry to San Fruttuoso. It’s only reachable by ferry or on foot. If you like to walk, we can organise an excursion from Portofino to San Fruttuoso. It is a medium difficulty walk and should take around 3 hours. San Fruttuoso is nestled between a mountain and the sea. It is a place of beauty, very different from the classic tourist locations. You can admire the old Benedictine Monastery there, that stands tall and white against the green mountain. Years ago, it was possible for the boats to anchor directly under the monastery cellars to deliver goods. You can still walk under the arches and visit the main Monastery building and bell tower.
Another surprising attraction is the Christ of the Abyss (Cristo degli Abissi), a bronze statue that lies under 15 metres of water. It was commissioned in 1954 after the drowning of a scuba diver.
After visiting San Fruttuoso we will take the ferry back to Portofino and our bus will take us to our accommodation. We will try real Italian pizza tonight.
The Italian you’ll learn during the day will be about Italian History and ancient cultures; on the practical side, you will learn how to buy tickets and how to ask for directions.
We take a “hop on, hop off” train today to Cinque Terre, which gives you the chance to see each of the five beautiful villages as much as you like over the course of the day. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to speak with the locals, too.
The Cinque Terre, five towns, is a string of five fishing villages perched high on the Italian Riviera which until recently were linked only by mule tracks and accessible only by rail or water. An ancient system of footpaths is still the best way to visit the five villages: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.
The Cinque Terre is noted for its beauty. Over centuries, people have carefully built terraces to cultivate grapes and olives on the rugged, steep landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the Mediterranean Sea. The breath-taking views of harbours far below the wild but hospitable coastline along with the medieval fortresses and plentiful vines and vibrant colours make this a memorable holiday.
The Cinque Terre, recognised in 1997 by the Unesco Mankind’s World Heritage, are today a National Park and Protected Marine Area with the aim of protecting this great cultural heritage and natural environment.
At lunch time we’ll dine at a very typical restaurant in the area of Corniglia where we can enjoy traditional fish and pasta dishes, such as acciughe fritte (fried anchovies), testarolo al pesto (a typical pasta with green pesto) or pansotti con salsa di noci (filled pasta served with a sauce made from walnuts), all served with local wine.
Following breakfast today we’ll take our bus to San Gimignano in Tuscany, another Unesco World Heritage site. San Gimignano is a small medieval town, famous for its fascinating medieval architecture and towers that rise above all the other buildings, offering an impressive view of the town and surrounding valley.
In the countryside nearby we’ll visit the country villa “Pietraserena” where we’ll indulge in some tasting of wine, olive oil and local cheese. In the afternoon, we’ll stroll through the enchanting centre of San Gimignano with its famous towers, wine museum and prominent position overlooking the Tuscan hills and we’ll also sample ice cream from an award-winning gelateria.
The Italian lessons for the day will focus upon the names of local produce and how to ask for information about directions, wine, olive oil and ice cream flavours. After our tour we’ll relax and dine in a local restaurant before our bus takes us back to our rooms.
On the seventh day we’re resting just a little bit by going to the “Forte dei Marmi” in Tuscany, where you have the morning to yourselves to wander the medieval streets and alleys and perhaps do a little bit of shopping using your newly acquired language skills.
In the afternoon we’ll move on to Lucca, known for the well-preserved Renaissance walls encircling its historic city centre and its cobble stone streets. Broad, tree-lined pathways along the tops of these massive 16th- and 17th-century ramparts are popular for strolling and cycling. The great opera composer, Puccini, was born here and his house, the Casa di Puccini, is now a museum that you can visit by personal preference. We’ll find a good local restaurant and dine here in the evening.
The lessons for the day will focus upon asking for information about the town and directions, as well as dealing with shopkeepers.
Between April and October and if the weather is amenable, in the morning we’ll take our private boat and go fishing with the captain along the beautiful waters of the Poet’s bay. If we are lucky, we can eat our fish on a lovely, quiet beach in the area.
For the rest of the year we’ll visit Sarzana, a fortress town near La Spezia. During the Second World War, Sarzana was a stronghold for partisans who succeeded in repelling an attack of over 300 enemy soldiers.
In the afternoon, we’ll be tasting more wine and stuzzichini (finger food, or snacks) that are typical of the Cinque Terre area in a special ‘cantina ‘around this area.While there you’ll be able to purchase wines and local produce if you wish.
Then, in the evening, we’ll try real Italian pizza which you’ll order in Italian for yourselves, including drinks.
After a last breakfast, we’ll board the bus which will take us to Pisa Airport for the return flight.