Rome to Paris
21 days with Intrepid Travel Rating:
Day 1: Rome
Buongiorno! Welcome to Italy. Crowded with ancient ruins and religious monuments, Rome still pulses to the beat of modern life and is packed with designer shops, restaurants, cafes and exciting nightlife. Your Italian adventure will begin with a welcome meeting at 6pm tonight – check with reception to confirm the time and place. We'll be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please have these on hand. If you're going to be late, please inform hotel reception. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). There are no activities planned before the meeting, so if you arrive early there are plenty of things to keep you busy. Maybe save the unmissable sights for tomorrow morning and today do as the Romans do – sip an espresso at one of the tiny streetside cafes and sample the many flavours of gelato that colour the city. For those captivated by the 'Eternal City', throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain to ensure a return visit to Rome.
Day 2: Rome / Lucca
Enjoy some free time in Rome or, if you wish, your group leader will be available for an orientation walk, taking in some of the best-known sights of Rome like the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps and the Roman Forum. No visit would be complete without a trip to Vatican City and St Peter's Basilica. Entry to the Basilica is free and there's a small charge to climb the dome for a breath-taking panorama over Bella Roma. If there's time, visit the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. In the afternoon, you'll travel by train from Rome to Lucca (approximately 4 hours). Lucca is one of Tuscany's real hidden gems, with centuries-old buildings, beautiful churches, charming piazzas and narrow streets within the ancient city ramparts. You’ll be captivated by this medieval town, which simply radiates charm. In Lucca, you’ll stay in some unique accommodation – your own private apartments. There are several separate apartments located near the city centre so you may be a short walk away from your other group members and your leader. The apartments are a real treat. Staying in the city centre allows easy access to all the sights, restaurants and bars, all an easy stroll from your front door. Each apartment has 2-3 rooms with a shared bathroom. (Breakfast)
Day 3: Lucca / Pisa
Set off on a cycling tour following the scenic Serchio River through the Tuscan countryside (4 kilometres round the walls that are now a tree-lined avenue, and 14 kilometres by the river, approximately 3-4 hours). There are cafes and plenty of spots for a Tuscan picnic along the route. Your base in Lucca provides you with the perfect opportunity for a later outing to the nearby city of Pisa (approximately 30 minutes by local train). Here there'll be ample time for you to visit the quirky world-famous Leaning Tower, as well as the Duomo (Piazza dei Miracoli, once the largest in Europe) and Pisa Baptistry (please note that it's not always possible to climb the tower). The tower was built in the 12th century, but its foundation was on shifting sand and clay, meaning that it now leans at an angle of 4 degrees (after restoration and stabilising work). Wander the shopping streets, from high-end boutiques to speciality book and antiques stores, and perhaps enjoy an aperitif. Back in Lucca, the kitchen apartment is fully equipped and you can choose to buy your own beautiful local ingredients and supplies for meals. During their stay, some of our groups make Italian feasts with produce from around the area. Our apartments are not hotels, so there's no reception, WiFi, room service or cleaning service every day, but plenty of charm and you just cannot beat the location.
Day 4: Lucca / Florence
Today, hop aboard a local train for a day trip to Florence, Italy's ‘outdoor museum’ (approximately 1.5 hours). Florence, the cultural heart of Tuscany, bursts with religious treasures and Renaissance masterpieces. It's been said that during the second millennium, a third of Europe's most important artists lived in Florence. The minds and talents of the Medicis, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Brunelleschi, Machiavelli, Donatello and Michelangelo all flourished here. It's impossible to see everything in this Renaissance wonderland, however, so take your time and enjoy it. The principal sights are easily discovered on foot – the Pitti Palace, the Ponte Vecchio, the Arno River front, the many statues and monuments of the Piazza della Signoria, the Palazzo Vecchio, the 13th-century Duomo (with its fiery depiction of the Last Judgement), the Baptistry and the Belltower, and the Santa Croce Church. There’ll be time to visit the Uffizi, one of the world's oldest art galleries and a work of art itself, see Michelangelo's famous statue of David in the Galleria dell'Accademia, shop in the many markets and chic boutiques. Back in Lucca, a way to end the day is to head to a local bar for a refreshing Prosecco and a delicious focaccia with finocchiona salami and pecorino cheese, in the shadow of the Palazzo Pretorio.
Note: Florentine State Museums can all be booked in advance, online at www.weekendafirenze.com. We suggest that you book in advance (your leader can be of assistance), especially for the Uffizi, as this museum experiences enormous queues (up to 5 hours) all year round. The individual museums have slightly different opening times and closing days between them but the website (www.firenzemusei.it) has everything you need to know. We arrive into Florence in the late morning, so the best time for your visit to any of the museums will be in the afternoon of Day 4. Importantly, please note that if you choose to pre-book your ticket for Day 4, you may miss out on the bike ride in Lucca should this take place on Day 4 due to adverse weather conditions on Day 3.
Day 5: Lucca
Today is a free day in Lucca to take in all the sights that this city has to offer. Wander to the former Roman amphitheatre found off Via Fillungo. The remains of the amphitheatre are gone, but the medieval houses now standing in its place follow the outline where the spectator stands once were. Here, in what’s now called Piazza dell'Anfiteatro, there are many outdoor cafes where you can sit down and see the world go by and do a spot of people watching. Also here, 2,000 years ago, Julius Caesar, Pompey and Crassus formed a coalition government to rule Rome. Make sure you also head to Foro Square to see the majestically constructed San Michele church, built over the ancient Roman forum and rich in artwork, and make a stop at the 14th century Duomo di San Martino, a splendid example of Romanesque architecture. Inside you’ll find the tomb of and monument to Ilaria del Carretto, carved by Jacopo della Quercia – it’s a masterpiece that dates back to the 15th century. Also, it might be 25 flights of stair to climb to the top of the Guinigi Tower, but the views are worth it. The tower also makes for a great sight in itself as it has trees growing on its roof!
Day 6: La Spezia
Travel by train to La Spezia (approximately 3 hours), an important naval base that’s now the gateway to the gorgeous Cinque Terre, or ‘Five lands’ in English. A medieval port town whose name is derived from its historic importance in the spice trade, La Spezia is your base for exploring the nearby stunning stretch of coast known as the Cinque Terre (approximately 30 minutes by train). The name comes from the five tiny villages – Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore – whose position, wedged into a series of coves between sheer cliffs, makes it one of the highlights of the whole of Italy. After lunch, explore the city or perhaps head out by ferry or bus to the pretty seaside town of Portovenere, known for its colourful houses straddling the waterfront. Return to La Spezia and walk around the pedestrian zone on Via del Prione to the gardens along the harbour. Or opt to take another ferry to Lerici, another small village across the Bay of Poets dominated by its castle, for dinner.
Day 7: Cinque Terre / La Spezia
This morning venture out on the footpaths of Cinque Terre (Five Lands), a region of Italy famed for its coastline and pastel villages on mountains that plunge into the sea. The footpaths that run between the villages were once the only way to travel in the region, and take you through olive groves, vineyards and on to idyllic, breath-taking vistas. If you're feeling energetic, walking the entire path (12 kilometres, approximately 5 hours) will give you the best taste of the villages and countryside, though will require a good level of fitness. You can also choose to walk just a few sections, which will still unveil a great amount of majestic scenery. Some sections of path can be difficult, as there are challenging uphill stretches, narrow paths, steep cliffs and foot bridges. Please remember to bring comfortable footwear such as trainers or light hiking shoes. It's also possible to take the train between any of the villages or back to the group's base whenever you want. After working up an appetite, take advantage of the foods of the Liguria region with a pesto class. Focaccia is also a speciality in this area and makes a great start to lunch. The rest of the day is free. In the evening, there's no better way to recover from your day of walking with more indulgence in delicious Mediterranean food. (Breakfast)
Day 8: Milan / Stresa
Travel by train to Milan (approximately 3 hours), Italy's second largest city and the capital of Lombardy, Italy's wealthiest province. You’ll stop here for a few hours. In this most fashionable of cities, this is the place for stylish shopping and cafes – Milanese specialities! Explore the city's historic centre, visit the city's most famous building, the Gothic Duomo, and walk between its rooftop sculptures, admiring the views and the stunning Gothic terrace. Most will want to visit Leonardo Da Vinci's masterpiece, The Last Supper, if there's time – see below for details. In the afternoon, leave Milan by train for your next destination, Stresa (approximately 1.5 hours). Charming 19th-century Stresa is a town that boasts all the amenities of both a traditional seaside resort and a winter ski resort. The Italian lakeland scenery is beautiful with blue waters, soaring mountains, woodlands, exotic gardens, Victorian-style resort towns, historic hamlets, traditional Italian fishing villages and reminders of a bygone era in every direction. (Breakfast)
Day 9: Lago Maggiore / Stresa
Today board a local ferry for a scenic trip on Lake Maggiore to the enchanting Borromeo Isles. On Isola Bella the Borromean family employed the most talented architects and gardeners to transform a rocky crag into the setting for a magnificent baroque palace and Italianate gardens. Visit the romantic palatial residence, built in the 17th century by Carlo III in stunning Lombard-Baroque style, and wander through its wonderful hanging gardens. Try cooling yourself, as the original inhabitants did, in the ornately decorated caves. You can lunch on the islands in one of the traditional fishing villages, like Isola dei Pescatori, and if there's time to spare, visit the markets and churches in one of the lakeside hamlets. Later in your free time, you can ride the cable car up to the top of Mount Mottarone, the winter ski centre, from where there are wonderful views of the Lakes Region, the Swiss Alps and the Monte Rosa Massif. Evenings in Stresa are best spent strolling the quaint streets of the town, people-watching from the pavement cafes or enjoying Italian food at one of the many lakeside restaurants. (Breakfast)
Day 10: Lucerne
Farewell Italy and take a spectacular train journey to Lucerne in Switzerland (approximately 6 hours). Explore the medieval city of Lucerne, located on the edge of a mountain-locked lake with plenty to do and see. This historic old town is famous for 15th century frescoed houses and impossibly quaint covered wooden bridges. There are also a number of medieval defensive towers along the city walls that can give you great views over this picturesque town and its surroundings. In the tiny streets of old town (Altstadt), there’s often a craft market and dozens of shops full of unique handmade goods. The bridge that crosses the Reuss River is known as the Kapellbrücke, and if you look up while crossing it, you’ll see fascinating 400-year-old triangular roof panels painted with mythical and historical scenes. When you arrive, you can walk along the bridges, stroll eastwards along the Rathausquai and the Schweizerhofquai, and admire the setting sun over the lake. This evening, maybe enjoy an aperitif with a view of the lake and seek out classic Swiss cuisine in some traditional surroundings. (Breakfast)
Day 11: Lucerne
Today is a free day to explore the area around Lucerne. Perhaps begin with a walk up Lowenstrasse (Lion Street) to visit the Lion Monument, a touching rock-face carving of a dying lion that commemorates the 800 Swiss mercenaries who were killed defending Louis XVI during the French Revolution. Explore the old town streets or take a walk along the lakeside paths – one leads to the villa of famed 19th century composed Richard Wagner, now a museum. If you’d like to take things a little easier then there are numerous ferries that criss-cross the lake and dock at scenic stops along the shore. To explore the wonderful alpine scenery that surrounds the city maybe take the world’s oldest cog railway up the 1,800-metre Rigi Mountain, or take the world’s steepest cog railway to 2,100-metre Pilatus peak. Also known as Dragon Mountain because the sunset behind the peak often glows like dragon’s breath, Pilatus peak has magnificent views on a clear day that reveal most of Switzerland. You can hike various trails around the summit and then take the cable car back down. For something different, there’s the quirky exhibits of the National Transport Museum – don’t be fooled by the dour sounding name, this is one of Europe’s most popular and fun museums.
Day 12: Interlaken / Swiss Alps
A train journey through villages and spectacular alpine scenery today brings you to the Bernese Oberland and the town of Interlaken (approximately 4 hours), a pretty town that sits between lakes Thun and Brienz. Upon arrival, travel to nearby steep-cliffed valley in Lauterbrunnen and enjoy a walk through characteristic Swiss countryside to view the magnificent Trummelbach Falls. Here 10 glacier waterfalls meet in one spot to produce 20,000 litres per second of water that corkscrews through the mountain. You can visit underground galleries and climb up steps that trace the path of the mountain stream that has carved a waterfall inside the rock walls. There's plenty of time to wander the beautiful walking paths of the Lauterbrunnen Valley and to visit nearby villages where you can enjoy excellent traditional Swiss cheesecake and hot chocolate. Otherwise, sample some traditional Swiss food at one of the local restaurants – fondue and rosti are specialities.
Day 13: Interlaken / Swiss Alps
Interlaken and the Bernese Oberland region offer a multitude of activities to take part in during your free time. Why not indulge in a nine o'clock champagne breakfast with 'James Bond' at Piz Gloria, the world's highest revolving restaurant on the peak of the Schilthorn. This was the mountain-top location of villain Blofeld’s lair in the film ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’. With views to the Black Forest in Germany and the Italian Alps on a clear day, it's a spectacular spot, but at 3,000 metres you have to start climbing early! If this sounds way too challenging, there are three eye-popping cable cars – suspended high over rocky outcroppings, jewel-like ponds and gorgeous hiking trails – that can get you there in under an hour. You'll also have an opportunity to visit the major ski resort villages on the way down. You can descend to the village of Murren and then take a cable car that gracefully hangs over a cliff to the village of Stechelberg. From here Staubbach Falls, the highest in Switzerland, will reveal themselves, 1,000 feet of torrenting water. The village of Stechelberg itself is a watery wonderland, with 70 waterfalls cascading down from the mountaintops. Spend the day soaking up these wow-worthy views of snow-capped peaks, spine-like ridges and glistening lakes. (Breakfast)
Day 14: Interlaken / Swiss Alps
On your second free day in this spectacular Alpine setting, you might want to take the cogwheel railway on an awesome mountain ride up the side of the mighty Eiger, above the glaciers, to the Jungfraujoch and 'the roof of Europe'. Much of the six-mile route to the top is through a tunnel; with a stop to look out through an observation window in the Eiger. Here, at almost 3,500 metres, you can indulge in a few light-headed snowball fights, walk through a carved ice palace or ski, all while taking in the kind of mountain views as far as other peaks in France and Germany that few ever get to see – weather permitting of course! Alternatively, mountain bikes can be hired locally and there are plenty of trails – there’s a very beautiful route from the town along Lake Thun as well as opportunities to get up higher and do downhill riding. There are also numerous hikes in the area with other funicular railway or cable car connections, and a host of other physical activities. Just ask your group leader about all the options to choose from. (Breakfast)
Notes: The use of the Jungfrau railway has been known to cause some minor acclimatisation troubles for some travellers, as the difference in altitude between the railway stations of Interlaken and Jungfraujoch is almost 3 kilometres! Take this into account before making the trip.
Day 15: Bern / Dijon
Travel by train through the Swiss capital of Bern (approximately 1 hour). Switzerland's attractive capital is an inviting place to spend a few hours. Wander through the medieval old town on cobblestone streets or picnic by the Aare River. Visit the 15th century Gothic cathedral and its 12 metre high stained glass windows, or survey the domain of a genius at Einstein's house. Later today, cross the border by train into France and onwards to Dijon (approximately 4 hours). Discover one of France’s wealthiest provinces in the region of Burgundy. Dijon was once one of the greatest centres of art, learning, and science in Europe, with rulers that rivalled the King of France and monasteries that threatened the supremacy of the Pope. Today it retains a dynamic and elegant air, along with a youthful feel thanks to its large and well-known university. Perhaps visit the Mustard Museum in your spare time here to learn about the history and gastronomy behind this world famous condiment. At first it may not sound like the most exciting activity, but this is in fact a great attraction! In the afternoon you can take a walk around the city on a route called the ‘Owl’s Trail’, finding medieval and Renaissance architecture dotted on every street. A handy little booklet takes your to 22 of Dijon’s historic monuments. Be sure to try some local cuisine in the evening, as this region is famed for culinary delights such as beef bourguignon and coq au vin. (Breakfast)
Day 16: Beaune / Dijon
Absorb the medieval heart of the city, like at the café-lined Place de la Libération, this morning, then take a day trip to Beaune, the delightful walled town in the centre of Burgundy (approximately 40 minutes). Beaune is located in the wine region of the Cote d'Or, an area that produces some of the best wines in France and is made up of the Cote de Beaune and Cote de Nuits, where vineyards stretch as far as the eye can see. The best Burgundy wines are grown here in the golden-red soil, hence the name Cote d'Or (Land of Gold). Cycle through the vineyards, with beautiful views of the gentle rolling hills that make up this idyllic landscape. Maybe embark on a gourmet indulgence when you return to Dijon this evening, perhaps choosing to take another chance to feast on Burgundy’s classy cuisine, to indulge in some wine tasting, relax at one of the many enticing pavement cafes or simply stroll the charming streets.
Day 17: Reims
Travel north by train to the Champagne region (approximately 4 hours) to raise a glass in Reims. Set in an agricultural region famous around the world for its sparkling wines, which have been produced here since the days of Dom Perignon, Reims is home to some of the best-known 'Grandes Marques' in Champagne and plays an important part in the production of the sparkling wine. It also boasts a historical side – 25 kings of France were crowned in the city's elaborate Notre Dame Cathedral, a gothic masterpiece that’s a World Heritage site. The cathedral stands out alongside the Art Deco architecture that was part of the city’s rebuilding after the First World War. The city is also a great example of France’s fantastic food – there’s a three-times-a-week Les Halles du Boulingrin covered market and mouth-watering gourmet shops lining the Rue de Mars. Tonight you’ll surely get your first taste of the local drop at one of the champagne bars tucked around the city.
Day 18: Reims
Today you’ll get an insight into champagne’s effervescent magic with a tour around one of the champagne producers of the region. Depending on availability you will tour the caves of Pommery, where you’ll learn about champagne-making and the remarkable businesswoman who made the brand world famous. When her husband died in 1860, Louise Pommery took control of the business, purchasing 120 limestone and chalk pits, or crayères, carved underneath 12 miles of the city of Reims by Roman soldiers during their occupation of Gaul. Walk down a 116-step stairway to this underground tunnel system, where millions of bottles of Champagne are lovingly cared for – the ageing process taking between three and 12 years – with someone turning the bottles exactly a quarter of an inch a day to get the yeast working. Enjoy a free afternoon in Reims – maybe wander around the ornate Roman construction of the Porte of Mars, drop by the Musée de la Reddition (where the Germans officially surrendered in 1945), see the splendour of the Palais du Tau (Archbishop’s Palace), or head for the collection from famed artists in the Musée des Beaux Arts. Get your bubbly fix today and be sure to try all the gastronomic feasts that Reims has to offer (don’t miss the biscuit rose, meant to be dipped into your glass of champagne).(Breakfast)
Day 19: Paris
Travel by train to Paris (approximately 1 hour). Rich in museums, art galleries, monuments, fashion and fabulous food, Paris offers a wealth of major sights and hidden treasures to discover. Stroll along the Seine and be enchanted by Paris, a city that has inspired artists and lovers throughout the ages. Enjoy free time to explore and discover the myriad of tourist attractions in Paris. Before jumping into all that the city has to offer, maybe simply walk through the pretty little lanes of the Latin Quarter, laze in the elegant shop-lined streets of St Germain, wander down the opulent Champs-Elysee, or meander through the winding bohemian streets of Montmartre. Here you can climb to the summit of the hill to the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, the highest point in the city, where on a clear day you’ll get wonderful views. Maybe take a short hop across the city on the Paris metro to the 20th arrondissement. Wander the tombs of the Père Lachaise garden cemetery, the world’s most visited cemetery due to its ornate graves and moving memorials to icons such as Frédéric Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, and Edith Piaf. Sitting with a baguette and cheese in the Luxembourg gardens and watching the French go about their daily life is the perfect way to while away the hours. (Breakfast)
Day 20: Paris
The whole day is free to be swept off your feet by the city. Discover the artistic treasure trove housed in the world-famous Louvre, where you can see the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. Join the Thinker in his eternal contemplation at the Rodin Museum. Visit the Musee d'Orsay, home to some of the most famous Impressionist paintings. Climb the Eiffel Tower (or take the lift) for some impressive aerial views of Paris. Study the Notre Dame Cathedral with its vast rose window and menacing gargoyles. Take a trip out to the vast and opulent Palace of Versailles. Head underground to experience the atmospheric spider-web of catacombs. Hop on two-wheels to glide around the city or take a walking tour of the major sites, or head to a cafe to have a coffee – the French drink it black – and watch the world go by. Whatever you choose, today is sure to be packed full of memorable sights and attractions. Regroup in the evening to enjoy a last dinner together in this romantic city (not included). Afterwards, consider hitting a jazz bar or simply taking a walk to take in more of this enchanting city.
Notes: To avoid queuing at the ticket windows of the Louvre you can buy your ticket in advance, but pre-sold tickets can't be collected at the Louvre. The ticket is valid every day except Tuesday (when the museum is closed) and certain bank holidays. Book your tickets at: louvre.fr
Day 21: Paris
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. As there is so much to see in this magnificent city you may want to consider extending your stay here. We are happy to book additional accommodation for you, subject to availability. Please enquire at the time of booking.
All This Included
Put your finger on the pulse of Europe's beating heart on this memorable tour through Italy, Switzerland and France. From ancient wonders on the bustling streets of Rome, to high fashion in Milan, traditional folklore in the Swiss Alps and champagne tours in Reims - this trip truly captures the spoils of Europe. Travel through the charming hillside villages of the Cinque Terre, get close to nature amid the grandeur of Lucerne and fall in love with romantic Paris - each day brings a fascinating new discovery.
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* The prices shown are U.S. dollars per person, based on double occupancy, and subject to availability. Prices quoted for land/cruise arrangements are subject to increase without notice. Once we have received your deposit, land/cruise prices are guaranteed. Air prices quoted via phone or email are subject to increase and are guaranteed only from the time that full payment is received. Also, air prices or air promotions mentioned on this site or on the phone do not include baggage fees imposed by airlines.