In May 2016 I had the pleasure of going on a grand tour of Italy by coach. The tour company Legers is well known in the UK for their coach tours and never having done such a tour before it was like going into the unknown. This trip is called a 'Taste of Italy' and is designed to let you see as much as possible of this beautiful country. Our coach party comprised of only 18 people which is smaller than Legers normally will run but it had the advantage of getting to know each other much easier. The tour was in total for 12 days.
After a very early morning start, we crossed the English Channel at Dover in the early afternoon and then drove through France heading closer to the Swiss border to overnight. The next day we travelled through Switzerland enjoying the magnificent scenery along the way until arriving around 9:30 pm at our hotel in Riva del Garda at the north of Lake Garda, Italy. This is a lovely little town and some of our coach companions decided that the second day they would remain there whilst I and others took an optional excursion to Venice. This turned out to be the only day that we had to contend with rain!
On our first day in Italy, we drove along Lake Garda stopping at wonderful little towns such as Lazise, Malcesine and Sirmione. I love these walled towns along Lake Garda and would love to spend a lot more time there exploring all the wonderful features they have.
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On day 2 in Italy as mentioned earlier we took the optional excursion to Venice, Although very wet we made the most of the visit to Venice and because the rain at times was so heavy had to dash from cover to cover but being British we are kind of used to wet weather! Venice is a lovely city and once you get away from St Marks Square and into the narrow streets there are fewer tourists giving you the opportunity to see the real Venice and its wonderful architecture. If you visit Venice do not buy anything in St Mark's Square as the prices are literally daylight robbery. You could spend your entire holiday fund on one meal.
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It's now day 3 and we stop at Sienna as we head towards our next hotel close to Rome, The Castel Madame a former convent situated high on a hill with magnificent views (see photo). Sienna is famed for the horse race that takes place twice a year in Piazza del Campo, Sienna's main square. Ten horses representing 10 of the 17 districts (Contradas) with their jockeys (Fantini) compete during a three-lap race of the square. Sienna too, is another amazing place that is certainly worth visiting.
View from my room at Castel Madame
Although we are now on the edge of Rome our next day is a journey south to Sorrento on the Bay of Naples. The climate in Sorrento is wonderful and it enjoys a tremendous amount of sunny days without too much searing heat, the August average reaching 25C and as it is on the coast the air is quite fresh. This is an area for lemons and a local alcoholic drink, limoncello is sold everywhere. I can recommend a visit to limoncello makes, l Giardini di Cataldo. Here you can see the lemons in the groves, watch limoncello being made and enjoy sampling it.
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It turned out to be a Sunday when we went to Rome the day after Sorrento and the Pope was appearing to the faithful a the Vatican. Thousands, of course, are there for this event so whilst that was happening I took a walk across a bridge over the River Tiber to a lovely quiet area of Rome with almost a small town or village like feel t o it. It was lovely to sit outside in the shade and enjoy iced tea whilst a couple were playing classical music in the square. It is quite a feature of Italian towns and cities to walk along narrow streets that open in beautiful squares. If only we had more areas like this in England!
The afternoon in Rome we had a guided walking/coach tour of some of the wonderful things that Rome contains such as the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and the Coliseum. Click here for more about my trip to Rome.
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After Rome, the next day we travelled to Florence (Firenze) a truly beautiful city which is renowned for its art galleries and is the capital of Tuscany. Once ruled by the Medici family it boasts opulence built on past history and historic centre of Florence was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982.
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Our next day was a trip to Pisa and of course, it's a must to stand next to the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. It can be quite disorienting to stand next to that tower looking upwards as it seems my brain kept trying to straighten it.
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As we are getting near to the end of our tour our remaining days in Italy are spent at Lake Maggiore and a wonderful trip to Isola Bella (click here about this trip). Sadly our holiday is coming to end but we had a lovely 2-day trip back through Switzerland and France, with an overnight stay close to Paris.
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I hope that you enjoy looking at some of the photos that I have taken and that if you have not yet visited any of these places in Italy that you get the opportunity to do so.