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Grand Tour of Lake Garda, Venice and the Best of the Veneto

13days from
£2,299*per person

Overview

13 Days - European Tour

Experience the best that northeastern Italy has to offer on a Grand Tour of Lake Garda, Venice and the Veneto. We'll uncover the hidden gems of Veneto, including the cities steeped in history with deep cultural connections that most tourists don't know about. We'll stay on the shores of Lake Garda, the largest of Italy's breathtaking lakes, and enjoy the natural scenery of the water reflecting the mountains beyond. Of course, Italian food and drink is some of the most popular in the world, so we couldn't visit Italy without sampling some favourite local dishes and tasting some of the country's best wines, prosecco and grappa. And no visit to Italy would be complete without a visit to explore the architectural jewels of Venice and the romantic ambience of Verona.   This holiday is ideal for explorers who want to dive deeper into the history and culture of Italy, see more of its famous sights and uncover some secret spots known only to the lucky few. 

Itinerary

  • Arrive in Castelfranco Veneto Arrive at the airport in either Venice or Verona and transfer to your hotel in Castelfranco Veneto, where we'll stay for five nights.
  • Free day in Padua Today we'll travel a short distance south to Padua, a dynamic city that deserves to be recognised for more than its remarkable university, which is Italy’s second oldest, founded in 1222. On our visit to the city, you'll have the opportunity to explore the fine piazzas of the historic centre and marvel at the diverse architectural styles. The Baptistry of the Duomo contains one of the country’s most complete medieval fresco cycles, the Renaissance Loggia della Gran Guardia once housed the Council of Nobles, and bustling Caffè Pedrocchi, popular with students and intellectuals, was built to resemble a Classical temple. You could take a look at the exotic Basilica di Sant’Antonio, one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in Italy. Beneath its distinctive Byzantine domes rests the tomb of Padua’s patron saint - it's particularly outstanding. Another unmissable jewel is the extraordinary Cappella degli Scrovegni. The chapel’s interiors are entirely covered with Giotto’s lyrical frescoes, which greatly influenced the development of European art.   On the same site is a major museum complex which occupies a group of 14th-century monastic buildings attached to the church of the Eremitani, a reclusive Augustinian order. Included experience: Visit Padua. Signature experience: It’s impossible to visit Padova without a stop at the most exclusive venue in the centre, Caffé Pedrocchi. Known as the ‘café without doors’, from 1831 to 1916 it was the only place in Padua which was always open, welcoming guests at any time of the day or night and it has remained an important part of the city's culture ever since. Caffé Pedrocchi prides itself on its speciality coffee - which you shouldn't add sugar to or stir - which we'll enjoy today, alongside a delicious slice of cake.
  • Bassano After breakfast, we'll visit the enchanting town of Bassano del Grappa. Nestled in the foothills of Monte Grappa, the source of the Brenta River, which slices through the town. The two halves are connected by a 13th-century wooden Ponte degli Alpini bridge, cleverly designed to withstand the meltwaters in spring. You'll want to have your cameras handy to capture the picture-postcard panoramas of the crystal-clear waters reflecting the Alpine mountains and pastel hues of the historic buildings. While Bassano is known for its superb, glazed earthenware, it's more well-known for grappa, the Italian after-dinner drink nicknamed 'firewater' for its powerful aroma and taste. Many who taste it compare it to tequila, but you’ll have the opportunity to decide for yourself on our guided visit to a local artisan distillery museum. Here, we'll experience this fragrant, grape-based brandy with all five of your senses. We'll uncover the story of how it’s made, observe the fascinating distillation process, feel the fresh pomace with your own hands, and even smell the different varieties. Of course, we can’t leave without enjoying a taste of this warming digestif too. After our visit, there'll be time for a quick bite to eat in one of the town's many restaurants before we continue to Valdobbiadene. Valdobbiadene Next, we'll travel into the heart of the Treviso region to one of the prestigious prosecco-producing areas, Valdobbiadene, to visit Villa Sandi. Thanks to its location, set in a vast valley, it's protected by nearby mountains and the naturally endowed soil provides the optimum conditions for cultivating some of the finest grapes. Snaking below the palatial 17th-century villa is a centuries-old network of tunnels, used covertly by the Italian army during World War I that today provide the perfect environment for ageing wine. Our guide then takes us through the villa, its spacious rooms are a luxurious combination of pastel colours, stuccoes and bas-reliefs, dominated by resplendent Murano glass chandeliers. It’s easy to imagine a time when important figures such as Napoleon Bonaparte once wined and dined here. We'll also tour the underground cellars, home to a million bottles of wine, including some of the best Prosecco, which we’ll sample afterwards. Included experience: Visit to Bassano del Grappa and guided visit to a local artisan distillery.
  • Free day in Castelfranco Today is free for you to explore Castelfranco. Established when the rulers of Treviso had a castle built in 1199 to defend against the neighbouring Paduans, Castelfranco Veneto's historic centre is a maze of narrow streets and tiny squares - ripe for exploration. Protected by remarkably preserved, red-brick ramparts, it resembles a large fortress. At the heart of this historic core is the town's cathedral, which sits grandly behind a row of statues opposite the town hall. The town's greatest attraction is the altarpiece inside the cathedral, which is older than the building itself. The beautiful Pala di Giorgione by the renaissance painter Giorgione depicts the Madonna and child enthroned between St Francis and St George. Throughout the town, you'll find references to Giorgione - Castelfranco's most famous resident - they've even named a piazza after him.
  • Vicenza Today we'll travel to nearby Vicenza, situated at the northern base of the cypress-clad Monte Berico. The city doubles as an open-air museum dedicated to the legacy of Palladio, a miller's son who became the most prominent architect of the Italian High Renaissance, giving rise to the Classical style of Palladianism. The local gentry, eager to decorate their city with grand new buildings, gave him plenty of opportunities to realise his vision; as a result, many of central Vicenza’s streets are graced by a Palladian mansion. We’ll see the heart of Vicenza, including the Piazza dei Signori, which is dominated by the Basilica with its lofty clock tower and distinctive, green roof surrounded by statues of Greek and Roman gods. Not a church but a remodelling of a Gothic courthouse, the basilica’s most notable feature is the loggia, one of the earliest examples of the Palladian window. During our visit we’ll see the Teatro Olimpico, Europe's oldest surviving indoor theatre and the first permanent indoor theatre of the Italian Renaissance. Together with the Palladian villas of the Veneto in the surrounding area, this remarkable theatre is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You'll be forgiven for thinking the theatre is constructed from marble but look closer and you'll see it's actually masterfully painted wood, stucco and plaster. At times, it's easy to forget you aren't in an outdoor theatre in ancient Greece or Rome. Free time in Vicenza Later, there's time to wander this sophisticated city at leisure and you’ll receive a complimentary museum card to help you explore. The card grants free entry to the city’s various world-class attractions, including the Civic Art Gallery of Palazzo Chiericati, Palazzo Thiene, Natural History and Archaeological Museum, Risorgimento and Resistance Museum, Palladio Museum and more. Included experience: Visit to Vicenza, including Teatro Olimpico.
  • Mantua Our journey takes us west and back in time to the sleepy yet achingly beautiful Mantua, a medieval city often overlooked despite its proximity to Lake Garda. Perhaps the answer for its lack of distinction lies in the three surrounding lakes, which provide a natural fortification and keep Mantua secret from the rest of the world. It's remained virtually untouched for centuries. As the dramatic skyline of ancient towers, domes and cupolas comes into view, it’s easy to see why the city features in two well-loved tragedies: it is the setting for Verdi’s Rigoletto and Shakespeare had an impassioned Romeo exiled here. During our guided tour of the old town, the reasons for its UNESCO World Heritage status become strikingly evident. Although compact in size, Mantua has more than its share of artistic, cultural and architectural treasures. The city reached its peak in the 14th century when it came under Gonzaga rule, one of the greatest Renaissance families in Italy. Their home was the elegant Palazzo Ducale, a highlight of the city and once Europe’s largest palace with around 500 rooms, extravagantly decorated with glorious works of art. After our tour, there's time to wander the cobbled streets and relax in the lovely squares before we head north to Lake Garda, where we'll stay for the next 7 nights. Included experience: Guided tour of Mantua.
  • Lake Garda Lake Garda first came to fame in the latter days of the 19th century when visitors came for the clean mountain air, and it has been famous as an area of outstanding natural beauty ever since. Today we will tour the lake by coach, passing through some lovely, typically Italian villages complete with tiny harbours clinging to the shoreline with the mountains behind. As we travel, we'll see lush groves of olives, citrus trees and, of course, vines used for making the famous Bardolino wines. Scenically, the shore varies from the rich vegetation of the middle reaches to the more rugged north covered with pine trees whose unmistakable scent hangs heavy in the air. Included experience: Tour of Lake Garda.
  • Free day in Riva del Garda Today is a free day to relax and explore at leisure. Riva del Garda has been welcoming visitors since the 19th century and, today, the old town is a collection of typically Italian buildings painted in enticing pastel shades of cream, peach, magenta and ochre so reminiscent of Mediterranean countries. It has several harbours where boats rise and fall with the gentle waves and is dominated by a medieval fortress. Nearby is a most attractive square, beautifully lined with pavement cafés which all blend together to make Riva one of the most attractive towns on the lake. Alternatively, you could town-hop by boat or by bus, passing medieval castles, pastel houses, sprawling beaches, little coves and mighty mountains, to explore some of the towns we visited yesterday in more depth. Your Tour Manager is on hand to help you decide what to do today and to assist with any travel arrangements.
  • Venice After an early breakfast, we'll drive to Venice, for a walking tour to see St Mark’s Square and its Basilica, the Campanile, Doge’s Palace and countless other famous sights. Venice first came to prominence in the 10th century and grew in wealth and power on gaining its independence from Byzantium, reaching its peak during the 15th century. It was then that many of the fantastic buildings you see today were built. Venice at the time was the greatest power in the Mediterranean with an empire encompassing Crete, parts of Turkey and a huge portion of Northern Italy and it soon created a capital to match. Situated between East and West, trading quickly grew, and innumerable merchants made fortunes manifesting this newfound wealth, just as people do today, in the arts and property, private and municipal. St. Mark’s Basilica is a must-see for every visitor, built to house the relics of St. Mark himself, it is Europe’s most exotic cathedral with opulent decor. There are over 40,000 square feet of detailed mosaics of every colour covering the entire interior. The blend of coloured marble columns, gold and red paintings, and bas-reliefs combine to create one of the world’s most beautiful buildings. Adjacent is the Doge’s Palace, a spectacular Gothic building once home to the head of state of the Republic of Venice who, incidentally, was elected for life. The palace was also the seat of government councils and courts, as well as the prisons. The palace offers a glimpse into the glamorous life of a Venetian official, housing the most amazing wood carvings - one room alone has four Tintorettos in it. The floor is inlaid with exotic woods from all over the known world, as far afield as Japan. The walls and ceilings are exquisitely decorated with paintings, frescoes and gold leaf. St. Mark’s Square is a must too, and the focal point of the city since its foundation. Today though, visitors have replaced merchants, it's the perfect place to absorb the beauty of Venice while sipping a coffee in one of the pavement cafés. Free time in Venice During time at leisure, you could see it all at once by climbing the 323 steps of the Campanile tower, which was originally built as a lighthouse and where Galileo demonstrated his telescope to a sceptical public. Alternatively, art lovers may want to head to the Accademia - which houses one of the finest collections in the world with superb examples of Renaissance work - or the Guggenheim with exhibits including Miro, Picasso, Chagall and Léger and others. Included experience: Guided tour of Venice. Signature experience: Experiencing the city of canals from the water. After our guided tour, drift along Venice’s iconic waterways aboard a traditional gondola, to experience one of the world’s most romantic and inspiration locations from a new perspective. Our canal journey captures mesmerising views at every turn that so inspired countless artists, poets, and writers through the ages.
  • Free morning This morning, you're free to explore more of your surroundings in Riva del Garda. So, what’s it to be? A stroll around the port is a charming way to spend your time, perhaps indulging in a little shopping or simply relaxing. Trentino Vineyard Vineyards abound in this area thanks to the favourable climate, so this afternoon we will visit a small wine estate that has been run by the same family for generations. Located in the fertile valley of the Trentino region, we will have a guided tour of the cellars followed by a tasting of some of the wines produced by the family. Included experience: Guided tour of a local winery with tasting. Signature experience: In addition to our wine tasting at this picturesque local winery, we'll enjoy a rustic lunch lovingly crafted with delicious local ingredients in the winery's restaurant.
  • The Dolomites After days of gazing at them from a distance, today we’ll head north into the mighty Dolomite Mountains, the result of geological activity some 230 million years ago, with a gorgeous pink and lime-green hue. The foothills are carpeted by green pastures studded with the occasional small shepherd’s house, a few sheep and goats here and there with pine forests stretching into the distance. Autonomous since the 12th century, today you might believe you were in another country (but you’re not, we checked). The houses in the picturesque tiny hamlets resemble Swiss or Austrian-style chalets, low with gently sloping roofs and enormous window boxes crammed with flowers of every imaginable colour. The people are different too, they speak a dialect of German! We have plenty of stops today as well as the opportunity to ascend on a cable car (subject to seasonal operation) to enjoy panoramic views of the whole area. We're not often lost for words when describing our favourite places, but the awesome splendour of the rugged landscape defies words. And if the views don't do it, the crisp, clean, invigorating mountain air might just take your breath away. Thanks to our remote location, today be on the lookout for rare and unique wildlife - if you are lucky, you could see chamois, ibex, golden eagles and various deer. Included experience: Tour of the Dolomites.
  • Verona Verona is one of the most beautiful and pleasant cities in Italy. One of the most delightful things about Verona is that although it is close to Venice it receives fewer visitors. Today we'll enjoy a guided walking tour to appreciate it at its best and discover its hidden side too. The tragic story of Romeo and Juliet is set in Verona and when you experience the atmosphere here you can see why. We'll approach through the centuries-old city walls. As you enter, you cannot help but admire the medieval pink-hued buildings complete with contrasting frescoes underneath archways unchanged for centuries. The streets are busy with the pavement cafés, some with violinists serenading their clients as they enjoy the shade from the warm sunshine. The city has tiny narrow streets, complete with the tasteful shops, so typical of Italy, and the marketplace dates back to Roman times - an interesting reminder of the city’s past. The Roman arena is awe-inspiring but there are also countless medieval and Renaissance squares and courtyards to explore, as well as a superb 12th-century cathedral which houses a work by Titian. The Roman Theatre is a must too, as is one of the Renaissance’s finest gardens with clipped box hedges and a dazzling display of colour. Another interesting site is San Zeno – arguably the finest Romanesque church in northern Italy. You can also see the balcony where the immortal words “O Romeo, Romeo” were reputedly spoken. Included experience: Guided tour of Verona. Signature experience: After our guided tour of Verona, take stock and reflect on this legendary city’s ethereal beauty over a refreshing aperitivo just like a local. Soak up the atmosphere and views of its magnificent architecture and Roman amphitheatre as the echoes of history ring out over the exquisite domes and spires of this magical place.
  • Return home Our Italian adventure comes to a close today as we bid Riva del Garda goodbye. Today, we'll make our way back to the airport by coach for our return flight home.

What's Included

Holiday Highlights

  • Highlights:
  • Visit two of the most well-known cities in Italy, Venice and Verona, with guided tours of their most famous sights
  • Follow local guides through the streets of Vicenza, Mantua, Padua with tours of these elegant Italian cities
  • Marvel at the breathtaking alpine scenery of the Dolomites on a full-day tour
  • Experience the variety of the Italian drinks industry with tours and tastings at a local grappa distillery in Bassano, Villa Sandi - a prosecco-producer in Valdobbiadene - and a local winery in the Trentino region
  • Spend a full day exploring the shores of Lake Garda by coach, visiting the lake-side towns and quaint villages that surround this picturesque body of water
  • Signature Highlighs:
  • Visit one of the most important cafés in Europe; Caffé Pedrocchi, to savour their famous coffee and cake
  • Cruise Venice’s iconic canals in the style and elegance of yesteryear aboard a traditional gondola
  • Enjoy an enhanced wine tasting experience with additional wines and a superb rustic lunch with local ingredients in a traditional winery and restaurant
  • Absorb Verona’s unique and breathtaking atmosphere over an aperitivo, against a memorable backdrop of its extraordinary amphitheatre
  • Enjoy the more exclusive atmosphere of travelling in a small group with an average of 22 guests

Our Price Includes

  • The price of this holiday is per person based on two people sharing a twin or double room. Single rooms and Lake View rooms are subject to availability at the relevant supplement. The price includes:
  • Return flights 
  • 12 nights’ accommodation  
  • Daily breakfast, 7 dinners and one light lunch at a winery 
  • All local taxes and transfers 
  • All tours as mentioned 
  • Services of a Riviera Travel Tour Manager 
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Accommodation

4* Hotel Europa - Riva del Garda -

★★★★

The four-star rated Hotel Europa is truly a wonderful and intimate hotel, in an outstanding spot on the lakefront right in the centre of Riva del Garda, with unrivalled views of the historic port. It has a modern lobby and comfortable lounge to relax in after a day of sightseeing. Best of all though is the superb terrace overlooking the harbour and colourful main piazza, with probably the best views in the whole of Riva. In the evenings you will dine in the hotel’s restaurant serving local specialities and typical Italian dishes. The air-conditioned rooms are very well appointed with private facilities, satellite TV, phone and safe, and have been recently renovated. There is a small roof top swimming pool and sun terrace with great views over the sparkling waters of the lake. Please note that where hotel swimming pools are open during the summer months, weather permitting. Single rooms and lake view rooms available on request, supplements apply. Please note the use of air-conditioning in hotels in Italy is at the hotel’s discretion and is normally restricted to the summer months (mid-May to mid-September), depending on the temperature.

4* superior Hotel Savoy Palace – Riva Del Garda -

★★★★

A hotel exuding elegance and refinement, superbly managed by its third-generation family owners. Set approximately 150 yards from the lakeside, it offers striking alpine vistas as you stroll along a pathway to the harbour and Old Town. The lounge and bar create a convivial ambience while the restaurant, which enjoys an excellent reputation, serves both regional and international dishes and prides itself on its level of service. There’s a small indoor swimming pool and in the grounds you’ll find an extensive heated pool and hydro-massage tub surrounded by an attractive sun terrace with flowers and hanging baskets adding colour. The spacious, air-conditioned rooms, which have balcony views, are extremely well-appointed and stylishly furnished, with Wi-Fi, satellite TV, safe, minibar and hairdryer. Please note the use of air-conditioning in hotels in Italy is at the hotel’s discretion and is normally restricted to the summer months (mid-May to mid-September), depending on the temperature.

4* Albergo Roma - Castelfranco Veneto -

★★★★

Completely refurbished in 2016, the superb hotel has comfortable rooms with everything you’d expect from a hotel of this standard. Please note the use of air-conditioning in hotels in Italy is at the hotel’s discretion and is normally restricted to the summer months (mid-May to mid-September), depending on the temperature Local charges may be applicable for spa and wellness facilities.

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Other Information

Holiday code

R674

Holiday provided by Riviera Travel

BOOK WITH CONFIDENCE: change your booking for free, Covid-19 cancellation protection included as standard and 100% protection with ABTA & ATOL. This holiday is sold and operated by Riviera Travel (ABTA V4744, ATOL 3430). These ABTA and ATOL bonds mean that, when you book a Riviera Travel holiday, you can be 100% sure that your money is safe.

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