Days
14
Price from
$7,175AUD

Enjoy the many wonders of Italy and Southern France on foot

Perhaps it’s the sumptuous flavours that first draws us to France and Italy, or maybe the promise of famed ruins and drop-dead gorgeous scenery. Whatever it is you come to discover, you’ll find the perfect combination in southern France and the Italian Riviera.


Start
Levanto, Italy
Finish
Arles, France
Countries
France, Italy
Style
Peregrine
Code
PECFC
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why we love this trip

  • Hike the area's most scenic trails, including parts of the classic coastal route, all under expert local guidance. The cliff-side houses and breathtaking coastal scenery of Cinque Terre make it one of the world's most romantic destinations

  • Discover a swathe of medieval marvels, such as the castle and churches of Levanto and the Abbey of San Fruttuoso

  • Visit an organic winery and join the owner on a tour of the vineyard, beautifully perched above the sea, and learn the secrets of traditional viticulture in a breathtaking scenario. Then enjoy a wine tasting of the three varieties this vineyard produces, accompanied by traditional Ligurian specialties

  • Your local leader will take you to vantage points along the coast for the best photo opportunities, some of which you will not even find on the area’s post cards

  • Ramble along pleasant coastal footpaths winding up and down the Mediterranean cost, speckled with pine and eucalyptus trees. Pick up delicious produce at local markets and enjoy flavoursome picnics in picturesque scenery

  • Enjoy the Italianate atmosphere of Menton, one of the prettiest towns on the Riviera, and soak up the citrus scents of this lemon capital

  • Explore the maze of staircases and lanes, fine Baroque churches, bustling flower market and the famous Promenade des Anglais of Nice’s old centre

  • Walk in the footsteps of Hemingway and Cézanne in the artful city of Aix-en-Provence on a wander around its impressive morning market

  • Surrounded by aromatic herbs and wild flowers, discover the stunning views across the Rhône Valley hidden within the Alpilles Mountains (‘Baby Alps’)

Is this trip right for you?

  • You'll need to be in good health and able to walk for a few hours, with some up-and-down sections, and on varied terrain, from well-defined paths to rocky trails. Many of the hikes involve steep hills and steps that you'll need to be able to climb. Walking times vary between three and six hours a day, but the rewards are worth every step.

  • Summer temperatures can be extreme in this region (over 40°C), which can be uncomfortable. It’s important to use sun protection, wear layers to combat the heat and drink plenty of water. Please carefully consider the time of the year you wish to travel and your suitability to that season.

  • As accommodation on this trip is twin-share, single travellers will share a room with another traveller of the same gender. If you’d prefer not to share, a single room supplement is available at an additional charge. Please ask your travel consultant for more details, and please note that in some hotels a single supplement exclusion applies where single rooms are not available. Also, hotels in Europe often don't have double beds, but rather two single beds that can be pushed together/apart.

  • As this is a combination of 2 trips, your leader and the composition of your group may change between Italy and France.

  • While you will travel unaccompanied between Santa Margherita in Italy and Menton in France by train, your Italian trip leader will take you to the train station in Santa Margherita and your French tour leader will pick you up in Menton. Please note whilst the leaders can be of assistance with your luggage there may be instances where you will have to carry your own bags on and off the train.

Itinerary

Arrive in Levanto, centrally located on the Ligurian coast. No activities are planned for today, so you can arrive at any time. A group transfer from Pisa Airport is provided in the afternoon for your convenience. The transfer will be at around 4:30 pm, however please enquire at the time of booking to reserve a spot. This evening you will meet your trip leader and fellow travelling companions at a welcome meeting (this is usually at 6 pm, but check with hotel reception for the exact time and place). In this meeting, your leader will give you a briefing on what lies ahead. Enjoy a first group dinner together in the hotel restaurant, where you will dine on local specialties. In the evening you can take a relaxed stroll through the town to take in the atmosphere of this seaside location.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Park Argento or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Dinner
Today you will embark on your first walk, which takes you along the coast from Levanto to Monterosso, the first of the five villages of the Cinque Terre. The first part of the walk leads you through the old town centre of Levanto, past the stunning cathedral and up to its castle. It then continues up to Punta Mesco, the most notable promontory in the region. Just short of this point, take a small detour to the ruins of an 11th-century hermitage and the nearby ruins of the lighthouse. Here you can enjoy marvellous views of the rugged coastline and find a nice spot to stop for a short break and picnic lunch. Then follow the fairly steep path down into Monterosso – a colourful village with blue, red and yellow houses that cluster along the beachfront. Take your time to explore this interesting little town before taking the local train back to Levanto. For those who wish to, there is also an option to walk back from Monterosso to Levanto. Upon return enjoy all the amenities of your feature stay hotel, which includes a pool, a sauna and a wellness centre.

Notes: Walking distance: 10 km; approximately 3-4 hours; or 15 km if returning to Levanto on foot.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Park Argento or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Levanto to Monterosso Guided Hike
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
A short train ride brings you to Riomaggiore, the southernmost of the five villages. Here you will start your exploration along this famous stretch of coastline, partly along the classic coastal path on foot, partly by train through tunnels, both linking the five villages. Your local leader will take you to vantage points along the coast for the best photo opportunities, some of which you will not even find on the area’s post cards. After exploration of pretty Riomaggiore board another train taking you to Manarola, an attractive little village with steep multi-coloured houses overlooking a rocky port. From Manarola, make your way by bus up through a stunning terraced landscape to the village of Volastra. From here start your walk along one of the most beautiful trails in the area. Through terraced vineyards and the occasional bit of forest, you approach Corniglia, perched on a ridge overlooking the sea. Next is the little hamlet of Prevo, walking through terraced vineyards and the occasional citrus grove. Enjoy some of the best views in the region as you approach Vernazza, which is dominated by its old fortress. Follow the contours of the hillside on a narrow track that leads you up and down, before a fairly steep descent takes you into the village itself. After a refreshing drink on Vernazza’s wonderful town square at the harbour, resplendent with its brightly painted boats, continue on to Monterosso. In the late afternoon you will take the train back to Levanto.

Notes: Walking distance: 9 km; approx 4 hours. Please note that due to recent landslides in the area, it is not possible to walk the full extent of the Via dell'Amore between Riomaggiore and Manarola, and the coastal section between Manarola and Corniglia. For these sections you will be taking the train instead.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Park Argento or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Cinque Terre Guided Hike
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Begin your day with a short train ride back to the tiny village of Riomaggiore. Embark on a walk that leads you to Portovenere at the very end of the peninsula. Today’s trail is the most challenging of the Ligurian walks; it's also perhaps the most rewarding. First you will walk up a rather steep flight of stairs, then along an undulating track to reach the sanctuary of the Madonna di Montenero (those who wish to opt out of this climb can catch a bus instead). After stopping at the sanctuary for a short break, continue your walk to Campiglia. Continuing uphill you will follow the contours of the coastal cliffs, passing terraced vineyards and enjoying wonderful views of the coastline. Pass the abandoned village of Lemmen and walk high on the ridge through vineyards and pine forest. Finally descend to the little village of Campiglia, where you can stop for lunch and some refreshments. Then continue towards Portovenere and enjoy even more spectacular coastal views. When you arrive at the 16th-century castle above the village, you might be able to catch a glimpse of the distant peaks of the Apuan Alps before you descend a long staircase that takes you to St Peter’s Point and then into the heart of the village. After some free time to relax in Portovenere, return by boat to your base in Levanto – a lovely way to see the coast from the water - just in time for a group dinner.

Notes: Walking distance 12–14 km; approximately 5–6 hours
Accommodation
  • Hotel Park Argento or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Riomaggiore to Portovenere Guided Hike
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
From Levanto you will walk in a westerly direction, along the coast and through several charming little villages. This is best known as the Wild West Coast Walk. The first part of your walk follows the beach, then heads into the foothills and down to the charming seaside village of Bonassola (a good place for a morning coffee stop). Then stroll through the seaside hills towards the small village of Framura, a collection of ancient hamlets on a hillside, distinctive due to its red rocks. From Costa, the largest hamlet, a level path contours around the hills and offers you splendid views out to sea. Visit an organic winery and join the owner on a tour of the vineyard, beautifully perched above the sea, and learn the secrets of traditional viticulture in a breathtaking scenario. Then enjoy a wine tasting of the three varieties this vineyard produces, accompanied by traditional Ligurian specialties. You can opt to either continue your walk to the resort of Deiva Marina, or walk back down to the coast to take a swim, before catching the train. Travel to the small town of Moneglia, where you will have time to wander around and explore; alternatively you can walk to Sestri Levante and out to the headland. Finally you will catch a train to Santa Margherita, an attractive town that overlooks the Ligurian Sea. This is your base for the next three nights.

Notes: Walking distance 16 km; approx 6 hours. If you'd like to relax on the beach in one of the villages and spend less time walking today, you can catch the train at various points along the way. If you walk to Framura only, it will take approximately 3.5 hours (9 km) rather than 6 hours.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Jolanda or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • The Wild West Coast Hike
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Walk across the beautiful hills of the Portofino Peninsula to some amazing viewpoints, then down to the Abbey of San Fruttuoso. First, travel by local bus along a panoramic route to the small hamlet of Ruta and then walk along some splendid fin-de-siècle villas towards the highest point of the Peninsula, Monte Portofino. You will then have several longer and shorter options to reach the Abbey of San Fruttuoso, an 11th-century marvel set in a secluded cove and reachable only by boat or on foot. All walks bring you through a verdant forested landscape with amazing views across the Gulf of Tigullio and the Golfo Paradiso. Upon arrival there is the option to visit the abbey or perhaps go for a swim. Then take a boat to Camogli, a chance to admire the beautiful coastline from the sea. In Camogli, take your time to wander around the colourful historic centre and enjoy a relaxed drink or grab a gelato on one of its many terraces. From here it’s a 5-minute train ride back to Santa Margherita.

Notes: Walking distance 12 km; approx 4 hours
Accommodation
  • Hotel Jolanda or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Abbey of San Fruttuoso
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Today you’ll see the best of the Portofino Peninsula. First take a short walk through the historical centre of Santa Margherita Ligure, where you can also do some shopping for your picnic lunch. Then start a walk into the hills and enjoy beautiful views across the bay. By late morning you will reach Portofino, one of the most typical Ligurian seaside villages and a popular resort for jet setters. Explore this charming village and take the scenic walk to the church lighthouse, where you can look back on the inlet of Portofino (the name of which translates into 'fine harbour'). Then head uphill and take a break in the woods and enjoy your picnic lunch. From here you can either join the leader for a walk back to Santa Margherita, or relax and return by boat or bus later in the afternoon. In the evening, meet your group for dinner in Santa Margherita.

Notes: Walking distance 10 km; approx 3.5 hours
Accommodation
  • Hotel Jolanda or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Guided Hike to Portofino
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
After breakfast, travel along the Italian Riviera by train, en route to France and the stunning French Riviera. Your journey will last approximately five hours – the views out the train windows are stunning as you wind your way along the cliff face and through a multitude of tunnels. This part of the trip is not escorted by a tour leader, and you will be required to accompany your own luggage. On arrival in Menton, meet your French tour leader and continue by train to the pretty hamlet of Menton, your base for the next three nights. Menton sits on the coast, the last town in France before the Italian border, and it's often touted as the prettiest town on the Riviera. It boasts a warm microclimate that’s favourable to lemon, tangerine and orange groves. It was under the ownership of the Grimaldi family up until 1848, before breaking away from the principality of Monaco and officially becoming part of France in 1861. Today Menton is popular vacation spot for the well-heeled and a great place to indulge in some people-watching. Its colourful, centuries-old homes rise in circles above the coast, while the new town – with its casino, cafés and restaurants –sprawls along the coastline. As this is a combination trip this evening there’ll be another Welcome Meeting at around 6pm. Please check with reception to confirm the time. After meeting your leader and group, and a briefing on what lies ahead on your trip, head out in the evening for a delicious included dinner at a local Menton restaurant.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Princess & Richmond or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
After breakfast, take the scenic train along the coast to the town of Beaulieu sur Mer. Overlooking the Cap Ferrat peninsula, the town’s harbour is the very definition of postcard-perfect. Begin your walk along a pleasant coastal footpath around a peninsula speckled with pine and eucalyptus trees, small sandy beaches, meandering creeks, small picturesque ports, and early 20th century villas containing magnificent gardens. It's an absolutely beautiful start to your trip. You will enjoy a flavoursome picnic lunch along the way, and there will be opportunities for a swim as well so make sure you’ve got your swim gear in your daypack. The warm climate in this niche on the French Riviera has made it a favourite holiday destination amongst European aristocracy and international millionaires for centuries. This geographic area was part of the Kingdom of Sardinia (now ruled by Italy) until 1860, when the County of Nice was finally ceded by treaty to France. This coincided with the time when the peninsula became a magnet for royalties and wealthy visitors alike. In 1905 Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild chose Cap-Ferrat to build an opulent and exquisite Tuscan-style palazzo, now known as Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild. A real highlight today is an included visit to the villa and a walk around its impeccable gardens, including a Japanese garden and a splendid rose garden. Your walk ends back in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, another aristocratic vacation resort, before taking a short train ride back to Menton.

Notes: Walking distance 10 km, approx 3 hours.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Princess & Richmond or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Cap-Ferrat Peninsula Hike
  • Villa Rothschild
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
Today you’ll take a short scenic bus ride up into the foothills for the start of your walk. It will take you between the restful hamlets of St Agnès and Gorbio. St. Agnès, with its granite homes set like an eagle’s nest above the Riviera, sits a staggering 800 metres above the coast – the highest coastline village in Europe. The town is incredibly well preserved, and you can discover medieval cobbled village streets and vaulted passageways that seem timeless. The views of the coast are awe-inspiring. Walk on a series of cultivated terraces, which at one time were used for growing olive trees, grape vines and fig trees, en route to the village of Gorbio. Sitting in the shadow of rocky peaks, Gorbio has a charming large, open village square with a single café and restaurant, all dominated by imposing elm tree planted in 1713. The village streets wander through ancient limestone houses, some majestic and well maintained, others in states of disrepair. Beautiful yet haunting, this is a village set just behind the Riviera, yet untouched by modernity, and few tourists venture here. After time to explore pretty Gorbio, you will catch a local bus back to Menton. Enjoy the restaurants that line the Old Town tonight.

Notes: Walking distance 5 km, approx 2.5 hours.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Princess & Richmond or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • St Agnes to Gorbio Hike
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
After breakfast, take a local bus from Menton to Nice (approximately 30 minutes) and enjoy a morning of sightseeing on a walking tour of Nice's old centre. Explore its maze of staircases and lanes, fine Baroque churches, bustling flower market and the famous Promenade des Anglais. The Old Quarter is a warren of alleyways, boutique shops, cafes and restaurants just waiting to be discovered. After your exploration you will have free time for lunch – you might pick up some fresh local fare and head across to the buzz of activity that is the Promenade des Anglais, a hot spot for street theatre, locals artists, 'beautiful' people and visitors alike. In the afternoon, travel by private taxi to the centre of exquisite Aix-en-Provence, through heartland scenery that has long attracted the brushes of Impressionist painters (approximately 2.5 hours). After you arrive, enjoy a walk in the heart of this most ‘Parisian’ of cities. Wander through the Cours Mirabeau, Vieille Ville, and the wide boulevards, shady squares, and enticing cafes. Aix-en-Provence (‘Aquae Sextiae’ in Latin) was founded in 122 BC and was named for its healing thermal springs. It’s also often referred to as the ‘city of a thousand fountains’, and includes a hot-water fountain that dates back to 1734.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Saint Christophe or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Walking Tour of Aix-en-Provence
  • Walking Tour of Nice
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Browse the stalls of Aix-en-Provence's impressive morning market, a wonderful introduction to the sights, smells and sounds of a typically bustling French produce market. Be sure to stock up on local specialties for today’s picnic lunch, which is at your own expense today. With a relaxing ambiance, Aix-en-Provence's streets and parks are all well laid out. Cours Mirabeau, a wide thoroughfare planted with double rows of plane trees, bordered by fine houses and decorated by fountains, divides the town into two sections, with the old town lying to the north. This is the most interesting part of Aix-en-Provence, with wide but irregular streets and fine old mansions dating from the 16th to 18th centuries. Along this avenue you’ll find Les Deux Garçons (‘the two boys’), the most famous café in the city, frequented by the likes of Paul Cézanne, Ernest Hemingway, and Emile Zola. Mid way through the morning you’ll transfer to the start of today’s walk – a scenic pathway along the foot of the white-peaked Sainte Victoire, where Cézanne walked, mused and painted. Stroll through pine forests to the lapping waters of Lake Zola, where you'll enjoy a picnic lunch. It’s likely that in this ethereal countryside you may still encounter some artists working at their easels. A short climb leads you to a rim above the deep valley, where the views extend over a countryside draped in thyme and rosemary, with the imposing mountain of Sainte Victoire just a stone’s throw away. After your walk, transfer 10 minutes back to Aix-en-Provence for a free afternoon of exploring or relaxing.

Notes: Walking distance 6 km, approx 2.5 hours.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Saint Christophe or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • St Victoire and Lac Zola Hike
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Journey to the Alpilles Mountains (literally ‘Baby Alps’) after breakfast (approximately 1 hour). This is a small range of abrupt limestone crags carpeted with sparse pine, aromatic herbs and wild flowers. Perched above an otherwise flat Rhône Valley, the views are jaw-dropping – the vast plains of the Camargue to the south, a glimpse of the Mediterranean Sea and, to the north, the many villages that dot the plains – all with the famous Mont Ventoux providing a backdrop. After an hour’s stroll along the crest, the medieval village of Les Baux appears – grey stone buildings huddled in tight formation below the ruins of an imposing castle, all hovering dizzyingly above the plains. You’ll enjoy your picnic lunch by a centuries-old limestone quarry, before exploring the 1,000 year-old village of Les Baux, with its narrow cobbled streets and medieval buildings. Afterwards, take some free time in a little-known café that’s been run by the same family for 400 years. It’s the perfect place to sit and admire this stunning site. Then travel 15 minutes to Arles, where you’ll discover Vincent van Gogh's second home, the city’s Roman legacy, and its rich historical heritage. What could be a better way to round off the afternoon than a coffee or ‘pastis’ in one of the lively cafes that once paid host to the famous painter. You will enjoy a final group dinner in a local restaurant – the perfect way to bid each other bon voyage!

Notes: Walking distance 5 km, approx 2 hours.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Calendal & Spa or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Les Baux Hike
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Your trip will come to an end after breakfast in Arles. If you have time before departing, Arles has a good Saturday morning market with many local products that you might like to taste. It’s said to be one of the most beautiful markets in Provence. Arles is connected by rail to a number of other destinations in France including Nimes (30 minutes), Montpellier (1 hour), Marseille (40 minutes), Avignon (20 minutes), and TGV direct services to Paris (4 hours). For those wanting to spend more time in Arles to further explore this fascinating town and its Saturday morning market, additional nights’ accommodation can be arranged at the time of booking.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

13 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 5 dinners

Transport

Local bus, Private vehicle, Boat, Train

Accommodation

Comfortable hotel (8 nights), Feature Stay (5 nights)

Included Activities

  • Levanto to Monterosso Guided Hike
  • Cinque Terre Guided Hike
  • Riomaggiore to Portovenere Guided Hike
  • The Wild West Coast Hike
  • Abbey of San Fruttuoso
  • Guided Hike to Portofino
  • Cap-Ferrat Peninsula Hike
  • Villa Rothschild
  • St Agnes to Gorbio Hike
  • Walking Tour of Aix-en-Provence
  • Walking Tour of Nice
  • St Victoire and Lac Zola Hike
  • Les Baux Hike

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Important notes

The walking on this tour is graded as easy to moderate; anyone used to hill walking/mountain hiking with a daily average of about 3-6 hours and a height gain/loss of maximum 500 metres per day should find the tour within their capability. Some of the walks can be shortened if desired by the use of cable cars or private bus service. Please note if you opt out of any of the group walks or choose to do a shortened version, any additional transport costs are at your own expense.

Essential Trip Information

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