Days
16
Price from
$6,115CAD

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, Tuscany and the Italian Riviera.


Start
Florence, Italy
Finish
Arles, France
Countries
France, Italy
Style
Peregrine
Code
PEIF
Physical rating
Traveller’s rating
4 reviews
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 16

Why we love this trip

  • We start in Florence, the city that gave birth to the Renaissance

  • Discover charming villages such as Monticchiello and Bagno Vignoni, hidden to mass-tourism by their location and tiny size

  • Stay for a couple of days in Siena, a Tuscan city of refinement and class

  • From our base in charming Santa Margherita, we make excursions to Portofino and the Cinque Terre

Is this trip right for you?

  • Summer temperatures can be extreme in this reagion (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.

  • 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.

Itinerary

Your trip begins in Florence, the cultural capital of Italy and the gem in Tuscany's crown. No activities are planned for today so you may arrive at any time. Please make your own way to the joining hotel, which is located centrally in town. There really is so much to see in Florence, so if you are arriving earlier, be sure to get out and see some of Italy's 'outdoor museum'. In the evening you will meet your trip leader and fellow travellers at a welcome meeting. This is usually at 6 pm, but you will be advised as to the exact time and place in a notice near the reception at your hotel. At this meeeting, the leader will give you a briefing on what lies ahead. This evening you will enjoy dinner with your group at a local restaurant in Florence.

Notes: Arriving/departing by train where possible is recommended, as it's a relatively low-carbon mode of transport.
Accommodation
  • Hotel La Fortezza or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Dinner
Start the day with a walking tour of the heart of Florence, the birthplace of Renaissance. You will witness some outstanding works of art that have been preserved over the centuries. Stroll along the streets and enjoy the essence of Italian history and culture. You will pass along the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, visit Piazza della Signoria and gaze up at the landmark of Florence, the Duomo. At midday, embark on a drive to the town of Arezzo, the setting for the movie 'La Vita è Bella'. In Roman times, Arezzo was the most important city of the Etruscan federation. You will be free to wander around town and enjoy lunch at your leisure. In the late afternoon, travel on to Montepulciano, one of Tuscany's most attractive hill towns. Settle into your hotel, which is located in the historic centre, then explore the old town and all it has to offer. You will dine with your fellow travellers in the evening.
Accommodation
  • La Terrazza Di Montepulciano or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Florence Sightseeing Tour
  • Arezzo Sightseeing Tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
After breakfast you will walk to the impressive Chiesa di San Biagio, a 16th-century church nestled at the edge of the village walls. It overlooks the winding valley below. Walk into the picturesque valley and through vineyards, olive groves, past pastel coloured villas and over rolling hills. You will then reach the peaceful village of Monticchiello. Here you will enjoy a flavoursome lunch under the welcome shade of a grapevine canopy, with a stunning view out to Monticchiello's ancient main village gateway. After lunch, return to Montepulciano by bus. Upon arrival enjoy a sightseeing tour of its labyrinthine maze of laneways and imposing defensive walls. You will then be treated to a wine tasting in a local cellar. The remainder of the afternoon will be at your leisure. Perhaps do some shopping in Montepulciano's classy boutiques.

Notes: Total walking distance 10 kilometres, approximately 3-4 hours.
Accommodation
  • La Terrazza Di Montepulciano or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Wine Tasting in Montepulciano
  • Montepulciano Sightseeing Tour
  • Montichiello Country Hike
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
This morning you will be transferred to the beautiful village of Pienza for a walking tour. Be mesmerised by views from Pienza's city walls. You'll see classic Tuscan scenes – burnt orange villas, tightly wound hay bails, meandering country lanes and fields of barley. Then it's on to the charming village of San Quirico d'Orcia, where there's time for you to have lunch. The distinctive landscapes of the Val d'Orcia – with their flat chalk plains, almost conical hills and fortified settlements – have inspired many artists. Embark on a walk which takes you to the unique Spa town of Bagno Vignoni. Here the main town 'square' is actually a beautiful ornamental pool built by the Medici family. You can cool your heels in the many Etruscan water channels that surround the old watermills just outside of the centre. This is a unique attraction in the Val d'Orcia, all but unknown to mass tourism. Your walk concludes in Siena in the late afternoon.

Notes: Total walking distance 8 kilometres, approximately 3 hours.
Accommodation
  • La Locanda Di San Martino or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Pienza Sightseeing Walk & City Walls
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Enjoy a sightseeing tour of Siena this morning. This is a fascinating chance to discover the best of this most celebrated medieval city. Its heart, in every sense, is the famed 'Piazza del Campo', a grand fan-shaped piazza built on the site of the old Roman forum. Bordering the southern flank of the square is the 14th century Palazzo Pubblico, with some fine early Renaissance frescoes. Also of interest is the beautiful main church, the Duomo – a wonderful mixture of Gothic and Romanesque architecture. Your guide will show you the most interesting monuments as well as the hidden corners of this 'red city'. The afternoon is yours to spend as you please. You may like to visit one of the many museums, or perhaps just take a seat in the Piazza del Campo to sip on a glass of local Sangiovese.
Accommodation
  • La Locanda Di San Martino or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Siena Sightseeing Tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
After breakfast, journey towards ancient Volterra. On the way you will pay a visit to Monteriggioni, a totally walled medieval town. Its fortifications were ordered by the overlords of Siena to command the Cassia Road running through the Val d'Elsa and Val Staggia. Your next stop, the town of Colle Val d'Elsa, is just as beautiful. This quaint Tuscan village produces close to 15% of the world's fine crystal glassware. In the early afternoon you will arrive in beautiful Volterra, which is full of Etruscan history and famous for its alabaster. Enjoy a guided tour through town, witnessing the Roman theatre and the Etruscan ruins. At the end of the day, you might like to stroll through the peaceful parklands or catch Volterra's famous sunset from the town walls. In the evening you will head out with your fellow travellers to a fine local restaurant.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Etruria or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Monteriggioni, Colle Val d’Elsa & Volterra Sightseeing Tour
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner
Bid farewell to Tuscany as you enter the province of Liguria. From La Spezia you will take a local train to the village of Riomaggiore, the southernmost village of the Cinque Terre. Riomaggiore is a tiny collection of pastel houses clinging impossibly to cliff faces by the sea. The postcard-perfect harbour is where you will begin the famous walk along the coast of the Cinque Terre by walking along a beautiful but strenuous trail through the vineyards. This takes you to Manarola, an attractive little village with steep multi-coloured houses overlooking a rocky port, where you will enjoy lunch looking out to sea. If you have enough energy, there is the option to continue your walk to Vernazza. This is arguably the prettiest of the five villages. In the late afternoon, take a train (approximately 1 hour) along the dazzling coast to the village of Santa Margherita Ligure, the location of your next overnight stay.

Please note that due to recent landslides in the area the Via dell'Amore and the coastal section between Manarola and Corniglia is closed to the public due to safety concerns. The alternative inland routes are of a higher physical rating. If you would rather not walk these sections, it is possible to take the train instead.

Notes: Total walking distance 10-12 kilometres, approximately 4 hours, depending on route taken.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Jolanda or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Cinque Terre Coastal Hike
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
After breakfast you will begin a scenic stroll to glamorous Portofino. En route, spend some time exploring the best of Santa Margherita, including its wonderfully coloured historic heart and the awe-inspiring harbour. Stroll through a pleasant agricultural landscape that's dotted with beautiful fin-du-siècle villas and monasteries. Along the intriguing 'Valley of Mills' you will reach the pleasant beach of Paraggi and stop for a rest. As you approach Portofino proper, take the time to visit its impressive castle and lighthouse, which are not be missed. The tiny hamlet of Portofino, with its hillsides and gorgeous harbour, is arguably Italy's finest residential address. The afternoon will be at your leisure. Perhaps take the option of a walk back to Santa Margherita along a pleasant coastal route, which takes about an hour. Alternatively you can take an optional powerboat ride or local bus back to your base for the evening.

Notes: Total walking distance 7 kilometres, approximately 3 hours.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Jolanda or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Portofino Peninsula Coastal Hike
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
This morning a short train ride will take you to Camogli, one of the prettiest towns of Liguria. Upon arrival you will go for a scenic walk onto the western part of the Portofino Peninsula. A short climb brings you to the hamlet of San Rocco, where a scenic path then leads you to the southern end of the peninsula. Here you can enjoy views across the whole Gulf of Genova, from Corsica to France. Next, descend towards the small harbour of Punta Chiappa. Perhaps enjoy a picnic lunch – either in the shade of the Romanesque church of San Nicolò, or in the sun at the sea shore of Punta Chiappa. You will then take the boat to a secluded cove and see the Abbey of San Fruttuoso. Visit the monastery, take a stroll to the fishing village, or simply relax on the beach or on a terrace with a drink. Later you will return by boat to Camogli. From here it's a five-minute train ride back to Santa Margherita.

Notes: Total walking distance 6 kilometres, approximately 2.5 hours.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Jolanda or similar (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Boatride to the Abbey of San Fruttuoso
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. This evening there’ll be a Welcome Meeting 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 Prince de Galles or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • 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: Total walking distance is 10 kilometres, approximately 3 hours.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Prince de Galles or similar (1 night)
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: Total walking distance 5 kilometres, approximately 2.5 hours.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Prince de Galles or similar (1 night)
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)
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. 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: Total walking distance 6 kilometres, approximately 2.5 hours.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Saint Christophe or similar (1 night)
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: Total walking distance 5 kilometres, approximately 2 hours.
Accommodation
  • Hotel Calendal or similar (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
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

14 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 5 dinners

Transport

Local bus, Private vehicle, Train

Accommodation

Comfortable hotel (15 nights)

Included Activities

  • Florence Sightseeing Tour
  • Arezzo Sightseeing Tour
  • Wine Tasting in Montepulciano
  • Montepulciano Sightseeing Tour
  • Montichiello Country Hike
  • Pienza Sightseeing Walk & City Walls
  • Siena Sightseeing Tour
  • Monteriggioni, Colle Val d’Elsa & Volterra Sightseeing Tour
  • Cinque Terre Coastal Hike
  • Portofino Peninsula Coastal Hike
  • Boatride to the Abbey of San Fruttuoso

Reviews

Our Splendours of Italy & Southern France trips score an average of 4 out of 5 based on 4 reviews in the last year.

Splendours of Italy & Southern France, June 2016

Marion Pickard

Splendours of Italy & Southern France, September 2015

Michael Gaylard

Dates & availability

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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 4-5 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

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.