16 days

Splendours of Italy & Southern France

Splendours of Italy & Southern France

Aix-en-Provence - Cézanne's former home

Arles - Van Gogh’s second home

Cinque Terre's Lover’s Walk

Portofino Peninsula walk

The five villages of the Cinque Terre

Tuscan towns and villages

UNESCO World Heritage-listed medieval Siena

Trip rating
  • 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.

    Why we love it


    Day 1 - Florence

    • Your trip starts today with your arrival 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 that is centrally located (details are in your travel documents).
    • Whilst at your discretion, we recommend arriving and departing by train where possible within Europe as to this method of transport has minimal carbon emissions.
    • There really is so much to see in Florence, so if you are arriving earlier, plan to make a few discoveries of your own.
    • In the evening you will meet our tour leader and fellow travelling companions 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, located near the reception at our hotel), where your leader will give you a briefing on what lies ahead on our tour.
    • This is followed by dinner in one of the sidewalk restaurants, where you can dine on local specialties and absorb the ambiance of this fabulous city.
    Hotel La Fortezza or similar

    Day 2 - Arezzo - Montepulciano

    • This morning you will enjoy sightseeing in Florence - the magnificent Renaissance masterpiece.
    • After exploring this Tuscan icon you will travel on to Arezzo, a town of less than 100,000 inhabitants, that packs a medieval punch with fine Romanesque structures and dignified piazzas. You will have time to explore and have lunch amidst Arezzo's monuments.
    • A more recent claim to fame for this charming town is the fact that it was the setting for Roberto Benigni's popular 1997 film 'Life Is Beautiful' ('La Vita è Bella') set during the time of the German occupation.
    • In the late afternoon you will drive through stunning Tuscan countryside enroute to the village in the sky - Montepulciano.
    La Terrazza Di Montepulciano or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 3 - Montichiello - Montepulciano

    • After breakfast you will walk to the impressive Chiesa di San Biagio, a 16th century church nestled at the edge of the village walls overlooking the winding valley below.
    • From here you will commence a walk into the picturesque valley and through vineyards, olive groves and past pastel coloured villas, and across rolling hills. This is a morning of delightful Tuscan scenery enjoyed and experienced at its best - by foot.
    • You will then reach the restful village of Monticchiello, where you will enjoy a flavoursome lunch under the welcome shade of creeping grapevines with a stunning view out upon Monticchiello's ancient main village gateway.
    • After lunch join the locals on a short local bus ride back to Montepulciano and then enjoy a sightseeing tour of its labyrinthine maze of alleyways and laneways and imposing defensive walls.
    • You will then attend a wine tasting in a local cellar, sampling this regions fine nectar. The rest of the afternoon will be at your leisure, to explore and go shopping in Montepulciano's classy boutiques. (3-4 hours walking/10km)
    La Terrazza Di Montepulciano or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch

    Day 4 - Pienza - San Quirico d'Orcia - Siena

    • This morning you will be transferred to the beautiful village of Pienza for a short sightseeing walking tour. Part of the tour will include the views from Pienza's city walls that are quite simply spellbinding.
    • Take your time and pause to enjoy the captivating vistas. The classic Tuscan landscapes will unfurl before your eyes, encompassing burnt orange villas, tightly wound hay bales, meandering country lanes and fields of barley.
    • You will then depart for the charming village of San Quirico d'Orcia – where you will stop to buy lunch.
    • The distinctive landscapes of Val d'Orcia, consisting of flat chalk plains interspersed by almost conical hills topped by fortified settlements, have inspired many Siennese artists and their paintings have come to exemplify the beauty of well-managed Renaissance agricultural scenes where inhabitants are depicted as living in harmony with nature.
    • It is in this bucolic setting that you will embark on your next splendid walk that takes you to the unique spa town of Bagno Vignoni. Here, the main ‘town square’ is actually a picturesque ornamental pool built by the Medici family!
    • You can also cool your heels in the many Etruscan water channels that surround the old watermills just outside of the centre. This is a truly unique attraction in Val d'Orcia and a place very few tourists get to discover.
    • You will complete this fabulous day upon arrival in Siena in the late afternoon.
    Locanda Di San Martino or similar

    Day 5 - Siena

    • After breakfast you will walk directly from the hotel to commence the morning sightseeing tour of Siena, offering you a fascinating chance to discover the best of this celebrated medieval city.
    • Its ‘heart’ in every sense of the word is the famous '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 with a particularly splendid façade.
    • Your guide shows you the most interesting monuments as well as the hidden corners of the so-called 'red city' before you can enjoy some free time to make your own discoveries.
    • Your afternoon will be at your leisure, perhaps spend time shopping or visiting one of the many museums. You may also be content to simply take a seat in the Piazza del Campo, sip on a local glass of ‘sangiovese’ and partake in another fine Italian tradition - the art of people-watching.
    Locanda Di San Martino or similar

    Day 6 - Monteriggioni - Colle Val d'Elsa - Volterra

    • After breakfast you will journey towards the ancient town of Volterra. On your way, pay a short visit to Monteriggioni (already mentioned in historic manuscripts from the time of Dante) and the charming small town of Colle Val d'Elsa.
    • Monteriggioni sits on top of a small natural hillock and is a completely walled medieval town in the Siena province dating back to the 13th century.
    • Its splendid fortifications were ordered by the overlords of Siena to control the Cassia Road that runs through Val d'Elsa and Val Staggia. Your next stop, pretty Colle Val d'Elsa, is equally worthwhile in terms of scenic appeal. This small Tuscan town is responsible for close to 15% of the world's fine crystal glassware production.
    • In the early afternoon you will arrive in beautiful Volterra, a place full of Etruscan history and famous for its alabaster. You will enjoy a guided tour through the town, covering its Roman theatre and Etruscan ruins. At the end of the day you may stroll through the restful parklands or catch Volterra's famed sunset from the town walls before enjoying dinner in a fine local restaurant.
    Hotel Cavallino Blu
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 7 - Cinque Terre - Santa Margherita

    • You will bid a fond farewell to Tuscany and enter the province of Liguria and your next destination - the Cinque Terre.
    • Your vehicle will take you to La Spezia, where you will catch a train to the village of Riomaggiore - the last village on the Cinque Terre. Riomaggiore is a tiny collection of pastel shaded houses clinging unfeasibly to cliff faces and seemingly spilling down into the sea.
    • The postcard-perfect harbour is populated by tiny row boats, painted in a kaleidoscope of colours.
    • This is where you will begin the world-famous walk, taking in the most scenic section of the 'Lovers Walk' to the village of Manarola and enjoying lunch while looking out to sea.
    • In the early afternoon, as a group, you can also opt to continue the walk towards Vernazza - arguably the prettiest of the five villages. In the late afternoon you will board a train for an hour’s ride along the dazzling coast to your pretty base in the village of Santa Margherita Ligure. (4 hours walking/10-12km - depending on route taken)
    • PLEASE NOTE: Due to recent landslides in the area some sections of the Lover's Walk may be closed to the public due to safety concerns. Should this still be the case at the time of your visit we will be choosing an alternative walking route instead.
    Hotel Jolanda or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch

    Day 8 - Portofino - Santa Margherita

    • After breakfast you will begin your scenic stroll to glamorous Portofino. En route you will spend time exploring the best of charming Santa Margherita, including its awe-inspiring harbour packed to the gunnels with exclusive yachts and millionaires’ cruisers.
    • As you approach Portofino proper, take time to visit its impressive castle and lighthouse, which are not be missed!
    • The tiny hamlet of Portofino is arguably Italy's finest residential address and titles to properties here pass from generation to generation with the utmost of care and security. Its hillsides and picture-perfect harbour are enclaves frequented by presidents and movie stars. A visit here is truly a special experience.
    • Your afternoon will be at your leisure to do your own exploration. Perhaps you may wish to take an optional powerboat ride to the ‘hidden’ monastery at San Fruttuoso.
    • You will then return by local transport to your base for the evening. (2 hours walking/5 km)
    Hotel Jolanda or similar

    Day 9 - Comogli - Santa Margherita

    • Today you will enjoy another walk along the peninsula of Portofino and also pay a visit to Camogli - one of the prettiest towns of Liguria.
    • Camogli is a small Italian fishing village on the Italian Riviera in the province of Genoa. The name has a double meaning in Italian. The first translation meaning 'houses close together’ is apparent when you stroll through the town's narrow streets, which are lined by tall columns of pastel-coloured homes. The second meaning ‘houses of wives’ is not so obvious - it refers to the fishermen's wives who traditionally spent their time at home while their husbands were out at sea.
    • You will undertake a short scenic afternoon walk before returning to your base. Tonight you will enjoy dinner at a local restaurant in Santa Margherita. (2 hours/5km)
    Hotel Jolanda or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 10 - Santa Margherita - Italian Riviera - Villefranche-sur-Mer

    • After breakfast this morning you will travel along the Italian Riviera by train, en route to France and the stunning French Riviera.
    • Your journey will last approximately five hours and 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 Nice you will be met by your French tour leader and continue by train to the pretty hamlet of Villefranche-sur-Mer, your base for the next three nights.
    • Dinner tonight is on the water's edge in Villefranche-sur-Mer.
    Hotel Provencal or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 11 - St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat - Villefranche-sur-Mer

    • After breakfast you will walk directly out from the hotel to beautiful St Jean de Cap Ferrat.
    • Walk on a pleasant coastal footpath around the peninsula that is speckled with pine and eucalyptus trees, small sandy beaches, meandering creeks, small picturesque ports and early 20th century villas containing magnificent gardens…beautiful!
    • You will enjoy a flavoursome picnic lunch along the way and there will be opportunities for a swim as well. 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 true highlight for you 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 Villefranche-sur-Mer. (3 hours walking/10km)
    Hotel Provencal or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch

    Day 12 - Menton - St Agnes - Gorbio - Villefranche-sur-Mer

    • After breakfast, you will take a short train ride along the dazzling Mediterranean coastline from Villefranche-sur-Mer to Menton (30 mins).
    • In Menton you will catch a short scenic bus ride up into the foothills for the start of your walk for today. It will take you between the restful hamlets of St Agnes and Gorbio. You will 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 Gorbio.
    • After time to explore pretty Gorbio, you will catch a local bus to visit Menton. This city has been called the most beautiful town on the French Riviera and boasts a warm microclimate that is 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 highly appropriate place for us to indulge in 'people-watching' before returning to Villefranche-sur-Mer. (2½ hours walking/5km)
    Hotel Provencal or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch

    Day 13 - Nice - Aix-en-Provence

    • After breakfast you will take a local bus from Villefranche to Nice (7 min) and enjoy a morning of sightseeing on a walking tour of Nice's old centre, including its maze of staircases and lanes, fine Baroque churches, bustling flower market and the famous Promenade des Anglais.
    • Nice’s Old Quarter is a warren of alleyways, boutique shops, cafes and restaurants awaiting discovery. After your exploration you will have free time for lunch; perhaps 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 you will transfer by private taxi, travelling through the heartland that has always attracted Impressionist painters, to the centre of exquisite Aix-en-Provence – a journey of two-and-a-quarter hours.
    • You will then enjoy a walk in the heart of this most ‘Parisian’ of cities, with its wide boulevards, shady squares, enticing cafes and also being the former home of the artist, Paul Cézanne.
    • You will enjoy an included dinner tonight in a fine local restaurant.
    Hotel Saint Christophe or similar
    Breakfast | Dinner

    Day 14 - Lac Zola - Aix-en-Provence

    • After breakfast you will enjoy free time to wander around Aix-en-Provence's impressive morning market - a wonderful introduction for many into the sights, smells and sounds of typically bustling French produce market.
    • You can buy what you need for your picnic lunch for today's walk. Aix-en-Provence (‘Aquae Sextiae’ in Latin) was founded in 122 BC and was named for its thermal springs that are remarkable for their impressive heat as well as for containing healing properties in the form of lime and carbonic acid.
    • Aix-en-Provence is often referred to as the ‘city of a thousand fountains’ and includes a hot-water fountain that dates back to 1734 and is covered in moss due to its constant 35°C (93°F) water temperature.
    • Possessing a relaxing ambiance Aix-en-Provence's streets and parks are all well laid out. Cours Mirabeau, a wide thoroughfare that is 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 back to the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Along this avenue you will also find Les Deux Garçons (‘the two boys’), the most famous café in the city. Built in 1792, it has been frequented by the likes of Cézanne and Ernest Hemingway.
    • During the middle of the morning you will be transferred to the start of our walk - a scenic pathway along the foot of the white-peaked Sainte Victoire, where Cézanne walked, mused and painted.
    • You will then stroll through pine forests to the lapping waters of Lake Zola, where you'll enjoy a picnic lunch. It is still likely that you may encounter some artists working with their easels in this ethereal countryside.
    • 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 you will be transferred 10 minutes back to Aix-en-Provence for an afternoon at leisure. (2½ hours walking/6 km)
    Hotel Saint Christophe or similar

    Day 15 - Les Baux de Provence - Arles

    • You will be transferred to the Alpilles Mountains after breakfast (literally meaning ‘baby Alps’), 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 with 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 with the famous Mont Ventoux providing a backdrop.
    • After an hour's stroll along the crest, the medieval village of Les Baux appears with its grey stone buildings huddled in tight formation below the ruins of its imposing castle and the whole lot hovering dizzyingly above the plains.
    • You will enjoy your picnic lunch by a centuries-old limestone quarry before exploring the 1000 year-old village of Les Baux, with its narrow cobbled streets and medieval buildings.
    • Afterwards you will enjoy some free time in a little-known café that has been run by the same family for 400 years - the perfect place to sit and admire this stunning site.
    • You will 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 more perfect 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 – a perfect way to bid each other ‘bon voyage’! (2 hours walking/5 km)
    Hotel Du Musée or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 16 - Arles

    • Your trip will come to an end after breakfast in Arles.
    • Arles is connected by rail to a number of other destinations in France including Nimes (30min), Montpellier (1hr), Marseille (40min), Avignon (20min) and TGV direct services to Paris (4hrs).
    • For those wanting to spend more time in Arles to further explore this fascinating town, additional nights’ accommodation can be booked at the same time you book this tour.
  • What to Know

    What's Included

    • Receive a warm introduction to Italian epicure at one of Florence's sidewalk eateries
    • Stroll through the atmospheric piazzas and plazas of Arezzo
    • Sample local drops during a Montepulciano cellar tasting session
    • Wander amid rural scenes reminiscent of Renaissance paintings in the Val d'Orcia
    • Set out on the ever-enchanting 'Lovers Walk' from Riomaggiore to Manarola
    • Encounter an air of exclusivity in glamorous Portofino
    • Enjoy expansive views of the Italian and French rivieras travelling by train from Santa Margherita to Nice
    • Peruse the fresh produce on offer along the morning market stalls of Aix-en-Provence

    Not Included

    • International flights
    • Arrival and departure transfers
    • Departure taxes
    • Visas
    • Travel insurance (compulsory on all trips)
    • Meals (where not listed as included in the itinerary)
    • Optional additional tours or activities during free time
    • Gratuities for tour leader
    • Items of a personal nature
  • Past Travellers' Ratings & Comments

    At the end of each trip, we ask our travellers to provide feedback. We publish the positive, negative and neutral feedback on this page to give you an overall idea of what to expect on this trip.

    Splendours of Italy & Southern France

    Christine - Australia, 24 May, 2013
    Overall Rating

    I thoroughly enjoyed the walking through the country and around the Italian and French Riviera. That was the primary reason that I chose the tour.

    Splendours of Italy & Southern France

    Janet - New Zealand, 14 Sep, 2012
    Overall Rating

    Very good pace and mix of sightseeing, walking together and free time. Good variety of activities.

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Trip at a glance

Trip Code PEIF
Group size 4 - 16
Start City: Florence
End City: Arles
Style: Small Group

What to know

This trip can be enjoyed by just about anyone with a reasonable level of fitness.

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