Southern France & Northern Italy Tours Snapshot
The best of Southern France & Northern Italy Tours: Medieval hilltop villages, cappuccino in Venice, Pastis on your veranda overlooking the Mediterranean, Valpolicella at a trattoria on Lake Como, the pink and yellow houses of Portofino, Juliet’s balcony in Verona, Chagall’s art in St. Paul de Vence.
Please call for custom tour price
Tour price includes:
Roundtrip airfare from Boston or New York (airfare price can be deducted)
13 nights in charming, elegant hotels–with magnificent mountain, Mediterranean or lake views
All breakfasts, 10 gourmet dinners
Transportation in comfortable, air-conditioned minibus
Visits to breathtaking mountain top villages in Provence, dating from pre-Roman times, returning at the end of the day for a swim in the pool of your beautiful hillside villa
Accommodations in a charming hotel on the French and Italian Rivieras where your balcony overlooks the Mediterranean
In France: visits to Nice, St. Jean Cap Ferrat, Villefranche, Eze, Saint Paul de Vence, Vence, Antibes, Biot.
In Italy: visits to Torri del Benaco, Sirmione, Bardolino (Lake Garda), Santa Margherita, Portofino (Italian Riviera), Verona, Venice, Stresa (Lake Maggiore), Bellagio (Lake Como)
Time to explore the art, history and ageless magic of Verona and Venice
Sip a glass of wine at a waterfront trattoria on the magnificent lakes of Garda, Maggiore, and Como
Our Southern France & Northern Italy tours begin in Nice. We arrive at the Nice airport and drive along the celebrated Promenade des Anglais as we head for our waterfront hotel in the neighboring village of Beaulieu-sur-Mer. Every room looks out onto the spectacular Mediterranean, with Beaulieu’s picturesque harbor crowded with the yachts of the très riches. We relax after our trip and explore Beaulieu before dinner on the waterfront.
After breakfast we take a tour of the Rothschild estate on the elegant peninsula of Saint Jean Cap Ferrat. The Villa Ile-de-France was built by Beatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild in the early 1900s as the perfect “dream villa” of the Riviera, complete with a collection of masterpiece paintings, antiques dating to Marie-Antoinette, mosaic flooring and marble columns, tapestries from the 16th century, and acres of magnificent gardens.
We then take a scenic coastal drive to neighboring Monaco, where we have lunch in the quaint Le Rocher neighborhood behind the palace, followed by a walking tour led by Isabelle, an authentic citizen of Monaco. Isabelle shows us some hidden secrets of Monaco only the native Monagascans know! Tonight we enjoy dinner on the waterfront in the medieval village of Villefranche.
This morning we drive into the mountains to visit the magical medieval village of Eze, perched at the top of a hill with a breathtaking panoramic vista of the surrounding mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. We can wander its narrow car-free streets, inspecting any of the hundreds of adorable boutiques cleverly nestled among ancient archways and alleys of the original medieval village. At the top of the mountain is a fascinating “Jardin Exotique”, well worth a visit to take advantage of the spectacular views. After lunch on the patio of a charming restaurant we take a tour of the famous Fragonard parfumerie, where we are free to purchase all the Fragonard we can carry.
We then enjoy a beautiful drive through the hills to our lovely villa near Saint Paul de Vence. After checking into our rooms we can enjoy the peaceful Provençal setting, take a swim in the pool, stroll the beautiful grounds and have a drink on a terrace overlooking the mountains. For dinner we drive to the charming village of Vence and are treated to a special Provençal feast in a tiny restaurant complete with open hearth and mouth-watering regional specialties.
In the morning we explore Saint Paul de Vence, one of the most celebrated “villages perchés”, nestled high on the side of a steep mountain, originally built to avoid attack from the Saracens. In the 1920s this picturesque medieval village was discovered by artists Bonnard, Modigliani and other Impressionists, and since then has been a favorite of visiting artists and art lovers. The narrow, twisting streets, free from cars, are crammed with beautiful shops selling all types of art, crafts, and interesting treasures at all price ranges. We almost bought an original watercolor for $20. We will have the afternoon free to explore the shops, old streets, cafés, and if you wish, a 12th century Gothic church or the cemetery where Chagall is buried and from which you can enjoy some splendid panoramic views. One of the world’s most renowned modern art museums, Fondation Maeght, is just steps from our hotel. We have time for a swim and an aperitif before dinner at the famous Colombe d’Or. A number of French Impressionist painters left their works here as payment when they stayed in the inn years ago.
Today we return to the coast to see a different part of the French Riviera. In Antibes we visit the Château Grimaldi and its Musée Picasso and explore the colorful local market. After lunch we visit the hilltop town of Biot and tour the glassworks to see how the famous Biot bubble glass is made. We return to Saint Paul de Vence for another gourmet dinner.
On this day we savor the breathtaking scenery as we drive along the mountainous seacoast past Monaco and Menton and onto the Italian Riviera. Passing Genoa, we enter the Riviera di Levante to arrive at our destination of Santa Margherita – a favorite on all Northern Italy tours. You will fall in love with this beautiful little seaside resort with its promenade along the harbor, its manicured parks filled with exquisitely designed flower gardens, and its many appealing sidewalk cafés overlooking the water. We check into our hotel, where every room has a sea view. A boat ride takes us to Portofino, known for its colorful medieval houses and spectacular scenic vistas. After dinner at our hotel we can stroll the boardwalk along Santa Margherita’s picturesque harbor.
Days 7 & 8
After driving north through the hills of Lombardia, we arrive in Verona, where we board a train to Venice. We are free to explore this magical city for the next two days and nights. Our hotel is just steps from St. Mark’s Square. With over 200 palaces on the Grand Canal alone, 107 churches, and an unparalleled number of celebrated works of art, Venice is a truly indescribable city that has earned pride of place on all Northern Italy tours.
Days 9 & 10
In the afternoon we take the train back to Verona and then take a short drive to Lake Garda. In Torri del Benaco our lakefront hotel is surrounded by narrow streets, quaint shops and restaurants, and a medieval fortress. We enjoy an elegant dinner of Northern Italian regional specialties. The next day we take a boat ride to the ancient Roman village of Sirmione, where we visit the ruins of a fascinating Roman villa complete with heated swimming pool. Our boat then takes us to Bardolino, where we visit a very special family run winery where we can sample the excellent red wines as well as Valentino’s olive oil.
Today we take an excursion to Verona to see the oldest part of this beautiful city, including, of course, Juliett’s famous balcony. Before returning to Torri, we visit a Valpolicella winery once owned by Dante’s family.
Today we spend the day on Lake Como, visiting the Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo with its acres of magnificent gardens, and the enchanting village of Bellagio. We continue west to Lake Maggiore and check into our lakefront hotel in lovely Stresa.
On our last day we visit three beautiful islands on Lake Maggiore, including the magnificent Borromeo palace on Isola Bella. Dinner tonight is at an elegant restaurant in Stresa.
This morning we drive to the Milan airport for the return flight home.