14299
Italy
Cinque Terre, Carrara and Medieval Hill Towns
Explore the Cinque Terre — the Italian Riviera’s colorful villages carved above the Mediterranean Sea — and learn about medieval life, Michelangelo and the history of nearby Lerici.
Rating (5)
Program No. 14299RJ
Length
12 days
Starts at
2,998
Flights start at
825
Print All
Map details are not available for this location.
View Map
Expand All
12 days
11 nights
25 meals
10 B 6 L 9 D
Getting There
See travel details and required documents
DAY
1
Departure from points in North America
In Flight
DAY
2
Arrivals, Welcome Reception
Lerici
L,D
Hotel Shelley e delle Palme

Activity note: Hotel check in from 3:00 pm.

Lunch: A buffet lunch at the hotel will offer a variety of salads, cheeses, focaccia and fresh fruit. Enjoy a glass of local white wine. Water is included

Afternoon: After you settle into your room, freshen up and relax, meet back in the hotel lobby at 4:00 p.m. for an orientation walk in the neighborhood to identify ATMs, pharmacies, stores, restaurants, etc. A walk in and around the seaside town of Lerici follows. Spectacular view from the castle. The short walk circles back to the hotel where you will gather for a Welcome Cocktail (or fruit juice).

Dinner: At a restaurant in town. Ligurian dishes are featured including pasta al pesto and a light entree. Water and a glass of wine are included.

DAY
3
Orientation Session, Walk to San Terenzo, Welcome to Liguria
Lerici
B,L,D
Hotel Shelley e delle Palme

Activity note: The seafront promenade connecting Lerici and San Terenzo is about 1 mile long.

Breakfast: Continental breakfast buffet (juices, yogurt, fruit, focaccia, bread, jam, selection of coffee and tea, milk, croissant, cereals) at the hotel's 6th floor breakfast room. Enjoy the view of the marina and castle every morning of your stay in Lerici.

Morning: In the hotel meeting room just off the lobby, the group leader will review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have. A walk in and around the seaside town of Lerici follows the orientation session to the castle of Lerici (interior closed to the public). Enjoy spectacular views of the bay before walking back to the hotel. Unless specified otherwise, transportation during the program will be provided via motor coach. Breakfasts at both program sites will be a buffet with sliced cold cuts, an assortment of cheeses, cereal, muesli, yogurt, fresh fruit, breads, focaccia and pastries, jams, honey and butter, a selection of hot and cold beverages, juice, milk and water. Unless noted differently, all other included meals will be plated and served from a set regional menu with water included and other beverages available for purchase. During the program free time is reserved for your personal independent exploration. Please note that program activities, schedules, and personnel may need to change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. Evenings at leisure offer opportunities to make the program more meaningful and memorable through personal independent exploration, attending performances or other events, or simply relaxing and making new friends among fellow participants. The Group Leader will always be happy to offer suggestions.

Lunch: Set out on a walk along the seaside promenade to San Terenzo. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant with an assortment of seafood and vegetable antipasti, a pasta dish, water and a glass of wine. Plated table service.

Afternoon: Back at the hotel, a local expert introduces the region of Liguria, pointing out its unique geography, history as a maritime power, role in the Resistance Movement and UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Dinner: Dinner at a pizzeria on the waterfront in Lerici. A variety of pizzas and soft drinks are served. You can order beer or wine at your own expense.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
4
Culinary Tradition in Liguria, Portovenere
Lerici
B,D
Hotel Shelley e delle Palme

Activity note: Portovenere is closed to traffic. Uneven paved road, graded rise and uneven steps (no railing) to visit the church on the promontory.

Breakfast: Continental breakfast buffet at the hotel.

Morning: Classroom session on the Culinary Traditions of Liguria and the Lunigiana, areas known for their fruity olive oil, aromatic herbs, seafood, and wine.

Lunch: On your own. The group leader will point out a variety of eateries from snack bars, cafés, trattorie, and full service restaurants.

Afternoon: Short walk to the dock. Boat ride across the Bay of Lerici to Portovenere takes 20 min. Meet the local guide who leads the stroll along the tightly stacked houses, colorful and tall, that were constructed in a row as an impenetrable fortress. The expert-led walk continues to the marina and to the 12th century chapel set on the promontory that juts out into the sea. The rocky Byron Grotto is dedicated to Lord Byron who once swam the waters of Portovenere. The heart of Portovenere is closed to traffic and has a mix of shops, art galleries and cafés. Boat ride across the bay back to Lerici and the waterfront hotel that serves as our program site.

Dinner: At a local restaurant a fixed menu of regional dishes. Lerici is renowned in the area of La Spezia for restaurants featuring fresh local seafood, but tonight's meal will feature savory meat and vegetables. Water and a glass of wine are included with the plated table service dinner.

Evening: At leisure. Take a walk in town and stop for a hot beverage or gelato.

DAY
5
Boat Excursion to the Cinque Terre
Lerici
B,D
Hotel Shelley e delle Palme

Activity note: 1.5 hour boat ride to Monterosso has open-air and inside seating. Boat ride from Monterosso to Vernazza is about 15 minutes; Return ride from Vernazza to Lerici is 1.5 hours. Those who opt to leave the group and hike from Monterosso to Vernazza on their own should note the path is uneven, graded and has no railings; the Group Leader will have updates on which footpaths are closed due to landslide damage.

Breakfast: Continental breakfast buffet at the hotel.

Morning: Weather permitting, with the group leader we board a boat and ride from Lerici to Monterosso marveling at the sight of the rocky coast and terraced vineyards of the Cinque Terre. In case of inclement weather or dangerous sea conditions, the group leader will make every effort to switch the date of the boat excursion. In Monterosso, the northernmost village, a local expert will lead a walk of discovery exploring the beachfront and inner narrow streets lined with colorful houses and shops. For those who wish to embark on a real physical challenge can opt for a self-guided scenic hike from Monterosso to Vernazza. The roughly 2.5 hour walk is nearly 3 miles along a rugged path, narrowing at some points, with steep inclines and uneven stone steps. The total difference in altitude along the hiking trail is from sea level to 920 feet, not all in one ascent. The group leader will stay in Monterosso to take the afternoon boat ride to Vernazza with those who did not choose to hike.

Lunch: On your own. There are a variety of cafés and foccacerie, as well as trattorie to suit every palate and budget.

Afternoon: We board the boat for Vernazza and explore the rocky fortress at the top of the town or relax at a café in the small natural harbor/marina. Boat back to Lerici late afternoon.

Dinner: At a restaurant on the waterfront in Lerici, a plated and served meal from a set menu featuring seafood dishes with a glass of wine and water included.

Evening: Enjoy a walk along the seafront in Lerici.

DAY
6
Pontremoli, Malaspina Castle in Fosdinovo, Winery
Lerici
B,L,D
Hotel Shelley e delle Palme

Activity note: Lerici to Pontremoli is approximately 30 miles, about a ½ hour by coach. Walking up to 1 mile; Fosdinovo is traffic-free; hilly roads and sidewalks are paved with cobblestones. The coach drop-off point is at the bottom of the Malaspina castle with a graded ramp of low steps leading to the entrance; stairs to the upper floor for panoramic view of the valley below. 8 miles from the winery to the hotel in Lerici, the ride takes about 20 minutes.

Breakfast: Continental breakfast buffet at the hotel.

Morning: In a classroom session at the hotel, a local expert describes the traditions of booksellers and pilgrim routes in Lunigiana dating back to the Middle Ages that still carry on today. After a break we board a motor coach to Pontremoli, a town in the northwest area of Tuscany known as Lunigiana. In Pontremoli a local expert will lead a walking field trip along cobblestone streets offering commentary in the medieval village. Cross an ancient stone bridge for excellent views of Piagnaro castle in the hills above Pontremoli.

Lunch: The walk ends at the Antica Trattoria Pelliccia in Pontremoli, where we will sample a variety of local specialties including testaroli, a whole grain eggless crêpe with pesto sauce, and vegetables stuffed with aromatic herbs; risotto with mushrooms. Water and wine are included.

Afternoon: Excursion continues with a coach ride through the Lunigiana hills to Fosdinovo. Expert-led visit of the medieval Malaspina Castle. Nine hundred years of history are rooted in the watchtowers and pathways, courtyards, crenellations, and cornerstones of this well-preserved fortress where the Marchesi Torrigiani Malaspina family resides to this day.

Dinner: Excursion continues to a winery near the hills above Luni. Enjoy a sampler of tasty local products and wines from the Lunigiana. Water is included; other beverages such as soft drinks, beer, tea and coffee are available for purchase.

Evening: Coach back to the hotel.

DAY
7
Ancient Monolith Exhibition in Medieval Fortress
Lerici
B,L
Hotel Shelley e delle Palme

Activity note: La Spezia is about 7 miles from Lerici. The coach leaves us off at the bottom of the San Giorgio fortress. A graded walkway leads to the entrance. Inside the castle there are more graded walkways to the exhibition area.

Breakfast: Continental breakfast buffet at the hotel.

Morning: Coach to La Spezia to the castle/fortress of San Giorgio where a local historian will give an illustrated presentation on the prehistoric monoliths (which have a surprisingly modern 'look') found in the area. From the terrace of the fortress enjoy the panoramic view of the natural port of La Spezia. Inside the museum, discover the small but rich and well-displayed collection of ancient artifacts. Coach back to Lerici with a stop at the train station in La Spezia for anyone to get off to take the train to revisit a village of the Cinque Terre on their own during the free afternoon.

Lunch: A light lunch at a local café in Lerici.

Afternoon: Free Time. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy the type of eatery that fits your budget and taste. The group leader will have suggestions where to go for small plates at a wine bar, or a full-course dinner at a trattoria or restaurant.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
8
Poets of the Gulf, Tellaro
Lerici
B,L,D
Hotel Shelley e delle Palme

Activity note: The walk between Lerici and Tellaro is on a paved road about 2.5 miles long, and takes about 1 hour with frequent stops to take in the views. There are no sidewalks but the traffic is very light and pedestrian-friendly as the road ends in the small village of Tellaro.

Breakfast: Continental breakfast buffet at the hotel.

Morning: In the hotel meeting room a local historian gives a talk on the English poets and writers who lived in the Gulf of La Spezia and for whom the natural harbor is called the "Gulf of Poets."

Lunch: At a restaurant in Lerici, a plated and served meal from a set menu. Water and a glass of wine are included.

Afternoon: After a short break we set out on foot for Tellaro, colorful village at the eastern end of the Gulf of La Spezia. A local expert leads a leisurely stroll along the narrow paved path that winds down to the marina and the small church dedicated to St. George. The walk takes about an hour including stops for panoramic vistas of the sea below.

Dinner: At a restaurant in Tellaro, a plated and served meal from a set menu of traditional dishes made with local ingredients; water and a glass of wine are included.

Evening: Return by public bus. The ride takes 20 minutes along the winding road.

DAY
9
Cinque Terre Winery, Scenic Vineyard Walk
Lerici
B,D
Hotel Shelley e delle Palme

Activity note: The drive is approximately 25 miles, about 1 hour, along winding country roads. Walking up to 1 mile; minor inclines and uneven pavement. Afternoon use of public train transportation. From the coach drop-off point, there is an optional short walk on a narrow, uneven path of a terraced vineyard with no railings; the group must walk in single file; benches for rest available. A portion of the Via dell'Amore footpath is now open as repairs continue on the section connecting to Riomaggiore.

Breakfast: Continental breakfast buffet at the hotel.

Morning: From the hotel, we board the motor coach to the steep hills above the Gulf of La Spezia. View the wide bay of La Spezia and the city from another point of view as you wind up the mountain to reach the summit. At the other end of a short tunnel you will experience magnificent views of the open sea and the terraced vineyards of the Cinque Terre. The coach stops for a leisurely vineyard walk in the Volastra hillside and then at a winery to enjoy a tasting of local wine and products. A local expert will show us around the grounds and explain to us the unique practices of the coop enterprise. Board the coach again for the short ride to Manarola, one of the five villages of the Cinque Terre, where we’ll walk along the narrow streets with colorful houses down to the marina. Take in breathtaking views of the terraced vineyards and mountains plunging into the Mediterranean Sea while walking an easy stone paved path just out of town along the rugged coastline.

Lunch: On your own. There are a variety of focaccerie, cafés and trattorie to suit every palate and budget.

Afternoon: With the local expert explore the village of Manarola from a scenic path with vistas of the village perched on a mountain that plunges into the sea. At the train station of Manarola, we board a train for a short ride to Corniglia where we will go on a brief exploration of this village of the Cinque Terre. From Corniglia take in sweeping panoramas of the terraced vineyards and the Mediterranean Sea below. After visiting Corniglia, board another train for the 15 minute ride to La Spezia where we meet up with the coach and head back to the hotel in Lerici.

Dinner: Enjoy the catch of the day at a local restaurant specializing in seafood. The meal is plated and served. Water and wine are included; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Enjoy a stroll along Lerici's seafront.

DAY
10
Life in Italy Today, Free Afternoon
Lerici
B,D
Hotel Shelley e delle Palme

Breakfast: Continental breakfast buffet at the hotel.

Morning: Learn about the institutions and traditions that prevail in Italy today. Topics include the education system, health care and the role of the family. Q & A follows.

Lunch: On your own.

Afternoon: Free Afternoon.

Dinner: At a restaurant on the seafront in Lerici a plated and served set menu featuring local seafood; wine and water are included.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
11
Carrara Marble Quarries, Transfer to Pisa
Pisa
B,L,D
Hotel Bologna

Activity note: Walking up to 1.5 miles total; slight incline on a dusty dirt path at the quarry; walking and standing on the brief visit in the center of Carrara. The drive from Lerici to the marble quarries is approximately 18 miles. It takes 1 hour along the steep and winding narrow road to the quarries. Drive from Carrara to Pisa is approximately 45 miles of highway and takes about 40 minutes. The walk from the hotel to the Leaning Tower in Pisa is 1 mile along uneven but flat city sidewalks.

Breakfast: Continental breakfast buffet at the hotel.

Morning: Check out of the hotel before attending a presentation by a local expert in the hotel meeting room on Michelangelo and Carrara Marble. Gathering up our bags, we’ll board a coach for transfer to Carrara at the foot of the Apuan Alps where we will visit a sculptor's workshop (work schedule of the artist permitting). Our local expert will then take us to the enduringly active marble quarries of Carrara where, centuries earlier, Michelangelo chose the pure white stone blocks for his statues. Here, we will learn and perhaps witness the fascinating techniques of modern stone excavation. Coach back down to the center of Carrara.

Lunch: At a wine bar/restaurant in the heart of Carrara, enjoy a variety of antipasti from a set menu served family style. One of the dishes is a tasting of the thick tomato soup known in Tuscany as “pappa al pomodoro.” Water and a glass of wine are included.

Afternoon: The local expert leads an informal walk through Carrara illustrating how the history of the territory is tied to the hard life of the quarrymen. Board the coach for transfer and late afternoon check-in at the hotel in Pisa. Settle in and meet in the lobby to set out on foot, or for those who wish to go by van, for the Piazza dei Miracoli for a self-guided visit of the famous monuments. Note how the white marble of the Cathedral, Baptistery and Leaning Tower contrast with the manicured green lawns of the square. Take some time to independently explore the interior of the Baptistery or Cathedral. Transportation back to the hotel.

Dinner: Recap your adventures and share your favorite memories with your fellow participants at our farewell dinner at a local restaurant. Fixed menu, plated table service. Water and wine are included to toast new friends and bid arrivederci.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
12
Program Concludes
In Flight
B

Activity note: Hotel check out 10:00 am.

Breakfast: Continental breakfast buffet at the hotel. This concludes our program.