Italian Alternativo Tour
15 days only $7,417 per person
- Leisurely 2 and 3 night stays
- Small group size from just 10 to 28
- Genuinely inclusive, no additional on tour costs
- Character hotels in superb locations
- Designed for Australians & New Zealanders
- 'My Time' guaranteed
Explore the ‘alternative’ Italy, the eastern side of the Apennines Mountains, with its glorious towns and unspoiled villages. See the extraordinary mosaics of Ravenna and take a cable car up to the Republic of San Marino. Wake up in a 16th century palace in the unspoiled Le Marche region, cross the incredible Gran Sasso plateau and relax in the sumptuous gardens of Villa d’Este in Tivoli!
- Stay 2 nights in the delightful Venetian Villa Margherita, dine in your Villa restaurant
- Be guided through Palladio’s historical Vicenza - and see the incredible Basilica Palladiana
- Spend 3 nights in the heart of Italy’s culinary capital – Bologna
- Enjoy a walking tour of Padua, see Giotto’s masterpiece frescoes in Capella degli Scrovegni
- Stay 3 nights in the hilltop castle complex of Hotel Palazzo Viviani
- Ride a cable car up to the tiny country of San Marino and enjoy a special Pecorino cheese tasting and see mosaic art created in Mondaino
- Visit the incredible Ducal Palace in Urbino and relax in Mussolini’s favourite bar by the Passo del Furlo
- Stay 3 nights in a charming 16th century Palace in Ascoli Piceno, enjoy a full day exploring this remarkable Roman and Renaissance city
- Spend 2 nights relaxing in the heart of delightful Spoleto and enjoy a guided tour of Assisi
- Enjoy lunch in the crumbling ruins of a deserted village in Abruzzo
The Italian 'Alternativo' Tour is just one of many you can enjoy in Italy. Visit the destination page for more information for our other amazing tours!
‘Under Italy’s Skin’
I was originally going to name this tour ‘Sotto la Pelle’, which is Italian for ‘Under the Skin’. Instead I decided to call it the ‘Alternativo,’ because we really are showing the other side of Italy. A wonderful side, and one so far virtually ignored by mass tourism and bustling crowds.
How is that so? Looking at a map of Italy you will see the Italian Apennines runs down the centre of the land like the ridged spine of an animal. But in the middle section, the Le Marche region, it actually looms really close to the Adriatic coast. Sometimes it’s barely 10 kilometres from the sea to the rocky summits. Because of that geography there is just one major highway heading straight up the east coast. And, because there is little that is noteworthy on that highway, tourists thunder by desperately trying to reach their next ‘high profile’ destination. They have no time, patience or knowledge that there is a gorgeous, richly historical, beautiful world just up and over the hills. I have made absolutely sure we discover and explore this beautiful world.
Let me give you just one example - the UNESCO Heritage listed city of Urbino. Urbino is home to the master artist Raphael and Donato Bramante who designed St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It is also home to one of the most powerful men in early Renaissance times – Duke Federico da Montefeltro. His wealth and influence spread right across Europe, and he built a monumental Ducal Palace to exhibit that power. The man not only had military might and tactical skill, he was also a patron of the arts and sciences - something you clearly see when you stroll through his hometown! It is quite extraordinary that this whole region is so readily missed. Actually I am so pleased with that, because otherwise there would be nothing ‘alternative’ about this tour. But I can assure you there is!
Day 1: Mira welcome
Your tour commences this evening in your delightful Venetian Villa hotel, in the little river side town of Mira, near Venice. Join us tonight for a welcome drink before dinner in this historic Villa. This is an ideal chance to meet, and get to know, your Tour Manager and fellow travellers.
Day 2: Beautiful Vicenza and the Palladian Villas
After a leisurely start, we drive west to spend time in the beautiful city of Vicenza. Made famous as the home of the influential 16th century architect Andrea Palladio, ‘Vicenza and the Palladian Villas’ is UNESCO heritage listed. Our local guide will bring to life this beautiful city, and the highlight will be visiting Piazza dei Signori, with its ‘Torre di Piazza’ clock tower, flanked by Palladio’s striking Basilica Palladiana and medieval law courts. Later you have free time to explore the heart of the town at leisure. The shopping down Corso Andrea Palladio is excellent. Mid-afternoon we return to our Venetian Villa.
Day 3: Padua and its magnificent frescoes
We will spend this morning in the ancient university town of Padua. With our local guide, we will explore this historical city. We have included entrance to the Cappella degli Scrovegni (Scrovengi Chapel) with its magnificent Giotto frescoes. Lunchtime is at leisure in the old town. You may like to take a stroll through the nearby UNESCO Heritage listed Orto Botanico – the centuries old Botanical Gardens. We are now in the Emilia-Romagna region, and our home for the next three nights is in the heart of Italy’s gourmet capital – Bologna. Tonight we test the cuisine as we dine out in an excellent local restaurant.
Day 4: Bologna guided tour and ‘My Time’
This morning we are joined by a local guide for a walking tour of this great city. The highlight of your day will be visiting the Basilica San Petronio on Piazza Maggiore and the Archiginnasio Palace – Europe’s first University. The walls of the courtyard and staircases are covered with crests and heraldic symbols. Included is a visit to the historic Anatomical Theatre. The rest of the day is at leisure. In the evening discover your own café or trattoria around Piazza Maggiore and Piazza Nettuno. After all, this is Italy’s gourmet capital!
Day 5: Renaissance Ferrara and a relaxing Italian lunch
This morning we are joined by a local guide to explore the UNESCO Heritage listed ‘renaissance city’ of Ferrara – a true gem of a city that once attracted the greatest artists and intellects of the 15th and 16th centuries. This region of Emilia Romagna is justifiably famous for its food, so it would be a crime not to enjoy a relaxing lunch in a local trattoria. So we do! Your evening is at leisure in Bologna.
Day 6: Ravenna and Castello di Montegridolfo
We enjoy the day exploring the elegant city of Ravenna. Joined by a local guide we visit the UNESCO Heritage listed, early Christian monuments. Dating back around 1450 years, the striking Basilica of San Vitale is built simply with red bricks. The interior is lavishly decorated with striking marble and Byzantine mosaics. We have also included visits to the Neonian Baptistery, Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo and the 1700 year old Mausoleum of Galla Placidia. Later you have free time to explore and find a relaxing lunch spot – perhaps in the attractive Piazza del Popolo which is lined with historical buildings. Mid-afternoon we continue up into the rugged Apennines, and to Montegridolfo where we stay three nights.
Day 7: San Marino and Mondaino Pecorino
This morning we visit a new country – the Republic of San Marino! On approach the view is spectacular, with its walled castles and towers standing on the rim, beside huge precipices. Joined by our local guide, we catch the cable car up the mountain to San Marino. Dating back to 301 AD, San Marino is one of the smallest countries in the world, covering barely 61 square kilometres. It is also the world’s oldest Republic and has earned UNESCO World Heritage status. From the terrace of Mount Titano there are stunning, sweeping 360 degree views down over the Alta Valmarecchia and Montefeltro hills, right down to the flat plains beside the Adriatic Coast. After free time to explore, shop and enjoy lunch, we then drive to the hill top town of Mondaino where we are met by a medieval character and ‘regally’ led into the Pecorino Fossa cheese cellars, with its 3 original, large pecorino ‘wells’. After a short introduction, you will compare 4 different cheeses and locally cured salamis and meats. Forming a ‘parade’ through town we also stop at a small mosaic craft shop and learn about this traditional, ancient Roman art form. Dinner tonight is in a local village trattoria.
Day 8: Raphael’s Urbino and Mussolini’s Bar Furlo
First stop of the day will be in lovely UNESCO Heritage listed city of Urbino. The artist Raffaello (Raphael) was born here and we are joined by a local guide for a walking tour of the old town and through the impressive Ducal Palace. The Duke was incredibly rich and powerful, and the inlaid wood artistry in his small private study is simply unbelievable. After a relaxing lunchtime, we visit Mussolini’s favourite café, Bar Furlo. This was Mussolini’s favourite tea room and you will discover historic memorabilia and photos of visits. Time to relax as we have included an enjoyable afternoon coffee or aperitif. For the more active, take an easy stroll through the dramatic Passo del Furlo, now closed to cars by landslides, but kept open as a scenic walking path. Later, back in Montegridolfo, we will enjoy a dusk stroll around the castle hamlet, followed by dinner in the Osteria dell'Accademia.
Hand Selected Experience
Mussolini’s favourite stopping point
Before WWII Mussolini would take the Furlo Pass on his way to and from Rome. At one end of the pass, set in a small and pretty tree lined village, flanked by the steep walls of the gorge, is Bar del Furlo which has an incredible history. It was Mussolini and his entourage's favourite stopping point. The original tea room he would sit in has been perfectly preserved, along with the memorabilia, photos of his visit, and post war political graffiti on the walls. It is like stepping back in time. The furniture is exactly as it was, and you get an uneasy feeling sitting on the same wooden seat that ‘Il Duce’ would have sat on!
Day 9: ‘Le Marche’, Jesi and Macerata
Tourists have not yet discovered the glorious Le Marche region. We have! Taking the inland route, we drive through the rolling hills and vineyards of Le Marche, to stop and explore the 14th century fortified town of Jesi. Following the spine of the Apennines, our afternoon will be spent exploring the charming medieval town of Macerata with its impressive Loggia dei Mercanti – a 16th century arcaded merchants hall. We spend the next three nights in a ‘Palazzo’ hotel, in the wonderful historic city of Ascoli Piceno.
Day 10: Ascoli Piceno sightseeing and ‘My Time’
This morning we are joined by local guide for a walking tour. Dating back well over two centuries, the massive Piazza del Popolo central square, resplendent with travertine marble, is generally recognised as one of the most beautiful squares in Italy, if not all of Europe. This compact city is bursting with colonnaded walkways, Roman antiquities, churches, palaces and remarkably 50 stone towers still exist. The highlight of your tour will be visiting the glorious Duomo. The mosaics and shimmering blue roof are stunning, as is the 900 year old crypt beneath. The rest of your day is entirely free in this gorgeous town. There is so much to
see and enjoy.
Day 11: Lovely Offida and the Adriatic coast
Today we visit one of the little gems of Le Marche – the lovely little ‘lace town’ of Offida. One of the ‘Borghi più belli d’Italia’ – most beautiful villages in Italy, this was one of the most important lace making towns in Italy, and on a warm day you will still see ladies sitting in their doorways using bobbins to make intricate lace garments. The medieval church of Santa Maria della Rocca (church on the rock) impressively sits perched on a craggy rock outcrop. We have included entrance to the catacombs with their 13th century, time worn frescoes. There is also a lace museum and a highlight will be the visit to the quaint 19th century opera theatre. An absolute delight! Lunchtime will be enjoyed at leisure in the seaside resort town of Grottammare, on the Adriatic, before we return to Ascoli. This evening we have included a real treat as we dine at Caffè Meletti, looking down directly on the beautiful polished marble main square. This period-piece restaurant still retains the traditional, fashionable décor of over a century ago, and even brews its own aniseed liquor!
Hand Selected Experience
Offida, a magical timepiece
Offida – the town itself is so pretty and beautifully preserved. And for such a small town it has amazing sights. At the end of town the 13th century Church of Santa Maria della Rocca is actually ‘upstairs’ and, unusually, has a wooden roof. It is the entrance way through the lower level crypt that is most striking. Lines of stone vaulted archways, beautifully lit, support the whole church structure above. The 19th century town theatre is a gorgeous, magical timepiece. Called the Teatro Serpente Aureo (Theatre of the Golden Snake), it has three levels of brightly coloured box seats rising vertically above and surrounding the lower stalls. There is lots of rich velvet, and the old wooden stage actually slopes forward and down towards the stalls, for better audience visibility. Magnificent!
Day 12: Santo Stefano and Spoleto
We now step back in time and drive into the wild Apennines of the Abruzzo region. Crossing the Gran Sasso plateau we reach the hill top town of Santo Stefano di Sessanio, in the province of L’Aquila, where we have time to explore before enjoying a light lunch in one of the centuries old, crumbling buildings. What an experience! Next we venture into the hills of Umbria and the wonderful walled town of Spoleto where we stay the next two nights. Medieval Spoleto is easily explored on foot. There are numerous romanesque churches and cobblestoned alleyways lined with shops, bars and trattorias.
Day 13: Explore Assisi and ‘My Time’ in Spoleto
We spend this morning in the nearby Umbrian city of Assisi. Badly damaged by earthquakes in 1997 the city, dominated by two medieval castles, undertook a remarkable programme of restoration which soon brought it back to all its glory. We are joined by a local guide for a tour of the Basilica of St Francis with its magnificent frescoes. Afterwards there is time for you to explore Assisi at your own pace. Returning to Spoleto, the rest of the afternoon is at leisure. Perhaps take a leisurely walk along the path around the castle and across the medieval viaduct in to the Umbrian countryside.
Day 14: Tivoli, Frascati and ‘Musica’
We enjoy a morning stop in the historic town of Tivoli. Here we are joined by a local guide to enjoy a visit of the wonderful UNESCO heritage listed gardens of Villa D’Este. Circling Rome, we reach the area known as Castelli Romani, to enjoy an afternoon visit to the town of Frascati, famous for its light white wines. This evening we visit a nearby, historic wine estate called Cantine Santa Benedetta – the perfect venue to enjoy a truly grand Frascati farewell dinner, with ‘musica’. First, we relax with a Frascati tasting accompanied by a variety of antipasti on the terrace overlooking the vineyards, with the Rome skyline in the distance. Then, we enjoy dinner accompanied by music from a pianist and opera singer. An extraordinary farewell evening in the hills of Frascati!
Day 15: To Rome
This morning we will transfer you into the centre of Rome and to Fiumicino airport. We recommend you book flights that depart after 12 midday.
Incredible Value Inclusions
Over $1,500 value of extras already included
- ALL excursions, scenic drives, sightseeing and entrances as described
- Fully escorted by our experienced Tour Manager
- Travel in a first class air-conditioned touring coach
- 14 nights specially selected hotel accommodation
- Hotel porterage (1 bag per person)
- 26 Meals – including breakfast daily (B), 2 lunches (L) and 10 dinners (D)
- Tea, coffee and a complimentary beverage with all included dinners
- Hand Selected Albatross Experiences - Dine in unique locations, scenic drives through stunning landscapes
- Local guides as described in the itinerary
- ALL tips to your Tour Manager, Driver and Local Guides
- Personal audio system whilst on tour
- Free WiFi on most coaches and at hotels
- Albatross Travel App and ‘On Tour’ Travel Map
- Albatross Memories Photobook
NO additional ‘on tour’ costs!
Villa Margherita, Mira - 2 nights
Once a grand noble residence, this elegant 17th century villa has now been sensitively restored into an excellent, meticulously maintained 4-star hotel. The traditionally styled, elegant guest rooms offer all the modern conveniences you would expect, and provide the experience of residing in an authentic Palladian style villa. Villa Margherita is surrounded by large private gardens and overlooks the Brenta River. Situated just 25 minutes from the centre of Venice, this villa is perfectly located 10 minutes walk from the town centre.
Hotel Internazionale, Bologna - 3 nights
First class, set in an elegant building, located in the historic centre of town, within easy walking distance to all the major sites and the best restaurants. A perfect place to stay.
Hotel Palazzo Viviani, Montegridolfo - 3 nights
Your hotel is set in a hilltop hamlet of this old castle. With large modern rooms, located in a modern set of buildings just below the castle, the views from the terrace across the undulating fields and woods, down to the Adriatic shore are astounding.
Palazzo Guiderocchi, Ascoli Piceno - 3 nights
Your hotel is a magnificent converted 16th century residence, a former merchant’s palace, located just 100 metres from the main Piazza del Popolo. Oozing character, your beautifully maintained rooms have that old-world charm, plus modern conveniences.
Hotel Dei Duchi, Umbria - 2 nights
This unpretentious, family run hotel is located just outside the old city walls and is known locally for its cuisine. The dining area offers wide panoramic views of the stunning Umbrian countryside. The hotel has the dual benefit of being a ‘town’ hotel but at the same time giving the feeling as if you are in the middle of the countryside.
Dates and Prices
|Start Date||End Date||Price Per Person||Guaranteed to Depart||Availability|
|15 May 2019||29 May 2019||NZD $7,417||Sold Out|
|5 Jun 2019||19 Jun 2019||NZD $7,417||Space Available|
|21 Aug 2019||4 Sep 2019||NZD $7,417||Space Available|
|4 Sep 2019||18 Sep 2019||NZD $7,417||Space Available|
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No Additional 'On Tour' Costs
Over $100 value of extras per day are already included. There are no additional 'on tour' costs - even your end of tour tips are included!