Italian Highlights

  • 9 Days

A perfect introduction to Italy, this easy tour ticks off some of the country's most seductive sights, including Roman ruins, Renaissance masterpieces and the world's most beautiful lagoon city.

Start with three days in mighty Rome, punctuating blockbuster sights like the Colosseum, Palatino (Palatine Hill) and Sistine Chapel with market grazing in the Campo de' Fiori, boutique-hopping in Monti and late-night revelry in Trastevere.

On day four, head to Renaissance Florence. Drop in on Michelangelo's David at the Galleria dell'Accademia and pick your favourite Botticelli at the Galleria degli Uffizi. For a change of pace, escape to the Tuscan countryside on day six for a day trip to Gothic Siena, home of the biannual Palio horse race.

The following day, continue north for three unforgettable days in Venice. Check off musts like the mosaic-encrusted Basilica di San Marco, art-slung Gallerie dell'Accademia and secret passageways of the Palazzo Ducale, then live like a true Venetian, scouring seafood-laden stalls at the Rialto Market, noshing on the city's famous cicheti (Venetian tapas) and toasting with a Veneto prosecco (sparkling wine).

Northern Jewels

  • 2 Weeks

This two-week route takes in some of northern Italy's most extraordinary assets, from cultural-powerhouse cities to one of Italy's most arresting stretches of coastline.

Begin with a trio of days in Venice, its trading-port pedigree echoed in the Near East accents of its architecture and the synagogues of its 500-year-old Ghetto. Don't miss big-hitters like the Basilica di San Marco and the Gallerie dell'Accademia, but leave time for less-trodden treasures, among them the Chiesa della Madonna dell’Orto.

On day four, continue to Ravenna, former capital of the Western Roman Empire and home to no less than eight Unesco World Heritage–listed sites. Among these are the basilicas of San Vitale and Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, both adorned with extraordinary Byzantine mosaics.

Spend days six and seven in erudite Bologna, home to the world's fifth-largest church and its oldest university. The university district is the location of the Pinacoteca Nazionale, its powerhouse art collection including works by regional master Parmigianino. One of Bologna's fortes is gastronomy, a fact not lost on its Quadrilatero district, an area smothered with produce stalls, fragrant delis, restaurants and an appetite-piquing food hall.

Burn off those excess calories with three days of pavement pounding in Florence. It's here that you'll find many of Western art's most revered works, including Michelangelo's chiselled David and Botticelli's ethereal paintings Primavera and La nascita di Venere. The city's Renaissance credentials extend to its architecture, which includes Filippo Brunelleschi's show-stopping Duomo dome. Even the city's gardens are manicured masterpieces, exemplified by the supremely elegant Giardino di Boboli.

On day 11, pit-stop in Pisa to eye-up the architectural ensemble that makes up the Piazza dei Miracoli, then continue to nearby Renaissance show pony Lucca. Spend the following day exploring Lucca's elegant streets, picnicking on its centuries-old ramparts and meditating on Tintoretto's soul-stirring Last Supper in the Cattedrale di San Martino. Human ingenuity and natural beauty merge on Liguria's World Heritage–listed Cinque Terre, where five colourful villages seemingly defy their precarious natural setting. This is your final stop, with two days to explore its medieval village streets, remarkable terraced gardens, muretti (dry stone walls) and breathtaking coastal walks.

The Grand Tour

  • 4 Weeks

From elegant northern cities and lakes to ancient southern coasts and dwellings, this grand tour encapsulates Italy's inimitable natural and cultural diversity.

Start in style with two days in Milan. Shop among coveted boutiques, dine at hot-spot restaurants and demand an encore at the gilded La Scala. Come day three, continue to Lago di Como (Lake Como), basing yourself in Como or Bellagio and spending two romantic days among its sublime waterside villas and villages. If you haven't been wooed by Hollywood royalty, continue to Venice on day five, where the following trio of days burst with Titians and Tintorettos, artisan studios and convivial bacari (bars). On day eight, shoot southwest to Florence, allowing three days to tackle its heavyweight art collections and sink your teeth into its bistecca alla fiorentina (T-bone steak). Gluttonous acts are forgiven on day 11 as you travel to the pilgrimage city of Assisi, its Gothic basilica lavished with Giotto frescoes. Head southwest to Rome on day 13 and spend three full days exploring its two-millennia-worth of temples, churches, piazzas and artistic marvels.

On day 17, slip south to Naples and its explosion of baroque architecture and subterranean ruins. Day-trip it to the ruins of Pompeii on day 19, then sail to Capri on day 20 for three seductive days of boating, hikes and piazza-side posing. If it's high season, catch a ferry directly to laid-back Sorrento on day 23, spending a night in town before hitting the hairpin turns of the glorious Amalfi Coast. Allow two days in chichi Positano, where you can hike the heavenly Sentiero degli Dei (Walk of the Gods). Spend day 26 in historic Amalfi before continuing to sky-high Ravello, long-time haunt of composers and Hollywood stars. Stay the night to soak up its understated elegance, and spend the following morning soaking up its uber-romantic gardens. After an evening of bar-hopping in upbeat Salerno, shoot inland to Matera on day 28 to experience its World Heritage–listed sassi (former cave dwellings) and dramatic Matera Gravina gorge. Come day 30, continue through to architecturally astounding Lecce, the 'Florence of the South' and your final cross-country stop.

Venice to Milan

  • 2 Weeks

Aristocratic villas, renegade frescoes, star-struck lovers and cult-status wines; this easy two-week journey serves up a feast of northern assets.

Begin with a couple of days in Venice, sampling the city's enviable art, architecture and seafood. In the 16th century the Venetian summer began early in June, when every household loaded onto barges for a summer sojourn along the nearby Brenta Riviera.You too can make like a Venetian on a boat trip along the Riviera, marvelling at the Tiepolo frescoes of Villa Pisani Nazionale and snooping around Palladio's Villa Foscari.

Boat trips along the Brenta Riviera end in Padua where you can overnight overlooking the Basilica di Sant'Antonio. With advance booking, you can see Padua's crowning glory, Giotto's frescoed Capella degli Scrovegni.

On day six hop on the train to Vicenza. Spend the afternoon watching sunlight ripple across the soaring facades of Palladio's palazzi (mansions) and illuminate the Villa Valmarana 'ai Nani', covered floor-to-ceiling with frescoes by Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo, then head on to Verona for three or four days.

Here you can view Mantegnas at Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore, ponder modern art at the Galleria d’Arte Moderna Achille Forti, and find tranquillity in the 16th-century oasis of Giardino Giusti. It's also here that you can listen to opera in the Roman Arena and wander balconied backstreets where Romeo wooed Juliet.

From Verona, consider a day trip northwest to Valpolicella to sip highly prized Amarone (red wine), or back east to Soave for a sampling of its namesake DOC white wine.

On day 11 dip southwest to Mantua for an impressive display of dynastic power and patronage at the Gonzagas' fortified family pad, the Palazzo Ducale. Finish up with a two-day stop in Cremona, where you can chat with artisans in one of the 100 violin-making shops around Piazza del Comune before hearing the instruments in action at the Teatro Amilcare Ponchielli. Done, shoot northwest to wrap up your tour in Italy's financial and fashion epicentre, Milan. On-trend shopping and dining aside, the city is home to a string of artistic treasures, among them Leonardo da Vinci's iconic The Last Supper.

Central Italian Escape

  • 10 Days

Revered vineyards, medieval hilltop towns and Unesco-lauded artwork: this trip takes in evocative landscapes, from well-trodden Tuscany to lesser-known Umbria and Le Marche.

Begin with two cultured days in Florence, then enjoy a pair of decadent days in Chianti, toasting to the area's vino and indulging in lazy lunches and countryside cycling. On day five, head east, pit-stopping in tiny Sansepolcro to meditate on Pietro della Francesca's trio of masterpieces and calling it a night in the Umbrian hilltop town of Gubbio. Spend the following day exploring the town's Gothic streets, then drive into Le Marche on day seven for a guided tour of the incredible Grotte di Frasassi cave system. The same day, head back into Umbria to Assisi, one of Italy's most beautiful medieval towns. Stay two nights, taking in the frescoes of the Basilica di San Francesco and finding peace on the hiking trails flanking Monte Subasio. Come day nine, make your way to the lively university city of Perugia, where your adventure ends with brooding Gothic architecture and world-famous Bacio chocolates.

Northeastern Interlude

  • 2 Weeks

Laced with cross-cultural influences, hot-list wines, world-famous charcuterie and stunning Alpine landscapes, this lesser-known corner of the country is ripe for discovery.

After three days in Venice, head east to Trieste via the Roman ruins of Aquileia and the medieval heart of Grado. Take two days in Trieste for its gilded cafes, literary heritage and central European air, then catch a ferry to Muggia, the only Italian settlement on the Istrian peninsula. On day seven, head inland for celebrated whites in the Collio wine region. Spend two days in Udine, dropping in on the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and sidestepping to Cividale dei Friuli, home to Europe's only surviving example of Lombard architecture and artwork. On day 10, pit-stop in San Daniele del Friuli for Italy's best prosciutto before hitting breathtaking mountain scenery on your way to ski town Cortina d'Ampezzo. Allow two days to hit the slopes, on winter skis or in summer hiking boots. Either way, head south on day 14, stopping for afternoon bubbles in the prosecco heartland of Conegliano before wrapping things up in Venice.

A Lakes Tour

  • 1 Week

Tickling the snowcapped Alps, Italy's glacial lakes have lured romantics for centuries, from European royalty to American silver-screen pin-ups. Live the dream, if only for a week.

A short drive northwest of Malpensa airport, Milan, and you're on the edge of serene Lago Maggiore. Start with three nights in belle époque Stresa and visit the lavish Borromean Islands: Isola Madre for its romantic gardens and wisteria-clad Staircase of the Dead; and Isola Bella for its priceless art collection, vast ballrooms and shell-encrusted grotto. Take the funicular up to Monte Mottarone and day-trip to Lago d'Orta and bijou Isola San Giulio. On day four head north from Stresa to Verbania, picnicking amid the tulips of Villa Taranto before gliding east across the lake to Laveno and straight on to celebrity haunt Como. Amble the flower-laden lakeside to view art exhibits at Villa Olmo before finding a sun lounge at the Lido di Villa Olmo. You could spend days in Como, hiring out boats or hiking the mountainous Triangolo Lariano. If you're ambitious you can walk to chic Bellagio. Otherwise, take the lake road and lunch on a perch in Lezzeno before one last romantic night lakeside.

Southern Coastal Route

  • 2 Weeks

Graeco-Roman ruins, a Bourbon palace and some of Italy's most beautiful coastline: crank up the romance on this two-week journey through the sun-baked south.

Rev things up with three days in exhilarating Naples, day-tripping it to Caserta to explore Italy's largest royal palace. On day four, head south to the Amalfi Coast, allowing for two nights in Positano, followed by a day in Amalfi and Ravello on your way to Salerno. Come day seven, continue to the World Heritage–listed temples of Paestum, then through the Parco Nazionale del Cilento e Vallo di Diano to cognoscenti coastal jewel Maratea. Spend two nights in town, followed by lunch in Tropea (one of Calabria's most beautiful coast towns) on your way to Villa San Giovanni. Catch the ferry across to Sicily and treat yourself to three nights in fashionable Taormina, Sicily's former Byzantine capital and home to the world's most spectacularly located Greek amphitheatre. Sun-kissed and relaxed, continue to Catania on day 13, taking two days to soak up the city's ancient sites, extraordinary baroque architecture and vibrant market life.