Calling all foodies! This three-week epicurean adventure through Italy and Spain takes you to the heart of Europe's most celebrated food destinations. Stroll through the charming piazzas of Venice, explore the gastronomic delights hidden in the backstreets of Rome and Emilia-Romagna, and indulge in Florentine delicacies. Then, discover the Basque Country's culinary gems in Bilbao and San Sebastián before indulging in Madrid's paella and sangria.


  • Master Italy and Spain's culinary classics, including tiramisu and paella
  • Sip wine and tour Italian and Spanish vineyards in Lazio, Tuscany, and La Rioja
  • Tour ancient ruins and see Renaissance art in Rome and Florence
  • Discover cicchetti in Venice and dine on seafood in Burano
  • Explore Bilbao and San Sebastián's legendary food scene

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Naples, Neapolitan Street Food Experience Naples
Day 2 Free Morning, Neapolitan Pizza Masterclass Naples
Day 3 Half-Day Trip to Pompeii Naples
Day 4 Train to Rome, Private Highlights Tour of the Eternal City Rome
Day 5 Pasta & Tiramisu Cooking Class, Tour of the Colosseum & Roman Forum Rome
Day 6 Train to Frascati, Castelli Romani Wine Experience Rome
Day 7 Free Day in Rome Rome
Day 8 Train to Bologna, Foodie Tour of Emilia-Romagna's Capital Bologna
Day 9 Day Trip to Parma, Prosciutto & Parmigiano-Reggiano Tasting Bologna
Day 10 Train to Venice, Private Guided Tour of the City Venice
Day 11 Murano & Burano Excursion, Explore Venice by Gondola Venice
Day 12 Train to Florence, Explore the Renaissance Capital Florence
Day 13 Florence Walking Tour & Accademia Visit Florence
Day 14 Excursion to Tuscany: Chianti Winery Visit & San Gimignano Florence
Day 15 Fly to Bilbao (Spain), Pintxos Gastronomy Tour Bilbao
Day 16 Guided Tour of Bilbao, Txakoli Wine Experience Bilbao
Day 17 Transfer to San Sebastián, Free Afternoon to Explore San Sebastián
Day 18 Full-Day Wine Tasting & Tour of La Rioja San Sebastián
Day 19 Train to Madrid, Optional Guided City Walk or Tour of Madrid's Food Markets Madrid
Day 20 Wine Tour in Madrid's Countryside Madrid
Day 21 Gazpacho & Paella Cooking Class & Market Visit, Depart Madrid  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Naples, Neapolitan Street Food Experience

street food in Napoli
Explore the sights, sounds, and tastes of Naples with a street food tour

Benvenuti in Napoli! While Naples is world-renowned for its pizza and rich history of Neapolitan cuisine, it's also one of Italy's most magnetic and unique cities with its maze of narrow streets awash with culture, chaos, and exuberant atmosphere. Upon arrival at the airport, meet your driver and transfer to your central accommodation. When you're ready, head out to explore the city's mouthwatering flavors and historic sights with a street food tour.

Begin with a stroll through the lively Mercato dell Pignasecca, where you'll enjoy tasty morsels such as taralli (tiny, crunchy, and flavorsome bagels), mozzarella di bufala, frittatina (a mini pasta omelet), and cuoppo di pesce fritti (cones of fried fish), from the enthusiastic vendors. Your next stop is San Gregorio Armeno, a road famous for its small shops and artisanal produce. Continue to snack and weave your way through the alleyways, stopping to visit a local limoncello factory while your guide shares anecdotes about Naples' history, architecture, and culture.

Day 2: Free Morning, Neapolitan Pizza Masterclass

Learn to make pizza from scratch
Learn the art of Neapolitan pizza with today's masterclass, led by a professional pizzaiolo

Today, you'll embrace the city's choreography of scooters and street life with a self-guided tour. Start with a visit to the splendid Duomo di Napoli, a short 10-minute walk from Piazza Cavour. The cathedral dates back to the 13th century and incorporates a range of Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance architectural styles. Follow the main street, Via Toledo, toward the waterfront, and you'll discover the Royal Palace, San Carlo Theater, and Castle Nuovo, all worth a visit, with the latter full of medieval and 19th-century paintings, sculptures, and objects.

In the afternoon, you'll get a hands-on immersion into Neapolitan cuisine with a masterclass dedicated to crafting the perfect Neapolitan pizza. You'll be led by your guide to the restaurant of one of the city's oldest families of pizza makers, where the pizzaiolo (pizza maker) will guide you through every step of the process, from which ingredients to use to the history of this world-famous dish. With your creations freshly out of the wood-fired oven, you'll dine with your fellow chefs and add "Neapolitan pizza maker" to your cooking repertoire. 

Day 3: Half-Day Trip to Pompeii

Vesuvio and Pompei
Discover an ancient city frozen in time with today's trip to Pompeii

Once a thriving seaside town, the ancient city of Pompeii was buried under 13-20 feet (4-6 m) of ash and volcanic debris when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 CE. Left undiscovered for 1,500 years, the ruins first came to light in the 16th century thanks to the architect Domenico Fontana. Over centuries of careful excavations, the archaeological site has revealed a city frozen in time, with many of the town's original buildings and features preserved entirely intact.

This morning, you'll step back 2,000 years with a guided walking tour of Pompeii's ancient streets to see the plazas, forums, villas, shops, and minutiae of daily life for Romans on the day of the eruption. Afterward, you'll have the opportunity to visit a workshop to see local handicrafts being produced before returning to Naples. Spend the rest of the day touring any sights you missed yesterday before heading out to dine on local specialties such as parmigiana melanzana, washed down with a glass of the local Lacryma Christi Bianco (grown from the grapes around Vesuvius). 

Day 4: Train to Rome, Private Highlights Tour of the Eternal City

There's no place like Rome; experience la dolce vita in Italy's capital

Bid farewell to Naples this morning and catch a high-speed train to Rome—Italy's capital, which continues to captivate visitors worldwide with its exuberant mix of ancient history, laid-back piazza lifestyle, and cosmopolitan cobbled streets. Start your discovery of the "Eternal City" with a private tour. Led by an experienced guide, you'll start at the Spanish Steps, Europe's longest and widest staircase (135 in total), which leads to a beautiful panorama over the city and Piazza di Spagna at the bottom. 

Admire the Baroque Bernini fountain in the square and the nearby Casina Rossa, where the poet John Keats lived and died, then wander the maze of alleyways and cobblestone streets toward the Pantheon. The dramatic focus of the Piazza della Rotonda, the 2,000-year-old ancient temple, is an architectural marvel still used today for services and worship. Pause for gelato in the square while your guide shares tales of the city's incredible history, and continue to Bernini's Trevi Fountain, another Baroque masterpiece where a coin tossed inside is said to seal your return to Rome.

Your tour concludes in Piazza Navona, a grand square famous for its Fountain of the Four Rivers and abuzz with sidewalk artists and musicians. Soak up the atmosphere with aperitivo at one of the bars that line the piazza, and as dusk falls, head to dinner in the nearby Jewish Quarter. Try Roman delicacies, including carciofi alla giudia (Jewish fried artichokes) and filetti di baccalà (fried salt cod fillets).

Day 5: Pasta & Tiramisu Cooking Class, Tour of the Colosseum & Roman Forum

Learn how to craft the perfect cacio e pepe
Learn how to craft the perfect cacio e pepe with a Roman pasta masterclass

Continue your immersion into Italian life this morning with an authentic cooking class led by a local chef, who'll guide you through the different types of pasta used in Roman cuisine and the four classic sauces: carbonara, cacio e pepe, alla gricia, and amatriciana. You'll also learn the art of making Italy's famous tiramisu, and while it sets, you'll sharpen your pasta skills. Learn how to mix and knead flour and eggs, then cut or shape your preferred type of pasta. At the end of the workshop, sit down with your fellow chefs and enjoy your creations with a glass of the local Lazio wine. 

After lunch, follow in the footsteps of gladiators with a guided tour of Rome's iconic Colosseum. Built by Flavian emperors in 80 CE as the epicenter of Ancient Rome's public entertainment, you'll slip the queues and discover the amphitheater's highlights, including the formidable arena. See the marble seats reserved for the Roman senators and imagine the roar of 80,000 spectators calling your name.

Continue your step back in time with a short walk to Palatine Hill, once an exclusive neighborhood for political leaders and emperors, where you'll see ruins of the sprawling palaces. Admire the umbrella pine-dotted views toward the Vatican, Circus Maximus, and the Roman Forum—the focal point of political life in Ancient Rome and your final stop. Explore the forum's vast 2,000-year-old excavations that reveal the temples, squares, and religious sites used by the empire's noble citizens. Meanwhile, your guide will bring the ruins to life with fascinating stories of the political power plays conducted here.

Day 6: Train to Frascati, Castelli Romani Wine Experience

Sunset Frascati Wine Experience
Sip wine in the elegant hilltop town of Frascati

Just 30 minutes by train from Rome lies the idyllic town of Frascati, nestled within the ancient hills of the Castelli Romani. Known as La città del vino (the city of wine), Frascati is surrounded by countryside laden with vineyards and famous for its eponymous dry white wine. You'll meet your guide at the train station and drive through scenery adorned with umbrella pines and olive groves to a nearby 16th-century family-run winery. Take a tour of the vineyard and cellars with your host and winemaker, and see the centuries-old techniques still used in modern-day winemaking.

You'll finish the tour with a delicious tasting of wines paired with fresh pane, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) made on the estate, and local prosciutto crudo and formaggi. Return to Frascati's Centro Storico with your guide and continue exploring on your own. Discover elegant back streets filled with boutiques and an array of foodie delights from cheese-laden delicatessens, bakeries selling ciambelline al vino (wine cookies) to enotece (wine shops) showcasing the region's notable red wines (look out for Cesanese del Piglio). 

End your visit with aperitivi in the central Piazza San Pietro, a charming square dominated by the beautiful Baroque Basilica di San Pietro, whose al fresco bars fill with locals at golden hour. When you're ready, make your way to the train station, a five-minute walk from the center, but not before admiring the splendid views of the sun setting over Rome in the distance. 

Day 7: Free Day in Rome

Make the most of a free day in La Bella Roma

Spend today soaking up la dolce vita and exploring Rome at your own pace. Start with a caffè and pastry at a nearby neighborhood bar; then, depending on your preference, you've several options. Head out of the city for a day at the nearby beach in Ostia, where you'll find miles of sandy beaches and some excellent restaurants overlooking the sea. Feast on specials such as calamari fritti (fried squid), spaghetti alla vongole (pasta with clams), or tagliatelle allo scoglio (pasta with seafood), washed down with a glass of the local dry white wine.

Alternatively, stroll the beautiful gardens at Villa Borghese, a green oasis north of the city. Here, you'll also find the ornate rooms of Galleria Borghese, with beautiful frescoes, Bernini statues, and numerous works by Bellini, Raphael, Titian, Rubens, and Caravaggio. Pause for lunch in the nearby Prati neighborhood and then meander south to the Musei Capitolini, one of the city's oldest museums, with incredible sculptures, including the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius and the Lupa Capitoline. 

Finish your afternoon in Monti, a great local neighborhood near the Colosseum. Do as the locals do, sip a spritz or caffè in the Piazza della Madonna dei Monti and indulge in the Italian spirit of dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing). You'll also find plenty of trattorias here to sit down and grab dinner when the sun sets, and the piazza fills with locals gathering to socialize. Dine on Roman staples such as coda alla vaccinara (a rich oxtail stew) and agnello al forno con patate (roast lamb with potatoes), and raise a toast to your trip.

Day 8:  Train to Bologna, Foodie Tour of Emilia-Romagna's Capital

Sharpen your taste buds for today's tour of Emilia-Romagna's foodie capital

Bid a heartfelt a la prossima to Rome this morning and take a 2.5-hour train journey north from Termini Station to Bologna,  Emilia-Romagna's foodie capital. Settle in at your hotel, then spend the day getting acquainted with the city's foodie scene on a full-day guided walking and food tour. Start with caffè in Piazza Maggiore, the town's grand 13th-century plaza, overlooked by some of Bologna's most prominent and historic buildings. Visit the City Hall, the 14th-century Basilica di San Petronio, and the medieval Asinelli and Garisenda Towers, which flank the piazza.

Pause for lunch and dine on typical Bolognan cuisine, such as tortelloni in brodo (tiny meat-filled pasta served in a delicate broth), accompanied by a glass of the region's excellent local wine. Afterward, head to the 11th-century University of Bologna to view the Anatomical Theater, formerly used by students dissecting cadavers, and stroll the medieval university grounds. On the way, stop to see the former Jewish Ghetto, then continue to the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna, the National Art Gallery.

Toward the end of the afternoon, you'll explore the city's foodie hotspots and shop for regional delicacies, such as artisanal tortellini, mortadella, and formaggi. You'll visit traditional pasticcerie (bakeries) and sample a delicious variety of sweet and savory treats before a trip to a local pasta maker to see the handicrafting process in action. As the sun dips, part ways with your guide and wander over to the popular Mercato delle Erbe, a beautifully restored indoor market teeming with locals at aperitivo hour and an excellent spot for dining if you're feeling hungry later. 

Day 9:  Day Trip to Parma, Prosciutto & Parmigiano-Reggiano Tasting

Day Trip to Parma, Food Tour
Savor Parma's eponymous prosciutto and delicious Parmigiano-Reggiano 
Plan your trip to Spain
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Known for its ornate medieval architecture, castles, and famous prosciutto namesake, Parma, along with Bologna, is considered one of the top foodie destinations for travelers to northern Italy. This morning, you'll catch an hour's train to the city and meet your guide in the center. You'll discover highlights, including the 10th-century University of Parma, the Museo Glauco Lombardi, the 12th-century Piazza Duomo, and the world-renowned opera venue Teatro Regio.

Next up, it's time to explore the local production sites of the city's two main food exports, Prosciutto Crudo di Parma and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, staples not just in Italian cooking but around the world. You'll learn about and see the production process in action and the hard work that goes into ensuring they meet high regional standards and the coveted DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta) status or PDO.

Whet your appetite with a tasting of Parma's coveted produce, and then it's off to a local family-run trattoria for lunch. Northern Italian cooking favors ingredients such as butter, cheese, truffles, risotto rice, and polenta, so expect dishes such as risotto Milanese and ravioli al burro e salvia (ravioli with butter and sage). After you've feasted on regional specialties, spend the afternoon strolling the town before returning to Bologna in the evening.

Day 10: Train to Venice, Private Guided Tour of the City

See the famous sights, but be sure to soak up the city's foodie vibe with cicchetti and spritz 

Continue your tour of northern Italy this morning with a 1.5-hour train to Venice. Arrive at Venezia Santa Lucia station and immerse yourself in the city's unique network of canals and car-free streets with a vaporetto (water taxi) to one of the central stops on the Grand Canal near your hotel. Check in, then head out on a guided tour to discover the beautiful bridges, atmospheric streets, and glimmering architecture that make the Elegant "City of Canals" one of Europe's top destinations.

Start at Piazza San Marco (Saint Mark's Square), the heart of the city's cultural and administrative district. Savor the views of Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace), a Venetian Gothic palace built as the primary residence for the Doge of Venice in 1340, then venture inside and admire the splendid frescoes and masterpieces by Titian. The adjacent San Marco Basilica is one of the best-surviving examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture and features fine art, gold mosaics, and marble floors.

After a tour of the major sights, you'll weave through the maze of streets and canals into the heart of Venice, away from the crowds. Hear fascinating stories of the island's exotic past and explore the Cannaregio neighborhood, the city's former Jewish Ghetto. Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the city's bridges and ornate squares, stopping for a spritz or two along the way. In the evening, head to a local bacaro to sample cicchetti (Venetian tapas) and local Veneto wine. 

Day 11: Murano & Burano Excursion, Explore Venice by Gondola

Enjoy a Gondola ride along the Grand Canal
See the waterside palazzos and ride underneath ornate bridges with a gondola ride through the city's canals

Today, you'll head out early for a tour of two of Venice's famous neighbors—the islands of Murano and Burano. First up is Murano, known worldwide for its colorful, elegant glassmaking. See firsthand how the intricate pieces are made with a visit to a local glass-blower and some truly exquisite pieces dating back to the 16th century at the local Glass Museum. 

Hop back on the ferry (there are regular stops throughout the day to both islands) and continue to Burano, a picture-perfect island known for its striking, colorful houses and elegant lacework. It also has some of the lagoon's best seafood restaurants. Stop for lunch at Al Gatto Nero (you'll need a reservation), and after a stroll of the island's brightly-hued pastel streets, catch the return ferry to Venice.

Spend your last afternoon in Venice gliding through the evocative back canals of San Marco with the time-honored tradition of a gondola ride, the primary mode of Venetians for centuries. As your gondeliero navigates the city's narrow and intricate network of waterways, sit back and discover parts of the city only accessible by gondola. Spend the rest of the day relaxing or exploring as you wish. Art enthusiasts shouldn't miss the Peggy Guggenheim Museum or La Biennale di Venezia Art Museum

Day 12: Train to Florence, Explore the Renaissance Capital

Spend a relaxed day strolling Florence's elegant streets

Enjoy one last saunter along the Grand Canal and then catch a vaporetto to the station, ready for your 2.5-hour direct train to Florence. Tuscany's regional capital is famed for its richness of art and culture, and Firenze's magnificent terracotta-tiled Duomo is a testament to the city's incredible Renaissance architecture.

Check in at your hotel, and the rest of the day is yours to relax and soak up Florence's artsy Tuscan vibe. Head over to the Mercado di San Lorenzo, where you can grab a midmorning pastry and espresso or a delicious panino and spend an hour or two soaking up the atmosphere and browsing the stalls. You'll find plenty to catch your eye with the various artisanal leather goods the city is famed for, alongside pottery, beautiful notebooks, jewelry, and much more.

In the afternoon, wander over to Piazza della Republica and pause for refreshments at one of the historic cafés that line the square. Continue to Il Ponte Vecchio, a medieval stone bridge with an array of jewelry shops and beautiful views along the River Arno. As the sun starts to dip, end your day with a visit to Piazzale Michelangelo. It's an uphill walk (or you can catch a cab or bus), but you'll be rewarded with splendid sunset views across Florence and the rolling Tuscan countryside.

Day 13: Florence Walking Tour & Accademia Visit

Florence's Duomo
Hear tales of Florence's captivating Renaissance history while exploring the top sights on today's tour

This morning, you'll take a deep dive into Florence's Renaissance art and history with a guided tour of the city and a visit to the renowned Galleria dell'Accademia. Start at the Palazzo Vecchio, where you'll see a replica of Michelangelo's "David" (you'll see the real thing later), and stroll across the Ponte Vecchio while your guide regales you with stories about the nearby Piazza della Republica. The square once served as the city's ancient Roman Forum and became a hub for Florence's literati in the early 20th century.

Next up is architect Filippo Brunelleschi's masterpiece, La Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, known simply as Il Duomo to locals. Step into the Piazza del Duomo and take a moment to admire the white, green, and red marble cathedral, which continues to mesmerize even long-standing visitors. After a tour of Il Duomo's notable features, including Giotto's Bell Tower and the Romanesque Baptistery of Saint John, with its opulent Holy Door (named the Gates of Paradise by Michelangelo, thanks to its opulent beauty), you'll continue to the Galleria dell'Accademia.

Michelangelo's famous sculpture, created when the artist was just in his twenties, between 1501 and 1504, took over two years of continuous work and remains Florence's most visited attraction. Learn how "David" came to be and the challenges Michelangelo encountered during his time in the city before seeing the gallery's other famous works, including Titian's Pietà and paintings by Botticelli and Tintoretto. When you're ready, part ways with your guide and continue exploring under your own steam before dining on traditional Tuscan fare at a neighborhood trattoria. 

Day 14: Excursion to Tuscany: Chianti Winery Visit & San Gimignano

Chianti wine tasting
Enjoy a day of fine wines and vineyards in the Chianti Hills

This morning, you'll meet your driver and guide for a tour of the rolling Chianti Hills, where you'll visit the vineyards and cellars behind the region's eponymous wine. Made from a minimum of 80% sangiovese grapes, Chianti Classico is made from vines within a distinct area that stretches between the cities of Florence and Siena. Learn about the centuries-old production process and then sit down to a tasting of various vintages accompanied by a typical Tuscan lunch of cured meats, cheeses, a primo (usually a pasta course), and a choice of dolce (dessert). 

Tuscany is awash with medieval hilltop towns, and one of the most remarkable is San Gimignano. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town is known for its 14th-century torre (towers), which can be seen for miles across the olive grove-strewn farmland. After lunch, your driver will drop you at the town's walled gates, where the afternoon is yours to explore the beautiful squares and medieval stone streets. The gelato at the world-famous Gelateria Dondoli in Piazza della Cisterna is a must. For a refreshing treat, try the pink grapefruit sorbet made with the local sparkling Vernaccia di San Gimignano white wine.

Day 15: Fly to Bilbao (Spain), Pintxos Gastronomy Tour

Bienvenido a Barcelona!

This morning, you'll say ciao to Italy and board a two-hour flight to Barcelona, in Spain's north. Your onward destination is Bilbao, a buzzy port town in the culturally independent Basque Country. An intriguing mix of modern and historic architecture, the city has developed a legendary food culture and is renowned for both its density of Michelin-starred restaurants and its pintxos (Basque tapas) gastronomy. 

Settle into your hotel and spend the evening snacking your way around the city's most beloved and authentic pintxos bars. Accompanied by an expert local foodie, you'll tour Bilbao's classic elegant cantinas and the highly creative newcomers and hear plenty of entertaining culinary tales from your guide. Enjoy combinations such as hake and piquillo peppers, oxtail croquettes, txangurro gratinado (spider crab gratin), and foie gras with apples, and Pedro Ximénez, washed down with local wine or craft beers.

Day 16: Guided Tour of Bilbao, Txakoli Wine Experience

Txakoli vineyard
Explore the beautiful scenery of the Hondarrabia and tour a Txakoli vineyard this afternoon

No visit to Bilbao is complete without a visit to the Guggenheim Museum, and this morning, you'll discover Frank Gehry's contemporary architectural masterpiece and the city's notable sights with a private tour of both the gallery and Bilbao's Casco Viejo (Old Town). After admiring the museum's gleaming exterior, venture inside and see some of the most important works from the mid-20th century to the present, from artists such as Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, Yves Klein, Anish Kapoor, Fujiko Nakaya, and Eduardo Chillida.

Afterward, stroll along Las Siete Calles (The Seven Streets), home to the city's classic landmarks, restaurants, and boutiques, while your guide shares anecdotes of the city's fascinating past. Located right on the waterfront, the area houses significant sites, including the 18th-century Baroque Church of San Nicolás with its two imposing cupolas and the 16th-century Church of San Antón. The vast Mercado de la Ribera, Europe's largest covered market, is your final stop and brimming with mouthwatering Basque specialties, ideal for a foodie lunch on the go.

End your afternoon with a drive through the fertile countryside north of Bilbao, where you'll pass vineyards laden with hondarrabi zuri grapes, native to the Basque Country and responsible for the region's famous txakoli white wine. Your destination is Bakio, where you'll visit a traditional txakolindegi (a house where txakoli is made) and explore the region's viticulture and wine production at a local vineyard. Finish with a tasting of several varietals accompanied by delicious savory snacks before being dropped back in Bilbao in time for dinner. 

Day 17: Transfer to San Sebastián, Free Afternoon to Explore

San Sebastian
 Waste no time diving into San Sebastián's famous foodie scene

Lying on the Bay of Biscay and surrounded by lush hillsides, the sophisticated coastal town of San Sebastián is known for its world-class dining scene, sweeping golden beaches, and elegant architecture. This morning, you'll take a private transfer to the famous foodie town, where the day is yours to explore the city at your own pace. Start in the Parte Vieja (Old Quarter) and weave your way through ornate squares and narrow streets, passing sights such as the Mercado San Martin, Gipuzkoa Plaza, Plaza de Okendo, and the 12th-century Motako Gaztelua Castle.

Once you've worked up an appetite, you'll be spoiled for choice with an array of lunch spots, from pintxos bars to fine dining restaurants, all dedicated to highlighting the area's excellent fresh produce. In the afternoon, wander the elegant promenade along the crescent-shaped La Concha Beach and relax with a cool drink at one of the beachside bars before diving back into the city's gastronomy at nightfall. 

Day 18: Full-Day Wine Tasting & Tour of La Rioja

La Rioja winery Marques de Riscal
No ordinary winery: discover the Marques de Riscal cellar, designed by Frank Gehry

Today's tour of three wineries in the beautiful La Rioja region is perfect for oenophiles, foodies, and history buffs. You'll start with a visit to one of the area's oldest hidden wine cellars, where a fascinating network of handbuilt caves runs under the neighborhood streets. There'll be plenty of opportunities to try different varietals of the locally produced Rioja as you tour the countryside, discover the vineyards, and finish at the renowned Marques de Riscal cellar, another testament to Frank Gehry's architectural skills.

Your final stop on the tour is nearby Laguardia, a medieval hilltop town dating back to the 10th century, surrounded by the lush vineyards that fill the Ebro Valley. Your guide will introduce you to the owner of a neighborhood restaurant, off the beaten path and popular with locals for its mouthwatering Basque flavors and great wine list. Enjoy a leisurely lunch, and afterward, you'll have time for a stroll through the town's romantic cobbled streets, where you can purchase any vintages you particularly enjoyed before returning to San Sebastián. 

Day 19: Train to Madrid, Optional Guided City Walk or Tour of Madrid's Food Markets

Madrid's San Miguel Food Market
Food heaven—explore Madrid's gastronomy in the San Miguel market 

This morning, transfer to Spain's capital with a 5.5-hour train journey from San Sebastián to Madrid. Settle in and relax as you pass through the changing landscapes, and watch out for the turreted castles and spires that piece the skyline as you pass through Zaragoza. Arrive in the city, and you've got several options. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure, sip a cold beer in the city's bustling Puerto del Sol, then wander the historic streets and explore the plethora of museums and galleries for which Madrid is justifiably famous.

The Habsburg district, known in Spanish as El Madrid de Los Austrias, is the oldest part of the city and one of the most charming. It's also home to many key landmarks, including the 18th-century Royal Palace, the Almudena Cathedral, and the vast 15th-century Plaza Mayor. Spend a leisurely few hours seeing these sights and learning about Madrid's history, culture, and architecture in the company of an expert guide who'll lead you through these gems and some of the area's treasures off the beaten path. 

Alternatively, dive straight into Madrid's gastronomic culture and immerse yourself in local life and cuisine with a guided tour of the city's famed public markets. Accompanied by a passionate foodie, you'll experience local customs and culture firsthand and meet enthusiastic vendors who'll know their loyal clientele by name. Wander stalls laden with Iberian pork, artisan bread, queso (cheese), and brimming with seasonal fruit, vegetables, and seafood, tasting produce as you go. You'll even pick up a few local cooking techniques along the way, including Spain's famous tortilla de patata.

Day 20: Wine Tour in Madrid's Countryside

The Urtiel-Requena wine region
Explore the vineyard-soaked countryside that surrounds Madrid, and of course, taste exceptional wines
Spend a relaxed day outside of the city, touring the vineyard-soaked countryside that surrounds Madrid. Dense with vines and historic towns, the Las Vegas region is where the rivers of Tajuña, Jarama, Henares, Manzanares, and Tajo converge and hold over 900 years of winemaking within its fertile grounds. You'll visit three wineries, taste some of the region's best wines alongside local snacks, and learn more about the history of winemaking in the area. In the afternoon, you'll return to Madrid in time to enjoy your final night in Spain.

Day 21: Gazpacho & Paella Cooking Class & Market Visit, Depart Madrid

Enjoy an interactive, hands-on cooking class
Enjoy an interactive, hands-on cooking class as you master Spanish classics, including gazpacho, and paella

Finish your Mediterranean foodie adventure with a cookery masterclass dedicated to Spain's national dish, paella. Accompanied by a local chef, you'll head over to the Antón Martín Market to pick up plenty of fresh produce and learn how the ingredients are incorporated into the famed rice dish. Once in the kitchen, you'll begin preparing the appetizer, an authentic gazpacho. Popular throughout Spain and Portugal during the summer months, the delicious chilled soup made from flavorsome tomatoes, cucumber, olive oil, and bread is said to date back to Roman times.

Set to work on the paella and discover the dish's origins and cultural significance while your chef imparts the secret to the perfect socarrat—the highly coveted thin layer of caramelized rice found on the bottom and sides of the pan. You'll also enjoy a glass or two of refreshing sangria while you cook and learn how to make the classic Spanish cocktail. Once your paella's ready, sit down with your fellow chefs and enjoy your lovingly crafted lunch, accompanied by a selection of local wines.

When the time comes, you'll make your way to Madrid's airport for your flight home or to continue your European adventure. Safe travels!

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Map of Culinary Journey through Italy & Spain - 21 Days
Map of Culinary Journey through Italy & Spain - 21 Days