- Try your hand at Italian cuisine during a half-day cooking class
- Experience Turin's street food scene
- Tour the 11th-century University of Bologna
- Explore Piazza San Marco, the Bridge of Sighs, & the Doge's Palace in Venice
- Discover Roman history in Verona
|Day 1||Arrive in Milan, Transfer to Bologna||Bologna|
|Day 2||Highlights and Tastes of Bologna||Bologna|
|Day 3||Parma Ham and Cheese Tour||Bologna|
|Day 4||Bologna to Venice, Walking Tour||Venice|
|Day 5||Self-Guided Visit to Murano, Torcello, & Burano Islands||Venice|
|Day 6||Venice to Verona, Guided Tour||Verona|
|Day 7||Wine Tour from Verona||Verona|
|Day 8||Verona to Milan||Milan|
|Day 9||Cooking Class and Aperitivo Tasting in Milan||Milan|
|Day 10||Milan to Turin, Street Food Tour||Turin|
|Day 11||Piedmont Wine Tour||Turin|
|Day 12||Goodbye Italy|
Day 1: Arrive in Milan, Transfer to Bologna
Welcome to Italy! Arrive in one of Milan's two international airports, then take a 1.5 hour train ride to Bologna, the bustling historic capital of the Emilia-Romagna region. First, check in to your hotel, then celebrate the start of your trip with a cup of Italian espresso or a gelato.
Take it easy today and familiarize yourself with Italian culture by exploring some of the local sights. Our suggestions include:
- Visiting MAMbo - Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna, a museum of modern art.
- Strolling the peaceful sanctuary of the Giardini Margherita park, located just south of the city center. It is Bologna's largest park and the design was inspired by romantic English gardens.
- Seeing the Museo di Palazzo Poggi and Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna, art museums which house notable medieval and world-famous works from Giotto and Raphael.
- Discovering the Museo Internazionale e Biblioteca della Musica, a museum of musical instruments, and the Museum of History of Bologna.
- Exploring the Basilica of Santo Stefano complex, which houses several churches, and the hilltop Sanctuary of Madonna di San Luca.
Stay in the downtown neighborhood for an aperitivo of full-bodied red or an Aperol Spritz while you snack on a charcuterie board, then sit down to traditional tortellini or mortadella for dinner at a local osteria or trattoria. Piazza Santo Stefano is a lovely place to spend your first evening.
Day 2: Highlights and Tastes of Bologna
Enjoy a good breakfast this morning as you will be heading out for the full day on a walking tour of Bologna. You'll be lead through the city center by a guide with expert knowledge of local history, architecture, and food. Experience the sights, smells, and tastes of the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region.
Walk through the downtown area to see many of the city's notable landmarks. The Piazza Maggiore is a sprawling central plaza surrounded by the city's oldest buildings. You can visit the City Hall, the 14th-century Basilica di San Petronio, and the medieval Asinelli and Garisenda Towers, which flank the Piazza.
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. This building also houses the Academy of Fine Arts.
Next, explore the city via the medieval porticos, a network of covered walkways that connect city landmarks, museums, and neighborhoods while protecting pedestrians from snow, rain, and the hot summer sun. Visitors with an eye for fashion will enjoy browsing the designer boutiques and the medieval Quadrilatero market district for the perfect Italian leather shoes or for gifts to bring home.
Bologna is famed for its bustling markets and food scene. The Mercato di Mezzo is worth a visit in the Quadrilatero area. Explore the local markets and shop for regional delicacies, such as artisanal tortellini, mortadella, and a variety of cheeses. Visit traditional food shops like a bakery and pasta maker to see the handcrafting process and to sample the final products. Tip: here you can buy tasty foods for a picnic and find a piazza or park to eat and people watch.
Alternatively, after your tour finishes, pause for a late lunch or early dinner and enjoy some of the city's delicious specialties from a restaurant—tortellini and ragu alla bolognese, a rich tomato and meat sauce. Ask your guide for a recommendation for lunch or dinner as they know the city the best. At aperitivo time, around 6 pm, walk to the trendy indoor market Mercato delle Erbe and enjoy a drink with the locals. It was beautifully restored in 2013 and is full of bustling bakeries, restaurants and wine shops. After, head out to dinner and enjoy your evening in Bologna.
Day 3: Parma Ham and Cheese Tour
Head out for a day trip to the capital of Parma ham and Parmesan cheese—the city of Parma, in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. The city is famous for its ornate medieval architecture, the beautiful countryside and, of course, the food. The easiest way to travel from Bologna to Parma is by train from Bologna Centrale Station. Take in the countryside views for around 1.5 hours. You will meet your guide in the center of Parma to begin the tour.
If you are a real foodie, then you will love this experience! You'll visit the local production sites of Parma prosciutto and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. You will learn about and see the processes from the beginning and have a chance to taste the final products. Observe the traditional way of producing these foods and the hard work which goes into ensuring they meet high regional standards. The tour will be around 5 hours and, at each stop, you can also shop for your favorite selections to bring home, as a gift to yourself or for your family.
After the tour, get a feeling for the local pace of life with lunch at a small family-run trattoria, then spend the afternoon enjoying the city and check out the following places:
- The 16th century Palazzo della Pilotta is a spectacular space. The building has many corridors and courtyards to be explored. Today, the palace and grounds host the National Gallery, the Palatine Library, and the Archeological Museum, plus monuments in honor of WWII and Giuseppe Verdi.
- Visit the city's main square, Piazza Duomo, where you'll find the Romanesque cathedral and baptistry, both from the 12th century
- Parma's Botanical Garden, founded in 1600, is a calming space within the city. Here you'll find exotic plant species, including the 'Ginkgo biloba' tree which has unique heart-shaped leaves
- The Teatro Regio is a world-renowned opera performance space, commissioned by the Dutchess Maria Luigia. Today, ballets, operas, and classical concerts are still held often.
- Stroll through Parco Ducale, a large green park close to Parma's train station. There are two palaces belonging to the Ducal family, sculptures and impressive water features.
When you work up an appetite for dinner, check out Parma's rustic restaurant scene, accompanied by a glass of locally produced Emilia-Romagna wine.
Day 4: Bologna to Venice, Walking Tour
Pack up your bags after breakfast and head to Bologna's train station to catch a 1-hour 40-minute train to your next stop. Upon arriving in Venice, make your way to check in to your new hotel. Venice, in northern Italy, is famous for both industry and tourism. With nicknames like "Queen of the Adriatic", "City of Water", and "The Floating City", it's clear that the city's myriad canals are its main draw. Stretching across 117 small islands in the marshy Venetian Lagoon along the Adriatic Sea, the city has long been a commercial and cultural hub thanks to its strategic placement
In the afternoon experience Venice's highlights on a guided walking tour. Start at Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square), the heart of the city's cultural and administrative district. There, see Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace), a Venetian Gothic palace built as the primary residence for the Doge of Venice in 1340. The palace stands on the Piazza San Marco, but don't just view it from the outside- its resplendent interior decor and priceless works of art make it a must-see for history and architecture buffs.
Adjacent to the palace is the San Marco's Basilica, originally the Doge's personal chapel. The building is one of the best surviving examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture and features a stunning collection of Byzantine art, gold mosaics, and exquisite marble floors. Your tour includes a visit inside, where you'll be able to see for yourself the incredible art and architecture it holds.
Away from Saint Mark's Square, you'll delve deeper into the heart of Venice and away from the crowds. You'll be guided through the maze of streets and canals that makes Venice so unique. Hear fascinating stories and admire the incredible views over the Grand Canal. Feel free to ask your guide for a dinner recommendation before your tour's end!
After the morning's tour, grab lunch at one of the city's many cafes before spending the afternoon exploring.
- Tour the 18th-century Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta (also known as I Gesuiti) in the Cannaregio district and the baroque 17th-century Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, Venice's second-most renowned church.
- Ride the elevator to the top of the Campanile di San Marco for a bird’s-eye view of Venice.
- Dive into history at the Correr Civic Museum to see art and artifact displays from Venice's history as well as the former royals' quarters.
- Go shopping at the famous Rialto fish market, located at the heart of Venice. The smell of seafood and sound of vendors vying for shoppers' attention make this colorful and hectic market a must-see for any Venice traveler.
For dinner head to the former Jewish Ghetto district. The area is filled with great restaurants, bars, & shops offering kosher Venetian specialties, a Jewish museum, and several tourist-friendly synagogues. Eat and drink your way through regional specialties as you celebrate your first night in Venice.
Day 5: Self-Guided Visit to Murano, Torcello, & Burano Islands
When in Venice, a visit to its lagoon and neighboring islands is a must! These picturesque villages offer a getaway from the city of Venice and a unique look into local life and culture. Take the day to visit the islands of Murano, Torcello, and Burano on your own.
Allow yourself a full day to explore all three islands and really make the most of your visit. If you're pressed for time, we recommend taking a half-day trip and just visiting one. To get to the islands, you'll use Venice's vaporetto, the public water bus system, to reach each island. Purchase a tourist transport card at any of the stations and be sure to validate it before getting on board. Take the number 12 line from Venice's Fondamente Nove station, which makes stops at the various islands, including Murano, Torcello, and Burano.
Recommended schedule & tips
The island of Murano is the closest to Venice, just about 10 minutes by boat, and is most well known for its glass making. Give yourself an hour or two to stroll around and peruse its many local shops. Go to its Glass Museum to learn and see for yourself the colorful and delicate craft in its many forms. Murano has the most shopping opportunities of the islands, as well as a few historic churches to visit, making it a great first stop and a good place to pick up souvenirs.
When you get hungry, we recommend trying Osteria La Perla Ai Bisatei, a local spot on Murano known for its fresh seafood. Or, if you're just in the mood for a mid-morning pick me up, you can't go wrong with a scoop of your favorite flavor at Murano Gelateria.
On the ferry line between Murano and Burano, Torcello is sometimes passed over. However, if you have the time, it's well worth a quick stop. You won't need more than an hour, as this tiny village's main attraction is its Cathedral in the main square, but the island itself has an entirely different feel to its neighbors. Rather than canals and bridges, Torcello has open fields and winding streets to explore, offering a delightful contrast to the rest of the day's visits.
Burano is arguably the most notable island of the three, and also the furthest away from Venice, about 45 minutes by boat. Give yourself a couple of hours to explore and enjoy a local lunch before heading back to Venice. Traditionally a quiet fisherman's village, it's known for its exquisite lacemaking and the colorful houses that adorn its canals. You'll be sure to leave with a camera roll full of photos, as this uniquely colorful village is incredibly postcard-worthy. To get a closer look at Burano's lacemaking, visit local artisan shops as well as the Lace Museum located inside the Scuola di Merletti (closed Tuesdays).
After exploring, take advantage of Burano's culinary reputation with a late lunch - it is said to have some of the best seafood in Venice. A beloved spot for great fish is Al Gatto Nero Da Ruggero, where you'll find affordably-priced, delicious, and fresh cuisine. Or, head to Trattoria da Romano to try the famed seafood risotto recommended by the likes of Anthony Bourdain.
Don't forget to stop at Panificio Pasticceria Garbo before leaving. This local pastry shop offers delicious baked goods ready to take home, or just to snack on during the boat ride back to Venice. For dinner head to the Rialto area and enjoy dinner at a restaurant on a side street off the Grand Canal.
Day 6: Venice to Verona, Guided Tour
Staying within the Veneto region, make your way west to the city of Verona, the setting of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Traveling by train is easy and will take no longer than 90 minutes. After checking in to your hotel, enjoy learning about the romantic city of Verona on a 2-hour tour with a local guide. You'll see for yourself why this city is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and get to know firsthand the culture, history and archaeology underpinning these charming streets.
Your walking tour will start with one of Verona's most notable landmarks, the Arena in the Bra Square. Still used today, this ancient Roman amphitheater is one of the best-preserved of its kind. From there, wander through the cobblestone streets and arrive at the central Piazza Bra, the largest square in the city and the perfect spot to learn more about Verona's ancient economic and political life. alongside the quaint market Piazza delle Erbe.
Nearby, you'll visit the Casa di Giulietta featuring Juliet's balcony, said to have inspired Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Continuing, you'll learn more about why Verona holds such an important place in northern Italy's medieval history and visit the former political center Piazza dei Signori.
Crisscross your way through side streets and back alleys as your guide points out the best local cuisine and traditional food, and make your list of places to try. Make your way to the River Adige, where you'll be able to admire a beautiful view of the Ponte Pietra, the Roman Theatre, and the Archeological Museum.
After your tour, take the rest of the day to explore on your own. Spend some time seeing inside the Roman Theater and Archaeological Museum. Admire the impressive archaeological feats before heading over to the Castle Vecchio. First, cross the Castelvecchio Bridge, constructed in the 1350s. You'll travel back in time as you walk over its red brick and take in the incredible scenery of the Adige river from this ideal vantage point. As you reach the other side, you can visit the Castelvecchio Museum. This small castle, built for military purposes, is a lovely example of Gothic architecture.
Head back to Piazza Bra in the evening where restaurants and bars are buzzing with locals and visitors alike. Grab an aperitivo before tucking into your meal.
Day 7: Wine Tour from Verona
After a relaxed breakfast, head out for a delightful half-day wine tour in the vineyards of the Valpolicella region, surpassed only by Chianti and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo in terms of red wine production. The name, which comes from a mix of ancient Latin and Greek, translates to "valley of many cellars."
This sprawling district in the Veneto region sits between the Alps foothills and the surrounding valleys of the Lessini Mountains. Valpolicella's rich, alluvial soils cultivate some of the world's best-quality grapevines, which produce four styles of revered red wines: dry, classic Amarone, spicy cherry Valpolicella Ripasso, sweet Recioto, and lively, accessible Valpolicella. With such a wide range of flavors, there's a wine for every palate.
You'll stop at two local wineries to learn about the production process and to tour the cellars, seeing how wine barrels are stored for aging. You'll have a couple of tastings to discover the different flavors and compare and contrast before heading back to Verona.
In the afternoon, explore the city of Verona on your own. Head to the Giusti Garden in the east of the city, located just behind the Giusti Palace. Stroll through the maze of lawns, manicured hedges, and Greek statues that adorn its walkways and appreciate the Renaissance style. For dinner check out the Old Town area and find a cozy restaurant where you can spend your evening.
Day 8: Verona to Milan
Say goodbye to the city of romance and transfer to the fashion capital of Italy after breakfast. The journey by train is 1 hour 15 minutes to Milan. Upon arrival, make your way to your hotel and check in. The city is a center for business, shopping, and culture, as well as medieval art and beautiful architecture. Many of Milan's old monuments and buildings were destroyed by World War II bombings, and painstakingly reconstructed buildings live side-by-side here with modern architecture, representing old and new Italy.
Milan's famous historical sights are clustered together in the heart of the city with easy access from the train station, so it's easy to explore on your own today and get acquainted with the city. Top sights include: the striking Gothic Duomo, one of the world's largest; the La Scala Opera House; the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele, a glamorous 19th-century indoor shopping mall; the Pirelli Tower; and medieval Castello Sforzesco. Milan is also home to one of the world's most famous paintings, Leonardo da Vinci's 'The Last Supper,' housed at the Santa Maria della Grazie monastery. Tip: buy your tickets for the Duomo and the Last Supper ahead of time in order to avoid disappointment, and plan your day around these time slots.
If there's enough time left in the afternoon, a stroll through the downtown district is an excellent way to spend the rest of the day. A visit to the 16th-century Royal Palace, a sprawling neoclassical palace turned art museum, is a great way to explore the city's history and art. Although the building suffered great damage during World War II, it has been beautifully restored and is now a renowned cultural center.
In the evening, head to the Navigli at Porta Genova, Milan's ancient network of canals and passages used for transporting goods and supplies across the city. At night, these streets transform with crowds of locals and tourists meeting friends at bars and enjoying aperitivos. Come for the buzzing energy, stay for the wine bars and people watching.
Day 9: Cooking Class and Aperitivo Tasting in Milan
A trip to Italy wouldn't be complete without learning to make and tasting at least one homemade pasta dish. Today, be prepared to immerse yourself in Italian cuisine. You'll be in expert hands with a professional chef teaching you the secrets of how to cook traditional and authentic pasta.
First, you'll have a lesson in cocktail making, get ready to shake or stir an aperitivo! This drink is savored before dinner, to whet your appetite. Choose a martini or spritz and settle into the class with a friendly welcome from your host. Familiarize yourself with the venue, set in a unique location, as you enjoy your cocktail.
Next, get ready to learn, step by step, how to make different shapes and fillings for pasta. The chef will tailor your pasta dish based on your requests- vegetarian, as well as halal and kosher meat options, are available. You'll also prepare the homemade sauces to accompany your pasta such as pesto, fresh tomato with basil, ragù, or butter and sage.
The class is around 2.5 hours in duration, and the best is saved for last. Once everyone has finished cooking, you'll enjoy the fruits of your labor as you taste what you've created. To accompany the food, you will be served a variety of drinks including local wine and craft beers. The Italians really know how to cook, and love to pass on the skill, and you're sure to be satisfied with your dish. This cooking class can be done at lunch or dinnertime depending on your preference. Either way, you'll be going home with a few new techniques for your next dinner party.
You've already seen the most popular sights, so before or after your cooking class, you'll have time to discover some lesser-known Milan attractions:
- Learn about Leonardo da Vinci's works and scientific and technological advancements in the Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology.
- Go shopping for luxury brands in the fashion district on the Via della Spiga, Via Sant’Andrea and Via Montenapoleone shopping streets.
- Visit the 16th-century Royal Palace if you have not yet had a chance to do so.
Day 10: Milan to Turin, Street Food Tour
After breakfast, you will travel through the Piedmont region to Turin, a city famous for its sophisticated and historic architecture, museums, and food (notably chocolate). Traveling by train, you'll arrive in Turin in just over 1 hour. It's one of Italy's most fascinating cities, named in the New York Times "52 Places to Visit" in 2016.
After checking in to your hotel, one great way to experience Turin is through a street food tour. Your guide will lead you through Turin's old town and Europe's largest open-air market, Porta Palazzo. You'll snack your way through the city's historic streets while visiting markets, bakeries, and various street food stalls, on the hunt for sweet and savory delicacies.
Piedmont is famed for producing products such as truffles, cheeses, and meats, and you will taste many local specialties that incorporate these ingredients. Your guide will show you some of the best local eateries and provide you with insight into Turin's historic food culture. Sample Italian breadsticks, called grissini, agnolotti (fresh stuffed pasta with meat and vegetables), and bicerin (a special coffee with chocolate), in addition to fine pastries, chocolates, and more. In around 3 hours, you will explore the streets and tastes which are unique to Turin.
When the tour is finished, you are free to explore the city at your own pace. We recommend visiting the historic center with many interesting monuments, or walking across the river over the Ponte Vittorio Emanuele I bridge to the Santa Maria del Monte dei Cappuccini church. The walk is uphill but not steep, and you'll have panoramic views across the entire city of Turin.
In the evening, you'll find many restaurants serving great food for dinner. Feel free to ask your guide for a local recommendation.
Day 11: Piedmont Wine Tour
Today, you'll head out of the city to a beautiful part of the Piedmont countryside on a private wine tour. This full-day tour begins from the nearby town of Asti. Take a short 35-minute train ride from Turin and meet your guide at 9:30 am. Then, drive through luscious green hills to discover and taste what local producers are proudly making here, while learning about the significance of the area.
The Langhe hills roll through Piedmont with medieval towns, vineyards, and castles overlooking the valleys below. This region is famous for producing excellent food and wine. In 2014, Langhe, Monferrato and Roero were made UNESCO World Heritage Sites to protect the natural landscape and traditional methods of winemaking. Full-bodied Barolo and Barbaresco red wines are the most well-known varieties hailing from this area, but there are also many others including Barbera and Dolcetto.
With your guide, you will visit several small, family-owned wineries throughout the day and sample their wines, to compare and contrast the flavors. Take a tour through the wineries and cellars where wines are aged in oak barrels. The wine tastings are complemented by local charcuterie, cheeses, and bread. In the afternoon, stop to visit some hilltop villages and towns. At the last stop, you'll visit the ancient Grinzane Castle, restored in 1967. Inside, the castle is a large showroom of the best regional wines. Taste a Moscato or Grappa dessert wine and, if you didn't already buy a bottle at a winery, pick a favorite or two to take home.
The tour ends back in Asti, where you will return to Turin by train. Take it easy this evening and find a relaxing spot in the Centro or Quadrilatero districts to enjoy dinner.
Day 12: Goodbye Italy
Your journey in Italy will end after breakfast, with a transfer to the airport to catch your flight home or to your next destination. Arrivederci!