- Eat and drink your way through Bologna, Italy's food capital
- Visit Galleria dell'Accademia to see Michelangelo's "David"
- Taste local prosciutto and Parmigiano Reggiano in Parma
- Explore the Sistine Chapel, Colosseum, and Galleria Borghese in Rome
|Day 1||Arrive in Rome, Train to Bologna||Bologna|
|Day 2||Day Trip to Parma, Prosciutto & Parmigiano Reggiano Tasting||Bologna|
|Day 3||Free Day in Bologna||Bologna|
|Day 4||Train to Florence, Self-Guided Tour of the City||Florence|
|Day 5||Tour of Tuscany & Wine Tasting||Florence|
|Day 6||Free Day in Florence||Florence|
|Day 7||Train to Rome, Self-Guided Tour of the City||Rome|
|Day 8||Free Morning, Afternoon Pizza Making Masterclass||Rome|
|Day 9||Free Day in Rome||Rome|
|Day 10||Depart Rome|
Day 1: Arrive in Rome, Train to Bologna
Benvenuti in Bologna! Arrive in one of Rome's two international airports and make the 2.5-hour train journey from Termini Station to Emilia-Romagna's foodie capital. Settle in and relax at your hotel, then head out to discover the historic charms of Europe's oldest university town and its renowned gastronomy.
Start with caffè in Piazza Maggiore, the town's grand 13th-century plaza, overlooked by some of Bologna's most prominent and historic buildings, including the impressive Basilica di San Petronio. Stroll over to the Due Torri, the city's two leaning towers (Asinelli and Garisenda) that flank the square, and wander the narrow alleyways of the Quadrilatero, the area's historic market and foodie neighborhood. Here, you'll find everything for a delicious lunch on the go, with great street food, bakers, and an array of vendors and stall holders proffering tasty morsels.
In the evening, enjoy aperitivo (an aperitif, usually spritz, prosecco, or wine, accompanied by small bites) at one of the local bars before heading out to dinner to dine on typical Bolognan cuisine such as tagliatelle al ragù or tortelloni in brodo (tiny meat-filled pasta served in a delicate broth).
Day 2: Day Trip to Parma, Prosciutto & Parmigiano Reggiano Tasting
Known for its ornate medieval architecture, castles, and its 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 Parma and meet your guide in the city's center. See 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, 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 worldwide. 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 delicious cheese, ham, and traditional balsamic vinegar, 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 3: Free Day in Bologna
Spend today exploring Bologna at your own pace. Art enthusiasts should head to the Museo di Palazzo Poggi and the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna, where you'll find renowned Old Masters and 14th-century artists such as Jacopo di Paolo and Guido Reni. For a modern take on the city's renowned art, head to the Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna (MAMbo). After a morning touring the city's museums, head to the Quadrilatero district to pick up delicious salume, mortadella, formaggi, and pane for an al fresco lunch in the Giardini Margherita, a peaceful park just south of the center.
In the afternoon, while away for a few hours and visit the city's captivating churches. The Basilica di Santo Stefano is a Romanesque complex of seven small churches, chapels, and cloisters, with a fascinating history that dates back to the fifth century, when the site was converted from a much older Roman Temple of Isis. If you have time, squeeze in a visit to San Giacomo Maggiore, another Romanesque treasure-filled gem built by the Augustinians. Reward your sightseeing efforts with a spritz in the Piazza Maggiore before spending the evening dining on delicious local fare.
Day 4: Train to Florence, Self-Guided Tour of the City
After breakfast, head to the Bologna train station to catch a train to Florence, Tuscany's regional capital, famous for its Renaissance art and architecture. Spend the day at leisure touring the top sights, starting in the Piazza del Duomo, where the magnificent Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore (Il Duomo) and its mighty terracotta dome attract visitors worldwide. Don't miss the nearby Uffizi Gallery, which houses works by Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli, and the Galeria dell'Academia, which displays Michelangelo's famous "David."
Florence is brimming with great eateries, so pause for lunch and try dishes such as Bistecca al Fiorentina (flame-grilled T-bone steak) and ribollita (a hearty soup made of beans, vegetables, olive oil, and bread). Afterward, wander the back streets and stop for gelato; the city has some of the region's best gelaterias with traditional and innovative flavor combinations. Alternatively, spend the afternoon on a guided walking tour of the city, where you'll be shown the best artisanal produce and off-the-beaten-path bars and cafés.
End your day in Florence with aperitivo at one of the city's elegant rooftop bars, such as Il Continentale or Hotel Lucchesi, where you can watch the sun go down and admire the city's skyline.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 5: Tour of Tuscany & Wine Tasting
This morning, you'll tour the gorgeous Tuscan countryside and towns dotted along the rolling hills outside Florence. Admire the landscape filled with olive groves, cypress trees, and farms as you approach one of the region's gems—the medieval village of San Gimignano. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is known for its 14th-century Torre Grossa, which stands at 177 feet (54 m) and is the tallest of the town's 14 towers. Explore the beautiful squares and stop for award-winning gelato in Piazza della Cisterna or a glass of the local Vernaccia di San Gimignano white wine.
Your next stop is a winery in the Chianti hills, where you'll tour the vineyards and cellars behind the region's eponymous wine. Made from a minimum of 80% sangiovese grapes, Chianti Classico is produced from vineyards 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).
After lunch, you'll visit nearby Siena and tour the Duomo di Siena, a magnificent Romanesque-Gothic cathedral known for its intricate marble inlay floor and treasures, including works by Bernini, Pisano, and Donatello. Roam the narrow cobbled backstreets until you reach the vast Piazza del Campo, the town's central square and site of the famous Palio di Siena horse race. It's a great spot for aperitivo and to catch a breather before you finish the day with a visit to the medieval fortress of Monteriggioni and head back to Florence for the evening.
Day 6: Free Day in Florence
It's your last day in Florence, and yours to explore the city at your leisure. Head over to the Mercado di San Lorenzo, where you can grab a midmorning pastry and espresso 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. When you're feeling peckish, head inside to the Mercado Centrale, where you'll find all the foodie stalls and plenty of options for a great lunch.
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 7: Train to Rome, Self-Guided Tour of the City
Enjoy one last lingering glance at the Duomo this morning before catching a high-speed train to Rome. After checking in at your hotel, the rest of the day is yours to explore the "Eternal City" and discover the ancient ruins, art, culture, and food scene that draws millions of tourists annually. First-time visitors shouldn't leave without seeing the Colosseum, the iconic amphitheater built by Flavian emperors that served as the epicenter of Rome's public entertainment.
The nearby Foro Romana (Roman Forum) is a must for history buffs, with a vast archaeological site comprising the fascinating ruins of the temples, squares, and religious sites that witnessed some of the Roman Empire's key political spectacles, including the downfall of Julius Caesar. Spend the afternoon wandering the 45 galleries of the Vatican Museum and admiring the frescoed ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and Bernini's celebrated Piazza San Pietro.
As dusk falls, head to Gianicolo Hill to see the sunset and the twinkling St. Peter's Dome and dine at Armando al Pantheon, a Roman institution, moments from the historic temple. Finish with a nightcap in the Piazza Navona before seeing the Trevi Fountain, whose Baroque carvings are illuminated at nightfall.
Day 8: Free Morning, Afternoon Pizza Making Masterclass
Spend the morning exploring Rome at your own pace and follow in the footsteps of locals with the tradition of caffé and a cornetto semplice (croissant) at one of the local bars. Head along the River Tiber to the wisteria-filled back streets of Trastevere to browse the boutiques, wander the shady piazzas, and people-watch. Or stock up on foodie treats to take home with a visit to the vast covered market in Testaccio, where you'll find all manner of cured meats, formaggi (cheeses), artisan pasta, pestos, and chocolates.
If you're feeling hungry, the market is a great spot to try traditional Roman street food such as supplì, pizza bianca filled with stracciatella, mortadella, and pistachios, and porchetta (roast pork, stuffed and rolled with herbs). You'll want to save some room, though, as this afternoon, you'll be taken under the wing of an expert pizzaiolo (pizza maker) and instructed in authentic Italian pizza. Guided by your chef, you'll learn the best ingredients to use, how to master the perfect dough using traditional techniques, and choose from a variety of toppings to create your masterpiece.
With your pizza freshly out of the wood-fired oven, you'll join your fellow chefs in savoring your creations as part of a three-course meal, with appetizers, gelato, and local wine, beer, or a soft drink. Afterward, soak up the city's sights at dusk and enjoy a walk along the umbrella pine-dotted Via dei Fori Imperiali as the sun sets behind the nearby ruins of the Roman Forum.
Day 9: Free Day in Rome
Enjoy a relaxed last day in Rome, enjoying the city 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, soak up 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, and 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 starts to set, and the piazza fills with locals gathering to socialize. Dine on one of the four Roman pasta specialties: carbonara, caccio e pepe, amatriciana, or alla gricia, and toast your Italy adventure with a regional Lazio wine such as cesanese del piglio.
Day 10: Depart Rome
Say goodbye, or ciao, to Italy for now. Take advantage of any extra time with one last morning stroll around Rome before transferring to the airport, where you'll catch your flight home or continue your European adventure. Safe travels!
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