- Wander the luxury resort town of Portofino
- Take a private boat between the seaside towns of Cinque Terre
- Go truffle-hunting in the Langhe UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Step behind the scenes of Turin's Accademia Library after hours
- Visit the mountaintop monastery of Sacra di San Michele
|Day 1||Arrive in Milan, Transfer to Portofino||Portofino|
|Day 2||Day Trip to Cinque Terre from Portofino||Portofino|
|Day 3||Morning Trip to Genoa, Transfer to the Langhe Region||Santo Stefano Belbo|
|Day 4||Alba & Slow Food Tour||Santo Stefano Belbo|
|Day 5||Transfer to Turin, City Tour & Exclusive Library Visit||Turin|
|Day 6||Morning Tour of Sacra di San Michele, Home-Hosted Dinner||Turin|
|Day 7||Departure from Turin|
Day 1: Arrive in Milan, Transfer to Portofino
Welcome to Italy! Arrive at Milan Malpensa Airport, then transfer to the town of Portofino, in the heart of the Italian Riviera. Portofino, one of the many small fishing villages that lie along the Ligurian Sea, is a sight to behold, with colorfully painted houses tumbling down to a historic fishing port.
One of Portofino's main sights is the Statue of Christ of the Abyss, which lies 56 feet (17 m) below the waves on the seafloor in memory of Dario Gonzatti, the first Italian to use diving gear. Other notable sights include the 16th-century Castello Brown, the 12th-century Church of St. Martin, and the Gothic Oratory of Santa Maria Assunta.
But of course, the main attraction is the town itself. Narrow streets lined with shops, art galleries, cafes, and restaurants lead up from the water, and the beaches and tranquil town piazzas are full of families and couples enjoying the sunny weather.
Day 2: Day Trip to Cinque Terre from Portofino
In the morning meet your local guide, then take a short train trip for a full day on the Cinque Terre, a section of the Italian coast famous for its medieval villages, dramatic cliffs, and hiking trails.
Your first stop is the town of Monterosso al Mare. The city's medieval center remains nearly perfectly preserved, with its ancient tower-houses and network of carrugi (narrow alleyways that lead from the sea to the cliffs above the town). Monterosso is also renowned for having the best granita—a semi-frozen dessert made from sugar, water, and local lemons—on the Cinque Terre (make sure to try some!) as well as breathtaking views of the sea.
From here, board a private boat for a beautiful 30-minute trip to the next village. Along the way, enjoy the views of the protected Cinque Terre reserve from the water.
Arrive in Manarola, a tight-knit village that's famous for its plentiful grapevines and sweet Sciacchetrà wine. Meet with a local sommelier and visit a traditional winery to learn about the original tools of the trade and hear about the region's history of wine production. After the lesson, enjoy a unique tasting of local wines—in the dark, to focus your attention and sense of smell.
Afterward, enjoy a private cooking lesson and learn the secrets behind the legendary hand-made pasta and regional pesto.
Take the local train to Corniglia, the Cinque Terre's most intimate village. The cluster of homes perches atop a high, rocky promontory surrounded on one side by the sea and on the other by terraced vineyards. The town is also known for its narrow alleyways, colorful buildings, and its farinata, a thin, unleavened crêpe of chickpea flour—the perfect afternoon snack.
From Corniglia, you may choose to hike along the coast to Vernazza on a trail that climbs up to the highest point on the Cinque Terre (and back down). Check ahead before departing, as landslides in the area occasionally result in trail closures. The fair amount of elevation change makes the hike a bit challenging, but the views are worth it.
In the evening, return to Portofino and make your way to the Piazzetta for a local-style dinner: Enjoy an aperitivo, some warm Genoese focaccia and a glass of local Giancu de Purtufin, followed by Lasagna di Portofino with pesto for dinner.
Day 3: Morning Trip to Genoa, Transfer to the Langhe Region
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast before heading to the port city of Genoa for a self-guided half-day visit. The city is home to Italy's largest seaport and is the birthplace of Christopher Columbus.
Genoa has a rich history of seafaring, global trade, and wealth. Its old town is nicknamed "La Superba" (the superb one) in memory of its glorious shipping history, and in 2006 it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2004, it was also named the EU Capital of Culture, paying homage to the city's renowned art and architecture.
The city is also known for its music, food, and medieval city center. The town's narrow labyrinthine streets and alleys, known as caruggi, are the perfect place to wander around. Explore Le Strade Nuove, a series of streets built by the Genoese aristocracy during the height of the city's financial and seafaring power.
Nearby stand the Palazzi dei Rolli, a group of elegant Renaissance and Baroque palaces from the 16th and 18th centuries. The palaces were built in collaboration with Genoa's rich and famous in a cohesive style. From these rolli, certain residences were designated as lodging for illustrious guests on governmental visits.
One of Genoa's other must-sees is the Old Harbor, the city's center of wealth and international fame over the centuries. It has been redeveloped in recent years and is now one of Genoa's most modern areas. The enormous Genoa Aquarium and nearby Museum of the Sea are worth a visit if you have the time (kids will love the aquarium's massive tank exhibits!)
Grab lunch at one of the many international restaurants in the alleys near the harbor, then hit the road for your transfer to the Langhe Wine Region, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This part of Piedmont is characterized by rolling hills, endless vineyards, medieval hill towns, and ancient castles.
Day 4: Alba & Slow Food Tour
Enjoy a leisurely morning, relaxing at the pool or at the hotel spa. If you're feeling adventurous, opt for a private hot air balloon flight over the Langhe countryside to experience a magical journey at 2,000 feet as you drift over valleys, castles, small hilltop villages, and endless vineyards.
If you're in the mood to move your body, join a morning yoga session or go for a guided bike ride through the countryside. The bike trail begins and ends in Cortemilia, a town that's considered the hometown of the Tonda Gentile (Italian for round and sweet), a hazelnut that grows in these hills. Cycle through small villages made with Langhe stone, visit medieval castles, and pass through shaded hazelnut groves.
In the afternoon head to Alba, a once-powerful city-state that's considered the capital of Langhe. Alba is famous for several gastronomic highlights: white truffles, wine, and the world-famous Nutella. The city loves truffles so much that every fall they host the International White Truffle Fair to celebrate the prized delicacy.
Explore the city center with a local guide to see how Alba's buildings—from Roman origins to modern construction—have been built on top of each other. During Roman times, the powerful city was known Alba Pompeia; after the fall of the empire, citizens continued to build atop the former city. Head underground to see Alba's many architectural formations.
From here continue to the city of Bra, then make a lunch stop at the restaurant where the Slow Food Movement was born. The movement was started by Carlo Petrini and a group of activists in the 1980s with the aim of defending local culinary traditions, access to clean food, and a slower pace of life. Feast on local specialties, from bagna cauda (Piedmontese for 'warm sauce', prepared with olive oil, garlic, and anchovy paste) to agnolotti (egg pasta stuffed with roast meat) and tajarin (the local word for thin egg noodles). Round out your meal with a hearty risotto and brasato al Barolo (stewed for hours in the famous wine), then finish with a sweet treat: gianduiotto, a combination of sugar, cocoa, cocoa butter, and the Tonda Gentile hazelnut.
Day 5: Transfer to Turin, City Tour & Exclusive Library Visit
In the morning, drive to nearby Turin, a city famous for its sophisticated and historic architecture, shaded gardens, libraries, museums, and theaters. It's one of Italy's most fascinating cities, named in the New York Times "52 Places to Visit" in 2016.
Spend the day exploring the city on a walking tour. Start in the heart of the city at the iconic Piazza Castello to visit the Royal Palace, one of the square's most distinctive buildings. The Palace was the main symbol of the Savoy house when the capital moved from Chambery to Turin, and the greatest artists of the time were commissioned to create the Baroque masterpiece. Visit the ornate galleries and library, stroll through the gardens and Royal Armory, and see the adjacent Cathedral that houses the Holy Shroud.
The entirety of the Piazza Castello was designed to give the buildings a cohesive style. One of the buildings hides an architectural treasure: the San Lorenzo Church, a baroque octagonal building with beautiful inner chapels and a soaring cupola with eight windows that allow sunlight to pour in.
Enjoy lunch at a historic cafe nearby and rub shoulders with the locals. Turin's cafes are legendary, with a long history of serving as the meeting place for artists, writers, and political refugees. When Turin found itself in the center of the struggle against Austria, several of the cafes became the headquarters of Risorgimento Italy where political theory and strategy were discussed over coffee. Aristocracy, poets, Bella Gente, opera composers, and other lovers of the arts also sought out the cafes for their cozy atmosphere.
Try the famous local Bicerin—a mix of chocolate, coffee, and cream—then head to the Library of the Academy of Sciences for a private afternoon tour. The library is typically closed to the public, but you'll get to visit the massive collection in the company of its curator. Founded in the 1700s, the library houses a vast array of literature: more than 250,000 books, 70,000 letters, 5,000 periodicals, 2,000 manuscript documents on the history of science, and a hundred drawings of industrial patents and maps.
To experience a meal with a regional flair, head to the riverside area near the Piazza Vittoria Veneto or the bustling Quadrilatero Romano district for aperitivo followed by dinner at an upscale restaurant.
Day 6: Morning Tour of Sacra di San Michele, Home-Hosted Dinner
In the morning, transfer to Sacra di San Michele, an ancient Romanesque monastery surrounded by snowcapped peaks. Sacra di San Michele is one of the most recognizable symbols of the Piedmont region and is considered one of Europe's leading examples of Romanesque architecture.
The monastery dates back to the late 10th century when it was built in dedication to the cult of Archangel Michele, the defender of the Christian people. The monastery is strategically located on a pilgrimage route that runs from Saint-Michel in France to Monte Sant'Angelo in Puglia.
Your introduction to the monastery is via the 243 steps that lead to the Doorway of the Zodiac and the entrance to the building. From here, the surrounding panorama of the snowy Alps is well worth the climb. From the entrance, continue up the wide 12th-century stone staircase to the church, passing by an 18 meter (59 feet) tall pillar that supports the church above it. One of the niches on the staircase used to display skeletons of several of the monastery's monks, lending the staircase its name: Great Staircase of the Dead.
The perimeter wall of these ruins ends in a tower which overhangs the precipice of the mountain: the Tower of the Beautiful Alda, which gets its name from the tragic legend of Alda, a local peasant girl. After coming to the monastery to pray, she was corned by enemy soldiers and trapped atop the tower. To escape certain death she threw herself into the ravine while invoking the help of St. Michael and the Virgin, and miraculously survived the fall. Thrilled by her survival and with a hunger for financial gain, she imagined herself able to make a second jump and offered to repeat her flight for unbelieving villagers, thereby leaping to her death at the scene of her former miracle.
Return to Turin and spend the afternoon exploring on your own. One of the city's main museum attractions is the Egyptian Museum, the second-largest in the world after Cairo's. Journey through more than 3,000 years of history of Egyptian civilization in the company of an expert Egyptologist to see a vast collection of sculptures, mummies, grave artifacts, and more.
Alternately, visit the National Museum of Cinema, one of Turin's architectural landmarks. The building was designed as a synagogue, before being purchased by the Municipality of Turin and turned into a monument of national unity. Explore the unique exhibits and creative educational activities, then head to the rooftop terrace for panoramic views of the city and surrounding Alps.
Dinner tonight is a special treat: dinner with a local family, hosted in their private home. You'll get the opportunity to share a delicious traditional meal and exchange insight into each other's cultures and lives.
Day 7: Departure from Turin
After one last cappuccino over breakfast, transfer to Turin International Airport for your connecting flight home.