- Paddle your own gondola over the canals of Venice
- Explore secret passages beneath the Doge's Palace
- Soar over the vineyards of Chianti in a hot air balloon
- Hike the ancient stones of the Via Francigena pilgrimage
|Day 1||Arrive in Venice & Gondola Paddling||Venice|
|Day 2||Venetian Mask Workshop, Doge's Palace & Secret Passages of St. Mark's Basilica||Venice|
|Day 3||Bike Tour on Lido Island, Visit Murano & Burano||Venice|
|Day 4||Venice to Lake Garda via Verona, West Lake Garda & Sirmione Boat Tour||Lake Garda|
|Day 5||Explore Lake Garda||Lake Garda|
|Day 6||Bike & Picnic in Sigurta Park||Lake Garda|
|Day 7||Lake Garda to Siena via Florence||Siena|
|Day 8||Ballooning Over Chianti With Wagon Ride & Picnic||Siena|
|Day 9||Tuscan Drive & Hiking the Siena Pilgrim Path||Siena|
|Day 10||Siena to Florence & Depart|
Day 1: Arrive in Venice & Gondola Paddling
You’ll start by following your guide through Cannaregio, a quiet and charming section of Venice not too far from the Jewish Ghetto. As you make your way to the canal, you’ll walk away from the city’s main tourist attractions and learn more about the daily life of Venetians. Pass through the Jewish Quarter, once a shelter for Jews during international turmoil, and stop in a typical bacaro to get a true taste of Venice. Enjoy a couple of cicheti (tapas) and a glass of wine or non-alcoholic drink.
The opportunity to explore Venice as the sun sets and soft evening light reflects on the city's canals should not be missed. We recommend a walking route that begins in the heart of the historic city center at Piazza San Marco and takes you through the lively Cannaregio neighborhood to experience the Venetian culinary tradition of cichetada, which in the local dialect is the combination of bacaro and cicheto, the tour that every Venetian does among the bacari of the city to enjoy a cicheto and drink an ombra de vin (wine shade).
Rather than crossing the bridge into the Rialto neighborhood, we recommend staying on the west side of the canal and walking to the Cannaregio district where you can mingle with the locals at Bacaro bars and avoid the bigger crowds. When you reach Fondamenta della Misericordia, you’ll encounter bar after bar and people sitting alongside the canal with an aperitivo. This historic area is known as the former Jewish Quarter, where the Jewish Museum of Venice and one of the city's synagogues are located across the canal in the Campo del Ghetto Nuovo.
Day 2: Venetian Mask Workshop, Doge's Palace & Secret Passages of St. Mark's Basilica
You’ll meet your tour guide near the Doge’s Palace and head straight inside through a secret door. As you step into the hidden world of political Venice, you’ll navigate the isolated prison cells, torture chambers, secret government archives, and top-echelon offices. Even back in its heyday, most Venetians didn’t know this space existed, so it’s hard to overstate just how privileged this secret passages tour is! With antique cabinets and creaky floors, these rooms will truly make you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time.
As you leave the secret passages behind, you’ll enter the general access areas of the palace and explore the waiting rooms, council halls, and ballrooms. This part of the palace contrasts with the dark and mysterious portions, revealing a haughty grandeur. Within these walls, you’ll view some of Venice’s finest works of art and discover the public face of the prestigious Republic of Venice. Stroll through lavish apartments and admire dramatic paintings by Veronese and Tintoretto.
This tour ends with a visit to Venice's other great site, St. Mark's Basilica. Once again, skip the long lines and enjoy a complete look inside the Basilica. Admire various eastern and western architectural elements, stunning gold mosaics, and the famous altarpiece, the Pala D'oro. No other landmark pays homage to the city's past as much as St. Mark's Basilica does, a structure that benefited greatly from the pillaging of Venetians abroad.
Day 3: Bike Tour on Lido Island, Visit Murano & Burano
Enjoy a guided bike tour of Lido Island, exploring its beautiful beaches and 1920s hotels highlighting Venetian glamour. This easy, family-friendly excursion takes you along the Venetian Lagoon, passing by a quiet garden once Venice's main Jewish cemetery from 1386 until the 18th century. You’ll also visit San Nicolò Church, where the traditional thanksgiving mass of the Sposalizio del Mare (Marriage of the Sea) occurs. This ceremony symbolizes the maritime dominion of Venice for over 1,000 years.
Continue along the Adriatic Sea through the San Nicolò Natural Reserve, a protected zone with scenic open spaces. Pedal along the old pier between the sea and the harbor until you reach the lighthouse. Here is the perfect spot to enjoy views of the Lido coastline and some distinctive architecture, such as Grand Hotel des Bains and Hotel Excelsior.
Next, bike along the canals in the colorful fishing village of Malamocco, similar to a scaled-down version of Venice. With your guide leading the way, continue cycling through the nature reserve, passing the beautiful dunes where Byron loved to ride horses at sunrise. Take a break and relax as the locals do by heading to the quiet Alberoni Beach for a drink or a swim.
You’ll return along the Lagoon, enjoying views of the Poveglia, Lazzaretto Vecchio, and San Lazzaro degli Armeni islands. End your adventure at the Lido Market for a well-deserved spritz, the most popular aperitivo drink in Venice.
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. Closest to Venice, Murano is known for hand-blown glass. Go to the Glass Museum to learn and see for yourself the colorful and delicate craft in its many forms. Traditionally a quiet fishermen's village, Burano is 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.
Day 4: Venice to Lake Garda via Verona, West Lake Garda & Sirmione Boat Tour
Leave Lake Garda and head to Verona, where you can stroll around the charming historic center and marvel at the city’s beautiful architecture, magnificent piazzas, ancient Roman arena, and ornate tombs. The city is very accessible on foot, so we recommend taking half a day to explore at your own leisure. See the famous Juliet's Balcony from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet tragedy. Discover the side streets of Verona in between colorful buildings, and head on to the Adige River for glorious views. Armed with personalized tips, you'll be able to fully experience the well-preserved treasures of this beautiful and romantic northern Italian city, and understand why it earned its UNESCO World Heritage status.
Afterward, transfer to Lake Garda, roughly a two-hour drive away. Once you arrive at Lake Garda, you'll embark on a three-hour boat tour of the western lake and Sirmione, with stops for Salò, Garda Island, Gardone, and some swimming from the boat.
After admiring the Sirmione peninsula and its many spots of interest, you will head towards the impressive outcropping of Rocca di Manerba. Pass the island of San Biagio and the enchanting Isola del Garda, the private residence of the counts of Borghese-Cavazza, and head to the magnificent Costa Romantica.
The Costa Romantica is the lakeshore between Toscolano Maderno and the Gulf of Salò, where lush nature sits alongside the elegant architecture of villas and hotels. This area still bears traces of the Republic of Salò, declared during the Fascist period, and the architecture is a perfect reflection of its style, with the occasional Liberty touch to enhance its vintage charm. After the tour, you will return to Sirmione and pass under the two bridges of the Scaligero Castle.
Day 5: Explore Lake Garda
Day 6: Bike & Picnic in Sigurta Park
Day 7: Lake Garda to Siena via Florence
You’ll find some of the world’s most recognizable art and architecture in Florence, from Michelangelo’s David and Botticelli’s Birth of Venus to the 1,000-year-old Ponte Vecchio medieval bridge. But the charms of Florence aren’t just found in its museums. The city center itself is a sight not to be missed, and as the capital of Tuscany, it sits as the center of what many think of as the sleepy, sun-drenched countryside lifestyle. Check out the many parks and gardens, including the Iris Garden that holds 250 endangered species, rambling markets, and celebrate the city’s status as the capital of gelato with as many scoops as you can handle.
If you're looking for something more hands-on, visit the Leonardo da Vinci Museum, which is as interactive as the man himself would want, or consider the celestial spheres at the Museo Galileo, where you can peer through ancient telescopes.
Day 8: Ballooning Over Chianti With Wagon Ride & Picnic
Enjoy a one-of-a-kind experience as you fly over the scenic Chianti countryside, taking in the magical colors of Tuscany at dawn. Early in the morning, a private driver will collect you and take you to the launch field just outside of Siena. Watch the exciting process of inflating the balloon as you receive a safety briefing. Your hot air balloon flight takes approximately one hour, depending on wind and weather conditions, and may vary at the pilot’s discretion. Because the pilot can’t steer the balloon, it drifts leisurely with the winds. Part of the fun is never knowing what you’ll see or where you’ll land!
Enjoy a gentle descent and landing before sitting down for a picnic breakfast onsite or at a nearby farm. You’ll sip prosecco and nibble local Tuscan produce.
After breakfast, keep exploring the Tuscan scenery at a peaceful, relaxed pace as your private guide leads you through the picturesque and aromatic Chianti region on a wagon. Two powerful horses lead you, crossing panoramic routes and historic castles. Your guide will entertain you with stories, interesting facts, and local myths.
Take a break at a shaded spot amongst Tuscany’s vineyards and enjoy a fresh picnic lunch of local products and wine. Take in the panoramic views of this iconic landscape before heading back through more scenic Tuscan countryside.
Day 9: Tuscan Drive & Hiking the Siena Pilgrim Path
Then stretch your legs with a hike along the scenic and famous Via Francigena pilgrim trail from Siena to Monteriggioni. With a private guide leading the way, you’ll enjoy an easy trek along ancient paths used by pilgrims since the year 800 CE. People from across Europe followed the trail on their way to or from Rome when going on a pilgrimage was the goal of a lifetime. Walk on the same paths today, but with more comfortable shoes.
Along the way, you’ll visit one of the oldest churches in the province of Siena, the Romanesque abbey of San Salvatore and Cirino. This church still displays an intricate 15th-century painting on its main altar. Continue to the little hamlet of Monteriggioni, mentioned by Dante Alighieri in his Divine Comedy. Dante compares the giants at the entrance of the Ninth Circle to Monteriggioni’s famous towers. He writes:
Because as on its circular parapets
Monteriggioni crowns itself with towers
E'en thus the margin which surrounds the well
With one-half of their bodies turreted
The horrible giants.
Day 10: Siena to Florence & Depart
You'll be transferred back to Florence to catch your flight home or on to your next adventure.