Florence by First Class Rail
Prices from £1,095 per person
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Florence, beautifully set on the banks of the River Arno, against the backdrop of lush Tuscan hills and vines, is one of the world’s greatest Art cities. Whether you immerse yourself in the city’s cultural and architectural opulence, soak up the sophistication of the Florentine people or journey among Tuscany’s medieval towns and landscapes, this short break enables you to really savour Italy’s renaissance capital.
6 night holiday by First Class rail travelling on daytime trains via Zurich and Montreux, including overnight stays in double rooms at the Hotel Continental (4 star) in Zurich and at the Grand Hotel Suisse Majestic (4 star) in Montreux and 4 nights in Florence in a double room at the Hotel Giglio (3 star) from £1,195 per person or at the Hotel Santa Maria Novella (4 star) from £1,195 per person (featured itinerary). Alternatively, you can travel on daytime trains via Turin and Milan from £1,125 per person or based on an overnight 2-berth sleeper from Paris to Florence returning on daytime trains via Montreux from £1,095 per person.
Day 1 – By rail to Switzerland
Your holiday begins as you stroll into beautifully restored London St. Pancras station. Take your time to appreciate the splendour of magnificent glass roof, then sit back, relax and watch the countryside swish past as you travel by Eurostar to Paris at speeds of up to 186mph. Enjoy the light meal and drinks served on board in Standard Premier Class (Eurostar’s 1st class for leisure travellers). On arrival at the Gare du Nord your private taxi transfer takes you across Paris to the Gare de Lyon to continue your journey by TGV through France into Switzerland.
You travel through the undulating Swiss countryside to attractive lakeside city of Zurich. It is a short walk (600 yards) to your overnight hotel, the comfortable, welcoming and highly-rated Hotel Continental (4 star).
Day 2 – Through Switzerland to Milan and onwards to Florence
After breakfast why not make a whistle-stop tour of Zurich. Most of the city’s sights lie within the compact area on either side of the River Limmat, between the main station (Hauptbahnhof) and Lake Zurich.
The churches and burgher houses of the Old Town are clustered here, as are the elegant shops along Bahnhofstrasse. The baroque Rathaus (Town Hall), Zurich’s most impressive churches – the Grossmünster, Fraumünster – and the city’s oldest, St Peterskirche (its clock face is the largest in Europe), all lie within a short distance of the River Limmat, near the point where it opens onto the lake. Then make your way back to Zurich station, for the scenic journey along the impressive Gotthard route through the Swiss Alps. The line transports you through picturesque scenery, climbing to the foot of the snow-capped Alps and through the Gotthard Base Tunnel, the world’s longest tunnel and a marvellous feat of engineering, which opened fully in December 2016. You soon emerge and continue across the Swiss border and through the outstanding Italian Lakes before arriving in Milan.
On arrival at Milan’s imposing art-deco station change trains and join the flagship Eurostar Italia Frecciarossa (Red Arrow) service to Florence. Sit back and watch the world go by or simply revel in the romanticism of rail travel across Europe.
On arrival at Firenze Santa Maria Novella station stroll to the stylish Hotel Santa Maria Novella (4-star) just 400 yards from the station and your hotel for the next four nights.
Days 3, 4 and 5 – Florence
The Hotel Santa Maria Novella is a charming, elegant hotel with all modern comforts in its tastefully furnished rooms. The hotel is centrally located enabling you to visit all of Florence’s world-renowned attractions. Immerse yourself in the culture of Italy’s renaissance capital with visits to the world-renowned Uffizi Gallery, Ponte Vecchio or the celebrated Duomo.
Enjoy the culinary delights of the city or venture further afield to explore the beauty of Tuscany in Siena with its lovely shell-shaped Piazza del Campo and UNESCO world heritage medieval centre. Perhaps journey westwards to Pisa to marvel at the world-famous leaning tower or stunning Lucca, its medieval heart is an ideal size for discovery on foot. Whether you prefer the more rural appeal of the Chianti district it is good to know that all these attractive options are easily accessible by train. You could even visit the eternal city of Rome – barely more than an hour and a half away by train.
Day 6 – Florence through the Alps to Lake Geneva
As you board your First Class carriage on the Eurostar Italia service for Milan it is time to bid farewell to Florence and Tuscany. You travel north through the Apennines, changing trains in Milan, to join the comfortable Eurocity service as you head in to the Alps for the spectacular journey up the Rhône Valley and through the Simplon Pass. From here you continue to the pretty lakeside town of Montreux on the shores of Lake Geneva for your overnight stay at the belle époque Grand Hotel Suisse Majestic (4 star) located right next to the station.
Take a stroll alongside Lake Geneva and visit this elegant lakeside town which is home to the famous jazz festival.
Day 7 – Free time in Montreux – Montreux to London – Homeward bound
Stretch your legs this morning or board the trolley bus for the short journey to the stunning medieval Château de Chillon (payable locally). As you marvel at the spectacular setting, twixt sparkling lake and breathtaking mountains, spare a thought for the prisoners of this 13th century castle, considered to be one of the best-preserved in Europe.
Then make your way back to Montreux station. From here you join the Inter Regio train to Lausanne, where you change trains and board the TGV to whisk you back to Paris. Watch the rolling hills flash past or reminisce on the wonders of the past few days. Your taxi transfer takes you to the Gare du Nord and the last leg of your journey.
Here you join the Eurostar and let the train take the strain as you stretch out and savour the light meal and drinks included in your Standard Premier service. At 186mph the landscape is a blur at times, though memories abide as you return to London St. Pancras International and the final leg of your journey home.