Grand Tour of Italy by First Class rail – return to London on the Orient Express
Prices from £3,595 per person
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Re-live the classic Grand Tours of Europe as you capture the very essence of Italy – from the glorious architecture of Renaissance Florence to the ancient city of Rome and the romanticism of Venice – travelling by First Class rail.
Then you step aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express and step back in time to another superb era of travel. Sit back and enjoy the diverse scenery of mainland Europe as you experience the incredible gourmet meals, whilst your personal steward is on hand to attend to your every comfort.
This 11 night / 12 day holiday includes a night in Montreux and 3 nights each in Florence, Rome and Venice, before returning to London with an overnight journey on the spectacular Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is from £3,595 per person (based on two people travelling together), and from £3,695 per person (in high season).
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’ 1st class for leisure travellers). On arrival at the Gare du Nord, you are transferred by taxi to the Gare de Lyon to continue your journey by TGV through France into Switzerland.
From Lausanne 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 2 – Through the Swiss Alps to Milan and onwards to Florence
This morning after breakfast make your way back to Montreux station and continue your journey into Italy. You board the comfortable Euro City service to travel along the spectacular Simplon route for the fabulous journey through picturesque scenery and past soaring mountain peaks. Sit back and watch the world go by or simply revel in the romanticism of rail travel across Europe as you travel to Milan. Here you change trains and join the Eurostar Italia 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 Florence’s Santa Maria Novella station, make your own way to the welcoming Glance Hotel (4 star) for a three-night stay.
Days 3 and 4 – Florence
Make the most of two whole days during which to immerse yourself in the culture of Italy’s renaissance capital with visits to the wonderful 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.
Day 5 – Florence to Rome
After a relaxed start to the morning, you bid farewell to Florence as you return to the station for the journey south to Rome. Relax in your comfortable seat as the landscape of central Italy unfurls before you. On arrival at Rome Termini station, you are within easy reach of your hotel for the next four nights, the elegant and comfortable Hotel Diocleziano (4 star).
Days 6 and 7 – Rome
There is something to tantalise all tastes seemingly round every corner of this most magical of cities. Whilst in Rome choose among the stunning array of sights from the Vatican City to the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum to the Spanish Steps. Relax with a ‘gelato’ on Piazza Navona or while away the hours shopping on Via del Corso. Make sure you take the time to see Michelangelo’s masterpiece in the Sistine Chapel. The view from the top of St. Peter’s Cathedral over the seven hills of Rome will provide abiding memories of this wonderful city.
Optional excursion – “Vatican Tour and the Papal Train to Castel Gandolfo” (only available on Saturdays – from £45 per person)
You have the opportunity to experience the brand new “Vatican Tour and the Papal Train to Castel Gandolfo”, which is the first time the Vatican train station has offered a regularly scheduled passenger train.
This unique sightseeing and train tour begins with a visit to the Vatican, where you are given priority entrance to the Vatican Gardens and Vatican Museums, including the incredible Sistine Chapel. From here you make your way to the white-marbled railway station and travel along the 984ft Vatican railway line – the shortest in the world – into Rome. You then cross the Tiber and travel through 20 miles of Italian countryside and onto Albano Laziale in the Alban hills. Here you are transferred by shuttlebus to the sumptuous Pontifical Villas in Castel Gandolfo, which have traditionally served as the Papal Summer Residence, before returning back to Rome this evening.
Please Note: Alternatively, you have the option to tour the Vatican Gardens and Vatican Museums at the end of your tour.
Day 8 – Rome to Venice
This morning you leave the Eternal City behind as you join the train for the journey to the incredible floating city of Venice. On arrival at Venice your private water taxi will transfer you in the best possible style to your hotel for the next three nights, the Hotel Ai Mori d’Oriente (4 star), an attractive, stylish hotel in the centre of the city, known for its attentive staff and high levels of service.
Days 9 and 10 – Venice
You have two full days to step out in Venice and allow this unique and captivating city to carry where it will. Enjoy Venice at dusk and after dark when the day-trippers have gone home and the local Venetians take to the streets. From St. Mark’s Square to the Rialto Bridge, a gondola ride on the Grand Canal to a visit inside the stunning Doges Palace, feel yourself unwind as you wander amid the myriad of canals along blissfully traffic-free alleyways and campi (squares). You have plenty of time to discover the city’s luminous quality which emanates from the colours of its painted palazzo, ornate stone bridges and Byzantine basilicas all reflected against the tapestry of canals and lagoons. A short boat ride will lead you to pretty islands on the lagoon, including Murano, home of glass-blowing and colourful Burano, where lace and linen abound.
Day 11 – Venice through to Switzerland aboard the Venice-Simplon-Orient Express
This morning after breakfast your water taxi takes you back to Venice Santa Lucia station, where you board the splendid Wagons-Lits carriages of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. Your steward will show you to your private cabin and will attend you throughout your journey. After you have settled in it will soon be time to enjoy a three-course lunch in one of the beautifully restored restaurant cars. Spend the afternoon relaxing in the comfort of your cabin gazing at the beautiful passing scenery of the Italian and Austrian Alps, or chatting with fellow travellers in the Bar Car. Afternoon tea is served in your cabin. After further relaxation it will soon be time to dress for dinner. Why not sip a pre-dinner cocktail before making your way to one of the magnificent restaurant cars? Here you will be served a delicious four-course dinner, prepared by skilled French chefs. After dinner you may want to linger in the bar car, listening to the sound of the baby grand piano. When you are ready, retire to your compartment, which has now been transformed into a cosy bedroom.
Day 12 – Arrival into Paris – Paris to London – Homeward bound
Breakfast is served in your cabin by your steward at a time to suit you. The train pulls into Paris Gare de l’Est and halts for 40 minutes. Take this opportunity to stretch your legs along the platform and watch the bustling activity; passengers boarding, chefs choosing produce for brunch, Parisians coming and going. A delicious brunch is served in the restaurant cars as you travel on towards the French coast for the Channel crossing. Join the gleaming cream and umber carriages of the British Pullman for the journey to London. Afternoon High Tea, accompanied by a glass of champagne, is served to you at your table as you travel through the Kentish countryside. All too soon it is time to prepare to disembark as your train draws into London Victoria station and the final leg of your journey home.
The Grand Tour of Italy and return on the Venice Simplon Orient Express can be reversed to commence your journey aboard the Venice Simplon Orient Express before exploring Italy by First Class Rail. For this and any other tailored variations to your trip please contact a member of the Planet Rail team on 01347 825292.