Previous distinguished visitors to the palace include Napoleon and Josephine as well as Prince Charles and Princess Diana. The second island we visit, Isola dei Pescatori, is a complete contrast. Its narrow cobbled streets, picturesque harbour and charming buildings, which are ideal for strolling around, reflect its 10th-century origins and the ancient fishing tradition after which it is named. This is the perfect place for a relaxing fish. Superbly located in its own landscaped gardens on the lakeside promenade is the four-star Hotel Astoria.
It has been family run for three generations and is tastefully furnished with spacious lounges, a rooftop terrace offering fine views across the lake and surrounding mountains, a swimming pool and terrace set in lush gardens and an excellent restaurant with views of the water. The bedrooms have a spacious, relaxing feel and feature air-conditioning, satellite TV and Wi-Fi. The hotel faces the lake and is set in extensive landscaped gardens to the front and rear with terraces, a tennis court and outdoor swimming pool. All the rooms are air-conditioned and luxuriously decorated and furnished.
Locarno is very much a Swiss town but the twisting lanes and alleys of its historic centre bear more resemblance to Tuscany than Zurich, lending it a real charm; its history is encapsulated in a mighty medieval castle that dominates from above. After some free time we board the narrow-gauge Centovalli train for a spectacularly scenic trip back across the Italian border to Domodossola. From Domodossola we return by coach to Stresa. For centuries Lake Como has attracted visitors — including Byron, Shelley, Churchill and numerous others — seeking relaxation, culture and creative stimulus from its picture-perfect setting.
During your free time you could take the funicular railway up the hill to Brunate for breathtaking views of the lake and town. Alternatively, boat trips to Isola Madre with its ravishing botanical gardens, or Pallanza, a charming town with Roman origins, offer wondrous views.
We take the Simplon Pass, an ancient. You could be lucky and catch a glimpse of an elusive ibex, a chamois or even a golden eagle soaring high above. Nestling at the foot of the mighty, iconic Matterhorn, Zermatt is classic Switzerland, a car-free jumble of chalets and old wooden buildings strewn along a valley floor of pastures alive with the sound of cowbells, while cable cars and soaring footpaths weave ever upwards to the majestic amphitheatre of the surrounding lofty summits.
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For an even better view, take the cog railway up 10, feet to Gornergrat, the awe-inspiring mountain wonderland of glaciers and summits. Orta is probably the prettiest of the Italian lakes, yet also one of the least well known. Surrounded on three sides by deep blue water, the romantic lakeside village of Orta San Giulio has so far avoided the tourist hordes. Its pebble-studded lanes and stepped alleys — lined with myriad traditional food shops selling the gorgeous produce for which Italy is so justifiably renowned — lead down to the shore and a main square.
A boat trip takes you to the island of San Giulio, which features an enchanting basilica — its opulent interior contains a spectacular carved black marble pulpit, wonderfully preserved frescoes and a vertebra which, according to legend, belonged to a dragon. Before we return to our hotel we visit Arona at the southern end of Lake Maggiore to view the monumental statue of San Carlo Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan.
It crowns a hill commanding wonderful views across the lake and the surrounding countryside. We follow a delightful track through an unspoilt oak forest brimming with wildlife, with our naturalist guide describing the flora and fauna we encounter. Places are limited and must be pre-booked, Please advise at the time of booking if you wish to participate. Also, the day on which the walk takes place is usually your free day and is subject to weather.
The walk is available from May to September only. Covering about 3. The natural and historic riches surrounding the Bay of Naples and the Sorrento peninsula are amazing — bustling Naples, chic Sorrento, the island of Capri, the Amalfi coastline and, of course, Pompeii and Herculaneum. Italy is a truly wonderful destination for so many reasons. Perhaps more than any other nation, it has retained its roots and traditions into the modern era, while its blend of excellent food and wine, sublime scenery, enviable climate and a phenomenal cultural legacy provide all the ingredients for a memorable stay.
Plus, of course, there are the Italians themselves, with their legendary love of life! For centuries, the Bay of Naples and the Sorrento peninsula have been attracting visitors eager to experience their dazzling scenery, tranquillity and abundance of world-class historical sights. Two millennia ago the Emperors Tiberius and Augustus fell under the spell of the Bay of Naples and, together with countless members of the ruling elite, made it their home. Our base for this tour is the picturesque town of Sorrento.
Today Sorrento is a typically vibrant Italian town — smartly attired traffic wardens blowing whistles and waving their arm direct the traffic as Vespas weave. The skyline of the Bay of Naples is dominated by magnificent Mount Vesuvius, which soars to over 4, feet. This still-active volcano has erupted spectacularly several times in its history, most famously in 79AD when Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Explore the amazingly preserved Roman town of Herculaneum with an expert local guide Take a boat trip to the stunning island of Capri, with the opportunity to visit the Blue Grotto Discover the mysteries of Pompeii on a guided tour and visit the Naples Archaeological Museum Spend a full day touring the breathtaking Amalfi coast, with a visit to charming hilltop Ravello Stay in elegant Sorrento and enjoy a walking tour of this stylish resort.
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Today, spared the excesses of modern development, Sorrento is a quintessential southern Italian town. The region has a long history of lemon cultivation, with highly prized Sorrento lemons given their own protected IGP Indicazione Geografica Protetta status in the same way as Parma ham or balsamic vinegar from Modena. Sixty percent of lemon production goes into making limoncello liqueur, but in Sorrento it seems that anything can be made from the local citrus fruit, including soaps, cosmetics and, of course, ice-cream.
We then have a guided tour of the Archaeological Museum, one of the finest of its kind in the world. When the excavations started in nearby Pompeii and Herculaneum, the most significant finds were brought here and unveiled to an eager public. An extensive display of remarkably preserved mosaics provides a fascinating insight into the way of life — and even the sense of humour — of ordinary Romans.
Other areas of the museum include murals, fine pottery and preserved food, while a central presentation features some of the largest classical sculptures ever uncovered. Most people know the story of Pompeii and its fate, but today this site is so much more than a collection of ruins. Much of our knowledge about the Roman way of life, their habits, social structure, class system and domestic arrangements has come from Pompeii.
Many buildings still have murals and mosaics, while others inscribed with graffiti describing political events, romantic entanglements and even gossip of the time. You can even see traffic-calming measures and a one-way system! Ultimately, there are few places in the world that combine so much of interest in an area of such extraordinary scenery as the Bay of Naples, making it an especially stimulating tour destination.
On arrival we transfer by coach to Sorrento, where you have a choice of carefully selected hotels to stay for seven nights. It has long been the most desirable part of the Bay of Naples, attracting Roman emperors — Tiberius made it his home and ruled the empire from here — writers such as DH Lawrence and George Bernard Shaw, Hollywood stars and numerous other luminaries who have sought inspiration here.
One option is to visit the famous Blue Grotto — the large sea cave that takes its name from the incandescent blue light that bathes the cavern. Like Pompeii, it was buried under scalding mud and ash when the volcano erupted in AD79, smothering everything from complete streets and houses to small metal objects and textiles, and sealing them in an airtight tomb. Our local guide will bring the history of Herculaneum to life.
Our coastal drive takes us above the exclusive resort of Positano … haunt of celebrities.
We arrive in Amalfi, a picturesque village in a gorgeous setting, possessing charm in abundance and perhaps the highlight of the coast. The bedrooms are simply furnished and include satellite TV, minibar, hairdryer and air conditioning, while the hotel itself is centrally located next to the Old Town and a short walk from Piazza Tasso, the main square. The swimming pool and adjacent sun terrace are ideal places to soak up the sun, while a second terrace offers splendid views of Sorrento, the Mediterranean, Mount Vesuvius and, on a clear day, Naples.
All the rooms are tastefully furnished and have a TV and air conditioning. The reception and entrance hall boast many antiques to add to the atmosphere. Its location is also impressive, situated just behind Sorrento with the sea and Naples stretching out before you. By road La Badia is approximately two miles from Sorrento, and guests can use a free pre-bookable taxi service or the local bus, which stops just outside.
The hotel has an outdoor pool and a restaurant serving good local cuisine; weather permitting, you can dine on the terrace overlooking the bay. The lounge, bar and public rooms feature traditional tiled floors and wrought-iron staircases, with the original exposed stonework adding to the charm that permeates the property. The outdoor pool and terrace are ideal spots for a refreshing drink at the end of the day. Set in its own grounds and adorned with a wealth of terracotta-potted flowered shrubs, what really elevates the hotel is its hillside location behind Sorrento; surrounded by undulating countryside, it provides amazing views over the Bay of Naples to Mount Vesuvius.
Spacious public areas create an aura of relaxation, while the adjacent lounge, terrace and swimming pool are perfect for whiling away spare time. The bedrooms are comfortable and tastefully furnished — all offer fridge, hairdryer, satellite TV, safe, Wi-Fi and air conditioning. The hotel provides a courtesy shuttle bus service to Sorrento town throughout the day and evening.
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Originally structured around a 7th-century stone tower, the property has a fascinating history, with the modern rooms simply furnished using dark woods, local terracotta tiles and warm fabrics; all feature air conditioning, hairdryer, safe and satellite TV. The hotel also has a small swimming pool and a sun terrace, while the lounge is a great place to unwind after returning from your excursions.
The Grand Europa Palace consists of two restored villas, one of which hosts an opulent reception area and restaurant. Standard rooms are located in both the main building and the Villino Maria across a pathway opposite.
Sea-facing rooms are in the main building only. All rooms are air-conditioned with minibar and satellite TV. Its spacious bedrooms are tastefully decorated with the ceramic tiles so typical of Sorrento, with generous use of polished hardwoods.
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All bedrooms offer minibar, air conditioning, hairdryer, safe, satellite TV. The hotel restaurant serves a range of traditional local and Mediterranean cuisine while the rooftop has a small swimming pool and bar, with excellent views of the town. The hotel is partially surrounded by its own landscaped gardens, with large pine trees providing welcome shade.
A former private villa, the four-star Hotel Mediterraneo was built in with a frontage overlooking the Bay of Naples. Its transformation into a luxurious traditional hotel has resulted in a handsome establishment that oozes earlythcentury ambience. The tall white building has a bright, airy feel. All the welcoming bedrooms have air conditioning, safe, hairdryer, satellite TV and minibar.
On the top floor of the Mediterraneo is the Vesuvio restaurant, which presents spectacular views out to Mount Vesuvius. Journey to the green heart of Italy to discover the unspoilt region of Umbria. This tour will take you through endless rolling countryside, up soaring hills topped with time-warp towns, down into the magical Frasassi Caves and onto the sparkling waters of Lake Trasimeno.
And despite possessing these attributes in abundance, Umbria slips under the radar.
This region quietly goes about its laidback local life, proudly preserving its trademark hilltop towns and protecting its landscape of fertile green plains, which dip into valleys and slope up forested hillsides to the towering crags of the Apennine mountains. Two of the destinations on this tour were among the 12 major Etruscan cities, including our bustling base, the magnificent university city of Perugia, and the charming Tuscan town of Cortona. We also visit pretty Gubbio and clifftop Orvieto, both former Etruscan strongholds, as well as spectacular, mountain-backed Spoleto and the famous pilgrimage town of Assisi, thought to have been the territory of the Umbri tribe.
Both ancient civilisations remain elusive to this day, although traces can be seen in the ruins that lay hidden beneath Umbrian streets. This defensive tactic has undoubtedly contributed to their impressive preservation as portals to the past. Their deliberately inaccessible positioning, made accessible by impressive escalator systems and funiculars,.
This grand hotel has hosted royalty. This wide avenue leads up past a mix of shiny designer boutiques and tiny timeworn shops to the Piazza IV Novembre — the centrepiece of the city. This flagstone square boasts the gothic San Lorenzo cathedral, the imposing 13th-century Palazzo dei Priori and the intricately carved Maggiore fountain.
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