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We kick off our adventure in historic, yet trendy Amsterdam. Soak up the buzz of bicycles and boats as you explore the old-world capital at night your way. That could mean spending the evening in a cosy bruin café or consider joining an optional cruise along its tree-lined canals in a glass-topped boat.
The natural beauty of the Rhinelands takes centre stage today as you head east through the lush landscapes of Germany bound for Cologne. Stop briefly to view the Gothic spires of Cologne Cathedral before boarding your cruise down the Rhine, passing a multitude of medieval villages, steep vineyards and storybook castles that line your scenic river route. Arrive later at your hotel in the Rhineland.
History comes to life as you journey through the vineyards of Alsace to Colmar, which looks like it belongs in a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. Its half-timbered houses and cobbled alleyways could tell their own captivating stories. Enjoy time in this living postcard before continuing through the mountains near Lake Lucerne where you'll spend the next two nights.
Your Travel Director will take you on an orientation tour through Lucerne's Old Town. Walk along the ancient wooden Chapel Bridge and visit the Lion Monument, which Mark Twain described as the 'most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world'. Let the 'heart' of Switzerland capture yours as you immerse yourself in its history and epic scenery. With a full afternoon to explore this pretty lakeside setting on your own, you may decide to spend it shopping for watches, Swiss army knives or chocolate. You could choose instead to ascend to the alpine heavens, joining an optional scenic cruise across Lake Lucerne to Stans, then travelling by railway and cable car up into the mountains for exhilarating mountain views.
Big things come in small packages as you'll come to discover when you visit the Principality of Liechtenstein. You can almost imagine the resident Prince surveying his kingdom when you visit its tiny capital, Vaduz. Earn your bragging rights by visiting one of the world's smallest countries before continuing to Innsbruck, the capital of the Tyrol. Here you'll admire the Hofburg Palace and Golden Roof, gilded in the 16th century by Emperor Maximilian to mark his wedding. Admire the fascinating crystal installations and browse for precious gifts and souvenirs at the Swarovski Crystal Worlds Store.
From Roman ruins to Romeo and Juliet, Verona certainly is the stuff of legends. Stop today in the city that served as a backdrop for Shakespeare's famous love story. View the very balcony where the fictional Juliet once called for her Romeo and admire the Roman Arena where gripping performances are held to this day. Continue to Venice, once a maritime powerhouse and republic whose influences can be seen across the Eastern Mediterranean. You'll arrive just in time for an optional Gondola and Grand Canal cruise - grand palazzi, churches and ornate bridges lining your journey. Tonight enjoy dinner at your hotel.
The talents of the master craftsmen on Giudecca Island are the star of the show this morning. Visit a glassblowing workshop to see them craft the most exquisite works of art. Take to the waters of the canal next and cruise by private launch to St. Mark's Square, the gateway to the city. Admire the ornate Doge's Palace, the Basilica of St. Mark and the Bridge of Sighs, whose bittersweet views once elicited sighs from prisoners who were unlikely to see their beloved city ever again. There's time on your own for a final exploration of the city or to join an Optional Experience to the vibrant rainbow-coloured façades of Burano Island.
Italy's capital city lies ahead and with it the promise of a journey into an ancient world, a holy empire and remnants of the Renaissance around every turn. Cross the Veneto plains and Apennine hills, admiring the Tuscan countryside as you travel south to Rome. You'll have some time later to explore the city on your own or join the group for an Optional Experience to see some of the city's sights, followed by a dinner of Italian specialties.
With so much to see and do, you could explore Rome for an eternity without getting bored. Get to grips with the city's main attractions, joining a Local Specialist at Vatican City, the world's smallest city. Stand in St. Peter's Square, sharing your space with devoted pilgrims. Visit St. Peter's Basilica and view Michelangelo's greatest work, the sorrowful Pietà. Then, maybe enjoy an Optional Experience to Michelangelo's famous Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums. Cross the Tiber to view the mighty Colosseum and the countless other ancient sites which featured prominently in the days of the powerful Roman Empire.
The Bay of Naples beckons and you'll head south past the Abbey of Monte Cassino, the site of fierce battles during World War II, to Sorrento. Arrive just in time to perhaps spend the afternoon taking an optional drive along the picture-perfect Amalfi Coast, with a visit to the artist hub of Positano and its pastel-hued houses that seem to tumble into the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Don't miss the opportunity to join an Optional Experience to see the excavations of Pompeii in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. Buried under ash when Vesuvius blew her top, Pompeii remains frozen in time and your Local Specialist will reveal what life was like as one of its former residents. Continue to Florence and check into your hotel for an evening at leisure.
No expense was spared to exalt the glory of Florence through art and architecture and you'll see first-hand how this city paved its way to a modern age. Join a Local Specialist this morning for an enthralling account of the city's history during a walking tour of its historic centre, including views of Ponte Vecchio, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Giotto's Bell Tower and the Baptistery. Visit Piazza della Signoria, the city's main square where many of the political and artistic treasures of the city can be seen. Admire panoramic views of the city from Piazzale Michelangelo then learn about the quality and workmanship of two of this city's historic industries at demonstrations of Florentine leathercraft and 18-carat gold. For a taste of Tuscany, consider joining an Optional Experience in the Tuscan hills with regional favourites, live music and a glass or two of crisp Chianti.
Don't resist peer pressure and snap a few strategic photos featuring you and the extraordinary Leaning Tower of Pisa. Admire the Pisan Romanesque Square of Miracles in all its striped marble glory. Its structures are said to symbolise the three main stages of human life - the Baptistery (birth), the Cathedral (life) and the Camposanto (death). Your journey west stretches out to the shimmering Mediterranean coast, where the Principality of Monaco awaits. Keep your cameras at the ready in this home of the rich and famous and attempt to capture the sophistication that seems to ooze from every corner. Next stop, the glamorous French Riviera.
There's no shame in spending the day sprawled out on a sun lounger with a cocktail, but if you can pull yourself away from the pool, you'll want to join your fellow travellers for an optional exploration of Saint-Paul-de-Vence and Nice. Life is rather idyllic in this enchanting walled hill-town and, like some of its famous residents, you'll want to linger here a little longer, but the sun-kissed promenades of Nice beckon so join your Local Specialist and explore its Old Town and colourful Provençal markets instead. You never know who you might spot seated in those sleek Ferraris and private yachts that dot the French Riviera.
A brief brush with the Papacy in the 14th century has gifted Avignon with some of the world’s most incredible religious architectural legacies. The heart of Provence may no longer hold the importance that the Vatican does today, but views of its Palace of the Popes and St. Bénezet Bridge are no less inspiring. Continue to the historic walled town of Beaune, in the heart of the Burgundy wine region and surrounded by the sprawling vineyards of Côte d’Or. You’ll have an evening to get lost in its cobbled streets and sample the region’s famous reds your way.
From Beaune, we'll head north to the opulence of Versailles - its splendour and beauty created to reflect the self-proclaimed majesty of King Louis XIV, the 'Sun King'. An Optional Experience could see you visit the exquisite sprawling gardens, the Hall of Mirrors with its impressive chandeliers and glinting mirrors. Carry on to Paris where you could join an Optional Experience, including a scenic drive stopping at all the best photo spots.
The Parisians know a thing or two about beauty, elegance and a life well lived which your full day in Paris will deliver in abundance. Hit its grand boulevards on a city sightseeing tour with your Travel Director. See the Arc de Triomphe and Champs Élysées then spend the rest of the day discovering the city on your terms. Don't resist the urge to tread in the footsteps of Picasso and Dali during an optional visit to Montmartre this afternoon, exploring its maze of streets and Artist's Square. There's time to shop for artwork and savour some local specialties before a real highlight this evening - an optional dinner and cabaret performance.
Say a fond farewell to new found friends at the end of your holiday.
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