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The treasures of Italy are both iconic and enchanting: ancient ruins encircled by vibrant city streets, rolling vineyards crowned by medieval hilltop towns, gondolas bobbing in turquoise canals. Get an intimate look at these Italian classics on a journey from Venice through the heart of Tuscany to Rome. Enjoy private visits to opulent art galleries, delve into one of the world’s most celebrated cuisines with Tuscan vintners and a Florentine chef, and take advantage of time on your own to soak up the magic of Italy.
Join private guides for tours of five UNESCO World Heritage-listed cities, including Venice, Rome, and Florence.
Get an in-depth look at Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio, site of a National Geographic-funded search for Leonardo da Vinci’s lost masterpiece, The Battle of Anghiari.
Meet a craftsman at a Venetian boatyard to learn about the art of gondola construction, and then enjoy a private after-hours visit to the gilded galleries of Scuola Grande di San Rocco.
Stay at a 14th-century castello in the Tuscan countryside and dine at its Michelin-starred restaurant.
Itinerary - 9 Days
Day 1 — Arrive Venice, Italy
Arrive in Venice and meet a local guide for your transfer to the historical center. Cruise from the mainland airport across the Venice lagoon in a private water taxi, getting your first look at the city from the famous Grand Canal. Your hotel overlooks this elegant waterway—the city’s main “street,” lined with marble palazzi and dotted with drifting gondolas. After settling into your room, take a private walking tour of the surrounding promenades and canals, and step into the iconic Basilica di San Marco. Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant this evening. Hotel L’Orologio Venezia (D)
Day 2 — Venice
Enjoy a morning to amble along the canals at your leisure. This afternoon, visit a squero, or boatyard, to meet a local craftsman and learn about the art and science of traditional gondola construction. Then enjoy a private, after-hours visit to Scuola Grande di San Rocco, where opulent galleries are adorned with paintings from Italian masters like Tintoretto and Titian. Dine on your own this evening. Hotel L’Orologio Venezia (B)
Day 3 — Venice/Florence
Discover the leafy side of Venice on a private tour of the city’s little-known parks and gardens. Enjoy a light lunch at a local wine bar serving cicchetti—small snacks unique to Venice—and then board the high-speed train to Florence. Settle into your boutique hotel, an elegantly restored 14th-century tower home, and then set out on a private walking tour of the city. Learn about da Vinci’s famous painting The Battle of Anghiari, known as “The Lost Leonardo,” and see the epicenter of a National Geographic-funded search for this misplaced masterpiece, believed to be hidden behind a wall in Palazzo Vecchio.
Antica Torre di Via Tornabuoni (B, L, D)
Day 4 — Florence
Browse the food stalls of the Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio, where locals shop for fresh produce. With the help of your guide, pick out ingredients for your private cooking class with a Florentine chef. Continue to the kitchen and learn to make regional specialties, then feast on your creations for lunch. Enjoy the rest of the afternoon at leisure. Consider climbing the iconic Duomo, marveling at Michelangelo’s David in the Accademia Gallery, or seeing Medici family treasures in the Pitti Palace. Antica Torre di Via Tornabuoni (B, L)
Day 5 — Florence/San Gimignano/Tuscan Countryside
Take a final morning to explore Florence on your own, then transfer to the walled hilltop gem of San Gimignano—a UNESCO World Heritage site with 14 picturesque medieval towers. Set out from town on a leisurely bike ride through the vineyards blanketing the surrounding landscapes. Continue through the Tuscan countryside to our 14th-century castello, originally built as a monastery. Settle in, and dine in the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant this evening. Castello di Spaltenna (B, D)
Day 6 — Tuscan Countryside/Siena
Spend the morning at leisure at our historical hotel. Take a dip in the pool, indulge in a spa treatment, or enjoy the on-site tennis courts, billiard room, and bicycles. Later, head to Siena and soak up its medieval flavor on a walking tour that includes the Piazza Salimbeni and the colorful, marble-clad Basilica di San Domenico. Savor a cappuccino and ricciarelli, a famous Sienese almond cookie, at the historic Caffe Nannini. Continue to the Piazza del Campo, one of Italy’s most beautiful squares and host to the thrilling Palio bareback horse races. Step into the medieval cathedral before returning to your hotel. Castello di Spaltenna (B)
Day 7 — Orvieto/Rome
Travel to Rome, stopping en route at the stunning town of Orvieto, sitting atop a plateau of volcanic rock. Visit the town’s Gothic cathedral, and see St. Patrick’s Well, a marvel of ancient engineering that draws water up from the bluff far below the city. Cap off your visit with lunch and wine pairings at a local winery. Then continue to Rome and set out on a private walking tour that includes stops at the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Piazzas del Popolo and Navona, and the Sant’Agnese church. Break at one of Rome’s most famous coffee shops, and share the social ritual of an afternoon coffee. Hotel Splendide Royal (B, L, D)
Day 8 — Rome/Vatican City
Rise early to see the Sistine Chapel before the tourist crowds arrive. Marvel at two of the world’s most spectacular masterpieces: Michelangelo’s Genesis ceiling frescoes and his Last Judgment altar fresco. Visit the Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Square, and St. Peter’s Basilica—home to treasured Renaissance artwork by masters like Michelangelo, Raphael, and Bernini. After lunch on your own, explore ancient Rome at the Arch of Constantine and the iconic Colosseum. Hotel Splendide Royal (B)
Day 9 — Rome/Depart
Transfer to the airport this morning to catch your international flight home.
About Private Expeditions
National Geographic Private Expeditions are specially crafted itineraries designed for independent travelers that combine guided excursions, fascinating insights into culture and wildlife, and top accommodations. Simply select a trip and decide whom you'd like to travel with and when you want to travel. We'll take care of the rest.
Prices are per person, double occupancy and are subject to availability. Single traveler prices are available upon request.
International airfare to Venice and home from Rome is not included in the expedition cost.
A holiday surcharge may apply to certain travel dates based upon international or local holidays, as well as local events and festivals.
Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives, or easy hikes, with options for more physical activities such as hiking, kayaking, snorkeling and biking.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.