This leisurely exploration of Italy’s varied northern regions, from the romantic Lake District and dramatic Cinque Terre to beloved Tuscany, the majestic Dolomites, and canal-laced Venice, offers a refreshing perspective on a well-known land. In the company of our congenial small group, we celebrate the Italian penchant for hospitality, good food, and good living. In a word, splendido!
Exclusive Departure: this departure is considered exclusive and the participants are U-M travelers, who consist of alums, family and friends.
Depart U.S. for Milan, Italy
Arrive in Milan/Stresa
After arriving in Milan, we drive to the international resort of Stresa on lovely Lake Maggiore, straddling the border between Italy and Switzerland. This afternoon is at leisure before tonight’s welcome dinner. D
Stresa/Orta San Giulio
This morning we visit the lovely lakeside town of Orta San Giulio – dubbed “God’s watercolor” by Italian writer Piero Chiara – with its cobblestoned streets, 16th-century town hall, and medieval houses flanking the inviting town square. After lunch on our own here, we return to our hotel for an afternoon at leisure. B
We embark this morning on a cruise to Isola Bella, the beautiful Borromean island in the middle of Lake Maggiore. Fully occupied by 17th-century Palazzo Borromeo and its extravagantly landscaped gardens, the island offers lovely views of the lake and surrounding mountains. We take a guided tour of the palazzo, with its priceless works of fine art, and stroll through the flower-decked gardens then enjoy lunch together on the nearby Isola dei Pescatori. B,L
We leave the Piedmont region today, bound for Santa Margherita and the Cinque Terre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. En route, we stop in the village of Barolo for lunch and to sample Barolo, the “king of wines,” at Marchesi di Barolo, Italy’s premier vintner of its greatest wine. We continue on to the Italian Riviera resort town of Santa Margherita, with its palm-lined esplanade overlooking the harbor. Tonight we enjoy dinner together at our hotel. B,L,D
This morning we travel by boat to the renowned – and beautiful – resort town of Portofino, a former fishing village where palatial yachts now crowd the port and the good life is celebrated. We have free time to wander the colorful streets and visit the chic boutiques and galleries here before we return to our hotel mid-day. B
Santa Margherita/Cinque Terre/Portovenere
We depart this morning by train for the hour-long trip to the Cinque Terre (literally, “Five Lands”), the five cliff-clinging villages seemingly carved from the mountains. Originally medieval fishing villages, the Cinque Terre were inaccessible by land for centuries; even today, no road connects all five. We stop in scenic Vernazza then board a boat for a comfortable cruise along the rugged coastline to visit another village of the Cinque Terre. From here we cruise to the port town of Portovenere, with its cluster of colorful column-shaped houses. After a brief walking tour of the Old Town, we have time to explore and enjoy lunch on our own. We dine together tonight at our hotel. B,D
Moving on today, we travel south to beloved Tuscany, stopping first in the atmospheric medieval town of Lucca. We take a walking tour of this incredibly well-preserved gem, whose city walls and ramparts remain intact and a popular attraction. After time for lunch on our own, we continue on to our lodgings in the heart of Florence. B,D
We spend today touring and exploring wondrous Florence, a living monument to the Renaissance and crown jewel of Tuscany. Our day includes a guided morning walking tour followed by free time. Together we visit the Galleria dell’Accademia to view Michelangelo’s sublime “David” and his pieces for the papal tombs; and the Duomo, with its stupendous dome by Brunelleschi. Then we’re free to stroll the 14th-century Ponte Vecchio, with its many jewelry shops; visit renowned museums and churches; shop for leather goods and artful Florentine paper; and to enjoy lunch and dinner on our own at a typical Florentine restaurant. B
Today we visit the walled city of Siena, whose historic center is a UNESCO site and whose ochre-colored buildings and ancient ramparts vividly evoke its medieval past. Fan-shaped Piazza del Campo is one of Europe’s greatest public squares; its Duomo, with pillars of black and white marble, is one of Italy’s finest, with masterpieces by Donatello and Michelangelo. Following a guided walking tour that includes an inside visit to the Duomo, we have free time to explore on our own. We return to Florence mid-afternoon, with the remainder of the day at leisure. B
As we travel north today, we stop in storied Verona, renowned as the setting of several Shakespeare plays, including, of course, Romeo and Juliet. A UNESCO site, Verona boasts well-preserved monuments from antiquity, including a 1st-century Roman amphitheater still in use today, as we see on our guided walking tour. After time for lunch and to explore on our own here, we continue our journey to the South Tyrol, Italy’s German-accented northern reaches bordering Austria and Switzerland. We’re bound for the regional capital of Bolzano, gateway to the Dolomites in the Italian Alps. Late afternoon we reach our hotel, where we dine together tonight. B,D
Set in a basin surrounded by rounded forest-green hills, Bolzano boasts an enviable quality of life – and truly spectacular scenery. We take a cable car to a spot for views of the 18-peak Dolomites, their vertical walls and sheer cliffs presenting a magnificent backdrop to the surrounding woodlands, valleys, and pastures. Then we walk through Bolzano’s colorful historic center and visit the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, well known for housing the mummified corpse of Ötzi the Iceman, dating to 3300 BCE. This afternoon is at leisure to enjoy this surprisingly cosmopolitan city as we wish; tonight we dine at a local restaurant. B,D
En route to Venice today, we travel through the Dolomites themselves, enjoying jaw-dropping scenery at every turn. When we reach Venice late this afternoon, we are free to begin savoring this wondrous city as we wish and enjoy dinner on our own. B,L
This morning we take a guided walk through vast St. Mark’s Square. The afternoon is free for independent exploration; tonight we bid “arrivederci” to Italy and to our fellow travelers at a farewell dinner. B,D
Depart for U.S.
Depart for U.S. We depart early this morning for our connecting flights to the U.S. B
Please note: This trip involves considerable walking up hills or stairs, and on uneven or cobblestone streets. In addition, Italy does not allow buses to enter many historic city centers, meaning that we will be walking to and from our tour bus, which must park in designated areas. You should be in good physical condition to enjoy this trip to the fullest.
Meet Your Trip Host
Cathy Conway Perrin
I’ve been at the University for 28 years– 24 of those in the Newnan LSA Advising Center, where I work with undergrads who are having academic difficulties. Helping them succeed is very meaningful to me and I love the work. My daughter graduated from UM last year with a degree in Romance Languages, and she inspired me to give French and Italian a try. (I already spoke Spanish.) I ended up taking four semesters of Italian at UM and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was also beneficial for me as an advisor to see what the student experience was like in the courses they take to meet our language requirement. We visited Italy after my daughter did a study abroad program there, but I knew very little of the language then. I’m looking forward to returning and being able to use my Italian this time! My husband Steve will be traveling with me; he provided computer and AV support for the UM Medical School and Health System, and is now retired. We’re both very excited about the opportunity to travel with this group.