La dolce vita (the sweet life) describes the intimate magic of small town Italy. This tour — with a tasty focus on food, wine and culture — helps you live it. Starting in elegant Padua, your Rick Steves guide will take you through Italy's seductive countryside: artistic Ravenna, St. Francis' Assisi, Puccini's Lucca, cliff-hugging Cinque Terre harbors, and off-the-beaten-path hill towns and vistas. You'll be rubbing elbows with Italian culture, learning about crafting pottery, cutting marble, cooking pasta, making wine — even hunting truffles. Join us for Village Italy in 14 Days!
You'll get all this!
- An extra-small group, limited to 20-24 people — less than half the size of most tour groups
- Full-time services of a professional Rick Steves guide and local experts who will make the fascinating history, art and culture of Italy come alive for you
- All tours and admissions — at no extra cost — covering at least 21 group sightseeing events • Padua walking tour • Scrovegni Chapel tour • Padua's Anatomy Theatre (when available) • Mosaics of Ravenna's San Vitale & Galla Placidia tour • Assisi walking tour • Basilica of St. Francis tour • Truffle hunt • Deruta pottery demonstration • Civita hill town visit • Wine tasting • Orvieto walking tour • Orvieto cathedral and Signorelli's frescoes • Tuscan hill town visits • Etruscan Museum tour • Olive oil tasting and lunch • Italian cooking demonstration • Lucca walking tour • Lucca bike ride • Ligurian Coast boat excursion (weather permitting) • Orientation for "vacation" day on Italian Riviera • Lake Orta boat excursion...and more
- All group transportation from Padua to Lake Orta
- 13 nights accommodations in memorable, centrally-located hotels
- All breakfasts and half your dinners
- All tips for guides and driver
- Free stuff including Rick Steves' Italy guidebook, Italian phrase book, moneybelt and earplugs
- Guaranteed tour price, locked in the moment you make your deposit
- Optional single supplements — this tour has a limited number of private rooms for solo travelers for an additional fee
- Tour alum discount of $50 for each tour you've taken prior to 2013
- 50% discount on a consulting appointment with our in-house experts to assist with your pre- or post-tour travel plans
- Flexibility should you need to transfer, or cancel/interrupt your tour
- Fine print: You are responsible for the cost of your drinks and free-time sightseeing. See our Tour Conditions Agreement for important details regarding everything listed above
Daily Activity Key
- Light = 2-4 miles of mostly level walking throughout the day.
- Moderate = 2-6 miles walking throughout the day with some hills and stairs.
- Strenuous = 2-8 miles walking throughout the day with lots of hills, stairs and uneven terrain.
Day 1: Welcome to Italy
Our tour begins in elegant Padua (Padova), with easy bus and train connections from Venice's Marco Polo Airport. We'll gather at our hotel at 5 p.m. for a group meeting. Then we'll take a neighborhood orientation walk together and get acquainted with one another over dinner. Sleep in Padua (2 nights). No bus. Walking: light.
Day 2: All Day to Discover Padua
We'll hit the ground walking this morning, with a tour of Padua and its colorful market squares and piazzas. Along the way, we'll gape at Giotto's glorious frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel, and learn how our inner workings were revealed at Europe's first great Anatomy Theater. You'll have the rest of the day to marvel at the Renaissance masterpieces in St. Anthony's Basilica, roam through the university's acclaimed Botanic Garden, or relax with a creamy espresso at a sidewalk café. No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 3: Ravenna and Hill Town Montone
We'll drive to nearby Ravenna this morning for a tour of the brilliantly preserved mosaics in Ravenna's Byzantine San Vitale Basilica and Galla Placidia Mausoleum. After lunch we'll climb up into the Umbria region to the untouristed little hill town of Montone. The rest of your afternoon is free for wandering through this rustic stone village; then we'll share a feast of countryside specialties at our hotel in Montone, where we'll sleep (2 nights). Bus: 5 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 4: Assisi and Truffles
This morning we'll take a short drive to St. Francis' hometown of Assisi, where we'll tour the magnificent art-filled Basilica. Afterward, we'll take a walking tour through the town, and have free time for lunch. We'll spend the late afternoon with a local farmer and his specially-trained dog, hunting for one of the area's specialties: the truffle. We'll stay on the farm for a while, joining the family for a hearty, home-cooked dinner (including the truffles). Bus: 2 hrs. Walking: strenuous.
Day 5: Deruta and Orvieto
We'll drive through the peacefully green Umbrian landscape today. Our first stop will be in Deruta for a pottery-making demonstration at a family workshop. Then we'll drive off the beaten path to a rural, family-owned winery for a refreshing wine tasting and lunch. We'll finish our afternoon high atop the nearby hill town of Orvieto, where we'll marvel at the town's dramatic cathedral, including Signorelli's amazing frescoes in the San Brizio Chapel. Sleep in Orvieto (2 nights). Bus: 3 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 6: Umbrian Hill Towns
It's market day in Orvieto! You'll have a free morning to dive into this busy, colorful once-a-week market and discover more of Orvieto's friendly charms. In the afternoon, we'll drive down the road and then hike up to the ultimate back door hill town, Civita di Bagnoregio. You'll have free time to revel in the traffic-free alleyways, astounding views and hidden treasures that make this village so special. Then it's back to Orvieto for a free evening. Bus: 2 hrs. Walking: strenuous.
Day 7: Heart of Tuscany
We'll meander north into rural Tuscany today, stopping to visit the fascinating Etruscan Museum at Chianciano, where we'll learn about this mysterious pre-Roman civilization. Before we bite into today's lunch, we'll see how it's made, as our chef gives us a special hands-on Tuscan cooking lesson. Sufficiently fed, we'll end the day at our Tuscan country hotel, where we'll sleep (2 nights). Bus: 3 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 8: Tranquil Tuscany
Enjoy a free morning to sleep in, hike along the farm paths, take pictures, or simply relax by the pool at our country hotel. This afternoon we'll head out to your guide's favorite "famous" hill town (go ahead, guess away) with plenty of time for discoveries and dinner on your own. Bus: 2 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 9: Hill Towns and Lucca
Today your guide and driver will take you along the less-traveled scenic route through Tuscany, with stops to wander through timeless hill towns with pristine views. Our final destination today is the engaging and prosperous town of Lucca, where a local guide will introduce us to its elegant streets and historic churches, all surrounded by some of Italy's most impressive Renaissance walls. Sleep in Lucca (2 nights). Bus: 3 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 10: Lovely Lucca and Olive Groves
This morning you're free to stroll along the Via Fillungo or join your guide for a bike ride along the town's scenic and well-preserved ramparts. Then we'll head into the countryside to visit a traditional frantoio (olive oil mill), where we'll learn about and sample Italy's famous extra-virgin export, and enjoy a farm lunch. The remainder of the day is free back in Lucca to enjoy more of its layered history and find a local trattoria for dinner. Bus: 1 hr. Walking: light.
Day 11: Carrara's Marble and the Riviera
We'll continue north today, pausing to marvel at the marble with a local expert at Carrara's snow-white quarries, the favorite of Renaissance sculptors. Then we will take to the sea (weather permitting) and enjoy a scenic boat ride along the Ligurian Coast, past the wave-washed harbors and hill-hugging villages of the Cinque Terre. Our boat will dock in the beach town of Levanto, our home base for il dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing), where we'll sleep (2 nights). Boat: 2 hrs. Bus: 2 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 12: All Day on the Italian Riviera
You'll take a "vacation from your vacation" today in our Mediterranean getaway. You may choose to hike the cliff side paths, taking in lots of fresh air and panoramic views between Cinque Terre villages, starting with Riomaggiore's Via dell'Amore. Or pick a village where you can spend your day exploring the stairways and alleyways, sunning yourself on the rocks, or sipping cappuccino and catching up on your journal at an outdoor café. We'll regroup tonight to share a family-prepared seafood feast in Levanto. No bus. Walking: light to strenuous (your choice).
Day 13: Lago d'Orta
We'll make a beeline to Orta San Giulio on the shores of Lake Orta, arriving with plenty of time to stroll its cobbled lanes and medieval square, and take a scenic sail out to little Isola San Giulio. Tonight we'll enjoy an arrivederci dinner together, where we'll share travel memories and toast new friends. Saluté! Sleep in Orta San Giulio (1 night). Boat: 1 hr. Bus: 4 hrs. Walking: light to strenuous (your choice).
Day 14: Tour Over After Breakfast
Milan's closest airport, Malpensa, is 60-90 minutes away by taxi or bus. Your guide will help coordinate transportation to Malpensa, leaving you well prepared for the road ahead. Grazie e ciao!
Itinerary specifics subject to change.
Rick Steves tours are physically active!
This is an integral, essential part of the Rick Steves tour experience. On our Village Italy in 14 Days tour — among other things — you'll need to happily...
- Carry/roll your luggage over uneven pavement (several blocks possible) and up stairways to reach your hotel; then up several flights of stairs to reach your room.
- Be on your feet, walking and standing for up to three hours, indoors and outdoors, in all weather conditions.
- Sleep with street noise and no (or weak) air conditioning.
- After orientation and transportation lessons, be able to navigate towns and cities on your own.
- Be content with the possibility of sharing bathroom facilities at one hotel during this tour.
We've put together some specific information on what you should know about this tour before you go. You'll also find more general information about "Getting Ready for Your Tour" on our Tour FAQ.
Sightseeing On Your Own
If you arrive in Italy before your tour begins, use Rick Steves' Italy guidebook to get oriented. Ride the public transportation, try out a few words of Italian, and get over your jet lag with lots of fresh air and exercise.
Here are a few suggestions for sightseeing in Padua that we do not do as a group (see guidebook for details): Duomo and Baptistery, Chiesa degli Eremitani-Mantegna frescoes, Piano Nobile aka il Ridotto of Café Pedrocchi. You may also want to consider spending time in Venice or Milan.
Most tour members arrive a day or two before the tour begins — and those who don't, wish they had. This allows you ample time to get over jet lag and make the most of the first few days of the tour.
There is more than one way to get to and from your tour. We recommend talking to your travel agent about "open jaw" airline tickets (flying into and out of different cities). This tour begins in Padua and ends at Lake Orta. The most direct route is to fly into Venice and home from Milan. If you choose to fly in and out of the same city, you will need to arrange additional transportation either before or after the tour.
For your post-tour departure, please note that Milan has two airports, Malpensa and Linate. Malpensa is the easiest from which to depart. It's best to book your flight from Malpensa no earlier than 10 a.m. on the last day of the tour. Taxis make the 45-minute trip to Malpensa for around €95 for up to four people. Bus or train options may be available, but there is generally no direct route from Orta to Malpensa, so the trip can be long and often still involves taking a taxi for part of the journey. (Your guide will help coordinate transfers to airports and train stations at the end of the tour from Orta.) If you depart from Linate, book your flight no earlier than noon on the last day of the tour. Anticipate about two hours to get to Linate by taxi and a fare of around €150. If you choose to fly home from Venice, you need to plan for an extra overnight stay, as Lake Orta is a five-hour train ride from Venice (and you won't be able to connect with an international flight on the same day).
Flying within Europe can be reasonable. Ask your travel agent or check Rick's list of European budget airlines. For links to helpful rail and air websites, go to www.ricksteves.com/plan/links and look under "Transportation."
Read Rick's Guide to Eurail Passes and decide if your travel plans merit a railpass (or contact our Rail Department for advice at email@example.com or 425/771-8303 ext. 214). You can get a rough idea of costs from the above guide or Rick Steves' Italy guidebook.
Prior to your tour departure, you will receive detailed directions on how to get from the airport to your first tour hotel, as well as contact information for your first and last hotels in case you wish to book pre- or post-tour hotel accommodations.
If you need more information about additional European travel or for specific questions about your tour, contact the Tour Department at 425/608-4217 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
See a chart with monthly rain and temperature information for this tour.
For ideas on what to pack, check Rick's Packing List and our Women's Packing List.
Tour Guide Raves
"Nina did an exceptional job and really made this trip exceed my expectations! I knew we would have a good time but her knowledge, insights, attitude and humor really added to the overall experience. She thought of everything down to the little details. She kept us entertained on the bus rides and surprised us with nice treats as well. I would definitely go on another tour where Nina is the guide."
— Jennifer in Los Gatos, CA
"We absolutely loved Tricia and would happily take any other tours that she was leading. Her knowledge was expansive and her friendly style made us all feel like we were a part of a family."
— Caroline in San Francisco, CA
Favorite tour memories from recent alums:
"There were so many — the frescoes; the opulence in the Basilica's paintings; hearing about the different artisans; the hill towns; the chance to go truffle hunting; biking the wall in Lucca; hiking the Cinque Terre — amazing views and definitely worth the hike. It was an amazing tour with each town so different from the other. I enjoyed the free time to wander the back streets looking at the architecture, seeing how the Italians live."
— Lannie in Littleton, CO
"I've seen pictures before going to Civita da Bagnoreggio, but seeing it and walking into the town was the 'wow' moment for me. I think I had a 'wow' moment at each city. It all was so beautiful."
— Ronald in Wayne, NJ
"The truffle hunting and dinner in Montone is one of the best nights we've ever had on a Rick Steves tour!"
— Edward in Meadow Vista, CA
To see more comments on Rick Steves' tours, read through our tour member reviews.
Videos & More
This region is rich in history, art and culture. To help you get the most from your trip, we've put together this collection of travel resources from Rick's TV shows, radio interviews and articles, as well as recommended books, films and music.
Rick Steves' TV Clips & Shows
(For more TV clips on this region, visit Rick on YouTube.)
- La Dolce Vita (1961)
- Room with a View (1986)
- Cinema Paradiso (1990)
- Ciao Professore! (1994)
- Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
Rick Steves' Radio Interviews
(For more radio interviews on this region, see Rick's Audio Europe™ files for iPod, PC & MP3.)
Rick Steves Audio Europe™
- Opera: Puccini, Rossini, Verdi, Andrea Bocelli, Enrico Caruso, Luciano Pavarotti, Ezio Pinza, Three Tenors
- Classical: Vivaldi's Four Seasons
- Pop/rock: Pino Danieli, Dean Martin, Mina, Laura Pausini, Eros Ramazzotti
Rick Steves' Articles
(For more articles on this region, see Rick's Best Destinations.)
- Rick Steves' Italy
- Italian Neighbors; Italian Education — Tim Parks
- Italian Days — Barbara Grizzuti Harrison
- That Fine Italian Hand — Paul Hofmann
- The Italians — Luigi Barzini
- Under the Tuscan Sun; Bella Tuscany — Frances Mayes
- Ratking (mystery set in Umbria, first in a series) — Michael Dibdin
- A Soldier of the Great War — Mark Helprin
- The Passion of Artemisia — Susan Vreeland
- Up At the Villa — Somerset Maugham
- The Charterhouse of Parma — Stendahl