Northern Italy
SKU/EAN 201705
Price $8,900.00 Exchange Rate
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Single Supplement: $1200
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Tour Date: May 6-18, 2017
Tour Price: $8,900 ***INCLUDES RT AIRFARE from USA gateway city
Registration Deadline: April 1, 2017
Single supplement $1200
Guest Pro: Deborah Sandidge - www.debsandidge.com/about/

Lake Como - Monferrato & Langhe – Maritime Alps – Flowers Riviera

On this tour you will follow in the centuries-old tracks of salt smugglers as they made their way back from inland trading centers to the Mediterranean Sea through some of northern Italy’s most spectacular countryside. The tour is ideal for the photographer or travel enthusiast keen to explore the fabulous landscape of steep mountain slopes, charming villages and deep blue waters of Lake Como, the Barolo and Barbera wine countries of Piedmont, wander through olive groves and hill towns below the 9,000-foot Maritime Alps in Liguria and discover a splendid Mediterranean port on the Riviera dei Fiori - the Flowers Riviera.

Day 1 - May 7
Al Lago!
Off to the lake! We’ll drive one hour from Malpensa airport to the city of Como. While our driver transports our luggage to our lakeside hotel, we’ll enjoy a stroll through Como’s well-preserved historic center. We’ll finish at the boat dock and board a boat that will take us on a leisurely cruise up the lake, the best way to take in the incredible scenery. When we reach Bellagio, we’ll disembark and walk to our hotel, exploring this town which is marvelously situated at the lake’s center. In the evening, we’ll dine on fresh lake fish at a local restaurant.

Day 2 - May 8
Hamlets of Bellagio
We can photograph the lake in the morning light before meeting our guide, a local woman who has dedicated much of her life to studying the culture of the area, collecting artifacts from the past, and documenting the history of the lives of past residents. Bellagio is made up of a number of small villages, some situated along the lake and others built further up on the slopes of 6,000 foot Monte San Primo. We’ll take a delightful walk from the center of Bellagio up through several of these outlying hamlets. After a visit to our guide’s cultural museum in one of the more ancient of these villages, we’ll walk back down to the lake for lunch and afterward stroll through the magnificent Villa Melzi gardens.
   
Day 3 - May 9
Panoramic Meadows & Terraced Gardens
Today we’ll walk up to a magnificent scenic overlook, then down through pasture meadows and a tiny village for a splendid lunch on local specialties, including polenta uncia with game. We’ll then explore the terraced and wild gardens of one the most beautiful lakeside villas, the Villa Carlotta, as well as its art treasures. Tonight, we’ll head by boat across the lake for dinner in the quaint village of Varenna.

Day 4 - May 10
Into the Monferrato: Castello & Infernot
We’ll drive about an hour and a half through the risotto-rice growing Po River plain, leaving the 15,000-foot Monte Rosa of the Alps looming behind us. As we cross the Po river, we’ll enter the realm of the Monferrato. Once a powerful independent state in its own right, this region is now known for its Barbera and Grignolino wine production, superb cuisine and serene countryside. Our destination is a medieval castle with a splendid frescoed interior and extensive gardens in a little-known corner of the region, which the owners graciously allow us to photograph. Then, we’ll head to Cella Monte, another charming hilltown, for lunch followed by a fascinating subterranean exploration underneath the buildings themselves, where a series of wine cellars (known as infernot in local dialect) have been creatively excavated from the rock. We’ll enjoy a lunch of typical monferrino specialties before driving into the neighboring Langhe region, our home for the next four nights. We'll be staying in a lovely inn-restaurant situated on a panoramic ridge overlooking the entire area.

Day 5 - May 11
Into the Langhe – Truffles & La Morra
The Langhe is the region where the unique Nebbiolo grape achieves its maximum expression in Barolo and Barbaresco wines, and it is also famous for its truffles. This morning we'll join a truffle hunter and his highly-trained dog for a walk through the woods in the search for black truffles. We will then head to the hill town of La Morra for a tour and tasting at a superlative La Morra Barolo wine producer and lunch. Afterwards, we can take a stroll amidst cru vineyards (top vineyard sites) around our home hilltop village, photographing from the vineyard- covered hills in the sunset light.
       
Day 6 - May 12
Upper Langhe & Serralunga d’Alba
This morning we’ll head into the rugged hills of the Upper Langhe for a walk through an area renowned for the presence of Italian Resistance during WWII. Then we’ll enjoy a savory cheese-tasting lunch with cheese made from the milk of the Langa sheep, a breed that has disappeared from all but a few local farms. We will then return to the sea of vineyards, towards Serralunga d’Alba and its towering castle. A delightful vintner family will offer us a tour of their facilities and wine tasting, during which we will enjoy their excellent Serralunga Barolo. Tonight we’ll directly experience the historical importance of the salt smugglers. Legend has it that, in their attempts to avoid discovery by customs agents, they hid their salt under layers of anchovies – inadvertently introducing the anchovy to Piedmont cuisine. We’ll have the opportunity to try local specialties that feature this tiny fish in delicious salsas like bagnet verd, a parsley- and anchovy-based salsa.

Day 7 - May 13
L’Alba & Alba
Early morning photography from the hill behind our hotel, soon after alba (sunrise) when light starts to hit the surrounding Alps. Then we’ll visit the town of Alba, capital of the Langhe, and have free time to explore on our own, perhaps to shop for torrone, tartufi (truffles) or other local goodies. In the afternoon we will visit a nearby hilltown where we can taste chocolate at a historic producer. A photographic walk on the trails around our home hilltown might be in order this afternoon, during that divine hour of light before sunset.

Day 8 - May 14
The Maritime Alps and the Italian Riviera
We hop a train this morning in Cuneo and head south towards the Maritime Alps. We’ll pass through the Colle di Tenda pass, one of the most important trade routes through the Western Alps. On the other side of the tunnel, we arrive in the town of Tende, France, which we’ll tour with a local guide. After a typical regional lunch, we’ll stop at a marvelous frescoed chapel before continuing down the valley, the larch making way for olive trees as we approach the Mediterranean Sea. We’ll re- enter Italy in the region of Liguria. Our home for the next three nights is in a beautiful hilltop village, inland from the aptly-named Italian Riviera dei Fiori, ‘Flower Riviera’, or along the Riviera itself.

Day 9 - May 15
Apricale & Dolceacqua
We’ll explore a very intriguing ancient hilltop village this morning, meandering through its narrow lanes on our way to the central piazza. Afterwards we’ll head to the fortified town of Dolceacqua, former seat of the powerful Doria family.

Day 10 - May 16
Domain of the Doria
Accompanied by a local guide, we’ll head up to a nearby, higher hill town which overlooks 6,000-foot peaks to the north and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. Our walk takes us up through Taggiasca olive groves (the small Taggiasca olive makes one of the best olive oils in Italy) to a lovely agriturismo overlooking the valley. Here we can enjoy a wonderful lunch on homegrown and homemade specialties, perhaps including a pesto dish, a torta salata di verdura (savory vegetable pie) and abundant fresh fruits.

Day 11 - May 17
Bordighera & Riviera dei Fiori
Our destination today is the beautiful coastal town of Bordighera. Our local guide will lead us on a walking tour of this renown winter residence of European nobility, with its many splendid villas, one of which we will visit. Then, we’ll make our way among the date palms that border the trail along the sea, following in the footsteps of Claude Monet who painted several scenes of Bordighera from this vantage point. Our walk will conclude with a visit to the historic center of Bordighera Alta, perched above the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean. After full day of exploration along the Riviera, we'll head north to our hotel at Malpensa Airport.

Day 12 - May 18
Morning departure from Malpensa Airport. Buon viaggio!

GUESTS SHOULD PACK LIGHT.  YOU MAY BE EXPECTED TO CARRY, ROLL, SCHLEP, AND/OR OTHERWISE TRANSPORT YOUR OWN BAGS AT ALL TIMES AND IN ALL PLACES ON THIS TRIP.  LAUNDRY SERVICES ARE ALWAYS AVAILABLE.  M&M RULE OF THUMB IS ONE BAG FOR CAMERA GEAR AND ONE 20-22"" ROLLER FOR YOUR CLOTHES AND TOILETRIES.  INVEST IN A TRAVEL TRIPOD - BENRO (http://www.benrousa.com/products/travel-angel-ii/) HAS MANY OPTIONS AVAILABLE.  MEDICAL DEVICES SUCH AS CPAP MACHINES ARE EXCLUDED FROM THIS RECOMMENDATION.  PACKING LIGHT WILL MAKE YOUR TRIP MUCH MORE ENJOYABLE.
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