Monday, February 17, 2014

Arts & Garden Tour Italy 2014

Venice –Verona- Lake Como- Milan

with Jacqueline Coates, Tuscany Under the Skin & ECM Travel
The tour commences in Venice September 27, 2014- Finishes in Milan Oct 12, 2014
If you love being inspired by art, beauty and grandeur, beautiful palazzos layered in history and great stories,………..if you enjoy visiting handpicked sumptuous gardens in amazing locations, trying your hand at some creative activities, and experiencing a regional cooking class,………. If the idea of having an aperitif as the sun goes down over majestic Lake Como, after a day visiting stupendous villas and gardens then chances are you will swoon over this itinerary I am proud to present.
This tour has been created in conjunction with Tuscany Under the Skin and Karen Caba of Elite Conference Travel Management, both of whom I have worked with on previous tours to great success.

What makes this tour different to others?

Researched and planned by people who love beauty, grandeur and quality including me, floral artist and teacher, Jacqueline Coates, and ex-film producer, Australian Barbara Mariotti who has lived in Italy for 30 years with husband Ugo, making a highly experienced team in tours featuring gardens, food and art in Italy.

·        Careful selection of wonderful experiences that are outside of mass produced tour styles
·        Live like a Venetian in Venice in gorgeous apartments so you have room to relax and unwind in one of the most stunning cities on earth with an 
·        Arts and Gardens focus so you will feel inspired, as opposed to a general tour full of historic facts that leave you numb.

·        Wonderful hands on authentic experiences including painting masks with a master mask maker in Venice, cooking class using local produce with a Venetian chef, and some painting opportunities with Jacqueline Coates along the way. This is a great way to truly experience the places we will visit
·        Insiders secrets and shopping tips from Barbara.

·        A civilized pace designed for enjoyment with numbers of guests limited to a maximum of 21 and the tour will go with 12 guests …… opposed to bus tours that reach 50 and you aren’t sure what city you are in when you wake up each morning!
·        Accompanied by Barbara Mariotti who is not only an Aussie but married to an Italian and speaks Italian so she bridges both cultures perfectly
·        Accompanied by artist jacqueline Coates who will answer your questions about how to capture the essence of your tour and give you some art lessons as well.


Saturday 27 Sept                                                                                                               (D)
When you arrive at the Marco Polo airport you’ll be met by Barbara or Ugo Mariotti and transferred by water taxi to meeting points with hosts who will lead you to your Venice apartments. You’ll have time to settle in and get to know your neighbourhood: find the local deli, the supermarket, the fruit & veggie stalls… and your favourite cafè.  We enjoy a Welcome Dinner in a characteristic restaurant.

Sunday 28 Sept
This morning we do a small-group tour of the “Essence of Venice – featuring a tour of St Mark’s Basilica with skip the line tickets, an overview of the famous landmarks of St Mark’s Square, along with a lovely walk to discover some of the hidden treasures … your guide will introduce you to the history of the past and present Venice, what it meant to be a Venetian at the times of La Serenissima, and what it means today to live in the most beautiful city in the world.  The Tour concludes at the Bridge of Sighs.”

You have the remainder of the day at leisure. Perhaps find the nearest vaporetto stop. You’ll have your weekly vaporetto ticket so maybe take a ride along the Grand Canal. Begin to know Venice. We’ll be there to assist. At sunset, meet Dottor Balanzone.  ‘Il Dottore’ is the good friend of Harlequin, Colombine, Pulcinella and other famous characters of the Commedia dell’ Arte. He rubs shoulders with the Carnival characters too.  He loves his food, loves to talk, and loves his Venezia. Who better to show you the back streets behind the Rialto Bridge and let you in on the gossip, old and new? Join him for an aperitif as you watch the gondolas go by on the Grand Canal.  Evening at leisure.

Monday 29 Sept                                                                                                                (L)
We have an earlier start this morning to beat the crowds on the ‘vaporetto’ to the famed island of Murano. We’re using our weekly vaporetto ticket which gets us around easily. Let’s stay on the ferry till the lesser known stop of Navarego, maybe in time for a quick caffè with the locals at the Duomo bar. You could of course brace yourself with a caffè corretto?  

In an old glass workshop nearby, Gianni Moretti a descendant of the original Ercole, can honestly say “there are only a few craft industries still working in Venezia a century after their foundation” because he and his extended family are doing just that.  Their expertise is with the ‘perline’, the beads, and exquisite plates. Fortunately for us the family has thrown nothing away so we are able to see more than a 100 years of lovely  glass pieces, tools and work techniques plus the proud pictorial history of the glass-workers as well as learning how it’s done today. To complete our picture of Venetian glass we’ll go to Gianni’s next-door neighbour Massimo Furlan where the glass is ‘blown’.  The blower may show you his arms “when you get your first burn you begin to be a blower…”

We enjoy a ‘laguna’ lunch at the Osteria al Duomo where the locals first introduced us to Gianni and Massimo.  Your afternoon and evening are at leisure. Murano offers many glass work-shops and showrooms and has an excellent museum Il Museo del Vetro.  Plus the chance to wander, to just watch and enjoy the canals and lagoon views. The vaporetto links you to colourful Burano, a small island of lace-makers and fishermen which is well worth a visit. It has a lovely Lace Museum, il Museo del Merletto, closed on Mondays but should this be your special interest it’s easy to return on your free day, Thursday, with your vaporetto ticket.

Tuesday 30 Sept
This morning you may meet some of those Carnival friends of Dottor Balanzone.  We go to a workshop where the classic Carnival of Venezia masks are created.  You’ll be able to decide the one you would most like to be, choose your colours and then with the help of a skilled artisan, create your own mask. The workshop also makes Carnival costumes, jewelry and accessories. Carnivale anyone?

In the early afternoon we visit the Galleria dell’ Accademia di Venezia.  This museum holds the richest collection of paintings from Byzantine and Gothic Venice and the Veneto, plus those of the Renaissance artists: Bellini, Carpaccio, Giorgione, Veronese, Tintorello, Tiziano, Tiepolo…  And the 1700s works of Canaletto, Guardi, Longhi and others.   A celebration of art.  As a matter of interest the Accademia is situated in the Dorsoduro district: to the right is the lovely area towards il Campo Santa Margherita, full of interesting shops, calle and bridges, and bordering on the San Polo district, an area of antique sellers; behind are the calle leading to the Giudecca Canal which offers a relaxing stroll and some good restaurants. Along one of the calle is the last remaining workshop where the Venetian gondola is crafted.
The rest of the afternoon and evening is at leisure.

Wednesday 1 Oct                                                                                                             (D)
This morning we join our chef at the Rialto markets to select the ingredients for the preparation of tonight’s dinner – emphasis on how to choose the freshest seafood. We then learn how to make Venetian dishes based on the seasonal ingredients we’ve selected. Anyone for dinner on the Campo this evening?

Following the lesson, we stroll to the nearby Ca’ Rezzonico, one of the most splendid Baroque palaces on the Grand Canal.  It was begun in the mid 1600s by Baldassare Longhena for the Bon family but was so costly that it wasn’t until the mid 1700s that the Rezzonico family completed the palazzo and decorated it in grand style.  It became their ‘party house’ when all of Venice was famous for parties. For a brief time in the late 1800s the poet Robert Browning lived there, loving its comfort and splendour. Since the early 1900s Ca’ Rezzonico has been a gallery museum, housing the best of 18th century Venice and the Veneto:  rich in grand rooms, furnishings and works of art. We’ll visit this palazzo with a guide who can encompass its story and the best of the works it holds.
The remainder of the day is at leisure until we meet to enjoy the dinner we prepared this morning.

Thursday 2 Oct
Today you have at leisure to follow your special interests. We are providing a list of hints and suggestions which you may find useful during your other leisure time.
·         Il Burchiello: this was a boat which left Venice along the Brenta River, using lock gates, so that nobles and merchants could access their country villas in the Veneto. The Burchiello was pulled by horses along the river’s edge. Today a more modern craft is used to navigate the Brenta river, with three stops to visit three different Venetian villas - Palladio’s Villa Foscari nicknamed the Malcontenta, Villa Widman and the impressive Villa Pisana di Stra. There is a stop for lunch, an option.  Perhaps pack a picnic.  The tour finishes in Padua so you can return to Venice by train.

·         A visit to the Basilica San Giorgio Maggiore located on an island of the same name, accessible by vaporetto.  This church is one of the largest in Venice, the work of Andrea Palladio, with works of Tintoretto, Palma il Giovane, Jacapo da Bassano.  Next to the Basilica is the neo-classical bell-tower from which there is the best view of Venice and the lagoon. The island also contains the Giorgio Cini Foundation lodged in an historic building which has guided tours in English at 11.00, 13.00, and 15.00.
·         Each evening at 8.00 pm in the old Theatre of San Gallo, a group of actors play out the story of Venice including the meaning of the masks.  It’s in English and is well told. The Theatre shop has an excellent free exhibit of Commedia dell’ Arte masks.

·         The Doges Palace: perhaps best visited with a guided tour to avoid the ticket queues.
·         Venice offers a Museum Pass which includes the Doges Place, Ca’ Rezzonico, Ca’ Pesaro, the Fortuny Museum, the Glass and the Lace Museums on this islands of Murano and Burano, plus others (it doesn’t include the Accademia).  If you enjoy museums this is most useful.

·         Another pass, the Chorus Pass, gives entry to the art treasures held in almost 20 of Venice’s churches which until recently were hidden from the public eye.
·         There are many other galleries e.g that of Peggy Guggenheim.

Friday 3 Oct                                                                                                                                    (D)
This morning we join a small group tour “Private Secret Gardens of Venice Walking Tours - explore some of the hidden gardens of the city and learn the history that brought the locals to build gardens in such a difficult environment. Gardens in Venice come as a surprise and although many palaces own their own small private gardens, your impression while walking around Venice is that it is a city of stone. Gardens played an important role … and these aspects will be discussed during the tour… three gardens, two belonging to convents and one belonging to a secluded palace…” (Avventure Bellissime)

Your day is at leisure until sunset.  We then join the gondolas for a tour along small canals and the Canale Grande: without the daytime traffic of garbage junks and delivery boats we can enjoy the play of lights on water, the grand buildings and the sound of people enjoying it all.  Our evening is complete with a Farewell to Venezia dinner.

Saturday 4 Oct                                                                                                                   (L)
We leave our apartments and take the water taxis to Tronchetto where we meet the driver who will transfer us from Venice into the Veneto, famous for its food, wine and the ‘villa’. The first villas in the Veneto date back to Roman times in 200 B.C.  

But the tradition of the ‘Villa Veneta’, the country manor of rich Venetian nobles and merchants, began in the 1500s. The outstanding architect of this period was Andrea Palladio whose work satisfied the classical ideals of the noble families while allowing for the practicalities of a producing farm.  Travelling north from Treviso we’ll visit one of the most beautiful Palladio villas, Villa Barbaro, named for its founder Daniele Barbaro but more commonly called Villa Maser as it’s on the outskirts of the village of Maser.  Of unusual interest is that the Villa is still inhabited by descendents of the original founders and the surrounding property still farmed – the wines, including a Prosecco, and the olive oil are excellent.  The main part of the villa is open to us as are the original gardens which are an on-going work of restoration.  The old Carriage Shed, with its carts and coaches, is also included in the visit.

We enjoy a light lunch which includes a tasting of the villa’s wines and the story of their production.  After lunch we go to the small town of Asolo, known as the ‘city of a hundred horizons’, due to its setting among the mountains. The town is also famous for its antique shops.  You’ll have time at leisure to explore before we set out for Verona, our home for the next three nights. We’ll be staying in an area called the ‘Veronetta’, a short walk across the river Adige and the busy ‘tourist’ centre of town.  There’s the University nearby, the green hills behind and lots of charming coffee shops and places to eat.   It’s a pleasant, lively, ‘local’ place. After we settle into our accommodation we meet for an aperitif in a special little bar/restaurant, the Café Carducci.  Your evening is at leisure.

Sunday 5 Oct                                                                                                                      (B)
This morning we meet our local guide for a two hour walking tour of Verona, one of Italy’s most alluring cities, circled by the river Adige whose waters are fast running and richly green, crossed by fine bridges one of them Roman. The Romans came in 89 B.C. and our tour includes many of their remains such as the Ampitheatre which is still in use today for major concerts and shows.  Verona’s position on the river made it the crossroads between Venice, Genoa and the Brenner Pass bringing the influence of other cultures still present today.  There is of course the story of Romeo and Juliet… our tour includes them as well.  The City Tour will also give you a ‘feel’ for the town: its elegant shops, its antiques, its galleries and extraordinary churches such as San Zeno and Sant’ Anastasia which has an unusual ceiling frescoed with stylized plants and flowers.
After the tour your time is at leisure to explore the town and visit places of interest that you may have noticed during the City Tour.

Monday 6 Oct                                                                                                                    (B)
Today is at your leisure. We meet in the morning perhaps at the Café Carducci to discuss the possibilities:
·         The Giusti Gardens, created towards the end of the 1400s, are recognized as one of the most beautiful of Italy’s Renaissance. The ‘belvedere’ at the top of the gardens offers one of the most beautiful panoramas of Verona.
·         Verona offers a number of organized tours: to the stunning castle of Sirmione; to the Veneto vineyards for tastings of the famous Valpollicella; to the Tenuta Santa Maria alla Pieve on Lake Garda…
·         Get a Verona Card and visit the many archeological sites, museums, churches etc that Verona offers.
·         Locals in Verona love to walk or cycle along their river or go up into the hills above the Roman theatre to the Castle of San Peter, overlooking the town.  Join them.
In the evening we meet again at the Café Carducci for a Farewell to Verona aperitif.

Tuesday 7 Oct                                                                                                                    (B)
We travel to the charming town of Como which nestles in a green hollow at the end of the western branch of the lake that bears its name. Como was established by the ancient Romans and is still surrounded by its Medieval walls which protect the magnificent cathedral, famous churches and delightful garden villas. Since the 1500s Como has been the capital of the most precious of fabrics, Silk, and is reputed to be one of the best place for fashion shopping outside Milan.  The lake itself, often known by its old name of ‘Lario’, lies in a dreamlike landscape of soft hills, rugged mountains and still waters which have enthralled travelers since pre-historic times.
This afternoon we take the fast ferry from Como to Tremezzo and walk along the lake shores to the fabled Villa Carlotta, created in the 1600s in a natural basin between the mountains and the water.  In the 1800s the villa became a ‘must’ for travelers doing the European Grand Tour, housing works by Canova, Thorvaldsen and Hayez.  Later in that century Princess Marianne of Nassau bought the villa as a gift to her daughter Carlotta on her marriage to Georg of Saxe-Meiningen who was passionate about botany and who improved an already beautiful park/garden.  Today we can visit the villa itself and the extensive surrounds: the Italian Garden and Citrus Arbor, the Garden of Ferns, the Camelia Garden, the Azaleas, the Rhododendron Wood, the Bamboo Garden, the Rock Garden.  Prepare to walk, to sit, to admire.
Evening at leisure.

Wednesday 8 Oct                                                                                                             (B)
This morning we cross the waters again to the magic town of Bellagio, set on the end of a promontory between the western and eastern branches of the lake. For centuries Bellagio has simply been called ‘the Pearl of lario’:  its beauty persuaded the Roman writer Pliny the Younger to build his summer villa there and the rich and famous have followed suit. We visit the elegant neo-classic Villa Melzi, set in English-style gardens which follow the lake shore. The villa and gardens were created in the early 1800s for Franceso Melzi, Duke of Lodi, who wanted a villa that was sober and elegant which would not overwhelm the lovely surrounding lake and countryside. The park/garden is rich in rare and exotic plants. Because of the beauty of this place and the lakeside village of Bellagio you will want time at leisure to explore, to shop and enjoy fine local food.
We meet at sunset for an aperitif in Bellagio before taking the fast ferry back to Como.  Evening at leisure.

Thursday 9 Oct                                                                                                                   (B)
A day at leisure to enjoy this area.   We suggest the following:
·         A day in Varenna, a morning cooking lesson and lunch with the afternoon at leisure to explore this pretty lakeside town. 
·         Visit the beautiful Villa Monastero and Villa Cipressi and their gardens.  These villas are now quality hotels but their gardens remain open to the public. 
·         The best way to experience Lake Como is by boat: there are luxury launches which do tours and explore the nooks and crannies; there’s a public ferry trip which stops at villages along the way, with the option of lunch on board, and finishes at the ancient Abbey of Piona where a monk can give you a guided visit.
·         Take the ferry for a visit to the stunning garden Villa del Balbianello.
·         Como itself is worth exploring: a funicular goes up to the tiny village of Brunate offering grand views of the lake; a pleasant walk along the lake shore leads to one of the most beautiful villas, Villa Olmi now a luxury hotel with a charming bar for an evening aperitif (you can also swim in a clean water pool and sun yourself on the lake shore at Villa Olmi);  in  Como the quality of the shopping, including silks, is excellent and its caffès, tea-houses and restaurants likewise, a pleasant lively town.

Friday 10 Oct                                                                                                                      (B, D)
We leave Como for Milan. This is a quick trip and our hotel is near the Milan Central station and the centre of town. After our arrival we can orient ourselves in this big and busy city, perhaps learn how the Metro works, and become familiar with central Milan including some of the major shopping streets plus important museums and galleries. You have time at leisure until early evening when we meet for a visit to the Duomo before taking the tram or metro to Naviglo  where we explore this fascinating old area and enjoy a Farewell Dinner.

Saturday 11 Oct
Enjoy Milan at your leisure – its galleries, museums, shops and excellent restaurants.  Buon Divertimento!
Sunday 12 Oct
Independent departure from Milan.  Buon Viaggio!


A$  8,990.00 per person twin share*
A$10,890.00 per person single room throughout #

·         Airfare Credit of $2,200.00 (we suggest Emirates however it is your choice of airline and routing)
  • Fully guided by Barbara Mariotti for 15 days
o    27 September to 12 October 2014
  • Transfers between cities by private coach
  • City Access Tickets for coaches in Venice, Verona, Como & Milano
  • Water taxi from Airport to closest Wharf to apartment in Venice
  • Water taxi to Coach Point in Venice
  • Taxis from City Bus Point to hotels were applicable
  • Vaporetto weekly pass in Venice
  • 1 metro ticket in Milano
  • Ferry/hydrofoil return Como/Bellagio
  • Accommodation Venice x 7 nights:  twin share or single occupancy room in 2 bedroom apartment with private facilities  - note this is over 7 apartments and some rooms will have a double bed and some 2 twins beds, first to book will have the choice.
  • Accommodation Verona (tba)  x 3 nights: single room with private facilities 
  • Accommodation Albergo Firenze, Como x 3 nights:   single room with private facilities
  • Accommodation Milano (tba) x 2 nights: single room with private facilities
  • Bed tax x 15 nights
  • Italian continental breakfast daily in hotels Verona, Como & Milano only (B)
o   You will be responsible for your own breakfast in Venice
  • 3 dinners with wine (1/4 bottle each) (D)
  • 1 lunch in Venice
  • 1 wine tasting lunch
  • 1 cooking lesson & dinner
  • 4 aperitivi
  • 5 Entries:  Accademia; Villa Maser; VillaMelzi; Villa Carlotta; Ca’ Rezzonico
  • Guided tours Venice:
o   Dtte. Balanzone – Comedia dell’Arte
o   “Essence of Venezia”
o   “Secret Gardens of Venice”
o   Murano Glass Workshop
o   Mask Workshop
o   Ca’ Rezzonico
o   Gondola ride – 4 pax per boat
  • City Guide in Verona
  • Luggage transfers
  • Porterage assistance to Venice apartments 
  • Porterage in and out of hotels: Verona, Como & Milano

All due care will be taken to ensure inclusions will be delivered as agreed.  In case of changes beyond our control, we will provide viable alternatives.

·         Laundry, telephone calls and other items of a personal nature
·         Meals other than those specified – breakfast is not included in Venice – this is so you can experience “living” like a Venetian!
·         Gratuities
·         Security Deposit for each of the apartments in Venice. 
o   A credit card must be presented by one guest in each apartment against any damage.  An inspection will be carried out by the booking agency Truly Venice on departure of the guests and any damage found will be debited against the credit card being held for that apartment by the agency


·         A  $4,000 deposit is due at time of booking at which stage we will book and ticket your airfares.  Should the best airfare of the day come in under the allocated amount of A$2,200 you will have the difference applied to your final balance, if it is more expensive it will be invoiced at time of requesting your final balance.
·         Costs are based on current exchange rates and a minimum of 12 passengers travelling on the entire itinerary, if any of these factors change a recost may be necessary.
·         Travel insurance is compulsory and in the interest of each passenger, to cover medical emergencies, loss of luggage/bookings and in case of cancellation ECM Travel can provide cover with Comprehensive Holiday Insurance.
·         The Tour Manager reserves the right to decline to accept any person as a member of a tour
·         The passenger must declare that they are not travelling against any medical advice

10% of the deposit is non-refundable
Plus any penalties applied by the airline issuing your ticket.

39 – 30 days prior to tour                              30%
29 – 16 days prior to tour                              50%
15 – 0 days prior to tour                                100%

How to book in
For Bookings please contact Karen Caba from Elite Conference Management and Travel on email – or by phone (03) 8682 8895
Please note:
* Twin share in Venice is two people sharing a bedroom in a 2 bedroom apartment in two twin beds and a room with two beds in the hotels for the remainder of the tour.
# Single room in Venice is a single occupancy room in a 2 bedroom apartment then single hotel room throughout for the remainder of the tour

Karen Caba
Elite Conference Management and Travel
tel: (03) 86828895 (7am to 2pm EST)
License: 3575049
ABN: 54854747594