Arrive at Milan Malpensa Airport, where you will be transferred to your hotel.
Milan is a mecca for Italian fashionistas, famous for its innovative design and stylish flair. Venture inside the city’s hulking Gothic cathedral, as well as its cathedral to capitalism, Europe’s oldest shopping arcade. The highlight today is pure genius—Da Vinci’s revolutionary The Last Supper mural, the most famous religious painting in history. Fashion and finance, opera and furniture design, telecom companies and trade fairs—bustling Milan, Italy’s financial and industrial center, is a modern global city whose roots sink deep into the history of Italy. Founded 2,500 years ago, Milan retains traces of every epoch, from Roman, medieval and Renaissance up to the current moment, and it boasts a dazzling bounty of artistic and cultural landmarks, which are yours to experience today.
En route to Venice, you’ll stop in the literary hometown of Shakespeare’s famously star-crossed teen lovers to see the sights and the famous balcony—yes, that balcony. Later, enjoy lunch at a historic wine estate owned by descendants of Dante, the great Italian poet who penned The Inferno. You’ll check out of your hotel this morning and head toward the Adriatic coast and magical Venice, but the day includes two delightful stops en route: Verona, forever associated with Romeo and Juliet, and the Valpolicella wine country.
If ever there was a city that could be described as “bewitching” and “ethereal,” Venice is it. An expert guide will show you iconic sites as well as quiet lanes and secret spots known only to locals (shhhh….). Also on deck today: a scenic cruise around the Venetian Lagoon and an experience that’s sure to be a highlight of your trip—an extremely rare after-hours visit to St. Mark’s Basilica. Hoping to escape marauding Huns, Goths and Vandals as the Roman Empire collapsed in the fifth century, refugees built a little settlement they called Venice on tiny islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. By the 12th century, Venice was the wealthiest and most powerful city-state in Europe, controlling the Mediterranean and all European trade with the East. Its merchant-aristocrats lavished their wealth on palaces and churches, art and music, creating a city that is truly like no other. Now, seawater laps at the foot of thousand-year-old houses— and sometimes rises above the doorsteps—but the glorious palaces and romantic canals enchant visitors just as they have for centuries. Today you will embark on your own personal voyage of discovery through this entrancing city.
Join a local expert for a stroll around this picturesque fishing village, a popular place for artists, or “Let's Go” with a bike ride along the beaches lining the lagoon. The seaside air and sweeping views are simply spectacular. The River Countess sails from Venice, cruising through the lagoon, past the Lido, the colorful fishermen’s houses of Pellestrina and the huge ongoing flood-control project called MOSE (which is designed to protect Venice from rising seawater), before docking in Chioggia, sometimes called “Little Venice,” at the southern end of the lagoon. Special attention to: We are obliged to comply with Italian Maritime Authorities who require that the ship is only manned by crew during the Adriatic Sea passage. We thank you for your cooperation.
Bologna or Ferrara? Let your passions be your guide today. If you have an appetite for pasta, head to Bologna—the heart of Italian culinary traditions—and learn how to make (and eat!) your own lunch. Or indulge your appetite for art with an excursion to Ferrara, an ancient center for the arts that once rivaled Medici Florence. Today you face a tough decision: Do you spend a full day in Bologna, the culinary capital of Northern Italy, or visit UNESCO-designated Ferrara, a beautifully preserved Renaissance city?
Chioggia is such a delight that we’ll return there today to experience something completely different. You can visit the village’s bustling once-a-week market—a colorful and boisterous scene, and quintessentially Italian. Dip into a lively local scene with a stroll through Chioggia. Special attention to: We are obliged to comply with Italian Maritime Authorities who require that the ship is only manned by crew during the Adriatic Sea passage. We thank you for your cooperation.
Venice is an island surrounded by hundreds of smaller islands, three of which you’ll visit today—Burano, famous for its lace-makers and houses painted in eye-popping colors; Mazzorbo, where you’ll taste a historic golden-hued wine; and Torcello, home to beautiful Byzantine mosaics.
Lovers of food and wine flock to Italy to immerse themselves in a true farm-to-table epicurean experience. If that sounds like you, you’ll love today’s walking tour to the famous fish and produce market next to the Rialto Bridge. Prefer a more visual feast? Join an art historian for a highlights tour of the Accademia gallery. Further your acquaintance with the city called the “Queen of the Adriatic” with a tour of its marvelous food markets (your ship’s chef might just lead your expedition) or take a tour of the stunning Academy museum.
Disembark the ship. If your cruise/tour package includes a group departure transfer or if you purchased a private departure transfer, you will be transferred to Venice Marco Polo International Airport for your flight home.