Venice is a truly captivating city of romance; its unrivalled beauty takes away the breath of first time visitors and regulars alike. Included in our time in Venice is two nights at the iconic five-star Hotel Danieli. The hotel enjoys a spectacular location and is only a short stroll from St Mark’s Square, the Doge's Palace and the Bridge of Sighs.
On our first evening we will enjoy a welcome reception dinner at the hotel, giving you the opportunity to meet fellow travelers and learn more about our journey through this fascinating part of Europe.
Guests will have the opportunity to take a walking tour around the highlights of this romantic city. Alternatively, you can spend the day exploring this magnificent city at your leisure, maybe taking an iconic gondola ride in the basin of St. Mark’s or see St Mark’s Basilica or stroll through the Rialto Market. This evening you will enjoy a private pianist concert at the Palazzetto Bru Zane.
This morning we transfer from the hotel, by boat, directly to Santa Lucia station on the Grand Canal where our train the Golden Eagle Danube Express will be ready to receive us. We will begin our journey threading our way out onto the 3-mile causeway over the Venice Lagoon and along the Po River to Cremona. This charmingly quaint and understated city carries itself with impressive architecture and is almost completely off the major tourism radar.
After browsing the impressive 13th century piazza we’ll take a private tour of the fabled Stradivari Museum to allow us to explore the city’s intertwined relationship with violins and other stringed instruments. A gourmet lunch will then be served on board the train as we continue onto Verona. Famous for being the setting of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, we will enjoy a concise yet informative walking tour of the city’s famous sites.
This evening, dinner will be served just out of the city at the stunning setting of Sirmione on Lake Garda.
After a delicious on board breakfast, we will arrive in the food capital of Italy, Bologna. Beautiful from nearly all angles, a morning tour highlighting the character and history of this renowned culinary destination will allow us to take in the city’s many famous arches and its historic university. A toast at the top of the Torre di Prendiparte will set up the afternoon as we travel onwards to Rimini, situated on the Adriatic Coast.
With Freedom of Choice touring options available this afternoon you could visit the Ferrari factory in nearby Maranello and includes a guided tour around the test-track.
Alternatively, explore the enclaved microstate of San Marino where we can tour the designated UNESCO World Heritage centre along with Mount Titano. Dinner will be served here and will feature the country’s famous Torta Tre Monti or ‘Cake of the Three Towers’.
This morning, enjoy stunning coastal views from our carriages as we travel along the eastern Italian seaboard to our next stop in the Apulia region at Bari. You will enjoy a guided tour of Bari’s Florentine style old-town and its domineering fortress and castle that has stood guarding the port since the 12th century. You also have the chance to visit a local olive oil mill complete with a tasting just a few minutes from the station.
Tonight as we sit down for dinner we’ll travel across central Italy west through the Matese hills.
The crumbling ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii await our exploration today. These two towns, which were destroyed by lava flow in the momentous eruption of 79AD have been painstakingly conserved over centuries to keep visitors coming to the region. We will take a behind the scenes tour of how preservation work is a continuous race against time to protect the original splendor. After soaking up the atmosphere of these Roman ghost-towns, we will take a stop at the Michelin-starred restaurant, President, at the foot of Mount Vesuvius, to sample local wine and taste a few of delicious, slowly ripening Piennolo tomatoes.
This afternoon our spectacularly scenic rail journey continues as we leave the region of Campania and journey all the way to the southern tip of the Italian mainland at Villa San Giovanni. On this stretch of rail, we’ll be travelling through the remarkable Parco Nazionale del Cilento, Vallo di Diano e Alburni, filled with mountains, forests, rivers and creeks.
Enjoy a delicious locally-sourced breakfast on board as the Golden Eagle Danube Express begins its movement onto one of the very few ‘train ferries’ in the world across to Sicily. Our first stop after the crossing is the flamboyant and feisty capital of Sicily, Palermo. Here we’ll take in a gentle walking tour of the city’s bustling old-town, and enjoy the city’s melting pot of architectural styles. We will finish the tour with an aperitif and small concert at the stunning Teatro Massimo, the biggest theatre in Italy and the third largest in Europe.
This afternoon you have the choice to continue browsing the capital or take a transfer to Corleone to learn about the notorious Mafia families made famous by Francis Ford Coppola's motion picture, The Godfather.
Wake up in Agrigento, home to Italy’s most impressive Greek ruins. While the city itself lacks characters, we will focus on the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Valle Dei Templi with a privately lead tour around the remains of the ancient city.
This afternoon we will continue onto Ragusa. This quaint small town has plenty of character with its many grey stone houses and churches littering the hillside making for wonderful picture post-card scenery. A cooking demonstration at a nearby hotel will allow us to get hands on with local delicacies before a brief walking tour of the historical old-town.
Tonight the train will continue on to Syracuse.
The former Byzantine empire was both founded and raised at our first destination of the day in Syracuse. We’ll escape the hustle and bustle of the city itself and take the view from the water with a tour around the Island of Ortigia before heading back to the train for lunch.
We will then continue to the attractive hilltop town of Caltagirone. Celebrated for producing beautiful pottery since the 10th century, we will visit a local ceramic workshop before an intriguing visit to the Villa Romana del Casale, one of the best preserved Roman Villas in the world, to discover more about the Roman civilisation that once ruled the island. This evening, we will enjoy a special dinner deep in the countryside at the renowned restaurant, Al Fogher.
Following a leisurely breakfast on board, admiring the pleasing passing Sicilian landscapes, you will have the option of free time to explore the various characterful squares and churches of Catania, before taking a hands-on Sicilian pastry cooking class at the Società Storica Catanese (Catania Historical Society).
Later this afternoon, the train will continue onto our final stop of Taormina with two nights at the Hotel San Domenico Palace.
With views overlooking the gulf of Naxos and Mount Etna, the city of Taormina makes for a truly memorable setting for the end of our voyage. A privately guided tour of the Mount Etna museum with a local volcanologist will start our day before taking time on the slopes of the geological wonder itself at a Sicilian palmento. Here you’ll sample local wines and take lunch amongst the vineyards. This afternoon we’ll have time to relax amongst the gorgeous medieval churches and the stunning Greek theatre.
Tonight, we toast the success of the tour at our farewell dinner at the Hotel San Domenico Palace, complete of course with champagne.
After breakfast, you will be transferred onto the airport for onward departures.