Spend eight days in two of Italy's great arty cities; Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, and Venice, the city that feels like a living Canaletto painting. Enjoy the best of earthy Tuscan cuisine and Venice's Silk Road-inspired seafood, and get under the skin of both destinations with our excellent guides.
Your two-hour flight to Florence will leave the UK late-morning and land in Florence just after lunchtime.
After a private transfer to your city centre hotel you will be plunged into the heart of the Florentine Republic - once one of the most powerful in Europe - steps away from the Palazzo Vecchio, the Loggia and the Uffizi Gallery. Spend the rest of the day getting your bearings and wandering the streets of the city. When it comes to dinner time, our detailed destination Dossier is packed full of our favourite things to see and do.
There is a reason Florence is seen as the intellectual and artistic core of the Renaissance, and today you will dig deep into how and why.
With your expert guide you will take a detailed look at the piazze della Signoria (where political power was exercised) and del Duomo (where religious power was in charge). History covered, you will move onto art, visiting the haunts of the Renaissance greats; including the convent of San Marco, decorated by Fra Angelico, and the site of many a grizzly execution.
This morning you will meet your expert guide at the Market of San Lorenzo, the covered market at the heart of foodie Florentine's everyday life.
The market traders showcase an extraordinary selection of cheeses, meats, olive oils, biscuits, the list goes on, all of which form part of Florentine and wider Tuscan cuisine. And of course there's the famous red wine produced just outside the gates of Florence: Chianti Classico. Your visit will end with a tasting; four charcuteries, four cheeses, focaccia (typical Tuscan bread) and all manner of products made from truffles (think: oil, cream, honey and butter). You will also get to choose between tasting a selection of pastas or three wines.
Elegant and haughty, the city on the banks of the Arno was profoundly shaped during the reign of Lorenzo the Magnificent between 1449 and 1492. Spend today discovering the splendour of its palaces and churches or head out to the surrounding hills and have a nose around Renaissance villas (our favourites are the Villa Medicea di Careggi and Villa Demidoff, the Medici's country pile).
Lovers of antiques can poke around Florence's 150 antique shops - if you find something you like our concierge can arrange for it to be delivered to your door, so you don't spend any time worrying about the carefulness or otherwise of airport baggage handlers. We can also arrange privately guided tours around some of the best museums in the world, including the Uffizzi and the Pitti Palace.
After a private transfer to Santa Maria Novella train station you will take you seat in the First Class carriage of the frecciarossa, Italy's high-speed and super swanky trains. Once you've arrived in Venice's Santa Lucia train station, a private water taxi will be waiting to whisk you, film star-like, to your Venetian palazzo home for the next few days.
Bags dropped off, we recommend getting out and exploring La Serenissima on the vaporetto, Venice's water-based public transport system. Travelcards for the duration of your stay will be waiting for you in your room, so head out and explore like a local. Your detailed destination Dossier is full of our favourite things to see and do in the city, but Venice is also one of our favourite places to get lost in the winding alleys and campi -piazzas in Venice are always called campi because they were once grazing spots for the city's livestock.
To truly get under the skin of Venice you need to explore in the company of an expert. As you explore the sesitieri (Venice's six neighbourhoods) your guide will tailor the tour to your interests - art, history, even the city's topography.
Even in the most visited and showiest cities in the world there are secret spots, and together you will hunt them out, at the same time unravelling the watery city's history, from its beginnings as a malaria ridden hide-out for refugees fleeing the marauding hordes of Germanic invaders after the collapse of the Roman empire to it's peak as the trading capital of the world, and its inhabitants, from Marco Polo and Casanova to Ernest Hemmingway. You will also visit the islands of the lagoon, including Murano - where the most beautiful glass in the world is made - and Burano - ditto, but with lace - and make a stop at Venice's beach, on the lido.
Before your late afternoon flight home today, you will take a look at the Queen of the Adriatic through you camera lens.
We will team you up with a photographer who is an expert in taking photos with whichever camera you use - we even have iPhone photography experts - and who knows Venice like the back of their hand. As well as the sites which cannot be missed (Saint Mark's Square, the Rialto bridge, etc.) you will visit some secret spots off the tourist-beaten path to make sure your trip is immortalised in the perfect Instagram-worthy shot.
Depending on which flight we have booked for you, you will take a private water taxi transfer to the airport late morning or early afternoon, arriving in good time for your two-and-a-half-hour flight home.