'Best of Italy and Croatia 2017' is a 19-night cruise-tour featuring a seven-night 'Best of Croatia' round-trip from Venice aboard Ponant's Le Lyrial and an exploration of Italy with a difference.
As an example of French luxury yachting sophistication, Le Lyrial, sailing under the French flag and only a year old, tops the range. This boutique-size ship has just 122 staterooms and suites, to keep life aboard convivial and intimate.
'Best of Italy and Croatia 2017', arranged and delivered by boutique voyage and cruise specialists Cruise Traveller (cruisetraveller.com.au) also includes an 11-night 'Italian Indulgence' small-group tour with Back-Roads Tours from Rome to Venice. The itinerary is distinguished throughout by vivid special experiences: cook up an Italian feast in a Tuscan villa, hunt for truffles in Piedmont, take a boat across Lake Maggiore to the Borromean Islands.
You'll also wander the ancient streets of Split, where people still live in the palace built by Roman Emperor Diocletian. Discover Lake Orta, a hidden Italian gem enlivened by the captivating medieval village of Orta San Giulio.
Also included in 'Best of Italy and Croatia 2017': 11 nights accommodation in Italy. You'll spend one night in Assisi, two nights in Tuscany, two nights in Lucca (often considered the most spectacular walled town in Italy), a night in Santa Margherita, a night in Cherasco, two nights at enchanting Lake Maggiore, a night in Negrar and a night in incomparable Venice.
There are three departure dates in 2017 for 'Best of Italy and Croatia 2017' and the prices vary seasonally. The following prices (per person twin share, land only) all include twin-deluxe balcony accommodation aboard Le Lyrial.
Departing Rome 10 August 2016, the holiday costs from A$10,195.
Departing Rome 11 May 2016, the holiday costs from A$10,495.
Departing Rome 18 May 2016, the holiday costs from A$10,795.
'Best of Italy and Croatia 2017' starts in Rome, where you'll meet your Back-Roads tour manager and fellow travellers before heading to Assisi, birthplace of St Francis.
The Back-Roads itinerary takes in Tuscany, Cinque Terra, Piedmont, The Lakes and Venice, through landscapes of vineyards and olive groves, visiting Siena, staying in an idyllic villa in the renowned Chianti region and helping prepare a classic rustic Tuscan lunch.
Florence – birthplace of the Renaissance and home to some of the world's great art masterpieces – is followed by Lucca, where the Puccini Opera takes place each evening. Discover the Leaning Tower of Pisa, experience the glitz and glamour of the Italian Riviera and the five captivating villages of the UNESCO-protected Cinque Terre.
In the Piedmont village of Barolo, join a truffle hunt with a local farmer. All that searching is thirsty work, so continue to Grinzane Cavour Castle for a wine tasting followed by a sumptuous dinner in Cherasco.
The wonders of the Italian Lakes come next, a boat trip to the Borromean Islands from Lake Maggiore; then Verona, city of Romeo and Juliet; the Valpolicella region, a wine-lover's delight, before the great Renaissance maritime city of Venice.
Boarding the sumptuous Le Lyrial, you'll find all meals aboard (from dinner on day of embarkation to breakfast on day of disembarkation) are included, an onboard Open Bar and room service operate 24 hours a day. Luggage transfer between ship and pier is included, there's evening entertainment and ports of call are truly rapturous.
Le Lyrial's cruise will take you first to the Adriatic island of Korcula, with its olive groves, beaches and dense woods and to Sibenik on Croatia's Dalmatian coast. Explore Split, where date palms line a seafront esplanade in front of the Roman Emperor Diocletian's palace, and spend a full day in the World Heritage-listed city of Dubrovnik, a masterpiece of cream-coloured stone.
Le Lyrial also visits the medieval walled town of Kotor in Montenegro, UNESCO listed as one of the best preserved and most memorable medieval towns in the Adriatic. You'll visit Rovinj and Pula, star attractions of coastal Istria, and the paradise island of Hvar off the Dalmatian coast.
After all that, Le Lyrial returns to Venice, a city with so many special places and experiences that best-selling American novelist Truman Capote described his visit there as "like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go".
This is where you disembark, so you can find whether Capote was right.