See yourself riding a bike along Tuscan roads flanked by fields of cheery yellow sunflowers, their happy faces turned to the sun. Or maybe you’d prefer sipping wine alfresco at a tiny table alongside a Venice canal, the occasional gondolier singing as he poles by. These experiences barely touch on the abundance of artistic and cultural heritage that awaits you in the magical land of la dolce vita. When you engage in authentic cultural experiences in Italy you gain the very best memories to cherish and travel tales to tell.
The luxury travel company Belmond offers travelers some of the world’s greatest travel adventures at one-of-a-kind hotels, trains, river cruises, and safari lodges around the world. In Italy, guests have exclusive Belmond-only access to a selection of iconic cultural experiences. Here are five of the very special cultural experiences Belmond guests can enjoy in Italy.
The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
There is simply no finer way to arrive in Italy than by way of this luxurious sleeper train that needs no introduction. Begin your journey in London on the British Pullman with a welcome Bellini and brunch. In France, transfer to the storied Venice Simplon-Orient-Express with its historic carriages appointed with polished wood and antique fixtures.
Enjoy a four-course culinary adventure of a lifetime in one of the three elegant restaurant cars and maybe a nightcap in the Bar Car before you retire to your private Cabin Suite for the night. Breakfast is served in your cabin as you admire the mountain scenery. Traveling into Italy, the scenic mountains yield to verdant vineyards and charming villages. You’ll enjoy another sumptuous meal, a gourmet three-course lunch, before arriving in Venice.
After experiencing the epitome of the glamour and elegance of the Golden Age of travel, spend two nights at the fabled Belmond Cipriani Hotel, a true Venetian classic. Take a Michelin-starred culinary journey in the exquisite setting of Oro. For a definitive cultural experience, you can have the sole table, joined by the accomplished executive chef who crafted your customized menu.
Playing in Portofino
The Italian Riviera has long been the playground of ‘the beautiful people’ celebrities, movie stars, and countless European royalty. When you stay at Splendido, a Belmond Hotel Portofino, you, too, can embrace the glamorous lifestyle and enchanting views. Take an exclusive tour of two private villas in the village, admire the remarkable art and furniture collections, and chat with the owners about the history of Portofino. Then visit a traditional ship maker in his quaint boatyard on the sparkling turquoise bay to learn about his craft, followed by an elegant lunch of the freshest boat-to-table bounty.
Belmond also offers another cultural experience in Portofino that gives insight into the mercantile roots and refined lifestyle of the Ligurian Riviera long before the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton began visiting. In nearby Genoa, explore the impressive 16th-century noble palaces and dwellings known as ‘rolli.’ Then step into the gilded lifestyle of the wealthy merchants and enjoy a private lunch on a terrace overlooking the city and the sea.
Truffle Hunting in Tuscany
Belmond Castello de Casole is a 10th-century estate sprawling across 4,200 acres of rolling hills and vineyards. Whether you are watching wildlife by day or stargazing by night, time seems to stand still as you take your leisure at this Tuscan country refuge near Siena.
For more active cultural experiences in Italy’s most picturesque landscape, the Belmond concierge will gladly arrange guided walking or biking tours for every ability to explore local vineyards and olive groves, or the castles and hamlets of the surrounding hill towns.
Tuscany is also known for the finest truffles on Earth. For a very special cultural experience in Italy, follow an expert guide and his Lagotto Romagnolo dogs in search of this elusive delicacy. Although the dogs do all the work of finding and uncovering the treasure, back at the castle you’ll be rewarded with a tantalizing four-course truffle-inspired dinner.
Archeological Treasure Hunting on the Amalfi Coast
Perched 1,000 feet above the water, staying at Belmond’s Caruso is like having a private balcony looking over the Amalfi Coast. For a limited time, the hotel has arranged for a master jeweler to explain ancient Roman and Greek jewelry techniques to interested guests. You can even try your hand at crafting your own works of art.
Belmond Caruso makes it possible for history-loving guests to enjoy a cultural experience in Italy that the public normally cannot access. Discover ancient treasures with exclusive access to the Oplontis archeological site and a private viewing of gold jewelry collections. You can also experience Roman civilization as never before at new Pompei excavations at the UNESCO World Heritage Pompei and the 2,000-year-old Herculaneum theater.
If more recent history is to your taste, visit Naples with an expert storyteller to hear about the beautiful buildings, catacombs, and underground networks that have a fascinating past.
Volcanic Adventure on Sicily
Grand Hotel Timeo, a Belmond Hotel Taormina has Europe’s largest volcano in its backyard. Visiting Mount Etna’s craters and lunar landscape on a custom-designed Belmond tour, and seeing the lava flows up close is a unique adventure.
Your tour also includes a private vineyard tour and wine tasting on the slope of the volcano. You might even get to try some rare vintages. Continuing your cultural experiences in Sicily, lunch on local fare prepared by Le Mamme del Borgo members, a group of local women honoring traditional Sicilian recipes passed down through generations.
In the true fashion of bespoke luxury, Belmond offers guests many additional cultural experiences in Italy. With personalized service and superb accommodations in some of Italy’s loveliest and most interesting spots, a stay with Belmond guarantees a memorable vacation. For help planning your cultural experiences in Italy, contact your Covington vacation advisor.