Italy: The Places In Between

Gay Tours Italy

The Less Trodden Route!

September 3-9, 2018

Gay Group Tour of Italy — HIGHLIGHTS

  • The understated handsomeness of Bologna and its 25 miles of elegant porticos
  • Ravenna’s astounding Byzantine-period mosaics
  • Urbane, sophisticated Parma and its wealth of sights
  • Tasting traditional Balsamic vinegar of Modena at its source
  • The Roman-era Arena in Verona and the city’s numerous other attractions
  • Winery tour and tasting at a historic villa in the Valpolicella zone
  • Several UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  • Delicious meals and lovely accommodations, of course!
  • Download Detailed Itinerary

INTRODUCTION

Inspired by the travel guide book of the same title, our tour Italy: The Places In Between focuses on cities in the Emilia-Romagna and Veneto regions — cities that are almost always passed over as tourists head from Florence to Venice. There’s a plethora of worthy sights around here, and we’re very glad to bring you this unique program — our eighth unique itinerary and 22nd tour overall in this enticing country!

Gay Travel ItalyOne of the best-kept secrets in northern Italy, our first of two bases is Bologna — a very handsome city (and a pity that its name conjures up the less-than-appealing American food product). Indeed, some would argue that, after Venice, Bologna is among the most attractive cities in Italy. Home to the world’s oldest university, Bologna lives on its red-brick towers and stately colonnades and is almost universally considered to be Italy’s gourmet capital. The sidewalks in the city center are covered in intricately decorated porticos — some 25 miles of them all together. The feeling of a university city permeates the air, and Bologna feels full of Italians in a way that many other places, thronged with tourists, do not.

Gay Travel ItalyModena vies as Italy’s wealthiest city and can boast the UNESCO World Heritage sites of its 12th-century cathedral, tower, and adjacent main piazza evoking a glorious past. It’s famous for local products: Maserati, Ferrari, opera star Luciano Pavarotti — and not least of all it’s also home to the true traditional Balsamic vinegar, which is little understood and often badly misused! We’ll learn what makes this product so special — some of it aged up to 40 years — and taste various types at one of the area’s artisinal producers.

Gay Vacations ItalyOne of the greatest cities of the Mediterranean from the fifth to the eighth centuries, Ravenna has brick palaces, cobbled streets, magnificent monuments, and spectacular Byzantine-period mosaics. Churches and tombs with the most unassuming exteriors contain within them walls covered with these sumptuous mosaics. These beautifully preserved works of art place great emphasis on nature, which you can see in the delicate rendering of sky, earth, and animals. The mosaics have been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, and they quite handily rival what you’ll find in Istanbul.

LGBT travel ItalyThe stately historic center of Parma shows its prosperity, along with its well-dressed residents and immaculate piazzas. The residents of Parma are generally considered to be the most elegant people of Italy. Bursting with gustatory delights, Parma draws visitors for its sublime cured ham, prosciutto crudo di Parma. The pale-yellow Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese produced here is the original — and best — of a class known around the world as “Parmesan.” The city has also been a mecca for opera lovers. Giuseppe Verdi was from here, and his operas echoed through the Teatro Regio, the opera house that we’ll visit and which is today jam-packed during the season. We’ll also see some of the greatest Romanesque buildings in northern Italy: the 11th-century cathedral and 12th-century Baptistery with its superb sculpture work.

LGBT tours ItalyFounded by the Romans in the 1st century A.D., the enchanting city of Verona is dotted with very attractive palazzi, elegant squares, and medieval gems. Architectural remnants of the Roman era are also a real draw, most notably the famous Arena, which is home to a world-renowned summertime opera festival. It is perhaps the best-preserved Roman amphitheater in the world — and the most famous after the Colosseum in Rome. Dubbed the “City of Love,” romance is most definitely in the air in fair Verona. The city’s most famous residents, Romeo and Juliet, seemed to think so anyway. The Basilica San Zeno Maggiore is another wonderful highlight — a very impressive Romanesque-era building with extraordinary artistic creations. Verona sits on the Adige River which comes tumbling down from the Italian Alps, and indeed just outside the city is hilly terrain and the location of some excellent vineyards, one of which we’ll have the pleasure of visiting to taste their wines.

ACCOMMODATIONS

The following are the hotels that we plan to use for the tour at the time of publishing this itinerary. We reserve the right to make changes to the accommodations.

LGBT Vacations ItalyBologna – 4 nights

The 4-star hotel we’ve selected enjoys a very central location in the heart of the city on a pedestrian-only street, easily walkable to Bologna’s impressive historical attractions, great restaurants, and good shopping. Set in a magnificently restored 15th century palazzo, elegantly designed construction conserves architectural elements of various periods. The beautiful lobby has a real wow factor thanks to a large skylight that floods the pretty space with light. A number of different architectural styles are on display in the hotel yet it all combines to create a whole that’s elegant in an old-fashioned, genteel way. Fresco work and paintings date back to the building’s aristocratic origins.

The 40 rooms come with nice little touches such as fresh fruit, robes, and slippers along with kettles and minibars, beautifully hand-embroidered bedside rugs, and marble bathrooms.

In the lounge the evening starts out with an aperitivo service which provides a small buffet of several pre-dinner appetizers with the purchase of one drink. A top-notch buffet breakfast includes an array of homemade cakes, plus prosecco, freshly squeezed juices, and egg dishes made to order.

veronahotelVerona – 2 nights

This is another very central hotel, in a perfect location for our Verona sightseeing as well as for any shopping you might like to do! A jumble of three ancient palaces have been stitched together and thoroughly modernized inside to create a 4-star hotel while respecting and highlighting the Roman ruins that were discovered beneath in the process. Original frescos and paintings join historically inspired design to create an almost magical atmosphere in the hotel’s interiors. A chic lobby bar lets guests soak up the atmosphere from white leather seats. While the lobby, lounges, and restaurant have a very contemporary, enchanting, and rather hip feel to them, the 75 guest rooms are more classically decorated with stylish furniture, high-class fabrics, patterned wood floors, and red Veronese marble bathrooms. On top of all that there is an equally elegant restaurant with the casual style of a brasserie. Here guests can enjoy refined, novel variations of classic Italian dishes by a Michelin-starred chef.

 

Download Detailed Itinerary

Along the Amalfi Coast

Positano

Sorrento, Capri & the Amalfi Coast

October 5-10, 2017

Gay Group Tour of Italy — HIGHLIGHTS

  • The handsome and venerable resort town of Sorrento — the historic gateway to this area, perched on cliffs above the Bay of Naples and looking out towards Mount Vesuvius
  • Fabled and romantic Capri island with its magnificent views, glamorous shops, bucolic footpaths, and pretty lanes
  • Diminutive but historically-rich Amalfi town, once a significant maritime superpower, with its exceptional Cathedral, lemon groves, and steep alleyways
  • Heavenly views from lofty and refined Ravello, a sky-high retreat that’s hosted writers, musicians, and actors the likes of Garbo, Vidal, Capote, Woolf, Wagner, and Lawrence
  • Stunning, steep Positano — one the Mediterranean’s jewel towns — with its chic boutiques, swaths of bougainvillea, and pastel-colored buildings cascading down to the sea
  • Visit to an excellent winery in the hills overlooking the sea
  • Fun pizza-making session at a working farm with beautiful views of the coast
  • Delicious meals and lovely accommodations, of course!

Download Detailed Itinerary

 

INTRODUCTION

The Amalfi Coast is often thought of as the most beautiful coastline in Italy – and one of the most beautiful in the world. Having done nearly 30 tours in various parts of the country we know Italy very well – and we have to concur with that assessment of this region’s beauty. The scenery is just stunning; the fragrances intoxicating; the engineering feat of the coast road simply amazing to witness; and the colorful towns so attractive and inviting as they cling to the mountains with vistas over the azure waters. The entire area is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

CapriOur tour will begin in lovely Sorrento, looking out on the Bay of Naples and Mt. Vesuvius. This was historically the terminus of the “Grand Tour” of Italy popular with northern Europeans in the 19th century, and it still maintains its very charming draw. A ferry whisks us over to famous Capri so we can capture the best of this utterly captivating island on a day-trip. Then it’s time to explore the Amalfi Coast itself using the town of Amalfi as a base while we explore nearby towns like famously jaw-dropping Positano and lofty, serene Ravello.

boatThis tour will also bring us to a winery high up in the hills — perhaps the best in the region — where we enjoy a tasting of their various wines accompanied by an excellent lunch. And how about a fun pizza-making session at a real working farm in the hills with glorious views out to sea? And we’ll toss in world-renowned gardens as well as a visit to a traditional paper maker, a prominent industry in Amalfi for centuries.

antipastoThis 6-day / 5-night tour combines easily with other destinations in Italy (which has so very much to offer) or in Europe. We can add extra nights for you in Sorrento at the beginning, in Amalfi at the end, or in Naples at either end. Should you be in Naples prior to the tour we can also set up private transfers from Naples (city or airport) to Sorrento, the starting point of our tour.

ACCOMMODATIONS

The following are the hotels that we plan to use for the tour at the time of publishing this itinerary. We reserve the right to make changes to the accommodations.

Sorrento hotelSorrento – 2 nights

With a nice mix of old-school splendor and boutique chic the vibe at our selected 5-star hotel could be described as elegantly casual. The 80 or so spacious guest rooms are well-equipped and have painted-tile floors and carved walnut beds. The hotel’s garden is a delight with lemon trees, fountains, and Roman busts. Service is professionally attentive and cordial. From the rooftop pool and bar/restaurant area you can enjoy a magnificent outlook with the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius forming the panoramic backdrop. Live music is featured a few nights a week. The hotel is in the heart of Sorrento, making it easy to stroll the appealing city center in your free time and choose from the many good restaurants for dinner the second evening. (Please note: the pool might not be open at the time of our tour.)

 Amalfi hotelAmalfi town – 3 nights

Founded as a convent in 1222, allegedly by St. Francis of Assisi himself, our iconic 4-star property (43 rooms) was the first hotel to open on the Amalfi Coast in the early part of the 19th century. It has coved ceilings, graceful arches, and marble columns along with Flemish religious artwork, church and convent artifacts, antique furnishings, and mosaic flooring, all of which blend nearly seamlessly with modern comforts. It’s an intimate atmosphere brimming with historic character. Guest rooms overlook the sea, which is right across the street. Past guests include Otto van Bismarck, Benito Mussolini (:-/), Ingrid Bergman, and Tennessee Williams, among other noted figures. One of the restaurants and its bar are in the 15th-century Saracen tower, perched on a rock over the sea. The famed southern Romanesque cloisters and the beautiful baroque chapel form the heart of the hotel. Below the tower is a seawater pool (which may not be open at the time of our tour). Just a 5-minute walk and you’re in the center of town with its numerous restaurants, cafes, and shops.

Download Detailed Itinerary

Castles, Caves, Cuisine & Cuvées

The Best of Southwestern France!

Gay group tours of France

June 23 to July 1, 2016

Gay Group Tour of France — HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Dordogne Valley, just oozing the essence of “France” with a raft of bastides (fortified villages), medieval castles, a meandering river, and arguably the country’s best cuisine.
  • Artwork at world-famous prehistoric sights: the caves of Lascaux II and Pech Merle.
  • Not just synonymous with the historic worldwide wine trade, Bordeaux with its very handsome city center — the world’s largest UNESCO-listed urban area.
  • The charming village of St-Emilion, home to some of the world’s most famous Bordeaux wines.
  • Albi’s mighty medieval cathedral and the city’s museum with works of native son Toulouse-Lautrec.
  • Stunning hilltop medieval villages like Rocamadour with cliff-face sanctuaries and St-Cirq-Lapopie riddled with cobbled lanes, flower-filled alleys, and pretty views.
  • Toulouse, “La Ville Rose” – or The Pink City –with its red-brick buildings, southern passion, lively student atmosphere, buzzy markets, and stately architecture.
  • Several UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  • Fascinating and lively food markets with delicacies such as foie gras, truffles, walnuts, cheeses, and fine wines.
  • Download Detailed Itinerary

PROGRAM OVERVIEW

Beginning in Bordeaux, ending in Toulouse, and passing a myriad of wonderful sights (and restaurants!) along the way, our newest tour in France covers the best of the southwest! Cuisine, architecture, history, scenic beauty, fine wines — it’s all here!

escorted gay group vacations in FranceBordeaux isn’t just a world-famous wine; it’s also a very handsome and sophisticated city along the banks of the Garonne River. Here you’ll admire some extremely elegant 18th-century architecture in the historic city center, which has been smartly revitalized over the past decade including the riverside quays, wonderful for strolling. Indeed, the city center is a site with pride of place on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, and we explore it on foot taking in a plethora of impressive attractions: buildings, monuments, fountains, quays, churches, and the old quarter. Bonus: Our tour coincides with the bi-annual Bordeaux Wine Festival at which you can taste wines from dozens of producers who set up pavilions along the quays.

Wine enthusiasts will certainly be familiar with the St-Emilion appellation. This tidy, charming, and well-heeled town has been producing Bordeaux wines for over a thousand years. Vineyards creep right up to the town’s walls, and we’ll stop at one to taste what it has on offer as well as stroll the pretty streets of the village.

gay group travel in FranceThe Dordogne River Valley is an irresistible blend of natural and man-made beauty. Farmland and orchards; fields of sunflowers; the meandering river; castles on the cliffs above; numerous charming towns; open-air food markets; and arguably France’s best cuisine all come together in an intoxicating harmony. Sarlat, with its cobblestone lanes, beautiful buildings, and numerous shops, restaurants, and cafés, is our picturesque home base as we explore the area. Some of the attractions we take in during these days include the impressive Castlenaud-la-Chapelle (a prominent stronghold during the Hundred Years’ War); the “Suspended Gardens” of Marquessac high above the river; and the Château des Millandes (where American-born singer/dancer Josephine Baker lived).

gay tour groups DordogneClose to the Dordogne is an area rich in prehistoric cave art. We’ll enjoy the region’s — in fact, the world’s — most famous prehistoric cave paintings at Lascaux. Discovered in 1940 this extraordinary collection of cave art painted by Cro-Magnon man was open to the public for just 15 years before it had to be closed in order to keep it from deteriorating. Lascaux II is the stunningly accurate replication of the original 15,000-year-old paintings we’re permitted to see. (Note: At the time of itinerary planning a new site is being constructed that will include what’s seen at Lascaux II as well as a great deal more of the original site. We may see this depending on the timing of its opening.)

The historic town of Rocamadour in its dramatically steep rock-face setting is quite the sight to behold. Once one of Europe’s top medieval-era pilgrimage stops on the route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain most visitors today (us included) are not climbing the stairs on their knees but come to admire the few ancient chapels and wonderful views of the village cut into the sheer limestone cliffs and out over the countryside.

St Cirq Lapopie - ADT Lot - Jean MaureilleSouth of the Dordogne Valley is yet another beautiful — and often overlooked — valley, that of the Lot River, which meanders through some striking scenery. We stop in at the postcard-pretty and spectacularly sited village of St-Cirq-Lapopie sitting up above the river with its galleries, shops, and lovely views. Local residents have been ardent in preserving the medieval look of the town. Nearby is the Grotte du Pech Merle, a remarkable cave with prehistoric paintings — certainly rivaling those in the Lascaux area — of mammoths, bison, horses, plus a Cro-Magnon footprint.

Not far from Toulouse is the enjoyable river city of Albi, its attractive traffic-free center done in brick and half-timbered buildings. Here we find its mighty, towering Gothic cathedral, almost fortress-like in appearance, with a greatly ornate interior. Next door is the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum containing the world’s largest collection of the artist’s paintings, posters, and sketches.

With its buzzy markets, stately architecture, beautiful old quarter, cracking cultural scene, and heaving university population the red-brick city of Toulouse (dubbed La Ville Rose or The Pink City) is one of France’s liveliest provincial cities — yet it’s greatly overlooked. But not by us . . . we’ll see it as a lovely finale to a lovely trip!

Download Detailed Itinerary

 

Italy: The Places In Between

Gay Tours Italy

The Less Trodden Route!

May 5-12, 2016

Gay Group Tour of Italy — HIGHLIGHTS

  • The understated handsomeness of Bologna and its 25 miles of elegant porticos
  • Ravenna’s astounding Byzantine-period mosaics
  • Urbane, sophisticated Parma and its wealth of sights
  • Tasting traditional Balsamic vinegar of Modena at its source
  • The Roman-era Arena in Verona and the city’s numerous other attractions
  • Winery tour and tasting at a historic villa in the Valpolicella zone
  • Several UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  • Delicious meals and lovely accommodations, of course!
  • Download Detailed Itinerary

INTRODUCTION

Inspired by the travel guide book of the same title, our tour Italy: The Places In Between focuses on cities in the Emilia-Romagna and Veneto regions — cities that are almost always passed over as tourists head from Florence to Venice. There’s a plethora of worthy sights around here, and we’re very glad to bring you this unique program — our eighth unique itinerary and 22nd tour overall in this enticing country!

Gay Tours of ItalyOne of the best-kept secrets in northern Italy, our first of two bases is Bologna — a very handsome city (and a pity that its name conjures up the less-than-appealing American food product). Indeed, some would argue that, after Venice, Bologna is among the most attractive cities in Italy. Home to the world’s oldest university, Bologna lives on its red-brick towers and stately colonnades and is almost universally considered to be Italy’s gourmet capital. The sidewalks in the city center are covered in intricately decorated porticos — some 25 miles of them all together. The feeling of a university city permeates the air, and Bologna feels full of Italians in a way that many other places, thronged with tourists, do not.

Gay Travel ItalyModena vies as Italy’s wealthiest city and can boast the UNESCO World Heritage sites of its 12th-century cathedral, tower, and adjacent main piazza evoking a glorious past. It’s famous for local products: Maserati, Ferrari, opera star Luciano Pavarotti — and not least of all it’s also home to the true traditional Balsamic vinegar, which is little understood and often badly misused! We’ll learn what makes this product so special — some of it aged up to 40 years — and taste various types at one of the area’s artisinal producers.

Guided Tour of Italy for Gay GroupsOne of the greatest cities of the Mediterranean from the fifth to the eighth centuries, Ravenna has brick palaces, cobbled streets, magnificent monuments, and spectacular Byzantine-period mosaics. Churches and tombs with the most unassuming exteriors contain within them walls covered with these sumptuous mosaics. These beautifully preserved works of art place great emphasis on nature, which you can see in the delicate rendering of sky, earth, and animals. The mosaics have been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, and they quite handily rival what you’ll find in Istanbul.

Gay Group Vacations in ItalyThe stately historic center of Parma shows its prosperity, along with its well-dressed residents and immaculate piazzas. The residents of Parma are generally considered to be the most elegant people of Italy. Bursting with gustatory delights, Parma draws visitors for its sublime cured ham, prosciutto crudo di Parma. The pale-yellow Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese produced here is the original — and best — of a class known around the world as “Parmesan.” The city has also been a mecca for opera lovers. Giuseppe Verdi was from here, and his operas echoed through the Teatro Regio, the opera house that we’ll visit and which is today jam-packed during the season. We’ll also see some of the greatest Romanesque buildings in northern Italy: the 11th-century cathedral and 12th-century Baptistery with its superb sculpture work.

Gay Group Tours of ItalyFounded by the Romans in the 1st century A.D., the enchanting city of Verona is dotted with very attractive palazzi, elegant squares, and medieval gems. Architectural remnants of the Roman era are also a real draw, most notably the famous Arena, which is home to a world-renowned summertime opera festival. It is perhaps the best-preserved Roman amphitheater in the world — and the most famous after the Colosseum in Rome. Dubbed the “City of Love,” romance is most definitely in the air in fair Verona. The city’s most famous residents, Romeo and Juliet, seemed to think so anyway. The Basilica San Zeno Maggiore is another wonderful highlight — a very impressive Romanesque-era building with extraordinary artistic creations. Verona sits on the Adige River which comes tumbling down from the Italian Alps, and indeed just outside the city is hilly terrain and the location of some excellent vineyards, one of which we’ll have the pleasure of visiting to taste their wines.

ACCOMMODATIONS

The following are the hotels that we plan to use for the tour at the time of publishing this itinerary. We reserve the right to make changes to the accommodations.

bolognahotelBologna – 4 nights

This is a truly excellent design hotel decorated with understated flair, right in the heart of Bologna. Just a few minutes’ stroll from the city’s main piazza the design of our selected 4-star hotel evokes the Continent back in the 1930s, in the so-called Viennese Secession style, taking inspiration from flower motifs and the works of the painter Gustav Klimt. Clean lines and elegant restraint are the hallmarks of the rooms and the common spaces. Although it turns to the past for its inspiration, it is completely up-to-date in its amenities. There are just a couple dozen rooms, and each is decorated individually. The hotel’s breakfast is abundant; wifi is included; and the staff are cordial and professional.

veronahotelVerona – 3 nights

This is another very central hotel, in a perfect location for our Verona sightseeing as well as for any shopping you might like to do! A jumble of three ancient palaces have been stitched together and thoroughly modernized inside to create a 4-star hotel while respecting and highlighting the Roman ruins that were discovered beneath in the process. Original frescos and paintings join historically inspired design to create an almost magical atmosphere in the hotel’s interiors. A chic lobby bar lets guests soak up the atmosphere from white leather seats. While the lobby, lounges, and restaurant have a very contemporary, enchanting, and rather hip feel to them, the 75 guest rooms are more classically decorated with stylish furniture, high-class fabrics, patterned wood floors, and red Veronese marble bathrooms. On top of all that there is an equally elegant restaurant with the casual style of a brasserie. Here guests can enjoy refined, novel variations of classic Italian dishes by a Michelin-starred chef.

 

Download Detailed Itinerary

Venture Out Premieres New Itinerary in Italy

In September we ran back-to-back tours of our new program in Italy for gay travelers and friends. Fifteen participants joined each trip, and it went superbly (according to several of our guests… )! And we’ll be doing it all again in September 2015. Click here for more information.

This new program has two hotel bases: Bologna and Verona. Around Bologna we also get to explore Ravenna, Modena, and Parma. The tour, entitled “Italy: The Places in Between,” gives a great overview to lovely cities that most tourists pass right over. It’s refreshing not to be inundated by the crowds that often pervade Rome, Florence, and Venice. Join us for some great food and wine; some stunning art history; and lovely cities.

Gay Tour of Italy

To view all the photos from this delightful trip please visit our Facebook page.