Travel is perennially exciting. Planning the trip, then making it a reality, experiencing the sights, smells and languages of other countries is always enticing. If you can remove any of the annoyances of travel, then surely you’re on a winner? That’s why I’m excited to be planning the ins and outs of my forthcoming escorted cruise to the Eastern Mediterranean 16 September to 5 October, 2016. There’s still time to join click here!
What’s not to love?
Venice, built on 117 islands
First up, we start in Venice for two nights, giving time to settle and get over any jetlag – though I always find it is easier flying from Australia to Europe rather than the other way around? In this magnificent city we will enjoy the canals, Renaissance palazzos and of course, the fabulous food and wine from the Veneto region. I’m using my contacts to find lesser-known, non-touristy places to eat and visit, there will also be free time to explore the meandering laneways and bridges of this magical city. Pretty excited to have two recommendations for a restaurant! We will visit the 700 year old Rialto Market through the fresh fish stalls, vegetables and other local produce, take advantage of a short sightseeing tour of Venice making it easier to visit St Mark’s Square, see the Grand Canal, St Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace.
On day four we board the luxurious 5-star Celebrity Constellation.
Now is the time we unpack, only once until we leave the ship. This is one of my favourite things, not having to pack and unpack constantly and the easy ability to pop back to my cabin to change any time I like. It should be an amazing sight as the ship slips her moorings at 5:00pm and sails through the spectacular Grand Canal – an experience not to be missed. Then we have our first on-board dinner together – the first of many fun-filled evenings.
A glorious day at sea
I’m always disappointed if we make land fall the first day. A day at sea is the perfect opportunity to explore the fabulous facilities of our magnificent ship. Relax by the pool or day spa or take a class. The gym is amazing and has the best view from the ship. I’ll break the ice with a talk about how food has evolved over the years including some clips of my TV shows.
View of Taormina from the Greek Theatre
What a great place to make our first day trip! Read how much I enjoyed it last time here in my Day Ashore in Taormina Sicily blog. This famous town, spectacularly located on a 200 metre-high rocky outcrop, with views to Mt Etna was founded by the Greeks, with an ancient theatre that also overlooks the mountain. I can recommend a couple of good places to eat or explore on your own!
Next day we disembark in Naples and visit Sorrento on the Amalfi coast with its spectacular views of the Bay of Naples.
Razor clams at La Basilica Ristorante-Pizzeria, Sorrento
A highlight is learning about how authentic limoncello is made – and tasting, of course! And also learning how to make real gelato. Again if you want to squeeze in a restaurant, I have one I found last year with a couple of people from the cruise! Others had a great time shopping.
Limoncello class in Sorrento
Orvieto, Italy and an indulgent trip into the country
It’s only a quick stop in the medieval hill town of Orvieto but there’s time to visit the Duomo, the impressive Gothic cathedral which houses some of Luca Signorelli’s most beautiful frescoes. Then it’s off to a picturesque vineyard for lunch and a wine tasting. Read all about it here!
Florence, Tuscany, Italy
Next morning we arrive in Livorno, the bustling port for Tuscany. Then it’s a private coach trip through the picturesque Tuscan countryside to the fascinating city of Florence, where we will have a guided tour of the famous San Lorenzo Market before lunch at a great local restaurant. I have a friend who has lived in Florence for 30 years and am picking her brains for the finer details of this amazing place.
Then we have another day at sea when I will conduct an Italian cooking class. I have enjoyed planning the recipes.
As we approach this picturesque town, I will give a talk on Croatian food and wine so that you know what to expect before our afternoon arrival. Next day we have an informative guided tour of the Old Town, via Onofrio’s Fountain and the Old Port. We will visit the grandiose St. Saviour’s church and the legendary Arsenal. I am lucky enough to have friends who live nearby for 3 months of the year and they have given me the lowdown on where to eat and may even come with us! The following day at sea, I will give a Croatian cooking class. I’m currently testing recipes and so far so good!
Finally after 10 glorious nights on board we disembark the ship for our private coach as we leave for the Italian Lakes for the final four nights. On the way we visit one of my favourite places in Italy, Verona, famous as the setting for Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet. And yes, I have signed the famous wall – well my partner did actually! It is a beautiful and romantic historic centre to explore before continuing to Como, where we spend the next four nights. Como was prosperous under the Romans and reached its zenith in the 11th century. Now, it is a modern town situated in a beautiful setting on the shores of Lake Como. Again I’m researching restaurants as previously I have stayed at the lovely Villa d’Este.
Verona – the lovers’ wall below Juliet’s balcony
While we are staying here we will visit Villa Carlotta, known for its beautiful setting and spectacular gardens. It was built in 1745 and later given as a wedding present to Carlotta, Duchess of Saxe Meiningen.
It is idyliic to take ferry across the lake to the lovely town of Bellagio and you never know, we might see George Clooney en route! Occupying a magnificent site on the promontory, dividing Lake Lecco from Lake Como, it is known for its pretty streets, villas and gardens.
We also visit Lake Maggiore, where we take a boat to Isola Bella, the most spectacular of the Borromean Islands. There we will see the Palace, built in the Lombard baroque style, including staterooms, Napoleon’s Room, the Hall of Mirrors, Music Room and ornamental gardens.
There will also be visits to some local food producers before a farewell dinner to celebrate our time in Italy before the flight back from Milan to Australia. At the end of last year’s cruise this was a highlight with a fashion parade of everyone wearing what they had bought, recitations and singing.
Six months later we had an amazing reunion in Sydney Studio Kitchen. This year’s cruise is shaping up the same way with friendships that endure. You still have time to join!
Cruise Reunion in Sydney Studio Kitchen
Priced from $8,995 per person twin share, this fully-escorted 20-day round trip departs on September 16, 2016 and includes return international economy air travel to Italy, a 10-night cruise aboard Celebrity Constellation, 2 nights in Venice, 4 nights in the Italian Lakes and sightseeing tours of Venice, Taormina, the Amalfi Coast, Orvieto, Tuscany, Dubrovnik and the Italian Lakes.
For full details please visit https://travelrite.com.au/gourmet_cruise16.shtml or call Travelrite International on 1800 630 343.