England, France, Italy
Visiting London for the Chelsea Flower Show, Tuscany, Florence, the Italian Lakes & Nice

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DAY 1 Tuesday 20 May, 2014 Depart Australia 
Today we board our Emirates Airlines over-night flight to London.

DAY 2 Wednesday 21 May, 2014 London 
We arrive in London about noon. On arrival we will be transferred to our hotel by private coach. To begin our exploration of this fascinating and historic city, we meet our London blue badge guide for a comprehensive tour of the main sights. We will see Buckingham Palace, Whitehall, Trafalgar Square, The Strand, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London before being transferred to our hotel.

DAY 3 Thursday 22 May, 2014 London
The highlight of our time in London will be an escorted visit to the famous Chelsea Flower Show. Chelsea is the main event in the English horticultural calendar and boasts amazing displays of the world’s best flowers and plants. You will see fabulous show gardens specially created by leading designers, some of them Australian. Deryn will ensure that you get the most from this wonderful show. We return to our hotel early afternoon, with an optional drop off at Harrods for those who would like to have time to shop. Tonight we will enjoy a welcome dinner to get to know Derryn Thorpe and other tour members.

DAY 4 Friday 23 May, 2014 London 
This morning will be at leisure. In the afternoon we visit the Royal Horticultural Garden, Wisley. The RHS was given Wisley Estate in trust by Sir Thomas Hanbury in 1903. Trials of flowers, vegetables and fruit were expanded at Wisley and they continue to be one of the principal objects of the garden. Several Chelsea Flower Show prize winning gardens are displayed in the grounds.

DAY 5 Saturday 24 May, 2014 Bagno Vignoni, Tuscany 
This morning we are transferred to London’s Heathrow airport for our flight to Rome. Upon arrival we are met by our coach for the trip to the Tuscan village of Bagno Vignoni, where we will spend the next four nights. This small Orcia River Valley village has long been a favourite among travellers seeking solitude in a beautiful location. We will stay at a small family owned 15th-century hotel, built by Rossellino as a summerhouse for Pope Pius II, who enjoyed the advantage of the nearby hot mineral springs. Tour members will enjoy delicious Tuscan dinners each night during our stay at Bagno Vignoni.

DAY 6 Sunday 25 May, 2014 Bagno Vignoni, Tuscany 
This morning we travel south to visit Parco dei Mostri. This garden is unique. Made up of astonishing gigantic sculptures, many of them hewn from the rock on the wooded hillside you will be amazed. Are they autobiographical, literary, historical or philosophical? The scholars don’t know. This afternoon we visit the magnificent gardens of Villa Lante near Viterbo. This is a perfect Renaissance garden in which murmuring water, flashing fountains, shade and sunlight alternate under vast plane trees. The garden, organized on four levels along a main axis, emphasized by fountains, has perfect symmetry.

DAY 7 Monday 26 May, 2014 Bagno Vignoni, Tuscany 
This morning we visit Villa Cetinale, built in the 15th century by the Chigi family, bankers and money lenders for popes and English kings. Additions to the original house and garden were carried out by Carlo Fontana, who was a pupil of Bernini. In the gardens are wonderful statues and the Romitorio, a hermitage where monks lived until near the end of the 19th century. Lord Lambton bought Villa Cetinale from the Chigi family in 1977 and since then the gardens have been immaculately restored and enriched. This afternoon we visit the wonderful medieval city of Siena, best known for the famous Palio horse race held in the magnificent Piazza del Campo. Siena is also home to the oldest bank in the world, a spectacular town hall and majestic cathedral. A local guide will introduce us to the major sights of the city, including the Piazza del Campo with its splendid civic tower and the enormous, partially completed Duomo.

DAY 8 Tuesday 27 May, 2014 Bagno Vignoni, Tuscany 
Today will be free for independent activity. Why not have a spa in the hotels “wellness centre”. You will enjoy a relaxing day in this picturesque Tuscan village.

DAY 9 Wednesday 28 May, 2014 Florence 
We drive through the gorgeous Tuscan countryside to Florence this morning. In the afternoon we have a walking tour of Florence. During our walking tour we see the Piazza del Duomo, one of the largest cathedrals in the Christian world. Together with Brunelleschi’s wonderful dome, we see the Campanile and the Baptistry. We also wander through the Piazza della Signoria, which contains the Loggia della Signoria, the Palazzo Vecchio and nearby, the Ponte Vecchio over the Arno River.

DAY 10 Thursday 29 May, 2014 Florence 
This morning we visit Villa Le Balze, an early masterpiece of English architect Cecil Pinsent, who designed a Renaissance-style villa set in just over one hectare of garden. The garden was created in 1914 on a very steep site overlooking spectacular views of Florence. To the sides of the house are enclosed formal garden rooms. The lemon garden next to the house has four box-edged grass enclosures surrounding a circular pool. The formal gardens give way to a bosco and olive groves. We continue our travel to explore Villa Gamberaia, set in classic olive-grove country. Restored to its 16th-century splendour, the garden is small but idyllic. The main terrace is laid out with parterres de broderie and the water gardens are reminiscent of Persian reflecting pools.

DAY 11 Friday 30 May 2014 Florence
This morning is free for individual activity. In the afternoon we visit Villa della Petraia a Medici. Bought in 1544 by Cosimo de’Medici he gave it to his fifth son Ferdinando. On the upper terraces, simple square compartments were lined with dwarf fruit trees, highly prized in Renaissance gardens. In 1864 Florence was adopted as the temporary capital of Italy. Petraia became the royal residence of Emanuele II of Savoy. The garden was changed to Emanuel II’s taste. Curving flower beds in 19th-century style were designed to surround the fountain.

DAY 12 Saturday 31 May, 2014 Como
This morning, we travel to the Italian Lakes district, staying for the next four nights at Como on the edge of beautiful Lake Como.

DAY 13 Sunday 1 June, 2014 Como 
Today our coach takes us to Lake Maggiore. We travel by boat to Isola Bella, the most spectacular of the Borromean Islands. The magnificent villa is surrounded by one of the most dramatic 17th-century gardens in Italy, with 10 terraces rising like a ship’s prow in the reflecting waters of the lake. Masses of roses and perfumed plants set among superb statues and fountains make this a garden to remember. We also visit the nearby island Isola Madre. This very different garden has lush sub-tropical planting of ornamental trees and shrubs, including a fine swamp cypress and palms.

DAY 14 Monday 2 June, 2014 Como
This morning will be free to relax, shop in Como or take a ferry ride on Lake Como to view the spectacular scenery and fabulous lakeside villas. In the afternoon Deryn will guide us on a visit to the gardens of Villa Melzi. The semi-classical villa stands on the shores of the lake, among gardens studded with an eclectic mix of sculptures, from Egyptian to Roman. We will have time to explore the town of Bellagio, nominated as one of the most beautiful villages in the world.

DAY 15 Tuesday 3 June 2014 Como
A scenic trip along the west shore of Lake Como brings us to the picturesque village of Tremezzo and Villa Carlotta. This elegant 18th-century villa has its own landing place on Lake Como with beautiful views over the lake. It was given as a wedding present to Carlotta, Duchess of Saxe-Meningen, who, with her husband, created the landscaped gardens and began the botanical collection. Around the house, an 18th-century formal layout has lemon arbours on the terraces, tall camellia hedges and flowerbeds. We continue on to one of the jewels of the lake, Villa del Balbianello, located on its own small island. Steep steps covered with flowers lead from the landing to the gorgeous gardens and villa, chosen as the romantic setting for the movie “A Month on the Lake”. Ancient pollarded plane trees are a feature of this enchanting garden.

DAY 16 Wednesday 4 June, 2014 Nice 
Today we travel from Como to Nice, on the French Riviera. We check into our hotel in Nice late afternoon.

DAY 17 Thursday 5 June 2014 Nice 
This morning we enjoy a sightseeing tour with a local guide of the main sights of the French Riviera. We will explore the narrow picturesque streets of Nice and drive along the Corniche Road. We have spectacular views of the ocean and cliffs on our way to Monte Carlo, famous for its casino and royal family. This afternoon Deryn will lead the group on our visit to the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild. The garden was laid out at the beginning of the 20th century by Baroness Ephrussi de Rothschild, a member of the wealthy Rothschild family. The garden has been developed as a series of compartments representing different architectural and planting styles. The garden is the ultimate in manicured French exotic style.

DAY 18 Friday 6 June 2014 Nice 
This morning we cross the Italian border to visit La Mortola, founded in 1864, it has become the flagship of Riviera gardens. Rows of terraces have been established to display the plants collected from all over the world by Thomas and Daniel Hanbury. We will have time for lunch in the elegant town of Menton before visiting Clos du Peyronnet. This estate is the last garden of Menton that has remained the property of the same family since 1915. The current owner, William Waterfield, is specifically interested in botany and collects tropical species, particularly bulb plants from South Africa. The landscaping of the garden Clos du Peyronnet is quite exceptional. It combines colours and movements through a play of water staircases, formed by successive ponds, the last step of which is the Mediterranean. Tonight we will enjoy a farewell dinner to celebrate our tour.

DAY 19 Saturday 7 June 2014 Departure 
This morning we will have free time for individual exploration of Nice. In the afternoon we are transferred to the airport for our flight to Australia.

DAY 20 Sunday 8 June 2014 In flight

DAY 21 Monday 9 June 2014 Arrival Australia
Tour members arrive early morning back in Australia. The tour concludes.

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Tour price per person twin share $9695
Single supplement $1530
Air taxes fuel and government surcharges as at 14 /7/13 $200 per person
Single rooms in Europe may be very small – a double for single use is a supplement $2775 per person
Business Class – Eastern States $6990 per person
Business Class – Perth $ 6190 per person

Included in the price are:
Return economy-class air travel from Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane to and return from Europe
Travel in first-class chartered coach
Accommodation in first-class and moderate first-class, centrally located hotels with private facilities throughout the tour. Hotel taxes and service charges
Buffet or continental breakfast in Europe and England. One dinner in London, four dinners in Bagno Vignoni and a farewell dinner in Nice
Entrances to gardens, museums and attractions as detailed in the itinerary
Tour leadership by Deryn Thorpe
Tour management by Travelrite International Pty. Ltd