The church of San Giorgio Maggiore – an integral part of the classic Venetian vista, decorated with works by Tintoretto, Carpaccio and Jacopo Bassano; its brick and marble bell tower boasting greater views (and much less of a queue) than St Marks. Libreria Acqua Alta or ‘The Library of High Water’ has to be the world’s most interesting bookshop, its books spread out over various rambling rooms and kept in bathtubs, rowing boats and gondolas to keep them safe from the annual Acqua Alta, when the bookshop becomes completely flooded. St Mark’s Basilica – this one needs no introduction. One of the most-visited sites in the city, it’s a must-see on any itinerary: with a history stretching back to the 9th century, and a whole lot of absorbing tales and legends. Giudecca Island – often ignored by tourists, this peaceful isle serves up a different side to Venice: one with a thriving contemporary art scene, laid-back eateries, fancy hotels and a flavour of real Venetian life.
Ristorante Quadri – the only restaurant located on St Mark’s Square, serving Italian classics with modern twist in a lavish, romantic setting.
Stay: Belmond Hotel Cipriani (3 nights)
||Venice to Florence
Journey Time: 2 hours, 5 minutes by train
An architectural masterpiece occupying the oldest part of an ancient Dominican monastery, the Museum of San Marco is one of the city’s most spiritually uplifting museums, with the world’s largest collection of the works of Fra Angelico (its highlights: the frescoed monks’ cells, and the 'Annunciation' – one of the Renaissance's most famous images). Try to bag yourself one of only four tables on the tiny terrace of the elegant, Ferragamo-owned Borgo San Jacopo restaurant, set right on the Arno, for in-your-face views of the Ponte Vecchio. A hidden gem in the heart of Oltrarno (Florence’s hippest neighbourhood) lies a vast, immaculate secret garden – the Giardino Torrigiani, Europe’s largest private garden, dotted with some pretty interesting architecture and an abundance of plant life you’ll not often find in a Renaissance city. Being privately owned (with all tours accompanied by one of the owners), you will need to book well in advance.
Three Michelin-starred Enoteca Pinchiorri (Via Ghibellina, 87), the grand dame of Florence’s fine dining scene.
Stay: Four Seasons Hotel Firenze (3 nights)
||Florence to Rome
Journey Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes by train
Just across from the Colosseum (a single ticket will get you access to both), the Roman Forum has bragging rights to the Arch of Titus, the Temple of Caesar, the Rostrum, and the iconic eight pillars of the Temple of Saturn. Get there early to avoid the crowds, and head to the top of Palatine Hill where grandstand views of the ruins will help plan your day. One of Rome’s most eye-catching (but often overlooked) buildings, Castel Sant'Angelo has been a mausoleum, a fortress, a hideaway, and museum… its secret elevated passage leads directly to St Peter’s Basilica; and its sumptuously decorated rooms showcasing beautiful frescoed walls. Climb to the top for some of the city’s most breathtaking views. Combine coffee on the lively Piazza della Rotonda with a visit to the Pantheon, Rome's oldest intact building: its crowning glory the giant dome and its occulus designed to connect the temple with the gods above, and the building’s only source of light. It may now be a large public park for modern-day Romans, but back in the day, Circo Massimo was the world’s largest sports and entertainment venue, where 250,000 people flocked to its chariot races, gladiator contests, staged animal hunts, processions and public executions.
Antico Arco, Trastevere – an essential Rome eatery atop Janiculum Hill, renowned for its refined culinary inventiveness, seasonal Italian menus, and particularly its famed molten chocolate cake.
Stay: Hotel Eden (3 nights)
||Rome to Positano
Journey Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes by train & 1 hour, by car
Spend hours gazing from Villa Cimbrione’s magnificent Terrace of Infinity in Ravello over the most enticing, heart-stopping and stomach-flipping panoramic vistas of the Gulf of Sorrento (described by Gore Vidal as the finest in the world). It’s a great spot for that all-important selfie too! No trip to this part of the country is complete without exploring the perfectly preserved streets of Pompeii and Herculaneum, two of the world’s most important archaeological sites. Pompeii is the larger and more striking, while Herculaneum is the better preserved, thanks to the protective layer of mud and volcanic ash that sealed the remains completely (though many of the homes and buildings here are closed to the public). Start your visit to these fascinating sites with a stop at Mount Vesuvius and stare into the steaming crater of an active volcano. And don’t miss the famous temples of Paestum – founded by the Greeks in the 7th century BC, and recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
La Sponde @ Le Sirenuse. Seasonal menus of fresh fish and pasta based on traditional Neapolitan cuisine in an unforgettable atmosphere amongst climbing vines and over 400 flickering candles. Lovely.
Stay: Le Sirenuse (5 nights)