Cruise & Rail: Venice & Istanbul

Cruise & Rail: Venice & Istanbul

16 Days from Venice to Istanbul

Note: The itineraries presented are subject to modification due to water levels, closures because of public holidays or other uncontrollable factors. Every effort will be made to operate programs as planned, but changes may still be necessary throughout the cruise. This day-to-day schedule is subject to change. Your final day-to-day schedule will be provided onboard on the first day of your cruise.

Day 1: Venice (Embark)

Arrive at Venice Marco Polo International Airport, where you will be transferred to the ship. Unpack, relax and enjoy your first evening on the Venetian Lagoon.

Note: For Arrival, Departure and Transfer details, please visit Uniworld.com/transfers. For Port Location details, please visit Uniworld.com/ports.

Day 2: Venice

With your early morning arrival at Doge’s Palace, you’ll be able to marvel at the estate in total peace. Wander through a Venetian neighborhood and experience daily life in an authentic Venetian residential quarter. Later in the evening, cap the day off with a private once-in-a-lifetime experience at an after-hours lighting ceremony inside St. Mark’s Basilica without the crowds.

A morning walk in Venice with Doge’s Palace visit

Please note that the amount of walking during this excursion is extensive.

Venice has no need to designate a pedestrians-only historic district because no cars are permitted within the island city - all transportation is by foot or water.

You first arrive at the Doge’s Palace and most famous plaza in Italy - St. Mark’s Square. Venetians elected their first doge, or duke, in AD 697 and began building the palace around AD 800.

The palace complex, as it exists now, mostly dates to the 14th and 15th centuries, and it brims with jaw-dropping artistic gems, including Tintoretto’s wall-sized Paradise and works by Veronese, Tiepolo and Titian. Throughout its history, Venice has been a supremely political city. Those convicted of crimes were led across the Bridge of Sighs to prison. Follow their footsteps to the prison and gaze into the cells. Casanova escaped from one of these cells. Other less-fortunate prisoners whiled away their time by inscribing graffiti on the walls, which you can still read.

You will continue this exploration by strolling through the historic Castello district. It’s the largest of Venice’s six districts. Back in the 13th century the Castello district was home to the Arsenal, where Venice’s ships were built. (Venetians boasted that they could build a complete ship in a single day.) This is also where the famous Biennale art exhibition now takes place. As you pass 800-year-old homes, you’ll hear the murmur of the soft local dialect through the open windows. Clothes flap from lines strung over tiny canals and kids kick soccer balls along cobbled alleys. It’s a real, living, breathing neighborhood, not just a historic site.

In addition to its well-known museums, Venice is also home to some highly specialized ones: Displays at the Correr are devoted to the history of Venice; the Museo della Musica contains 17th and 18th-century musical instruments and exhibits about composer Antonio Vivaldi. Known as the Red Priest for his hair color, Vivaldi taught music to the daughters of Venetian noblemen. The Museo Ebraico examines the history of the Jewish community that was confined to an island known as Ghetto Nuovo. The latter was one of Europe’s wealthiest and most cultured Jewish communities, made up in part with refugees from the Spanish Inquisition.

Private after-hours visit to Saint Mark's Basilica

Welcome to Saint Mark’s Basilica. The doors of this icon are specially opened for you tonight. You will see the glorious church in the evening light and without the crowds. You’ll find it almost impossible not to gaze heavenward as you enter St. Mark’s. High overhead, magnificent domes are sheathed in mosaics telling the story of the New Testament, but don’t miss the intricate pattern of marble and mosaic tile under your feet. Ahead of you is the famous altarpiece made by 10th-century Byzantine artisans who gilded it and decorated it with precious gems, some of which were subsequently stolen by Napoleon. The building, which exemplifies the city’s historic connection to Byzantium and the Eastern Mediterranean, was finished in the 11th century and incorporates the remnants of earlier churches. Golden glass-tiled mosaics line the interior walls and cupolas, giving the church its nickname, Church of Gold. It houses treasures collected by Venetians over the centuries. The relics of St. Mark, patron saint of the city, were stolen from Alexandria, and the Tetrarch, a group of four crowned figures, was looted from Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade. Every successful Venetian voyager returned with something to decorate the basilica—a frieze, a statue—and the result is one of the most stunning works of art and architecture in this amazing city.

Note: It is not always possible to arrange an after-hours visit to St. Mark’s Basilica if religious functions or festivities are taking place in the evening. We will try to organize an earlier tour, but if cancelled, an alternative option, like a visit to San Rocco, will be organized.

Day 3: Venice, Chioggia

Choose between a full-day in medieval Padua, home to Italy's second oldest university, or a Venice walking tour and a choice of several exciting ways to see Chioggia: riding on a traditional bragozzo or biking through this authentic fishing town.

Bragozzo ride with tastings at Ca’ Zen

Head to one of the most enticing islands of the Venice lagoon, Chioggia. A small fishing port often referred to as a Venice in miniature, with a well-preserved tradition due to its relative lack of crowds, Chioggia is a wonderfully authentic and picturesque island. Board a genuine Adriatic wooden sailing boat, a bragozzo, to take in the island from the clear blue waters of the lagoon.

After your sailing, return to shore for a visit to Tenuta Ca’ Zen, a beautiful Venetian villa with a fascinating story. Here, you can explore the expansive grounds, antique stable, family chapel and more before rejoining the group for a tasting of local products, which include organic olive oil, wines, honey and cheeses.

“Let's Go” biking Chioggia with Ca’ Zen visit and tasting

Set off on a light bicycle ride along the beaches of Chioggia, an island often described as a second Venice in miniature. You’ll stop in Piazzetta Vigo to see the S.S. La Venezia sail by as your guide introduces you to the town. Then hop back on your bikes to head to Lusenzo Lagoon, break to see the fishing boats, and then continue on to Isola dell’Unione, where you’ll board a coach to transfer to Tenuta Ca' Zen.

Reward your bike ride with a visit to a beautiful Venetian villa with a fascinating story. Here, you can explore the expansive grounds, antique stable, family chapel and more before going on a tasting of local products, which include organic olive oil, wines, honey and cheeses.

Padua walking tour and "Drink like an Italian"

Begin your journey in Padua at a local bar, where you’ll enjoy some Italian aperitifs and snacks before joining your local guide on a walking tour of medieval Padua. Discover the city’s great squares, churches and palaces.

Padua flourished as a hub of learning and discovery in the 13th and 14th centuries. The second-oldest university in Italy was founded here in 1222, hosting such students as Copernicus and faculty as Galileo. Immediately outside the Palazzo del Bo, the university’s first home, you’ll see a cafe where revolutionaries met to plot an uprising against Austrian invaders in 1848.

Stroll past the largest public square in Italy, Prato della Valle, originally laid out by the Romans and transformed in the 18th century into a graceful, elliptical open space with a serene canal and statues of local nobles. Gaze upon the Byzantine-influenced domes and towers of the vast Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua, where you’ll often find a crowd waiting to offer thanks or prayers.

Venice morning walk with gondola shipyard visit

Get an early morning start to see a side of Venice most of the tourists miss—The Dorsoduro. One of Venice’s six main sestieri, or districts, The Dorsoduro is quieter than some of the more popular districts and thus has an authentic, easygoing atmosphere. Enjoy a walking tour around this picturesque side of town before moving on to visit a gondola shipyard. See how Venice’s iconic boats are made and meet some local masters at work.

A special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening. IMPORTANT: We are obliged to comply with Italian Maritime Authorities who require that only crew may be on the ship during the Adriatic Sea passage. Therefore, our guests must disembark the ship and partake in the featured excursions.

Day 4: Polesella (Bologna or Ferrara)

Explore Italy’s culinary capital Bologna on a full-day tour packed with an exclusive pasta-making workshop and lunch or explore Ferrara on a half-day tour.

Ferrara: Renaissance, elegance and Italian lifestyle town walk

Square towers rise sternly above the moat that still surrounds Castle Estense, the huge fortress the Este family built in the center of Ferrara in the 14th century. It was a demonstration of both power and caution, since the Estes had just put down an uprising, but it is just one of the family palaces to grace the city they developed. They turned Ferrara into a center for the arts and artists—particularly for musicians and composers—that rivaled Medici Florence. Here the Renaissance concept of the ideal city took shape—it was the first planned city in Italy that did not follow a Roman model—and as you take a brief walking tour through the historic center, you will see the Estes’ vision throughout it, from the street layout that parallels the river to the many family palaces. But not all of Ferrara is Renaissance: The medieval walls still surround the old city (providing a popular walking and biking route for locals and visitors alike), the Gothic cathedral dates to the 12th century, and tiny cobbled lanes might make you think you were visiting the Middle Ages—were it not for the bicycles that Ferrara’s citizens ride everywhere. Your local expert will introduce you to the highlights of Ferrara, and you’ll have some time to explore on your own before returning to the ship for lunch.

Private pasta-making and Italian lunch in Bologna

There are those who believe that the best tortellini in the world is made in Bologna. Taste and decide for yourself today. Of course, there’s Bolognese sauce, but that’s just one possible topping for the exceptional pasta available here. Locals also claim to have invented the first chocolate bars, and even if others dispute that claim, there’s no denying that the chocolate shops offer some very special treats. Bologna’s green market brims with local produce, and its specialty food stores and food halls are unmatched; locally made mortadella, luscious balsamic vinegar from nearby Modena, ham from Parma and, of course, great rounds of Parmesan cheese all contribute to the lavish displays. Stroll with your guide under the famous arcades to see some of the lovely, historic buildings in the city center. The huge basilica dates to the 14th century, and the two leaning towers that loom above Piazza di Porta Ravegnana were built in the 12th century, as were the structures that housed Europe’s first university. Participate in a workshop on making pasta and enjoy an exquisite Bolognese lunch at a celebrated restaurant. Sated with food and culture, it will then be time to head back to the ship.

Day 5: Porto Viro, Chioggia, Burano

Today, you’ll admire the greatest sites of charming and coastal Chioggia, including a stop at the local and lively market. Your ship will move to dock overnight in Burano, where you’ll enjoy a lovely evening stroll through this multicolored island.

Chioggia market visit

Chioggia is the quintessential Venetian Lagoon fishing village. Founded in the fifth century, it was known as the pantry of Venice because of its many small truck farms, which supplied Venetian households with produce until just a few decades ago. It is still a thriving fishing port; its wholesale fish market is one of the largest in Italy. On Thursdays, Chioggia also hosts Corso del Popolo—a dynamic outdoor market along its main thoroughfare where stands sell everything from clothes, shoes, purses, gadgets and “every-day” domestic items. Locals usually do their shopping here as prices are more affordable than retail shopping.

IMPORTANT: We are obliged to comply with Italian Maritime Authorities who require that only crew may be on the ship during the Adriatic Sea passage. Therefore, our guests must disembark the ship and partake in the featured excursions. We thank you for your cooperation.

Day 6: Burano (Torcello, Mazzorbo, and Burano), Venice

Spend the day exploring the northern lagoon of Venice and three of its captivating islands. Explore a basilica with an art historian in Torcello before heading to the peaceful, agricultural island of Mazzorbo. End the tour with a stroll through Burano’s rainbow of colorful homes and visit a lace-making atelier.

Magic Island Day: hidden treasures of the lagoon

Spend a half-day hopping from island to island around the Venice lagoon. First stop? Torcello. Settled before Venice was founded, it was once the greatest, most populous city in the lagoon. Now, however, only a handful of people live there. Its centerpiece is the basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, the oldest church in the lagoon and a monument to Torcello’s lost might. The doors open early for you so you can see the stunning 11th-century mosaic of the Last Judgment without the crowds—and with expert commentary from your art historian guide.

Off to Mazzorbo, where the local craft is near and dear to our hearts: winemaking.

After lunch, there is free time to see how Burano’s brightly painted fishermen’s cottages are an artist’s dream. Stroll by rainbow facades as you soak in the charm of this unique island.

Day 7: Venice

As your water taxi glides past narrow side canals and the Canal Grande, you’ll arrive in style at the Rialto Bridge and Fondaco dei Tedeschi. The iconic stone arch bridge sits at the narrowest point of the Canal Grande and holds numerous shops and restaurants.

“Do as the Locals Do” Venice walking tour

Back when Venice was at the height of its power, only the Rialto Bridge spanned the Grand Canal—and the city’s famous Rialto markets for fish and produce have sprawled at its feet as long as the bridge has arched over the water. Here you’ll find violet artichokes from the nearby island of Sant’Erasmo, honey from the salt marshes, white asparagus from Giare—and Venetians shopping for their dinners in the historic heart of the city. Join them as you explore the colorful, noisy and fun arcades with your guide (the ship’s chef often accompanies this expedition), who knows Venice’s culinary arts intimately. Freshly caught local fish is sold to knowledgeable customers under the Gothic arches of the covered fish market, which was probably originally built in the 11th century. At the end of the tour (and after some free time where you should have plenty of time to enjoy a gondola ride), join your guide at a bacaro (a casual wine bar) for the Venetian version of happy hour, called ombra e cicchetti—a drink (often a glass of prosecco) with a bite of something delicious—perhaps crostini with salt cod spread or another Venetian fish specialty.

Rialto walking tour with Casanova

Giacomo Casanova, born in 1725, is one of the most notorious names to ever come out of Venice. Though a Renaissance man on all counts as a philosopher, Freemason, alchemist, spy and adventurer, his many romantic affairs are what he is best known for. Your tour of the city will take you through various spots in town that were significant to his life as you learn about his singular history.

You’ll begin in the San Samuele district, where Casanova was born to two actors playing at a theater near the Palazzo Malipiero. You will then reach Campo San Maurizio, with its leaning bell tower. Giorgio Baffo, Casanova’s mentor and Venetian judge known for his erotic poetry, lived here in the palace on the right side. Baffo introduced Casanova to the seduction rites.

A few steps further and you will be in San Moisè Square, the former site of a casino where Casanova used to meet his lovers. The next stop will be the Ridotto in Calle Vallaresso. Now a hotel, it was once a place where Giacomo Casanova and his contemporaries used to gamble—it is said that Casanova lost a fortune here.

Crossing into St. Mark’s Square, you will pass by the prisons of the Doge’s Palace, in which Casanova was imprisoned until 1756 when he escaped to France. He was permitted to return in 1774, but was exiled again within a decade for publishing a novel considered outrageously offensive by the Venetian authorities. Our last stop for the day will be the Palazzo Grimani of Santa Maria Formosa, where Casanova was hosted until this novel was published.

A special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.

Day 8: Venice (Disembark), Transfer to Train (Embark), Trieste

Join the Golden Eagle Balkan Explorer in Venice Santa Lucia Station in time for lunch. Your cabin attendants will be waiting on the platform to welcome and escort you to your cabins. As you take your seats for lunch, the train will thread its way out of the station and onto the causeway across the lagoon that links Venice to the mainland. Your first stop is the ancient port of Trieste for a tour of the city.

Day 9: Lake Bled, Ljubljana, Zagreb

Have an early breakfast onboard as the train heads for Lake Bled, one of the most picturesque and photographed lakes in Eastern Europe. Next, travel down to the Capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, to tour the lovely, compact city by foot and by a cruise on the Ljubljanica River.

Return to the train for lunch as the train follows the scenic River Sava to Croatia’s Capital, Zagreb, then spend the afternoon touring the city. Later, enjoy dinner on the train on the way towards Bosnia.

Day 10: Sarajevo, Mostar

Early in the morning, you’ll arrive in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, which has an intriguing blend of Eastern and Western culture. It has mosques and minarets, an ancient bazaar and an atmospheric old Turkish quarter.

Discover the city’s poignant history through a truly absorbing tour detailing the horrors of the Balkan War. Sarajevo suffered from the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare. The scars of war are still evident in the war-torn buildings you’ll pass before making a special visit to the Tunnel Museum under Sarajevo Airport. Your guide, who lived through the 1992–1996 conflict, powerfully brings to life the struggles that the citizens of Sarajevo faced during the siege of the city.

Over lunch, you’ll travel along a very scenic line to the historic city of Mostar, the crossroads of many civilizations, cultures and religions. Mostar was one of the most important cities of the Ottoman Empire. The town’s renowned stone arch bridge linking the Christian and Muslim areas was re-built in the summer of 2004. Visit the Turkish House and the mosque before walking through the narrow bazaar streets, where you can shop for traditional souvenirs and handicrafts. Depart Mostar as dinner is served and your train heads towards Serbia.

Day 11: Belgrade

Arrive this morning in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, the former Yugoslavian capital. Located at the strategic meeting point of the Danube and Sava Rivers, this truly cosmopolitan city has fortifications from Celtic times, medieval tombs and Turkish baths.

Spend a full day here and set out on a city tour that includes the ‘House of Flowers’—the mausoleum of Josip Tito. On the tour, you’ll also see the Town Hall, Republic Square, Knez Mihailova Street, ‘Varoš’ and the mighty Kalemegdan Fortress. Lunch today will be in the spectacular Salon 1905. You’ll leave Belgrade late in the afternoon and head towards North Macedonia and Greece.

Day 12: Skopje, Thessaloniki

This morning, you’ll arrive in the little-visited Skopje and discover a city where the Ottoman influences are still strong. Explore the narrow streets of the Old Town with tiny shops and mosques with ceramic-tiled interiors. Meander through the Old Bazaar area, brimming with things to buy, and cross the 15th-century stone bridge that links the bazaar to the modern town.

Return to the train for lunch and continue on to Greece for a late afternoon arrival into Thessaloniki. Soak up the evening atmosphere of this vibrant city by heading to Aristotelous Square and the seafront before returning to the train for dinner.

Day 13: Sofia, Plovdiv

After breakfast, your train arrives in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital at the foot of Vitosha Mountain. On your morning tour, you will visit sections of the Roman wall and admire the ancient Church of St. George, the golden domed Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the Turkish Banya Bashi Mosque.

Enjoy lunch on the train as you travel from Sofia to Plovdiv. The second largest city in Bulgaria after Sofia, ‘The City of Seven Hills’ is one of the oldest cities in Europe with more than 200 known archaeological sites. Spend the afternoon here exploring the Roman Forum and Amphitheatre. You’ll also visit the charming Old Town including its medieval walls and Ottoman baths. Enjoy the final night’s dinner onboard this evening as you head for Turkey.

Day 14: Istanbul (Disembark)

As breakfast is served, the train winds its way along the Sea of Marmara towards Istanbul’s historic Sirkeci station. Mid-morning, your journey from Venice comes to an end and you will say goodbye to the Golden Eagle train that has been home for the past six nights.

Leave the station to a view of the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus, then check into the Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul (or similar) for the final two nights of your journey.

Day 15: Istanbul

Continue your adventure in the spectacular and bustling 3,000-year-old city of Istanbul. As the only city in the world built on two continents, Istanbul has a unique mix of Eastern and Western culture. Experience it all during your free time here by browsing the thousands of vendors of the Grand Bazaar and sampling Turkish delights amongst colorful piles of seasonings at the Spice Bazaar. Cross from Europe to Asia on a Bosphorus strait ferry—if you’re lucky, you might even spot a pod of dolphins along the way! You’ll also want to explore some of the city’s famous architectural masterpieces, such as the brilliantly tiled Blue Mosque and the ancient Hagia Sophia, plus the beautiful gardens stretched between them.

Day 16: Istanbul

Check out of your hotel and head to Istanbul Airport for your flight home.

Note: The itineraries presented are subject to modification due to water levels, closures because of public holidays or other uncontrollable factors. Every effort will be made to operate programs as planned, but changes may still be necessary throughout the cruise. This day-to-day schedule is subject to change. Your final day-to-day schedule will be provided onboard on the first day of your cruise.

Day 1: Istanbul

Arrive at Istanbul Airport. If your cruise/tour package includes a group arrival transfer or if you have purchased a private arrival transfer, a Uniworld representative will be on hand to greet you and escort you to the Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul (or similar).

Note: For Arrival, Departure and Transfer details, please visit Uniworld.com/transfers. For Port Location details, please visit Uniworld.com/ports.

Day 2: Istanbul

Your adventure begins in the spectacular and bustling 3,000-year-old city of Istanbul. As the only city in the world built on two continents, Istanbul has a unique mix of Eastern and Western culture. Experience it all during your free time here by browsing the thousands of vendors of the Grand Bazaar and sampling Turkish delights amongst colorful piles of seasonings at the Spice Bazaar. Cross from Europe to Asia on a Bosphorus strait ferry—if you’re lucky, you might even spot a pod of dolphins along the way! You’ll also want to explore some of the city’s famous architectural masterpieces, such as the brilliantly tiled Blue Mosque and the ancient Hagia Sophia, plus the beautiful gardens stretched between them.

Day 3: Istanbul (Embark)

In the afternoon you will be taken to Istanbul’s historic Sirkeci railway station, starting point of the world famous Orient Express. The station is currently only used by the Venice Simplon Orient Express and the Golden Eagle Danube Express. Your cabin attendants will be waiting on the platform to welcome you and escort you to your cabin.

Enjoy a spectacular view of the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus as the train leaves the station and slowly threads its way along the Sea of Marmara. After settling into your cabin, you will head to one of the restaurant cars for a Welcome Dinner. During the night your train will cross the border into Bulgaria.

Day 4: Plovdiv, Sofia

After breakfast, your train arrives in Plovdiv. The second largest city in Bulgaria after Sofia, ‘The City of Seven Hills’ is one of the oldest cities in Europe with more than 200 known archaeological sites. Spend the morning here exploring the Roman Forum and Amphitheatre. You’ll also visit the charming Old Town including its medieval walls and Ottoman baths.

After lunch, your train arrives in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital at the foot of Vitosha Mountain. On your afternoon tour, you will visit sections of the Roman wall and admire the ancient Church of St. George, the golden domed Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and the Turkish Banya Bashi Mosque.

Day 5: Thessaloniki, Skopje

This morning, you'll cross into Greece and after breakfast arrive in the vibrant city of Thessaloniki. Soak up the atmosphere of this vibrant city by heading to Aristotelous Square and the seafront before returning to the train for lunch.

In the afternoon, you’ll arrive in the little-visited Skopje and discover a city where the Ottoman influences are still strong. Explore the narrow streets of the Old Town with tiny shops and mosques with ceramic-tiled interiors. Meander through the Old Bazaar area, brimming with things to buy, and cross the 15th-century stone bridge that links the bazaar to the modern town.

Day 6: Belgrade

Arrive this morning in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, the former Yugoslavian capital. Located at the strategic meeting point of the Danube and Sava Rivers, this truly cosmopolitan city has fortifications from Celtic times, medieval tombs and Turkish baths.

Spend a full day here and set out on a city tour that includes the ‘House of Flowers’—the mausoleum of Josip Tito. On the tour, you’ll also see the Town Hall, Republic Square, Knez Mihailova Street, ‘Varoš’ and the mighty Kalemegdan Fortress. Lunch today will be in the spectacular Salon 1905. You’ll leave Belgrade late in the afternoon and head towards Bosnia.

Day 7: Mostar, Sarajevo

Over breakfast, you’ll travel along a very scenic line to the historic city of Mostar, the crossroads of many civilizations, cultures and religions. Mostar was one of the most important cities of the Ottoman Empire. The town’s renowned stone arch bridge linking the Christian and Muslim areas was re-built in the summer of 2004. Visit the Turkish House and the mosque before walking through the narrow bazaar streets, where you can shop for traditional souvenirs and handicrafts.

Depart Mostar, and after lunch you’ll arrive in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, which has an intriguing blend of Eastern and Western culture. It has mosques and minarets, an ancient bazaar and an atmospheric old Turkish quarter.

Discover the city’s poignant history through a truly absorbing tour detailing the horrors of the Balkan War. Sarajevo suffered from the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare. The scars of war are still evident in the war-torn buildings you’ll pass before making a special visit to the Tunnel Museum under Sarajevo Airport. Your guide, who lived through the 1992–1996 conflict, powerfully brings to life the struggles that the citizens of Sarajevo faced during the siege of the city.

Return to the train for dinner onboard as your journey continues on to Croatia and Slovenia.

Day 8: Zagreb, Ljubljana, Lake Bled

Have breakfast onboard as the train heads to Croatia’s Capital, Zagreb, then spend the morning touring the city.

Return to the train for lunch as the train follows the scenic River Sava to the Capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana. Tour this lovely, compact city by foot and by a cruise on the Ljubljanica River. Later, you'll head to Lake Bled, one of the most picturesque and photographed lakes in Eastern Europe.

Then, return to the train for a Farewell Dinner onboard as you travel overnight toward Italy.

Day 9: Trieste and Venice (Disembark), Transfer to ship (Embark)

After an early breakfast, you’ll stop in the medieval port city of Trieste, once amongst the oldest and largest cities in the Habsburg Empire. Then return to the train and prepare to disembark at the Venice Santa Lucia Station on the Canal Grande, where you will be transferred to the ship. Unpack, relax and enjoy your first evening on the Venetian Lagoon.

Day 10: Venice

With your early morning arrival at Doge’s Palace, you’ll be able to marvel at the estate in total peace. Wander through a Venetian neighborhood and experience daily life in an authentic Venetian residential quarter. Later in the evening, cap the day off with a private once-in-a-lifetime experience at an after-hours lighting ceremony inside St. Mark’s Basilica without the crowds.

A morning walk in Venice with Doge’s Palace visit

Please note that the amount of walking during this excursion is extensive.

Venice has no need to designate a pedestrians-only historic district because no cars are permitted within the island city - all transportation is by foot or water.

You first arrive at the Doge’s Palace and most famous plaza in Italy - St. Mark’s Square. Venetians elected their first doge, or duke, in AD 697 and began building the palace around AD 800.

The palace complex, as it exists now, mostly dates to the 14th and 15th centuries, and it brims with jaw-dropping artistic gems, including Tintoretto’s wall-sized Paradise and works by Veronese, Tiepolo and Titian. Throughout its history, Venice has been a supremely political city. Those convicted of crimes were led across the Bridge of Sighs to prison. Follow their footsteps to the prison and gaze into the cells. Casanova escaped from one of these cells. Other less-fortunate prisoners whiled away their time by inscribing graffiti on the walls, which you can still read.

You will continue this exploration by strolling through the historic Castello district. It’s the largest of Venice’s six districts. Back in the 13th century the Castello district was home to the Arsenal, where Venice’s ships were built. (Venetians boasted that they could build a complete ship in a single day.) This is also where the famous Biennale art exhibition now takes place. As you pass 800-year-old homes, you’ll hear the murmur of the soft local dialect through the open windows. Clothes flap from lines strung over tiny canals and kids kick soccer balls along cobbled alleys. It’s a real, living, breathing neighborhood, not just a historic site.

In addition to its well-known museums, Venice is also home to some highly specialized ones: Displays at the Correr are devoted to the history of Venice; the Museo della Musica contains 17th and 18th-century musical instruments and exhibits about composer Antonio Vivaldi. Known as the Red Priest for his hair color, Vivaldi taught music to the daughters of Venetian noblemen. The Museo Ebraico examines the history of the Jewish community that was confined to an island known as Ghetto Nuovo. The latter was one of Europe’s wealthiest and most cultured Jewish communities, made up in part with refugees from the Spanish Inquisition.

Private after-hours visit to Saint Mark's Basilica

Welcome to Saint Mark’s Basilica. The doors of this icon are specially opened for you tonight. You will see the glorious church in the evening light and without the crowds. You’ll find it almost impossible not to gaze heavenward as you enter St. Mark’s. High overhead, magnificent domes are sheathed in mosaics telling the story of the New Testament, but don’t miss the intricate pattern of marble and mosaic tile under your feet. Ahead of you is the famous altarpiece made by 10th-century Byzantine artisans who gilded it and decorated it with precious gems, some of which were subsequently stolen by Napoleon. The building, which exemplifies the city’s historic connection to Byzantium and the Eastern Mediterranean, was finished in the 11th century and incorporates the remnants of earlier churches. Golden glass-tiled mosaics line the interior walls and cupolas, giving the church its nickname, Church of Gold. It houses treasures collected by Venetians over the centuries. The relics of St. Mark, patron saint of the city, were stolen from Alexandria, and the Tetrarch, a group of four crowned figures, was looted from Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade. Every successful Venetian voyager returned with something to decorate the basilica—a frieze, a statue—and the result is one of the most stunning works of art and architecture in this amazing city.

Note: It is not always possible to arrange an after-hours visit to St. Mark’s Basilica if religious functions or festivities are taking place in the evening. We will try to organize an earlier tour, but if cancelled, an alternative option, like a visit to San Rocco, will be organized.

Day 11: Venice, Chioggia

Choose between a full-day in medieval Padua, home to Italy's second oldest university, or a Venice walking tour and a choice of several exciting ways to see Chioggia: riding on a traditional bragozzo or biking through this authentic fishing town.

Bragozzo ride with tastings at Ca’ Zen

Head to one of the most enticing islands of the Venice lagoon, Chioggia. A small fishing port often referred to as a Venice in miniature, with a well-preserved tradition due to its relative lack of crowds, Chioggia is a wonderfully authentic and picturesque island. Board a genuine Adriatic wooden sailing boat, a bragozzo, to take in the island from the clear blue waters of the lagoon.

After your sailing, return to shore for a visit to Tenuta Ca’ Zen, a beautiful Venetian villa with a fascinating story. Here, you can explore the expansive grounds, antique stable, family chapel and more before rejoining the group for a tasting of local products, which include organic olive oil, wines, honey and cheeses.

“Let's Go” biking Chioggia with Ca’ Zen visit and tasting

Set off on a light bicycle ride along the beaches of Chioggia, an island often described as a second Venice in miniature. You’ll stop in Piazzetta Vigo to see the S.S. La Venezia sail by as your guide introduces you to the town. Then hop back on your bikes to head to Lusenzo Lagoon, break to see the fishing boats, and then continue on to Isola dell’Unione, where you’ll board a coach to transfer to Tenuta Ca' Zen.

Reward your bike ride with a visit to a beautiful Venetian villa with a fascinating story. Here, you can explore the expansive grounds, antique stable, family chapel and more before going on a tasting of local products, which include organic olive oil, wines, honey and cheeses.

Padua walking tour and "Drink like an Italian"

Begin your journey in Padua at a local bar, where you’ll enjoy some Italian aperitifs and snacks before joining your local guide on a walking tour of medieval Padua. Discover the city’s great squares, churches and palaces.

Padua flourished as a hub of learning and discovery in the 13th and 14th centuries. The second-oldest university in Italy was founded here in 1222, hosting such students as Copernicus and faculty as Galileo. Immediately outside the Palazzo del Bo, the university’s first home, you’ll see a cafe where revolutionaries met to plot an uprising against Austrian invaders in 1848.

Stroll past the largest public square in Italy, Prato della Valle, originally laid out by the Romans and transformed in the 18th century into a graceful, elliptical open space with a serene canal and statues of local nobles. Gaze upon the Byzantine-influenced domes and towers of the vast Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua, where you’ll often find a crowd waiting to offer thanks or prayers.

Venice morning walk with gondola shipyard visit

Get an early morning start to see a side of Venice most of the tourists miss—The Dorsoduro. One of Venice’s six main sestieri, or districts, The Dorsoduro is quieter than some of the more popular districts and thus has an authentic, easygoing atmosphere. Enjoy a walking tour around this picturesque side of town before moving on to visit a gondola shipyard. See how Venice’s iconic boats are made and meet some local masters at work.

A special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening. IMPORTANT: We are obliged to comply with Italian Maritime Authorities who require that only crew may be on the ship during the Adriatic Sea passage. Therefore, our guests must disembark the ship and partake in the featured excursions.

Day 12: Polesella (Bologna or Ferrara)

Explore Italy’s culinary capital Bologna on a full-day tour packed with an exclusive pasta-making workshop and lunch or explore Ferrara on a half-day tour.

Ferrara: Renaissance, elegance and Italian lifestyle town walk

Square towers rise sternly above the moat that still surrounds Castle Estense, the huge fortress the Este family built in the center of Ferrara in the 14th century. It was a demonstration of both power and caution, since the Estes had just put down an uprising, but it is just one of the family palaces to grace the city they developed. They turned Ferrara into a center for the arts and artists—particularly for musicians and composers—that rivaled Medici Florence. Here the Renaissance concept of the ideal city took shape—it was the first planned city in Italy that did not follow a Roman model—and as you take a brief walking tour through the historic center, you will see the Estes’ vision throughout it, from the street layout that parallels the river to the many family palaces. But not all of Ferrara is Renaissance: The medieval walls still surround the old city (providing a popular walking and biking route for locals and visitors alike), the Gothic cathedral dates to the 12th century, and tiny cobbled lanes might make you think you were visiting the Middle Ages—were it not for the bicycles that Ferrara’s citizens ride everywhere. Your local expert will introduce you to the highlights of Ferrara, and you’ll have some time to explore on your own before returning to the ship for lunch.

Private pasta-making and Italian lunch in Bologna

There are those who believe that the best tortellini in the world is made in Bologna. Taste and decide for yourself today. Of course, there’s Bolognese sauce, but that’s just one possible topping for the exceptional pasta available here. Locals also claim to have invented the first chocolate bars, and even if others dispute that claim, there’s no denying that the chocolate shops offer some very special treats. Bologna’s green market brims with local produce, and its specialty food stores and food halls are unmatched; locally made mortadella, luscious balsamic vinegar from nearby Modena, ham from Parma and, of course, great rounds of Parmesan cheese all contribute to the lavish displays. Stroll with your guide under the famous arcades to see some of the lovely, historic buildings in the city center. The huge basilica dates to the 14th century, and the two leaning towers that loom above Piazza di Porta Ravegnana were built in the 12th century, as were the structures that housed Europe’s first university. Participate in a workshop on making pasta and enjoy an exquisite Bolognese lunch at a celebrated restaurant. Sated with food and culture, it will then be time to head back to the ship.

Day 13: Porto Viro, Chioggia, Burano

Today, you’ll admire the greatest sites of charming and coastal Chioggia, including a stop at the local and lively market. Your ship will move to dock overnight in Burano, where you’ll enjoy a lovely evening stroll through this multicolored island.

Chioggia market visit

Chioggia is the quintessential Venetian Lagoon fishing village. Founded in the fifth century, it was known as the pantry of Venice because of its many small truck farms, which supplied Venetian households with produce until just a few decades ago. It is still a thriving fishing port; its wholesale fish market is one of the largest in Italy. On Thursdays, Chioggia also hosts Corso del Popolo—a dynamic outdoor market along its main thoroughfare where stands sell everything from clothes, shoes, purses, gadgets and “every-day” domestic items. Locals usually do their shopping here as prices are more affordable than retail shopping.

IMPORTANT: We are obliged to comply with Italian Maritime Authorities who require that only crew may be on the ship during the Adriatic Sea passage. Therefore, our guests must disembark the ship and partake in the featured excursions. We thank you for your cooperation.

Day 14: Burano (Torcello, Mazzorbo, and Burano), Venice

Spend the day exploring the northern lagoon of Venice and three of its captivating islands. Explore a basilica with an art historian in Torcello before heading to the peaceful, agricultural island of Mazzorbo. End the tour with a stroll through Burano’s rainbow of colorful homes and visit a lace-making atelier.

Magic Island Day: hidden treasures of the lagoon

Spend a half-day hopping from island to island around the Venice lagoon. First stop? Torcello. Settled before Venice was founded, it was once the greatest, most populous city in the lagoon. Now, however, only a handful of people live there. Its centerpiece is the basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, the oldest church in the lagoon and a monument to Torcello’s lost might. The doors open early for you so you can see the stunning 11th-century mosaic of the Last Judgment without the crowds—and with expert commentary from your art historian guide.

Off to Mazzorbo, where the local craft is near and dear to our hearts: winemaking.

After lunch, there is free time to see how Burano’s brightly painted fishermen’s cottages are an artist’s dream. Stroll by rainbow facades as you soak in the charm of this unique island.

Day 15: Venice

As your water taxi glides past narrow side canals and the Canal Grande, you’ll arrive in style at the Rialto Bridge and Fondaco dei Tedeschi. The iconic stone arch bridge sits at the narrowest point of the Canal Grande and holds numerous shops and restaurants.

“Do as the Locals Do” Venice walking tour

Back when Venice was at the height of its power, only the Rialto Bridge spanned the Grand Canal—and the city’s famous Rialto markets for fish and produce have sprawled at its feet as long as the bridge has arched over the water. Here you’ll find violet artichokes from the nearby island of Sant’Erasmo, honey from the salt marshes, white asparagus from Giare—and Venetians shopping for their dinners in the historic heart of the city. Join them as you explore the colorful, noisy and fun arcades with your guide (the ship’s chef often accompanies this expedition), who knows Venice’s culinary arts intimately. Freshly caught local fish is sold to knowledgeable customers under the Gothic arches of the covered fish market, which was probably originally built in the 11th century. At the end of the tour (and after some free time where you should have plenty of time to enjoy a gondola ride), join your guide at a bacaro (a casual wine bar) for the Venetian version of happy hour, called ombra e cicchetti—a drink (often a glass of prosecco) with a bite of something delicious—perhaps crostini with salt cod spread or another Venetian fish specialty.

Rialto walking tour with Casanova

Giacomo Casanova, born in 1725, is one of the most notorious names to ever come out of Venice. Though a Renaissance man on all counts as a philosopher, Freemason, alchemist, spy and adventurer, his many romantic affairs are what he is best known for. Your tour of the city will take you through various spots in town that were significant to his life as you learn about his singular history.

You’ll begin in the San Samuele district, where Casanova was born to two actors playing at a theater near the Palazzo Malipiero. You will then reach Campo San Maurizio, with its leaning bell tower. Giorgio Baffo, Casanova’s mentor and Venetian judge known for his erotic poetry, lived here in the palace on the right side. Baffo introduced Casanova to the seduction rites.

A few steps further and you will be in San Moisè Square, the former site of a casino where Casanova used to meet his lovers. The next stop will be the Ridotto in Calle Vallaresso. Now a hotel, it was once a place where Giacomo Casanova and his contemporaries used to gamble—it is said that Casanova lost a fortune here.

Crossing into St. Mark’s Square, you will pass by the prisons of the Doge’s Palace, in which Casanova was imprisoned until 1756 when he escaped to France. He was permitted to return in 1774, but was exiled again within a decade for publishing a novel considered outrageously offensive by the Venetian authorities. Our last stop for the day will be the Palazzo Grimani of Santa Maria Formosa, where Casanova was hosted until this novel was published.

A special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.

Day 16: Venice (Disembark)

Disembark the ship. If your cruise/tour package includes a group departure transfer or if you purchased a private departure transfer, you will be transferred to Venice Marco Polo International Airport for your flight home.

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