Italy is overflowing with ancient history, none more prevalent than the crumbling ruins of Pompeii and the few remains of the catastrophic eruption of 79 AD that turned a once-thriving city into a virtual ghost town. The architecture is vast and varied; from the quirky flamboyance of Palermo to the medieval influences of Cremona.
Venice is a truly captivating city of romance; its unrivaled beauty takes away the breath of first time visitors and regulars alike. Included in your time in Venice is two nights at the iconic five-star Hotel Danieli. The hotel enjoys a spectacular location and is only a short stroll from St Mark’s Square, the Doge's Palace and the Bridge of Sighs. On your first evening, enjoy a welcome reception dinner at the hotel, giving you the opportunity to meet fellow travelers and learn more about our journey through this fascinating part of Europe.
Guests will have the opportunity to take a walking tour around the highlights of this romantic city. Alternatively, you can spend the day exploring this magnificent city at your leisure, maybe taking an iconic gondola ride in the basin of St. Mark’s or see St Mark’s Basilica or stroll through the Rialto Market. This evening you will enjoy a private pianist concert at the Palazzetto Bru Zane.
Cremona & Verona
This morning, transfer from the hotel, by boat, directly to Santa Lucia station on the Grand Canal where your train the Golden Eagle Danube Express will be ready to receive us. Begin your journey threading your way out onto the 3-mile causeway over the Venice Lagoon and along the Po River to Cremona. This charmingly quaint and understated city carries itself with impressive architecture and is almost completely off the major tourism radar.
After browsing the impressive 13th century piazza, take a private tour of the fabled Stradivari Museum to allow you to explore the city’s intertwined relationship with violins and other stringed instruments. A gourmet lunch will then be served on-board the train as you continue onto Verona. Famous for being the setting of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, you will enjoy a concise yet informative walking tour of the city’s famous sites. This evening, dinner will be served just out of the city at the stunning setting of Sirmione on Lake Garda.
Bologna, Rimini & San Marino
After a delicious on board breakfast, arrive in the food capital of Italy, Bologna. Beautiful from nearly all angles, a morning tour highlighting the character and history of this renowned culinary destination will allow you to take in the city’s many famous arches and its historic university. A toast at the top of the Torre di Prendiparte will set up the afternoon as you travel onwards to Rimini. With Freedom of Choice touring options available this afternoon you could visit the Ferrari factory in nearby Maranello to take a drive around the test-track.
Alternatively, explore the enclaved microstate of San Marino where you can tour the designated UNESCO World Heritage centre along with Mount Titano. Dinner will be served here and will feature the country’s famous Torta Tre Monti or ‘Cake of the Three Towers’.
This morning, enjoy stunning coastal views from your carriages as you travel along the eastern Italian seaboard to your next stop in the Apulia region at Bari. You will enjoy a guided tour of Bari’s Florentine style old-town and its domineering fortress and castle that has stood guarding the port since the 12th century. You also have the chance to visit a local olive oil mill complete with a tasting just a few minutes from the station. Tonight as you sit down for dinner you’ll travel across central Italy west through the Matese hills.
Herculaneum & Pompeii
The crumbling ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii await your exploration today. These two towns, which were destroyed by lava flow in the momentous eruption of 79 AD have been painstakingly conserved over centuries to keep visitors coming to the region. Take a behind the scenes tour of how preservation work is a continuous race against time to protect the original splendor. After soaking up the atmosphere of these Roman ghost-towns, take a stop at the Michelin-starred restaurant, President, at the foot of Mount Vesuvius, to sample local wine and taste a few of delicious, slowly ripening Piennolo tomatoes.
This afternoon your spectacularly scenic rail journey continues as you leave the region of Campania and journey all the way to the southern tip of the Italian mainland at Villa San Giovanni. On this stretch of rail, you’ll be mostly travelling through the remarkable Parco Nazionale del Cilento, Vallo di Diano e Alburni, filled with mountains, forests, rivers and creeks.
Enjoy a delicious locally-sourced breakfast on board as the Golden Eagle Danube Express begins its movement onto one of the very few "rail ferries" in the world across to Sicily. Your first stop after the crossing is the flamboyant and feisty capital of Sicily, Palermo. Here you’ll take in a gentle walking tour of the city’s bustling old-town, taking in the city’s melting pot of architectural styles. Finish the tour with an aperitif and small concert at the stunning Teatro Massimo, the biggest theatre in Italy and the third largest in Europe.
This afternoon you have the choice to continue browsing the capital or take a transfer to Corleone to learn about the notorious Mafia families made famous by Francis Ford Coppola's motion picture, The Godfather.
Agrigento & Ragusa
Wake up in Agrigento, home to Italy’s most impressive Greek ruins. While the city itself lacks characters, you will focus on the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Valle Dei Templi with a privately lead tour around the remains of the ancient city.
This afternoon, continue onto Ragusa. This quaint small town has plenty of character with its many grey stone houses and churches littering the hillside making for wonderful picture post-card scenery. A cooking demonstration at a nearby hotel will allow you to get hands on with local delicacies before a brief walking tour of the historical old-town. Tonight the train will continue on to Siracusa.
Siracusa & Caltagirone
The former Byzantine empire was founded and raised at your first destination of the day in Siracusa. You’ll escape the hustle and bustle of the city itself and take the view from the water with a tour around the Island of Ortigia before heading back to the train for a lunch.
Continue to the attractive hilltop town of Caltagirone. Renowned for producing beautiful pottery since the 10th century, you will visit a local ceramic workshop before an intriguing visit to the Villa Romana del Casale, one of the best preserved Roman Villas in the world, to discover more about the Roman civilization that once ruled the island. This evening, enjoy a special dinner deep in the countryside at the Michelin-starred restaurant, Al Fogher.
Catania & Taormina
Following a leisurely breakfast on board, admiring the pleasing Sicilian landscapes, you will have the option of free time to explore the various characterful squares and churches of Catania, before taking a hands-on Sicilian pastry cooking class at the Società Storica Catanese (Catania Historical Society).
Later this afternoon, the train will continue onto your final stop of Taormina with two nights at the Hotel San Domenico Palace.
With views overlooking the gulf of Naxos and Mount Etna, the city of Taormina makes for a truly memorable setting for the end of your voyage. A privately guided tour of the Mount Etna museum with a local volcanologist will start your day before taking time on the slopes of the geological wonder itself at a Sicilian Palmento. Here you’ll sample local wines and take lunch amongst the vineyard. This afternoon you’ll have time to relax amid the gorgeous medieval churches and the stunning Greek theater. Tonight, toast the success of the tour at your farewell dinner at the Hotel San Domenico Palace, complete of course with champagne.
After breakfast, you will be transferred onto the airport for onward departures.