Italy & France



Italy and France

Gastronomic, Botanic, Historic

August 24th   / September 11th

Join us and follow Napoleon’s historical journeys from Venice and the plains of northern Italy, across the Alps and down to Switzerland and on to the heart of France,

We start in the famous and extraordinary city of Venice and from there travel onto northern Italy and the lush and beautiful Italian lakes. We follow in the footsteps of famous poets, writers and artists and soak up the exquisite Piedmont and Lombardy food and wine – cruising on Lakes Como and Maggiore and taking in Milan and Verona.

From there we cross the Simplon Pass – like travellers for centuries, and descend down into Switzerland to explore the pre-alpine Geneva region, as well as some of the highest mountains in Europe. The local mountain food and scenery are unique and spectacular.

We enjoy rural Burgundy with its famous food and wines and beautiful villages. Napoleon is known to have appreciated all these areas. You will understand his Corsican love of French and Italian gastronomy and culture, as well as his influence on these regions, which is still apparent today.

Tour Leader: Judith Cullen

I have been hosting tours to Italy for the past 10 years. Over this time I have learned to love the regional diversity of Italy and how it contributes so much to its food, wine, and way of life.

I have now included France and have done this tour since 2013. I feel it’s addition its perfect and works beautifully traveling across the top of Italy, dipping into Switzerland and into the heart of France. Venice has become my favourite home base and a perfect city to begin our travels.

Here in Dunedin I have been running cooking classes in my home since 1996. Based on seasonal regional food I encourage cooking at home using simple flavoursome recipes that are healthy and suitable for families and Casual dining. My love of cooking, gardening and travel has led me to plan this exciting tour using an expert character in Charles, who is perfectly suited to guide us and help you experience a combination of France and Italy in one trip.

Guide: Charles Barkla:

Now resident in Edinburgh, Scotland and New Zealand, Charles lived in the areas that we will visit for over 12 years, latterly as the New Zealand Consul General in Milan.

He has visited the Alps since his childhood and has developed a deep local knowledge and understanding, much of which will not be found in guide books.

He enjoys sharing his love of the scenery, history, food and wine of this exciting part of the world, which has accurately been described as the ‘Crossroads of Europe’ since pre-Roman times.

Charles has been the guide on this tour since the first in 2014. You will be in awe of his comprehensive knowledge, fingertip historical facts and cultural understanding.




Day 1 –   Arrive Venice

From the Airport it is a short walk down to the lagoon and boat ramp where we will meet our designated water taxis. It’s an exhilarating ride towards the canals of Venice and up a minor narrow canal where you can step off into our hotel. This small boutique hotel, once a Palazzo will welcome you and be a quiet oasis for the next four nights. After a freshen up we will enjoy a quiet passegiata stopping for a glass of aperol spritz before a welcome dinner.


IMG_0017Day 2, 3, 4

Venice – The land of grand palaces, boats and water.

Historically Venice is an enormous monument. Sitting firmly surrounded by water, this maritime city is a testament its colourful past. Napoleon had a huge influence here, but we also come into contact with New Zealand’s history from the Second World War.

  • Meet our Venetian tour guide Cristina who will accompany us for the next 3 days.

We will be introduced to this seafaring paradise. Learn what Venice is all about and relate its history to the vibrant city we see today.Visit the extensive fish and vegetable market and eat local regional cuisine. Share a table with the Gondoliers. There are countless Trattoria’s serving typical Venetian food. Have a chance to visit some of the numerous galleries – Peggy Guggenheim, Academia or the contemporary Prada collection. The Biennale is on this year and a visit to the New Zealand exhibition by Simon Denny is a must. Positioned close to San Marco it will be easy to pop in and show support.

  • Traveling in a private bus with the charming Daniele as our driver, we venture out into the Veneto with Cristina. This is your chance to see where all those grapes are grown for making prosecco. We will stop for a winery visit before traveling through the striking countryside to a stunner of a village called Asolo. Here we will sit high on a balcony overlooking the Veneto and enjoy a very memorable summer lunch. On our return we will stop and be wowed by Andrea Palladio’s architecture and visit one of his many villas called Villa Barbero.IMG_0014
  • Along with Cristina we will travel by private water taxi on the Venetian Lagoon, visiting the islands of Murano and Burano (famous for glass blowing and lace making). We will relish the atmosphere and relax over in a long lunch. This will be a very unforgettable day.IMG_0019


Day 5

We leave Venice after breakfast by water taxi to meet our bus and driver Alberto, who will be with us for the remainder of the tour. Stopping in at Verona for a few hours will give you a chance to walk past the impressive arena where operas are performed most nights during the summer. A sneak look at the over touristed Juliet’s balcony! We will walk past the famous Verona markets (flowers and fresh fruit and vegetables) and see the Adige River.

You can choose one of the many cafes for a light lunch before we proceed onto the quant, very small town of Moltrasio on Lake Como.

We will drive along the side of the lake to our hotel, where we will stay for three nights. This is a private family operated hotel and they will prepare dinner for us after a day in the bus.

Days 6 & 7

Moltrasio is a quiet little village on the western shore of Lake Como. We will not only enjoy the peaceful atmosphere, but also use its excellent position as a port on the network of lake boats. This makes it easy to visit lovely houses, gardens and the city of Como. We will be able to appreciate scenery that has attracted famous people over the centuries, from Pliny to George Clooney. Here we will enjoy Lombardy cuisine and local wines, which tend to be less well known abroad than other regional Italian specialties.

  • Traveling up the lake by bus past wonderful gardens and villages we will stop at Villa Carlotta. This is an extensive historical garden surrounding the beautiful Villa Carlotta which commands a wonderful view the lake and the village of Bellagio.


A short ferry ride will transport us to Bellagio where you will be free to walk around, explore or sit and enjoy a glass of wine over lunch.

We will return down the lake by ferry and you can choose the fast ride and visit the city of Como in the late afternoon .Its famous for silk, its historical cathedral and spectacular position.

Or relax on the slow boat, sit back and gaze at the outstanding gardens and houses from the comfort of the boat.

Dinner tonight is with the group. Sitting beside the lake watching the fireflies. Alessio will treat you with flavours of the lake and wonderful service.

  • We have a busy fabulous day visit to Milan. Today we catch the train early into the heart of Milan and miss the inevitable slow morning traffic. We have a booking with a guide and tickets to the Cenacolo Vinciano (Leonardo’s Last Supper). This is a once in a lifetime highlight. The tour continues for a couple of hours before we continue on a short walk up to the cathedral, past the distinguished Pecks deli, into the famous Galleria shopping arcade, La Scala or a meander along the Fashion streets.

You will have time to visit a gallery, shop or maybe walk amongst the gargoyles on the rooftop of the cathedral .

Alberto will meet us and we can relax in the bus back to Como for a quiet night.

Day 8

Departing Moltrasio you will get a last glimpse at Lake Como before heading down to Piedmonte and the town of Barbaresco. This is the home of outstanding red wines.


IMG_0031Charles’s New Zealand friend Jeffrey Chilcott will lead us through a wine tasting at the wine cellar surrounded by rolling hills covered in vines. He has organised our lunch and again at a long table right in the middle of the village Barbaresco we will become familiar with Piedmonte Cuisine.

We will drive on to our hotel at Pallanza. It sits adjacent to the shore of Lake Maggiore we have three nights here to become acquainted with another of Italy’s prestigious lakes


Days 9 & 10

Pallanza is perfectly placed in the most picturesque part of Lake Maggiore. It has easy boat links to the most significant attractions, as well as having an excellent range of restaurants. We visit the famous Borromean Islands, sumptuous gardens, beautiful lakes and can do some serious retail therapy. We will enjoy Piemontese food and wines, which straddle French and Italian cuisine.

Charles has spent many years since childhood visiting the Lake Maggiore and loves to share his knowledge of the region.

  • A day on the lake: Today you will have an all-day boat pass and visiting the islands of Isola Bella, Isola Pescatore and Isola Madre is a must. A short boat ride to the tiny chapel of Santa Caterina can also be part of your day and a walk through Stresa – the biggest town on the lake.

Eating in the evening back in Pallanza on an outside balcony at a local trattoria will help you appreciate a typical family run restaurant serving classic Italian food.

  • We have a restful morning and bit of a start late. The market will be in town and you get to see how these travelling mobile shops provide “everything”. Later in the morning we will take a leisurely, gentle walk beside the lake to visit to the beautiful garden of the famous Villa Taranto. You can meander through the many garden styles from formal plantings and herbaceous borders to the best assortment of dahlias and the huge collection of mature trees.


  • A short drive will take us to the tranquil little ‘Lake Orta’. It’s a late lunch day today and after a quick bite to eat we will take a boat over to the island of San Giulio. Silent and hushed it is still the home of a convent. It’s a lovely little walk in very peaceful surroundings.
  • Spend time at the Alessi factory shop on the way back to Pallanza. Fun and worth the visit when we are in the area.


Day 11

We say farewell to Lake Maggiore after breakfast and the friendly staff at Hotel Pallanza.

We go from Domodossola in Italy and onto Brig which takes us from Italy over the Simplon Pass to German speaking Switzerland. The pass is an excellent road, peaking at 2005 metres, where there is an historic hospice.

We drive down the Rhone valley towards the impressive castles on the shores of Lake Geneva to Yvoire where we stay for four nights.

Before we encounter the lake we will stop for lunch at Foundation Gianadda in Martigny. This is a well-known museum with permanent museum and seasonal painting exhibitions from the world-famous artists. This year is Matisse – so aren’t we lucky !!!. We will have lunch here and you will have time to study at the awesome collection of sculptures in the garden.

Once again driving beside a lake – this time it’s Lake Geneva. We stop at Yvoire. It is in France, but is only 20 minutes from Geneva. This is a car-free walled medieval village on the shores of Lake Geneva. It’s a beautiful place to spend the next four nights.

Tonight after settling into your lovely room we will have dinner in the hotel – hopefully outside beside the pool.

Days 12, 13, 14

Charles is our expert in the Alps and during our three days based at Yvoire, we explore the contrasting foothills and high mountain areas of French speaking Switzerland and the Haute Savoie (Savoy). We will cruise and drive beside beautiful lakes with their cities, towns and villages, and get to know the famous cheeses, meats and chocolates of the region.

  • On our first day we explore the mountains and visit Chamonix, the capital of alpinism and view Mont Blanc – the highest mountain in Europe. Before we arrive though our journey will take us high up into the mountains to meet our friend Stephanie. She operates a restaurant at the base of a ski tow. Here you will experience the most glorious views of Mt Blanc while sitting outside relishing a lunch of typical mountain food.

Down the mountain and along the valley our drive will take us to Chamonix. We take the teleferique ride up to a mountain refuge where some people choose to walk in the summer. But we just get the exhilarating ride and eye popping views.


  • Traveling by ferry again, day two starts gliding on the lake from Yvoire to Geneva where we will discover the old section of the city on foot. You can stay and explore the city some more – maybe view the international offices or meet Alberto and take the bus back to the hotel for a relaxed afternoon around the pool.

We are eating local tonight in a delightful typical hotel down beside the lake.

Raclettes, fondues, dried meats along with goats, sheep and cow cheeses are famous in this part of France.

  • Sadly only one day left in this wonderful region but today we get to participate in a true local market in the delightful town of Annecy.

It also sits on a gorgeous lake, where many boats provide lake cruises.

We however, will be purchasing our lunch from the market and picnicking in the park beside the lake. It’s your chance to choose some of the typical foods like – Rillettes, Terrine, select from huge variety of cheeses, delicious breads or a take slice of Nougat.

Lake Genva is famous for its lake fish and tonight we will be having ‘Fish and Chips’ Lake style – this is so delicious – especially when you are sitting up on a lovely outside terrace with a view of the architectural roof tops of Yvoire.


Days 15,

We leave Yvoire after breakfast and drive north to Cluny. Its famous Benedictine Abbey dates back to the year 910 and reached its peak during the middle Ages. It was the largest Christian building in the world until the construction of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome in the 16th century and is still a centre of spiritual influence. We will enjoy a walk through the complex and the delightful little town. Then we proceed through Macon and along the River Saone to Beaune.

Our hotel is in the heart of Beaune and an easy walk to the centre of town. Over the road is the city wall and is a perfect morning walk before breakfast.

Dinner is a short walk into the town to one of my favourite Beaune restaurants called Le Conty

During our three days based in Beaune we will be kept busy getting to know this exquisite French town in the heart of Burgundy. We have a lot to learn about the wine and food. Guides Vincent and Claire will help us discover the beautiful Burgundy region.

Beaune enjoys a long traditional of famous wine production as well as being a key part of the rich gastronomic pageant of French food. We will visit wonderful wine producers who in Burgundy, are generally smaller and therefore offer a very personal tasting experience.

Days 16,17,18

The excursions from Beaune include:

  • A walk through the old town of Beaune with a visit to the venerable Hotel-Dieu is a great way of preparing ourselves for the next three days. Our guide will show us through the Hospices du Beaune where you will be intrigued and fascinated by its revered history. We will sit in the town square for a coffee and a chance to watch the locals.

All through the Burgundy region wine is stored in labyrinths of underground storage rooms. We will be visiting Marche aux Vins to begin our lesson on Burgundian wine and its classification. We will very soon know about the terms – Village Wine, Premier Cru and Grand Cru. In a tour through wines caves under the centre of Beaune we will get an idea of the extent of this complicated wine system. The afternoon and evening is left for you to explore and wander the charming streets and alleys, Visit the wine Museum, shop or rest at the hotel.

In the evening Beaune has special illumination displays throughout the late summer. This is fun to do in the evening by walking around the 8 displays and at the same time learning about the history of Beaune and maybe making a stop for a glass of wine!

  • On day two I have the expert guidance of Claire and Vincent. Claire is going to introduce us to truffles and our day will be in the forest. Accompanied by her dogs we will go on a truffle hunt. Prepare, cook and eat a lunch in a forest lodge accompanied with local wines. Following lunch Vincent will take us on a drive through the vineyards past areas where some of the most expensive wine in the world comes from.This is a special day with locals showing us their region, giving us and providing us with their expert guidance and Knowledge.

You probably won’t want very much for dinner – maybe a light snack in Beaune?

  • The morning of our last day on tour is spent in the Beaune experiencing a typical French market where locals come and buy their weekly food and produce- from whole Bresse Chickens complete with their blue feet, trays of terrines, cabinets of the best cheese you have ever seen, Veal, Beef and Lamb, fantastic artistic stands of fruits and vegetables along with Autumn Mushrooms and Truffles. You won’t have any problem amusing yourself in this market. You can take home hand crafted knives or lovely cotton handkerchiefs!!

On our way to lunch we will be stopping at Chateaux Meursault. This is a lovely opportunity to see inside a working vineyard and imagine where the aristocracy lived. A short drive set in the countryside beside a canal is L’Escale – I love it here and it shows how French food is true and wonderful where ever you are.

Last Day = Last Night. Hotel De la Poste is where we are having dinner tonight.

Day 19: Depart Beaune

You can travel with the bus back to Geneva and catch a flight or travel by train north to maybe Paris…. London…. Etc.


Tour Inclusions:

  • New Zealand / Italian tour directors
  • Accommodation for 18 nights (4/5 star or special category hotels)
  • All breakfasts included along with 15 Lunches and Dinners
  • Wine tasting
  • Boat trips on Lake Geneva, Lake Maggiore, Lake Como and the Venetian Lagoon
  • Entry into gardens at lake Maggiore and lake Como
  • Comfortable transportation with A/C (including parking, tolls and ferry fees)
  • Transfer from Venice airport / Geneva Airport
  • Professional English speaking local guides
  • Entrance fees for museums, sites and historical places as detailed in the itinerary
  • Expenses and tips for all guides and drivers


Judith I thought you did superbly .You carried out your role as tour host superbly! (Again – your energy levels!). I felt you had my interests at heart – as you did for the other participants. So it’s top marks!


Very Good Judith a lot of work has gone into your planning for this Trip. We had a very good Travel Group and so many people seemed to know each other from previous trips. We had many enjoyable meals together bus Trips, and always interesting conversation. Thank you Judith 

Not being to these places before I thought it was very well planned, perfect Tour host with clear instructions very approachable with no pressure at any time











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