May 31st – June 16th, 2019
‘This isn’t a rally or a tour; it’s a house party on wheels!’ – Mike Couldry
The first Grand Tour of Italy in 2005 was very much a leap in the dark, for, as far as I know, nobody had attempted it before! The feedback from the event was excellent, and it has now run five times in virtually identical format, with just a few minor tweaks.
The concept, like all events run by Country Lane Tours, is for a relaxed sightseeing holiday with a vintage or classic car (but you’re still welcome in a modern!), and to that end on this trip you’re Motorailed across Europe during the night, with a cabin on the train, and when you wake up you’re in Italy.
For 2019 the tour follows the route used on all previous Grand Tours as far as Sorrento, but then, instead of heading for the Adriatic Coast directly, we run along the spectacular Amalfi Coast and head a short distance south to the spectacular Greek temples at Paestum.
From Paestum the entirely new route runs up the spine of rural Italy to Assisi and then crosses to Ravenna before finally returning to Verona and the train back to Dussedorf.
The mileage in Italy is only 1,500 in two weeks, so you have a chance to cruise at your own pace, stop when you want, and enjoy a relaxing holiday with your car. The easy-to-read, detailed road book enables hassle free navigation, and a support vehicle, complete with experienced mechanic, ensures peace of mind should problems occur. However, in all the tours I’ve organised problems have always been minor, and also few and far between. Old cars are very reliable!
Hotels are of superior quality, most have laundry facilities, and are generally located so you can walk to attractions and restaurants. There are several two-night halts, so you aren’t constantly packing bags each morning.
This tour is being run again at the request of my regulars and there are already twenty spaces provisionally reserved, so early booking to avoid disappointment is advised as the limit (motorail space) is forty cars! Two FREE DVDs of a previous tour are available on request.
Mileages are mostly low (see below), and when moving between the more distant towns autostradas and good main roads are used, but you can, of course, detour at any time. My allowed times for travel are normally totally beaten by even the slowest cars!
The trip is suitable for any car with a cruising speed of 45 – 50 mph and above, the only proviso being your cooling system needs to be tip top, for it is likely to be warm! If you have a car with limited luggage capacity we can assist.
The mileages to Dusseldorf from the ferry ports are as follows: Amsterdam – Dusseldorf (ex Newcastle) 142 miles, Rotterdam – Dusseldorf (ex Hull) 143 miles, and Calais – Dusseldorf (ex Dover) 251 miles.
Listed below is the itinerary for the event, which I stress again is designed to be a relaxing holiday with your car, not just an old car rally. There is no night driving, and absolutely no competition, other than getting to the bar first!
May 31st, Friday. 4 pm embarkation on Motorail at Dusseldorf, for overnight journey to Verona. You drive your car onto the train, so there are no worries about a third party not treating your pride and joy with due care. All cabins are two berth, most with wash basin, and every carriage has a shower and toilet at each end.
The train gets under way at 6pm, and for many miles we travel along the edge of the Rhine, with splendid views of the islands, castles, and river traffic. Overnight – Train
June 1st, Saturday. Arrive 9 am in Verona, and then travel to Florence. We should reach the city a little after midday, which will allow time to settle into the hotel and explore during the afternoon, or just chill out with a glass of wine on the terrace. Our hotel is just fifty yards from the Ponte Vecchio, right in the heart of the city, and less than ten minutes walk from the Uffizi gallery.
Evening dinner is at Alfredo’s restaurant, which has splendid views of the River Arno and the bridge. The hotel’s bar / breakfast room is on the sixth floor of the tower, and there are amazing views across the city. Overnight – Florence. MILEAGE FOR DAY – 144
June 2nd, Sunday. Florence. Free day, and a chance to visit the sights and explore the warren of small side streets that surround the hotel. Michelangelo’s statue of David, housed in the Galleria dell’Accademia is a must-see. Overnight – Florence. MILEAGE FOR DAY – 0
June 3rd, Monday. Pisa. This is just over 50 miles from Florence, and I’ve arranged a route taking in the back roads going out, and returning via the motorway. There’s a great deal more to see than the tower, including the magnificent baptistery, just a few yards away. Pisa is a much less frenetic city than Florence, but equally charming. Overnight – Florence. MILEAGE FOR DAY – 112
June 4th, Tuesday. Florence to the ancient town of Frascati, just south of Rome, via Sienna.
Frascati looks down onto Rome, and I’ve chosen it because it’s easy to get to, and obviates driving into Rome city centre. Our hotel, the Villa Tuscolana, dates back to 1573 and situated on the hill above the town. Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer residence, is just a short drive (7 miles) away. Overnight – Frascati. MILEAGE FOR DAY – 210
June 5th, Wednesday. A guided tour of Rome by coach, with an opportunity to explore in the afternoon. The coach picks us up from the hotel in the morning and an experienced guide explains the city’s history. Overnight – Frascati. MILEAGE FOR DAY – 0
June 6th, Thursday. Frascati to Sorrento, visiting Monte Cassino and the incredible Royal Palace at Caserta along the way.
Monte Cassino was totally destroyed during the last war, but has now been returned to its former glory. The road up is spectacular, with numerous hairpins and tremendous views. Restaurant K2 near the bottom of the hill always provides an excellent lunch at reasonable cost!
Our hotel in Sorrento looks across Naples Bay towards Vesuvius. Overnight – Sorrento. MILEAGE FOR DAY – 170
June 7th, Friday. A drive up to the top of Vesuvius, and then a visit to the ancient ruins of Pompeii (not to be missed)! I’m thinking of awarding a prize to anyone able to resist the sales charms of the old gentleman who runs the small coffee and gift shop at the viewing point as he tells the sad story of his family and the funicular railway that once transported tourists to the summit and then sells you his book! Overnight – Sorrento. MILEAGE FOR DAY – 62
June 8th, Saturday. We head west along the Amalfi Coast to Paestum, calling into the picturesque village of Positano (see above left). Overnight – Paestum. MILEAGE FOR DAY – 60
June 9th, Sunday. We start heading north and into rural Italy, calling in at the Marinelli bell foundry in Agnone which has been run by the same family since 1339! Overnight – Castel Di Sangro. MILEAGE FOR DAY – 169
June 10th, Monday. Continuing north the route traverses several passes and once more the scenery is spectacular. Overnight Assisi. MILEAGE FOR DAY – 164
June 11th, Tuesday. Our hotel overlooks the valley and Perugia. It has been used previously on the Unknown Italy tours and it’s hoped the mayor will give us permission to park in St. Francis Square (see left) while we visit the Basilica and explore the historic city. Overnight – Assisi. MILEAGE FOR DAY – 7
June 12th, Wednesday. An easy run through pleasant scenery to historic Ravenna, leaving plenty of time during the afternoon to explore and wonder at the buildings adorned with intricate ceramics. Overnight – Ravenna. MILEAGE FOR DAY – 123
June 13th, Thursday. Today we follow the Adriatic coast for twenty-five miles up to Comacchio before heading inland via Mantua and Villafranca Di Verona to Verona itself. In Villafranca is an amazing museum (Museo Nicolis) which has a vast collection of cars, motorcycles, office equipment – and even aeroplanes on the roof! Our hotel is on the main thoroughfare into Verona and less than ten minutes walk from the central square and amphitheatre. Overnight – Verona. MLEAGE FOR DAY – 148.
June 14th, Friday. Our hotel is a short walk from the station and there are frequent trains straight into Venice. The station in Venice is next to the Grand Canal so you can simply walk out onto the pier and catch a waterbus to see the sights. A coffee in St. Mark’s square listening to the music is a must even if a bit pricey! Overnight – Verona. MILEAGE FOR DAY – 0
June 15th, Saturday. A morning to chill out in Verona or perhaps take a morning drive out to picturesque Sirmione on Lake Garda before boarding the train at 4pm.
June 16th, Sunday. Dusseldorf, normally about 10am.
Please note! There may be slight variations to the above schedule if circumstances change, but regular updates will be issued to registered participants.
The cost for this holiday of a lifetime (based on two people sharing) – includes all accommodation on a B&B basis in superior hotels, motorailing your car across Europe in both directions, a two-berth cabin on the train, continental breakfast on the train, first night’s dinner in Florence, final dinner in Verona, a back up vehicle with qualified mechanic, overnight car parking fees where appropriate, all maps, rally plates, and comprehensive, detailed, road book, plus sundries. Prices can be quoted for extra passengers per car and also single occupancy. A holding deposit of just £250 per person (repayable in full less £10 admin. charge up to January 29th 2019) secures your place, with the balance due by January 30th 2019 .
If you wish to drive rather than use the train then a deduction of £450 will be made for each cancelled section (£900 if you drive both ways).
The entry is currently limited to a maximum of forty cars and the limited number of superior cabins on the train will be issued on a ‘first come, first served’ basis.
What’s included in the price?
- The train across Europe for both car and passengers
- A cabin on the train
- Continental breakfast on the train
- Hotels on a bed & breakfast basis
- First night’s dinner in Florence
- Guided tour of Rome by coach
- Dinner in Paestum
- Dinner in Castel Di Sangro
- Two nights’ dinner in Assisi
- Farewell dinner in Verona.
- All city taxes
- Entry to some attractions
- Most car parking charges
- Backup support vehicle and experienced mechanic
- Detailed road book
- Marked Michelin map book of Italy
- Rally plates
- Experienced tour director
- Plus more and various minor additions
6th GRAND TOUR OF ITALY 2019 – ROUTE IN GREEN
You can see from the approximate route marked in green that we’re a long way south in Italy, but the TOTAL mileage from leaving the train to arriving back in Verona is only fourteen hundred miles (approximate) in the entire fortnight.
The route described gives just a synopsis of the things to do and see on the tour as space here does not allow inclusion of every detail.