After an early start from Bristol airport, we arrived in the eternal city of Rome. Our 4-star hotel was located a 5 min walk from the Colosseum and central for all points of interest in the city and convenient for the various “hop on hop off” bus tours. City centre hotels tend to offer bed & breakfast only as they are surrounded by restaurants of all types- from simple family run trattorias to exclusive dining options. Our hotel, the Monti Palace has popular rooftop terrace with spectacular views over the city rooftops and historic monuments- ideal for that sunset glass of Prosecco.
The city was incredibly busy over the weekend and entrance queues for the monuments were often 2 hours long- so the answer for us was to hire a private guide for a 3-hour walking tour. Not only did it work out extremely good value for a group, she was able to tailor the route and timings to our preferences, highlighting for us, the colosseum story, the Roman forum and palatine hill and after a refreshing cool beer, we finished in the Jewish quarter and treated ourselves to a tasty lunch of risotto with asparagus and a favourite capriciosa pizza with a local beer or two, for around 25 euros each. After our 2 nights in Rome, we were transferred to the port of Civitavechia, to board our ship, the Star Clipper for the next 5 nights for cruise to Elba, Lerici, Portofino, Monaco ending in Cannes.
We arrived in Elba at Portoferraio and with a choice of excursions or if you preferred, a short walk into town to discover it for yourself and its connections with Napoleon. Pretty squares, colourful shops and houses and blooming pink and purple Bougainvillea everywhere set the scene for our first Mediterranean port of call.
Back on board, you can have a relaxing massage or enjoy the quiet decks soaking up some Mediterranean sunshine or a dip in the two pools.
Known as the Bay of poets, as it was a favourite place for the pets Shelley and Byron- the small but perfectly formed town of Lerici is ideal for exploring on foot or for taking the local ferry boat ideally on a guided excursion to see the famous “Cinque Terre“ - five villages that cling to the steep cliffs of a coastline that is now a UNESCO world heritage site.
Famous more for the wine produced on the terrace vines, and the unique way of living rather than fishing, the villages, still vibrant with life, are a popular place for tourists to visit or a challenging walk for hikers with a head for heights. Complete your day with a delicious dinner aboard ship - the informal pirate theme evening was great fun too.
Stylish Portofino has to be the highlight of any cruise itinerary that visits Italy. We disembarked by tender, in sunny but windy conditions. Moving from ship to tender is not for the less mobile and something that should be considered when choosing your itinerary.
Strolling through the beautiful main square, shops abound with designer names like Dior or Louis Vuitton and the like - great for window shopping, before a cold beer or coffee so you are refreshed before a steep climb up to Castello Brown for amazing 360-degree views of Portofino and the picturesque coastline and of course, the Star Clipper ship herself.
We docked right in town so an easy walk into the centre or hop on the Big red bus tour at 21 euros for the day. You will see luxury yachts, Maseratis, mopeds- even the Bat mobile! Walk some the formula 1 track or see casino square. The highlight of the day was the Royal Palace and the changing of the guard there.
The Princes’ car collection is great for motor enthusiasts and the Oceanographic museum well worth a visit. The highlight of the evening was our group-exclusive Star clipper cocktail party on the aft deck - with the glamorous town of Monte Carlo as a backdrop, we toasted our fellow travellers and the happy memories of our trip.
It’s time to say farewell to our lovely vessel Star Clipper. After breakfast, we took the tender to Cannes port then a swift transfer to Nice airport for our afternoon flight back to Bristol. Other passengers with later flights were able to incorporate a short excursion at an extra cost visiting either Cannes or Grasse en-route to the airport. Nice airport was extremely busy and non-EU passport holders find there are long queues through security and additional passport checks, so we were glad to have built in extra time for our transit through.