On this amazing journeys, you will have the unique opportunity of traveling through Slovenia and Northern Italy with Chef Cathy Whims, owner of Nostrana. Cathy is excited to host again a small group of travelers and CJ’s founder Alessandra, to share her knowledge, and discover with you some amazing, hidden spots of Europe. Cathy’s love for coffee, local simple food, elegant restaurants, and some incredible wine will add to your experience for sure! Along the way, you will also enjoy pristine landscapes, charming villages, grand cities, thermal spas and UNESCO protected sites.
*Please click on each day to view daily itinerary.
Fly from the USA to Ljubljana, Slovenia
Your connection flight from Portland will likely be through Frankfurt. Please ask us if you would like help with your air reservation.
Upon your arrival at Ljubljana airport, you'll be picked up and transferred to your centrally located hotel. After check-in, the group will meet for a welcome talk and dinner. Sleep in Ljubljana
This morning you will enjoy a walking tour around the city and discover why Ljubljana was named the European Green Capital of 2016. The city was the obvious choice for the capital when Slovenia achieved independence in 1991. Ljubljana has always been a bridge between the German, Latin and Slavic cultures due to its geographic location. This cultural diversity is visible in the complex architecture along the river canals of the city center. You will have time to enjoy the colorful city’s central market, and will dine at a very refined, awesome restaurant a few miles outside the city. Sleep in Ljubljana
Today, you'll visit Lake Bled, an amazing jewel of nature nestled at the feet of the Julian Alps. Slovenia’s only island, Bled is located in the middle of an alpine lake with mountains on all sides. This spectacular location inspired Slavic populations to venerate Ziva, the goddess of love and fertility. Later, Christians built a church here that is still visited by pilgrims. The village of Bled is one of the most beloved locations in Slovenia. You will enjoy a great boat excursion on the lake and then will walk to the city castle from which you will enjoy some of the most amazing views you have ever seen. You will then enjoy a lunch of fresh trout and other local specialties, followed by a traditional local liquor. You will then reach Lake Bohinj, and visit the waterfalls nearby. Time permitting, you will also enjoy a stroll along the shoreline promenade, home for hundreds of wild flowers. Sleep in Ljubljana
Today you will learn about the Karst area with a visit to the impressive Škocjan Caves, the most significant underground phenomena in the Karst region of Slovenia and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For ages, people have been attracted to the gorge where the Reka River disappears mysteriously under a rocky wall. Archaeological research has shown that people lived in the caves and the surrounding area in prehistoric times. You will then indulge in a great truffle meal nearby. In the afternoon you will visit Predjama Castle. Perched high on a cliff, it officially dates back to the 16th century but there are traces that go back much further to when it is said to be the living quarters of the robber knight Erazem.” Sleep in Trieste
You will spend the full day in Trieste. You will first visit ILLY Coffee and learn about the production of Illy’s great coffee, followed by a coffee tasting class. You will then have lunch in a traditional pork buffet restaurant, and explore the city center. You will then venture to the scenic Miramare castle just outside Trieste. This was the home of Maximilian of Habsburg before he was appointed Emperor of Mexico. This area, for a long time Venetian, became the Austro-Hungarian harbor and the Hapsburg empire's only opening to the sea. Sleep in Trieste
This morning you will enjoy a short hike with views above the gulf of Trieste, a breathtaking intake of Mediterranean coastal scenery. You will then reach a very fun local wine producer (Zidarich or Kante) for a wine tasting. A late lunch will follow, at a family owned farmhouse nearby. The owners produce all that is served on the table, including jams, herbs, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, cured meats, etc. Energy and time permitting, we will then drive to either Koper or Piran in Slovenia and enjoy some free time walking around these fun seaside villages. Sleep in Trieste
This morning you will leave Slovenia and head back to Italy, where you will visit Livio Felluga’s world class wine production- pending confirmation. You will then enjoy an amazing lunch of local specialties. You will then reach San Daniele for a visit of a local ham producer and see the traditional production process that make this prosciutto so unique and tasty. Sleep in Spilimbergo or Udine
You will first visit the city of Bassano del Grappa, well known for its famous liquor. You will visit this lovely town’s famous Alpini bridge and charming local museum before heading to a tour of a local grappa produce where you will the opportunity to taste this distinctive liquor. You will then drive to the thermal spa town of Abano Terme, your home for the next three nights, where you will have time to relax at your resort’s spa. . Sleep in Abano Terme
Today, you will visit Padua, a major art center of the Veneto region and once a mighty rival of nearby Venice. Your day will include a visit to the Cappella degli Scrovegni, one of the greatest masterpieces of Giotto and a tour of Padua’s city center where you will see its famous university that gives this city such a great vibrancy. You will then indulge with a lunch at il Calandrino, the little brother of famous Le Calandre, in Sarmeola di Rubano. Sleep in Abano Terme
This morning you will climb aboard the riverboat “Burchiello” for an unforgettable cruise on the historic Brenta River, which connects Venice to Padua. You will explore the enchanting lands of the Doges and admire more than fifty luxurious villas – the summer residences of former Venetian nobility. You will have a picnic lunch on board the boat - or as soon as disembarked from this 5-hour cruise. Sleep in Abano Terme
This morning you will enjoy a scenic drive to Italy’s spectacular lake region where you will visit Sirmione, one of the most historic villages on the shores of Lake Garda. The town, inhabited since ancient times, owes its fame to its spectacular thermal spas. You will take in the lake with a boat tour, and will have time to walk on the lake shores or enjoy this little town before heading to a delightful lunch and wine tasting in the Valpolicella countryside. There, you will learn about Amarone and Ripasso wines, and taste some of the best at a great local producer. Sleep in Verona
Today you will visit the beautiful city of Verona, renowned all over the world for its opera Arena and the love story of Romeo and Juliet. You will enjoy Juliet’s balcony and explore the city center, meandering through Erbe Square’s central market and Verona’s elegant and intriguing small alleys. You will later savor a dinner of local specialties at one of Cathy's favorite restaurants. Sleep in Verona
You will fly out of Verona airport for your trip back home. Verona airport has direct connections with the following cities: London, Munich, Frankfurt, Madrid, Amsterdam, Rome If you wish to extend your trip, we will offer a two-nights/three-days post tour in Venice.
You will be transferred today by driver to start your two-night extensions in Venice. Sleep in Venice
Today you will enjoy an off-the-beaten path walking tour of the magical city of Venice. In the evening you will enjoy a classical music concert. Sleep in Venice
You will to be transferred to the Venice airport for your trip back home.
3 nights in Ljubljana
3 nights in Trieste
1 night in Spilimbergo or Udine
3 nights in Abano Terme
2 nights in Verona
Total: 12 nights, 13 days
$ 5,250 per person in double room
$ 850 single supplement
Venice Extension Price: $795 per person in double room
A born-again Italian, Chef Cathy is a six-time James Beard Award finalist and one of the two Oregon chefs to be a part of the White House Diplomatic Corps of Chefs. Invited by the James Beard Foundation and the US State Department, Cathy represented the United States at the World Expo 2015 in Milan. In the course of her professional career, Cathy has studied with Marcella and Victor Hazan at their home in Venice, and Madeleine Kamman at the School for American Chefs. Co-owner of award-winning restaurant “Nostrana”, Cathy has cooked with Giancinto Albarello in Genoa and in his own kitchen at the Antica Torre Trattoria in Barbaresco, and with Marco Forneris at Osteria La Libera in Alba, both renowned restaurants of the Langhe. Her passion and never-ending curiosity for Italy takes Cathy there many times every year. She is excited to share some of her personal connections with local chefs and producers with you, and to return to some of the places close to her heart.