26th June - 3rd July 2022

The Discover Northern Italy’s Secret Gems tour starts with a 4 night stay in the beautifully scenic and gloriously green Imagna Valley, which is nestled in Lombardy, just a few kilometres to the east of Lake Como’s shores. It feels like a rural and untouched oasis where you can really get under the skin of Italy and capture the essence of Italian life. From Lombardy the tour then takes you to Veneto for a 3 night stay at Castel Brando, a spectacularly restored ancient castle in the Treviso Hills. 


Day 1: Depart the UK for our flight to Italy. On arrival we will be met by our local guide and coach for the transfer to the Miramonti hotel. After check-in we will have time to relax before dinner. The hotel is located within the small hilltop village of Rota d’Imagna, there are a few shops, restaurants and a pretty 15th century church close by. The hotel itself has the most wonderful views – its terrace cuts in the hillside and looks out over the rolling hills and stunning scenery of the surrounding valley. 

Days 2 -4

  • Full day guided excursion in the Imagna Valley region. There are several unique and 
    interesting attractions beyond its abundant greenery, unspoilt landscapes and mountain scenery. We will visit the unusual Cornabusa Cave Church – this spiritual sanctuary within a natural grotto has been adapted into a functioning place of worship over hundreds of years. A popular destination for pilgrimages, the church also has ties to the late Pope John XXIII. The Imagna Valley is a wonderful place to explore the region’s gastronomy – indeed, getting to know the regional specialities is the key understanding life in the Imagna Valley. The cuisine is influenced by its Alpine location and abundance of cattle, and as such many unique and delicious cheeses are produced here such as the soft and creamy  stracchino. A brilliant way to experience this craft is to visit to a cheesemaker and see how the experts do it! Lunch (Included today) will be taken in a local authentic trattoria. Located in an historic building in the village of Roncaglia, it takes pride in serving dishes from the local tradition using produce from the valley, created with age-old recipes. Tonight a light dinner will be served at the hotel.
  • Full day guided excursion to Lake Iseo Tucked unobtrusively between the larger lakes Garda and Como, this hidden gem is nevertheless the fourth largest lake in northern Italy. Loaded with the charm and beauty of its more famous neighbours, it sees just a fraction of the visitors. There will be time at leisure including a visit to a local cantina for a tour and tasting.
  • Guided excursion to Bergamo for a walking city tour. The bustling city of Bergamo is a majestic medieval masterpiece with history, culture and music at its heart. The historic core of the city sits atop a hill and is divided from the lower city by Venetian walls, which afford spectacular views of the surrounding Lombardy region. Explore the charming cobbled streets, take in the lovely architecture from different eras and visit the city’s fascinating churches, picturesque piazzas and outstanding museums and galleries. On
    return to the hotel we will have a pasta cooking lesson on how to make handmade Casonceli.
Day 5 – After breakfast and check-out we travel to Castel Brando with a stop at Padua for walking tour (1.25 hrs approx) of the city. It's an ancient city with a youthful population, Padua was once a medieval city-state that vied for power with Venice and Verona. Today, Padua is vibrant town with an authentic feel and a lovely place to stroll the streets, markets and parks, but its previous position of power is still evident in the incredible frescoes found within the town’s churches and chapels. Giotto’s extraordinary, luminous work in the Scrovegni Chapel is the jewel in the crown. Padua played a role in more recent history too, providing a stage for Mussolini’s Fascist oratory. After check-in at Castel Brando there will be time at leisure before dinner in the ‘Fucina’ Pizzeria. Dinner at the hotel.
Days 6 - 7
  • Your day starts with a guided tour of Castel Brando, then continues with a guided excursion to Vicenza.
    The architectural elegance of lovely Vicenza is almost solely thanks to one man: Palladio. During the 1500s, Palladio not only transformed this city but also influenced building styles across the whole of Europe. Classicism, sophistication and simplicity define the palazzi, villas and civic landmarks built in the Palladian style, and have been emulated far and wide. In addition to the stunning architecture, this small city bustles with lively markets, cafés and restaurants as well as interesting galleries and museums. Dinner is not included today, but we have arranged a later departure time from Vicenza to enable dinner to be taken in the city.
  • Full day guided excursion to Brassano del Grappa, famed predominately for its eponymous firewater, Bassano del Grappa’s historic centre exudes quiet charm. Explore the quaint wooden bridge over the River Brenta, interesting little churches, pretty piazzas, ceramics collections and grappa distilleries. Grappa is a fiery spirit made from the grape vines discarded in the wine-making process. During our visit a Prosecco tasting at Villa Sandi is
    included. Villa Sandi is an incredible Palladian masterpiece which dates back to the 1620s. Villa Sandi produces exceptional prosecco thanks to its traditional methods and the fertile lands surrounding the house. You can discover the opulence of the delicate, beautiful interior and enjoy a tour of the extensive wine cellars, as well as tasting of a variety of their wines. Dinner tonight will be in the main restaurant ‘Sansovino’

Day 8: Early check out of the hotel for return transfer to the airport and our return flight to Manchester. 

Our Hotels:   

The 4* Miramonti Hotel, Rota D’Imagna is an impressive spa

hotel with immaculate and tasteful rooms, and brilliant facilities include an indoor pool that advances outside to make the most of the views. The outdoor terraces are staggered down the hillside, and at the bottom is a small woodland which is lovely for a short stroll. The heart of this hotel, however, is the lovely family that run it – they have real pride in their hotel and the region, and this comes through in their hospitality and the delicious cuisine in the hotel’s restaurant.

All rooms are equipped with en-suite, internet, a mini-bar, TV, safe deposit box and a hair-dryer. Breakfast is cold buffet-style and dinner is traditional Italian cuisine.

Castel Brando Hotel is one of the largest and oldest castles in Europe with amazing views over Valmareno. Castel Brando is a national historic monument and the careful restoration has brought to light its original splendor, the beauty of a place with 2000 years of history, home for centuries to noble and illustrious venture captains or Condottieri. The hotel has atmospheric bars, terraces, wine cellar and Museum areas. A Unique funicular takes you to the hotel!

All rooms are equipped with en-suite, TV, safe deposit box and a hair-dryer. Buffet breakfast each morning served in the main restaurant

Price per person (Based on 2 Adults sharing Twin/Double Room):

  • Member Plus Adult - £1259
  • Member Adult - £1309                     
  • Non Member Adult - £1359                  
  • Single Supplement - £154 (double/twin for sole occupancy)

Price Includes:

  • Return flights from Manchester to Northern Italy
  • Return airport transfers in Italy with English speaking guide  
  • Porterage at both hotels if required
  • Welcome drink at the Miramonti Hotel
  • 4 nights half board accommodation at the Miramonti Hotel, Rota D’Imagna including 1/2 bottle House Wine with dinner and tea/coffee afterwards each evening 
  • Full day guided excursions to Lake Iseo with time at leisure including Cantina tour and tasting  
  • Full day guided excursion to Imagna Valley region, visits to Cornubusa Cave Sanctuary, local cheesemaker and lunch at local trattoria
  • Full day guided excursion to Bergamo including walking tour of the city. At the hotel a Pasta cooking lesson on how to make handmade Casonceli
  • Walking tour of Padua (1.25 hrs approx)
  • 3 Nights with Breakfast and 2 nights Dinner at Castel Brando
  • A tour of Castel Brando
  • Full day guided excursions to Bassano Del Grappa including Prosecco tasting at Villa Sandi
  • Full day guided excursion to Vicenza (Dinner not included on this day)

Not Included:

  • City Tax (at this time no tax applicable, but if situation changes this will be payable locally)
  • Single Supplement
  • Drinks with Dinner at Castel Brando
  • Any items of a personal nature such as meals, drinks, etc
  • Tips (discretionary)
  • Travel Insurance

For further details and bookings, you can either use the Reservation Form or contact Bob Walker 

Please include your Name, Home Address, Contact Telephone Number, Membership Number and the Number Places Required (Member/Non-Member)

Saturday 26th - Sunday 27th February 2022

Where are we off to this time on our mystery tour?

Maybe Mystic Bob will give you some clues.

Bob can see that you are going near historic places and across waters on a journey which is all over land.

You may take your time to guess where this journey will end.

It could let you take a seat or raise your spirits.

But things are not always as they seem and these fleeting meetings on the path to success, could boost your esteem.

Although, not very clear, he can see a place for fayre, refreshments and rest.

I think this trip will put your guessing to the test.

Try Mystic Bob, again and again, but all your pleading will be in vain. So book on this tour and take a chance for what should be a very interesting and entertaining weekend.

Transport: Coach travel is included in the cost with the following pick ups – Middleton, Ashton, Stockport, Poynton, Macclesfield.

What's included:

  • 1 Night accommodation with Breakfast and Dinner
  • Lunch on both days
  • Transport throughout
  • Entry into any attractions on the mystic itinerary

Prices per Person: (Based on 2 Adults sharing a Double/Twin Room):

  • Member Plus - £137
  • Members - £142
  • Non-Member - £147
  • Single Supplement £20

For further details and bookings, you can either use the Reservation Form or contact Bob Walker 

Please include your Name, Home Address, Contact Telephone Number, Membership Number and the Number Places Required (Member/Non-Member)



10th - 23rd October 2021 - 12 Nights/14 Days

For our Autumn 2021 tour we will be travelling to a magical land of contrasts. We will spend time in the hyper-modern capital Tokyo and experience ancient traditions, culture and architectural heritage in the historic Imperial capital, Kyoto. A full excursion programme includes highlights such as Mount Fuji, insights in to the world of the Shoguns and Emperors, traditional Japanese cultural visits, temples and shrines, castles and gardens, as well as Japan’s trees in the fall (subject to seasonal variation). Complementary to our coach and guide will be trips on the famous Bullet Train and a poignant visit to Hiroshima where the first atomic bomb was used in anger.

Sunday 10 / Monday 11 October Travel to Tokyo.  After making our own arrangements to get to Manchester Airport, we depart for Japan on an overnight flight to Tokyo. On arrival we are met by our transfer coach for the trip to our hotel with English speaking assistance for the transfer and check in . Today we have time to relax or explore independently before making our own arrangements for dinner.

Tuesday 12 October – Nikko. Today’s full day excursion takes us out of Tokyo to Nikko where we experience Japanese history and culture in a stunning natural setting. The shrines and temples of Nikko are a UNESCO World Heritage site and we start by visiting Toshogu Shrine, the final resting place of Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, rulers Japan for over 250 years. Our next stop is Tamozawa Imperial Villa which served as a summer residence for the Japanese Imperial family in the years before the Second World War. Next our coach takes us to Nikko National Park which has a total of 48 waterfalls and our last stop before returning to our Tokyo hotel is the 97 metre Kegon Falls, one of the most beautiful in Japan and an amazing photo opportunity.

Wednesday 13 October - Tokyo. Today we have a guided morning tour of Tokyo by coach. Our tour includes Asakusa, Tokyo’s oldest temple; lively Nakamise Street, one of the oldest shopping streets in Japan; Sensoji, a colourful Buddhist temple and a trip to the Tembo observation deck of the Tokyo Sky Tree for views of the city. In the afternoon we have time for independent sightseeing, ask your guide for suggestions to suit your interests. For example, Tokyo has a fabulous reputation as the food capital of the world or visit Electric City for the latest or wackiest gadgets. Overnight is back at our Tokyo hotel.

Thursday 14 October - Tokyo. Now we’ve learnt a little about Tokyo, we have a full day of independent sightseeing. Tokyo is the world’s biggest city and can be thought of as several cities in one. The public transport system is clean cheap, efficient and east to navigate with most of the areas of interest accessible via the Yamanote Line which runs in a ring around the city. Different areas have their own sights and characters so we can all indulge our own interests in a city that has something for everyone whether that’s culture, history, gardens, etc.

Friday 15 October - Mount Fuji. We check out of our Tokyo hotel for a full day’s excursion to Mount Fuji, perhaps the highlight and certainly the most iconic image, in the whole of Japan. We’ll make sure our camera batteries are fully charged as today is full of opportunities to capture this world famous image. Our day includes a cruise on Lake Ashi, a ride on the Owakudani Ropeway (cable car), weather permitting, over the volcanic valley and a visit to Mount Fuji 5th station, the highest point reachable by coach, also weather permitting, for great views. Our hotel is near Mount Fuji where we enjoy an included dinner.

Saturday 16 October - Matsumoto & Takayama. We leave our hotel for today’s excursion to Matsumoto. Our first visit is to Matsumoto Castle, one of the most complete and beautiful in Japan. With its characteristic black wainscoting, it gives off an air of grandeur and poise. The wooden interior provides a rare authentic experience. Our next stop is Takayama Jinya which served as a local government office from the Edo period (1600-1868) remaining in use until 1969, and now open to the public. It includes tatami mat rooms that once served as offices, conference rooms and residential space. Our last stop is Takayama’s old town which has been beautifully preserved with many buildings and whole streets dating from the Edo Period. The southern half of the old town, especially the Sannomachi Street, survives in a particularly pretty state with many shops, coffee houses and sake breweries. Finally we check in to our hotel in Takayama.

Sunday 17 October - Shirakawa River Valley & Kanazawa. We leave our hotel and, after a quick visit to Takayama morning market, we visit the Shirakawa River Valley in a mountainous region that was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995, famous for its historic farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old and we stop for a walk around Shirakawa village. Our next stop is Kanazawa where we visit the world famous Kenrokuen Japanese garden. The Maeda family, rulers of the Kaga Clan in feudal times, maintained the garden for generations. Its scale and beauty make it one of the most beautiful in Japan. Our final visit of the day is to Higashi Chaya District and its traditional teahouses, two of which are open to the public, as well as other buildings along the central street that now house cafes and shops. Our overnight hotel is in Kanazawa.

Monday 18 October - Kanazawa & Bullet Train. After checking out of the hotel, our luggage (1 piece) is sent ahead to Kyoto while we enjoy a morning in Kanazawa. We visit the 21st century museum of Contemporary Art which opened in 2004, just a few steps from Kenrokuen Garden. It exhibits works of acclaimed contemporary artists from Japan and all over the world, in a unique architectural setting. Next is Seisonkaku, an elegant samurai villa built at the end of the Edo Period by a Maeda lord. In the afternoon we take an express train to Kyoto then change for the Bullet Train to Hiroshima and transfer to our overnight hotel in Hiroshima.

Tuesday 19 October – Hiroshima. Today we visit Itsukushima Shrine which seems to float in the sea and the buildings of the shrine complex are connected by boardwalks and supported by pillars above the water. Miyajima Island has a long history as a holy Shinto site and in 1168, Taira no Kiyomori, the most powerful man in Japan, selected the island as the site of his family shrine. Next is Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park encompassing over 120,000m2 of trees, lawns, and paths contrasting with the surrounding cityscape. It was decided in 1949 not to redevelop the area in favour of a memorial. Within the park is the Peace Memorial Museum which details the history of Hiroshima and the atom bomb, focusing on the events of 6 August 1945 (please be advised that some may find the displays upsetting). The A-Bomb Dome or Hiroshima Peace Memorial, the remains of the former Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, is one of the few buildings that remained standing and it has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Cenotaph for the A-Bomb Victims, an arched tomb for those who died during and as a result of the blast, holds a stone chest holding a register of more than 220,000 names. Lastly we take the Bullet Train, to Kyoto and check in to our hotel.

Wednesday 20 October - Kyoto. Today starts with Kinkakuji a Zen temple in northern Kyoto whose top two floors are covered in gold leaf. Formally known as Rokuonji, the temple was the retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, and according to his will it became a Zen temple after his death in 1408. Next we visit Arashiyama, a natural setting enjoyed by nobles since the Heian Period; sights include Togetsukyo Bridge and the famous bamboo groves. Then we visit Nijo Castle built in 1603 as the home of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo Period. After the fall of the Shogunate in 1867, it became an imperial palace before opening to the public as a historic site. This UNESCO World Heritage site is possibly the best surviving example of a feudal castle in Japan. Then we visit Gion, Kyoto's most famous geisha district, it is filled with shops, restaurants and teahouses, where geiko (Kyoto dialect for geisha) and maiko (geiko apprentices) entertain.

Thursday 21 October - Kyoto. Today we have a full day’s independent sightseeing in Kyoto. Japan’s former capital is a treasure trove of history and culture and will benefit from a little time at your own pace to wonder, sit or visit more of the sights. We return to our Kyoto hotel once again this evening.

Friday 22 October - Fushimi Inari and Nara. This morning we visit Fushimi Inari an important Shinto shrine famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates straddling a network of trails behind its main buildings. The trails lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari, which stands at 233 meters. Next we visit Nara, starting at Todaiji Temple, constructed in 752. The main hall is the world's largest wooden building and houses a 15m tall bronze Buddha. We will also encounter deer from the adjacent Nara Park, begging for special crackers that we can buy for a small charge. Next is Isuien, an attractive Japanese garden with features such as the use of Todaiji Temple's Nandaimon Gate as "borrowed scenery". 

Saturday 23 October  - Return home. Today we transfer to the airport and depart from Osaka on our return flight to the UK.


Monday 11 October (4 nights) - Tokyu Rei Omori Hotel (or similar), Tokyo. This comfortable hotel is located in Ota Ward district, a few steps from Shinagawa History Museum. The property offers guests a setting close to a palace, a museum and a tower. The 197 bedrooms are furnished with a laptop-compatible safe, a fridge, coffee and tea making facilities, and direct dial phone. The hotel features a buffet breakfast daily. The on-site non-smoking restaurant prepares a variety of local dishes daily. Coffee and tea are offered at the café bar.

Friday 15 October (1 night) - Hotel Regina Kawaguchiko, Kawaguchiko. Hotel Regina Kawaguchiko is a hot spring resort with superb views of Mount Fuji, where we can enjoy our stay in a relaxed atmosphere. Situated in Fujikawaguchiko, this hotel is within 1 mi (2 km) of Fuji Visitor Center, Mount Fuji, and Fuji-Q Highland. The hotel features a restaurant which serves a buffet breakfast, a swimming pool (seasonal opening), a meeting room and dry cleaning. Free Wi-Fi in public areas and a free area shuttle are also provided. Other amenities include laundry facilities. All 68 rooms provide air-conditioning as well as conveniences such as fridges and microwaves, plus free WiFi and flat-screen TVs. Other amenities available to guests include hairdryers, safes and showers.

Saturday 16 October (1 night) - Takayama Ouan (or similar), Takayama - A ryokan style hotel only 7 minutes on foot to popular sightseeing attactions of Takayama, including the old town district, Takayama Jinya (former government outpost) and the Miyagawa Morning Market. The traditional Japanese interior features tatami flooring throughout the hotel building.  Ramen is served free of charge from 22:30 to 23:30 and a massage service is available at the hotel beauty salon for a charge (reservation required in advance). Our hotel features a roof-top open-air natural hot spring and a reservable family bath and sauna at the large communal bath area. Free Wi-Fi is available in the hotel lobby. The tatami floored bedrooms with Westernstyle beds feature TV, refrigerator, tea pot and a private bath (with shower and bath amenities). Breakfast is usually offered as a buffet style. 

Sunday 17 October (1 night) - Hotel Resol Trinity, Kanazawa - Situated in Kanazawa, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Omicho Market and Izumi Kyoka Museum. Hotel facilities include a restaurant, dry cleaning is available and Wi-Fi in public areas is free. Other amenities include laundry facilities, free newspapers and multilingual staff. All 123 bedrooms offer thoughtful touches such as bathrobes and slippers, along with free Wi-Fi, free wired Internet and LCD TVs. Guests will also find fridges, free newspapers and free bottled water.

Monday 18 October (1 night) - Hotel Granvia Hiroshima, Hiroshima - Hotel Granvia Hiroshima has 403 bedrooms and offers a great experience with a convenient location adjacent to Hiroshima Station, in Hiroshima City Centre. This hotel features 5 restaurants, a fitness centre and a bar/lounge. Wi-Fi in public areas is free. Other amenities include 2 coffee shops/cafés. All soundproofed bedrooms provide free Wi-Fi, free wired Internet and room service. Guests can enjoy deep soaking bathtubs, and other standard amenities include fridges and flat-screen TVs.

Tuesday 19 October (4 nights) - Citadine Kyoto Karasuma-gojo, Kyoto - Located in Central Kyoto, this hotel is within a 15 minute walk of Higashi Honganji Temple and Kyoto Tower. Nishiki Market is also within 15 minutes. Hotel facilities include concierge services, dry cleaning and free Wi-Fi in public areas. All 124 bedrooms provide free Wi-Fi and free wired Internet. 

Price per person (Based on 2 Adults sharing Twin/Double Room):

  • Member Plus Adult - £3789
  • Member Adult - £3839                   
  • Non Member Adult - £3889                 
  • Single Supplement - £998 (double/twin for sole occupancy)
  • Travel Insurance can be arranged on request £POA
  • Deposit £750 per person
  • Flight upgrades may be available at an additional cost
  • The final balance is due not later than 24 July 2021

Price Includes:

  • Return economy flights Manchester to Japan including airport taxes and carrier charges and 1 checked bag (23 kg)
  • Transfers & full sightseeing programme by executive private coach with services of English Speaking Tour Guide(s) / Assistant(s).
  • 12 nights hotel accommodation as detailed on a bed and breakfast basis
  • 1 dinner
  • Bullet train tickets & separate baggage transfers, as detailed in the itinerary
  • Entrances fees to monuments/museums/attractions as detailed in the itinerary

Not Included:

  • Visa (not required for UK passport holders)
  • Single Supplement
  • Gratuities (not required in Japan)
  • Services of a porter / assistance carrying baggage
  • Dinners, lunches and refreshments other than those detailed in the itinerary
  • Additional entrance fees to places of interest other than those detailed in the itinerary
  • Costs when on 'free time' e.g. taxis arranged locally or optional extras
  • Travel Insurance

PASSPORTS & VISAS All British nationals, including children and babies, travelling on an overseas holiday with Norman Allen must hold a full EC passport valid for at least 6 Months after the scheduled return date to the UK.  In addition some countries may also require visitors to have a visa to enter the country. It is the responsibility of each passenger to ensure they have the correct documentation for travel and Norman Allen cannot be held responsible for passengers who do not have the correct documentation prior to departure. Non-EC passport holders should check with the relevant embassy or consulate to confirm what documentation they require for travel to the country or countries they plan to visit prior to departure.

For further details and bookings, you can either use the Reservation Form or contact Bob Walker 

Please include your Name, Home Address, Contact Telephone Number, Membership Number and the Number Places Required (Member/Non-Member)