This is a unique holiday, combining enjoyable birding in the Po Delta area with a three-night visit to Venice, around 120km to the northeast. Our hotel in the Po Delta is an exceptional 'agritourismo' experience, and the cuisine here is superb. Dinners, breakfast and lunches in the field are delightful; you may get a little carried away! We also use a high quality hotel in Venice, very well appointed and ideally located for navigating around 'La Serenissima'.
The Po Delta is the site of one of Europe’s most important national parks. In early spring, birding features a range of resident and migrant species, and we spend three full days here. Key birds include Pygmy Cormorant, Marsh Sandpiper, Caspian Tern, Slender-billed and Mediterranean Gull, Ferruginous Duck, Long-eared Owl, Honey Buzzard and many other migrants, residents and water birds.
On Wednesday we transfer to Venice (just two hours away), and spend three nights in this wonderful city, where you have the opportunity to explore at leisure. Your experienced guide will be on hand to help you get the most from your visit, advise you how to visit the many museums and tourist sites, and arrange tickets for evening entertainment. A three-day waterbus ticket with unlimited travel is included in your holiday package, an invaluable asset as you explore the waterways of 'la serenissima'. We also include a waterbus transfer in both directions to and from the airport, a delightful way to travel.
A unique two-centre experience combining absorbing birding with a great city break!
This holiday offers a rare chance of Slender-billed Gull in breeding plumage
Enjoy your complimentary pre-flight overnight hotel before your holiday begins.
Days 1 - 4: PO DELTA Saturday 8 April - Tuesday 11 April
After a relaxing introduction to the holiday in our VIP Airport Lounge, we fly London Gatwick to Bologna and within an hour's drive are at our first hotel, ready to go birding! Specialities of this vast wetland include Black-necked Grebe, Pygmy Cormorant, Purple, Night and Squacco Heron, Great White, Cattle and Little Egret, Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo, Ferruginous Duck, Red-crested Pochard, Little Bittern, Marsh Harrier, many waders perhaps including Marsh, Green and Wood Sandpiper, Avocet, Kentish Plover, Little Stint and Whimbrel, Caspian and Gull-billed Tern, Mediterranean and Slender-billed Gull, Wryneck, Black Redstart, Cetti’s, Fan-tailed, Great Reed and Sardinian Warbler, Firecrest, Penduline Tit, Red-backed, Woodchat and Southern Grey Shrike, italiae House Sparrow and Serin. Just as rewarding will be our hunt for migrants, which might include Spotted Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Honey Buzzard, Saker Falcon, Montagu's Harrier, Black Kite, White Stork, Black Stork, Hoopoe and several races of Yellow Wagtail on passage to more northerly breeding grounds. Nightingale, Cetti's Warbler, Great Reed Warbler and a host of other small passerines should be heard and seen.
Other excitement in previous holidays include an Adder swallowing a large Marsh Frog before our eyes, good views of Coypu and time spent identifying different races of Yellow Wagtail on passage to more northerly breeding grounds. Butterflies might include European and Scarce Swallowtails, Mallow Skipper, and Eastern Dappled White among others.
On this part of the holiday we hope to be joined by our friend and top local birder Menotti Passarella. 'What Menotti doesn't know about the birds ............ of the Po Delta isn't worth knowing' Bob Scott, 'Where to go birdwatching in the Po Delta'. We are always guaranteed fascinating birding with Menotti, and often gain access to places not normally open to the public. We may also take a boat trip out into the shallow Adriatic lagoon to see breeding Slender-billed Gull, depending upon availability.
Our lovely hotel in the Po Delta region is a major element of our holiday experience. A beautiful building set in acres of open fields and tended gardens, everyone who has joined this holiday has loved this delightful venue. Breakfasts are expansive and luxurious, picnic lunches are included Sunday - Tuesday, and evening meals are superb. All meals are included from dinner on Saturday evening to breakfast on Wednesday morning. A real treat, and very much a taste of rural Italy. Similar properties can be seen here; www.agriturismo.it/en/
Day 5 - Day 7 VENICE Wednesday 12 April - Friday 14 April
Venice is only 120 km away, so we can transfer by road in around two hours. With three nights here, you will have plenty of time to explore. On arrival we take the Alilaguna waterbus to the centre of the city, very close to our hotel. After a short break, Kevin will lead an orientation tour taking in St Mark's Square with its spellbinding Basilica, and the Doge's Palace with its poignant Bridge of Sighs. Your 72-hour waterbus ticket is a real asset, entitling you to unlimited travel up and down the Grand Canal, round the outside of the city, across the lagoon to the Lido, or to the glass blowing factories and shops of Murano. This is a great way to see Venice and also to give your feet a rest! You can visit the Peggy Guggenheim, Accademia or Modern Art museums, or just enjoy the feel of Venice as you wander through ancient, narrow streets past shops bursting with Murano Glass, carnival masks, and artists’ supplies. Kevin knows the city well, and will be on hand throughout to help you get the most from your stay.
We use a very good hotel for three nights in a quiet part of the city, convenient for major tourist locations and the waterbuses, yet quiet and secluded, away from the tourist bustle. Kevin can recommend good eating places, local bars where limoncello is served, and will encourage you to visit the finest ice-cream shops in Venice!
Birding opportunities in Venice itself are necessarily limited, though if you prefer to keep birding, there are some good options. A gentle walk from the hotel leads to gardens and leafy avenues where singing Serin, Firecrest and warblers can be found. With your Final Information Pack we will detail an excellent location away from the main tourist area, where birding can be excellent. On a recent visit here Kevin and Phil saw displaying Marsh Harrier, Wryneck, Nightingale, Serin, waders including Greenshank, and Mediterranean Gull, Pygmy Cormorant and Black-necked Grebe during the transfer voyage, available by your waterbus ticket at no extra charge.
Day 8: Saturday 15 April
Depending on flight times we may be able to enjoy a final morning in Venice before we transfer by Alilaguna to Marco Polo airport. Perhaps one of Europe's most enjoyable airport transfers!
A typical 'orientation walk'!
A few notes about Venice from Kevin
Venice is a wonderful place, but it helps to have a little knowledge to get the most from your visit. Here are a few things you should know.
- Get euros before you arrive; currency exchange rates in Venice are very poor.
- On arrival, we provide tickets for three days unlimited travel on the waterbuses, or vaporetti. Don't travel without your ticket! Our hotel is just two hundred metres from the waterbus stop, away from the busy tourist area around Doge's Palace/Bridge of Sighs.
- We enter and leave Venice in style via the 'Alilaguna', which takes us across the lagoon during our airport transfers. This service is just one bridge away from our Hotel, again perfectly situated.
- Located in a quiet and peaceful calle overlooking St Mark's Basin, our Hotel occupies premises once used as a studio by Alessandro Vittoria, one of the most important 16th century Venetian sculptors. Close to the hotel is the Chiesa della Pietà, where for many years Antonio Vivaldi (1678 - 1741) one of the greatest composers of the Italian Baroque, taught and played.
- Once settled, we take an orientation walk featuring many of the treasures of Venice, helping you find your way around a few key places and – most important! – the route back to your Hotel.
- Many of the major tourist sights are within a few hundred yards of your Hotel. You are only a few minutes' walk from St Mark's Basilica, the Doge's Palace and the Bridge of Sighs.
- There are many places to eat, from streetside cafes to good osteria, trattoria and restaurants. Kevin will show you a few good places, but virtually everyone in Venice speaks English, so you should feel safe everywhere.
- If you are worried about prices in restaurants, look out for three ‘extras’ which can be charged. These are: ‘IVA’, a compulsory tax which may or may not be in the quoted price, ‘coperta’ or cover charge, usually a couple of euros. This can be slipped onto the bill at the end of your meal, though waiters are happy to inform you in advance if you ask, and ‘servicio’ or service charge, often 10% or more – worth asking whether this is included before you order.
- In many cafes and bars it is cheaper to eat or drink standing up rather than sitting down. You will notice many people drinking expresso or eating panaderies whilst standing, (Italians have a sweet tooth!), then it’s ‘ciao’ and away they go.
- The area immediately around St Mark’s Square (San Marco) is much more expensive than the back streets. It is worth a walk to get away from the throng and appreciate a more traditional place at a realistic price. Kevin will show you some good places, and guide you to the best ice-cream in Venice!
- Your waterbus ticket is a real asset – you can go up and down the Grand Canal, round the outside of the city, across the lagoon to the Lido or visit the glass blowing factories and shops of Murano or for the adventurous: even the small outer isles in the lagoon! This is a great way to see Venice and also to give your feet a rest.
- Beware free trips to glass blowing factories, which you may be offered at any time. These are similar to time-share offers where you may be pressurised into buying once taken to the factory. Better to explore yourself via the waterbus.
- If you want to enjoy a concert or anything special, please ask. We can recommend concerts with a strong Vivaldi content, available most nights. Tickets can be bought at your hotel.
Heatherlea's Emma McBride escorts our Group down the Canale Grande!
More Holiday Information:
Accommodation is in excellent hotels with all rooms en suite. Accommodation on full-board basis in Po Delta area, and on B&B basis in Venice.
Food breakfast is a sensational buffet in our Po Delta Hotel. Homemade bread, jams and tarts are included as part of the feast, as well as a choice of meats, cheeses, home-grown fresh fruits, eggs, fruit juice, tea and coffee. Picnic lunches are provided on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and include a variety of excellent local produce (the family owners produce a huge range of jams, condiments, sweetmeats and cakes) plus soft drinks. Evening meals are generally local dishes, with vegetables and aromatic herbs coming from the hotel’s organic garden. The introductory buffet often features up to two dozen home-made vegetable dishes as a sumptuous dinner begins! The food during this part of the trip is exceptional! You can see properties similar to the one we use on this website: www.agriturismo.it/en/
In Venice, breakfast is a good quality buffet with lots of choice. No other meals are included here, though Kevin will be on hand to recommend eating places to you.
Walking The holiday is not strenuous. Leisurely walking, very occasionally over moderately rough terrain, is the only physical requirement. Venice can be hard on the feet, so plan to use your waterbus ticket!
Weather There can be surprising variations in temperature. Direct sunlight can send the thermometer above 25C, though 15 – 20C is more usual. Minimum temperatures may be about 10C during daytime, and winds can be cool. Venice can be wet, though floods are not expected in April.
Insects biting insects may be encountered, depending on the weather the weeks before. Bring a good repellent just in case.
Group size is restricted to 12 clients maximum.
Flights are by scheduled airline, from London Gatwick. We may be able to offer flight arrangements from another airport and/or quote without flights so you can make your own arrangements. If you wish to add an extension either before or after your holiday, please contact us and we will be happy to arrange this for you.
Phil Knott: - An experienced Leader who led our visit to Po Delta in 2016 (his trip report available in the Extrapack below). With more than seven clients, Phil will be accompanied by another from our team.
Kevin Shaw: - Founder of Heatherlea, Kevin has led many tours here.
Menotti Passerella: - An experienced birding guide, we are delighted to have Menotti as our local expert during the Po Delta section of this holiday.
Phil Knott, Kevin Shaw and Menotti Passerella
What's included in your holiday price:
* return scheduled flight from London – Bologna, Venice - London, airport taxes, baggage and hand luggage up to airline-included limit.
* airport transfers, ground transportation, accommodation and meals as specified.
* 72-hour waterbus pass in Venice
* the services of Heatherlea leader Kevin Shaw, and local birding expert Menotti Passarella.
* The Heatherlea Pre-Flight Service offers everything you need at the airport, including hotels, car parking, airport lounges, regional flights, and upgrades. Let Heatherlea take the strain! Pre-flight airport hotel and lounge included free of charge subject to terms and conditions.
What's not included in your holiday price:
* travel to and from departure airport before and after holiday, in-flight meal, baggage above airline included limit.
* meals in Venice with the exception of breakfast. We arrive at Venice Airport around 12 noon, so your first non-inclusive meal will be lunch that day.
* incidental tips, expenses of a personal nature including drinks and personal insurance.
WHY CHOOSE HEATHERLEA?
Our overseas holidays are planned with care to offer great birding and wildlife, led by capable Leaders who really look after you. Every holiday is run the 'Heatherlea Way', and we hope our Overseas Adventures remind you of the quality and care so many of you enjoy in Scotland. That means rewarding and exciting days in the field, and good quality accommodation and meals, with a real flavour of the country we are visiting. Heatherlea always seek to include the personal touches that make all the difference.
Heatherlea holidays are not ‘dawn to dusk’ expeditions. Our less-intensive approach is ideal for those who want to relax whilst experiencing the best wildlife watching, and wherever possible we organise early or late activity on an optional basis. We also take sensible breaks when in very hot places and regular comfort breaks on every holiday whenever possible. All itineraries are planned carefully around the best wildlife opportunities, and you won’t miss out on memorable wildlife, whilst enjoying relaxed, informal days that are great fun.
The really important part of any wildlife holiday is the experience for you, our valued customer. Heatherlea invest in many things to offer you the best possible service;
* We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for 27 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
* Heatherlea overseas holidays have a maximum of 12 clients per trip, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
* Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance Departure Taxes and tips to hotels.
* All elements of our holidays are sold under our own licence, ATOL 6113. Under ‘Flight-Plus’ legislation it is a legal requirement of any tour operator to hold an ATOL licence for the supply of any overseas holiday where a flight is involved, if that holiday includes either overseas accommodation and/or car hire. It can be a criminal offence for an operator to book flights as part of a package without an ATOL licence. Heatherlea also hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
* Heatherlea is your complete wildlife holiday provider. Our ‘Back Office’ team can organise all your pre-flight and other travel needs. Our specialists will help you book the right services, at the best price. Book holiday extensions through us, and your ATOL protection is extended further. We don’t charge extra for this service.
* Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland, and registered to pay VAT (applies to all holidays within the European Union).