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TOURS & CRUISES

Exploring Italy on a Musical High Note

March 18, 2001|KARIN ESTERHAMMER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Three Verdi operas, staged under the stars in Verona, Italy, are the features of a small-group trip from July 26 to Aug. 6. Guests will take day trips through the cities and countryside that inspired the music of Verdi Toscanini and Rossini. The group will visit Mantua, the locale of Verdi's "Rigoletto." Another day will be spent in Venice.

Lodgings include a hotel on the shore of Lake Garda, a restored 12th century monastery in the Emilia-Romagna region and a bed-and-breakfast in Verona.

Cost: from $3,625 per person, double occupancy, including 11 nights' accommodations with private bath, most meals, ground transportation, train fare for Venice excursion and opera tickets to "Rigoletto," "II Trovatore" and "La Traviata" in the Arena di Verona. Air fare is extra.

Contact: Nicki Mistri at Bel Sogno Tours, P.O. Box 1362, Brea, CA 92822; telephone (714) 526-2244, Internet http://www.belsognotours.com.

France: Paris Air Show

Jerren Travel of Irvine is hosting a trip to France that highlights the Paris air show, World War I battlefields and Normandy beaches.

The trip runs from June 14 to 25. Participants will begin by traveling to Reims and Verdun to visit museums and battlefields. The itinerary continues with tours of battlefields in Belgium, Honfleur, the D-day beaches, the American Cemetery, Pegasus Bridge, Ste.-Mere-Eglise and the Caen war museum. After visiting Monet's home and garden at Giverny, the group stops in Paris.

Cost: $3,125 per person, double occupancy, including round-trip air fare from Los Angeles, all ground transportation, hotels with breakfast daily, museum fees, baggage handling and guides.

Contact: Jerren Travel Service, 2 Hidalgo, Irvine, CA 92620; tel. (714) 731-8020, http://www.jerrentravel.com.

Europe: Hiking

Trips 'n' Trails owner and guide Beverly Copren is offering four hiking trips to Europe this summer and fall. The itineraries are suitable for hikers of all abilities and are planned around local festivals. Hiking each day starts from a village where participants will stay in family-owned hotels.

* June 24 to July 8: Spain. Guests will participate in the 1,000-year-old tradition of walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail in northern Spain. Cost: $2,475 per person.

* July 9 to 23: Italy. Starting in the Lake Garda region, hikers will pass through medieval villages on their way to Verona, attend an opera and proceed to the Dolomites, hiking along the World War I front. Cost: $2,450.

* Sept. 17 to Oct. 1: Greece. Athens is the arrival city; then it's on to Delphi and Ioannina, hiking and sightseeing each day. After taking a ferry to Crete, guests visit Knossos, then stay in a hotel on the beach in Fortessa for several days of hiking and sightseeing. Cost: $2,875.

* Oct. 5 to 19: Tuscany, Italy. The tour combines the Cinque Terre and Chianti regions with several days of hiking, sightseeing, grape and olive harvest tastings and local festivals. The trip ends in Florence. Cost: $2,650.

All trips include transfers, van support, rooms with private bath, local taxes, all breakfasts, most dinners and guides. Air fare to Europe is extra.

Contact: Trips 'n' Trails, P.O. Box 210, Calpine, CA 96124; tel. (800) 969-3575, http://www.psln.com/trails.

England: London

A blend of city life and countryside sightseeing is available on Trafalgar Tours' "Free & Easy" six-night vacation to London, Stratford and Bath.

All nights are spent in London, where there's also a half-day guided tour to Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace.

On the full day's sightseeing excursion to Shakespeare's hometown, Stratford-Upon-Avon, visitors see the writer's birthplace and Anne Hathaway's cottage in a nearby village.

The next day, it's the Roman spa town of Bath. From there, travelers will take a scenic drive through the Cotswolds and across Salisbury Plain, winding up at the ancient monoliths at Stonehenge.

From there the tour continues back to London by way of Runnymede, where King John sealed the Magna Carta in 1215.

Cost: from $670 per person, double occupancy, including accommodations, motor-coach transportation, daily breakfast and guided tours. Air fare to Britain is extra. Departures are available from April 21 to Oct. 13.

Contact: Trafalgar Tours; tel. (800) 648-1638, http://www.trafalgar tours.com.

Canada: East to West

"East-West Trans-Canada Rail Journey" tours are set for April 22, May 27 and Oct. 21 and 28 from Great Western Tours.

Travelers will fly from LAX to Toronto for a two-night stay at the Delta Chelsea. After a city tour of Toronto, they will travel to Niagara Falls, lunch atop the Skylon Tower and visit the 19th century town of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

On the third day, guests board the train to travel for three nights across Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the Canadian Rockies. A morning arrival in Vancouver allows a tour of the city and a theater performance.

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