The operator said the move was in response to customer feedback, with two-thirds (66%) of clients saying in surveys that Italy would be top of their list.
UK managing director Mark Hanson said: “I hope Italy will be the first of many European destinations that we are able to offer our clients in the UK.”
Ian Simkins, who leaves his role as chief executive later this year for semi-retirement and to become a non-executive director, added: “I’m looking forward to travel more and more family time – and I’m personally thrilled to see Italy entering the programme, as it’s where I first started my own travel career, during a ski season when I fell in love with it.”
The addition of Italy brings Audley’s tally of countries to 85, with Simkins adding customers tend to build trips with an average of six centres over 14-18 nights in other destinations.
Audley’s Italy programme launches with a dedicated brochure and 12 sample itineraries and is split into three regions: Venice, Florence and Rome; Northern Italy; and Southern Italy. A 10-day trip to Florence, Tuscany and the Cinque Terre costs from £4,418pp.
Elsewhere, Audley is also set to expand its cruising content, saying it would be a “key focus for 2019”, including Antarctica. It will offer Ocean Expeditions’ RCGS Resolute – which launches later this year – Hondius at the end of 2019, as well as Aurora Expeditions’ Greg Mortimer, which launches in 2019.
There is also to be a continued commitment to the environmental impact of customers’ trips, Simkins said, with the roll-out of refillable water bottles in 15 destinations in south-east Asia, Africa and Latin America. Refillable water stations will also be made available.