Day 1: Arrival Day in Florence
Our base for the week is the Hotel Astoria, an elegant, renovated palace-the former Palazzo Gaddi-located in the heart of Florence, just blocks from the Duomo and other important sites. The hotel’s comfortable and air-conditioned rooms include hairdryers and satellite television. Their excellent breakfast buffet is served in a magnificent baroque dining room complete with frescoed ceilings. The hotel also has a first-class restaurant, housed in a beautiful frescoed conservatory. This evening at 6 p.m., we will share welcome aperitivi in the hotel’s piano bar, where you will meet your hosts and fellow participants. We'll be happy to answer any questions at this time before we head off to a welcome dinner at our favorite restaurant in Florence, Il Latini.
Day 2: Walking Tour of Florence
Today, Deborah and a local art historian will show you the wonders of Florence, considered by many to be the "Art Capital of the World." We'll tour the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral (the Duomo), Ghiberti’s Baptistery doors (the “Gates of Paradise”), Giotto’s Bell Tower, Santa Croce and other important sites. Lunch will be served at a classic Florentine trattoria, followed by a free afternoon to relax, walk across the famous Ponte Vecchio or go bargain hunting in Florence’s famous open-air market, Il Mercato di San Lorenzo. Dinner will be on your own.
Day 3: Excursion to Siena and San Gimignano
This morning, we’ll travel by private motor coach to Siena--the former capital of Tuscany--where we will be met by our private guide, who will explain the intricacies of this fascinating and complex city. After the tour, you will have time to have lunch on your own and to stroll Siena’s many winding pedestrian road. In the afternoon, we'll weave our way through the rolling hills and vineyards of the Chianti countryside to the lovely medieval town of San Gimignano, a rose-colored hilltop village surrounded by well-preserved ramparts and fortress towers, which reflect its noble background (and where 'Tea with Mussolini' was filmed). San Gimignano is also famous for its dry white wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, which you may sample at its many wine shops lining the main thoroughfare. Dinner will be on your own back in Florence.
Day 4: Michelangelo Tour
The morning is free to do whatever you’d like. At 3 p.m., we will meet in the lounge so that Deborah can prepare you for the “Michelangelo Tour” that will follow. She will fill you in on the artistic and less-known theological philosophy of this extraordinary genius. We will then meet our guide who will lead us through the Church of San Lorenzo and the Medici Chapels, culminating with a visit to the Accademia, home of Michelangelo’s masterpiece, the David. Following the tour, we will have dinner together at a local trattoria.
Day 5: Excursion to Lucca
Today’s excursion takes us to the charming town of Lucca, an ancient Roman stronghold and birthplace of Puccini. Upon arrival, we will have a cooking demonstration with the chef and owner of one of the finest restaurants in Tuscany, La Buca di S. Antonio. Under the rule of Napolean's sister, Lucca acquired a French touch in its cuisine, which you will note during an exquisite lunch at this very beautiful restaurant. After lunch we’ll visit the cathedral to see the famous Volto Santo, a statue of Jesus said to have been carved by Nicodemus himself at the crucifixion. You will then be free to wander this favorite Tuscan city with its sophisticated shops and genuine Italian atmosphere. We’ll return to the hotel in the early evening and dinner (or perhaps some gelato) will be on your own.
Day 6: Excursion to Greve and the Castle of Verrazano in Chianti
This morning we will visit the quintessential Chianti town of Greve, where you will have time to explore its charming piazza, full of delightful little shops. Afterwards, we will visit the 16th c. castle of Verrazzano Vineyards—home of explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano--where we will have a private tour, followed by an extensive wine tasting and lunch that is sought after by enologists worldwide. In the late afternoon, we will return to Florence where you will have dinner on your own.
Day 7: Tour of the Uffizi Galleries and Farewell Dinner
We are scheduled for our private guided tour of the world-famous Uffizi Galleries at noon. Here, the works of Cimabue, Giotto, Botticelli, Raphael, Leonardo Da Vinci, and many others will become familiar to you. The afternoon will be free to explore other Florentine gems such as the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens; the charming town of Fiesole-where you can still see remnants of the great Etruscan wall that surrounded the town--or simply to do some last-minute shopping. Our farewell dinner will be at another of Florence's great restaurants.
Day 8: The departure.
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