Day 1, Saturday: Independent arrival in Florence and check into your pre-booked hotel, the Hotel Orto de' Medici a superior and very lovely three star hotel conveniently located in the center of historic Florence. Dinner tonight is on your own, but we have many suggestions that you will receive in our pre-departure package of information. You will meet your guide and the rest of the group tomorrow morning. Should you wish to arrive in Florence a couple of days early, please let us know as we would be happy to extend your reservation in Florence for you. Hotel included.
Day 2, Sunday: Pick-up in Florence at the Hotel Orto de' Medici at 9:00 a.m. A private van transfer takes us to the Chianti countryside where we will pick up our Vespas. Before hitting the open road we will have an orientation and safety talk. We have picked a very quiet stretch of road to start on so you can get used to your Vespa. Indeed, today is designed to get you very well acquainted with your Vespa.
Our first ride takes you east of the Arno river to "Il Borro," a Tuscan village which has been bought in its entirety by the Florentine fashion house of Ferragamo and completely restored.You are free to visit the hamlet and its traditional workshops before lunch at the excellent Osteria del Borro. We then wind our way amongst Tuscan villages and hamlets to arrive at our home for the next four nights, the Borgo Fontebussi. Time for a dip in the pool before dinner on the terrace. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
Day 3, Monday: After breakfast we have a 30-minute ride to visit Rampini ceramics, arguably the best producer of hand painted ceramics in all of Italy. The head designer will explain to us how majolica ceramics are made, a process that remains essentially unchanged since the Renaissance age. Of course you may also peruse the lovely showroom attached to their workshops.
We then ride to Castello di Brolio and visit the park and gardens of this magnificent and historic castle. This part of Chianti was fought over by the Sienese and the Florentines for centuries, and Brolio castle was in the thick of it for 300 years. After our visit we have a short ride up to Castagnoli where we will have lunch at the Trattoria Alto Chianti, an excellent family run trattoria.
After lunch we wind our way along the quiet roads of Chianti back to Borgo Fontebussi. Time before dinner to relax, enjoy a swim or perhaps a glass of wine while savouring the view. This evening we have a short walk into the neighbouring village of Montegonzi for dinner. We like the fact that we do not have to drive to dinner, so you can excuse yourself from the table whenever you like and stroll back to your room. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
Day 4, Tuesday: We know you have come to Tuscany not only for its romantically beautiful landscapes and fascinating history but also for its excellent food and wine. So today is food and wine day! A one-hour ride takes us to Starda Castle, a small, picturesque hamlet of medieval origin.
Built around 1000 by the noble family of Conti Guidi it is now home to Gabriela and her husband Giovanni, their dog Grieg and cat Tris, all of whom are wonderful and gracious hosts. Gabriela's son Alessandro will invite us into the restaurant's kitchen, where he will teach you how to cook Tuscan style. You better pay attention, because you will be eating what you are cooking for lunch!
After lunch we have a scenic ride to the the top of Monteluco, the highest point in Chianti, for spectacular views before descending to Gaiole in Chianti and then to the Badia Coltibouno for a visit of this fascinating medieval monastery and winery. From there it is just a 10 km ride back to the Borgo Fontebussi. Dinner tonight at Fattoria La Forra, a country restaurant a short distance from Fontebussi. Hotel, breakfast, lunch, and dinner included.
Day 5, Wednesday: Today we ride to Siena, one of Italy's most beautiful and historic cities. Your guide will lead you into Siena and take you to the Piazza del Campo, famous as the site of the bareback Palio horse race. You will have free time to explore Siena's exquisite historic center and admire its Gothic architecture.
Of course, you might get side-tracked by the shops and cafés along the Banchi di Sopra, Siena's main pedestrian shopping street. Free lunch in Siena and then rendezvous in the Piazza del Campo for our return ride via Monteaperti and Castelunuovo Berardenga. Dinner tonight on the terrace at Borgo Fontebussi. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
Day 6, Thursday: For our last day, a gorgeous ride takes us up to Volpaia, considered by many to be the most beautiful village in Chianti. After a short visit we ride to Radda in Chianti, a medieval walled town that used to be seat of the Chianti League. We then ride to lunch beneath the medieval tower at Barbischio.
After lunch we say good-bye to our Vespas and head back to Borgo Fontebussi by van to pick up our luggage and then on to the Montevarchi train station for the 4:15 p.m. train to Florence and Rome. Travel time to Florence is 40 minutes, and 2 hours 50 minutes to Rome (on the high-speed Eurostar train via Florence). If you need to leave the trip earlier, then please let us know and we can arrange a transfer for you (at your own expense). Breakfast included. Transfer to train station included.
Last year many people suggested that they would like to continue for another two days, so we are offering a two-day extension into southern Tuscany. This means two more nights, with the trip finishing back in Montevarchi on Saturday afternoon. The per person price for the seven-night exentended trip is Euro 2,650. For more information, read on!
Day 6: Extended Itinerary.
Those who opt for the longer itinerary will ride south after lunch, leaving the green wooded hills of Chianti for the wide-open spaces of the Crete Senesi. We ride into a completely different terrain from the first part of the trip. Those who have seen the films "Stealing Beauty" or "The English Patient" will recognize this starkly beautiful landscape of barren rolling hills topped by stone farmhouses and solitary cypress trees. Our route takes us through Asciano, a centuries' old walled town whose inhabitants have ingeniously incorporated the old defensive walls into their homes.
Asciano boasts a fine gelateria too, so we won't miss the opportunity to stop and explore town while enjoying a delicious gelato. We then ride up to the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore. Established in the 1300's by wealthy yet pious Sienese merchants, the abbey became a hermitage for the elite who built an impressive Renaissance Church and gatehouse decorated with Della Robbia ceramics. You have free time to stroll around this peaceful site and visit the frescoed Great Cloister (1426-74).
A short ride then takes us to Montisi, our home for the next two nights. Montisi is a quaint village that runs along a high ridge with wonderful views over the surrounding countryside. We will be staying with our friend Roberto in his little hotel, the Locanda di Montisi. The rooms are tastefully decorated and the massive beamed ceilings and handmade terracotta tile floors remind us that we are staying in an authentic 17th century village home (the plumbing is new!). Tonight's dinner is a five-minute walk to the other end of the village where, weather permitting, we enjoy a simple but delicious meal of Tuscan favourites on the terrace of the Osteria di Montisi. Hotel, breakfast and dinner included.
Day 7: Extended Itinerary - Friday.
Today we have a gorgeous ride to the striking hilltop town of Montepulciano. We take small roads that wind their way up, over, around, and between tiny villages surrounded by olive groves and vineyards. Our morning destination is nearby Pienza, a village that was designed and built by a local boy who made it big: Pope Pius II. Pius issued a Papal Bull decreeing that his home town was to become a center of art and humanistic scholarship, so the town was constructed between 1459 and 1462 in full Renaissance splendour. After visiting Pienza, we ride down into the Orcia Valley for wonderful views back onto Pienza's Renaissance skyline.
We pass the walled village of Monticchiello and then finally get our first glimpse of Montepulciano, whose beautiful cream-coloured stone buildings crown a hill with commanding views over the undulating landscape. Free lunch and free time to peruse Montepulciano's shops and wineries. We reconvene when we are ready and head off towards the ancient hilltop town of Petroio. Dinner tonight is just around the corner at the Taverna di Roberto. Weather permitting, we dine al fresco beneath the embrace of a giant fig tree. One last feast of Tuscan delights. Hotel, breakfast, and dinner included.
Day 8: Extended Itinerary - Saturday.
Today offers one last chance to indulge in Tuscany's beautiful scenery. This morning we head back towards Chianti on a different route than the one we came in on, passing the castle of Trequanda and the medieval hamlet of Gargonza on our way. We have lunch in the hilltop village of San Pancrazio before making our way back to Borgo Fontebussi, where we will say good-bye to our trusty red Vespas. From here we have a short transfer to the Montevarchi train station for the 4:15 p.m. train to Florence and Rome. Travel time to Florence is 40 minutes and 2 hours 50 minutes to Rome (on the high-speed Eurostar train via Florence). Breakfast included.
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