Can there be any place on earth more appealing than the hilly countryside of Tuscany and Umbria? In among the hills are fascinating ancient cities built by Renaissance geniuses of art and architecture. And if the splendor of the artists and perfectly preserved monuments of history are not enough to tempt you, then we dare you to resist the Tuscan and Umbrian gastronomic specialties. And of course to accompany these fine country delicacies you must try some of the region's superlative Umbrian and Chianti wines.
Your Tour Itinerary:
Day 1: We arrive at the Florence airport and spend the day discovering the magnificent art, history and medieval enchantment of Florence. There is no city on earth like Florence, birthplace of the Renaissance. Our Florentine guide takes us to the fabulous Duomo, Campanile and Baptistry, the Piazza della Signoria, the Palazzo Vecchio and the Ponte Vecchio. When your feet are tired, you can relax in a trattoria with a capuccino, a glass of Prosecco, or one of the best gelatos in the world. In the evening we enjoy a sumptuous gourmet Tuscan dinner.
Day 2-3: Today we head south through the wine country to the region of Montalcino. At a beautiful Montalcino winery we take a tour that ends with a wine tasting lunch. Then we take a drive through the Tuscan hills to our home for the next two nights--a dream of an old Umbrian villa, surrounded by hills and vineyards. Our hosts are warm and friendly! Each evening our hosts prepare wonderful multi-course dinners using the freshest local ingredients. Nearby is the Orvieto wine region where we visit the ancient town of Orvieto. Our guide shows us the famous Duomo (cathedral) with its unusual green-and-white marble stripes, and then we explore the medieval quarter, its picturesque narrow streets filled with enticing restaurants and boutiques selling the famed Orvieto ceramics.
Day 4: This morning we visit the beautiful hilltop wine town of Montepulciano, with its winding cobblestone streets lined with tempting wine shops. We sample the excellent local wine, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, in an ancient winery whose cellars are underneath a 14th century palace. Next we stop in the tiny town of Pienza to pick up some groceries for our picnic. If the wine shops of Montepulciano didn't satisfy you, the gourmet food shops of Pienza will! The picturesque streets are lined with every type of heavenly culinary boutique imaginable. We take home with us several types of local pecorino cheeses, Tuscan breads, extra-virgin olive oil flavored with wild herbs, a number of creative antipasti plates and of course the irresistible bruschetta After our picnic, we continue our journey to the heart of Umbria, where our hotel for the three nights is a beautiful old palace in the magical hilltop town of Spello. Tonight, we have an authentic Tuscan dinner at a fabulous local restaurant.
Day 5: Before lunch on our rooftop overlooking the lush hills of Umbria, our local guide takes us on a tour of Umbria's ancient capital Perugia. This is a lively city full of university students, trattorias, shops, and beautiful historic buildings. Later we visit Umbria's largest winery and the prestigious wine and olive oil museums of Torgiano. Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant with outstanding gourmet regional cuisine.
Day 6: Today we visit Assisi and the great Basilica di San Francesco and walk through the charming town. After lunch we visit the nearby wine town of Montefalco. This region has recently been acclaimed for its award winning wines and also its olive oil. The "Olive Oil Ladies" tell us their secrets of longevity through their miracle olive oil and show us the ancient press still in use. We return to Spello for another wonderful dinner.
Day 7-8: Returning to Tuscany, we follow a road winding up through terraces of vines and olives to the hill town of Cortona, celebrated in Frances Mayes' Under the Tuscan Sun. After lunch in this delightful medieval town, we drive to the heart of the beautiful Chianti wine region, where we spend the next two nights in a lovely country inn looking out over the hills. Surrounded by vineyards, our base in Castellina in Chianti is ideal for visiting the wineries that produce the famous Chianti Classico wine. The next day we take a guided walking tour of the ancient city of Siena, which is a dazzling maze of medieval streets, churches, shops, and the beautiful Piazza del Campo. Siena's striking cathedral is a marvel. Dating from the 12th Century, its majestic pillars, mosaics, and light and dark marble bands are breathtaking. After our fill of sightseeing, we return to the Chianti hills to visit a local winery and sample their finest. Tonight's dinner is a true gourmet feast.
Day 9-10: Today we head for the fairyland medieval town of San Gimignano. For two days, we explore the ancient streets, mysterious medieval towers, and beautiful squares, monuments and palaces. Enjoy a gourmet dinner the first night. We take a side trip to the fascinating Etruscan hilltop town of Volterra, once a Stone Age settlement, where we see Etruscan ruins dating back thousands of years.
Day 11: This morning we drive to Pisa to see that magical Leaning Tower and its magnificent cathedral. We continue to the Ligurian coast and check into our lovely hotel on the Mediterranean Sea in Lerici, our gateway to explore the five enchanting villages of the Cinque Terre. Relax in your room with its view of the sea, take a stroll on the beach, or explore the town of Lerici before a dinner of fresh seafood.
Day 12: Today we take a boat from village to village to understand what the beauty and mystery of the land of Cinque Terre means. Hikers can enjoy a magnificent walk with incredible views while others can relax at a trattoria on the harbor. We return to Lerici by boat for a relaxing dinner and evening stroll.
Day 13: Spend the morning relaxing on the waterfront or exploring Lerici. Next we leave the coast and arrive in time for lunch in the charming Tuscan town of Lucca. We check into our hotel and take a walking tour of this ancient friendly town. We enjoy a last Tuscan farewell feast before retiring.
Day 14: After breakfast we head for the Florence airport for our return flight.
Tour price includes:
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Europe Italy Local Culture Food & Wine Cultural Journey