Embark on a Tuscan Journey that will bring you to familiar locations of Tuscany such as Florence, Siena and San Gimignano; but will also bring you to discover the unknown Tuscany with visits to Arezzo, Grosseto, the Maremma region and Bolgheri. Indulge in local wines, from the numerous wine regions within Tuscany, with special winery visits and wine tastings. Enhance your cooking skills with a private cooking lesson using traditional Tuscan recipes. Use your free time to further explore the charms of these authentic Tuscan towns and cities.
Departure from the United States on your overnight flight to begin your Tuscan Journey with wine tastings and a cooking class.
Upon arrival in Florence, your group will meet your English speaking tour escort and private motorcoach driver for a direct transfer to your 4* hotel in Siena. Enjoy the beautiful drive south through the Tuscan countryside. Upon arrival in the city of Siena, relax and make yourself comfortable for the remainder of the day. Meet your fellow travelers and tour leader for dinner tonight at a local restaurant or at your hotel (including ½ liter water and ¼ liter wine per person).
Breakfast included at your hotel. Depart from your hotel with your English speaking local guide for a guided walking tour of the magnificent Tuscan city of Siena. The historical city center is a medieval masterpiece and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Siena is most noted for its famous Palio horse race, its unique seashell shaped main square and its Gothic-Romanesque cathedral. It’s also known for being the home of St. Catherine of Siena – the 14th century saint, mystic and doctor of the Catholic Church who’s also a patron saint of Italy. Siena has been divided into 17 contrade (neighborhoods or districts) since the Middle Ages. Each contrada is identified by their own heraldic colors and mascots and is named after an animal or symbol. The annual Palio horse races comprise of jockeys from each contrada, dressed in their colors and symbols, racing bareback 3 times around the city’s main square, Piazza del Campo, to determine which contrada is victorious. Each contrada has its own museum commemorating their histories and their own Palio wins through the centuries. The civic pride and unity within each contrada is still evident today with fierce rivalries between contrade and a strong sense of community. Every baptism, marriage, death, holiday, festival, etc. is celebrated exclusively within one’s contrada. Enjoy some free time for lunch on your own. Later this afternoon, your group will depart together for your private cooking class in Siena. You’ll participate in a special cooking class with recipes that have been handed down for generations. Learn about the culture and traditions of Tuscan cooking and enjoy a dinner tonight of the dishes you’ve prepared together, including beverages.
Breakfast included at your hotel. Depart from your hotel with your private motorcoach and English speaking guide for a day exploring San Gimignano and Gaiole in Chianti. Drive north through the picturesque Tuscan countryside to the walled medieval hilltop town of San Gimignano. You’ll have a short visit of this charming fairytale-like town with a guided walking tour. Known as the Town of Fine Towers, San Gimignano’s historic city center is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town’s towers, of which 14 remain today, were built by competing aristocratic families to flaunt their power and wealth. Enjoy the unique medieval streets and alleys as you explore this Tuscan gem. Next, you’ll drive east through the hills into the Chianti Classico wine region of Tuscany to the town of Gaiole in Chianti. Here, you’ll visit the Meleto Castle which was founded by Benedictine monks in the 11th century and still has documentation dating back to 1256 when it was first owned by the Ricasoli’s – a local feudal family. Learn about the castle’s winery and the unique way in which this estate was involved in the revival of winegrowing in this Chianti Classico region in the 1960’s. Enjoy lunch and a ‘Castello di Meleto’ wine tasting of varieties produced in their vineyards. After lunch, make a short stop in the local village of Gaiole in Chianti before your return to Siena. The remainder of the day and dinner tonight is at your leisure.
Breakfast included at your hotel. Depart from your hotel with your private motorcoach and English speaking guide for an excursion to the eastern Tuscan city of Arezzo. A prominent city during the Etruscan period, Arezzo is located on a hill where four surrounding valleys converge. Arezzo has endured through the centuries; even surviving after heavy bombing during World War II. This charming city, with its medieval center, is known for its goldsmith trade and antiques traders and was featured in Roberto Benigni’s Academy-award winning film Life Is Beautiful. You’ll go on a guided walking tour with your local English speaking guide and will see a variety of the city’s main sites such as: the famous Piazza Grande – the city’s sloping main square, the Basilica of San Francesco, the Church of Santa Maria della Pieve, the Medici Fortress or others. After your tour, a 3 course lunch will be served in a local restaurant (including ½ liter water and ¼ liter wine per person). Enjoy some free time after your lunch to further explore this unique city not commonly found on Tuscan itineraries. Relax on your return drive to your hotel in Siena and enjoy the remainder of the day and dinner tonight at your leisure.
Breakfast included at your hotel. Depart from your hotel with your English speaking guide for a visit to another Tuscan wine region – Montepulciano. You’ll be travelling to the celebrated region known as Val d’Orcia. Famous for its breathtaking landscapes and for being an inspiration to Renaissance painters, the Val d’Orcia region was granted status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. It’s here that you’ll also learn about a local DOCG designated wine variety (the highest Italian wine classification for authentic wine production methods and guaranteed wine quality). After your drive south from Siena, you’ll arrive in the quintessential Tuscan town of Pienza. Pope Pius II came from this area and, in the 15th century, had the town redesigned and rebuilt which was an early precursor to what we know today as ‘urban planning’. This concept spread to other parts of Italy and eventually to other parts of Europe. Your first visit will be to a local dairy farm that produces the region’s famous Pecorino cheese. This sheep’s milk cheese is different from the Pecorino Romano cheese commonly found in the US. Learn about the cheese making and aging process and then partake in a special cheese tasting coupled with a wine tasting of local wine varieties. Make sure you save some room for lunch (and more wine) as you make the short drive to the famous Montepulciano wine area. The medieval and Renaissance styled town of Montepulciano sits high on a hill that overlooks numerous wineries that produce the highest quality DOCG wine of the region, the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Wine connoisseurs consider it one of the best in Italy. You’ll visit a local winery where you’ll partake in a wine tasting of the Vino Nobile and will also be served a local Tuscan lunch. After lunch, return to Siena where the rest of the afternoon is at your leisure. This evening, you’ll enjoy a special 4 course group dinner at a local restaurant in Siena (including ½ liter water and ¼ liter wine per person).
Breakfast included at your hotel. Pack your bags and depart from your hotel with your private motorcoach and English speaking guide for a transfer to your next Tuscan city – Grosseto. Located in southern Tuscany, Grosseto is the provincial capital of the region known as the Maremma. Known as the “undiscovered Tuscany”, the Maremma is often overlooked and isn’t commonly found on tour itineraries. From the pristine forests to the medieval towns to the vineyards and olive groves and to the magnificent seaside, Maremma will charm you with its history, culture and authenticity. When compared to other Italian cities, Grosseto isn’t old. It was founded in 1138; yet the city still carries itself as a classic Italian city does, as if it had been established by the Etruscans or the Romans. The historical city center is still surrounded by 16th century hexagonally shaped walls that were built by the Medici family who once ruled Tuscany. They wanted to reinforce the walls, originally built in the Middle Ages, and to make Grosseto a stronghold on the Tuscan southern borders. The Porta Nuova and Porta Vecchia, the two gates built into the city walls, still stand today and allow access into the city center. Part of the historic fortifications, the Cassero Senese, is open for the public to freely explore. Your English speaking local guide will take you on a walking tour to better acquaint you with Grosseto. You’ll see the main sights in the city center, such as the Piazza Dante, San Lorenzo Cathedral, Palazzo Aldobrandeschi, Corso Carducci and the Church of San Francesco. You’ll be able to return to any of these spots to further explore later this afternoon during your free time in the city after you enjoy lunch on your own. Tonight, you’ll experience a wonderful 4 course dinner with local specialties tonight at a local Grosseto restaurant (including ½ liter water and ¼ liter wine per person).
Breakfast included at your hotel. Enjoy a few hours of free time after breakfast. You’ll have a late morning departure from your hotel with your private motorcoach and English speaking guide for an excursion to the Tuscan seaside area of Castiglione della Pescaia, including a visit to a local winery. A short drive from Grosseto en route to the coast is the Le Mortelle Antinori winery. The Antinori family has been in the Tuscan wine making industry for 26 generations, spanning over 600 years. The name Le Mortelle is taken from the name of the wild myrtles found along the coastal areas of Maremma. You’ll be amazed at this state-of-the-art organic wine estate built in 2007. Once a marshland area, the estate covers 170 hectares of vineyards and 15 hectares of olive groves, peaches, plums, apricots, pears and blueberries. The modern winery is an architectural wonder built 3 stories high into the side of a hill using eco-friendly techniques wherever possible. One example of this is that the wine begins its life at the top level of the winery. Gravity is used to move the wine down the 3 stories through the various aging processes as opposed to using industry standard pumps. You’ll spend some time learning about their vineyards and enjoy a winetasting and lunch at this special wine estate. After your lunch, you’ll drive to the seaside and port town of Castiglione della Pescaia. First, you’ll pass by the Diaccia Botrona Nature Reserve which is Italy’s most important wetland and is internationally recognized for its rare ecosystem. This marshland is important for bird migrations and has Italy’s largest flamingo colony. Castiglione della Pescaia was built around a medieval hilltop fortress and a grew to become a fishing village. The island of Elba, famous for Napolean’s exile there in 1814, can be seen from the hilltop fortress on clear days. You’ll have some free time for shopping or for spending some time relaxing next to the beach in this charming town. Return to Grosseto and enjoy the remainder of your afternoon and dinner tonight at your leisure.
Breakfast included at your hotel. Depart from your hotel with your private motorcoach and English speaking guide for a visit to the Fiora Valley and to a Frescobaldi family winery. You’ll drive to the southern area of the Maremma where the border of Tuscany meets the border of the Lazio region. This region of the Maremma is also famous for its butteri, the Italian equivalent of America’s cowboys from the Wild West. Discover the medieval hilltop towns of the Fiora River Valley – a lush region with towns known as “tuff towns”. These unique villages and towns were built high atop cliffs and were carved out of tuff – rock formed from volcanic ash through the process of consolidation. This preserved medieval-style architecture on display here is considered to be quintessential models of Medieval Italy. These small hilltop towns actually date back to the Copper Age and have numerous Etruscan landmarks. Your first visit is to the town of Pitigliano which dates back 3500 years. You’ll be amazed at the caves and tower houses carved out of tuff as well as the panoramic views of the valley below Pitigliano. The town’s Etruscan caves are still used as cellars for aging local wines. Tuscany’s only Jewish ghetto was established in Pitigliano and survived there from the 1500’s to the 1930’s. Many Jewish landmarks are still well preserved and the town has earned the nickname “Little Jerusalem”. A short 15 minute drive away is another unique “tuff town”, Sorano. It appears unchanged or as it did centuries ago. A true Etruscan city of its time, it geographically sits at the crossroads of the Etruscan and Roman civilizations. The caves that surround the town were used for food storage and for housing livestock by the Etruscans. The charming red-tiled roofs and labyrinth of alleys and stairways evoke the medieval era when Sorano thrived. The two towering structures that dominate the skyline are the Orsini Castle – a perfect example of Renaissance military architecture and the Masso Leopoldino – a fortified citadel built upon the tuff rock with a still-functioning clock tower. After, you can relax on your drive to reach the area of Magliano in Toscana, a small town reinforced with its 15th century walls. You’ll have a special visit to the Tenuta Ammiraglia – Frescobaldi winery. The Frescobaldi family have been Tuscan wine producers for over 700 years and today have 7 wineries scattered throughout Tuscany. Their Ammiraglia estate is the one farthest south and the one closest to the sea. Here, you’ll discover another winery in tune with the local environment using modern innovation and technology for its wine production. You’ll participate in a wine tasting of the local Frescobaldi varieties and will be served a special group lunch. After your time at the winery, drive back to Grosseto and enjoy the remainder of the day and dinner tonight at your leisure.
Breakfast included at your hotel. Pack your bags and depart from your hotel with your private motorcoach and English speaking guide to transfer to the city of Florence with a stop in the Tuscan wine region and town named Bolgheri. Drive north near the coast into the Tuscan region of Livorno where you’ll find the small Bolgheri wine region and the town of the same name. The breathtaking approach to this small village is a long avenue, approximately 5 kilometers long, that’s lined with majestic cypress trees the entire length. This special feature of Bolgheri had been “landscape-designed” back in the 1800’s. The village of Bolgheri was named after a military camp of Bulgarians which had once been set up in this area. They were brought there by the ruling Lombards to protect against Byzantine forces. The village is dominated by a red-brick castle and is home to artisan workshops, wine shops and restaurants which all celebrate the DOC designated Bolgheri wines. The storybook-style Bolgheri Castle, first built in the 1200’s, is part of the village’s main gate and has been rebuilt numerous times over the centuries. The Castle’s wine production, under the Castello di Bolgheri brand, begins in the castle’s vineyards. These extend over 130 hectares and also include olive groves for the production of their extra virgin olive oil brand as well. The wines in the Bolgehri wine region are special due to its proximity to the sea and due to the unique microclimate of the area, both sunny and dry. The Bolgheri Castle’s wine cellars are divided over 2 stories and were completed in 1796. It’s here that you’ll participate in a wine tasting of the Castle’s varieties and also get to taste the extra virgin olive oil produced on their estate. After the wine tasting, you’ll enjoy a group lunch at a local Bolgheri restaurant (including ½ liter water and ¼ liter wine per person). After your lunch, have a rest and relax during the 2 hour drive to the enchanting city of Florence. Check into your 4* hotel upon arrival and enjoy some free time for the remainder of the day. Dinner tonight will be at your leisure as you explore the wonders of Florence.
Breakfast included at hotel. Depart from your hotel with your English speaking local guide for a walking tour of the magnificent city of Florence – the flourishing center of the Renaissance and the medieval center of Europe’s trade and finance. Highlights include the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge and the city’s main square, the Piazza della Signoria. Here you’ll see the impressive Palazzo Vecchio, the seat of city government beginning in the 14th century. In front of the Palazzo Vecchio is the stunning Neptune’s Fountain. The Loggia dei Lanzi is an open-air sculpture gallery next to the world-renowned Uffizi Gallery. See such Renaissance masterpieces as Perseus With the Head of Medusa and The Rape of The Sabine Women. The Uffizi Gallery is Italy’s most visited museum which is housed in a 16th century building originally commissioned by the Medici family to be government offices. The Medici family bequeathed their vast art collections in the 18th century, thus making the Uffizi Gallery the world’s greatest collection of Renaissance art. The Uffizi also houses priceless ancient Greek and Roman sculptures and busts that once belonged to the Medici’s. An entire room at the Uffizi is dedicated to works by Florentine native Botticelli, including his iconic The Birth of Venus. The Uffizi’s collection also contains works by the following masters: della Francesca, Michelangelo, Cimabue, Giotto, da Vinci, Fra Angelico, Raphael, Titian and Caravaggio. Head over to the Piazza del Duomo and take in the beauty of the marble facades. The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is the main attraction and its red dome, built by Brunelleschi, defines the Florentine skyline. The Duomo’s bronze Baptistery doors were called the “Gates of Paradise” by Michelangelo. After your guided walking tour, you’ll have free time for lunch on your own and the remainder of the afternoon is at your leisure. Perhaps you’d like to visit one of Florence’s museums, the Uffizi Gallery or the Galleria dell’Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David. Or maybe you prefer to stroll the city’s shopping areas or just relax and people watch at one of Florence’s fine cafes. Later this evening, you’ll have a special farewell gourmet dinner at a local Florentine restaurant (including ½ liter water and ¼ liter wine per person).
Breakfast included at your hotel. Transfer with assistance by your private motorcoach from your hotel to Florence Airport. Say “Arrivederci Tuscany!” as you return home with wonderful memories of your special Tuscan Journey.