Escape to the place of your dreams – Tuscany! Discover this enchanting region in depth with visits to museums, palazzos, cooking classes and wineries. Stay in Tuscany’s main cities – Florence, Siena and Lucca and enjoy side trips into the beautiful countryside and to San Gimignano, Arezzo, Pisa and Pistoia. Explore the cultural centers of Renaissance art and Romanesque architecture while enjoying the traditional foods and wines that have made Tuscany famous.
Departure from the United States on your overnight flight to begin your tour of Tuscany – Art, Culture & More.
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 Florence. Relax and make yourself comfortable for the remainder of the day. Meet your fellow travelers and tour leader for dinner tonight at the hotel (including ½ liter water and ¼ liter wine per person).
Breakfast included at hotel. Depart from your hotel with your English speaking local guide for a 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. 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. You’ll have a little bit of free time to grab some lunch on your own. Your guided tour continues after lunch with an entrance to the Galleria dell’Accademia, home to numerous Florentine sculptures and paintings. It’s here that you’ll get to view the ultimate Renaissance sculpture – Michelangelo’s David. See for yourself how this masterpiece came to symbolize both strength and beauty. You will also be given a ticket that permits entrance to the following parts of the Duomo complex:
Florence Cathedral (Santa Maria del Fiore): completed in the 16th century and currently the 3rd largest church in the world, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Brunelleschi’s Dome: iconic Cathedral dome constructed with red bricks built in 15th century. Visitors are required to climb 463 steps.
Giotto’s Bell Tower: the best example of 14th century Gothic architecture in Florence, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors are required to climb 414 steps.
Baptistery: sitting opposite the Cathedral, UNESCO World Heritage Site, from the 11th – 12th century – one of the oldest buildings in Florence, magnificent mosaic ceiling and bronze doors
Crypt of Santa Reparata: from a staircase in the Cathedral’s nave, descend to find the 5th century church that was discovered after an archaeological dig in the 1960’s, originally stood where the present-day Cathedral is and the crypt contains tombs of notable figures such as Brunelleschi.
Museo dell’Opera del Duomo: museum dedicated to the building of the Cathedral and pieces of art it has housed over the centuries, marble, brass and silver statues are beautifully preserved including a set of the original Baptistery doors and Michelangelo’s The Deposition. The 3rd floor opens up to a panoramic terrace with unparalleled views of Brunelleschi’s Dome.
Enjoy the rest of the afternoon to use your Duomo complex ticket at your leisure. Dinner tonight will be at a traditional trattoria that serves authentic Florentine steak accompanied by a wine tasting of 3 different varieties.
Breakfast included at hotel. Depart from your hotel with your English speaking local guide for a continuation of your tour of beautiful Florence. Today you’ll have a guided tour of the Uffizi Gallery and a boat tour on the Arno River. 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. See Florence from a different perspective when your group embarks on a boat tour with the Renaioli – Florence’s rowing association that preserves the traditional Florentine wooden boats. Sail on the Arno River and see up close both the Ponte Vecchio bridge and the Holy Trinity Bridge which was reconstructed after being destroyed during World War II. After your boat tour, enjoy a pizza lunch with extraordinary views overlooking the Ponte Vecchio bridge and the Arno River (including ½ liter water and ¼ liter wine per person). After lunch, the remainder of the day and dinner tonight is at your leisure.
Breakfast included at hotel. Pack your bags and depart from your hotel with your private motorcoach and English speaking guide for a transfer to the city of Siena, with a stop at a Tuscan cooking school. Travel south from Florence into the Tuscan Chianti Classico region to the town of San Casciano in Val di Pesa. Here you’ll visit the Principe Corsini – Villa le Corti. This estate has been in the Corsini family since the 14th century and extends over 250 hectares covered in vineyards and olive groves. The Villa le Corti was first built in the early 17th century and is a stunning example of Late Renaissance architecture. Today, the estate still has operational wine cellars, olive oil production, a restaurant and a cooking school. You’ll have a special cooking class in the historical kitchens of the Villa le Corti with recipes that have been handed down through the centuries. Learn about the culture and traditions of Tuscan cooking and enjoy a lunch of the dishes you’ve prepared together, accompanied by Principe Corsini labelled wines. After your time at the Villa le Corti, relax on your drive through the Tuscan countryside and take in the spectacular scenery. Arrive in the beautiful medieval city of Siena. Check into your 4* hotel and enjoy the remainder of the afternoon at your leisure. A group dinner will be served for you tonight 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 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, 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. Your group will have a unique experience of visiting one of Siena’s contrade to learn about their rules and cultural traditions and to see their Palio race heritage museum inside their contrada. You’ll also have the opportunity to enjoy a group lunch inside one of the contrada’s restaurants (including ½ liter water and ¼ liter wine per person) and see from the inside what daily life in a contrada is like. After lunch, you’ll have free time to further explore the city on your own. Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant in the city (including ½ liter water and ¼ liter wine per person).
Breakfast included at your hotel. Depart from your hotel with your private motorcoach and English speaking guide for an excursion to Chiusdino about 25 miles south of Siena. In the middle of the green Tuscan farmland rises the Abbey of St. Galagano. St. Galgano lived in the 12th century and was posthumously canonized for his visions of both the Archangel Michael and of the 12 apostles with God. His vision gave him strength to plant his sword into a stone, which survives to this day, and you’ll see at the nearby hermitage. The Abbey of St. Galgano was a 13th century Cistercian Monastery built in the Gothic style. All that remains today, after centuries of disrepair, are the abbey’s beautifully intact walls. In the late 18th century, the bell tower collapsed and took the roof off with it. A short walk away, you’ll see the Hermitage of Montesiepi on a hilltop overlooking the abbey. It’s here that St. Galgano lived in a hut next to where he plunged his sword into the stone. In the late 1180’s, upon St. Galgano’s death, a mausoleum was built to honor him next to his sword. The adjoining chapel was constructed in the 14th century and still has its original frescoes by Lorenzetti. As you learn of St. Galgano’s history, be sure to take in the stunning views from atop the Montesiepi hill. For lunch, you’ll drive to a local agriturismo, or rural farm estate, where you’ll enjoy authentic Tuscan cuisine accompanied by a wine tasting of local varieties. Return to Siena after lunch where you’ll have the remainder of the day and dinner tonight 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 Church of Santa Maria della Pieve, the Medici Fortress or others. You’ll have a special visit to the late medieval styled Basilica of San Francesco. Built in 1290 and dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi, this church may appear small and simple from the exterior, yet it contains a masterpiece of Italian Renaissance art. Surrounding the altar and painted on the walls of the apse is Piero della Francesca’s fresco cycle entitled Legend of the True Cross with 13 ‘episodes’ depicted. Started in 1452, it took him 14 years to complete the frescoes that tell the medieval legends of the cross upon which Christ was eventually crucified. Your ticket allows admission to view the frescoes – the church allows a maximum of 25 people for a 30 minute period to view the frescoes at one time. After your tour, lunch will be served in a local restaurant (including ½ liter water and ¼ liter wine per person). Enjoy 2 hours of free time to further explore this unique city not commonly found on tourists’ 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. Pack your bags and depart from your hotel with your private motorcoach and English speaking guide to transfer to the city of Lucca, with a stop in San Gimignano along the way. Drive through the picturesque Tuscan countryside to the walled medieval hilltop town of San Gimignano. You and your guide will stop for a short visit to experience this charming fairytale-like town. 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. For lunch today, you’ll visit the local San Donato agriturismo. Known for their traditional wine, olive oil and saffron production, your lunch at San Donato will include Tuscan specialties accompanied by a wine tasting of varieties from their vineyards. Relax as you drive north to the beautiful Renaissance city of Lucca. Check into your 4* hotel and enjoy some free time before your group dinner tonight 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 tour to better acquaint yourself with Lucca. This well-preserved Renaissance city is famous for its city walls. They were initially built for protection, but are now part of Lucca’s cityscape. A walkway was built atop the 4.2 km length of the walls that links all the bastions encircling the historic city center. Trees were planted atop the city walls as well, making it the iconic parkway it has become for the citizens of Lucca. Home of opera composer Giacomo Puccini and known as the City of One Hundred Churches, Lucca’s main church, the Cathedral of San Martino is a perfect example of Pisan Romanesque architecture. This style was popular from the 10th to the 13th century and is unique to this region of Tuscany. This cathedral houses 3 distinctly different works of art. The highly venerated The Holy Face of Lucca is a wooden crucifix believed to have been sculpted by Nicodemus who assisted in the burial of Jesus after the crucifixion. There is an exquisitely carved marble tomb created by Jacopo della Quercia in 1407 for Ilaria del Carretto. She was the young wife of the 15th century Lord of Lucca who died during childbirth. Note her devoted dog at her feet carved into the top of the tomb as well. Another unexpected work of art found in the cathedral is an interpretation of an Italian masterpiece – The Last Supper. Painted by Venetian artist Tintoretto in 1594, this iconic subject matter appears almost three dimensional since it’s painted from a different perspective. Tintoretto’s version also contains additional figures compared to da Vinci’s work. You’ll next visit the amazing San Michele in Foro church, translated as St. Michael’s in the Forum. Construction began in the 11th century over the site of the city’s Roman Forum. Another perfect example of the Pisan Romanesque architecture, you’ll marvel at the stunning marble façade and its details. Black and white marble inlay is used to depict animals and the faces of prominent men through the ages are immortalized in sculpture – Galileo, Columbus, Napolean, Vittorio Emanuele and Garibaldi are just a few. Atop this masterful façade sits Archangel Michael slaying a dragon flanked by two smaller angels. Inside the church is a colorful work by Renaissance painter and student of Botticelli, Filippino Lippi. His Four Saints Altarpiece is painted on wood and depicts Saints Helen, Jerome, Sebastian and Rocco. Your guide will next bring you to Palazzo Pfanner, a 17th century palace original built by Lucchese nobility. It was purchased in the 19th century by an Austrian brewer, Felix Pfanner, who started one of Italy’s first beer breweries and operated it out of the palace. See this wonderfully preserved home and the unique architectural frescoes painted by Pietro Paolo Scorsini in the salon. Of equal beauty to the palace is its 18th century Baroque garden; the only kind of its size and design within the walls of Lucca. Take in the various plants, flowers, fruit trees and Greek statues as well as the limonaia – the garden’s specially built conservatory to house lemon trees in cold weather. Palazzo Pfanner, still owned by the Pfanner family, has classical music concerts in the Summer and has been used as a setting in various film productions including Jane Campion’s 1996 version of Portrait of a Lady starring Nicole Kidman. Your tour of Lucca will end today at the city’s main square – Piazza Anfiteatro. You’ll notice its unique shape resembles that of a Spanish bullring, but it was actually built on the site of the city’s Roman amphitheater. This square was designed by an architect in 1830 with four gateways to access the center and became the site of the city’s main market. Today, it’s ringed by medieval houses built on the footprint of the original amphitheater and filled with cafes and shops. Take time to further explore the captivating city of Lucca by having free time for the remainder of the day. Lunch and dinner are both at your leisure.
Breakfast included at hotel. Depart from your hotel with your private motorcoach and English speaking guide for a morning excursion to the city of Pisa. Your English speaking local guide will show you the famous Square of Miracles. On the square stands the Duomo, the Baptistery, the Cemetery and the famous Leaning Tower. The entire Duomo complex was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These structures are all unique examples of Pisan Romanesque architecture. While construction on the Duomo began in 1064, the campanile (the leaning bell tower) took over 170 years to build as it was done in stages. Learn all about the history of the Leaning Tower and the efforts to preserve it over time. Entrances to the Tower, the Duomo and Italy’s largest Baptistery are included. Enjoy a group lunch at a local restaurant (including ½ liter water and ¼ liter wine per person) before returning to your hotel in Lucca. Late this afternoon, you’ll be transferred to have a private cooking class in the Lucca area. Your dinner tonight will be the classic Tuscan dishes your group has prepared in your cooking class (beverages included)
Breakfast included at hotel. Depart from your hotel with your private motorcoach and English speaking guide for a return transfer back to Florence, with a stop in the quintessential Tuscan city of Pistoia along the way. Pistoia, named a 2017 European City of Culture, is a charming small city with a well-preserved medieval city center. You’ll appreciate the refined beauty of Pistoia that normally doesn’t receive the large tourist crowds that other Tuscan destinations do. You’ll have a short tour of the city and see the famous Piazza del Duomo with the Pisan Romanesque façade of the Cathedral of San Zeno and the impressive Gothic baptistery sitting opposite the cathedral. The Baptistery of San Giovanni in Corte is octagonally shaped and was built using white and green marble. It’s considered one of the best examples of Tuscan Gothic architecture combining elements from Florence, Pisa and Siena. You’ll have a group lunch together in a local Pistoia restaurant (including ½ liter water and ¼ liter wine per person). After lunch, drive the short distance to Florence where you’ll check into your 4* hotel for your final night in Tuscany. The remainder of the day and dinner tonight is at your leisure to either relax in Florence or return to a special place you found at the beginning of your tour.
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 journey to discover the timeless Art, Culture & More of Tuscany.