~ TUSCANY & UMBRIA TOUR ~

Ben arrivati! Welcome to Italy, welcome to Pisa!

After settling down in the hotel, we will gather for our first dinner, served at a nearby traditional restaurant - a time to sample the local food, meet your fellow travelers and talk about the next day’s program.
Those who arrive early in the day will have some time to explore Pisa.

La Torre Pendente

After breakfast at the hotel, we will walk to Piazza dei Miracoli to meet Gioa, our guide, who will show us Pisa’s famous sights - including the renowned Leaning Tower (La Torre Pendente).
After lunch at a local restaurant in the heart of Pisa, we will explore other sites in the historic downtown, a time also for shopping.
We will dine at a traditional Trattoria in a 14th century tower house, a 20 minute walk from our hotel.

PISA

Pisa is known for its world famous Leaning Tower, but is also home to other beautiful sites: Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles), the Duomo (Cathedral), the Baptistry, several palaces, museums, lovely public parks and other artistic and architectural marvels. This city is best enjoyed by foot and our exploration will include a stroll down the Corso Italia, a lively street where the best shops are found! Pisa Pisa’s gastronomy benefits from its proximity to the sea and the countryside; local recipes use meat as much as the freshwater fish and seafood. Typical dishes include Minestra di fagioli bianchi di San Michele (white bean soup of San Michele) and Trenette alla renaiola, a dish which consists of long pasta with anchovies and turnip greens. One traditional dessert of the Pisa province is the Torta co' bischeri, a cake filled with a paste made of rice and chocolate.

LA TORRE CHE PENDE

The Leaning Tower is the bell tower of the Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral, in the Piazza del Duomo.The tower's tilt began during construction in the 12th century and was caused by an inadequate foundation on ground too soft on one side to properly support the structure's weight, 14, 453 tons. The Pisa Tower The tilt increased in the decades before the structure was completed and gradually increased until the structure was stabilized and the tilt partially corrected by efforts in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Now it is possible to visit the tower and enjoy a wonderful view of the city. The tower measures about 56 meters in height (approximately 184 feet) with rounds of blind arches and six floors of loggias.

A Train Ride to the Charming City of Lucca

The day begins with breakfast at the hotel, followed by a short walk to the station to catch the train to Lucca.
After a pleasant stroll along the streets of Lucca, we will arrive to the historic center where Gioa will introduce us to the history and art of this city, including sites like the Duomo di San Martino (San Martino Cathedral), Piazza dell’Anfiteatro (the Amphitheatre Square) and Torre Guinigi, a tower with trees atop it.
Lunch will be at a local traditional osteria.
During the afternoon you will have free time to enjoy Lucca - shopping, visiting the National Art Gallery, renting a bike or whatever you like! We will return to our hotel in Pisa by train.
A short walk to the restaurant will be rewarded with a special dinner of typical Pisan cuisine.
Remember to pack because we leave the following morning for Elba Island.

LUCCA

The opera composer Giacomo Puccini was born here and the city holds Concert Festivals showcasing his works as well as operas every night in the San Giovanni Church. Lucca Lucca’s traditional cuisine includes garmugia - a meat soup, tordelli - a ravioli filled with meat and herbs, and biroldo - a blood-based pork sausage. Lucca is also famous for its bread which, unlike other breads in Tuscany, is salty and for its two sweet breads - pasimata, an Easter cake-like bread, and buccellato, a bread with raisins and anise.

The Avenue of the Cypress

With Pisa and Lucca behind us, we head to Piombino to take a ferry to Elba Island.
On the way there, a stop to Bolgheri is a must - not only to drive through the famous Avenue of the Cypress but also to take a break for lunch and enjoy this picturesque small village.
When we get to Piombino, we will sail for the island of Elba.
From Portoferraio, the main port city in Elba, we will take a short ride to our beautiful hotel overlooking the bay.
Take time to settle in and unpack and get ready for our welcome aperitif followed by an outdoor dinner with a panoramic view.

BOLGHERI

Bolgheri is a lovely little village with small picturesque shops that take you back to another era. To get to Bolgheri, we will drive along the famous Viale dei Cipressi (Avenue of the Cypress) bordered by ancient and majestic cypress trees that lead to the Castle of Bolgheri. This boulevard has been immortalized in a poem by the 19th century Italian poet, Giosuè Carducci.BolgheriFrom this area are the red wines Super-Tuscan Sassicaia, Bolgheri Superiore and Ornellaia and the white wine, Bolgheri Vermentino.

ELBA

Elba

Elba is the third largest island in Italy, after Sicily and Sardinia. It was well known from ancient times for its iron resources and its valued mines. The island was invaded by the Etruscans and later (after 480 BC) by the Romans. In the Middle Ages, it was invaded by the Ostrogoths and the Lombards, then became a possession of the Republic of Pisa. In 1544, the Barbary pirates from North Africa devastated Elba and, two years later, part of the island was handed over to Cosimo I de' Medici, who fortified Portoferraio and renamed it "Cosmopoli". More recently, the island has become famed for its wine, beautiful landscapes and it is today a noted tourist resort.

Napoleon Lived Here in Exile

Delicious buffet breakfast at the hotel before leaving to Portoferraio.
During the drive, enjoy the many scents of the island’s flowers and fruits.
Tatiana, our guide, will show us the villas where Napoleon took residence during his exile from France.
Lunch with Tatiana - we will have time to enjoy seafood dishes before continuing our visit to other sites, including the Medicean Fortress with its breathtaking view.
The visit to Portoferraio is almost at its end but not before some free time around town to shop or enjoy a gelato.
Dinner will be served at the hotel.

PORTOFERRAIO

Portoferraio is the most important town and major port of Elba Island. During the early 17th century Portoferraio saw an influx of Jews who were granted special privileges from Cosimo de Medici. This influenced the development of the industry and economy of Portoferraio. During this period, numerous fortifications were built, at the request of the Medici family, to protect the port from the Barbareschi pirates raids.PortoferraioIn 1814, Elba Island was entrusted to Napoleon Bonaparte, who chose it as the seat of his first exile. During this period, the city grew in importance and modernity.
Portoferraio should be seen from every corner, with its characteristic houses, balconies full of colourful flowers, narrow alleys, lively piazzas and breathtaking views of the sea.

RESIDENZE NAPOLEONICHE

Napoleon Bonaparte was forced into exile (May 1814 - February 1815), after the abdication and the Treaty of Fontainebleau. Napoleon chose Portoferraio as the capital of his state where he settled in two villas; San Martino and Villa dei Mulini. Napoleon residenceIn the town house, the Palazzina dei Mulini, Napoleon tried to recreate in a short time, at a reduced size, the atmosphere of the French court; this was supported by the presence of his mother and his sister, Pauline, who had joined him in exile.

Dimitri’s Organic Farm

Today starts with a visit to Dimitri’s Farm, where he will show us his production of organic olive oil, wines and the mill where he grinds whole grain flour and makes delicious pasta.
Dimitri will also be our host for lunch and prepare a menu that will include a pasta dish made with his products and a wine tasting.
We will return to the hotel to relax and enjoy the landscape before getting ready for our next destination: Capoliveri, a beautiful and picturesque village perched on a hill overlooking the sea.
A stroll, some souvenir shopping perhaps, and then we will drive to Porto Azzurro for dinner in one of the island’s best restaurants.
Don’t forget to pack for tomorrow’s departure to the mainland!

LA FATTORIA DI DIMITRI

Dimitri’s Farm is located in Portoferraio, a few hundred meters from the beach. The whole area is a natural habitat for wild and migratory birds, surrounded by olive trees and vineyards. We really like Dmitri’s olive oil and wines and especially enjoy the whole wheat pasta that he produces from durum wheat. Its color tends toward bronze and its strong taste evokes flavors from the past.Dimitri

CAPOLIVERI

Capoliveri is a quaint, small village with a deep Etruscan and Roman heritage that played an important role in the economy and politics of Elba Island during the Middle Ages. Later on, after the Italian campaign of Napoleon I in 1799, the population of Capoliveri stubbornly resisted the French troops. This explains why in 1814, when he arrived in exile as King of Elba, Napoleon was greeted with skepticism in Capoliveri, while everyone else saluted him as a liberator. Capoliveri offers marvelous views of the sea and is also a wonderful place for shopping and relaxing.Capoliveri

PORTO AZZURRO

This very picturesque seaside town, on the western coast of Elba Island, has narrow streets with small houses painted in pastel colours, boutique shops, excellent restaurants, a town square in front of the marina and evening craft stands.Porto Azzurro It was called Porto Longone until 1947, when it changed its name to Porto Azzurro. Azzurro, Italian for light blue, describes the exquisite color of the sea; the town is also famous its beaches, with their dramatic rock formations and white sand.

The Land of the Etruscans

We will have just enough time to enjoy our last breakfast in Elba and get ready to catch the ferry to the mainland.
Before lunch, we will stop in Populonia to visit the Etruscan Museum and to appreciate the 360-degree view of the ocean and valley from the Fortress.
After boarding the van, we will head to Cortona, our base camp for the rest of the tour, as it is close to many other beautiful places and activities.
After unpacking and settling in our lovely hotel, situated in the center of the town, we will take a short walk to the restaurant where we will have dinner.

POPULONIA

In the 7th century BC, Populonia was already one of the largest and most important ancient Etruscan settlements. The only Etruscan city built along the coast and one of the major mining centers of the Etruscan metal industry. Populonia attracted thousands of inhabitants, with an acropolis, a necropolis, several ports and industrial districts. Populonia is notable now for its ancient ruins, the Etruscan walls, remains of Roman buildings and a medieval fortress, located in a panoramic position overlooking the Baratti Gulf.Populonia

CORTONA

Cortona’s rich history is evident in its streets, palazzos and piazzas. The city’s Etruscan roots date back to the 7th and 8th century BC and its alliance with Rome to the 1st century BC. In the 16th century, the Florentine Renaissance flourished here in Cortona. CortonaCortona’s many points of interest include its distinctive 16th century clock tower located in the central square, the Palazzo Casali, the neoclassical Teatro Signorelli and the Etruscan Museum. The Museo Diocesano houses the beautiful Annunciation painted by Beato Angelico, and other religious masterpieces. Cortona also offers breathtaking views; you might have seen some in the film Under the Tuscan Sun, which was filmed in a beautifully restored 17th century estate just outside of Cortona.

The Antiquities Strolling Day

In the medieval town of Arezzo, just 20 minutes away from Cortona, we will meet our tour guide Silvia, who will show us the art and beauty of her hometown.
Lunch in the historic center will be served at one of Stefano’s favorite trattorias. Silvia will be our guest, ready to answer questions.
Today is also a special day in Arezzo because it hosts the largest and oldest antiques fair in Italy.
As you stroll through the fair, appreciate candlesticks, violins, jewelry, books... Take advantage of an opportunity to purchase a piece of Italy’s history!
The day will end with a dinner at a restaurant in Cortona where we will share our beautiful day and review our next day’s adventure.

AREZZO

The beautiful old town of Arezzo conveys the wealth that this city has gathered during the past centuries. The city is on a hilltop and, during an easy walk, we can appreciate many lovely sights - along the Piazza Grande with its remarkable old buildings and along the small alleys and quiet streets. If you experience déjà vu at Arezzo’s Piazza Grande perhaps you are remembering it from Roberto Benigni’s film, Life is Beautiful. Arezzo

Arezzo has much to offer - archeological sites, churches, monuments and museums. Many famous and great artists were born here - the Italian poet Petrarch, the Renaissance painters Piero della Francesca, Masaccio, Michelangelo, Luca Signorelli and Vasari. Their art and works left a mark that helps to make Arezzo one of the most splendid cities in Tuscany.

LA FIERA DELLE ANTICHITÁ

Antique fair Every first Sunday of the month and the preceding Saturday the Antiques Fair is held through the old town streets and in the Piazza Grande. This fair is the oldest, the largest and the most beautiful in Italy; antique lovers view it as a lodestone! There are hundreds of exhibitors that come, not only from all over Italy but also from the rest of Europe to offer antique furniture, art objects, rare jewelry, prints and books, toys and musical instruments.

The Towers and the Palio’s Piazza

These two towns are a “must see”, even if a little too touristy and outside of Stefano and Perla’s usual travelling philosophy!
Our first stop is San Gimignano with its unique towers; we will stroll through its historic center to appreciate some of the beauty and unique mood of the ancient buildings.
A short drive and we are in the heart of the Chianti region, where we will visit a winery whose cellars benefit from thermal waters of the famous thermal baths in the area.
Here we will enjoy a traditional lunch overlooking our next destination, Siena, the town of the famous Palio. Maria, our guide, will give us an in-depth tour of the town, unfolding its history and secrets.

SAN GIMIGNANO

San Gimignano Known as the Town of Fine Towers, San Gimignano’s hilltop setting, with its encircling walls and towers, is renowned for its unforgettable skyline. As with many other Tuscan cities, the history of San Gimignano dates back to the archaic Etruscan period, but it was during the Middle Ages that the city flourished and well off merchants and aristocrats built towers to show their wealth and power. A walk in the San Gimignano’s Old City, inside the 13th century walls, offers a glimpse of its past glory with 13 towers still standing out of the approximately 72 originally built. San Gimignano offers many local products, like saffron, extra virgin olive oil, salami and the renowned white wine, the Vernaccia di San Gimignano.

SIENA

Siena is one of the most unique and beautiful cities in Italy. It is truly an open-air museum, full of Gothic and medieval monuments and Renaissance art with a splendid landscape surrounding it. Probably the most well known site in Siena is the Piazza del Campo, the unique shell shaped square at the city center, where twice a year the Palio race is held. Siena In the city’s boutique shops you can still find examples of fine craftsmanship like glazed terracotta, embroidered fabrics, gold jewelry and fine paper. Siena is also famous for its wonderful culinary tradition that evolved from ancient medieval dishes. Its wines and pastries include the famous Panforte and the Ricciarelli, almond paste cakes.

A Fine Day in Cortona

Today there is not any driving to reach far destinations but a quiet and rich day in “Our Town” Cortona, exploring its art and surroundings, including the monastery l’Eremo delle Celle, where monks meet nature to create beauty as an expression of respectful synergy.
We will enjoy lunch in town, followed by some free time before we participate in a cooking class and later enjoy a wonderful meal together.

L’EREMO DELLE CELLE

Eremo delle Celle L’Eremo delle celle is a Franciscan monastery founded by St. Francis in 1211. Located in an enchanting valley where nature and man have lived harmoniously for the past centuries, this place has a special effect on visitors. After entering the monastery, many feel transported are surprised by the tranquil silence, interrupted only by the beautiful singing of birds and water flowing, that invites them to listen and look inside themselves. Some meditate, some pray, some feel closer to Nature, but everybody finds the Eremo to be a truly spiritual place.

A Day in Umbria

A long and profound day ahead of us; we will to explore the homeland of St. Francis.
After breakfast we will drive to the Umbria region and visit two of its most beautiful cities.
Annalisa will guide us, starting with Gubbio, the town where, according to legend, Saint Francis meet the wolf. We will enjoy a refreshing lunch, then head to Assisi, the hometown of Saint Francis.
Deruta will be our last stop of the day, a town well known for its ceramics. We will stroll around the small town watching the artists at work in their shops and maybe buying a souvenir.
We will dine together before heading back to the hotel for a restful night.

GUBBIO

Gubbio, the oldest town in Umbria, is rich in historical and artistic heritage. Its architecture is varied and includes a Roman Theater built in the 1st century BC, Gothic style palaces, churches and cathedrals built during the 14th and 15th centuries. Gubbio Gubbio’s restaurants offer some of Umbria’s best cuisine, made with simple ingredients like vegetables, legumes and cereals, and local high quality meats, cold cuts, cheeses, white or black truffles and the traditional breads crescia (flat salted bread) and brustengo (fried bread). All around the old city center it is possible to find several speciality craft shops with products like, leather, iron, gold and pottery.

ASSISI

Assisi Assisi is famous as the birthplace of St. Francis and for the sacred sites related to the Franciscan Order but it is also a beautiful city on an idyllic hillside, full of medieval art. The city was also strongly influential in the development of the Italian Renaissance. One of the finest examples is the medieval masterpiece, the Basilica of San Francesco with its innovative architecture and paintings by Giotto, Cimabue, Simone Martini and Pietro Lorenzetti. Outside of the city walls, the many serene sites remind us that Assisi’s sacred heritage still resonates today.

DERUTA

Deruta Deruta is a little picturesque village famous for its ceramic production, which started in the Middle Ages with simple patterns. The designs evolved during the 15th and 16th centuries to a more elaborate style, beautifully decorated with arabesque elements and grottesche (decoration involving mixed animal, human, and plant forms) and the use of bright gold, blue and ruby red colors on a white background.

The Island in the Middle of the Lake.

After breakfast at the hotel, we will go to another corner of the Umbria region, this time to visit Isola Maggiore in the Trasimeno Lake. After a short drive, we will catch a boat to the Island and discover its little village with old ladies sitting at their doorsteps working on their pizzo d'Irlanda, a special type of lace-making.
Fresh catches from the lake will be served at lunch.
In the afternoon, we will go back to Castiglione del Lago for a visit to its fortress overlooking the lake and to see the Palazzo della Corgna with its frescoed walls and ceilings and Etruscan artifacts.
Dinner will be served at a local restaurant where the chef will prepare handmade pasta in front of us before serving it.

ISOLA MAGGIORE

Isola Maggiore is the second largest of the three natural islands of Lake Trasimeno in Umbria. The island saw it heyday during the 14th century when a Franciscan monastery was established but its population has declined since then; the island now has less than 20 inhabitants.Isola Maggiore, Trasimeno lake For centuries fishing was the town’s main source of livelihood but now tourism provides its main income. The island is famous for its pizzo d'Irlanda, a special type of lace-making. This activity dates back to 1904, when a teacher from Ireland taught crochet techniques to the women on the island. Today, there are very few lacemakers but a museum has been opened to preserve this tradition.

CASTIGLIONE DEL LAGO

Castiglione de LagoThis city is a castle, surrounded by walls and rises on a promontory, from the water. The town is dominated by its Medieval Fortress and towering Keep and by the 15th century Ducal Palace. Founded by the Romans, who named it Novum Clusium, the town now stands on what, in ancient times, was the fourth island of Lake Trasimeno. The name Castiglione comes from the symbol of the family that once ruled the city, the Castellum Leonis (Lion's Castle) Castiglione del Lago played an important role in the history of the region and its strategic location made it a disputed area. Struggles ensued between the Etruscans and the Romans and, during the Middle Ages, between various Tuscan and Umbrian towns that caused the destruction of the original fortifications, which have been rebuilt several times.

PALAZZO DELLA CORGNA

The Palazzo della Corgna, also called the Palazzo Ducale, is located in Piazza Gramsci at the far end of Castiglione del Lago. It was the primary residence of the Corgna family who ruled from 1563 to 1647. Built in the Renaissance style, the palace is beautifully decorated with frescoes representing mythological scenes.Palazzo della Corgna

Cheese and Wine Day

Our first visit of the day will be an organic farm where we will have a behind-the-scenes look at the fine art of cheese making.
For lunch, we will sample cheeses and other products from this farm.
Pienza and Montepulciano will be our next destinations, the first one famous for the cheese made with sheep milk know as “Caciotta di Pienza”, the second known for its refined wines and home of one of the most ancient cellar in Italy.
For dinner, we will try another of Cortona’s wonderful restaurants.

FATTORIA BIOLOGICA IL CASALE

Podere il Casale is probably one of the last farms in the region that does not limit and specialize its scope of farming and, at the same time, they excel in cheese making, especially the world famous Pienza sheep cheese. Its cheesery has won several awards in the organic sheep and goat raw-milk cheese category. Podere il Casale

PIENZA

The historic center of Pienza is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is known as the "ideal city of the Renaissance". This was the birthplace of a Renaissance humanist who later became Pope Pius II, who decided to rebuilt Pienza following the precepts of the Renaissance urban planning ideals. He entrusted the project to the Florentine architect Bernardo Rossellino. In only four years, several splendid and harmonious buildings were completed around the central square; the Piccolomini Palace, the Cathedral, The Town Hall and the Borgia Palace.Pienza

MONTEPULCIANO

Montepulciano has a long and ancient history that started in the 4th century BC, reaching its cultural and economic splendour in the 15th and 16th centuries. MontepulcianoMontepulciano is known around the world for its superb Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG, one of the finest results of centuries of viticulture that dates back to Etruscan times. From the city’s historic center full of splendid Renaissance palaces, churches and monuments, one can admire the stunning vineyards in the surrounding landscapes that remind us of its agricultural importance.

The Last Day in Cortona

Let’s make our last day a joyful celebration of this wonderful experience of beauty and friendship!
The morning could start with breakfast at the hotel or at a local bar, followed by a visit to an Etruscan museum and later to the Diocesan Museum, that houses one of the most exquisite paintings of Fra Angelico.
After lunch, we will allow free time to relax and get ready for tomorrow’s departure.
The farewell dinner will be a special one in a superb location.

IL MUSEO DIOCESIANO

The Diocesan museum houses valuable works of religious art gathered from the important churches of Cortona and its surroundings. The museum collections also include a Roman sarcophagus, some extraordinary and rare pieces from the 14th century Church of Santa Margherita, and in the main room, two exquisite masterpieces of the 14th century, the famous Annunciation and a triptych painted by Fra Angelico.Fra Angelico

MAEC: Museum of the Etruscan Academy and of the City of Cortona

This museum preserves some of Cortona’s ancient history, from its evolution during the Prehistoric and Protohistoric Ages through the Etruscan and Roman periods, including the famous and rare Etruscan Bronze Chandelier, and works of art from the 13th to the 17th century by important painters such as Maestro della Pala di Avignone, Pinturicchio, Signorelli, Bartolomeo della Gatta, Niccolò di Pietro Gerini, Taddeo Gaddi, Spinello Aretino and Pietro Berrettini.MAEC

Arrivederci! See you soon!

After breakfast, the tour ends today with a single ride to the Florence airport, or to your hotel in Florence, if you decide to prolong your visit in Italy. Today will be your last chance to exchange email addresses with your new friends!

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