"ART & CULTURE"
This tour focuses on the artistic, architectural and cultural heritage of the Val d’Elsa: heir of the Etruscan civilization, territory of the Roman Empire, outpost of Charlemagne, meeting-point between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and birthplace of modern Western society. Due to their strategic locations, Val d’Elsa’s walled villages were at the center of numerous, historic battles between the city-states of Florence and Siena, contrasting with their reign over a pastoral countryside today. This "terra d'arte" is overflowing with prestigious paintings, statuary and manuscripts of the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries. It is the place where poets Dante Alighieri and Giovanni Boccaccio, and painters Cimabue, Giotto, Duccio Buoninsegna, Filippino Lippi, Benozzo Gozzoli and Leonardo da Vinci, among many others, achieved some of their most important works.
DAY 1 (Wednesday) ARRIVAL
(Available only for departures from FCO, before noon on arrival day.)
Departing from Rome’s airport, we enjoy a pleasant drive, stopping for a light lunch before we check-in at the hotel. In the early evening, we gather for Aperitivo (cocktail hour Tuscan-style) on the hotel terrace and a delicious Welcome Dinner in the hotel’s award-winning restaurant.
DAY 2 (Thursday): SAN MINIATO / CASTELFIORENTINO / CERTALDO ALTO
We begin in San Miniato, to discover moments in history which influenced Michelangelo and Napoleon Bonaparte, and to discover Renaissance frescoes not open to the public. After a cultural walk in its picturesque streets, we take a short ride to enjoy pranzo (lunch, the main meal of the day) in a private estate formerly owned by the Bonaparte Family, to tour its biodynamic vineyards and sample its sublime wines.
We continue to medieval Castelfiorentino to visit artistic treasures that proclaimed this village as the "seat of the first artistic revolution in Tuscany." Next, we ride through a landscape dotted with Medieval castles to the fabled village of Certaldo Alto, birthplace of Giovanni Boccaccio and his “Decameron" (1349-1351), to visit his home and to view nearby works of Florentine Renaissance Art. To end this magnificent day, we enjoy Aperitivo and Dinner overlooking the not-too-distant towers of San Gimignano.
DAY 3 (Friday): SIENA / MONTERIGGIONI
The drive to Siena is exceptional! We visit its breathtaking Duomo, the central Piazza del Campo, City Hall, Civic Museum and lesser known sites to view Sienese masterpieces. An architectural walk takes us through several of the 17 "contrade" (neighborhoods) which participate in the famed Medieval horse race, the Palio di Siena. We will savor an unforgettable lunch, and then enjoy free time to explore.
Departing from Siena, we soon approach the Castle of Monteriggioni, "Gateway to the Middle Ages" (as immortalized by Dante Alighieri in his "Divine Comedy”), where you are treated to an unforgettable experience: Aperitivo & costumed Medieval Dinner.
DAY 4 (Saturday): UNKNOWN FLORENCE: "The City of Gold"
This morning, we will discover some of the lesser-known treasures of Florence, with our special guide, an acclaimed Florentine historian and Chianti vintner. This is an indispensable excursion for those who thought they knew Florence, but who yearn to learn more about the never-ending treasures of the “City of Gold.” Enjoy lunch on your own and a free afternoon to sightsee, explore, shop or relax in a piazza. Dinner on your own at the hotel this evening.
DAY 5 (Sunday): COLLE DI VAL D' ELSA / ARCHEODROMO / CASTELLO DI SONNINO
Above its Etruscan base, stands the awe-inspiring, hilltop town of Colle di Val d'Elsa, an impressive Medieval and Renaissance architectural site. Renaissance painter/historian, Giorgio Vasari, described Colle as “the best architectural example of the Tuscan Cinquecento."
After enjoying a Tuscan pranzo, we proceed to the “Archeodromo,” an archeological site where we enter the Carolinian Age (9th - 10th centuries) and witness an authentic of re-enactment of the "Time and Life of Charlemagne" proposed by professors and faculty of the University of Siena.
Our next stop is at a 13th century estate in the hills of northern Chianti, formerly owned by the family of Niccolò Machiavelli. We tour the vineyards and cellars, and the Family’s private archives, which are filled with original memorabilia of its former owner, the Prime Minister of Italy during WWI. We will taste the estate's sublime olive oils and wines during dinner at the Estate.
DAY 6 (Monday): SAN GIMIGNANO / VOLTERRA / ARRIVEDERCI DINNER
Longobard towers and Vernaccia vineyards guide us to San Gimignano, "Manhattan of the Middle Ages," a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We visit its incredible Duomo, the historical Piazza della Cisterna, and with an Augustinian Father, we tour the Church of Sant' Agostino to admire the twenty-four cycles of Saint Augustine's Life, a masterpiece of Renaissance painting.
Proceeding along Dante Alighieri’s visionary voyage, we arrive at Volterra, once the center of the Etruscan Legion (today's "Tuscany.") In the "city of four eras" (Etruscan, Roman, Medieval and Renaissance), we enjoy a private tour of the renown Etruscan Museum, the Roman Theatre, and a historic palazzo. Following a Volteranna luncheon, we join the Mayor for a private tour of the ornately-frescoed, 12th century City Chambers. Take advantage of free time to shop for Volterra’s unique arts & crafts, including fine works of translucent alabaster, crafted from stone mined in one of only three known alabaster mines in the world. We return to the hotel for some relaxation before celebrating our last evening in Tuscany with Aperitivo and and a very special Arrivederci Dinner at the hotel.
DAY 7 (Tuesday): Departure for FCO via the Tuscan Coast & Porto Ercole
We enjoy an inspiring drive along the Tuscan Coast, stopping in Porto Ercole to enjoy lunch with a view of the Tyrrhenian Sea. We continue to the airport hotel for a late afternoon check-in with plenty of time to relax and prepare for your morning flight to the U.S. Dinner on your own.
DAY 8: (Wednesday): Depart from the Hotel to FCO for your return flight