1. PANORAMIC JEWELS OF SOUTHERN TUSCANY
Castelmuzio – Monte Oliveto Maggiore – Montalcino – S.Antimo
A spectacular drive through the Crete Senese takes you to Castelmuzio, a quintessential Tuscan hamlet lost in time with extensive views of all the surrounding hill towns. Time for a stroll and mid-morning coffee, before continuing to the abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore for a guided tour of the cycle of XVI century frescoes by Sodoma and Signorelli on the walls of the cloister. Have lunch at Monte Oliveto set in the National Park of the ‘Crete Senese’ hills. Equally beautiful is the drive to Montalcino. Stroll through the historic centre, climb the ramparts of the Rocca Castle overlooking the Val d’Orcia and then relax with a glass of Brunello wine and some Pecorino cheese before listening to the sounds of Gregorian chant in the church of S.Antimo.
Approximate times: Depart at 9.00am – Return from S.Antimo at 6.00pm
2. A TUSCAN WINE TASTING EXPERIENCE
Avignonesi Winery – Montepulciano
The Avignonesi winery produces one of the finest Vino Nobile in the region and it is famous for its award winning Vin Santo. The guided tour of the winery is a fascinating insight into the making, ageing and bottling of wine and the continuous experiments undertaken by the De Salvo family to remain at the forefront of high quality wine production. Lunch is a four-course meal served at the winery with four carefully selected wines to enhance the tasting experience. In the afternoon a scenic drive welcome you to Montepulciano where the late afternoon is spent exploring the historical City, Cantina del Redi – whose wine cellars date back to the 11th century – and the beautiful renaissance church of San Biagio.
Approximate times: Depart at 11.00am – Return from Montepulciano at 6.00pm
N.B. To avoid disappointment with guided tour and lunch at Avignonesi winery book several days in advance.
3. IN THE CHIANTI HILLS
Fonterutoli – Castellina in Chianti – Monteriggioni – San Gimignano
Travel to Fonterutoli to taste the Chianti Classico wine produced by the Mazzei family, who have been there since 1435, take a walk around the bustling small hill-town of Castellina in Chianti and then have lunch inside the walled garrison village of Monteriggioni whose medieval towers were immortalised by Dante in his Divine Comedy. In the afternoon travel to just outside of S.Gimignano and approach town along a panoramic route amidst Vernaccia vineyards with fabulous views of its 14 remaining medieval towers silhouetted on the skyline. Time to explore S.Gimignano.
Approximate times: Depart at 9.30am – Return from S.Gimignano at 6.30pm
4. ON THE CHIANTIGIANA
Badia a Passignano – Greve – Panzano – Volpaia – Radda – Gaiole
Start you day on the Chiantigiana at Badia a Passignano, a beautifully situated Vallombrosan monastery. Leave the main roads and travel along quiet tracks past Chianti vines and olive groves, stopping for coffee at Montefioralle, family home of Amerigo Vespucci. Admire the charming piazza in Greve in Chianti, home to the annual Chianti Classico wine festival. As the day progresses make your way on country roads, admiring the magnificent views. You can stroll around, shop and taste olive oil and wine in Panzano, Volpaia, Radda and Gaiole-in-Chianti at your pace.
Approximate times: Depart at 9.30am – Return from Gaiole at 5.00pm
5. HILL TOWNS OF SOUTHERN TUSCANY
Montepulciano – Montichiello – Pienza – Bagno Vignoni
Wind through the streets of Montepulciano, known as the pearl of the Renaissance, admiring its wonderful buildings. Visit Cantina del Redi, where Vino Nobile is aged in vaulted caves beneath the foundations of the city. Leave through the ancient gates, passing San Biagio church, one of the great churches of the high Renaissance, and drive through the picturesque countryside of the Val D’Orcia to Montichiello. Time to explore this tiny hamlet before continuing to Pienza, Pope Pius II’s setting for a utopian society and a marvel of XV century architecture. Your day ends at the Roman hot springs of Bagno Vignoni.
Approximate times: Depart at 9.00am – Return from Bagno Vignoni at 5.00pm
1. IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF ST FRANCIS OF ASSISI
S.Maria degli Angeli – S.Damiano – Eremo delle Carceri – Spello – Assisi
We travel to Assisi to the church of S.Maria degli Angeli and the enchanting IX century Benedictine church of the Porziuncola, the first place of worship given to S. Francis. Then on to San Damiano church; here Francis heard the altar cross speak to him ‘Francis, go and rebuild my church’. Thirdly, we visit the secluded Hermitage of S. Francis above Assisi. All three were fundamental to the creation of the Franciscan order. A scenic drive climbs over the top of Monte Subasio descending to Spello, enchanting town of Roman origin. We walk through the medieval streets and stop for lunch. In the afternoon we visit Assisi and the famous Basilica, which for centuries has attracted pilgrims from far and wide to the tomb of St. Francis. Admire the medieval frescoes of Giotto, Cimabue & Lorenzetti.
Approximate times: Depart at 9.00am – Return from Assisi at 6.00pm
2. ALONG THE VIA FLAMINIA
Spello – Bevagna – Montefalco – Bettona
We travel along the path of the Roman Via Flaminia, which linked Rome to the Adriatic coast. Our first stop along this famous road is Spello sitting at the foot of Monte Subasio; we enter through the Roman gates and immediately jump forwards into a medieval setting; marvel at the narrow streets and enjoy this enchanting town. We then continue along the Via Flaminia and stop to walk through Bevagna. The visible remains of its Roman heritage are a rewarding experience. We move on to Montefalco, the balcony of Umbria with views from Assisi to Spoleto. Time permitting we make a final stop in Bettona sitting on a hill with medieval walls protecting this sleepy Umbrian town, which is quite simply charming.
Approximate times: Depart at 9.30am – Return from Bettona at 5.00pm
3. HILL TOWNS OF TRASIMENO LAKE
Deruta – Torgiano wine – Panicale – Castiglion del Lago
We travel to the charming medieval town of Deruta, world-famous for its hand-painted majolica ceramics. Admire the artistry, window shop and be tempted to purchase pottery. We continue to Torgiano, home to the Lungarotti family whose dedication to wine-making put Umbrian wines on the world stage. Their wonderful wine & ceramics museum is testimony to their passion for wine. After lunch we stroll through Panicale, a hill-town with an unusual snail-like shape and picture postcard views of Lake Trasimeno, Italy’s fourth largest lake . Not far from here is Castiglion del Lago the largest town on the lake, overlooking the water on a fortified promontory. Time for ice-cream or cappuccino here before heading home.
Approximate times: Depart at 9.30am – Return from Castiglion del Lago at 5.30pm.
4. MEDIEVAL HILL TOWNS OF UMBRIA
Montone – Monastery of S.Ubaldo – Gubbio
We travel along the Tiber valley to the quaint hill town of Montone for morning coffee. On arrival in Gubbio we take the cable car to Monte Ingino for views of Gubbio’s roof tops and monuments. Its traditions and folklore include the legend of St.Francis of Assisi taming the Wolf and an incredible candlestick race, ‘Corsa dei Ceri’. See the giant candlesticks in the monastery of S.Ubaldo. We walk 20 minutes to lunch in a restaurant at the edge of the National Park of Monte Cucco before walking back to the trail which descends into town. The Umbrian 3C BC ‘Egubine Tablets’ conserved in the Palazzo dei Consoli are testimony to the town’s ancient history. Legend holds that Gubbio was one of the first five towns to be built after the Great Flood.
Approximate times: Depart at 9.30am – Return from Gubbio at 5.00pm.
5. FRONTIER TOWNS OF THE GRAND DUCHY OF TUSCANY & THE PAPAL STATES
Orvieto – Civita di Bagnoregio – Todi
We travel to Orvieto, sitting majestically on top of a volcanic tufa plateau. We visit the Etruscan tombs & Pozzo di S.Patrizio and walk into the historic centre to the Gothic Cathedral, whose facade is one of the most beautiful in Italy. Time to explore and have lunch. In the afternoon we continue to Civita di Bagnoregio, a tiny village spectacularly perched on a promontory and reached only by walking across a causeway bridge. We return via a scenic route along Lake Corbara to Todi. Wander at leisure into this exquisite Umbrian town through 3 gates & civilizations – Medieval, Roman & Etruscan. Stop for ‘cappucino’ in Piazza del Popolo, flanked by medieval buildings, Palazzo dei Priori, Palazzo del Popolo, Palazzo del Capitano & Duomo.
Approximate times: Depart at 9.00am – Return from Todi at 6.00pm.