On this trip you will not only visit Tuscany and the world famous Cinque Terre but will also spend time on the Portofino Peninsula and all it has to offer.. Enjoy a wine tasting in a Montepulciano wine cellar, the perfect end to a morning spent strolling and dining in the Tuscan hills. Discover charming villages such as Monticchiello, hidden to mass tourism by their location and tiny size. Uncover the secrets of the hilltop village of Volterra, famous for its magnificent sunsets and Etruscan ruins dating back more than 2,000 years. The Romans mined Volterra’s alabaster for sculpting. Visit a small workshop for an exclusive demonstration by an artisan who has been plying his trade for over 70 years
Spend time among the splendour of Tuscany and complete your journey with a few days walking on the famous Cinque Terre and the elegant Portofino peninsula.
Welcome to Florence, the cultural capital of Italy and the gem in Tuscany's crown. No activities are planned until tonight's group meeting, so you can arrive at any time. If arriving early, be sure to head out and see some of Italy's 'outdoor museum'. Perhaps pay a visit to Piazza della Signoria and marvel at the collection of famous statues there. In the evening, meet your trip leader and fellow travellers at a welcome meeting.
Florence / Arezzo / Montepulciano
From your hotel walk into the heart of Florence with your tour leader and take some time to explore the outstanding works of art preserved over the centuries in this captivating city. Florence is considered the birthplace of Renaissance, as well as the cradle of the Italian language. You will stroll along its fascinating streets, and enjoy the essence of Italian history and culture. Pass along the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, visit Piazza della Signoria and gaze up at the landmark of Florence, the Duomo. At around midday you will drive to the town of Arezzo, the setting for ‘La Vita è Bella’. In Roman times it was the most important city of the Etruscan federation. You are free to wander around this interesting town and enjoy lunch at your leisure. In the late afternoon travel on to Montepulciano, one of Tuscany’s most attractive hill towns. Settle into your hotel before enjoying a group dinner together.
Montichiello / Montepulciano
After breakfast, walk to the impressive Chiesa di San Biagio, a 16th-century church nestled at the edge of the Montepulciano village walls. Cross through the picturesque valley below, past vineyards, pastel-coloured villas and rolling hills, until reaching the village of Monticchiello. Here, enjoy lunch under the welcome shade of a grapevine canopy. Explore Montichiello's town walls and stroll through the charming town centre. Return to Montepulciano in the afternoon and enjoy a sightseeing tour of its labyrinthine maze of laneways and imposing defensive walls. The views from the walls across the Tuscan landscape are simply unforgettable.The afternoon will be at your leisure. Perhaps do some shopping in Montepulciano's classy boutiques. Later on in the afternoon take part in a wine tasting in a local cellar.
Pienza / Montalcino / Val d’Orcia
This morning you will be transferred to the beautiful village of Pienza for a short sightseeing walking tour. Part of your tour will include the views from Pienza's city walls that are quite simply spellbinding. Take time to pause and enjoy the captivating vistas afforded to you, the epitome of Tuscan landscapes rolling expansively before you - burnt orange villas, tightly wound hay bails, meandering country lanes and fields of barley. Those who want can join in for a great walk through this stunning landscape to one of the symbols of Tuscany, the isolated chapel of Vitaleta. Afterwards depart for the charming village of Montalcino, one of the most stunning hilltop towns of the area (also famous for its ‘Brunello’ wine). You’ll have some time to look around, before you’ll set off to the real highlight of this area, and arguably the most beautiful monastery of Tuscany: the beautiful Romanesque church of Sant'Antimo (Abbazia di Sant'Antimo) in a picture-perfect landscape. Here you’ll have the possibility to listen to Gregorian chanting. After the visit to the abbey – and perhaps a drink – you will continue along a stunning route to beautiful San Quirico d’Orcia, where you will check into your feature stay hotel, a converted 15th century noble mansion. Enjoy dinner in the garden of a nearby restaurant.
After a leisurely breakfast embark on a beautiful walk through the distinctive landscapes of the Val d'Orcia, flat chalk plains interspersed by almost conical hills topped by fortified settlements. It is in this bucolic setting that you will reach the unique spa town of Bagno Vignoni. Here the main town 'square' is actually a picturesque ornamental pool built by the Medici family! Cool our heels in the many Etruscan water channels that surround the old watermills just outside of the town centre. This is a truly unique attraction in the Val d'Orcia but unknown to mass tourism. There are several options after the walk to Bagno Vignoni: the avid hikers can opt for a beautiful route back to San Quirico, following the Orcia river and past the fortress of Ripa d’Orcia. Others might want to have lunch and enjoy some more time in one of the spas. Do not forget to spend some time in charming San Quirico, perhaps the most authentic of the small jewel towns in the Val d’Orcia. You may relax in its beautiful ornamental garden, or just take a seat in the main ‘Corso’, sip on a local glass of Sangiovese and partake in another fine Italian tradition - the art of people-watching.
Siena / San Gimignano / Volterra
After breakfast journey towards ancient Volterra. On your way pay a visit to Siena to discover the best of this most celebrated medieval city. Its heart, in every sense, is the famed ‘Piazza del Campo’, a grand fan-shaped piazza built on the site of the old Roman forum. Bordering the southern flank of the square is the 14th century Palazzo Pubblico, with some fine early Renaissance frescoes. Also of interest is the fine main church, the Duomo, a wonderful mixture of Gothic and Romanesque architecture, with a particularly splendid façade. After lunch your private bus will bring you to stunning San Gimignano. Those who wish can walk a beautiful stretch into town, along the Via Francigena, Italy’s most famous pilgrim road, to enter the city the way pilgrims have done for over a thousand years. Of course there is some time to stroll through this stunning medieval town, and perhaps climb one of its ‘skyscrapers’. Sip a glass of local Vernaccia wine in the most perfect setting you could dream of: sitting on the medieval town walls of San Gimignano overlooking the Tuscan hills. In the late afternoon we arrive in beautiful Volterra, full of Etruscan history, and famous for its alabaster, situated high on a plateau with sweeping views of the valleys below.
Explore the old town of Volterra and walk past the Etruscan walls and the Roman theatre. Head towards Monte Voltraio, a sandstone hill once dominated by a castle known as the Rocca di Monte Voltraio. At the foot of the hill stands the beautiful abandoned medieval building of the Casale Rocca. You’ll pass through pleasant landscape, meet with farmers still cultivating their land like in ancient times and pass the small 13th Century church of San Lorenzo. The goal of today’s walk is Villa Palagione. It is an ancient country residence built in 1598 by Geronimo Minucci, cupbearer of the Medici at the peak of the Florentine power and culture. In a setting that has seen four centuries of history, the villa still offers frescoed halls, a Gentility chapel and an Italian garden full of flowers and perfumes. Here you’ll stop for a short break, and then for those who want there is the possibility to climb up to the ruins of the castle on the top of Mt Voltraio, which offers superb views over the Tuscan countryside. Enjoy a picnic lunch at a picturesque spot from where you can enjoy a wonderful view of Volterra. In the afternoon make your way back to Volterra on foot. There is the possibility to relax in the gardens of Villa Palagione and dive into its panoramic swimming pool (and then travel back by bus) so pack your swimsuit! At the end of the day you can go and visit some of the last remaining alabaster craftsmen, who still practice this centuries old art, before joining the group for dinner in a local restaurant.
After a mid-morning transfer arrive in Levanto, centrally located on the Ligurian coast. Enjoy a group dinner together in the hotel restaurant, where you will dine on local specialties. In the evening you can take a relaxed stroll through the town to take in the atmosphere of this seaside location.
Monterosso / Levanto
Today you will embark on your first walk in Liguria, which takes you along the coast from Levanto to Monterosso, the first of the five villages of the Cinque Terre. The first part of the walk leads you through the old town centre of Levanto, past the stunning cathedral and up to its castle. It then continues up to Punta Mesco, the most notable promontory in the region. Just short of this point, take a small detour to the ruins of an 11th-century hermitage and the nearby ruins of the lighthouse. Here you can enjoy marvellous views of the rugged coastline and find a nice spot to stop for a short break. Then follow the fairly steep path down into Monterosso – a colourful village with blue, red and yellow houses that cluster along the beachfront. Upon arrival in Monterosso enjoy a wine tasting session at a local wine shop which includes a glass of sciacchetrà, a special wine only produced in the Cinque Terre area. Take your time to explore this interesting little town before taking the local train back to Levanto. For those who wish to, there is also an option to walk back from Monterosso to Levanto. Upon return enjoy all the amenities of your feature stay hotel, which includes a pool, a sauna and a wellness centre.
The Five Villages of the Cinque Terre / Levanto
A short train ride brings you to Riomaggiore, the southernmost of the five villages. Here you will start your exploration along this famous stretch of coastline, partly along the classic coastal path on foot, partly by train through tunnels, both linking the five villages. Your local leader will take you to vantage points along the coast for the best photo opportunities, some of which you will not even find on the area’s post cards. After exploration of pretty Riomaggiore board another train taking you to Manarola, an attractive little village with steep multi-coloured houses overlooking a rocky port. From Manarola, make your way by bus up through a stunning terraced landscape to the village of Volastra. From here start your walk along one of the most beautiful trails in the area. Through terraced vineyards and the occasional bit of forest, you approach Corniglia, perched on a ridge overlooking the sea. Next is the little hamlet of Prevo, walking through terraced vineyards and the occasional citrus grove. Enjoy some of the best views in the region as you approach Vernazza, which is dominated by its old fortress. Follow the contours of the hillside on a narrow track that leads you up and down, before a fairly steep descent takes you into the village itself. After a refreshing drink on Vernazza’s wonderful town square at the harbour, resplendent with its brightly painted boats, continue on to Monterosso. In the late afternoon you will take the train back to Levanto.
Portovenere / Levanto
Begin your day with a short train ride back to the tiny village of Riomaggiore. Embark on a walk that leads you to Portovenere at the very end of the peninsula. Today’s trail is the most challenging of the Ligurian walks; it's also perhaps the most rewarding. First you will walk up a rather steep flight of stairs, then along an undulating track to reach the sanctuary of the Madonna di Montenero (those who wish to opt out of this climb can catch a bus instead). After stopping at the sanctuary for a short break, continue your walk to Campiglia. Continuing uphill you will follow the contours of the coastal cliffs, passing terraced vineyards and enjoying wonderful views of the coastline. Pass the abandoned village of Lemmen and walk high on the ridge through vineyards and pine forest. Finally descend to the little village of Campiglia, where you can stop for lunch and some refreshments. Then continue towards Portovenere and enjoy even more spectacular coastal views. When you arrive at the 16th-century castle above the village, you might be able to catch a glimpse of the distant peaks of the Apuan Alps before you descend a long staircase that takes you to St Peter’s Point and then into the heart of the village. After some free time to relax in Portovenere, return by boat to your base in Levanto – a lovely way to see the coast from the water - just in time for a group dinner.
Levanto / Santa Margherita
From Levanto you will walk in a westerly direction, along the coast and through several charming little villages. This is best known as the Wild West Coast Walk. The first part of your walk follows the beach, then heads into the foothills and down to the charming seaside village of Bonassola (a good place for a morning coffee stop). Then stroll through the seaside hills towards the small village of Framura, a collection of ancient hamlets on a hillside, distinctive due to its red rocks. From Costa, the largest hamlet, a level path contours around the hills and offers you splendid views out to sea. You can opt to either continue your walk to the resort of Deiva Marina, or walk back down to the coast to take a swim, before catching the train. Travel to the small town of Moneglia, where you will have time to wander around and explore; alternatively you can walk to Sestri Levante and out to the headland. Finally you will catch a train to Santa Margherita, an attractive town that overlooks the Ligurian Sea. This is your base for the next three nights.