We’ll experience Italian hospitality while touring Tuscany’s fabled towns and countryside, exploring Lucca, Garfagnana, San Gimignano, Volterra, Siena, Bolsena, and Rome. Hiking sections of the Via Francigena (the Frankish Route), we’ll be guided by experts in Italian art, history, architecture, and culture. On moderately easy hikes we’ll traverse some sections of the medieval pilgrim route on centuries-old footpaths, through villages, picturesque vineyards, olive groves, and rolling hillsides. We’ll enjoy Tuscan food and wine and relax in comfortable accommodations in hotels and rural agriturismi (rural estates that offer accommodations to visitors). Agriturismi have become popular in Italy as a way to provide extra income and help small farmers stay on their land. They are a peaceful home base and perfect setting for relaxation at the end of a full day.
Our planned itinerary could change due to weather conditions or circumstances beyond our control. We may also adjust our itinerary to be able to enjoy street markets, festivals, or other local activities. Hiking activities will be between two to four hours in duration and average three to six miles
We will meet in the early afternoon at the Pisa train station, from which our private bus will transport us to Lucca for an afternoon guided tour. Lucca, the birthplace of composer Giacomo Puccini, is surrounded by impressive stone walls constructed in the 1500s. Planted with trees and gardens, the wall tops provide a wide boulevard and a bird's-eye view of Lucca. With our city guide we’ll explore the Piazza Napoleone, the Roman amphitheater, and other parts of the historic town center. We’ll have dinner together and sample some of the typical Lucchesi cuisine. A hotel in Lucca will be our home for the next two nights.
The Garfagnana area is known throughout Tuscany for its dramatic mountains and fertile valleys that produce local delicacies like porcini mushrooms and rich cheeses. We’ll hike on old village footpaths, enjoying dramatic vistas of the Alpi Apuani mountains, then have lunch together in the charming village of Barga. In the afternoon, we’ll return to Lucca where we’ll have the rest of the day and evening to stroll about town and have dinner on our own.
Today we’ll visit San Gimignano, the famous city of towers. In the 14th-century San Gimignano had 70 towers, and although only a few still remain the town center is well preserved. We’ll hike through the surrounding vineyards and forests, arriving in town for exploration and lunch on our own. This medieval town is especially beautiful as we sit in the piazza, enjoying a glass of local Vernaccia wine or some of San Gimignano's acclaimed gelato.
For the next five nights our lodging will be at an agriturismo (a working farm that grows crops typical of this area, such as wine grapes and olives). Agriturismi help small farmers augment their income and allow us to enjoy the bounty of rural life in Italy.
We’ll hike today from the old village of Chiusdino to the breathtaking San Galgano Abbey and the Montesiepi Hermitage with its mysterious sword in the stone. After lunch together near the abbey, our bus will meet us to tour the Merse River Valley, a historically rich agricultural land filled with farms, forests, and medieval churches. This evening we'll enjoy dinner at our agriturismo.
Today we’ll hike through the farmlands and forests surrounding Volterra, an ancient city founded at the very top of a steep hill. Volterra is known for its Etruscan tombs, alabaster workshops, and artisan galleries. After lunch on our own, we will have free time to visit the well-displayed artifacts in the Etruscan museum, watch alabaster being carved, or browse the local shops.This evening we'll enjoy dinner at our agriturismo.
Today we’ll visit Siena, originally an Etruscan town and later a Roman settlement. Siena is famous for its red-brown brick buildings and for the Palio horse race, run twice a year on the Campo (central piazza). We’ll tour the town with our guide, and then enjoy lunch on our own. We’ll spend the afternoon in the famous Chianti Classico area, tasting wine and walking through vineyards growing Sangiovese grapes for Chianti wines. This evening we'll enjoy dinner at our agriturismo.
We’ll hike in the Montalcino region through farmland and vineyards to visit the serene Abbey Sant’ Antimo, recently restored and hauntingly beautiful in its Romanesque simplicity. This evening we'll enjoy dinner at our agriturismo.
We’ll travel south to hike alongside the ancient collapsed volcanic caldera that is Lake Bolsena, the largest lake in Europe. We’ll hike on a section of the Via Francigena on dirt road and trail, walking among woodlands, olive groves, and farmland, and enjoying stunning views of the lake. Our lodging for the next three nights will be at a rural agriturismo near Viterbo.
We’ll hike through woodlands of oak and chestnut trees on the Via Cimina (a branch of the Via Francigena) near the shore of another volcanic lake -- Lago di Vico and its protected natural environment. We’ll return to our agriturismo outside of Viterbo.
We’ll visit the southern part of Tuscany and the medieval town of Pitigliano set high on a tufa plateau. Then on to Sorana and Sovana, exploring “vie cave” (man-made excavations carved into tufa rock by the Etruscans during the Bronze Age) and Etruscan tombs. We’ll return to our agriturismo outside of Viterbo.
We’ll continue our journey south to Rome and a take a guided walking tour in the historic city center. Rome is home to the Vatican museums, the Pantheon, Roman Forum, and the Colosseum. We’ll have lunch on our own and take time to explore the area. We’ll stay in a hotel in Rome
After breakfast we’ll be transported to the Rome airport and say arrividerci! to our Italian guides and group.