Walk & Discover: Florence and Tuscany
|Resort:||Walk & Discover: Florence and Tuscany|
Tuscany embodies the very essence of Italy centuries of heritage, exquisite art and architecture, beautiful scenery, an enviable climate, great food and wine and so much more. Florence, together with lesser-known gems such as Lucca and San Gimignano, offer perfectly preserved architecture and artistic treasures.
Arguably the finest city of the Renaissance, Florence owes its great riches to the commercial boom that emerged after the Dark Ages. Political power at the time was in the hands of just a few families, in particular the Medicis, who married into most European royal families, including our own. Architects, artists and sculptors flocked to the city to be engaged by nouveau riche patrons. Gradually grand residences, churches and palaces were filled to bursting point with magnificent works of art.
Day 1 – Arrival in Florence
Arrive at the airport for your flight to Pisa. On arrival we transfer by coach to Florence, where we stay for three nights, with breakfast, at the four-star Grand Hotel Mediterraneo. For 2020, some departures will stay at the three-star Hotel Corona DItalia.
Day 2 – Walk: Florence
Duration: 3 hours Distance:4.1 miles
Today we discover Oltrarno, a charming and less-explored side of Florence south of the Arno River. We cross the Ponte Vecchio, the landmark bridge over the river, and walk through the medieval quarter of San Niccol. We are mere minutes away from the old town centre, but San Niccols remarkably preserved 13th-century walls, narrow cobbled lanes and charming yellow-hued buildings are reminiscent of a small Tuscan village. Its a conducive environment for creative souls, evidenced by the many galleries, artists workshops and taverns.
We begin our gentle ascent up the hills, passing elegant villas with olive gardens, and wind our way through a lush park. Before long we reach Piazzale Michelangelo, where we are rewarded with panoramic views of Florence and the rolling hills beyond. After some time to take it all in, we continue along a cypress-lined street to San Miniato al Monte, a splendid church built between the 11th and 13th centuries. At this height, the views are even more spectacular look out for the Duomo and Palazzo Vecchio.
Our descent takes us through leafy streets to Porta Romana, the best-preserved gate of the citys ancient walls. From this imposing gate, Via Romana leads straight to the historic centre of Florence. However, we veer off the beaten path to Oltrarno, which literally means across the Arno. Locals outnumber tourists and grand buildings give way to more humble homes, making this the perfect place to end todays walk.
Day 3 – Discover Lucca & Pisa
After breakfast we leave for the delightful city of Lucca, birthplace of composer Puccini. Be sure to visit the ancient cathedral and its venerated wooden crucifix, known as the Holy Face of Lucca. You may wish to wander under your own steam along the citys medieval ramparts. Forming a perfect ring around Lucca, the thick walls have been transformed into a tree-lined park, which offers stunning views of the citys towers and churches on one side and the Apuan Alps on the horizon. Its an easy walk thats just 2.5 miles long.
Then we take the short drive to Pisa, whose most famous gems are on display in the Piazza dei Miracoli the Square of Miracles. The Leaning Tower, one of the worlds most recognisable silhouettes, is your introduction to the rest. The decoration in the cathedral is breathtakingly detailed and its nave is where Galileo is said to have formulated his pendulum theory. Then theres the baptistry, a fascinating blend of Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles.
We end the day back at our hotel. Relax or discover more of Florences lively restaurants and street cafs, it has an ambience youll love any time of the year.
Day 4 – Walk: Chianti
Duration:2 hours Distance:3.1 miles
After breakfast we explore the rural Tuscany made famous by Renaissance paintings, literature, films and travel posters a truly memorable landscape of undulating hillsides, vineyards, ochre-coloured valleys, terracotta-tiled farmhouses and pencil pines. The Chianti region is renowned as the symbol of Tuscany and one of the best ways to get a taste of it is on a walk. Today you have a choice between an easy or a moderate walk.
We begin in medieval Greve, a jewel of Chianti and birthplace of explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, who discovered the Hudson Bay in New York. The main squares elegant palaces are reminders of the towns illustrious past and today house restaurants, bars and food shops. Leaving Greve behind, we find ourselves almost immediately immersed in Chiantis gorgeous landscape. We follow cypress-shaded country roads, which wind through hypnotic rows of vineyards and silvery olive groves set against gently undulating hills so typical of Tuscany. Along the way we see Monte San Michele, the highest mountain in Chianti, often covered with snow in winter.
The moderate walk follows a similar route but continues further through the Tuscan hills, giving us more time to enjoy the atmosphere and unforgettable views.
Day 5 – Discover: Siena
After breakfast we take the short drive to glorious Siena for an enriching guided tour of its treasures. Not only was it the capital of the Republic of Siena during the 12th and 13th centuries, it was one of the richest cities in the world. Its a jewel of Italian Gothic and medieval architecture thats been preserved to a remarkable degree and is justifiably a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city centres on the main square, the Piazza del Campo, an architectural work of art. Formed in a half-moon shape, its lined by tall, striking buildings whose gracious and varied facades have a unique charm. With its abundance of pavement cafs, its the perfect place to sit and enjoy a glass of wine or a coffee and reflect on the citys sheer beauty.
Siena is equally famous for the Duomo, one of Italys most intricate and fascinating cathedrals. The exterior is built from black and white marble, and the west facade offers a particularly fine example of workmanship. The interior is even more breathtaking, with splendid stained-glass windows and paintings and sculptures by leading artists, including the young Michelangelo. Impressive as it is today, in the 14th century the Duomo was set to become the largest church in Christendom had plans for an additional nave gone ahead. The Black Death put paid to its construction, though, as two-thirds of the population perished and the city fell into rapid decline. Little was built thereafter but even less was demolished, leaving a wonderfully preserved city for us to appreciate today.
The afternoon is then yours to shop, people-watch or further explore before returning to your hotel for dinner.
Day 6 – Walk: San Gimignano
Duration:2 hours Distance:3.1 miles
During todays walks, youll discover the enchanting area around picturesque San Gimignano. You have a choice of an easy or a moderate walk.
The easy walk follows part of the ancient Via Francigena pilgrim route, which in medieval times connected Canterbury to Rome. The picture-postcard sights of sand-coloured stone buildings, vine-clad hills and vibrant flowers will delight as we ramble our way to San Gimignano.
Day 7 – Free Day
Today you have a free day to do as you please. Just a few miles away are two utterly charming hilltop settlements, Monteriggioni and Colle Val d’Elsa. Lovers of literature may recall Monteriggioni in the Divine Comedy, the chef-d’uvre of Tuscan poet, Dante Alighieri, who compared the ring of giants surrounding the abyss to the towns monumental towers. There are plenty of boutiques to browse, as well as a 13th-century church that wouldnt look out of place in a film set in the Middle Ages! The sleepy village of Colle Val dElsa is best-known as the birthplace of sculptor and architect, Arnolfo di Cambio, whose tremendous works of art include the Palazzo Vecchio and the old basilica of the Duomo in Florence, and funerary monuments for several popes and cardinals.
Both hilltop gems can be reached by local bus, but if youre feeling energetic, you can wander along pleasant walking paths from the hotel. Should you prefer to stay in, why not catch up on some reading by the hotel pool or take a stroll through its enchanting Italian garden.
Day 8 – Return home
Transfer to the airport for your return flight.