Rural Tuscany and Renaissance Splendour
Discover the true colours of this acclaimed region on a tour of the highlights of Tuscany. Ochre and terracotta hill towns linked by winding white roads, interspersed with fields of poppies and sunflowers contrast with the magnificent architecture of the great Renaissance cities.
Leaving from our St Pancras Departure Office, we board the Eurostar to Paris, continuing by high-speed TGV to Chambéry, spending the night. On Day 2, we continue to Florence by high-speed rail before changing to a coach for the short transfer to Montecatini where we stay for 7 nights.
Today we travel by coach to beautifully preserved medieval Siena, a charismatic Tuscan city where steep, narrow streets wind haphazardly through the town, occasionally opening out onto charming piazzas. The city is delightfully traffic-free, making it perfect to explore on foot. Walking among the terracotta-roofed houses, you will frequently stumble across secret squares and hidden back streets, discovering countless small fountains outside tiny community churches.
Sights of interest in Siena include the magnificent Duomo, one of Italy's great cathedrals with a nave flanked on both sides by intriguing giant striped columns, constructed from black and white marble. The cathedral boasts statues by Donatello, Bernini and Michelangelo as well as a unique and elaborate mosaic floor. Enjoy free time to explore after a guided tour.
Today we take an excursion deep into the heart of the Tuscan countryside, travelling by coach through the undulating ochre-coloured hills and past countless lonely farmhouses. Our first destination is charming San Gimignano, a striking walled village with a delightfully rural feel. The village is perhaps best known for the thirteen towers dominating the skyline, visible for miles around, which were built by competitive Tuscan families in the Middle Ages.
This afternoon we venture deeper into the countryside to Castello di Meleto. Surrounded by fields and vineyards, the property is located in the beautiful Chianti region, at the end of a pathway lined with cypress trees and laurel bushes. We enjoy a cookery demonstration using typical Tuscan produce and traditional recipes handed down through the generations, before sampling some of the delicious wines for which the area is justly famous. We enjoy a guided tour before dining in the castle.
Today is free to explore the attractive spa town of Montecatini. The extravagant 18th century Tettuccio Terme spa is certainly worth a visit, not only for its healing waters but also for its beautiful Liberty architecture.
A small funicular railway connects Montecatini Terme with Montecatini Alto, the old town located a few hundred metres above, which offers superb views across the rolling hills of the surrounding Tuscan countryside. Here you can admire the pretty townhouses, and the imposing churches towering high over the town below, before choosing a restaurant or café to enjoy lunch and soak up the atmosphere. Tonight we dine in a local restaurant.
A short rail journey (Standard Class) this morning takes us to the beautiful city of Florence - 'the jewel of the Renaissance'. We enjoy a guided tour of the city's many treasures, including the Duomo with its iconic red-tiled dome, and the beautiful Ponte Vecchio - a 14th century bridge that is home to 43 jewellers' shops.
Your afternoon is free to explore Florence at leisure. Picturesque narrow streets and squares, including the Piazza della Signoria - the people-watching centre of Florence - are only part of the city's charm; much of the beauty of the city is found indoors. One fifth of the world's Renaissance art is kept and displayed in Florence's museums, galleries, churches, monasteries and palaces; many in the Basilica Santa Croce and as many as 1,700 masterpieces in the world-famous Uffizi Gallery.
This morning we travel by rail (Standard Class) to Lucca - Tuscany's best-kept secret; a place of true beauty that has managed to escape the tourist crowds. Majestic city walls encircle a Roman and medieval heart packed with piazzas, art galleries and tiny churches, all connected by an intricate network of narrow cobbled streets. A stroll around the wide walkways along the top of the ancient ramparts is an excellent way to discover the true charm of the city, while you can get a bird's-eye view from the Guinigi Tower, which has an oak tree growing from its top.
We then enjoy lunch in a local restaurant, before continuing to Pisa, where we have a guided tour that includes the city's beautiful Field of Miracles. Here we see the world famous Leaning Tower, which began to lean as soon as it was built and was used by Galileo to study gravity, and the marvellous white marble Duomo. The cathedral is often overlooked by tourists who flock to see the bell tower, one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture.
Today you are free to discover Tuscany further, possibly by revisiting one of the nearby towns or by venturing further afield. You could head west by rail to the coast to explore the lovely seaside resorts, including Viareggio, one of Tuscany's best beach resorts. You could also spend the day enjoying the hotel's facilities or indulge yourself with treatments at the Thermal Centre Excelsior's wellness and beauty farm.
Leaving Montecatini after breakfast this morning, we travel to Pisa airport for our flight back to London.
This tour also has First Class rail departures available. Click here.
Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.
An escorted experience and all travel arrangements
Comfortable accommodation in your destination
Delicious meals included
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
Enhancing your holiday experience
Rural Tuscany and Renaissance Splendour