Rural Tuscany and Renaissance Splendour
Discover the true colors of this acclaimed region on a tour that highlights the beauty of Tuscany. Ochre and terracotta hill towns, linked by winding white roads and pathways lined with cypress trees, contrast with the magnificent architecture of great Renaissance cities.
Leaving from our St Pancras Departure Office, we board the Eurostar, traveling in Standard Premier Class to Paris, then continuing by high-speed TGV to Chambéry, where we overnight. On Day 2, we continue to Florence by highspeed rail before changing to a coach for the short transfer to Montecatini, where we stay for seven 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. The cathedral boasts statues by Donatello, Bernini and Michelangelo, as well as a unique and elaborate mosaic floor. Perhaps Siena's most famous sight however, is the incredible Piazza del Campo - a vast, shell-shaped square which plays host to the famous Palio horse race each year and is highly regarded as one of the greatest medieval squares on the continent. Enjoy free time to explore after a guided tour.
Today we take an excursion deep into the heart of the Tuscan countryside, traveling 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 which dominate the skyline, visible for miles around, they 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 railroad 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.
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 labyrinthine streets and squares, including the Piazza della Signoria - the people-watching center 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 - one of Tuscany's bestkept secrets and a place of true beauty. 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'seye 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 a superb example of Romanesque architecture, often overlooked by tourists who flock to see the bell tower.
Day 8 is free to continue exploring Montecatini before we enjoy a farewell dinner at our hotel.
Leaving Montecatini, we travel by coach to Florence, then by high-speed rail to Turin, where we spend the night.
On Day 10 we leave Italy behind, traveling by direct TGV to Paris, where we cross the city by coach to board the Eurostar to London. On arrival in the capital, your tour concludes.
For this tour, we recommend arriving to, and departing from, London Gatwick or London Heathrow airport (LGW or LHR). London Gatwick is approximately 30 miles from your start and end point, and London Heathrow is approximately 19 miles from your start and end point.
It is your responsibility to check and fulfil the passport, visa, health and immigration requirements applicable to your itinerary. We do not accept any responsibility if you cannot travel, or incur any other loss because you have not complied with any passport, visa, immigration requirements or health formalities. You agree to reimburse us in relation to any fines or other losses which we incur as a result of your failure to comply with any passport, visa, immigration requirements or health formalities.
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
of travelers would recommend this tour
based on 6 verified reviews
Excellent tour manager and overall content of vacation.
Well organised and an excellent tour manager. However, the size of the group was uncomfortably large - this meant a bit of a hassle getting on and off trains, particularly for the less able bodied (which is a major factor when these tours usually have a fairly high proportion of people of more advanced age) - and also was a bit of a handicap on walking tours, where some form of amplified address system would have been useful for the tour manager
Only 21 on the tour which made for easier outward and homebound journeys. Other travelers were lovely and tour manager always went the extra mile. Despite the intense heat, the visits were enjoyable. Hotel was friendly and well located.
The return journey was so so stressful for all concerned and we fully appreciated the lengths taken to ensure we got back on the return date. Perhaps areas to consider would be the free days - would it be possible to have one day on arrival after 2 days travel... and instead of guides could not entry to at least one place of interest be included eg Florence
Well organised, first class Tour Guide and fine hotel.
Vacation content and hotels good. Too long delay in Paris. Group too large.
Out of all our tours with Great Rail the company of our fellow travelers was the best we have encountered. A great group of people and many friends made. For the first time in eight tours we have met up with someone we have traveled with before.
Highlights of Tuscany was a superb vacation made all the better with a first rate tour manager in Lucille Ralph, super traveling partners and a lovely hotel in Montecatini, La Francia & Quirinale, where the staff went above and beyond in enhancing the experience. Special thanks must go to Luigi and his team in the dining room and Roberto serving at the bar.
NO COMPLAINTS EXCELLENT TOUR
An all round enjoyable tour
Rural Tuscany and Renaissance Splendour