Welcome to Florence! As your fellow travellers are arriving throughout the day, there are no planned activities until your Group Meeting this evening, so check-in to the hotel (check-in time is approx 3pm) and enjoy the city. Check the notice boards or ask at reception for the exact time and location of the group meeting. After the meeting, you can head out for a meal at a local restaurant with the group (optional). Please make every effort to arrive on time for this important welcome meeting. If you are delayed and will arrive late, please inform us - contact numbers are provided in these notes. Your Tour Leader will then leave you a message at the front desk informing you of where and when to meet up.
Cradle of the Renaissance and home to a staggeringly high proportion of the world's great art treasures, Florence is a must-see. It is also justly renowned for its cuisine, its fine wines and the excellent shopping opportunities it affords. Today we will start our exploration of Florence with an orientation walk. You will then have time to enjoy whichever of Florence's many museums or attractions appeals to you - make your advance bookings for any time after 11am. In the evening we will take a walk through Florence and up to Piazzale Michelangelo where you can admire the glorious views across the Arno to the skyline of Florence. On Day 3 we leave the city and travel by public bus to the Chianti countryside. We will enjoy a short walk to admire the Tuscan countryside followed by a light lunch and winetasting of the famous local vintage. Estimated travel time Florence to Greve in Chianti - 1 hr each way
On the morning of Day 4 we pay a visit to the fascinating covered market, to see and smell and possibly taste some of the renowned Tuscan delicacies. Why not help your leader to select produce for a lunchtime picnic or an evening aperitivo (even try out your Italian and do the ordering?) Then we travel by local train to the charming small medieval town of Lucca. With its narrow pedestrianised streets, white marble churches, and encircling city walls, Lucca is a delight to wander around. The city walls are justly famous; built in 1555 they remain completely intact and boast a 4.3km circular pedestrian and cycle route, with magnificent views of the city and the surrounding countryside. On Day 5 we make the most of the opportunity and hire bikes to cycle the entire city ramparts - a distance of 4.5km with no motorised vehicles. Why not get together with your fellow travellers and enjoy a picnic on the extensive viewpoints up there? Other attractions in Lucca include the Cathedral of San Martino, the landmark Torre Guinigi with its commanding position overlooking the entire city, and of course the chance to attend a Puccini concert. Lucca was the birthplace of the famous composer and there are regular concerts of his most famous arias to be enjoyed throughout the year. Lucca is also the perfect place to kick back and relax in one of the many beautiful piazzas, admire the historic beauty of the town, and enjoy a traditional Italian aperitivo. Then continue to dinner of delicious Lucchese specialities in one of the many restaurants specialising in local cuisine. Lucca is justly proud of its olive oils, its tortellini and its hearty vegetable and barley soups - why not come and try them for yourself? Estimated travel time Florence to Lucca - 2 hrs
We depart this morning by local train to Pisa, where we store our luggage and walk through the city to see the famous Leaning Tower, cathedral and Baptistry. (Note that entrance fees are not included, if you wish to go into one of the monuments or climb the tower your Tour Leader will be ahppy to assist you in buying a ticket) Then we continue in the afternoon to Siena, home of the world-renowned Palio horseback race which is held in the main Piazza twice a year. Enjoy a brief sightseeing/orientation walk with your group leader of this beautiful red-brick town with its stunning Gothic architecture and fascinating tower. On Day 7 you will have free time to explore Siena, visit the Cathedral or Piazza, or stroll the streets and relax at a pavement cafe. Other options for Siena include a self-guided walking tour of Siena's streets with notes (we can provide these free, we have our own specially-designed walking tour) or a day trip to San Gimignano, or you could hire a bike and explore the surrounding countryside. Your Tour Leader will be able to help and advise you. Of course, you will want to know what the dining will be like - and we are sure that Siena will not disappoint. Sienese specialities include rich and delicious game dishes like wild boar, pheasant and rabbit; "pici", a thick and hollow type of spaghetti, delicious with local Cacio sheeps' cheese; and for dessert, why not finish off in style with vin santo e cantucci? Dunk your crunchy almond biscuits into the heavenly dessert wine until they are crumbly and then... enjoy! Estimated travel time Lucca to Pisa - 45 mins Estimated travel time Pisa to Siena - 2.5 hrs
Depart at any time.