Florence, Mount Amiata, Siena, Arezzo, Carrara, Garfagnana
Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
In Tuscany, eating is more than sustenance. You do not eat to live, but you truly live to eat. Home cooks understand the reason for pairing types of pastas with different types of sauce. A local butcher is happy to share home recipes. Chefs cook with their hearts, basing their recipes on traditional flavors with modern twists. Your custom tailored tour of Tuscan Gourmet Cuisine leads you through seven Tuscan destinations known for specific types of cuisine, ensuring your immersion into the...
Florence for Flavor
Florence is a small and urban city that has embraced its Renaissance ambiance. The cobblestone streets line charming stone buildings. Old palaces continue to hide behind antique gates. The historic city walls remain intact, and in some places have the protective towers facing outward to protect its citizens from intruders.
You arrive at Florence International Airport where your private transfer is waiting. Once inside the city, you find cakes and intricate marzipan creations decorating the display cases of bakeries on Via del Corso. Gelaterias have mounds of fluffy, creamy gelato. The aroma of simmering pasta sauce emanates from local restaurants hidden behind cellar doors, but unable to hide the enticing aromas.
The graceful green and white marble façade of the Duomo almost overshadows the enticing flavors of the city. The Medici Tombs in the Cappelle Medicee were designed and constructed by Michelangelo, which hold a particular amount of elegance in their detail. Settle into the city and the Tuscan traditions with dinner at an award-winning restaurant that was once a women’s prison during the Renaissance. The restaurant captures the flair of the city and the flavors of tradition. The menu is ever-changing but always keeps a Tuscan-themed tasting menu, along with a private table in the cellar where the chef presents each dish with passion, care, and precision. You find it the perfect introduction to the feeling of history and heritage.
Red Gold of Tuscany
In the morning, the city comes to life around the historic city center. Locals make their way to work, and visitors look eager to enjoy the art of the city, from the Uffizi to the Accademia. At breakfast, you can sip a fresh cappuccino and enjoy the balance of bitter and sweet. The red brick dome of the cathedral foreshadows the colors of the countryside. You picture the landscape around Tuscany to be lush with cypress trees lining the country roads, olive groves brushing against vineyards, and even oak trees shading farmland.
When your guide meets you at your hotel and escorts you into the hills outside of Florence, you are not expecting to find fields of purple budding flowers set in rows surrounded by the iconic image of Tuscany. Consider learning more about your travel agents for private Italy tours, and see how they meticulously craft your itinerary so it is highly personalized for you. You find the cypress trees bordering the purple flower petals. Your guide leads you through the rows, explaining the beginnings of saffron farming in Tuscany, dating back to the 15th-century. Your guide points out the red strands at the center of the flower that become the saffron during harvest. The herbaceous aroma has a dark and quiet sweetness. On the same property, olive groves provide savory and unexpected profiles to accompany the saffron, including being used for saffron infused olive oil.
After your tour, your guide leads you to the terrace where the scent of freshly prepared herbs and spices drifts from the farmhouse. Every dish that comes to the table is zested with saffron, accompanied with herbs such as thyme, lavender, and mint. Each ingredient was hand picked from the garden, utilizing the local soil and letting you indulge in the flavors all around you.
Familiarity of Chestnuts
The morning sunlight above Florence washes over the Renaissance sculptures decorating the Loggia dei Lanzi, a corner of the Piazza della Signoria dedicated to acting as an outdoor museum. Cafes fill with locals sipping espresso and watching the city come to expressive life. After breakfast, your private transfer meets you in the hotel lobby and escorts you out of Florence and into the northern town of Carrara. The area is known for an ancient quarry than had given marble to the likes of Rome, and even provided the stone for Michelangelo’s David.
The town sits encompassed by the lushness of Tuscany between the banks of the Carrione River and the Carrara Quarry, which makes the mountains in the background look covered in snow. Your guide leads you through the Duchal Palace, the 16th century seat of power that now houses the Fine Arts Academy. The original palace was erected in the 13th century and the façade is still visible on the Castell Malaspiniano entrance. The second edifice on the palace grounds was erected during the Renaissance. Students from around the world come to study, eager to etch into some of the finest marble in the world, following in the footsteps of masters.
At the nearby Malgrate Castle, you find a stunning stone edifice resembling a fairytale building, situated on the hillside beneath the rugged Apuan Alps. The castle produces authentic chestnut flour, ground with stone into powder after 40 days of using chestnut wood to dry out the nut. The nutty, smoky flavor layers any bread, cake, or baked good in which the flour is used. In the cool halls of the castle overlooking the lush valley below, you can sample a flavorful loaf in a kitchen filled with a unique aroma, one of nutty smoke, charred wood, and sugar, hinted with rosemary.
Tuscany’s Northern Borders
The fairytale-like design and ambiance of Malgrate Castle was the tip of the iceberg. An entire storybook of cuisine and tradition opens before your eyes when you make your way to the northern edges of Tuscany to the valleys of Garfagnana situated inside the Apuane Alps. Chestnut woods forest the area and porcini mushrooms blanket the ground. A naturally sweet aroma emanates from the honey in the trees. The image of Tuscany is at its most rustic; a staunch rural area welcomes you in the form of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana.
The medieval ambiance crowns the confluence of the Turrite and Serchio Rivers. The Ariostesca Castle has a burnt sienna hue and was erected in the 12th century. The castle housed the Renaissance poet Ariosto in the 16th century. The seducing aroma of freshly baked cakes and chocolate wafts out of the Fronte della Rocca. Locals and visitors sip prosecco and enjoy the tranquil breeze. Sacks of spelt are stacked near the old city walls near the grocery of Alimentari Poli Roberto.
The mountainous area has housed the wheat ancestor for thousands of years and gives the grain unique characteristics. The soil lacks nutrients and the spelt can only grow between 984 and 3,280 feet above sea level. You realize now that the tall grass around the valley wasn’t wheat or grass at all, but spelt. In an Osteria older than a century and a half, the aroma of savory spelt and black cabbage soup makes you eager to taste the aromatic dish.
Frescoes and Tagliatelle
The mountaintops surround the Garfagnana Valley. The breeze blows through the towering spelt stocks. After breakfast, your private transfer escorts you out of the Apuan Alps, leading you away from the storybook streets of Castelnuovo di Garfagna and onto the Medieval streets of Siena. The city is a different experience altogether. The small urban feel is filled with café terraces lining the arcades of the main square known as the Piazza del Campo. The Gothic architecture houses a relaxed ambiance but compared to Castelnuovo di Garfagna, the town feels like a metropolis.
The cobblestone streets lead into charming narrow alleys. Arching buttresses hang overhead connecting buildings and supporting one another as well. In the Palazzo Pubblico, you can find an elegant, allegorical fresco. The bright colors brighten up the vast space of the 14th-century edifice. Visitors like to climb to the top of the Torre del Mangia; the 335-foot tower topped with a marble crown. You notice the fresco is bisected into two tales, one of good government, and one of bad government. In the tale of good government a farmer is pushing a Tuscan hog. The 14th-century fresco embodies the importance of the farming communities around the city, along with a rich connection to the cuisine enjoyed by the locals. The particular breed of pig, known as Montagnola Senese, was a local breed favored by Sienese. The olive groves and vineyards around the city create a pleasant, serene ambiance. Cottages line gravel roads outside of the historic center.
As the sun begins to set over the golden hues of Siena, you make your way to a restaurant hidden in plain sight. The savory aroma has a hint of sweetness from the simmering tomatoes. The tagliatelle pasta absorbs a portion of the meaty sauce, holding its integral shape. You taste the rustic and buttery flavor from the meat, letting the sumptuousness settle on your palate.
Legendary White Steer
In the Val di Chiana, along a stretch of fertile valley between Siena and Arezzo, the Chianina cow is raised. The white steer has grazed on the grasslands of Tuscany since prehistoric times. Cave art around Europe shows the steer, commemorated on the walls of history. Today, your guide leads you through the winding country hills, taking you for a full day excursion to the hilltop town of Arezzo. The city was once a Roman military outpost and flourished during the Middle and Renaissance Ages due to its attractive landscape.
The main square of Piazza Grande has a particular slope, showcased in Roberto Benigni’s film Life is Beautiful. Palaces border the piazza and a colonnade on the north side belong to the Palazzo delle Logge. The bell tower was erected in the 16th-century and contains one of Italy’s oldest working clocks. The old world charm of the town continues to embrace you, from the local old men sipping espresso in the café lined piazza, to the kids kicking soccer balls against the walls of the 12th-century Parish Church of St. Mary.
There is a simple luster to the city, stemming from its historic charms and sustained traditions. The heritage spills over into the butcher, Antonio Tonioni, an expert in the Chianina steak. The butcher is keenly aware of every meat he prepares and is happy to share cooking advice on the best way to prepare and relish the Tuscan beef, known as Bistecca Fiorentina.
In the evening, you can settle at a chef’s table and watch as the local chef prepare each dish to perfection. Each course will be paired with wine from the restaurant’s pristine selection.
On the Edge of a Volcano
At sunrise, the bakeries of Siena pour the aroma of fresh brioche from their doors. The comfortable warmth of each bakery is illuminated against the quiet shadows of the cobblestone streets. After breakfast, your private guide greets you at your hotel and takes you back into the Tuscan countryside, this time venturing south to the volcanic soil of Mount Amiata.
The region is rich in nutrients stemming from the volcanic activity over the millennia, including covering the landscape with lava, which became the mineral-rich landscape of today. The summit reaches a height of more than 5,695 feet and is the tallest dormant volcano in Italy. Chestnut trees grow freely and mushrooms sprout along the hilly floor. Springs and rivers trickle past boulders and rocks.
A boutique shop is dedicated to the fruitful production of the land around Mount Amiata, including the production of Pecorino Toscano, a semi-soft sheep’s cheese. From the shop, you can look out over the gardens and historic hillside towns peeking over the treetops. The cheese monger in Castel del Piano explains the process of making the cheese, from its genesis to the point of fermentation. The cheese monger slices a thin piece of the semi-soft cheese and lets you taste the end product, filled with a creamy, silky texture.
In the evening, you return to Siena with a chance to taste another local specialty to top off your exploration of local, flavorful cuisine. Indulge in the rich qualities of a lamb stew.
A tranquil mist settles over the valleys around Siena in the early morning hours. By the time you wake up, you can see the dewy remnants of the earlier haze, which catches the sunlight, casting an ethereal glow over the Tuscan landscape. At breakfast, you relax, savoring the familiar bittersweet flavor of your daily Italian espresso. The traditional gourmet tastes of Tuscany have surprised you in the best of ways, taking you on a journey of a lifetime.
After your meal, your private transfer greets you in the hotel lobby ready to escort you back to Florence and the Florence International Airport for your flight home.
- Revel in the exquisite flavors of a Bistecca Fiorentina, prepared by an award-winning chef, and served at a chef’s table, providing a true dining experience
- Discover the nature of saffron along its journey from planting to cultivation on a farm outside of Florence
- Enjoy the semi-sweet flavors of fresh chestnut powder in a castle overlooking the Tuscan valley
- Journey into a rustic, tiny alpine town in northern Tuscany to sample the treasured flavors of the ancient grain known as spelt
- Delight in a tour and fresh tasting of a pecorino cheese farmed on the volcanic soil in southern Tuscany
- Indulge in the rich and bold cuisine of Siena, embodied in a single dish highlighting the prized Cinta Senese breed of pig
The cuisine of Italy has always been your favorite, filled with hardy sauces, succulent pasta, and earthy mushrooms. Your 8-day Tuscan Gourmet Cuisine tour will take away what you thought you knew about Italian cuisine, and show you the heart, soul, and passion of Tuscany in each and every dish you taste.
Your culinary tour begins with your arrival at Florence International Airport. Your private transfer meets you at baggage claim and escorts you into the preserved Renaissance city. The remainder of the day is yours to explore the splendid streets and historic churches before embracing your first meal at a restaurant situated in an antique cellar.
After breakfast, your guide meets you in the lobby and leads you through the hills between Florence and San Gimignano. A long patch of purple flowers interrupts the emerald countryside. Your guide leads you through the saffron farm, explaining the history and cultivation process of the spice. After your private Tuscany tour, you delight in a multi-course meal highlighting saffron in every dish.
The following day, you make your way to the city of Carrara, known for its famous ancient quarry. Explore the city and its fabulous sites, including the School of Fine Arts, before making your way to Malgrate Castle where you can taste the local delicacy of chestnut flour at its most pure. Continue northbound into the Apuan Alps, finding the Garfagnana Valley. In the small town of Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, you can immerse yourself in the sweet flavors of the locals along with the farming practices of spelt, an ancient cousin of wheat.
Journey south to the medieval town of Siena for an introduction to the celebrated and preserved breed of pig known as Cinta Senese. After an excursion through the city, you will dine on the local cuisine highlighting a special dish with the Cinta Senese at the forefront. Outside of Siena, you spend the day in Arezzo, touring through the local farms and butcheries known for the white steer. The volcanic soil around Mount Amiata produces some of the most flavorful cheese in Tuscany, including the precious Pecorino Toscano. Relish the landscape, the small town of Castel del Piano, and the bold, decadent flavors of Tuscan lamb stew. On your final day in Siena, your private transfer escorts you back to Florence for your flight home.
$2,195 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
- In-country transportation
- Some or all activities and tours
- Expert trip planning
- 24x7 support during your trip
Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
Reviews of Zicasso's Referral Service
4.88 stars based on 4506 reviews
"Every detail of the trip was meticulously planned and executed."
Reviewed By kimberly e.
"Our travel agent took the time to listen to our desires...
Reviewed By Kathy R.
"[Our travel planner] built us a fantastic itinerary that...
Reviewed By christine G.
"Our travel planner was on top of every little detail, which...
Reviewed By Gabriel G.
"Outstanding vacation, and the service provided by our travel...
Reviewed By Jeffrey S.
"[Our travel planner was] always accessible during our trip...
Reviewed By Elliot A.
Get Weekly Inspiration and Expert Advice on Travel
during the COVID and post-COVID era