When imagining Tuscany, you can easily conjure up medieval towers and historic walls, undulating hills and vibrant sunflowers. Cities radiate historic artwork and the countryside bursts with vineyards. Step beyond the imagined, venturing past the veil of your imagination and into the true grandeur of history. Your custom tailored tour immerses you in the splendor of Tuscany and lets you experience the beatitudes of alpine foothills, overlooked Renaissance towns, and even poetic vendors, allowing...
Florence – Beginning with the Renaissance
The signs of the past are written all over Florence, from the architecture beautifying the historic city-center to the statues in the public squares symbolizing an enlightenment of art and knowledge. The aroma of espresso beans and marzipan emanates from gilded cafes; their doors flank enticing display cases lining Via del Corso. The image of Palazzo Vecchio stands to watch over Piazza Signoria and was erected at the beginning of the 14th century. The Romanesque building continues to house the seat of Florentine government, and casts an imposing shadow over the square, stemming from its adorning tower standing more than 308 feet tall. When you arrive at Florence International Airport, your private transfer is there to greet you, ready to escort you to the city center.
You notice the historic city walls lining the outside of the city center, near Fortress da Basso, dating back to the 13th century, with the outline of the original walls surrounding the central square at Piazza del Duomo, constructed by the Romans. The city is unlike any other you have ever visited, bustling with youthful energy and vigor and brimming with history. Art and architecture students study Florence Cathedral. Sculptures examine the statue of Perseus holding the head of Medusa. Chefs taste the simple flavors of the cityscape, each paying tribute to the traditional tastes of Tuscany. You have just arrived and already feel the wave of the city’s wonders washing over you.
Florence – Inside the City Walls
Inside the walls of the historic city center is the preserved world of the Renaissance. An image of the wall’s full power stands against the backdrop of the Fortress of Belvedere, where an old tower still stands. Near the Boboli Gardens, the walls look to separate the rolling cypress-clad hills of the countryside from the cobblestone streets of Florence. After breakfast, your guide meets you in the lobby of your lavish hotel, eager to lead you on a private tour of the city.
The Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia contain some of the most iconic images of Medieval and Renaissance art, from Michelangelo’s David to The Birth of Venus by Botticelli. Your guide leads you through the dazzling array of artistry, eventually bringing you through the vibrant neighborhood of San Lorenzo. The outdoor marketplace lines the streets near the Central market. Scarves, hats, and leather goods decorate the stalls. Behind the melee of commerce is the inconspicuous Basilica de San Lorenzo, the parish of the Medici Family designed by acclaimed architect Filippo Brunelleschi in the 15th century.
Inside the stone structure, the cloister provides a private arcade encircling a lush courtyard. The library has a collection of historical manuscripts collected by Cosimo the Elder that continued to expand throughout the years, including holding an 8th-century Bible and a Roman encyclopedia. A copper gridded ceiling decorates the reading room. Marble floors line the walkway. Natural light pours through the numerous open windows, providing stunning illumination and captivating warmth.
Lucca – Tuscany Deserves Attention
The morning stretches over Tuscany, and you can see the hillsides around Florence brighten with an emerald green hue. At breakfast, you sit and savor the strong flavor of a fresh espresso, nibbling on a sweet almond brioche. Your private transfer meets you at your hotel and leads you away from Florence, and into the charms of lesser known, and often overlooked, Pistoia. The city is an amalgamation of influences from Pisa and Florence, prevalent in the medieval churches, artistic accouterment, and even inspiring contemporary architecture. The Museo Capitolare, Cathedral Treasury, was erected in the 12th century, mentioned by Dante in the Divine Comedy, and always thought to be overflowing with riches. Red brick nudges against white and black marble, creating a unique exterior.
The bell tower next to the treasury stands almost 219 feet tall. Once inside the museum, you can find the priceless work of the Cross of St. Atto, designed in a Venetian workshop in the 13th century. You can also find 40 separate works by the famous Ferrara painter Giovanni Boldini, which are considered some of the most important preserved pieces providing insight into the study of 17th-century Florentine paintings. The mastery of the city is undeniable. The beauty of the city is in part due to its tranquility, feeling to you more like a lovely secret.
Pisa – More than a Tower
Wake up in Lucca, a delightful Tuscan town surrounded by preserved medieval walls. In the morning, the city begins to liven with the aroma of espresso dripping out of countless cafes and shops. The display windows of the nearby bakeries shine out to the cobblestone avenues. Your guide leads you along the path of the city showcasing the old stone of the walls and how today they also act as a park for locals to visit. Many people jog along the pathways lining the ramparts. After your exploration of Lucca, you travel to the celebrated city of Pisa, known most ardently for the Leaning Tower.
The piazza that holds the tower is as enchanting as the tower itself, filled with the Pisan architectural style of marble work, with small columns adorning the cathedral and baptistery. The tower casts a shadow over the grass, much like a sundial. The architecture is impressive in its scale and beauty, with 294 steps leading to the top of the 14th-century construct that lists nearly four-degrees. One of the main sights of the city overshadowed by the Piazza dei Miracoli is the Palazzo dei Cavalieri.
The palace was enlarged in the 1500s and remains the most ornate building outside of the Piazza dei Miracoli. You find the façade adorned with the coats of arms and busts of six Grand Dukes of Tuscany, all from the Medici Family. A double staircase leads to the entrance underneath a projecting roof. To this day, the palace houses the Scuola Normale Superiore, an elite college of higher education founded by Napoleon in the early 19th century.
Siena – Searching the Hilltops
In the morning, you leave behind the pristine marble of Pisa and make your way through the treasured Tuscan hills, showcasing the unparalleled greenery sprawling along the rolling landscape, quickly reaching the town of Volterra. The town emanates the picturesque beauty of the region’s famous medieval history. The stone streets wind along the city’s prevalent past, along with touching its ancient history in the form of Etruscan walls and arches dating back to the 3rd century BC. In the 18th century, the city became known for mining and shaping alabaster. The earthen aroma reminds you of glazed clay. Red-tiled roofs top the cream colored stones of the city.
There is a local charm to the streets, filled with gelaterias selling refreshing fruit flavors like strawberry, and indulgent flavors like chocolate chip. In Piazza dei Priori, Volterra’s central square, you find the Palazzo dei Priori. The palace was erected in the 13th century and contains the coat of arms decorating an austere façade. The building housed the chief magistrate and later the Florentine Priori, highlighted by the heraldic lions of Florence embossed on the columns flanking the exterior. On the main floor of the Council Chamber, you find frescoes decorating the walls, telling the detailed history of the city in 19th-century bravura.
Siena – Unexpected Siena
The city of Siena climbs along the hilltops like a crown. The 17 neighborhoods, known as the Contrade, have had a prideful rivalry for centuries, culminating in the Palio horseraces two times a year. During the rest of the year, the city walks the tightrope between energetic and sleepy, spread along the medieval cobblestone streets and decorative churches of the historic city center. The Municipal Palace stands at the edge of the main square topped with a large tower with a marble crown, standing 334 feet above the piazza.
Water fountains erected in the Middle Ages feed on underground aqueducts and continue to trickle throughout the city. Walking down the typical alleys, you notice the lanes wind underneath storied buildings and stone buttresses supporting the historic structures. Locals add lushness to the streets with plants and hanging pottery outside their green shuttered windows. For a unique view of the city’s splendor, you venture into the Gates of Heaven, which takes you under the roof of the Siena’s Cathedral.
The gothic structure was erected in the 13th century. The black and white striped marble catches your eye before you see the glimmer of the gilded portico. The cathedral is known for its stunning beauty, which includes the one of a kind marble etching in the floor, containing 56 panels showcasing tales of the Old Testament. You climb the hidden travertine staircase to the roof, where the Gate of Heaven opens to the entire cathedral, providing a view to the star-studded vaulted ceiling, down the narrow nave, and over the magnificent details, including the indoor pipelines used to carry rainwater from the roof to the courtyard.
Florence – More than Vibrant Hills
The landscape around Siena evokes an immaculate beauty stretching out from under the Tuscan sunshine. After breakfast, your private transfer meets you at the hotel and escorts you into the hillsides, passing under the shade of cypress trees, and alongside the far-reaching vines of boutique wineries. Inside the province of Tuscany is the region of Chianti, known for the wine it produces and the fascination it evokes. The main town of Greve has a market-town ambiance with a charming main piazza. Cafes and restaurants encompass the stone square. Enoteche, wine shops, offer samples of the regional favorites. The restaurants and enoteche complement one another nicely, blending the best flavors and traditions of Tuscany.
The triangular shaped Piazza Matteotti contains 500 years of history, with arched colonnades supporting the bordering buildings and adding a flair of the past. The aroma of freshly made Pici, a Tuscan pasta, emanates from the cuisines set in street-side cafes. The shingled rooftops guide your eyes to a view of the encompassing hills rolling across the horizon. The simple pleasures of Italy shine in Tuscany. A castle near Greve has you out on the terrace with a view of the lush countryside, sipping on a glass of wine in the shade, tasting the magnificence of the province all around you. You could even visit the “Poet butcher” of Panzano, who recounts memorized lines from Dante’s Divine Comedy when slicing pieces of prosciutto to take with you.
Florence – Carrying the Renaissance Home
In the morning, you wake up to the sounds of the past echoing off of the stone buildings and cobblestone streets. When in Florence, you can’t help but think of the marvelous artistry decorating the museums and inspiring students, baristas, architects, artists, business people, and others from around the world. In the morning, you can sip a foamy cappuccino, a treat to accompany you among the statues of the Loggia. You take in a final breakfast surrounded by the Renaissance art sitting in the open for everyone to experience.
You nibble on a brioche filled with chocolate and look up to see the infinitesimal details of the dangling strands of hair of Hercules as he battles Nessus. Soon your private transfer will meet you at the hotel to escort you to Florence International Airport, but you could always extend your stay, continuing your immersion into history with a visit to classical Rome or charming Venice.
- Witness the elaborate design and décor of the Siena Cathedral with an open view from the Gates of Heaven located in the ceiling
- Enjoy a guided tour of often overlooked Renaissance towns, including the artistic and architecturally magnificent towns of Pistoia and Prato
- Explore the historical reaches of the Etruscan rooted city of Volterra and learn how the city’s past inspired its Renaissance future
- Experience the tranquility of an evening in San Gimignano and the welcoming familiarity of the locals along the charismatically lit streets
- Visit the “Butcher Poet,” exclusive to Tuscany, who regales his customers with lines from the Divine Comedy, along with splendid flavors
- Discover the inspiring resting places of some of the most treasured Tuscans in history at the church of Santa Croce in Florence
There is always a delicate balance on Tuscan vacations between visiting the must-see attractions and experiencing the traditional wonders like a local. Your 8-day Italian Renaissance tour of Tuscany offers you the pleasures of both, combining the splendors of Tuscan cities that cannot be missed, along with the embracing culture and quieter marvels that make you feel like you see a completely new and unique side of the Italian province. The journey into the medieval and Renaissance times of Tuscany begins with your arrival in Florence.
The city continues to boast its artwork and artists with elegance. Stroll around the city getting your bearings, traversing the streets and visiting the exemplary church of Santa Croce. The following day, your guide leads you on a full day tour of the city, taking in the Uffizi Gallery, the Accademia, and the stunning, yet often passed-over artwork of the church of San Lorenzo. You make your way outside of the city to the charming smaller towns of Pistoia and Prato, both filled with remnants of the Renaissance and medieval histories.
You can also head into the Garfagnana, a sensational nature preserve along the valleys of the Apuan Alps. Continue to Lucca, where the antique ramparts of the city stand strong. After breakfast, you can take your time exploring Lucca under the stunning natural light of the day, followed by an excursion to Pisa to visit the Piazza dei Miracoli, home to the Leaning Tower, and fabulous palaces and churches beyond the legendary square. In Volterra, you immerse yourself in medieval charm and take a step further back in time to discover the Etruscan roots of the city before venturing to the hillside town of San Gimignano.
Traverse the reaches of San Gimignano, from the old city walls to the highest heights of the city towers. When you reach Siena, you will find a medieval city lying in wait, preserved with a tranquil character and a relaxing ambiance. On your tour of the city, you will venture up into the Gates of Heaven to witness a unique panorama of the Siena Cathedral. Journey through Chianti with a private guide, exploring the small towns of Greve, Castellina in Chianti, and Panzano, the latter housing the “Butcher Poet.” On your final day in Tuscany, your private transfer will escort you from your hotel to Florence International Airport 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
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- 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.
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