2019 NC State Extension Gardener Tour of Tuscany, Italy
October 5 – 14, 2019
(+750 for Single Room Supplement)
Register by April 30th, 2019
for a $200 discount.
For details see the itinerary.
- Accommodations as specified
- Private transfers and excursions by luxury minibus
- Two US-based tour guides
- Private expert Italian botanical guide for the visits as follows:
- Oct 7 (full day Florence)
- Oct 8 (half day visit of Villa and gardens at Villa Vicobello and Siena)
- Oct 9 (full day visit of Villa La Foce and Castello di Celsa)
- Oct 10 full day visit of Pienza and Palazzo Piccolomini
- Oct 11 (full day Villa di Maiano and Villa Gamberaia)
- Oct 12 (full day Villa Medici Petraia and Bardini & Boboli gardens)
- Designated meals including
- All breakfasts
- 4 dinners – Oct 5, 8, 10 and 12 (Drinks not included)
- 4 lunches (Drinks included) – Oct 8 (Vicobello), Oct 9 (Castello di Celsa), Oct 10 (Podere il Casale) and Oct 11 (Fattoria di Maiano)
- Special Events
- Olive oil tasting (Oct 8)
- Wine tasting Montalcino (Oct 8),
- Cheese tasting (Oct 10),
- Olive oil tasting Fattoria di Maiano (Oct. 11)
- Entrance fees for the gardens
- Torrigiani Gardens
- Villa Vico Bello
- Villa Celsa
- Villa La Foce
- Palazzo Piccolomini in Pienza
- Villa Maiano
- Villa Gamberaia
- Boboli Gardens
- Bardini Gardens
- International flights
- Travel insurance
- Meals other than those specified
- Personal Purchases
- Tips for local guide
- Hotel taxes (varies by city, approximately 3-5 Euros per person per night)
- Any other charges or expenses other than those specified
Oct. 5 Arrive Florence (D)
Private transfer from Florence airport to the 4-star Hotel Home in the historic center of Florence. Just a short distance from the city’s main tourist attractions, the hotel features a rooftop terrace with stunning city views.
Oct. 6 Florence at leisure [B]
Overnight in Florence.
Oct. 7 City tour Florence (B) – Torrigiani Gardens
Meet your guide at the hotel for a 3 hour guided walking tour through the historic center of Florence. You will enjoy a private, guided visit of Torrigiani Gardens, the largest privately-owned garden in Europe. It’s located in the heart of Florence (Santo Spirito district). One of the owners will lead the visit through the garden.
Overnight in Florence.
Oct. 8 The Orcia Valley & Siena (B, L, D)
Today we drive through the Chianti area to reach the countryside around Siena where we will visit the Gardens of Villa Vico Bello. We will enjoy a light lunch at the Villa along with an olive oil tasting. After lunch, we will visit Siena for a short walking tour.
We then head to Montalcino where we will visit a flagship winery. A wine tasting will follow at Le Potazzine winery. Our day concludes as we depart for the farmhouse where we will be staying the next 3 nights – Fattoria del Colle.
Dinner at the farmhouse (drinks not included).
Oct. 9 Castello di Celsa and Villa La Foce (B, L)
Today we will have a full day excursion to the magnificent Gardens of Siena.
Pick up from the hotel and transfer by private bus to Villa La Foce, home of Iris Origo, author of the famous Merchant of Prato. Designed by Cecil Pinsent for his friend the Marchesa Iris Origo in the 1920s, the gardens were constructed on a site that, because of the heavy clay soil and lack of water, had been considered too poor even for farm crops. Pinsent and Origo managed to create not only one of the jewels of Italian garden design but a working farm which in its day supported an entire community. The architect’s English style blended with a sensitivity to the surrounding landscape results in a truly unique work of landscape design. Then we will reach Castello di Celsa, where we will have a light lunch in the garden and the visit. The Villa. Parts of the gardens were designed by the 16th-century Sienese architect Baldassare Peruzzi. The design of the main garden overlooking the spectacular Senese countryside was originally laid out in 1500. The additions made to the garden during the Baroque period are the semicircular pool in the main garden and a large fishing pond on the edge of the holm oak wood. In more recent times, the parterres in the main garden and the cypress hedging leading to the fishing pool were added. The most recent additions to this garden are the large conifers which reflect the English Landscape style of the 1800s.
Oct 10 Pienza and Palazzo Piccolomini – Montepulciano (B, L, D)
Today we drive to Pienza where we will meet our guide for a visit o the historic center then we will visit one of the Pienza gems: Palazzo Piccolomini and the gardens. Palazzo Piccolomini is one of the main architectural feats in Pienza built according to the humanist project of the “ideal city” imagined by Enea Silvio Piccolomini, also known as Pope Pius II. Built in 1459 as a summer home for the Pope, it is considered the first example of Renaissance architecture.
The visit to this Palace will step you back in time, the Palace was built as a home and continued to be used as one throughout the centuries up until very recently. The Piccolomini family lived here until 1962 and therefore it contains the original furnishings. You get to see the dining room, the music room, the room used as an office and library, and several bedrooms, including Enea’s. The loggia from the second floor offers an incredible view over the entire Val d’Orcia.
Palazzo Piccolomini, like almost all Renaissance villas, aims to integrate the Villa into the landscape via the medium of a formal garden.
From the portico on the rear of the palazzo unfolds an extraordinary view of the Val d’Orcia and Monte Amiata. Placed within the foreground of this panorama, on the ground floor level of the palazzo, is a square garden bound by walls and with a well in the center. These are the Piccolomini Gardens, the first “hanging garden” of the Renaissance, and an Italian garden almost without equal – only the garden of Villa Gamberaia comes near to it in terms of aesthetic value and pleasure.
Then we will stop near Pienza for the visit of an organic cheese maker. We will visit the cheese dairy and have light lunch based on typical products such as Pecorino cheese and cold cuts (Podere Il Casale).
Transfer to Montepulciano, time at leisure to wander and shop, then dinner at a restaurant in Montepulciano. Transfer back to Farmhouse.
Oct. 11 Florence Villa di Maiano, Villa Gamberaia (B, L)
This morning we will meet our guide as we visit the Villa di Maiano Gardens and the ground floor of the Villa (Fiesole).
Built in 1400 by the Pazzi family, it then became the property of the Tolomei family during the 18th century, and was then purchased by Sir Temple Leader, a rich Englishman with a passion for Tuscany during the 19th century. He became the owner of all the artwork belonging to the previous owners and decided to renovate the house, making significant changes, but leaving its artistic heritage and artwork intact. The Villa has 5 halls on the ground floor splendidly furnished with original 17C and 18C furniture and a panoramic garden overlooking all of Florence. James Ivory, the director, chose the villa as the location for the “Italian” interior and country scenes for the famous film, “A Room with a View.”
The Maiano estate includes Fattoria di Maiano, which originates back to the 15th century. It covers an area of nearly 300 hectares mainly used for growing olives (20.000 olive trees on 110 hectares) and it’s a completely organic agricultural estate. Frantoio and Moraiolo olives are picked entirely by hand in the months of November and December then pressed in the estate mill. The premium product is Laudemio, an excellent extra virgin oil with a high nutritional value. We will have an olive oil tasting and lunch at the Fattoria.
After lunch, your visit to Villa Gamberaia in Settignano will start. Edith Wharton wrote of Gamberaia: ‘Probably the most perfect example of the art of producing a great effect on a small scale…’ The history of this garden dates back to the 16th century yet most of the garden as it is now laid out was designed by the Capponi family who bought the property in the 18th century. Many modifications, including the famous water parterre were commissioned in the 1920s by the then-owner Hungarian princess Ghyka whose head gardener, Martino, was the father of one of Italy’s leading landscape designers, Pietro Porcinai.
You will leave Villa Gamberaia and head to the hotel on the hills around Florence, Villa Olmi Resort.
Dinner on your own. A great Tuscan Trattoria is just 200 meters from the hotel.
Oct 12 Florence Gardens (B, D)
Today we visit Villa Medici di Petraia.
The gardens of Villa Petraia have changed quite significantly since they were commissioned by Ferdinando de’ Medici in 1568. The original terraces have remained but many of the beds have been redesigned through the ages creating a more gentle and colorful style. Behind the villa, we find the park which is a perfect example of Middle-European landscape design.
Time at leisure for lunch in a local restaurant.
In the afternoon we will visit Boboli Gardens in the historic center of Florence.
Giardino di Boboli & Bardini gardens.
If one had time to see only one garden in Florence, this should be it. The Boboli gardens are a living history course in Italian garden design from the Renaissance to the 19th century. This garden contains every element essential to the Italian garden from the amphitheater to the island garden, citrus trees, and long winding avenues through the woods. The gardens have recently been restored with several thousands of shrubs being replanted, bringing it back to the magnificent park that it once was.
We then visit Bardini garden which has a romantic feel and a varied layout with some of the best views of Florence. This garden has four hectares (c. 10 acres) of woods, garden and fruit orchards flanked by the medieval walls of the city. Situated between Costa San Giorgio and Borgo San Niccolò, it preserves in the center of the city, a pristine place to discover. Beginning in medieval times, the Bardini Garden belonged to wealthy families who followed one after another. Created with an agricultural purpose, it was transformed over the course of the centuries into a splendid Italianate garden. In the first years of the 1900’s it was used by the owner for whom it is named, the collector Stefano Bardini, known as the “prince of the antiquarians.” The Bardini Garden integrates the following three gardens, diverse as to epoch and style:
- The Italianate Garden with the magnificent baroque staircase
- The English Wood which, with its exotic elements, represents a rare example of an Anglo-Chinese garden
- The Agricultural Park in which a new fruit grove and the splendid pergola of wisteria have found their place
Transfer back to Villa Olmi.
Farewell dinner at the gourmet restaurant of the hotel (drinks not included).
Oct. 13 Florence (B)
Pick up from Villa Olmi and private transfer to Florence city center accommodation at the 4-star hotel Atheneaum.
Day at leisure.
Oct. 14 depart (B)
Pick up from your hotel and private transfers to Florence airport.
Annotated List of Recommended Readings About Tuscany by tour host Susan Mahr
For those of you who like to learn about a place ahead of time, I’ve put together a list of many books and a few movies that showcase the culture and history of the area, and a few about gardens there. DO NOT feel like you have to read any or all of these!!! (I’ve only read a few myself, and actually felt like reading them after visiting the places was a great way to get a deeper understanding of the things I saw; I’m not sure if I would have appreciated them as much if read before seeing what they were discussing.) About a month before the trip I’ll send out more detailed information on the places we’ll specifically be visiting for you to read about ahead, refer to during the trip, share with friends and family to follow along, and/or read about after (or ignore completely) depending on your preference.”