Tuscany Through the Eyes of a Chiantigiano
We love the Tuscan hill country. For years the hospitality of the locals has kept us coming back to our favorite village, Impruneta, just outside of Florence in the heart of the Chianti region. In fact, every trip we do in Italy begins here. Over a decade ago we were lucky enough to stumble upon a wonderfully warm and hospitable family-run Inn in the center square of the village. This hidden treasure has been in the Becucci family for generations and the property’s history goes back to a time when it produced the region’s award-winning salumi and other meat products before the war.
It’s a place where the local color shines through. On any given day, there could be a visit from the local butcher delivering fresh chicken or the famous slabs of Tuscan steak, the postman could be at the front desk discussing the day’s events or gossip, and the sounds of morning espresso or Cappuccino steaming will lead you into the cozy breakfast area to join others at the start of the day… it’s an authentic taste of Italy in an unpretentious setting. This will be the base of operations for our adventure.
As you know most of our trips are water-based excursions and our brief stopover in Impruneta, at the start of each trip, serves as a great opportunity to decompress after a trans-Atlantic flight. In some cases we return to the village at the end of our trip but all too often we are only there for one or two days. This new excursion that we are introducing is going to focus entirely on the Chianti region. We’ll have 7 days to savor the flavors of its unique culinary offerings and the wonderful local wines, not to mention some of the finest artisanal olive oils to be found anywhere.
But of course, there is more to see and experience, the subtleties of color and the texture of the landscape contribute to the overall sense of relaxation and rejuvenated spirit. Over the years, we’ve gained a local knowledge of the countryside and environs surrounding the city of Florence. We’ll take the opportunity to trek through the wooded forest along the well worn paths used by locals for decades. It’s mushroom and truffle season and we may be lucky enough to see some hidden plots of these fungi treasured as a source of income by local woodsmen. The odds are high that we’ll have a chance to taste some fresh pickings back at the Inn for our evenings repast. How about an enjoyable bike ride through vineyards and small towns on easy to ride mountain bikes which have a handy backup power source; efficient electric motors which kick in to enable the entire group to maintain a comfortable pace together. So, no matter your aerobic condition you’ll be able to enjoy the crisp Tuscan air as we cruise along peaceful country lanes and vineyards.
The entire Chianti region will be ours to explore. So plan on visits to the medieval towns of Lucca, San Gimignano, and Siena. Of course, Florence is only a 20 minute drive away, so we’ll be sure to have a few evenings or days in town to savor renaissance art, the gustatory Florentian delights, and most importantly, to walk the streets and medieval alleys in the old part of the city. As an extra added bonus, we are hoping to drive out to the Mugello hills and try to find some Etruscan archaeological sites co-sponsored by American and Italian universities. And, finally, if the stars are in alignment, we’ll round things out with a photography workshop in southern Tuscany and a day of slow food farm-to-table enjoyment topped off with a local wine and fresh artisanal olive oil.
Once you land in Florence we are at your service so be ready to enjoy Italy from a uniquely vacation minded perspective, no rush, no fuss, no problem!
May 3 -10, 2020
(You will need to depart the US on May 2nd to arrive in Italy on the 3rd)
PRICING (all pricing is based on double occupancy; singles add $400)
ALL-INCLUSIVE PRICING * As noted under What H2Outfitters provides
$3850 per person based on double occupancy; singles add $400
*Price is subject to change due to currency fluctuations
• Transportation to and from Florence airport; and transportation during the trip as described on the itinerary
• 7 nights accommodations
• All meals as outlined on itinerary
• Bicycle riding through the vineyards on mountain bikes or electric-assist bicycles
• Slow food cooking and photography workshops
• Picturesque walks/hikes through the Tuscan hills; villages; and countryside
• International airfare
• Travel insurance
• Any transportation outside the realm of the itinerary
• Alcohol and snacks
We are looking forward to spending a week together with all of you in a very special part of the world. A good part of the enjoyment of our overseas programming is the opportunity for us to have the time to sit with our clients, get a feel for the places or activities that struck a chord, and then try to adapt the itinerary to get more of that good thing. We’ll do our best to be flexible and to accommodate special requests when possible. As with any structured program we will have to adhere to scheduling parameters particularly with the specialists with whom we work to make these experiences unique and personal. Following is a break down of the day-to-day itinerary with an overview of each day’s adventure. Get ready to have some serious fun.... Andiamo!
Sun. May 3rd
Arrival at Peretola airport in Florence
Upon your arrival at the airport you will be greeted by the effervescent H2O staff. Depending upon the groups’ arrival time, we will either take a short ride into Florence to decompress, have a leisurely lunch, and then head to our hotel to check in or simply head straight to the Inn. Our accommodation is a short 20 minute drive from Florence at the Auberge Bellavista in the center of Impruneta, a small town southwest of the city. Once you have settled in you’ll have a chance to relax, take a short nap, or stay up and acclimate to the time differential. (L, D) *
Mon. May 4th
A Fresh Air Perspective on Tuscany’s Alluring Landscape
Our trip begins as we explore Tuscany on e-bikes riding through rolling hills, vineyards, and country villages. This will be a leisurely ride at a pace that is comfortable for everyone with chances to pull over at village cafes for a relaxing pick-me-up and once rehydrated, be ready to roll again. Our road manager will be Italian guide, Tomasso Becucci, a local Chiantigiano, who happens to be part of the family that owns the Bellavista. He’ll be leading us to a peaceful, out of the way winery, perched on a hilltop surrounded by vineyards and farmland, a wonderful conclusion to our exploratory ride. (B, L, D)
Tues. May 5th
Siena - behind closed doors
The story of Tuscany is old. Its roots are ancient, going back before Roman times to the Etruscan civilization; this rich heritage has been reflected through subsequent ages as the region developed and evolved. The medieval city of Siena played a major role in this development and the transition from the post Roman dark ages to the relative enlightenment of the Middle ages. We’re going to get the chance to receive some first-hand insight into the social structure that became the foundation of Renaissance Siena. The fundamental building block of this city’s medieval society was the Contrada, a community organization established to provide service to those living in the surrounding neighborhoods. Service could be a meal, a warm place to stay, but most importantly, at that pivotal moment between dark and light, violence and safety, the Contrada provided protection. And, there were 17 Contradas, many of which established relationships and alliances which allowed for safe travel, trade, and social activity. We are going behind the scenes through the closed doors of the Contrada Bruco, the “Caterpillar”, and our host will be a prominent member of the organization, Dario Castagno. Dario and Jeff have known each other since 2005 when Dario was a Tuscan guide writing about his experiences in his book entitled “Too Much Tuscan Sun”, a New York Times best seller. His humorous experiences as a guide led Jeff to drop him a line after reading the book himself, and the two commiserated on their adventures with the human race. Dario will open up a window to the inner workings of his Contrada with a lively visit and discussion on medieval existence in a walled city like Siena. Sculpture, armor, costumes, documents, and art from the Renaissance to present time will be accessible for us to see and learn firsthand about this period of time. (B, L, D)
Wed. May 6th
Slow food cooking workshop at a authentically-restored Tuscan farmstead
Italians are passionate about food, and none more so than those who live in Tuscany., who feel that the language of food is universal and is a fundamental part of leading a happy and healthy lifestyle. The slow food movement began in Italy and was juxtaposed against the inroads that fast food was making in a country that prided itself on fresh, local ingredients as the basis for every meal. So this will be our chance to become part of the movement as we prepare, taste, and savor the fruits of our culinary endeavors. We’ll be working hands on in the kitchen with Veronica Clemente, an enthusiastic purveyor of the Tuscan approach to cooking. We’ll spend the day cooking and the afternoon eating. Our meal will be supplemented by fresh olive oils from the farm and topped off with beautiful pairings of Veronica’s selection of wine. Of course, the wine is prepared from the grapes of her vineyards! (B, L, D)
Thurs. May 7th
A Free Personal Day to Explore or Relax
Today will be a time to pursue individual adventures, a free day to explore places that have piqued your interest, (perhaps a trip into Florence, San Gimignano, or Lucca with the H2O staff), or simply have some down time and choose to sit and relax. It will be a fun day as we take a break from the schedule, meet back up for a great dinner, and share our adventures with our “feet under the table”as the Italians say. (B, D)
Fri. May 8th
Capturing the light, color, and shades of the Tuscan landscape with well known photographer Duccio Nacci.
More than just a photography workshop, this will be a culinary adventure too. After all, any photographer worth his or her weight in film, knows that the light has to be perfect before one sets the aperture and releases the shutter. This is tricky because it is either 3 in the morning or 3 in the afternoon and since this is a vacation, were going to get up early... just kidding! ... we are going for the 3pm time slot. However, our day will begin in the morning as we head to the small medieval town of San Gimignano. Here we will meet noted Tuscan photographer, Duccio Nacci at his salon or atelier, surrounded by amazing photographs of the region. He’ll take us on a short journey to the local macelleria, the butcher shop, where we will select cuts of meat and wheels of cheese as we prepare for the gastronomic part of the adventure. We’ll head to the local bakery for a supply of bread right out of the oven and get on our way to the southeastern Tuscan hills where we will prepare the meal and our photographic equipment. We’ll see some ancient Roman baths next to modern hot spring spas, we’ll picnic at the foot of a medieval tower overlooking the countryside, and we’ll explore the land searching for that special image to take home. We may also visit some of the smaller villages to capture scenes of village life, architecture, and the faces of the locals. There are many choices and we are sure Duccio will give us the opportunity to capture the flavors of Tuscan imagery. (B, L, D)
Sat. May 9th
Etruscan ruins, Wine, and Culinary delights
Step back in time as we meet up with Dario once again, trekking through remote cypress forests to hidden Etruscan ruins. Dating back to 400 BC we will learn about this mysterious civilization and why they are considered to provide the basis of Tuscan culture today. From the ruins we will head to the Fattoria Tregole, a small artisanal winery run by a mother and daughter team. Here Dario will guide us through the grounds of this wonderful property whose history is documented going back to 1003 AD. Get ready for some historical anecdotes and accounts regarding the region’s namesake wine, Chianti Classico. Lunch will be prepared on site where we will enjoy many of the products produced on the premises. A fitting conclusion to our Chianti adventure. (B, L, D)
As our trip comes to an end, we’ll share our stories and impressions on the drive to the airport and bid fond farewells until we meet again.... Ciao, ciao, ciao. (B)
• Transportation to/from Florence airport and our accommodations
• Meals as noted on the itinerary (B= breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner)
• Seven nights accommodations
• Fees for scheduled activities as noted on itinerary
• Transportation during the trip
What You Are Responsible for
• International airfare (plan to arrive at Florence Peretola airport - code FLR)
• Any meals not listed on itinerary
• Fees for any activities not listed on itinerary
• Alcoholic beverages and any snacks/drinks you would like that are not part of the scheduled itinerary
• Travel insurance; baggage fees, and any additional expenses related to the international airfare
• Any items of a personal nature
• Gratuities for guides
Click on a photo to view gallery.