Tuscany & Umbria: an amazing journey through the Heartland of Italy - GUMT
A complete sightseeing, walking & discovery tour through the ‘Green Heart of Italy’
Italy has a ‘Green Heart’, where it is a real pleasure to walk through the lovely countryside.
Through the extensive footpath network of the area, roughly following the traces of the Via Francigena, one of Europe’s most important ‘highways’ in medieval times, you first walk from village to village, a full immersion in the world-famous Tuscan landscape. This is a perfect introduction to the region and, for people who love museums, galleries and Gothic and Romanesque architecture, there is plenty to see and do. You’ll get plenty of time to visit all the beautiful medieval villages and historic towns along the Via Francigena: Monteriggioni – admired by Dante – San Gimignano, Colle Val d’Elsa and of course Siena, arguably the most perfectly preserved medieval town in Tuscany. This tour threads together some of the most attractive towns and villages in Tuscany in an eloquent procession.
However, the emphasis of the tour is to enjoy the countryside, the rolling vineyards, the poppies in spring and the wild cyclamen in autumn. Most of all, many of the views have barely changed for hundreds of years. The area north of Siena is an amazing landscape of rolling hills, alternating vineyards and forests, while cypresses line the way towards the distant farmhouses. The Val d’Orcia is perhaps the ‘essence of Tuscany’. Walking here is an unforgettable experience!
Umbria is perhaps not as famous as Tuscany, but more genuine and at least as beautiful! Here you’ll walk from village to village, a full immersion in the mythical Umbrian landscape. At first through forests and vineyards, then passing underneath the amazing Marmore waterfalls. Then through the holy forests above Spoleto, and finally through the rolling hills between the spectacular hilltop towns of Trevi, Spello and Assisi.
Moreover, Umbria is a land full of cultural treasures, ranging from the world-famous Assisi, with its impressive basilica dedicated to St. Francis, to lesser-known small medieval towns like Trevi, Spello and of course the wonderful Roman city of Spoleto. You have ample time to visit these historic towns and also the many beautiful medieval monasteries along the pilgrim roads. For two nights you stay in one of Umbria’s most beautiful monasteries.
Central Italy is an area where you still feel the genuine heart of Italy. You’ll walk at an easy pace from highlight to highlight, taking in the best of Tuscany & Umbria. Our tour finishes in the town of Spoleto, but can easily be extended with a day or more in Rome, or in Perugia, the region’s beautiful and lively cultural capital.
Please note: this is a moderately easy tour which is suitable for those who have some experience with walking and a good general physical condition. Most of the walks are on good paths, some of them just recently restored by the local authorities, roughly following the traces of the Via Francigena, the medieval pilgrims’ paths from northern Europe to Rome and from Assisi to Rome, as well as the Roman Via Flaminia, one of Europe’s most important ‘high ways’ in Roman times. Average walking times: approx 5 hours each day.
Day 0 Florence
The starting point of our tour is Florence, capital of Tuscany, and perhaps the world’s most amazing Renaissance town.
Florence can easily be reached by plane (Pisa or Florence Airport) and train (from Milan, Rome). You can arrive here on the starting day of the tour, but you can also book an extra night here of course, to allow some extra time for sightseeing in this beautiful city, full of world-famous museums and nice places where you can go for an easy stroll.
Day 1 Arrival – Florence
Today you arrive in the beautiful city of Florence. After settling in at your very special, recently restored hotel in the heart of the historical centre, you could go for a short stroll through the colourful streets, soaking up its atmosphere, or visit a museum. Towards the end of the afternoon you meet your tour leader and the rest of the group for a welcome cocktail in the hotel or on a terrace in the city. After a brief introduction to the tour, you will then go for a short roundwalk through the heart of Florence, and take in some of the ‘highlights’. In the evening you dine in a nice restaurant in the heart of the city, close to the hotel. (Dinner)
Hotel **** – Florence.
Day 2 : From Florence to Colle Val d’Elsa and San Gimignano
Today your private minibus picks you up and brings you to the beautiful little town of Colle Val D’Elsa, perhaps not as famous as other Tuscan towns, but with a very interesting centre. First you walk through the whole town centre, located on a narrow ridge. Then you descend into the lower town, where you take some time to have a coffee and buy some picnic supplies. Then you start the real walk, which first takes you on one of the supposed routes of the ancient Via Francigena. Along this route, through a pleasant hilly landscape of vineyards and forests, you reach the little hamlet of Bibbiano. Another descent brings you down into the valley of the River Foci. This follows a short stretch through the river valley, and past an old watermill. Then you start to climb up along a comfortable track to one of Tuscany’s most beautiful agriturismos, where you will spend the next two nights. Make sure you’re here on time to fully enjoy its fabulous setting and surroundings, and perhaps its library or swimming pool. For those who feel like it there is also a longer walking option to get to here. Dinner at the private restaurant is included tonight.
Agriturismo in San Gimignano – HB
Total walking time: around 3,5 hours + sightseeing time (4-5 hours with extra option).
Day 3 : San Gimignano & its countryside
You start an amazing roundwalk from the agriturismo, through the world-famous Tuscan countryside, in the direction of San Gimignano. First you make your way up along the ridge to the little hamlets of Ciuciano and San Donato, going past several old ‘pievi’ (countryside churches) and villas, often with wonderful views of the San Gimignano skyline. This wonderful medieval town – sometimes referred to as having the only “skyscrapers” in Tuscany – is an absolute must, with its picturesque vineyards, and olive and cypress groves on either side. Upon arrival you’ll have ample time to explore this romantic old town with its medieval towers, of which there were once 52 (there are now less than a dozen). Wealthy, prominent families would use the height of these towers to distinguish themselves, and the towers also served to alert the inhabitants of this walled town of approaching friends and foes. You also take a nice stroll around the impressive medieval town walls. In the town itself there are numerous places where you can enjoy lunch. Then you follow the Via Francigena back to the agriturismo: first to the convent of Monte Oliveto, located on a wide ridge, then down to a small stream, which you’ll have to cross, before climbing back up to your agriturismo. Towards the end of the afternoon you return here to relax at the beautiful ‘agriturismo’. Here you will have yet another great meal tonight.
Agriturismo in San Gimignano – HB
Total walking time: around 4,5 – 5 hours (+ circa 1 h. in San Gimignano – various options).
Day 4 : Siena & the Val d’Orcia
Today you leave your agriturismo, heading for Siena, one of Italy’s most beautiful medieval towns. Its heart is the perfect, shell-shaped Piazza del Campo, scene of the famous horse race, the ‘Palio’. Here you’ll admire the Palazzo Pubblico, with some stunning frescoes. Nearby is the remarkable black-and-white marble ‘Duomo’ and the Church of Saint Catherine. You make a short roundwalk to get your bearings and then have some free time to either explore or relax.
After lunch your bus picks you up and you head to the beautiful little town of San Quirico. From here you make a great afternoon walk: through the medieval town gate you leave San Quirico in the direction of Pienza. You will mainly follow so-called ‘strade bianche’ through the archetypal Tuscan landscape, and, towards the end of the afternoon, you reach Pienza, a small, perfectly laid-out Renaissance town. Pienza is often described as the “ideal city” or the “utopian city”. It is certainly one of the best-planned Renaissance towns, where a model of ideal living and government was attempted. Its location in the centre of the Val d’Orcia, a wonderfully harmonious valley, helps the town to embody the fundamental principle that humanistic architecture attempted to create: a balanced relationship between Man and Nature. You have time to explore, and perhaps visit the beautiful museum, inside the Palace of Pope Pius II. After your visit you settle in at a beautiful and welcoming hotel in an old cloister, just a few steps from the main square.
Hotel ‘Il Chiostro’ **** Pienza – BB
Total walking time: around 3-4 hours. Total driving time today: around 1,5 hours.
Day 5 : Through Assisi, Mt. Subasio & Spello into the Valnerina
Today you head into Umbria. Here you’ll visit the beautiful town of Assisi, yet another highlight of this tour. The town is full of highlights, among which is a World Heritage Site: the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi (St. Francis) of course, with its wonderful frescoes by Giotto. But the other churches, the Greek temple in the central square and the underground Roman Forum are all worth a visit too. After an extensive visit to the centre itself, you have a beautiful walk down into the valley. Your path brings you through the woods (the ‘Selva di San Francesco’), to a settlement of Benedictine nuns, founded in the 13th century. Here you can also admire the “Third Paradise”, a stunning example of Land Art. Then your bus picks you up and takes you around Mt. Subasio, leaving you in the sight of the amazing Spello, arguably one of the most beautiful little towns in central Italy. A wonderful short afternoon walk along a Roman aqueduct brings you though the olive groves straight to Spello. Here you’ll have time to visit this old Roman town and enjoy a relaxed drink on one of its terraces. In the late afternoon your bus will take you into the Valnerina, where you’ll stay the next two nights in a beautiful medieval abbey. In the evening you have a great meal on the premises of the abbey, based on good local produce.
Historical Abbey in Valnerina – FB
Total walking time: around 4 hours. Total driving time today: around 2 hours.
Day 6 : Through the Valnerina to the Marmore Waterfalls
After breakfast today you’ll leave the abbey on foot, heading west through the narrowest part of the Nera valley, which, until quite recently, was almost completely cut off from the outer world and therefore virtually untouched. You’ll first walk up to the intriguing abandoned village of Umbriano, considered by many to be ‘one of Umbria’s most romantic spots’. Then you’ll walk through several charming hamlets, following the pilgrim trail from Assisi to Rome. Around lunch time you’ll reach one of the wonders of central Italy: the Marmore waterfalls. These waterfalls, about 165 metres tall, offer a unique visual and acoustic experience. And the most intriguing fact about them is that they were actually man-made in Roman times… You can make a wonderful roundwalk in the waterfalls area, walking from viewpoint to viewpoint. There is the option of walking all the way up to the top of the waterfalls. Alternatively, you can opt to just sit down and look at this incredible sight, just like Lord Byron did. After some time for contemplation or a drink at the waterfalls, you return by bus to your base at the abbey. You are free to make your own dinner arrangements tonight. You can choose to have another great meal at the abbey or go down to the village to a small local restaurant for your pasta or pizza – or perhaps something different..
Historical Abbey in Valnerina – BB
Total walking time: around 4-5 hours.
Day 7 : Over the Monteluco to Spoleto
After breakfast this morning, your bus brings you onto the hill of Monteluco, which separates the Valnerina from the valley of Spoleto. The hill of Monteluco is known to be a ‘holy mountain’, and many of the trails are linked to the spiritual history of the area. Here you make a very pleasant roundwalk through the forested hills, with wonderful views of Spoleto and its surroundings. The first stretch is uphill (though your bus will bring you halfway to the top anyway), but soon you will be walking along a level aqueduct. Once you reach the top, you can discover the ‘holy forest’ (a protected nature area since Roman times!) with its many grottoes, and wander past medieval chapels through a pleasant wooden landscape. Of special interest is the beautiful monastery. You’ll have a nice warm lunch at a small restaurant and then start the descent towards Spoleto. Along the stunning ‘Ponte delle Torri’ bridge, a unique aqueduct, you’ll reach the impressive fortress on the other side of the valley. From here you walk right into the Roman & medieval town centre. There is, of course, time for sightseeing and a drink in relaxation, before settling in at your beautiful family-run hotel, right in the heart of town. In the evening you all join together for one last evening meal, in a nice restaurant close to our hotel.
Hotel *** Spoleto – FB
Total walking time: around 3,5-4,5 hours; approx. walking distance: 9-11 km.
Day 8 : Departure from Spoleto
This morning after breakfast, your journey ends. You can of course opt to spend some more time in Spoleto if you want. From Spoleto there are many direct trains to Rome (or Florence). There are (shuttle) buses to the train station at walking distance from the hotel. A taxi transfer to any destination can be arranged at any time.
ACCOMMODATION & MEALS
All nights are spent in beautiful, characteristic hotels & agriturismos, mostly historical buildings (generally 4-star level). All rooms have en-suite facilities.
All accommodations include breakfast. Most evening meals are included, for which we have selected the best available restaurants. On two nights you are free to choose from the wide choice of restaurants in the area. Your guide can give you good tips.
Also some (picnic) lunches on walking days are included in the tour price. On other days you are free to have your own lunch. Here you have the option of having your lunch in a nice restaurant, or purchasing your supplies for a picnic lunch.
Night 1 : The first night is spent in Florence. Your accommodation is a 4-star hotel in a historical palace, beautifully restored, in the heart of the historical centre.
Nights 2 & 3: These two nights you stay in a beautiful agriturismo near San Gimignano, a carefully restored historical building on the route of the Via Francigena, where you can indulge in local, often homemade specialties.
Night 4: For one night you stay in a great 4-star hotel right in the heart of Pienza. Our hotel is a beautifully restored old monastery.
Nights 5 & 6: These two nights you’ll stay in a very special place, a beautifully restored 11th-century abbey in the heart of the Valnerina.
Night 7: The final night is spent at Spoleto. Your very good, welcoming hotel is located in a central position, right in the historical heart of the city.
On our GUIDED WALKING TOURS we include almost everything :
- Private English speaking tour leader for 8 days
- Accommodation: 1 night Florence – 4**** hotel; 2 nights San Gimignano in a beautiful agriturismo, 1 night Pienza 4**** hotel, 2 nights historical abbey , 1 night Spoleto 3*** hotel
- • Meals: 7 breakfasts, 5 dinners (good restaurants!), 1 warm lunch, 1 picnic lunch
- All private & public transfers as indicated throughout the entire itinerary
- Entrance fees of all sites along the itinerary
- Special activities as outlined in the day by day itinerary
- Guest experts for special places
- 24/7 h local assistance
- Luggage transport
- All gratuities for baggage, porters & hotel service
- Departure taxes
- Travel Insurance
- Drinks and meals not mentioned in the itinerary
- Optional additional tours or activities
- Items of a personal nature
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY
Easy (2): Mostly easy walks, though some include walking uphill, sometimes on paths with rough surfaces. On most days shortcuts are possible (as well as occasional extensions).
Fitness: High standard of fitness is not necessary but you should be able to walk for up to 4 hours a day in hot sun on dusty or stony tracks.
ARRIVAL & DEPARTURE
Arrival: The tour starts in FLORENCE, a city with an international airport.
A taxi pick-up service can be arranged either from FLORENCE or PISA airport, or train station.
Departure: The tour ends after breakfast on day 8 in SPOLETO. A frequent train service can bring you from here to either Rome or Florence. Several taxi services are available to bring you directly to your next destination.
AVAILABILITY & CONDITIONS
There are no scheduled departures for this tour in 2016, but on request a tour can be planned at any date for private groups. Just contact us!
We can then also personalise the tour with respect to duration and lodging. We can offer you a large selection of ‘Premiere Inns’, very good hotels, many among the world’s best hotels, as acclaimed from Condé Nast Traveler, Travel+Leisure and many others. Genius Loci Travel, as the leading adventure travel company in Italy, can book your room in any hotel you could dream of!
N.B. For this tour tailor-made private departures (for groups of minimum 4 persons) can be planned on any date. Availability & prices on request. Prices start from 1490 euro p.p., depending on the season, accomodation and number of persons in your private group.
|Places available. You can book this tour with a minimum of 1 person.|
|Guaranteed Departure. Still some places available.|
|There are a very limited number of available places on these dates. Immediate booking is recommended.|
|Availability and prices on request.|
|Fully booked. Departure closed.|
- Prices are per person and based on 2 people sharing double or twin accommodation.
- Single rooms (mostly double rooms - single use) are available on all trips. The supplements listed apply.
- Prices are expressed in Euro's. There will never be a currency surcharge.
- Actual exchange rates: GB £ - US $ - CAN $ - CHF - DKK - SEK - NOK - Other currencies.
- A 5 % early booking discount applies for several trips.
It is possible to include some extra nights before or after your tour.
For those who have never been in Florence an extra day here is strongly recommended. The tour can easily be extended with a few days in Spoleto, or elsewhere in Umbria. Several good accommodations are available. Details and prices on request.
SHORTER & LONGER VERSIONS
A shorter, 6-day version of this tour is also available. See also our other ITALY tours !