off the Beaten Path
2 - 13, 2017
us in the spring for a unique sojourn in southern Tuscany,
where iconic views await you!
we know exactly where to find them!!
unrushed, carefree trip is perfect for active individuals
who wish to experience well below the surface
the heritage, incomparable landscapes, hearty cuisine
and fine wines of Toscana, at the moment of the
year when the landscape is at its most beautiful.
famous blue iris - one of the delights of May!
In recognition of the valley's pristine countryside,
working farms, and historic towns and villages,
in 2004, UNESCO awarded the Val d'Orcia the
coveted designation of World Heritage Site.
Blissfully isolated from Italy's main north-south super
highways by an extinct volcano to the west and a ridge
of mountains to the east, the sublime valley of the
Orcia River is little changed from its appearance
hundreds of years ago: landscapes immortalized by Renaissance
paintersand today by art photographers.
Tuscany off the beaten path cannot be done in a hurry;
nor can it be accomplished with a large group.
a delightful and welcoming small hotel ideally located for
excursions in every direction and in the luxury
of a small group we'll explore medieval villages,
walk in the unblemished countryside, savor Tuscan cuisine
at its best, and enjoy fine wines while someone
else does the driving! We'll also marvel
often in unexpected places at extraordinary art,
architecture and gardens, including privately-owned properties,
with visits by special appointment.
in the Val d'Orcia, near our hotel
This iconic view is enjoyed from the garden of a private
estate that we will visit by special appointment
us worry about the details and the logistics, while you enjoy
Tuscany's glorious vistas!
Pantheon - inspiration for architects for centuries
In the afternoon, we'll go for an "anti-jet lag"
walk to introduce you to the remarkable neighborhood of
our hotel; and in the evening we'll toast the beginning
of our Tuscan sojourn with a quintessentially Italian aperitivo
and Welcome dinner at one of Rome's best traditional ristoranti,
a short walk from our hotel. After dinner, we'll be treated
to one of Rome's loveliest sights: the Pantheon in the evening.
next morning we'll embark upon our unique travel adventure,
driving north, through the Tiber Valley and thence into
traversing the forested mountains that isolate the Val d'Orcia
from the main route between Rome and Florence, we'll pause
to explore Chiusi, an ancient Etruscan hill town
with hidden treasures that most travelers miss all together.
facilitate the convenience of non-stop flights from several
American "gateway" cities, our exclusive small
group tour will begin with individual arrivals in
Rome on Tuesday, May 2.
We'll gather at our first-class hotel in the heart of the
historic center, situated right behind the Pantheon!
to schedule your arrival by mid-day.
Note: Authorized taxis are boarded in front of the
terminal and there is a fixed rate for Roma centro!
Alternatively, Travel Designs can arrange for you to be
met by a private driver.
appealing view is just a few steps away
from the entrance to our hotel!
onward to southern Tuscany's Val d'Orcia and our
cozy hotel for eight nights, once a way station
via Francigena, the medieval pilgrimage route to
Rome from France, which, in turn, followed the ancient Roman
consular road through Etruria, the via Cassia. Unpack
and settle in for an unforgettable week!
Years of exploration of this amazing valley have resulted
in our ability to enable you to have "behind
the scenes experiences" that would be difficult, if
not impossible, for you to enjoy on your own.
Our first-class hotel in the Val d'Orcia - like having
your own villa, but with someone else doing the work!
garden of our hotel is especially lovely in early May, when
the ginestra (broom) and late double wisteria are
in bloom. Hopefully, the first roses also will greet us!
hotel's pool, secluded in the lower garden
d'Orcia - private villa garden
day's destination will provide breathtaking views and a new
perspective on this fascinating part of Tuscany. We'll travel
the short distances in a smaller deluxe motor coach. Someone
else doing the driving and parking! along
with meticulous advance planning will enable you to enjoy
carefree exploration of engaging medieval hill towns,
such as Pienza, Montalcino and Montepulciano, seldom
visited villages, and exquisite gardens. We'll
also have time for easy walks in the pristine countryside
and tastings of Tuscany's celebrated wines.
lower Val d'Orcia is the source of one of Italy's
finest wines: Brunello di Montalcino. We'll enjoy
a private tasting at a family-owned tenuta (estate)
way off the beaten path. It once was a fortified farm! Nearby,
a millennium ago, Cistercian monks tended vineyards at an
abbey founded by Charlemagne. Today it is active again,
with monks caring for one of Italy's most beautiful Romanesque
churches, surrounded by vineyards and olive groves.
- famous for its Vino Nobile
hills above the "middle valley" are studded
with captivating medieval towns that flourished above
the via Francigena a route for artists and
merchants as well as pilgrims, hence their unusually
rich artistic and architectural patrimony.
- rebuilt in the 15th century by Pope
Pius II as the perfect Renaissance town
Quirico d'Orcia - bypassed by
most visitors and a delight to explore!
less well known, but also delightful to explore are a slew
of lesser-visited small medieval towns and villages
off the pilgrimage route and the Roman via Cassia.
One is blessed with hot mineral springs, which have been
spewing forth curative waters since ancient times and once
provided relief for the gout suffered by the Medici. Today,
instead of a piazza, there is a huge pool of warm
mineral water in the center of the village!
d'Orcia - historic spa village dating back to the Romans!
d'Orcia - remote medieval hill town enclosed with walls
highlight of our exploration the middle Val d'Orcia
will be an exclusive private tour outside
of the extremely limited public visiting hours of
the splendid gardens at La Foce, the villa of
the Anglo-American writer, Marchesa Iris Origo (1902-1988),
now the property of her daughters. Here the English architect,
Cecil Pinsent, created his masterpiece.
(He had made his fame working for Bernard Berenson at his
villa in Fiesole, as well as for Iris' mother, who restored
the gardens of the Villa Medici of Fiesole, where Iris grew
also take time to explore the upper Val d'Orcia,
where a Medici fortress high on a crag once guarded the
border of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany with the Papal territories
and more recently provided the background for a dramatic
scene in the film, "The Gladiator".
Upper Val d'Orcia
in our sojourn in the Val d'Orcia we'll devote a day to visiting
the provincial capital, Siena, which, for centuries,
dominated the lands to its south, including the Orcia Valleyas
source of wealth, from agriculture, and through a network
of hospices for pilgrims en route to Rome along the via Francigena.
red brick medieval town is known for its superb Gothic buildings,
including the Duomo (Cathedral), richly decorated
with white marble sculpture both in its interior and on
its façade, and the Palazzo Pubblico, arguably
the most handsome medieval town hall in Tuscany-and the
focal point of il Campo, Siena's main square,
an especially welcoming urban space and absolutely unique
in Italy. The soaring bell tower was the model for others
we will see during our stay in the Val d'Orcia
Several of Siena's noble families owned fiefs in the territory
south of the city; one in particular is of interest to our
sojourn in the Val d'Orcia: the Piccolomini. The charming
hill town of Pienza, in the "Middle Orcia"
was the birthplace of the family's scion at the beginning
of the 15th century: Aenaeus Silvius Piccolomini, a Renaissance
humanist who became Pope Pius II. His nephew, a cardinal
(and later Pope Pius III), built a library inside Siena's
Cathedral in honor of "the Humanist Pope". The
frescoes, by Pinturicchio, that decorate every inch of the
Libreria Piccolomini comprise one of the
masterpieces of Italian Renaissance painting.
our last day in the evocative Tuscan countryside we'll travel
to Florence by way of the mysterious Crete senesi
eroded clay and limestone hills south of Siena
and, east and northeast of Siena, the verdant Chianti
Hills or Monti del Chanti the most
prestigious area of the Chianti Classico wine "zone".
destination for a tour of the exquisite garden and
cellars dating back a thousand years is a former
monastery, now a prestigious wine estate, in the same family
since the middle of the 19th century.
Organically grown Sangiovese grapes -
private wine estate
in the Chianti Hills
wine estate in the Chianti Hills, dating back 1,000 years!
former cloister of the private wine estate we will visit
in the Chianti Hills.
Here we also will be treated to a special private luncheon
in the family dining room.
then take the old scenic road the Chiantigiana
- to Florence and check in to our top first class hotel
in the historic center, for two nights. Our luxurious residence
could not be better located for visits to Florence's most
compelling monuments, museums and churches and is near a
variety of restaurants, trattorie and shops.
last full day of our Tuscan sojourn will remain unscheduled
for individual pursuits. The Uffizi galleries
are only a short walk from our hotel; Travel Designs will
be happy to make an early morning appointment for tour participants
who would like to enter ahead of the large tour groups.
Also close by is the recently reorganized Cathedral Museum,
with Lorenzo Ghiberti's original "Doors of Paradise",
now entirely restored and on display.
the evening, we'll gather to share our experiences of the
day and to celebrate our singular journey with an elegant
aperitivo and Farewell dinner in a very special room
within our hotelabsolutely unique in Florence!
caffè in nearby Piazza Signoria
- Duomo - Brunelleschi's magnificent dome
TUSCANY off the Beaten Path tour will conclude
in Florence Saturday, May
13 after breakfast, with individual departures
for Florence's Amerigo Vespucci airport, an easy
taxi ride from the hotelor for the Santa Maria Novella
train station, if you wish to extend your stay in Italy.
the trip, you can look forward to wonderful meals, with
all menus planned personally by Travel Designs, in
collaboration with our restaurant owners and chefs in Tuscany.
Great attention is given to variety and regional cuisine.
of course, is famous not only for fine wines but also for
extra virgin olive oil and artisanal food products such
as prosciutto, salame and the famous Pecorino
di Pienza. One of our special visits, in fact, will
be to a prestigious family-owned sheep farm to learn how
the cheese is made.
seasonal vegetables and fruit
salame e formaggi di pecora (sheep's cheeses)
daily breakfast buffets will include fresh sheep's milk
ricotta as well as a variety of cereals, fruit, yogurt,
eggs and made-in-house pastries and torte (cakes).
d'Orcia - olives
you take pleasure in breathtaking views, small engaging
art towns and villages, splendid gardens, great food and
wine, and plenty of easy walking, then this trip is for
hope that you will be able to join us for our singular journey
along the lesser-traveled byways of southern Tuscany!!
d'Orcia - two lesser-visited medieval walled towns.
size must be limited to ensure the high quality
expected by our travelers. Our meals together will be enjoyed
in restaurants and trattorie too small for large
groups and our unusual walks and private visits are impossible
to achieve with large numbers of participants.
registration is advised.
For detailed tour information, please contact us at:
P.O. Box 782 ? Alfred, NY 14802
look forward to hearing from you!
and Roger Smith
luncheon at a private wine estate in Tuscany
All photographs by Travel Designs