Past Tour: Chianti Region and Tuscany

Past Tour

The Chianti Region and Tuscany: A Tour to the Heart of Italy
September 25 – October 3, 2013

Italy: Chianti Region & Tuscany with visits to Cinque Terra, Montalcino, Lucca, San Gimignano, Florence, Carrara, and Montecatini Terme.

$2899 for payment by credit card

$2849 for payment by check

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A wonderful nine-day, seven-night tour to the beautiful Tuscany and Chianti regions in the scenic heart of Italy, known for their natural beauty and world-famous wines. Organized for the FRHS by Alan Amaral of Italian Wine Services, LLC, this tour comprised a stay in the four-star Hotel Manzoni in Montecatini Terme and an extensive sightseeing program throughout the magnificent Tuscan countryside and along the beautiful coastal regions of the Italian Riviera and Liguria.

The tour included:

  • Round-trip motorcoach transportation to and from Boston’s Logan International Airport
  • Round-trip scheduled flights Boston-Rome-Florence and return, with full meal and beverage service, and stereo headsets
  • Special meet-and-greet service and assistance at Logan International Airport by a professional Travel Service Representative
  • Portage of luggage at the hotel
  • All transfers and sightseeing aboard a private, temperature-controlled, deluxe touring motor coach
  • Seven-night accommodation at the four-star Hotel Manzoni in Montecatini Terme, based on twin occupancy. Four single rooms were available at a supplement of $420 per single.
  • Substantial breakfast each morning, four lunches, and dinner each evening
  • Full services of a professional driver and English-speaking Tour Escort who accompanied our group throughout the tour
  • Expert English-speaking tour guides where required
  • Comprehensive sightseeing package as described in the itinerary, including entrance fees where applicable
  • All room and meal taxes and gratuities to bellmen
  • Pre-tour departure orientation festa

Itinerary

Day 1: Boston to Florence

FRHS travelers were met by deluxe motorcoach for transfer to Boston’s Logan International Airport to board our transatlantic flight to Florence, via an intermediate stop in Rome.

Travelogue

Group assembly and effortless transfer to Boston for check-in at Alitalia; a very nice group of fellow travelers. Pleasant flight with ample food and beverage service; very accommodating attendants. Landing in Rome remarkably smooth; would not have disturbed a sleeping baby.

Day 2: Florence & Montecatini Terme

Arrival at the airport in Florence, where we were met by a professional Tour Escort who assisted with our transfer. We then boarded our private deluxe motorcoach for the short drive to Montecatini Terme for check-in and lunch at the Hotel Manzoni. The remainder of the afternoon was at leisure to relax and get acquainted with this idyllic hillside town. Dinner and overnight at our hotel.

Travelogue

Short flight from Rome to Florence. Greeted by our guide, Bruno, and driver, Bepe. Easy transfer to Hotel Manzoni, where we were made welcome by the staff. Very comfortable accommodations and centrally located – Montecatini Terme a lovely city, long noted for its healing mineral baths. R & R. Excellent dinner.

Day 3: Siena & San Gimignano

After breakfast, we journeyed along the Tuscan countryside to Siena, home of the Palio and the historic tradition of the famous horse race in the City Square, or Piazza Del Campo. We visited the nearby Basilica of St. Domenic, where St. Catherine of Siena is memorialized. Our guide took us on a walking tour of the city’s contradas, or neighborhoods, each with a colorful history as it relates to the Palio. We had time to explore the narrow streets, shops, the stunning Duomo, and the cafes. Next, we journeyed a short distance to San Gimignano, “City of Towers,” where we explored this quaint town with its towers and scenic Tuscan countryside views. We enjoyed a delightful wine tasting and lunch at the famous Tentua Torciano estate and winery where 400 years of winemaking continues under the watchful eye of our host, Pierluigi. Return to Montecatini Terme for dinner and overnight.

Travelogue

Hearty breakfast before boarding for the drive to Siena; the Tuscan countryside is breathtaking. Siena has to be seen to be believed — seemingly transported back in time … a resident 500 years dead could return and find familiar surroundings. The serenity of the Basilica Cateriniana San Domenico is overwhelming, the air permeated with a heady nectar distilled from ages of burning incense and beeswax; relics of St. Catherine somewhat gruesome by modern standards. Siena’s contradas a fascinating maze of steep cobbled alleyways and passages bordered by the walls of stunning masonry structures. Piazza Del Campo beautifully situated and buzzing with activity; locals going about their daily business, visitors from the world over; lovely shops and street vendors offering all sorts of wares. Panforte di Sienna delicious. Lunch hosted by Pierluigi with a more-than-ample quantity of delicious wine at the beautifully situated Tentura Torciano winery with its impressive walled garden courtyard. San Gimignano an impressive sight to behold, with its many ancient towers. Dinner at our hotel.

Day 4: Cinque Terre

Today, we experienced Cinque Terre on the Ligurian seaside, sometimes called the “Italian Riviera,” and an excursion to Manorola and its historic vineyards. We ferried to Vernazza and Monterossa, where we enjoyed lunch and wine tasting. Later in the afternoon, we traveled by ferry to Portovenere to visit this seaside peninsula before returning to our hotel for dinner.

Travelogue

Another ample breakfast before boarding for the drive to Cinque Terre; lovely scenery en route. Cinque Terre is rugged, with steep terrain jutting up from the Mediterranean, winding roads, and clinging, colorful stucco houses. Impressive terraced vineyards evidence of the locals’ determination to tame the landscape, with traces of retaining walls dating back to Etruscan times. These are a very hardy people. Vernazza and Monterossa strikingly situated; beautiful gnarly-stemmed Bougainvillea at every turn and a wealth of flowers. Delightful ferry ride through marvelous country. Dinner at our hotel.

Day 5: Montalcino Region/Castello Banfi

Here we continued our discovery of Italy and came to realize why Tuscany is known for its food and wine! We learned about the finest Chianti Classico Riserva, Italian Super Tuscans, and Brunello di Montalcino wine produced by the world famous Banfi Vineyards in Montalcino by the Mariani family. We toured the Banfi estate and enjoyed wine and a delightful lunch at Taverna Banfi in the Castel Poggio alla Maura. After lunch, we had an opportunity to shop at the Enoteca and visit the Banfi Glass Museum. Later, we stopped at the 14th century fortified hill town of Montalcino for sightseeing and shopping. Returned to Montecatini Terme for dinner at our hotel.

Travelogue

Fabulous day! Breakfast and boarding as usual with much to see along the way; one could drive for hours through this beautiful landscape and never get bored. Castelo Banfi ideally situated amidst acres of rolling landscape and beautifully manicured vineyards … surpassing any picture postcard. Fascinating tour of this pristine winery. Taverna Banfi flawless with food and wine beyond belief … absolute perfection. Overlapping rainbows hailed our departure. Fine shopping in Montalcino, with quaint shops in age-old buildings. Dinner at our hotel.

Day 6: Lucca

After breakfast, we took the short ride to Lucca, one of the wealthiest towns in Tuscany and home of the great composer Giacomo Puccini. We saw ancient walls encircling a quaint and picturesque series of narrow streets, stunning architecture, churches, and relaxing piazzas. Because of the narrow streets, residents rely primarily on bicycles rather than cars for transportation. This is the area where Colline Lucchesi and Montecarlo wines are produced. We enjoyed a tour of this medieval city and had some leisure time for lunch on our own, before our return to Montecatini Terme for relaxation and dinner at our hotel.

Travelogue

Morning as usual before boarding. Entry into Lucca through massive, seemingly impregnable walls; a fascinating historical tour. Pouring rain but no one cares – many laughs because of it. Basilica of San Frediano impressive with massive columns salvaged from ancient Roman structures and gifted to Lucca by some long-dead Pope, and a chapel to Saint Zita, whose sacred, albeit macabre, remains are on display. A mindboggling array of architecture in myriad styles is a feast for the eyes … Ancient Roman, Medieval, Palladian, Baroque … all impressive. Fascinating guided tour of a grand 15th/16th century villa, still undergoing restoration. 

A change of plans: Dinner at our hotel replaced, per unanimous vote of the group, with dinner, winetasting, and tour at Fattoria Il Poggio – every course delicious, with superb wine and olive oil produced on site; delectable biscotti. Balsamic vinegar like some sweet nectar. Dancing under the stars in the Tuscan countryside – surreal!

Day 7: Florence

Today, we journeyed to Florence, the regional capital of Tuscany, the center of the Italian Renaissance and a city of many treasures. We visited the Academy, home of Michelangelo’s masterpieces including the statue of David and the unfinished Pietas. The tour continued on to the magnificent Duomo of Brunellschi and Giotto’s Bell Tower. Finally, we visited the Piazza Santa Croce, where we experienced a “fashion show” at the famed leather and gold shops and showrooms. The rest of the day was at leisure, with ample time for lunch on our own, and to shop and stroll the Piazza Delle Signoria and the famous ancient bridge, Ponte Vecchio, where jewelry handcrafted by Italian artisans abounds. Returned to Montecatini for dinner and overnight.

Travelogue

Magnificent Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance; few words can adequately describe its grandeur. Art and architecture enough to overwhelm the most erudite connoisseur and grandeur on a massive, unimaginable scale. Beauty at every turn, too much to take in. Shopping here among the finest Italy has to offer with an astonishing array of choices; the finest leather, exquisite papers, luminous silks … extraordinary. Dinner at our hotel.

Day 8: Carrara

After breakfast, we journeyed to the mountains and valleys of Carrara, the “marble capital of Italy,” where stone has been quarried and traded since Roman times. We were greeted by a local guide for a fascinating visit to the Fantacitti Quarry to see how marble is quarried and learn about the marble industry from ancient to modern times. We returned to Montecatini for an afternoon at leisure and, in the evening, enjoyed our farewell dinner and festa at our hotel.

Travelogue

Our final day touring and a momentous one: the coach broke down on its way up the mountainside to the Fantacitti Quarry. Convenient location for a mishap due to a marble shop and restrooms; shop owner delighted, no doubt. Tour participants good sports all and not a grumble. An impromptu tour amidst impressive mountain scenery with working quarries all about. Return to hotel in a replacement coach for lunch; farewell dinner in Montecatini.

Day 9: Montecatini, Florence, Boston

Transfered to Florence for our return flight to Boston.

Travelogue

Up early for return to Boston … a long day ahead but pleasant memories for all – a delightful tour.

Testimonial 

”There are not enough superlatives to describe the trip to Tuscany with the Fall River Historical Society in 2013. We stayed in Montecatini, the birthplace of Verdi. Here, we were able to take strolls after beautiful dinners; this left us with a strong sense of belonging.

“It was so interesting to travel to beautiful locations such as Siena, Lucca, Florence, and Cinque Terre. In Lucca, we had the same guide that was featured in Rick Steves’ travel show! Later in the trip, we sampled olive oil, ate cheese and pasta, and drank fine wines in a castle courtyard surrounded by vineyards. It was breathtaking, it seemed to be out of a storybook.

“Alan Amaral seamlessly executed every detail of this extensive trip. Everyone involved made it so memorable. All activities flowed and contributed to the happiness of the vacationers. The bus driver, Bepe, and the guide, Bruno, were both very entertaining and professional. I am excited to see them on our next trip. The FRHS representatives, Michael Martins, Dennis Binette, and Kathy Rockett were on top of every situation. They were extremely knowledgeable and attentive to all questions or requests.

“It was altogether an interesting, fun, and thoroughly enjoyable trip … La Dolce Vita … .”

—Deborah A. Almeida, D.M.D.

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