Guided Walking and Sightseeing

Northern Tuscany,  Italy

Gentle to moderate rambles with English speaking guides.

2024 DATES:               September 28 - Oct 5

Day One    Arrival
Our group meets at Florence Rail Station at 4 PM and transfers by private bus ( 1 hour) to our hotel at Montecatini Terme where we spend the next four nights.   Known since the time of the Etruscans for its healing waters, Montecatini  Terme is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its famous mineral springs and architecture exemplifying the great spa resorts of Europe. After checking in we will have a few hours to relax and then an information briefing before dinner.

Day Two             Massa-Cozzile and Montcatini Terme
A short bus ride takes us to the picturesque village of Massa e Cozzile which dates back to the 3rd century. Surrounded by chestnut groves, olive trees and vineyards, it has a storybook castle and the medieval village which retains its Old World charm.   The village is adjacent to the Parco Naturale Padule di Fucecchio a nature park with trails.  Here, we follow a path to the 12th century neo-Gothic castle of Cozzile.

In the afternoon we have a walking tour of Montecatini Terme with its 18th and 19th century thermal establishments set in green parks. A stroll along Viale Verdi takes us past the Palazzina Regia  that was once the summer residence of the Medici. Next comes the Town Hall which was the former Grand-Ducal stables, ornate fountains, the market filled with oil, honey, cheese, rustic bread and beautiful vegetables, the Verdi Theatre and leafy parks. We visit Montecatini Tettuccio spa where visitors have come  to "take the waters".  A funicular then will take us up to explore the medieval town of Montecatini Alto.

Morning short walk   Distance 4.5 km   Total climb 210 m   Total descent  210 m  Terrain cobblestones, gravel, some asphalt.
Morning long walk   Distance 7 km   Total climb 290 m  Total descent 290 m  Terrain cobblestones, forest trail, gravel roads, some asphalt.

Afternoon walk about 5 km

Day Three   Pescia and Collodi
Close to Montecatini we find the town of Pescia. Built in medieval times along a river that divided the districts of Lucca and Florence, the architecture reflects the wealth during the centuries thanks to the  industries powered by water – silk and paper production. During the Middle Ages Lucca and Florence fought over Pescia until it was finally taken over by Florence and the town flourished because of silk production.  Today it is known for its flowers.  From here, we follow a mule track sometimes paved with stone called the Via della Fabia ( Fairytale path). The route goes past olive groves and over Roman bridges and takes us to Collodi, the home to the creator of the world’s most famous puppet. Pinocchio (remember the nose that grew when telling a fib?)  We stop at Villa Garzoni with its beautiful  and interesting garden where you can lose yourself in a fantasyland of grottos, a theatre made of hedges, water games, statues of mythological figures, satyrs and peacocks.  Continuing on, we walk through the park dedicated to Pinocchio. A stroll through the park is enjoyable for children of all ages from one to ninety-nine!  It is not Disneyland – no computer screens or flashing lights but lots of interesting modern art depicting some of the characters from the tales of Pinocchio.

Short walk    Distance 7 km   Total climb 250m   Total descent 180m Terrain  cobblestones, gravel road, some asphalt
Long walk    Distance 7.5km  Total climb 405m  Total descent 335m   Terrain  forest trails, gravel road

Day Four   Vinci and Leonardo’s Countryside
Today our bus takes us to the small but famous town which gave birth to the genius par excellence Leonardo da Vinci. An ancient possession of the Counts Guidi, the town still preserves its medieval appearance with a unique shape that reminds us of an almond. We walk along quiet countryside paths among vineyards and olive groves passing traditional country houses like that where Leonardo da Vinci was born in 1452.  At the end of our walk we visit the fascinating Leonardo Museum in Vinci. The museum displays reproductions of machines Leonardo invented and models of projects many of which he never completed including a flying machine! The Museum also has replicas of his most famous paintings – including La Gioconda which the world knows as Mona Lisa. The entire town is a monument to its famous son. (Mona Lisa cookies anyone?)

Short walk  Distance 8 km   Total climb 100m    Total descent 220 m   Terrain mostly gravel roads.
Long walk  Distance 12.5 km   Total climb 420 m    Total descent 380m   Terrain  gravel roads and forest paths

Day Five    Monti Pisani and Lucca
On the way to our second hotel we stop on the Monti Pisani range, a forested mountain chain that during past centuries has offered a natural barrier between the rival republics of Pisa and Lucca. Rich in spring waters, the easy route where we walk is known for the aqueduct built in the early 1800s by Lorenzo Nottolini. A great engineering system as well as beautiful architecture, it was used to bring water to Lucca along 460 arches made of stone and brick. Following the aqueduct, late in the day we reach Lucca where we spend the next three nights in a charming hotel in a tranquil park-like setting just a few km outside the city.

Short walk   Distance 10km   Total climb 330 m  Total descent 380 m  Terrain  quiet roads, forest trails
Long walk  Distance 13.5 km  Total climb 350 m   Total descent 390 m   Terrian quiet roads, forst trails

Day Six  Lucca
 In the morning  we walk on Lucca’s panoramic ramparts and explore its bustling piazzas and cobblestoned streets.  Although it has not been involved in a war since 1430 (it escaped WWII bombing), Lucca is an impressive fortress city surrounded by Renaissance walls that prevent modern encroachment. Lucca takes great pride in its famous son, Giacomo Puccini.  Everywhere we turn there is a piazza dedicated to him or to one of his famous operas. The house where he was born is now a museum where the strains of Madame Butterfly pervade the air.

The afternoon is free to explore and in the evening you may want to attend an optional  Puccini Concert held nightly in the beautiful Basilica San Giovanni. A 90 minute concert costs 20 euros.

Morning walk on the ramparts 4.2 km

Day Seven   Ameglia, the Ligurian Riviera and the Gulf of Poets
Today we go beyond Tuscany to Liguria and our walk begins in lovely Ameglia. Perched atop a hill, the town looks as if it were a spider’s web. It is composed of circles of terraced houses with a castle in the centre.  We then head towards the coast and the views change to the dazzling blue sea of the Gulf of La Spezia. Its nickname, Gulf of Poets, comes from the fact that several renowned English poets, Shelley and Byron, as well as Italian artists, came to live here and described the incredible beauty of this gulf.  We end at the charming seaside town of Lerici where we can visit the 12th century castle or just enjoy a gelato by the harbour.  A hidden jewel in the gilded swath of land that makes up the Italian Riviera, Lerici has recently become a centre for the arts with a “Walk of Poetry” along the seaside promenade.   

Short walk  Distance 7 km  Total climb 290 m   Total descent 330 m  Terrain  Forest paths, cobblestones, stairway

Long walk   Distance  9.5 km  Total climb 455 m    Total descent 455 m  Terrain Forest paths, cobblestones, stairway

Day Eight;  Morning transfer to Pisa Central Rail Station   Arrive 10.00.

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