is also a shortened easier version of the walks described below)
Meeting Point: Florence Rail Station 4.00 pm.
Day One: Pick up at Florence Santa Maria Novella Rail Station and transfer on our private
bus through the Chianti wine area to the town of Cortona in Eastern Tuscany.
This will be our base for the seven day walking holiday.
Our bus will take us to start our warm-up walk
along the Val di Chiana, on the way to Arezzo. The path follows the main
canal of the Chiana Valley, which is the result of many centuries of
ingenious engineering, started by the Romans, continued by the Medicis but
accomplished only during the Tuscan Grand Duchy of the Asburgo-Lorena
family. This is an opportunity for bird-watching, getting acquainted with
each other and admiring the Tuscan countryside. We arrive in Arezzo by
mid-day and enjoy an afternoon exploring this lovely city. Founded 2,600
years ago by the Etruscans, Arezzo is one of the most interesting towns in
central Italy. Rich in history, monuments, and artistic tradition, it is the
birthplace of the poet Petrarch, of the painter Vasari, and of the medieval
musician Guido d'Arezzo. Its artistic treasures include the fresco cycle of the
"Legend of the Cross" by Piero della Francesca which is considered one of the
highest achievements of Italian art. .
with a short bus ride into the lovely Tuscan countryside. Our walk is on
quiet country roads past vineyards, olive groves, farmhouses and the fields
of Val de Chiana. Our goal is the Benedictine Abbey of Farneta. Built around
the 8th and 9th centuries on the site of an ancient Roman temple and thanks to the great generosity of the Counts of
Ronzano, it reached the height of its splendour between the 9th and the 14th
centuries. During that time the abbey was visited and enriched by many Popes
and Imperators. The adjacent museum has Roman tombs, Etruscan urns,
religious statues of St. Peter and St. Paul, paintings from the 16th century
and some fossil exhibits. Today, the abbey owns the surrounding land which
includes an olive grove producing extra virgin olive oil and a vineyard.
A serene Madonna is honoured by jewels hung on her hands by devotees and holds a basket
where people deposit notes and prayers. Local legend has it that a woman,
famed for her beauty, had through loose living become blind. On arrival at
the Abbey, she was not allowed to enter the shrine until she confessed her
sins to a priest. He demanded her beautiful tresses were cut and
carried into church on a pole. The lady followed as rose petals
fluttered from the sky making a scented carpet. She
prayed to the Virgin that her sight might be restored and this was granted,
on the homeward journey, the shorn beauty looked regretfully back, bemoaning
the loss of her hair and wishing she had it again. Her wish was immediately
granted, but, with her hair, her blindness also returned.
We picnic here then descend and return to Cortona where one can explore
many artistic and
architectural treasures - the Piazza del Duomo and its Romanesque cathedral;
the 13th century Praetorian Palace and the Etruscan Museum. The town has
many cafes and shops and there is a chance to browse, relax and
explore (The movie Under the Tuscan Sun was filmed here).
Day Four: We start early to head to Chiusi and from here walk on
quiet roads and woodland path up to the remote monastery of La Verna where
St. Francis of Assisi spent much of his life. This old monastery is
decorated with unique masterpieces by the great artist Della Robbia.
In the afternoon there is choice of taking another peaceful walk around
Monte Penna, starting from the monastery, or you might choose to relax and
enjoy strolling the small paths around La Verna. From here we walk
down to the town of Chiusi della Verna.
Today we visit Assisi a UNESCO World Heritage site and from here it is
possible to walk to St Francis’ hermitage. St Francis is the patron saint of
today's environmental movement and this area has kept his memory alive. At
the Hermitage of St Francis there is a tree which is said to have shaded St
Francis while he preached to the birds. The day is free to explore the great
spiritual and artistic treasures of Assisi. We suggest sampling some of the
local specialties for lunch ... a creamy risotto with mascarpone cheese,
grilled aubergine, deep-fried olives and zucchini flowers, sformato (a
souffle) of potato and snail with porcini mushroom sauce. Try a panna cotta
(a custardy cream with a sauce of hazelnuts, wine and honey) or a sublime
Day Six: Today our walk is near Lake Trasimeno where, in
217 BC, the Cathaginians led by Hannibal defeated the Roman army. Our walk is through typical
Mediterranean woods and countryside with spectacular views. Along the way
are historical landmarks describing the great battle that took place here. It
was one of the largest and most successful ambushes in military history.
We end the walk at the small town of Tuoro sul Trasimeno and have time to
explore or relax before heading back to Cortona.
bus takes us south
to the hilltop town of Castiglioncello del Trinoro and from this extremely
panoramic spot we walk towards La Foce with its spectacular
renaissance gardens. La Foce is the home of the author Lady Iris Origo who
wrote in her book "War in the Val D'Órcia" of her World War II experiences
as an Englishwoman living in Italy. The Val D'Órcia is the Tuscan
countryside of your imagination with cypress-lined roads and rolling golden
hills. We picnic at a quaint roadside inn and from here we continue by bus
to Pienza and Sant'Anna in Camprena where the movie The English
Patient was filmed.
Day Eight: Return by private bus to the Florence Rail Station arriving
about 11.00 am.
Level of Difficulty:
The walking is moderate with
steep ascents. Distance covered each day averages 11 - 15 kilometres. Paths
include paved roads, dirt tracks and stony paths. Our support bus is
available to assist walkers where possible.