Guided Rambling Holidays

Eastern Tuscany,  Italy

Gentle to moderate rambles with English speaking guides.

Meeting Point: Florence Santa Maria Novella Rail Station 4.00 pm.

Day One:
  Pick up at Florence 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.

Day Two: Our bus will take us to start our warm-up walk along the Val di Chiana, on the way to Arezzo. The walk is on quiet country roads passing vineyards, olive groves, farmhouses and the fields of the Chiana Valley. The territory 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 getting acquainted with each other and admiring the Tuscan countryside. Our goal is the Benedictine Abbey of Farneta built around the 9th century on the site of an ancient Roman temple. The abbey reached the height of its splendour between the 9th and the 14th centuries when it was visited and enriched by Popes and Emperors. The adjacent museum contains 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.

We arrive in Arezzo in early afternoon and explore 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 and of the painter Vasari. Its artistic treasures include the frescoes of the "Legend of the Cross" which is considered one of the highest achievements of Italian art.    Easy walk 8 km    Harder walk 10 km

Day Three: We start at the very top of the hill in Cortona where we find an old church dedicated to St Margherita, protector of the town.  From here we make our way along small roads with magnificent views of the Val de Chiana.  Our goal is the quiet Eremo delle Celle, a picturesque hermitage built on the shore of a stream around the cave where St Francis of Assisi came regularly on retreat during his long journeys on foot.  It is an ideal spot for our picnic.

In the afternoon we continue walking until we reach the plain where the Etruscans had built a monumental tomb and holy altar that was hidden for centuries.

Later in the day we return to Cortona where there is time to explore. One finds many artistic and architectural treasures - the Piazza del Duomo and its Romanesque cathedral; the 13th century Praetorian Palace and the Etruscan Museum. The town is not just about churches and museums. There are many cafes, gelaterias and shops.  (The movie Under the Tuscan Sun was filmed here).  Easy walk 6 km   Harder 13 km

Day Four:  We start early to head to Casentino National Park, one of the most important forests in Europe. It is rich in flor and fauna but also in art and history.  Following quiet roads and woodland paths shaded by beech and fir trees, we walk around Mounte Penne to reach the remote sanctuary of La Verna where St. Francis spent much of his life. The old churches are decorated with unique masterpieces by the great artist Della Robbia. In the afternoon we enjoy another peaceful walk down to the town of Chiusi della Verna.   Easy walk 5 km   Harder walk 9 km

Day Five:  Today we visit Assisi  a UNESCO World Heritage site and home of St Francis, the patron saint of today's environmental movement.  At the Hermitage of St Francis there is a tree which is said to have shaded St Francis while he preached to the birds. We start with a walk to enter Assisi following the footsteps of St Francis along the last leg of what is called the Franciscan Way (the walking itinerary from La Verna to Assisi). It leads through the "Bosco di St Francesco" (the wood of St Francis) which was recently restored so visitors could experience nature as it existed in the time of St Francis. The well-maintained trail leads through the "Terzo Paradiso" (Third Heaven) an artwork using 121 olive trees. Fig, nut and fruit trees have been planted evoking the gardens that were once tended by nuns. Among the peaceful woods we find a restored 13th century church, a 12th century mill and tower.
The remainder of 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 tiramisu. 

Day Six: Today our walk is near Lake Trasimeno where, in 217 BC, the Cathaginians led by Hannibal defeated the Roman army. Along the way are historical landmarks describing the great battle that was one of the largest and most successful ambushes in military history. Our walk is on the hills above Lake Trasimeno with spectacular views. We end the walk at the small fortified town of Passignano sul Trasimeno and have time to explore or relax over a cappuccino before heading back to Cortona.
Easy walk 8 km    Harder walk 10 km

Day Seven:
 We save the best for last. Our 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 was 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 and how she risked her life daily hiding escaped prisoners and war orphans from the Nazis. The Val D'Órcia is the Tuscan countryside of your imagination with cypress-lined roads and rolling golden hills.  We continue through beautiful countryside to the small medieval fortress village of Castelmuzio with its narrow streets and just outside the village stands a church that has a recorded history since 715AD although it is known to stand on what was once a Roman temple which stood on an earlier Etruscan site of worship. The part we see today was built in 1285AD.  Opposite the village stands the serene old monastery of Sant Anna Camprena where the film "The English Patient" was filmed.
At the end of the day we return to Cortona for a farewell dinner.    Easy walk 7 km   Harder walk 10 km

Day Eight: 
Return by private bus to the Florence Rail Station arriving about 11.00 am.
Level of Difficulty:  The walking is moderate with a few steep ascents.  Paths include paved roads, dirt tracks and stony paths. Our support bus is available to assist walkers where possible.
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