Pick up at Florence Santa Maria Novella
Rail Station at 4.00 pm. Transfer by bus to our hotel near Siena (about
90 minutes through beautiful countryside). This evening before dinner we
have a welcome drink and get-together for the guides to describe the
next day's walk.
In the morning we travel a short
distance by private bus to the start of our walk.
This is one of the most stunning sections of the medieval pilgrimage
trail that led from Northern Italy to Rome. Soon we reach Abbadia Isola,
a monastery surrounded by a tiny village dating back to the 10th
century when it was an important resting place for pilgrims and
travellers on their way to Rome. We continue on through beautiful
countryside filed with olive orchards and wheat fields. Our mid-day
goal is the perfectly preserved walled medieval castle/village of
Monteriggioni which has stood atop a low hill since 1200. On reaching
the town there is time to explore its narrow cobblestoned streets, relax
over a gelato, visit the museum or walk atop the castle walls. Our walk
then continues to the outskirts of Siena in time for a dip in the pool
or perhaps a drink on the vine-covered terrace.
Short walk 5 km total climb 150 m + 80 m Long walk 12.5 km total
climb 330 m + 370 m
Monday: Today we transfer by private bus to begin a walk from
the exquisite town of Pienza. Pienza has changed little since it was
built in the 15th century as a project of Pope Pius II. A native of
this region, the pontiff’s dream was to create an “ ideal” town.
Construction started but war intervened and funds ran out so the jewel
of a town now sits as if frozen in time.
We walk through the lovely Val D’Orcia (a UNESCO World Heritage site)
to the town of San Quirico and along the way picnic near the Chapel of
Vitaleta. After exploring San Quirico there is an option of continuing
on foot to Bagno Vignoni or by bus. At Bagno Vignoni we see the ancient
Roman baths fed by warm springs. In the 1400's Medici princes frequented
these hot pools for medicinal reasons. It is possible to have a
dip in one of the thermal pools before we return to Siena.
Morning transfer by private bus to a small Tuscan village where we
begin our walk to the exquisite town of San Gimignano. We ramble along quiet
country roads amid vineyards and beautiful Tuscan scenery with the
fragrance of wild fennel and rosemary pervading the air. Soon the
medieval spires of San Gimignano can be seen in the distance. In
medieval times San Gimignano was the Manhattan of its time with each
wealthy family competing to build a taller tower. Some of the spires
were for defence but some were just for the sake of egos. Our route is
easy walking but with an uphill entrance to the town at the end. San
Gimignano is a treasure-trove of museums, churches, Renaissance art and
14 original medieval towers. But, even more important, there is an
abundance of gellaterias selling mouth-watering ice-cream.
This is market day in Siena. The town is centred around a magnificent
black and white marble Duomo (cathedral) and around the famous Campo
where everything used to happen from banquets to bartering, from
hangings to horse-racing. This jewel of a town offers art treasures,
Renaissance palaces, a Medici fortress, great artistic masterpieces, and
a maze of narrow alleyways filled with shops offering scrumptious local
delicacies. There is also the Enoteca for wine tasting. The morning is
free to explore the market and in the afternoon we have a guided walking
evening there may be an optional opera concert in an atmospheric old church
converted to an auditorium in the centre of Siena. Here you can
enjoy well-known, spine-tingling arias from Italian operas sung by local
artists. These concerts stopped during the pandemic but hopefully
will start again in 2022. In 2019 tickets cost 20 euros.
Short walk 7 km total climb 270m +160 m Long walk 11 km total
climb 480 m + 230 m
Thursday: Today we stroll on country footpaths to visit the
Etruscan archaeological dig at Poggio Civitate where many interesting
Etruscan artefacts have been unearthed. The walk continues on through a
woodland trail to a remote monastery with spectacular views. We picnic
here and then our bus takes us a short distance and we continue the walk
to the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore. This exquisite old structure is
filled with fascinating frescoes by the famous Renaissance artists Luca
Signorelli and Giovanni Bazzi depicting the life of St Benedict. The
monastery was built in this remote location by the wealthy elite (males)
of Florence who wanted to escape to a spiritual life away from the city
in the early 1400’s. (Perhaps escaping plague or violent wars added to
their motivation.) Today it is still a working monastery with a shop
selling herbal remedies and home-brewed liqueurs.
Morning walk 7 km total climb 180m + 300m Optional afternoon walk 7
km 220m +260 m
Today we travel a short distance north by private bus to the small
fortified and walled village of San Gusme in the Chianti region. From
here we do a loop walk through lovely Chianti countryside and then
continue to the impressive Castello di Brolio, a medieval castle
surrounded by a Chianti wine estate with vineyards and Renaissance
gardens. Here there is a choice of doing a loop walk or visiting the
gardens and castle. The entry to the gardens includes a wine-tasting of
Chianti wines produced here.
Morning walk 7 km total climb 190m optional walk 5 km total climb
Return by private bus to Florence Rail Station about 11.00 am.