Walkers' World 
Guided Rambling Holidays in
Southern Tuscany

Itinerary:

Saturday: Pick up at Florence Santa Maria Novella Rail Station at 4.00 pm. Transfer by bus to our hotel at Vescovado di Murlo. This evening before dinner we have an orientation walk around the village of Vescovado then a welcome drink and get-together.

Sunday: Morning walk (about 1 km) to see the small medieval village of Murlo and then we travel by private bus to the hill-top town of Montalcino in the heart of the Brunello wine district. Brunello red wine is world famous - some of the best in Italy. Here, there is a chance to explore the town with its 14th century fortress, its wine tasting establishments and its quaint shops. The history of Montalcino dates back to Roman times and it reached its zenith during the Renaissance days of the Medici princes. Today it has hardly changed. 

From Montalcino we walk for about two hours surrounded by beautiful fields and vineyards on what was once an ancient Roman road. This is part of the Via Francigena on which medieval pilgrims once made their way to Rome and along the way stopped at the remote Abbey of St Antimo.  This walk is so picturesque it seems as if we reach our destination too soon. According to legend, this lovely abbey was founded in the 9th century by Charlemagne when a local herbalist miraculously cured Emperor Charlemagne's troops of an illness. We have a chance to go inside where the soft sound of a Gregorian chant echoes through the alabaster interior.

Monday: Morning transfer by private bus to a small Tuscan village where we begin our walk to 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 a stop on the route to Rome hence its prosperity. Our walk reaches the bottom of the hill below the town and here the bus awaits for anyone who does not wish to walk up the hill. The walk is about four hours with an optional half hour of hard climbing at the end.  At the top of the hill San Gimignano awaits with its treasure-trove of museums and churches, great Renaissance masterpieces and 14 of the original medieval towers still stand. But, even more important, there is an abundance of gellaterias selling mouth-watering ice-cream.

Tuesday: Today we transfer to San Quirico where we begin a walk in one of the most beautiful parts of Tuscany. We start with a downhill ramble to Bagno Vignoni with its ancient Roman baths which legend says are home to water nymphs. In the 1400's the Medici princes frequented the baths for medicinal reasons and St Catherine is said to have relaxed in the sulphur hot springs. Today there is a hotel where one can have a dip in the hot springs.
From Bagno Vignoni we continue to the exquisite town of Pienza that has changed little since it was built in the 15th century by Pope Puis II who came from this region.

Wednesday:
This is market day in Siena and it is about a 30 minute bus ride from Vescovado di Murlo. Siena 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 which are an Aladdin's cave of local delicacies. There is also the National wine library with a wine bar for tasting, secret courtyards and delicious smelling trattorias. We spend the day exploring Siena and in the late afternoon, just as the afternoon sun is turning the old bricks of the town to gold, we return by bus to Vescovado di Murlo.

Thursday: Today we begin our walk from the hotel. 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 continue to La Befa. Our bus then takes us a short distance and we continue the walk to The Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore (those who prefer can take the bus right to the abbey). This exquisite old monastery is filled with frescoes by the famous Renaissance artists Luca Signorelli  and Giovanni Bazzi (better known as Il Sodoma) 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 the 13th century plague in the city.

Friday: We save the best for last. Morning transfer to the exquisite town of Pienza built in the 1500's by Pope Pius II. From here we walk down a gradual incline through magnificent wine country to the tiny village of Monticchiello where we stop for a picnic and perhaps a gelato. Our bus awaits for anyone who wishes to stop (they ride to Montepulciano). For those who wish to continue walking it is another two hours to reach Montepulciano on foot. Montepulciano with its magical labyrinth of narrow streets, artisans workshops and boutiques selling local produce is the ultimate place for wine-tasting. (Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wine is world-famous). The town is the site of the Temple of San Biagio where a miraculous statue of the Virgin once brought fame and prosperity to the town.

Saturday:
Return by bus to Florence Rail Station about 10.30 am.

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