Tasting the Lost Corners of Tuscany
Discover Da Vinci's Domain
Be among the few Americans to distance yourself from Florence– but only by 40 km. Few Tuscan tours touch upon the quietly beautiful province of Arezzo. Our program Tasting the Lost Corners of Tuscany takes you through gentle hills covered by vines and olives, a landscape immortalized in many of Da Vinci’s works including the Mona Lisa. We arrive at the medieval hamlet of Loro Ciuffenna, dramatically positioned at the foot of the Pratomagno Mountain. On the shore of the narrow Ciuffenna River that divides the town, we’ll settle in for the week at the Dimora Casa Eugenia. Lovingly and creatively managed by the Bianchi family, this 7-room perfectly restored auberge offers a peaceful respite for those who want to savor life in a town almost untouched by foreigners.
Our pace for the week will be easy-going, allowing this gentle land to unveil its wonders in a way that we can absorb the magic. Larger towns like Arezzo and Montepulciano give an overview of the province’s history, while the smaller villages are our window into the local soul. We’ll lunch with local olive-oil makers and try some of the best Sangiovese wine in these hills. We’ll discover fabulous hidden museums like the fresco-filled Vasari Museum and the Aboca Museum, which exhibits the fascinating history of pharmacies through the ages. At night we’ll return to the delicate, gourmet cuisine and warmth of Dimora’s restaurant. Tasting the Lost Corners of Tuscany boasts a unique and very personal aspect: the hotel owners will accompany us on several excursions during the week, adding an intimate angle to this trip that very few visitors to Tuscany receive!
Day 1 – Arrival in the land of Leonardo da Vinci
Pick ups will be after breakfast as indicated in a separate document. Arrival around 10:30am to the home of Janet and Stefano just south of Florence. Stefano’s family has been producing olive oil artisinally for decades. We’ll learn about the fruit that grows best in the Florentine hills, visit the olive groves and enjoy a multi-course lunch prepared by Janet and Stefano. Orders can be placed to ship their oil directly to your home!
Departure after lunch for the medieval town of Loro Ciuffenna, about an hour south of Florence. Arrive late afternoon at the charming Dimora Casa Eugenia where we meet our hosts, Francesca and Carlo. After time to unpack, Susan and our hosts will do an orientation stroll through town. At dinner you’ll be briefed on the week’s highlights and enjoy wonderful Tuscan pizza. L, D
Lodging for the next 6 nights: Dimora Casa Eugenia
Day 2 – Loro Ciuffenna and Vino, “Seven Bridges” Style
We are awakened each day by the softly lapping waters of the Ciuffenna River and Eugenia’s scrumptious continental breakfast (the specialty: homemade cakes!). Time this morning to wander the streets of charming Loro Ciuffenna, where Carlo will show you sites like the old flour mill, still grinding the same way for centuries. Lunchtime finds us up the Pratomagno Mountain in the tiny village of Chiassaia for a lunch of schiacciatta, a Tuscan flatbread, served with freshly sliced salumi and cheeses and accompanied by homemade marmalades.
On our return to Dimora Casa Eugenia, we stop to visit the beautiful hamlet of Il Borro, which the Salvatore Ferragamo family has restored to pristine condition. We end the afternoon with a visit and wine-tasting at one of the area’s top wineries, Tenuta Sette Ponte. Return in time for an in-room massage before dinner (must reserve in advance; not included). Tonight we’ll taste a variety of freshly-prepared Tuscan dishes, paired with appropriate local wines.
Day 3 – Arezzo
Depart at 8:15 for the regional capital, Arezzo. We stop on the way for a quick visit to the gorgeous and unusual Romanesque Parish church at Gropina with its strange Etruscan iconography. Then we travel along the “road of the seven bridges” to Arezzo, considered to be one of the original 12 Etruscan towns, Arezzo was featured in Benigni’s stunning film Life is Beautiful. It was also birthplace to the scholar and poet Petrarch. We’ll discover the Cathedral and the gorgeous Piero della Francesca frescoes at the Church of San Francesco. You may also visit on your own the eye-popping Vasari Museum. Giorgio Vasari was an artist and architect, and perhaps most famously, one of Italy’s first art critics. His home, now a museum, is richly decorated with frescoes. Today is “double market” day in Arezzo: not only will we visit the food and clothing market that occurs every Saturday, but the monthly antique market also happens to be today! Arezzo has great prices, over 80 antique shops, and a very interesting local artisan boutique.
Late afternoon return home and free night for dinner at one of several restaurants in town. B
Day 4 – Val d’Ambra
Departure after breakfast for the Val d’Ambra. This little-known corner of Tuscany has many charms all its own: extremely verdant, the area is made up of intermittent valleys and rolling hills, mostly wooded or filled with poppies, sunflowers, vineyards and olive trees. Its history, shared with most of Tuscany, reaches back long before the Romans to the Etruscan civilization. A strategic position later made the area a natural link between the north-south and east-west axes of the Italian peninsula, spurring development but also many bloody battles among the leaders of Arezzo, Siena and Florence. Many traces of the fortified hilltop villages built during the Middle Ages are still visible in Cennina, San Leolino, Civitella and other places. The Val d’Ambra is not huge, so these villages and several important churches, including that of Montebenichi and the Badia a Ruoti Monastery (11th century), may be visited in a single day. We’ll return in the late afternoon, and dine in town this evening. B, L, D
Day 5 – Montepulciano
Depart at 8:15 with our guide for the medieval and Renaissance hilltown of Montepulciano. Another spot that legend tells us was founded by an Etruscan king, Montepulciano is now famous for gourmet specialties like pici pasta (a casalinga type of spaghetti that’s irresistible with the local garlicky tomato sauce) and the deep red Vino Nobile. Bring your walking shoes for a (steep!) guided stroll down the pedestrian “main street”. (Don’t miss Number 73, the Palazzo Bucelli, which has one of the most unusual foundations in Italy. Made almost entirely of rectangular Etruscan cinerary urns filled with cement and stacked like bricks, many still retain their sculpted reliefs.) Our guide leaves us at mid-day, with plenty of time to shop, wander and choose among the many offerings for lunch on our own.
On the way home this afternoon, we’ll visit and taste the famous “noble” wines at a charming family-run winery, Tenuta Le Berne. If we’re lucky, Paola will even pull out her vin santo (saint’s wine) – reserved for only her favorite visitors!
Dinner follows at a wonderful local restaurant. B, D
Day 6 – Val Tiberina (Tiber Valley)
Departure after breakfast for the Val Tiberina, where we’ll visit a relatively undiscovered corner of the province of Arezzo. A region of lovely hilltowns and open vistas, Val Tiberina was the birthplace of Piero della Francesca (whose frescoes we saw in Arezzo) and Michelangelo. We’ll walk through the town of San Sepolcro and visit its Aboca Museum, dedicated to the thousand-year history of the relationship between man and plants. We move on to Anghiari, another lovely medieval town that hugs a hill between the Tiber and Arno Rivers. Not to be missed: Busatti, where we will see traditional fabric production.
Back to Dimora Casa Eugenia in time to pack and dress for our “gala” tasting dinner. Weather permitting, our hosts grill for us tonight on the hotel’s charming terrace, pairing a different wine with each luscious course. B, D
Day 7 – Arrividerci — a presto!
Transfer after breakfast to various departure points (exact departure times to follow).
*B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner provided
Anyone for a Grape Massage?
Bask in the glory of an in-room spa treatment, lulled by the flow of the Ciuffenna River just outside the room. The choice is yours … yummy massages using hot stones, aromatherapy, or essential oils infused with herbs from Pratomagno Mountain. Hotel packages also include baths followed by massage, facials, body peeling, even an antioxidant body treatment package using grapes!
Joust of the Saracens
Clients traveling on our September 2011 “Tasting the Lost Corners of Tuscany” will have a unique opportunity to experience the “Joust of the Saracens”, an exciting and colorful ancient game of chivalry dating back to the Middle Ages that takes place twice a year in the regional capital of Arezzo. Adagio Travel can arrange balcony seats in the Piazza Grande, where a local guide will enlighten you on the rules of the joust as it unfolds in front of your eyes! A catered lunch of local specialties will enhance your experience. (Extra charge)