Tuscany and the Adriatic – April 30-May 8, 2019
An Intimate Food, Wine and Art Week: Eastern Tuscany and the Adriatic
Our 9-day program 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 a few days 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 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 relationship between man and fauna through the ages.
On the border between Tuscany and Umbria, flanked by the Apennine Mountains which slope gently along the hills and valleys down to the Adriatic Sea, lies Le Marche. Imagine Tuscany 50 years ago. This is a land strongly attached to artisan tradition, where farm to table was the norm long before the phrase was coined. Good wine and top-quality food, nearly-lost folk art, and almost none of the crowds found in other equally beautiful corners of Italy set Le Marche apart. The region also boasts dozens of cities full of art, among which the masterpieces of Piero della Francesca, Raphael, Bellini, Lorenzo Lotto, Rubens and Titian. Oh, and don’t forget that Rossini — The Barber of Seville; Cinderella — is from here as well.
Pair these virtues with a genuinely touching hospitality, borne of a land still unspoiled by mass tourism. Welcome to eastern Tuscany and Le Marche.
Please note that this tour begins with pick-up in Florence and requires that clients arrive no later than April 29, in order to be ready for our mid-morning transfer on April 30.
Day 1 – Arrival in the land of Leonardo da Vinci
Mid-morning transfer from downtown Florence. Arrival around 11am to the home of Janet and Stefano just south of Florence. Stefano’s family has been producing olive oil artisanally 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, our hosts will offer a welcome drink and light antipasti, followed by a stroll to introduce us to their town. We’ll end the evening with luscious ice cream at the gelateria owned by Carlo’s family.
Lodging for the next 3 nights: Dimora Casa Eugenia. Meals included: L, welcome drink with antipasti, gelato
Day 2 – Chiantishire
Departure after breakfast for southern Chianti. This lesser-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. We’ll enjoy a nice lunch and wine tasting, and have the chance to walk through one or two of the most scenic villages. Return in the late afternoon, and dine in town this evening. Meals included: B,L,D
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.
Mid-afternoon return home, with time to rest and pack. Dinner pairing local wines and Tuscan dishes follows at a wonderful local restaurant. Meals included: B, D
Day 4 – Crossing the Appenines: Val Tiberina (Tiber Valley) to Le Marche
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, housed in a Renaissance palace and dedicated to the thousand-year history of the relationship between man and plants. Sounds wonky but truly fascinating! Time for lunch on your own before moving on across the Appenine Mountains to the Marche region.
Arrival at Monterado and check-in at our castle hotel. A fun dinner awaits us right outside the hotel door at a local trattoria.
Lodging for the next 2 nights: Superior rooms at Castello di Monterado/Monterado. Meals included: B, D
Day 5: Urbino
Today we head for Urbino, the jewel of this part of the region and one of the most important Renaissance cities in Italy. Raphael’s Renaissance ‘hood, the vibrant university town of Urbino is often the first stop on a trip to Le Marche, and understandably so. The patriarch of the Montefeltro family, Duca Federico da Montefeltro, created the best art scene of the 15th century here, gathering the great artists, architects and scholars of his day to create a sort of think tank. The town’s splendor was made official by Unesco, which deemed the entire city center a World Heritage Site in 1998. The Duke’s brilliant studiolo (contemplation cabinet) in the Ducal Palace is entirely paneled in what must be the world’s most intricate marquetry work. After our visit we’re invited downtown to Monia’s. She opens “the cave” to guests for a discovery of Montefeltro products, including the creamiest polenta awash in truffled broth — sounds great….tastes even better! Other specialties of the region including unique cheeses and cured meats, and superb red wine enhanced with cherry.
On the way back to the hotel this afternoon, we’ll stop in Santi’Ippolito, the village of stonemasons. Here sculptor Natalia Gasparucci will show us a bit about creating sandstone sculptures from the local materials. Time to enjoy the castle library or stroll through the private woods at our hotel, as well as pack for departure tomorrow.
Complementary round trip transportation will be provided to the sea side town of Senigallia for those who wish to dine on the Adriatic. We recommend that the gourmets among you try double Michelin-starred Uliassi, one of Italy’s top 10 restaurants.
Meals included: B, L
Day 6: Monterado – Ascoli Piceno, with jewels and straw hats on the way…
We’ll take a beautiful drive through the Marche region today, stopping first at a bespoke jewelry creator, then on to the village of Montappone for a quick visit to the fun hat museum. Lunch in the village (in a palace, no less!), then we continue the journey south. To break up the drive, we’ll stop briefly at Danhera, creator of sensational luxury fragrances for the home. Finally we reach the gorgeous town of Ascoli Piceno. After settling into our spacious rooms in a city palace hotel and enjoying a welcome drink, it’s out the door for a light one-hour introduction walk to Ascoli Piceno: With a continuous history dating from the Sabine tribe in the 9th century, Ascoli (as it’s known locally) is like the long-lost cousin of ancient Rome and a small Marchigiani village, heavy on history and food. Weary legs will appreciate its lack of hills and all travellers will appreciate its historical riches, excellent pinacoteca (art gallery), trendy bars and restaurants, one of Italy’s unsung perfect piazzas and the calorific treat, olive all’ascolana (veal-stuffed fried olives). More on that tomorrow. Welcome to the hippest town in Le Marche.
We will suggest some great options for dinner tonight.
Accommodation for the next 2 nights: Superior rooms at Palazzo dei Mercanti. Meals included: B, L, welcome drink
Day 7: A DREAMY WINERY and lunch in the Adriatic countryside
After breakfast we’ll head to the hills and woman-owned-and-operated Cocci Grifoni Winery. General Manager Marilena guides us through the labyrnth of 85 years of history, recounting how Grandpa Guido sensed that this land was perfect to salvage the native Pecorino grape. From his wisdom comes the enchanting Pecorino white, which seems to pull flavors right out of these breathtakingly gorgeous hills. We’ll then sit down to a little feast, prepared to highlight their wines by Slow Food Chef Daniele Citeroni. Afternoon free for last minute shopping in Ascoli, where our local guide will show us a couple of hidden treasures. You may want to have an encounter at our hotel’s spa (caviar facial, anyone?) to help prepare you for the journey home. Farewell dinner tonight in Ascoli in a splendid location: the historical Caffè Meletti.
Meals included: B, L, D
Day 8: Ascoli Piceno – Rome
Time for last minute shopping before departure for Rome. We will zip across Italy on the motorway, with a halfway stop at the beautiful Porta Dei parchi Farm in Anversa. Italians come here to adopt a sheep or goat, but we’ll just enjoy a memorable lunch made from the fruits of the farm: homemade pasta, cheese and salumi. Late afternoon arrival at our seaside hotel near Fiumicino airport, with time to walk on the beach and remember our wonderful trip off the beaten path.
Accommodation: Classic rooms at a hotel near the Rome airport. Meals included: B, L
Day 9: Arrivederci!
Transfer to Rome Fiumicino airport after breakfast.
OPTIONAL SCULPTING CLASS AND RUSTIC DINNER
On Day 5 of our trip, after the visit to Urbino, transfer to Santi’Ippolito, the village of stonemasons, to meet the sculptor Natalia Gasparucci. Her mini-course in sculpture (about 4 hours total) will give each of us the chance to create our own sandstone mini-masterpiece. At day’s end, we will walk away with our creation! Rustic dinner (local salumi, tasting of pasta dishes with fall flavors (duck sauce, mushrooms, whatever’s fresh) in a village nearby wraps up the evening. [Additional charge for sculpting class and dinner TBD based on number of participants]