About Cortona... Cortona is one of the true jewels of the Tuscan “hill towns.” Cortona, which is often called the “City of Art,” has its origin as an Etruscan city that pre-dates Roman times with sections of its walls dating back some 2500 years. As is typical of Tuscan hill-towns, Cortona is a walled city that, for purposes of defense, was built atop a prominent geographical point. The stone buildings and streets not only have the romance, style, and charm that are particular to Tuscany, but also speak of the lives and times Cortona has witnessed. An encounter with Cortona is an encounter with music & art, with history and with spirituality. Getting to know this timeless city is a real rediscovery of our past. Cortona offers testimony to its history as well as an enchanting view of the landscape enclosed by Lake Trasimeno and the Apennine mountains.
Florence and Siena are two wonderful cities in Tuscany, historically related yet with unique qualities and assets. About Florence...
In Florence we will have the opportunity to visit the Uffizi Gallery, including works by Botticcelli & Michaelangelo. The Uffizi Gallery covers an area of about 8.000 sq.m.. and contains one of the most important collections of art of all times, including classical sculpture and paintings on canvas and wood by 13th to 18th century Italian and foreign schools. The Gallery of the Uffizi was also the first museum ever to be opened to the public. Its four centuries of history make the Uffizi Gallery the oldest museum in the world. And there is much more to Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, than can be taken in in a single day, so we wil also have plenty of time to wander about the historic center to enjoy shopping, sightseeing, people-watching, and of coarse, enjoying a break at one of the many outdoor cafes! The Central Market and the outdoor market at San Lorenzo; the Duomo; Ponte Vecchio; Piazza della Signoria and more, For much more detailed info about Florence and to view images visit Florence info online at http://www.florenceitaly.net/. A nice interactive site featuring links and info to all of the state museums in Florence: http://www.firenzemusei.it/index2.html.
Florence and the Arno River
Ponte Vecchio in Florence
Siena's Piazza IL Campo
Walking the streets of the old quarter in Siena is like taking a step into the past. A walled city situated on three hills inthe center of the Tuscany region, Siena is an almost intact medieval city with its narrow streets and the unique, shell-shaped Piazza del Campo. Outside the old quarter, you will find everything from lush green vineyards, valleys and wooded countryside to fumaroles and barren areas. In a city known for its art, you may wish to visit the National Gallery, the Town Hall, the Cathedral and Cathedral Museum. It is also worth visiting the smaller galleries, museums, libraries and churches in the towns and villages scattered throughout Tuscany. The medieval and renaissance elements of the region have been preserved throughout the centuries by the citizens of Tuscany, and are beyond compare. The centerpiece of Siena is Il Campo, one of Europe’s most wonderful piazzas. We will have plenty of time to wander and shop or just relax and sip a cappuccino! Siena info online: http://europeforvisitors.com/europe/articles/bls_siena_info_intro.htm
Siena's lively neighborhoods
The Umbria town of Assisi stands on a hill in the Apennines with an expansive view of the plains below. Although well known in Roman times and throughout the Middle Ages, it owes its modern fame chiefly to St. Francis of Assisi, who was born there in 1182 and died there in 1226. Above his tomb is the basilica of St. Francis—two Gothic churches (both consecrated 1253) decorated with frescoes depicting the life of the saint and other scenes, executed by Cimabue, Giotto, Martini, and others. The basilica was severely damaged in a 1997 earthquake but reopened in 1999 after partial restoration. The Franciscan convent nearby has a valuable library. Other landmarks in Assisi are the Cathedral of San Rufino (begun 1140), the Church of Santa Chiara (1257-65), and a 14th-century castle. In the plain below is the imposing late-Renaissance Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli (1569-1679), built around the little chapel of Porziuncola, where St. Francis relinquished active leadership of his order. Also nearby are the Carceri Hermitage (15th cent.) and the Convent of San Damiano (begun 11th cent.).
Assisi's upper vilage
Asent to Orvieto via tram
About Orvieto... Orvieto is perched on a plateau of tufa rock with the sillouette of its world famous Duomo visible for miles around. The heart of Orvieto is undoubtedly Piazza del Duomo, surrounded by significant municipal buildings and the façade of the Duomo, a masterpiece of gothic architecture with its polychrome marble inlays and dazzling mosaics. The interior of the cathedral contains, among other important works of art, Luca Signorelli’s fresco cycles depicting the Antichrist, Armageddon, the Resurrection of the Flesh, the Chosen and the Reprobates, along with a spectacular Last Judgement in the San Brizio Chapel. Another great artist, Beato Angelico, completed the angels in the vaults of the ceiling. Started in 1290, the Duomo took several centuries before completion. At the corner of Via del Duomo there still survives the mechanical clock tower that chimed the moments of work and rest for the workmen in the building site over the centuries.
A number of Etruscan sites reflect the importance of the city even before Roman rule. They are the Necropoli del Crocifisso del Tufo burial ground at the base of the plateau on which the city stands and the underground tunnels and passages beneath the city. The network of passages were enlarged during the Middle Ages for a number of reasons that ranged from the need to make additional water cisterns to spaces for breeding pigeons. Today these underground passages form almost another city beneath Orvieto. Also of interest is the Pozzo di San Patrizio well, a remarkable architectural feat designed for Pope Clement VII in the 16th century by Antonio da Sangallo. The city’s public art collections are also well worth a visit, and are divided between the Museo Claudio Faina, the Museo Archeologico and the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.
Tufa cliffs of Orvieto
About Lago Trasimeno, Passignano & Isola Maggiore… Lago Trasimeno, situated in Umbria just south of the border with Tuscany, is the largest lake in central Italy. The lake is surrounded by mountains to the north, east and south and has three islands: Isola Maggiore, Isola Minore and Isola Polvese. The shoreline is dotted with medieval villages of various sizes such as Passignano sul Trasimeno, Tuoro, San Feliciano & Castiglion del Lago. Most of the villages sustain some degree of commercial fishing supplying local restaurants with fresh fish.Passignano sul Trasimeno, now a popular summer destination for European vacationers features a quaint medieval town with characteristic stone structures and a well-developed waterfront with a winding promenade along the water’s edge. There are a variety of shops as well as restaurants with menus featuring fresh fish from the lake. Panoramic views of the surrounding countryside may be seen from atop the fortress.Isola Maggiore is the only inhabited island on the lake and is home to a small population of year-rounders. It gained importance as a spiritual site after St. Francis of Assisi spent time on the island in retreat. The site of his encampment is a short walk from the boat dock. The village has a single street lined with Roman and medieval structures. Foot paths lead from both ends of the main street to walks up and over the island through olive groves which are home to pheasant and rabbits. Fishing and the making of Irish-style lace continue today, however to a much lesser extent. The Merletto Museum depicts the history of lace making on the island.
09.00 am: Meeting and departure for the wine tasting tour...
Our first stop is Contucci Wines in Montepulciano's city center where we visit their old cellars dating back to the XIIIth century. Here we have the opportunity to taste 3 wines (3 types of Nobile of Montepulciano and a Montepulciano Red) accompanied by some snacks. The Contucci family, owners of the Cellars, have had an important role in the making of the Vino Nobile of Montepulciano famous all over the world. Small quantities of Vino Nobile are matured for a long time in these cellars with excellent results, even up to 30/35 years (the oldest bottle now dates back to 1887). "A noble wine destined for the table of gentle folk", as it is written in documents of 1700.
11.00 am.: Departure for Pienza, the beautiful Renaissance town built by Pope Pio the second. This town is famous also for its 'Pecorino'cheese. You will have time to visit the town on your own, then depart for Montalcino at around 12.30
13.15 (1.15pm) : Arrival at Montalcino and the Santa Giulia Vineyard. Here we taste one Brunello, one red of Montalcino, and one Grappa Bianca of Brunello, accompanied by typical produce and local ham, salami and a typical dish of the house. There will be a guided tour of the Cellars with an explanation of the different stages of the wine-making process from the harvesting of the grapes to the bottling.
Exceptional territory, respect for the traditions of Montalcino, an authentic family vocation, a modern interpretation of wine-making and a solid passion for quality: Together these are the secrets of the success of Santa Giulia wines. You will learn a lot about their wines in beautiful surroundings.
14.50 (2.50 pm): Departure for the beautiful medieval village of Lucignano, across the valley from Cortona. Here in the cellar of Vini di Toscana we will taste 5 other types of wines: Sangiovese 100%, Chianti , Canaiolo 100%, Merlot 100%, and Cabernet Sauvignon 100%, accompanied by local- olive-oil ‘bruschette’. Afterwards you will have time to visit and explore this kidney-bean shaped hilltown.