Susan Worner Tours

Tuscany – Gardens from Florence to Siena and Lucca

03 – 12 September 2018

Tuscany – Gardens from Lucca to Siena

The Medici created gardens in Florence and the surrounding hills in the 16th century with grottoes, statues, boschetti and waterworks. In later times, gardens were designed in conjunction with the villa to create a harmonious perspective, and terraces were much favoured.

The early 20th century marked the revival of the Italian formal garden. This rich heritage offers a fascinating programme of gardens for our tour. Mostly private, they form a good balance encompassing the different periods.

Our appreciation of these outstanding Tuscan gardens is complemented by wine tasting, and by a visit to Impruneta where terracotta pots were first made for the della Robbia, Renaissance masters of the art of enamelling the material.

September is a delightful season to visit the region. We stay initially in the vibrant city of Florence with its art treasures, churches and markets. Our comfortable, welcoming hotel situated a few minutes from the duomo is a perfect base. A former palazzo, or grand town house, dating from the 16th century and now well restored, it retains its frescoed ceilings and architectural features.

We then move to Pienza, south of Siena, and finally on to the walled medieval city of Lucca.

 

Itinerary

DAY ONE – MONDAY 03 SEPTEMBER LD

Morning flight to Florence, to be met on arrival at the airport followed by transfer to the hotel for a light lunch. In the afternoon we visit the gardens of Villa Gamberaia, reached down a country lane from the village of Settignano outside Florence. The views over the olive trees towards the city and across the Tuscan countryside are splendid. The garden, with its gabinetto di roccaglia, or grotto of Pan, links the villa to the limonaia, a greenhouse for citrus trees. It is well known for its water parterre garden and cypress trees. Aperitivo in the hotel bar before enjoying dinner together in a local restaurant.

DAY TWO – TUESDAY 04 SEPTEMBER BD

We leave for Fiesole, an attractive hill village with views over Florence and the River Arno. The gardens of Villa Le Balze, designed with ingenuity by early 20th century English architect Cecil Pinsent, are on a steep, terraced hillside with an exceptional panorama of the city. They are now part of Georgetown University’s study centre in Italy. The nearby Villa Medici dates back to the 16th century. The garden, also created under Cecil Pinsent’s influence, is divided into three terraces with a limonaia. Lunchtime is in the village of Fiesole. Our afternoon visit is to the enchanting late 16th century Villa Capponi with its secret gardens, where the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother spent holidays as a girl. Again, Cecil Pinsent’s influence is evident: He added a library to the villa and created a hidden swimming pool area. Return to the hotel; dinner together in the hotel’s Il Desco Bistro.

DAY THREE – WEDNESDAY 05 SEPTEMBER BL

Morning visit to the Renaissance Villa La Pietra in the hills above Florence. The gardens were laid out in the early 20th century by Harold Acton. Recent extensive restoration work of the formal garden has been carried out. We are taken on a guided visit with Nick Dakin-Elliot, Head Gardener. We return to the city: light lunch in hotel’s bistro. Afternoon guided visit of the historic centre of Florence with an excellent local guide. Evening free.

DAY FOUR – THURSDAY 06 SEPTEMBER BL

Depart in the morning for the delightful gardens of Villa Poggio Torselli, on a hillside south of Florence. A terraced garden featuring pots of lemons, it has been lovingly restored in recent years. We have lunch in the villa. Return to Florence and free time to enjoy more aspects of the city. Evening at leisure.

DAY FIVE – FRIDAY 07 SEPTEMBER BLD

Depart with luggage to the Chianti Hills to visit the gardens of Villa Vignamaggio where we enjoy wine-tasting followed by lunch. Travelling on, our route is through the forests and vine-covered, picturesque hillsides of Chianti, passing Siena and the sweeping landscapes of Val d’Orcia before arriving at the medieval town of Pienza. Check into our hotel. Early evening walk through the town before enjoying dinner together.

DAY SIX – SATURDAY 08 SEPTEMBER BL

Our morning visit is to the superb gardens of La Foce created by the writer Iris Origo, assisted by Cecil Pinsent, in the 1920s and ‘30s. Tall cypress, clipped box hedges, fountains, potted lemon trees and pomegranates frame this inspiring garden on a hillside, with amazing views across Val d’Orcia to Monte Amiata. Lunch in a nearby restaurant followed by a visit to an enigmatic contemporary garden north east of Siena. Il Bosco della Ragnaia was created in the 1990s by American artist Sheppard Craige in the midst of a perfect Tuscan landscape. Woodland has been chosen for shade, while classical Italian influences can be seen in stone, water, gravel, holm oaks and cypress. Evening at leisure.

DAY SEVEN – SUNDAY 09 SEPTEMBER BLD

Morning visit to the Renaissance Palazzo Piccolomini and small garden in Pienza with views to Monte Amiata. We travel on to Villa di Geggiano near Siena with an historic garden surrounding a villa – we also visit the superb interiors. Wine tasting followed by lunch are served in the villa in the company of the owner, a Chianti wine maker of note. Return to Pienza late afternoon.

DAY EIGHT – MONDAY 10 SEPTEMBER BL

We depart (with luggage) to visit a terracotta maker in the town of Impruneta, famous for centuries for hand-made pots and decorative items. We enjoy a typical Tuscan lunch in the town before heading west through the extensive tree nurseries around Pistoia. On arrival in Lucca, we check in at our hotel within the medieval walls. Late afternoon is free for a visit to the town, walking or cycling on the ramparts. Evening at leisure.

DAY NINE – TUESDAY 11 SEPTEMBER BLD

After breakfast we enjoy a guided tour of this marvellous walled town with an excellent local guide. Lunch in Lucca. Afternoon visit to the Villa Torrigiani in Camigliano, situated on the south-facing hillside above Lucca. The Baroque villa is surrounded by an early 19th century garden in the romantic style with magnificent trees. To the east lie the Baroque secret garden, the grotto of winds and the long fishpond with statues and balustrades. A guided visit to the interior of the villa is fascinating. Return to Lucca to enjoy our final dinner together in a nearby restaurant.

DAY TEN – WEDNESDAY 12 SEPTEMBER B

We depart in the morning for Pisa airport and our return flights.




Map of Tuscany


Tour Costs

£3,100 per person sharing
Single supplement £770

Included:

All flights and transport in modern comfortable minibus. Accommodation with ensuite bathroom, delicious meals as indicated, all garden visits and guides.

Not included:

Alcoholic and soft drinks (except the first evening’s aperitivo), items of a personal nature, full cover of fully comprehensive travel insurance.

Notes:

The climate in September will be warm and mellow, sometimes with misty mornings. Lightweight clothing is recommended, with a waterproof jacket in case of a shower and good shoes. Smart casual for the evening.

Meals included are shown as B (breakfast), L (lunch) and D (dinner). Often guests meet for drinks before dinner (optional).

Wifi is available at all hotels.

Activity Level:

Good walking ability for the towns; please note that some gardens are terraced, with flights of steps.