Susan Worner Tours

Tuscany – Gardens of Lucca, Pienza & Florence

02 – 09 September 2021

Tuscany – Gardens of Florence, Pienza & Lucca

September is a delightful season to visit Tuscany, and our tour offers a chance to discover a marvellous landscape of rolling hills with vineyards and olive trees, sweeping vistas over river valleys, and charming towns each with its own character and history. The gardens we visit have been selected for their breadth of style and influences, and several have been recently restored or extended.

We stay initially at Hotel Ilaria in Lucca, a jewel of a town enclosed by walls dating back to the Middle Ages. From here we visit stunning gardens in the nearby hills; we also discover the attractive and historic centre of Lucca, accompanied by a local guide.

We then move to Pienza, south of Siena, where we visit La Foce, the iconic garden created by Iris Origo and the designer Cecil Pinsent. Our hotel, the Corsignano, is situated next to a gateway in the medieval walls of the town. Finally we travel north to the vibrant city of Florence with its art treasures, churches and markets; from there we visit beautiful secluded gardens on hillsides planted with olive trees. Situated a few minutes from the Duomo, our comfortable, welcoming hotel, Il Guelfo Bianco, is a perfect base. A former palazzo or grand townhouse dating from the 16th century, the hotel has been well restored and retains its frescoed ceilings and architectural features.

Our group will be a maximum of 16. Travel during the tour will be by comfortable minibus.

 

Itinerary

DAY ONE – THURSDAY 02 SEPTEMBERBL

Direct flight to Pisa, to be met on arrival at the airport, followed by transfer to the hotel in Lucca. Aperitivo in the hotel bar with a short talk before enjoying dinner together in a nearby restaurant.

DAY TWO – FRIDAY 03 SEPTEMBERBLD

After breakfast we have a guided tour of the beautiful town with an excellent local guide, followed by lunch. 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 of the interior of the villa is fascinating. Return to Lucca to enjoy an aperitivo before an evening free to stroll in the town centre.

DAY THREE – SATURDAY 04 SEPTEMBERBL

On the hillside above Lucca we have a guided visit of the superb gardens at Villa Reali, once the home of Elisa Baciocchi, Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister. The gardens have recently been restored; also, the green theatre is of particular note. Heading south east through an area of abundant tree nurseries around Pistoia, we have lunch in a private garden. Continuing our journey we pass picturesque hillsides of Chianti, the town of Siena, and the sweeping landscapes of Val d’Orcia before arriving at the medieval town of Pienza. Check in to our hotel. Early evening walk through the town before enjoying dinner together.

DAY FOUR – SUNDAY 05 SEPTEMBERBL

Our morning visit is to the superb gardens of La Foce created by the writer Iris Origo, assisted by English architect 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 FIVE – MONDAY 06 SEPTEMBERBL

Morning visit to the Renaissance Palazzo Piccolomini and its intimate garden in Pienza with views towards Monte Amiata, before heading north to the delightful gardens of Villa Poggio Torselli on a vine-covered hillside south of Florence. The terraced garden features terracotta pots of lemons and has been lovingly restored in recent years. We enjoy wine tasting and a light lunch in the villa. Check in to the Hotel Il Guelfo Bianco in the centre of Florence. Evening at leisure.

DAY SIX – TUESDAY 07 SEPTEMBERBD

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 in the early 20th century by 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 (glasshouse for citrus trees). Free lunchtime is in the village of Fiesole. Return to the hotel from where we depart on foot with our local guide to discover the historic centre. Dinner in the hotel’s Bistrot.

DAY SEVEN – WEDNESDAY 08 SEPTEMBERBD

Morning visit to the Renaissance Villa La Pietra in the hills above Florence. The gardens were
laid out at the turn of the 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/Curator. We return to the hotel. Our afternoon visit is to the gardens of Villa Gamberaia, reached down a country lane from the village of Settignano outside Florence. The views over the olive groves 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. It is well known for its water parterre garden and cypress trees. Dinner together in the hotel’s Bistrot restaurant.

DAY EIGHT – THURSDAY 09 SEPTEMBERB

Departure in the morning for Pisa airport and our return flight.




Map of Tuscany


Tour Costs

£3,300 per person sharing
Single occupation of double room supplement £890

Included:

All flights and transport in modern comfortable minibus. Accommodation with en-suite bathroom, delicious meals as indicated, all garden visits and guides. Hotel & restaurant tips.

Not included:

Alcoholic and soft drinks (except the first evening’s aperitivo), items of a personal nature, comprehensive travel insurance with full cover to be taken out on payment of the deposit.
Driver’s tip.


Hotels

Hotel Ilaria – Lucca
hotelilaria.com

Hotel Corsignano – Pienza
hotelcorsignano.it

Hotel Il Guelfo Bianco
ilguelfobianco.it

Notes:

The climate in September will be warm and mellow, occasionally misty in the morning. 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.