Sunday, October 9: - Depart U.S. for Lucca
Depart for Italy on independent flights from the United States. From Lucca, the nearest airport is Pisa International Airport (Galileo Galilei), which is about 40 minutes by car from our hotel.
Monday, October 10: - Arrive Lucca
Meet the scheduled group transfer at the Pisa airport and journey to the San Luca Palace in Lucca, our home for the following week. Celebrate your arrival with a welcome dinner at the Buca di Sant’Antonio, imbued with true old Italian charm. Your meal will feature traditional Lucchese cooking, including the region’s famous olive oil.
San Luca Palace (D)
Tuesday, October 11: - Lucca
Enjoy your first daily buffet breakfast on the hotel’s tranquil terrace, set amidst the ancient trees of the adjacent 200-year-old garden. Gather in the lobby after breakfast for an introductory walk atop Lucca’s most unique feature – its imposing circuit of Renaissance walls. Learn about the city’s fascinating past from your local guide, while viewing the city’s monuments from above. Continue your introduction to Lucca by visiting the city’s two finest churches from its golden age as a pilgrimage city during the 12th and 13th centuries. The Duomo di San Martino and the central church of San Michele (situated in the old Roman forum) are both beautiful, frosting-white examples of Tuscan Romanesque architecture, filled with interesting artwork and relics. Break for lunch at a classic old trattoria near the piazza where Giacomo Puccini was born and raised. In the afternoon, discover the theater-like space of the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, an oval square situated over what was the ancient Roman amphitheater – today surrounded by cheery pastel-colored houses. After viewing the ancient church of San Frediano, with its glittering medieval mosaics, stroll through the stately gardens of the Palazzo Pfanner, marked by a pleasing rhythm of statues and fountains. Your day in Lucca comes to a close with a special visit to a final church, the Chiesa di San Paolino, where Giacomo Puccini had his first official position as organist. Dinner and the evening are at leisure.
San Luca Palace (B, L)
Wednesday, October 12: - Cinque Terre: Beauty by the Sea
Drive to the Mediterranean coast of Tuscany and neighboring Liguria to discover the incomparable natural and manmade beauties of the Cinque Terre. This string of five villages perched along the mountainous coast attracts hikers, gourmets, and poets from around the world. Our tour begins with a guided stroll through the colorful port town of Manarola. Next, walk along the Via dell’Amore to the village of Riomaggiore, and onto Vernazza – with jaw-dropping panoramas at every turn. The path is mostly paved and accessible to all ages. (Contingency plans will be made for those with limitations). In Vernazza, enjoy lunch at a lovely restaurant with a panoramic view. Returning toward Lucca, follow in the footsteps of Michelangelo as you climb into the Apuan Alps for a special visit to a Carrara marble quarry with a local expert. This precious stone has been excavated since Roman times, but the process is truly dramatic seen from up close. Upon returning to Lucca, the evening is at leisure. San Luca Palace (B, L)
Thursday, October 13: - Wineries and Villages of the Maremma
This morning, embark on an expedition to the Maremma, the sparsely populated coastal region south of Lucca that offers a tranquil, bucolic countryside. Start with an expert guide in the isolated hill town of Massa Marittima, built almost entirely from austere gray stone, with its magnificent medieval cathedral. The Maremma has gained attention over the last decade as many of Italy’s top luxury vintners have developed important new wineries throughout the region – finding excellent soils, good microclimates, and lower costs than inland Tuscany. As these have flourished, a series of contemporary vineyards designed by star architects has given the Maremma an extra cache. Your visit of the area will continue to Renzo Piano’s low-slung Rocca di Frassinello. Taste its fine red wine while enjoying a specially arranged lunch in the winery. This afternoon, visit Mario Botta’s sculptural “Petra” winery that has won numerous architectural accolades. Receive a special guided tour, followed by a private tasting of the estate’s best vintages. If time permits, stop by the handsome wine village of Suvereto. Upon returning to Lucca this evening, hit the town for an independent dinner in a restaurant of your choice.
San Luca Palace (B, L, WT)
Friday, October 14: - Free Day in Lucca
Enjoy a day at leisure to explore Lucca independently.
San Luca Palace (B)
Saturday, October 15: - Etruscan Echoes: the Hills of Volterra
This morning set out for the sweeping hills around Volterra that 2,500 years ago formed the political and economic heartland of the Etruscan civilization. The hill town of Volterra gazes down on the surrounding landscape. After a stroll through olive groves and lush orchards, a local family invites you into their private villa to sample some of the Tuscan specialties grown on their organic farm. In the afternoon, follow a local historian on a guided walk through Volterra’s historic core. Highlights include the 13th-century- town square, the tiger-striped cathedral and baptistery, the ancient Roman theater, and the Etruscan Museum, one of the oldest public museums in Europe. This evening, return to Lucca for an independent dinner. San Luca Palace (B, L)
Sunday, October 16: - Villas in the Lucchese Countryside
Lucca is famous for its constellation of historic villas and gardens dotting the surrounding countryside in nearly all directions. This morning visit the Villa Torrigiani a Camigliano. The gardens are believed to have been designed by Le Notre, who also laid out Louis XIV’s magnificent grounds at Versailles. Next, continue to a tiny village in the surrounding countryside where two American authors have invited us to visit their award-winning private garden, subject of their bestselling book. Return to Lucca, where lunch and the remainder of the day are independent. Gather at the hotel this evening for a farewell dinner feast of both traditional and contemporary Tuscan cuisine at Ristorante all’Olivo, tucked away in one of the city’s most charming small squares.
San Luca Palace (B, D)
Monday, October 17: - Buon Viaggio!
Bid farewell to Lucca and transfer independently to the airport for flights home.