Tuscany Italy | May 14-24, 2018

Feb 12, 2018  By Richard Rejino

Dates: May 14-24, 2018

Cost: Per Person + Airfare

For more info call Hal, 925-935-1424″

Join Tom Brichta and Camera West for a trip in the most romantic region of Italy: Tuscany. We’ll visit some of the most picturesque villages of Tuscany where an abundance of people, architecture, landscapes, food and other photo opportunities abound. From Florence to Siena, Pienza to Montepulciano, discover the treasures of Tuscany through the lens of your camera, enjoy the cultural heritage and medieval history, the gastronomy and art de vivre of this unparalleled region. Accompanied by a local tour guide and under the advice of Tom, you will be able to take advantage of all the photography opportunities Tuscany has to offer: small historic towns and villages, beautiful rolling hills countryside, wineries and local cheese factory, gourmet meals in typical Tuscan setting… Andiamo!

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Day 1: Florence – Arrive in Florence, hotel check-in, orientation meeting and dinner In the early evening, we’ll have a Meet & Greet at the hotel so that you can get to know your fellow tour participants, your tour leader Tom Brichta and the rest of the team. It is during this meeting that we’ll also discuss the itinerary and our trip ahead. After, we’ll enjoy a Welcome Dinner to sample some Italian food and start our journey. Our hotel for the first three nights is situated in the heart of Florence – perfect for evening and morning walks on your own if arriving early. Overnight in Florence.

Day 2: Florence – Walking city tour, exploration and dinner
After breakfast, we’ll head out to explore the charming streets just after sunrise for some morning photography as the city wakes up. We will be joined by a local sightseeing tour guide for half a day, so we can better explore the history and architecture of the city. Overnight in Florence. Day 3: Florence – Cooking class, countryside exploration, dinner Today we will be heading outside Florence to cook some Italian food! The handson course covers traditional, home-style Tuscan and Italian recipes to enjoy the wonderfully intense flavors & freshness of traditional Italian dishes cooked in an evocative stone farmhouse in the hills of Chianti, surrounded by vineyard & olive groves. You will cook and eat dishes prepared using fresh, organic and natural ingredients. A complete meal (5 recipes) such as appetizers, a pasta dish, a
vegetable or meat dish and then a dessert is prepared and accompanied by the wine which best complements it. We will explore the countryside for the rest of the day, taking advantage of the light and landscape opportunities to take pictures.
Overnight in Florence.

Day 4: Siena Region – Drive south from Florence to the little hamlet of Amorosa, visit of Siena, wine tasting, dinner
Today we’ll leave behind the hustle and bustle of the big city, travel to the region of Siena and drive through the countryside where you’ll have your first glimpse of rolling hills and typical Tuscan landscapes. Siena is a magnificent city of art with characteristic alleys, wards (rioni) and towers, artisan shops and buildings that make it a not-to-be-missed touristic destination for Italians and foreigners. The city is famous for its Palio and listed as World Heritage by UNESCO for its singular artistic heritage. The historical center is dominated by Piazza del Campo, one of the biggest Medieval piazzas. It is shell-shaped and is the stage for the famous Corsa del Palio (Silk banner horserace). Here stand monuments of great value, such as the 13th-14th-Century Palazzo Pubblico (the town hall), a true jewel of the Gothic and home to the Civic Museum; the Piazza Chapel, upon which stands the bell tower, Torre del Mangia, and Jacopo della Quercia’s marvelous Gaia Fountain (in actual fact, the Piazza holds a copy, while the remains of the original are preserved in the Museum Complex of Santa Maria della Scala). One of the city’s numerous art treasures is the Duomo (12th-14th century), one of the highest expressions of Romanesque-Gothic art, abounding in sculptures, paintings and works of architecture, also home to the Opera Metropolitana Museum. Two other of the city’s art treasures are the imposing Medici Fortress in red brick, commissioned by Cosimo I in the mid-16th Century and the elegant Loggia della Mercanzia, a transition architectural work from Gothic to Renaissance style. We will stop along the way to take pictures and enjoy the scenery and have the opportunity to sample some local wines, accompanied by olive oil and cheese tastings. In the evening we arrive at our comfortable hotel where we will establish base for the next 5 nights. Tonight we will enjoy traditional, home-cooked style dishes. Overnight in Amorosa.

Day 5: Montepulciano – City tour, photography opportunities, free time, dinner Once more, we set off on the road early to capitalize on the gorgeous morning light as it comes up in the countryside. We’ll photograph as the Fog often settles in these valleys giving optimum conditions for creating wonderful photos. Entering the town via Porta al Prato you’ll find yourself in a town where the ancient medieval framework coexists beautifully with the Renaissance palaces designed by famous architects such as Vignola, Baldassarre Peruzzi, Antonio Da Sangallo Il Vecchio and Giuliano Da Sangallo. We will come across churches dating back to the 13th century such as the ones dedicated to Sant’Agostino.
Strolling through the beautiful streets we will arrive at Piazza Grande: the main square and the magnificent town center. The Palazzo Comunale (town hall) will surprise you with it’s resemblance to Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio. In the Piazza close to the Pozzo Dei Grifi e Dei Leoni (well of the gryphons and lions) are the Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo a fine example of Gothic art, and the palaces of Palazzo Tarugi and Palazzo Contucci both designed by Sangallo and the Duomo, seat of the bishop. This evening we will dine in town to enjoy the local cuisine. Overnight in Amorosa.

Day 6: San Quirico d’Orcia / Pienza – City tour, photography
opportunities, dairy farm tour and cheese sampling, sunset in Pienza, dinner The Val d’Orcia fuses art, landscape and ecosystem in one geographical space, and is the expression of a series of marvelous natural characteristics. It is also the result of and testament to the people that has long-inhabited it. In fact, according to UNESCO this Valley is an exceptional exemplar of the way in which a natural setting was redesigned during the Renaissance (14th-15th Centuries), reflecting the ideals of good governance in the Italian City-State. Additionally, these splendid
localities were celebrated by the painters of the Sienese School, which flourished between the 13th and 15th Centuries. Gently-rolling hills covered in the dense vegetation of vineyards, olive groves, cypresses, beech and chestnut trees alternate with Medieval habitations, rural villas and castles boasting impervious towers – all of which is diffused in a tranquilly-isolated nature. 

San Quirico d’Orcia is the town where Popes, Emperors, Saints and Pilgrims all took respite from their travels. From the 12th century onwards, its importance continued to grow, partly due to its strategic position on the Via Francigena. The town’s architecture testifies to its past splendor. En route we will visit a dairy farm and sample the worldwide famous Caccio Pecorino… Unlike in Montepulciano, we won’t have to climb or walk down hill because the entire town of Pienza lies on level ground. You will have some free time to visit the Duomo, the Museum, and the Palazzo Piccolomini if you wishes, where, in the year 1405, Enea Silvio, the future Pope Pius II, was born and after whom the town was named. On the left side of the Duomo we will walk through the external passageway (camminamento) that gives a beautiful view of the Val d’Orcia. We will cross the via del Bacio (street of the Kiss) and the via dell’Amore (street of Love). We will dine in town tonight to further continue our local culinary discovery. Overnight in Amorosa.

Day 7: Montalcino – City tour, photography opportunities, wine
tasting, dinner Today we start in Trequanda and we will continue to Montisi and then on to San Giovanni d’Asso where you will have free time to visit the Castello, (castle) and Museo del Tartufo (truffle museum) and continue to the small Romanesque church of San Pietro in Villore (Saint Peter at Villore). From San Govanni d’Asso we will travel towards Torrenieri and Montalcino. Small detours along the valley floor road will lengthen the route but are worth it, in order to see Monterongriffoli, and the churches of Pieve a Salti and Pieve di Pava, (which was first mentioned in 714),
Vergelle, and Castel Verdelli. At Torrenieri there is the junction with the ancient Via Cassia, which was once on the route of the renowned Millemiglia car race. We will drive for a short stretch on the new Cassia road as far as Montalcino, a hill top town rich in history. Here you will be able to explore La Fortezza (the fortress), the Palazzo Comunale (town hall), the Museo Civico e Diocesano di Arte Sacra (Town and Religious Art museum), and the Gothic churches of Sant’Agostino (Saint Augustine) and of Sant’Egidio (Saint Egidio). 

We will then follow the route of the Via Francigena (the ancient pilgrim road from Canterbury to Rome) to Sant’Antimo (Saint Antimo), a Benedictine Abbey that dates as far back as the IX century, rebuilt in 1117.The abbey is one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in Tuscany. If time permits we will visit the nearby village of Castelnuovo dell’Abate and then turn back, and immerse ourselves in the countryside of woods, vineyards and olive groves driving, slowly, for a few kilometers. A graveled road will lead us to Sant’Angelo in Colle from where there is a magnificent view over the lands of the Brunello. The vineyards will accompany our descent to Sant’Angelo Scalo and, we
will take the road that leads to Castello Di Poggio alle Mura, Camigliano, and Castel Giocondo, all home to some of the most renowned and historical wineries of Tuscan oenology. A wine tasting is -de rigueur- today and we will visit the Paradiso di Frassina winery which serenades their vines all year long with classic music, such as Mozart and Vivaldi… Overnight in Amorosa.

Day 8: Cortona – City tour, photography opportunities, dinner
The Valdarno Natural Reserve holds many surprises; its characteristic landscape is dominated by the spectacular Balze, yellow rock formations made of stratified clay, gravel and sand that rise up in diverse shapes. The Val di Chiana landscape is a breathtaking succession of hills and valleys that are home to fine jewels of art, particularly Monte San Savino, Lucignano and Cortona. Situated near the border of Tuscany, the Valtiberina preserves an untouched environment otherwise sprinkled with castles, parish churches and historic villages such as Anghiari, Caprese Michelangelo and Sansepolcro. A number of spots are, as yet, unexplored, including the forests of the Pratomagno Range and numerous protected areas of local interest. The great Italian poet Petrarch was born in Arezzo, in addition to outstanding artists the likes of Piero della Francesca, Masaccio, Michelangelo, Luca Signorelli, Pietro da Cortona and Vasari. They all left signs of their creativity and genius in Arezzo and in other nearby towns. Here, nature and a thousand years of man’s labor come together to create a millenary masterpiece that never ceases to astonish and enchant. Among the many villages of the Val di Chiana, Cortona is particularly fascinating – having preserved its heritage sites, including various Palazzi, the Cathedral, the Diocesan Museum and the Church of Saint Francis. Moreover, at Cortona one can see the Museum of the Etruscan Academy and City (MAEC), as well as some Etruscan necropolises not far from the city center. Overnight in Amorosa.

Day 9: Back to Florence – Drive North to Florence, photography opportunities, free time, dinner Today we will say goodbye to the Siena region and drive our way back to Florence. This day will be dedicated to taking pictures in the varied landscapes, and you will have free time in Florence upon arrival to wander the streets one last time and buy your last minute souvenirs… farewell dinner with the group. Overnight in Florence’s airport vicinity. 

Day 10: Departure day
Those of you who wish to arrange your flights out of Florence back home can do so to leave at any time, or you can enjoy your last morning in town.

Richard Rejino
Richard is the Executive Director of LHSA - The International Leica Society and a part-time professional photographer. He is also a classically trained pianist, writer and published author. His book, "What Music Means to Me" is available from Hal Leonard Corporation.

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