The Tuscan Experience
TUSCANY – 14 night/15 day tour
07 – 21 September 2019
Hosted by Renato Di Stefano
For travellers keen to indulge their passion for authentic Italian food, Renaissance treasures and a deliciously relaxing stay in a 15th century villa in the heart of the Tuscan countryside, the Tuscan Experience is ‘La Dolce Vita’ personified. Not only will this holiday be the most relaxing 15 days ever, there’s opportunity to learn more about Italian food combined with a discovery of the riches of this extraordinary region with genial host – Renato Di Stefano.
Renato Di Stefano has a passion for Italy, Italian food and the romantic Italian language. From an early age, under the guidance of his Nonna, Renato learned the importance of using fresh produce to prepare delicious meals. During regular market visits, he quickly learned how to select choice fresh ingredients using all of the senses. His childhood experience together with the many tips and tricks that he learned while helping nonna prepare the family meals laid the foundations for his love of good food and traditional Italian cooking.
As a TAFE lecturer for many years, Renato introduced the concept of teaching the Italian language and culture through its cuisine by giving students a small taste of the broad and varied gastronomy of its regions and he was invited to run classes at Phil Hoffmann Travel as part of our ‘Lifestyles’ Series.
Renato has been hosting tours in Tuscany since 2002. His “Tuscan Experience” sees guests staying in a 15th century villa inclusive of meals with wine, excursions with entry fees, wine tasting, culinary art sessions and hidden extras.
Nestled in the Chianti hills, overlooking valleys rich in history, is the 15th century manor house – Castellare de’ Sernigi. Once owned by wealthy merchants and patrons of the arts – the Sernigi family, it’s enviable location in the heart of Tuscany in the thousand-year-old hamlet of Palazzuolo, a stone’s throw from Siena, San Gimignano and Florence, makes Castellare de’ Sernigi an idyllic base. Lovingly restored, the finely appointed and fully air-conditioned 7-bedroom villa each with Tuscan views and en suite bathroom is furnished with antiques, two large upstairs sitting rooms with picturesque views, spacious dining and living room, well-equipped kitchen and cellar. Surrounding the villa, in the lovely gardens are furnished seating areas, a large stone terrace with arbour covered al fresco dining area, and swimming pool with surrounding stone deck.
13 nights accommodation – Villa Castellare de’ Sernigi
1 night accommodation – Pensione Sorriso, Vernazza, Cinque Terre
Travel by coach, train and boat per itinerary
Sightseeing per itinerary with entry fees
Culinary art sessions (optional) including fresh pasta making
30 meals including a help-yourself breakfast daily, 5 lunches and 11 traditional dinners prepared by local cook with limited wine*
Services of professional guides at selected locations
One-way home to airport transfer
*Additional wine can be purchased
Maximum 12 guests
per person, twin share (land only)
Single supplement – $1,500
$2,000 AUD per person upon booking (Non-refundable)
Final payment is due no later than 3 months prior to travel.
TERMS & CONDITIONS
Group cost quoted for this tour is based on a minimum of 10 guests (maximum of 14).
If the minimum number of guests is not reached the tour will be cancelled and deposits will be refunded to those that have paid. Itinerary subject to change.
- Deposit – Non-refundable $2,000 upon confirmation of the tour
- Balance 3 months prior to arrival
From confirmation day to 3 months prior to arrival $2,000 penalty per person
From 3 months prior to arrival day 100% penalty on total amount per person
Day 1 Florence to Castellare de’ Sernigi
Arrive at Florence Santa Maria Novella rail station, for the transfer at 1:00pm to villa Castellare de’ Sernigi. Enjoy a delicious welcome lunch at the villa. Later, join Renato for an estate tour. Later, relax before a light dinner.
Stay Castellare de’ Sernigi – 6 nights (L, D)
Day 2 Tavarnelle Val di Pesa
Stroll to Tavarnelle for coffee, pastries and time to explore. Later, join Renato in the kitchen as he prepares a delicious lunch. Rest of day at leisure. Dinner (not included) is at a local restaurant. (B, L)
Day 3 San Gimignano and Volterra
Visit San Gimignano. Dominating the Val d’Elsa, it is one of Europe’s best-preserved hill top medieval towns. Continue to medieval Volterra, known for its Etruscan museum and Roman theatre. (B, D)
Day 4 Castellare de’ Sernigi
At leisure. Later, partake in a culinary art session with Renato and help prepare lunch. This afternoon, visit the convent and church of Santa Maria del Carmine al Morrocco founded in 1459 by a former owner of our villa! (B, L, D)
Day 5 Florence
Travelling to Florence embark on a guided visit of the Galleria dell’Accademia to marvel at Michelangelo’s ‘David’. Also see the Renaissance treasures at Bargello Museum. (B, D)
Day 6 Tavarnelle
Enjoy a walk to Tavarnelle and the atmospheric open market in the piazza. Lunch is at a local taverna (not included) and the afternoon is at leisure. (B, D)
Day 7 Vernazza and Le Cinque Terre
Journey by mini bus to La Spezia – gateway to the legendary Cinque Terre – five villages that straddle a picturesque serrated coastline. Take a boat trip (weather permitting) or a train trip to Vernazza. This afternoon, consider taking the local train to Rio Maggiore to walk the Via dell’Amore then visit Manarola and Corniglia before returning to Vernazza. Perhaps join Renato for dinner (not included) at a seaside restaurant, then a nightcap at the Blue Marlin bar.
Stay Pensione Sorriso, Vernazza – 1 night (B)
Day 8 Lucca and Pisa
Travel by train to La Spezia then mini bus to medieval Lucca – birthplace of composer Puccini and surrounded by Renaissance walls and beautiful gardens. Continuing to Pisa, see the Piazza Del Duomo with the leaning tower.
Stay Castellare de’ Sernigi – 7 nights (B, D)
DAY 9 Castellare de’ Sernigi
Enjoy Sunday morning at leisure. Later, visit Antinory winery for a degustation of fine wines and lunch (not included). Tonight, enjoy a dinner of wood fired pizza at a local pizzeria. (B, D)
Day 10 Montepulciano, Pienza and Montalcino
Discover the hilltop medieval and Renaissance town of Montepulciano and 15th century Pienza – capital of Pecorino cheese. Wine tasting and lunch is at a boutique Brunello winery, before a visit to medieval Montalcino, famed for Brunello di Montalcino wine. (B, L, D)
Day 11 Barberino
Walk to medieval Barberino. Enjoy a light lunch (not included) then return to Tavarnelle for a gelato. Culinary art session for dinner at the villa with Renato and our resident cook. (B, D)
Day 12 Florence
In Piazza Della Repubblica in the heart of Florence, savour a coffee at Bar Gilli. Stoll through Piazza Della Signoria to Galleria Degli Uffizzi for a guided tour of the Renaissance treasures. Later, visit the Franciscan Basilica of Santa Croce, festooned with frescoes by Giotto. (B, D)
Day 13 Tavarnelle
Walking to Tavarnelle, stroll through the open market square as Renato selects ingredients for a hands-on culinary art session and delicious villa lunch. Dine tonight at a restaurant (not included). (B, L)
Day 14 Siena
Travel to Siena and explore this medieval masterpiece – Italy before the Renaissance, magically transported to the modern day. Tonight, enjoy a farewell villa dinner. (B, D)
Day 15 Castellare de’ Sernigi to Florence
Farewell Castellare de’ Sernigi today with a 9:00 am transfer to the Florence train station (B)