Trip Number: 13710A
Staff: Mary Menconi
- Stay at historic agriturismi in rural Tuscany
- Hike through countryside dotted with medieval villages
- Learn to prepare Tuscan specialties with an Italian chef
- All in-country transportation and lodging
- Local guides and naturalists
- All gratuities, admission fees, and most meals
Photo: Jerry Ruhling
Learn about the fascinating natural and human history of Tuscany while hiking
its dramatic hills and touring its charming towns. We’ll enjoy Italian
hospitality and walk centuries-old footpaths that take us through vineyards,
chestnut forests, and quiet abbeys. We will visit ancient hill towns, enjoy
fabulous Tuscan food and wine, and experience firsthand why Italy is so famous
for art, architecture, and the good life! At the end of each day, we will enjoy
a delicious dinner of regional specialties and relax in our comfortable accommodations
at rural agriturismi.
This is our planned itinerary, but it could change due to weather conditions
or other circumstances beyond our control. We may also adjust our itinerary
to be able to enjoy street markets, festivals, or other local activities.
Day 1: We will meet mid-afternoon at the Florence Airport,
where our private bus will pick us up and take us through the gorgeous Tuscan
hills to our lodging at an agriturismo near San Gimignano. We'll be staying
at a working farm that grows crops typical of this area, such as wine grapes
and olives. Agriturismi help small farmers augment their income, and allow us
to enjoy the bounty of rural life in Italy. This agriturismo will be our home
for the next six nights.
Day 2: We will hike today through the farmlands and forests
surrounding Volterra, an ancient city founded at the very top of a steep hill.
Volterra is known for its Etruscan tombs, alabaster workshops, and artisan galleries.
After lunch together we will have free time on our own to visit the well-displayed
artifacts in the Etruscan museum, watch alabaster being carved, or browse the
Photo: Jerry Ruhling
Day 3: We will visit two abbeys today, each very different
from the other. After traveling in our bus along the old Via Cassia, an important
road in Roman times, we will hike the final stretch up to the richly decorated
Monte Oliveto Maggiore Abbey, built in 1393 and resplendent with medieval murals
depicting the life of Saint Benedict. We will view the murals and their inscriptions
in old Italian, and then have lunch together at the Abbey. In the afternoon
we will visit the serene Abbey Sant’ Antimo, recently restored and hauntingly
beautiful in its Romanesque simplicity.
Day 4: Today we visit San Gimignano, the famous city of towers.
In the 14th-century San Gimignano had 70 towers, and although only a few still
remain the town center is well preserved. We’ll hike through the surrounding
vineyards and forests, arriving in town for exploration and lunch on our own.
This medieval town is especially beautiful as we sit in the piazza, enjoying
a glass of local Vernaccia wine or some of San Gimignano's acclaimed gelato.
Day 5: Today is our day to visit Siena, originally an Etruscan
town and later a Roman settlement. Siena is famous for its red-brown brick buildings,
and for the Palio horse race run twice a year on the Campo (central piazza).
We will tour the town with our guide, then enjoy lunch on our own. We’ll
spend the afternoon in the famous Chianti Classico area, tasting wine and walking
through vineyards growing Sangiovese grapes for Chianti wines.
Day 6: We hike today from the old village of Chiusdino to
the breathtaking San Galgano Abbey and the Montesiepi Hermitage with its mysterious
sword in the stone. After lunch together at the abbey our bus will meet us to
traverse the Merse River Valley, an historically rich agricultural land filled
with farms, forests, and medieval churches. This evening we'll enjoy dinner
at our agriturismo and pack for tomorrow’s departure to Lucca.
Photo: Kristi Kirkpatrick
Day 7: Lucca, the birthplace of composer Giacomo Puccini,
is surrounded by impressive stone walls constructed in the 1500s. Planted with
trees and gardens, the wall tops provide a wide boulevard and a bird's-eye view
of Lucca. With our city guide we will explore the Piazza Napoleone, the Roman
amphitheater, and other parts of the historic town center. After lunch together
we will have the rest of the day and evening free to explore on our own. Walk
or bike the walls, visit Puccini’s home, or browse the specialty shops
of this compact and interesting town. Dinner will be on our own tonight so we
can sample some of the typical Lucchesi cuisine, or attend a concert of Puccini’s
music in the 12th-century church of San Giovanni. An historic hotel in central
Lucca will be our home for tonight and tomorrow night.
Day 8: Today we head for Pisa and San Rossore Natural Park,
a managed forest and wetland where several major rivers empty into the sea and
provide habitat for waterfowl, deer, and wild boars. We will enjoy a hike with
a naturalist to learn about the ancient holm oaks, the stone pines with their
rich pignoli nuts, and the flocks of migratory birds that rest here on their
winter journey to Africa. Then we’ll head for Pisa’s “Field
of Miracles,” with its impressive marble buildings -- cathedral, baptistery,
and bell tower. Built more than 1,000 years ago, they combine Romanesque, Moorish,
and Gothic architecture. With easy access to many restaurants and shops, we’ll
have lunch on our own and free time to tour and photograph the famous Leaning
Tower and other buildings. In the late afternoon we will return to Lucca for
dinner together and pack for tomorrow’s departure to our next agriturismo.
Day 9: The Garfagnana area is known throughout Tuscany for
its dramatic mountains and fertile valleys that produce local delicacies like
porcini mushrooms and rich cheeses. We’ll hike for several hours through
its steep and rocky terrain, enjoying dramatic vistas of the Alpi Apuani mountains,
then have lunch in a charming village. In the afternoon we will travel to our
second agriturismo, which will be our home for the next three nights.
Photo: Kristi Kirkpatrick
Day 10: Today we will focus on the production and preparation
of the wonderful cuisine we have been enjoying. In the morning we will join
the vineyard workers in the field to begin the grape harvest, and we will see
firsthand what happens to the grapes after they are brought to the winery. After
lunch together at our agriturismo our cooking lesson will reveal the secrets
of preparing Tuscan specialties that are not only delicious, but also easy to
make at home. Time permitting, we will also include tastings of local olive
oils and cheeses. Our chef will be happy to discuss and explain the many types
of foods we have enjoyed on our trip!
Day 11: This is our day to experience Florence, the captivating
city of Michelangelo. After a guided tour we’ll have free time for lunch
and explorations on our own. A great city for walking, Florence is blessed with
world-famous art, culture, history, and architecture -- all of which can be
enjoyed by simply roaming its streets and public places. Enjoy a gelato as you
stroll the famous Ponte Vecchio over the Arno River!
Day 12: After breakfast our bus will take us to the Florence
airport for flights home. Those staying in Florence or traveling to another
part of Italy can easily take a taxi or bus to central Florence and the train
station. Participants leaving today should make their flight reservations for
United, US Airways, American Airlines, and other major carriers have flights
to Tuscany. You may save money by flying into Pisa and then traveling by train
or bus to Florence. Other airports with good transportation to Florence include
Rome, Perugia, and Bologna. If you are flying from the west coast you may lose
a day in flight, so be sure to check your itinerary to verify that you are arriving
on the correct day. To reduce "fuso orario" (jet lag) we suggest arriving
a day or two before the trip starts. Florence is full of marvelous treasures
and is very easy to see on your own, so a day or two there before our trip begins
will definitely not be wasted!
Accommodations and Food
Photo: Carrell Foxx
We will be staying in two agriturismi, rural estates that offer accommodations
to visitors. Agriturismi have become popular in Italy as a way to provide extra
income and help small farmers stay on their land. They are a peaceful home base
and perfect setting for relaxation after a full day, and they will serve all
our breakfasts and some dinners. Rooms are double-occupancy and a roommate will
be provided for solo travelers. The trip price includes all meals except four
lunches and one dinner on your own, which allows you to sample local cafes,
osterias, trattorias, or even Italian fast food. Wine and other drinks will
be at your own expense, except when served with meals or at our wine-tasting.
Many restaurants offer vegetarian dishes, but vegan or special dietary meals
may not always be available. The Italian diet contains many wheat products such
as pasta, pizza, and bread soups, and there may be few options for those with
This is a hiking and cultural trip, and it is suitable for all who are in
reasonably good health, enjoy nature, and want to learn about Italian culture
and history. As with all active trips, you will enjoy the trip more if you are
in good physical condition for the activities described above.
Tuscany is a very hilly place, and most of our hikes will be three to six miles
on uneven, rocky trails. In the Garfagnana near Lucca our hike will be through
a steep mountainous area. The Italian hill towns we will be visiting have narrow
cobblestone streets and lots of stairs, and we will have to park our bus outside
the old walls and walk into the town center. As with all trips, the better your
physical condition, the more you will enjoy yourself, so prepare for this trip
by hiking on hilly, uneven trails.
Equipment and Clothing
The climate in Tuscany in September is usually pleasant, with daytime temperatures
in the 70s and 80s. Dress will be casual and comfortable, but churches prohibit
visitors in sleeveless tops, short skirts, or shorts. Your leader will provide
a comprehensive packing list prior to the trip.
Photo: Jerry Ruhling
- Nabham, Gary Paul, Songbirds, Truffles, and Wolves: An American Naturalist
- Alvarez, Walter, The Mountains of Saint Francis: Discovering the Geologic
Events that Shaped our Earth.
- King, Ross, Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling.
- Mayes, Frances, Under the Tuscan Sun.
- Rick Steves: Italy's Countryside, 2009
- PBS Empires: The Medici, Godfathers of the Renaissance, 2003
- Tea with Mussolini, Franco Zeffirelli, 1999
- Power of the Past with Bill Moyers: Florence, 1990
- Rome, HBO Miniseries, 2005
Tuscany is famous for food, and "0 kilometer cibo" (eating local)
means delicious fresh meals. The link between farm and table is clearly visible
at our agriturismi and we will have the opportunity to learn about how our food
is grown and prepared. Italians also appreciate the beauty of their countryside,
and we will observe how they are conserving it as we hike in parks and protected
areas with our naturalist guides.
The Sierra Club is an environmentally focused entity. We are concerned about
conservation and sustainability of resources, both locally and globally. Our
work is accomplished by volunteers and aided by a salaried staff, encouraging
grassroots involvement. Our outings seek to empower participants toward environmentally
understanding parallel concerns at home and abroad.
This trip requires a $200 per-person deposit. An additional payment of $300 per person is due six months prior to trip departure. International trip prices are subject to change and are based on double-occupancy or group accommodations as described above. Single rooms may not be available or may cost more than the listed price. If you have any questions regarding double occupancy, please contact the trip leader.
See the How to Apply for an Outing
section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the
trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing
up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing
approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical
Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on
the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to
the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and
notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
The Sierra Club accurately and fairly budgets and prices our trips. However, unforeseen costs such as devaluation of the dollar compared to other currencies and fuel surcharges assessed by our international providers may necessitate adjustment in trip price. We will make every effort to mitigate and absorb these fees. If a price increase is necessary, however, you will have 14 days after announcement to cancel without penalty.
Mary Menconi has led Sierra Club trips to a variety of destinations, including Tuscany, Umbria, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Everglades National Park, and the Sierra Nevada mountains. She enjoys exploring new places to learn about their natural and human history. Tuscany is the land of her grandparents and she grew up eating ravioli and minestrone prepared by her nonna. An amateur botanist and avid gardener, she has a special interest in wild plants and locally produced foods.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips