A visit to the mid-section of Italy provides a mix of what is among the best of Italy – quaint medieval towns, beautiful landscapes, some coastal serenity, fantastic specialties like wine, cheese, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, amazing meals and warm welcoming locals. Once again, this was our experience during Europe Your Own Way’s organized tour this past May when we found ourselves exploring areas of 5 of Italy’s beautiful regions – Tuscany, Umbria, Marche, Lazio and Abruzzo! The organized portion, itself, allowed us to take in the culture and meander our way from Florence through San Gimignano, Siena, Chianti, Montepulciano, Perugia, Servigliano, Porto San Giorgio, Tivoli and Rome. Plus, the additional add-on option opened our eyes to the beauty of the Italian Mediterranean coast during our challenging, yet oh-so-satisfying, hike along the Cinque Terre!!! If this sounds like something you might enjoy, contact me for details about the next trip scheduled for October 2017 when we will be visiting this same region during the grape harvest – allowing a peak into a portion of the wine making process that you can only see during this season.
Why to go: If you’ve always wanted to go to Italy or if you’ve been dying to get back, now’s the time because the flights are more affordable now than they have been in a long time and the dollar is relatively strong! And if you’re flying in and out of Toronto, the fares are even better!
When to go: September/October and May are, in my opinion, the best times to visit because it’s not high tourist season so prices are lower and there are fewer crowds, and the weather is generally comfortable. We had fantastic weather for our May visit (despite what we were expecting based on the forecasts we saw the week before!). An additional benefit of October timing, though (which I mentioned above) is that it’s the season of grape harvesting.
How to go: Unlike our October 2016 tour, all of our May group arrived around the same time at the airport in Rome. The “tour” starts in Florence and ends in Rome but the 2 cities are connected by frequent trains taking only about 1 ½ hours. Arriving/departing from Rome can be a good option for more economical flights. We coordinated our arrivals and planned to do the Cinque Terre visit before the “tour” started. A great move which knocked the jet lag right out of us!
Where to go: The tour can be designed to meet the desires of the group. Last October the group was interested in stopping as much as possible for tastings: wine, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, etc. The group we just travelled with in May wanted to balance out the tastings with visits to the beautiful towns along the way. Both trips experienced fantastic lunches and a cooking demonstration at one of the wineries. Our May trip also included an incredible cooking class not far from Montepulciano that we will definitely want to repeat! In both cases, we finished the week at a resort town on the Adriatic coast before heading back to the city. Our May trip continued with a visit to Villa d’Este in Tivoli and a final stop in Rome for an opportunity to visit the “eternal city” which is always a highlight for me.
Potential optional detours:
- A hike through the Cinque Terre before the organized portion starts.
- A visit to the Montefalco wine region of Umbria instead of or in addition to Assisi and Spello.
- More time exploring Siena for those not as interested in visiting Chianti.
- Arrive a few days early and soak up the culture in Florence and/or stay a few days longer to fall in love with Rome.