(Photos from this trip are located here)
Our group (myself included) was SO excited to be able to finally do this trip after covid restrictions delayed us from our originally scheduled dates in 2020! This trip included a full week staying in one place – a beautiful villa just outside the charming town of Lucca, in Tuscany. Staying in one place for the full week was a new format for Europe Your Own Way since we usually do a lot of travelling from place to place. The benefits of staying in one place were obvious – unpacking just one time and the feeling of being “home” every evening after our excursions, to name just a couple. We’ll still be offering those trips that take us from place to place and cover lots of ground. However, based on the success of this trip, we will definitely be offering more of these week-long villa stays – in Tuscany at the fab villa in Lucca but also, potentially in other locations as well! Stay tuned for additions to the calendar!
Overview of the week: Seven fun-filled days at the villa with excursions pre-arranged for each day for those interested in participating: Pisa/Lucca, Siena, Viareggio beach (plus a cooking class at the villa), Cinque Terre, San Gimignano + Chianti region, and, of course, Florence. We also had the luxury of a chef on-site at the villa, who served up some amazing meals! AND our own personal on-site yoga instructor for those interested in starting or ending the day with some stretches and mindfulness.
Pisa/Lucca: This was the perfect day to do an excursion a bit closer to “home” as we were a little tired from the travel. Our visit to Pisa was short but allowed enough time for those interested to climb up that famous tower. We also made sure to take a few of the classic cheesy tourist pictures of us holding up the Leaning Tower. Next stop included a bagged lunch in a lovely park in Lucca and a guided walking tour that unlocked the history of the town for us. A great way to start our week!
Siena: This beautiful, medieval town in the Tuscany region is famous for its shell-shaped main piazza and the traditional horse races (“Palio”) around that piazza. As luck would have it, we happened to be there 3 days before the start of the Palio races, so the town was in a flurry of activity as they prepared for the Big Event. I’ve been to Siena several times but never around the Palio event. It was so interesting to see the piazza “track” filled with sand and the temporary spectator stands set up. Our private guide gave us a fantastic walking tour of the city and explained the subtleties of the event and, more importantly, the goal – the teams aren’t necessarily trying to win, they are trying to make sure their rival team doesn’t win!
Cinque Terre: These are the 5 famous seaside towns on the Ligurian coast, known as the Italian Riviera. With the threat of rain and thunderstorms looming, we ventured into the national park to do a section of the most famous of the hikes – Monterosso to Vernazza. Upon arrival at the trail head, we were told that they were not closed BUT they were “discouraging hiking today because of the wind and possibility of rain”. Well, wind and the threat of rain was not enough of a deterrent for us to miss this hike and the amazing views it offers. And we couldn’t have planned it better! The wind and overcast skies kept many people away so the trail was less crowded and the breeze kept us from getting too hot – PERFECT!
Viareggio (beach) and Cooking Class: A hot June/July in Italy begs for a visit to the beach. With the expectation that the public beach would be crowded, we opted for a private beach which included the use of beach lounge chairs, a tent for shade, use of changing rooms and bathrooms, as well as easy access to the beach bar – TIP – these benefits are definitely worth the price, especially as a group! After a few hours in the sun and surf, we returned to our villa, freshened up, and headed to the kitchen for our personal cooking class in which we learned how to make spinach and ricotta ravioli. Having the class “at home” made it feel like a relaxed, family setting. Our efforts resulted in our delicious dinner that night – what a treat!
Florence: Capital of Tuscany, and justifiably one of the most visited cities in Italy. We spent a full day in this gorgeous city, with our time spent how we chose. We had free time to explore, shop, and eat until early afternoon. We then joined our clever guide for a lively and very informative private walking tour, culminating in a visit to the Accademia Gallery, famous for housing Michelangelo’s original statue of David.
Chianti region exploration: What would a visit to Tuscany be without experiencing the olive oils and wines of the Chianti region?! This excursion was such a great finale to our week in Tuscany. We started at an estate that produces amazing olive oil – it really has the tastiest flavor (we had a ship a few containers home!). From there, we spent a few hours of free time in San Gimignano where the group took advantage of some wine and gelato tasting. And we ended the day at a private estate for some wine tasting along with a sampling of local specialty finger-foods.
This was such a fun trip with an amazing group that now feels like my travel-family! If it sounds like something you would enjoy, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. Based on the success of this trip, we’re going to be repeating it next year – May 20-27, 2023. We have a limited number of rooms, though, so if you have any interest, don’t delay!
Or if there’s a different route you’d like to try, anywhere in Italy, France and/or Switzerland (or beyond), I would be happy to come up with a custom itinerary! And make sure to check out some of the images from this trip in the website photo gallery!