arthisto January 25th, 2011
CAPTURING TUSCANY AND SORRENTO
SEPTEMBER 26 – October 3, 2011 ~ 8 DAYS ~ GROUP SIZE: 6
PRICE PER PERSON: $3,800.00
This is an AHA first, combining two drastically different yet incredibly picturesque areas of Italy. Your opportunity to get to know the rugged Amalfi Coast and the soft hills of Tuscany, their art, history and as part of a small group of just six.
Tuscany, the land of cobblestoned hill towns, delicious food and wine, and Etruscan history. Our landing spot will be the tiny hill town of Proceno, in southern Tuscany, and our rooms at Castello di Proceno.
This castle/fortress was built in the 11th century, is perched high up on a rocky spur, and has been creatively redesigned into several beautiful apartments. This is my favorite place in all of Tuscany. Once we check in and relax a bit, we will take a walk around town so that you can get your bearings. The views, in all directions are dreamlike, no, actually they are “calendar-like”. I will introduce you to Pucci and Giovanni, the owners of the castle, Roberto the grocer, where you can buy anything from locally made salami, to bedroom slippers, and Gianfranco, of Trattoria da Gianfranco. The castle will be our home for the next four days.
Some of the must-sees in this area include, the cathedral of Sovana, that took so long to build, it actually spans two architectural periods, hundreds of years apart. As we sit in the back of the church you will see that two of its three aisles are Romanesque and the third is Gothic. Amazing and totally unique.
Then there is the hill town hamlet of Pienza that was, luckily for us, caught in a time warp. During the first half of the 1400′s, Pope Pius II, responsible for the revitalization and redesigning of his beloved hometown, was called away to raise troops for a crusade to the Holy Land. He left a Papal Bull, in beautiful Latin, that stated nothing should be touched until his return. Unfortunately, in 1465 he died while away, and Pienza dutifully has left everything just as it was. Because of this, a visit to Pienza gives us a real time snapshot of Tuscan life in the 1400′s. Pienza was miraculously spared during World War II bombing raids, however the machine gun holes in the exterior side wall of the cathedral are a reminder of what happened here when both Germans and Americans took turns occupying Pienza and the surrounding towns. This is a fascinating area with lots to explore, learn, taste and photograph. Brunellos come from these hills, as does a most delicious soft, not salty, pecorino cheese.
And who can be in this area and not visit the most haunting of all hill towns, Civita di Bagnoregio? Not me! Civita sits a top a rock outcrop , built entirely of that same rock, it appears to be something organic that simply grew out of the mountain. However, because of earthquakes over the centuries much of the spur and city have dropped away, leaving Civita sitting like a diamond nestled in a round solitaire setting. There is one approach to the city, a walking bridge that spans the gorge that encircles Civita. Often, in the morning, the city is engulfed in clouds or fog and it appears that the bridge leads to no where. Sometimes the fog fills just the gorge with Civita above as if floating in the sky. This is like nothing else you would have seen up to this point, and you will remember it always. Comfortable walking shoes, your camera, and a hefty appetite are a must for Civita di Bagnoregio.
Saying our goodbyes to Tuscany we will hop the speedy Eurostar to Naples, and onto gorgeous Sorrento. We will stay in Sorrento, at the beautiful Hotel Antiche Mura. Sorrento, is built high above the Mediterranean on a flat plateau, here you can walk to the edge and look straight
down the cliff into the warm, see-through water. Here, where centuries ago pirates marauded, we will wander the alleyways, visit Pompeii, and Capri, capturing its spirit. With all of the fresh seafood, pastas, crispy white wines and frosty limoncello that you can take in, within a picturesque fishing village and with Mt. Vesuvius as a back drop to photograph, you will ask yourself, “Can it get any better than this?” Nope!
Which will be your favorite? Cobblestoned Tuscany, with its full o’flavor wines and where you met the locals and stayed in a castle, or the warm seafront terraces and fishing villages of the Amalfi Coast? These will be ongoing comparisons that may never have a definitive conclusion. As for me, after 20 years of loving these places, I could say it’s like comparing apples and oranges, but it’s not, it’s cobblestones and lemons.
Physical level: Moderate
AHA is great places to visit, more interesting things to learn, and very small groups. Over the next few weeks I will post a list of recommended reading and movies, destination specific, that will allow you to front load your travel experience.
You will notice that we have added two itineraries that include my absolute favorite places in California. I hope that some of you will consider touring the best that California has to offer. I am a fifth generation Californian and would love to show you around.
We are very happy to announce:
The NEW money saving opportunities are on the Specials and Discounts Page. These trips can fill up fast so early booking is important and saves you money.
All trips include: Hotels, all meals and house wines, (well, you don’t have to have wine with breakfast) ground transportation, and museum admissions.