The Treasures of Tuscany
September 22 - 30, 2012
Travel with Travel West founder Jim West for a journey of flavor and inspiration. Hilly landscapes, great Italian cuisine, a Tuscany cooking class, an authentic Tuscan winery, fantastic shopping, stunning architecture, and the world’s greatest collection of art all await you on this journey to Italy. We will travel roads that are off-the-beaten path, enjoy leisurely-paced walking tours, visit magnificent historical sites, and be treated with the utmost care.
Looking to extend your tour and take in the beautiful, historic, Eternal City of Rome? In addition to this tour we are offering a 5-day pre-package, visiting the highlights of Rome and Vatican City. The cost of this pre-package is only $672 per person based on double occupancy.
Wednesday, September 19th
We begin our tour to Italy on an overnight flight from CHICAGO. During our flight, dinner will be served onboard the plane. You may wish to pack in your carry on bag a small pillow, earplugs and eye cover, if you plan on sleeping during the overnight flight. Otherwise, you may want to bring a journal, playing cards or anything else to pre-occupy your time on the flight.D
Thursday, September 20th
This morning, a light breakfast snack will be served on-board the plane. Upon our arrival at the Rome Airport, we will pass through customs, collect our luggage, meet our bus driver and guide and enjoy a Panoramic Sightseeing Tour of ROME. We will drive past the Coliseum, Roman Forum, Circus Maximus, the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica, Santa Maria Marjorie and drive on the famous Via Veneto and in Republic Square. We will also visit the Trevi Fountain, where we will throw our coins in the fountain, assuring our return back to Italy. Later in the afternoon, we will check into our first-class hotel, and settle in. Tonight we will enjoy dinner together and then retire for the evening. B, D
Friday, September 21st
This morning, following breakfast, we will enjoy a guided tour of the VaticanMuseum, VaticanGarden, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. In the afternoon, we are offering an “optional tour” to the famous TIVOLI GARDENS & FOUNTAINS. (Cost of this tour is 28 Euro per person.) Without doubt, this is some of the most beautiful landscaping in all of Italy. These gardens and fountains are located at the famous Villa D’Este, one of the special estates built hundreds of years ago, commissioned by Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este. There will be time for taking photographs and leisurely walking through the grounds. If you love incredible landscaping, you don’t want to miss this spectacular place. We will return to our hotel later in the afternoon, where the remainder of the evening is at your leisure. B
Saturday, September 22nd
Today is completely free for you to enjoy at your leisure. You may opt to visit the Spanish Steps, walk through the Coliseum and Forum, stroll through some of the great piazzas in the city - the Piazza Novona, Piazza Republica or the Pantheon area, shop in some of the very special boutique shops on Via Nationale or just sleep in and relax at our hotel. Whatever you decide to do, enjoy your day in the Eternal City! B
Sunday, September 23rd
This morning following breakfast, we will check out of our hotel and drive north to the Tuscany Region. We will arrive midday into the resort town of MONTECATINI TERME. We will check into our four-star Tuscany Inn, where we will stay for the remainder of our tour. B
Saturday, September 22nd
Today we begin our TREASURES OF TUSCANY with a transfer from the Illinois Valley area to the Chicago, O’Hare Airport. During our evening flight, dinner will be served onboard the plane. D
Sunday, September 23rd
Before our arrival into Tuscany, a breakfast snack will be served onboard the plane. We will be met at the airport by Travel West owner, Jim West who will be our personal tour escort throughout our entire journey in Italy! We will board our private deluxe motorcoach and drive to MONTECATINI TERME and our 4-star hotel, the Tuscany Inn.
Upon our arrival, we will check in and then enjoy a leisurely walking tour of the town, provided and narrated by Jim. Jim has been bringing his tour groups to this area of Italy for the past 18 years, and you will enjoy his unique stories and inside information for making the most out of your time in this very special town. Tonight, our group will enjoy a wonderful meal together at our hotel before settling in for the evening. B, D
Monday, September 24th
This morning following breakfast we will visit the historic town of LUCCA. Upon arrival in Lucca we will meet with our guide Ellen, who will be on hand to provide a leisurely walking tour for our entire group. The rest of the day is free to enjoy on your own. For those who are interested in the afternoon we will be offering an optional tour to Pisa for €20. B
Tuesday, September 25th
Following a delicious breakfast this morning, we will drive to the hilltop town of SAN GIMIGNANO. There will be time for shopping, sightseeing, and relaxing in the piazza with a cappuccino as you enjoy the exquisite Tuscany Valley below. For those who are interested, we are offering an optional tour to the family owned winery, SAN DONATO. Here we will learn about wine production, enjoy wine tasting and savor delicious Tuscan appetizers for a special afternoon lunch. We will return to our hotel later in the day where the evening is free to enjoy at your leisure. B
Wednesday, September 26th
Today following breakfast the rest of the day becomes yours to enjoy as you wish. For those interested in an optional tour we will drive to the not-to-be-missed World Heritage Unesco site of the CINQUE TERRE. We will drive to the northwest, and drive past the extraordinary Carerra Marble Quarries, the place where Michelangelo obtained his marble for his famous sculptures of David and the Pieta. We will drive through the town of LA SPEZIA and into the mountains along the coast, as we come to the first of the three Cinque Terre towns we will visit. Manarola, Vernazza and Monterosso will be our primary focus for exploring, having lunch, shopping and taking photographs. B
Thursday, September 27th
Today we will drive to the historic town of SIENA. Following breakfast we will enjoy a special drive through Toscana, as we pass olive trees, vineyards and enchanting Italian villas. Following an early breakfast this morning, we will drive to the historic town of SIENA. Upon our arrival, we will meet our professional guide Federica who will take us on a leisurely walking tour of this historic little city. We will stop and learn about the special places along the way until we arrive at the famous Piazza del Campo. This is where we will say goodbye to Federica, and spend the next couple of hours on our own to enjoy lunch in one of the charming outdoor cafes, shop in one of the special boutique shops or just relax on our own. We will meet in the middle part of the afternoon and walk back to our bus for our drive back to our hotel. The remainder of the evening is to be enjoyed on your own. B
Friday, September 28th
This morning after breakfast, for those who are interested in this optional tour, we will offer an authentic TUSCAN COOKING CLASS at the IL POGGIO WINERY. Here you will have an opportunity to participate in a "hands on" class from our retired executive chef known as Papa! You will learn how to make the authentic Italian homemade pasta, from fettuccini noodles to twisting the dough into ravioli and tortellini. Following the cooking lesson, we will enjoy a tour into the vineyard and hear how grapes are harvested and produced into wine. There is also an opportunity to learn about olive oil production and how it is produced locally. Following all of this, you will be escorted to your dining table where you will enjoy a five-course lunch and wine tasting! It is truly a tour not to be missed! Later in the afternoon we will go back to our hotel and relax for the remainder of the evening. B
Saturday, September 29th
Today, following an early breakfast, we will journey to the "Cradle of the Italian Renaissance," the beautiful city of FLORENCE. Our local, expert guide Christina will meet us for a leisurely walking tour of the city, including walking past the Accademia Gallery which houses Michelangelo’s monumental figure of David. We will then proceed to Piazza del Duomo, the center of religious life in medieval Florence, and see the impressive façade of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and the masterfully, crafted bronze doors of the Baptistery. We make our way from piazza to piazza, passing family-owned boutique shops that will beckon us to step inside and discover the treasures they hold. We will finish our tour outside of the Church of Santa Croce, burial place of Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli. Once we decide on a meeting time, you will have an opportunity to enjoy Florence at your leisure. We will drive back to our hotel later in the afternoon. Tonight we will enjoy our "farewell dinner" at our hotel and bring our special wine and cooking tour to a close. B, D
Sunday, September 30th
Today we will check out of our hotel and drive to the airport for our flight back to Chicago. We will arrive at O’Hare Airport later in the afternoon and our bus back to the Illinois Valley area will be there to transfer us! This is without doubt an exceptional value tour to a country filled with great food, extraordinary art treasures, terrific scenery, great wine, beautiful people and all escorted by a seasoned traveler and local friend, Jim West of Travel West!