Day 1 - 20 May 2023
Arrival & Check-In - Villa Malpensa Hotel, Milan.
Check-In to the Villa Malpensa Hotel near Milan Malpensa Airport in time to meet your tour guide and fellow garden visitors over complimentary drinks between 1800-1900. Your tour guide will give you an overview of your tour and hand out a tour information booklet. Make you own arrangements for Dinner at the Hotel’s excellent restaurant.
Day 2 - 21 May 2023
Gardens Visited : Villa Medici La Petraia, Villa Castello di Medicea, Villa La Balze
After breakfast and check-out we head south into Tuscany to Villa Castello di Medicea. This was the country residence of Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany
(1519-1574). The garden is of great historical importance: it had a significant influence both on the development of the Italian Renaissance garden as well as the French formal garden. The garden is full of symbolism which will be explained to you by your tour leader. One of the wonders of the garden is the hydraulic system which allowed for water to be transported around the garden and which was used to power its many fountains and water features. Look out for the fountains of Hercules and Antaeus, Florence and the Grotto of the Animals. The garden was also famous for its collection of dwarf citrus trees and its walled herb garden where medicinal herbs were grown. After Villa Castello di Medicea we’ll walk a short distance to Villa Medici La Petraia, the second of three gardens that we will visit today. Once the home of King Vittorio Emmanuele II of Savoy, Villa Petraia dates from 1537 although there has been a house on this site since 1300. The garden was originally laid out in three terraces - the Terrace of the Little Statue, a Giardino Segreto (secret garden) with parterres and a lower terrace used as a formal orchard. The garden was modified by King Vittorio Emmanuele to be more in keeping with 18th century taste but has now been partially restored to recapture some of the glory of its past. Look out for the famous status of ‘Venus Wringing out her Hair’ by Giambologna.
After lunch, we travel by luxury coach to visit the third garden of the day: Villa Le Balze. Villa Le Balze, sits in the hills above Florence next to a 15th century Medici Villa. The villa was built in 1913 by Charles Augusts Strong and is now owned by Georgetown University. The garden is set on various levels and breaks from the rules of the traditional Italian Renaissance garden. As we enter through a small door, we find a formal garden with boxwood hedging outlining geometric shapes. Here was once a citrus garden. As you walk around the garden notice how it merges perfectly into the natural landscape of the hillside and surrounding fields. It has superb views over Florence and includes a grotto and many other features of interest.
After our visit, we travel by coach to nearby Siena and check into the excellent 4* Executive Hotel for the next 4 nights of the tour. This hotel has recently been renovated and is perfectly located for you to explore the beautiful town of Siena. The hotel has a restaurant and bar but there are also plenty of excellent dining options nearby.
Day 3 - 22 May 2023
Itinerary: City Visit to Florence, Boboli Gardens.
After breakfast, we’ll travel to Florence where we will meet our local guide for an extensive walking tour of the city. Our guide will take us to all the most important historical sites and tell us about the bankers, architects, artists and political figures who led the Renaissance and influenced much of the recent history of Western Europe. After lunch, we visit the Boboli gardens. The Boboli gardens, with their splendid view across Florence are located next to the Pitti Palace, the main seat of the Medici Grand Dukes of Tuscany. The gardens were originally for the sole use of the Medici family and were laid out in formal Renaissance style. There are long avenues, statues, fountains, grottos, a nymphaeum, temples and other features characteristic of Renaissance gardens of the time. The gardens are very large - explore the gardens on your own (with a map!) or accompanied by your tour leader.
After our visit to Florence, we return to our hotel in Siena. Make your own arrangements for Dinner either by choosing to eat in our Hotel restaurant or nearby at one of the restaurants recommended by the Hotel’s concierge.
Day 4 - 23 May 2023
Gardens Visited: Villa La Foce and Wine Tasting
Today we’ll visit the superb garden at Villa La Foce. Built on the site of a 15th century Inn, Villa La Foce is the life’s work of Antonio and Iris Origo who bought the then derelict house and its 3000 hectares (7413 acres) of Iand in 1924. The couple employed the English architect Cecil Pinsent to extend the house and design the garden which is said to be one of Pinsent’s best creations. Today, it’s made up of four distinct areas overlooking the Val d’Orca (Orca Valley) and the volcanic peak of Monte Amiata (Amiata Mountain). There is a formal Italian garden surrounding the house, informal terraces, established cherry trees, pines and a long cypress avenue. The signature plant at Villa La Foce is wisteria and it should be at its best during our visit.
Any tour to Tuscany wouldn’t be complete without wine tasting. We leave Villa La Foce and travel to the medieval town of Radda in the chianti wine making region of Tuscany just 15km north of Siena. Surrounded by vineyards, here we’ll have lunch and walk to one of the local wineries where we’ll taste a selection of the best Chianti Classico wines before we return to our hotel in Siena. Make your own arrangements for Dinner either by choosing to eat in our Hotel restaurant or nearby at one of the restaurants recommended by the Hotel’s concierge.
Day 5 - 24 May 2023
Gardens Visited: Villa Reale di Marlia, City Visit Lucca, Palazzo Pfanner, Villa Torrigiani.
After breakfast, we travel to visit perhaps one of our favorite gardens: the 17th century Villa Reale di Marlia. At the foot of the Pizzorne hills this villa is set in 16 acres of secluded gardens and is considered as being one of the most important properties in Italy. The Park features a splendid Water Theatre, a Green Theatre (where the composer Paganini performed), a Lemon Garden with a group of marble statues depicting Leda and the Swan, an Art Deco Spanish Garden as well as a Nymphaeum. We will have plenty of time to explore this superb garden and soak up their history and grandeur. It will be an experience that you are unlikely to ever forget! Afterwards, travel to Lucca where we will meet our local guide for a walking tour of the city. Surrounded by mountains, forests and farmland, Lucca is the birthplace of Puccini and famous for the well-preserved 16th and 17th ramparts that encircle it. Throughout the centuries Lucca has been an important hub for trade, religion and scholarship and has attracted many wealthy families who built houses (and established gardens) outside of the city walls. Our guide will take us to all the most important historical sites of the city and to our second garden visit of the day: Palazzo Pfanner. Palazzo Pfanner is nestled next to the city ramparts and has an important Italian-style baroque garden which has been the set of many Hollywood movies. With laurel hedges set in among yews, magnolias, peonies, antique camellias, begonias and roses, this garden with its cooling fountains is an oasis away from the bustle of the city centre.
After lunch (not included) we take our coach and travel a short distance to visit the impressive Villa Torrigiani. The formal gardens surrounding Villa Torrigiani were originally designed by Le Notre. Two elements of the original design remain today – a fishpond and two basins. Transformed into an English landscaped park in the early 19th century, there are numerous features of interest here for the visitor: a sunken walled ‘secret’ garden of flora, a Nymphaeum of Winds and an amusing use of hidden water jets. The Villa itself, with its unusual multicolored façade will be a memorable end to the day.
After our visit to Villa Torrigiani we return to our hotel in Siena. Make your own arrangements for Dinner either by choosing to eat in our Hotel restaurant or nearby at one of the restaurants recommended by the Hotel’s concierge.
Day 6 - 25 May 2023
Gardens Visited: City Visit Siena, Villa Chighi Cetinale
After breakfast and checkout, we stay in Siena where we will meet our local guide for a walking tour of the city on this the penultimate day of the tour. The historic centre of Siena has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and the as the main town in the region is famous for its cuisine, art and museums. Our guide will take us through the medieval streets and point out the most important sites. After our tour, we leave Siena and travel to Villa Chighi Cetinale where we will have an exclusive lunch before we start our visit to its garden. Villa Chighi Cetinale was designed in the 17th century by the architect Carlo Fontana in the Roman Baroque style. It became a symbol of the wealth and power of the Chighi banking family. While it retains nearly all of its original features it has one of the most successful ‘English gardens’ in the whole of Italy: arbours, peonies, roses, irises and perennials fit perfectly into these ancient surroundings.
At the end of a full day, we travel south by coach leaving Tuscany and heading towards our hotel near Rome airport. Check-in to the Golden Tulip Rome for the last night of the tour.
Day 7 - 26 May 2023
Departure or continue your garden tour with us
Checkout of the hotel will be 12 noon in time for your onward travel. If you would like to stay in Italy a little longer, why not join us on our tour to Rome? Starting today (26th May), we visit the most important gardens of Rome and its surrounding area.