Italy, Tuscany, The Romance of Florence & Siena
Florence and Siena, two of Tuscany's most romantic towns, are the settings for our September program. Magnificent collections of Baroque and Renaissance art and architecture adorn Florence, which we'll delve into with our private guide. Medieval Siena, an hour away, is the location for the balloon and noble families portion of our program. Tucked at the convergence of eleven valleys, it is the perfect place to drift in our balloons each morning, just-above the red clay rooftops. We'll float through olive carpeted countryside to hill-top towns huddled within protective walls and
dominated by magnificent cathedrals and mighty castles. Private luncheons with Tuscany's historic families at their ancestral villas and fortresses is the icing on the cake.
The Romance of Florence and Siena
8 Days, 7 Nights,
4 Early Morning Balloon Flights Scheduled in Siena
Day 1 - Meet us at 9:15 a.m. at 5 star Westin Excelsior Hotel, Florence, where we'll stay for three nights. Our excellent private guide immerses us in the city cherished for its priceless art and architecture from the Renaissance and Baroque eras. Walk to Piazza San Marco and the restored 15th century Dominican monastery, housing masterpieces such as the Crucifixion, the Annunciation, and a fresco of The Last Supper. Then to the Piazza Duomo’s 13th century cathedral and cupola, with origins of its bapistry dating to Roman times. Lunch and unhurried afternoon visit to Michelangelo’s original statue of David, carved from 1501-1504. Evening and dinner at excellent La Tavola di Pier Capponi.
Day 2 - Morning guided visit to Uffizi Gallery, one of the most important museums in the world for its works by Botticelli, da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Rembrandt and more. We've arranged a private visit of the historic Vasarian Corridor, the elevated path between the Ponte Vecchio and Uffizi Gallery built in 1565 which allowed the Medici family to join in local celebrations without mixing with the populace. Lunch and time at Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in Florence and since the 15th century lined with shops. Festive evening and dinner at Il Latini.
Day 3 - Full day of visits to Palatine Gallery at Pitti Palace, a collection of master paintings and sculptures owned largely by the Medici family, then on to 16th century Boboli gardens filled with grottos and sculptures. Lunch and three hour guided walk through Florence's Old Quarter to Brancacci Chapel, one of the city’s greatest ancient treasures with Masaccio’s and Masolino’s 15th century frescoes of the life of St. Peter. Those who prefer to shop this afternoon may do so on their own. Evening dinner party in Florence.
Day 4 - Mid morning departure from Florence for an unforgettable luncheon and afternoon with Prince Duccio Corsini and his wife at the family's olive oil and wine estate, Villa Le Corti. One of the region's finest examples of Renaissance architecture, the towered villa in its spectacular hilltop setting has been in the Corsini family since 1427. Afternoon check in for four nights at Siena's 5 star Grand Hotel Continental, a restored 17th century palace just steps from the Piazza Del Campo. Evening and dinner in downtown Siena.
Day 5 - Early morning balloon adventure across Siena’s ancient rooftops, waving to townsfolk who lean from their windows with a cheerful “Buon Giorno!” From our low level balloons this medieval setting is sensational. After landing our guide takes us through the town with its 14th century palaces and 13th century great cathedral. For luncheon we'll be hosted by our good friend, Marissa Cardini in her art-filled penthouse overlooking the ancient rooftops. Her daughter, Fiama, enjoys flying with us and is a treasured source of insights into the Sienese culture. Late afternoon free
for personal pursuits and meet for our evening dinner party.
Day 6 - Our early morning balloon adventure takes off just outside the 13th century ramparts of medieval San Gimignano, for a spectacular view of this walled architectural jewel and its surrounding vineyard covered hills, appearing almost exactly as they did 700 years ago. Enjoy a guided walking tour along the narrow streets lined with medieval houses, followed by luncheon hosted by our friends, Princess Irina Guicciardini-Strozzi and her husband, Prince Girolamo. The Prince and Princess represent two of Italy's most historic family lines, and the Guicciardini family was recently discovered to be descended from Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo, famously known as the Mona Lisa. We'll dine at the family's Villa Cusona, dating from 994 and the setting for the movie, "The Winds of War", whose vineyards have produced magnificent wines for more than 1,000 years. After an exceptional afternoon with this congenial family and a tour of their impressive estate, we'll return to our hotel for personal time then gather for a festive evening and dinner in Siena.
Day 7 - Our morning balloon adventure takes us through vineyards and market towns to just-awakening locals in their gardens. Today's private luncheon is hosted by our friends, the Baron and Baroness Bettino and Constanza Ricasoli at their massive ancestral home, Castello di Brolio. The huge fortress and wine estate has been in the family since the 11th century, and the creation of Chianti Classico and Classico Reserva was the work of the Baron's great grandfather at Brolio. Luncheon will be served in the ancient Knight's Hall where battle plans for the siege of Siena were drawn in 1555, and where battle armor is still kept. Our extended visit with this historic family will be quite memorable. Late afternoon for personal time and farewell dinner in downtown Siena.
Day 8 - This morning we’ll tiptoe in our balloons across the historic rooftops, past church spires, gothic towers and through the old cobblestone streets for one last, very special look at a place you’ll never again experience in quite the same way. After lunch we'll return to Westin Excelsior Hotel, Florence, arriving approximately 2:30 p.m.
The Romance of Florence & Siena
September 16-23, 2008
$14,696 per person, double
Single Supplement $2,770
ISTANBUL/CAPPADOCIA & FLORENCE/SIENA
Connected by 1 Day Transfer by plane
FLORENCE/SIENA & BURGUNDY
Connected by our 4 Day Portofino, Megeve, and Zermatt excursion
Combine more for a longer adventure!