Taste of the Land of the Renaissance
Date(s):November 8 – 18, 2012
Meet Harold in Pisa on Nov 8. Together enjoy the Tuscany countryside west of Florence. Participate in the San Miniato White Truffle Festival, pick olives, and experience a truffle hunt. Explore Pisa, Lucca, Vinci, and more. Taste the robust Carmignano wines, and indulge in Slow Food designated food treasures... all in the Land of the Renaissance.
Join Harold In Italy for the latest edition of this popular experience!
DO IT TODAY! DON'T BE DISAPPOINTED
* Travel Consultants/Agencies please contact us directly for details and participation. We welcome and honor your requests.
Land Tour Cost: $3795 per person based on two sharing*
Single Supplement: $650* (international airfare is not included)
*Euro exchange rate as of Jan 15, 2012. Price based on min.10 paying guests. Max guests will be 15.
Deposit of $500 due with reservations. Balance is due September 15, 2012. Payment is by check only and payable to McCabe Travel Group, LLC. Trip Reservation Form and Terms & Conditions on request.
We recommend purchase of trip cancellation/medical emergency traveler's insurance.
For Details and Reservations Contact:
Harold D. Partain, CTC, CCTP
Founder & Executive Director
Epicopia Culinary Journeys*
5042 Rabbit Ridge Court
Rockwall, Texas 75032
Tel: 972.771.3510 or Toll Free USA 877.661.3844
08 Nov, Thursday - Arrival into ItalyArrival Italy and make your way to Pisa. If you arrive into Pisa Airport make your way by taxi to the hotel located within walking distance of the Cathedral. Balance of day at leisure to rest and enjoy your time in Pisa. Enjoy a walk over to the nearby "Field of Miracles" where you find the beautiful duomo (Cathedral), the Baptistery and the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa.
We meet as a group this evening in the hotel lobby at 7:45 p.m. It is only a short stroll around the corner for our first of many meals together.
Overnight Pisa hotel (TBA)
09 Nov, Friday - Visit Lucca & transfer to La ColombaiaThis morning our driver, Adrian, picks us up at our Pisa hotel. At 9:00 a.m. we depart for one of the finest cities in all of Italy, Lucca located about 45 minutes drive. It is my pleasure to introduce you to Lucca with a walk & stroll along the beautiful streets.
This earthen/red brick walled town harkens back to its Roman founding. The beautiful wall was converted into a lovely park surrounding the old center of this rich city. It is possible to walk (or ride a bike) along the 2.2 mile park and look down into the private gardens. This area is noted for its many gardens with several in the heart of the city. Unlike most Tuscany towns Lucca is flat so it is easy to get around and most locals ride their bikes everywhere – the historical center of the city is primarily pedestrian.
This region was once the center of the silk industry and provided early wealth for prosperous farmers. In the area surrounding Lucca and into the Colline Lucchese (foot hills), Montecarlo, and Pescia are some of the best fruit orchards, olive groves and vineyards growing in Tuscany. The "Lucca gold" is considered by most as the best olive oil in Italy. In case you aren't aware, no matter where you are in Italy the best of anything is right where you are at the time! But in the case of Lucca gold, it is the best olive oil in Italy.
Today, depending on your mood, there are at least five terrific ristoranti to choose from. From the finest and one of the oldest in Italy, to simply delicious pasta or pizza, Lucca is food heaven and is famous for many items.
Forno Amedeo Giusti has the best bread in the world. So famous they were featured on the cover of Travel & Leisure magazine July 2010 issue. Oh, and chocolate? Yes, Cioccolateria Caniparoli has won the coveted title "Best Chocolate in the World". Did someone ask about Pastry? Pasticceria Taddeucci right on Piazza San Michele is a favorite morning stop. We might just pick up some for breakfast tomorrow.
Lucca is the birthplace of a surprising number of composers, but none are as famous as Giacomo Puccini, the man behind Madame Butterfly, La Boheme, Manon Lescault and Tosca, among other well-known operas. Puccini was born at No. 9 Corte San Lorenzo. The house was turned into a small museum in 1979, but it's closed indefinitely for repairs. There is a wonderful statue of Puccini in the small piazza nearby. Puccini, like his father and grandfather, was the choir master at the beautiful San Michele church just around the corner.
There is a very important relic in the Cathedral of Lucca. The Basilica of San Frediano is a Romanesque church dedicated to Fridianus the Irish bishop of Lucca in the first half of the 6th century. The old Roman amphitheater is still very obvious as the more modern buildings were built right into the walls around Piazza dell 'Anfiteatro.
During our week in Tuscany keep your eyes open the foods identified and promoted by Slow Food. Many of these foods are in the areas we visit including; Colonnata lard, Pane di patate della Garfagnana, Faro di Garfagnana, Biroldo della Garfagnana, Mallegato di Pescia, Fagioli di Sorana, Pecorino della montagna pistoiese, Mortadella di Prato, Fico Secco di Carmignano, and Cipolla di Certaldo.
Following our day in Lucca we transfer to our country home La Colombaia located overlooking Cerreto Guidi and not far from Vinci. The Monte Albano hills are in the heart of Tuscany just west of Florence. Agriturismo La Colombaia is our home base for the next seven nights. Balance of the evening is at leisure to settle into and get acquainted with your new home. We will gather around 8:00 p.m. for a light deli-style dinner with local wine.
10 Nov, Saturday - A day on the FarmWhile we are at La Colombaia the harvest season for olives may have started and we will have the opportunity to help in the harvest and possibly travel with the olives to the mill for the pressing. Sampling the warm oil fresh from the press is a stimulating experience! Peppery and slightly bitter, you will come to understand why this versatile agricultural product has become one of the most used oils literally for thousands of years.
Today we engage in our first cooking class offered by a local chef in Cerreto Guidi. We explore in the kitchen some of the unique foods found in the region. Pay attention! You have to eat it when it's ready.
Weather permitting you may elect to stroll around Cerreto Guidi. If luck is with us we'll visit the small Medici Villa right in the heart of town. For those desiring a bit more exercise you are welcome to take an easy walk back to La Colombaia. The balance of the day is at leisure to relax and enjoy the companionship of your fellow travelers. Maybe read a book or take a much deserved nap. Or this would be a good time to help
Daniele in the groves surrounding the house and try your hand at picking olives. This evening we have a light deli style dinner at La Colombaia.
13 Nov, Sunday - San Miniato: La Sagra del Tartufo BiancoToday we enjoy the 42nd Mostra Mercato Del Tartufo Bianco della Colline San Miniatesi. We depart for San Miniato at 10:00 a.m. after a leisurely breakfast.
La Sagra - you are there for all the festivities. La Sagra is the Italian version of a specific "food" festival. This is the special occasion when locals go all out to entertain, educate and feed you their pride and joy. I have never said I have had too much truffle but today could be the day. Bring it on! The white truffle of San Miniato is considered by many as the very best white truffle in Italy. This region certainly holds the record for the most and the largest ever found white truffle.
We spend the day in this lovely small hill top village. Take a walk up to the old castle remains for a stunning view across the countryside. There are several excellent ristoranti to choose from today or perhaps the foods prepared by the locals in the special hall... and there are booths representing foods from near and far. Some feature the precious underground fungi. It's an occasion to celebrate... several wine tasting options as well. Maybe a delicious gelato is in order after sampling the foods?
During the day be sure to make a stop in at Sergio Falaschi Macelleria. For three generations this family of butchers has been feeding the citizens of this area with wholesome, natural and healthy products. Their produzione artigianale has earned them much acclaim and is recognized as one of the regional Slow Food productions. Buy something special to nibble on back at home later tonight or during the week.
12 Nov, Monday - Vinci: Birthplace of Leonardo di VinciThe rolling hills we are located in are called the Monte Albano. For centuries these forested hills have been the hunting grounds for the affluent of nearby Firenze (Florence). Long before the Medici Family showed up, these hills provided much of the
food and drink for Firenze and the surrounding area. This region is home to many of the villas of the Medici Family including a huge hunting lodge. (We will hopefully be seeing the inside which is not always open to the public.)
We dedicate today to Vinci and the immediate area. There are plenty of things to keep us occupied. After all, this is the home of one of the greatest and most recognized names of the Renaissance – Leonardo di Vinci.
This morning we visit Leonardo's birth place and enjoy the wonderful museum in Vinci dedicated to his memory. Vinci is a delightful small village and there are interesting small shops to enjoy strolling through. The castle at the top of the hill is worth a visit as well. There are two wonderful ristoranti in Vinci for us to select from today.
13 Nov. Tuesday - Palaia – A Truffle Hunt and a Cooking lessonThis morning we are up early as we have a full day in the hills south of San Miniato. We arrive around 9:30 a.m. and have a hot drink to fortify us for the hunt. Today Pat and Paolo are our hosts as we join their neighbor with his prized dogs for our very own Truffle Hunt! The forests of this area are well known as one of the three "favorite" places for hunting for the precious white truffle and home to an earlier Sagra of its very own.
After our hunt we return to the beautifully restored farmhouse where Pat lead us in a demonstration and hands-on cooking session. Hopefully, we will be cooking with the very truffles we found this morning. A very special pasta, and delicious wintery meat dish and sides... you learn to cook it and then we get to eat it along with sharing several local wines from this tiny region on Tuscany. Later back home we have the evening free to nibble on those goodies we got in San Miniato and Lucca earlier in the week.
14 Nov. WednesdayToday we are off to the hills around Pistoia and Prato. Our goal today: searching for Tuscany foods specifically promoted by Slow Food ... Fagioli di Sorana and Pecorino della montagna pistoiese. We visit a local cheese producer, and will locate those beans and some of the 'hard to find' mortadella di Prato! Lunch today will be "on the road" during our hunt.
This evening we will take a short ride into Cerreto Guidi for dinner at Ristorante Adriano. Hope you have a hearty appetite tonight. Ristorante Adriano is famous for their selection of meats prepared in many different styles. You may select from the menu as you please and share a bottle (or two or three) of local wine.
15 Nov. Thursday - Carmignano Wine Region and Medici Villas
Today we will truly "taste the Land of The Renaissance" as we visit the Medici villas, including the exceptional and most famous Medici villa at Poggio a Caiano. Our day will include visits to sample and learn about the Sangiovese wines which are the basis for the very popular Chianti wines of Tuscany. In the Carmignano DOC the Sangiovese grape truly becomes the 'sanguis Jovis' – the lush, red Blood of Jove. These wines are rich and flavorful.
A very full day but we take time for lunch at another fine establishment. For those seeking traditional Italian food, prepared in the time-honored way, using quality ingredients which are fresh and locally available, the Ristorante Da Delfina is a "must visit."
Da Delfina lies just outside the medieval walled village of Artimino. Florentines put Da Delfina among the "endangered" list of authentic Italian restaurants, and they're right to do so. The list of appetizers is a formidable one. My favorite is the fresh fennel salami. The menu is choc-full of traditional dishes. The ribollita is a bread soup that is so typically Italian, enriching, nourishing, comforting, everything a soup should be... by far the best ribollita in all of Tuscany! Say no more, I will let you be the judge. The view from the restaurant is directly at the Medici hunting lodge - a stunning view.
After our full day filled with one experience after another we are back at La Colombaia for a relaxing evening and preparing for our departure in the morning to Florence. Tonight we make our own pizzas and drink up the wine we bought along the way!
16 Nov. Friday Vinci/Florence (Firenze)Mid-morning we will bid Arrivederci to Elena and Daniele at La Colombaia and head to Firenze, the heart and birthplace of the Renaissance. We arrive at our hotel in the early afternoon in time to search out a local trattoria for lunch. Balance of day to explore Firenze on your own or let Harold introduce you to this Renaissance center. For the next two nights we will be staying at the Hotel Degli Orafi (or similar) located right on the Arno River where the Ponte Vecchia is and right around the corner from the Uffizi Gallery.
17 Nov. Saturday - Florence
During our time in Firenze ... if this is your first visit we suggest a half-day morning walking tour of the center of the city to include entrance and visit with Michelangelo's David at the Accademia. For those interested in a visit to the incomparable Uffizi Galleria we can make reservations for a specific entrance time so you don't have to wait in line.
There are many things to see and do in Firenze. We are happy to custom design your time here to match your interests. In addition to the galleries and museums there are numerous food markets to visit, flea markets, leather markets, and numerous shops where you might consider getting your Christmas shopping done early. How unique is it to give a gift from your travels in Italy?
Don't worry about eating. Florence is one of the great cities when it comes to food. Both street food markets and ristoranti galore, it would take us many days to eat through this city! We are entering the season for music and other entertainment venues which we will check out to make sure we take advantage of all the early winter spectacular events. Who knows, there might even be a medieval festival in one of the quarters of the city.
18 Nov. Sunday - Homeward Bound/or continue your Italian Sojourn
All too soon we bid "Arrivederci Italia" as we head for the airport in Pisa or Florence to make our connections home. Or maybe you have decided to spend a few more days in Italy. Rome is just a 1.5 hours high speed train ride away or Milan is only 2 hours by fast train. We are happy to assist you with your plans. For those departing from Pisa today there are local trains directly from Firenze SMN station to the Pisa Airport.
Ciao! Join us again next year for another adventure with Harold In Italy!