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ITINERARY 2024 | TOSCANA GARDENS TOUR

Tour outline

The Medici family, rulers of Florence throughout the Renaissance, made some of the most incredible gardens in Italy. We will be visiting several of their gardens, including the Villa Medici one of their earliest properties, designed by Michelozzo, on the outskirts of Florence. In the 19th century this villa with its terraced garden was the childhood home of the writer, Iris Origo. Her mother, Lady Sybil Cutting, engaged the British architect Cecil Pinsent to work on the villa and the garden. We shall be investigating the work of Pinsent here and at other locations including Villa Le Balze and Villa Gamberaia.

A day trip will take us outside Florence to discover more Medici gardens including Villa di Castello, the countryside home of Cosimo I de’ Medici, with its wonderful pots of lemons and the newly restored grotto of animals. We will visit the Appennino Colossus (by Giambologna) at Pratolino and the Utens Lunettes of the Medici gardens, now held at Villa Petraia.

Our tour will also take us to some private gardens in Florence including visits with the owners at the incredible Gardini Torrrigiani and the gardens of Corsini al Prato. There will be an exclusive visit to the home of the Actons at Villa La Pietra, which is now owned by Georgetown University. No tour of Florence would be complete without a visit to the Boboli and the Bardini gardens.

We have a wonderful local tour guide, an expert in the Medici family history who will be accompanying us to the Medici Riccardi Palazzo. The palace itself was commissioned by Cosimo the Elder Medici c.1444 and is another design by Michelozzo. We are very pleased to have a guided visit to the Cappella dei Magi, with frescoes of 1459 by Benozzo Gozzoli.

Included in Tour Cost

  • Four nights in Florence at a four star hotel.

  • All guided tours by The Garden Historians (Deborah Trentham) and one other local expert guide, visits to twelve gardens, many of which are privately owned.

  • All breakfasts and three lunches. Aperitivi at two of the gardens.

  • A special talk and guided tour by a Medici historian.

  • All coaches, buses & cabs to the gardens and their entrance fees.

NB – It is mandatory that you take out your own comprehensive travel insurance.

Not included in Tour cost

  • Your flights.

  • Other meals not mentioned above.

  • Any travel you undertake not mentioned above.

 

Tour Costs

The full tour will cost between £1200.00 – £1500.00 depending on your room choice at the Hotel. Confirmed prices are now being finalised and this page will be updated soon.

Please note the final cost of your tour may be adjusted slightly by fluctuations in currency exchange rates between the date of your booking and 20th February 2020 when the full balance of your tour will be due.

Tour dates

27th April – 1st May 2023

Day one
Meet and check in at Hotel, Florence.

16.00 Depart hotel – 13 minute walk to visit Palazzo Corsini al Prato. Princess Giorgiania Corsini will meet us and take us on a tour of the private palace gardens. Palazzo by Bernardo Buontalenti – with sculpture garden and citrus collection. We will have an aperitivo together.

Day two
Tuesday 28th April

09.30 Depart to Fiesole

10.00 Visit to Villa Le Balze  the villa and garden by Cecil Pinsent (and Geoffrey Scott) for Charles Strong. Very steep site with a series of garden rooms and the grotto original entrance.

11.00 Visit to Villa Medici a UNESCO site – important villa as the first Renaissance villa to take in the views designed by Michelozzo between 1458 and 1461, for Giovanni de’ Medici, later garden by Cecil Pinsent.

These gardens are both small and next to each other so don’t worry about the timing!

12.30 Lunch (included) at Ristorante La Reggia Degli Etruschi. We have a reservation on the terrace with wonderful views and time afterwards for those who wish to see to Fiesole’s Roman Amphitheatre, minutes away, or visit the small market in Fiesole).

15.30 Back to the centre of Florence and to Giardino Torrigiani, for a private visit with the owner Marchese Vieri Torrigiani Malaspina – the largest privately owned garden in any European city (17 acres). We will have an aperitivo with him before we leave! Lots of botanic specimens and very interesting trees.

Day three
Wednesday 29th April

An all day trip by coach to Medici gardens with Elizabetta, our Medici Expert.

10.00 Villa Medicea di Castello, a garden full of citrus, a secret garden and the first grotto of the Renaissance, now looking magnificent after a huge restoration project. The villa dates back to the 14th century, although the Medici Family bought it in 1477.  Cosimo I de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany (1519-1574), commissioned Niccolò Tribolo to create the garden.

11.30 Villa della Petraia, the wonderfully frescoed ground floor of the villa holds the equally fascinating Utens Lunettes, paintings of the Medici villas and gardens.

13.30 Lunch (included) at a family run agritourismo, where they serve wonderful home grown produce and home-made pasta and local wine.

15.30 Villa Demidoff in Pratolino, this was the largest estate of the Medici. The villa for Francesco I de’ Medici was designed by Bernardo Buontalenti and no longer exists, the lost gardens were once magical with water games, fountains and grottoes. The beautiful park holds many clues to this earlier garden, the greatest survival being the colossal Giambologna sculpture, Appennino (1579-80).

Day four
Thursday 30th April

10.00 A visit to the Medici Riccardi Palazzo to see Benozzo Gozzoli frescoes in The Chapel of the Magi with Elizabetta our Medici expert.

11.00 Orto Botanico (Giardino dei Semplici). The garden was established in 1545 by Cosimo I de’ Medici and is Europe’s third oldest botanic garden.

Free time

15.00 Travel to La Pietra

15.45 La Pietra- a Renaissance villa, latterly belonging to the Acton family. Our group will have guided tour of the garden.

Return to Florence

Evening Optional meal with the group.

Day five
Friday 1st May

09.00 Check out of hotel, leaving bags until later departure.

10.30 Visit Villa Gamberaia in Settignano where we will visit the garden then stay on for a private lunch in the Villa. Gamberaia’s garden with its water parterre, nymphaeum and grotto was described by Edith Wharton as ‘probably the most perfect example of the art of producing a great effort on a small scale’.

Afternoon A free afternoon in Florence or visit The Bardini Gardens and the Boboli gardens (we will have to choose what to see here due to the great size, but we will take in the amphitheatre and the Buontalenti grotto).

16.45 Leave the hotel and take the direct train to Pisa for return flight, our hotel is very near the train station.

 

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