Day 1: Lucca Exploration, Trip Orientation and Welcome Dinner
Arrive at the Pisa Airport and travel by bus or train to Lucca, arriving in the afternoon. We’ll provide information on using the convenient, inexpensive public transportation to connect to the trip. Today we’ll explore Lucca, including a walk on the legendary walls. The fortifications that surround the historic part of the city date back to the early 16th century. When Lucca grew bigger, instead of tearing down the walls, the fortifications were left entirely intact and the rest of the city simply grew outside the walls. This greatly contributes to the unique atmosphere in the historic part of Lucca. Now that the fortifications don't serve any kind of defense purposes anymore, a path (called “Passegiata della Mura Urbane”) has been paved, providing a linear, above-grade park, offering great views of both the city and the surrounding countryside. Many people also bicycle the walls and bikes are available for rent in Lucca. After exploring the walls we may refresh ourselves with an espresso, perhaps at Caffé De Simo, Puccini’s haunt. We may also be tempted to try a buccellato, a special sweet-bread in the shape of a baguette or bun with raisins on the inside and a unique taste of anise. (Only to be found in Lucca.) Welcome drinks and orientation at 6:00 p.m. followed by dinner in one of many wonderful local restaurants. Overnight in Lucca.
Day 2: Visit to and Hike in the Tuscan Countryside
After breakfast, we’ll travel to the countryside surrounding Lucca for a country walk. We are currently exploring two options. The first is a country walk and a vineyard visit for wine and olive oil tasting. The Lucca countryside is ideal for wine tours, as there are a number of small farms that produce wine in addition to extra virgin olive oil. You’ll find horses, ponies and donkeys weeding olive groves and vineyards, and a wine trail that includes almost unknown hilltop villages. Montecarlo, the location of one of these vineyards, is a typical medieval village on a hill over looking Val di Nievole and Lucca’s plain. Montecarlo’s white wines were a favorite with the de Medici family and popes. Alternatively, we are also looking into a hike and visit in the wild and beautiful Garfagnana region an hour north of Lucca. The Garfagnana is an area within the northwest panhandle of Tuscany, a landscape of deep valleys and high Alps. Luxuriant meadows and thick forests climb from the river basins, reaching towards the tops of the mountains, among the highest in Central Italy. It is a region of profound silence, stupendous vistas, and remote, traditional alpine villages. This evening we’ll have dinner out in Lucca. Depending upon our timing and the performance schedule, those who are interested may visit the opera tonight. Overnight in Lucca.
Day 3: Lucca Tour and Transfer to Cinque Terre
This morning we’ll enjoy a guided walking tour of Lucca and then catch the train to the beautiful Cinque Terre. In less than two hours we’ll arrive in Monterosso al Mare and walk ten minutes to our hotel in a quiet neighborhood in the old town and near the beach. We’ll unpack and relax for the next five days as we explore this beautiful region by train, foot and boat. After arriving in Monterosso we’ll have a number of options for the remainder of the afternoon. “Difficult” choices include swimming in the ocean, strolling around the old part of town, eating gelato, or sitting in the hotel’s garden. The more ambitious may want to enjoy a short and dramatic guided hike right from the hotel up to Punta Mesco. We’ll walk past the giant statue of Neptune and up to this beautiful promontory covered in Mediterranean bush and stands of Umbrella Pine trees. Tonight we’ll eat out at one of the many local restaurants, perhaps enjoying a bottle of Cinque Terre wine. Overnight in Monterosso.
Day 4: Sentiero Azzuro (Riomaggiore – Manarola – Corniglia)
Today we’ll travel a short distance by train to Riomaggiore where we’ll walk the section of the spectacular Sentiero Azzuro, or Blue Path, from Riomaggiore to Manarola and on to Corniglia. The Sentiero Azzuro is the classic way to explore the extraordinary villages and cultivated hillsides of the Cinque Terre while enjoying coastal scenery. It is one of the most scenic coastal paths in Italy and was made over the centuries by those who used it to move from one village to another. In many parts it was a mule track along the coast. The entire path from Riomaggiore to Monterosso is 12 km long but today we’ll walk half of it, allowing us time to explore the villages along the way. Most of the path is ancient and was well-known at the time of the Republic of Genoa, when Vernazza was the main docking bay of the area. The stretch between Manarola and Riomaggiore has been named Sentiero dell’Amore (Lovers’ Lane) because of its romantic beauty. After a short return train ride from Corniglia to Monterosso, we’ll toast the day in a restaurant serving local specialties. Overnight in Monterosso.
Day 5: Sentiero Azzuro (Corniglia – Vernazza – Monterosso)
Today we complete the Blue Path. After a five minute train transfer from Monterosso to Corgnilia, we’ll hike up the elegant (and somewhat long) staircase to the hillside farming community of Corniglia, the only one of the five villages that is not directly on the water. Corniglia is perched on a promontory above the sea, and the walk out of town through the silvery green olive groves is memorable. We’ll enjoy our lunch together al fresco in one of Vernazza’s many outdoor restaurants, and then hike or train back to Monterosso. Dinner tonight is on your own, giving you an opportunity to explore yet another of the many restaurants in Monterosso, perhaps in the old town. Overnight in Monterosso.
Day 6: Portofino
Today’s adventure will take us to the glamorous village of Portofino and the National Park of Portofino. We’ll travel by train to the beautiful city of Santa Margherita, and enjoy a short and winding bus ride along the coast to this gem whose beauty does not disappoint, despite the expectations raised by its fame. From Portofino we’ll walk through groves of chestnut, pine, and olive trees, enjoying spectacular views of the sea. After exploring Portofino and picnicking in the lovely town garden on the hillside, we’ll board the boat for Santa Margherita and the train ride back to Monterosso. Dinner out in Monterosso. Overnight in Monterosso.
Day 7: Riomaggiore – Portovenere
Today’s hike, like the Blue Path, is one of the finest coastal hikes in Italy and provides amazing views of the coast and the Gulf of Spezia. We’ll ride the National Park van up from Riomaggiore to the hamlet of Biassa where we’ll start our hike in a lovely chestnut forest. The panoramic views from the cliff top trail between the village of Campiglia and Portovenere are wonderful, as is the breathtaking view of the castle and the Bay of Poets as we hike down to Portevenere. The trail down to Portovenere is beautiful, though a bit rough, and some will likely choose to ride the public bus from Campiglia to Portovenere. We’ll have time to enjoy a gelato and explore the narrow and colorful streets of this medieval down before boarding a boat for the return trip to Monterosso. Our farewell dinner tonight, perhaps with a toast of Cinque Terre wine to the week’s accomplishments and memories, will take place in a restaurant above the town with the ever-present view of the Mediterranean. Overnight in Monterosso.
Day 8: Farewell to Cinque Terre and Tuscany
After breakfast we’ll say good-bye to the Cinque Terre and Tuscany, and depart for home or other adventures.
Please bear in mind that this is a typical itinerary, and the actual walks and sites may vary due to season, special events or weather. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary since tour arrangements are made up to a year in advance, and unforeseen circumstances that mandate change may arise. Itinerary changes are made to improve the tour and your experience. We also always strive to provide a pleasant surprise or two.