Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

Central Holidays Helps Stretch Travel Dollars on Vacations to Europe



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Central Holidays Helps Stretch Travel Dollars on Vacations to Europe











Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy


Moonachie, NJ (PRWEB) April 15, 2008

Central Holidays is helping stretch travel dollars on travel to Europe with a full array of inclusive motorcoach escorted tours and cruise packages that are designed to save travelers time and money.

“Central Holidays’ Motorcoach Escorted Tours and Cruise Packages are a terrific value. We offer a variety of programs that are worry-free and easy, and can meet your budget,” said Fred Berardo, President and CEO of Central Holidays. “Why book hotel, sightseeing, and other vacation components separately when you can save money and time with a Central Holidays vacation package? We want travelers to know that our escorted tour programs will provide them with the best value for their money when visiting all the wonders of Italy and Europe.”

The Company offers dozens of Motorcoach Escorted Tour and Cruise options throughout Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Greece and the Mediterranean! In fact, Central Holidays provides the largest selection of cruise packages in Italy, Greece and throughout the Mediterranean than any other specialty operator. Central Holidays’ Escorted Tour programs will save travelers 20-40% off the price of traveling the same itinerary on their own.

Here’s a look at some of the ways Central Holidays Escorted Tours stretch travelers’ dollars and offer an ideal, hassle-free way of exploring Europe:

1. All rates guaranteed when paid in full – guarding travelers against dollar fluctuations. Booking with Central Holidays allows consumers to budget accurately before embarking on their travels with no surprise fees or taxes imposed upon arrival on vacation

2. Most meals plus wine, coffee and mineral water at lunch and dinner are included in the tour price = a huge savings! Premier Motorcoach Escorted Tours include most meals (breakfast daily – plus many lunches and dinners) served in hotels and local restaurants. The Signature Central Holidays Dining Plan also includes: Wine, mineral water and coffee are complimentary with all lunches and dinners (which itself can save hundreds of dollars per person).

3. Sightseeing (as detailed in each itinerary) is included in the tour package price as well as bonus touring – with Central Holidays travelers visit the famous sites they’ve longed to see as well as hidden treasures, such as centuries-old wineries and carefully selected restaurants serving exquisite old-world cuisine.

4. Convenience in exploring Europe’s beauty lead by one of the company’s knowledgeable, English-speaking tour directors – with travelers throughout the escorted tour, traveling by professionally chauffeured, deluxe, air-conditioned motor coach for maximum comfort and convenience. Plus, there is time offered at leisure to explore on your own too.

5. All-inclusive Mediterranean cruise programs and shore excursions are quoted in US Dollars.

6. Specialty Lodging options take travelers to live like a local on selected programs – For example, On the Northern Highlights, Magnificent North, Grand Tour of Italy and Best of Italy programs, travelers have the opportunity to stay in a villa in the medieval town of San Gimignano, instead of hotel in Florence, where they will enjoy all of the tour’s traditional features, plus a five course welcome dinner and other special extras. A Siena sightseeing excursion is also included with the evening at leisure to explore San Gimignano.

7. All Central Holidays Escorted Tours in Italy feature the “Hear Clear” personal audio system, allowing travelers to hear all the details about the places they visit, even when standing 60 feet away from their knowledgeable local guide – all at additional cost while traveling.

Sample Central Holidays Escorted Tour itineraries throughout Italy include:

8-DAY – SPLENDORS OF SICILY from $ 1,299 – Sicily, the biggest island in the Mediterranean Sea, is full of art, history and traditions. This 8 day Premier Escorted tour provides travelers with everything from the enchanted beauty of Taormina to the majestic ruins of the ancient Greek city of Agrigento, to the millenary salt mine of Trapani to the Quattro Canti of Palermo.
9-Day – SUNBELT OF ITALY from $ 1,849 – PREMIER ESCORTED – Travelers indulge in nine days of exploration in the fascinating cities of Rome, Sorrento, Amalfi, and Capri. History comes to life with tours to breathtaking sites – The Sistine Chapel in Rome, San Carlo Opera House in Naples, Rome’s Colosseum – plus so much more!
10-Day – Northern Highlights from $ 1,799- PREMIER ESCORTED – Visitors revel in renowned attractions and exquisite sites — Doge’s Palace in Venice, Piazza Della Signoria in Florence, Rome’s Colosseum – plus so much more during their 10-day immersion into ‘la dolce vita’! Travelers will live the tapestry of sights, sounds, flavors and feelings of the true Italy on this Premier Escorted tour.
14-Day – Magnificent North from $ 3,049- PREMIER ESCORTED – On this adventure travelers experience the magic of Italy in Venice, Florence, Rome and Sorrento. Relax in the comfort of one of our modern, air-conditioned, smoke-free motorcoaches, as your driver takes you to the splendors of Italy — Enjoy the charm of Venice and Piazza San Marco, the Renaisssance city of Florence and the Palazzo Pitti, Rome’s Piazza Navona and the natural beauty of the Amalfi Coast. Includes most dinners, some lunches and buffet breakfast daily.
Rates are per person; land only based on double occupancy.

Founded in 1972, Central Holidays offers superior travel programs, value and service to enchanting destinations throughout Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, and Greece, plus dozens of Mediterranean and River cruise itineraries and worldwide Ski programs. For more information, contact Central Holidays at 1-800-935-5000 or visit their Web site at CentralHolidays.com.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by admin - April 10, 2011 at 4:40 pm

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Travel Tuscany Offers Fall Specials — a Wide Range of Accommodation in Tuscany and Florence at Unbeatable Rates



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Travel Tuscany Offers Fall Specials — a Wide Range of Accommodation in Tuscany and Florence at Unbeatable Rates










Florence (PRWEB) September 19, 2005

Travel Tuscany, a division of Connextions Group, offers a hand-picked selection of all types of properties, from exclusive villas to charming farmhouses, in Tuscany and Florence for holiday rentals at special Fall rates. The modest prices put the top quality facilities and attractions of the featured properties within reach of every vacationer.

“Lots of people think that renting a villa or farmhouse in Italy will be out of their budget, but it isn’t, says Elizabeth Morris, President of the organization. “Take the Villa Monte 2 for instance. It sleeps about twenty, and, during the low season, the cost works out to lower than even a bare minimum Bread and Breakfast in Tuscany.”

The rates vary from property to property – depending on location, facilities and size — and also from season to season – High, Medium and Low – but they are competitive in any event.

Choose from a long list of apartments, villas and farmhouses in Florence, Chianti, Lucca, Siena and most of Tuscany.

The properties are carefully selected and Travel Tuscany has direct contact with the owners. Unlike an automated site where clients complete an online booking form without being certain that they’ll be answered or that the booking has actually gone through, Travel Tuscany offers personalized service.

The listed sites lend themselves to various purposes. Be it a honeymoon, a very special birthday celebration, a week of peace away from the madding crowd, or a family holiday, there’s something to make everyone happy.

“The Tuscan region is such a magical place to visit, and your accommodations and service were nothing less. It is rare to find services like yours that are willing to go the extra mile to make your stay as memorable as possible”, say Angela Bailey and family of their holiday at the Villa Santa Maria.

“My children had great fun They occupied themselves by swimming in the oversized pool, playing with the Jack Russell puppies, jumping on the trampoline, running around the property and visiting the horses, hens and geese!” Says Debby Somerville-Cotton after an enjoyable time at the Villa Alexandra.

The Travel Tuscany team doesn’t limit itself to providing accommodation. It also helps with other aspects of a vacation – providing assistance with tours and museum booking, offering restaurant suggestions, organizing catering classes, and even arranging a wedding.

“We had such a fabulous wedding day. It was great to finally meet you – thanks for coming down to be part of the day at Villa Monte 3. It was such a marvelous, idyllic setting. You chose well with the church too!” enthuses Helen, a happy bride.

The group organizes excursions to various places in Florence, the Chianti region, Siena, San Gimignano, Monteriggioni, Montalcino Pienza, Pisa, Luca, Arezzo, Cortona, Assisi and Cinque Terre. For shopaholics, there’s an exclusive shopping tour laid on. And for the adventurous, there’s an exciting hot air balloon trip.

Travel Tuscany’s specially selected, comprehensive list of accommodation in the scenic Tuscan region offers something to suit every vacationer. Organized excursions, cookery classes, adventure trips and personalized advice add value to the product. Special Fall rates ensure that, as regards price versus quality and level of accommodation, the terms can’t be matched. “We’ll definitely be back!” is a promise that satisfied clients make to themselves after a visit with Travel Tuscany.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by admin - March 24, 2011 at 4:45 am

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The Little Black Book of Florence & Tuscany (Travel Guide) Reviews

The Little Black Book of Florence & Tuscany (Travel Guide)

With user-friendly maps and insider tips, this travel guidebook takes you to the best Florence and Tuscany have to offer.

Here’s what to see and do, and where to eat, drink, shop, and stay—including a city guide to Florence and itineraries for the rolling hills and medieval towns beyond!

”Top Picks” direct you to not-to-be-missed attractions. 256 pages, plus 8 maps, including a Florence bus map.

Writer, translator, and world traveler Vesna Neskow has written four othe

List Price: $ 5.95

Price:

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by admin - March 17, 2011 at 8:58 am

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Nelles Travel Pack Florence: Fiesole, Prato, Pistoia, San Gimignano, Volterra, Siena (Nelles Travel Packs)

Nelles Travel Pack Florence: Fiesole, Prato, Pistoia, San Gimignano, Volterra, Siena (Nelles Travel Packs)

List Price: $ 10.95

Price:

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by admin - March 14, 2011 at 11:47 am

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Travel in the city of Renaissance

Discover the city of Florence having a glance at the monuments and museums, walking through tourist recommended itineraries and having a break in its striking parks and gardens. If you like to find out local food and drink have a glance at the Florentine cuisine.

 

You can find out cheap Florence hotels, Luxury Florence hotels, airport hotels at many websites and get the reservation in the hotels. Find hotel deals and special discount on the list of hotels in Florence! Whether you’re travelling on business or on holiday, unaccompanied or with your family, Florence hotels has the perfect deals for your comfortable stay.

 

From cheap Florence airport hotels and last minute hotel reservation to five star hotels, you’ll find the best selection and hotel rates at best tourist locations in Florence. The Hotel Mirage is nearby the Firenze Amerigo Vespucci Airport. The dome of this cathedral has over the centuries become a characteristic feature of Florence’s skyline. The Hotel Mirage is your preference when talking about business stay in Florence for complete relaxation. All of the hotel’s guest rooms are spacious and operational with amenities for your placate. The Happy Bar, open all night, will for all time be at your disposal for that stimulating cocktail at whatever time you want it. Restaurant Perseo offers typical Tuscan cuisine as well as the best international dishes. This hotel offers its guests all the comforts of the friendly and professional staff will assist in every way to make your stay enjoyable.

 

The newest boutique hotel established in the heart of Florence at the side of the historic Palazzo Strozzi suggests a new hallucination of luxury a magnificent SPA and a very pleasurable Health and Beauty center, delightful beds and the most recent hospitality technology. A pleasing holiday in Impruneta, among the olive groves, vineyards, pine woods and terracotta emblematic of the Tuscan hillsides and just few kilometers from Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa, Lucca, Arezzo. 

Staying at Bellavista you can have the prospect to holiday the whole Tuscany in day trip without having the pressure to change the hotel every-day and don’t have pollution like staying in the big cities.

 

Hotel Ritz is a small hotel with a very pleasant location along the River. The attractive Church of S. Croce, the Bargello Museum, the Uffizi and Ponte Vecchio are just in a short walking distance. Approximately all the rooms in the hotel have a marvelous panoramic view over the river, the church of S. Croce, or the rooftops, spacing to the well-known hills that environs the town.

 

Author is experienced business developer and has worked as consultant for major travel companies. Author now occasionally writes about his experiences on his business trips. For more info on Florence cheap hotel bookings visit florencehotels.in.

 


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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by admin - March 3, 2011 at 6:22 am

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Travel in the city of Renaissance

Discover the city of Florence having a glance at the monuments and museums, walking through tourist recommended itineraries and having a break in its striking parks and gardens. If you like to find out local food and drink have a glance at the Florentine cuisine.

 

You can find out cheap Florence hotels, Luxury Florence hotels, airport hotels at many websites and get the reservation in the hotels. Find hotel deals and special discount on the list of hotels in Florence! Whether you’re travelling on business or on holiday, unaccompanied or with your family, Florence hotels has the perfect deals for your comfortable stay.

 

From cheap Florence airport hotels and last minute hotel reservation to five star hotels, you’ll find the best selection and hotel rates at best tourist locations in Florence. The Hotel Mirage is nearby the Firenze Amerigo Vespucci Airport. The dome of this cathedral has over the centuries become a characteristic feature of Florence’s skyline. The Hotel Mirage is your preference when talking about business stay in Florence for complete relaxation. All of the hotel’s guest rooms are spacious and operational with amenities for your placate. The Happy Bar, open all night, will for all time be at your disposal for that stimulating cocktail at whatever time you want it. Restaurant Perseo offers typical Tuscan cuisine as well as the best international dishes. This hotel offers its guests all the comforts of the friendly and professional staff will assist in every way to make your stay enjoyable.

 

The newest boutique hotel established in the heart of Florence at the side of the historic Palazzo Strozzi suggests a new hallucination of luxury a magnificent SPA and a very pleasurable Health and Beauty center, delightful beds and the most recent hospitality technology. A pleasing holiday in Impruneta, among the olive groves, vineyards, pine woods and terracotta emblematic of the Tuscan hillsides and just few kilometers from Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa, Lucca, Arezzo. 

Staying at Bellavista you can have the prospect to holiday the whole Tuscany in day trip without having the pressure to change the hotel every-day and don’t have pollution like staying in the big cities.

 

Hotel Ritz is a small hotel with a very pleasant location along the River. The attractive Church of S. Croce, the Bargello Museum, the Uffizi and Ponte Vecchio are just in a short walking distance. Approximately all the rooms in the hotel have a marvelous panoramic view over the river, the church of S. Croce, or the rooftops, spacing to the well-known hills that environs the town.

 

Author is experienced business developer and has worked as consultant for major travel companies. Author now occasionally writes about his experiences on his business trips. For more info on Florence cheap hotel bookings visit florencehotels.in.


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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by admin - February 27, 2011 at 8:32 pm

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Free Italy Travel Guides Available on HistoryandPalaceHotels.it

(PRWEB) July 7, 2010

History and Palace Hotels offers a selection of Italian hotels and mansions rich in cultural and historical features. The charme and elegance of these old mansions combined with the courtesy of the staff are the distinguishing features of these little gems embedded in the most famous art cities or in small towns rich in history.

To allow users to dig deeper into history, culture and traditions in Italy, Histlory and Palace Hotels is now offering a series of free guides about major destinations such as Rome, Venice, Florence and Tuscany.

The Rome Travel Guide includes articles about the Colosseo and Piazza Navona, Città del Vaticano and Domus Aurea, without forgetting the ruins of Ostia Antica and the XIX century architecture in EUR.

The Venice Travel Guide includes articles about Piazza San Marco and the Ponte dei Sospiri, Murano, Burano and Torcello islands, as well as Venice’s Giudecca and Arsenale.

The Florence Travel Guide includes articles about all the wonders of Piazza della Signoria and Michelangelo’s David, the breathtaking panorama in Fiesole, the masterpieces in the Uffizi Gallery.

The Tuscany Travel Guide includes articles about the medioeval towers in San Gimignano, the Pinocchio Park in Collodi, without forgetting the wonderful walk on the walls in Lucca.

To receive further information and download the free travel guides, please visit the official website of History and Palace Hotels: http://www.historyandpalacehotels.it/

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by admin - January 30, 2011 at 4:51 pm

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Travel Guide To Tuscany

Not far from Siena, and only 50 kilometers or so south of Florence in the heart of Tuscan Italy, you will find the medieval precursors of skyscrapers in this gem of a walled hilltop city overooking the Elsa valley.

Actually, the numerous tall stone towers are only around 50 meters high, and of the 70 or more originally built by the weathy residents in the 14th century, only about 14 remain. But in their context, they stand out impressively and create a unique architectural curiosity with a peaceful ambience, both as landmarks to view from a distance and to walk around or explore up close.

Inside many of these vertical embellishments to the skyline, which are often extensions of a church, are preserved treasures of early Renaissance art. The main ones to visit are the Collegiata, which was originally a cathedral, and Sant Agostino, where you will stumble delightedly upon frescoes and early paintings by a range of Italy’s most famous artists. There is also an official Town Gallery in the former Palacio Comunale off the main Piazza Cisterna, where by following in Dante’s footsteps through his Hall, you may view works by Lippi, Pinturicchio, and Pier Francesco Fiorentino to name but a few. From here, you can also access the largest tower, or Torre Grosso.

There is not a great deal else to do except enjoy walking around the narrow cobbled lanes, soaking up the pervasive sense of history and culture, and investigating some of these hidden charms. But you may well wish to taste some of the local produce, and especially the now-famous Vernaccia white wine, which goes down a treat with fish and seafood cooked up in the romantic and intimate local eateries. Try, for instance, the Antica Taverna up by the San Matteo Gate, or Dulcisinfundo in Via degli Innocenti near the center, which also has live jazz music and panoramic views. A good way to combine all these pastimes and gastronomic delights is to sign up for a guided wine-tasting tour, taking in lunch outside the city followed by a walking tour of the main squares and a limousine home.

Finally, you may well want to rest and relax at the end of a long day, or stay overnight as a break in your journey from Florence to Rome as the ancient pilgrims did, and there are a number of good accommodation options for you to choose from, including rooms in villa-hotels, apartments in the historical centre, or bed and breakfast in farmhouses nearby, most of which retain the original fetaures of old buildings but completely refurbished to a high standard inside. For example, try Busini Rossi Carla, with its wonderfully restored rooms and apartments located in a back alley right in the center, or Il Girasole, a family-run farmhouse just 5kms away with a view back towards the city towers, where you can enjoy the local produce and wine, and which even comes complete with a swimming pool.

All in all, San Gimignano is an essential if brief part of a tour of Tuscany, where you should not fear to tread (as it was the setting for E. M. Forster’s novel of that name in 1905) and will not forget easily – not only for its strange and imposing towers, but because it is steeped in the history of poets and artists, their patrons and religious leaders from the time of our civilization’s re-birth

Raj Aryan is a content writer. Presently working with a Tour Package company. Find India vacation packages and online at Cheap flights tickets to India, providing the best selection and availability of cheap tickets.


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Surrounded by a double wall that dates back to medieval times and amid the gentle undulating hills of Tuscany, is the town of San Gimignano, with its striking 15 towers that were built by competing aristocratic families. The towers were considered to be of great prestige and also provided a means of defense. Competition to construct the tallest tower became increasingly fierce until a special decree curtailed the mindless indulgence of the local aristocracy. The town’s prosperity came to a sudden end and in 1348, the plague killed thousands of its inhabitants. Located next to the cathedral, the Palazzo Comunale contains numerous works of art. Since it was built at the end of the 13th century, it has been extended many times. Frescos adorned with several of the town’s historic symbols decorate the walls of a tranquil inner courtyard. The 14th century was a prosperous time for many of the townsfolk. At a height of 54 metres, even today, the Communal Palace’s Torre Grossa rises above each one of the town’s further towers. For several centuries, San Gimignano’s towers have been a prominent part of the town’s noble silhouette amid the captivating landscape of Tuscany.
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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by admin - January 15, 2011 at 3:28 pm

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Online Travel Guide Tuscany

There are many reasonably priced flights to Italy, generally to the larger international airports in Milan or Rome. From there it is easy to take the train or rent a car to get to Tuscany.

If you live in Europe, it is easy enough to travel overland to Tuscany but there are also good deals with low-cost air companies, such as Ryan Air (to Pisa). Depending on whether you want to visit other areas in Italy, you should also consider traveling by train as it is very convenient. Read below for further details on the various ways to get to Tuscany and start your wonderful holiday in this beautiful region!



Where to start with Tuscany though? We have the ‘art cities’ of Florence, Pisa and Siena – the galleries and museums, devotional buildings and architecture of Florence (Firenze) alone could swallow your entire vacation in Tuscany. Another week would just about deal with Pisa and its Campo dei Miracoli around the Leaning Tower and Baptistery. There is lesser known Lucca, a perfect medieval city within its unbreached /html/lucca_-medieval walls. But let’s take a few other highlights without which no tour of Tuscany is complete.

Siena is a superb medieval city, which depopulated a few hundred years ago due to the Black Death and never quite filled up again. Indeed parts of this opulent and stylish town, around the stunning black-and-white marble Duomo, retain a semi-rural air. Cobbled streets spiral toward the central ‘Campo’ site of the twice yearly Palio horse race. There are dozens of little hill towns south and west of Siena, with San Gimignano (the city of towers) being best known. Montepulciano, and Pienza are joys, but also see lesser-explored Pitigliano, Massa Marittima and Volterra.

Between Florence and Siena we have , superb wine country of course and a popular retreat for British and American expats. The main towns of ‘Chiantishire’ are Greve in Chianti and Radda in Chianti. See too the medieval cloth town of Prato, with the Castello Imperator and a fine Pisan-Romanesque Duomo. Another undiscovered gem is Pistoia, with a well preserved medieval core. Heading towards the coast we have Pisa, Lucca and then the coastline of the Versilian Riviera. The most famous of the resorts is Viareggio, a fashionable resort in Victorian times, and still a fun seaside town, with great gelaterie, restaurants, beaches (though you will have to pay) and the huge February carnival. Livorno (or Leghorn as Brits dubbed it) is often dismissed as a bombed and uninspiringly rebuilt port town, but there is a lovely old town of canals and humpback bridges, a ‘little Venice’ indeed. Offshore we have the isle of Elba, once home to a defeated Napoleon.

The southern Tuscan coast becomes the Maremma, once a malaria-ridden backwater but now home to the famed Maremma cattle and the ‘butteri’, cowboys who tend them. The countryside rises to the hills of Monte Argentario and the rather lovely and very ancient town of Orbetello. South of Siena we come to the remarkable San Gimignano, a little town that became a powerful republic, albeit briefly. The soaring towers are monuments to the pride and hubris of the warring families of the town. Volterra is something quite other – built remote and striking on a high plateau, DH Lawrence wrote that it ‘gets all the wind and sees all the world … an inland island’. Thence on to Massa Marittima, an important mining town since pre-Roman (Etruscan) times. And south of Siena spreads the countryside of the Crete Senese … which is probably that Tuscan countryside that most of us first-time visitors picture in our minds.

We can’t leave southern Tuscany without visiting the Abbazia dei San Galgano, one of Italy’s most stunning Gothic buildings, and the Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore, with its superb Renaissance frescoes. On to Montepulciano, at 600 metres above the sea it’s the highest hill town in Tuscany. Then to Pienza, a Renaissance new town created from scratch by Pius II in 1459. Another lovely hill town nearby is Montalcino – wine buffs will know the name.

 

-Sonali Subhash

Online Travel Guide Tuscany


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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by admin - April 11, 2010 at 4:13 pm

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Tuscany Travel

The transfer company representative was right there, on time, waiting for the group to come in from Toronto holding up the sign, Valerie Kent.  Ten of us streamed towards the sign, luggage already in hand. We had been looking forward to this painting workshop all winter.  A couple of the artists had been to Italy previously, and the rest of us were Newbies.

Joanne Epworth said, “We were all so excited that I thought we would all levitate, but actually all we did was board the pleasant little van which headed right up the mountain to the lookout and took in our first, but no means last, astounding vista.  Beneath our feet stretched the city of Florence and the Arno River. It took our breath away.  You just could not stop looking.  Everywhere you looked it was so beautiful.  It was unbelievable how beautiful the view was.”

Our hotel, the Monna Lisa, was tucked away in the historic centre of the city, with its narrow streets and cars practically touching the walls of the ancient buildings as they zipped by.  Joanne Epworth said, “The hotel which had been a grand residence of  the Medici family, was approximately 800 years old.  It  had a romantic entrance, a garden and a courtyard patio for breakfast when the  weather was good. Some of the group painted out in the courtyard in the afternoon. It was a great location in that it was close to many restaurants, attractions and piazzas.”

We began our trip by taking a stroll around the neighbourhood, ending up on the bridge, the Ponte Vecchio, to see the multitude of gold shops built along the bridge and then we went to the little palace, Palazzo Pitti.  By the time we got there the long travel had caught up to us, so we did not go in, but sat at an outdoor café and had some cooling drinks.  We all walked back and close to the hotel we went to a local outdoor restaurant and enjoyed a beautiful dinner together.

Joanne Epworth said, “Part of the next day was spent doing a walking tour around the centre of Florence through the historic areas.  Later that day after wandering around and getting tempted with all the painting venues, we went to see the sculptures in the various Piazzas.  Then we went into the Academy where we visited the original David. I bought a little sketch book at the Academy which had the figure of David on it.  In the evening several of the group members painted a large flower planter on a column in the hotel garden to get warmed up.”

The third day we left Florence and headed to our next hotel, which very quaintly was in a real tower, tall and narrow, named the Torre Antica in the city of Siena.  There was a spacious Piazza, the Campo, built where the three hills met.  Siena is a town of ancient stone buildings, churches, outdoor cafes and we heard that just recently, they had even had horse races in the Piazza.  Joanne Epworth said, “I was pleasantly surprised, every time we turned around, we found a new and inviting gelateria in Sienna and one day we just had gelato for lunch, a lot of gelato.”

The first day only Nora painted our little street in Siena and the laundry hanging out the windows, but the following day while scouting, I found the Philosophy Department at the local university and its library had an extraordinary garden which overlooked the town and the distant hills.  Nora Fischer said, “The philosopher’s garden was a green and floral oasis which was beautiful and we sat in it for quite a while and painted happily.”

Two days later we transferred to San Gimignano which is a walled town.  It used to have 75 towers, but now has 13. What an extraordinary town with a cistern in the centre of the piazza and fabulous narrow streets and very ancient buildings.  Again our hotel was an ancient stone building, right in the middle of the town.  Several of us shared a large balcony overlooking the fields, hills and valleys spreading out in a panoramic fan surrounding the town.

“Afternoons on the Terrace,” said Carmela Crimi,  “were a civilized way to spend the afternoon with pre-dinner drinks, snacks, and appetizers after such a hard day of painting and touring and the vistas from the terrace and we had a lot of catching up to do with each other’s daily adventures.”

Joanne Epworth said, “We painted the narrow cobbled streets, the arches and the amazing old buildings.  We also painted the towers of the town from our balcony.  Actually we really got quite a bit of painting in.  When it was too hot to paint we shopped at the many small shops and tried out quite a few restaurants and the wines.  Many of us went down to the Piazza La Cisterna to sketch to paint the ancient well.  We also enjoyed people- watching because there were people there from all over the world.”

One of the days we went out to a totally organic farm, Poggio Alloro, for lunch and to try out the wines from their winery.  We feasted on their fresh vegetables and the owner tempted us with fresh figs right off the trees.  They produced extra virgin olive oil, beef, cheese, homemade pasta and fruits including figs and pomegranates from the farm. This was a great place to sketch in our sketch books.

Carmela Crimi said,”I have been ranting and raving about Poggia Alloro to everybody.  I was highly impressed by how the family ran it, how clean it was and the never-ending views were spectacular.  It was a wonderful way to spend a relaxing day.  The lunch was included and we did not have to think about anything at all.  It was all there for us.”

Almost every evening there was a free concert in the centre of the town practically outside our hotel doors.  Nora Fischer said, “Besides the visual arts, we also got to hear the other side of the arts, the musical side. So, we would go and eat somewhere lovely and then attend the almost daily evening concerts, stopping for gelatos before heading to bed.  The gelatos are always a favourite whenever I go to Italy.  We put in fabulous full days.  The young members on the trip and the more mature ones enjoyed it equally.  Kristin, my granddaughter, enjoyed the museums.  My other granddaughter, Meghan, enjoyed the painting as much as we did.  Ryan, her friend, who had never painted before got the hang of it very quickly.  The more advanced artists did well, but the novices enjoyed the teaching and demonstrations just as much.”

Joanne Epworth said, “We went to bed content, having put in another exciting day and with the lovely memory of music ringing in our ears and yet another gelato.”

In Florence on the last day we did some last minute shopping and then met up at the Uffizzi Gallery.  It was just too vast to see everything, but we had made a plan to see specific pieces we were interested in, such as the Botticelli and Michaelangelo paintings. Sometimes we cannot even imagine how big some of these works are because we have only seen them in books and in prints.  We saw our last glimpses of Florence for this trip but hopefully we would all return some day.  We had put our coins into the fountain at the market with that wish.

Valerie Kent, B.A.,B.Ed.,M.F.A. is a visual artist who facilitates trips to France and Italy every summer. She leads artists, photographers and others who enjoy the visual arts and does demonstrations and workshops on the trips. Her work is available in a number of galleries and her sought after workshops are listed on her site: www.valeriekent.com
artistvalerie@yahoo.ca


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