October 11-20, 2015
Come join us on an eight-day exploration of Central Italy. The Umbrian and Tuscan regions of Italy are an artistic and gastronomic marvel. In addition to providing a tour of the beautiful countryside, quaint villages, and incredible Etruscan, Gothic, and Romanesque architecture of the region, we will provide opportunities for artistic and culinary exploration as well. From museum visits to optional visits to Italian artists’ private studios, participants will be able to soak in the region’s artistic heritage first-hand. Delicious Jewish-Roman cuisine will also be available in gourmet restaurants, private homes, and even a full day of Italian kosher cooking classes.
This tour will provide an incomparable mix of historical and cultural exploration, lush central Italian landscapes, glimpses of some of the world’s greatest paintings and architecture, and food and wine that provides the perfect punctuation to each day’s activities.
Departure: Sunday, October 11, 2015
The trip will begin with our departure on independent overnight flights to Rome, Italy.
Day 1: Monday, October 12, 2015 — Rome/ Spoleto (Arrival)
Highlights: Villa Lante, visit to artist’s studio (optional)
Upon arrival at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, we’ll be met by our tour manager and depart for the first leg of our tour in Spoleto, which lies in the heart of Umbria. It is known as a rich cultural center for the region, with vibrant festivals and artistic events.
On the way to Spoleto, we’ll stop for a visit to Villa Lante, a magnificent villa surrounded by a lush park. The park is a landscape of manicured parterre gardens, cascading fountains, and hidden grottoes, and is known as the most beautiful park in all of Italy.
We’ll arrive in Spoleto by late afternoon and check into our hotel. Then we will have the rest of the day to relax. Tour members also have the option of meeting a major local painter at his private studio in the Old City.
Day 2: Tuesday, October 13, 2015 — Spoleto
Highlights: Duomo di Spoleto, Teatro Romano, visit to artist’s studio (optional)
In the morning we’ll explore Spoleto’s rich cultural history. We’ll begin with a visit to the Duomo di Spoleto, a 14th-century cathedral that is a prime example of Romanesque architecture. It is home to a large collection of important paintings and frescoes.
After our museum visit, we’ll tour the Teatro Romano, a small, well-preserved Roman theatre. Built at the end of the 1st century, the open-air theatre is still used during the city’s annual Festival dei Due Mondi.
The rest of the afternoon will be available for leisure time or independent exploration. Tour members also have the option of meeting a major local painter at his private studio in the Old City.
Our overnight accommodations will continue in Spoleto.
Day 3: Wednesday, October 14, 2015 — Spoleto/ Solomeo/ Spello/ Spoleto
Highlights: Solomeo and Spello village tours, Santa Maria Maggiore frescoes
We’ll star the day with a visit to the quaint rural village of Solomeo. The famous cashmere producer, Brunello Cucinelli, purchased the entire village and transformed it into a living workshop. The villagers produce high-end woolen goods and other products, and we’ll have the opportunity to meet some of the artisans during our tour of the village.
In the afternoon, we’ll visit the ancient village of Spello. Lying on the slopes of Mount Subasio, Spello is known for the numerous remains of medieval civilization that are still found there, from partial Roman walls to ancient monuments. The village is also noted for its unique rosy hue, courtesy of the local pink limestone from which most of its buildings are constructed. The limestone, quarried atop Mount Subasio, creates a pink glow, particularly at sunset.
While in Spello, we’ll travel to the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, a 12th century building whose Cappella Baglioni houses outstanding Pinturicchio frescoes depicting the life of Christ.
After a day of sightseeing, we’ll return to Spoleto for our overnight accommodations.
Day 4: Thursday, October 15, 2015 — Spoleto/ Orvieto/ Todi/ Spoleto
Highlights: Duomo of Orvieto, Todi’s Piazza del Popolo, Todi Cathedral, Museum of Roman Etruscan, Captain Palace, Priori Palace
We’ll depart Spoleto in the morning for a drive to the enchanting town of Orvieto. Orvieto has a rich cultural history, beginning as a center of Etruscan civilization before it was annexed by Rome. It became part of the Papal States in the 15th century before becoming part of unified Italy in 1860.
While in Orvieto, we’ll visit the 13th-century Duomo of Orvieto. This remarkable cathedral was designed by Lorenzo Maitani and features one of the world’s most familiar gothic facades. It is also home to a Renaissance fresco cycle by Luca Signorelli, said to have inspired Michelangelo’s later work at the Sistine Chapel.
Next we’ll head to Todi, another charming medieval town, where an expert guide will provide us with a tour. Todi has been dubbed the world’s most livable city by the Italian press, and it is indeed a lovely and tranquil gem in the Umbrian countryside.
We’ll begin our tour of the city at the Piazza del Popolo, in the heart of the city. The large center square, originally the site of Roman forums, lies in the shadow of some of the historic center’s most important buildings. It is considered one of Italy’s most ancient communal places and currently houses the city’s art gallery.
While in Todi, we’ll also visit its Cathedral. The 11th-century Gothic church is said to have been constructed over an ancient temple to Apollo. In addition to being a lovely cathedral, the site is considered the perfect place for taking area photos — just climb its high stairs and look out on the streets below!
We’ll also visit the 13th-century Captain’s Palace or Palazzo del Capitano. Once a Justice Hall, it now houses the Etruscan-Roman Museum, which includes Roman, Etruscan, and medieval relics, as well as frescoes of the city’s history.
Nearby is the 14the century Priori Palace or Palazzo dei Priori, the former seat of Papal dignitaries. Its faÃ§ade includes a trapezoidal bell tower and a striking bronze eagle by Giovanni di Giliaccio.
We’ll return to Spoleto for our final night of accommodations at our hotel there.
Day 5: Friday, October 16, 2015 –Spoleto / Perugia / Siena
Highlights: Perugia walking tour, Collegio del Cambio, Fontana Maggiore, Arch of Augustus
In the morning we’ll depart for Perugia, which is the capital city of the Umbrian region. Although an urbane metropolis, Perugia also boasts a striking Old City, which includes monuments that date back to the Etruscan era. During our tour of the historic area, we’ll visit the Collegio del Cambio (or “guild of moneychangers”), which was the former hall of the local bankers’ guild. The building is home to some works by Raphael.
We’ll also visit the Fontana Maggiore, an elegant 13th-century fountain that stands in the center of the city’s main piazza. Considered a symbol for the free city of Perugia, the fountain is elaborately decorated with columns, carved panels, and both biblical and mythological statues.
The medieval-era streets will lead us to the Arch of Augustus, an imposing site that features architectural components from both the ancient Etruscans and the Renaissance period. Also known as the Etruscan Arch, it is one of Perugia’s few remaining city gates and dates from the 3rd century B.C.E.
Lunch will provide free time to independently explore Perugia and soak up the local ambiance in one of the area cafés.
After lunch, we’ll head north through the Apennines to arrive in Tuscany in time for Shabbat. Our overnight accommodations will await us in Siena.
Day 6: Saturday, October 17, 2015 — Siena (Shabbat)
Highlights: Siena walking tour, Siena Cathedral tour
In the morning, we’ll take a walking tour of Siena, led by a local guide. The capital of Tuscany’s province of Siena, the city is famed for its Gothic architecture, and its historic center has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During our tour we’ll be able to visit many of the city’s noted monuments and perhaps a few hidden gems.
After the morning’s walk, we’ll return to our hotel, where a gourmet Shabbat lunch has been prepared.
In the afternoon, we’ll head out again for a visit to the enormous Siena Cathedral. This ornately decorated structure, also known as the Duomo, is considered a prime example of Italian Gothic architecture. It features artwork by such brilliant Italian painters as Michelangelo, Donatello, and Duccio Pinturicchio, whose has ten frescoes on display in the cathedral library. Our tour will include a look at a floor that has been faux painted in marble, and octagonal Gothic pulpit, and displays of early Renaissance choir books.
Afterward, we’ll return to our hotel for overnight accommodations.
Day 7:Sunday, October 18, 2015 — Siena
Highlight: Italian cooking class
There’s no better way to immerse oneself in Italian cuisine than by taking an Italian cooking class. Tuscany is world-famous for its dedication to epicurean delights, and people flock to the region from around the world to savor its gourmet foods and wines. Our kosher cooking course will allow us to experience the incomparable blending of Italian and Jewish culinary traditions.
The cooking class will be available either at a local vocational school or in a selected Tuscan villa. Classes will be led by professional chefs and adhere to all the standards of kashrut.
After our class, we’ll overnight again in Siena.
Day 8: Monday, October 19, 2015 — Siena
Highlights: Cantina Terra di Seta winery tour, horseback riding
Today our exploration of Tuscany continues. We’ll enjoy a literal taste of Tuscany with a visit to the Cantina Terra di Seta, an organic and kosher winery. The winery is part of an organic farm and lies on a hill near Siena, providing panoramic views of the Tuscan countryside. Our wine tasting tour will include a tour of the vineyard and wine cellar, and a history of winemaking and the Tuscan wine culture. We’ll also sample Terra di Seta wine, honey, and olive oil, along with kosher appetizers.
In the afternoon, expert guides will lead us on horseback rides through Siena’s renowned vineyards and lovely countryside. We’ll ride through the hills, olive groves, and vineyards of Chianti Classico, Italy’s famous wine region, and glimpse the gardens of the Villa di Geggiano, a 14th-century villa that is now a National Heritage site. Its landscaped gardens and paths lined with centuries-old cypresses create the perfect setting for exploration of the Tuscan countryside.
After a day in wine country, we’ll return to our hotel for overnight accommodations.
Departure: Tuesday, October 20, 2015–Siena
All good things must come to an end, and our tour of Italy’s Tuscany and Umbria Adina regions ends today, as we embark on our international flights home.
Spoleto — We’ll enjoy top-end accommodations in the four-star Hotel San Luca.
Siena — We’ll stay in the five-star Grand Hotel Continental, housed in a sumptuous Renaissance palace.