Tuesday, October 10:
Fly from USA. See column on left for instructions. For the six of you arriving a day early, call First Hotel at 0331 717045 after you pick up your luggage. Exit Gate 6 and look for hotel pick up site.
Wednesday, October 11:
After picking up your luggage and clearing customs, exit and look for me. I have arranged for a coach transfer to Fiesole/Firenze and the Villa Aurora, (+39 05559363) a 4-star hotel in Fiesole. The ride will take a little more than three hours and we will need to stop along the way for lunch. After arriving in Fiesole, shower, change, and then spend some time walking around this delightful small city. Dinner (fixed menu) at the hotel restaurant. (Unless stated differently, why don’t we plan on eating every night at 7:30.)
Thursday, October 12:Breakfast at the hotel (every morning throughout the tour). The fermata (stop) for the #7 bus is about 30 steps from the front door of our hotel and it takes 15 to 25 minutes to get to the train station in Florence. Buses leave every 20 minutes. I will provide everyone with 2 tickets good for 4 trips each on the ATAF buses. Depart hotel around 9:00 for an orientation walk in Florence to show you where the two markets are, along with some of the principal churches and museums. The walk will end near the Accademia and I can show you where dinner is tomorrow and the location of a bus stop to get you back to Fiesole. Dinner (choices) at Ristorante I’ Polpa (05559485). Overnight in Villa Aurora, Fiesole.
Friday, October 13:
Day in Florence. Dinner (fixed menu) in Florence at Accademia Restaurant (055217343) on Piazza S. Marco next to the Accademia. Overnight in Villa Aurora, Fiesole..
Saturday, October 14:
Day in Florence. Dinner (choices) at Ristorante I’ Polpa in Fiesole. Overnight in Villa Aurora, Fiesole.
Sunday, October 15:
Check out of hotel and depart for southern Toscana at 9:00 a.m. We will take S 222, the Strada da Chianti. We will make stops along the way, perhaps in Greve in Chianti and Buonconvento. Also, I will have us stop at Casalgallo (0577328008), a winery near Quercegrossa. Our final stop will be in Montalcino to check out the town hall and the fortress. We should arrive at Bagno Vignoni (south of Sienna on S 2 just below where S 146 forks off to the east to Montepulciano) in the late afternoon. Dinner and overnight in Albergo Le Terme. (+39 0577887150).
Monday, October 16:
Depart hotel at 9:00 to meet our local guide, Cristina Amberti (3482252411), at Chiesa San Biaggio in Montepulciano for a walking tour. After lunch in Montepulciano (independent), we will visit the picturesque town of Pienza, one of the few “Ideal” Renaissance cities to get built, and was a pet project of Pope Pius II after his election to the papacy in 1458. (This astounding example of Papal pork politics may have served as a model for a certain Alaskan senator.) Dinner and overnight in Albergo Le Terme.
Tuesday, October 17:
Today we will revisit two favorite stops from last year’s Umbria trip, Orvieto and La Casella. Depart Bagno Vignoni for leisurely drive to Orvieto. Pick and choose your activities in Orvieto–the cave tour, the well with the double helix stairs, and/or the archaeological museum–I will pick up the tab. Or shop at the many attractive shops (no, I will not pick up the tab.) Lunch independent, mid-afternoon departure for La Casella, (01139) 074298989 near San Terenziano. We are coming here for dinner, and yes, they will serve the ravioli again. And since dinner will be late and long, we will spend the night in La Casella.
Wednesday, October 18:
Check out of hotel and depart for Sarnano at 9:00. I will have us go slightly out of our way to pick up Assisi so those of you who have not visited the famed basilica will have an opportunity to do so. After two hours, we will drive to have lunch (independent) at Trattoria Cantinella (0733) 908112 in Serrapetrona. There will be an opportunity to visit an enoteca which specializes in the local wine, Vernaccia. We will want to arrive in Tolentino at 3:30 to visit the Basilica San Nicola (yes, the same St. Nicholas of “twas the night before Christmas” fame.) We will allow plenty of time (90 minutes?) to see everything here. Don’t miss the over-the-top Presepio which is open year around. If we leave Tolentino around 5:30, we should be in Sarnano a little after 6:00. Our hotel in Sarnano will be Ai Cerchi. (+39073) 365-8199) Dinner and overnight in Sarnano.
Thursday, October 19:
Plan to leave the hotel a little after 9:00 and walk five minutes downhill until you reach the Thursday open air market. This will give you a taste of what life is like in small Italian towns. You will see clothing, cookware, cosmetics, household gadgetry, plants, flowers, and, if you walk down the steep little street to the left of a bank, you will see the fruit and vegetable stalls, plus fresh and fried fish, sausage, ham and so on. I doubt if you will buy anything, but it is certainly colorful. And you will see most of the denizens of Sarnano. By 10:30, head back up to the main piazza next to the park. There are three bars around, so you can enjoy a cappuccino while waiting. I will serve as our local guide and show you the art and architecture of Sarnano, ending with a visit to the European Headquarters of Barker’s European Tours, aka, my apartment. I will arrange for a lunch (optional) at the nearby Trattoria da Zio Emilio (0733 658351). After lunch, the market should be cleared out so our bus can pick us up and take us back to the hotel for a nap. At 4:00, departure for Penna San Giovanni (0733 669118), another nearby hill town. We will visit two churches and a fine 200-year old wooden theater. Return to Sarnano for some free time before dinner and overnight in Hotel Ai Cerchi.
Friday, October 20:
Check out of hotel and depart for Parma. We will first stop at the Roman site of Urbisaglia (0733 506566) for a one hour guided tour of the active dig. Then we will head east to the coast and then north on the A 14. Time permitting and group interest, I will have us swing by Ravenna to see the mosaics. Or we can stop at a Verdicchio winery. Or we can do them all! With the stop(s), we will arrive in Parma in the late afternoon. Dinner and overnight in Hotel Palace Maria Luigia. (+390521281032)
Saturday, October 21:
Morning walking city tour of Parma. Lunch independent. Afternoon free. Dinner at Gallo d’Oro (0521 208846) near the duomo area. Overnight in Hotel Palace Maria Luigia.
Sunday, October 22:
Morning free. The hotel has an association with the Fondazione Magnani-Rocca which holds one of the finest private art collections in the world. We will visit the galleries today and have lunch. Of special interest is a Goya exhibition which will still be at the museum when we visit. Dinner independent, overnight in Hotel Palace Maria Luigia.
Monday, October 23:
Parma is the food capital of Italy. Today we will check out of the hotel at 8:00 in time to watch the making of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Plan to pick up a vacuum pack to take home. En route to Milano, we will stop at Rocca Sanvitale di Fontanellato. Lunch (independent) en route, arriving in Milano mid-afternoon. Dinner at the Ristorante Mediterranea and overnight in Starhotels Splendido (+39026789) near Milano Centrale.
Tuesday, October 24:
Tour ends after breakfast. The airport transfer is simple–the Malpensa Express leaves from across the piazza from our hotel and goes directly to Milano Malpensa. For those of you who wish to stay on in Milano, I can arrange for you to get the group rate for your stay. If you are wanting to travel elsewhere in Italy or Europe, the Milan train station is right there.
La Rue Atterbury (arr. 10/11, 8:40 a.m., DL 74)
George Beddingfield (arr. 10/11 at 10:45 a.m. on AA 6523)
Catherine Gilbert (arr. 10/11, 8:40 a.m., DL 74)
Dale Fleishman & Ron Jenkins (arr. 10/10 in a.m. on Continental)
Donita Lincoln & Sara Lewis (10/10 at 17:40 on BA)
Ken & Joyce Kennamer (10/11 at 7:55 on CO 44)
Joe Di Dio & Robert Terhune (arr. 10/10, 12:35, Alitalia 607)
Judy Vallery & Peggy Patterson (arr. 10/11, 8:40 a.m., DL 74)
Dale Matlock & Rick Herold (arr. 10/11, 8:40 a.m. DL 74)