Truffles, Olive Oil & Chestnuts
14–24 October 2013
A collaboration with Viaggi Senza Fretta
An extraordinary opportunity to visit the homes of locals and workshops of artisans, sharing their culinary treasures from Val d'Orcia in the south of Tuscany to Lucca in the north. Make new friends in an intimate group of like-minded people (only 8–10 guests).
Itinerary at a glance
- 5 days in the Val d'Orcia (UNESCO World Heritage Site in Siena Province)
- 1 day travel to Lucca with lunch in Arezzo
- 3 days at Lucca and the Garfagnana
- 1 day in the Cinque Terre (UNESCO World Heritage Site in La Spezia Province)
Highlights of Tour
2 truffle experiences
- Accompany Gianni and his dog on a truffle hunt
- Dinner featuring truffles
7 olive oil experiences
- Pick olives on organic farm
- Visit traditional olive oil press
- Visit modern olive oil press
- Lunch at olive estate
- Cooking lesson based on new oil
- Tutored olive oil tasting
- Complimentary bottle of new extra virgin olive oil
3 chestnut experiences
- Meet Beppe and visit his chestnut drying hut
- Taste Dalida's chestnut flan in village bar
- Attend popular village chestnut festival
2 cooking lessons
- Learn to make hand-rolled pici (fat spaghetti typical of the Province of Siena)
- Prepare a menu based on your new extra virgin olive oil
- Montepulciano, Pienza, Arezzo, Lucca
- Free day in the Cinque Terre
- Visit cheesemaker: see how artisan pecorino and ricotta are made and taste them
- Visit to vineyard: tour of cellars and tasting of Nobile di Montepulciano wines
- Visit to free range Cinta Senese pig farm
- Dinner in an Italian home
- Thermal bath at Bagno Vignoni (not included in price of tour)
Transfer from Chiusi-Chianciano Terme train station to Osteria dell'Orcia, Bagno Vignoni, our accommodation in the Val d'Orcia, a World Heritage Site, for the next six nights. Welcome dinner at Osteria dell'Orcia prepared by our hosts Eliana and Silvano.
This morning we visit a family dairy where the owners Sandra and Ulisse show us how to make pecorino cheese and ricotta. We meet their family and flocks and then settle down to taste their cheese, homemade bread, honey and wine. Free afternoon in the quintessential Renaissance town of Pienza, a Unesco World Heritage Site. Dinner at Osteria dell'Orcia.
At a 'carbon-free' vineyard that produces the famed Nobile di Montepulciano we tour the estate learning about the microclimates that give each wine its distinct flavour. After a visit to the wine cellar where we find out about the process of making wine, we come to the enjoyable task of tasting the wine. Montepulciano is our next stop, where you are free to have lunch, shop and explore. You can visit some of the historical wine cellars or sit and admire the Renaissance magnificence of the Piazza Grande. Next to the Piazza is one of the last coppersmiths in Tuscany. Then we head home for dinner along 'la Foce', a panoramic route on which many car commercials have been shot.
Today our destination is Mount Amiata - a majestic, extinct volcano that still generates the hot springs at Bagno Vignoni and Bagni San Filippo. The mountain is renowned for its wild mushrooms, truffles, chestnuts, olive oil, game and wild berries. It is also home to the Cinta Senese pig, a breed dating back to at least the 14th century, which until 20 years ago had almost disappeared. After a visit to the farm, we have lunch in the nature reserve where you can taste the Cinta and find out for yourselves how lucky it is that it was saved from extinction. After lunch we return to Osteria dell'Orcia for a cooking lesson with Eliana. We will then relax and enjoy the dishes we've cooked with local wines and great company!
The delightful Gianni and his dog take us truffle hunting on his estate, after which we taste his extra-virgin olive oil and the truffles you've found (we hope). The afternoon is free to visit the ancient pilgrimage town of Bagno Vignoni just 10 minutes walk from the hotel, bathe in its thermal pool known to the Etruscans and frequented by pilgrims and nobility ever since, or simply relax at Osteria dell'Orcia
We bid farewell to the Val d'Orcia and head to the Garfagnana in northern Tuscany. Luckily we arrive at Arezzo in time to lunch at a restaurant with one of the top wine sommeliers in Italy. Arezzo merits a visit in its own right for its churches and art, especially the Piero della Francesca cycle, 'The Legend of the True Cross'. We continue to agriturismo La Cappella just outside Lucca, our home for the rest of the tour. Our hostess Vicky welcomes us with a pizza party.
We spend today in the wild, rugged mountains of the Garfagnana because it's the beginning of the chestnut season. Dishes made from chestnut flour were the staple food of the Garfagnana until very recently and the new flour is still eagerly awaited every autumn. We walk though the beautiful autumn chestnut woods to visit a chestnut-drying hut, where you are introduced to the mysteries of how chestnuts are turned into flour. We lunch at a family restaurant on Giovanna's silky pasta, Enrico's game stews and Luisa's incomparable desserts. We end up at a chestnut festival in a romantic hilltop village where craftsmen make wooden shoes and cane chairs, we can visit a chestnut museum and sample roasted chestnuts, mulled wine and chestnut flour pancakes cooked between hot stones.
Olive oil is fast food. In ideal circumstances the olive gets from the tree to the oil drum in a single day. In the morning we help pick olives on an organic estate which produces one of the best olive oils of Lucca. Our lunch on the estate shows off the owners' commitment to Slow Food produce and cooking. After lunch we visit the modern press where our olives will be turned into extra-virgin oil. We also visit a traditional press and find out which is best. We return to La Cappella for a cooking lesson where we learn to make typical dishes of Lucca with our new olive oil.
The Cinque Terre — the Five Lands — is one of the most beautiful stretches of Italian coastline. Our driver takes us to the first village, from which you can explore all five, hopping between them by train or by boat, from which you get the best view of the vertiginous cultivated terraces and rocky cliffs plunging down to the sea. Or you can walk between villages on the well-marked trails.We return to a home-cooked dinner with an Italian family. If you've already been to the Cinque Terre and don't want to go again, we will walk along an ancient woodland path from La Cappella to a wine estate for a tour of the vineyards and wine tasting.
A free day to explore the exquisite walled town of Lucca. Among its treasures are its landscaped Renaissance walls, the amphitheatre still bearing traces of its Roman and mediaeval origins, many churches, paintings and sculptures. In the evening a Puccini concert (optional) followed by our farewell dinner in a 16th-century noble palazzo.
Departure. Transport provided to Lucca train station or Pisa airport.
Relais 'Osteria dell'Orcia', Bagno Vignoni
A 17th-century post house along the Via Francigena where pilgrims on their way from Canterbury to Rome stopped to rest, take refreshment and change horses. Since modernised, but still peaceful with excellent restaurant.
La Cappella, Cappella (Lucca)
A fully restored former convent, with outstanding views over Lucca. The estate produces olive oil and jam, the latter a feature at breakfast.
Following her careers as archaeologist, orchestra and artist manager and chef, Heather came to Lucca to pursue her passion for traditional artisan food. Her tours, inspired by her infectious curiosity, open captivating new worlds to her guests.
Lucia founded Viaggi Senza Fretta (Slow Travel Tours Tuscany) to share her community's valued traditions, culture and countryside with people who travel to learn, compare cultures and exchange ideas as a means of relaxing and regenerating their minds, bodies and souls.
Prices & What's Included
Per person: €2950 (Euros)
Single supplement: €375 (Euros)
Friendly knowledgeable English-speaking guide throughout your stay
10 nights welcoming, relaxing accommodation, en suite bathrooms
Local ground transportation for 11 days
Daily continental breakfast, 5 lunches, 9 dinners
Entrance to wine tasting, cheese tasting, truffle hunt, cooking lessons, guided visits with producers, complimentary bottle of extra-virgin olive oil
Does not include
Travel and cancellation insurance
Spa treatments, concert
Wine and drinks, other than those served with meals, additional meals
Personal expenses such as telephone, mini-bar, etc.
Chiusi-Chianciano Terme train station (nearest international airport is Rome)
If you are flying from outside Europe, we suggest you arrive a couple of days early to recover from jet lag so you can fully enjoy your time with us. We are happy to advise about where to stay and eat and what to do before and after your tour.
Informal. Jeans or smart trousers are acceptable everywhere. Good walking shoes and socks required for pig farm, truffle hunt and olive picking.
Weather in October
Val d'Orcia: 9–15˚C/48–60˚F, precipitation 69 mm/2.7 in
Lucca: 11–21˚C/52–70˚F, precipitation 119 mm/4.7 in
The Itinerary is subject to change if necessary due to weather or agricultural conditions or other events outside our control.
What People Say
Thank you so much for having created such a memorable and unique travel experience. There were so many highlights in this tour, it's difficult to say which my favourite was. I feel I have seen sides of Tuscany which I would never have discovered if I was travelling by myself. Your local knowledge and connections to the community has made the whole experience much more authentic.
When people ask what I liked best, I must say that I rave about our trip with you — it was excellent and a real contrast with all the big city tours we did.
It was one of those magical trips for me that you can't really ever re-live, you just have to cherish it.
This is a tour for those who want to get below the surface. You will meet extraordinary people, share meals with them in their homes and watch as they keep ancient traditions alive. Heather's knowledge comes from her love for the Garfagnana and its people and it is infectious.
I want to thank you so much for the wonderful week we had with you. It was so much fun. I’m telling everyone about it.
We had the most wonderful time on our tour. I knew I would enjoy myself but I was blown away by how much Bryan enjoyed himself. I have not seen him so relaxed. We all got on so well and loved all the things we did and saw. Just wanted to say thank you for organising such a great tour. I would recommend it to anyone.
Your tour was the highlight of our seven-week absence from home. There were so many highlights that it is difficult to single out one experience above another, but I must say that the contact with the olive trees was very special. Above all it was your preparation and organisation and great communication with us all that will remain with me forever.
We are truly grateful for the opportunities afforded by traveling with you. You willingly share your passion for the slow food lifestyle with your clients, creating unforgettable and personal experiences like visiting with Beppe at his metato, picking olives with Augusto, or tasting the newest prosciutto with Andrea. Everyone made us feel like part of the family. Not to mention all of the amazing meals! We learned so much and are eager to apply it to our life here at home. It was truly a perfect honeymoon, and a once in a lifetime holiday.
Amazing trip for us both. Much enjoyed every segment of our itinerary and our congenial group and coach driver! Food, our hosts, accommodation, your information and effective communication—all very good.
We had so much opportunity to learn, not just by observing the producers, but by cooking, tasting and eating and, of course, being involved in all aspects of olive oil production. It was just brilliant to be able to pick, process and bottle our own oil.
The pleasure hasn't waned and I have already prepared food differently and made a big veg soup, bruschetta with OUR oil and the mondiola. Went to my local Sainsbury's last evening and was totally depressed at the range and quality of the veg ... My life won't return to exactly where it was before the trip, truly: I shall experience greater satisfaction and greater frustration!