Tailormade tour Tuscany and Umbria tour by rail and car Italy

9 nights /10 days

Florence • Chianti • Umbria

This touring holiday to Tuscany and Umbria by rail with the use of a hire-car to explore offers you two complementary regions of the heart of Italy as well as an enjoyable drive in between places. You also have one night in Florence after arriving on the overnight sleeper from Paris to Milan. There are short drives in between all places, giving you time to explore in a leisurely fashion, stopping off in cultural gems such as Arezzo or Cortona. There is time to drive along the Chianti route and visit Lake Trasimeno.
Holiday price guide

Available year-round subject to the opening period of the hotels, from about £1,965 per person.

Luxury rail-drive tailormade touring holiday to Tuscany and Umbria

Highlights

Day by day

You begin your rail touring holiday to Tuscany and Umbria by travelling out on an afternoon Eurostar service from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord. Following a change of station in Paris continue by Thello sleeper train overnight to Milan. We recommend the two bed sleeper compartments on the Thello train. There is a washbasin in the compartments and shared toilets in each carriage.

Arrive in Milan in the early morning to change trains for the journey to Florence arriving at about 9am. You are transferred by private car to your hotel. You may want to pay to guarantee an early check-in, but you have the rest of the day to explore the beautiful city of Florence. You spend one night in Florence.

Linger perhaps to spend the morning in Florence, before collecting your hire-car from a central Florence location and embarking on your tour into the Tuscan countryside, reaching your hotel in the afternoon when you can check-in. Your base in the countryside is in the Chianti region only about 40 kms from Florence but is an ideal location to allow for much exploration of Tuscany.

You have the next two days at your leisure to explore Tuscany. From your hotel you could travel south along the Chianti wine route, stopping off in the wine villages along the way, for example Greve, Radda and Gaiole. The countryside delights with its mix of fields and orchards, olive groves, vineyards and forested hills. There are villas and gardens to visit, as well as the picturesque, fortified town of San Gimignano and Tuscany’s rival city, Siena.

The distance today is about 140 kms by the most direct route. However, to make the most of your time we would recommend driving south-east to the small city of Arezzo. It is an artistic and architectural gem with the painted vaulted ceilings of the cathedral, a 15th century fresco of Mary Magdalene by Piero della Francesca, the Basilica of San Francesco with more Piero frescoes and the Basilica of San Domenico with the 13th century Crucifix painted by Cimabue. There is also a Medici fortress. An antiques market is held here on the first Sunday of every month. Continue south through the rolling hills to the hilltop town of Cortona, rich in Etruscan history with substantial displays of Etruscan artefacts in the museum. Cortona to your destination is about an hour’s drive and the route takes you along the shores of Lake Trasimeno. Hills clad in olive trees encircle about half of the lake, and dotted here and there are ancient, small towns and castles, many in ruins.

From your base in the Umbrian countryside, a noteworthy circular excursion for a day (or split it into two days) is to visit the nearby cathedral and university city of Perugia. At the heart of this city, on a hilltop, is the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo, distinctive because of its original architectural style. Inside, the cathedral contains a huge collection of works of art. The Palazzo dei Priori, however, is a gothic 13th century palace that holds Perugia’s main art gallery: the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria. Take a walk along the Via dell’Acquedotto, a converted aqueduct that navigates through the whole town, or, through the unnamed Etruscan gateway, enter the Rocca Paolina, a maze of underground tunnels that used to make up the mediaeval city, but now affords residents and visitors an intriguing and convenient way of getting from one part of the city to another. A favourite attraction in Perugia is the Perugina chocolate factory, which offers tours. To the south of Perugia is the wine-village of Torgiano. There is a wine museum, and you can visit the famous Lungarotti winery. From here you can follow the course of the River Tiber as it curls its way south towards Rome, and visit the hilltop town of Todi, rich in mediaeval architecture. The main sights are the 11th century cathedral, the Palazzo del Popolo, the Palazzo del Capitano, and the Palazzo dei Priori. There are other small mediaeval and Renaissance churches and the town is surrounded still by three concentric walls: one Etruscan, one Roman and one mediaeval. From Todi back to your hotel is about 50 minutes by car.

Today consists of a leisurely drive back to Florence, a direct journey of about two hours mainly on the autostrada, where you return your hire-car. You can time the journey so that you can have an early dinner in Florence before taking a train to Milan and transferring to the Thello sleeper that leaves at about 11pm.

The sleeper reaches Paris at about 10 am then from the Gare de Lyon you make your way to the Gare du Nord for the Eurostar to London St Pancras.

Thank-you again for planning this for us. You truly gave us the perfect holiday experience.
Mrs E, June 2019

Holiday price guide From £1,965 per person based on two people sharing a double room including second class rail travel. From £2,165 per person based on two people sharing a double room including first class rail travel.

Holiday Code ITRD03

Luxury rail-drive tailormade touring holiday to Tuscany and Umbria

You begin your rail touring holiday to Tuscany and Umbria by travelling out on an afternoon Eurostar service from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord. Following a change of station in Paris continue by Thello sleeper train overnight to Milan. We recommend the two bed sleeper compartments on the Thello train. There is a washbasin in the compartments and shared toilets in each carriage.

Arrive in Milan in the early morning to change trains for the journey to Florence arriving at about 9am. You are transferred by private car to your hotel. You may want to pay to guarantee an early check-in, but you have the rest of the day to explore the beautiful city of Florence. You spend one night in Florence.

Linger perhaps to spend the morning in Florence, before collecting your hire-car from a central Florence location and embarking on your tour into the Tuscan countryside, reaching your hotel in the afternoon when you can check-in. Your base in the countryside is in the Chianti region only about 40 kms from Florence but is an ideal location to allow for much exploration of Tuscany.

You have the next two days at your leisure to explore Tuscany. From your hotel you could travel south along the Chianti wine route, stopping off in the wine villages along the way, for example Greve, Radda and Gaiole. The countryside delights with its mix of fields and orchards, olive groves, vineyards and forested hills. There are villas and gardens to visit, as well as the picturesque, fortified town of San Gimignano and Tuscany’s rival city, Siena.

The distance today is about 140 kms by the most direct route. However, to make the most of your time we would recommend driving south-east to the small city of Arezzo. It is an artistic and architectural gem with the painted vaulted ceilings of the cathedral, a 15th century fresco of Mary Magdalene by Piero della Francesca, the Basilica of San Francesco with more Piero frescoes and the Basilica of San Domenico with the 13th century Crucifix painted by Cimabue. There is also a Medici fortress. An antiques market is held here on the first Sunday of every month. Continue south through the rolling hills to the hilltop town of Cortona, rich in Etruscan history with substantial displays of Etruscan artefacts in the museum. Cortona to your destination is about an hour’s drive and the route takes you along the shores of Lake Trasimeno. Hills clad in olive trees encircle about half of the lake, and dotted here and there are ancient, small towns and castles, many in ruins.

From your base in the Umbrian countryside, a noteworthy circular excursion for a day (or split it into two days) is to visit the nearby cathedral and university city of Perugia. At the heart of this city, on a hilltop, is the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo, distinctive because of its original architectural style. Inside, the cathedral contains a huge collection of works of art. The Palazzo dei Priori, however, is a gothic 13th century palace that holds Perugia’s main art gallery: the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria. Take a walk along the Via dell’Acquedotto, a converted aqueduct that navigates through the whole town, or, through the unnamed Etruscan gateway, enter the Rocca Paolina, a maze of underground tunnels that used to make up the mediaeval city, but now affords residents and visitors an intriguing and convenient way of getting from one part of the city to another. A favourite attraction in Perugia is the Perugina chocolate factory, which offers tours. To the south of Perugia is the wine-village of Torgiano. There is a wine museum, and you can visit the famous Lungarotti winery. From here you can follow the course of the River Tiber as it curls its way south towards Rome, and visit the hilltop town of Todi, rich in mediaeval architecture. The main sights are the 11th century cathedral, the Palazzo del Popolo, the Palazzo del Capitano, and the Palazzo dei Priori. There are other small mediaeval and Renaissance churches and the town is surrounded still by three concentric walls: one Etruscan, one Roman and one mediaeval. From Todi back to your hotel is about 50 minutes by car.

Today consists of a leisurely drive back to Florence, a direct journey of about two hours mainly on the autostrada, where you return your hire-car. You can time the journey so that you can have an early dinner in Florence before taking a train to Milan and transferring to the Thello sleeper that leaves at about 11pm.

The sleeper reaches Paris at about 10 am then from the Gare de Lyon you make your way to the Gare du Nord for the Eurostar to London St Pancras.

Holiday price guide From £1,965 per person based on two people sharing a double room including second class rail travel.
From £2,165 per person based on two people sharing a double room including first class rail travel.

Holiday Code ITRD03

Luxury rail-drive tailormade touring holiday to Tuscany and Umbria

About Tuscany

An Expressions tailor-made holiday in Tuscany allows you to appreciate its classical landscape of rolling hills and vineyards dotted with olive and cypress trees, its misty green-grey mountains that are never too far distant, and hill-top towns of rich brown and gold stone houses. This combines with the beauty of the works of art contained in the towns and villages throughout Tuscany to create an inspirational union of the spirit and the senses. There is an intrinsic comfort in the supposed contrast between the delicacy of a Botticelli and the heartiness of Ribollita soup, yet both are typical of this fascinating region. As birthplace of the Renaissance, the impact of Tuscan and particularly Florentine traditions and culture on European heritage is fundamental to our way of life. In addition to the obvious attractions of the scenery of Chianti and the art cities of Florence and Siena, there are the less well-known regions south of Siena with its moon-like landscape of hills, the patchwork vineyards of Montalcino, the coastal marshlands of the Maremma, the spas of Montecatini and Saturnia, the islands of Elba and Giglio, and the Casentino with the source of the Arno and abundant mushroom crops. Wherever you travel on holiday in Tuscany, you will be inspired by the beauty of your surroundings and the way of life, which is quintessentially that of Italy too.

Highlights of Tuscany

Famous vineyards producing wines of Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Alabaster is produced in Volterra. Gold and silver are worked in Florence and the Ponte Vecchio is lined with jewellery shops. Marbled paper and stationery is a speciality of Florence. Ceramics and hand-painted majolica from raw terracotta from Impruneta to the glazed pottery of Siena are to be found throughout Tuscany. Lucca has traditionally produced silk and hand-woven fabrics. Leather goods including shoes, handbags and belts are to be found from market stalls to designer shops such as Gucci and Ferragamo. Interesting markets include the Mercato dell' Antiquariato which sells furniture from antiques to bric-a-brac in Arezzo on the first weekend of every month, in Pisa on the second weekend and in Lucca on the third weekend. The 'wild' Maremma is known for its long-horned white cattle and cowboys (butteri) and natural springs including Saturnia.

Cultural highlights of Tuscany

As birthplace of the Renaissance, Tuscany contains a wealth of treasures: Giotto`s Campanile and Brunelleschi`s Dome in Florence, the Tombs of Galileo and Michelangelo in Florence`s Santa Croce, Botticelli`s `Birth of Venus` and `Primavera` and the portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino by Piero della Francesca in the Uffizi, Michelangelo`s `David` in the Accademia, the architecture of the Piazza della Signoria in Florence, `The Tuscan Maremma` painting by Giovanni Fattori in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, the Piazza del Campo in Siena, `The Legend of the Cross` frescoes by Piero della Francesco in Arezzo, `The Creation` fresco by Bartolo di Fredi in the Collegiata in San Gimignano, Romanesque church of the Collegiata in San Quirico d`Orcia, 14th Century Fortezza of Montalcino, Renaissance masterpiece of the church of Madonna di San Biagio at Montepulciano, the abbey-church of Sant`Antimo, mediaeval Lucignano and the towers of San Gimignano, the Etruscan Museum in Cortona.  

Festivals in Tuscany

Many of Tuscany`s festivals resound with the flamboyance of the Renaissance and keep Tuscans and visitors alike in touch with the region`s rich history. Others are linked to Tuscany`s hearty traditions of eating and drinking. The most famous is Siena`s Palio which takes place on 2 July and 16 August each year. Others include the Sagra del Tordo (Festival of the Thrush) in Montalcino on the last Sunday in October when there is an archery contest and charcoal-grilled thrush are a delicacy. In Florence, Calcio in Costume (a football match played in mediaeval costume) takes place in June. Pisa has the Giocco del Ponte (Game of the Bridge), a mock battle in Renaissance dress also held in June. Viareggio celebrates Carnival on Shrove Tuesday with a huge display of flamboyant floats. In May and August Massa Marittima holds the Falcon Contest.  

Gastronomy in Tuscany

Simple country food is at the heart of Tuscan cooking. Regional dishes include Bruschetta (bread or ciabatta toasted and rubbed with garlic, olive oil and salt), Ribollita (bean, cabbage and bread soup), Pasta with hare or wild boar sauce, Porcini mushroom and truffle dishes, Bistecca all Fiorentina (thick cut of sirloin and fillet beef), Cantucci (almond and honey biscuits) served dipped in Vin Santo, Panforte (chocolate, nut and spice cake). Pecorino cheese made from sheep's milk. Local wines include the white Vernaccia di San Gimignano and the Bianco di Pitigliano. Famous reds include Chanti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino and the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Vin Santo made from semi-crushed grapes left for several months is an excellent dessert wine.

Luxury rail-drive tailormade touring holiday to Tuscany and Umbria

About Umbria

An Expressions tailor-made holiday to Umbria offers the chance to explore a lesser-known rural area of Italy. Umbria is a gentle, undulating land of hills, river valleys, a patchwork of fields, vines and olives similar in many ways to her better-known neighbour, Tuscany, yet in other ways so very different. Umbria evokes a deeper rusticity, a less ‘polished' feel than Tuscany, the secrecy and mysticism of the Middle Ages and yet because of this holds a charm and fascination for the visitor. The hill towns are superb in their own right; steep, narrow cobbled streets with overhanging arches, the grey stone enlivened here and there by pots of geraniums. Ancient crafts remain very much alive, with ceramics and woodwork in particular. Umbria abounds in Roman architecture with Gubbio and Spoleto being noteworthy and there are Etruscan remains too. The food is hearty and earthy too with truffles and porcini, sausages and salami being regional specialities. Yet Umbria also has some of the most important religious sites in Europe, such as the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi and throughout the region are to be discovered outstanding works of art by Perugino, Giotto, Pinturicchio and Gozzoli. Umbria is an intriguing region that awaits further discovery.

Highlights of Umbria

Shop for ceramics in Gubbio, truffles and cooked meats from Norcia. Dramatic landscapes of the Monte Sibillini and one of Europe's highest waterfalls called the Cascate delle Marmore near Terni. One of Italy's beauty spots is the Fonti del Clitunno south of Trevi. See carpentry and woodworking in Todi. Visit the wine museum in Torgiano. Forests of holm oak near Spoleto. Antique fair in April and a national craft fair in August and September in Todi.

Cultural highlights of Umbria

A mixture of religious and secular art and architecture makes Umbria fascinating. The cities of Perugia and Assisi are great centres but the smaller towns of Gubbio, Todi, Spoleto and Spello are also of outstanding interest. Highlights of the region include the Fontana Maggiore in the Piazza IV Novembre in Perugia. Perugia`s Galleria Nazionale containing works by Perugino and Pinturicchio. Gattapone`s Palazzo dei Consoli in Gubbio and his Ponte delle Torri in Spoleto. The `Adoration of the Magi` by Perugino in the church of the Madonna della Lacrime in Trevi. Frescoes by Matteo da Gualdo in the Pinacoteca of Gualdo Tadino. `San Sebastiano` by Luca Signorelli in the Pinacoteca at Citta di Castello. Frescoes by Giotto and Lorenzetti in the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi.

Festivals in Umbria

Perugia has a jazz festival in the summer and the Sagra Musicale music festival held in its churches in September. Orvieto holds concerts in August and has a firework display on the 15th. Spoleto`s Festival of the Two Worlds, a world-class cultural event, takes place June and July. Spello holds its Infiorata in June when the streets are decked with flowers. Foligno holds jousting in September during its Giostra della Quintane.

Gastronomy in Umbria

Umbria's gastronomy is very much a product of its earth and waters: Mushrooms and truffles flavour many dishes, Game and wild boar, Trevi produces black celery, olive oil and black truffles, Pecorino cheese from Torgiano, Todi offers Panzanella, dried bread soaked and marinated in sliced tomato, basil, onion and olive oil, Sweet macheroni with walnuts, Salami and sausages are a regional speciality, Trout from the rivers and perch from Lake Trasimeno, Strangozzi and Bici are local pasta, often flavoured with porcini and truffles. Umbria produces some high quality robust red wines near Torgiano (Rubesco produced by Lungarotti for example) and Orvieto is known for its white wine.

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