Florence & Chianti in Tuscany: A Cultural & Culinary Adventure
September 6-17, 2017
During our fall tour, we will base ourselves for a week in a villa in the Chianti region. From the villa, we’ll visit these Tuscan medieval towns. Each town has its unique history, culture, architecture, traditions and charms. We’ll meet locals along the way. Get ready to discover these ‘gems’!
Greve: Greve is the hub of the Chianti Classico region. It is the center the Chianti wine industry. Greve regularly hosts a Slow Food Market. Its central square, Piazza Matteotti, is lined with attractive shops, restaurants and tasting rooms. We’ll wander the streets of Greve, check out its shops and cafes and go to the farmer’s market. We’ll also visit the Wine Museum to learn the history of winemaking in Chianti.
Panzano: Panzano is a charming medieval town located on a high ridge surrounded by Chianti Classico vineyards. Panzano’s views are of vineyards dotted with cypress tress, olive groves, and farmhouses. Panzano has a good range of restaurants, ‘enotecas’/wine tasting shops and is home to the famous ‘Butcher of Panzano’, Dario Cecchini, featured on The Food Network. We’ll visit his butcher shop and have dinner at his restaurant, La Officina.
San Miniato is a medieval hilltop village (in the province of Pisa) half-way between Pisa and Florence. It is an ancient settlement above the meeting point of the Arno and Elsa Rivers giving it a rich history due to its strategic location. Its origin is BC. Ancient artifacts have been found in the surrounding area. The Tower, on the summit of the hill, dominates the valley below. San Miniato is a Tuscan ‘Slow City’ and is the center of the white truffle zone. We will go on a truffle hunt near San Miniato, take a truffle cooking class and visit this remarkable town.
Siena: Siena is the furthermost southern town we will go to in Tuscany. The city center is distinguished by its medieval brick buildings and fan-shaped central square, Piazza del Campo. The Siena Cathedral, a focal point of the city, is a medieval Roman Catholic church completed between 1360 and 1370. Its interior and exterior are constructed of distinctive white and dark green marble in alternating stripes. Built in two stages, the Siena Cathedral combines elements of Gothic, Romanesque and Classical architecture. It is a site not to be missed!
Montefioralle: The ancient village of Montefioralle is still enclosed within its original walls. During the Middle Ages, it was one of the largest military and administrative centers of the area. It is believed to date back to 1085 AD. The village itself is virtually free of cars. The ancient passageways lead to the entrance of its main castle. Vineyards stretch in every direction and there are wonderful hiking trails in the area.
We will visit the town and taste at the Monefioralle winery.
San Gimignano: San Gimignano is a walled village about halfway between Florence and Siena. It is famous for its fascinating medieval towers that rise above all the other buildings. At the height of its glory, San Gimignano’s patrician families had built 72 tower-houses as symbols of their wealth and power. Although only 14 have survived, San Gimignano still retains its feudal atmosphere and appearance. This town has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visit our website for more details: http://www.packafork.com/florence-tuscany-a-cultural-culinary-adventure/
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We are so fortunate to have these two people as guides for our trip to Tuscany this fall – Claude & Cristina Baud. They have been very well received by our guests on past tours! They are knowledgeable about the regions of Italy, having lived in Florence and traveled throughout Italy. They the perfect the guides for our trip! Claude & Cristina truly care about each person, are interested in what guests want to see/learn and work to provide unique experiences. They are committed to Pack A Fork! tours being outstanding. They will ask guests to try new foods (“just one bite”), point out details most visitors do not normally see, teach guests who want to learn and ensure that everyone has an authentic local experience. They also make THE BEST gourmet picnics using local artisan foods and wines! A trip with them is rewarding and ‘rich’ in so many ways. Get ready for a life experience you will not forget!
Claude Baud comes from five generations of Swiss hoteliers. Claude attended the Hotel School of Lausanne in Switzerland. He worked at the Hotel Tamaro in Ascona, Switzerland. He has also been a maitre d’ in country clubs around the United States. Claude speaks four languages: English, Spanish, French and Italian. He is a food and wine connoisseur. He has taught culinary classes and is a talented chef. Claude has been traveling and exploring regions of the world for 35 years. He is truly a ‘man of the world’. Claude has brought community together through food and wine his entire life.
Cristina Baud is a native of Madrid. Cristina’s compulsive craving for travel has taken her to over 38 countries around the world. From these travels, she has gained considerable insight in to numerous cultures, peoples, traditions and religions. Cristina has dedicated much of her life to learning from the countries she has visited or lived in. When traveling, her soul feel most engaged with the experiences it presents. Cristina also speaks four languages. Her expertise is in history, art, architecture and local cuisine. She is a delight!
Claude and Cristina have three sons. One lives in Barcelona and has won the ‘Mixologist of Spain’ award. They also have one grandson. The Bauds are from Boulder, CO and own a home in southern Spain.
Meet Massimo, the truffle hunter of San Miniato, Tuscany. Massimo is a third generation truffle hunter/tartufaio and started hunting for truffles as a child after school with his father. Both his father and grandfather gave him the love for nature and the intense passion toward the ‘diamond of the land’ – the White Truffle (Tuber Magnatum Pica). This variety is sought after and coveted by gourmands from around the world. It is the variety that is in season during autumn in Tuscany. It was Massimo’s father and grandfather that told him legends, stories and anecdotes as a boy about the truffle and the truffle hunters.
Massimo and his dog (and perhaps a family member) will share their passion and love of the hunt on our Florence & Chianti in Tuscany tour, September 6-17, 2017.
We’ll spend the morning on a truffle hunt in the woods outside San Miniato. We’ll learn about the history of the truffle, the varieties, the biggest truffle ever found and some of those stories and legends.
After the hunt, we’ll partake in a hands-on cooking class and make classic truffle dishes.
Get prepared to hunt, learn, cook and experience a day all about Tuscan truffles from a true local!
Later, we’ll wander the streets of the beautiful medieval town of San Miniato. This town carries a rich history and setting above a fertile valley outside Florence.
In addition to experiencing the wine and food of Tuscany, the Florence & Chianti in Tuscany tour, September 6-17, 2017, will take guests to several must-see landmarks. While in the countryside, we will visit medieval towns, restaurants, artisan marketplaces, Chianti wineries, local merchants and chefs. However, we could not go this far and not experience these landmarks to truly understand the rich history, culture, art and architecture of the region. Guests will have guided tours of each.
Siena’s beautiful Gothic Cathedral was built from 1229-1263. The alternating bands of dark green and white marble that make the cathedral’s facade and campanile so striking, continue on to the interior. Filled with works by Italy’s artists of the day such as Pisano, Donatelli, Pinturicchio and Michelangelo, the cathedral will take your breath away!
The Accademia Gallery in Florence is home to Michelangelo’s masterpiece sculpture, David. In addition, the Accademia houses a large collection of sculptures and Renaissance paintings. Many of the works were commissioned and were part of the collection of the powerful Medici family. The main halls offer works by great Italian artists such as Botticelli, Ghirlandaio and Pontormo. The Accademia is Florence’s most visited art gallery.
The Florence Cathedral, also called the Duomo, is the main Roman Catholic church of Florence. Begun in 1296, the cathedral complex, located in the Piazza del Duomo, includes the Florence Cathedral with Brunelleschi’s magnificent Renaissance dome, the Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile. These buildings are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site covering the historic centre of Florence. We will tour the Duomo with options to see the adjacent Baptistery and Campanile.
Florence & Chianti In Tuscany: A Cultural & Culinary Adventure
September 6-17, 2017
Group Size: 15 + guides
- EARLY BIRD SALE: Register with a deposit before June 1, 2017 and receive a $200 discount.
Registration ends soon !
Experience the Camino de Santiago
The Camino de Santiago is a network of three ancient pilgrimage routes stretching across the Iberian peninsula coming together at the tomb of St. James in the Cathedral de Santiago de Compestola, Spain. The history of the Camino de Santiago goes back to the 9th century.
Every year, thousands of people walk the Camino de Santiago either in organized groups or on their own. The purpose is as varied as the people themselves. Some of the ‘pilgrims’ set out on the Camino for spiritual reasons but many others find spiritual reasons along the way as they meet other pilgrims, attend pilgrim masses in the churches and monasteries and see the large infrastructure of buildings and establishments provided for pilgrims over the many centuries.
The most popular route is the French Way or the Way of St. James which stretches nearly 500 miles from France across northern Spain ending in Santiago de Compestola. We will spend a day on a rural section of the French Camino outside Santiago de Compestola during the tour PORTUGAL NORTHWARD TO SPAIN, June 13 – 25, 2017. Along the way, we’ll experience the culture of the Camino, meet pilgrims who are en route, stop at establishments frequented by pilgrims and feel the spirit of the Camino.
Our route will be a 3-4 mile stretch between Arzua to Amenal, one of the loviest sections near Santiago. This section will take us through pretty woods, across streams and through medieval villages. We will stop for lunch and visit the villages we pass.
Our Portugal – Spain tour is designed to give guests unique immersive experiences. This walk will provide only small taste of the Camino. It will be enough for those who are just curious or give inspiration for those who decide to become a pilgrim one day.
Note: An alternate activity will be provided for those who do not walk.
More heaven on earth…
The beaches of Galicia are regarded as sone of the best in Spain…and there are a lot of them. This area really is a beach mecca and we will discover the most notable ones in the area. Famous for their fine white sand and crystal clear water, most Spainards flock to this area of Spain themselves for vacation.
On our tour, PORTUGAL NORTHWARD TO SPAIN, June 13 – 25, 2017, we will spend a day on the Cies Islands. There are no hotels or roads on the islands, just a camping site and a few beach bars. The Cies islands are also a natural bird preserve. Aside from the seagulls, there are pairs of Iberian Guillemots, a bird species that is almost extinct, larger birds of prey and busy woodpeckers.
The destination will be Rodas Beach, voted by The Guardian as the ‘most beautiful beach in the world’. Spend a day on Rodas Beach. Relax, walk, discover its coves and enjoy a meal at one of the local hang-outs.
Galicia brings in more fish, shellfish and crustaceans than any other region in Spain (or Eurpoe, for that matter) and the Galicians regard it as their staple diet. Typical Galician dishes include: Pulpo a la Feira (octopus), Empanadas (stuffed with fish, scallops, tuna or octopus) and Salpicon de Mariscos (seafood salad). The area is known for its clams, cockles, razor clams, spider crab, shrimp, lobster, and ‘percebes’ or goose-neck barnacles. If you can’t decide on just one, we can always order a mariscada or a huge seafood platter.
For those that don’t like or can’t eat seafood, there is a range of other meat or vegetarian options in Glaicia. Try the Lacon Con Grelos (pork shoulder with greens, Churrasco (barbecued meat) or Caldo Gallego (Galician stew).
This will be a great beach day…and who couldn’t use that ??
Heaven on earth.
No trip to Portugal is complete without a visit to Porto. Add to that a cruise from Porto on the Douro River and you have ‘heaven on earth’.
The Douro River river is one of the major rivers of the Iberian Peninsula running from its source in northern Spain through Portugal to its outlet in Porto. The river forms part of the national border line between Spain and Portugal in a region of narrow canyons. These canyons have a microclimate perfect for growing grapes, olives and almonds. The canyons of the Douro River are lined with port-making wineries/ ‘quintas’, olive oil mills and terraced vineyards making for spectacular scenery. This postcard-pretty valley has fast become one of Europe’s leading wine destinations. The Douro River Valley was named by Travel + Lesiure, as one of the ‘Best Places to Travel in 2016’.
On our tour, PORTUGAL NORTHWARD TO SPAIN, June 13 – 25, we will spend a day on a cruise from Porto upstream on the Douro River (‘river of gold’). We’ll leave Porto in the morning, board the boat and spend a leisurely day taking in the valley, the calm water and the dramatic landscape. Then, we’ll stop at a select quinta for a tour of its port and wine making facilities, walk their vineyards, enjoy lunch on the patio and taste their port and signature wines.
We’ll take the train back to Porto which has scenery of its own. The destination will be the Bento Rail Station in Porto where we will find an architectural delight. The interior of the rail station is covered in 20,000 hand-painted Portuguese blue and while tiles detailing the history of Portugal.
Lisbon & Sintra, Portugal
Join us as we discover the Baixa and Alfalma districts in Lisbon. Take in the views of the Tagus River from the Elevador de Santa Justa and St. George’s Castle. Visit the Monument to the Discoveries, Belem Tower and Jeronimos Monastery. Learn about Manueline architecture unique to Portugal. Enjoy a day in Sintra to visit Pena Palace, the opulent home of a Portugese king. Dine on grilled local seafood while gazing over the Atlantic. Also not to be missed: Lisbon’s famous custard pastries!
Visit this beautiful city on the banks of the Duoro River, fast becoming one of Europe’s hottest destinations. Home of port wine, taste with us at some of Porto’s famous port tasting houses along the banks of the river. Enjoy a walking tour through this city taking in the riverside district, the Se Cathedral, the Lello Bookstore (one of the top ten in the world), the Majestic Cafe (home to writers, artists and thinkers of the 1920’s). Did we mention wonderful restaurants and shopping? Porto has some of the best in Euope !
The Douro River Valley, Portugal
Spend a one day cruise in The Douro River Valley where port wine has been made since the 17th century and shipped down the Douro River to Porto. The Douro River runs across the Iberian Peninsula through Spain and Portugal into the Atlantic ending in Porto. Fall in love with the picturesque terraced vineyards and ‘quintas’ (port-making houses). Taste and learn about port winemaking as it was done 100 years ago. No fancy technology here. Enjoy the scenery – it’s out of this world!
Cies Islands, Spain
The Galicians call this string of islands “The Galician Seychelles”. Rodas Beach on the Cies Islands was voted the ‘Most Beautiful Beach in the World’ by The Guardian. Backed by forest and fine white sand dunes leading down to a curved sliver of beach, the calm lagoon of turquoise crystal-clear water is breathtaking. It’s easy to see why this is one of the top beaches in the world. There are several walking trails to help explore the island. There also are no hotels, cars or bikes. We will arrive by boat. A perfect day relaxing on this beautiful beach!
Galicia, Spain (think Seafood)
Galicia, the green, rainy region in Spain’s northwest corner, is famous for (arguably) the best seafood in the country. With almost 1500 kilometers of coastline, the choices of local catch are plentiful: octopus, scallops,
‘mariscos’ or shellfish such as lobster, prawns, crab, shrimp, clams, cockles, razor clams and mussels are just some of the choices. Pair that with Galicia’s Albarino wine and you have heaven!
Santiago de Compostela, Spain
A UNESCO World Heritage site and the capital of Galicia, this city is most known as the final destination of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage routes (there are three) at the Cathedral de Santiago de Compestola. Consecrated in 1271, the cathedral is the burial place of the apostle St. James. With it’s elaborate towers and carved stone facades covered with bells, stars, crosses and weathercocks, it opens onto a grand plaza. The old streets of Santiago that run up to the cathedral are some of its pleasures to be discovered. A medieval charm like no other city.
The Camino de Santiago
Walk 3-4 miles on a rural section of the French Camino and experience its culture and traditions. Meet pilgrims who have been walking for days and miles. Stop at a typical family-owned restaurant visited by pilgrims on their journey and enjoy the local fare. Our guides will tell you about their experience walking the full Camino with their children. Learn about the history of this pilgrimage dating back to the 9th century.
Of course you know it’s one of the Seven Wonders of the World. You probably also know it was likely a sacred religious site for the Inca leaders of Peru and that it lay hidden to the outside world until the American archaeologist Hiram Bingham stumbled upon it in 1911. Here are some interesting facts you may not have known about Machu Picchu
- The westerner credited with unveiling Machu Picchu to the outside world was Hiram Bingham, an Iniana-Jones type law professor from Yale. He was led to the site by a local boy and was stunned by the beauty and grandeur of the abandoned site.
- It was never supposed to be discovered. The Incas worried (for good reason) that the Spanish would discover and loot Machu PIcchu. To prevent this from happening, the Incas abandoned it, burning the forest on the way out so the re-growth would hide the trails up the mountains. The plan worked. It was never discovered by the Spanish and was hidden until Bingham visited it.
- Bingham was really looking for Vilcabamba the ‘Lost City of the Incas’ when he was first led up the slopes to the overgrown ruins. It was proven that the real lost city of the Incas was Espiritu Pampa, west of Machu Picchu.
- According to a group of archaeologists, Machu Picchu was built in 1532 as a retreat for the royal family. The Inca ruler who built it may have envisioned the city as a peaceful place to get away from the hustle and bustle of ‘the city’ – Cusco.
- Incredibly, the stones of Machu Picchu were carried to the site by hand (the Incas never discovered the wheel). The quality of the stone masonry is legendary. The Incas cut each stone by hand and wedged them together so closely that the blade of a knife could not be inserted between them.
- There’s a lot you can’t see at Machu Picchu – as much as 60% of it. The Incas constructed a network of foundation walls and and drainage systems that wind beneath the citadel.
- The big mountain you see is not Machu Pichhu. It’s Huayna Picchu, “young peak”. You can climb this peak but only 400 people are allowed up per day, split in two time slots. Our guide will tell us more about the hiking trail options. For those who want to take on this climb, our group will have a permit to do so.
- The best time to visit is early in the morning. If you arrive before 7am, you will beat the crowds. However, you may be walking in the clouds until the sun comes out. The hours of 12:00-3:00 are peak hours. We will spend the first day at Machu Picchu with a guide who will take us on a tour detailing the history and background of the site. We are then staying on the next day for a return unguided visit. There are many hiking trails to choose from at all levels.
- We still don’t know, without a shadow of a doubt, what Machu Picchu really was. Bingham theorized that it was the last fortress of the Incas. The results showed that remains found on the premises were mostly female, leading experts to believe these could be ‘Sacred Virgins of the Sun’. Later, this was refuted as skeletons were exhumed, re-examined and found to be 50% male/50% female. Most agree it was some sort of citadel built for a ruler. Others suggest that it is nearly impossible to understand Machu PIcchu as a separate entity and that by connecting it with other sections of the Inca Trail, this could have been some form of a pilgrimage.
- You can get a Machu Picchu stamp on your passport!
The Temple of the Sun, Machu Picchu
The Sacred Valley of the Incas is a long, fertile valley that lies between Cusco and Machu Picchu, Peru. The Sacred Valley has been the center of agriculture since Inca times. The Incas inhabited this valley over 500 years ago and the remaining archaeological sites are a testament to the their rich and busy lives. They built fortresses, agricultural terraces, temples, palaces and citadels – all of which can be experienced today.
Join us and the guides to learn about the the history and culture of these iconic Inca landmarks during our tour:
Culinary Peru & Machu Picchu
April 26 – May 4, 2017
Ollaytaytambo is both a village and a spectacular Inca archeological site in the Sacred Valley. Built by the Incas as a fortress/temple/palace (no one really knows the reason), it is made of steep terraces guarding a ceremonial platform at the top. The terraces were thought to have been used for agriculture and protection. At the top, lies the ‘Temple of the Sun’, an unfinished construction in front of a wall of enormous boulders. The rock work from both the cut stones (some over 20 feet high) and the field stones is amazing as well as the question of how the Incas were able to transport and build this on a hillside.
Moray Agricultural Terraces
The ampitheater-like arrangement of Moray’s concentric terraces may appear as an elegant display of architectural simplicity, but according to some theories, their range of widths and depths within the earth resulted in each terrace having a unique agricultural microclimate. These distinctive microclimates allowed ancient farmers to test crops and determine optimal growing conditions. With a 15 degree Celsius (59 degree Fahrenheit) difference from top to bottom, a range of crops were grown on the terraces to determine what and how to grow best.
Salt Pans of Maras
Maras is a small town the Sacred Valley well-known for its salt evaporation ponds in use since Inca times. A natural spring feeds a salt-rich stream that flows down a hillside into several thousand ‘pans’. Salt was harvested by the Incas and is still harvested today. The light pink hue of the water in the pans is alluring as is the site itself.
The breathtaking Inca citadel of Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Machu Picchu is believed to have been a royal estate or sacred religious site for Inca leaders. The site stretches over 5 miles and features more than 3,000 stone steps that link its many different levels. its giant walls, terraces and ramps seems as if they have been cut naturally in the continuous rock escarpments. Located on the eastern slopes of the Andes, it is South America’s most famed creation of the Inca Empire.