A visit to Italy is worth it for the food alone. To combine a food focussed itinerary with one of the country's most charismatic walking trails and historically rich regions, just like this trip does, makes the allure to travel to Italy almost irresistible. Follow the route of the Francigena Way, the ancient pilgrimage route between Canterbury and Rome, to discover the essence of Italy's culinary scene. Beginning in Parma, famous for its ham and Parmesan cheese, this special Food Lover's trip will explore the incredible Italian historic and artistic heritage, as well as experience why the simple produce of the land can be created into gastronomic masterpieces, as you make your way on foot to the "Eternal City" of Rome. The guided day walks combine the incredible Tuscan landscapes with numerous opportunities for tastings of local products and wines, delicious food as well as the intriguing history of the Via Francigena, which encompasses classic cities like Lucca, Florence and the medieval fortified citadels of Siena, San Gimignano and Monteriggioni. You'll also enjoy two hands-on cooking classes so that you can learn the secrets of Italian cuisine.
MODERATE – GRADE 3
This is a guided walk with average daily stages of 3 to 5 hours with distances ranging from 7 to 20 km. The trip is graded moderate as it is mainly on well defined trails, with a few off path sections only. There are many ups and downs and walking poles are definitely a good idea. A good level of fitness is required to complete all the walks. As with all of our trips it is important that you are well prepared. We suggest that you undertake regular exercise – swimming, cycling, and jogging, two to three times a week for three months prior to your departure. It may be possible to skip some of the walks - the guide will advise you on this locally.
On arrival in the city of Parma make your way to the hotel and later in the afternoon there will be a briefing with the guide. Known widely for its cured ham and cheese, the city is also packed full of historic sights with impressive architecture found in the old centre. Take some time to stretch your legs before the welcome dinner in one of the best restaurants in Parma.
Transfer by train to Modena. The birthplace of Enzo Ferrari and Luciano Pavarotti, this elegant city has a rich cultural life and a focus on cuisine - even in Italy the Modenese are known for their fondness of food. We'll enjoy an amazing experience visiting an old 'acetaia' and learn about the the secrets and production techniques of the traditional Balsamic Vinegar. In the afternoon, we'll walk in beautiful Parma. At the Duomo and the Baptistery you can admire the works of the painter Parmigianino before we continue to the splendid Teatro Regio, to relive the atmosphere of the Risorgimento (19th century Italian re-unification movement) and the involvement of the great composer Giuseppe Verdi, who was born nearby. Overnight in Parma. Tonight you can dine at one of the many excellent restaurants within walking distance of the hotel, your guide will offer suggestions.
This morning there will be a private transfer to Passo della Cisa (50 minutes) where we begin our first hike on the Via Francigena. This stage is considered among the most beautiful of the entire pilgrimage route. Mount Valoria represents the border between Emilia and Tuscany, and on its flanks we cross the Cisa Pass into Tuscany. This pass was the point of passage of merchants and pilgrims heading towards the Mediterranean Sea from the Po Valley. Continuing along the Via Francigena in the Apennines, among chestnut and beech woods which shelter wolf and deer, we reach Montelungo. En route we'll have a tasty picnic showcasing simple local produce. A private transfer takes us to the walled town of Lucca. Dinner in a typical trattoria to discover Tuscan cookery.
15km/9.3mi walking, +600m/1969ft, -600m/1969ft
In the morning there's time to relax and discover this wonderful town, considered one of the pearls of Italian architecture. The perfectly conserved medieval walls, the bridges over the Serchio river, the towers, stunning gardens and the tiny squares, will give you a great idea of the medieval and Renaissance art. Birthplace of Puccini, the town is a cultural centre hosting a film festival and a summer festival which attracts international artists. In the afternoon, we'll have a hands-on cooking class making fresh pasta and typical Tuscan dishes. Overnight Lucca.
Leaving Lucca behind, we catch an early train to Florence and check in to our 4 star hotel. Welcome to the city of Leonardo, Giotto, Dante and Brunelleschi, with its artistic treasures and incredible beauty. Late in the morning, we'll have a guided tour to discover the highlights of the city. For lunch, we'll stop in the local market of San Lorenzo to taste typical Tuscan “street food”. The afternoon is free to relax and visit Florence at your own pace. Dinner tonight is in the characteristic “Oltrarno” quarter.
This morning's walk will lead us to Poggio Pratone - the highest point of Fiesole, passing through Monte Ceceri, Monte Fanna and San Clemente. En route we'll enjoy stunning 360 degree views of the territory of Fiesole and also of Florence and the surrounding areas. In the afternoon we return by public bus to Florence. This evening the guide will offer suggestions for dinner.
12km/7.5mi walking, +350m/1148ft, -350m/1148ft
Today is dedicated to enjoying two highlights of Tuscany: food and wine. In the morning we'll take a private transfer to Badia a Passignano, an ancient monastery dating back to the XI century. Enjoy a soft trek around the countryside before lunch in a typical trattoria. In the afternoon we visit the historic cellars of the Abbey, with a tasting of the best Antinori family's wines lead by a wine expert. Private transfer to San Gimignano, where we stay tonight. Our hotel is situated in the heart of the old city within walking distance of a number of excellent restaurants. Your guide can offer suggestions for dinner.
Walking 7km/4.3mi, +200m/656ft, -200m/656ft
Today we’ll discover the amazing landscape that surround San Gimignano. Following ancient paths and the typical “white roads”, our walk leads us between little Romanesque churches and chapels, lush forest of chestnut and spectacular fields and vineyards. Wild boar, the noble pheasant and roe deer inhabit this country area, close to small villages built with local stone and wood. During the hike, we'll stop at a typical Agristurismo for lunch and an olive oil and wine tasting. This region of Tuscany is very proud of its olive oil and the quality is excellent. Overnight in San Gimignano.
Walking 9km/5.6mi, +150m/492ft, -150m/492ft
In the morning, a private transfer takes us to the imposing hilltop walled town of Monteriggioni. We descend through the picturesque countryside along the well sign- posted route to Siena. Another charming Tuscan city, Siena surprises with every turn of the corner. Here you'll discover the white and dark green marble decorated Dome, the Baptistery and the Museum of Metropolitan Opera, or you may take a break and relax in the harmonious town square of Piazza del Campo. Overnight in Siena.
20km/12.4mi walking, +330m/1083ft, -280m/919ft
There will be time in the morning to explore more of Siena before we transfer to the village of Montalcino, surrounded by vineyards and renowned worldwide for its precious Brunello red wine. We'll visit a famous vineyard and discover the secrets of making one of the most famous Italian wines. Wine tasting and a light lunch will be served. In the afternoon there's time to relax and enjoy this delightful medieval town.
We leave Montalcino, with its expansive layout dotted with towers and belfries, and walk downhill to the beautiful Romanesque Abbey of Sant Antimo, a former Benedictine monastery. Now inhabited by French Gregorian friars, their prayers and songs create a special mystical ambience. Following lunch in a typical trattoria, we transfer to Orvieto. This lovely city has a well preserved medieval town centre and an impressive Cathedral, one of the most important in Italy. The region of Umbria, where Orvieto is located, offers a wide variety of foods specialties (wild boar ham, mushrooms, truffle, pecorino cheese…) which we will have the pleasure to taste. Overnight in Orvieto.
11km/6.8mi walking, +380m/1247ft, -320m/1050ft
Following breakfast, we'll have a guided visit of the fascinating “Orvieto Underground” to better understand the Etruscan culture. Before we continue to Rome, we'll visit a famous wine estate located in the hills around Orvieto. A wine tasting and light lunch will be served. Transfer to Rome and check in to our 4 star hotel. There will be time to relax or maybe take a walk before dinner in the Michelin star restaurant Giuda Ballerino.
This morning we'll view the sights of Rome on foot including the Piazza Navona, Piazza di Spagna, the Pantheon and the Vatican, to name a few. In the afternoon, we meet with a chef for a cooking class! During the class we will prepare a complete meal using local products and discover classic techniques used in preparing Italian cuisine! Later we'll feast on these dishes and enjoy our last night in the company of new friends. Overnight in Rome.
The trip concludes after breakfast.
The trip "Food Lover's Francigena Way" brought all the right ingredients together for a tasty trek through Italy. For us, we could not have chosen a better way to experience Italy than to drink in its ancient history by rambling through the picturesque countryside of olive groves & grapevines; & then in turn, taste their aromas in the food & wine of its regions. Our trip leader, Salvatore, was exceptional as our guide & companion. We thoroughly enjoyed the trip itinerary & would highly recommend this tour to anyone who really wants a quality travel adventure in Italy.
H. Yuen., Calgary, AB, Canada
Per Person, Twin Share