Sacred Sites Tour -March 2017
10 Day Sacred Sites and Sanctuaries Tour
March 17 – 27, 2017
$1950 dbl. occupancy
Tuscany’s long history has seen the discovery of places where spirit and earth intersect, and where consecrated buildings were constructed to embody those energies. Some highlights will be the arcane mysteries of San Miniato al Monte, the curative waters of Fontelucente, a trip to St. Francis’s monastery, La Verna, in the Casentino mountains, and the tranquility of Il Santuario di Madonna al Sasso, high in the foothills above Florence.. You should know that I am not affiliated with any particular church but believe that these powerful places enhance us all in many ways and foster peace.
Day 1- Friday, March 17 – Arrival
Arrivals – I will meet you at the airport
Settle into rooms at one of two fully-equipped apartments in the lovely, quiet Oltrarno district, 15 minutes from downtown.
See “Accommodations” under “Tours” button on home page.
6:30 Early Dinner at Tattoria di Ginone, traditional Tuscan cooking in a warm atmosphere.
Day 2 – Saturday, March 18 – Jet Lag Day
1:30 Light lunch at my apartment
3:00 Meet at Osteria Toscanella for tea
5:00 Stroll through Santo Spirito, then across the Ponte Trinita and make a slow tour of the heart of old downtown Florence, where every corner turned offers the visual delights of a city that has always honored her craftsmen.
Day 3 – Sunday, March 19 (Equinox) – Fiesole
10:00 – Fontelucente is an unassuming little church built over a small spring of reputed healing waters. It is only open on Sunday when Mass is celebrated with the small but devoted congregation. I have attended twice and feel it is the best way to experience this lovely space, even though I am not Catholic, or a member of any church. You could also opt to wait until the service is over to see the church.
**2:00 Lunch at Vinandro – This cozy trattoria serves Tuscan fare with local produce and original flair.
Dinner at Casalinga– not covered
Day 4 – Monday,March 20 – Day Trip to La Verna
9:00 Meet at my apartment – Car leaves for La Verna
This monastery was built in the early 13th century for St. Francis on a mountain in the Casentino. The hermitage rises out of the white granite hillside and is barely distinguishable from a distance, seeming to be an extension of the cliff. The friars here take a vow of silence, though they chant during their day. But the atmosphere is contemplative, the air spruce scented and the main sounds are of birdsong and wind through the pines.
It is a two hour drive from Florence through lovely Tuscan countryside. There are several options for interesting stops along the way, including a Camaldolian hermitage and the ruins of a castle in Poppi. La Verna has a large hall for dining at La Verna and we can spend the day there taking in the beautiful spirit and teachings of St. Francis.
Day 5 – Tuesday, March 21 – The Power of Art and Architecture
10:00 Museo Dell’Opera -This newly renovated museum contains many of the original works from the Duomo and Baptistery, including the magnificent “Gates of Paradise” and Michelangelo’s last Pieta. The new space is airy and beautifully lit and there are well designed interactive videos strategically placed.
11:30 Cappuccino at Robiglio’s
12:00 The Baptistery is the breathing heart of Florence, and perhaps its oldest building, begun in the 5th century on top of a Roman temple. Brunelleschi’s Duomo may dwarf the little black and white Baptistery but cannot compare with its powerful and strange geometry. My personal favorite.
**1:00 Lunch at Alle Murate
**Light dinner at my apartment
Day 6, Wednesday, March 22 – City Center & I Tatti
9:30 Duomo and excavation of Santa Repaprata – Below ground inside the Duomo is a fascinating archeological site, years in the making, that reveals the footprint and remains of a fifth century Roman church, Santa Reparata, over which the Duomo was built. The interactive videos explain clearly the order of events and the shape of the original Roman city.
11:30 Mercato Centrale – the largest food market in Florence with hundreds of stalls purveying prosciutto, cheeses, breads, vegetables and fruits of extraordinary quality and variety. And we get to eat lunch at the famous Nerbone’s in an open corner . Here’s what my husband , Paul, has to say about Nerbone’s:
“The Market is, of course, one of the most remarkable spots in Florence. I recommend that you get there early and spend some time strolling and looking. Then at around 11:00, before the crowds descend, go to Nerbone’s and have a porcetta panino. Tell them to put it in the “bath”, the juices it was cooked in, and ask for the green sauce. Delectable.”
Here is a unique opportunity to see Bernard Berenson’s personal collection within his home, a beautiful villa outside of Florence. In 1959 the renaissance art expert bequeathed I Tatti to Harvard for Renaissance studies.
**7:00 Dinner at La Vecchia Bettola
Day 7, Thursday, March 23, Picnic at Manuela’s Castelvecchio
2:00 Taxi to Manuela’s for Picnic Lunch in her tranquil garden. She is one of my dearest friends in Florence and shares her house and garden to express her support of the African Artists Community Development Project, which you are supporting too, by coming on this tour! This is a very special experience.
4:00 Walk to San Miniato– One of the oldest and most elaborately planned gothic basilicas in Florence, with every measurement made according to ancient aesthetic and spiritual principals, on a splendid hilltop overlooking all of Florence. (For much more about this read “The Language of the Angels, Secrets and Symbols in the Basilica of San Miniato in Florence” by Renzo Manetti
6:30 Plainsong service at San Miniato
8:00**Dinner at Cafaggi, my favorite fish restaurant run by the same family, and they are all there, from nonna to youngest son, since the 1950’s.
Day 8, Friday, March 24 – Free Day
Uffizi-Academia-Palazzo Vecchio-Shopping-Bargello- Santa Croce-Pitti Palace-Boboli Gardens? OR
Walk through downtown to San Marco, a perfectly preserved 15th century convent, based on Brunelleschi’s concepts of space and architectural rhythm, and beautifully frescoed by Fra Angelica
This nearby villa is a delightful example of Italian architecture united with ingenious landscaping. Here’s how Edith Wharton described it:
“Probably the most perfect example of the art of producing a great effect on a small scale… because it combines in an astonishingly small space, yet without the least sense of overcrowding, almost every typical excellence of the old Italian garden: free circulation of sunlight and air about the house; abundance of water; easy access to dense shade; sheltered walks with different points of view.” Italian Villas and Their Gardens (London, 1903)
Dinner together or not
Day 9, Saturday, March 25 –
Free day TBD either as a group or small groups
Day 10, Sunday, March 26 – Il Santuario di Madonna al Sasso
**Lunch at Vinando
Dinner together at my apartment
Day 11, Monday, March 27 – Departures