Sacred Sites Tour -March 2017

Sacred Sites Tour March 2017

March 17 – 27, 2017

FT BaptTuscany’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

Sleep late

1:30 Light lunch at my apartment

3:00 Meet at Osteria Toscanella for tea

Santo Spirito5:00 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.



**7:30  Dinner at Osteria Toscanella (** means this is the covered meal of the day )

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.

alcide12:00  Coffee break at Alcide, the best patisseria in the whole Florence/Fiesole area. It does not disappoint.




ruinsWe will wander through the village, see the Roman and Etruscan ruins and then,  enjoy the small lovely collection of Etruscan and Roman art in the Museum there. 




fiesole museumIf there is time before lunch,  we can visit the lovely small church of San Francesco, with it’s wonderful museum of artifacts collected by the monks who traveled the world over 300 years ago.




**2:00  Lunch at Vinandro – This cozy trattoria serves Tuscan fare with local produce and original flair.

cypress3:30  Hike to La Cypressa Regina, the 360 year old cypress with a powerful presence, an hour’s hike outside of the hilltop town Fiesole.

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

laVernaThis 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. 

laverna bldingIt 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

gates of paradise10:00 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

FT Bapt12:00  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.

filename-mercato-santambrogio11:30  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.”


I Tatti Settignano, Italy Bernard Berenson4:00 Meet at a taxi stand to go to I Tatti

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

Free morning

manu garden2:00 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.

SAn Mon out4:00  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

Angelica annuncWalk 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

DSCF4262.JPG copyAnd/or Expedition to Villa Gamberaia

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)

GEDC0506.JPG4:00 Optional walk with Fabrizio 

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

Santuario Madonna delle Roche

Santuario Madonna delle Roche

9:30  Bus to Fiesole – Here we will meet Michela who will be our guide and chauffeur for the day.

**Lunch at Vinando 

Dinner together at my apartment

Day 11, Monday, March 27 – Departures