Liguria and Tuscany's fantastic local produce and cuisine are the perfect accompaniment to the natural beauty of the coast and mountains. Enjoy easy rambles along Cinque Terre trails, in Tuscany's Garfagnana Valley and around the walls of Renaissance Lucca. See how regional specialties such as pesto, lardo, cheeses, breads and oils are produced. Taste the local wines and stay on a family-run farm.
Cinque Terre National Park - Superb coastal walking
Garfagnana Valley - Hike the picturesque trails of this hidden gem
Walled Lucca - One of Tuscany's most beautiful Renaissance cities
Agriturismo accommodation - Traditional hospitality and home-cooked food
Local produce - See how local specialities are made and taste them!
- Tuscany & Umbria
- Small Group
Day 1: Join trip Pisa; drive to the Cinque Terre Coast
After joining the trip in Pisa, we drive to the pretty seaside village of Bonassola on the Ligurian coast. Bonassola lies just outside of the Cinque Terre National Park. Cinque Terre translates as 'five lands' - the area is named after the string of five colourful fishing villages which nestle at the foot of the plunging cliffs along this section of the Italian Riviera. The coast here is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, renowned for its wild and rugged beauty.
The climate of Liguria is mild and perfect for growing vegetables, olives and grapes which are cultivated on carefully built terraces and Ligurian cooking is known for its simple, fresh flavours where the quality of the local produce is allowed to speak for itself. Seafood also plays a large role in the cuisine, thanks to the proximity of the coast. Over the next few days we will both taste some of the regions' delicious specialities, and discover how they made. We stay at the welcoming family-run Pensione Moderna, located just a few minutes' walk from the beach, bars and restaurants of Bonassola. The nearby train station provides us with easy access to the walking routes along the coast.
Day 2: Coastal walks and Ligurian produce tastings
This morning we head out of Bonassola on a southerly route to the neighbouring seaside town of Levanto which lies in a neighbouring bay around the rocky headland. We ascend from sea level to a highpoint of around 130m, from where there are picturesque views all around. The beaches here are a popular weekend retreat for people from the nearby city of Genoa and Italy's northern cities. We arrive in Levanto in time for lunch although we recommend eating lightly as in the afternoon we plan to visit the Laboratorio del Pesto for a tasting of some local produce! Liguria is famous for its pesto and at the Laboratorio, we will see how it is made. Basil is blended with extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and parmigiano reggiano cheese to make a delicious sauce not only used to accompany pasta, but also added to soups or rice dishes.
After some free time to explore Levanto, we walk back to Bonassola along a relatively new walking path which follows the route of the old railway line along the coast. Our route includes some of the long (and well lit!) tunnels that are such a common feature of the rail network along this mountainous stretch of coast. Back in Bonassola we enjoy a pre-dinner drink at the hotel and a relaxed wine tasting on the terrace, with a selection of the local Cinque Terre wines.
Our morning walk to Levanto is five kilometres and should take us no more than three hours at a very leisurely pace. Our return route to Bonassola along the railways line is two-and-a-half kilometres and may take us around an hour.
Day 3: Explore Cinque Terre villages on foot; wine tasting
Today we head out to explore some of the further delights of the Cinque Terre. We take the train from Bonassola to Corniglia, the only one of the five villages not sitting directly at sea level. The station itself is below the village down a flight of several hundred steps. Luckily, there are some great views to enjoy during your rest stops on the way up! We spend some time in Corniglia before setting out on a walk to the neighbouring Cinque Terre village of Vernazza. We pass through a landscape of vineyards, olive groves and native plants including aloe and prickly pear. On arrival, there's time to enjoy lunch at one of the many restaurants - a plate of seafood perhaps?
In the afternoon we continue along the coast to Monterosso al Mare. Depending on the weather, there's the option to take a highly recommended scenic boat ride. Those not taking the boat will take the train - a journey of just a few minutes. In Monterosso we explore the side streets, known as the 'carrugi', before heading to a local wine producer for a wine tasting. There will also be the chance to sample limoncello; a lemon-flavoured liqueur produced from local Cinque Terre lemons. There will be some time to relax and enjoy Monterosso before catching a train back to Bonassola, a journey of just ten minutes. Alternatively you can once again take a boat, this time to Levanto, from where you can walk back to Bonassola through the old railway tunnel.
Today's four kilometre costal walk is expected to take around one-and-a-half hours.
Day 4: Drive through 'Marble Mountains' to Tuscany
Today we leave the Ligurian coast and drive south past the large port of La Spezia, home to the Italian navy and one of the main cities of the area. We stop in the town of Carrara, nestling at the base of the Alpi Apuane Mountains and home to a number of marble quarries. We see local artisans at work carving the marble and visit the Museum of Fantiscritti to learn about the history and methods of marble production. There's also the option to take a tour around a working marble quarry. We then drive on to Collonata, a village hidden in the mountains and famous for the production of lardo, a type of salted pork 'fatback' meat which we have the chance to try at an included lunch of local produce. Lardo di Collonata is reputed to have been aged and seasoned here in blocks of the local Carrara marble since Roman times. From Collonata we drive through the Alpi Apuane Mountains to arrive in northern Tuscany's Garfagnana Valley where we stay on an agriturismo, (accommodation on a small working farm) near the valley's main town, Castelnuovo di Garfagnana. On arrival we can enjoy an aperitif on the terrace taking in the great views of this hidden corner of Tuscany. Supper tonight is the first of several home-cooked meals of local flavours that we will enjoy here.
Day 5: Castelnuovo and slow food lunch; Garfagnana Valley walk
After breakfast, we head into Castelnuovo di Garfagnana to visit the local market and explore the atmospheric back streets. We can visit the medieval Rocca (citadel) of the town, and try some of the great local ice cream. Lunch today is a real treat - we eat at the Vecchio Mulino restaurant, run by Andrea, who shares his knowledge of the local slow food produce of the area. Our tasting dishes include local meats, cheeses and honey, flans and crostata, best accompanied by a glass of wine or two! After lunch we drive to nearby Castiglione di Garfagnana, a lovely medieval walled town and the starting point for a leisurely circular walk through fields and small villages, a great insight into life in the Garfagnana Valley. In the early evening we will be treated to a cookery demonstration by our hosts of some simple and easy regional recipes.
Today's six kilometre valley walk is expected to take approximately two-and-a-half hours.
Day 6: Cheese factory visit; walk in the Apennines
After breakfast, we drive for around 20 minutes to the small locality of Verrucole and Vibbiana, where we visit a caseificio (cheese factory). We learn all about the cheese making process and enjoy a tasting of the local Tuscan cheeses include pecorino, cacciotta and ricotta. Our next destination is the Orecchiella Natural Park in the beautiful beech forests of the Apennine Mountains. Starting at around 1300m, we descend from the park on marked trails via the small shepherds' settlement of Pruno to the lovely village of Corfino at 850m. There's time to rest and relax in one of the local bars here before our bus comes to collect us.
Today's eight kilometre walk is mostly downhill and should take approximately two-and-a-half hours.
Day 7: Walk in Lucca Hills and wine tasting; drive to Lucca
Today we depart from the Garfagnana Valley to drive towards Lucca, a gem of a walled Renaissance city. En route we stop at the Devil's Bridge or 'Ponte di Madalena', a medieval bridge dating back to the 12th century that has become one of the icons of the Garfagnana. Amongst the rolling hills and vineyards of the countryside to the north-east of Lucca are a number of grand historic villas and gardens, once used by the rich as their summer retreats. There will be the option to visit to one of the most opulent, the 16th century Villa Torrigiani, known for its Baroque façade and almost kilometre long avenue of cypress trees, before setting out on a short walk in the area of the villas of Lucca ending with a visit to the Colle di Bordocheo farm and vineyard to sample some of the wines made in the Colline Lucchese DOC (controlled designation of origin). Arriving in Lucca, we set off on an orientation walk around the city. Our route includes part of the famous walls of Lucca, that circle the city for nearly four kilometres, as well as the Amphitheatre Piazza, Via Fillungo, Lucca Cathedral and Guinigi Tower from where there are great views of the city and mountains beyond.
Today's walk in the Hills of Lucca is around three kilometres and will take us around an hour. The Lucca orientation walk is approximately two kilometres and will take us about an hour including sightseeing.
Day 8: Free time in Lucca before driving to Pisa airport where the trip ends
Today your time is free to explore more of lovely Lucca until an afternoon drive back to Pisa airport where the tour ends. For any customers wishing to be back at the airport earlier than the trip's official ending time, it is easy to reach Pisa airport by train and shuttle bus from Pisa station and you should allow around an hour for the total journey.
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