Gardens of Florence and Tuscany

Tuscany represents the archetypal image of Italy with elegant villas and gardens, rollings vineyards and the beauty of Renaissance Florence

7 days from £1795 pp


Tours dates
  • 31 August 2017

Highlights


  • Boboli Garden
  • Bardini Garden
  • Fiesole gardens - Gamberaia and Centinale
  • Chianti vineyard tour
  • Florence Iris Festival and Villa Medicea (May only)
  • Lucca Murabilia and Lucca Botanical Garden (September only)

Overview

We begin in the tranquil surroundings of the Giardino Corsini, which is off the main tourist trail and tends to be less crowded. Dating back to 1594, the garden was commissioned by an aristocrat with a passion for botany and later skillfully adorned with statues that make it seem larger than it is.

We continue with the gardens of Boboli, one of the most famous in the region and Bardini with its great flight of steps leading to the belvedere with expansive views over Florence. 

Travelling out into the rolling hills of Tuscany, we visit Fiesole, where our destinations include Villa Gamberaia, one of the most celebrated Italian gardens with its box hedges, topiary, yew pillars and stunning flower beds.

We tour a fine nursery near Florence with the afternoon at leisure to explore some of Florence's renowned art galleries and churches.

We will enjoy another day in the Tuscan hinterland as we visit the Villa Centinale and tour a Chianti vineyard. 

Our spring departure is timed to coincide with the Iris festival (dependent on flowering conditions), which we visit along with the Villa Medicea di Castello, while our September holiday includes a visit to the Murabilia Garden Festival, paired with a visit to the botanical garden in Lucca.

What's included

  • Six nights bed and breakfast at a four-star hotel in Florence
  • Dinner and a welcome drink on the first night
  • Flights from London to Florence (other airports available on request)
  • Visits to the gardens of Corsini, Boboli, Bardini, Gamberaia and Centinale
  • Pistoia Innocenti Nursery
  • Chianti vineyard tour
  • Villa Medicea and Iris Festival (May only)
  • Murabilia and Lucca Botanical Garden (September only)

What's not included

  • Single room supplement: £420
  • Insurance: £45 (under 65); £90 (65-74); £135 (75+)

Itinerary

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Day 1 Corsini Gardens

We depart from London to Florence. On arrival, we continue by comfortable coach to our first stop, the Corsini Gardens. The garden oasis lies within the Palazzo Corsini al Prato. The Baroque-style garden plays host to large orangeries; a gorgeous statue-lined main path with pretty lemon trees potted in elegant vases; and sophisticated geometrical beds and box hedges.
 
We continue to our comfortable accommodation, the four-star Hotel Ambasciatori in the heart of Florence. A welcome drink will be served in the evening followed by dinner.

Day 2 Boboli & Bardini Gardens

Following breakfast, we visit the Boboli Gardens, particularly remarkable for their history, their formal layout, fountains, grottoes and collection of Roman, Renaissance and Baroque sculptures. Begun in 1549, the original design was by Tribolo and included terraces and many fine deciduous trees: planes, limes, chestnuts, field maples, elms and oaks. The garden was enlarged in 1612 and an island was created as a flower and lemon garden. In spite of its long history, the Boboli Garden preserves most of its original Renaissance and Baroque layout and the fine collection of statues still remains.

We don’t have to travel very far to our next enchanting stop. The Bardini Gardens and Villa date back to the 14th-century and are something of an unknown treasure. Five years of hard work and €12m went into their restoration – and the result is simply exquisite. The flower beds blossom with fragrant roses, crocuses and mimosa; while the luxuriant oak and cypress trees play host to wood pigeons, blackbirds and robins.
 
Enjoy some free time in Florence this afternoon. With so many art treasures to be found here in Florence, it is difficult to know what to leave out in a short tour but if there is one unmissable visit it must be the Uffizi Gallery. The marvellous collection here spans more than 600 years and includes works by Lippi, Cimabue, Duccio, Giotto and da Vinci, along with several works by Botticelli, including his Birth of Venus, Primavera and Madonna.

Day 3 Iris Festival or Murabilia

Depending on the departure you choose, there are two different options for Day 3 of our tour.
 
In May, we attend Florence’s popular annual Iris Festival. The iris is the symbol of the city, and the Giglio di Firenze is cultivated to bear the same distinct, deep red as the Florentine coat of arms. Iris rhizomes sent from across the globe are cultivated here, blooming together to create a cornucopia of colours and scents. The hybrids in competition for the prettiest and most original iris of the year awards are cultivated for upwards of three years prior to each festival.
 
We continue to the ancient Villa Medicea di Castello complex. The gardens were designed by Niccolò Tribolo in 1538. He went on to create the famous Boboli Gardens, which we visit on Day 2. The grounds are filled with decadent fountains and statuary, while the wonderful Citrus Garden is home to more than 500 rare plants. Most excitingly, there are also two beautiful secret gardens waiting to be discovered during our visit.
 
In September, we attend Murabilia in Lucca, one of the most anticipated events for Italian garden enthusiasts. More than 200 exhibitors, from Italy and further afield, join together to present a unique exhibition and open-air market. The setting is worth a visit on its own – from the walls of Lucca with their tree-lined ramparts to the pastoral meadows, and striking views over the city.
 
Our morning visit is perfectly complemented by a trip to Lucca’s lovely Botanical Gardens. They were founded by Duchess of Lucca, Maria Luisa of Bourbon in 1820. The garden was designed as a journey around the world through a path of colour and perfume – with many beautiful species from distant countries, co-existing happily alongside a wealth of local flora and biodiversity.

Day 4 Gardens of Fiesole

Today, after breakfast, we spend a full day exploring the Etruscan town of Fiesole.
 
We begin with a visit to the gardens of Villa Gamberaia, which lie just to the east of Florence in unspoilt countryside. The intimate scale and irresistible charm of Gamberaia make this one of the most celebrated Italian villas; since its restoration in Edwardian times, the garden has been considered a masterpiece, with its box hedges, topiary, yew pillars and stunning flower beds. Gamberaia’s most famous feature is a water parterre to the south of the villa where, instead of flowerbeds, the box parterres contain pools of water. They are a 20th-century invention, but they are the crowning glory of a perfect baroque garden.
 
We end the day at the Villa e Giardino Peyron al Bosco di Fontelucente. The complex and formal garden are composed of spacious parkland, woods and olive groves – which offer spectacular views of Florence to the south, and Castel di Poggio in the east. The garden is divided over several sloping terraces and features many of the plants associated with a traditional Italian garden, with many cypress trees dominating the landscape. Hydrangeas, potted lemon trees, and pots of azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons enhance the colour of the garden; while osmanthus scents fill the air during September.

Day 5 Pistoia Innocenti Nursery

Following breakfast, we visit the Pistoia Innocenti Nursery. We enjoy a guided tour of the nursery garden, which has been grown thanks to the love and dedication of three generations of the Innocenti family. Strolling through the nursery, we find trees of all sizes, hedging, Mediterranean fauna, multi-stemmed shrubs, Japanese macro bonsais and so much more.
 
Enjoy an afternoon at your leisure in Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance. Magnetic, romantic and endlessly charming, Florence’s narrow streets and wine-rich hills are home to hundreds of stories. This is a perfect place to explore at leisure.

Day 6 Villa Cetinale & vineyard visit

This morning we venture toward Siena to visit the 17th-century Villa Cetinale. The gardens are renowned as some of the most beautiful in Italy. Discover an array of vine-covered pergolas, climbing roses, lilies and irises. In the spring months, the wisteria covers the villa walls and walkways in a sea of purple. Fields of poppies and wildflowers contrast with cypresses, olive trees and vineyards, and geometrically shaped flower beds lined with box hedges surround the citrus garden.
 
Tuscany is a renowned wine region. We would be remiss to not visit a vineyard during our tour, and nothing says Tuscany quite like Chianti. Tart, spicy and herbaceous Chianti is as essential to Italian cuisine as extra virgin olive oil and is delicious served alone in a glass, or alongside a plate of prosciutto or Pasta al Pomodoro. Traditionally, it was bottled in squat containers known as ‘fiasco’ – walking through the vines, and sampling this ruby red delight, we’re sure ‘fiasco’ will be the furthest idea from our minds. Lunch is also included here.

Day 7 Return to the UK

Following breakfast, we check out of our hotel and transfer to the airport for our return flight to London.

Good to know


  • Other departure airports available on request.

Andrew Fisher-Tomlin - August

Guest Speaker |Andrew Fisher-Tomlin - August

Andrew is Chairman of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show selection panel and teaches on the RHS Diploma at RHS Garden Wisley. As Director of the London College of Garden Design based in Kew Gardens, we're delighted he will be bringing his design expertise to this tour. 

As well as designing in the UK, he has worked extensively overseas and in recent years this has included gardens in Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean and Japan as well as Europe.

He is known for his use of more unusual exotic plants in the UK which is partly fuelled by his love of Mediterranean and tropical gardens. Andrew has also created gardens both in the south near Naples and in the north by Lake Garda.

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