Tours in Rome – Group B

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Take an in depth look at the archaeology and art of Rome!

Take an in depth look at the archaeology and art of Rome!

Our Tours in Rome – Group B are ideal for the traveler who wishes to learn in depth about the archaeology and art of Rome , as well as explore beyond its famous core to sites further afield, such as the Appian Way, Ostia Antica, and Pompeii. Please see Tours in Rome – Group A for additional tour options, including guided visits (both walking and driving) to the Roman Forum, Coliseum, and the Vatican.

Here are 6 guided archaeology and art walks available through RentVillas:

Archaeology Walks

1. Via Appia: Rome’s Greatest Road – 4 hours

Overview: The Via Appia is the oldest and most prestigious of Roman roads, dating back to the fourth century BC. The Via Appia was a gateway to Italy, and eventually to the entire Greek world and beyond.

Rome's greatest road is lined with ancient Roman temples, altars, arches, funerary tombs, and other public structures.

Rome’s greatest road is lined with ancient Roman temples, altars, arches, funerary tombs, and other public structures.

  • This 4-hour tour, led by one member of a 4-person docent staff (an archaeologist, a classicist, an art historian, or an architectural historian), discusses the importance of this Queen of Roads to ancient Rome and the meaning and function of the structures, such as temples, altars, arches, funerary tombs, and other public structures, along its path.
  • The tour begins at the Baths of Caracalla; from here, participants will be transported by private car to the Appian Way. The remainder of tour will be on foot and may include visits to the Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella, the Circus and Villa of Maxentius, or the excavation of the Villa of the Quintilli. Visits to the Sant’Agnese Catacomb on Via Nomentana and/or the San Sebastiano and San Callisto catacombs on Via Appia are also possible, however private reservations are not available and the tours inside will be led by catacomb guides.
  • Cost: 135 Euros per person for 4 hours. 370 Euros per private party (1-6 people) for 4 hours. Additional transportation/admission costs: 154 Euros per person (Appian Way car service; price may vary according to vehicle/party size); 6 Euros per person (entry tickets).
  • Your tour meets at Circo Massimo.

2. Ostia: An Ancient Roman Town – 5 hours

Overview: After the fall of Rome, Ostia Antica, the city’s port on the Mediterranean, was buried by centuries of river mud. As a result, like Pompeii much further south, it is today one of the best examples of an ancient Roman town in all of Italy, with most of its buildings intact, fantastic mosaics, and oldest synagogue in Europe.

Learn how real people lived in ancient Rome!

Learn how real people lived in ancient Rome!

  • Your 5-hour excursion begins with a short train ride to the coast. (Private parties may request car service, but please note that with traffic, driving can often take longer.) During the trip, your guide–an archaeologist or classical historian–will discuss the regional geography of the area, Ostia’s role as Rome’s port, and the historic background leading up to the town’s rise in the Imperial era.
  • On site, you will spend 4 hours combing through the ruins, which include some of the best examples of baths, an amphitheater, and several Mithraic temples, not to mention a forum with temples. The focus of your visit will be the daily life of regular, working class Romans, including the economy of the empire and the commodities that made their way through Ostia every day.
  • Participants are free to linger once the tour has ended (you’ll have round trip train tickets) or return to Rome with the docent.
  • Cost: 90 Euros per person for 5 hours. 405 Euros per private party (1-6 people) for 5 hours. Additional transportation/admission costs: 11 Euros per person (round trip train fare and entry tickets).
  • Your tour meets at Piramide.

3. Full-Day Pompeii Tour (from Rome) – 8 hours

 

Visit the ruins of Pompeii and the Naples Archaeological Museum with a local expert.

Visit the ruins of Pompeii and the Naples Archaeological Museum with a local expert.

Overview: The ruins of Pompeii offer a complex snapshot of a Roman colony and are one of the best archaeological spaces in the world in terms of understanding the everyday realities and hierarchies of its people.

  • The full-day tour of the history and culture of Pompeii is paired with a visit to the Naples Archaeological Museum. The museum, also one of the best of its kind in the world, houses a large percentage of the artifacts, mosaics, frescoes and minor arts that were uncovered during the unearthing of Pompeii in the late 19th century.
  • This excursion, led by an archaeologist or a classical historian, will begin with a short drive from the city center of Naples, during which your docent will set up the preliminary socio-historical context.
  • Upon arriving at the archaeological site, you will visit the ancient cobble-stoned roads, exploring the private homes, temples, shops, civic buildings and public spaces that intricately illustrate everyday activities in the city.
  • Leaving the site by the early afternoon, you will return to Naples by car and have a quick lunch in a small, non-touristy restaurant in the city center, followed by a short stroll through the center.
  • The group will then head to the Archaeological Museum of Naples to build on the knowledge accrued during your exploration of the archaeological site.
  • Cost: 230 Euros per person for 8 hours. 635 Euros per private party (1-6 people) for 8 hours. Additional transportation/admission costs: 118 Euros per adult (Rome – Naples round trip train fare) and 30 Euros per child (Rome Naples round trip train fare) and 22.50 Euros per person (entry tickets). Please note: Pompeii car service is available for 350 Euros per private party.
  • Your tour meets at the Naples train station unless transport is by private car.

Art Walks

4. Art, Power, and the Church in Renaissance Rome – 3 hours

Explore the art and history of Rome's most beautiful Renaissance palazzi.

Explore the art and history of Rome’s most beautiful Renaissance palazzi.

Overview: During the Renaissance, powerful families from all over Europe descended upon Rome in order to be closer to the Vatican and Catholic Church. They erected magnificent palaces, paved streets, and commissioned such artists as Michelangelo and Raphael to create beautiful testaments to their power and prestige.

  • During the course of this 3-hour walk you will plunge yourself  into this world, exploring the great palaces of the Renaissance and the intersection of power and art outside of the Vatican.
  • Your tour begins in an area of central Rome near Campo de’ Fiori where several important families from northern Italy built their palaces in the early years of the 1500s. Your docent, a specialist in art history, will help frame some of the basic concepts that informed the work of artists and thinkers of the time. You’ll also explore the social and political developments in Rome during this period, as each family vied with the other for the ultimate position of power: the papacy.
  • Your walk continues through Piazza Farnese and may also include Palazzo Spada. Along the way, your docent will discuss the  lifestyle of the aristocracy, including the lavish balls and parties that were thrown here and that figured critically into the larger political landscape of the city.
  • The second half of the tour will focus on one of the best preserved Renaissance homes of the period, the Villa Farnesina, which is home to two major pieces by Raphael: “The Triumph of Galatea” and the amazing “Cupid and Psyche” ceiling fresco cycle. Quiet and rarely visited, Villa Farnesina will afford the opportunity to get close to the art that drove the Renaissance.
  • Cost: 70 Euros per person for 3 hours. 305 Euros per private party (1-6 people)  for 3 hours. Additional admission costs: 5 Euros per person (entry tickets).
  • Your tour meets by Piazza Farnese.

 5. Caravaggio’s Rome – 2.5 hours

Take an in depth look at the work of Caravaggio.

Take an in depth look at the work of Caravaggio.

Overview: Early Baroque painter, Michelangelo Merisi (1573-1610), better known as Caravaggio, left an indelible mark on the world of art. Many know him only as a controversial artist who fled Rome after committing murder, but his art stands alone in its quality and originality. For some, Caravaggio and his influence defines Baroque Italian art.

  • This 2.5-hour walk,  led by a Masters or Phd-level art historian, explores the nature of Caravaggio’s art in the context of its time, in order to fully understand his innovation and the controversy surrounding him.
  • This tour focuses on Caravaggio’s work that lies in-situ, that is in the places for which they were originally created. In this case, the walk includes visits to three significant churches in the historic center: Santa Maria del Popolo, San Luigi dei Francesi, and Sant’Agostino.
  • Along the way, you’ll pass through the same city streets—largely unchanged—that Caravaggio inhabited in the 1600s, a lively and sometimes dangerous landscape from which he drew inspiration and (controversially) models for his work.The walk begins at Santa Maria del Popolo, then passes through the Piazza del Popolo and into the Tridente neighborhood where Caravaggio lived and worked.
  • Cost: 65 Euros per person for 2.5 hours. 280 Euros per private party (1-6 people) for 2.5 hours. Additional admission costs: 14.50 Euros per person (entry tickets).
  • Your tour meets by Piazza del Popolo.

6. Galleria Borghese – 2.5 hours

Discover the priceless art collection at the Galleria Borghese with an art historian.

Discover the priceless art collection at the Galleria Borghese with an art historian.

Overview: This walk is an in-depth examination of the Galleria Borghese led by an art historian. Your guide will unfold the layers of meaning—social, political, and artistic—of one of the greatest private art collections in the world.

  • The museum is spread out over two floors. Your tour will spend equal time with both the sculpture on the ground floor and the paintings of the upper floor. Your guide will also discuss  the architecture of the building and its famed grounds and gardens.
  • Over the course of the two hour visit (the maximum amount of time allowed for visits), you will develop a better understanding of not only the art the Galleria contains but the intricacies and politics of art collecting during the Baroque period.
  • Note: Your guide will make the necessary reservation in advance. The price of this walk does not include the price of the entrance ticket which is to be paid in cash upon entrance.
  • Cost: 75 Euros per person for 2.5 hours. 280 Euros per private party (1-6 people) for 2.5 hours. Additional admission costs: 14.50 Euros per person (entry tickets).
  • Your tour meets at the Galleria.

FOR RESERVATIONS:

Please contact RentVillas at (800) 726-6702.To confirm a reservation, a 12% non-refundable deposit is required. Upon receipt of the deposit, you will be put in direct contact with the Tour Guide, who will be able to answer your specific questions regarding the details of the tour, including balance payment, extra costs, and the meeting time and place. We recommend that reservations be made at least two months prior to your departure.

Request Your Tour in Rome – Group B

 

Rome Food Experiences

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Explore the cuisine of Rome!

Explore the cuisine of Rome!

There’s no better way to get to know a place and its culture than through its cuisine. Our Rome Food Experiences are walking (and eating!) tours that will introduce you to many different facets of Roman cooking and culinary history, as well as to the hands-on pleasures of the open air market and artisan food shops:

 The Tours:

A Roman Study-Lunch – 4 hours

Enjoy lunch at a classic Roman restaurant while learning about all aspects of local cuisine.

Enjoy lunch at a classic Roman restaurant while learning about all aspects of local cuisine.

Overview: Discover one of the city’s best markets and then learn about local cuisine over lunch at a Roman institution.

  • Led by an American food writer, this 4-hour tour begins with a visit to the Trionfale market, where you’ll see, smell and savor the fresh, locally grown meat and produce that are the backbone of Roman cuisine. Mix with the locals while taking in the sights, sounds, and colors.
  • Your guide will also lead you to some of the Testaccio neighborhood’s best food shops, including purveyors of cheese, pasta, and wine.
  • From here, you’ll make the short walk to Checchino dal 1887, a Roman institution that is known for its ingredients, knowledgeable owners, and extensive menu of favorite Roman dishes. This is the best restaurant in town at which to become acquainted with the traditional food of Rome!
  • Your guide will explain the menu and assist you in composing a meal that illustrates the major components of an Italian meal (antipasto, primo, secondo) as well as Roman specialties. While you lunch, your guide will also cover the history of Roman cuisine and discuss the fresh, local ingredients that comprise your meal.
  • Cost: 100 Euros per person for 4 hours. Private party: 465 Euros per private party (1-6 people) for 4 hours. Additional costs: 50 Euros per person (meal cost). 
  • Your tour meets on Via Marmorata.

 

Learn to cook as the Romans do from a food writer and home cook!

Learn to cook as the Romans do from a food writer and home cook!

The Roman Kitchen – 5 hours

Overview: You’ll learn the fascinating ins and outs of Roman food culture–including local preferences, rules, customs, and tricks—in this 5-hour tour led by an American food writer who lives in Rome.

  • Our guide invites you to share her life for part of a day, including a trip to the market she frequents daily and then a seminar and lunch in her very own home kitchen. This is Roman life, learning by doing (not cooking school!) and as you shop and cook, your guide will discuss the history of Rome.
  • The 5-hour tour begins in the Testaccio quarter at the Trionfale market. Your guide will assist you in selecting the freshest tomatoes, herbs, fruits, meats, and cheeses. Your lunch menu will take shape as you go along! Visits to a collection of artisan food and wine shops are also included in the market portion of the tour.
  • With shopping done, it’s a short bus or tram ride to your guide’s home near the Colosseum. The menu for lunch may include seasonal local dishes such as frittata con zucchini romanesche, spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce, or Rome’s signature dish, cacio e pepe. Insalata caprese, pasta e fagioli, pizza bianca with prosciutto and fresh figs, green beans stewed with green onion and tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, fried zucchini flower, puntarelle con la salsa, or carciofi alla romana are just some of the other options!
  • Non-cooks can relax with a glass of wine and a book on the terrace.
  • Please note that the building has an elevator and the apartment is air-conditioned.
  • Cost: 540 Euros per private party (1-6 people) for 5 hours (private parties only). Additional costs: 40 Euros per person (covers most market purchases, a small snack, and the cost of lunch).
  • Your tour meets in the Testaccio quarter, by the Macro Museum.

Rome Market Walk – 2.5 hours

Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of the Trionfale market!

Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of the Trionfale market!

Overview: Discover the Trionfale market, a destination for local cooks (both professional and home) who seek produce that is di stagione (in season), in this 2.5-hour tour.

  • With more than 250 stalls, the market is one of the largest in Italy and has been in operation since the end of the 19th century.
  • First, your guide, a food historian and chef, will introduce major themes in Roman cuisine and provide background in both the evolution of the market as a food center and the changes in Roman cooking from ancient time to today.
  • Your walking tour will then proceed to the market, where you’ll see, smell, and sample meet, vegetables, cheese, breads, and pastries. If time allows, you’ll also visit three of the best cheese, pasta, and wine shops in the area.
  • Cost: 65 Euros per person for 2.5 hours. 280 Euros per private party (1-6 people) for 2.5 hours. Additional costs: 5 Euros per person (Rome market tastings).
  • Your tour meets at the Trionfale market.

A Holiday Walk and Tasting – 2 hours

Sample traditional holiday treats such as panettone.

Sample traditional holiday treats such as panettone.

Overview: Rome is an wonderful city to visit during the holiday season, a time of food, family, and celebration. This 2-hour tour will highlight some of Italy holiday culinary traditions as well as teach you to navigate Rome’s cafes and food shops like a native.

  • During a leisurely stroll with your guide, a culinary educator, you’ll pop into small artisan shops to sample special treats and enjoy the aroma of roasting chestnuts sold on every street corner.
  • Learn about traditional treats such as torrone and panettone.
  • Your tour will take you through the historical center and include contextual information on its origins. Through tasting and seeing, as well as discussion on regional specialties, you’ll come away with a thorough understanding of how the culinary world helps define and shape the holidays in Rome.
  • Cost: 60 Euros per person for 2 hours. 255 Euros per private party (1-6 people) for 2 hours. Additional costs: 15 Euros per person (food tastings).

FOR RESERVATIONS:

Please contact RentVillas at (800) 726-6702.To confirm a reservation, a 12% non-refundable deposit is required. Upon receipt of the deposit, you will be put in direct contact with the Tour Guide, who will be able to answer your specific questions regarding the details of the tour, including balance payment, extra costs, and the meeting time and place. We recommend that reservations be made at least two months prior to your departure.

Request Your Food Experience in Rome

Amalfi Coast Wine Tours

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Enhance your villa rental experience with an Amalfi Coast wine tour!

Enhance your villa rental experience with an Amalfi Coast wine tour!

Enhance your villa rental experience on the Amalfi Coast with a private wine tour! We offer 6 half-day cellar tours at 3 of Campania’s most renowned wineries: Feudi di San Gregorio, Mastroberardino, and Gran Furor Divina Costiera .

The Wineries

Feudi di San Gregorio is located in the fertile terroir of the Alto Irpinia region and produces wines that carry the D.O.C.G. denomination (a quality-control label for Italian wines). The scenery is breathtaking, as is the new tasting room. You don’t want to miss an opportunity to dine at Marennà Restaurant, a Michelin-starred collaboration between the winery and Slow Food Italia.

The Mastroberardino family has been making wine in the Alto Irpinia region since the 1700s. Ten generations have run the business, and today the family is involved in protecting the viniculture and oenological heritage of the Roman age. The winery is now reintroducing vines that were cultivated in ancient Pompeii.

Gran Furor Divina Costiera, a brand that dates back to 1942, includes the D.O.C.G wines produced from vines that grow on the natural hillside terraces of the Costa Furore. The winemakers, Andrea Ferraioli and Marisa Cuomo, produce their award-winning wines in an incomparably beautiful, but challenging, setting with sweeping views of the sea.

 The Tours:

Taste the wines of Campania!

Taste the wines of Campania!

1. Feudi di San Gregorio (located near Avellino; 1.5 hour drive from the Amalfi Coast).

  • Tour #1: Visit the San Gregorio winery and enjoy a guided tasting of three classic regional wines, including Falanghina, Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino, Ros’Aura, Rubrato Aglianico, Primitivo di Manduria, and Taurasi. Cost: 36 Euros per person for 2 hours (2-person minimum). Note: Transfers are not included, but can easily be arranged through RentVillas. Tour available Monday-Friday.
  • Tour #2: Visit the San Gregorio winery and enjoy a guided tasting of three classic regional wines (including iFalanghina, Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino, Ros’Aura, Rubrato Aglianico, Primitivo di Manduria, and Taurasi) plus lunch or dinner (3 courses) at Marennà Restaurant (Michelin one star). Cost: 108 Euros per person for 3 hours (2-person minimum). Note: Transfers are not included, but can easily be arranged through RentVillas. Tour available Monday-Friday.
Tour the best vineyards in Campania with a winemaker.

Tour the best vineyards in Campania with a winemaker.

2. Mastroberardino Winery (located near Avellino; 1.5 hours from the Amalfi Coast)

  • Tour #1: Visit the Mastroberardino winery and enjoy a guided tasting of 3 wines plus a buffet of typical regional dishes. Tour includes visit to the cellar and private family cantine as well as showing of a short film about the winery in Italian, English or German. Cost: 48 Euros per person for 1.5 hours (2-person minimum). Note: Transfers are not included, but can easily be arranged through RentVillas.. Tour available Monday-Friday 10:00-1:00; 2:00-4:00.
  • Tour #2: Visit the Mastroberardino winery and enjoy a guided tasting of 4 wines plus a buffet of typical regional dishes. Tour includes visit to the cellar and private family cantine as well as showing of a short film about the winery in Italian, English or German. Cost: 72 Euros per person for 1.5 hours (2-person minimum). Note: Transfers are not included, but can easily be arranged through RentVillas.. Tour available Monday-Friday 10:00-1:00; 2:00-4:00.
Enjoy tastings, a vineyard tour, and a cellar visit.

Learn firsthand about the wines of Campania.

3. Gran Furor Divina Costiera (Amalfi Coast, province of Salerno)

  • Tour #1: Mountain Tasting: Tour includes a cellar visit, tasting of 3 reds (Costa d’Amalfi Rosato 2012, Costa d’Amalfi Furore Rosso 2012, and Costa d’Amalfi Furore Rosso Riserva 2009), and lunch. Lunch fare includes eggplant casserole, homemade nduderi (a local pasta) with smoked mozzarella and cherry tomatoes, and fillet of beef with provolone. Cost: 102 Euros per person for 2 hours (2-person minimum). Note: Transfers are not included, but can easily be arranged through RentVillas. Tour available Monday-Friday.
  • Tour #2: Coastal Tasting: Tour includes a cellar visit, tasting of 3 reds(Costa d’Amalfi Rosato 2012, Costa d’Amalfi Furore Rosso 2012, and Costa d’Amalfi Furore Rosso Riserva 2009), and lunch. Lunch fare includes red pepper stuffed anchovies, risottino with red wine Aglianico, and local flying squid with potatoes. Cost: 102 Euros per person for 2 hours (2-person minimum). Note: Transfers are not included, but can easily be arranged through RentVillas.  Tour available Monday-Friday.

FOR RESERVATIONS:

Please contact RentVillas at (800) 726-6702.To confirm a reservation, a 20% non-refundable deposit is required. Upon receipt of the deposit, you will be put in direct contact with the Tour Guide, who will be able to answer your specific questions regarding the details of the tour, including balance payment, extra costs, and the meeting time and place. We recommend that reservations be made at least two months prior to your departure.

*Note: Transfers are not included in the price. Pick-up and drop-off at villa locations can be arranged for an extra fee (payable locally). Please contact RentVillas for more details.

Request Your Amalfi Coast Wine Tour

Amalfi Coast: A Travel Guide

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Rent a villa in Positano!

Rent a villa in Positano!

An hour south of Naples, this 30-mile stretch of coastline is best known for its picturesque villages, such as Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello, perched on vertical slopes ter­raced with lemon trees. The area has been renowned for its beauty since antiquity: it was along this coast that Homer’s Ulysses strapped himself to his ship to avoid being lured into the sea by the Sirens’ song. Feeling the pull of the Amalfi Coast but you don’t know where to begin? Here are some travel ideas and general tips to jump start your itinerary planning:

Festivals

The view from Ravello

The view from Ravello

There are regional celebrations throughout the year, so be sure to find out in advance what local events are happening during your visit. The Wagner Music Festival runs from June to Septem­ber in Ravello at Villa Rufolo, featuring symphonies, chamber concerts, operas, ballets, and plays. On the first Sunday in June, Amalfi celebrates its history as one of the four Ancient Maritime Republic cities (including Genova, Pisa, and Venice) with a historic regatta; every four years the event is held in Amalfi. Galleons sail on the water crewed by locals in period costume. Sant’Andrea, Amalfi’s patron saint, is celebrated both on his birthday (November 30) and on the day a miracle saved the city from pirates (June 27). A statue of the saint is carried in procession, accompa­nied by fireworks, music, and food. On July 27th, Ravello takes their turn celebrating in honor of their patron saint, San Pantaleone, with a beautiful procession following by fireworks after dark. The view overlooking the coastline is not to be missed!

Wines

The slopes of Mount Vesuvius (near Naples) are some of the oldest wine-producing areas in Italy. The most famous wine is Lachryma Christi – literally, “Tears of Christ.” Other regional wines include Taurasi, a full-bodied red from Avellino, and Fiano d’Avellino, one of the best whites in Italy.

The Emerald Grotto

Looking towards Positano from Praiano, a charming fishing village where many of our properties are located. Photo credit: David_Ooms

Looking towards Positano from Praiano, a charming fishing village where many of our properties are located. Photo credit: David_Ooms

Accessible only by boat, the Grotto dello Smeraldo is breathtaking in its beauty. Once a dry-land cave, changes in the landscape allowed the brilliant blue-green water inside. Now glistening stalagmites jut out of the water; overhead, light dances over stalactites. The grotto is located in Conca dei Marini, about five kilometers west of Amalfi.

Cuisine

Amalfi Coast cuisine is seafood-based, incorporating locally grown produce such as tomatoes, lemons, and red peppers. Insalata caprese is a simple salad composed of sliced toma­toes, fresh mozzarella, basil, and olive oil. The coast’s other specialty is limoncello, a delicate, lemon-infused digestivo served ice cold.

Day Trip: Pompeii

The Circumvesuviana rail line skirts the base of Mount Vesuvius, connecting Naples and Sor­rento. Midway along the route, the Pompeii Scavi stop is just a few minutes on foot from the ruins. Tickets to the ruins at Pompeii now include entrance to Herculaneum, a sister city also destroyed by the volcanic eruption.

The Amalfi Coast is known for its citrus, which figures prominently in local cuisine.

The Amalfi Coast is known for its citrus, which figures prominently in local cuisine.

Hiking

Perched on precarious vertical slopes, everything on the Amalfi Coast is either up or down, so almost all visitors will get a workout! Serious hikers, however, may want to try some of the stupendous mountain trails. Tracing the crest of the coastline, the Sentiero degli Dei (Path of the Gods) is one of the most grueling – but everyone who tackles it swears the views are worth every step.

Authentic Italy

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In this third installment, guest editor and RentVillas Founder Suzanne Pidduck follows up on part 1 and part 2 from her September 2013 travels on the border of Lazio, Tuscany, and Umbria:

Antica Rocca (sleeps 10) is located in a medieval hamlet.

Antica Rocca (sleeps 10) is located in a medieval hamlet.

This week I’ve got more to share about the area called the Alta Tuscia—situated on the borders of Lazio, Tuscany, and Umbria. In my opinion, this area really offers the best of all three regions. Although located at a cultural crossroads, it has somehow remained unspoiled, with authentic towns, un-inflated prices, rural peace and quiet, and abundant traffic-free hiking, road and mountain biking opportunities in striking natural surroundings.

La Cappella dell'Alfina is a charming farmhouse near Acquapendente.

La Cappella dell’Alfina is a charming farmhouse near Acquapendente.

I visited two exceptional properties near Torre Alfina (our home base for the week), La Cappella dell’Alfina and Antica Rocca, and did some additional exploring throughout the area. Here are the highlights!

Must-sees!

  • Perugia is about 1 ½ hours away, and is worth the trip. With a rainstorm brewing we had lunch on the piazza facing the Duomo and the Fontana Maggiore. Carpaccio with arugula and Parmigiano-Reggiano has never tasted so good!
  • Civita’ di Bagnoregio is a tiny, Etruscan village perched atop a plateau of volcanic tuff. It’s right out of a fairy tale! The village was made famous, quite literally, by Rick Steves! He put it on the map (and has done the same thing with the Cinque Terre) and thereby has helped to save it from disintegration. His photo is everywhere in town! We walked against howling wind along the pedestrian bridge that leads into town and wandered around the hamlet and found a great trattoria. It was a fun adventure!
  • The spectacular duomo in Orvieto.

    The spectacular duomo in Orvieto.

    Orvieto is only 20 minutes away from Torre Alfina and Villa del Castello. We headed there for a stroll, a little shopping, and to gaze at the extraordinary Duomo. We were thrilled to find the town almost empty. What a treat to have it to ourselves! Todi is also wonderful for a passegiata.

  • For a full day trip, I highly recommend Pienza and Montepulciano. Pienza is known for its pecorino, and Montepulciano has outstanding shopping. It’s also fun to do a wine tasting at the Col D’Orcia estate in Montalcino (book in advance), and then stop in either San Filippo Terme or Bagno Vignoni to soak in the thermal baths (just remember to bring swimsuits!).
  • I’d also encourage you to see the “tufo towns” of Sorano, Pitigliano, and Sovana—three towns in the Maremma (southwestern coastal area of Tuscany) carved into or built out of volcanic rock (tufo). If you leave early enough in the morning, it is possible to do all three. But if not, don’t miss Sorano. It’s a gorgeous little artists’ village in an area known for its “fjords”. If you are in Sovana at lunch time, stop at Taverna Etrusca for a light lunch.

Adventures in Italy, Part II

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In this post guest editor and RentVillas Founder Suzanne Pidduck shares part two of a two-part excerpt from her September 2013 Tuscany travel journal:

Villa del Castello (sleeps 6) is located on the border of Tuscany, Umbria, and Lazio.

Villa del Castello (sleeps 6) is located on the border of Tuscany, Umbria, and Lazio.

This week I’m writing from Villa del Castello on the border of Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio. We’re loving the location—in the medieval village of Torre Alfina—and the fact that it’s off the tourist track, yet convenient for day trips and walking/hiking adventures. The week’s highlights include a hike in the forest of Il Sassetto and a walk along Lago di Bolsena. The weather has changed from hot and humid to cool and wet—but we won’t be deterred by a little rain! Here’s a little more about my adventures in this wonderful undiscovered part of Italy:

Living like a Local

If you’re looking for an authentic Italian village experience, Villa del Castello is your property! It’s located in the center of the medieval village of Torre Alfina, a rustic, rural spot populated by locals—not tourists. We also have three other villas in this area, each wonderful and unique and close by:  La Cappella dell’Alfina, Antica Rocca, and Casale Giardino (more on these villas, as well as the region in general, in next week’s newsletter! Stay tuned!)  Honestly, I almost hesitate to say too much about the area and the villas—lest it become a tourist destination! I can’t emphasize enough how peaceful and crowd-free it is relative to Tuscany.

A perfect spot for al fresco meals at Villa del Castello!

A perfect spot for al fresco meals at Villa del Castello!

Villa del Castello is more spectacular than the photos! The garden area is large and impeccably groomed. The furnishings are Old World and high quality. We felt as though we had stepped into a gracious, well-appointed home. There is good WiFi (in the dining room), adaptor plugs (and a power strip to accommodate all of our chargers!), a Tom Tom to borrow, two cell phones, and even a vegetable garden and chickens (guests are welcome to the bounty!) A few steps away there is a hotel with pool (open to guests of the villa) and restaurant. The village, which includes a world-class gelateria, is also close by.  The caretakers live nearby and are always available.

Italy’s Green Heart

Villa del Castello has an amazing view of the castle!

Villa del Castello has an amazing view of the castle!

This part of Italy is an ideal destination for people who love the outdoors. There is an extensive trail network (for both hiking and mountain biking), as well as lakes (Bolsena and Bracciano).

  •  The owner of La Cappella dell’Alfina took us on a hike in a prehistoric volcanic forest which was only about 1-2 km away from our villa, just below the Castello di Torre Alfina. The forest was an  otherworldly place, with many varieties of old-growth trees and lichen-covered volcanic boulders. We were shown caves in the forest where the villagers hid during the Nazi occupation.
  • This part of Italy is an ideal destination for people who love the outdoors.

    This part of Italy is an ideal destination for people who love the outdoors.

    The Via Francigena is one of Europe’s principal pilgrimage routes (like the Camino de Santiago in Spain) and was established in 990 for pilgrims en route to Rome. It passes through the countryside near Torre Alfina, also called the Alta Tuscia. Locally, the trail criss-crosses the Via Cassia (the ancient road to Rome) gravel paths and rural roads. A number of the trail’s most scenic legs start within a short drive of the villa.

  • Lago di Bolsena is a beautiful volcanic lake that was formed by an eruption that occurred hundreds of thousands of years ago. All around the lake there are beaches, swimming holes, picnic grounds, and restaurants—not to mention clean, clear water! There are two islands in the middle of the lake, both with monasteries on them. In the summer there are regular boat cruises from Bolsena and Capodimonte. We hiked a beautiful trail, the historic Sentiero dei Briganti, which encompasses 100 km of trails along the Tuscany/Lazio border that were originally used as escape routes by local brigands. The trail is ideal for mountain biking, horseback riding, or hiking. Incidentally, Leg 37 of the Via Francigena, which originates in San Lorenzo Nuovo, follows the lakeshore to the beautiful town of Bolsena on a segment of the Sentiero dei Briganti.

Adventures in Tuscany, Part 1

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La Solaia (sleeps 6) is located near Certaldo, south of Florence.

La Solaia (sleeps 6) is located near Certaldo, south of Florence.

In this post guest editor and RentVillas Founder Suzanne Pidduck shares part 1 of a two-part excerpt from her September 2013  Tuscany travel journal:

Greetings from La Solaia!  We’ve spent a fun, busy week in Tuscany museum-hopping in Florence (free admission and no waiting in line, thanks to the Firenze Card), visiting the brand new Antinori Winery, and day tripping by train from Certaldo, our convenient home base 40 km southwest of Florence. While in the city we also took a special walking tour of the Uffizi and Vasari Corridor—plus enjoyed the special treat of three dinners prepared by Tuscan chefs who partner with RentVillas. Best of all, we’ve spent a couple of lovely days by the shared pool at La Solaia, simply relaxing, swimming, and preparing simple meals. Here are some highlights from my week, plus travel tips:

The Firenze Card offers a great way to visit the city's museums--and avoid the lines!

The Firenze Card offers a great way to visit the city’s museums–and avoid the lines!

Out and About in Florence

  • One week before we left, we purchased our Firenze Cards online. The cards are 72 Euros each and are good for a period of 72 hours.  With the card, we gained free access to most of the museums in the city, were guaranteed a spot at the front of the line, and received free passes for public transportation. This really makes a difference for places like the Accademia and the Uffizi! There is a Firenze Card office (one of many located throughout the city) across the street from the train station. We popped in as soon as we got into town on the train from Certaldo, and within minutes were equipped with our cards, maps, and WiFi information.
  • On our first day with the cards, we headed straight to the Accademia Gallery (home of Michelangelo’s David), and then to the Ferragamo Museum. Afterwards, we took a Viator walking tour of the Uffizi and the Vasari Corridor.  It was EXCELLENT! Our guide was engaging, personable, and educated.  It was impossible to let your mind drift, since he immediately learned everyone’s name, and would call upon each of us individually!  The tour took 3 hours.  Highly recommend!
  • On day two, we went to the Palazzo Davanzati, a palazzo that has been under restoration for the past several years.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve tried unsuccessfully to enter this building!  If you love peeking into the lives of people who lived in the 14th to 16th centuries, this 4-story palazzo is a must.  Bear in mind that it has restricted hours (10:00 AM – 1:30 PM), and that in order to visit the two top floors, you must ask the custodian on the first floor to be placed on the list.  The access is only available at 10:00am, 11:00am and noon.  I highly recommend doing this! Next we were on to the Museo Galileo, the Bargello Museum, Gucci Museo, and the Jewish Synagogue and Museum (a little out of the way, but worthwhile).
Wine tasting in Tuscany!

Wine tasting in Tuscany!

Antinori Winery

  • On the 2nd day of our stay at La Solaia we drove to Bargino to visit the newly opened Antinori Winery, begun in 2005 and finished just this past March.  It was quite a WOW experience!  We made reservations online; click on “Book a Visit”.  The visit costs 20 Euros per person for an hour-long tour and tasting of 3 wines.  The building’s design and architecture are out-of-this-world! After the cellar tour and tasting, we had a memorable lunch in the restaurant.  Makes for a perfect day trip!

 

The kitchen at La Solaia is well-equipped for cooking and entertaining during your villa rental experience!

The kitchen at La Solaia is well-equipped for cooking and entertaining during your villa rental experience!

La Solaia and Certaldo

  • La Solaia is truly lovely. It was constructed out of an old wine cantina that was used before WWII by the family.  We love that the villa is all on one floor (so unusual for Italy) and the open-plan design that encompasses the living room, dining room and kitchen.  There is wonderful art on the walls as well as comfortable, tasteful décor. The owner, Elizabeth, is an American married to an Italian. As is the case with all her villas (Villa Certaldo and Villa Sella—also on the same estate) La Solaia is fully-equipped with every possible amenity and comfort. There’s a big PAM supermarket just 10 minutes away. The shared pool (16 m) is great for swimming and is the ultimate jet lag cure!  This place is perfect for a large family/families or group of couples, since the three villas (soon to be 4, when the house below La Solaia is furnished) are far enough away from each other for privacy, but close enough for visiting back and forth.  They all share the same parking area.
  •  We drove into Certaldo and took the funicular up to Certaldo Alto, the medieval historic center. It’s a great spot of a gelato and a stroll. I had the best limone gelato of my life—and I’ve tried it everywhere!
  •  Getting into Florence from La Solaia was a snap. We drove the 10 minutes from the villa to the Certaldo train station and parked our car in the lot right next to the station.  A quick ticket validation (we’d purchased tickets the night before at the automated machine, but this is not really necessary, as it is easy to do right before catching the train), and we were ready for the train, which runs, in general, about once an hour at 10 minutes after the hour, and takes 45 – 52 minutes. During “rush hours” there are more trains.  The train is Siena – Florence; Florence – Siena.

Three Dinners, Three Chefs

Three chefs came to La Solaia to prepare dinners. All of them can accommodate food allergies and preferences.  They can also provide in-home cooking classes.

  • Elisa

    Elisa

    Elisa Porciati has been a chef for 12 years, running a tavola calda with her mother, and working as a private villa chef for 4 years. She prepared an amazing, beautifully presented dinner, including eggplant timbale (my favorite!); saffron risotto with vegetables; roasted rabbit with a tomato, bread and herb gratin; and finally a pudding with herb-roasted peaches.

  • Cinzia

    Cinzia

    Cinzia Malgeri manages a group of 10 chefs who cook all over Tuscany.  From the time she and her assistant arrived at the villa, I was very impressed by her organization and the incredible aromas of garlic, onions, and truffles that wafted into the living room.  We dined on bruschette miste with tomatoes and pate’ (including gluten-free bread for me!);  carpaccio wrapped around goat cheese and capers topped with minced garlic and onions; a risotto with truffles, onions, garlic, and parsley;  and glazed citrus chicken with sautéed zucchini.  For dessert there were sliced peaches in wine and liqueur, as well as a gorgeous torta di cioccolato (none for me!)

  • Matisse, your private Tuscan chef

    Matisse, your private Tuscan chef

    Mattisse, a veteran chef and longtime RentVillas partner, prepared a beautiful meal of bruschetta with sautéed mushrooms; a risotto with fish, parsley, and onion; flambéed chicken breasts with lots of herbs, served with grilled zucchini; and panna cotta.  Wonderful! Mattisse has developed several types of new menus, including organic, health-wise options.