Sunflowers in Italy

Italian Tuscany Cooking Holiday Itinerary

If you want to jump directly to the itinerary, scroll down until you see the heading The Itinerary.

Some Explanation

This itinerary is for a trip that we took beginning Friday, 29 June, 2007 and returning on Sunday, 8 July, 2007. If you want to see how the trip turned out, go to Tuscany by Car.
Normally, I would not set up a trip like this for this time of year. Summer in Italy will be hot, crowded and expensive. However, this is a special situation.
Karen, my wife, started taking a culinary course at the Center for Culinary Arts here in Connecticut, USA. It is a 15 month course that covers all aspects of the culinary business. The only break she has all year that is longer than a few days is the week of the Fourth of July. She has a class on Thursday, 28 June, and is off until Monday, 9 July.
So we are taking advantage of this and getting back to Italy for the first time since our trip to Italy in 2001: Italy by Bus.

Cooking classes

I started by looking into week-long cooking vacations. I thought it would be a good tie-in with her schooling. I found a few that were not too pricey and then talked with Karen about them. She said that she liked the idea but didn't want to spend the entire week doing that because there were other things that we want to see and do. I agreed with her and started looking at shorter tours.

I found a few and one in particular caught our eye. It included four days staying at an agriturismo and included cooking classes on three days. The cost was $1075.00 per person, and this price did not include airfare. I sent them a message asking about availability and in the meantime, I did some investigation. I found out that the cooking classes took place at Agriturismo Fagiolari and are taught by Giulietta. Also, her web site included a reference to Podere (Estate) San Lorenzo which is run by her sister Marinella. I checked out the web sites of both places and sent them some emails.

It turned out that Fagiolari had a wedding going on during the time that we wanted to be there. But Podere San Lorenzo had availability for us.

The accomodation, "Room A", will cost us 85.00€ per night, and the classes will cost us 85.00€ each. So, for three nights accomodation, plus two cooking classes each, the total is 595.00€. At the current exchange rate, that will be approximately $773.50. The tour we were looking at would have cost $2150.00 for the two of us. So by dealing with the establishment directly, we saved about $1376.50! Something to think about the next time you are making travel arrangements.


So we also need to get to Italy. I looked around at a lot of options and as I expected, at that time of year, flights are expensive. I finally settled on a non-stop flight from Philadelphia to Milan. This option saves us over $400.00 over the next best option. It will just mean that we will have a four-hour drive to Philly to get to the airport.

Accomodations for the rest of the trip

So at this point we only have accomodation for three nights, and I started looking at options for the rest of the trip.

The first day

I checked with Podere San Lorenzo and they do not have the cooking classes on Sunday. Since we will be arriving in Italy on Saturday morning, we will not have to drive all the way to Volterra the first day. We will check in to Podere San Lorenzo on Sunday and take the classes on Monday and Tuesday afternoons.

So we need a place to stay on Saturday night. I wanted to find a place along the coast, just to have a variety of experiences in Italy because all of the rest of the time will be spent inland in Tuscany: Volterra, Florence and Chianti. I didn't hold out much hope of finding a reasonably priced hotel along the coast at this time of year. First I found a hotel in La Spezia, using the web site. This was a very useful web site as you will see.

But then I got some information about the area on the Aardvark Travel Forum. I was pointed to a town called Portovenere which looked a lot more like what I was looking for. Most of my first choices of hotels were not available for that date, so I decided to splurge on this one night and booked a room at the Grand Hotel Portovenere. It will cost us around $250.00 for the one night for a double room with a sea view.

Wednesday through Friday

We will be leaving Podere San Lorenzo on Wednesday morning, heading for Florence. So I went to and found a hotel in the center of Florence, near the Piazza del Duomo. We will be staying there for three nights.


Finally I went to and foound a reasonably priced hotel near the airport in Milan for Saturday night.

The Itinerary

This is the itinerary that I first came up with. There were several changes as you will see if you go to the travelogue for the actual trip that I linked to above.

Day One, Friday evening, 29 June, 2007, Flight to Milan

Day one consists of getting to the airport, boarding a flight to Milan, and flying over the Atlantic Ocean.

Day Two, Saturday, 30 June, 2007, Arrival

On the morning of day two, the plane arrives in Milan
First we will go through immigration (passport check,) and then enter the baggage claim area. Once we retrieve our luggage, we will go through the customs area, and on into the main terminal of the airport.


We will be on the lookout for ATM machines as we make our way to the Hertz rental counter. We will each have an ATM card and a credit card with us. We will bring some US dollars, but will not expect to have to use them.

On the road

Once we get our car we will head out to the A1 highway. We will be staying in the seaside town of Portovenere the first night, and according to all of the mapping websites, the best way to get there is to go down the A1 as far as Parma, then get on the A15 toward the coast. As long as we are going through Parma, we have decided to stop there, spend a couple of hours siteseeing and having lunch, and then get back on the road to Portovenere.


What's the attraction of Parma?

Well, it is the home of Proscuitto di Parma (also known as Parma Ham) to begin with. And then there is Parmagiano Reggiano, the king of all cheeses.
While we are there, these are some of the attractions that we may explore, depending on how long it takes:

  • The cathedral in the Piazza del Duomo
  • The baptistery in the Piazza del Duomo
  • The church of San Giovani Evangelista
  • Madonna della Steccata church, modeled after St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican
  • Piazza Garibaldi—Palazzo del Governatore with an an astronomical clock on its facade
  • The Palazzo del Municipio (Town Hall; 1627-73) also in the Piazza Garibaldi


For lunch, we will keep a lookout while we are siteseeing for places that look interesting. Also, depending on where we are when we are ready to eat, there are two places recommended on the Mario Batali web site:


After lunch, we'll get back on the road, the A15, heading southwest toward the coast to the town of Portovenere. With any luck, we will be able to get there and get checked into our hotel before sunset. We expect to be able to get some good photos that afternoon and the next morning as well.


There are several interesting restaurants listed on the Portovenere web site including one at the hotel. The plan is to be eating dinner outside with a sea view as the sun is setting. We'll see how that works out.

Day Three, Sunday, 1 July, 2007

The drive to Volterra is only about three hours, so we will take some time in Portovenere before hitting the road.


We will eat breakfast on the terrace at the hotel.


Here are some of the things to be seen in Portovenere:

  • The entrance to the main street of the Village is a Roman Gateway built in 1160 AD
  • Tower Capitolare to the left of the gateway
  • Fresco of 1494, the Madonna Bianca (White Virgin), the patron saint of the village
  • Carugio o via G.Capellini, the main street of the village full of shops
  • Square P. Centinaro named after a local benefactor with a fountain placed over a well
  • Square Spallanzani which was the center of the early Roman town of Castrum Vetus
  • Church S. Pietro—on this site there used to be a temple to Venus Erycina which was conterted to a Christian church; the current church was built over the site by the Genoese
  • Church S. Lorenzo
  • The Castle



Whenever we are ready, we will get on the road and start heading toward Volterra.

First we'll stop at the marble quarry in Carrara. I just want to take a few photos of the marble. I have seen how quarries work before, so I don't need a tour of the place.

Which way to Podere San Lorenzo?

The first option is to take the A12 as far as Pisa, and take the Strada Grande Comunicazione Firenze-Pisa-Livorno for about 30 miles, and then SS439 as far as San Giovanni, bearing left onto SS439dir which will take us into Volterra. Then we'll hook up with SR68 west until we see a sign that says "S. Lorenzo", where we will take a left and follow the signs to "Agritursimo Podere San Lorenzo."

The other option is to take the A12 all the way to Cecina and then follow SR68 all the way through Volterra until we see the "S. Lorenzo" sign.

I'm hoping that we will see lots of things along the way to stop and check out, or at least photograph.

If we take option one, we will pass through or near these towns:

  • San Pietro a Piano
  • Ponsacco
  • Camugliano
  • Capannoli
  • Santissima Annunziata
  • Capavoli
  • San Pietro Belvedere
  • Flume Era (water park)
  • Selvatelle
  • Casanova
  • Peccioli
  • La Sterza
  • San Giovani
  • Montaperti
  • Prato d'Era

If we take option two, we will pass through or near these towns:

  • Fagiolaia
  • San Martino
  • Riparbella
  • Casino di Terra
  • Ponteginori
  • Flume Cecina (water park)
  • Saline
  • La Chiostra


When we were in Italy in 2001, we took a bus tour and sometimes we would stop at rest areas on the highways for lunch. These were always at rest areas run by Autogrill. These were much different than what we are used to in the US, so I want to stop at one either on Saturday or Sunday so I can get some photos. So we may have lunch at an Autogrill today.


Somewhere along the way, we will find a place for dinner. We probably could just get dinner at Podere San Lorenzo, but since we will be eating there on Monday and Tuesday nights, we want to find somewhere else for our Sunday dinner.

Day Four, Monday, 2 July, 2007

There are several options for things for us to do on Monday morning, before our first cooking class at the agriturismo.

Monteriggioni? San Gimignano?

This morning, after having breakfast at Podere San Lorenzo, we have lots of options. The two main options are going to either Monteriggioni or San Gimignano. These are two ancient Italian hill towns with lots of history.


I am leaning toward going to Monteriggioni and having lunch at a restaurant there called Il Pozzo.


We will be back to the Podere San Lorenzo in time for the cooking classes. Then, we will eat the dinner we prepared and then relax for evening.

Day Five, Tuesday, 3 July, 2007, Market day in Saline

After breakfast we may drive to the nearby town of Saline di Volterra because Tuesday is their market day. We will see what there is to see there and then drive back to the town of Volterra.

Volterra is another ancient Italian hill town, first settled by the Etruscans.


We will spend some time wandering through Volterra until it is time to return for the cooking classes. There are several restaurants and cafes where we can get some lunch.


Some things to see in Volterra:

  • Rossi Alabasti, Via del Mandorlo, the oldest alabaster workshop in Volterra
  • Arco Etrusco, and ancient Etruscan gate in the city walls of Volterra
  • Cathedral, Santa Maria Assunta (consecrated 1120)
  • Battistero, baptistery
  • The Citadel, now a jail, not open to the public
  • Museo Etrusco Guarnacci, Etruscan museum
  • Palazzo Pretorio
  • Parco Archeologico, archeological park
  • Roman Theater; Teatro Romano, dating from the first century AD
  • Palazzo dei Priori, the central square, with the town hall (Palazzo dei Priori)


Agan we will be back to the Podere San Lorenzo in time for the cooking classes, have dinner and relax for the evening.

Day Six, Wednesday, 4 July, 2007

On Wednesday morning, after breakfast, we will say goodbye to the Podere San Lorenzo and head toward Florence.

On to Florence

Along the way are some castles in Poggibonsi and Linari that we may stop to photograph. Also as we approach Florence, we plan on passing through the Piazzale Michelangelo and will stop there for more photos.
Our hotel is a block away from the Piazza del Duomo, and most of our activities on Wednesday in Florence will center around this area. We will attempt to see and do the following:

  • Museo dell'Opera del Duomo
  • Santa Maria del Fiore—The Duomo
  • Baptistery of St. John
  • Climb Giotto's Campanile (bell tower)
  • Climb Brunelleschi's Cupola (dome)
  • Orsanmichele, Donatello statues of St. George and St. Mark
  • Piazza della Republica, La Ranascente department store
  • Piazzale Donatello, the Protestant or "English" Cemetery.

Day Seven, Thursday, 5 July, 2007, Driving through Chianti

On Thursday, we will take a drive through Chianti, the region of Tuscany which is famous for the wine of the same name.

We will begin by driving to Greve in Chianti to visit Il Castello di Verrazzano, which was an Etruscan town and then a Roman town and then was bought by the Verazzano family. We have a reservation for the tour and wine tasting at 10:00, but I want to be there by 09:00 so we can have some time to explore the place first.

tuscany Castello di Verrazzano

The tour and wine tasting is supposed to take an hour and a half, and then we will be on the road again. We hope to be able to visit some of the following places, but our itinerary may change depending on what we see as we go.

  • Greve in Chianti
    • Verrazzano Statue
    • Antica Macelleria Falorni
    • Le Cantine di Greve in Chianti
  • Panzano in Chianti
    • Antica Macelleria Checchini
    • Podere Poggio Scalette
  • Castellina
    • Fortress of Castellina in Chianti
    • Rocca delle Macie Winery
    • Fattoria Nittardi
  • Radda
    • Albola Castle
  • Gaoile
    • lo Sfizio for dinner?


The snacks that will be included with the wine tasting should be enough to take care of lunch.


The plan is to be in Gaoile at dinner time and go to Lo Sfizio di Bianchi for dinner. However, we will find somewhere to have dinner wherever we happen to be when we are ready for it.

The route

Here is a map of the places on the list. The Italian name for the town of Florence is Firenze.

Itinerary in Chianti

Day Eight, Friday, 6 July, 2006, Walking through Firenze

There is a lot to see in Florence, and we won't be able to see all that we want to in one day. The following is a list of places I'd like to see on Friday, but we know that we will probably not have enough time (or energy) to see all of them. It's not as bad as it looks at first because many of these places we will just walk past and take some photos. But we will probably have to drop some of them and put them on the list for next time.

  • Santa Maria Novella
    • Brunelleschi's crucifix
  • San Lorenzo
    • Original church designed by Brunelleschi
    • Art: Donatello/Filippo Lippi
    • Medici Chapels: Michelangelo
  • Medici—Riccardi Palace
    • Lorenzo the Magnificent
  • TI—Tourist Information, bookstore
    • free map—center insert
    • museum hours listing
  • Museum of San Marco
    • Savonarola's cell
  • Santissima Annunziata
    • Hospital of the Innocents: Brunelleschi
  • Rotonda del Brunelleschi / Rotonda di Santa Maria degli Agnoli or Angeli
  • Casa Buonarroti
    • Madonna of the Stairs
    • Battle of the Centaurs
    • Model for the facade of San Lorenzo
  • Santa Croce
    • Brunelleschi's Pazzi chapel
    • Donatello's crucifix
  • Bargello Museum
    • Donatello's David
    • Brunelleschi/Michelangelo/Ghiberti
  • Palazzo Vecchio (Palazzo della Signoria) in the Piazza della Signoria
    • Michelangelo's Victory
    • Donatello's Judith & Holofernes
  • Loggia dei Lanzi
    • Cellini's Perseus
  • Piazza della Signoria
    • Plaque in front of fountain where Savonarola was burned
  • Straw Market—Mercato Nuovo
  • Ponte Vecchio
    • Statue of Cellini
  • View of Arno & Ponte Veccio near Hotel Lungarno—ruined medieval tower
  • Santo Spirito
    • Brunelleschi - interior
    • Michelangelo crucifix
    • Market 09:00-14:00 Piazza Santo Spirito
    • Olio & Convivium, Via Santo Spirito 4r, 250 types of wine and dozens of varieties of olive oil for tasting
  • Porta San Frediano
  • Florence Town Walls


As we walk around we will be on the lookout for a place to stop for lunch. Whenever we feel the need, we will have a bite at some little place along the way.


I'm hoping that we will make it across the river, and have dinner at a restaurant somewhere along the Via Santo Spirito in the Oltrarno section of Florence.

The route

Here is a map of the places on the list. It looks like a lot of walking (and it will be) but Florence is a small city so it is not quite as bad as it looks.

Itinerary in Florence

Day Nine, Saturday, 7 July, 2007, Back to Milan

There are several stops we want to make on our way back to Milan.


We may make Prato our first stop, so that we can see the Emperor's Castle of Prato and the Cassero Medievale di Prato.


From there we will go on to Pistoia to see the silver Altar of San Jacopo in the Cathedral of San Zeno. The two prophets on the left on the silver altar are the first documented works of Filippo Brunelleschi.
Also there is the Ospedale del Ceppo which was designed by Brunelleschi, similar to the Hospital of the Innocents he designed in Florence.

Borgo Capanne

Then we will drive to Borgo Capanne where Mario Batali spent three years of intense culinary training. He worked for no wages, just room and board to learn the secrets of Italian cuisine.


Since Modena is along our route back to Milan, we will stop in the place where most of the balsamic vinegar comes from.


Then it's back to Milan, to the Malpensa Inn Hotel & Motel - Tornavento Lonate Pozzolo. We'll get some dinner and relax and reflect on our trip on our last night in Italy.

Day Ten, Sunday, 8 July, 2007, Fly home

On Sunday morning we will get up, have some breakfast, fly back to Philadelphia and drive home.

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