- Marvel at the Tuscan countryside from your base in Cortona
- Discover Renaissance art & architecture on day trips to Montepulciano & Arezzo
- Explore lesser-known Umbria from the historic hill town of Assisi
- Take in bird's-eye-views from the soaring Ponte delle Torri in Spoleto
|Day 1||Arrive in Florence, Drive to Cortona||Cortona|
|Day 2||Day Trip to Montepulciano, Stop in Pienza||Cortona|
|Day 3||Day Trip to Arezzo||Cortona|
|Day 4||Drive to Assisi, Afternoon Walking Tour||Assisi|
|Day 5||Day Trip to Perugia||Assisi|
|Day 6||Day Trip to Spello & Gubbio||Assisi|
|Day 7||Day Trip to Spoleto & Rocca of Albornoziana||Assisi|
|Day 8||Assisi to Rome, Departure|
Day 1: Arrive in Florence, Drive to Cortona
Welcome to Italy! Upon arrival at the Florence Airport, you'll be met by your personal concierge, who will help you pick up your rental car and answer any questions you may have about your trip. Then it's time to set off into the Tuscan countryside, driving 1.5 hours south to the postcard-perfect hilltop town of Cortona. With Etruscan roots dating back to the 5th century BCE, the town was one of the region's most evolved medieval city-states, and it still boasts a dizzying selection of Renaissance art and architecture. It will serve as your base for the next three nights as you explore the surrounding hill towns and landscapes.
Get settled into your accommodations, then head out for a stroll around Cortona's main plaza and cobblestone streets. Highlights include the Piazza della Republica, Cortona's main square that dates back to the Roman age, Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo, the 16th-century residence of Cardinal Passerini, and the Palazzo Comunale. Visit the Medicea Fortress, erected in 1556 on the ruins of an Etruscan wall, and don't miss the Cathedral, constructed at the end of the 15th century.
Venture inside some of its museums to travel back in time. The MAEC Museum holds precious Etruscan artifacts and the Diocesan Museum is home to an array of Renaissance paintings. Head just outside of Cortona to the Monastery of Saint Francis “Le Celle” for a peaceful experience and spectacular views of the surrounding valley.
Day 2: Day Trip to Montepulciano, Stop in PienzaTime to head further into the Tuscany countryside, visiting the famous village and surrounding wine region of Montepulciano. While driving, enjoy breathtaking views along the way with a stop at Pienza. Stretch your legs in the tiny village, which stands atop a high hill above the Orcia Valley. The charming town is known as the "ideal city of the Renaissance" and was designed by Enea Silvio Piccolomini, who later became Pope Pius II. Piccolomini used his money and influence to transform his birthplace village, then known as Corsignano, into his ideal Utopian Renaissance city.
The harmonious composition of the city includes the Cathedral, the Papal or Piccolomini Palace, the Town Hall, and the central square which sits between the buildings. Visit the Duomo or Cattedrale dell'Assunta to see unique paintings and the octagonal bell tower, and continue to the Palazzo Piccolomini to admire the hanging gardens, as well as the shooting locations for Franco Zeffirelli's film Romeo and Juliet.
Continue on your way to the historic village of Montepulciano, which sits along a ridge and is surrounded by walls and fortifications. Montepulciano is famous for its Renaissance buildings, churches, and historical Corso main street which leads through town, ending at the Piazza Grande—the town's main civic and religious center.
Tour the Piazza to see the Palazzo Comunale, the castle-like town hall with an iconic clock bell. Climb to the top for views of the Tuscan hillside, then visit the spartan 15th-century Duomo, whose unfinished facade stands out from the surrounding buildings. Continue to the Palazzo Cappelli and Gothic Palazzo Neri Orselli to see regional and national art.
Day 3: Day Trip to Arezzo
This morning you'll drive 40-minutes north to Arezzo, a handsome medieval hill town of Etruscan origins. Not usually included in the busiest tours of Tuscany, the town is a hidden gem that maintains its authentic traditions, architecture, and beauty and offers an escape from the crowds. Its exquisite medieval square is one of the city’s main attractions, famously used in the Oscar-winning film Life is Beautiful.
For art lovers, Arezzo is a true delight. It is mainly thanks to the legacy left by its two most gifted sons: the stunning frescos by Piero Della Francesca in the Church of San Francesco, and the main square Piazza Grande with the elegant loggia designed by Vasari (the same Vasari who planned the Uffizi in Florence.)
Beyond this, the impressive Church of Santa Maria Della Pieve and the Cathedral are also definitely worth a visit. A walk in the streets around Piazza Grande reveals picturesque corners, old botteghe (shops), and medieval buildings like the Palazzo Pretorio, its façade covered in coats of arms. It's also the perfect spot to relax and have a drink. The famous loggia, which once hosted artisan stalls, is now home to trattorias and coffee shops. On the first weekend of every month, the piazza becomes the grand setting for the most popular antique fair in Tuscany.
Take your time exploring Arezzo's many delights before heading back to Cortona for the night.
Day 4: Drive to Assisi, Afternoon Walking Tour
This morning you'll bid Tuscany farewell and drive towards Umbria—a lesser-visited region that's equally stunning in its landscapes and hilltop towns. Your destination is the charming town of Assisi. Renowned as a pilgrimage destination and as the birthplace of Saint Francis, Assisi contains a wonder of medieval streetscapes to explore.
After checking in to your hotel, take the afternoon to experience Assisi with a private walking tour to hear about the rich history that made the town into the marvel that it is today. See for yourself the incredible Basilicas of Saint Chiara and Saint Francis and the artworks they hold, and tour the maze of cobblestone streets with your expert guide. Explore the city's unique architecture and take time to soak in the impressive views it offers of the Umbrian valley below.
In the evening, head to the stunning main square of Assisi, Piazza del Comune, to feel the town come to life as you pop into a nearby trattoria for dinner.
Day 5: Day Trip to Perugia
Today's 30-minute drive takes you to the regional capital of Perugia, one of Italy's most underrated gems and a perfect day trip to compliment your Umbrian adventure. With its hilltop location and medieval architecture, the city is also home to one of Italy's oldest universities as well as an annual chocolate festival and summer jazz festival—giving it a new fresh vibe and a plethora of cafes and boutiques to explore.
You'll feel one with the locals as you stroll amongst the ancient architecture and explore its many plazas, alleys, and archways. Venture to the central Piazza IV Novembre to get a feel for the city's enchanting atmosphere. Time seems to stand still as locals sit on the steps of the Gothic-style Cathedral soaking the sun or chatting, surrounded by centuries-old architecture.
Day 6: Day Trip to Gubbio & Spello
Explore more of Umbria's charms today, as you drive 45-minutes north through picturesque countryside to reach Gubbio. Stacked at the base of a densely forested mountain, this magical, medieval hill town is famous for its beautiful Cathedral, home to an array of 16th-century treasures. Start your explorations at the scenic and panoramic Piazza Grande, which hosts the Gothic-style Consul's Palace. Inside you'll find the Municipal Museum, home to the seven "Eububine Tables," ancient bronze tablets dating to the third and fourth centuries BCE.
Don't miss a visit to St. Ubaldo's House, the ancient tower house where Gubbio's patron saint used to live. This structure dates back to a period between the 13th and 14th centuries, as evidenced by some traces of the original wall decorations on the inside.
In the afternoon, why not venture over to the nearby village of Spello? Just a 20-minute drive down the road, this little gem is home to a yearly flower festival that fills the place with incredible color. Take a couple of hours to explore its postcard-worthy streets and plaza, before heading back to your accommodations in Assisi for the evening.
Day 7: Day Trip to Spoleto & Rocca of Albornoziana
Then stroll over to the Piazza del Duomo to visit the Cathedral, a rare example of Romanesque architecture with frescoes by Pinturicchio and Filippo Lippi, and the beautiful Roman House, attributed to the mother of Emperor Vespasian Polla.
Towering over the city is the formidable Rocca Albornoziana, a 14th-century fortress that hosted popes and governors during the heydays of the Renaissance. Surrounded by high perimeter walls and six square towers, it remains the iconic symbol of the city and is divided into two distinct areas: the main courtyard, with the National Museum of the Duchy, and the courtyard of arms, with an outdoor theater. If you're not afraid of heights, take a walk across the Ponte delle Torri (Bridge of the Towers) which connects the fortress and the neighboring town of Monteluco. Spanning 754 feet (230 m), the dizzying walkway was probably built between the 13th and 14th centuries. Today it offers spectacular bird's eye views across the Umbrian landscape.