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Italy

Under the Tuscan Sun: Italian Adventures With Your Family

Program No. 23580RJ
Under the Tuscan sun, you and your family will create memories that will last a lifetime as you discover amazing art, learn some Italian, and explore ancient ruins together.

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At a Glance

What comes to mind when you think of Italy? Spectacular cuisine? Rolling hills? Amazing artwork? If that’s the case, then chances are you’re thinking of Tuscany. Unlike the long lines of Rome and the crazy crowds of Venice, it’s way easier to feel like a true Italian in the small cities of Tuscany. Alongside your family, journey along the peaceful valleys to learn what makes Italy one of the best countries in the world. Discover priceless art, whip up some delicious Italian food, and learn what makes the Leaning Tower of Pisa lean as you explore la bella vita with your family.
Activity Level
Let's Go!
Walking up to five miles a day; elective biking opportunity. Extended standing during site visits with limited or no public seating. Uneven terrain, limited public handrails, unavoidable stairs, marble and terracotta flooring, cobblestones, inclines, loose gravel, dirt paths, escalators. Elevator use is limited or restricted in historic sites. Expect crowded conditions in pedestrian centers and museums. Anticipate temperatures to reach 85-95°F consistently. Program-related travel and transfers will be via bus, regional train, and funicular. Pedestrian tunnels at train stations.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 13 to 24 participants.

What You'll Learn

  • Discover the famous scientific explorations of Leonardo da Vinci at the place he was born.
  • Become a pasta- and pizza-making pro during a fun cooking class and bring your recipes home to your parents.
  • Ride your bike on top of the medieval walls of Lucca to get a totally different perspective of Tuscany.
Featured Expert
All trip experts
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Lara Mattioli
Lara Mattioli is from Ancona, a city on the eastern Adriatic coast of Italy. She has an advanced degree in communications from the Università degli Studi di Macerata and has been working for many years as group leader in Italy and abroad. Lara studied and worked in Barcelona and Rio de Janeiro where she learned to speak Spanish and Portuguese fluently. When not leading Road Scholar programs in her beautiful country, she loves to travel and pursue her hobby of scuba diving.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Lara Mattioli
Lara Mattioli View biography
Lara Mattioli is from Ancona, a city on the eastern Adriatic coast of Italy. She has an advanced degree in communications from the Università degli Studi di Macerata and has been working for many years as group leader in Italy and abroad. Lara studied and worked in Barcelona and Rio de Janeiro where she learned to speak Spanish and Portuguese fluently. When not leading Road Scholar programs in her beautiful country, she loves to travel and pursue her hobby of scuba diving.
Profile Image of Giulia Marsigli
Giulia Marsigli View biography
Giulia completed her degree in foreign languages and cultures at the Università degli studi di Genova. She loves being active, traveling and meeting new people. She honed her English skills as an exchange student at a Seattle high school. She perfected her French while working as a sailing coach at a resort in Tunisia. In Tanzania, she taught English and picked up some Swahili. Giulia lives in a village near Lerici and is a licensed leader for the province, including Portovenere and the Cinque Terre.
Profile Image of Sabrina Lanzoni
Sabrina Lanzoni View biography
Sabrina Lanzoni was born in Pisa and moved to the German-speaking area of Switzerland where she attended school. She also attended a school for foreign language secretary. Sabrina returned to Italy for university, earning a degree in foreign languages and German literature at the Università di Pisa. While still a student, she worked as a group leader traveling throughout Italy and Europe. She has been leading groups in Pisa since 1988. Sabrina speaks Italian, German, English, and French.
Profile Image of Marcella Toni
Marcella Toni View biography
Marcella Toni is a long-experienced English-as-a-second-language teacher in charge of the foreign exchange and internship department at a local high school. She has been successfully planning, organizing, and developing long-lasting relationships with schools in Europe and USA as she firmly believes that learning the language and the culture of a country gives a broader general knowledge helping students to enhance perspectives and self-confidence. Marcella also collaborates with Primavera Viaggi, a travel agency in Florence specializing in Summer English study programs for Italian students.
Profile Image of Emily Moloney
Emily Moloney View biography
Emily Moloney, who is originally from Buffalo, New York, first came to Italy over ten years ago. She holds a master's degree in Renaissance art history and is an officially licensed tour guide. In addition to working as a private guide, Emily lectures as a professor of art history and Italian culture at several study-abroad centers in Florence. In her free time, you can find Emily at the park with her growing family. 
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You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of our published materials, programs are typically advertised more than a year prior to their start date. As a result, some program activities, schedules, accommodations, personnel, and other logistics occasionally change due to local conditions or circumstances. Should a major change occur, we will make every effort to alert you. For less significant changes, we will update you during orientation. Thank you for your understanding.
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9 days
8 nights
16 meals
7 B 3 L 6 D
DAY
1
In Transit to Program
In Flight
DAY
2
Arrive Montecatini, Check-in, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Montecatini Terme
D
Grand Hotel Croce di Malta

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 2:00 p.m. Transfer from Pisa Airport to the hotel is 40 miles; Florence Airport to the hotel is 30 miles. Walking approximately 1 mile with limited or no public seating. Mostly level urban stone streets/sidewalks, limited public handrails, unavoidable stairs, marble and terracotta flooring, cobblestones, inclines, loose gravel.

Afternoon: Check in and settle in. At 4:30 p.m., we gather in the meeting room for an Orientation session. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, and emergency procedures, and answer questions. This is a Road Scholar Family program. Adult participants are responsible for their children at all times. Program staff will supervise if/when separate age group activities are conducted concurrently. Minors must never be left unsupervised. Breakfasts will be buffets. Other included meals will be plated and served from a set menu unless indicated otherwise; water and espresso are included, and other beverages will be available for purchase. Evenings at leisure offer opportunities to make the program more meaningful and memorable through personal independent exploration, attending performances or other events, or simply relaxing and making new friends among fellow participants. The Group Leader will always be happy to offer suggestions. Transportation will be provided primarily by bus and regional train. Periods in the schedule designated as "Free time" and "At leisure" offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times might change due to local circumstances/conditions. We will alert you as quickly as possible in the event of changes. Thank you for being so understanding. Next, we will join our Group Leader in a welcome cocktail (or fruit juice).

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
3
Lucca Full Day Field Trip, Biking on the Walls, Free Time
Montecatini Terme
B,D
Grand Hotel Croce di Malta

Activity note: Getting on/off a regional train; traveling about 40 miles throughout the day, approximately two hours of riding time; be prepared to stand if seats are unavailable. Walking up to 5 miles throughout the day, extended periods of standing; cobblestones, mostly level urban stone streets/sidewalks, unavoidable steps/stairs. Biking about 4 miles; vehicle-free, paved pathway.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: In the morning, we'll set off on foot to the train station, where we'll board a regional train destined for the charming town of Lucca. An exciting adventure awaits upon arrival as we can bike atop the impressive 16-foot-high medieval walls, gaining a unique perspective of this captivating town. For those who prefer a different experience, visiting the Palazzo Pfanner Gardens is a beautiful alternative to explore independently. Lucca's history as a Roman colony is evident in the presence of its protective walls, which shielded the city from invaders. Over the centuries, urban growth expanded the borders in the 17th century. Nowadays, the 2.6 miles of the encircling walls have been transformed into a wide tree-lined path, beloved by residents of all ages as their favorite promenade. Later, we'll be joined by a local expert who will guide us on a delightful walking field trip along a section of the surrounding defensive walls. As we stroll, we'll gain insights into the historical significance of the walls, dating back 500 years when they were constructed as a defense mechanism for the city. Remarkably, they now serve a more peaceful purpose, acting as a beloved walking path for locals and a recreational route for cyclists. We'll be treated to a magnificent city panorama from this elevated vantage point, providing a truly captivating sight to behold. It's a journey through time and a chance to appreciate the blend of history, architecture, and scenic beauty that makes Lucca a unique gem in Tuscany's crown. Please note that there is a possibility of encountering crowded conditions during our visit.

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Afternoon: We will meet at the designated time and location and commence our leisurely walk to the Lucca train station. From there, we'll board a convenient regional train that will transport us back to Montecatini Terme. We'll find taxis readily available to whisk us back to our hotel upon arrival, or you can choose to walk back.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
4
Italian Class, Montecatini, Free Time, Montecatini Alto
Montecatini Terme
B,L,D
Grand Hotel Croce di Malta

Activity note: Getting in/out of a funicular. Walking up to 4 miles throughout the day with extended standing during site visits with limited or no public seating. Mostly level urban stone streets/sidewalks, limited public handrails, unavoidable stairs, marble and terracotta flooring, cobblestones, inclines, loose gravel.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: In the hotel meeting room, our Group Leader will conduct a class on the basics of the Italian language. This session serves as a stepping stone to acquire critical expressions and phrases that we will utilize throughout our week in Tuscany. Italian, with its rich and fascinating history, finds its roots in the Tuscan dialect, largely thanks to the cultural influence of Florence during the Renaissance period. Its earliest known forms can be traced back to the 9th century in the form of various regional dialects of Vulgar Latin. In the 14th century, great Italian writers such as Dante Alighieri, Petrarch, and Boccaccio began writing in their native dialects instead of Latin, effectively contributing to the formation of the modern Italian language. Dante's The Divine Comedy, written in the Florentine dialect, is widely recognized as the cornerstone of the Italian language. The language continued to evolve over the centuries, and in 1861, when Italy unified, Tuscan became the official language of the country, now known as Standard Italian. Today, Italian remains a language of immense cultural importance and is spoken by nearly 85 million worldwide. Afterward, we will walk across the park to embark on an enlightening field trip in the renowned resort town of Montecatini Terme, where we will explore the famous Terme di Tettuccio complex. These thermal springs have been sought after since Roman times and achieved even greater prominence during the 15th century when the Medici Grand Dukes undertook the restoration of the buildings and grounds. The spa structure was constructed in the 18th century and renovated in the early 20th century.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Free time. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will happily offer suggestions. In the late afternoon, While the adults enjoy a cocktail social hour, the grandchildren can participate in a particular activity tailored just for teens. After, we will walk to the funicular to go up to the hillside town of Montecatini Alto. Perched on a picturesque hilltop, Montecatini Alto is a charming and historic town that offers breathtaking views of the surrounding Tuscan landscape. Accessible by a scenic funicular ride, the town retains its old-world charm with narrow cobblestone streets, medieval buildings, and a tranquil atmosphere. Constructed in 1898, the "funicolare" offers spectacular views. The funicular has been modernized over the decades, but the original cable-operated red carriages provide a scenic ascent and descent of the steep hill in approximately ten minutes.

Dinner: At a restaurant in Montecatini Alto.

Evening: After our visit to Montecatini Alto, we will descend back into Montecatini Terme using the funicular and walk back to our hotel. Once we return to the hotel, the rest of the evening will be free for you to enjoy at your leisure.

DAY
5
Florence Field Trip, Museo Galileo, Pasta & Gelato Making
Montecatini Terme
B,D
Grand Hotel Croce di Malta

Activity note: Getting on/off a regional train; traveling about 35 miles throughout the day, approximately 1.15 hours of riding time; be prepared to stand if seats are unavailable. Getting on/off a bus; driving about 35 miles throughout the day, approximately one hour of riding time. Walking up to 5 miles throughout the day with extended standing during visits with limited seating. Mostly level urban stone streets/sidewalks, unavoidable stairs, marble and terracotta flooring. Elevator available at museum.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Setting out from our hotel, we'll enjoy a walk to Montecatini station, where we'll board a regional train bound for Florence. Once we arrive at the city's main station, a fascinating adventure awaits as we rendezvous with a knowledgeable local historian for a captivating walking field trip, immersing ourselves in the charming ambiance of this enchanting Renaissance city. Florence, the beautiful capital of Tuscany, boasts a history that spans over two millennia. Founded by the ancient Romans in the 1st century BCE, the city evolved into a flourishing medieval center during the Middle Ages. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Florence became the cradle of the Italian Renaissance, nurturing extraordinary talents like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Botticelli. The powerful Medici family was pivotal in shaping the city's cultural and political landscape during this period. Florence also became an influential center of banking and commerce, fostering wealth and artistic patronage. The city has witnessed its share of political upheavals through the centuries, but its enduring legacy as a hub of art, culture, and humanism remains intact. Today, Florence continues to enchant visitors with its magnificent architecture, world-class museums, and a timeless charm that echoes its illustrious past. Following our walk, our next destination will be the Museo Galileo, where an experienced docent will lead us through the museum's walls. We'll be privileged to witness centuries-old astrolabes, globes, and a fascinating array of scientific instruments. A true standout in the collection is the telescope Galileo Galilei once used to gaze upon the heavens, a testament to his groundbreaking discoveries. Detailed storyboards will enlighten us with the captivating narratives behind these artifacts and provide insights into their remarkable functionalities. Please note that there is a possibility of encountering crowded conditions during our visit.

Lunch: On your own to sample the local fare.

Afternoon: Between 12:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., you will have the opportunity for independent exploration, allowing you to discover Florence at your own pace. Later, we will regroup at the iconic Piazza della Signoria and take a pleasant stroll to the Oltrarno neighborhood, crossing the historic Ponte Vecchio. The highlight of our evening will be attending a delightful cooking school led by a skilled local artisan. Here, we will learn the art of crafting authentic pasta and mouthwatering gelato using the finest seasonal and locally sourced ingredients. It promises to be a hands-on culinary experience where you'll be able to savor the authentic flavors of Tuscany.

Dinner: At the cooking school, we will enjoy the foods we helped to prepare.

Evening: After our eventful day in Florence, we will be transported back to the hotel comfortably aboard a bus.

DAY
6
Train to Pistoia, Pistoia Field Trip, Chocolate Making
Montecatini Terme
B,L
Grand Hotel Croce di Malta

Activity note: Getting on/off a regional train; traveling about 10 miles throughout the day, approximately 20 minutes of riding time; be prepared to stand if seats are unavailable. Getting on/off a bus; driving about 20 miles throughout the day, approximately 30 minutes of riding time. Walking up to 4 miles throughout the day with extended standing during site visits with limited or no public seating. Mostly level urban stone streets/sidewalks, unavoidable stairs, marble and terracotta flooring.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Our day begins with a walk to the train station as we prepare for a captivating journey to Pistoia. Guided by a knowledgeable local expert, we embark on an expert-led exploration of this charming city, where centuries of heritage await discovery. Together, we'll unravel the secrets of Pistoia's past, wandering its picturesque streets and admiring architectural wonders like the magnificent Piazza del Duomo, adorned with the intricate facade of the Cathedral of San Zeno.

Lunch: At a restaurant in Pistoia.

Afternoon: Our journey will lead us to Montale, a charming town just outside Pistoia, where we'll embark on a delightful bus ride. During our visit, we'll enjoy exploring a renowned chocolate factory and store run by an esteemed chocolatier. This unique experience will offer insights into the art of Tuscan chocolate making, where we'll discover the secrets behind creating these delectable treats. The highlight of the excursion will be the chance to savor the exquisite chocolates and even try crafting some ourselves, making this a truly memorable and mouthwatering adventure. We'll then ride back to our hotel in Montecatini.

Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
7
Pisa Field Trip, Leaning Tower, Free Time
Montecatini Terme
B,D
Grand Hotel Croce di Malta

Activity note: Getting on/off a bus; driving about 70 miles throughout the day, approximately 2 hours total riding time. Walking up to 3 miles throughout the day with extended standing during site visits with limited or no public seating. Mostly level urban stone streets/sidewalks, limited public handrails, unavoidable stairs, marble and terracotta flooring, cobblestones, inclines, loose gravel. No elevator at Leaning Tower; 269 steps to the top.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We will hop on a bus and travel to Pisa. Upon arrival, a short walk will take us to the enchanting Piazza dei Miracoli, also known as Piazza del Duomo, where we will join a local expert for an insightful field trip. Pisa's Piazza dei Miracoli, also known as the Square of Miracles or Piazza del Duomo, is an awe-inspiring and iconic site in the city's heart. This expansive square has three remarkable architectural masterpieces: the Duomo (Cathedral), the baptistery, and the world-famous Leaning Tower. This captivating ensemble of marble structures set against the backdrop of lush green lawns creates an enchanting and unforgettable experience for all who visit this extraordinary square. The Duomo's intricate façade and exquisite interior showcase the city's historical significance and architectural prowess. With its elegant Romanesque design, the baptistery stands as an impressive testament to Pisa's cultural and religious heritage. However, the Leaning Tower, with its peculiar tilt, draws visitors from all over the world. Pisa was a formidable maritime republic in its prime, rivaling Genoa, Amalfi, and Venice until its port silted up. The city's prosperity is evident in the pride and dedication of its residents, who financed such a magnificent structure—one that began to lean shortly after its 12th-century construction! If you have the energy and enthusiasm, you can climb the 269 steps to the top of the iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa and back down with the Group Leaders. Please note that there is a possibility of encountering crowded conditions during our visit.

Lunch: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to have what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Afternoon: After our bus ride back to Montecatini Terme, we'll have some free time for independent exploration. It's the perfect opportunity to discover and experience what excites each of us the most. If you need any recommendations or ideas, our Group Leader will be more than happy to provide some suggestions.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
8
Vinci Field Trip, Museo Leonardiano, Agriturismo
Montecatini Terme
B,L,D
Grand Hotel Croce di Malta

Activity note: Getting in/out of a bus; driving about 35 miles throughout the day, approximately 1.5 hours riding time. Walking up to 5 miles throughout the day, extended periods of standing; dirt pathways, cobblestones, mostly level urban stone streets, and sidewalks, unavoidable steps/stairs. Bring a bathing suit and a towel for swimming at the agriturismo.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We'll embark on an enriching bus field trip to Vinci, the illustrious birthplace of the remarkable Renaissance polymath Leonardo da Vinci. Our first stop will be at Leonardo's birthplace in the nearby village of Anchiano, where we'll have the chance to explore at our own pace, aided by captivating holographic videos that provide insights into his life and legacy. Afterward, we'll journey to Vinci and visit the esteemed Museo Leonardiano, a treasure trove of knowledge about Leonardo's scientific achievements. Inside the museum, we'll be captivated by an impressive collection of models showcasing his brilliant inventions, meticulously crafted based on his original drawings. Moreover, the museum lab will offer interactive sessions featuring hands-on drawing in perspective and mechanical elements activities, along with comprehensive explanations in English. These sessions will provide valuable insights into the complexities of Leonardo's revolutionary work.

Lunch: At a local restaurant.

Afternoon: After our enlightening visit to Vinci, we'll board our bus for a short but picturesque journey to an enchanting agriturismo nestled just a few miles west. Upon arrival, we'll be greeted by the idyllic charm of the countryside, surrounded by lush greenery and picturesque vineyards. Our time here will be a delightful opportunity to experience the authentic rural life of Tuscany. We'll start with an immersive exploration of the agriturismo's farm, where we'll have the chance to learn about traditional agricultural practices, connect with nature, and witness the dedication of those who work the land. As the sun graces the afternoon, we'll have ample leisure time to cool off and unwind by the refreshing pool. Whether you're seeking relaxation or seeking to bask in the beauty of the surroundings, this tranquil oasis offers a perfect respite from our adventures. Remember to bring your bathing suit and towel if you're in the mood for a refreshing swim. Grandparents can indulge in an expert-led vineyard visit with a delightful wine-tasting on the terrace or stay back at the agriturismo for a wine tasting.

Dinner: At the agriturismo. Share favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends during our farewell dinner.

Evening: We will be transported back to our hotel in Montecatini Terme comfortably aboard a bus. Prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.

DAY
9
Program Concludes, In Transit From Program
In Flight
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out 11:00 a.m. Transfer to Pisa Airport to the hotel is 40 miles (45-minute ride); Florence Airport to the hotel is 30 miles (35-minute ride). See your program’s "Getting There" information regarding transfers.

Breakfast: At the hotel depending on departure times; for those with early departures, the hotel will prepare a bag breakfast. This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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