Gardens of Florence and Tuscany (RHS Package)
- Get an unforgettable perspective on Florence's red-tiled rooftops and Renaissance skyline from the belvedere at the Bardini Gardens
- Stray from the beaten track on a visit to the Giardino Corsini, a tranquil garden off the main tourist trail
- Tour a Chianti vineyard, tucked away among the cypress-studded rolling hills of the Tuscan hinterland
- Exclusively on our spring departure, take in the sights and heavenly scents of the Iris Festival
The Italian heartland of Tuscany represents perhaps the archetypal image of Italy, with its walled towns, hilltop villages, rolling vineyards and, of course, the beauty of Renaissance Florence itself. Stretched along both sides of the River Arno, with a skyline that has inspired countless artists, Florence seems somehow already familiar...
Exquisite Florence needs little introduction. We begin in the tranquil surroundings of the Giardino Corsini, which is off the main tourist trail and tends to be less crowded. Dating back to 1594, the garden was commissioned by an aristocrat with a passion for botany, and later skilfully adorned with statues.
No visit would be complete without taking in the Boboli Gardens. A superb collection of sculptures sit amongst many fine trees and formal gardens. Ascending the great flight of steps at the Bardini Gardens, we stand upon a belvedere with expansive views over Florence.
Travelling out into the rolling hills of Tuscany, we visit beautiful Fiesole. Villa Gamberaia is one of the most celebrated Italian gardens here and it’s easy to see why – with box hedges, topiary, yew pillars and stunning flower beds. Back in Florence, we tour a fine nursery with the afternoon at leisure to explore some of the city’s celebrated art galleries and churches, followed by another day in the Tuscan hinterland as we visit the Villa Cetinale and tour a Chianti vineyard.
In the spring we attend the Iris Festival and Villa Medicea di Castello; whilst in September we wander through the Murabilia garden festival, and take in the botanical garden in Lucca.
This morning, we depart London for Florence. On arrival in the city, we continue by coach to our first stop, the late-Renaissance Corsini Gardens. The garden oasis lies within in the Bernardo Buontalenti-designed Palazzo Corsini al Prato. The Baroque-style garden plays host to large orangeries; a gorgeous main path lined with statues — creating an optical illusion which makes the garden look even bigger — pretty lemon trees in elegant vases, and sophisticated geometrical beds and box hedges.
After our visit, we continue to our lovely four-star hotel, where a welcome drink will be served in the evening, shortly followed by dinner.
Following breakfast, we visit the Boboli Gardens. Begun in 1549 by Tribolo, the garden was enlarged in 1612 to include a man-made island, hosting a flower and lemon garden.
Our next stop is the enchanting Bardini Gardens and Villa, which date back to the 14th century. Five years of hard work and 12 million euros went into their restoration, and the result is simply exquisite.
There is free time in Florence this afternoon to spend as we wish, although one unmissable visit is surely the Uffizi Gallery, whose collection spans over 600 years and includes works by Lippi, Cimbue, Duccio, Giotto, da Vinci and Botticelli.
Depending on the departure you choose, there are two different options for Day 3 of our tour:
In May, we attend Florence’s annual Iris Festival. The iris is the symbol of the city, and the Giglio di Firenze is cultivated to bear the same distinct, deep red as the Florentine coat of arms. We continue to the ancient Villa Medicea di Castello complex, whose gardens were designed by Niccolò Tribolo in 1538. The grounds are filled with decadent fountains, statuary, and rare plants, but most exciting of all, there are two beautiful secret gardens waiting to be discovered during our visit…
In September, we attend Murabilia in Lucca, one of the most anticipated events for Italian garden enthusiasts. Over two hundred exhibitors from Italy and further afield join together to present a unique exhibition and open-air market. It is worth a visit for the setting alone: the walls of Lucca, with their tree-lined ramparts, and pastoral meadows with striking views over the city.
Our morning visit is complemented by a trip to Lucca’s lovely Botanical Gardens. Founded by the Duchess of Lucca in 1820, thehe garden was designed as journey around the world, with beautiful species from distant countries co-existing alongside local flora and biodiversity.
Today, we spend a full day exploring the Etruscan town of Fiesole. We begin with a visit to the gardens of Villa Gamberaia, whose intimate scale and irresistible charm make it one of the most celebrated Italian villas, before moving on to the Villa e Giardino Peyron al Bosco di Fontelucente. Composed of spacious parkland, woods and olive groves which offer spectacular views of Florence, the garden is divided over several sloping terraces and features many of the plants associated with a traditional Italian garden, with elegant cypress trees dominating the landscape and osmanthus scents fill the air during September.
Following breakfast, we visit the Pistoia Innocenti Nursery. We enjoy a guided tour of the nursery garden, which has flourished thanks to the love and dedication of three generations of the Innocenti family. Strolling through the nursery, we find trees of all sizes, hedging, Mediterranean fauna, multi-stemmed shrubs, Japanese macro bonsais and so much more.
Enjoy an afternoon at your leisure in Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance. Magnetic, romantic, and endlessly charming, Florence’s narrow streets and wine-rich hills are home to hundreds of stories — this is a perfect place to get to know them.
This morning we venture toward Siena to visit the 17th century Villa Cetinale. The gardens are renowned as some of the most beautiful in Italy, and in the spring months the wisteria covers the villa walls and walkways in a sea of purple. Fields of poppies and wild flowers contrast with cypresses, olive trees and vineyards, and geometrically shaped flowerbeds lined with box hedges surround the citrus garden.
It would be wrong not to visit a vineyard during our Tuscan tour, and nothing says Tuscany quite like Chianti — tart, spicy and herbaceous, it is as essential to Italian cuisine as olive oil, and we sample some this afternoon.
Following breakfast, we check out of our hotel and transfer to the airport for our return flight to London.
- Six nights’ bed and breakfast at a four-star hotel in Florence
- Comfortable coach travel throughout
- Dinner and welcome drink on first evening
- Flights from London to Florence (other airports on request)
- Visits to the gardens of Corsini, Boboli, Bardini, Gamberaia and Cetinale; Pistoia Innocenti Nursery; Chianti vineyard tour; Villa Medicea and Iris Festival (May); Murabilia and Lucca botanical garden (September)
- Services of a Brightwater Holidays tour manager
Supplements Per Person
- Single room supplement £420.00
- Insurance £45.00 (under 65); £90.00 (65-74); £135.00 (75-90)
31/08/2017 from £1795pp
Please note: these flight times are for May only, August times are in the process of being confirmed