Grade: Easy Walking; Yoga beginner to more experienced
Accommodations: Villa Palagione
Group size: 5 – 12
2019 Dates: April 6 – 13; September 21 – 28, 2019
Land Cost: $3,450
Hiking Trip Summary
Few regions conjure up more romantic and serene images than Tuscany with its gentle landscapes of rolling fields, vineyards, and olive groves impeccably punctuated by rustic medieval hill towns. Civilizations and cultures have flourished here since at least the 8th century BCE. The Etruscan, Roman, and Renaissance periods have left behind an unequaled richness of art and architecture, and its iconic fertile fields continue to yield the wines and cuisine for which the area is renowned. What better place for us to spend a week exploring local villages, unearthing the Etruscan treasures, meandering through the countryside, and enjoying daily yoga practice?
Our base for this 8-day trip will be the Villa Palagione, located seven kilometers east of the village of Volterra, on the southern slope of Monte Voltraio. The summit of Monte Voltraio was once occupied by the fortress of “Kastell Monte Voltraio”, first noted in 967 BCE, and at its foot rested a densely-populated village. A thriving township until the 13th century, it was eventually destroyed by a progression of military conflicts.
Part of each day will be devoted to the practice of Hatha Yoga with time for meditation, and the other part of the day will be spent exploring the Tuscan countryside on foot, discovering the historic centers of San Gimignano and Siena, or just soaking up the relaxing environs of Villa Palagione.
The focus of our yoga sessions for the week will be opening our energy pathways, or Chakras. Through the practice of Hatha Yoga, each day we will concentrate on one of the seven main Chakras.
A new trip for us this year, this promises to be a wonderful stand-alone trip, or would also be a great follow-up trip to one of our more strenuous offerings. Either way, you’re bound to finish our Yoga and Hiking in Tuscany trip feeling leaner, stronger, and healthier…a wonderful combination.
Day 1: Arrive Florence Airport – Transfer to Villa Palagione
Rendezvous at 1:00pm at the Florence Airport. Group transfer to the Villa Palagione near the village of Volterra, about an hour and a half drive. A beautiful welcome and introduction to the trip and our amazing accommodation. We will take time to introduce the program, get to know each other, and settle in before our first yoga session in the late afternoon. Dinner will be on the spectacular grounds of Villa Palagione.
The Villa itself dates back to the 1500s, the height of the Medici Family influence. Built by Girolamo Minucci, a knight and attendant to the Grand Dukes of Tuscany, the Minucci family continued to represent the interests of the Medici family down through the centuries. The Villa underwent various transformations following the trends of successive generations, until it was eventually abandoned at the turn of the 20th century.
The current owners purchased the dilapidated property in 1986 and over a period of ten years, with the generous help of artists, architects, and craftspeople, transformed the estate into a vibrant, internationally-recognized center for culture and study. At the same time, they took great care in preserving historical details by using traditional techniques to reconstruct the vaulted ceilings, frescoes, and gates, and they also kept eye toward accessibility and environmental sustainability as they incorporated many infrastructure updates. Beautifully restored with incredible gardens and a very inviting swimming pool, the Villa Palagione provides for a perfect base.
Day 2: Morning Yoga Session – hike to Volterra. After breakfast we will have our second yoga session mid-morning. After a delicious lunch at Palagione, we embark on an orientation hike through the Tuscan countryside to the walled village to Volterra. Once an important Etruscan trading center, Volterra is one of the oldest towns in Italy. An abundance of various minerals, including alabaster, has contributed to the importance of the area down through the ages. Its extensive and well-preserved ramparts, archeological sites, and medieval buildings are testimony to this. We’ll have time to explore Volterra’s Etruscan and Roman ruins, and wander its narrow streets and open piazzas before heading to local restaurant for dinner.
Day 3: Morning hike in the area of Casole d’ Elsa – Afternoon yoga session. After breakfast a short transfer will bring us to the beautiful hilltop village of Casole d’ Elsa. A circular hike will take us through the Tuscan countryside, ambling across fields and alongside vineyards before finishing back in this idyllic village for lunch at a local restaurant. A late afternoon yoga session at our villa will be followed by dinner at Palagione.
Day 4: A pre-breakfast hike up to the top of Monte Voltraio, where we complete a meditation in the crisp morning air, before returning to our villa for a leisurely breakfast.
Three kilometers to the East of Volterra, Monte Voltraio’s pyramidal outline is unmistakable. Its geological composition of sand and limestone rises differs from the surrounding clay landscape. Given its natural characteristics, as evidence by rock face on its eastern side, it’s easy to see why this low hill (458 m.) became a fortified settlement that controlled the area’s transit roads. With the footpath leading direct from our villa, this is a great morning hike.
Today includes some unscheduled time allowing time to relax, read, swim, maybe undertake your own explorations. We meet in the later afternoon for our yoga session. In the evening, we head to the old part of town for a wine tasting followed by dinner in the same location. Our tasting room is in wine cellar that has been converted into a wonderful tasting room and restaurant.
Day 5: Morning in Siena – Afternoon yoga session. After breakfast we transfer to another amazing walled city, Sienna, famed for its Palio horse race. Twice a year each contrada, or district of the city, puts forward their best horse and rider. Held in the Piazza del Campo, a thick layer of dirt is put down. On bareback and wearing the colors of their contrada, riders make three laps around the piazza. Often taking less than 90 seconds, this is an exhilarating race. Once in the city we have a guided tour, with time to explore before dining in a central restaurant. Returning to Palagione by mid-afternoon we undertake our daily yoga session before dining at the Villa.
Day 6: Morning yoga session – Afternoon hike to San Gimignano. An early morning yoga class before breakfast energizes us into the day. We’ll then have the morning free to relax, perhaps take a swim, and enjoying the gardens. After lunch at Palagione, we’ll transfer to a trailhead and hike into San Gimignano, famed for its 14 towers, once the symbol of power and wealth. Beautifully set amidst classic Tuscany countryside, San Gimignano is one of Italy’s best preserved medieval hilltop towns. Encircled by 13th century walls, the center of the village is Piazza della Cisterna, a triangular square lined with medieval houses. With plenty of time to explore the small streets and artisan shops, we’ll visit the 12th-century church Duomo di San Gimignano with its frescoes by Ghirlandaio before having dinner in a local restaurant.
Day 7: After breakfast we enjoy our final yoga session with an extended practice to bring together our Chakra journey. Afternoon hike from Volterra – we hike downhill to the panoramic view point of La Balze for far reaching views of the countryside and loop back towards the walled town. Farewell dinner at Villa Palagione. Guests, including our group, who stayed at the Villa for the week, will have an opportunity to share experiences.
Day 8: Depart for Florence Airport
Our trip will end after breakfast with a transfer back to the Florence Airport, arriving around 10:30am.
There is a single supplement charge of $450. If you are traveling alone and would like to share a room, we will match you with a roommate. If a roommate is not available, we will not charge extra for this “forced single.”
All accommodations with private baths
Lunches except two
Wine tasting and dinner in Volterra
Dinner in San Gimignano
Daily yoga sessions – yoga equipment including mats etc will be provided
All group transfers as per the itinerary
Guided walking tour of Siena
Group transfer from the Florence Airport to the Villa Palagione on Day 1 and group transfer back to the Florence Airport on Day 8
Great walking and lasting memories!
Airfare, optional/individual transfers or individual excursions, items not on set dinner menus, beverages, insurance, tips to guides, items of personal nature (phone calls, laundry, excess baggage charge, passport fees, etc.).
Our luggage will be transported along with us from the airport to our accommodations and back again. For our day hikes, you will only need to carry a daypack with those items you will need during the walk. A sample packing list is posted on our website, and we are happy to provide one upon request. You will receive a detailed packing list upon registration.
Accommodations and Facilities
Our accommodations for the week will be at the Villa Palagione, parts of which date back to the 14th century. The villa is in a quiet setting with its own gardens and swimming pool. Carefully restored, each room has its own unique character, almost all featuring murals, vaulted ceilings, and terracotta floors. All rooms are double occupancy with private bathrooms.
All breakfasts, some lunches, and most dinners will be taken at the Villa Pagalione. Breakfasts are buffet-style and typically consist of bread, cereals, fruit yogurt, and eggs. Lunches at the Villa may include a main dish of pasta or risotto, panini and salad. Dinners are a set menu, generally four courses, featuring regional specialties. With advanced noticed, most dietary restrictions can be accommodated. One night we will eat in San Gimignono.
Leadership and Yoga Instruction
Tanya Perret will be our trip leader and Yoga instructor for this trip. A dedicated mountaineer and Yoga practitioner, Tanya has been guiding people in the mountains of Europe and Nepal for the past 20 years. She holds her UIMLA International Mountain Leader certification and completed her 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training in the Himalayan town of Darjeeling. Tanya brings with her an enthusiasm and passion for facilitating experiences that promote genuine connections though active engagement with some of the worlds most compellingly beautiful landscapes and the cultures that inhabit them.
Included in the trip cost is a group transfer from the Florence Airport on Day 1 and back to the Florence Airport on Day 8. For this reason, it’s easiest to fly into Florence. However, it is also possible to fly into Pisa or Rome, just be sure to allow for extra travel time.
The trip will begin with a group pickup at Florence Airport early afternoon on Day 1.
The trip will end with a morning group transfer back to the Florence Airport, arriving around 10:30am.
Any hiking trip in the mountains requires a certain amount of effort and proper fitness training will enhance your enjoyment. In the mountains, time and elevation gain or loss as opposed to distance, tend to be the determining factors when defining hiking grades or level of difficulty. We have done our best to grade our trips consistently, please contact us for further clarification. We are happy to offer names of past participants.
Easy: Hike 3 to 4 hours daily carrying a day pack on generally gentle terrain. Distances from 4 to 8 miles. Elevation gain and loss 500' to 1,500'.
Moderate: Hike an average of 4 to 5 hours daily on varied terrain. Distances from 5 to 9 miles. Elevation gains and losses generally 1,500' to 2,500' or about 2 hours.
Strenuous: Hike 5 to 7 hours daily on varied terrain, with consistent ascents and descents of 2 to 3 or more hours generally 2,500' - 3,500'. Distances from 6 to 11 miles. There are some sections that include steep uphill and downhills.
Strenuous Plus: 5 to 8 hours partly on rocky, challenging terrain with consistent steep ascents and descents of 2 to 3 or more hours generally 3,000'-5,000'. Distances from 6 to 15 miles. Though each day is not strenuous plus there are some sections that may include rough terrain and open and exposed trails.