Umbria and Southern Tuscany are home to many of Italy’s most charming medieval towns and elegant regional centres.
These regions are also celebrated for the beauty of their landscapes, from the verdant valleys and mountain forests of Umbria to the rolling hills and vineyards of southern Tuscany – not to mention their prized cuisines and exceptional wines. These regions also harbor extraordinary masterpieces of medieval and Renaissance art and architecture, and a host of ancient sites unmarred by mass tourism.
This 14-day tour explores these regions in depth, from their Etruscan and Roman past through their medieval glory and on to the masterpieces of the Renaissance. With three and four-night stays in Spoleto, Perugia, Arezzo and Pienza, you can enjoy the best these regions have to offer in the relaxing manner they deserve.
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If Government imposed COVID-19 restrictions mean that we cannot run a tour, or that you cannot travel to join a tour, then you will be given a 100% refund of all monies paid to Academy Travel for your tour.
Academy Travel requires all participants on its tours to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. We reserve the right to inspect your digital vaccination certificate.
Medieval hill towns
Umbria and southern Tuscany are littered with rocky outcrops standing above fertile plains. Explore their winding laneways, market squares and Romanesque and Gothic churches at a relaxed pace.
Admire some of the finest masterpieces by the likes of Benozzo Gozzoli, Filippo Lippi, Pinturicchio, Signorelli and Perugino, and along the Piero della Francesca trail.
Discover the hidden histories of Umbria and southern Tuscany, from unexpected Roman and Etruscan sites to masterpieces in small churches.
Exceptional regional cuisine
While contiguous, Umbria and southern Tuscany have very different microclimates and thus pronounced differences in food and wine. Enjoy local cuisines throughout.
A different Italy
In provincial Italy, life moves at a different pace and artisanal traditions live on. Go to the source of many of Italy’s traditional handmade goods, including the majolica of Deruta, the linen of Montefalco and the stained glass of Perugia.
The tour begins and ends at Rome Fiumicino airport. Emirates, Etihad Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qatar and Singapore Airlines offer the best connections to Rome from most Australian cities. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Thursday 1 September – Arrival
The group gathers at Rome Fiumicino airport in the mid-afternoon for a coach transfer to Spoleto. On arrival in Spoleto, we take time to freshen up before taking a short walking tour of the city followed by dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight Spoleto (D)
Friday 2 September – Ancient Umbria
Umbria was one of the first territories conquered by the Romans, and its rich agricultural lands and reserves of metal would fuel the expanding republic. Today we explore Umbria’s Roman past, first by taking a guided tour of Carsulae, one of central Italy’s best preserved Roman archaeological sites, and the Roman cisterns beneath the town of Amelia, a testament to Roman engineering. After lunch at a fine local restaurant, we continue exploring Rome’s legacy with a visit to Marmore Falls, a large mountain reservoir made in the Roman period to regulate the flow of water in Umbria. Our tour continues to the Nera Valley, a key border in the early Middle Ages when Spoleto became a Lombard duchy, to visit San Pietro in Valle, a quiet Romanesque abbey where the Lombard dukes retired. Returning to Spoleto, the evening is at leisure. Overnight Spoleto (B, L)
Saturday 3 September – Spoleto
Spoleto’s strategic importance – on a high hill guarding the southern entry to Umbria – has resulted in it having rich layers of history, preserving the many different ages of its inhabitation. Today, after a talk in the hotel, we take a walking tour of the city, exploring its Roman remains through to its glorious medieval churches and Renaissance masterpieces, including Filippo Lippi’s last work. After a break for lunch, we visit Monteluco, the mountain behind Spoleto which has had spiritual significance to the Umbrians, Romans and Franciscans. On reaching the summit, we visit the Sacred Wood, the Franciscan hermitage and enjoy its panoramic views. Returning to Spoleto, the evening is at leisure. Overnight Spoleto. (B)
Sunday 4 September – Spello and Montefalco
Umbria’s smaller medieval hill towns are among Italy’s best-preserved, and their location well off the highway between Florence and Rome keeps tourist numbers down. This morning we visit Spello, to take a walking tour of the town, including the frescoes by Pinturicchio – Raphael’s master – in the Collegiate Church, and the Villa of Mosaics, which houses extensive Roman floor mosaics discovered by accident in 2005. We continue by coach to Montefalco, where we enjoy lunch together before visiting the Museum of St Francis, a former church with spectacular frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli. After some free time in Montefalco, we continue by coach to Perugia, our base for the next four nights. Overnight Perugia (B, L)
Monday 5 September – Perugia
Perugia guards the northern pass into Umbria and has a fascinating history, from Etruscan origins to a bustling medieval city state, and its renewal as a contemporary centre of culture. This morning we explore the city’s history on foot, including visits to the Collegio di Cambio – a medieval guildhouse with Renaissance frescoes by local boy Perugino – and the Gothic Cathedral of San Lorenzo. After a break for lunch, we visit the National Gallery of Umbria, with its masterpieces of medieval and Renaissance art. The later afternoon is at leisure, and you may wish to visit the National Museum of Umbria to see its archaeological collection. Overnight Perugia. (B)
Tuesday 6 September – Assisi
In spite of its fame, Assisi retains a strongly spiritual atmosphere. Today we tour the Basilica of St Francis, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture with frescoes, some of which are attributed to Giotto and others by the Sienese artists Lorenzetti and Martini. We also view some other highlights of the town, such as the 1st-century AD Roman temple. After some free time for lunch and independent exploration we visit the church of Santa Chiara, before returning to Perugia. Late afternoon and evening at leisure. Overnight Perugia. (B)
Wednesday 7 September – Artisanal Umbria
Traditional techniques have been handed down through the ages in Umbria. Today we explore Umbria’s artisanal heritage, visiting a handloomed textile centre in a former church and the workshop and museum of a traditional stained and painted glassmaker, whose family’s works adorn the churches of Umbria. After a break for lunch, we take the short coach journey to Deruta, a small town which has been almost entirely devoted to the production of some of Italy’s most sought-after majolica for centuries. Returning to Perugia, the evening is at leisure. Overnight Perugia. (B)
Thursday 8 September – Lake Trasimene and Cortona
This morning we depart Umbria by coach for Arezzo. On our way, we stop to visit Lake Trasimene – the site of one of Hannibal’s crushing victories over the Romans – to visit its peaceful monastic island. After a lunch break, we continue north to Cortona, a walled medieval town made famous by Under the Tuscan Sun, where we take a walking tour, enjoy the romantic streets and see a beautiful altarpiece by Fra Angelico in the civic museum. Continuing by coach to Arezzo, we check in, freshen up and then enjoy dinner together in a fine local restaurant. Overnight Arezzo. (B, D)
Friday 9 September – Arezzo
Arezzo is one of Tuscany’s most refined cities, and it has a long history of producing great writers, artists and musicians, including Guido d’Arezzo – the 12th-century inventor of modern musical notation – Petrarch, and Giorgio Vasari. This morning after a talk in the hotel, we undertake a walking tour of Arezzo exploring its art and history, including a visit to the spectacular frescoes by Piero della Francesca in the Church of San Francesco. Later afternoon and evening at leisure, and you may wish to enjoy the passeggiata. Overnight Arezzo. (B)
Saturday 10 September – Piero della Francesca
Piero della Francesca’s art is characterised by his ability to capture a calm stillness and refined beauty through his exceptional understanding of mathematics, perspective and geometry. Today we follow the Piero della Francesca trail through southern Tuscany to Monterchi and Sansepolcro, where we see some of the artist’s most celebrated works, including the recently restored Resurrection. In the mid-afternoon, we return to Arezzo via a winery, where we enjoy a tasting. Overnight Arezzo. (B)
Sunday 11 September – La Foce and Pienza
We depart Arezzo by coach this morning for Pienza. On our way through the Tuscan countryside, we visit La Foce, the garden of writer Iris Origo. Origo’s attachment to the Val d’Orcia is not only evident in her literary accounts of the area during the rise of Italian fascism and World War II, but also in the huge efforts she made life to transform the land from barrenness to abundance. After a guided visit of the garden, we enjoy lunch together before continuing to Pienza. After checking in to our hotel, we take a walking tour of Pienza, a town laid out precisely according to new Renaissance principles. Evening at leisure. Overnight Pienza. (B, L)
Monday 12 September – Rusellae and Grosseto
This morning we travel to southwestern Tuscany to visit Rusellae – a once prosperous Etruscan town. The archaeological site reveals both the Etruscan city and its redevelopment in the Roman period. In the early Middle Ages, however, the town was abandoned in favour of nearby Grosseto. After a guided tour of Rusellae and a break for lunch, we explore Grosseto. In the mid-afternoon, we return to Pienza, stopping to visit the Abbey of Sant’Antimo, whose original Carolingian elements are preserved in the later, 12th-century building. Overnight Pienza. (B)
Tuesday 13 September – Orvieto
Orvieto, perched high on an escarpment on the border of Umbria and Lazio, was one larger Etruscans cities, and its importance continued into the Renaissance when it was a papal summer residence. On our way to Orvieto this morning, we stop to visit Bolsena whose principal church has a fascinating history, and whose sunny lakefront is ideal for morning tea. In Orvieto, we explore the city on foot, including a visit to the cathedral, for its phenomenal Romanesque facade and for the idiosyncratic Renaissance frescoes of Luca Signorelli inside. We return to Pienza in the late afternoon and enjoy dinner in a fine restaurant. Overnight Pienza. (B, D)
Wednesday 14 September– Departure
This morning we transfer by coach from Pienza to Rome Fiumicino Airport, in time for mid-afternoon international flights. (B)
A Walkley Award-winning illustrator, artist and art historian who has lived in Italy for over 30 years.
Born in Oxford, Neil grew up in Melbourne and Canberra and has an Honours degree in Fine Arts from the University of Sydney, where he also taught art history in the Power Department of Fine Arts. Pictured as Neil’s profile photo is his latest self portrait.
In 1979 Neil began a new career as an illustrator, and caricaturist, winning a Walkley Award in 1980 for his work in newspapers. In the following decade he travelled in Europe, fascinated first by France and then Italy, and began to produce original work in the medium of etching. In this period he lived in Berlin, had an artist’s residence in Paris, and exhibited in Germany, France, England and Italy.
Since 1988, Neil has lived in an Umbrian hill town, restoring a medieval ruin into a family home and focusing on his work as a painter. For over 20 years, he has designed and led small group cultural tours to Italy, and he brings this extraordinary wealth of experience as a tour leader to his work. In recent years he has won the Shirley Hannan National Portrait Prize (2012) and done caricatures for Australia’s news magazine The Monthly.
We asked Neil, what he enjoys most about leading tour groups?
“It enables me to see through fresh eyes what I might otherwise start to take for granted. I’ve been living in Italy now for more than thirty years but it still seems to me an exotic place, and I’m sure this is partly to do with continually being with people for whom it most certainly is. But I think, though, there’s more to it than that. Italy is like no other country in the world for the richness of its history, and the fascinating thing is that it’s anything but a museum. Those two thousand and more years of history are not just archaeological layers but bear strikingly on the present, and when I’m able to make real to people the connections between the modern, living Italy and those past millennia I get a great deal of satisfaction.”
“And then there’s the art! I’m a professional artist who grew up in Australia seeing the art I loved either in galleries marked off from everyday life, or dismally reproduced in textbooks, so the experience of coming to Italy and finding out that here art just seems to grow naturally out of the ground was a profound one. That you can be walking down a cobbled lane in a minor Italian town and walk through a door to see a Renaissance fresco that would be the top billing in any Australian (or indeed American) art collection makes this place more than special.”
Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
All accommodation at properties mentioned in the itinerary
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Taxis may also be used for short trips on some tours. Some city stay tours may involve local transport
Lunches and dinners indicated with the letters L and D in the itinerary
Beer, wine and soft drinks at sit-down lunches and dinners. Picnic and light lunches may not include alcoholic drinks
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
All tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
On international tours only
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required, and when stated as included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Some trips may be made by public transport such as high-speed train and subway
What is not included in the tour price?
Our tours do not include the following:
Air or land travel from your home city to the tour start/end points
Local taxes and airport levies that we are not able to prepay on your behalf. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Lunches and dinners not specifically indicated with the letters L or D in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as passports, laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity
Airport Transfers on international tours
Tours may begin at either the arrival airport or the first hotel. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel, and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers
Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.
We require all tour participants to have adequate insurance coverage.
For domestic tours, Medicare and your private medical insurance should be used to cover any medical expenses.
Domestic travel insurance is available and strongly recommended to cover non-medical expenses such as cancellation.
For international tours, we require you to have comprehensive travel insurance. Prices vary according to your age, your pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the length of your journey abroad.
There are currently no places available on this tour. A place on the waitlist is not a confirmed place on tour. If you would like to be notified if a place becomes available on tour, please register your details.
There are currently no places available on this tour. A place on the waitlist is not a confirmed place on tour. If you would like to be notified if a place becomes available on tour, please register your details below.
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