Hidden Italy, the Lands of the Etruscans
10 Captivating Days
- Leisurely 3 and 4 night stays
- Small group size from just 10 to 28
- Genuinely inclusive, no additional on tour costs
- Character hotels in superb locations
- Designed for Australians & New Zealanders
- 'My Time' guaranteed
A hidden land with ancient Etruscan cities and frescoed tombs, spectacular perched medieval towns, catacomb labyrinths, water cascades, a colossal man-made waterfall, and a park full of giants and monsters. Sip Prosecco in 1300-year-old Abbey ruins, dine in amazing locations, explore the undulating Tuscan Hills of the Val d’Orcia which so inspired the Renaissance painters. So different – so absolutely delightful!
- Be guided through the Etruscan Necropolis and fascinating National Museum in Tarquinia and see inside the ancient hill top tombs
- At Bagnaia, visit the palatial terraced gardens of Villa Lante, wander amongst the huge ‘monster sculptures’ of the beautiful Parco dei Mostri
- Relax with ‘My Time’ amongst Orvieto’s cobblestoned streets, cafes and shops, take a guided tour of the city, visit the beautifully painted cathedral and explore the age-old subterranean caves and catacombs
- Enjoy dinner beside the picturesque ruins of ‘La Badia di Orvieto’ Abbey which dates back 1,300 years!
- Savour 2 special lunches - in a mysterious Labyrinth restaurant, and on a shady terrace with spectacular views over the Lazio countryside
- Walk across a viaduct to explore the extraordinary, perched, medieval hill top town of Civita di Bagnoregio, visit the fascinating walled city of Pitigliano and walk along an ancient Etruscan ‘Via Cava’ – rock carved walkway
- Enjoy a guided walking tour of Perugia, including the ‘Rocca’, frescoed Collegio del Cambio, and visit the hilltop town of Cortona
- Drive through the rolling hills of the delightful heritage listed Val d’Orcia, spend ‘My Time’ in Montepulciano and that gem of a city, beautiful Pienza
- Dine on the terraces of a glorious farm estate with huge views down the Val d‘Orcia
- Visit Todi and see the remarkable waterfalls of Marmore
It is perfect because of the humble mosquito
I always wanted to visit a town called Civita di Bagnoregio, a couple of hours north of Rome. It was on my bucket list, but being in what I thought was an uninteresting ‘no mans’ land without any major sights, I had always bypassed it. Until a couple of years ago. My wife and I decided to ‘tick it off’ the list, and when planning a quick visit, we were astounded by what else was hidden in this remarkable area. How could this be so… a whole new Italy I had never heard of! Our planned visit became longer, and we fell in love with the whole, beautiful
unspoiled region. The North boasts all the famous sites, but what about the Tuscan south? How come there are so many magnificent sites, yet virtually no tourists? It is because of the humble mosquito! For centuries, sadly, malaria was rife and so people naturally stayed away. The
land then slept as the English poets and writers, on their grand Italian pilgrimages, avoided the area. No one wrote romantically about it, and so the late 19th and 20th century ‘gentry’ tourists passed by it. Now, thankfully, the mosquitoes are long gone, and the land is just starting to wake. Beware, soon it will be discovered… And that is why ‘now is the time to visit’. With Umbria and Lazio, what a stunning set of regions, littered with UNESCO sites, dramatic cliff top cities and rock perched towns. And such history.
Centuries before a humble assembly of crude shelters grew to become Rome, this was the hub of the incredibly civilised Etruscan empire. Here they built massive cities, created artworks and dug underground frescoed tombs. The Romans came and left their empiric stamp, and later medieval hilltop cities evolved. And now, so rarely touched, the region is wakening. Come join us, before it is ‘discovered’.
Day 1: Rome welcome
Your tour commences this evening in the eternal city of Rome. Join us tonight for a welcome drink before dinner in a local trattoria. This is an ideal chance to meet, and get to know, your Tour Manager and fellow travellers.
Day 2: Etruscan Necropolis, Villa Lante and an ancient Abbey dinner
We travel north along the Mediterranean Coast, past the cruise port of Civitavecchia, to Tarquinia. Here we are joined by an expert local guide, who will show us around the UNESCO World Heritage site of Tarquinia’s ancient Etruscan Necropolis. This is where we step back to pre-Roman times and learn about the very special Etruscan civilisation that thrived around 2,500 – 3,000 years ago. On a landscape scattered by ancient burial mounds, we will descend stairways to look inside the tombs, complete with colourful paintings and frescoes. Later, in the town of Tarquinia, we will also enjoy a tour through the National Etruscan Museum with its ancient sarcophagus, statues and artefacts. The artwork of this ancient civilisation is beautiful. The Etruscans are a people many of us have heard of, but know little about. So these visits are an excellent introduction as, over the next few days, we will continually encounter cities, sites and legacies of this amazing civilisation.
Lunchtime will be at leisure in Tarquinia. Continuing, we drive through the undulating hills around Viterbo, to a small town called Bagnaia, to visit the ‘Mannerist’ style gardens of Villa Lante - an amazing, cascading set of water gardens created by the Duke of Bomarzo in the 17th century. Despite being voted one of the top gardens of Italy, due to its remote location, it is so peaceful and virtually without tourists. Delightful!
Our destination for the next three nights is the ancient Etruscan clifftop city of Orvieto. Access to the middle of the pedestrianised old town, and our hotel, is via an elevator up through the cliffs. In the evening, we reboard our coach and drive outside town to the Abbey ‘La Badia di Orvieto’. First, we enjoy a welcome drink in the ruins of this ancient Abbey, which date back 1300 years! From here, the views
across the valley are stunning and the city you see high up on the hill, across the valley, is Orvieto. What a magnificent location. Dinner is inside, under the vaulted ceilings of the converted abbey.
Hotel Aquila Bianca
Day 3: Orvieto, and a Labyrinth lunch
A leisurely start before we are joined by a local guide who will take us on a walking tour of Orvieto. We have included a visit to the magnificent Cathedral. The carved detail, and colours on the exterior stonework, make this arguably the most beautiful Cathedral you will ever see. Inside, the statue of the ‘Pietà’ is astounding. After time at leisure to visit the cafés or do some shopping, we will meet up to enjoy a superb, private lunch somewhere very, very special. Whilst the food is all homemade and delicious, the highlight will be accessing a system of ancient, Etruscan catacombs and caves via a stairway inside the restaurant. The caves are absolutely fascinating, and the food is terrific.
The rest of your day is free in Orvieto. Make sure you visit, and walk down the amazing 72m deep, St Patrick’s Well. Called the ‘Pozzo di San Patrizio’, this engineering marvel, is about 500 years old. Once inside, the light bouncing off the walls, coming in from the natural opening at the top, is stunning.
Hand Selected Experience
A Labyrinth lunch
In Orvieto we have lunch somewhere quite unique, and very, very special. Many years ago, when Rita and Adriano were renovating their famous pastry shop, they discovered a whole labyrinth of ancient Etruscan caves, passageways and catacombs beneath them. They
brought in the archaeologists, and were astounded to discover that these caves were 2,500 years old. Over 20 years, archaeologists sensitively renovated them revealing a labyrinth of ancient passageways, water-wells and high ceiling caverns with carved reliefs and
niches. Now, these wonderful caves are private and access is only possible through our lunchtime restaurant. Perfectly preserved, they are absolutely beautiful, and fascinating. Later, of course, we must have lunch – Italian style! A private experience, 4 courses, all home-made, and delicious.
Day 4: Park of Monsters and a lazy lunch
A very relaxing day. First stop is at the Sacro Bosco in Bomarzo. Otherwise known as the Parco dei Mostri - or the Park of the Monsters. Designed in the 16th century the shaded pathways are filled with weird and wonderful sculptures, hewn from volcanic boulders scattered through a woodland park. You will be immersed in the surreal experience of a ‘monster world’ created 500 years ago. Here you will see Neptune, the gods, enormous dragons, a war elephant, a huge tortoise, and two angry giants tearing each other apart. There is a tilted stone house, serpents, monsters and enormous heads with mouths agape, appearing to scream at you. You can even walk inside that mouth! Hungry by now? It is time for a long, leisurely lunch on a tree shaded, stone terrace, enjoying great food, whilst gazing out over the Lazio countryside. Later we return to Orvieto and the rest of your day and evening is free. Maybe climb the great tower, or walk to the massive fortified ramparts. An absolute must is the highlight of enjoying an evening aperitif in front of the gorgeous Cathedral as dusk approaches. The surrounding square is so peaceful and quiet, and the golden light bathing the colourful church façade is sublime.
Day 5: Civita di Bagnoregio, Pitigliano and the ‘Via Cava’
Be prepared for a fascinating day as we go well off the beaten track. First stop will be at a mysterious town called Civita di Bagnoregio. A thousand years ago, an absolutely picture-perfect, walled citadel was built on a rocky pinnacle in the middle of the ‘Badlands’. The land around eroded and subsided and eventually access was only possible by a skinny unstable ridge. Bridges were built, and then collapsed. Now there is a strong, 300 metre long stone and steel viaduct connecting this striking medieval, hilltop town with the rim of the huge crater. Probably the most striking hilltop town in all Europe. Inside are picture-perfect stone buildings, squares, flower boxes, cafés and magnificent views.
Next we visit the ancient Etruscan city of Pitigliano. You will love the winding streets, dark shady alleys, and the buildings which ooze history. The Jewish quarter is famous, and one of the oldest in Europe. Afterwards, we will pop just outside of town to one of the extraordinary ‘Via Cava’ - carved walkways which once linked Pitigliano with other nearby Etruscan cities. Amazingly, even now historians and Etruscan archaeologists do not know what their true purpose was! Up to 15 metres deep, walking along inside them is a very surreal experience. Later, we continue to the spa town of Chianciano Terme where we settle in for the next four nights. Dinner tonight is in the hotel.
Grand Hotel Excelsior
Day 6: Perugia, the Rocca and Collegio del Cambio
Perugia is an ancient city, high on a hill and the historical heart of it is wonderful. It is often bypassed because in order to get a fully rewarding visit you need quality time. And that is what we have! On arrival, a local guide will take us on an escalator up into the dramatic ‘Rocca’. The subterranean ruins of this 500-year-old fortress contain the structures of the stone villas of the Perugian nobles that were converted into the foundations. Nowadays they are buzzing with commuters using these ancient passageways to cross the city to work. Fascinating! Coming up to the surface, we continue our walking tour through this splendid historical town. A highlight will be our visit to the glorious frescoed Collegio del Cambio and the colourful Cathedral. Lunchtime will be at leisure in this city, famed for its rich chocolate. On our return journey, we will enjoy an afternoon stop for coffee or gelati at one of the towns beside Lake Trasimeno. The rest of the day and evening is free in Chianciano Terme. Maybe enjoy a stroll through the parklands, or visit the quiet old town.
Day 7: Hilltop Cortona and dinner with an extraordinary view
A leisurely start this morning as we visit another, but very different hilltop town, Cortona. The centre of town is car free, and the cobblestoned streets radiate out from the picturesque central square. You will have ‘My Time’ to explore, shop, relax and find a charming café or al fresco trattoria to enjoy lunch.Your afternoon is free back in Chianciano Terme. This is a spa town and there is a terrific Spa and Wellness Centre just a few hundred yards away from your hotel. Mud bath anyone? This evening we have included a wine and Pecorino cheese tasting at a nearby farm house in the Val d’Orcia. Their Val d’Orcia Pecorino is famous. Afterwards, dinner will be on their wonderful terrace with stunning views of the surrounding valley. This restaurant is part of a 600 acre homestead and all the food and wine comes from its own land.
Day 8: Pienza, Montepulciano and Val d’Orcia
The glorious landscape around us is called the Val d’Orcia. This whole valley has been listed by the UNESCO Heritage Organisation because of its unique character, beauty and the fact that it has remained unchanged for 600 years or more! The countryside has wide open vistas of farmland, broken up here and there by cypress or umbrella pine trees lining zig zag roads, up the rolling hills to charming farmhouses. The beauty was celebrated by Renaissance painters and some of the scenes from Ridley Scott film ‘Gladiator’, and the film ‘The English Patient’ were filmed here.
Our morning will be spent exploring stunning Montepulciano with its 14th century Palazzo Comunale and Duomo on the Piazza Grande. They love their food here, and you have time to visit the wine cellars, olive oil and local food and produce shops, as well as enjoy the shopping.
Lunchtime will be at leisure in beautiful Pienza. In the 15th century this non-descript, poor village was the birthplace of Pope Pius II. When he became Pope, he patronised this town and with his enormous wealth, transformed the town into what you see today. And that is why it is on the UNESCO heritage list! The compact, central Piazza Pio II is surrounded by 15th century buildings, such as the Pienza Cathedral and Piccolomini Palace, his summer residence. The views down to the valley are vast, and the city just bursts with flower filled window boxes and quaint walkways, shops and cafes. Utterly delightful!
Later we follow the Via Francigena, an ancient pilgrimage route, to Bagno Vignoni. This peaceful little town is unique in that the whole flooded central square is one giant thermal water lake. From the arcaded walkway at one end you can see the earth’s hot water bubbling into the surface, filling the huge pond. Time to take your shoes off and bathe your feet in the hot water channelled through a gully in the centre of a street.
Day 9: Medieval Todi, and Marmore Waterfalls
After a leisurely start, we enter Umbria to enjoy lunchtime in the picturesque town of Todi. Overlooking the River Tiber, as it flows on its way towards Rome, the central Piazza del Popolo is surrounded by the three palaces and is often used as the set for movies.
Later, we visit a very special set of waterfalls. The Romans actually created these ‘Cascata delle Marmore’. In doing so they became Europe’s highest man-made waterfalls. 450 years ago, to avoid flooding, an ‘on/off’ switch was installed, and we will be there when it gets switched on. It is a remarkable experience to witness the dribble of water turn into a cascading, raging torrent! Make sure you follow the walkways up along the hillside, beside the falls, for the excellent views. So impressive. Moving on, we stay our last night on the outskirts of Rieti.
To celebrate, we have arranged a farewell dinner in our hotel – which happens to be a palatial villa! After time to relax, we meet for farewell drinks under the garden gazebo, surrounded by rose beds, before enjoying a private dinner with music in the ornate dining room. Meals
Park Hotel Villa Potenziani
Hand Selected Experience
The Marmore Waterfalls
Known as the Cascata delle Marmore, the Romans diverted the Velino River over this cliff to cleanse the stagnant swamp below. In doing so, they created the tallest man-made waterfall in Europe which cascades in three stages, the top tier alone being 83 metres high! Diverting
this vast amount of water created the problem of occasionally flooding the cities downriver. That is why, 450 years ago, a new feeder canal was built with water flow regulators. In effect, these waterfalls now have an ‘on/off’ switch and we will be there to see the falls switched on! Not fast, at first, but with growing force you can see the massive power of the falls as they erupt over the precipice, feeding the falls below, one by one. You simply must take the walkway up alongside the falls to the middle stages, where the views are excellent, and the air becomes refreshingly wet with clouds of spray.
Day 10: To Rome
After breakfast on the rooftop terrace, we have included a morning group transfer to the centre of Rome and to Fiumicino airport. We recommend you book flights that depart after 2.00 p.m.
Incredible Value Inclusions
- ALL excursions, scenic drives, sightseeing and entrances as described
- Fully escorted by our experienced Tour Manager
- Travel in a first-class air-conditioned touring coach
- 9 nights specially selected hotel accommodation
- Hotel porterage (1 bag per person)
- 16 Meals – including breakfast daily (B), 2 lunches – one in a labyrinth of ancient Etruscan caves and one on a tree shaded terrace overlooking the Lazio countryside (L) and 5 dinners including an ancient Badia Abbey dinner, in a Val d’Orcia farm house and private farewell dinner in our palatial villa (D)
- Tea, coffee and a complimentary beverage with all included dinners
- Welcome drink Rome
- Hand Selected Albatross Experiences – Underground Etruscan tombs, Villa Lante cascading gardens, Parco dei Mostri, Civita di Bagnoregio experience, Etruscan Via Cava walk, Val d’Orcia wine and Pecorino cheese tasting, Marmore Falls
- Local guides as described in the itinerary
- ALL tips to your Tour Manager, Driver and Local Guides
- Personal audio system whilst on tour
- Free WiFi at hotels
NO additional ‘on tour’ costs!
Hotel Aquila Bianca, Orvieto - 3 nights
Located in the heart of historic Orvieto. This 4 star hotel is within walking distance of all the major sights, and surrounded by shops, cafés bars and restaurants.
Grand Hotel Excelsior, Chianciano Terme - 4 nights
This 4 star, grand style hotel in the heart of the spa town, provides the perfect base to explore the surrounding region.
Park Hotel Villa Potenziani -1 night
This first-class Villa hotel was once the hunting residence of the Potenziani family. Dating back to 1788, and set in a beautiful park with
gardens and fountains, this grand, noble villa makes a perfect place to enjoy our last night together.