March 23rd 2016

Imagine following an ancient, sunlit trail in Tuscany that runs through olive groves and past lovely, soft-toned villas. The famous towers of San Gimignano appear in the distance and then loom over us, symbols of wealth and power and signaling a place of rest. Hiking a section of the Via Francigena, the Pilgrims’ Way, in some of Tuscany’s most glorious landscapes, we depart from Lucca and say farewell in Siena, two perfect cities. And like countless pilgrims over more than a thousand years, following the old tracks and pathways to or from Rome, we arrive at each new destination in awe of what we will see next. Lucca’s majestic walls hide what some call Tuscany’s best-kept secret; a Roman and medieval heart of cobbled lanes, piazzas and churches. As Henry James said: "Overflowing with everything that makes for ease, for plenty, for beauty, for interest and good example." In Colle Val d’Elsa, for example, a medieval settlement became rich through the production of exquisite crystal glass. Sit on a terrace on high and take in the views of the Tuscan hills stretching away into the distance. via francigena sign copy In summer, flat fields of sunflowers lead to the thousand-year-old abbey at Abbadia a Isola but when it was built it was an 'island', a high point in the middle of a bog. Its stone-cool interior boasts frescoes and a glorious altar. And as for Siena – the first sight of the Piazza del Campo, the sloping, shell-shaped center, where the famous and terrifying palio horse race is held twice a year, is breathtaking. Its architecture soars and lifts the spirit with it. This is pre-Renaissance Italy at her finest. Walking through Tuscany is to experience a landscape largely unchanged across the centuries and our hike on the Pilgrims’ Way is unmissable. See our full itinerary here.

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