Join us for an introduction to five picturesque seaside villages and hilltop towns on our Tuscany & the Italian Riviera tour.
While this Italian getaway certainly includes fascinating visits to Rome, Florence, and Pisa, we want to shed light on the lesser-known towns on this tour. Altogether scenic and charming, the architecture, natural landscape, artisans, and cuisine that characterize these communities may go under the radar for guests on this enchanting vacation, so let’s take a moment to examine a sample of what to expect.
Translated as “Five Lands” in Italian, Cinque Terre is a series of five coastal villages that together make a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its remarkable natural and cultural history. These five communities, Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore are built upon a coastline of steep cliffs with buildings clinging to them as they descend towards quaint harbors. We’ll visit three of the five communities during our visit to Cinque Terre. Look forward to spectacular views of terraced vineyards, olive groves, and clusters of colorful architecture. Isn’t it romantic?
This city is best recognized by its many spires, giving it the nickname “The Town of Fine Towers.” San Gimignano’s remaining 13 towers dominate the village’s skyline today, but in the 14th century there were more than 70. Most were built by powerful families as a symbol of their riches. On our stroll through this hill town we’ll walk through the same city gate pilgrims walked through on their way to Rome. On your free time, we recommend cooling down with fresh gelato from one of the two gelato shops in Piazza Della, the town’s main square.
Santa Margherita Ligure is our home for two nights on every Holiday Vacations tour to Tuscany & the Italian Riviera. Our hotel is a short walk away from the beautiful Chiesa di Santa Margherita d’Antiochia, a 14th century church, and the palm tree-speckled waterfront. This community is also home to Castello di Santa Margherita Ligure, a 16th century fortress designed to repel pirates. Guests love Santa Margherita Ligure’s fanciful cafes and restaurants.
Volterra’s roots go back as far as the bronze age. This hilltop town in Tuscany was once an important Etruscan city dating back as far as the 7th century BC and is home to several historic architectural sites. The most famous site is the Etruscan Gate, a 2,300 year-old stone arch with three sculpted heads. For an authentic keepsake during your time here, consider an alabaster carving. Artisans have been carving alabaster here for more than 2,000 years. During our time in Volterra we’ll join an English-speaking guide for a stroll through its historic city center, seeing sights including a 12th century Romanesque cathedral. After the tour there will be free time for lunch and exploration on our own. Perhaps the 1st century BC Roman Theater, or the Museo Etrusco Guarnacci, one of Europe’s oldest public museums, will pique your interest.
Portofino, a famous fishing village, is known for its natural harbor surrounded by pastel-colored residences. On our tour we’ll arrive in “Pearl of The Italian Riviera” by boat. Portofino sits on its own peninsula, with bright vegetation that hangs over the hills and houses surrounding the small harbor. For sightseeing, we recommend looking for the yellow-bricked Church of San Giorgio, the castle and hanging gardens at Castello Brown, the lighthouse looking over the Gulf of Tigullio, and the 14th century Gothic Oratory of Santa Maria Assunta. If it’s seafood that delights your taste buds, Portofino is a veritable haven of delightful seafood restaurants.