Saturday, May 27
Benvenuti a Italia!
The first day will be arrivals, orientation to the house and estate, “Meet & Greet” the other guests. That night, we'll have a Welcome Dinner at the villa, provide an updated overview of the week’s activities, and answer any questions. For a full list of the books discussed, see the bottom of this page.
Sunday, May 28
After a non-denominational service in the estate’s private chapel, we’ll head into the town of Lucca for a walk along the city’s fortified wall, followed by a traditional Tuscan lunch, plus free time to wander and shop.
Once back at the villa, those who would like can take a dip in the pool. After dinner, we’ll discuss the books for our visit to Florence -- Brunelleschi’s Dome, Oil & Marble
Monday, May 29
Florence! Our walking tour will include the Duomo, Piazza della Signoria, the Ponte Vecchio, and the Accademia to see Michelangelo's magnificent statue of David.
After lunch at a local trattoria, we’ll visit Officina Profumo –- Catherine di Medici’s “pharmacy,” where all the perfumes, soaps and body lotions created for her are still sold today. These make great gifts!
Tuesday, May 30
After all your travels and the long day in Florence -– and in preparation for the Ligurian Coast on Wednesday -- we’re going to take a day to just hang at the Villa. We can sleep late, hang out by the pool, read in the garden, or talk more about books. And Lucca is just minutes away by car, bus or cab.
That evening, we’ll have an Italian Chef come to Villa Clara for a cooking lesson, and we'll dine on the finished victuals!
After dinner, we’ll discuss our books for Wednesday -- Beautiful Ruins, The Vernazza Effect
Wednesday, May 31
Travel to Cinque Terre! We’ll travel to La Spezia, and take the train from there to Vernazza. Lunch will be al fresco at Pizzeria Vulnetia on the harbor in Vernazza, followed by some time for shopping. From there, we’ll take the train back to Manarola, and finish with a short walk along the Via del Amore.
If we all agree, we can a perch at a café overlooking the sea in Riomaggiore, and toast the setting sun with Prosecco (Italian champagne) or a non-alcoholic drink if you prefer.
Back at the villa, we’ll discuss the books for our Pisa journey -– The Girl with Emerald Eyes, Virgin Territory (history/recipes of olive oil)
Thursday, June 1
A morning trip to Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa will bring us to the famous Leaning Tower and the other beautiful buildings there. Enjoy an espresso or cappuccino at Bar Duomo, and see the university buildings where Galileo once taught.
For lunch, we’ll visit Rio Grifone, an ancient olive oil mill, to tour the grounds and taste the oil. Lunch there includes foods grown or produced on the farm.
That evening, we’ll have dinner at the Villa, and discuss characters and locales in all the books. Favorites? Most colorful characters? Which best matched the story to the actual place? And observations about your Italian experience.
Friday, June 2
A late morning start begins with a tour of the Antinori Vineyards in ancient Badia a Passignano, followed by lunch at the amazing Osteria there.
After lunch, we'll see the "original" Last Supper, a fresco painted on the walls of the Badia by Domenico Ghirlandaio when he taught young artists there in the 1400s. One of his students was a young man named Leonardo da Vinci, and many believe it was here Leonardo was inspired to create his later masterpiece.
Afterward, we’ll enter the walled city of Pistoia to visit its stunning Duomo. Dinner will be at Pollo d’Oro, the family trattoria of our tour guide, Michela!
Once back at the villa, it will be time to pack up for departure on Saturday.
Saturday, June 3
We’ll help you get back to the train station, or the airports at Pisa or Florence.
NOTE: Itinerary subject to change if locations are unavailable at time of travel. Substitutes will be noted here.
BOOKS (Suggested titles complement the selections, but are not necessary.)
Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture, by Ross King
Oil & Marble: A Novel of Leonardo and Michelangelo, by Stephanie Storey
Suggested: Death in Florence: The Medici, Savanarola, and the Battle for the Soul of a Renaissance City, by Paul Strathern
Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter
The Vernazza Effect, by Roberta R. Carr
Suggested: The Enchanted April, by Elizabeth van Arnim
The Girl with Emerald Eyes, by Debbie Rix
Virgin Territory: Exploring the World of Olive Oil, by Nancy Harmon Jenkins
Suggested: Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered, by Dianne Hales
RECOMMENDED: The Fatal Gift of Beauty: The Trials of Amanda Knox, by Nina Burleigh -- This book is a fascinating look inside the world-famous trial. It's about the Italian courts, all the characters, the conflicted town of Perugia in the beautiful region of Umbria. I won't take you to Perugia proper because -- as you'll read in the book -- it has a problem with drugs, sex trafficking and the Mafia. But we'll discuss the book and what it says about Italy, the image of Americans there, and a range of other topics.