26th to 30th April 2020:

Tuscan Masterpieces;

An exclusive TELEGRAPH tour hosted by gardens correspondent, HELEN YEMM and led by KIRSTY FERGUSSON

This late Spring tour has been carefully designed to include some of the most beautiful and exclusive gardens of Tuscany. It was here that the Renaissance took root in the 15th century and the designs of these gardens can be seen in many of the gardens visited. By way of contrast, the tour also features some important gardens of the early 20th century when English speaking expatriates comprised one sixth of the population of Florence. We visit gardens designed by Cecil Pinsent who worked in the early 1900s for the expatriate community, ingeniously designing gardens melding into the existing architecture and dramatic Tuscan landscapes. We also gain an appreciation of how these masterpieces of garden architecture are being managed in Italy today in meeting Nick Dakin-Elliot at the helm of the restoration work for 17 years at Villa La Pietra. Nick will also join Helen Yemm for a Question & Answer session one evening before joining us for dinner. For Nick, the perfect garden contrasts a formal structure with the romantic touch of profuse planting, a fusion of Italian and English garden design at their best. This tour includes many rare and private visits with special invitations to lunch with the owners. We are accommodated for four nights at the elegant 5-star Hotel Regency.

ITINERARY

Day 1: Sunday, April 26
We depart London Heathrow, Terminal 5 at 13:25 on British Airways flight BA0612, arriving in Pisa Galileo Airport at 16:35, thence driving inland to Florence to receive a warm welcome at Hotel Regency with time to settle in before dining together with local wine included.

Day 2: Monday, April 27
Villa La Pietra is the magnificent Acton family villa now owned by New York University. Here, Nick Dakin-Elliot will explain the implementation of Kim Wilkie’s ingenious restoration plan for this important site. A picnic lunch is included in the gardens of La Pietra before visiting Cecil Pinsent’s dramatic treatment of the steep hillside at Villa Le Balze in Fiesole. We return to Hotel Regency before dining out in a local restaurant together with local wines included.

Day 3: Tuesday, April 28
We head south of Florence today to visit two beautiful estates, one in the Val d’Orcia, a beautiful and miraculously intact valley in Southern Tuscany and the other in the rolling hills of Chianti. When Antonio and Iris Origo bought the estate of La Foce, they engaged the English architect Cecil Pinsent to restructure the main buildings and create a garden to enhance the Renaissance house and expand the spectacular view over the valley. Perfect harmony between buildings, garden and nature helps La Foce stand out as one of Pinsent’s best works. Count Bianchi Bandinelli of Villa di Geggiano then invites us to lunch at the villa with beautiful 18th century frescoes representing the twelve months of the year created by Austrian artist, Ignazio Moder. Time to stroll around the garden to enjoy the famous green theatre and walls decorated with vases and monkey grotteschi before a free evening to explore Florence and find the restaurant of your choice.

Day 4: Wednesday, April 29
We start the day with a short walking tour in the company of Jeremy Boudreau of the British Institute who will talk you through the wonderful sculptures found in the heart of Florence. You are then invited by Marchese Vieri Torrigiani Malaspina for a light lunch and a tour of Giardino Torrigiani, a remarkable garden owned by the Torrigiani families since the 16th century and the largest privately-owned garden within city walls in Europe. There follows free time before rejoining at the hotel in the early evening for drinks and a Q&A session with Helen Yemm and Nick Dakin-Elliot prior to dining together at a local restaurant.

Day 5: Thursday, April 30
On this last day of the tour we visit the gardens of Villa Gamberaia, one of the most perfect examples of garden architecture. Although the original garden dates to the 17th century, the famous water terrace was designed by Princess Ghyka of Serbia in the late 19th century. Both were severely damaged in the Second World War and subsequently immaculately restored by Signor Marcello Marchi. We explore a unique water parterre, bowling alley, secret garden, nymphaeum, lemon garden and bosco with magnificent views over the Arno Valley. Lunch is then included at Fattoria di Maiano with a chance to buy local produce before visiting the 17th century gardens of Villa Marlia Reale the 19th Century home of Napoleon’s sister, Duchess of Lucca, Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi. Highlights include a splendid Water Theatre, exquisite Green Theatre (where the composer Paganini often performed for Elisa Baciocchi), Limonaia with a group of marble statues depicting Leda and the Swan, and an Art Deco style Spanish Garden. We then return to Pisa Galileo Galilei (PSA) Airport with time to eat and to check in for flight BA0607 departing at 19:45 arriving in London Heathrow (LHR) at 21:10.

How much & what’s included

The price per person: £3480

Single supplement: £550 (levied by the hotel).

The price includes: four nights with breakfast at Hotel Regency; three evening meals with local wines included; plus four lunches as set out in the itinerary; and return flights from London Heathrow (standard Euro Traveller class). Please contact the Boxwood office if you wish to obtain a quotation to upgrade to Club Class. The price does not include extras at the hotel or travel insurance. Those wishing to make their own flight arrangements should state this on the booking form and we will deduct £239 per person from the tour price. Please note that hotels used by Boxwood Tours are invariably hotels of character featuring a variety of rooms & styles.

This tour is financially protected by the ATOL scheme. When you pay you will be supplied with an ATOL Certificate. Please ask for it and check to ensure that everything you booked (flights, hotels and other services) is listed on it. Please see our booking conditions for further information or for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOLCertificate.

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