Tuscan Treasures in Italy Tour
June 2 – 10th, 2015


June 3rd Wednesday Val D’Orcia - Sant’ Antimo Abbey, San Quirico d’Orcia – Horti Leoni, Pienza and La Foce

After breakfast we are off on an incredible journey of discovery…through fields rich in wildflowers, poppies and Cypress trees.
Abbey of Sant'Antimo - The origins of the abbey date to a small oratory built here, one the location of a former Roman villa, in 352 at the death of Anthimus. In 715 it was cared for by the diocese of Chiusi. Saint Antimo was a martyr. Hopefully we shall arrive in time to hear the priests and brothers perform the Gregorian Chant. It is an amazing experience.

Then off to San Quirico d’Orcia, another little walled village to see the Renaissance Garden in Val d’Orcia: the Story of diomede Leoni and his Horti Leonini. The Horti Leonini gardens are a splendid example of giardini all'italiana: they were designed in about 1540 by Diomede Leoni and periodically host temporary It took a writer from New York who has chosen to divide her time between the States and San Giovanni d’Asso, the Landscape Architect Patricia McCobb, to tell the story of Diomede Leoni, too long omitted from the historical studies of the Val d’Orcia. In her new book, A Renaissance Garden in Val d’Orcia: the Story of diomede Leoni and his Horti Leonini, she writes about Diomede Leoni and the mystery of the building of his splendid garden in San Quirico, one of the singular pearls of the Val d’Orcia. San Quirico – called one of ten villages untouched by time. here are two books you must read before you see the garden to get the whole history. Iris Origo, autobiography ‘Images and Shadows, Part of a Life’ and her diary ‘War in Val d’Orcia, 1943-44’

Then to Pienza, a town and commune in the province of Siena. Pienza, the unfinished “utopian” city, was commissioned by Pope Pius II in 1459. In just three years the cathedral, the papal and bishop’s palaces and the central part of the town were completed, but the extensive project ended abruptly when Pius died only two years after the consécration of the cathedral. In 1996, UNESCO declared the town a World Heritage Site, and in 2004 the entire valley, the Val d'Orcia, was included on the list of UNESCO's World Cultural Landscapes. This is also the place to get the best Pecorino Cheese! Here we will enjoy our lunch in the Il Chiostro restaurant. It is located in the ex-convent of the 15th century monastery of Saint Francis. After our three course lunch, which is heavenly, we are off to Villa Foce.

Villa La Foce - The garden at La Foce was designed by Iris Origo and the famous English landscape gardener Cecil Pinsent between 1925 and 1939. It is considered today an ideal combination between the landscape and 20th-century architecture, blending Italian and English traditions and taste. The property of La Foce extends over the hills overlooking the Val d'Orcia, an enchanting and miraculously unspoilt valley in southern Tuscany, listed as UNESCO world heritage in 2004. In 1924 the Irish-American Iris Origo - the famous author - and her Italian husband, Marchese Antonio Origo, acquired the La Foce estate- a combination of olive groves, widespread cultivated fields and woodland. In those days, their management of La Foce brought prosperity and cultural and social changes to the poverty-ridden land it was then. Today their daughters, Benedetta and Donata, run the La Foce estate and their personality pervades in the hospitable atmosphere.

You cannot describe the sheer beauty of this place in words, you must see it for yourself as the estate borrows the landscape around it to complete its glorious design. No camera can capture the essence of being here or in Tuscany for that matter. Nor can it capture the depth of colour or of space, nor the fragrance in the air. You can look out and see that solitary winding road lined with cypress and gasp for it is breathtakingly beautiful. Walking through the rose garden is sheer bliss with the fragrance of many roses, lavender and yes even the peonies. T

Back to our hotel to enjoy an evening on own. Siena is wonderful to wander around, especially in the evening when all the tourists have gone!



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