Tuscany vacation, Italy

“Discover the lesser-visited hills of Garfagnana in northern Tuscany where Cinque Terre National Park and the Ligurian coast provide pathways to Lucca, Castelnuovo and beyond.”


Braccicorti | Castiglione | Cinque Terre National Park| Ligurian coastal scenery | Lucca | Castelnuovo | Monte Alfonso | Verrucole Castle | wine and cheese tasting afternoon | Optional activities on free day include relaxing poolside or taking the train to Florence

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Our top tip:
Taking some language lessons before you go is a great idea as you'll find plenty of chances to practise in the market at Castelnuovo as well as with your friendly hosts. Also, summer months mean heat so bring sun cream and insect repellent, just in case.
Trip type:
Small group. Maximum size 16. Minimum age 16.
Activity level:
Leisurely. Gentle walks and historic sightseeing.
Converted farmhouse with en-suite facilities and seasonal swimming pool.
Accomm., transport, listed activities, tour leader throughout.
7 breakfasts, 3 picnic lunches, 5 dinners.
Solo travelers welcome. 1 single room is free to use if available.
Vacation type

Small group vacation

Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, traveling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week vacation, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.

The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travelers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.

We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.

What are the main benefits?
Big experiences
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.

Make the most of your vacation time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!

Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travelers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your vacation.

Solo travelers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those traveling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.

Less confident travelers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travelers their own room.

“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.

“The accommodation will be basic”
Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.

“I won’t like the other travelers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.

“Will we be following an umbrella?”
Valerie Parkinson
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson

Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Roshan Fernando
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando

Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travelers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Tuscany vacation, Italy


We are careful to operate with a ‘leave no trace’ policy, which involves being vigilant with picking up litter and being careful not to damage any flora, fauna or important buildings we encounter. We use local guides, shops, restaurants and transport which all has a positive effect on the community. Whilst in Lucca, we also recommended local bike hire instead of using cars, which supports rental businesses whilst reducing our carbon footprint for the trip. We include 3 day walks on the trip rather than using cars to get everywhere, which has the same effect on our environmental impact.

UK Office:
It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.


Accommodation and Meals:
We will spend 7 nights at Braccicorti, a lodge-style farmhouse or ‘Agriturismo’ as they are known in Italy.. Using a locally run Agriturismo is a great way to support the agricultural community by giving farmers an alternative source of income. In order to be part of the Agriturismo Association, it is a requirement to hire local staff and to use local produce. So where meals are supplied, fresh and seasonal ingredients like the Farro grain and abundant sweet chestnut are used to make regional specialties. Where meals are not supplied, it is part of the trip to stop at local cafes and restaurants. Here we can support these businesses, engage with locals and try some authentic cuisine.

Local Craft and Culture:
There are plenty of unique villages and historical sites along our route, including the walled city of Barga, the palaces and churches of Lucca, Riomaggiore and the Cinque Terre fishing villages, popularised by Byron and Shelley. All money spent at these locations (on entry fees, donations, souvenirs and meals) boost local economy and often help to maintain important cultural attractions. Clients will also have the chance to see locals go about day to day life at various markets. For example, we visit the renowned 8th century Castelnuovo market, in the heart of the Garfagnana Valley. This is a great chance to learn something about the history of local produce and to support small suppliers.

Group Size:
This small group tour has a maximum of 16 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.

4 Reviews of Tuscany vacation, Italy

4.5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 25 May 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Being shown the wonderful Tuscan scenery and introduced to the local culture by a simply amazing guide who looked after all our needs and made sure that each
member of the group was happy and enjoying themselves.
The family farm where we stayed was delightful - beautiful buildings, tasty
food,quiet and relaxing.
Most memorable of all was the Tuscan countryside.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

This vacation is classed as Grade 1, leisurely. It does involve walking at a
relaxed pace, but you still need to be fit and able to tackle hills.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes, I did feel it benefited local people, not only the family on whose property
we stayed, but also the fact that we sometimes ate in local restaurants, visited
local sites and bought local produce. The fact that the place we stayed at was
part of the Agriturismo scheme meant that it supported conservation.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

It was a really great vacation - just what I was looking for - staying in a lovely
place, with a small group of pleasant people, in amazing countryside and with a
guide who spoke Italian, obviously loved the place, looked after us really well
and must be the best guide there is!

Reviewed on 06 Oct 2008 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

The walk along Cinque Terra... eating ice cream in the sun overlooking the sea!

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Take good walking shoes/trainers; be prepared for a couple of early starts and a varied itinerary.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Yes as we often ate in local restaurants and had food delivered from local places.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

I enjoyed it immensely. The whole week was organised in a really excellent way and was varied and fascinating. The company was great and we all gelled very quickly. Our team leader was excellent and absolutely first class, besides being a really lovely lady!

Reviewed on 15 Oct 2007 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Great swimming pool at the farm cottages, freezing water but still went in every day. Lovely scenery, every day sunny but not too hot.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

If you want a relaxing time, with enough organised for you but flexiblity to do what you want , this is for you.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

To a certain extent. Local bus drivers, local restaurants.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

It was a good mix of beauty, activity, culture, exercise, good company and relaxation.

Reviewed on 23 Jul 2006 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Seeing Michelangelo's David, he is amazing, no man could ever live up to that!! Ach no, the whole trip was fantastic, I enjoyed every minute. The food was absolutely beautiful, our guide brought us to little country restaurants as well as to the larger more commercial cafes and pizzerias so we enjoyed a wide range of fantastic Italian food. The location of the house in which we stayed was breathtaking with panoramic views across the mountains and down into the valley. The facilities at the house were clean and adequate. The swimming pool was a bonus and what a setting!! The trips from the house were well organised and smoothly catered for all abilities and tastes. We experienced so many different things and yet it was still very relaxing!

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Be open to meeting new people and experiencing new things. Bring sun cream (I went through a bottle in a week!) and a hat.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

We stayed in a house owned by a family in the village and ate in many of the local restaurants bringing business to a very quiet region with minimal tourism. The delight at our enjoyment of their food was always evident!! Traveling as a small group the impact on the environment was also reduced.

4. Any other comments?

I had a great trip - thanks! I'm sure I'll be back on your website soon booking my next trip!

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