BASKING RIDGE, N.J. -- A new player among small operators selling
specialty travel to Italy is Tuscan Countryside Tours here.
The company focuses on the province of its name, home of lush
villas, rambling vineyards and lots of tourists.
Tuscan Countryside Tours owner and founder Deborah Cortigiani said
her company offers something a little different from the usual
programs in the region. "This is the only tour program we have been
able to find that is off the beaten path but you don't have to ride
your bike to get to it," Cortigiani said. "We go to places that
would be difficult to get to without being fluent in the language
and having intimate knowledge of the surroundings," she said.
The company, which plans to operate scheduled tours and
customized FITs, will offer its first trip in June. "We did a dry
run this summer to see what works and what doesn't," Cortigiani
said, adding that she and her husband and cofounder, Marco, will
accompany the first tour.
"Once we get going, we will do several tours a year as well as
individual itineraries," she said. "We have very good contacts and
can do just about anything anybody wants."
It was through these contacts that Cortigiani secured
accommodations at the Salvadonica in Chianti for the June
departure. A 15th century farmhouse, Salvadonica is located in the
hills 12 miles from Florence.
Rooms, which Cortigiani described as "comfortable and clean,"
feature private baths and views of the countryside. The property
also has a swimming pool, tennis courts and extensive grounds, with
horseback riding available nearby.
"The property is a nice respite from Florence," she said. Unlike
many tours designed by Americans, Cortigiani said, her programs
more closely approximate the Italian schedule.
Sightseeing is arranged for the cooler morning hours, and guests
are offered transportation back to the farmhouse for the afternoon
to cool off. Participants who choose to continue sightseeing will
have that option, she said.
The eight-night program uses Salvadonica as a base, from which
the group will visit museums, take walking tours and visit wineries
and local markets.
Destinations for sightseeing include Florence, Fiesole, San
Gimignano, Vinci, Mercatale, Siena and Greve. "At Salvadonica, they
include wonderful full breakfasts as well as sandwiches at an
additional cost," she said.
Dinners are arranged at a 13th century palace, once the home of
the philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli; at a restaurant overlooking
Florence, and at small inns.
A trip centered on local wines is on the drawing board for
October, Cortigiani said. The June departure will coincide with the
festival of San Giovanni, which participants can opt to visit.
Since Salvadonica is very small, she said, she may substitute
larger accommodations for future tours as needed. Groups will be
limited to 15 guests per departure.
Transportation will be in an air-conditioned small bus or large
van, Cortigiani said. The company also can obtain tickets to
exhibitions at the Uffizi Gallery ahead of time, she said.
Although the company is new, Cortigiani said, her background of
having lived in Italy and led tours with her Florentine husband
gave the company an insider's view of the area.
Packages are commissionable at 10%.
Tuscan Countryside Tours
Phone: (908) 696 0975
Fax: (908) 696-0975
E-mail: [email protected]