Seven-night Umbria itinerary explores history, culture, food and wine
Boutique travel specialist, Italian Villa Vacations, has released a series of seven-night packages to showcase some of Italy’s most popular tourist hot spots including Umbria, Tuscany and the Lakes district. Designed for small groups of up to 12 guests, the packages are centred around stays at hand-picked luxury villas in each region and include daily sightseeing and activities, fine dining, private wine tastings and more.
The concept of being based in one location for a week offers travellers a less stressful, more in-depth experience at a relaxed pace compared to traditional tour operators, which tend to have early starts, rush through destinations and the inconvenience of moving hotels, says Italian Villa Vacations’ owner/operator, Jane Black.
Last year, Black created a new business arm, Italy Culture Tours, in partnership with her Aunty and fellow “Italophile”, Jane Finemore. A one-time exchange student, Black lives and breathes Italy, and turned that passion into a travel business that is thriving. Having curated week-long villa rentals and activities for FIT clients on a daily basis for the past 12 years, Black noticed a gap in the market for small group villa vacations, where like-minded travellers or friends could enjoy the comforts of villa life.
Italy Culture Trails’ maiden package is The Umbria Chapter itinerary utilising the family-run Villa Bellissima, a newly restored 300-year-old farmhouse located in a picturesque valley between Rome and Florence. Villa Bellissima has six king bedrooms, each with a fireplace and ensuite, an infinity-edge pool, gym and multiple indoor and outdoor living spaces.
“It becomes their home away from home for guests,” Black told LATTE.
“Feedback from my clients is that moving from one hotel to another is stressful and can be exhausting. That’s not a holiday. At Villa Bellissima, guests become familiar with the town, the villa, its grounds and the family. This is an immersive experience, but guests aren’t sitting still. They’ll explore three different regions over the week – Umbria, Tuscany and Lazio – but there’s no hassle of having to change beds every night,” Black said.
The itinerary offers a mix of tours such as a day trips to Orvieto where guests enjoy lunch in an ancient grotto and visit an archaeological dig site that’s closed to the general public. Other days guests explore Assisi, Montepulciano, Siena and Civita di Bagnoregio. Some days focus on food and wine experiences, including a private Michelin-starred tasting lunch at Relais & Chateaux’ Il Falconiere in Cortona, while others are centred around culture and history.
Days trips are escorted by driver/guides in two Mercedes-Benz vans, ensuring comfort and access to locations unattainable by touring coaches.
The itinerary offers plenty of flexibility and free-time, should guests wish to take a break from activities. One busy day of exploring is generally followed by another at a more relaxed pace. All meals are included, with breakfast at Villa Bellissima every day and lunch or dinner either off-site or back at the villa. Guests can also get as hands-on as they like, helping the resident cook prepare meals if they wish and going to the market to select produce.
The escorted Umbria Chapter operates during the shoulder season, outside of the summer peak when the weather is more comfortable, the Italian landscapes not so dry and there are fewer crowds, says Black.
The seven-night package is $6,000 per person, twin-share, including return transfers from Rome, Florence and nearby locations. While the date for the first itinerary is set for 26 September 2020, Italy Culture Trails has the flexibility to offer the same or similar package to small groups at any time of year, subject to availability. Packages can be tailored to include cooking classes, vineyard visits, private boats, string quartets and more.
Itineraries specific to Tuscany, staying at La Novellina, the Lakes, based at Villa Filanda (a former silk-spinning mill, and Mantova, utilising Palazzo Castiglioni, have already been earmarked for 2021.
Italy Culture Trails’ existing B2C partners include agents at Travel Associates, MTA – Mobile Travel Agents, TravelManagers, Savenio, Mary Rossi Travel and a collection of independent agencies.